Monday, July 10, 2017

Temple Trip

[9 July 2017]
Cochabamba Temple. Photo taken by Angel Vasquez, a friend from the temple.
When you think of a temple trip, what does it mean to you? Take off work a bit early, dash home, get a bite to eat, pick up the babysitter, drive maybe 20 minutes to the temple, and get home by 10:00 pm? On the way home, you stop for ice cream, maybe? Pay the babysitter when you get home, and find the kids all in bed, asleep? OK, maybe the babysitter and the kids in bed asleep are a fantasy, but otherwise, in terms of time, cost, real sacrifices, etc., the trip is less expensive than a date night out with your spouse would be. A movie, dinner at Arby’s or Texas Roadhouse if you’re feeling flush?

Now, let me give you the perspective of a member here in Tupiza. Not taking into account many things, like how difficult it might be to get a week off from work, imagine that the temple is 20 hours away by whatever means of transportation you have available, and the cost to you is between 2 and 4 weeks of your gross salary – not net. To maximize the time you can spend at the temple, compared to the time in transit, you leave on Monday before noon and arrive at the temple Tuesday morning at 5:00 am, having traveled all night without really any sleep (I assure you, sleeping on a train or bus in Bolivia isn’t as easy as you might think), planning to leave Friday afternoon so you can get home early enough to wash clothes and prepare for Sunday.

Imagine, too, that you are a single mother with four children, ages 8 to 16. You can’t really leave them home – you don’t have the luxury of babysitters, and your extended family all live hours away.

Knowing that you have limited sessions and a number of family names to do the work for, you show up at the temple at 9:00 am to do baptisms for the dead with your teenage daughter or son. It’s their first experience, even though they are sixteen. They have helped get all the information needed into FamilySearch, so they feel connected to these grandparents and great-grandparents.
The train station in Tupiza.

Molly next to the train in Oruro.
Continue to imagine that you come back to the temple Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning and afternoon, and Thursday morning and afternoon to do as many sessions as you can, so that you can do sealings on Friday and complete the work you have planned. You know that you might not be able to come back until next year, or even later, due to the cost, family circumstances, etc.
Real leg room on the train.
That’s a small view of what last week was like for us. What a joy to be able to go and help at the temple for members from our branch here in Tupiza.

We left Wednesday afternoon on the train from Tupiza to Oruro. We had seen the train, and read about it, and felt like it would be more comfortable than one of the flotas or buses with restricted leg room. It did have ample leg room, bathrooms, and even a dining car where we had a very nice, but simple dinner.
The downside of the convenience of the train, though, is time. The distance from Tupiza to Oruro is about 310 miles (522 km). The distance in time was 14 hours 40 minutes. That’s about 20 miles an hour. The speed, I’m guessing, is due to the quality of the tracks. Due to lack of money for maintenance, the train goes slowly to avoid problems. It swayed and bounced incessantly. It was very dangerous to try and get up and walk between cars to get to the dining car, for instance. Very interesting, and well worth it once. We did it twice – the second time to get back here to Tupiza.
Just outside of Oruru, we passed a lake filled with flamingos. This picture doesn’t do it justice – there had to be thousands of them.

The dining car on the train.

Once we got to Oruro, we took a taxi to the bus station, and took a flota to Cochabamba – about another 130 miles, and we went at an astounding speed of 30 miles an hour. The road to Cochabamba was under construction most of the way, through mountain passes at 14,000 feet. Very beautiful. It was amazing to see little tiny “towns” (collections of two or more adobe houses) miles and miles away from anywhere else. Sometimes they would have potatoes spread out on tarps so they would freeze overnight. They call those freeze-dried potatoes chuño. Not the tastiest of things, even when adequately re-hydrated.
The young men from Tupiza.

Some members from Villazon. 
We got to Cochabamba Thursday afternoon, and checked into the hospedaje at the temple. What a paradise. Hot and cold running water (to experience the joy of this, wash your hands in cold water – near freezing just to make it real – for six months every time you would normally wash your hands. You can have a bit of respite by using hot water to do your dishes, but you have to boil that water yourself. Then one day, you can turn the hot water tap on when you wash your hands. What a luxury.)
On Friday and Saturday, we took care of some things that we needed to get done – like buy pillows and a mattress pad that we have been seriously missing in Tupiza. We also went to the temple for a session, and met many of our old friends there.

On Sunday, we attended Sacrament Meeting in our Barrio Linde and Barrio Rosedal wards. What a joy. Three of the people that we taught the temple lessons to came up to us to tell us, joyfully, that they had been to the temple, two of them being sealed with their families. Our dear little friend, Eva Cruz, was there. Despite her paralysis on her left side, she comes faithfully every week. She told Molly that she was going to get her long, luxurious hair cut short like Molly’s, because it was so heavy and it is difficult to brush and braid it with one hand.

On Monday, we visited Elva Lopez. She looked healthier this time, and it was such a joy to visit with her and tell her all about the branches in Tupiza. She lives with her daughter Ivana and her family. She has a grandson, Benjamin, who is maybe six years old. He was so excited to show us how he helps take the garbage out to the garbage truck when they hear the truck playing music as it comes down the street.

On Tuesday, through Thursday morning, we went up to the temple to help in the Baptistry with all the youth. Since this is the winter school break, or vacations, many branches and wards send their youth to the temple. The baptistry was full every day. One stake from La Paz had brought 120 youth, and most every one of them had a family name card to do the baptism for. Quite impressive.

Wednesday afternoon, Hna. Rivas, from our branch in Tupiza, asked Molly and I if we would stand in as proxies for her grandparents to be sealed. We were happy to do that for her. She is such a faithful member, with her four children. She is working hard to provide for them in every way possible – temporally and spiritually. They are such dear, dear friends.

On Wednesday, as we were going up to the temple, one young boy (13 years old) from Rama Villazón stopped me and asked me if I could help him figure out why he couldn’t print off family name cards for his grandparents. He told me that he had entered everything in FamilySearch, but it wouldn’t let him print that ordinance cards. I tried to help him on my phone, but decided it would be easier on my laptop, so we arranged to meet in the comedor (cafeteria) at 7:30 Thursday morning to figure it out.

He was so excited. When he showed up, we logged in and found out that he had created his account with a wrong birth year. As a result, it wouldn’t connect with his member account. So we created a new account for him, connected him up, checked the box for showing LDS ordinances, and wallah! It worked. We located his grandparents, connected them to him in FamilySearch again, and printed off the ordinance cards. Only after they printed did I realize they were in English! No worry, the temple work is not constrained by language, so he just took them up to the temple and did the work. He was so appreciative.

Thursday evening, we washed our clothes, packed our bags, and tidied up the apartment. Friday morning, we took a plane to Oruro (30 minutes vs. 4 to 5 hours on the bus), and caught the train back to Tupiza, arriving at about 3:00 am. Fortunately, taxis are still running at that hour here. We dropped into bed at about 4:00 am, not caring that much that our apartment temperature was only 51 degrees. We turned on the heater, and fortunately it warmed up to the mid 60’s by 9:00 am or so when we got up. Quite the change from Cochabamba. What an exciting week.

So, compare that temple trip to yours. When we lived in American Fork, and were temple workers, it felt like such a commitment to be at the temple at 5:00 am on a Saturday morning, serving until noon. Quite the comparison. We sometimes talk about sacrificing to go to the temple. Now I have a much clearer comprehension of what sacrifice really means in that context. We have so much to learn from these sweet people.

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