Hammock Dreams & the Brink of Long December

Happy late Thanksgiving to all, I'll start out with a "thanks" in honor of that late greeting if I may.  Thanks for your prayers.  Our trip to Bolivia was fantastic, and safe, and beautiful, and relaxing, and encouraging, and refreshing.  Total hours spent in bus = more than 35.  Did we cause a raucous playing Bingo on the bus? Yes.  Did we get treat bags? Yes.  Did we sleep soooo good?  Not quite.  But we had lots of snacks and good company, there's not much more you can ask for.

Basically we worked our way into the altitude by spending a night in Puno (Peru) on the edge of Lago Titicaca and then traveled the next to day to Copacabana (Bolivia) other side of the same gorgeous lake, and spent three days of retreat and reflection there with the Servant Team from Bolivia.  After that we traveled to El Alto and spent 3 days with the community of WMF Bolivia.  We painted Cara's (Boliv STC) apt, stared at the mountains which some of my team was seeing for the first time (hey, those are pretty good first mountains), they showed us around their amazing center (which made us all the more excited for the center we are raising money for), invited us to share in their chapel time (in a chapel built by friends), showed us around El Alto, took us down into La Paz to the modern art museum, set us loose in the Dieciseis market with a small amount of bolivianos and the task of finding an "outfit" for community night, had a rockin' community night, played some fantastic push-up poker (all other forms of poker are dead to me :) and just spent rich moments talking and reading and sharing and laughing.

In Copacabana we sat in hammocks for the majority of the days.  Okay, actually, everyone else hiked and explored and sat in the hammocks for the majority of the days.  Basically taking in the freshness and the beauty, hydrating myself and reading like my homeroom was depending on me to win us "pages for pizza". Dabbled in some Rainier Maria Rilke (i am heart-ing poetry more everyday), finished The Kite Runner (incredible book) and am half way through One Hundred Years of Solitude (super well written, super weird).  It was glorious. Even had a fabulous dream that my four former bolivian dwelling friends came to hang with us in the land of hammocks & hippies.

Favorite Copa moment:  Tuesday evening hike.  There's a hill overlooking the town and the lake that has the 14 stations of the cross marking the path to the top.  We hiked the stations in time for the sunset and a Vespers service on top.  It was breathtaking view, sweet company, and a really meaningful way to celebrate and physically remind ourselves of the present reality & importance of solidarity with Christ.  I feel like lately I have been learning so much from the rich parts of the history of the church that is often times hidden among many hurtful things that we often think of first.  I still have so much yet to learn.

On the way home we stopped for a day in Arequipa (Peru) where we able to visit with friends, Linsey, new WMF staff who is there attending language school like I did this past February and Raquel, Franklin, Jordan & Alan, the sweetest little family who are friends we knew from the street in Lima who are now living with their family and striving to make a new life for themselves away from the city.  Everytime I see them they bring such joy and inspiration to my heart.  Remember their corageous struggle as you pray.

I am so thankful for time spent with my incredible team and for time spent with the Bolivia community.  Both groups of people continually amazed, encouraged, and loved me in beautiful ways.  Just what the doctored ordered, I would say.

In other news, Tim and I made falafel today-- from scratch.  That's right.  And it was AMAZING, like, seriously yummy.  Destroyed my rubber scraper and may have cooked a chunk of red plastic into one of the balls of tomayah goodness, but that's hardly the point.

And my sister gets here in 16 days, and then the rest of the crew in 23.  yep.  Ghali's take Lima by storm for Christmas.  Please contact my parents to send me all kinds of Christmas presents :) (just kidding mom :).

Also, be praying for the servant team and for me.  They have two weeks left to go.  Two weeks.  That's not much.  Its going to be crazy.  I'm going to miss them a lot.

And I have already begun the daily doses of N'Sync Christmas and we will be having the official "Long December" listening party on Friday, don't be afraid to join us from the comforts of your own homes.  If you don't own or, know someone who does own, the aforementioned tune... get on that.

Okay, there's a lot of info for ya, what do you think?  Want some pictures from the rockin' trip?  okay, here goes...

  Boliv & Peru Teams hanging out on the beach and laughing really hard (not at, but with) the fact that a dog just up and peed right on Ben's backpack after we were so kind and fed him the leftovers of the best trout ever.

Up on the hill after our hike, before our Vespers service

The team and I before heading down

Thought you should see a pic of us paying up during pushup poker, where your arms are your currency...

  Huayna Potosi being held by Tim.  He sees his first mountains, and then immediately conquers them, what can I say?

  Inside of the chapel at the WMF Bolivia day center

  The "outfits" we ended up with after an hour at the market

  Staff lovin':  Wes & Heather Goertzen, Cara Strauss, & Me representing for Bolivia & Peru

My amazing, patient, fun, flexible team before getting on the shadiest busride of the trip which included three or four random and quite long suspicious stops.  iheartsouthamerica.