The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Jun 24, 2012

We arrived in Bolivia!!

We arrived in Bolivia yesterday morning at 6:00am!  Our travels, albeit long, from Omaha, to Chicago, to Miami and finally to La Paz were smooth and without incident.  Meaning, without major delays, no sickness, all luggage was intact, each of us checked through customs and immigrations without hassle. 
Our plane actually landed up in El Alto, so we had to drive down the mountainous terrain, through some very poor villages, towards La Paz.  Due to it being so early, it was calm and quiet.  We could not help but notice that the dogs outnumbered the people on the street 178 to 1.  No, sersiously.  The girls in our van were literally COUNTING all the wild dogs roaming around.  There were literally 178 spotted just during that short 30 minute drive from the airport to our hotel.  Ha!
Upon arriving to our hotel (Hotel Calacoto, which is really nice and settled into the upscal downtown district of La Paz), we ate, or should I say MOWED DOWN, a scrumptious buffet breakfast then went up to our rooms for a couple hours of rest.  I learned that my roomies are Christina and Teri.  EXCELENTE!  After that much needed down time we met back up with our group downstairs to really BEGIN our journey!
First we stopped at a bank to exchange our American dollars to Boliviano's (b's).  Funny, I feel RICH, as their money goes seven times further than theirs.  By about 70% or so.
for example...100 B's is the equivalent to about $13.00.
Then, we drove a few minutes back up the mountain, over some "God-awful" cobblestone roads (beautiful...until you drive on them) until we arrived to the gorgeous residences of Kaya.  Bethany House & Renacer House. This three story stucco style home, which houses the two, is settled on a large property that is surrounded by a 10ft+ brick wall. There are endless, stunning views of the Andes Mountains all around. Beautifully breath-taking.  Simply stunning.  This is GOD´s country!
Our van was greeted with excited, smiling and full of energy kiddos, who couldn´t wait for us to step down and greet them all with BIG hugs & kisses.  We exchanged names, they grabbed our hands, and invited us into their home where they were proud to show us around.  Each kid was excited to give us a personal tour of their own rooms, beds and cabinets.  It´s nice to see that they each have their own space.  They introduced us to their special stuffed animals and toys.  very tidy!
All of the kids were so polite, kind, gratious & hospitable.
We had an absolutely WONDERFUL day!  The weather could not have been any more perfect as well...Just hanging out, eating lunch & playing soccer (Fut-ball) with all the kids.  Each one has their own unique personality, but EVERY single one was sweet, polite, silly, gracious and hospitable.  They just seemed so genuinely excited to see us.  The gal, I can´t recall her name, but she is a physchologist over at the Kaya Center, told us that our presence has brought much energy (the good and positive kind) out of them  :)  I told her "and visa-versa" for sure. 
I'm just SOO grateful for their beautiful smiles, zest for life and unending ENERGY!

As you could imagine, I was somewhat intimidated, nervous and anxious about this trip, knowing that there would be a language barrier between myself and these kids...but it´s funny, that despite the langauge barrier, smiles, love, hugs, high-fives, skateboarding, thumbs up and ANGRY BIRDS is seeminlgly universal in all languages. Yes, Angry Birds.  There were several apps on my iPhone that the kids were immediately familiar with.  After a few months of them huddled around it, I came to the realization that they´d be fine.  So, I walked away and just let them GO with it.  I could trust them,  Heck, I trust my 4 year old with it all the time at home!  Lots of the kids enjoyed playing games on it (Skateboarding and Angry Birds were among their favoritos).

Oh, and they enjoyed snapping pics with my "Grande"camera as well.
They especially loved the long zoom & out, in & out, over & over again.  Hehe    I already KNOW that some of my favorites are going to be the ones that they took of each other with my camera.  :)  They were able to bring such genuine and curious smiles out of each other.  They also loved taking a pic and quickly looking at the image they just captured.  Always impressed with their fine photography skils.  "Muy Bien" I´d say.  :)
Here are just a few of the names of the kids I was able to recall so far:
Alberto - cute little, petite guy in a yellow shirt.  he sat by me at lunch.  He knew some english and teased me for spilling my soda.  But then he proceeded to make me feel better by spilling his own next.   hehe
Carlo - This little guy sat by me while watching the big kids play soccer.  He was very intrigued by my fancy "insulated" water bottle.  captivated by it actually, opening and closing it, turning over and around, trying to figure it all out.  :-)
Adrien - sat near me on the ledge.  Funny kid!  He extended his hand and helped me climb up.  What a gentlemen.  He and his buddy were using their phones to communicate and ask me questions.  A couple were "What´s your age?"  "Are you coming back next year"  "what´s your favorito sport". etc... They are learning english in school, so I was proud with their resourcefulness and desire to speak my language.
Ebahn - AKA Rosie/tomatoe, all the kids in the house call him these names because of his red rosie cheeks.  it was enduring  :-)
Karla - very nice gal who walks the streets and ministers to these homeless kids.  She´s the one who trys and trys and trys and get through to them, build their trust and encourages them to COME TO THE KAYA CENTER, food, shelter, couseling, medical needs, and anything else they might need.
Xemena - Kaya House director
Andrew (Andres) - a handsome 4th year from Texas A&M.  He is studying to be a doctor (specifically infectious disease).  He is in La Paz for a few months as part of a medical mission trip.  He is working primarily at the Kaya Center as a "pediatrics intern".  For us, he is serving as our fearless and awesome TRANSLATOR.  Along with Cindy, John and now Andrew, it´s so NICE to have some fluent Spanish speakers in our midst.  PRICELESS! 
I am so grateful for them.  I know and have picked up on a lot of the basics, so I am getting by.  But, sometimes, their questions get kinda tricky. :-)
Israel - is a handsome and very special young man who has been at the Kaya Center for 7+ years.  He hopes to be a cullinary chef some day lunch and was excited to prepare a traditional Bavilion Cuisine "Pique Macho" for us all.  It was DELICIOSO! 

