Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SIM Cards and Telephones, and Another Pleasant Surprise

[August 3-10, 2015] Monday through Monday

Not many pictures this week, but here's one, just for fun. The weather here is beautiful. This week we've had days in the 80's (degrees Fahrenheit). We had one day with rain - we'll tell you below about that one, but other than that, it is just lovely to walk around.

Here's a picture of the temple that I took one morning as we were headed out to La Cancha:

Cochabamba Bolivia Temple
As for the week, here's what sticks out in my mind:

There have been a couple of times where I've thought it would be good to have a cell phone. When I bought my last phone, I bought a Nexus 4, unlocked, thinking it might be easy to just put a local SIM card in it, wherever we served our mission, and get it on the local cellular network. I also made sure that it was capable of all the general networks (GSM, etc.) that I could read about down here.

So, this morning, I decided I better see if it would be possible, since we're going to take a trip to Santa Cruz in a week or so.

We walked across the street to see if they sold a SIM card, since they advertise selling recharge cards. Down here, you get your cellular without a plan, apparently, and just recharge it as you go. Much better, in my opinion, than the two year plans (Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.), or even the monthly fixed rates (Straight Talk, like we were using, etc.) I haven't heard that they have similar approaches here, but they might.

Just as an aside, I should explain what the little "tiendas" are here. As you walk down the street, it seems that anyone who wants to have a "house-front" business is perfectly at liberty to do so. So, you see little papelerias (paper or stationery), librerias (bookstore), as well as little stores that sell soda pop and candy and simple food items, and ones that put out tables and chairs on the sidewalk and sell lunch. It's quite entertaining. Across the street from the temple, we have four of these - a paperleria, a libreria (owned by a church member that sells LDS themed items), and two little ones that sell candy, soda pop, etc.

Anyway, the one I went to didn't sell the SIM cards, just the refills, but they directed me to one down on Av. America that sold the SIM cards. We walked on down, and asked. The girl there explained about the three different networks that you could use - Tigo, Entel, and another one I'm forgetting - and explained that she could sell me the card, but that I would still have to go down to the main store to "register" it. In discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each (some have better internet, and we really don't need that) we decided on Tigo. That was fortunate, since the main Tigo store is just down the street from IC Norte here on Av. America. So we walked on down.

When we got there, it was just like going to a Verizon store in the US. A young lady greeted us, made sure she knew what we needed, and gave us a number. At first, she said we needed our passports, but since the government is holding them as they process our "migración" papers, we asked what else we could use. We indicated that we had US Drivers Licenses, and she said that would work.

So when it was our turn, another lady helped us, wrote my DL number on a form (without any indication of what the context of that number was) along with my birthday, and gave us a SIM card with a local cellular phone number. She made sure it got installed correctly, and tested it to make sure it worked, then directed us to a vending machine inside the store to "charge" it. The lady at the front door helped us get 20 B's of credit applied to the phone, and explained how to recharge it. (You just buy a card at one of the tiendas, call *775 followed by the code exposed when you scrape off the card, and you have credit!)

So, now I have a cell phone number on the Bolivia cellular network, and can call the temple if we're offsite and need help. I can also call the Alvarez family in Santa Cruz when we get there next week - more on that later.

For lunch we stopped at a little sandwich shop called "Sumo" on Av. Padilla. The other missionaries had told us that they really liked it, so we figured we'd try it out. The sandwiches were pretty tasty - more like paninis than Subway sandwiches.

We needed to finish the saga of printer ink - since the last two cartridges that I bought were expired, and the red ink was dried up - so we took the bus back down to La Cancha. There is one street there, Av. Esteben Arze, that has all the computer stuff. This time, I checked the expiration date before purchasing. Fortunately, this one worked when we tried it after getting home.

On the way home, we figured it would be nice to have a flag of Bolivia, since this week is their celebration of Independence Day - August 6th. We walked from La Cancha back up to Av. Heroínas, bought a small and a large flag, and then started looking for a bus to get us home. Since it was the middle of the day, all of them were full with students, so we just kept walking.

We got up to the Cine Center (where we ate lunch at Tuesdays a couple of weeks ago), so I got this picture of the walkway over Rio Rocha that I promised:

Walkway over Rio Rocha at the Cine Center
It looks much better on the inside than the outside - panels have fallen off, etc. But it does make for a good way to get from the north end of town down to the main part of town without crossing major streets. That is if it is open...

As we walked up Av. Melchor Urquidi, we passed a restaurant called Factory, which we had heard had good hamburgers, so we stopped for lunch. The burgers were very tasty.

This afternoon, at the Temple, Presidente García indicated that he had received a response from Hna. Alvarez in Santa Cruz, and that he needed my email address to forward it to me. How exciting. He indicated that she was looking forward to meeting us, so that really finalizes our intent to go to Santa Cruz during the two-week temple maintenance shut down the last two weeks of August. Sweet!

And lastly, after our shift at the temple, we got to Skype with Matt and Lisa, and see their new baby - Violet. It was fun to talk to them, and see their sweet little daughter. We're so glad that everything is going well for them.

Whew - I think we needed a day off, so we just hung around home and napped and studied today. Boring.

Today was Bolivia's Independence Day. Turns out that they really don't celebrate like we do back home. No fireworks to speak of, some parades that we were told it might be better to avoid, no real significant displays of flags, etc. Interesting.

