A friend of mine and I were talking the other day – she was telling me that the S.W.A.T. team was in their neighborhood the other day, tear gas and all. Seemed a neighbor had waved a gun in a nearby gas station…it reminded me that I have had very unusual things happen in my past due that many of my friends have never experienced.
Living in a foreign country provided a recipe for a different kind of childhood. Among many other things, here a few of the things I experienced:
- Going shopping with my mom in downtown Cochabamba, Bolivia, and walking into the tear gassed downtown area. Apparently some kind of uprising happened right before we went downtown and just before we got there, the police had set off tear gas. Bad stuff – you don’t ever want to experience it, believe me!
- Many times the existing government was “overthrown” and the newly self appointed President and his recruits would ensue a military coup over the rest of the country. Curfew would be imposed, the television and radio stations would be under the new government’s control and often machine gun wearing soldiers complete with tanks and such would make their presence known in the streets.
- During one uprising, my little sister and I were on our way home from school in the “school bus” which was really a reconstructed van-type vehicle…we entered a “hot zone” with fighting – people were throwing rocks and such at our van. Amidst the shattered glass all around, I helped my little sister hide under the seats with me until we had passed the area.
- My dad’s office had a bullet lodged in the door frame that he kept there as a conversation piece. It was shot into his office during one of the many uprisings we lived through.
- My good friend was the daughter of one of the Vice Presidents of Bolivia and one time during a political upset her mom showed up at the door with her little sister asking us to “hide” her as all the family was going in to hiding until things blew over. It was a scary time of not knowing if and when we’d see them again. Things did blow over and she came back for daughter after a few weeks.
- Road blocks were typical ways of protest. Many trips were delayed when we’d get as far as the roadblocks and have to turn back.
- We also experienced a pretty significant earthquake – living with aftershocks for weeks was a very unsettling thing. When it happened it sounded like the hot water heater had blown up and things were chaotic as we ran from the house not knowing what was going on.
- I lived through a summer of hepatitis – my little sister and I came down with it at the same time. Scary summer for us, but my best memories of my mom reading Little Women to me as I lay there on my bed recovering are from that summer. Crazy times when at the end of the summer (I was about 13 years old) I tried to get dressed and my pants fell right off my body because of all the weight I had lost.
The funny thing is, even though all of this was more common than unusual when I was growing up, I took it in stride and didn’t live in fear. It has made me aware of never taking freedom for granted and also made me aware of how petty people are sometimes when fighting over political things in the US. We live in a country where you don’t live week to week worrying about your personal safety, about the gunshots you hear at night knowing that someone had broken curfew and probably was stopped once and for all. My parents did a great job of allowing us to be informed, but always reminding us that God was in control and that He had a purpose for us being there that no one else could take away. I remember being frightened sometimes, but I always knew that God would take care of us and He did.
Now the fun stuff:
- Walking just a couple mile into the hills behind our home and seeing the beauty of well groomed fields of wildflowers, herds of llamas and alpacas, watching farmers still plow with oxen.
- Eating purple corn cereal for breakfast, called Api, or Hankekepa. Wish you could get those cereals here!
- Carnaval – the whole city shuts down for a huge water fight.
- Learning other languages – Spanish, Quechua, Ayore and more.
- Having tons of “adopted families” – other missionary families that touched my life forever.
- Tall beautiful eucalyptus trees
- Beautiful flower gardens
- Fresh bread daily – pansitos from Dona Juana’s store
- Taxis, Micro Buses
- Swimming on Christmas day after opening presents and eating lunch with family and friends – Christmas falls in the summer in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
- Long walks down palm tree laden avenues, with plazuelas full of old architecture that fill your mind with the adventures of yesterday
- Arroz con pollo, anticuchos, sublimes, empanadas and more!
- The knife sharperner guy
- The fish lady
- The volleyball games played every day until dark at the mission home my parents worked at.
- Unusual pets: anteaters, tapirs, toucan birds, parakeets, parrots, armadillos, and more…
- Open fruit, vegetable and meat markets – shopping at the cancha
Yes, this is where you would buy your meat – you wanted to make sure you got to know your meat vendor for the freshest and best cuts. Not for the faint at heart – it doesn’t smell too pretty!
I am truly blessed to have the background I had. It has molded and shaped me, provided me with a broader worldview than I would have had and given me plenty of adventures to draw from in my life. Not every missionary kid feels great about being a missionary kid – but I do. I learned so much about God, life, people, cultures from real life, not text books. I will always be grateful. And, even though I haven’t been in the country of my birth and the first 16 years of my life for a very long time now, I will go back someday. 🙂