Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Day (or two) in Our Lives

[8 April 2017]

So, what’s it like here in Tupiza from day to day? Well, let me tell you.

On a typical Sunday, we walk, take a bus, or take a mini-taxi down to the Tupiza Chapel for our church meetings. The members are very sweet, and appreciate our being here. The children really have taken to Molly, as you might imagine. She’ll usually have two or three, or more, sitting next to her or on her lap. I don’t think she minds! After church, we usually come home for lunch, and to Skype children as we’re able to.

In the evening, we go to the América Branch, and teach the Temple Prep class. We’ve done that one Sunday, now, and had more than a dozen attendees. The Branch President came, as well – his support was very evident and appreciated. The América Branch chapel is just a couple of blocks away, so we walk there, and then walk back home.

Mondays are spent washing clothes and cleaning, mostly. Washing clothes by hand takes a couple of hours. Molly does the washing, and I do the wringing and hanging out to dry part. We hang our towels, socks, sheets, pillowcases, pants, shirts, skirts, etc. outside to dry, and the rest on racks that we set up in the dining room with a fan to assist the drying. Everything mostly gets dry by nightfall, but a few things might take until morning in the dining room.

I’d say we do our shopping on Monday (Preparation Day), but since we have a small fridge, and we do all our own cooking, we pretty much shop whenever it’s needed. Everything is so close here, that we can just pick up things we need at the market on our way home from wherever we’ve gone. Our increasingly favorite market for fruits, veggies, flour, sugar, etc. is Mercado La Paz. Look back to the blog entry on March 1, 2017 to see our friend there. She is 8 months pregnant, so her mother is helping her now. She always lights up when she sees Molly.

On Tuesdays, we try to get out and visit, if we can. I’ve been combing the branch records, trying to help the clerk figure out how to straighten things out. Families aren’t always arranged together, and often are missing some children. For active families, that should be easy to fix. But, since there are over 500 inactives on the records, there’s a big task in figuring out how to clean those up. Little by little, we are finding addresses and fixing them, and finding inactive members who need some visiting. We just learned tonght of a former Branch President who is inactive, but lives close, so we’ll try and visit him.

Tuesday mornings are usually our missionary District Meeting. It’s always fun to meet with the young missionaries and offer our support in visiting, teaching, whatever. Tuesday evenings might involve a visit to a family with the Missionaries, a meeting at the branch, or working with the clerk.

Wednesday evenings, we teach Piano lessons, and the Temple Prep class in the Tupiza Branch. The First Counselor in the Branch Presidency is a returned missionary, and is endowed, but his wife is not. They have three children, and have lived in the branch for about a year. She is preparing to go to the Temple in July, and they will be sealed as a family. We visited with her for a long time tonight – she is really cute, and strong in the gospel. She has six sisters and two brothers, and is the only one in her family who is a member. Until recently, she felt like her family really didn’t care about her at all – they live a couple of hundred miles away – but recently her mother has been calling her promising to visit, and crying that she misses her. They are really good examples to their family, and I know that the Temple will be a big blessing in their lives.

As for the Piano lessons, school is making it hard for the kids to be consistent, but we have four or five who are making progress. There are two portable keyboards that they are sharing, and they practice at the church whenever they can. It’s fun to see their enthusiasm and progress.

Wednesday evenings also have us attending the missionary correlation meeting if we can. We really enjoy seeing the missionaries in action. Sometimes they get a bit discouraged, but we work to help them see the joys around them. Chocolate chip and lemon shortbread cookies often help. One of the sister companionships was having problems with their “pensionista” or cook. They have a local person cook lunch for them five days a week, and this one was kind of pushing them to loan her money every day. They were uncomfortable, and talked to me. I hope I helped them with some ideas on how to defuse the situation, but the lady kept pushing, so they’ve changed to a different one. We’ve also had some “parental” opportunities to counsel about upset stomachs, dog bites, etc. Some things come with age and seven children.

Thursdays are more of the same. We’ve had some very sweet Family Home Evenings with a number of families. One of the nice things that we can do because our Lisa gave us a book of family pictures before we left, is to share how our family is our treasure, and how the church gives us the assurance that we can be eternal families. With my Dad’s passing in the last month or so, it has also allowed us to share our testimonies about the love in our family, and God’s love for all of us in His plan that promises us that we will be able to see our loved ones again.

Along those lines, we visited the Tupiza Cemetery to see how difficult it would be to figure out if the 103 year old member of record in the branch is buried there. I assure you, we won’t find it by looking at headstones. Suffice it to say that there are many graves that have no markings. There are whole sections along the outer walls that are just for placing caskets in a little space barely big enough for it, six high by as many wide as you can see, with very little indication of whose body is inside other than a number. There will be lots of flowers, but not much else. Some are closed with elaborate glass doors, others have nothing more than a number or maybe a name.