In addition, Molly and I were feeling a bit indisposed digestively - possibly due to some grapes that we ate. So, we hung around today, and just took care of some necessary mending and cleaning. My suit pants are a bit tight through the calves (Emily understands this Lyon phenomenon of massive calf muscles, I think), so Molly took it on herself to let them out. She really did a nice job - you wouldn't be able to tell. Now, when I stand up, they straighten out without me bending down to tug on them. We think we need to add a bit of weight to the cuffs, as well, to finish the task, but all in all, they are much better now.

While we were lazing around the apartment, though, we got a call from the guard house - someone had come to see us. So, we grabbed our shoes and walked down. It was Hna. Alvarez. She had come to Cochabamba from Santa Cruz to see us. She has a sister who lives here, which made it convenient. It was a real surprise. She gave us her phone number, and her son's, so we can contact them when we get there next week.

I'll post a separate blog entry about the Alvarez family and why they are so special to me, but here's a picture or two showing their little family business back in 1975 - making peanut brittle to sell in the market:
Hno. Alvarez preparing the candy
Hno. Alvarez and Marco Antonio working
Maria Luz packaging product
Final result
The room they are working in was their entire house. It was probably 10 feet wide by 12 feet long, and everything they owned was there. There wasn't an outside courtyard - they had their meals there, lived and slept and enjoyed their life in that single room.

I don't think I ever got a picture of the whole family - I got transferred shortly after they were baptized. But they really were a sweet family. When I left, they gave me two of the packages you see above as a gift - probably 5% of their daily production - a real sacrifice to them. I can't think of them today without real emotions of gratitude and love welling up.

So, it was a fabulous day after all, Independence Day non-celebrations notwithstanding.


Another walk to the Feria day for fruits and vegetables. Nothing very exciting. After our shift at the temple, we went with the Chalmers to the Suiza restaurant on Av. José Ballivian, also known as El Prado. It was very, very fancy - linens, waiters in tuxes, fine china, etc. We hadn't quite expected that. I had a lemon chicken dish that was very tasty, and Molly wanted to try something more indigenous, so she had the Pollo Picante - spicy chicken.

The highlight of her meal was chuño. Simply stated, chuño consists of rehydrated potatoes that have been freeze-dried to allow them to be preserved for long periods of time. Hers were probably not traditionally freeze-dried (on your patio outside), since they were only greyish, not black. Also, they didn't taste bad - unusual. All in all, it tasted OK, but her stomach wasn't feeling completely up-to-snuff, and the meal kind of exacerbated that. Not the best choice, even in a fancy restaurant. But all things considered, it was good one of us wasn't completely healthy, since it caused us to delay leaving for church on Sunday, allowing us to catch the leaky ceiling before it got too bad...

Yes, another leaky roof. You'd think we'd have learned our lesson, or paid our dues, with the broken water pipe in our condo in West Valley just before we came on our mission. But, the "water dripping from your ceiling" gods still want us to know they exist.

As Molly was ironing a shirt, she felt water splashing on her leg. She turned, and there was a steady dripping from the ceiling in our bedroom. I pulled the ceiling tiles out to determine the source. It was coming through a crack in the cement that forms the roof of the hospedaje. The workers had been working up there for the last few days, and hadn't anticipated the rainstorm that hit this morning (only the second one since we've been here). Apparently the water pooled just perfectly to attempt to drain through the crack in the cement.

We called the engineering staff, and they came and fixed things up very quickly, but if we'd gone to the early ward, as we had been planning until Molly's tummy didn't feel swell, it might have been missed for a number of hours, and who knows what might have  been damaged. As it was, everything got taken care of without any significant damage. Quite the improvement over last time!

As usual, we got to Skype with most all of the parents and kids today. It's sweet to be able to visit with everyone this way.

Mom got her hair cut and colored this morning, we got some groceries, and found that it's pretty easy to find Super Glue (even called that) down here to "stitch" wounds closed. Molly cut her pinky finger pretty severely while cutting some roles, and not being desirous to find a doctor to put a stitch in it, I started looking for Super Glue (I had a similar gash that our next door neighbor, Dr. Calll, fixed for me with Super Glue, so I figured I could repeat his effort here better than find a clinic.)

I found some right across the street in the little papeleria next to the temple, and was able to "suture" it up without any difficulty. It looks good, and hopefully will heal up without any problems.

Tonight we had a Family Home Evening with the English speaking missionaries on keeping the Sabbath Day holy, and self-reliance. It seems that these two topics are the current focus of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve for training that the Area Seventies will take out to all the Stakes and Wards around the world. One of the emphases of the Sabbath Day observance will be oriented to how it can be carried into the home in effective ways. We had a productive discussion about how our own families tried to accomplish this.

Molly pointed out one idea that we had implemented with our kids when I was in the Bishopric. When I'd get home at the end of meetings and such, she'd dish up ice cream for everyone (Ice Cream Party!) and we'd sit around the table and answer questions that the kids had submitted on papers in a bowl prior to my getting home. These might be gospel oriented, or as simple as, "Where are we going on our summer vacation." It did turn out to be a fun way to have family discussions that often led to gospel topics.

And to top off the day, we just got off Skype with Matt and Lisa and Violet. She's just perfect, and it is good to see everyone so happy.

So, that's the week. Feel free to ask for clarification if I've confused something. It's getting late and I think my brain is tired.

1 comment:

  1. Our lesson in RS last week was on Sabbath Day observance, and I shared the ice cream party story too! We do that religiously in our little family now, it's one of our favorite traditions! Love you!