Tag Archives: Bolivia

Bee in a Cocoon

On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.

Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!

Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.

Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid. 

Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.

My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.

For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon. 


One Week Ago We Didn’t Even Have Tickets

Can you believe that? One week ago we didn’t even have plane tickets for our family to travel to the U.S.A.. Now, we are here, have a great place to stay while we find a place of our own, and OWN a 7 passenger van (which is a whole story for a separate, dedicated blog post). A small army has been working to gather stuff for our new home. My sister and brother-in-law collected from tons of people: some beds, bedding, dressers, towels, toiletries, some groceries, coats, hats, scarves, toys, games, some kitchen items, laundry soap, a laundry basket, Target gift cards, and a coffee maker. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of a friend who set up a facebook page to organize people, a few churches helping out, and many people networking, we feel very loved and cared for.

My parents, one of my brothers, and one of my sisters met us at the airport. There were hugs, happy tears, and lots of loud. It was great! They helped us get into the house of my brother-in-law’s father, who happens to be away on a golfing vacation and graciously opened his vacant home for us to stay in for free. WOW! I am so grateful for the generosity from someone I have never even met.

Before dawn Friday morning dear, dear friends came and collected us from the missionary housing where we were staying in Cochabamba. We said tearful goodbyes and started the 36 hour journey back to the city where both DaRonn and I were born and raised. The kids are amazing travelers! There were lots of talks about our move down to Bolivia way back in 2001. We compared, contrasted, and reminisced.

Ahead of us now in the coming days are: finding a house, filling it, and settling in. Please pray for us, as I know you already have been. Things seem to be falling into place. I am so grateful.

The kids have said some amusing things these first few days. The laughter has been helpful to break up the fatigue and tension.

— — — — — —

Me: Tyler, when you go to the bathroom you can put your toilet paper in the toilet and flush it down.

Tyler: [look of utter disgust] That is so gross!

Me: Yep, your pee, your poop, and the paper all together.

Timothy: [from the other room, singing loudly] We will all go together when we go down!

Cultural orientation – – – in Bolivia the plumbing systems are different and the used toilet paper is thrown into the trash can beside the toilet. Here in the U.S. the used paper is flushed.

— — — — — —

Can I go drink from the water fountain! (Five children RUN through the airport to quench their thirst.)

— — — — — —

Look, a mailbox! Oh look, there’s another one!

— — — — — —

These houses are so beautiful! (In one of the more simple parts of town.)

— — — — — —

There are SO MANY  [you name it on the shelves in the stores]  to choose from!

— — — — — —

This pizza is SO GOOD!

— — — — — —

It is SO COLD! (The locals are in lightweight shirts and no jackets. We are in layers, coats, hats, and scarves.)

— — — — — —

You can drink the water from the faucet. WHAT? Yes, from the faucet.

— — — — — —

Timothy on day 2: I still feel weird drinking water from the faucet. I mean, it tastes fine, but I am thinking in my head the whole time, “I am drinking bugs!”

— — — — — —

on the wall of the house we are staying at
on the wall of the house where we are staying


Amo a Bolivia

Amo a Bolivia.

Amo a los bolivianos.

Amo vivir en Bolivia.

Amo a mis hijos bolivianos.

Amo mi vida boliviana.

Amo el regalo de poder criar a mis hijos en Bolivia.

Amo a nuestros amigos bolivianos.

Amo a los misioneros en Bolivia.

Amo la comida boliviana.

Amo el paisaje boliviano.

Amo la diversidad de Bolivia.

Amo lo que Bolivia me ha enseñado.

Amo la humildad, la furia callada, y la perseverancia de los bolivianos.

Amo al arte boliviano.

Amo el idioma de Bolivia.

Amo el ritmo boliviano.

Amo a Bolivia.

Ahora…te dejo Bolivia.

Bolivia ha dejado su huella en mi cuerpo, en mi alma, en los mismos hilos de mí ser. Y si, por algún caso no lo hubiere aclarado; y esto es muy probable, ya que en este tiempo la claridad me elude: yo no quiero irme de Bolivia; aunque sé que eso debemos.

Las cosas no podían seguir igual. Grandes cambios requieren de una gran decisión.

