About a year ago, while pondering what a sacrifice it might be to give up everything and move to Bolivia, I distinctly recall Andy Partington trying to convince me by saying “you’ll feel guilty for how much of a good time you’ll have out in Bolivia”. He knew. He’d lived here before. In many ways, that sums up my sentiments about being here so far.
It has been quite a week and a half by way of introduction to this diverse and beautiful country. My arrival coincided with the visit of three others from the UK Novō Trustees, which meant I had the privilege of joining them on their 4 day road trip, arranged by Andy and Warren, another Team Novō leader. By way of warning, some of this may sound like I’m simply on holiday… I assure you this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and served as an incredible introduction to my time in Bolivia!
The trip was ambitious (in terms of mileage and terrain) and spectacular – mountains, villages, vast tropical forests, salt flats, banana plantations. It took us from Santa Cruz (home of Novō) to Bohemian Samaipata, and through the Andes to the colonial architecture of Sucre, the constitutional capital. From there, we travelled through the old silver mining city Potosí, where I was a little disconcerted after feeling pretty out of breath just climbing some stairs to go the toilet. I was told I didn’t need to worry that I’d lost my fitness completely, and this was the effect of being at high altitude – 13,500 ft (phew).
Our next stop, Salar de Uyuni (salt flat), had to be the highlight. 4,000 sq miles of flat salt crust, covered with an inch or so of water from recent rainfall, made for perfect reflections and an illusion that we were walking on water. Those in the distance even seemed to be floating, as it was impossible to exactly distinguish the horizon. I was keen to get the word ‘theophany’ into this blog post, having read it in my Celtic Prayers book recently and rather liked it. In the context of creation being a “manifestation of God to a person”, I thought the Salar was worthy of this word.
Our final destination before returning to Santa Cruz was Bolivia’s third largest city, Cochabamba. It was great meet Mauge, a lovely Bolivian lady, from the language school to where I’ll be returning next week. It sounds like the school is very missional minded and has a strong sense of community. There will be some outreach projects I can get involved in while I’m there, alongside my Spanish classes.
Until our return to Santa Cruz, I was the least affected by altitude and general illness out of our group. Unfortunately, this was not to continue. Requiring the vehicle to pull over on the side of a busy road so that I could crouch in some long grass for a desperate loo stop was a first for me. My sickness and diarrhoea deteriorated over the next couple of days, and I ended up being taken to a good local hospital, where they put me on a drip to rehydrate me. Thankfully, it was just a stomach infection, probably caused by something I ate or water I drank – nothing uncommon for foreigners. I was grateful to Mickey Partington for staying with me the whole time, and to have my Emmanuel church homegroup whatsApp group to share prayer requests and updates. God answered our prayers quickly, and I’m fully recovered.
In terms of Novō, I’ve now visited Quinta Totaices, the property, and it looks amazing. It seems ideal for a Novō community. I loved the ‘leafiness’ of it (abounding with so many species of trees, including avocado and grapefruit), and I can really imagine a sense of community there. I sat in on my first Team Novō meeting this week (I bump the current leadership team up to 4), where we spent time in prayer together about Novō’s vision, and discussed some of the next steps.
I feel excited about being here, and am looking forward to helping create the structured programme and spending time developing therapy group resources, once I return from 3 months in Cochabamba. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my Spanish learning, as it has been a bit frustrating not being able to converse with Bolivian people as fully as I’d like to yet. Overall, I feel so blessed by the support I have from the UK to enable me to be here, the welcome I’ve received here, and the sense of joy and peace I’ve experienced so far – praise God.
Praise and Prayer
- Thanks for a great welcome from the Partingtons and all those I’ve met so far
- For a productive time in language school
- New meaningful friendships and fellowship with others
- Visa process (need to extend my 90 day tourist visa to a 2 year one)
Thank you so much for your support.
Blessings and love,
P.S. I’ve put more photos up in the Photo Gallery on here if you want to see more.