Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You're doing it wrong... Part 2

 Everything on the buses is in Japanese. Why? No clue.
 They don't believe in dumpsters
 Thank God you put Pablo because for a second I didn't know which 'Juan' you loved
 Keep that to yourself 
 Horse Victory!!! We walk past this buggy daily
 Personally I think Tic Tacs would be the worst gift ever
 Micros are often terrifyingly gross
 Galdfish??? This was decoration at a restaurant (No fish sold there...)

 The signs across from the Kingdom Hall. Just a man bleeding to death, no big deal

 Darling Karaoke Discotheque.. The weirdest.
Pacman is the sponsor? 
 Danger! Millions of babies on board 
 Candied grapes--- soooo bad
 One day while we were out they swapped our pictures for these horse portraits. I didn't notice it at first...
The wine brand name is 'Conception'... Conception in a bottle? Eww.

And now Elise's favorite pigeon ever. 
Sassy Pigeon is feeling fabulous!!! 

Sorry we haven't been updating the blog lately, we are getting to our final days and really don't enjoy being reminded of it. We have been going out in service daily and are getting to the point where we need to hand over our studies to other people. Tomorrow is our last study with the little kids and we know we are going to bawl. We really really really don't want to leave. The congregation had a little party for us over the weekend. The brothers and sisters are having us over for meals constantly. We have bought everyone's presents and souvenirs. We would really like to bring everyone from back home to here instead of leaving. 

That's all we are going to write for now because we really don't want to talk about leaving, we are super sad whenever the subject is brought up. We fly out of Sucre on Sunday and are dreading it. 

Love to all! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Advice for being a Need Greater in Sucre Bolivia

Before coming to Bolivia, we looked at tons of other Need Greater blogs and that helped us so much. So we thought we would pass on the torch and try to help others with what we've learned with our little bit of experience. We are constantly walking around talking about what we would tell other need greaters that we knew were coming to serve in Sucre. So here are some of the things we came up with.

Advice for before you come:

