|Flying to La Paz from Trinidad...|
It's probably been mentioned here before, but the wealth of nature and scenery that Bolivia has to offer at times beggars belief. It really has everything but the sea. A case in point is the 50 minute flight we took on Monday from tropical Trinidad to the world's highest international airport in La Paz.
But such stark contrasts go beyond landscapes. Bolivia, in broad terms, is populated by two main people groups: the highlanders in western regions like La Paz, Cochabamba and Sucre, and the hot-blooded orientistas in our side of the country. And but for finding themselves inside the same borderlines, they have little else in common; unfortunately this can make for no shortage of racism and mutual suspicion.
|...means going from this...|
But mention La Paz to most people here, and those have made the journey will screw up their noses, and those who haven't will ask you what the point of that would be.
Well, earlier this week, our overnight visit to La Paz did indeed have a point -- a very important one, indeed -- and we were thrilled for the excuse to spend some time in a city we've always enjoyed in the past, not least for its spectacular mountain setting. Only we left realising we have now probably become more orientista than we had realised.
The altitude, of course, is a big factor here. And that would be manageable if things were relatively horizontal. But when the nearest grocery store from your hotel is three steep uphill blocks away, that's challenging. And when said hotel inevitably has a staircase or two, well that's just taking things too far.
With so much energy expended during the day, you'd think sleep would come easily. But that is affected, too. The first night or two at altitude is always challenging due to the vast change in temperature, and the shortness of breath, which you didn't notice during the day when you had other things to do (I often lie still wondering if I will wake up the next day or be suffocated to death in my sleep). To his credit, Sam adjusted marvellously to this, while his parents got about three hours' each.
So it's fair to say we were not exactly in sparkling form come Tuesday morning, with the appointment due to take place at 9am. Not being the best sleeper myself at the best of times -- this almost certainly being my 'thorn in the flesh' -- I just knew that this was the moment to trust fully in him whose power is manifested in our weakness. And that just about got us through the day.
As for the appointment, it could not have gone better. As mentioned last week, it was simply a handover of the compulsory documentation for the UK visa, plus anything else that might aid our cause (such as a letter from my parents). The only complicating factor was getting Sam's photograph taken; Sam, the most wanton of flirts, had eyes only for the woman and not the guy taking the picture. No documents appeared to be amiss, and yesterday we received email confirmation from Colombia that the application had arrived and was being processed. We should have an answer within the next ten days.
The appointment over and done with, we took advantage of La Paz's impressive new cable car system and hitched a ride back up (where else?) to our hotel, where we checked out and Sam rubbed further salt into the sleep wound by dosing off for a couple of hours in the hotel reception. A quick lunch followed in a café we know and trust, before heading to the airport and our flight back to Trinidad, where mosquitos, humidity and oxygen awaited us. It was good to be back.
Only La Paz hadn't left us. That trusted café, we were to find out in the next 24 hours, had given us both a nasty bout of food poisoning. That trusted café where, to our general annoyance, Sam had staunchly refused to eat anything, returning to Trinidad both fully rested and lacking in any queasiness whatsoever. You'll soon learn, m'boy. You'll soon learn.
- Pray for the visa application, now making its way through the British consulate in Bogotá.
- Pray for energy to finish well here. Knowing ourselves and what we can handle, we generally have a three-month rule, whereby we are never in Trinidad for more than a three-month period without some kind of break. We are now entering month three since our last proper break and are flagging somewhat, with so much left to do before leaving Trinidad at the end of December.
- Pray particularly for the church and Fundación Totaí, where we have a lot of groundwork to put in place before leaving. Normally, this is a sign that overseas workers haven't been doing their jobs properly (i.e., they haven't been training up others during their time on the field). In our case, it owes more to a couple of key people leaving both organisations at year's end.
- Pray for the visit this week of Brigitte Borner from Latin Link, who is coming to assess the short-term volunteering options we have available here.
- Finally, joking aside, pray for the city of La Paz, which is experiencing severe water shortages right now (we were largely spared any problems in the neighbourhood in which we stayed).
- For safe travels to and from La Paz, and a straightforward appointment on Tuesday morning.
- For the three months spent here by Melissa Olmstead (USA), who volunteered in the church and foundation and was supervised by Amanda. She moves on to Cochabamba for further language training on Sunday.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda