Tiqti Sud Chapel & Center

Tiqti Sud Chapel & Center

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Called to be a Lay Missioner with the Franciscan Mission Service in Bolivia

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

La Cancha 2012

If you are not versed in Spanish and you are looking at the opening photo, you may think that La Cancha has something to do with donkeys.  Or it could be a local or indigenous word for an animal.  In the dictionary cancha refers to a field or a ground, in sports a playing field or court. But here when one refers to La Cancha with capital letters, they are talking about the market place. 

I would think that the use of the word originated from the place that people would gather on market day, using the cobble stoned areas of the plaza or flattened playing fields.

I thought that these donkeys brought items to be sold at the market. It took much observation and a few well placed questions to find out that they are actually milked, and a small portion, maybe about a 1/3 to 1/2 a cup, costs twice what I pay for a liter of milk.  It is said to have medicinal or curative purposes.

In Cochabamba La Cancha sprawls for 20 to 30 city blocks and overflows to the surrounding streets as people set up their wares on the sidewalks and gutters of the roads that lead to the market place. Above is one of the major roads early in the morning before the traffic jams start and before the street is strewn with trash.


People set up their wares at the edge of the street.  It took a while to get this photo (what photo you say?? sorry to say but the program of blogger deleted it and after working on the post for hours I don't feel like uploading it again!! maybe some other day. The new format is a struggle to work with It was really a good pic.) as the transportation kept going by.The foreground is really a major street, the woman in the tan shawl is in the middle of an island, that is used for a bus stop. In front of her is the road too where the bus will stop at the handrails if someone wants to board.

The man above pushes a load.  In the early morning they help the vendors to bring their wares, produce and products to their "puestos" or their point of sale. During the day individuals may contract the men (I have yet to see a woman at this work) to help consolidate purchases and bring them to a bus or taxi to load up. Many guys nap right in their wheelbarrows during the afternoon lull.  At the end of the day they are contracted once more to help store unpurchased items until the next day.
You can buy anything in the cancha, and the reputation is that everything is cheaper. I have not found the cheaper part to be true. I have found many things there, but it can take a long time to find it. Things tend to be set up in groups for example veggie section, used clothes section, cleaning supplies, there is even a section just for potatoes and just for bananas.

If my shopping list is eggs, crackers, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, baking powder, laundry soap, T.P., pasta, toothpaste, milk and tuna, I need to go to 12 different sections. After walking about 10 blocks to the first item (actually tuna), I then walk 10-14 blocks more buying items on the way.  When I finish, I am about 12-16 blocks away from home and look for a bus to take me to within a block or so of my home. A bit more complicated then going to the supermarket, which I must admit exists here, but many things cost so much more that my food budget would quickly be used.

The parting shot is of another of the busiest roads in the cancha, abet early in the morning before traffic tries to cut it's way through the ever narrowing way, as the vendors inch their way to the center of the street.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Marcha September 2012

Hardly a week goes by in Bolivia without a "Marcha" of one type or another, (sometimes more than one). If people are not marching here in Cochabamba, they are marching somewhere else in the country. A march can be as short as one hour with a few dozen people, but it usually lasts for a hours or all day, with hundreds to thousands of people.  Marches are a part of everyday life here.

This year and last year there was a march that lasted for months and traversed hundreds of miles. Starting in the community of TIPNIS and ending in La Paz. The people passed from tropical zones over mountain passes over 12,600 ft in altitude. The people were/are protesting the building of a road through what would be equal to a National Park and a Native American Reservation combined as well as a wildlife preserve.  Woman carry their babies on their backs, and youngsters walk along.  Communities along the way help with food, water, clothing, and a place to sleep.  The people of La Paz welcomed the pilgrims with open arms and much support, unfortunately the military wasn't so welcoming, violent clashes ensued, the people barred from the main plaza, while they awaited an audience with the president.
One would need a blog just to cover marchas on a weekly basis to even begin to explain, let alone follow up any results from these protests. Even the culture of a march is far different then my experiences in the US. I have decided when I wanted to join a march, and of course permits and organization are a must. Plans, police, and peace keepers usually keep things running smoothly. Here many people can be forced to march because they would need to pay a fine if they didn't. For example there may be a march to increase salaries or provide another benefit for college professors. Every professor needs to march or pay a fine, even if you don't believe in what the march is about, you must do it or pay (up to a day's pay). Other cooperatives or unions may back the march, then force their employees to march too.

