Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bolivia Pics

Finally got my suitcase back.  Yay!!!  Here is just a sampling of a few pictures - I have TONS more!  Stay tuned!

Our First View of the Boat

And The Work Begins....

Sunset on the Amazon

The Iguana Story As Promised...

So we are busy working away on the boat one afternoon when one of the Bolivian boatbuilders who is working about 3 feet away from us calls me over and tells me to bring my camera with me.  I made my way very cautiously around to other side of the boat, not exactly sure what I was going to see.  When I saw Mr. Iguana I was relieved that he wasn't a snake, but slightly grossed out at the size of this lizard.  I start snapping pictures and then Felix starts pointing at the branch on the ground next to the iguana...apparently he had been on that branch in the tree about 30 feet above us, and the branch broke causing him to land at the boatbuilders feet!

I told the team that if that iguana had landed about 3 feet over into our boat, you would have seen tools, water bottles, and a team of 9 Canadians come straight up out of a boat in ten seconds flat!!!  Thanks for dropping by Mr. Iguana!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where Oh Where Could My Suitcase Be?

No pics yet - my camera battery is dead, and my charger is in my suitcase which is still flying around South America somewhere!!  Hope to have some updates soon.  SO good to be home, but so hard to get back to reality!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Homestretch

We are having lots of fun today - the boys rented motorbikes for eight dollars a day and are having fun driving the girls around.  I rode with the pastor this morning because I figured he would have a little more experience driving around here.  It was a blast.  The smile on Stan's face is worth it all.  He has certainly earned it.

We went back to the Eco Resort because Derek wanted to swim in the Amazon and this is the closest we could get to it.  I got some great pics of the parrots this time - they put one on my arm and he walked up and started nibbling on my ear and then tried to steal my glasses!  Absolutely beautiful.  One of the young guys took me around and showed me the different animals they had there.  The toucans were beautiful.

I got them to drop me off at the hotel because it is getting too hot out there for me now.  I may go down to the pool in a bit.  The pastor and his wife are supposed to be coming to dinner with us tonight. She is a lovely lady.

We went down and had our pictures taken at the "Genesis".  The guys gave some of their tools to one of the men working on the boat next to us.  He almost cried when we said goodbye.  Gustavo joined us for our prayer time last night and when we finished he said "Look at you, each of you are glowing.  There is aura of light around each one of you.".  That is the highest compliment anyone could pay me.

We are on the homestretch now, and I am truly amazed at how fast the time has gone.  It has been san absolutely incredible experience, and what a wonderful way to end off. 

(Once home I'll be sharing some of my own pictures from this adventure and sharing more of the stories surrounding them, so stay tuned :-)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bikes and Books... Heaven!

Today was a GREAT day - I thought it was going to be another typical morning at the boat, but at the last minute Gustavo asked me if I wanted to visit the Christian bookstore that Cathy runs here in the city.  Cathy is a lady from Switzerland that I met at the church Sunday night.  She has been working here in Bolivia for several years as a missionary, and one of the things that she does is help run the bookstore.  We went to the church first, and the pastor's wife walked me over to the bookstore.  I managed to carry on a half decent conversation with her in Spanish, which made me feel good.  The bookstore was beautiful, and I was really impressed.  I told Cathy that I had $20 left and that I wanted to buy a Spanish bible.  She picked out a small one for me and brought out a selection of beautiful hand embroidered cases to put it in.  I picked out one that had some llamas on it - something to remember Bolivia by. 

I chatted with Cathy and the pastor's wife for a while, and then she said that she would take me back to the boat ON HER MOTORBIKE.  Everyone rides a motorcycle here, and at night they all come out and ride around and around the main plaza.  They do it to cool down and enjoy the evening air.  I would be doing the same thing if I lived here!!!  I jumped on the bike and we took off through the town, weaving in and out of traffic, dogs, people, and even some soldiers out doing a training run.  We had to stop at the Immigration office because Cathy had to help a young man from Germany who has come to work with them for a year.  We waited for a long time because the lady that he needed to meet with was chatting with her family in her office.  There was another young lady who worked there who had her little 1 year old daughter with her.  She was the sweetest little thing, and was more than happy to pose for pictures for us.  Guess they don't do daycare here...but it certainly didn't seem to be a problem for her to have the little girl there.  

Finally Cathy decided that she had better take me back to the boat, so we jumped on her motorcycle again and made our way there.  There was the most delicious breeze blowing when we got to the boat, and it was wonderful.  We gave Cathy a small tour of the "Genesis", and then she made her way back to the Immigration office to see if the lady was done talking to her family yet.  The Lord spoke to me before the trip about making "divine connections" while I was here, and I believe that Cathy is one of them, although I don't know what is to become of it.  Of course, she was talking to me about how much work there is to be done here, and how the doors are wide open for mission work.  I am overwhelmed by the need here, but oh my, an angel would have to appear to me in my bedroom before I would come back here!!!

We spent a very pleasant morning working on the boat - the day actually felt cool with the breeze, but when I checked the temperature on Mark's thermometer in his backpack, in the shade, under the boat, it still said 30 degrees!  We have done almost all of the work that we can do up to this point on the boat because there is no more lumber to work with, and the motor is not ready.  The Bolivian boat builders are very pleased with the amount of work that we have done, as well as the quality.  The guys on our team are INCREDIBLE, and it was amazing to watch them work.

As much as I am thrilled and excited about tomorrow  being our last day in Guayaramerin, I know that I am going to leave a piece of my heart here, and will grieve for the Bolivian friends that I will have to leave behind. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bolivia Adventures

Not much to report today - as I've been saying to the team all week, everything is just another shade of warm!  Another really hot day out there, and everyone is feeling the effects, not that it stops them from working on any way.  Crystal and I however, came back to the hotel early because we weren't being that much good to them anyway.  

I just slept for two hours - guess I was more tired than I thought.  At least I feel like I can think now.  I learned that when they were laying the beams across the boat to lay the floor on, that they put a two inch "crown" in the center so that it would be raised up enough in the middle for the water to run off.  I guess they must do that with the mattresses in the beds as well, because not only is my bed as hard as the dining room table, it has a "crown" in the middle as well, so that I feel like I'm sleeping on the top of a mountain when I'm laying there.  I am SO looking forward to a good sleep in my own bed, with my puppy dogs of course.  I hope they haven't forgotten me!  I realized today that we have been here a week.  The time has flown by.

Gustavo took us to the home of another lady from the church who runs a bakery.  Turns out SHE was the one who baked my birthday cake on Sunday.  We were warmly greeted by her husband who does not attend the church, as well as her sister and her husband who shared the meal with us.  We sat outside and waited in the warm, moist evening air, and after a while they started bringing the food to us on trays.  We couldn't believe the amount of food they gave us, and it was all so delicious.  They had made a type of lasagna that was made with a white sauce, there were fried bananas, roasted meat, chicken that had a sauce on it that reminded me of honey garlic chicken at home, and rice.  We ate it all and most of us had seconds.  
Then the lady gave some of us some cake from her bakery - of course you know that I couldn't be rude and not try it!  Gus and the pastor talked for a long time afterwards to the lady's husband and family.  I could understand most of what they were saying.  I like sitting there listening to them speak Spanish because I feel like I am soaking it in through osmosis.  Gus told Mark today that even though it was hard for the team to sit there and listen to a conversation they could not understand, that this was the first opportunity for the pastor to meet this woman's husband, and it was an opportunity for him to make a connection.  Today I was questioning a bit why I am here because I don't feel that I can contribute a lot when they are working on the boat, but the Lord reminded me of what Gus had said, and He reminded me that there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that just our presence here has opened doors for.  That was enough for me.

I miss and appreciate you all back at home, and am counting the days and mintues until I'll be home again - not long now!

Con mucho amor,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bolivia's Gifts To Me

It's getting close to 100 degrees out there this afternoon, so I decided to pack it in and come back to the hotel.  Everyone is feeling the heat today - there is no breeze, and the humidity is very high.  I am amazed at how those guys can work in this heat, and Crystal and Heather too!  Lorne's shorts and shirt are so soaked he looks like he jumped in the river.  One of my duties is to make sure everyone is drinking lots of water on a regular basis - hopefully they will remember to do that this afternoon.