Nearly all the graves/crypts are above ground. Some have very fancy mausoleums, others might just have a brick or adobe box around them. Many are not well-maintained. Here are some pictures. The first is a nicer section, the second appeared to be mostly for children.

Nice section of Tupiza Cemetery

Children's section of cemetery.
Fridays and Saturdays follow the same pattern – shopping if needed, visiting where we can, piano lessons in the evening, helping the missionaries, working with the branch clerk, combing through records. One Saturday, we spent the morning walking around Tupiza with the Branch President looking for members. We found a few, but found a number of opportunities as well to follow up. One member, a less active, wasn’t home when we went by with Presidente Alfaro, but we found her at her tienda later, and bought some cookies (like Oreos) as an excuse to talk to her. We invited her to come to church (which she hasn’t taken us up on, yet), and we plan to go by again, soon.

Saturday afternoons are usually Branch Counsel, and we go to teach, encourage the leaders, etc.
This last week was different from the normal, because we had to go to Cochabamba to get our regular visa. Our 30-day visa ran out a couple of weeks ago. So on Tuesday, after District Meeting, we walked down to the Bus Terminal with our suitcases.

The trip from here to Cochabamba took us through Potosí – a large town at 13,000 feet. To get there, we took a “Rapidito”- basically a minivan, for a four-hour trip.

The prominent feature of Potosí is Cerro Rico – a conical mountain laced through and through with mine shafts. It’s cold in Potosí, as you might understand at that altitude, and Molly didn’t feel well. So we grabbed something to eat and crashed – in a very nice motel. We flew out the next morning to Cochabamba.

Cerro Rico from our motel room window.

Our motel room in Potosi - very nice.

Molly at a plaza in Potosi.

Landmark in Potosi returning from the airport.
In Cochabamba, we got to go to the temple with the missionaries, visit with many good friends, and stay at the Mission Home. The Mission Home has a washer and dryer – how nice to have warm, soft, fluffy clothes fresh from the dryer. They don’t turn out that way drying on the line.

We had planned to return on Friday, but needed to finish some things on Monday, so we got to stay an extra three days at the Mission Home, and got to watch General Conference with Sister Farnsworth at the hospedaje on the temple property. She is one of our Temple worker friends. All in all, it was very nice.

So, Tuesday morning we got up early, caught a taxi to the airport, flew to Potosí, immediately caught a Rapidito, and got back to Tupiza by about 1:30 in the afternoon.

So, that’s a general idea of what we do around here. We really enjoy it and look forward to meeting more and more people every day here in Tupiza.

One last quick note – we have been asking various people what the best bread in Tupiza is, and where we could find it. Our reference bread, to this point, is pan marraqueta from La Paz. It is crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. We had some in La Paz when we stayed there last year with the Pozos, and have been looking for something as good without finding it. In Cochabamba, they have something they call pan marraqueta, but it isn’t the same thing.

One day last month, Presidente Huarachi, from Rama América, told us of a panaderia (bakery) where they sold a bread called “pan de piso”(literally, bread of floor, but it translates as flat bread), but you had to get there early since it sold out quickly. We went there one morning at about 6:30 am, but a handwritten sign on the door said they didn’t have bread that day. So we tried again this morning.

When we got there, the door Presidente Huarachi showed us was open, but it looked like it just was a residence, not a tienda or store as we had figured. There were no people around, so we wondered if we’d found the right place. Not wanting to go home empty handed, we knocked, and were invited in. So we cautiously entered, wondering what we’d find.

Pan de piso.
As we entered, to the left side, around a corner, were about ten people sitting on benches. We told them that we had been told that we could buy pan de piso here, and they said we’d found the right place. (We wondered if we were going to need a secret password.)

One of the men knocked on a door, and said something about gringos through the door. A few minutes later, a young boy cracked the door open, and asked us what we wanted. I told him “pan de piso”, and he asked how much. (Cost, weight, number of pieces, etc. weren’t specified.) So, in order to be quick, since everyone else apparently knew the secret ritual, I just said “six”. He took our bag, and came back a few minutes later with it filled. I asked, “How much”, and he said “seis” (six) like I was some kind of imbecile. So I gave him six Bolivianos and we left. Turns out six Bolivianos buys fourteen panes (or rolls). We ate one on the way home, and they are as close as anything we’ve found, yet, to the marraqueta rolls in La Paz. Pretty good.

From what I surmised after we left, the others were all there to buy in bulk, and take the bread to their little tiendas to sell. We stumbled on to the bakery, not a regular store, and were grateful they let us in on their little secret cabal!

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