Monday, 11 February 2008

‘Nannan’ - Eva Olive Halliday - (1921 – 2008)

Friday 25th January, 3am GMT after a short time of being unwell, my Nan (Sarah) peacefully died in hospital with a nurse by her side, and has finally gone to be with her Lord and Saviour. Though we are sad at her parting and will greatly miss her, we Praise God for the life of such an amazing lady.

My Nan has been the most amazing and inspiring women I have ever had the privilege of knowing and loving. She may have been very small in stature but a giant in her testimony and witness of Christ, and who always put others before herself. I have so many happy memories of time spent with Nannan, she was always fun to be with and never had a cross or bad word to say about anybody. Her fruit trifles produced every Sunday without fail when we were growing up never could be rivalled.

She would tell us that she made a point of praying for us all every day, all the children, grand children and great grand children, which when you look at us all realize that was no easy thing, but we knew that this wasn’t just empty words to make us feel better but that was actually what she did, day in day out. She had been such a strong witness for Jesus throughout her entire life, from her single days of being a ‘cadet’ and kneeling beside her bed to pray in spite of any ridicule she may have received, to her last days still baring witness to Christ her saviour.

She has been the head of a family that have all known the Lord. A family that has been of great importance to her. Even in her last days of frailty she could still name all the grandchildren (7) and great grandchildren (10, going on 13) as well as each of their birthdays.

I Praise God for the life of such an amazing lady, and for the privilege of having been her granddaughter and for having been able to share all of my 28 birthdays with her. I love you Nannan, and will miss you dearly, but thank you for all that you have taught and shown me in my life.

Picture of family

C is also for Carnival

A five day festival at the beginning of February, with much music, dancing, alcohol and water – lots of water. Carnival begins on the Friday as people have the day off from work or finish early to begin the revelries of music and firecrackers, and stock up with water bombs.

It being a rather heathen affair with a lot of alcohol and violence breaking out as a result most of the evangelical churches organise church retreats and ‘camps’ during this time and flee the city. From talking with many of the lecturers at the language school we discovered that many of the locals decide to go else where at this time and we were soon to discover why.

Having seen many videos at the language school depicting carnival we thought it would be a good experience to see the processions with their vibrant costumes, fervent dancing and music. We were however very sadly disappointed by what we did see. Over the weekend there were 2 or 3 organised processions through the city, we were told the safest to attend particularly with Alana would be the one for the children on the Saturday morning.

In true Bolivian fashion the procession arrived at the plaza an hour and a half later than what had been advertised and what followed was a handful of bands, all playing pretty much the same tune, with different groups in some kind of costumes just jigging around in circles, nothing at all like what we had imagined, in fact the carnivals in England had been far better. But apparently it is all due to the lack of money and resources now available for such frivolities.

Throughout the next few days the same monotonous music could be heard throughout the city as individual groups would wend their way through the streets.

So where does the water come into it?

Well I think that the water must be the most integral part of the whole thing as passing groups get pelted with water bombs or sprayed with water pistols, or any other passer by for that matter. Thankfully for us Alana proved to be a pretty good deterrent that made people think twice before soaking us. We also made a point of avoiding any processions (yes maybe it was a bit cowardly but we didn’t fancy being wet and cold as the weather wasn’t too favourable for the first few days). People would be gathered on most street corners with buckets filled with full water bomb for people to purchase and use. Several groups of younger people would travel around in the back of a pick up and soak any unsuspecting passer by who looked a little too dry. After just the first couple of days the streets were literally littered with the remains of colourful water balloons, even the dog poo round our area started to look pretty as it was flecked with many different colours.

Tuesday afternoon when the weather had become considerably warmer we joined in some of the fun and had a water fight with the neighbours. I don’t think Alana quite understood what was going on but did seem to enjoy holding on very tightly to the water balloon she had been given, and despite all the squeezing it still didn’t burst.

Tuesday was the last day of carnival and was the day dedicated to the honour of ‘Pachamama’ (mother earth). Throughout the morning fire crackers could be heard sounding off all around the city, people would decorate their cars or other things acquired during the last year with balloons and streamers, and would pour alcohol over these things as a sign of good luck. Didn’t really understand that as they would spend ages making their cars all clean and shiny only to then pour sticky alcohol all over it. The other thing to note was the burning of coal in small tins outside of homes or small businesses that were still open, on which were burnt something, not sure what as a further offering to Pachamama.

It was interesting to see all that went on, and gave us an opportunity to relax a bit but I think next year we will join the church on retreat.

C is for………….

Where would you expect to see lots of people coming for a walk on a sunny day, to read, revise for exams, meet loved ones and generally relax?

Yes you have guessed it C is for the Cemetery

Believe it or not people do that here in Sucre and Sucre is one of the best cemeteries in the country, apparently others are a bit more like the UK. It may sound very odd but it is actually a very beautiful place (in parts). The first time I went there I thought it was an odd and strange place with so much activity. I went with my language school professor and he said you’ll want to bring your camera and I thought why would I want to do that. But on my second visit I thought actually it is a nice place. It was three or four weeks after Christmas and some people had left musical Christmas cards for their loved ones! (A good test for how long there last for!!!). The cemetery also has some important people buried there, ex-presidents, including one who set up the first orphanage (and there is a mausoleum for those children from that orphanage), and the first mental hospital, because his wife had mental health issues. There is also a memorial to the war in which Sucre lost two of the three pillars of government (the seat of goverment, legislative and judicial) keeping only the judicial pillar.

For the Bolivian people it means a lot to them, as they are a Catholic nation and remembering the dead is very important. Especialy on 1st November for ‘Todos santos’ (All saints day). On this day the front of the cemetery is a hive of activity selling flowers and food for remembering the dead as well as food for the living. The people come and leave gifts, alcohol, water and food. Then prayer by the burial place, because they believe that on ‘Todos santos’ this persons spirits comes back to earth and joins them. But this is only for one or two key people in that family, for example grandparents. After visiting the grave there is food at the family home with out much music or laughter.

There are many different types of burial options here. If you have the money you can have a family mausoleum built to house all your family, and these range from the simple to extravagant. The next type is for those who work in a particular industry for example transport, police, medical or judicial. The company owners take a little from your wages all your life so when you die you have a place to rest which generally looks very smart.

Small family mausoleum

Grand family mausoleum

Industry mausoleum

For most other people the are to be put in one of the hundred or so terraces, that go on for ages and are five or six levels high (with a separate area for young children).

It was so odd seeing them for the first time, because they are normally so well kept and always seem to have flowers and other gifts there. These terraces are also a mix of those buried who had money to make a nice posh front and those who could only do the basics. But you have to keep paying to keep the place! I didn’t ask what happens if you don’t keep paying! For those with not much money towards the back of the cemetery is some land where there are small individual burials that look like kennels, these are only guaranteed for a couple of years before they are removed to make way for other things or people! It was a surprise to me but there was also a separate area fenced off just for Jews, who’s gravestones look a bit more like those in the UK.

Poor graves

Separate area for Jews

It is such a popular place that you can have guided tours. As well as there being people (mainly it seems the lame, blind or old) that will, for a fee, pray for your loved ones to help see them through the after life. It is truly an interesting place even if a little strange.