Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2008 was a much more enjoyable affair combining Bolivian
traditions with the more familiar British traditions. The evening of Sunday
21st we sat and enjoyed the nativity story portrayed by members of the
church, which was a good mixture of acting and multimedia use.

To help us stay in the Christmas mood up till Christmas, Monday evening we
had a number of other 'gringos' (expats) around our house to eat mince pies
and other festive nibbles whilst watching 'Muppets Christmas Carol' which
was thoroughly enjoyed by all, the following night we invited a number of
our Bolivian friends over to introduce them to the world of mince pies and
Stollen cake. The contrast in the time keeping of the two groups was quite
amusing, the gringos all arriving within half an hour of the stated time and
the Bolivians within 2 hours!!!

The eve of the 24th we celebrated Bolivian style with friends eating
together the traditional 'Picana' which is kind of like a spicy stew with
chicken and beef, vegetables and choclo, the big white maize that is common
here. The only difference to normal traditions being that we ate together
at 7.30pm as opposed to 12.30am.

We arrived back home in good time for Alana to put up her Christmas stocking
before all heading off to bed. Christmas morning got off to a nice lazy
start, opening our Christmas stocking presents all together on our bed, then
after breakfast making most of the morning for Alana to make her way through
opening her mountain of presents (thanks to everyone who contributed to

Once these had all be opened we then made our way back up to the Snell
household to celebrate the British way, with a roast dinner filled with
vegetables and stuffing, followed by Christmas pudding (made by Sarah and
Melissa), and of course to start it all off we pulled our Christmas crackers
(sadly minus bangers) so all got to look silly wearing our hats and groaning
over the bad jokes.

Once we were all feeling fit to burst we enjoyed some fun and games all
making fools of ourselves until it was time to leave and return home. All
in all it was a very enjoyable day.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Map making

What's the purpose of my work making maps?

Maps produced are used to demonstrate a range of information and have been
included in local government reports, the most recent being about
watersheds. Firstly, accurate information about the location of communities
and roads is gathered using GPS, and then notes are taken regarding the
different uses of soil as well as areas of erosion. This combined with other
information is then compiled into a map, which enables the identification of
areas most at risk from further erosion and degradation of the soil. They
can then be used further to suggest where future work is needed in order to
protect and conserve an area. Other maps have demonstrated where FH is at
work and in what capacity, as well as areas where future projects are
planned e.g. environmental education, livestock and agriculture training and
plans for providing drinking water and irrigation projects. The map pictured
below depicts the elevation of an area where green is low and red is high,
which is much easier to understand than many contour lines.

Moulding Chronicle December 08

Dear Friends,

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas from Bolivia. How great it is to be
halfway around the world in a different culture speaking a different
language and yet be celebrating together the birth of the same Lord Jesus
Christ. The light of the world come to bring true joy and peace to all who
call on His name.

In November Sarah's parents were able to make the long journey to visit us
here in Sucre. It was a great time to share with them our lives here in
Bolivia as well as enjoying time together on holiday in Santa Cruz (35oC or
more each day!).

With the weather getting steadily hotter it doesn't seem possible that
Christmas is just around the corner, however we are looking forward to
celebrating it with friends, having decided not to follow the Bolivian
tradition of staying up till midnight. Over New Year we are expecting the
visit of old friends from Aberystwyth who will be great fun to have around.

Over the Christmas break while things are quiet in the office Ed will be
going back to language school for a couple of weeks to brush up on his
reading and writing skills.

The new year will see a move to a new office with a much reduced number of
staff. Over this time please remember those who in the new year have to
face the task of finding a new job. A situation not unlike that which many
now face in the UK.

Other news is that Antonio the guy Ed was discipling has now been released
from prison, however Ed is now having difficulties in making contact with
him in the drug rehab centre as they are very strict on not allowing
visitors for the first 3 months. So please pray for wisdom with how to make

We hope that you are able to enjoy a peaceful and joy filled Christmas time
however or wherever you maybe celebrating it.

Praise God For:

An enjoyable and encouraging time with parents
A relaxing and fun holiday

Please pray for:

Clarity in our jobs within the new year
That we would be drawn into a closer relationship with God

Ed, Sarah & Alana

Thursday, 20 November 2008

I thought I would share with you some of Alana’s words. She is picking them up really quickly now both in Spanish and English. Some of her favorites are eyes, nose, teeth, ears, toes, mama, dada, button, colours (her colouring pencils), pees (for please), Q (thank you), Gras (her form of Gracias Thank you), por vor (her form of Por Favor, please), aqui (here), allí (there), esta (this), and mas or more (especially when talking about food! Definitely her father’s daughter!)