La mayoría de las personas han sido discretas para formular la delicada pregunta “¿Por qué?” Aprecio esto. Los que deben saber el porqué, lo saben; por esta seguridad y confianza estaré siempre agradecida. Estoy aún más agradecida por las personas quienes permiten que haya un silencio incómodo de preguntas no respondidas entre nosotros, y no empujan, ni se alejan.

¡Ay! mis queridos.

Ha sido mi creencia que es siempre más difícil para los que se quedan que para los que se van. Siento como estamos arrancando a nosotros mismos de las vidas de personas que amamos y quienes nos aman, duele. Siento horrible, como estoy infligiendo dolor intencionalmente. Lamento todo el dolor causado.

¿Sabes qué es raro? La intensidad de la tristeza que gira y palpita junto con los sentimientos opuestos de contentamiento y esperanza. ¡Más que todo, esto es lo que me destroza! Estoy triste porque estoy dejando Bolivia pero estoy feliz porque estoy yendo a los que están esperando atraparnos en los Estados.

Me han dicho que todo esto es normal. ¡Pucha! lo normal es raro.

La curva del rio en Trinidad, Bolivia
La curva del rio en Trinidad, Bolivia


I Love Bolivia

I love Bolivia.

I love Bolivians.

I love living in Bolivia.

I love my Bolivian children.

I love my Bolivian life.

I love that I have been able to raise my children in Bolivia.

I love our Bolivian friends.

I love the missionaries in Bolivia.

I love Bolivian food.

I love the landscapes of Bolivia.

I love the diversity of Bolivia.

I love what Bolivia has taught me.

I love the humility, the quiet fury, and the endurance of the Bolivian people.

I love Bolivian art.

I love the language of Bolivia.

I love the rhythm of Bolivian living.

I love Bolivia.

Now I am leaving Bolivia.

Bolivia has left it’s mark on my body on my soul on the very threads of my being. In case I haven’t made it clear, which is highly likely since at this time clarity eludes me: I don’t want to leave Bolivia.

Yet, I know we must. Things could not go on the same. Big change necessitated a big decision. Most people have been very tactful about the lingering “why?”; I appreciate that. The ones who need to know why do know why. For that security of trust and advice I am ever grateful. I am even more grateful for the ones who let the uncomfortable silence of unanswered questions sit between us, and don’t push, and don’t push away either.

Ah, my dears.

It’s been my belief that it is always harder for the ones who stay than for the ones who go. I feel like we are ripping ourselves out of the lives of people we love and who love us; it hurts. I feel horrible, like I am inflecting intentional pain. I am sorry for all the pain.

The weird part? The intensity of sorrow twists and throbs with the very opposite feelings of contentment and hope. That’s tearing me up, most of all! I am sad to leave Bolivia but happy to go to those who are waiting to catch us in the States.

I’m told this is normal. Gah. Normal is weird.

River bend and reflections in Trinidad, Bolivia
River bend and reflections in Trinidad, Bolivia


Greetings from Limboland

We walked through the lobby of the Real Audiencia hotel in Sucre, Bolivia with our kids. Displayed by the front counter stands a full suit of armor from the days of knights and castles. They said, “Wow!” too many times to count in awe of the ancient artifact. We walked down the corridor of red carpet and through the arch ways draped in flowering vines. We rolled our luggage over the bumpy tiles by the pool, complete with statues of voluptuous Grecian ladies preparing to bathe. The spiral staircase took us to our suites overlooking the courtyard. My oldest threw her hands up in the air and proclaimed, “Imma freakin’ princess!” 

Those sprawling beds were ones of about a half dozen upon which we have laid our heads in the past weeks. Favorite bed thus far during transition? The ones we are in now because they have down comforters which are very cozy during this drippy rainy season. Worst bed thus far? The reclining chairs in the bus on the way back from our royal vacation because I was puked on by my daughter in the first hour of a ten hour ride. You better believe those windows were pried open no matter how cold and wet the night was.

Current tally of observations people have made about our present living conditions:

  • Vagabonds
  • Homeless
  • Nomads
  • Travelers
  • Visitors
  • Guests
  • Drifters
  • House-sitters

We have been living out of suitcases for almost a month now. This will continue for the foreseeable future in the coming weeks.

Our 13 years of life in Bolivia has been whittled down to 13 bags. 