I wanted to give an update on the weekend before I forget all of the details - we decided to only work until 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and then Gustavo was going to take the team across the river to visit the market in Brazil.  I decided to stay behind because it was so hot, and the pool was calling my name.  I'm so glad I did because when they got over there everything was closed and they had to turn around and come back! 

In the evening Gustavo took us to an Eco resort which is just outside of town for supper. He told us to wear our bathing suits because we could swim in the lake if we wanted to, but upon inspecting the murky brown water with little fish jumping out of it, suddenly no one felt the urge to cool off anymore...not sure why.  We sat outside and took tons of pictures of the sunset, as well as of the beautiful red, blue and green parrots that were posing for us just a few feet away.  We asked Gus if these parrots had been tamed, but he said no, that the man who built the resort planted a lot of mango trees there and the parrots stay because they love them so much. It was amazing to be so close to them.  We enjoyed a delicious meal (again) of fish and chicken, and fought off the bugs, who came out in droves once the sun went down.  There were two little kitty cats there who were meowing forlornly at my end of the table - the rest of the team didn't know it, but I was feeding them chicken left right and center because they were so thin.  Everything is thin down here, and I find it very depressing.

We went to church on Sunday morning, and Mark did a great job at speaking.  The longer we sat in the service the more we felt like we were in a sauna - obviously no air conditioning in this church!  The service was over around 11:00 and we walked to the main square and waited for an hour and a half while the people from the church prepared a meal for us consisting of fresh local fish baked in an outdoor oven.  The fish was some of the best that I have ever tasted, and was so tender and mouthwatering.  The food has been absolutely delicious here - and they serve us so much of it; we eat about six times a day here!  We actually had to ask the church people to cut back on the amount of food they were bringing us at the boat because we couldn't possibly eat it all!

We then returned to the hotel to relax for the afternoon before going to a Bolivian family's house for supper, and then to the evening church service.  I was feeling a bit homesick because Sunday was my birthday, and I was thinking about my family back home.  My mum and I share the same birthday so that makes it even more special.  I had decided not to tell anyone on the team because that's just not my thing - the less attention I have the better.  I called home and my mum got after me for not telling anyone, so I told her that I would announce it at church that night when I sang. 

Gus took us to the home of a family from the church who prepared the evening meal for us - it was a dish that reminded me of chicken cacciatore, and it was so delicious there wasn't a scrap left!  Some of the guys even ate the chicken's feet that were in there too!  It is so humbling to be loved and served by these people the way we are - I know that they do not have an abundance of anything, and it is very humbling to be lavished on in this way.  And I felt so sorry for those ladies working so hard in the kitchen in all of this heat, especially after just preparing the huge meal at the church.  They assured me that it was no trouble at all for them.  Right... 

I enjoyed the evening service much more than the morning - you could feel the people warming up to us, and I could feel God's presence there with us very strongly.  I told the people (in Spanish) before I sang that it was my birthday, and that I was very happy to be sharing it with my family in Bolivia.  I sang two songs, and the whole time it kept going through my head "How awesome is this, to be singing in a church in Bolivia for your birthday?"  At the end of the service I heard them say my name and they asked me to come up to the front of the church.  At first I thought that they were asking me to sing another song and I panicked for a second because I didn't have anything prepared.  Then I realized that they were asking me to come to the front of the church because it was my birthday and they were going to sing to me!  While they did, everyone from the church came up and wished me a happy birthday.  I felt their love for me, and as those beautiful Bolivian ladies embraced me and kissed me on the cheek I felt absolutely overwhelmed, and knew that I could not have been given a greater gift.  I was beyond words and beyond tears.

It seems though, that someone else had let the cat out of the bag, because when I walked into the pastor's house afterwards everyone started singing Happy Birthday to me, and they presented me with a chocolate cake that the pastor's wife had baked for me that afternoon...again, in the incredible heat, and after preparing that huge meal for us.  I still can't quite believe that the Lord did that for me - I felt so loved, by Him, and by these beautiful people.