Over these last two weeks with her grandparents here she has been learning more words and started to string them together. Like the other day saying Daddy in the shower. Nanny (snoring noises), no esta aquí (it’s not here)

Monday, 3 November 2008

Other FH people in Sucre

Simon, Melissa, Charlotte and Matthew Snell are another British family working with FH that came out in January. They have a really good website that you can follow this link to find out about them

There is also an American family The Plantengas, Derek, Claire and Noelia that will be joining us here this month and this is their blog

Messing about in the River

Last month we spent a day at a river 45 minutes drive from Sucre with a couple of other families. It’s a popular spot called La Palm. It was a hot day that just got hotter as it went on (it’s surprising what a difference dropping a bit in altitude does do the temperature), but it did mean that the water was bath temperature warm, which was great to sit and play in, especially for the kids. While we were there to just have some fun, for other families it was time for all of them to have a bath and wash their clothes.

H is for....

H is for health and safety
Which is a bit of a joke really as people drive around without seatbelts in cars only fit for the scrap heap with bald tires and cracked windscreens. Entire families travel about on one motorbike, including babies and toddlers, Scaffolding consists of a few planks nailed loosely together with people hanging over the edges to fix other fittings. Plug sockets spark every time you try and fit a plug, and the pavements and parks are full of trip hazards. So its just as well the culture of litigation hasn’t reached these parts.

H is for Hail
So we are now into the Bolivia summer and to get it going at the end of September we had a huge hailstorm one afternoon, which produced grains about 1.5cm in diameter and turn the road outside of the FH office into a brown river. We were very impressed by it and Alana enjoyed playing in it and making a snowman or a bird (see which you think it is). Though it was fun to watch others were not so impressed. A friend of our landlord’s had spent the last few weeks keeping the birds off of their fruit trees only to see the hail destroy most of the fruit. Also some schools suffered damage to their roofs in the storm. Another part of Bolivian summers is huge thunderstorms, for most of this afternoon it has been raining and thundering. But these are not like what we have in the UK. The thunder rolls loudly around the hills for a long time and it produces some very large and bright bolts of lightening. So that combined with the noise of the hail banging on the tin roof across from our house it was not surprising Alana got a little upset by it today. All this said we hope that it doesn’t rain too much this month as Sarah’s parents are coming out we want some good weather (those not too hot) to show them around (as well as to be able to fly into Sucre). And also for the country as a whole because last year there were a number of problems here with floods in the cities and countryside.

Our Garden

The road in front of the FH office

H is for House
Not our house but a play house that a guy I met in prison here made for Alana, complete with cooker, shelves, table and chairs. She really enjoys playing in it, though does not like it when her friends come around to play, as she has not yet learned to share her toys with others.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

G is for...

Two mornings a week Alana goes to the ‘guardaria’ (nursery) where she has lots of fun playing with the toys, playing big sister to the smaller babies, pushing them around in their buggies and bringing them toys to play with, as well as making friends and learning to play with others. She enjoys spending time there and has to give kisses and wave to all the other children each time she leaves.

One of the favourite snacks to buy on the street, in the market or to be served at various functions is ‘Gelatina’ or jelly, which comes in a range of varying colours from orange, red, green and even blue. Sometimes its served with fruit inside, sometimes with whipped egg white on the top or just on its own, but is enjoyed by all ages, not just the children. Ed sometimes receives it as his mid afternoon snack at work. We began to wonder if adults in the UK are missing out on this treat, maybe it should start being served at some high executive meetings for elevenses or afternoon tea!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Moulding Chronicle September 08

Dear Friends,

This month saw the celebration of Alana's 2nd birthday, which we celebrated
with a number of different families for a picnic and games. With that
passing, unbelievably we are close to celebrating our first anniversary of
being here in Bolivia. The referendum recall vote was peaceful, but has
changed very little other than the removal of 3 of the local government
heads. There have been more blockades in protest of other issues, which have
made life harder for some people in the increase of food prices, and being
stranded at bus terminals, however this seems to be a continuous part of
life here.

Ed continues to be kept busy with his work producing maps for a number of
different reports and proposals and trips out to the campo. During his most
recent visits he had the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the
families that are benefiting from the work, this was very encouraging to him
as he could see how his small part of making maps was a part of a much
bigger picture that was having a positive impact. Towards the end of this
year one of the major sources of funding for some specific FH projects is
coming to an end, and with it comes much uncertainty for many people in
their jobs. It will mean serious cutbacks across the country as well as
changes in Ed's work.