  • Write the Bolivian Branch (obviously) and do it as early as possible. It took us about 6 weeks to hear back from them the first time. BUT they won't give you specific information (at least in our experience). They will give you a lot of homework and research to do to see if you are really ready for it. You can write back and ask more information about where to go if you would like. What worked best for us was to ask around for people who knew people down here and then to get in touch with them. We contacted a sister who used to be here for a year and she gave us an elder's information and that's how we chose Sucre. So word of mouth might work better after you get in touch with the branch. 
  • Choosing which city to serve in... There really is a need just about anywhere. Know what you can handle before choosing a city. Can you do really high altitudes without getting sick? Then Oruro (12k ft), Potosi (13.4k ft), and La Paz (12k ft) are probably where you want to start out. As far as safety goes, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are known as the more dangerous cities. In general it is just drug related things and robberies. One need greater that lives in our building started out in Santa Cruz and on her first day of wandering the city she saw a young man shot dead in the plaza. She then decided to pack up and move. Not saying that will happen to you, but if you are a single sister alone in Bolivia like her, take it into consideration. Santa Cruz is also ungodly hot, humid, and lots of mosquitoes. Sucre is known for being more 'tranquilo' in that you feel relatively safe wandering around alone in most parts. The only danger is if they catch you stealing something- then they bury you alive. Pretty mild climate-not humid and the temperature averages in the 60-70s. (Keep in mind our experience is being here February-April) The whole Chuquisaca departamento (state) has a highest ratio of publishers to population. If you want to serve in the middle of no where with an isolated group of like 6 people, they are probably under the territory of a bigger city. So you probably want to visit the big city first (stay with witnesses or a hostel) and that congregation and then you can buy your bus ticket out there. Most congregations average about 2 Elders and many of them are need greaters. 
  • Don't worry too much about the tourist visa. They were super relaxed and not by the book when we came and got one in the airport. They barely even looked at our papers. Just make sure you have your stuff together and they'll stamp your passport and let you in. (It also helps if they think you are pretty)
    • If getting a visa for longer- have fun with that. We have seen a few other need greaters stressing out about it and running around a lot. When you do go to the offices to get it taken care of- bring a Bolivian brother or sister. They will really mess around with you if you are just a foreigner all alone but will be much more helpful if an actual Bolivian is there with you
  • Get the rabies vaccine. We talked with a doctor for a long time before we came about all the vaccines we were going to get. She skipped rabies because she couldn't see any scenario where we would need it. WRONG. Your congregation will have many barrios in it and the farther you get from the center of the city the meaner the dogs get. People are bit by dogs in the ministry all the time. They may not be rabid but I am sure that after you get bit by a dog here you would like to feel safe in knowing you already had the shot to protect yourself. Plus there is always the nasty rumor that here the horse version of the vaccine is way cheaper so they often give it instead. 
  • Things to pack... Think like you are going camping. 
    • Clothing: A warm jacket, a scarf, and boots. If you are lucky to go out in service in the barrios in the rain or after the rain, it will be very muddy and probably smell like urine (everything smells like that after the rain). Do you really want that on your uncovered feet?? No. Also a reason to not bring super long skirts. Service for us starts at 7:30am because the 'salida' or service meeting is about a mile away. It is cold here at that time. It is usually kinda chilly at any time that the sun isn't out. So some warmer layers are a good idea. Before coming we pictured ourselves doing our laundry by hand so we didn't pack anything that would stretch. But we stayed in town and we don't have a private place to do laundry so we just take it down the street to have it cleaned. Here there are lavandarias everywhere. For us they will way it, say it weighs 2 kilos, they will charge 20 bolivianos (usually less because we go there regularly) and it can be back to you by the time you are done with service. Bring a few good pair of walking shoes for service that you aren't attached to. We will not be bringing ours back to the states with us, they are trashed. Also when selecting your shoes remember that very rarely the surface you are walking on will be flat- even if it is a sidewalk. Buying shoes here is like $25-$30 (for the cheap ones) and they really aren't good quality and are sometimes used. Buying clothes here is possible but keep in mind that these Bolivian women are perfectly tiny and that describes their clothes as well. Bring a hat because your head will burn in the sun even if the temperature isn't that hot. 
    • Umbrella or umbrellas. The sister's here use them any time the sun comes out. It will make a difference in the heat. It also does rain periodically and you have to walk everywhere you go so having an umbrella then helps to. You can also use it to knock on doors (they rarely use their hands to knock on a door). And to beat away dogs- if the dog starts charging you can open it up and use it as a shield  Not only does it scare the dog but you can also keep a couple feet between you and it. Also the quality of the umbrellas aren't that great so if you leave it behind with a brother or sister they will love you forever.
    • Spices for cooking. The store isn't always consistent with the spices it provides, and even if it has it, it may be the powdered version. The food is pretty bland here because they like it that way. They also say things are 'picante' and they really aren't. If you cook yourself (safer) you may want to bring little ingredients that you doubt are here. (even their salt and pepper are a little different). We have a pressure cooker to cook with and we LOVE it. Because of the elevation here it is really hard to cook rice and pasta without them turning out burnt or mushy. If you like coffee, bring your own and also a french press. Also we haven't seen baking powder in the stores so if you like to bake, take it along just in case. 
