Tag Archives: travel

“This is NOT home.”

airplane over cochabamba, bolivia, january 2015

Our little mob of weary wanderers rounded the final corner of our 36 hour journey. Mama and Papa caught each others’ eyes and puffed out a breath to prepare for impact.

“You ready for this?” they asked.

“Nope,” they answered.

“Here we go,” they said.

All the kids, with baggage to drag, followed the plod of their parents up the ramp from the airplane to the airport. I saw my parents before they saw us. My mom, my dad, my youngest brother, and my youngest sister came out that chilly Saturday afternoon in January to gather us. You might tell me that was only four days ago; it feels like a lifetime ago.

We left Bolivia. To quote a friend, “It is not so weird that you left, what’s weird is that you are not coming back.” Oh the sting.

The impact of the separation has not yet hit me. I am sure the ones we left back in Bolivia are feeling it. I have been the one left behind, it is excruciating. I can see on the faces of some of my kids the sadness and loneliness. Others beam with relief and renewal. The colors of our emotional profile burn bright like a sunset on fire. Or is it the sunrise?

The transition material tells me that a new beginning starts with an ending. The rites of passage of ancient cultures teach us to face the end, embrace the grief, and move through to the new. Denial, slap a happy-face emoticon on it, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, just won’t do. Honest tears help wash the soul.

It hurts so much, though. And there are so many people so very happy to have us here. And we don’t want to disappoint people. But it is not fair to them if we are dishonest with our “glee” in the hopes to manage their emotions. No. This is not what we want to do. So we sit broken, together. Yet, there does exist happiness in all the grief. Sparks of hope of what will be flare up and our faces make genuine smiles.

Oh yes, I was talking about the airport.

We walked into view. My mom burst with shouts and ran to catch me. My sister cried and wrapped my kids in her arms. My brother said with pride and joy, “My sister!” My dad laughed as he welcomed us all. What was left of my mascara ran down my cheeks. I felt like my heart would explode.

Then I looked around at my children. My oldest stood off to the side, away from the huddle of hugs. I moved over to her. The anger and helplessness radiated from her reddened eyes as she met me with an indictment. Through gritted teeth and a cracking voice she whispered a gruff, “This is NOT home.”

I wrapped her in affirmation and understanding. Yes, I told her, you are right, this is not home. We cried. I told her we would talk later. She nodded.

We grabbed our 12 checked bags off the conveyor belt. I unzipped a few and snatched out sweaters and jackets for all of us. No matter how many layers and hats and scarves and gloves I put on I couldn’t cut the chill. We loaded up the people and the stuff and drove to our borrowed residence. The rest of the day rushed by as we set up beds, tended to the kitchen and bathrooms, and sorted the bags into the rooms.

When just the Washingtons remained in the home warmed by the wonder of heat blown through vents I called Raimy to my side. She initiated the conversation. Her countenance was calmed yet fatigued, and she said, “About what I said… this is not home, yet.”

Yes. That’s right baby.

Love. Be loved.



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


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!”


Eternal Spring

Cochabamba, Bolivia proudly carries the illustrious title: City of Eternal Spring. Here in Bolivia we know how to celebrate important days. Today was the doozy of a day!

September 21st in Bolivia is:

  1. The Day of Love
  2. The Day of the Student
  3. The Day of the Doctor
  4. The Day of the Photographer
  5. The First Day of Spring
  6. The International Day of Peace


So if you are a peaceful doctor who is studying and happen to be taking a photo of the person you love in the city of eternal spring, you have celebrated this day to the utmost perfection.

Friday the kids had parties in the parks with their classmates, instead of regular instruction. Today on the streets people sold all kinds of lovely cards and fun, cute gifts. The shops and restaurants are all decorated with flowers and spring colors.

The celebrations don’t stop. Monday my kids are in a parade to remember the founding of the city of Tiquipaya, where our school is. Gabrielle is playing the tambourine in the marching band. Then they have the day free from classes on Tuesday, the actual anniversary of Tiquipaya. Do we know how to party, or what?