Over the last couple of months a role for Sarah has slowly been developing.
It is not so much one specific thing but rather a number of different things
that fit in and around Alana and other general chores that need doing. Sarah
has been continuing one day most weeks helping with the admin for the Child
Development Program, as well as some translation work for a TV program about
the work of FH, and is likely to have some more work translating letters
from the children of the sponsorship program. In addition to this she has
begun meeting up with a fellow missionary from Brazil in order to help her
with her English. So thank you for praying, God is answering our prayers.

Spiritually the last few months have been a dry time, with difficulties in
making the time to study Gods word and feed our souls. Being over tired and
generally worn out has not helped either, however our short time away
enabled us to feel more refreshed and gave us a good opportunity to review
where we were at as well as thinking about how we can change things, so
please pray with us as we travel through this dry time.

Thank you for your continuing love, encouragement and support of us in our
time here, we couldn't be doing it without you.

Praise God For:
• A refreshing time away in Potosi
• Encouraging trips to the campo for Ed
• More work opportunities for Sarah

Please pray for:
• Continued good health, particularly with the hotter weather setting in
• Wisdom for the decision makers of FH Bolivia regarding the cut backs
• The individuals who will be affected by the changes
• Sarah's parents as they prepare to visit in November

Ed, Sarah & Alana

Alana's birthday

It quite hard to believe that our little baby is now 2 years old, the time
has just flown by so quickly but she still continues to be a joy and delight
as she learns and discovers new things to say or do. Her latest new word
being 'naughty' accompanied by a wagging finger (I wonder where she got that

Alana enjoyed her birthday as we celebrated a special birthday lunch with
the other British family. The day after we were able to celebrate with many
other friends during a special birthday picnic at a place called the
'Glorieta castle'. It sounds quite grand but basically is just a big fancy
house with a nice big garden and plenty of space to run around and explore.
I think by the end of the day we all felt quite exhausted.

Holiday in Potosi

After a short 3 day holiday break in Potosi we began to wonder why anybody
would choose to live in such an inhospitable place where it can get so cold
and where its hard to go about simple daily living because of the altitude.
However, many people do live in this bustling city, which ranks as the
highest in the world being situated at a height of 4100m above sea level.

Potosi is nothing to what it once was. In its early days it was one of the
largest and wealthiest cities in the world equal to the size of London,
which is hard to believe when you see what remains today. So what made it
so successful – silver – discovered in Cerro Rico (rich mountain) that lies
south of the city. Sadly like in so many situations great wealth was
achieved at the expense of millions of lives of both the indigenous
populations and African slaves brought in to work in the mines and

Mining in Cerro Rico still continues today using primitive techniques,
however it is no longer silver that is mined but tin and other metals. None
of which bring much income to the city, so today all that remains of the
great wealth that there once was is in the fine churches.

It was quite a difference from our familiar city of Sucre with houses all
painted different colours and narrow cobbled streets which sounds quite
pretty until you see how much rubbish there is and how run down many of the
building are.

There were however two redeeming features to our visit, the first was a much
welcome visit to the thermal pools, which was lovely we all enjoyed several
hours just floating and splashing about in the warm water. The second was
the festival of San Bartolome, which happened to coincide with our visit.
This consisted of a parade that continued for two days with different groups
from all over the country all dressed up in bright gaudy costumes doing
their traditional dances. We were amazed by how much energy some of these
dancers had as the dances were full on, but we weren't too surprised to
discover that many of them would have been either drinking alcohol from
early in the morning or chewing on coca leaves.

It was good to have taken time out of our familiar routine and surroundings
and to explore somewhere different and new, however I think we were all glad
to get back to the lower altitude and warmer climate of Sucre.

Political issues

Just before Alana's birthday on the 10th September, the American Ambassador
was asked to leave the country on the grounds of aiding and abetting
opposition prefects (Local government leaders working against central
government), the following day violence broke out in Pando (north east of
the country) where 30 – 40 campasinos were ambushed and shot dead and where
over 100 people are still missing.

These happenings put us on immediate alert for possible evacuation, as
relations between Bolivia and the US became somewhat strained and other
problems began to surface. Our bags have been packed and we have sat and
waited, however the situation has taken a turn hopefully for the better.
The director of FH Bolivia sent the following today:

Thanks to God we are well. We are re-starting our operations as normal at
the office in La Paz. On Monday we closed the office here for security
reasons, and operated at a minimal level yesterday.

There were demonstrations during these two days, but nothing happened to our
office or our staff. In any case it was good for us to take caution measures
after receiving the warnings from the American embassy.

