[June 30 - July 5, 2015] Tuesday - Sunday
We got our wires crossed a bit with the office - we thought we were supposed to go and start our "tramites" - visa extension paperwork - but found out we are going to do that tomorrow. So we went for a walk, studied, and just hung out until our shift at the Temple.
Tramites - This is the word everyone uses to communicate the process of getting our visas extended for two years. It translates to "red tape". From what we've heard, there has been a recent change that allows them to last for two years. Missionaries that have been here a while report that they had to renew their visas every year. I seem to remember that when I was here forty years ago, we had to do it every 90 days. So, we're grateful for progress!
Apparently the process includes paying to start the process - that's what we did today - and then having medical and dental checks, report to the police department, among a few other steps I'm forgetting.
The first step involved getting our official pictures taken - they will appear on our "carnet de identidad"- and then going to a government office and waiting in line to have them take copies of our passports, get our signatures, and tell us "it" would be ready tomorrow. There is a brother who takes care of all this for all the missionaries (temple and proselyting), so I'm sure he's greased the skids a bit to make it more streamlined.
It only took an hour to get this done, so Molly and I decided to go for a long walk and check out another grocery store - Hipermaxi. Everyone says it has North American brands, and even lots more stuff then the IC Norte market that is close to the Temple.
So, we headed off. it's about 2.5 miles away, so we figured, since it was such a nice day and we had time, we'd just walk. Here are some pictures we took along the way:
The corner vendor - just down the street from the Temple.
We aren't going to be lacking for fruit or vegetables here.
Location of the Saturday farmers' market - the Feria
(I'll get a picture of it on Saturday for comparison).
[Saturday was rainy, so we'll wait and get a picture]
Winter in Cochabamba - flowering trees!
A beautiful house. There are quite a few of these in our neighborhood.
You can't even get away from GE here in Bolivia!
A Trufi stop. you can see the size of them -
They reportedly hold up to 18 passengers.
We bought a few things, but were pretty amazed at all the North American brands - Sprite, Mt. Dew, Barqs Root Beer, Heinz catsup, and many others. Pricey, but if you have to have your daily fix, here's where you'll find it.
The walk was nice, but a bit longer than we were prepared for, so we came back in a Taxi. The other missionaries say we were overcharged - $2.75 USD. We'll figure out the culture eventually.
President and Sister Jensen took us to another market where the North American missionaries like to go called Que Barato. It is particularly appreciated for the selection of spices. We finally found real black pepper here that was ground, not powdered. We had found some at IC Norte, but it was milled so fine that it was a powder, making it difficult to restrict portion size.
Here's an example of products and prices. Remember that 1 B is about $0.15 USD. I'll leave it to your interest to figure out which products are overpriced.
Dried Onions - 156 grams - 22.8 B
Loaf of Bread - regular size - 10 B
Granola - 400 grams - 30.7 B
Pineapple juice - 1.5 liter - 12.5 B
Yogurt - 1 liter - 13 B
Salsa Ranchera - 475 grams - 25 B
Milk - 1 liter - 6 B
Jello - 230 grams - 5.5 B
Zuko Limon (like Kool-Aid) - makes 2 liters - 2.3 B
Oreo-like cookies - 456 grams - 4.5 B
That's about 137 B, or about $20.00 USD.
For comparison, we paid 63 B (abt. $9 USD) for the following fresh fruits and vegetables at the Feria:
1 dozen bananas
1 green pepper
1 locoto pepper (hot)
8 roman tomatoes
1 small cucumber
1 medium pineapple (fresh)
2 lbs of red grapes
1 lb of strawberries
It will take a week or so to figure out what a normal, weekly grocery bill will be, but we think it will be very reasonable compared to our Utah experience (especially since we can't remember very many weeks when we weren't feeding more than just us two.)
On the way home from Que Barato, we stopped at IC Norte for a few other things, and decided to try the Empanadas Arani. I should have taken a picture, but they are a cheese, onion, and pepper filled bread that is about half the size of a dinner plate. We took a couple of them home, heated them in the microwave and had them for lunch. Very tasty and filling. And they had a little bit of spiciness to them that we really liked.
Basically a down day. We took care of some studying, recording expenses, and went for a short walk (about 2.5 kilometers - about 1.5 miles). Hopefully, if we walk consistently, we'll eventually adjust to the altitude. We're doing OK, but we want to be better.