Though I am only an amateur photographer I wanted to finish this blog post by sharing some pics from my trip to La Paz to visit my friends, the Bakers. They were super hospitable and kind. I had a great time!

la paz 07 la paz 08 la paz 09 la paz 13 la paz 15



Whilst in Chile…

My dearest Bolivian friend, Alejandra, moved to Chile with her husband and their three kids last year. I told her I would visit her. So for my 37th birthday present I made the day long bus ride from Cochabamba to Iquique to spend just over a week with her and her family. I am really having a wonderful time. So glad I have an understanding and supportive husband to allow me to do this. So glad my kids are big enough to handle things around the house in my absence.

- in Chile with Ale -
– in Chile with Ale –


Whilst we go to the beach, the mall, the plaza, the docks, the restaurants, and para-sailing (fingers crossed it works out to do this) the online world carries on. A while back I wrote an article for A Life Overseas and it got published today. Check it out if you want to. Oh, and I am posting all myvacation photos and blurbs on facebook, instagram, and twitter if you want to find me in those places. Thanks!

Link to article: “My Kid Can Cuss in Two Languages” In which I say:

It’s only fair to blame Bolivia for this child’s special knack, right? The romantic tongue of this Latin people makes allowances for explicit descriptions and colorful expletives. I should expect complete cultural assimilation from my children, right? Oh that blessed blame game… like those songs that never end, they just go on and on my friend…

My kid can cuss in two languages. Not an ideal bumper sticker. Although, it could be plastered right next to the one about honor roll. My kid is on the honor roll, too. Somehow that balance doesn’t soothe me, though.



A Call from Gracia Burnham

What about the paparazzi and the fan mob? That was my first thought when I got over the shock of:

#1 the fact that Gracia Burnham had called me, me!?!, on the phone

#2 she was squeezing me into her schedule for next week even though her website says her calendar is jam packed until June of 2014


# 3 she suggested IHOP!

Last year her publishers made the extended version of Gracia’s book ‘In the Presence of My Enemies’ available for free for a limited time on Kindle to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the events that transpired in the Philippine jungles. I got it. Then I proceeded to recommend it to all my friends. The book tells the experience of the Burnham’s year long captivity which ended with the loss of Martin’s life.  After 16 years of missionary service Gracia was left a widow with three children to raise amidst tragedy. The book takes a candid look at God’s calling, God’s grace, and our choice of how to respond to Him.

After reading the book I found out that Gracia lives in the Wichita area. Knowing that I would be spending some time with my family, who also live in Wichita, during our trip to the U.S. I made a shot in the dark and contacted Gracia through the form on her website, asking if I could buy her a coffee so we could chat a little.

After I got into Wichita I called their offices and left a few messages on the machine. When she called and set up a time for breakfast I caught myself before talking about the paparazzi, in case she changed her mind thinking I was some crazy stalker person. Regaining my composure I said instead, “I am so honored. Thank you very much!”

I arrived at the restaurant way too early and waited in the foyer early Wednesday morning.  Part of me still expected her to show up with an entourage.  A driver and bodyguard at least!  She is that much of a rock star to me.

And she was so much more wonderful in real life than I had imagined in my mind. Can you believe it? So sweet, kind, humble, gentle, smiley, and peaceful. And very short!

We talked about missionary stuff, family, Wichita, Bolivia, her books, my blogs, and the passing of Chavez. I asked her if I could post a little write up on my blog. She said that was fine. I whipped out my Moleskine wherein I had prepared a few questions. I picked one.

You can find the conversation at A Life Overseas here: Breakfast with Gracia Burnham.

From start to finish I feel like this was a treat form God just for me. I was surprised to know she has visited Cochabamba, Bolivia with New Tribes Missions. Also, her son-in-law spent a bit of his growing up years in Bolivia as a missionary kid. So I told her that next time she is in town she needs to look me up. She said she would. Wow!

Gracia Burnham and me at IHOP conveniently standing in front of the globe
Gracia Burnham and me at IHOP conveniently standing in front of the globe


How has the U.S. changed in the last 6 years?

kids may 2007

The last time my kids were in the States…

  • It was 2007
  • There were 4 of them, now there are 5
  • They were: 8 months, 6 yrs, 8 yrs, and 10 yrs old
  • This time they’re: 5 yrs, 6 yrs, 11 yrs, 13 yrs and turning 15 yrs while we are there
  • We stayed for 6 weeks, this time we are doubling that

The short stay cities this time around are: Fort Dodge, Iowa; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Omaha, Nebraska; and Atlanta, Georgia.