Sometimes the thought of scaling back so much makes me want to cry. Other times I would just like to flick a lit match at the remaining piles of crap as it is tiring to lug it all around. What would be really cool is to have Merlin’s magic from the classic animated Sword in the Stone (my all time favorite Disney movie, by the way) to be able to shrink everything to fit into a dusty old bag with only a song and a dance. Imagine the look on the TSA agent’s face as he rakes his hand through hundreds of teeny tiny objects to determine if miniatures pose a threat to national security.

In the midst of mobility we have been meeting with people and doing the last rites. Last Sunday at church. Last night of youth group. Last visit from out-of-town friends. Last cook out with the ladies group. Last coffee out with friends. Last stroll through the Saturday market. The litany of lasts lasts and lasts.

Every once in a while I let myself be happy anticipating the upcoming flurry of firsts. New weather. New friends. New home. New vehicle. New schools. New clothes. New relative relations. New realities in a new culture. Soon we will trade the now for the new; until then we will wallow in Limboland.

Speaking of mobility and new things… I started my new job on January 5th. Pictured below is my “office” contained in a comfy backpack. Give me electricity and an internet connection and I am working to empower the rescue of victims of human trafficking through the diffusion of truth by way of social media and communications with The Exodus Road. I still have to pinch myself every time I get to work my hours with such an amazing group of people doing such important work.

my office

The kindness and generosity of people towards our family during this transitional season astounds and humbles me. Provision has come in such unexpected, unsolicited, and amazing ways. Yes, there are still lingering details and staggering logistics. Yes, the emotions are too numerous to name. Yet, sparks of goodness illuminate the path in the middle of the darkness.

I’ll leave you with some lyrical loveliness so you can hum along with me:

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”

“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine…”

“Abra, cabra, dabra, nack… Shrink in size very small… We’ve got to save enough room for all… Higitus, figitus, migitus, mum… Prestidigitorium!”


Firsts Bolivia Gave Me

“It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever,” I said with tears blurring my vision as I spoke with my oldest Bolivian friend sitting in front of me in the coffee shop today.

She gave me a butterfly ring as a going away gift, to match my first tattoo. “These are wings as you go on the next part of the journey God has for you.” I settled in and listened, as I have learned to do when I know the time has come to listen, to her speak out from her heart blessings, encouragement, sweet memories, and kind wishes. Bolivians know how to make heartfelt speeches. I was touched.

butterfly ring

Bolivia has given me many ‘firsts’. I came as a 25 year old mother of three small children, practically a blank canvas just getting started with life. Remember those lists I was talking about in the previous post? Here’s a fun one I did.

Firsts in Bolivia

1. Kiss on the cheek greeting

2. Sushi

3. Pedicure

4. Climbed a mountain to the summit

5. Got a massage

6. Went to a spa

7. Changed my mind about drinking

8. Learned I prefer white wine over red

9. Officiated a wedding

10. Served as a pastor

11. Ate Indian food

12. Stayed at a 5 star hotel

13. Got a tattoo

14. Got on social media

15. Used the sci-fi predicted miracle that is Skype

16. Blogged

17. Wrote a book

18. Bore a Bolivian child

19. Adopted a Bolivian child

20. Had major surgery

21. Learned Spanish

22. Held a baby abandoned on a the doorstep

23. Held the hand of a friend as she was losing her baby at 19 weeks of pregnancy

24. Fell in love with cactus plants

25. Got jumped at knife point

26. Owned a cell phone

27. Owned a good camera

28. Became the mother of teenagers

29. Co-founded an orphanage

30. Co-founded a school

31. Co-founded an international collective blog

32. Traveled internationally by myself

33. Traveled internationally with only my nursing baby as company

34. Traveled internationally with only my five children as company

35. Built a snowman with my kids

36. Won an award for my photography

37. Visited children who live in a prison with their criminal parents

38. Ate Bolivian food


Since I am now 38 years old I’ll stop there.

We are looking at a season of some new firsts for our family. Some will be fun, some terrifying, some silly, and some very serious.

Please pray with us about a huge first for our youngest, Kaitlynn. She will soon, by the grace of God, become for the first time in her life a citizen of the United States of America. There is paperwork, appointments, and other rigamarole to get through for this to happen. Not impossible, just needs to get done along with all the other stuff that is happening right now. Thanks so much for praying with us.


