Can't Find McDonalds in Bolivia


So I have 2 very different experiences of the lifestyle of Bolivian Quakers. One Sunday I came home from Santidad church in El Alto and my mother, Ildafonsa was sititng on the wooden floor in her long satin skirt, apron with long braids peeling a sack of carrots with a knife. The potatoes, onions were spread around her in waves of farm produce, and the bits of carrot skin were flying from her knife. I sat down with the family to warm my hands with tea. Ildafonsa proudly quoted the Bible in Castellano and we chatted about the day. 5 year old Sarita showed me where she cut her finger. The bandaid was transparent and seemed to do the hygienic trick. Ascension, the father picked up a primer with basic language lessons on Aymara, Quechua and Castellano. Here in El Alto Quakers support the union marches, eat sheep for Christmas dinner, raise guinea pigs. My household of 5 people had one fork and 2 cupboards in the kitchen. 


Another fascinating thing is that the Santidad Friends who come from rural areas, according to Bolivians at BQE, are the hardest working. The university students from the country are studious, get good grades, and often are committed to returning to their villages and work for change.

Friends in Cochabamba are a different class background. Most of them have cars, one per household, although they use public transport a lot. They send their children to private schools. They know about Indian restaurants.  In El Alto you go to a restaurant and you get chipped plates and a square of newsprint for a napkin. In Cocha, restaurants have students, families and police sitting side by side. In Cocha I live with Hans and Ninfa and they have laptops and 12 kitchen cupboards similar to our abodes.  There are so many small parks here and large football fields (muddy). I went with 5 year old Johan who is teaching me English like fish, desk, baseball hat, to a local amusement park. We each paid 25 cents to enter. It was a mix of swimming, swan boats, some reptiles underground, botanical garden, and play structure. We were running, ready for alligators and then a rainshower hit. We turned into sharks and ran home.

The spirit sprawls widely across Bolivian Friends. I perceive that the more diverse the land forms, the more diverse the Friends church. When you import US Christianity with mangers and "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and snow on reindeers, Christians are teaching more than love your neighbor as yourself. Yet when Bolivians speak of burying llamas under a building, pictures of the balance between sun and moon, they aren't denying the one God, they aren't worshipping idols-they aren't breaking the 1st commandment. These Friends are practicing customs like we have of hanging mistletoe and making Christmas ornaments. 

I'm rooting for Friendly health and education, and strict practices in speaking truth and living healthy. I'm never going to be a missionary that expects Friends to worship in one way. What have I learned In Bolivia? I don't believe Christians should dictate practices as no abortion, no euthanasia, and no drugs, no plastic bags. I am clear about no war and no weapons, and no bullfighting (nor cockfighting, nor spouse beating). 

May you find that winter in North America gives you grist and courage. May we live within the Coming of a New Spring that pierces through ice and turborness. Hasta pronto, amigos. Minga