We will be spending a month in Wichita, Kansas and a month in Saint Joseph, Missouri. The other cities will be spread out over the entirety of the three months we will be in the States. DaRonn will be with us the first 10 days and the last 10 days of travel. The rest of the time he will be back in Bolivia while the kids and I will be in the States.

Things they are looking forward to…

  • Snow
  • Fun food
  • Going to a mall
  • Airplanes
  • Going to other fun places
  • And, more than anything, spending time with family

Things I am looking forward to…

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Showing my kids wonderful things
  • Driving
  • Wandering through libraries and book stores
  • Taking my kids to quality performances in the theater
  • Soft pretzels with mustard
  • Jogging in the lowlands

Things I need to prepare my kids for…

  • Flushing their toilet paper instead of depositing it into the waste basket beside the toilet
  • Drinking water from some of the taps
  • Airplane and Greyhound etiquette
  • Car seats for the little ones and seat belt for the big ones
  • Doing home school lessons with me
  • Not kissing people to greet them
  • Questions from strangers about: Bolivia, adoption, missionary stuff, race, and a million unknowns… graciousness in the face of curiosity
  • Speaking Spanish on demand

It’s gonna be good! We leave Bolivia the last week of January and will be back after 12 weeks, at the end of April.

kids oct 2012


Look Back, Look Forward, Look Now

You hear it all the time. The old axiom for finding contentment in life: enjoy the journey. Here’s a little tip for learning how to do just that.

At one of our fancy buffet breakfasts at the hotel I asked my kids some questions. I did this on a middle day of the vacation. We had done some fun stuff and we still had fun stuff to do.

#1: What has been your favorite part of the vacation so far? (I tried to use the term “kodak moment” to describe this. Fail.) So they talked. Their voices raised as they remembered fun moments. We rehearsed lines from the Avengers movie in unison. Arms flailed describing the comical encounter with the sloth. We laughed together recalling chattering teeth as we swam in the rain.

#2: What do you miss about home? Our pets came at the top of the list; unanimous. Raimy missed her keyboard. Timothy had some video games awaiting him. Gabrielle wanted to hug her huge stuffed animals. Tyler craved gaming with his brother. Kaitlynn kept with the pets talking of our dog and birds. I missed my gourmet coffees and the specialized coffee brewers in my kitchen.

#3: Is there anything you have done everyday, including today? This rounded the conservation out and brought them back to the present. Their answers came from the buffet table. Everyone shared a food they ate everyday: cereal, salami, pastries, juice, etc. Thus my segway to talk about that day’s activities.

I learned a similar technique during the debriefing sessions of my short-term mission years. These talks took place at the end of the trip. I just felt like I wanted to do it with my kids at the middle of the trip.

An interesting thing took place. After the ten hour bus trip from Santa Cruz we awoke to a bright orange sunrise behind the statue of Christ in Cochabamba. From the bus terminal we took a cramped taxi ride to our home. Timothy led the discussion. His happy voice recounted almost word for word the deliberate discussion we had that middle-morning at breakfast. Instead of grumbling about returning to exams and the mundane, their minds sprouted seeds of good thoughts.

This can work at any stage in life. Take a moment to look back and be happy about good moments. Then remember the good in the daily routines of your life. After that, focus on the goodness awaiting you in the day given to you right now.

Look back…

          Look forward…

                      Look now…


Mountain Climbing in Bolivia

Mid-November, 2009, I climbed Mt. Tunari.

(Link to: Video at the peak)

Saturday, April 3, 2010, I go again.

Same guide, different group. This time I am going with a bunch of Danes and a few friends. I am so excited!

These last two weeks before the ascent I have increased my work out to include stairs. With the goal in mind it is actually fun to meet the sunrise on the steps.

Following are some facts about the altitudes of the Mountains in Bolivia found on the Peakware site. Clicking on the name of the mountain will take you to a dedicated page on their site about the climb, where to start, some classification, some strategy, etc. This is a complilation for my future reference, more than anything.