Life is Hard

helen keller quote

We tried really hard to be good missionaries in Bolivia. For thirteen years we tried so very hard. It started even before that when in my youth the passion for mission life burned in my heart. DaRonn and I met as teenagers and found commonality of desire for ministry, for setting out to change the world, for making our lives count for something. We rushed our young family off to a foreign land with such a sense of urgency.

Missionary life has many hardships. It’s hard to wrangle the tongue and make it make new sounds. It’s hard to ask people for money all the time. It’s hard to live amongst socioeconomic extremes whilst examining our own lifestyle choices. It’s hard being away from the comfort and acceptance of family. It’s hard reminding ourselves of why we are struggling with sickness in our bodies and maladies of the soul. It’s hard being misunderstood, judged, and criticized by those we are serving as well as those who are supposed to be on our team. It’s hard weighing the sacrifices we require of ourselves, our kids, and our family back home for perfect strangers. It’s hard when perfect strangers become dear friends and true family then we have to say goodbye.

We gladly assumed those hardships for the sake of the mission. We viewed the discomforts as necessary in order to win the lost. We pushed and pulled, we strove and struggled, we gave everything we had and took only loads of responsibility. We overextended ourselves. And then we broke.

Now we are leaving Bolivia worn down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our finances are suffering. Our family is in need of restoration. Life got way too hard.

If things are hard it is because we care about something. The hardship is indication of a set of values. The definition of our standards determine how hard (or not hard) something is going to be. Indifference about the outcome makes it not so hard because we would not give it any effort.

Sometimes hardship or hard times are imposed upon us. The desired outcome differs from the present reality. If the hardship came, and we didn’t care about what happened as a result, then that thing would not be hard because we would not be putting forth any effort towards changing that reality.

When things just kept getting harder and harder I began to ask some hard questions:

Is this hardship a necessary part of reaching what is hoped for? Do we know for certain what we hope for? Do we know for certain that the hard parts in our life correlate with that hope? What do I need to do differently?

Those kind of questions led to an overhaul of our lives. Granted, not all missionary careers follow the pattern ours took. Our unique path led us face to face with some realities we know need to change.

The ability to voice our values is helpful because then we can determine if the effort is worth it. We can look at what we seem to care about so deeply that is requiring this great force of effort from us and we can decide if this is actually where we want to put our energies. We assign worth to the outcome thus justifying the effort required of us to reach that place.

If we don’t think it is worth it, we’re not going to work for it.

If we do think it is worth it, we will work for it, we’ll assign creative energy towards it, and we will suffer hardship for it.

We determined that a clearer definition of our hopes is needed. Our efforts need to align more closely with our hopes. We need to set aside one set of hardships (the ones that don’t match our hopes) and take up a different set of hardships (ones that will carry us to our hopes).

We began in Bolivia with the greatest intentions. Over the years we have done amazing, wonderful, and fabulous things that have altered eternity, I am sure of it. The adventure of it all has been spectacular. Somewhere along the way, though, we chipped away too much, compromised, and became crippled.

Life is hard. We’ve heard that saying so many times. But why is it hard? Because we care. And because we care we will put forth hard efforts.

It’s hard to break destructive habits like overeating, smoking, laziness, etc. But the hardship is worth the efforts expended to attain a healthier lifestyle. It’s hard to acquire the relationship skills to overcome harmful patterns such as anger, blame, victim mentality, etc. But the end goal of a more peaceful existence with society gives us the motivation to do the hard work to learn a new way of relating to people. It’s hard to admit when things are not working and then start the even harder process of finding out why, what to do about it, and where to find help.

This decision to move our family to Omaha, Nebraska in the United States was reached after more than a year of deliberation. It is a hard, hard, hard choice. The implementation of this change is proving to be one of the hardest things we have ever done in our lives.

My Hopes:

  • I hope this move will remove some of the pressing obligations so that we can find a more livable rhythm
  • I hope this move will allow us to see more clearly where we want to invest ourselves
  • I hope we can find some healing of body and soul since there are more resources readily available in the States
  • I hope to be able to give our kids some really great opportunities, and that they will be able to connect with their heritage
  • I hope that we are not so far gone that this is “too little, too late”, that things can be better

One thing has been made clear through this all: we cannot do this alone!

