Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We're home!

This is the weather that we left behind in Bolivia...

And this is what we came home to! (Well, this is a picture from last year but you get the idea. A little more snow in this picture than right now.)

We have been home in Chicago for about a week now. We had a wonderful Christmas and it was so great to spend it with our family here in Chicago. Now we look forward to going out to Washington soon to see our family and friends out there.

In one way it feels like Bolivia was one long dream and in another way it was very real. While at church at Christmastime I found myself praying for all those sweet little children we know in Bolivia. My hope is that their families will be a loving refuge for each one of them during this Christmastime and always. Also, I often find myself thinking about or talking about our friends in Bolivia and recounting the many good times we had with them. We made such close friendships there that we will continue to miss them as long as we are apart from them. And now that we are home I realize just how much we learned from people in Bolivia. Our lives are forever changed in many ways after living there.

While there are things we miss about Bolivia it feels really good to be here in Chicago. There is a peace about it that is hard to describe. I can't put my finger on what it is but probably has to do with finally being with family and Chicago friends again and enjoying all those little familiar things that we had been missing while in Bolivia. We really didn't know what we had here til it was gone and it feels good to have it back. I feel like a more whole version of myself. So now we are looking for jobs and will be looking for a new place. Life will inevitably get busier and more hectic but we will always try to integrate the lessons we learned in Bolivia into our lives here and never ever forget the people in Bolivia that loved us so well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

We have spent this week, our last week in Bolivia, rushing around and getting things done and having some dinners and going away parties. One was on Tuesday at Nate and Kate's house and it was an IT going away party for us slash IT Christmas party. It was fun but also hard and very emotional having everyone tell us what we mean to them and having to say good-bye to a few ITers.

Here Norma is explaining that Christmas gift game where you choose a gift then you can steal other people's. Notice the Christmas tree in the background. Our friends Nate and Kate are from Australia so they put up a eucalyptus branch for a Christmas tree to remind them of all the eucalyptus trees they have at home. Except they call them gum trees.

Matt is super excited to open his gift...a Bolivia shirt.


Kate, Norma and Lily. Lily got glasses, so cute.

And last night we had a dinner with our team from the Center. They all have been so incredibly encouraging to us over the past two years but especially now. They have been like family to us here in Bolivia and they want to say thank you to our families for letting them have us for a little bit. It seems like every conversation we all have lately ends with "tienen que volver a visitar con hijos!" (you have to come back to visit with kids!) Which is fitting since we have been asked about 100 or more times why we don't have kids since being in Bolivia.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Well there are tons of Christmas decorations now all around Cochabamba in parks, stores, houses and lining the streets but my favorite is all the decorated palm trees...

Here's one

And here's a whole line of palm trees with all their lights

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Congratulations Greta and Scott!

Our two new nieces were born yesterday!

Addison Marie and Caroline Sere

Caroline is on the left, Addison is on the right

As you can see, Caroline is bigger (by about a pound) so they don't look very identical right now. I talked to Greta yesterday and she was doing well, just very tired. We can't wait to get home and see them!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Yesterday we had a feria or fair for the kids at the Center and it was our last one:( The whole point of the feria is to reward the kids for the number of times they come to the Center. So the attendance record is counted and then the kids get points according to how many times they have come in the last few months. With their points they can play games, buy food, toys and clothes. The kids have tons of fun and some of their parents come too and also have fun. I was helping with the food part and Matt with the games. Since we hadn't been to the Center all this week it was really fun to see all the kids again and the girls in my class were telling me "Don't go home! Why are you going home? We want you to stay". It was sweet.

Anyway, here are some pictures from yesterday...

On one side is the toys section and the other is clothes.

Me at the food section with Natasha and Judith. Natasha is the daughter of one of the couples we work with and Judith is one of their friends. Judith is a missionary in the jungle in Bolivia but was visiting Cochabamba. She said from Cochabamba it takes two days (mostly by river) to get to the village where she works.

Matt at the games

Me helping out Cristian who is one of the cutest little kids at the Center

On another note...we are now having to kick it into gear for preparing to come home. We only have about two weeks left and the time is going so fast. All of the stuff we are leaving behind is spoken for which is really great. Now we just have a bunch of little things to get done and people to see before we leave. We are also trying to get into the Christmas spirit but it's hard when it's almost 90 degrees out and you're soaking up the sun. It just feels fake like trying to celebrate Christmas in the summer. I guess we just have to appreciate this wonderful weather for now and then appreciate the Christmas season once we get home. And I guess there is always "Mele Kalikimaka" to listen to (which I am right now). Man, I love Christmas music!