    • Sunscreen. You will burn on the cold days when the sun peeks its head out for just a little while.  Don't forget to put it on your feet!!
    • Any girly beauty product that you use regularly. Makeup, makeup remover, shaving cream, chapstick, tampons, moisturizer, etc. They do have some things occasionally but they will be faaaaar more expensive, especially if it is a safe brand you recognize. Also if you paint your nails don't bring red. We were told any other color is fine  but red is associated with women with "bad lifestyles."
    • A water bottle. You can't drink the water here. But it is super rude if someone offers you something at a door and you say no. They don't care if you are a gringo and can possibly get seriously ill from whatever liquid they want to give you. A water bottle is a way to avoid that awkardness 'Oh I am so sorry I already have something to drink right here!!' 
    • Scissors, a lighter, a candle, can opener, bottle opener, tape, one really good cooking knife. Random little things that even if your house does come furnished, it wont have those things. And those little things really put you in a pickle when you figure out you dont have it.  If you are from the States-- they use metric! So maybe a little set of plastic measuring cups or else get good at converting after you go shopping for whatever they measure their food with (still dont know)
    • Mosquito repelent and something to put on the mosquito bites. 
Advice for while you are here:
  • Spend as much time as possible with the Bolivian brothers and sisters. There will no doubt be other need greaters who are amazing people and will possibly speak your language. This will be good for you for a while but either you will speak any language other than Spanish or whatever Spanish you do learn from them may have an accent or just be phrased differently than what the Bolivians would use. The brothers and sisters from Sucre speak a very clear, accent-less Spanish. (Santa Cruz Spanish is super hard to understand BTW) Give them permission early on to correct you when you misspeak. This will help you sooo much. They will also teach you the little phrases they use that householders will understand. Sometimes other need greaters can be a little critical of one another, especially when it comes to the language but the Bolivian brothers and sisters will be thrilled that you came here in general and are trying your hardest. 
  • Be in charge of your own ministry. When you get calls make sure you are positive of how to get back (often there are no numbers on houses or street names) and come back to do it. There will not be a special group that goes out and does calls. Here they often wait until the next time they work the territory to do their calls. If you are a need greater you don't have that kind of time. Plus the people here will read what you left them relatively quickly after receiving it. We like to try to get to our studies twice a week- once on Mondays when no one else in the country goes out in the morning and again when we are doing door to door in a territory that is relatively close. 
  • Have a cute presentation for children and use it. Get familiar with the Listen to God brochures and always have one on your person. 
  • Talk to everyone you come across. For us it takes ages to get to the service meeting (we always walk because the micros are super packed in the morning because everyone is going to work and school) so we hand out tracts as we go along. To get to some barrios you take micros out (coming into town they are packed but going out is fine) and while you are sitting there talk to the people on the bus. They are always super nice and were probably already staring at you wondering why you are going out to the barrio- so tell them! We have been able to witness to people in shops, stands on the street, people sitting in the park, waitresses, nail technicians, taxi drivers, security guards, and everybody else. 
  • Do you like dogs? We've mentioned this a little already but let's talk about it more. They are EVERYWHERE. Some are nice, some are not. If a dog is really giving you trouble, you can bang your Bible like a drum and try to yell at it (like an angry 'Shooo!'). If that doesnt work, reach down to the ground like you are grabbing a rock and pretend to throw it at them. Usually that works the best, the locals hit dogs with rocks constantly so they are spooked by it. If the dog persists, get a rock and throw it in it's general direction. Have your umbrella ready if the dog isn't afraid. At this point we usually hide behind brothers and make them take the door. The brothers and sisters generally know best and try to follow their lead. If you are too scared they will totally take it for you. We have seen brothers and sisters bit, so continue to use common sense. 
  • Try to figure out the bus system. It can cost 1 boliviano if you are student age and 1.5 for everyone else. They do not make circuits! And not all buses with the same letter or number go to the same place! When you need to get somewhere too far to walk, ask around. People always know what bus goes where. Be sure to ask where to catch it and what direction it should be going in. If you really aren't sure, when about to get on the bus ask the driver if he is going to your destination. Some buses that go way out only come around every hour or so (but not on an actual time schedule, that would make too much sense) so you may have to wait. Once you get on, hold on to something, they don't really come to complete stops and will continue to move while you are walking on. When you are on the bus there aren't stops so to get off you have to scream at the driver ( things like "parada" "pare aqui" "a la esquina" "bajamos" etc.).
  • There are a good number of beggers around the city center. It is really up to you what you want to do about it. The worst ones are the ones with small children who come up to you and grab you and they wont let go until you give them something. We try to have little candies on us to give to those children. They are thrilled by it and run away. 