  1. Tocorpurri (Sucre, Bolivia)
    22162 ft/6755 m
  2. Sajama (La Paz, Bolivia)
    21424 ft/6530 m
  3. Illimani (La Paz, Bolivia)
    21200 ft/6460 m
  4. Ancohuma (La Paz, Bolivia)
    21095 ft/6430 m
  5. Illampu (La Paz, Bolivia)
    20873 ft/6362 m
  6. Chearocko (La Paz, Bolivia)
    20101 ft/6127 m
  7. Huayna Potosi (La Paz, Bolivia)
    19996 ft/6094 m
  8. Chachacomani (La Paz, Bolivia)
    19928 ft/6074 m
  9. Acotango (La Paz, Bolivia)
    19856 ft/6052 m
  10. Sairecabur (Chile / Bolivia – enter from Calama, Chile)
    19613 ft/5978 m
  11. Mururata (La Paz, Bolivia)
    19242 ft/5865 m
  12. Condoriri (La Paz, Bolivia)
    18530 ft/5648 m
  13. Nevado Jacha Huaracha (La Paz, Bolivia)
    18176 ft/5540 m
  14. Serki Khollu (La Paz, Bolivia)
    18140 ft/5529 m
  15. Maria Lloco (La Paz, Bolivia)
    18117 ft/5522 m
  16. Cerro Chello Cunka (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17880 ft/5450 m
  17. Hati Khollu (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17785 ft/5421 m
  18. Chacaltaya (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17700 ft/5395 m
  19. Cerro Chualluma (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17684 ft/5390 m
  20. Pequeno Alpamayo (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17618 ft/5370 m
  21. Cerro Mullu Apachita (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17611 ft/5368 m
  22. Tarija (La Paz, Bolivia – start point for many others)
    17241 ft/5255 m
  23. Wila Llojeta (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17208 ft/5245 m
  24. Piramide Blanca (La Paz, Bolivia)
    17159 ft/5230 m
  25. Cerro Tunari (Cochabamba, Bolivia)
    17060 ft/5200 m
  26. Cerro Kuchu (La Paz, Bolivia)
    16306 ft/4970 m

You know how much I love graphs and charts.

Altitudes of Mountains in Bolivia

Cool, eh?

Dat’s a Cow

The fresh air was filling my lungs. I took a deep breath to enjoy it. We stood on the porch surveying the fertile hues that seeped into the murky brown lake. My girls reminisced about this and that. Then it got quiet. Out of the blue my three year old boy matter-of-factly announced, “Dat’s a cow.” We looked at one another and burst out laughing, my girls and I. Then we listened. He had indeed heard the moo of the cow in the meadow down the lane.

Being the quick humored boy that he is he joined us in a good belly laugh at his frank interruption to the serenity of the moment. Later in the day I we had a few chuckles about it as we remember his cuteness together.

The idea of a hike was proposed for the afternoon. After a morning baking in the sun by the pool the overcast path was inviting. A cool breeze picked up to aid us on the upwards walk. Twenty-six sprightly feet ran ahead of the six parental ones leisurely lagging behind. The incline was gentle. Again things fell quiet as we took in the beauty. All of a sudden the littlest boy, my boy, turned around and announced, “Dat’s a cow.” Again a pause was followed by a good laugh, especially since  Tyler was slightly mistaken in that the sound he heard was  not a moo but instead the roll of thunder. He once again joined us with his funny chuckles.

The mouth of the cave was our destination. The children scaled, crawled, and spelunked as us big people watched, pointed and photographed. The thunder continued softly in the distance and the clouds darkened in the sky. The lull in the conversation came. Mist and sprinkles began to form. This time the announcement came from my friend. The matronly observation was thus, “Hm, looks like the cows are about to start peeing.” Glances of wide-eyed disbelief were exchanged before we doubled over in laughter. It was a perfect punchline.

I assumed that was the end of our bovine frivolity. There was one more funny tucked away during our time; my oldest daughter was the instigator. The following morning I was up with the sun. I wrapped a comforter around and wandered out to greet the day. Low and behold my Raimy had beat me to the welcoming spot. I crouched down beside my girl. Both of us were still groggy with puffy sunburned faces. We exchanged monosyllabic noises and went back to letting the breaking dawn work its wakening magic. Quiet calm surrounded the chirps of birds. Then came the announcement, “That’s a cow.” Sure enough bessy had made her presence known to us with a lowing in the field below. We looked at one another and grinned. The grin broke out into a full blown laugh as the sun broke out from the clouds.

The cow that started it all was finally spotted. That rump was all we saw of the infamous cow that vacation.

Would you believe me when I tell you that one of the toys Tyler brought on our trip was a plastic cow?