Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus Hits Bolivia

In light of all that is happening in the world right now, I thought it would be good to write an update. I had no idea that it had been more than two months since our last post, or that I hadn't updated the blog since we returned to Bolivia. So here's our life in a nutshell, from early January to the first week of March: we returned to Cochabamba; we resumed language school; Ian and Ella began attending Carachipampa Christian School; we started attending a Spanish-speaking church; the Lord provided a car (SUV) for our family; and we continue to work on obtaining visas, licenses, etc.

You may have also heard about the flooding in our town of Tiquipaya on the outskirts of Cochabamba. It did not directly affect us except for the closure of some roads near our house. But many people lost everything in the flooding and mudslides that occurred as a result of the heavy rain we experienced in February. Thankfully the rain subsided and people began to recover and rebuild their lives.

Then the coronavirus struck Bolivia.

I learned from watching my Facebook feed and seeing the various shortages in the United States, and preemptively stocked up on a few things. I didn't go crazy, and thankfully most of the people here didn't either. The stores did run low on some items, but I didn't encounter empty shelves like in the US. So we are doing alright, just trying to stay stocked up on a couple week's worth of groceries and household items.

Last Thursday the government announced that schools would be closed at least through March 31, but Ian and Ella are staying quite busy at home with the work that has been assigned via the internet. Like many of you, we are finding it a bit challenging to get organized and stay on top of all their schoolwork. I feel like I've got a new part-time job, and I think we actually have less family time because of this extra burden.

For the time being, I (Aaron) continue to attend my language classes. I am staying away from public transportation, opting to take the car or motorcycle to the school, and given the one-on-one nature of the classes I feel that the risk is low for the benefit of continuing to progress in my Spanish studies.

The president of Bolivia recently announced measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a curfew, limiting public transportation, limiting the workday, and restricting the operating hours of markets and supermarkets. Hopefully these measures will be effective, but I am a bit concerned that they will not be. Yesterday I had to go sign some papers to complete the transfer of our vehicle, and the streets were packed with vehicles and a good number of pedestrians—probably trying to take care of their business before everything closed for the day. Lots of people were wearing masks, but I'm afraid that these are giving people a false sense of security.

As of today, all international flights are suspended, and ground travel across the border and between departments is prohibited. If we had any thoughts of leaving Bolivia (which we didn't), we can forget about that now! For better or worse, we are here until this passes!

Thanks for praying for us and the ministry in Bolivia. We were just starting to get into a routine when, like most of you, that routine was severely disrupted. It's a bit of a challenge at the moment, but we continue to trust the Lord and his purposes for all of this. If there is anything specific we can be praying for, drop us a line!