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La Paz

Flight to Bolivia
Friday, December 17, 2004- Rhoda Steiner

We got to the airport around 11: and soon saw Mark, Cindy, Sandra, and David Dravenstott being dropped off while we waited in line with our 16 bags to be checked and 8 carry-ons. We flew to La Guardia, N.Y. waiving to Erica and Ryan from the air as we landed, while Dravenstotts flew directly to Miami and waited 5 hours. We all met up together and flew out at 11:35 pm for La Paz. Supper was around midnight and the rest of the night consisted of attempts to sleep. Other than Dustin’s seatmate becoming airsick, the trip was pretty uneventful and tiresome.

Arrival in La Paz
Saturday, December 18, 2004-Rhoda Steiner

We arrived in La Paz at 5:20 a.m. Ohio time; 6:30 a.m. Bolivian time. Delight was a bit pale and dizzy and most of us felt a bit weak, but all of our luggage arrived and we made it through customs. The Hotel had sent a mini bus for us, which held all of our luggage and 8 of us. The other 4 followed in a taxi. First timers to La Paz were astounded to see the hillsides and the entire city covered with buildings, where ever it was possible to build. Curt Howells was amazed at the driving and all of us veteran visitors to Bolivia could only say, “Wait until you see Santa Cruz!”

El Dorado graciously received our mob of people and mountain of luggage, allowing us to store all of our extra bags for the orphanage. We no sooner had stepped inside the door when I received a call from Ricardo Claure’s brother, Fernando. I had translated for Ricardo’s corneal transplant in 2002 and again for some surgery the week before we went to Bolivia. I had asked Ricardo for his help in locating an orphanage that Rico Miller had been adopted from. After numerous phone calls from Fernando and Ricardo, and calls to the Hogar Virgen de Fatima, we made arrangements to visit on Monday. It was required that we first receive permission a day before we visit from the Director. That meant if all went well, we would have to get back early enough to squeeze it in on Tuesday, our last day in La Paz.

After a few hours of napping and Saltenas for lunch, we went to the Iglesia San Francisco area and did some shopping and sight seeing. One of our favorite persons on this trip was the fellow who was trying to sell fossils to everyone he could corner. (Ask Dallas and Dustin about this!) Cindy remembered it is illegal to take fossils out of Bolivia, but since these were fakes, we were wondering if we could still be jailed for buying false fossils!

We enjoyed a typical supper in what used to be a home that is over 100 years old. Did we mention that it was on the third floor? Did we mention that it was hard to go shopping at 11,000 feet and walking straight up hills? Did we mention that you feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest after any physical exertion? Did we mention…….?

Top 12 Interesting Things of the Day

  • Llama fetus’ in the market; Cindy
  • Kids playing ‘ London Bridges’ and Hail at 1 pm; Dallas
  • Fried Chicken served with ketchup and mayonnaise artistically squirted on top; Sandra
  • Plazas with their artistically arranged plants; Rhoda
  • Variety of cute little dogs
  • ’05 Mustang; Dustin
  • The way people drive; Curt
  • All the cars are the same; Devin
  • Elevator doors closing on the lady;
  • The Police running down the middle of the road after some boys
  • Guy trying to sell fake fossils
  • A guy peeing on the road in a storm sewer

Sleep, sweet sleep!

La Paz: Shopping and City Tour

Sunday, December 19, 2004-Rhoda Steiner

In the morning we took it easy and tried to keep the headaches to a minimum. Did a little shopping and Curt experienced a sudden nosebleed. Delight meanwhile was running around trying to find a napkin or Kleenex and finally succeeded in buying some out on the street. In the afternoon we took a bus tour of the city. Imagine a double-decker bus with an open top going through the congested narrow twisting streets of La Paz. Add the tangled electrical and telephone wires overhead which literally scrapped the top of the bus and you get an idea of the excitement experienced on this trip. Earphones where provided to listen to the tour with. Jia’s English channel was too quiet so she opted to listen in Japanese instead, since she said she couldn’t ‘understand the English’ channel. (Maybe our next trip should be to Japan since she understands Japanese better!:)

