Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life in La Paz

For this update, we thought we would tell you about about a few adventures here in La Paz.  I hope you enjoy the stories.
Driving in LaPaz
Written by Chris 

There are a couple rules to keep in mind when driving here:
1.If my nose is in front of you, I have the right of way
2.Your horn is your most important tool

I had the privilege/resposibility of driving Samson from Cochabamba through the mountains on the way back to LaPaz. Thankfully I had paid attention on the way down so I knew some of the "rules of the road." I also was able to drive a bit around Cochabamba to get the feel of the Land Cruiser. So on Sunday, we were loaded and ready to head back through the mountains with me at the wheel. Of course this isn't like driving Interstate 90 through Montana and Idaho. The highway we drove is 2 lanes over some impressive terrain, up and down some steep hills, along ridges with steep drops on both sides, around some pretty tight corners, all while dealing with really slow trucks and impatient bus drivers. Just starting out of Coch, we got stuck following a long string of vehicles slowly climbing out of the valley. Forget passing lanes, or slow truck lanes, there's no room on these hills to build a wider roadway. And with so many curves, it's hard to find a place to pass. So it takes some guts to pull out into the other lane and floor the accelerator, hoping there is enough power to race to the curve and that no one pops around the corner flying down the hill. On one occasion, we were the vehicle going downhill that popped around the corner to face a semi and a coach bus side-by-side in between two rock walls. Nothing to do but hit the brakes and pray the bus driver reacts fast enough. Needless to say, though, we did survive my first experience driving here.

Back in LaPaz, there is a whole different set of challenges to getting around. First, there are many modes of transportation. Vehicles are very expensive, so few people own them. Taxis are abundant, but relatively expensive. Mini busses are government regulated and there are dozens of routes they run. There are several routes that start within 4 blocks of our house. Most are point to point and then return along the same route (or slightly different for one-way streets). The busses are privately owned but the government regulates and sets fares. We mainly use these, since fares are 1.5Bs per seat (children can sit in the lap), and you can get on and off anywhere along the route. The drivers put signs in the front window with names of streets and landmarks along their route, since even the locals don't know where each number route runs. This makes it easier to pick one to flag down. Truffis (said "True Fees") are taxis that run specific routes and act more like buses. We haven't learned how to use these yet, since they are not as prevalent nor as easy to figure out the routing.  The big busses (i forgot the name of them) are painted colors according to the zone of town they originate from. Our zone has blue ones. Most of them are old school busses that belch smoke and barely have enough power to crawl up the steeper hills when fully loaded. Fares are slightly cheaper than mini-busses but they are much slower and not nearly as comfortable. We only use these during really busy times or when Corey really, really wants to ride the blue bus. Finally, there is the PUMA. These are the new buses that the city itself owns and operates. Truly modern city busses. There are only 4 PUMA routes, though there are plans to add more in the near future. We have only ridden these a couple times, since the route through our neighborhood does not go to the areas we usually go. Of course, I forgot the ariel trams. We haven't ridden those yet, since they run perpendicular to our most common travel routes. I have heard that the PUMA and trams were instituted by rival political parties vying for the peoples' good will.

Pictured below: (Left) Driving down the road in the jeep (Right) Riding in a mini bus in the market
Shopping in La Paz

Picture needing food and saying oh I'll just run to the store... but wait! There are NO walmarts down here.  So what do you do? You make a list, you walk to the road and flag a mini bus (as they are more convenient to going to the market.  You ride for about 20-30 min up to the market and get off.  Then begins the adventure. 

Here we have primarily open air markets.  You can find some stores such as the Heipermaxi and another one we haven't visited Katal and in the south zone where the richest people live, there are malls etc.  Open air markets are cheaper to buy stuff then going to a store but then we sometimes crave modern food and thus we pay a visit to the Heipermaxi. And by pay i mean it is expensive.

Open air markets are basically little stalls with goods run by a lady (usually, occasionally males run the booth too).  There are streets of fruits, streets of vegies and streets of other goods.  You walk the street looking for the best looking item for the best price.  It is quite an experience. 

There is an open air market up in the El Alto that we try to go to on Sundays where we typically shop. There the people don't really have stalls, they just lay their goods out on the ground on a blanket or tables that they bring and you look for what you want.  We like this one a bit better as it is smaller and more condensed.  Feels more like a home town store.  You can usually find exactly what you want in a square block area. 

We have done shopping for our big items: oven, refridgerator and washer.  Those places you just have to look and the #1 rule you follow: Never buy from the first place you come to.  You get better deals usually if you keep on walking. 

All of this to say that Shopping here is a matter of patients.  A shopping trip isn't just 1 hour it is more like 3 plus hours and that is not including the bus ride there and back.
So what's happening in our lives now?
Lots of waiting for paperwork to be done.  We have finally settled into our home.  We have bought our oven, refrigerator,  and washer (it is not cost effective to buy a dryer, instead we hang our clothes on a line outside and pray it doesn't rain or hail while the clothes dry.)   We still need to buy our beds, we are currently sleeping on borrowed/used mattresses and the floor is not soft.  We are studying spanish almost on a daily basis and are learning to talk to the locals.  

The Kids are growing bigger, playing alone and with each other.  Below are a few fun pictures.  Corey just loves his little sister, especially when he can make her laugh. Cara loves reaching out and grabbing Corey.  She is such a happy baby.  Her biggest accomplishment so far... when she is on her belly, she can rotate 180 degrees to see what is behind her.  

We are planning a few excursions to El Campo (outside the city) in the next few months to search out a base of operations closer to our target area.  In the past month, DJ and Manny have taken two trips into the mountains where they have served many people with many different ailments. What gets me excited, is that they have brought back stories upon stories of people who NEED a Physical Therapist and there are many places to land an airplane.  God is leading in this project and leading us forward.  In about 2 weeks we will be heading south to do a mission trip with a group of high school students from the northern jungles of Bolivia. They will be helping to do some work on a newly Roofed/walled church in Catagaita. Please be watching for some video updates in the months ahead. 

We are always eager to talk via the internet with our friends, family and supporters so if you want to talk to us just send us a message and we will set up a time with you

Our current needs:
1. Prayers!  The devil has been working hard to discourage us as we continue to do God's will please be praying for us to maintain the path that leads us toward Him. 

2. Continuous Monthly support.  Approx Need: $1200   Have: $425    

3. Money for a bed for us and Corey Approx $500

4. Money to purchase some video editing software ASAP Need: $150

Thank you for your continued support of our mission for God you are all apart of our team in many aspects.  

May God Bless each of you this Thanksgiving Season
Chris, Crystal, Corey and Cara. 
This project is funded entirely by donations. If you'd like to be a part, we accept tax-deductible donations through Gospel Mission Aviation, Inc.

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