Oh, I guess I should also say that today is a pretty big day in Bolivia...presidential elections. There are all these weird rules to prevent demonstrations or riots like no one is allowed to drive, including public transportation, walk or be in groups so we have no church today and are just hanging out at the house. It seems like Evo Morales will win for a second term and that nothing major or surprising will happen but I guess we'll see.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Okay, I know I haven't posted in a while so here's a little update on our lives...

We have been very fortunate to have our good friends Nate and Emily come to Cochabamba for a second visit. Last year they stayed with us for about 3 weeks on their way through Brazil and Bolivia and this year they are with us again for another 3 weeks on their way through Peru and Bolivia. Unfortunately, Nate has spent the last three nights in the hospital with an infection but he is doing fine and just got out after being loaded with fluids and antibiotics. Hopefully, he will stay healthy for the rest of their trip. We did have a lot of fun together before he got sick though...and more good times to come before they go back to Peru.

We now have only about 3 weeks left in Bolivia which is so weird. We are definitely in the winding down stages now and trying to figure out all the stuff we need/want to do in Cochabamba before we leave. There are a lot of little errands to do, people to see and random places and restaurants to visit in the last few weeks. Plus we have to move out of our house and get rid of all the stuff we aren't going to bring back. Now I'm very thankful for having bought just the bare-minimum of what we needed to live here cause now we don't have as much to get rid of.

We just had our last normal week at the Center. There are a few more special events we will go to and we won't say good-bye to the kids until a few days before we leave when we go to the Christmas program but yesterday was our last normal day. It was a little strange to be there for the last normal day but also nice that we didn't have to say bye to the kids yet. Thinking of all the people we will say good-bye to makes me sad already and that will definitely be hard.

Here are some pictures from our last week at the Center...

Me, Jhoselin, Andrea and Brenda

Andrea and Matt

So apparently we have a lot of pictures with Andrea. She is really sweet and actually one of my favorite girls at the Center even though I guess I shouldn't have favorites.

On our last day we were celebrating all the kids who had birthdays in November (and actually December since it's going to be a crazier month with Christmas stuff going on). There were about 70 kids which is a lot so it was a little chaotic when they were all waiting for cake.

This is the view when we are waiting for a bus after the Center...never get sick of that view with the mountains. The Center is just up the road two blocks and a half block to the left.

I decided to make Thanksgiving happen as best I could. I had Emily bring some stuff from the States to make it authentic. We had almost all the traditional foods and it was my first time making a turkey and everything else and it all turned out pretty good. The downer was that we had wanted to celebrate with Nate and Emily but they were in the hospital so we had to send them food instead of all being together.

Lily helping me make some food...I guess I was a little scared of the huge knife pointing at me.

The finished turkey.

And all the other foods...it felt very good to accomplish making everything in Bolivia.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Navidad en Bolivia 2009

Christmas is just a couple months away and our friend and former co-worker Adrian Nickols has a special desire to see that children in Bolivia have a wonderful Christmas. His goal is to provide Bolivian children with individual Christmas gifts as well as provide Bolivian ministries with some practical needs. Last year he raised over $3000 for Christmas gifts and practical needs for various ministries in Bolivia. Well, he is doing it again and this year there are many more sponsorships and the project will attempt to raise over $8000 for practical needs and Christmas gifts for 7 God-focused ministries in Bolivia and our ministry is one of the sponsored ministries! The project is called "Navidad en Bolivia 2009" (Christmas in Bolivia) and Adrian has put together a great website explaining the purpose and goals of the project.

Check it out at...

You can find our ministry sponsorships under "The List" category in the section "Group Gifts: El Centro de Amistad". There are various amounts you can choose to help provide for our Christmas party or to help provide for an internet connection at the Center. The party is expected to have around 100 children and 50 or 60 parents of the children. We hope to provide a gift for each child as well as food, decorations and costumes for a Christmas play. The internet connection will be primarily to help children with their homework in the library at the Center. There are many other sponsorships as well including the ministry we worked with last year called "Zona Frutillar" on the website. And the other ministries are also wonderful...sponsor them all!

If you want to contribute to this project and make a donation towards a gift you can either request the sponsorship you would like from the website or you can email us (mattandelsa@gmail.com). If you would like to do it from the website just put our names in the "referral" field. Since Adrian lives in Australia he has organized a US contact who lives in Texas named Kristen Polcyn, who is also a former co-worker of ours. Once you let us or Adrian (through the website) know what you want to sponsor then we will get Kristen's information to you to send her a check. Kristen is coming to Bolivia shortly and will bring what she has received up to that point and then there will be an alternative way of receiving money after she comes to Bolivia.

Some kids from the Center that would be receiving these gifts.

