3:30 AM lobby call comes in just a few hours. We return home tomorrow with full hearts and weary bodies. I am writing this in our hotel room having just finished our packing frenzy…trying to leave as much as we can here to bless those we came to serve and also planning for the long day of travel ahead.
Today was another amazing day. We spent the morning doing activities with the kids at our Compassion site, then we had a very special treat! The Aymara/Bolivian women brought their version of an Aymara potluck – Aptapi (sp?) Their colorful “aguayos” (multicolored traditional cloth the women use to carry their babies and other things on their back) stretched across the “cancha” (the soccer court across from the center) and then dozens of women poured out their contributions to our lunch on the colorful blankets: an assortment of chuño, fried cheese, fried eggs, rice, fideo (noodles), salsas, fried onion patties, and more were carefully strewn along the blankets. The “hermanas” from the center had also prepared for us chicken, rice, broccoli and vegetables. We were so honored! After this fabulous potluck, the construction workers challenged our guys to a game of soccer. The final score? 4-3 in favor of our Bolivian hermanos. Our guys did give them some decent competition, however.
I watched our team interact today and again was so proud of them! Every single person jumped in to participate in some way. Many were WAY out of their comfort zones. Our bathroom facilities were a little dicey but no one complained. We did soon learn that you required a bathroom buddy because if you didn’t take someone with you, the little children could very possibly follow you in which would create a little bit of an awkward moment.
About 1/2 an hour before we left, my new friend Lydia who was the cook came to find me and asked if I would please wear her pollera and manta and hat. She wanted a picture with me and then the full band which came out to add to the festive potluck would play and we would dance. So off to the kitchen I went to be dressed once again in full Aymara women’s style. Rob really got a glimpse of my Bolivian roots! This time I was the only woman to be selected to do this and felt a little conspicuous but when I walked in to the church building where everyone was gathered for our final goodbyes it was worth all the ladies beautiful smiles and giggles and the little children responding with huge grins on their faces. The entire group of children and their families, the construction workers, the cooks, and everyone else gathered made a huge line and presented us with scarves with BOLIVIA embroidered on them and a few other tokens as recuerdos of our time there. Many wept as they said goodbye.
El Alto is not the tourist hot spot of the world. In fact just driving through the dusty streets and peculiar buildings one might be in a hurry to move along. But this is the city that has captured our hearts. This is the city we know needs to understand God’s grace. This is the city that we will argue is beautiful! This is the city we desire to return to – our debrief included many of us thinking through what we need to do better next time.
So, until next time our beautiful Bolivian brothers and sisters! We leave with a piece of you in our hearts. We are excited to return to our families and we return just a little different than we came. We have a lot to process! Be patient with us. Some of us experienced the devastating home visits that just wrecked us. God will continue to give us clarity as to what role we are to play in this plan of His here in El Alto. We will do our best to listen and respond.
Enjoy these pics from the last few days: