Second Impressions


Mount Tunari. At 17,000ft it was the highest I'd ever been until college. Kidding Mum.

I imagine for some Missionary Kids, moving away from their home country and leaving all their friends and family must be an horrific experience. I say imagine, because I honestly can’t remember whether mine was or not. It could have been the drugs dad plied us with. Some more of the things I can remember from those early weeks of being a Missionary Kid…

  • Our House(s). Our first house in Bolivia wasn’t that great. They kind of got better as they went on, since we moved like every 4 months. Adobe walls, no heaters, no carpet, no friends, it was cold no matter what time of day or year it was. I was happy to be living on the school grounds though, which kinda sounds nerdy as I read it back in my head. Great. We had 2 toilets which was three times as many as we’d ever had before. One time I woke up in the middle of the night to puke my guts out (just your average Bolivian night really) and ran straight past bathroom 1, and also bathroom 2, instead choosing to deposit my stomach contents in the kitchen sink. Dad was a little perplexed about my choice of location to say the least. Our cutlery never quite tasted the same after that. Kinda Parmesan Cheesey. But it had never shined so well either. It was like one of those dishwasher ads where the family eats with sparkling crockery, smiling as the parmesan cheese cloud wafts in the foreground. We had minimal furniture inherited from deceased missionaries, and our mattresses were filled with straw. I was the eldest child, so I got the most comfortable one. I remember it was like sleeping on clouds. Clouds of rock-hard, immovable straw. When I wasn’t sleeping on it we used it as a grease trap for the school buses or to replace crumbling sections of the ceiling so the condors wouldn’t steal my baby sister.
  • Guinea Pigs. There was some kind of native Bolivian Guinea Pig living in our outer wall when we arrived. I’m calling it a Guinea Pig, 1) because I can’t remember the actual name, and 2) even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to spell it. He was shy, but came out occasionally. He had some kind of falling out with our cat, perhaps bad gambling debts, because he never showed again shortly after the kitten arrived. Don’t tell PETA. I’ve also eaten Guinea Pig over there, which surprise surprise, tastes just like chicken. And probably Chihuahua.
  • Mountains. If you’ve never been to South America, just a reminder: they have ACTUAL mountains there. Australia’s mountains are completely useless. We have the historical tectonic-plate activity equivalent of an geriatric man planting grass seeds by hand. In his socks. Cochabamba is sheltered under the shadow of Mount Tunari, which is just on the edge of the Andes. It’s 14,000ft high, (5200m) and most people can’t make it to the top without some kind of medical apparatus, like caffiene tablets. Or a nagging wife. I was in awe every time I looked at Tunari. I’d never seen anything so huge in my life. There are probably bigger mountains in pretend, made-up places like Tibet or Nepal, but Tunari was real and you got to see it everyday out your window.
  • Strikes. Bolivia has political strikes all the time. Probably annoying if you’re a business owner. Probably the GREATEST THING IN THE WHOLE-ENTIRE-WORLD if you’re a kid at school. We had time off school ALL the time. Usually nothing ever happened, but anytime someone threatened to close the roads, or blow something up, the call from the school office went round and we all stayed home. Brilliant. You prayed for that phone call every day. It was like being sick but without the buckets.
  • Maids. Yes, we couldn’t afford shoes but we had a maid. It’s a conundrum. But she was awesome and her name was Monica. She gave my brother a tortoise with a hole drilled in its shell so you could put a leash on it and take it for walks. Then, when you were 85 and finally back from the shop you could rest your feet up on your tortoise and watch the non-existent TV. Monica was super-shy and would never talk to us in english, which was our native language so she should have known better. Many years later Bolivia finally got Teflon and the maid (a different one who wasn’t nearly as good) mistook the teflon for the remains of mum’s cooking (honest mistake) and scraped it all off the pan. Who knows what she used, but Dupont have a potential lawsuit on their hands. Amazing effort if you ask me. Everyone should try it at home.
  • Roads. I would be understating the situation somewhat if I said Bolivia wasn’t huge on road safety. The highway out the front of the school had no lanes, no real curb, and no streetlights at night. Cars had no seatbelts and optional headlights. Also completely optional smooth gear changes and braking. That meant Mum banned us from playing near the highway at night unless we left our 2yr old sister at home. We coped.
  • Church. Our first church was right across the road, which sounds convenient, except church in a language you don’t understand is in no way convenient and sucks big time. We had no clue what was going on, other than we stood out like that 1 useless white guy on every NBA team. We got marched out in front of the church just about every other week with all the other ‘new’ people and stood there while as we got introduced and Dad dispensed distruction on proper Spanish pronounciation and diction, introducing us for probably the 3rd time that month while we prayed for a meteor or cow of some kind to crash through the roof and end the pain. At least I could amuse myself by picking bits of parmesan cheese out of my teeth with my tongue.

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