Wednesday morning I had to get up early to go the Japanese Hospital for a recheck on my sinuses so Patrick and Dad-Tom nicely offer to accompany me (which involves leaving Montero at 6am so REALLY nice of them). Tom even got up for 5am rosary that morning! I slept in. In reward for getting up early, I gave them the whole Santa Cruz experience. We took moto-taxis to the plaza then walked to the trufi station and squeezed into a trufi. We got off at the third ring in Santa Cruz and took a micro(bus) over the Japanese Hospital. The buses are often standing-room even to the point that people are hanging out the door and Tom bravely managed the door-spot on our way back from the Hospital. The Japanese Hospital, despite it’s name, is still quite Bolivian so we spent most of the morning standing in line. But by 10am I had a clean bill of health from the doctor and we headed over to meet everyone else at the zoo. When we got there though it was just Tom and Kevin (who was feeling better) as the other two had decided to stay in bed. The zoo was GREAT. It was a cooler, rainy day so there were few people but the animals were really active. Despite not fulfilling Kevin’s dream of seeing a South American guinea pig, we saw lots of jaguars close up, rheas trying to eat lizards, and monkeys that walked on two feet and took food out of our hands.
Wednesday we hit the food court in Santa Cruz for lunch (a really nice place to eat! I had sushi) and we headed back for Kinder. In the afternoon and evening, those who weren’t sick in bed worked in the computer lab and had homemade pizza for dinner (thanks to buying some mozzarella in Santa Cruz).
Thursday morning the crew continued working hard in the computer lab and Maureen was feeling better so she and I went for a walk around the market to buy the few things we needed to make wild rice for the Sisters for lunch. On Thursdays, all the volunteers eat lunch in the convent with the Sisters so all the family was invited also. We brought Minnesotan wild rice and Starburst jelly beans to contribute to lunch and share a taste of the U.S. with the Sisters. Thursday afternoon was the Mother’s Day celebration at the Kinder so of course the Kent family was invited as ‘honored guests.’
At the end Maureen and I were both presented with special mother’s gifts because as Madre Clara said, I would be a mother soon, to which one of the profesoras yelled “next year!” They like to pressure us about the kids thing a lot here. Most Bolivians start having kids even before they get married so the idea of getting married and waiting is about as foreign as we are.
The last part of the Mother’s Day party was a chicken dinner. Madre Clara asked me the night before how the family liked their chicken cooked and I basically answered “not by a Bolivian” so she gave me the chicken the night before and I washed it and cooked it for us. The chicken for everyone else I believe sat out all night or else was only semi-refrigerated. After a quick dinner, we headed over to get a trufi to Buena Vista. It was just the six of us since Tom had to teach until 9pm. We were hoping to get a van that holds seven but when we arrived the last van was already full of people and all that was left were cars. So, we sucked it in and squeezed all six of us plus a driver into something the size of a Honda Civic. It was a tight-bonding-experience with Kathleen, Patrick, and Kevin and me all in the back seat as our trufi driver passed cars and semis on the dark road but an hour later we arrived safe and sound at Buena Vista Hotel.
The hotel has a beautiful view of the Andes and after checking in, we got a beer at the bar and met with Marcos from Amboro tours to plan our hiking trip into Amboro Park for the next day. Luckily Maureen was still feeling better but Kathleen didn’t want to risk digestive distress in the rainforest, so she stayed behind with her ipad. I think they had a wonderful time. The rest of us got up early and headed into the rainforest with Julian, our guide. We piled into a 1979 Toyota Land cruiser (which would NOT have held 7 people so we lucked out there) and started our 2 hour drive to the Park.
This included lots of river crossings
and other interesting off-roading experiences. We also got to see some rural communities on the way and lots of orange and mandarina groves. Once in the park, we hiked 2 hours to a beautiful tropical waterfall.
We saw lots of interesting ants along the way, like army ants and leaf-cutter ants. The ants go marching 2 by 2…
Unfortunately we didn’t see any mammals but we did see tracks of a medium-sized cat and some jaguar scratches (the jaguar had apparently been walking down our path the night before!). And on the way out of the park we saw some mini-macaws! I believe they were Chestnut-Fronted Macaw. I was too busy with my binoculars to get pictures though. That night we went to the nicest restaurant in Buena Vista (and possibly the nicest in 50 km for that matter) and got some very average cheese pizza and fettucine alfredo but enjoyed each other’s company nonetheless. Then we played some hearts and went to bed.
Saturday morning we returned to Montero, finished up things in the computer lab and went to the Parish Center’s Mother’s Day celebration. Theirs was considerably less-well organized but my youth group did a dance and highschool-age group did a skit. Lots of prizes were raffled off for the mothers and everyone was served hot dogs and soda. Kathleen was feeling better also, so the whole family was there.
Sunday morning we went to church with the Hogar girls and the family said good bye to them. Also, they had brought a gift for our god-daughter Carmen, a Dora the Explorer book and some stickers so Tom and Maureen sat down with Carmen and read her the book. I don’t know if she has a lot of experience being read to, particularly by a mother and father, so it was nice to see. The Sisters invited us all to lunch on Sunday (we brought pancakes to make sure there was something safe for everyone to eat) and they presented gifts to all the family members and thanked them for coming and thanked them for sending Tom and me here to help. Tom and Maureen thanked the Sisters for their hospitality and kindness. Everyone said their thank yous and goodbyes and we headed to Santa Cruz.
We did a little touring of Santa Cruz that evening, mainly the plaza and Cathedral, ate some Pique Macho, played more Hearts- quite a thrilling game actually when Dad-Tom came back from 89 points to almost win, and went to bed early. At 7am we took the shuttle to the airport and by 10:00am (ish) the Kents were on their way back to Miami. Safe, sound, and mostly-healthy. Iron-stomach award goes to the Tom and Patrick for surviving Bolivian food without a scratch! Thank you all for coming! We loved having you here!