Marches cause many traffic problems in the cities. Blockades are another story, which obviously cause greater traffic problems, as well as people getting stuck for days or weeks somewhere, where the have no contacts or money.  Produce rots on trucks that get stuck between farm and market.  I haven't any pictures because I like my camera too much, and it would take another blog to cover blockades. A new march idea was to have them just at lunch (for two weeks straight) and then no one would miss work, though many would miss lunch, which is the major meal of the day.
A recent march pictured in the photos of this blog entry, came down the street near the Franciscan Center, so I went upstairs, grabbed my camera. The march was organized by a group of street vendors mostly "ambulante", those walking aroung with carts such as the woman in the above photo, with her salteña cart. Many street vendors set up for the day on the sidewalk or gutter and pay a fee daily for the right to sell their items from the spot. Honestly, exactly what they were protesting was beyond me, even after talking with a bystander, who has lived a few more decades then I have lived.

The final destination usually is the "Plaza Principal" where a rally or at least some speeches take place. Riot police are usually stationed around the plaza to guard governmental offices. Chants, singing, bullhorns, and firecrackers or fireworks are all part of a march. It sounds like gunfire and ear plugs would be a great thing to bring to any march!  Sorry I realized I uploaded photos of only women, there were men on the march too, maybe 20%, other marches are more gender balanced.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feast of St. Francis Church Tour

The inside of the Church of San Francisco, about two blocks from my home, in the middle of a weekday.

The bell tower of The Parish of Hospicio, also located two blocks from my apartment in the other direction. I can see part of the other tower from one of my windows.

The Chapel of Santa Clara, just around the corner from my apartment. I can see the church spire from our outside interior balcony. It shows up in other blogs, from the balcony vista.  This is the chapel of the convent that provided the Social Center it's building.

This is the church at the Recoletta, where my former pastor (of San Pedro in Sacaba) Fr. Honny is currently the pastor. It is about a 20 minute walk from my house.

This is the chapel at the local hospital. Which not only provides a place to pray during visiting hours, but also has a parish with weekend masses.

The final picture is the interior of the church at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Tarata. Which was an old monastery.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


My first weeks in mission in 2010, I checked out a variety of of ministry possibilities. I went on a Saturday with the Foundation of San Lucas to the community of Sapanani, in the mountains north of Cochabamba Valley. At 5:00 PM on Friday evening I got a call to go up to the community for the weekend. Pretty short notice and considering I had other plans I agreed to only go for all day Saturday.

I went in a San Lucas vehicle with a group of workers to attend a workshop for rural medical educators, technicians and community organizers. We switch backed up the mountains and over the mountain pass to cross over to high mountain valleys. There were various talks and workshops. The health workers came from even more remote rural areas, some of them needing to to walk hours to reach their out-reaching communities. The people not only learned but shared and problem resolved with each other, it was great to see people working together.
I found out that I was there not to observe but to participate, which was difficult at times because Quechua was spoken frequently. I also quickly realized that I wished I had had my camera. A new friend took a photo of a particularly picturesque vista, saying he would email me the photo. I never saw the photo or him again.

Interestingly he had attended the Franciscan University in Carmen Pampa and knew former missioners Peggy and Alexandra! A huge lunch was prepared and after we wandered up the street to "the town" and I hung out with some of the local women, who were all very nice. It was a good experience, but with in a week I found that I would settle full time into my work with the parish of San Carlos, that I had begun part time that week.
I really liked the setting of Sapanani,though I must say that the high altitude and the heart stopping mountain road would make me think twice about working there. I also discovered a Rhubarb patch that was planted years ago by some foreigners. No one locally knew how to prepare it, so I was invited to take some home. Ah Rhubarb pie... yum!

