Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bolivia the Beautiful

In Bolivia, I hear two sides of one coin:  wonderful pride in the country's history, but and also what I'll call a collective down-troddeness in regards to their country's reputation.  I can easily see reasons for both sentiments.  First of all, there's the amazing and colorful celebrations:  Oruro's Carnival, the music and dance of Caporales, the City of Cochabamba's anniversary celebrations, and the list goes on. Pride in Bolivia is also regional.  When I make a new friend, they are quick to tell me which region of Bolivia they are from, because each region is distinct and proud.  The languages and accents, known traditional meals, and climate all vary greatly.  The bio diversity alone of Bolivia is mind-boggling.
Kellton and classmates' dance "Caporales"
Dancers in the park near our apartment
Dances representing jungle tribes

However, Bolivia is also known for its problems.   It's frequently called the poorest country in South America, and human trafficking, poor access to clean water, and high infant death rates are commonly cited.  In regards to international trade, Bolivia struggles mightily because it is land-locked.  Every week I am heart broken over the concerns of the poor.  They are not just "out there". Many are dear friends.

Often with strangers, I am asked about the US:  its riches, freedom and beauty.  But I always try to steer the conversation back to Bolivia the beautiful.  I want to clearly communicate my amazement at this country;  it defies my best attempts to describe it's physical wonder and lovely, hard working people.

One small way I've tried to capture my love for Bolivia, is in a small t shirt venture with my friend Joana Acebey.  A "Cochamabina", Joana is a first year university student with a big heart.  Ever since she was 13 years old, she has been on mission trips in to the north of Bolivia where there is high poverty and illiteracy.  Joana has aided local efforts to teach Spanish there (a second language), reading, and she has helped with small Sunday school classes for the children while their parents are in class.

Our t shirts are called, "Calles de Cochabama" and each of our designs celebrate Bolivia, from the iconic llama silhouette, to large downtown murals and street graffiti.  Initially, I thought that our designs would mostly appeal to visiting foreigners, but I am thrilled that some of our first sales were to Bolivians.

Joana and Dana selling "Calles de Cochbamba" shirts 

My hope and prayer is that Joana will be able to earn a good profit from the sale of these shirts. She has plans to expand the designs with some newly sited graffiti of Cholitas on swings.  We have had loads of help and cheer leading to launch:  Mishell Forbes and Elizabeth Flynn of Life Covenant Church, Daniel Hespen of Oregon, family Kathy and Jane Holzer & Joyce and Michelle McCarten, Bolivian friends Poala Rowden and the Connexiones Entre Mundos language school to name a few.

While we currently have lots of interest and growing sales, there's quite a few obstacles as well; rising prices of plain tee shirts, and printing costs of such a small endeavor.  However in the spirit of Business as Mission, Joana and I are learning tons about small ventures and that all endeavors, in and out of the church, can be for God's glory.

Check our more photos celebrating Bolivia on our Facebook page, "Calles de Cochabamba", and "like" our page, because we love Bolivia!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2 years: How'd that happen?

This weekend I was in a grocery store in Cochabamba and I ran into my friend Lila and her baby.  I was coaxing and cooing the baby to smile at me.  The mom invited me to her baby's one year birthday party, coming right up.  What happened?  Wasn't I was just sewing a onsies for this little one's baby shower?

Doing the dishes last night I was reflecting on our kids' summer vacation, basically Thanksgiving to the beginning of February.  I knew I hadn't accomplished all that I wanted to:  more math problems with Astoria, more English phonics with Kellton, more free time for me to read.  Where did the time go?  At least I read 5 of the Chronicles of Narnia to the kids, but I had had big plans.  
Kellton's first (2007), and more recent, introduction to C.S. Lewis' "Prince Caspian"

I just received a Christmas card from our friends the Osborns in Helena, MT.  They had a daughter in Kellton's class, and another in Astoria's class.  But there was another daughter in their Christmas photo...where did she come from?  Last time I saw her, she was a bundle of cuteness stuffed in an arctic snow suit...and her Christmas photo looks like she's got spunk and personality to spare, and knowing the Osborns she's probably already reading "War and Peace".  I can't wait to "meet her" again, but couldn't believe how much she's changed.

Today marks our family's 2 year anniversary of our time in Bolivia.  How could that be?  Thankfully Quinn and I aren't getting any older, and we're happy no one has mentioned the additional wrinkles (thank you Bolivian sun).  But the truth is, time is passing.  And it's hard to stop and take a moment to reflect on all that's changed, when everything seems to happen so fast.

This present season will mark big highlights for us, and some significant changes as well.  But today, I want to pause for a moment and reflect on the past 2 years.  There's been friendships, teaching business skills, and serving snacks at a children's ministry, and supporting our kids' school.  Those are just slivers of our time here; our experience has been so rich.  The past two years have bought a huge amount of learning and growth for each of us, and our "lives in Bolivia" will always be a very special treasure to our family.

