Sunday, February 28, 2010

Our package arrives!

Tim, our friend from England, sent us a couple of packages in the mail. Unfortunately, with Bolivian mail, whether or not the package makes it is totally up to a throw of the dice. A large percentage of mail simply disappears along the route.

So, Tim decided to combine a bunch of packages into one large box. He put them into a rubber tub that we could use to store things in while we were in the States, and sent them to us through DHL.

Things were great until they made it to Bolivian soil. I mean the package literally flew across the world...then hit mañanaland. Who needs Disneyworld? We LIVE in tomorrow land!

DHL never told us that the package entered the black hole of delivery systems. We had to call them after it spent the first 7 dormaint days in Santa Cruz. After discussing things, we discovered that the content list included a box of tea. Yes...that is right, a box of real English Tea Bags. Probably 7 bags.

Now the country that is boasting the highest cocaine exporting in the world could not allow tea to come into the land unchallenged. Oh, no. The flag was raised and the red alert was sounded.

We went to DHL and discovered that we had to go to the government office in the neighboring city, 30 kilometers away, to register the importation of agricultural products. It seems like someone thought we were wanting to start a teabag farm and grow teabags on Bolivian soil.

So, we went to the office, and after waiting and filling out forms in septriclate, we had to pay 30 bs. That is about $4 usd or 2 British pounds. But, could I pay this exhorbant importation tariff at the office of agriculture? NO. I had to drive 3 kilometers to the bank, which, like all offices here, was closed.

This meant that the next day we had to go back to the neighboring city, go to the bank, pay the fee, go to the government office, fill out four more forms (this is no exaggeration) and then they gave us copies of the forms to take to DHL.

When we went back to DHL the following day, there was such a long line of people wanting to receive money (DHL is also Western Union) that we had to wait until the next business day. We returned, only to discover that we now had to go to another government office, the tax office, and register in order to receive shipments from out of the country. Never mind the fact that we had already received several packages in the three years that we have lived here...no, they did not have our name on file, so off we go to register.

The office is downtown, so after we found parking and walked to it, it was 11:45. I went to the first desk, and the man told me that it was lunch time, to come back in the afternoon. I pointed out that it was 15 minutes until lunch time, so he told me that the computer system was down and I had to return. I asked when the system would be back on line, and he replied that it would come back on after lunch.

After lunch I returned and discovered that I did not have all my documents in order to register to receive packages. I had to come back. Included with the documents, I had to draw a map to my house on a piece of paper--the type of map you would give to a friend on a napkin. Why? They did not know, but they needed a pencil drawn map....oh yeah, and a new manilla folder. I filled out the six forms, gave them another copy of my identity card and the map in the new manilla folder, and they told me that I had to go to another government office to register. I went there and the man registered me without much trouble, then sent me back to the first office with the paperwork. The first office gave me a receipt...but first I had to go to a bank to pay. :)

I took all of my documents back to the DHL office. They looked at them, and then told me that they would MAIL, yes, MAIL the documents to Santa Cruz. Of course, now it is the weekend before Carnaval...so all the offices are closed for five days.

The documents made it to Santa Cruz. I was a registered importer of agricultural products and could thereby receive my 7 tea bags without risk or harm to the general population.

Final scene: The package arrives to Cochabamba, but DHL cannot find my house, which is two blocks off of a main street, at the end of street. My directiont to DHL were this: Go up Eudoro Galindo until it ends, turn right, which is the only way you can go, for two blocks, my house is the last house on the street. They could not find it. I had to go the the DHL office to get it.

Final count--in case I forgot something. Two trips to another city, three trips to the bank, four trips to DHL, three trips to Government Tax Office 1 and one trip to Government Tax Office 2.

But...it was worth it! And...this is normal to us now. I told this to Tim in an email. When we first came to Bolivia, this drove us bonkers. Now, it is just life. As a Bolivian who lived in the USA for 30 years said, In Bolivia it takes three days to change a lightbulb, and then the lightbuld will not work and you will have to change it again.

Tim, thanks for the package! See the opening ceremony below.

Leia Mais…

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hauling Trash


Just got back from taking my trash to the dumpster. I hate doing this, but "whaddya gunna do...faahggett about it". In Bolivia, we have three basic options for our trash. We can put it in the street and burn it, which is what most of my neighbors do (and you can see the mountain burning in one of our videos on youtube). You can just throw it in the street and let the dogs slowly haul it off, or you can go to a public dumpster--which is what some people do.

The closest dumpster to my house is about 2 kilometers away. So, I only go there once a week or so. We put the trash outside, and when there are several bags we put it in our car and go to the dumpster. Putting it in the car doesn't mean in the back..our cars are: a real life SUV meant to go offroad, and a real life offroad. Neither of them are trucks with beds. Therefore, we put the trash INSIDE the car.

This trash always has 2,489,118 flies and fly babies (maggots). It stinks. The bags are torn open by wild cats in the night. It stinks. It is dripping and nasty. Did I say that it stinks?

We take the trash, leaving the doors and windows open as we drive because it stinks. When we unload it, we leave the doors and windows open for the rest of the day inside our wall, well...because it stinks.

'Hey Joe, what is it like living on the mission field?" "Sometimes, it stinks." :)

I went this morning, and actually thought that this is my job. I am a trashman. I haul trash for a living. What do I mean?

First of all, my trash. I have to carry it. But then, it is my job to help other people take their trash as well. My goal is to carry our trash to the cross, and leave it there with Jesus. By trash, I mean the smelly, stinky sins of our lives, and also the pungent self-righteousness and the oidious legalism.

My goal is to get rid of the trash, and to help others get rid of their trash.

Problem is, sometimes it stinks. Spiritual trash is just as maggot ridden and irritating as normal trash, probably more. When I haul the trash, I invariable end up smelling a little. When you help a sinner come to Calvary, especially one with a really trashly life...it sometimes rubs off on you. It stinks. Sometimes you get the bacteria of self-righteousness on you and don't even know you are infected. You have to wash up. Today when I got back, I washed my hands a lot. Could not see anything, but just to be safe, where is the anti-bacterial handwash?

As we go through life, especially as we help others (if you are not helping others, then you are probably the one that needs to be helped, your dumpster if full!), you are going to get dirty. You have to clean up. You have to wash your hands and your heart.

But when you are done...when the trash is gone...when they have a clean life...when you are sparkly...when you know that someone is better off because you were willing to do the dirty work...

What a job! Praise God that I am a trashman!

In Jesus,
Joe

Leia Mais…

Coasting

Sometimes I think that I am like a little kid. For example, I have a motorcycle. Even though it is only two years old, it has “kissed the pavement” a few times. It has no mirrors or blinkers, the front fender is broken off, the brakelight does not work, the front brakes do not work, and the horn—most important part of a moto in Bolivia by the way—doesn’t toot. However, I love riding this wreck (or wrecking this ride).

We live way up in the Andes Mountains. To give you a little perspective, our house is 3,000ft higher than the Mile High City. The valley of Cochabamba, where our city is, is surrounded on all sides by Mountains from 14,000 to 17,000ft. Our house is up on the edge of a 15,000 mountain. While we still live ‘in the city’, only 6 minutes from downtown, we are on the edge with no other houses behind us. We are up the hill.

Here is what I like to do. I get on my moto and give it one very small push with my foot. Then I coast. I actually go faster coasting than when I drive. I feel like a stealth biker, sneaking up on enemy dogs. My goal is to pass them undetected. I coast for about 3 kilometers before I have to turn on the main road. (you can see this main road on our website, the video of Diá de Peaton).

However, I have never coasted up hill. On the contrary, I ran out of gas on the way home one time, and had to push the moto about 2 kilometers to a station. It was a lot harder pushing than riding, and uphill was way more difficult than downhill.

Coasting is fun, but it only takes you down. It can’t carry you up and away. That is how it is in our spiritual lives also. When we first arrived on the mission field, church was difficult due to language barriers. It was hard to concentrate on our spiritual growth—which seems really weird for a missionary to say—because all of life was such a challenge. This wasn’t that big of a problem for a few weeks, since we could coast. We had a lot of momentum to ride on.

However, as the weeks went by, I ran out of momentum, and discovered I was also out of gas. I was dry and empty, and at a standstill. It was time to fill up. I had to repent of my complacency and once again run to Calvary.

If I were honest with you, I would have to say that a lot of my spiritual life has been this cycle. I don’t know why other than my weak flesh and wimpy will—because I love it when my tank if full and I am zooming through life with an open throttle. But, what I tend to do is lean back, enjoy the wind in my hair, watch the scenery zip by, and then slowly come to a standstill.

I am committed to stopping stopping. (not a mistake). I want to follow in my spiritual life the policy we follow here in our physical lives with our autos. Since we never know if we are going to have to leave the country in a hurry due to political unrest, we try to not let our cars get below ½ tank of fuel. I tell the teens, ½ = empty. We ALWAYS have plenty of gas in the car. I love it here when you tell the gas station person to fill up your car. There is no auto shutoff on the hose. They fill it up to the brim, and then…seriously, they shake your car back and forth and fill it up again, then shake your car and fill it up again. When you say “Lleno por favor” (fill it up), they take you literally and there simply is no room for more.

In my spiritual life, I want to always have a full tank. This should be easy, since I am always in the Presence of the One Who fills me. All I have to do is acknowledge that a little has been used up, need to top ér off please. The Holy Spirit will fill you up, shake you, and then fill it up again. When you leave, your cup is running over and you have joy unspeakable and full of glory—so why in the world do we ever run out?

So…as you read this article right now, where is your heartgauge? Are you topped off and zooming—or maybe you have been coasting for a while. It could be that you stopped coasting a long time ago and have even forgotten what the feel of movement is like.

Look ahead…standing there ready to fill you up…it is Jesus. Just pull in and ask.

See You In July!

Joe

Leia Mais…

Friday, February 5, 2010

Idea For Blogs

I got an idea from a friend here.

Send me a post or an email about anything you want to know about life here. Transportation, shopping, food, church, blah blah blah.

I will respond with blogs about stuff you want to know

Joe

Leia Mais…