Top 12 Interesting Things

  • Walked a lot and shopped a lot; Devin
  • Bus translation, “Do not put your head and hands out the window and do not rise your arms.”
  • A guy called us ‘basura’ when Curt’s nose was bleeding; Jia
  • The sign in the park with a dog pooping and a red slash through it, ie.- no pooping here by dogs; Cindy
  • There was less of a fine if you peed at the plaza of the church, (20bs-50bs) than below our hotel at the plaza Isabel la Catolica (1000bs); Mark
  • A little boy grabbed Sandra’s coke and she let him have it; Sandra
  • Electric lines hitting the upper deck of the open topped bus; Dallas
  • Other Tour Bus people were interesting; David
  • A lady did not have change for a 20 bs. for a 5 bs purchase and didn’t want to get change, so Devin and Denver just walked away without buying; Denver
  • Goat toe nails made into music shakers; Curt
  • Buying drums and a charanga from the music man and his family, and his mini concert for us; Rhoda
  • The bright orange Santa in the plaza with TNT written on the back of his suit; Cindy

Virgen de Fatima Orphanage and trip to Lake Titicaca
Monday, December 20, 2004-Rhoda Steiner

I awoke after a restless night and praying that things would go well for us on our visit to the Orphanage. Dallas, Denver and I left with Fernando in his van to the orphanage. We were all rather unsure of how it would go and understood this to be a rather delicate situation of asking for information and pictures, depending on how the people received us. We were also aware of the rule that we needed to ask permission of the director to visit, a day ahead of time.

When we arrived, we were immediately stopped inside the gate by a man and a uniformed guard. We noticed the sign stating all visitors must ask permission 24 hours in advance of visiting. We were informed that the Director was not there and they demanded to see our documents. Fernando immediately gave his carnet and explained that we were foreigners, visiting La Paz. They did not press us further, which was a great relief because we only had photocopies of our passports on us.

They allowed us to meet with the Social Worker and we entered the office and explained our situation to two women seated there. Later another lady joined them and we again explained our situation. As it turned out, she suggested that we tape a message from the one lady, who as it turned out spoke perfect English and was a psychologist. We were able to do this immediately and took a small tour of the court yard outside of the living quarters. We left amazed and rejoicing that we were able to do all that we were permitted to do.

Once we arrived back to the Hotel, we thanked Fernando for opening the doors of this opportunity to us. Denver then went to see how it was going for Dustin who had been trying to get the website posted. The rest of the gang had gotten their luggage stowed at the hotel and back packs packed for our trip, and were patiently waiting on us. They grabbed Saltenas to help hold them over until lunch and we were able to finally get off at around 11:15 a.m. with our rented van and driver for the altiplano, Lake Titicaca and Copacabana.

It seemed forever before we could leave the congestion of La Paz and then of El Alto, the upper city at 13,000 ft. We later stopped at the Lake for a delicious fish dinner. Four un-brave souls opted for steak! We then saw the Reed Boat Museum, where Paulino Esteban has his place explaining the Tigre II, Kon Tiki, and various other reed boats made to cross the Atlantic and other bodies of water. We then had an excursion as a group on a reed boat. Cindy started to feel sorry for the poor fellow who was paddling us. She realized we could hardly go the stairs without panting, and didn’t want to give him a heart attack paddling us around!

We took off for Copacabana. Picture lots of dogs by the road, bored children waving their hats and hoping against reason that people would stop and throw them money, and occasionally herds of sheep and llamas. Did I mention the lack of substantial guard rails? Or that the few we saw were painted pink for the pink political party? We arrived at Copacabana and enjoyed comparing rooms in our hotel before taking an hour to shop and explore the city. Before we could meet for supper, Dallas, Rhoda, Cindy and Mark got caught in a downpour, buying gifts. We helped the shopkeeper and her son take in all of their wares to protect them form the rain and then finished our buying.