A few photo highlights:
Dreams come true:
  Kellton's visit to the Air Traffic Control room at the Cochabamba Airport

My visit to Bolivia's amazing Salar de Uyuni

My dad, "Papa Mac", comes to Bolivia and loves practicing his Spanish.
  We had a memorable time cheering on Wilstermann 
at Felix Capriles stadium.
Dad also volunteered to teach English at our kids' school.

What's could be more fun than a visit from Nana?
  When she brings her sister, Aunt Molly!
At Incan ruins, Incallajta.

Cochabamba Day festivities at Despertad.

Spelunking in Toro Toro with Michelle McCarten.
  Michelle also co-taught a teacher's in-service while here.
 Her topic was the benefit of including music and movement
while instructing young students.

Kellton receives a "well done graduate" kiss 
 from dearly loved Profesora Nancy

Cafe and compaƱeros:  Quinn, Duane and Jhonny

Doorman Edgar and friend Mauricio make each day better

Bolivia, we love you!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Videos from the "Faith at Work" Conference in Boston

This is Quinn.  Sorry I've not updated anything here for some time.  I am busily preparing to teach a series of workshops on the Theology of Work, Business Development, Competition, Strategy, and Innovation, starting February 3.  Doing so in Spanish is a great challenge for me!

In the meantime, I believe many of you are aware that in October, 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for the "Faith at Work" Conference held there.   It was a great trip, and for those of you who are interested, the videos of all the speakers are now available online:

Faith@Work YouTube playlist

There are a lot of videos here, so if you don't have much time, and are looking for an interesting place to start that will grab your interest and make you think, I recommend this one:

(link to YouTube if you prefer)

There were some great speakers, and I had a chance to meet several of the authors of the books I have read over the last couple of years.

If you are very interested in this topic, they are currently planning another conference for 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  Find more information here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

That's not garbage

Living in any new place brings changes.  Novel ways to shop, "wows" in your surroundings, and newly minted routines.  One big area of change for our family has been to be more flexible.  Bolivia has some predictable unpredictables.  For example, planning an outing or travel between cities. Blockades and demonstrations are utilized in Bolivia as part of the political process to gain attention and progress for various causes.  Therefore it's best to begin plans by saying, "Our hope today is to try and go to..."

As a mom, I've tried to plan for the unexpected.  This means trying to always have drinking water, a snack, and toilet paper (there are very few public restrooms and it's the norm to bring your own t.p.). A need for flexibility happened when we tried to get to a library.  Twice we've gone part way to an international school's library for some children's books.  The library is about 15 kilometers from our apartment.  Both times we've been stopped by blockades on the highway.  Our second try had milk producers protesting with tear gas and a highway blockade.  Another morning I was downtown, thankfully without the kids, trying to discover a few new routes and potential places to shop.  What sounded like gunfire to me, was only non stop firecrackers and blockades.  While I'd planned to have several glorious kid-free hours on my own, it got a little stressful with the loud explosions and new route to leave downtown.

The change to become a bit more flexible is a good one.  Bit by bit I'm more easy going when I consider what I can accomplish in a given day.

One day walking to school to pick up the kids, I noticed loads of open trash piled up on the street.  With Cochabamba's heat roasting the garbage and the dogs tearing into the bags, it was hard not to notice.  The local sanitation workers were negotiating pay increases and therefore regular curbside pick up was suspended.  When our our taxi driver friend Mauricio met us at the kids' school to drive us home, he was annoyed about litter strewn around town.  But instead of staying irritated, he turned it into a game.  A fierce competition ensued on the way home between Mauricio and the kids...who could first spot each large pile of rotting garbage?  One point!  There was happy shouting and playful arguing all the way home.  Astoria kept citing piles that were quickly disqualified; plastic pop and water bottles* left in the park.  Mauricio said, "Astoria--those plastic bottles don't count.  Those are only decoraciones!" 

For days after, I'd chuckle at minor inconveniences.  That's not a real problem.  That's only today's decoration.  Mauricio's light-hearted approach to things that bug us, was good advice.  Keep the mood light, keep plans flexible, and God's grace and humor for today's inconveniences will turn garbage into funny decorations.
Ready for gleaning

*Often times plastic bottles are left on the ground at the park.  First of all, there's rarely public garbage receptacles.  Secondly, people collect these to redeem for money.  I often spot a giant load on a passerby's back, collecting empty bottles.  I now see the empty plastic bottles as a way for the poor to glean--they gather the bottles and then redeem them for money, similar Old Testament times of gleaning, where a farmer would leave some crops in the field for the poor to later collect for their families.