  • Say goodbye to good cheese, sour cream, and berries. They just don't have them. 
  • If you go to a restaurant it is cheaper to ask for whatever the lunch special is. It is a ton of food for not very much money. 
  • Everyone will tell you to not drink the water and don't eat off the streets (they mean street vendors but it makes me happy to make it sound like they are implying you are a dog). But especially don't eat the pizzas they sell on the corner. Although they are adorable we've seen the places where they put them together and it is scary.
  • If you get sick (don't worry you will) just hop over to one of the zillion pharmacies, tell them your symptoms, and they will sell you some pills. Super easy. No doctor needed. (there are actual doctors too and to visit them is relatively cheap, but for the small stuff just see the pharmacist.)
  • Try to take notes at meeting- it will help keep your mind from drifting which happens a lot if Spanish isn't your first language. Also work on answering, it is a good example to everyone else if you are working so hard to answer like a 6 year old whereas they can speak the language and could easily comment too. 
  • Get used to feeling like a 6 year old. Mostly with the language but the feeling pops up at other times too. 
  • This is a third world country and get things done they insist on protesting everything and anything. You'll definitely run across protests and should probably turn around and avoid them. Don't worry the loud noises are just fireworks but steer clear nonetheless.
  • Bring personal study items in your language. Most of the time you are so focused on the language you could skip focusing on your spirituality 
  • If you are planning to do touristy stuff around the country, do it as early as possible. Eventually you will have lots of studies and won't want to leave them earlier than necessary. 
  • These people love to dance 
  • Be prepared to be very disappointed by the food. I can't talk about this enough. Don't think 'it will be like Mexican food all the time!' like I did because. They do not use much rice, beans, tortillas, or cheese. 
    • Their corn/maiz is crazy and I haven't met many need greaters who like it. 
    • Everyone will tell you not to eat the 'red sauce' that they have on the table at all restaurants. It is basically a tomato salsa but depending on the restaurant they dont wash the tomatoes first so you can get food poisoning. If you really trust the restaurant, go for it. 
  •  Wander around the city. Go to the parks and the center and the market. You will have fun wandering and may even come across something you want. 
  • Buy jewelry off the street. Earrings for 5 Bolivianos? Yes please
  • Get some Bolivianita. It will be the cheapest you will ever find it here in Bolivia
  • Go up to the Recoleta when it is time to buy souvenirs. It is generally cheaper compared to the shops by the Mercado Central. 
  • Speaking of the markets, unless you are looking for some really specific fruit, it is really the same price as the supermercados. And they will usually up the price because of your skin color. 
  • Ladies you will be whistled at every time you leave the house. The creepiest is when men pass you and whisper in your ear. There really isn't much you can do about it. 
  • Don't forget to disinfect your dishes, fruits, and veggies. We use bleach or vinegar. 
  • Try to buy glass bottles of soda in little tiendas. They usually require you to drink it there and give back the bottle but it is only 1.2 Bolivianos whereas a plastic bottle is 5. 
  • Public urination is everywhere. As is breastfeeding. Not a lot of shame in that department.
  • Just because your apartment says it comes with hot water doesn't mean it does. It will be like someone is brushing their teeth and then washing their hands, constantly. 
  • Learn the phrase 'it's good for Bolivia', it will help a lot 
Places to Go in Sucre aka restaurants that didn't kill us
  • El Paso de los Abuelos- on Bustillos. Good empanadas with chicken or beef. They even have them to go if you want (not super common)
  • Damasco- not far from the cener on Bolivar. Has good burgers for Bolivia (actually serves BBQ sauce which is rare as well) and also has a frozen yogurt place associated with it next door. 
  • Concord Trekkers- Just up the street from Damasco on Bolivar. Great strong cappuccinos. 
  • Cafe Amsterdam- Bolivar as well. Really nice lady owns it and speaks English if you need. Their food is good and they have good drinks too. They play movies some nights or a soccer game during the day
  • Napoli Pizzeria- on Anciento Arce a block from the center. Surprisingly good fire oven pizza. 
  • KulturCafe- on Avaroa. Run by Germans and decently priced. 
  • Vieja Bodega-off the center. Has a four course Bolivian meal for 25 Bs and it's pretty safe and delicious if you want a Bolivian style lunch.
  • Abis Cafe- in the center has decent coffee, treats, and crepes. 
  • Joy Ride Cafe- just off the center. It is pretty pricey for us, but they do have good regular coffee, hashbrowns, and actually make pancakes if you get desperate for an american breakfast. 
  • Eat Saltenas! The Patio by the mercado central is good, about 6 bolivianos each though. There is a cute hole in the wall up above the Surena factory on Uyuni. It is painted red and has an add for coca cola on it. Super tiny but sure yummy and safe. Usually it is a family of 3 working and they are super nice. About 4 bolivianos each. 
  • Florin- on Boliviar is good and has a lot of internatial choices. Good drink choices too. 
  • La Patisserie- right off the center on Audencia. Run by a frenchman and has AMAZING desserts. There is a round strawberry cheesecake thing (you are welcome for the description) that is so amazing. Overall cheesecake is terrible in Bolivia but this guy is brilliant. 
  • There is a pastelria right where Colon and Uyuni meet past the Facultad de Medicina (or by the Plaza Deisel) that is super good. One lady is working there all the time. Good apple pie and doughnuts.
  • Frozz- on Junin by the post office. A little pricey but they have a coffee/ice cream/soft-serve thing that is so amazing. 
  • Above the supermercado SAS there is a food court and a movie theater. Also a little expensive for a food court but a lot of choices in one place. 

