Wednesday, October 14, 2015

People and Food

[October 6-12, 2015] Another Week

Before diving into any daily details (good papas rellenas found!), I wanted to talk about some of the people I've met on the morning turno (shift).

Hno. Spurrier is a North American who met and married a Bolivian at BYU, after his mission to a Spanish speaking mission in California, and has moved here. They have been working to open a little restaurant down close to the University (Universidad Mayor de San Simeon - UMSS). He's the coordinator for the morning turno on Tuesdays. In visiting with him, it has really helped me understand better what it's like living as a middle class Bolivian.

He and his wife live in an apartment across the street from the temple here. It is very nice looking, and their apartment has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with an additional small bedroom and bathroom that are designed for use by a live-in maid. They don't have a maid, though, and currently don't have any children, either, so the apartment is comfortable for them.

Water is provided from the city water system, but it doesn't quite work like we are used to in the United States. Two days a week water is provided, and someone has to open the valve that allows two very large tanks at ground level to fill. There is a pump that pumps the water up to tanks on the roof of the building to provide water pressure to the people in the building. The water is metered, but appears to be reasonably priced (some places aren't connected, and they pay 180 B's - $25 USD or so - for a full tanker truck of water pumped into their tanks). I'm not sure how long that would last, though, so a cost/value assessment is a bit difficult right now. There are times when the city water system, though, doesn't allow the tanks to be filled. He says they have been without water for a couple of days at a time.

As for potability, they do boil their water, although Hno. Spurrier says that some people don't, and don't seem to suffer GI upsets from it.

They are renting, but in Bolivia, there is an interesting mechanism that is used for some portion of that rent called "Anticredito". It works this way: There are two components to the rent - an actual rent-like component of $75 USD per month (pretty cheap), and an "anticredito" piece where the renter provides a sum of money (say $10,000 USD) that the landlord can use as he/she sees fit for the duration of the lease (investment, etc.), returning it to the renter at the end of the lease. Given that even a very good investment of $10,000 would not return more than $100 USD per month generally, their rent is very cheap. According to Hno. Spurrier, many places like his, without the anticredito piece might go for something up to $350.

For comparison, the minimum wage is 1656 BOB per month here. That works out to be about $240 USD per month. So, many people are forced to find some way to come up with the anticredito amount to be able to keep a monthly rent payment reasonable.

As for their restaurant, we tried it out on Monday of this week, and it was pretty good - details below.

Hno. Quiroga is a sealer here at the temple. He worked for Intel here in Bolivia, and is retired now. I'm hoping I got the details of his story straight - he told me all of this pretty quickly when we were waiting in the temple for our next assignment.

He lived in Oruro with his wife and four (I think) children, and the missionaries started visiting them there. His wife was interested, but Hno. Quiroga wasn't. He drove a taxi in the afternoon to supplement his income, and used that as a way to avoid meeting with the missionaries. For example, if the missionaries scheduled a visit at 3:00 pm, Hno. Quiroga would make sure he didn't get home until 5:00 pm. But, he told me, often, the missionaries would still be there waiting for them.

After a couple of years of this, he moved with his family to Cochabamba, and wouldn't you know it, the missionaries found them again. His wife started inviting them, and Hno. Q. says he was very mad. After some discussion, though, he allowed the missionaries to continue visiting his family, and at some point, he started visiting with them as well. Hno. Q. told me that during this time, he really was "muy duro" - very hard.

He continued to not want to have anything to do with the church, in spite of allowing his wife and family to pursue their interest, and after a number of months, the missionaries decided they needed to quit visiting.

So, one Friday evening, Elder MacPheters came prepared to tell them that the missionaries were going to stop. But, before he left, he looked directly at Hno. Q., and asked him if he was sure he didn't want to be baptized. Hno. Q. indicated that Elder M. looked him in the eyes, and the gaze seemed to bore right into his soul. Hno. Q. said that he felt the strongest, most amazing feeling come over him, and he realized that he really did believe what he'd been taught. Tears came to his eyes, and he said that he did want to be baptized.

He and his family were baptized soon after, Hno. Q. gave up smoking and drinking on the spot, and has never touched them since. He indicated that he has never been without a calling in the church since his baptism, and now is a Sealer in the temple.

Quite an inspirational missionary experience. I'm trying to get in touch with Elder MacPheters now, to put them back in touch with each other. It's always strengthening to my spirit to see that people I knew have found strength, power, love, and success in their lives as a consequence of having the gospel influence them in such positive ways.

