Saturday, November 29, 2008
Today was tourism day for me, my last in Bolivia since I go to Santiago de Chile tomorrow morning. Fr. Ramón Alaix, SJ, former provincial and now treasurer of the Bolivian Province and Daniel Mercado, SJ, MD, a scholastic who is a physician working in a clinic in El Alto took me for a ride and lunch at the lake.
As we all learned in school, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. Also quite beautiful, as I hope you can see from these pictures. The lake is shared by Bolivia and Peru. The Bolivians say that the Titi part belongs to them and the Caca part to Peru....
Today was a warm and sunny morning. On the way back to La Paz, a little more than an hour away, we ran into a heavy hailstorm which dumped a good couple inches on the road and fields, which you can see. The last images are on the road back into La Paz.
Pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Bill.Rickle/LakeTiticaca#
Now it's off for two weeks to Chile: Santiago, Arica, Osorno, Puerto Montt!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Bill.Rickle/ElAlto#
Today is a light day that I do laundry and such goodies, will have supper is evening with Brian Goonan, of CRS (Catholic Relief Services/Bolivia). Tomorrow is an excursion to Lake Titicaca and a meal of lake trout!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
But pictures can tell much more than I can right now because it's getting late, I'm tired, and I have a full day tomorrow at the national headquarters of the Fe y Alegria School network. The ones from the museum Fr. Bernardo Gautier, SJ let me take against all museum rules! I hope you enjoy them at http://picasaweb.google.com/Bill.Rickle/Oruro#
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Today is the 23rd of November and I am in La Paz, Bolivia.
Friday the 21st, Father Ramon Alaix, the former provincial and now the province treasurer, high school president, and weekend parish priest, who met me at the airport and I left early in the morning for El Alto. El Alto is in the mountain plain above La Paz where the airport is. We met Fr. Enrique, the pastor of the Jesuit parish there, and departed for Corpa, which is in the high Altiplano. Here again, after a stretch of asphalt of the road that took us to the shores of Lake Titicaca, returned off onto a dirt road in for the rest of the trip. Driving on the object model in between the mountain ranges is a spectacular sight. The main attraction of this trip was to participate in a Mass is celebrated in the Aymara by one of the Jesuits. Father Fabio is an Italian veterinarian who became a Jesuit and a member of the Bolivian province. His gift for veterinary medicine and for languages makes him an extraordinary asset for the mission. I took pictures and a short video clip of the Mass. Afterwards, there was a communal meal held in the residence of the men who was the host of the Mass since it was a remembrance of one of the departed members of his family. The meal consisted of rice, boiled potato, chuños and a meat that I did not recognize. I suspect the meat was mutton. (Chuños are black freeze-dried potatoes that they use for the hard times during the winter but are also considered a delicacy for special meals.) The spicing on the meat was rather revolting and one of my Jesuit confreres helped me to dissimulate having eaten. I did get some of the potato down however.
Arrived yesterday morning the 16th exhausted from the flights overnight. Fr. Enrique Jorda, the Bolivian province socius, met me at the airport at Santa Cruz de la Sierra and brought me to the Jesuit Residence La Merced, near the center of the city. Temperature in the upper 70s and very humid. After a late breakfast I took a nap, joining the community for drinks (their custom on Sundays) at 12:30 followed by dinner. After another post dinner nap, I met briefly with Fr. Rene Cardoso, the provincial. There are four scholastics in the community here, who invited me and the provincial for a visit to the river, which is actually a collection of outdoor eating places and the river itself. Sort of a popular park. We had coffee and a collection of rice, platano and egg dishes.
I began taking Malarone for malaria prevention last night. So far no ill effects.
This morning went with Fr. Xavier Velasco to IRFA, Instituto Radiofonico Fe y Alegria, to visit their offices and installations. It is a popular education program based on a combination of radio transmissions, texts, and weekly meetings with master teachers. It serves both the urban area and the more remote rural areas, in several languages.