Over the next years I knew many doctors who worked at the Franciscan Social Center in the San Lucas clinic, who would take turns working at the post in Sapanani and supporting the medical wrokers in the outlying region. Dr Claudio brought me a batch of Rhubarb once.
My boss Pepe had been inviting various times during this year to give workshops up in Sapanani on the topics of addictions and drugs. Finally in his last week before heading out on vacation, it was actually scheduled. He invited me to come along and I jumped at the chance to visit this beautiful place again. Even though it was technically winter it was still beautiful.
I had forgotten how treacherous the road was, large verticle drops without guard rails had me clutching the seat. I had to ask our speeding driver Don Carlos, the admistrator of San Lucas to slow down. I even`promised dinner if he did. On the way back he pointed out the sights were people who had driven off the road had died, comforting thoughts.
This time I, of course, took pictures. I was surprised that such an isolated rural community could have problems with drugs and addictions (other than alcohol). The groups was very animated and had lots of questions, they certainly wanted to learn even more and asked for other resources. They did have problems in the school and community, they shared stories and looked for solutions. I could write pages but one of the main themes was Prevention, Education and Intervention. The most interesting fact was that violence is the primary factor that leads to substance abuse, granted it isn't the only one just the primary one.

Below is a local youth, Don Carlos, Pepe, and myself in the garden not far from the Rhubarb patch. Of course I made another pie after the trip.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fiesta de La Virgen del Carmen

(procession Molino Blanco)

The traditional feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Latin America is celebrated on July 16th. Our Lady of Mount Carmel if the patroness of the Carmelite Order, the first of whom were Christian hermits living on Mt Carmel in the Holy Land in the late 12th - mid 13th century.

Nuestra Señora del Monte Carmelo is the patrona de la nación & sus fuerzas armadas in Bolivia. There seems to be a plethora of churches and chapels named for Nuestra Señora del Carmen here in Bolivia. Each celebrates their feast close to the actual feast day. In the parish of San Pedro where I worked my first time in Bolivia, there is not one but two chapels who have choose this patroness, in the parish's vast territory.

(the road between pueblos)

I have fond memories of accompanying Fr. Richard one of my most favorite Bolivian priests to the countryside to celebrate two masses at each of the chapels. Fr. Richard had been in Rome when I returned to Bolivia. He returned this year from Rome to become the pastor of San Pedro. Fr Honny, the former pastor of San Pedro, had been "promoted" to work in the archbishop's office and in 2010 was given a new parish to pastor within the city limits to be closer to work. He is now close enough to walk, though it takes 20 minutes, an improvement to the increasing traffic that created commutes up to 45 minutes long. Interestingly both priests are from the same hometown, though ordained almost a decade apart, are two of a larger group of priests who have origins in the same town.

(approaching Kuluyu)

Upon Fr. Richard's return to Bolivia, I asked if I could accompany him yet again to celebrate the feast. We enjoyed catching up on the ride up the mountain. This year the feast fell on a week day, the first chapel in Molino Blanco had a small mass and procession, deciding to have a larger procession with folk dancing on the following weekend when the children were not in school.

The more remote location the pueblo of Kuluyu is nestled in the mountains north of Sacaba. I know a couple of families that live there and had hoped to see them. One set of parents is working in Argentina this year, and I hope to check on their children, who are being taken care of by the grandparents and aunts.

(procession back to chapel Kuluyu)

Kuluyu celebrated this year with one mass as well as a solemn procession. School was canceled for the day and people held off from working in the fields to join in the festivities. Fr. Richard and I were invited to share in the midday meal prepared by the women of the pueblo. Lorraine who is a former FMS lay missioner ministered to this pueblo and is still fondly remembered. I was asked if I were her sister!!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Día Del Peatón

Pedestrian Day

A usual day in Bolivia includes traffic jams, blockades or marches. When traffic runs it's normal course, pedestrians need to walk with caution. Traffic does not yeild in any situation to pedestrians, not to women with baby strollers, people in wheelchairs or blind people with canes. I have almost been run down many times crossing the street at the intersection, the cars were running through red lights.