Feel free to ask us questions! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"We're lost in the Andes"

 The title is a song that we came up with in light of our situation this afternoon. It started off much happier with lyrics like "we are hiking in the Andes" and escalated into "we're in a ravine"
"I don't think this is the path"
"we're running from the bulls"
"Apparently that snake CAN swim!!"
or "jumping over a river"
to the inevitable "we are lost in the Andes!"
If you haven't discovered it yet, we decided that we were fully capable of taking a bus to the middle of nowhere and hiking 3 km to some waterfalls. We discovered we aren't anywhere near that level of adventure and we probably should have used a tour guide.

After finally finding the right bus, it dropped us off in a barrio called Alegria where a little boy told us "just follow the path" which appeared easy enough
It was pretty and we still had a sense of adventure at this point.
We stayed on this side of the path since there were bulls fighting on the other.
 Then once we found the river there were people doing laundry and a bunch of dogs barking so we stayed on this side still. ( In retrospect this was a bad decision, we wanted to go up the river to find waterfalls but we ignorantly continued down river).

We felt pretty intrepid leaping over rocks like mountain goats.
This was the "path" we took to get to the river, straight down. At this point I think Elena started to doubt my leadership abilities.
This is the closest thing to a waterfall we actually found. 

After a while the river combined with another and it turned really muddy and gross and we stopped taking pictures and started panicking a little. But, we continued to follow it as opposed to climbing back up the ravine.
Eventually we stopped for lunch and then continued walking until we spotted people. We asked them where we were (now sure we were lost) and they didn't know. They told us it didn't have a name-uh-oh. We walked forever up a hill and past scary dogs to a hacienda which looked great. It was adorable and had a pool but of course there was no one there so we continued to walk. A little girl told us we were really far way from Alegria (the little town we started off in) and we needed to follow the uphill road, in the sun. We finally stopped to rest in the only shade on the entire road. To the right is the ravine we were down in.
Us after five hours of hiking, adventuring, and sun.

Fortunately some men passing by in a truck let us hop in the back for a ride back to Sucre. We were falling all over ourselves trying to stay upright much to the amusement of the random Bolivian man with us (you can see him in the reflection).
Over all our whole adventure cost us 3 bolivianos each (less than 50 cents) and we survived ( a little burnt, scraped by some thorn bushes (aka bushes of death) and Elena got stung by a bee). I think we fulfilled our sense of adventure for a while and now can go back to staying in the city.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Memorial and More

Hi there, sorry but its a bit of a hodgepodge of things we have to share. First off we have pictures from the Memorial. It was held in a big theater that the brothers rented. We don't have many pictures because we had a bit of fiasco getting there. Our taxi driver didn't know where to go and we spent almost half an hour driving around and almost didn't make it on time. We were able to barely squeak in with a couple minutes to spare.

It was a really pretty theater, huge too!

The attendance for our hall was 207! We were pretty impressed by the crowd but the brothers here were expecting more. That night there was a big rain storm and the weather was terrible so they think that prevented a lot of people from being able to come. It still seemed pretty packed to us and there were other congregations in Sucre attending in different locations or at different times that had plenty of visitors too. We hope some of the people we invited were able to come! (we had to leave right away since another congregation was scheduled right after us so we aren't sure if calls were there or not).
We were pretty soaked but we made it! (I did take a bit of a fall on the wet floors and everyone had a good laugh about that!)

Here are some pictures from service this week. It was further out of the city than most of our territory which means lots of dogs and climbing dirt paths but the views from the top of the hills are beautiful.