Returning for dinner, and after a siesta, I went with Fr. Mauricio Bacillat, SJ, the director of the Archdiocesan social service department PASOC. He spent a lot of time explaining their organization and programs. I then met with Sr. Aidete Vicensi, mscs (Scalabrini sister), who has been working for years on migration issues in Bolivia, both emigrants and immigrants. I had met her five years earlier at a meeting of CELAM in Bogota
On the 18th I had an early departure scheduled to go from Santa Cruz to Trinidad, but there was a delay of more than an hour and a half as the plane was held up to accommodate the arrival of the district prefect who was scheduled to be on that flight. Several passengers missed their connections and had their travel plans dramatically changed by this inconvenience. Fortunately, I was not one of them. In Trinidad Enrique and I were met by Antonio, who is the director of the music school in Mojos. After we picked up Raquel, his wife, we went one to 2 ½ hour trip to San Ignacio in Mojos. After a short time on the paved section of the road the entire rest of the trip was dirt road. There were two river crossings on pontoons and I was sure to take pictures.
San Ignacio de Mojos itself is in the middle of nowhere, in the sweltering heat. It was one of the original Jesuit reductions among the Arawak Indians who were there. The Bolivian Province of the Society of Jesus was invited back to San Ignacio in 1984, not so much out of historical interest but because of the need that the bishop expressed to have Jesuits work with the social and religious needs of the people. Since then, the church has been restored, and a Fe y Alegría school, medical center, a student residence and a technical Institute have all been built. My companion for this part of the trip was Fr. Enrique Jordá, a Catalan, who went there as pastor of San Ignacio in 1984 and stayed for 20 years. When I asked him what were some of the big changes in those years he said that there are a lot fewer snakes now and it is a lot easier to get around. He said in his early years he figured that he walked and canoed about 1800 kilometers a year. He would be on the trail for two months at a time visiting the remote villages and settlements among the people. He still has a remarkable amount of energy and of course everyone in the region knows him. Since it had been some time since he has been back in the region, everywhere we went people on the street greeted him with great affection.
One of the most recent and spectacular achievements has been in the area of cultural preservation and development. Attached to the church is a remarkable museum of religious artifacts and silver work preserved from the original missions. Every year on the feast of St. Ignatius and for Holy Week people, from all around to watch and participate in the religious festivals. There is also a museum which focused Susan on the culture and life of the indigenous people in the region. I have a copy of an incredibly vivid and informative video they have produced on the biodiversity of the region. The restoration and preservation of written music is an ongoing project at the Museum. The people themselves have preserved and copied the partitas written here in the 17th century. Most of the copyists were illiterate themselves, but knew how to read music and copy it. In addition, the creation of a world-famous music school is a sight to behold. They have a beautiful concert hall and students from the region, all of them indigenous are trained in baroque and other kinds of music. I was present for a rehearsal the last evening I was there and seeing these kids sing and play was truly a moving experience. They were preparing for a concert they´re going to give in La Paz and they have given concerts in several cities of Europe.
On the 20th of November I got up at 4 a.m. in the dark, since there is no electricity between midnight and eight o´clock in the morning in the whole town. By flashlight I packed and got ready for departure back to Trinidad. The return trip in the beginning was quite harrowing since it had been raining for a little while in the morning and the dirt road and changed to extremely slippery mud. Fortunately about a quarter of the way back the rain stopped and the road got drier. The wildlife we saw on the way was extraordinary. Storks in great variety, tropical birds of all sorts, and water buffalo were just a few of the species that I saw on the way. My companions for this part of the trip were Fr. Enrique and Brother Juan, who was also going to the airport to take a flight to Cochabamba later in the evening. We got to the bishop´s residence in Trinidad in time for breakfast and a little rest. We agreed to go to a seafood restaurant about a half mile away and to take a taxi to get there. Taking a taxi in Trinidad is an adventure since it means sitting on the back of a motorcycle while the driver takes you where you need to go. After a meal of fried fish, plantain, and rice, we walked back into the center of town.
When it was time to leave for the airport about five o´clock in the afternoon it meant another taxi ride, this time balancing not only passenger but also luggage for a trip of about 2 miles. And don´t even mention helmet laws! I was quite happy to land in the airport lounge. The flight from Trinidad to La Paz was relatively short, only about 45 minutes. But it was a world away. When I landed in La Paz the temperature had dropped about 40° and I could barely breathe because of the altitude. So here I am, taking malaria medicine at 12,000 feet altitude.
PICTURES>>>>>>>> CAN BE SEEN AT http://picasaweb.google.com/Bill.Rickle/SantaCruzAndSanIgnacioDeMoxosBolivia#