Please join the facebook group a dear friend set up for us: Welcome Back Washingtons

There will be updates of practical needs you can help us with. I am so grateful that already a group of people has gathered around us to help us with this transition.

Please keep praying for us and for Bolivia.



Cochabamba Street Art – Installation Tags

Installation Tags Grone
Installation Tags Mat
“Mat” The second photo says “Prestigiosa pero Peligrosa” which is Spanish for “Prestigious but dangerous” in the feminine, indicating a female person or a noun with a feminine attribute.
Installation Tags Oveja
“Oveja” which is Spanish for Sheep
Installation Tags puriskiri traveler
For a long while the words painted on the wall were “Sin poesía no hay cuidad – Acción Poética Cochabamba” (Without poetry there is no city – Poetic Action Cochabamba). Then the word poetry was lightly covered and graffiti was painted in it’s stead. The tag is attributed to Puriskiri, which is Quechua for Traveler, and who happens to have tons of graffiti all over the city.
Installation Tags Puriskiri
“Puriskiri” which is Quechua for Traveler. Another well known graffiti tag in the middle photo: “Sonrie” which is a Spanish directive for “Smile”.
Installation Tags various unknown
A bunch more tags with letters and words

In the graffiti world it seems that lettering, words, signatures, and tags are integral. Readable or not I appreciate the emotion portrayed in fonts that require you to slow down and look close to understand their meaning. Also the creative colors, shading, and added designs give an interesting depth. I still would really love to someday have a conversation with a street artist. One of the things I would talk about with them is the use of language in their pieces.


Cochabamba Street Art – Installation Tribal

Tribal 01 Tribal 02 Guillermo Deheza 022 Tribal 03 Guillermo Deheza 010 Tribal 04 Guillermo Deheza 009 Tribal 05 Guillermo Deheza 008 Tribal 06 DSC05412 Tribal 07 Guillermo Deheza 020 Tribal 08

* Click the pics for a close up view of all the wonderful details in these pieces.

Bolivians have a strong sense of their cultural heritage dating back to the time of the Mayans and the Incas up through the tragedies of the Conquistadors and the colonization of the primitive missionaries and the more recent revolutionary efforts of Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara. Much effort is made to remember important dates, traditions, dances, food, dress, and of course the many heroic women and men who forged the nation we now know. I appreciate these cultural events and the way all generations get involved in the celebrations.

As we can see displayed in bright colors sprayed on the walls even the artists of the street are proud of their heritage. I applaud the usage of symbols, shapes, and styles to help us remember our roots.

A special thanks to Guillermo Deheza, once again, for finding and photographing some of these images. Find more of his stuff from around Cochabamba on facebook.

The llama picture has been brought to my attention more than once by various people… but I haven’t ever photographed it myself. It’s fun when people send me photos of cool graffiti they find around town. I am very grateful.

My amateur dabbling in the curator world can be accessed through this link: Cochabamba Street Art at ‘The @’.


Cochabamba Street Art – Installation Women

Installation women 01 Guillermo Deheza Installation women 02 Guillermo Deheza Installation women 03 Guillermo Deheza 004 Installation women 04 Guillermo Deheza (L) Me (R) Installation women 05 Guillermo Deheza 015 Installation women 06 Installation women 07 Installation women 08 Installation women 09 Guillermo Deheza 007 Installation women 10 Installation women 11 Guillermo Deheza Installation women 12 Guillermo Deheza Installation women 13 Guillermo Deheza Installation women 14

*Click pics for enlarged view*

This installation includes fresh, new graffiti found around Cochabamba as well as photos I took over a year ago. Some of these photos were taken by Guillermo Deheza, a fellow Cochabamba dweller who likes graffiti art.

The variety of impressions about women represented in these pieces span all time, past, present, and future. Some repeating themes we see are: braids, hummingbirds, symbols, nature, nurture, protection, and colors of passion. Do you have a favorite?



>> Guillermo Deheza’s collection of hundreds of photos of Cochabamba graffiti on facebook

>> Past posts with dozens of pics of Cochabamba Street Art here at ‘the @’