                          Just some of what we climb to get to doors, a lot different from Pullman.

This is a pioneer couple in our hall. They talk to everyone, everywhere-on the streets, people working, children, everyone we pass!

 This is the house one of Elena's studies. Her house is the blue door and for work she sells food in the little store next door. I don't remember what they are called but they are made of fried bread filled with veggies and meat and pretty delicious!
 From what we could tell of the description, we think this is a huge bee with fangs instead of a stinger-yikes!

We also went to our first Bolivian party. It was a going  away party for a couple in our old congregation (Jimmy and Kilet who helped us the very first day we arrived) who are coming back to the states.
They are serious about their cake, there was a ton and it was delicious, complete with dulce de leche!

Here is the dance floor, of course no Bolivian party is complete without dancing. We have videos but I can't get them to load so we will have to share them later. Everyone dances though, especially the older sisters, its really cute. They also had some young brothers and sisters do some traditional dances and some brothers performed music (I wish I could show you the videos!).

                                             Here are some of the dancers in their costumes.

And this is a little brother and sister from our congregation, Hector and "Nena." They are so cute!!

Well that's about all I can think of to share for now. We can't believe we have less than a month left, its going so quickly! Hasta luego for now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Comida Boliviana

 Hello, we decided it was about time to share some of the food we been "experiencing" here in Bolivia (especially since we complained to many of you about it!). Everyone here claims that Bolivian food is the best in the world but we'll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions after you see the pictures.

First off is chicken Milanesa. They serve this everywhere and it basically consists of chicken that has been squished to death until its almost paper thin and then breaded and baked (we are not big fans, its pretty flavorless and the texture is weird).

This is the dessert that came with the chicken above. They don't eat dinner here, only lunch so the lunch portions are huge and usually three or four courses (including a soup, main dish, dessert, and sometimes an another dish to start) and all of that will generally cost about 25 Bolivianos (about $3.50 and that's for the more expensive places that we trust their standards of cleanliness).

This was the pile of meat that we are pretty sure is responsible for my bout of food poisoning. I can't even describe it other than a bunch of various pieces of animal over corn. The white thing on top is just a layer of fat we pushed off to the side. Needless to say we wont be going back (especially after seeing the kitchen when we were done!).

This is another example of a main course during a lunch, meat and a beet salad.

Here is Bolivian soup that comes with lunch all the time. Its usually just a meat broth with veggies. Its not bad but we can't figure out how they eat so much soup when its hot outside.

Another example of lunch, noodles, potatoes, and meatballs. They are definitely a meat and potatoes type of people, not many veggies and not much flavor so we mostly cook (or attempt it). 

This is a salteƱa. We love them!! They have entire restaurants devoted to selling these everywhere. They are basically like a pot pie, they have a filling which is basically a chicken or meat stew and the bread is really sweet and delicious. Sometimes they have weird stuff in them though, like raisins, chunks of hard boiled eggs or olives with the pit. We eat them a lot; they are warm and filling. Apparently they are hard to master but a sister here is going to teach us how to make them so hopefully we can share when we come back.

This is one of the desserts we got with lunch. It was a mint jello, weird no? I couldn't eat it without laughing, it was just so jiggly and green and minty-a strange combination.

One thing they are great at here is ice cream of all kinds. This particular dessert is coffee, honey, ice cream, and of course, sprinkles. Its a good thing we walk as much as we do because we eat so much ice cream here.

More ice cream....

 We also are pretty familiar with almost every pasteleria (bakery) in Sucre. They always have something covered in sugar or filled with dulce de leche or both. We usually reward ourselves with a treat after a day a long service.

This is fresh fruit juice. There are women with fruit stands and blenders and you can choose any fruit you want and they will whip you up something delicious for somewhere around 50 cents. This one is maracuya, a sweet yellow fruit they have here. If you want it to go you get a plastic bag and a straw. They drink lots of stuff out of bags here like milk or servings of yogurt.

Wow! That was longer than I expected, sorry. Anyway, to everyone in Pullman, it was nice getting to see you all last night and we really do miss you guys (almost as much as food!) and we enjoyed getting to catch up with everyone a little. Well, its time for a siesta before service in the evening so more later.