Pedestrian Day, the people rule the roads, my first time in Bolivia the city of Cochabamba celebrated this day once a year, currently 3-4 times a year, sneakers take over the street. On a Sunday, from about 7 in the morning until about 5 or 6 at night all motorized vehicles are banned from the streets (except of course police or emergency vehicles) Though in a city of almost a million people, there are few of either of these public service vehicles.

Last year Bolivia began it's first national Pedestrian Day. Cochabamba led the way for more than a decade. The reason behind the day was to have a day free of pollution from cars, trucks and buses. Not only was the environment improved but so too were people educated about the environment.

Bicycles are allowed to pass freely on the streets, each time more bikes are sold and used on this day. There has been a lot of support for this event. I saw a local talk show on the subject, and the callers were very positive and even offered great suggestions for the next one. One person even suggested to increase the frequency to once a month. It seems to be a great family event too, parents walk while their children ride bikes, free from worry of being mowed down by cars. Everyone is very friendly and cheerful, and many soccer games take place all over the city on the streets, taking over blocks.

Street vendors set up shop early on the streets that get the most foot traffic. As I passed through the Cancha (the outdoor streetmarket where people buy their food, and almost everything else), it seemed the vendors were not having a good day because people were out enjoying other parts of the city. I almost had to wake someone up to buy veggies. Many bike repair people set up stations on the street too. Above (photo) is a large repair and air station set up by Public Works of Cochabamba, they give free service, and also free spring water. They are also very, very friendly, especially sitting there all day in the heat!

There are many interesting sights. My favorite this time was this homemade wooden bike, that I ran into on one of the side streets in a nicer neighborhood. It is way heavier than my friend Keith's bamboo bikes.

Don't worry if you get hungry and you are tired of walking, some food will eventually come by your path. Pedaling hamburgers takes on a new meaning for me! Could this be the origin of the phrase? This is not an unusual site I have seen up to a dozen hamburger bikes setting off to cook and sell hamburgers. What is unusual is that is is going down one of the busiest streets near my home.

Below is El Prado, one of the busiest streets here. It has a park strip between the two sets of traffic lanes. Here it is impossible to ride a bike, and one shouldn't even try out of respect for the pedestrians, it really is their day! The scene is one of a big fair, music, crafts, food, games for kids and more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Picnic and Meeting in the Country

Recently I was invited on a trip to the countryside with the sponsorship program that I use to work with my first time in Bolivia. There would be morning meetings and a picnic. I put together a pasta salad with lots of veggies, and beans, and filled a water bottle with boiled water as my preparations.

It took a while for everyone to locate the park (do not think US park) and families and groups staked out areas around one section of the park. We were the only group there on a beautiful sunny Saturday. The view above was looking north into the mountains. Along with the sponsored children/teens were brothers, sisters, parents and even some grandparents.

It was interesting to see a meeting under the trees, a good part of the group is pictured above, there are about 100 sponsored kids, there are many pairings of siblings. I know I had a hard time paying attention. There was a meeting for the parents and some workshops for the kids and teens. Some parts were led by the youth that receive scholarships for helping with the program. These college students run after school programs and help with the functioning of the program. I would have liked a few to have helped me when I was the coordinator!!

Later I discovered the word I translated as picnic had many different meaning to each family. The group above roasted potatoes in this outdoor wood fired oven, and shared it with everyone. Another group cooked below the ground a chicken stew, of course they used pots. Other families barbequed beef, chicken, hotdogs or sausages, or sometime all of the previously mentioned. Other people brought sandwiches and things quick and easy to eat. Others had cooked at home and brought pots of food along.

The group above cooked a pot of rice on yet another wood fire, to go with the chicken stew and potatoes. (Notice the houses of the neighboring property in the background). Being an invited guest I was offered food from many families, more than I could possible eat. My pasta salad only stretched to share with 3 families, a plate for each family.

Besides eating which was the most major event, folks went off the play soccer games. I stayed behind with Alex, who had been in my daycare center, and is wheelchair bound. He is now an adolescent and it was nice to spend some relaxing time with him. Later all the kids played a group game and all the adults were invited in for the last round of the game, a good time was had by all.

Some of the moms focused on the meeting in the morning.