We went to the Feria this morning in a pretty good rainstorm. We used the umbrellas on the way there, but chose to just use the hoods on our jackets on the way back. That way we could carry the bags with the fruits and veggies. It was the first rain we've seen, so it was much needed. It was very cold, too, for the first time we've been here. We think it got down into the 40's during the day, but it must have gotten very cold up in the mountains. (The road to La Paz was frozen, according to accounts, so the group of people who had come to the temple in a Flota (bus) on Thursday were delayed in returning to La Paz until Sunday morning.)
One sweet experience in the temple was to witness a live sealing of a young lady (probably 20 years old or so), to her parents, who had both passed away. She came to the temple on Thursday with the group from La Paz, and had done the work to get her parents' information prepared so she and her husband could do all the ordinances needed first, in order to be sealed to them on Saturday before they had to leave. It was really touching to see how committed, and prepared they were, and how happy they were as they left the temple Saturday evening. It really makes it worth whatever effort we have taken to see the joy and fulfillment in the eyes and hearts of these sweet people. Their strength, commitment, and dedication is a real lesson to me.
After we finished at the temple, the temple missionaries went out to eat at Fridays. A real North American restaurant (except the menu descriptions were in Spanish, despite the fact that the names of the menu items were all English!)
I decided to take a picture of my meal after I had eaten half of it. It was very tasty - Miami Cuban Chicken and Rice:
Dinner at Fridays
It really wasn't much different than you would find at a Friday's restaurant in the States. Except for the price - 63 B, or about $9 USD. Dinner for Molly and I, including some very tasty fruit drinks, with tip, was less than $20. Not too bad.
I got to play the piano for the Linde Ward this morning. President and Sister Jensen drove us out there - about 3.5 miles away - to introduce us to the Bishop and ward. We've been assigned to attend there, and to encourage, teach, and assist in the Family History work of the ward.
They have a very nice electric piano (with all the bells and whistles, including the Hymns all programmed in.) President Jensen told the Bishop that I could play (that was part of the reasoning of assigning us there, I think), so I turned it on and gave it a whirl. The biggest problem is that they've positioned it so that the pianist's back is to the pulpit, the chorister, and the Sacrament table, making it a bit difficult to know when to start and stop. Since I'm going to be there a while, I'll see if I can gently persuade them to let me move it a bit.
The First Counselor in the Stake Presidency was there, and afterwards, we talked about the needs in the ward and Stake for Family History work. It will be fun to work with them.
Then the Bishop asked me if I'd help with their Ward Choir. As long as they are OK with me accompanying, I think I can do that.
On the way back from Sacrament Meeting, we saw this view, and thought a picture would be more helpful than a bunch more words:
You'd think (for the mountain, at least) that we were
right at home on the Wasatch Front.
The mountain is over 15,000 feet. Beautiful.
This afternoon, we returned to the ward to help with their choir. They have a director who is very cheerful, and she had recruited 20+ people to sing. She had an assistant who teaches music, and was very good in helping the choir members to know their parts and sing out. It was fun.
To return to the hospedaje, we decided to take a Trufi - it only costs 3.8 B (less then $0.60 USD for the both of us) to go the same distance that the taxi charged us 20 B for ($2.75 or so), and all the missionaries say it is a good way to go. So, Molly and I crammed into it (it was pretty tight with 10 people - maybe 11 - it was dark), and off we went. There are no fixed stops - it will stop anytime there is an empty seat (definition of that is flexible) and someone flags it down. Everyone was very helpful in making sure we got off at the right corner!
As Molly reported elsewhere, the adventure of the stoplights was even more interesting in the Trufi. Because it is so small (smaller than a Dodge Caravan, maybe the same size as a regular sedan, with 3 rows of seats), the driver dodges around everything else. Red lights only mean stop if there is no cross traffic for these folks, and they drive like maniacs. Interestingly, though, you never see fender benders. Lots of cultural fun!
So, that's pretty much our second week in Bolivia. We're so happy to be here, we're eating well and feel very healthy. The people are so kind and giving - it's easy to love them.
One last picture of the Cochabamba Temple for your collection. This was taken earlier in the week before the rains moved in: