At the end of the school year last December, I had gone to Pilar’s school to offer teaching a couple of classes of English in exchange for her tuition. I had thought, with the hope of school starting back in person, that this might open doors for meeting people. They loved the idea but never got back with me… until a week after school started again. I don’t know what happened to their other teacher or if they just remembered really late, but I got a call asking me to come to the school where they asked me to teach English to the kindergarten classes. School has not gone back to being in person at this school yet, but this month they are going to try for the semi. I teach 3 classes a week and am still hoping that through this opportunity I can meet people.
The team was blessed by Mark Scott visiting us from San Angelo, Tx. He is an elder at the South Gate Church of Christ who support us. He was able to go to Sucre and visit the church there along with Erik Reyes and Josh Marcum and then he came to Tarija for a few days. I think it’s hard for most people who live in their home countries to appreciate what it feels like to get visitors and the encouragement it is. Mark was able to spend one on one time with each family and also with the team as a group and it was encouraging as it made us feel loved and seen.
Carnival was celebrated the last weekend of February. This weekend also was our one year anniversary of arriving in Tarija. We were walking into Carnival wondering how it would be here compared to Sucre. I Sucre the drinking is so bad even during the day, that we would stay in our house for basically 5 days because it was dangerous to be out. Here we were really surprised and pleased by how calm the celebration was. It started off on Thursday with Comadres, a tradition in Bolivia that originated here in Tarija. It is a day to celebrate friendships between women. Through out the day you would here firecrackers go off as women announced their arrival at the friend’s homes, work, etc to give them a basket full of bread, fruit, veggies and sweets. When a woman was giving a basket to her friend, she would say a blessing as she placed the basket over her friend’s head and sprinkled confetti on her head. This is a way for the women to express how much they respect their friend and tradition states that the following year your friend returns the basket full for you to receive to complete the cycle. Pilar and I made about 6 baskets to pass around. Since we had never made a basket for Comadres, they didn’t end up having the traditional offerings, but people were pleased. I invited all the women we know to our house that evening for some snacks and tea. I honestly didn’t think many would be able to come since most women are out celebrating in the evenings with their groups of friends, but we had about 6 women come besides the team.
(Pilar and I also received baskets from our neighbor Natalia and her daughter.)
The rest of carnival was spent mostly at home or in the neighborhood as everyone is busy celebrating with family and friends during this time. I filled up 100 water balloons every day for Pilar and Nicole as the neighborhood kids would go out on the street for water fights every day. That sounds like a lot of balloons but it felt like in less than 10 minutes they were gone and the girls would ask for buckets to be filled with water so they could use cups to throw water. This was also very different than in Sucre. The kids were very respectful not to throw water on adults or people who were not participating and were nice to the little ones who wanted to play but didn’t want to get attacked.
A year has passed since arriving to Tarija. We are blessed as we find our footing and get to know this culture and the people here.