March 18, 2016
We were thrilled when we first started planning to go to Bolivia, that both of our sponsored children in Bolivia, are near the areas where we were traveling. We contacted Compassion to see if we could arrange a meeting with them. This is not the usually protocol, we were very last minute in all our planning, and if you are ever wanting to do this, I highly recommend planning 2 months ahead at least. Richard actually contacted the director of the center in Bolivia and that helped get our visit arranged. There were some details ahead of time, like background checks, transportation, etc. but it was all arranged and our kids were so so very excited to meet Victor and Nicole.
First we went to meet a few staff members who would be going with us, Yolanda, is Victor’s tutor (teacher at the compassion center) and she sometimes writes us on behalf of him and his family since he is so young. Sarah was another translator/guide type person who works for Compassion, more about her later.
We met them at the Teleférico station (Gondola is a form of public transportation, we actually took it several times while in La Paz and we were so happy we did! The ride above the cars and traffic saves time and gets you quickly from one end of the city to another. We met up with Richard’s Tió Samuel who was our official taxi driver while we drove around that day. He is Richard’s mom’s brother and loves to drive around, knows the area well, etc. He was so kind to us, and generous with his time and vehicle. We all rode together. Richard and Isaac in the back (trunk) of the small SUV, Yolanda, Sarah, and Robin in the middle, Gabriella on my lap, and Aliyah rode on Marco’s lap in the passenger seat in the front. Can you say a bit tight? This car was FULL! This carseat/booster law following mom had a hard time with the lack of seatbelts, child seats, appropriate number of passengers for the car, etc. there, but we needed to go along with what was acceptable in the culture there and the kids loved it and their mom quickly got used to it.
The pictures show most of our time with them and give glimpses into the visit, I suggest reading the captions for more detail. The main takeaway we had as a family from our visit with Victor was his contagious laughter. This child is JOY through and through. He laughed and played with the kids and had a great time. He was delighted to share lunch with us and if you can see in the photo of the soup, we were a bit surprised the fish was staring at us when we sat down to eat, but I was SO proud of our kids for trying to get the bones out of the fish and eating with such beautiful manners and such great attitudes. Thankful our kids are not generally picky eaters and they did a good job here of being super polite. The Chuño (Freeze dried potatoes) are traditionally made by Quechua and Aymara communities in Bolivia. It is a 5 day process that involves taking potatoes and putting them outside in the very low night temperatures in the Andean Altiplano, freezing them, and then exposing them to the intense sun during the day. I personally tasted a few to be polite, but think the taste must be something to get used to. The kids all tasted each new food. Richard says he remembers his mom used to make them when they were younger in the U.S. but stopped because it is so labor intensive.
I will share more about our thoughts after seeing Compassion centers up close, but want to share that if you do sponsor kids (through Compassion or any other organization) write to them! Write to them often, they really do love hearing from you and they showed us EVERY letter/card we have ever sent to them. They saved them all. Compassion even has an ap that you can send letters and notes online. It is really fast and easy, I have used it and the kids have even written there too.