So…if you read my BIO, you know that I grew up in Bolivia. Whenever that comes up in conversation, the most often asked question I get is "What was it like?" Wow. Hard question to answer. I decided to make a category in this blog for Bolivia and I hope to do it justice with stories from my childhood, and an overview of "what it was like!" Look at it as a little bit of "Storytime with Carol Ann"
So, this is the first post in that category. I guess I'll start at the beginning. After I was born in Cochabamba – (who else gets to have such a funky sounding birthplace!) my parents took me back to the remote jungle area they lived in at that time and I joined my 4 other siblings, Mark, Mike, Nancy and Howie. My parents were working at the time with the Ayoreos, a tribal group of people. I lived in their village called Tobite for the first few years of my life. I don't have many memories of this place – I did go back to visit, though, later in my childhood. From my visit and from my siblings and parents many, many stories, here's what I do know about Tobite….
Tobite was in a very remote area of Bolivia, closer to the Brazillian/Bolivian border. It was arid scrub jungle. It took a loooonnnngggg time to get there – by bus, by train, by power wagon and finally ox cart! Life got much better once they built an airstrip and the mission pilot could fly in supplies!
Dad built our house…adobe walls…hammocks, screened windows…it was cool! Outhouses were interesting. In the early days there was not electricity…mom cooked in an outdoor adobe oven. Later we had a kerosene run refrigerator. Barrels collected rain water.
It was always really, really hot, unless a South Wind brought in a storm. Scary animals in the jungles – jaguars, wild boar, really big snakes, etc.
We had a ZOO! We had pet monkeys, armadillos, toucans, parrots, ant eaters, tapir, fox, deer, horses, pigs, cattle…and an odd assortment of other little jungle creatures. There's the story of me being a toddler climbing into a wild monkey cage to the dismay of everyone around, but the monkey didn't harm me….in fact, I played in there until I was ready to get out…no one could go in after me for fear of being attacked! There's also the story of the armadillo….it wouldn't go to sleep at night unless my dad tossed out his boot for it to crawl into to sleep. Then there's the account of my brother Michael accidentally suffocating his pet baby monkey…mom told him not to let it sleep with him – he didn't listen. The fiery army ants paraded through the house but didn't crawl into bed with us because our beds (legs) were put into kerosene cans. Bummer for the ants! They don't swim in kerosene very well. We all had our own horses….mine was named Socks.
My mom worked hard! My dad worked hard! Mom was busy learning the language and teaching literacy to the Ayoreos, preparing them to be able to read Scripture. She's translated the New Testament and a great portion of the Old Testament for them now. Dad was busy learning the language and helping the Ayoreos learn to farm – he taught them to make lumber and railroad ties to sell, taught them to process sugar cain, butcher animals, farm crops…plus he was their doctor, vaccinating them, treating broken limbs, pulling teeth…and he was their lawyer…helping resolve disputes…
Life wasn't always safe. My dad almost was killed by the men once when he said something they didn't like. My mom prayed, it was scary, but God was there. He protected my Dad and allowed the situation to be difused.
There's so much more…I'm sure it will come out in various stories as I keep blogging. But, that's enough for this post. It's therapeutic to write these memories. They helped shape who I am today. Biggest take-away from jungle life – it was real, it was raw and it was ridiculously fun for us kids most of the time!
Until next time – CAK