Another good news is that the government and the opposition signed an
agreement to dialogue last night after 25 hours of negotiations. The
agreement has started to be implemented by the opposition and now the
government has to comply. This is a small light of hope in the middle of the
critical situation here. I would like to ask your prayers for this dialogue
to prosper and peace would be re-established. As a country, we really were
at the verge of a potential massive clash between the East and the West. We
were so close to a major conflict.

Regarding the international staff, they are well and at the places they live
here in Bolivia. Thanks to God we did not have to evacuate anyone to

In general terms, things are getting back to normal and all our staff is
well and sound. God has been good with us in Bolivia. We will continue
assessing the situation thoroughly for the next couple of days until we
determine that there are solid signs of "normality".

Please continue lifting this country and our staff in prayers. My prayers
have been asking God to lift peacemakers in the middle of the conflict, and
to turn every Christian into a tool that may speak and build up peace based
on Mathew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons
of God".

Sunday, 10 August 2008

My first pair of Sunglasses!

Conservation Areas

At the end of July I was off in the campo again and thought I would take
this opportunity to write about that trip while sat in the hammock in our
garden, listening to the men in the workshop across the road from us welding
something together.

The point of this trip was to go and work with our team in Ckara Ckara, and
collect data on different areas of conservation that FH has been working on
in the past and at present. There are two types of conservation areas.
Praderas (grasslands) and Bosque (woods, though for us in the UK it is more
low growing shrubs than tall trees). So why are we wanting to protect them.
Well life in the areas where we work is very hard. The land is not very
fertile and so it is easy to damage it. Because of this there is not much
food around for the livestock to eat and the praderas get easily overgrazed,
so FH has been working with the communities to fencing off areas to help the
praderas recover and then make a management plan for these areas as to how
many animals can be put on them at a given time of year, thus helping to
sustain the areas.

With the Bosques there are not that many around, with some of the species
being quite rare and the people using the wood for cooking. The aim for
these is to reforest parts as well as prevent and or reduce the cutting of
wood from these areas so to slow down the rate of their removal, and
realising they need wood to cook.

Conserving these two areas also help in reducing erosion and thus protecting
the soil and helping to keep nutrients there as well. FH is also doing other
work to reduce erosion like working with the people to build terraces, to
retain the soil when the rains come and provide better areas to plant crops
in rather than on very steep slopes. They are also working with the
communities to put in channels that collect the rain helping it to soak into
the ground and prevent it from running straight off the hills taking the
soil with it.

On the whole these seem to work well but there is always the constant
challenge helping the comunities see the benefit of these areas and changing
there mind set so they mantain the fences and manage how many livestock they
put in them.

We were in this area for two days and travelled around a lot to get to the
different areas and then walked a lot. Using the GPS to collect data for the
permeter of the area, collecting information of the different types of
vegetation that is present and drawing a map for the different zones of
vegetation so in the office I could make a map of the area to be put with
the report for how to help manage the area.

This is the highest area where we are working 3500m or more above sea level
so the air is thin with not much oxygen around. This made walking up some of
the hills a challenge but one which I enjoyed. For one of them it was only a
200m asent but it was enough to make my heart and lungs work hard and need
plenty of stops. But from the top of the hill the view was worth it as we
walked around the permeter of a pradera.

This is an area called Canchas Blancas where FH is working. I was standing on a hill 4177 metres above sea level.

It was also very cold and windy up there as it is winter here at present and we passed through a number of frozen or thrawing rivers, one of which I fell into and had a cold wet leg for the rest of the morning.

A herd of Llamas we passed on our way into the campo, with bright colourd wool on their ears!! Not sure why, may be to show ownership of the Llamas

Moulding Chronicle

July 2008
Letter No. 5

Dear Friends,
Another two months have passed since our last letter and we continue on our
roller coaster ride of emotions as we have faced new struggles, but praise
God there have also been new joys.

Since last writing Sarah has had more opportunities with getting involved
with the Child Development Program (CDP) which she has really enjoyed doing.
It has been mainly paper shuffling so far but has given her the opportunity
to meet with other FH staff and have something else to focus upon.

The pregnancy crisis training course has come to an end. It ended up being
rather disappointing as by the end we felt far from being equipped for what
we thought we would be, however it has not been a wasted experience, Sarah
knows more now than when she started so we wait to see what opportunities
God opens up through that.

Ed to has been given more responsibilities in his work and is gaining
confidence in his travels out to the campo to collect data and see new

At the end of last month we were fearing more violence and unrest with the
election of a new prefect (local government minister), however, praise God,
things passed relatively peacefully and there were no come backs after
results were announced. The results did however signify the loss of another
department for the president.

