Although typically held on Holy Thursday, due to the multiple Bolivian activities that already take place on Holy Thursday, Mary and Nate (two of the new Franciscan lay missioners) hosted a Seder meal the evening of Holy Wednesday. It was lovely. Mary even provided a Christian adapted Haggadah (ie Seder meal script) for everyone and we spent the evening reading and celebrating the Exodus story of God's deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Our experience even included one of the other Franciscan lay missioners playing the part of the child in the script and asking the four important questions and completing other necessary "child" tasks (thanks Jeff!). Below is a picture of us raising one of the four (very full) glasses of wine you are scripted to drink throughout the night as well as picture of me helping to wash people's hands at the beginning of the meal. I hope this is a tradition that continues during my time here in Bolivia :)
Please note that the cup being raised to my left is full of juice, which is the same for the one being held by Lexie directly across from me! Mine however is full of wine. Eesh. Let's just say I had a *tiny* bit of a headache the following morning :)
The women getting her hands washed is Hady, one of the Franciscan lay missioners who arrived down in Cochabamba around the same time I did. The other person in the photo is Kitzi. She is also a Franciscan lay missioner, but has been in Cochabamba for 2+ years already!
Hold on to your hats for the description of this day folks...we're about to go for a ride! The tradition in Cochabamba is to try and visit the 12 churches near the center of the city. However, for those that find that number daunting (ie everyone), I was told by my host mother and my Spanish teachers that you really only have to visit 7 in order to receive the Holy Thursday "blessing." I had great plans of taking a picture in front of each of my 7 churches and posting the proof on this blog to show everyone how "holy" I was on Holy Thursday. However, that did not happen for various reasons. The most major reason was that although inside the churches the atmosphere was very pious, outside in the streets was a whole different story. I want you to picture a night time carnival scene complete with games, bouncy houses, crazy amounts of food, and tons of different venders selling everything from jewelry to large religious statutes to very intricate animal balloon creations. Yup. The street crowds would have been enough to keep me away, but throw bright carnival lights and venders at every turn into the mix and the experience was just too overwhelming for this girl :) But don't you worry. It wasn't too overwhelming for me to not take pictures. Below are some of my favorites:
I'll start with the two pictures I took of the throngs of people entering into the churches. Although the lines were continuously moving, they weren't going all that fast... Basically, you shuffled your way into the church, took a minute to cross yourself in front of the host, and then shuffled your way out (I know this because I thankfully did manage to rally my energy enough to make it into one church!!). The picture on the left I think really encompasses the whole experience--you have a family eating, throngs entering a church, AND balloon animals being sold all at the same time!
And now for the carnival-like pictures:
If you were thinking to yourself that the picture on the left looks an awful lot like a mechanical bull, you would be CORRECT! I was trying to get a picture of the girl riding the mechanical bull, but only managed to snap one right after she fell off... The picture on the right is of one of the multiple bouncy house/slides that were present.
Here's a picture of different piggy banks that one vender was selling. I had my eye on the multiple "cars" ones for Ian, but thought with no good way to get it back up to the states, I better let some other small child buy them :)
And here is one of the carnival-type games. I can't remember exactly what you had to do to try and win one of the stuffed animals, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with using a toy gun to hit a target...
And finally a picture of my favorite part of all the festivites: the balloon animals. I don't know how well you can see what the vender is selling, but these balloons are in the shape of dragons. The kids LOVED them. There were also ones in the shape of bears if I remember correctly and some penguins.
The activities on the morning of Good Friday were a stark difference to the festivities in the streets of the night before. At 5am (well before sunrise...) some of the Franciscan and Maryknoll lay missioners and I met up with about 100 other people to do a Stations of the Cross hike up to the Cristo. The procession took around 4 hours with the sun only starting to show its face around Station 7. The final station took place on the backside of the huge Cristo statue where a pretend Jesus corpse was laid to rest through a door in the base of the statue. Overall, the experience was very powerful. The sense of community I felt with all of the other people who had also gotten up well before God intended was very special and the gorgeous morning scenery wasn't too shabby either. Below are some pictures I took along the way:
The picture in the upper left is taken at the very beginning of the procession. As you can see in all three of these pictures, the sky is pitch black. That would be God telling us that it is still time to be sleeping. In a nice warm bed.
The picture in the upper right is looking up at the Cristo towering over us. It might have been a bit discouraging at this point in time to see just how far away it looked as we all began our slow walk towards it...
And in the bottom left we have a picture of my hiking and stationing companions. I was grateful that there was such a big crowd. It definitely helped me feel a lot less crazy :)
And here we have a picture of what the cross looked like against a slowly awakening sky. The dawn was breathtakingly beautiful and the way the cross was lit up by the the pink glow behind it was a gorgeous sight for tired eyes :)
And finally, we made it to the top! Here are two pictures of the final station. You can see the "tomb" covered by the sheet in the background. The picture on the right gives a better idea as to just how large this Cristo statue is.
Below is one last picture of all of us at the top of the Cristo. Somehow I got cut out (I'm actually standing right next to Marc on the left), but you all know what I look like, so I figured it was ok! From left to right we have Marc and Lexie (a MK lay missioner couple), Mary, Val, Jeff, Nate, Hady (all Franciscan lay missioners), Donna (a former MK lay missioner), Shaun (a MK Seminarian), and two guys from the parish that Shaun works at (sorry mom for the bad grammar, but the correct way just sounds way too formal...).
This day should also be titled "Emma's birthday." On Saturday, I spent the afternoon at Jim and Karen's house decorating eggs, making confetti to shove into hollowed out eggs (so they later could be smashed on people's heads!), and eating too many pieces of ice cream cake in celebration of their middle child Emma's 11th birthday. Jim and Karen are a former Maryknoll Lay Missioner couple living and working in the Southern Zone of Cochabmaba with their three wonderful children Dan (14), Emma (11), and Jake (6). They were kind enough to invite me to share in their Easter festivities which included the aforementioned egg and birthday activities, going to an Easter Vigil that night at their local church, spending the night, and waking up in the morning to an Easter egg hunt in their front yard! It was a wondeful way to spend my Easter and definitely helped lesson the sadness of not being home with my own family during this holiday.
Above is a picture of all thee kids with all of their eggs from the Easter egg hunt! And to the right we have Jake holding a real live Easter bunny (the family owns many!). In his mouth is a chocolate egg from his Easter basket.
Above is a picture of Jake's eggs (or maybe Emma's??). You can see how well decorated all of the Easter eggs were :) And to the right we have the whole family! This was their "silly" family picture.
Another birthday day for the Maryknoll family! This time the person to be celebrated was Jason, another former Maryknoll Lay Missioner living and working in Cochabamba. After leaving Jim and Karen's, I went home to nap for a bit before heading back out to an Easter dinner potluck/birthday celebration at the home of the Franciscan Lay Missioners who have been in Cochabamba for at least a year already (some have been here longer)--Jeff, Kitzi, and Annemarie. They just moved into a new place located in the Southern Zone of Cochabamba and it is lovely. Below is a picture Valerie took during our time together:
The birthday boy is sitting to the left of me on the couch and to the left of him is a Maryknoll Sister, Lil, who may be one of my very favorite people here in Cochabamba :) The rest of the people in the group are either current or former Maryknoll or Franciscan Lay Missioners, or have other ties to Maryknoll.
So there you have my Holy Week--filled with known and new traditions, some I loved and some that will take a bit of getting used to. Overall though, this week left me feeling very blessed to be surrounded by the rich and beautiful Bolivian culture as well as many new but dear faces :)