Well, friends. I'm behind once again on my updates, so you'll have to deal with another jumbled list of events in Bolivia I've neglected to report on. But first, if you haven't read my last post, or if you have read it and are on the fence, I haven't found any help for my friend yet. Please think about whether this might be a opportunity for you!
Easter came and went and was beautiful! Holy Week is so wholeheartedly celebrated here! On Palm Sunday, we had a procession with Padre Pepe riding a donkey down the road as we waved our palms and sang. Though much of Holy Week is a reflection on Christ's profound humility, it is inextricable from His Kingship and exaltation. Pretty much exactly how the hymn in Ephesians sums it up.
As Padre Pepe road his donkey to the church, reenacting Jesus' entrance in to Jerusalem, the clapping and singing and celebration in memory of Christ's triumphant arrival seemed so right.
As the people circled around our sacrificed king, present in the eucharist, in the tabernacle on Thursday night, bowing in silent adoration of Our Lord, it seemed so right.
As we followed the bobbing crucifix through the town on Good Friday, stopping to pray stations of the cross at home-made alters around Itocta, birds lining the power lines and even the cows standing at attention, it seemed so right.
Though we rebel against it at times, our entire being is shaped to pay homage to our King and Creator. The world ought to stop and take notice, to weep for Jesus' bloodshed and rejoice in His resurrection. Itocta seems to "get it" and I really enjoyed spending Holy Week here.
I didn't stay for all of it though...
On Friday night, eating a late dinner, the sisters were talking about sending Hna. Lettie to La Paz for elections because she's registered to vote there. Of course, she shouldn't go alone, so they decided to send the tall scary white girl to protect her. Or something. But anyway, I heard my name, looked up, and the sisters asked "wanna go to La Paz?" Uh...sure! When? "tomorrow morning." Nothing like deciding about twelve hours before leaving.
So I was in La Paz with the small community (only four sisters!) for Easter. It was great to see another school and parish run by HDS and get to know a few more of the sisters. La Paz is pretty cold, especially this time of year. Bundling up in the cold, laying around with the sisters watching spider man between masses, and being "surprised" about every hour by one of the aunty-like sisters with some new treat or chocolate or full-on feast...it was actually a lot like Christmas with my relatives. It was also an interesting experience to watch elections in another country. The school the sisters run was a voting station for the county so everyone came to the school to get their ballots, mark them with their fingerprints, and cast them there. Vendors set up in the surrounding streets like it was a fair. It'll take some time to see how the new local government leaders (these elections were for mayors, governors, etc) will interact with the socialist system developing since December's elections.
Last weekend Jenna and Margaret, two of the SLMs working in other hogars in the Santa Cruz area, came to visit. It was so great to see them! It's easy to forget we're a little isolated out here until someone shows up to enjoy Cochabamba with us. The three of us went to a fabulous concert on Saturday night -- Los Kjarkas and Kala Marka, the two best-known folk music bands around. The concert was yet another great lesson in Bolivian culture.
I picked up our tickets earlier that week and sprung the extra three dollars for floor seats in the stadium (we were feeling extravagant, I suppose) and the tickets said 8. So we showed up at 7:45 and found a line stretching around the corner. We started walking. And walking. And walking. Every time we thought we were getting to the end of the line, it snaked again, wrapping around the stadium and ending a few blocks from the entrance. So we jumped in line, figuring we'd only wait fifteen minutes before things started moving. Apparently we had forgotten what country we were in. At about 9:15 they opened the doors and people finally starting enterring, over an hour after the concert was scheduled to start. When we finally reached the doors, they took our tickets, let us in, and we realized we were in the bleachers with no way to get to the floor. We went to talk to the people who took our tickets and some huge bouncer-looking man took pity on us and told us to follow him...then took off sprinting in a circle around the stadium to yet another unmarked line where apparently we were supposed to have known to enter. In the end, it was pretty much irrelevant, because there were no seats left and we stood with a few other hundred VIPers on the ground floor. Which was actually great...it gave us a chance to jump and dance and leap around with the rest of the stadium. Both Los Kjarkas and Kala Marka play very traditional music accompanied by some amazing ballet folklorico on a stage in front of the band. It was so moving to see people so excited and empassioned, celebrating their culture and shouting in turn for Bolivia and their individual departments. Pretty cool. Patriotism definitely encompasses a lot more than it seems to in the US. It's hard to compare what took place at the concert with something in The States. Unfortunately, we had to leave a few songs in to Los Kjarkas' set because it was already after 12:30 and time to head home. But all in all, a really great night.
While they were here we also had ourselves a little adventure finding another orphanage run by the same congregation Jenna works with. After travelling to a completely different city and finding a different hogar outside Cochabamba, we had a little more success the next day visiting Hogar San Francisco. The sisters were so welcoming and we had a great visit, but as we talked with them about the hogar we had found the day before and a few other hogars they were acquianted with, I felt a little overwhelmed. There are over 150 hogars in the department of Cochabamba alone. Ours, with fifty girls, two sisters, two employees, a secretary, a cook, and two volunteers, is one of the better-staffed. More and more I hear about the incredibly over-whelmed social-service programs (not to mention sisters, staff, and volunteers) doing their best to support the people. Hogars of fity children with one sister and a few drop-in volunteers. An hogar of seventy with three sisters and three afternoon tutors. A special needs orphanage of over eighty children, some of whom aren't even mobile, with three sisters and six staff. It's hard not to get discouraged hearing things like that, and it definitely makes me more thankful for how well-staffed we are, though it took me a realize how good we have it.
Things are still moving along in the hogar. The sisters are trying to get some girls to build some better habits, especially some of the teenagers who are overweight, so every evening after dinner I lead some sort of work out program for about an hour. They've gotten pretty in to it and it's fun to teach them about their bodies. It's shocking how little they've learned about excercise and self-care. They come to me panicked the day after a hard workout because their muscles are sore and they've never experienced that before. Or while doing some aerobics one or two will declare they are "burning up" and throw themselves dramatically on to the floor. Inevitably someone will ask "what's this for" every time we stretch and usually when I tell them to drink water too. It's pretty comical and I'm having a blast. A few of the girls get up with me at 5:30 a few times a week for a little dance class as well. So things are busy,the usual tutoring and computer lab duties, plus their new excercise program, and attending daily parent teacher conferences for our most difficult students. It's all keeping me on my toes but I'm definitely happy and loving life here still.