We also praise God for the forming of friendships. We have mentioned in
previous letters of friendships with other missionaries, however, now we are
starting to see some Bolivian friendships form, which include a work
colleague of Ed's and his family, another family who come to an English
speaking Bible study on Sunday evenings and a family who run one of the
small shops just up from where we live, whose daughter has just had a baby.

So join us in giving thanks for these different things, and for all your
love and support of us.

Family trip to Tomoyo

After half a dozen re-arrangements in true Bolivian style, we finally got to
visit the region of Tomoyo as a family.

This was an important trip to make in order for us to see a different side
of Bolivian life and to glimpse at the harsh reality of what life is like
for the Majority of Bolivian people living outside of the cities. As well
as to see first hand the positive influences that FH has had on the lives of
so many individual families. The irrigation project for example, a video
about which many of you saw whilst we were still in the UK-Water is life,
has improved the lives of over 500 families.

Through visiting this area we could begin to understand how Ed's role in
making maps helps in the following through of such projects. For more
information and pics take a look at our blog.

Praise God For:
* A positive and safe trip to Tomoyo
* More opportunities for Sarah
* His beautiful creation
* The forming of Bolivian friendships

Please pray for:
* Ciria, our house help who has recently faced many difficult family
* A holiday, a time for rest and some fun together
* For FH Bolivia who later this year will be losing some major funding
and thus reducing their national staff numbers significantly

Ed, Sarah & Alana

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Family trip to Tomoyo

Despite plans being changed several times over in true Bolivian style we got to visit the area of Tomoyo as a family. What should have been both British families and the Snells visitor sadly resulted in just being Melissa, her two children and us. Their visitor had come down with Pneumonia and Simon felt he needed to be on hand for translating and such like.

But eventually after an early start we were off, and soon venturing further by road than I had ever been. Which wasn't really all that difficult to achieve. Just meters out of the city the roads change from smooth (ish) concrete to dusty trails with many rocks and the occasional pothole. The roads were actually in pretty good condition considering, but I think that's because they have to rebuild most of them each year after the rain has washed parts or entire roads away.

Alana coped remarkably well with the 2 and a half hour journey considering she had not been in a car for longer than 45 minutes in the last year or so. It was Matthew though who decided to revisit his breakfast and then his lunch on the return journey.

As we made our way along the twisty, windy roads, the scenery around us changed from grey barren rocks, to brick red dirt roads and a much lush greener look as we went lower. In the distance we could see amazing rock formations with a myriad of different colours forming wave patterns. One part of the journey took us through an area kind of like a moonscape; only way to describe it would be like sand dunes, but much smaller and more rounded and with a dirt red appearance.

We passed through one small community with a paved road and plaza, but outside of that civilisation was a scattering of dwellings spaced out along the landscape. After 2 and half hours we arrived at Tomoyo and made our way to the FH office for a short time to freshen up before meeting some of the families that FH was directly involved with.

The families we met and chatted with were individuals whom Simon was involved with in helping set up micro enterprise projects. These individuals had recognised the need for diversifying and trying something different, as survival for their families was getting more and more difficult. They weren't prepared to take on the fatalistic attitude of so many people here; they could see that they could change the future for their families.

The first of our visits was to a family who wanted to start baking bread to sell and to use. In a community so spread out and far from any great commercial areas, this would be a great project to run with. The second family we visited was a producer of Amaranti, a small grain cereal crop that is packed full of all sort of good things, he was seeking ways of popping the grain (much like you do popcorn) and then commercialising it. The third man we visited was involved in a project close to my own heart; he wanted to set up a dairy. He was in the process of building a cow shed, from mud bricks, then looking at ways in which to attain more cows by establishing a co operative with neighbours.

After lunch back at the office our visit took on a different form as we went to see the source of the Tomoyo irrigation canal, which we had heard so much about previous to coming to Bolivia. Since it was installed a few years back the canal has positively affected the lives of over 500 families in making their land much more productive from better access to water, and therefore improving nutrition.

From the office we took about a half hour drive along a narrow twisty road blasted into the side of the cliff until we arrived at a beautiful rugged valley, with high overpowering rock faces on either side. So this was where it all started, the water that travels down the canal giving life to the places it passes and life and hope to the families that make use of it.

After spending a bit of time there enjoying the scenery and the kids enjoying the sand we took the journey back to Sucre with three very sleepy children. It was good to actually see how in practice FH is involved in positively changing the lives of people whom eek out an existence in such a harsh place. It made us feel proud to be doing our small part in an organisation that doesn't just talk about making a difference but that actually gets on and does make a difference. What a witness about the practical love of God.