So, on to the weekly update:

We started on the Morning shift/turno today. Lots of new people to get to know and love. Everyone I've met is so positive and encouraging. Little by little, I will blog about some of their stories (Hno. Soto makes ice cream for a living, for instance). Hno. Quiroga's story is above.

I've written a bit about papas rellenas (deep fat fried mashed potatoes with meat and vegetables inside) before (I think), and how much I liked them in Punata 40 years ago. We had them for breakfast at the market every day. Molly has been trying to figure out where we can get them, and how to make them. A lady at the temple told her about a place called Calamas, so we took a walk there to try them out. They are over on Av. Gral. Galindo, by the Universidad Catolica, between Av. America and Av. CircunvalaciĆ³n.

They were closed (they run out of papas at about 3:00 pm, apparently), though, so we walked back over our way, to a place called Donal's (no, there wasn't a clown there) and got a papa rellena there, just to see if it was any good.

It was, but it seemed a bit stale. We've decided that it probably is a morning kind of thing. So, we'll try again and see.

We walked to Calama's again, this time before 3:00, and they were open. We got a chicken papa rellena, and a cheese/queso rellena. They both were very good. We're going to try again earlier in the morning when we have time, because I still think they will be even better when they are most fresh.

On the way over, we walked past the slide, so I dared Molly to slide down the taller one this time. She did! Here's the proof:
Molly on the tall slide
Hno. Spurrier had told me that the B Bus route, that went past Calama's,  ended close to the temple, so we took it back. It is one of the bigger, colorful buses (this one isn't a B route bus, but they look very similar):
It did bring us within a block of the temple, so it appears to be a promising route. We'll take it the other way to see where it goes headed the other direction tomorrow.

After our shift at the temple, we took the B Bus south. It goes down Av. Gral. Galindo, then down Av. Aniceto Arce to Av. HeroĆ­nas, across to the Correo on Av. Ayacucho, and south from there to the Bus Station (for the flotas between major cities) and La Cancha. It looks promising as an alternative route.

While at La Cancha, I wanted to see if the old train station still existed. I remembered riding the train from Cochabamba to La Paz on my transfer, and really enjoyed it. On the map, it says that it is buried in the middle of the La Cancha vendors, so we started looking around.

We found it! Here are a couple of pictures.
Train Station ticket window - apparently not used anymore.
Current trains at the train station.

I talked to a young man there - the only trains that run now are basically converted school buses that run from Cochabamba to Aiquile - the home of the Charango museum. (A Charango is a small guitar/ukelele like instrument, that apparently is native to Bolivia.) The train runs to Aiquile three days a week, and returns the day after. The route is about 200 km, so it doesn't go very fast. We're imagining that we might try it, maybe in February when we'll have a week or two free. We'll see.

To see a better picture of the bus/train, go to this site:

It seems that a former president of the country contracted with a Chilean company to maintain the train system, and they eventually sold it all off and did no maintenance. So now, there are few trains, and few places to run them if they did exist.

While at La Cancha, we bought Molly some flip flops.

Somewhere along the line, we must have eaten something bad, because we woke up with the gomboo. It hit after our morning shift, so after we got home at about 2:00 pm, we just laid around and stayed close to the appropriate facilities. By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling better, and we'd run out of Imodium, so I walked down to Pharmacorp to resupply.

We took the 209 bus to Hipermaxi this afternoon, and while we were waiting to cross a street, a big caravan of important looking vehicles (black Suburbans with guys in the front seats that looked like security types, etc.) went whizzing by. There had been a big "Mother Earth" conference on the environment out in Tiquipaya over the weekend, so we imagined that this was some important official (President Morales) headed for the airport.

We also got some ice cream from the member who makes it here. It is pretty good, but also quite expensive, and not really that much like what you would buy at a good ice cream shop there. Bolivians don't have the same taste for creamy, salty, or sweet things, so it's interesting to see what they think tastes good. We're pretty willing to try some of their different tastes, but we do take care to try and make sure the food we eat is clean. Sometimes (this weekend being an example) we miss, I suppose.

We also ate at Hno. Spurrier's restaurant. It's called Mexicali, and the food was pretty good. We'll try it again in the future. It's an attempt to introduce some real United States style Mexican food. We hope they succeed.

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