These are a few of my pictures from my trip this past summer ('99) to Bolivia with the Mennonite Board of Missions Youth Venture trip. I went with 5 other people, Isabelle Zaugg, Rachelle Good, Rachel Voth, and our leaders, Zandra and Phil Sawatzky. Although Rachel and Isabelle had met earlier that summer at a Mennonite youth convention, the rest of us met for the first time in Miami on our way down to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We spent two weeks helping with the construction of a new church building for a small Mennonite church called Principe De Paz. A lot happened during those two weeks, it was definately the best part of my summer. We did many things and there is much to say, far more then I can put on this web page, hopefully the pictures will give you an idea of what the trip was like.
     This was my first experience using those small disposable cameras, I'm used my SLR. So I was surprised and disappointed to see my BIG FAT FRICKIN' finger in almost every picture! I managed to crop most of my fingers out for these pictures, but a few remain.

This is the family that I stayed with for those two weeks. From the left is Lucy, Danika, Ona, Jonathon, and me.

Pastor Santos Reyes and his wife Esther at the zoo.

Phil has decided to use his mental powers to help knock the tree over. The first day of construction work began with clearing out a large tree in the middle of the courtyard. It took an entire day to get it to this point. All the branches had to be hacked off by hand. It took another full day to remove the stump left in the ground. We had no power tools besides an electric cement mixer and a circular saw for one day.

We spent many days with a pick ax and a shovel digging out trenches for the foundation and the holes for columns. It was hard work, we rotated several people on one job while one of the regular workers would dig an entire column on his own.

Here is Rachelle and Isabelle clearing out the dirt from one of the first columns.

All of the rebar had to be straightened. One person would hold it in place to keep it from turning while another hammered it flat. In the backround you can see Freddie starting a column hole.

Here are the women building re-bar things. We actually didn't know what they were for until we started putting the columns up. We just did what we were told, usually we had no idea what we were doing, at least I didn't until afterwards. Most of the Spanish that I knew wasn't helpful for construction work. I soon learned that all I needed to know was aqui, aca, alli, and alla although those words caused me a lot of confusion. Esther would bring out some of the best fresh fruit juices that I've ever had. Fresh squeezed pinapple and other exotic juices were served to us everyday. Esther would also make some excellent lunches that left us full and satisfied. So full and satisfied that we usually needed to take a short siesta afterwards.

This is Rachelle using the pica to break up the ground while Phil and Isabelle watch.

Phil digging away. In the backround Ignacio is fitting the piping together. It was much thinner then the PVC I'm used to. He used burning newspaper rolled up tightly to melt the pipe so it could be bent and fit together.

This is standing in a finished column hole. It's difficult to see, but all the corners were squared off perfectly and the sides straight. Actually I'm kneeling in the hole, but they were deep. The trenches inbetween the columns weren't as deep as the actual columns themselves.

Here I am sitting in a finished colum hole laying down a layer of rock. The rocks had to fit tightly together and it was very important that they were all at the same level. More then one rock layer had to be redone because it wasn't flat enough. This was my favorite job because it was out of the hot sun and not heavy work. On top of the layer of rocks is where those re-bar things went that the girls built earlier.

Now the re-bar structures for the columns have been built and they are sitting on top of the re-bar things.

All the digging is finally done and then it's time to pour the cement. Between 6 of us, we carried 100 50kg bags of cement into the courtyard. The cement pouring process was kept going at a rapid rate. Some of us carried rocks to different places depending on where they needed them, others pushed wheelbarrows of cement to the right places, while still more mixed up the cement outside the courtyard.

The one weekend that we were there we had a chance to go out to the countryside. Ona drove 14 of us in a small pickup truck to Las Cuevas, or something like that. It was the Pastor, his wife Esther, his daughter Esther, Ona, Lucy, Jonathon, Danika, the six of us, and the son of one of the host families. Needless to say, it was a very tight fit for a 3-4 hour drive. This is Isabelle, with Jonathon on her lap, Rachelle, and Rachel on the way out Saturday morning.

There is sad story behind this picture. I think it was a year ago, but at this turn in the road a bus went over and killed several people. In fact, early in the morning on the day that we drove past, a truck went over loaded with fuel containers. Fortunately, the driver wasn't hurt. There was a truck there collecting the scattered fuel containers. You can see the front of the truck and several people looking out into the valley where the bus went a year ago.

Here I am standing under a waterfall in the mountains of Bolivia.

Before heading back, we at some Bolivian watermellon. "Watch your head, Isabelle!"

Youth Venture to Bolivia '99 IS: Isabelle on top, from left to right in the middle, me and Rachelle, and on bottom, Rachel, Sandra, and Phil.

This is the whole entire construction group. I won't try and name everyone.
Update: The building has been all but completed since we left. Take a look at this page with newer photos