I spent a blissful October in the U.S., visiting with more family and friends than I could have wished to! Now it’s back to Bolivia and these 40 crazy kiddos I’m so lucky I get to live with. In lieu of hashing it all out in writing, I’m leaving some pictures here to capture some of the goings-on over the past month.
Returning on Dia de Difuntos (Day of the Dead)
I returned on Day of the Dead, just in time to head to the cemetery with the girls to pray in front of the altars set up by family members. Diligent prayers are rewarded with all sorts of goodies–fruit, breads, handmade candies, sodas, and some avocados if you get lucky.
Three of the girls were confirmed in early November. I was almost reduced to a puddle of tears just looking at them, so grown up and beautiful in their confirmation dresses.
End of the School Year!
The girls are officially on summer vacation and enjoying the freedom from classes–they all participated in end of year dances and presentations at school, which inspired a new obsession with human gymnastics.
As a celebration for the end of the school year, we made a big excursion to a public pool–given they only go swimming about once every couple years, they aren’t the strongest swimmers, but they blew me away with their dedication. Despite the cold water and overcast day, they spent nearly the entire day in the pool. I for one was very tired at the end of the day after giving “swimming lessons” which mostly constituted of hauling the girls around the pool. On the trip there in the morning our bus suffered a blown tire and our driver may have overshot a crucial turn by about 10 miles, resulting in the hour sojourn turned into 2. But the girls were all smiles, no complaints, not a single sad face in the bunch.
Sisters, sisters. These women never cease to amaze me, and certainly never fail to make me smile. I get to live a bit of El Salvador (since many of our sisters are El Salvadorians) which means in addition to Bolivian cuisine, I also get tortillas, papusas, (and their sharp wit and humor). They’ve given me a new appreciation for the limits of party decorations–I swear I’ve never seen so many balloons in one dining room before as for one particularly exuberant birthday celebration (unfortunately not pictured here).
We’ve Got an Itty-Bit!
Shortly before I left, we welcomed a new little member to our ranks–18 month Belen–who is (Thank the Lord) a very calm, sweet girl. Laurita, 3 years old, has recovered from her ousting as the youngest and cutest, and all the girls are loving the opportunity to try out their parenting chops with her. Belen loves keys and attempting to open any and all doors, breaking into the pantry and covering herself with corn starch (upper left) or sneaking sugar by the fistful, dancing whenever music comes on, and giving kisses to her 40 big sisters. We’re working on not hiding from strangers, but tough cookie that she is, she’s definitely got her inquisition face down.
Visit from Bolivia’s “Miss Congeniality”
Bolivia’s own “Miss Congeniality” visited the Hogar–the girls performed a number of traditional dances for her, and spent the better part of the evening following her around and marveling at her height. I was happy to no longer be the “freakishly tall one”.
The Usual Shenanigans
Group gymnastics, fancy hair-dos, Daisy–a ginormous stuffed bear–gifted by Hna Leonor to the girls.
Christmas decorations, down time for obligatory selfies, and Sunday afternoon giggles.
More selfies at the Hospital waiting for head x-rays after rough run-ins with the floor, helping friend Allison paint a mural at another Hogar on my free day, beautiful Belen and sunflowers from our garden.
Always time for cuddles and for the inseparable Lourdes and Jenifer to get into “cheek-pinching” matches.
Advent is Upon Us!
The Hogar is decked out in tinsel and Christmas lights, all carefully arranged by the girls. As always, the only constant here is change–good friends Allison and Catherine, Franciscan missioners in the city, are leaving for the U.S. this week after two years here in Cochabamba. They were the veterans and the welcome crew when I arrived here, and have taken care of me with many Monday game nights, memorable music making, homemade food when I most needed it, salsa dancing, and celebrations which brought us extranjeros together.
At the Hogar we also said goodbye to one of the girls who’s been there for 4 years–she is thankfully returning to a healthy, stable home situation, but we do miss her sweet smile and generous hugs.
We’re also down sisters–one of the Hogar sisters, Hna Reina, has been in En Salvador for the big Capitulo, where they recently elected a new Superior. So it’s been Hna Leti and I with the girls since mid-November. Thankfully, things have been relatively calm (as calm as can be:) We’re looking forward to Christmas visitors, and more fun outings over break.
‘Til next time!