I love it when that feeling of connection comes with the people, and you feel so loved and honored.  It humbles me beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life, and is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  I think it's part of why I take these crazy trips, and go on adventures that I could never have dreamed up on my own.  The Lord can take care of us and watch over us from any place in the world, and let us know that we are special to Him in ways that are beyond our imagination.  He is the love of my life.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Boat Called 'Genesis'

Now let me see, where was I?  I had to interrupt my first email because Crystal and I came back to our room yesterday afternoon and after both of us having showers we were still sweating like pigs and couldn’t figure out why.  Turns out our air conditioner was broken!  (That explains the strange popping noises it was making all through the night before – I slept with one eye open praying that it wouldn’t burst into flames at any moment!

I believe I left off at our La Paz departure – we left around mid morning on a plane that seated about 24 people, one person on each side of the aisle, and you had to walk completely bent over to get to your seat.  I was very thankful that they did not charge me anything extra for my bag, which was 2 pounds over.  However, they did make me go with this man from the airport who took me outside to where the plane was parked, and then through several doorways until we got to this little room where they processed the baggage.  Apparently they had seen a couple of things in there that intrigued them and they wanted to check it out (I’m guessing it was my portable table top fan!)  Actually it was the two cans of mosquito repellent that I had, one of which was flammable, and they would not let me take it on the plane (I also lost my finger nail file in Lima.)  The other can that they let me bring now does not spray anything, so my mosquito repelling tactics totally failed!  Actually, I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of mosquitos since being here, but there are definitely lots of little black flies around of some description, and we are all covered in bug bites.  They have these tiny little ants too that sting like crazy when they bite.

We flew over the big, snow capped mountains that surrounded La Paz and were in the air for about an hour before landing in a place called Trinidad.  One small landing strip, and a small building that we walked into, went down the hall and then out another door onto an even smaller twin prop plane than we were on before.  I believe it seated about 15 people, and I could barely squeeze my knees between the seats!   We could see the pilot and co-pilot right in front of our seats, and as soon as we were airborne the pilot put up a sunshield in the window to keep out the sun and proceeded to have a nice chat with the co-pilot.  I dunno, I think I’d rather not see what my pilot is doing (or not doing) while he is flying my plane!

We flew for another hour or so, and it kept getting warmer and warmer, until finally we saw this one lone little airstrip out in the middle of a field and we knew that we had arrived in Guayaramerin.  (I still can’t believe that I flew on one of those little planes!)  We made our way over to the terminal, which consisted of a few benches under an open air awning, with a couple of little girls selling chewing gum at the side, and a guy sitting at the Aero Con desk with a light that was run by a generator.  (The control tower was not much bigger than a lifeguard stand, and had a hammock strung up underneath.  Toto, we ain’t in Kansas anymore!)  There were a couple of taxis parked under a tree, and a handful of people around, none of which seemed to be our host, Gustavo.  Mark dug out his contact information to give Gus a call on his cell phone, only to discover that the cell phone number that he had was an American one in Colorado.  We then proceeded to the Aero Con desk to find out if we could use their phone to call the hotel.  The whole trip Mark has been saying to me “Kellie, come here, I need your mouth!”  I managed to convey the information to the young man, who kindly let us use his telephone, but when Mark dialed the number for the hotel he got this man on the other end that Mark couldn’t understand at all.  Mark hands the phone to me and I discover that we have been given the wrong number for the hotel.  The man keeps saying to me “this is not the San Carlos hotel!”  One of the men there looked through this little phone directory and managed to find the number for the hotel, and thankfully when I called them they knew who we were and were expecting us!  We then had to make arrangements with the taxis that were under the trees, and it took three cars to get us all to the hotel.  Gus was waiting for us in the hotel lobby, and was extremely apologetic and told us that he had gotten the days mixed up and was not expecting us until the next day.  He said that the lady at the front desk told him that someone had just called and said that they were the group from Canada and were waiting at the airport.  So, my Spanish came in handy after all!