Supper was at a cozy restaurant, where the owners had a lit fire, aguayo covered tables and candles. Temperatures here are cooler than in La Paz and we are glad for the layers of heavy blankets to climb under tonight.

We are thankful for our health. So far only minor problems with altitude, mainly consisting of headaches and tiredness. Jia threw up before our trip this morning, but is doing much better this evening.

We are thankful for all of the folks who have been looking out and caring for us… the doorman, the van driver, the folks at the hotel, Fernando and Ricardo, the wonderful ladies at the orphanage who care about our Rico too, for God’s hand of protection and His timing and for all of you folks back home who are praying for us.

Top 12 Interesting Things

  • The light shades in Dallas and Rhoda’s room, (used bread baskets turned upside down); Cindy
  • The live llama tied on top of the jeep; Dallas
  • Watching Devin climb through our bathroom window into our room, after we locked our key in the room; Rhoda
  • Agua con Gas, (soda water) that no one liked; Delight
  • The Japanese Dragon reed boat on Lake Titicaca; Jia
  • We should add up all of the hours that we wait for our food and see how many days it would be; Dustin
  • It is hard to breath at night under all of the covers with your arms on your chest, you feel like you can’t get your next breath, (It helps to take your arms off of your chest! Mark was relieved to know he wasn’t the only one experiencing this phenomenon.); Mark
  • Leaving La Paz, there was a jeep with a really flat tire sitting on its rim, by the road; Devin
  • Asked the joven in the store if she could ‘take’ the clothes, instead of asking if she could ‘try’ them on; (What made it comical was looking at the guy trying to figure out why Sandra didn’t know what she was saying, but the gringa, (Rhoda) was having to translate it straight for him); Sandra
  • Seeing the Bolivian Navy boat docking and saluting of the officers; David
  • Everything worked out better than we could have hoped for and in the matter of a few hours! God made a way!; Rhoda
  • Reed boats made by Paulino Esteban to cross the Atlantic; Curt
  • Meeting a friend of Sadaam Hussein, (Paulino Esteban); Mark

Last Days in La Paz
Tuesday, December 21, 2004- Rhoda Steiner

Looks like you’re stuck with my journaling, and my memory. We have been very busy and no one else seems to want to take a go at this. The next morning we got up and had breakfast, did some quick shopping and were ready for our driver when he came to take us back around 9:00 a.m. in the morning. The trip back was pleasant and we arrived in Tiwanaku in time for lunch. We ordered chicken, beef or llama depending on how brave each of us felt. A few of us also had quinoa soup and the meal came with rice and chuno, a dehydrated potato.

Following lunch we toured the pre-Inca ruins, led by our Spanish speaking guide, a student of archeology at the University in La Paz. It was rather amazing to see how this early civilization, had figured out the calendar using the sun and had dug underground canals in order to store water for times of drought. Our patient driver continued to wait for us while we toured the museum and then he took us back to La Paz, where a few of the group went shopping amid his warnings of heightened thievery due to the upcoming Christmas holiday.

The rest returned to the Hotel to begin the process of getting our stored luggage out of lock-up and up to our rooms. Apparently David was chosen to take the first elevator load up stairs and he got off on the 9th floor frantically unloading each piece before the door could shut on him. Once shut he discovered he was one floor down and began the heroic adventure of carrying each piece up two flights of stairs in high altitude. We are glad to say he is still with us. The second fiasco load was escorted by Devin and Mark, with a painter, complete with paint roller, boarding the elevator at the last minute. The painter disembarked on the 4 th floor, with Devin quickly following and the door shutting before Mark could grab him. (Did I tell you these were elevator doors with a ‘killer’ instinct?) Mark arrived at the tenth floor to find David carting the luggage up from the ninth and later Devin walking his way up to the 10th floor.