Posted by: powellsinsantacruz | April 20, 2010

Outside looking in

I once played the cardgame ‘Chairman Mao’ where you start playing without knowing the rules. Any time you do something wrong you have to pick up cards and you gradually learn what is happening through making mistakes and copying what other people do.

Living in Bolivia is similar in many ways. It is like being involved in a game where you don’t know what the rules are or how things work. Recently a few things have particularly shown this:


One way of buying beer or soft drinks is to take a used glass bottle to a shop and exchange it for a new one. You pay less than buying a plastic bottle and its good for the environment too, a good idea I thought. However I didn’t understand how you got a bottle in the first place. We bought a bottle from our local shop (whenever we go there now Chloe will wait at the bars until she is given her sweet, it is starting to get a little embarrassing) and returned it a few times before being asked for the bottle back so the owners could return it to a bottle company. They made quite a big deal about this so we did and now have no bottle again. In fact after returning it we were asked for it again- Roz doesn’t want to mention glass bottles to them again. I don’t really understand, how do you get a bottle in the first place?


Traveling around Santa Cruz you are likely to see herds or even just individual cows in random fields or parks, or even just by the roadside. How do they get there? Who owns them? Do they ever get stolen? No one seems to be watching them. What happens if they just wander off? It is a mystery.

Phone Bills

On Friday our phone was cut off and we realised we hadn’t paid a bill for the last two Months. I asked someone at school who explained that you don’t get a bill, you have to go to the bank, tell them your number and pay there. We did this on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised by how cheap the bill was- however we were not reconnected. I have now been told that when you pay you have to pay for every phone company- if you make a phone call to a mobile you pay that company I think. I don’t really get it.


There is a guy at school who helps with visas and is helping us sort ours out. I have regular conversations with him where he explains patiently in Spanish what is happening and I try really hard to understand but don’t.

So there you go. A little bit of the life of an ‘Extranjero’ on the outside looking in.

Oh and I caught my first disco bus home from my Spanish class last night- flashing blue lights, loud pumping music and florescent tubed lighting inside. A disco ball would not have been out of place.



  1. disco bus?!!that sounds like the best bit so far!! The bottle saga continues, maybe we could send a glass bottle out to you?!chairman mao sounds like an interesting game,but not as good as signs or amazing labyrinth. you know it. love you guys xxx

  2. Hi Ben Hi Roz, and give the little bella a big hug from the willmotts. I have just caught up on your news. The thought of Ben on a disco bus made me laugh out loud!

    Still praying for you. I was reminded myself this week that God’s word is a lamp to my feet and a light for the path… As you seek God for your day to day lives he can and will show you where to put your feet. As you settle in, we pray God will reveal the next steps for you and for the way you serve his church there.

    Its great to see the photos. I love to see where you are and what its like for you.

  3. The glass bottle foxes us too. It’s the same here. Apparently here, you can buy a coke and the bottle, but it costs more and not every place does it. The other alternative we have here- which is what we opted for- is to go to a distributor and buy a whole crate. If it’s like here you will see the shops with towers of red coke crates… from there. You get the money back for the crate of empties afterwards but of course the main point is you get a bottles with which you can start the process 🙂
    Hope that helps.

  4. Hi Ben and Roz,
    Not so different here. You can still legally allow your cows to graze in the middle of Cambridge. I haven’t actually taken up this offer yet as I would have problems getting a cow in the back of the car or would have to walk the 30 miles to Cambridge. Still, if I ever get one who knows?

    Love dad

  5. Hi Guys
    Great to hear all your stories. You should both become travel writers! I love the thought of catching the eye of the irish teacher and not having a giggle!
    Your bottle story is a bit of a chicken and egg one. Which came first?
    Easter weather here has been amazing and no airplanes for a week! Then the ban came off and the sky was full of white vapour trails like the starting gun had gone and they were off!! Only an erupting volcano can take over the news away from the election media stuff! At my school 11 staff were stuck and 20 children all over the world. One teacher had gone to Brazil and still has not returned!
    The footie season is nearly finishing and to catch up with backlog of games we have had some mid week fixtures. Fun for Guy.
    Love you all loads,

  6. Hey guys,

    sorry don’t have long to write, but just a quick note to say that I got your newsletter and am continuing to pray for you (fridge magnet is a particularly good reminder!). Also, just to let you know that I’ve got onto a PGCE course at the University of Hertfordshire, so I’ll be training to be secondary maths teacher from September. Really looking forward to it!

    Hope you’re all keeping well.
    God bless, Abe.

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