A couple things that have taken some getting used to are (besides the language and culture) are:  not being aloud to flush the the toilet paper down the toilet and having to learn to brush my teeth using water from my water bottle.  I´m starting to get the hang of it!  :-)

Below is Pastor John´s account of the trip so far...he has such an eloquent way with words, so I wanted to share them on here (so they print later in my blog book) his words late last night:

Our Day at the Kaya Homes

"It's been a long day today, some might even feel like it was two! After our arrival and rest we headed up to the Kaya residential homes for lunch and activities this afternoon. The first surprise of the trip was that our lunch was prepared by Isreal. Isreal is a young man living in our independence program who has been with us for about 7 years and is studying to be a chef. He cooked Pique Macho for us today, which is a traditional Bolivian dish and it was fantastic! (Pique Macho is steak strips, hot dogs (yes, hot dogs), and sliced onions that are seasoned and cooked and then served on fried potatos with rice to the side.)
After lunch we spent the afternoon playing canchitas (foosball) and soccer outside. At 12,500 feet soccer can be a challenge but those who played from our group did fantastic. In just about all of Latin America soccer isn't just a sport, it's a social and gathering time and that was certainly the case today. As we rotated teams in and out the rest of the group talked, played, watched and just enjoyed the afternoon together.
By the time we were back to our hotel at 6 everyone was exhuasted. We shared in our devotional about our attitude of service for the week and spent time in prayer sharing our prayers of thanks. I think everyone today was struck with the "normality" of life at Kaya. What's most amazing is despite their past struggles and failures of ther families how quickly children can blossom in an atmosphere of love and care. Today what everyone witnessed was joy and hope coming out of struggles (check out what Paul says about this in Romans 5:3-5.) What we saw were children filled with hope, joy and trust. It's what happens when we return children to their childhood and give them a safe loving place to grow up.
Tomorrow we are off to church in the morning. Church here is 2 and half hours long, so no complaining if Larry's sermon is a little long tomorrow! (Although we have to confess, we won't be there full the full 2+ hours of church.) After church we will do some hiking and more time with the Kaya residential program boys.
Please continue to pray for the safety and health of our team. Acclimating to 12,000 feet with a bunch of activity and limited sleep isn't easy on the body. Pray that everyone acclimates well, stays healthy and stays safe.
Here are some pictures and videos for today. Even though it took forever to upload I had to include the soccer video so you could see our team at work. One note on pictures and videos. "Broadband" in Bolivia is much, much slower than in the US so I have to upload things at lower resolution. Sharing full resolution stuff would mean I'd probably be still waiting for the upload to finish when it was time to come home!
Pictures from Kaya Residential Homes (If you have trouble viewing the pictures by clicking on the thumbnails go to"

here are some pics...I pulled out of the above mentioned web album :-)  All of John,s photos are GREAT!  I can´t wait till I get home and am able to share mine (but I do not have the means to while I´m here)   
arriving at the home...that´s me in the corner getting a big hug.
Israel, the CHEF, posing with some little ones...
sweet eBahn...AKA Rosie or Tomato as the kids call him  :-)
watching soccer!
Alberto  :-)
havin a chat.
yep, that´s my TIRED BUTT while playing a FIERCE game of soccer.  These Bolivian´s sure do take this game seriously...but I´d say us Americano´s held our own quite well thank you very much.  :-)
Scott (or as the kids call him "giant" protects the goal.  There´s Hannah running in to play some defense...I think John´s got that kids in an illegal choke hold...I´m just sayin...
view from the best seat in the house!
ALL OF US!  Posing with the kids of the Bethany House
 I had a pic of us with the little ones from the Renecer House...but it appears I lost it.  :-(  so sad...I´m sure I´ll have PLENTY more of them to post later...

Israel holds a VERY special place in Christina´s heart...she has known and has kept in touch with him ever since her first visit to La Paz 7 years was such a special moment when she could finally introduce her son Anthony (on the right) to him in person. 
here are the kids of the Reancer house

more to come...

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