We quickly got settled into our rooms and Gus took us to see the mechanic who is building the motor for the boat (in his backyard by the way), and then down to the boat site to see the boat, which consists of just the hull at this point.  The name of the boat we are building is the "Genesis" - appropriate don't you think?  This is a picture of our boat taken from Michael Lowe's travel log, check out his entries and pictures of our team.  There are some Bolivian men building a boat next to us and it is for Samaritan's Purse - we were really excited to hear that, and today we helped them with some of the work on it.  too cool.It is a beautiful spot where the boat is located, with big trees overhead to provide much needed shade.  The sun was just going down on the river (it goes down around six o’clock here, which is a blessing because it provides much needed relief from the heat.)  We then went to find a restaurant for supper, which was actually a bit of a chore because Brazil was playing soccer that day and hardly anyone was working!  We finally found one and had some delicious chicken and rice for supper that everyone enjoyed.  We then proceeded to the church where the pastor was doing a bible study with some ladies and sat in on that for a while.  After that, we collected up some various tools from the pastor’s house and made our way back to the hotel.  We were all glad to drop into our beds that night for sure.  It was an eventful day all around.

Yesterday morning we met for breakfast outside around the pool area at seven a.m.  Thankfully the pool has water in it (apparently sometimes it doesn’t) but we’ve been too busy to try it out!  We then went to the boat around 7:30.  The mornings are actually quite beautiful around here, but it doesn’t take long for that tropical sun to burn away any of the coolness that was in the air.  The first thing that we had to do was clean out all of the leaves and dirt that had gathered in the bottom of the boat, because it will have to be coated in oil to preserve the wood from bugs etc.  Trying to find a broom was a chore, and we ended up using some pretty primitive tools, but we managed to get the job done!

The guys then spent the rest of the day putting posts across the boat for the floor to be built on.  Again, they amaze me with the things they can do, and I didn’t have a clue what half of the stuff was that they were talking about.  But by the end of the day we had beams going all the way up the boat, and can now proceed with the oiling and building a box for the engine to be housed in.

Gus took us to supper last night at this lady’s house where we sat outside at a big table and she served us fried eggs and plantains.  The plantains tasted better than I thought they would, but I can’t say I’m a big fan.  I so wish I could send pictures now because the way we get around is on these things called motorcars, which consist of a motorcycle with three seats going across the back.  It kind’ve reminds me of India, but I have to tell you it’s the way to travel because the breeze is glorious.  There are motorcycles EVERYWHERE, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what side of the road they use, they just drive, and somehow it all seems to work out! 

We have just about completed the second day of work on the boat, and it is so exciting to see it starting to come together.  I usually make it until about mid afternoon and then I find the heat just too much, but the men on the team are machines!  Seriously, they amaze me with the work they can do.  It was a bit cooler today – they figure it was around 100 degrees yesterday afternoon, but this morning was actually beautiful, with a delicious breeze coming in off of the river.  

We had to move a big pile of boards to another area so that they could be taken somewhere to be planed.  Heather and I were working together, and I told her to make sure she turned the boards over before we picked them up.  Sure enough, she turned a board over and there was a big, fat hairy brown spider, which Stan quickly dispensed of.  One of the men who is working on another boat there said that it was actually a small one, that they are usually the size of your hand!  Glad we only ran into the baby one.

We then had to started collecting sticks and wood so that we could build a fire to “cook” the oil on.  Mark build a handy dandy little fire pit from bricks, and we filled a big metal can with motor oil and heated it until it was boiled.  It then had to cool down so that the sediment could settle on the bottom, and then it could be applied to the boat.

Our motorcars arrived at lunch time and we returned to the lady’s house which turns out is a café that she runs from her home.

Stay tuned to hear about the 3 foot Iguana that feel out of the tree beside us! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'Live' from Guayaramerin, Bolivia!

After an adventurous, and I mean adventurous couple of days we are finally here in Guayaramerin, Bolivia!  

Already I'm having trouble keeping the days straight, but l believe we left Lima on Monday morning and flew to La Paz.  The flight was incredible with the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever seen. Snow capped mountain peaks, which gives you an idea of how high they were and the most unique shapes - totally different from the mountains in Mexico.  And we got to fly right over Lake Titticaca, which was breathtaking.  We disembarked at the airport and immediately felt the effects of the altitude.  The air was actually very cool, and it wasn't long before we needed our jackets.  

I can't even begin to describe the breathtaking views of the city - I will have to let the pictures do that - whenever I am able to get them on my blog!  We had a wonderful guide who drove us to the hotel, and I immediately dove right in with my Spanish which felt great.  I am amazed at how quickly it has come back to me - being totally surrounded by it makes a big difference.  The guide pointed out a spot above the city and said that it was the highest ski hill in the world, but it has been closed for five years because it has not snowed.  

We arrived at our very quaint hotel right in the center of the city, and immediately hit the streets because all of the beautiful Bolivian handcrafts were calling our name!  Everyone had a great time shopping and bartering.  There were all kinds of ladies in their traditional Bolivian dress with their cute little hats - some of them were not too crazy about having their picture taken and would immediately turn their heads when they saw us getting ready to take one.  We tried very hard to respect their wishes, but we couldn't resist sneaking one every once in a while.  The weaving that they do is absolutely incredible, and I saw some of the most beautiful colors around.

Tomorrow we begin work on repairing/building a houseboat, should be interesting!

NOTE:(these pictures are from the internet and not Kellie's, she has not been able to get them to me for posting.  
Bren @ esynergy  , Kel's sister :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

'Live' from Lima, Peru

What an awesome day!  Amazingly enough after only having about 4 hours sleep on the plane, I spent the whole day feeling like I'd slept all night!  Lima is an absolutely incredible city, and after sharing a delicious free breakfast at the hotel, Mark arranged for us to have a private tour of the city, which included a trip to a great restaurant which specialized in Chivas, a mixture of Peruvian and Chinese food.  Delicious!  (It sounds like all we do is eat on this team!)

We then toured the city square, drove by some magnificant ruins left behind by the "Lima" people, went to a monastry that was started by Fransican monks, which included catacombs below the building that contained the bones of over 25,000 people, and the bones were all out on display, separated by body parts.  I have never seen anything like it in my life, and I'm not sure if I ever want to again!  They also had a library that contained thousands of books that are hundreds of years old - the largest historical library in South America.  The wooden carvings that were in the church were absolutely breathtaking, and there were tiles on the walls that were handpainted and sent from Spain in the 1600's that are still as bright today as they were back then.  I was dying to take pictures, but unfortunately we weren't allowed.

Our guide then took us down to the ocean, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!  She told us tons of stuff about the city, half of which I can't remember right now.  

We ended the tour by visiting the "Love Park", a park which is dedicated to couples.  By this time it was dark, and the lights were beautiful.  The park overlooked the ocean, and had beautiful tiled walls along the walkways.  The main part of the park though was the statue in the middle of a couple kissing.  Our guide told us that every Valentines day they have a competition to see which couple could hold themselves in the same position as the statues and kiss the longest - she said the mayor and his wife lasted 20 minutes, but the longest record was 4 hours and 15 minutes.  Only in Peru!

The crowning touch to the day was the incredible time of sharing and worship that we had with the team tonight.  God had some very special things to share with one of the young ladies and it was amazing to watch God use these big burly men on the team to reach out and touch her with his love.  Incredible.  I am blown away by this trip already.  Wish there was some way I could get some pictures out to show you what I'm experiencing, but that may have to wait.

Keep praying because He's blowing my mind already!

Friday, June 4, 2010

To Take or Not To Take?

Well, things are winding up on this end, and I am frantically trying to remember all that I need to take care of and do prior to lift off to Bolivia!  Packing what you need for a very hot climate and a lot of manual labor with a 30 pound luggage limit is a challenge, but I think I have it figured out now.   I told the team that I may be wearing the same T shirt for two weeks because my little plug in  fan has to go with me!! Took me several packs, repacks and weigh-ins to get my suitcase to the allowable limit.   You can get pretty inventive when it comes to making things count and do double duty.  Among the most important, my new camera and Blackberry.  Got to be able to take lots of photographs and email while I'm away!

I'm sure there will be many things I will miss while in Bolivia, but I suspect I will miss my girls the most.  I miss them already!  Now that's just between us, because I wouldn't want my family and friends to feel slighted, but you dog lovers will understand where I'm coming from :-)