Friday, October 16, 2009

When my family was here visiting Linnea brought supplies to do the stained-glass cross project that she does with her kids at preschool. She brought enough supplies for all the kids at the Center do do it but the girls in my class loved it so much that we used up all the supplies ourselves. I could never have guessed how much fun the girls would have doing this project. Each girl made at least 3 or 4 up to 6 or 7 crosses each and we kept going til all the contact paper was gone. Most of them ended up going home with the girls but we also kept some at the Center and above are the finished products. Thanks for bring the supplies, Linnea!

Monday, October 5, 2009

We recently took the kids from the Center on a "paseo" to a water park. Except calling it a water park isn't really accurate as it is really just a park that also has a pool. But if there is one thing Bolivians know how to do it's making big, fun parks for kids, right Eric?

As it's getting colder in the States it's getting warmer here so it was the perfect time to go. The kids had tons of fun especially cause it was a very special activity that most of them would not have a chance to do otherwise.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sunday was my favorite holiday in Cochabamba. There were no cars to be found as it was "pedestrian day"...well, there were a few rule-breakers. It's a day where no driving is allowed and everyone walks and bikes around. From my understanding it is actually an attempt to be environmentally friendly for a day and it's fun to see the city in a new light for this day. It is very strange to hear no car noises and so very odd to be walking down streets that are usually filled with traffic. Maybe Matt and I will spearhead a pedestrian day in Chicago...who's gonna join us?

This is usually one of the busiest streets...it's kinda like walking down Michigan Ave with no cars.

And this is one of the busier rotundas.

Last week was also our 3rd wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful day and we still can't believe it has already been three years. What's even weirder is that we have been in Bolivia for about half of that time...whoa, time flies.

Here we are on our anniversary right before we went to dinner...
this is the only picture we took that day.

And some of the beautiful flowers Matt gave me...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wallgrens in Bolivia

My parents, Linnea and Eric were able to come for a visit to Bolivia and it was so fun having them...although we did miss Greta and Scott, Cam and the girls...you know, the rest of the family. Anyway, we were able to meet them in La Paz and go for a few days to Copacabana which is a town on Lake Titicaca. It was so beautiful there even though it was cold. We also spent one of the days there on Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) where there are some Incan ruins. This island was very important to the Incas because they believed it was where the sun was born.

After this little trip we all went back to Cochabamba together. We showed them our ministry and our city. I think we packed a lot into the time they were here but we also had some down time too. All in all, it was great not only being able to see family but to bring our two worlds together. Thanks for coming!!! We hope you had a good time!

Some pics from the week...

We had a little bit of time in La Paz. This is at a park there that has a
great view of the city and of the mountains.

Eric was attacked by a mosaic alligator.

We fed some pigeons and they kept landing on Linnea.

This was on the way to Copacabana. We took a bus and there was one part of the ride where we had to get off the bus to go across some water. The bus went on this ferry...

And we went on a smaller boat.

On the other side some guys were loading up these bulls and we were taking
pictures when they started yelling, "Move back!" Dad almost got mauled.

This was in Copacabana. This small city is a pilgrimage city for many Catholics. When they come they get everything blessed by the priests...including cars. The guy in the robe on the right was blessing this car with holy water, inside and out. There were so many people waiting to get their cars blessed that there was a traffic jam.

We hiked up a hill that gave us an awesome view of the city and the lake.
This is almost at the top...you can see the city behind us.

The way up was marked with the stations of the cross and there were a bunch at the top too.

At the top. I wanted it to look like I was about to fall which wasn't that far from the truth because if this rock fell then that was it...little nerve racking.

Copacabana from the top of the hill.

The next day we went to Isla del Sol in a boat just like this.

The boat ride was freezing...

but Mom was tough in her flip-flops next to everyone else that
looked like they were ready to climb Mt. Everest.

On the island in one of the museums. Linnea and I took this cause we just felt
like we had never been given the opportunity to be so close to an actual human skull.

Lake Titicaca on Isla del Sol

Hiking to the ruins

This was a spring that the Incas considered holy water. We all washed our faces with it which was apparently the thing to do with this Incan holy water. Our guide, Jaime, told us that we were supposed to think of our deepest wishes while doing it. Our collective deepest wish was to make the boat in time because it seemed like he lacked concern with how close we were getting to the only departure and the fact that everyone else was on their way back to the boat.
Our wish came true...we made it back in time.

These were some of the ruins called the Sunset gate, I think, because you can see the sun set through the last small hole. While we were standing in here Jaime told us about some of the concepts that were key to the Incan community like "half for me today and half for you tomorrow". It was interesting to learn more about the Incans and to realize how much they strove to work in harmony with nature and not destroy it. I think we can learn from some of their values of selflessness and respect of nature.

Sitting and waving

A girl with her llama. This was on the other side of the island.

The Incan gardens

When we got back we watched the sun set from our hotel.

This was in the Botanic gardens in Cochabamba.

View of the Cristo from the Botanic gardens.
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