Welcome to Bolivia!!!

     Do you remember when we broke the NeWs to you a while back that we were going to Bolivia?!?!?!?!

We are HERE!!!!

     Some of you missed that we were traveling and are TOTALLY cOnFuSeD right now...so here is the breakdown of our last few weeks:

1.  We bought our airline tickets to Cochabamba, Bolivia!!!!!!
2.  We found our sweet Abby a new home...it was sad, but her new owner is wonderful!!!
3.  We met our newest nephew!!!!
4.  We ate a LOT of holiday food.
5.  Nick quit his job...yep, that's right, he is now a full-time Lemon Dropper too!!!
6.  Nick finally got his front tooth implant...all he wanted for Christmas was his two front teeth :)
7.  We were given TONS of Christmas gifts we don't deserve...
8.  We said goodbye to family and friends :(
9.  We packed up our bags and two ENORMOUS bags for BCI!!!!!
10.  We hopped on a plane...or three...

And OF COURSE we are going to Blog EVERYDAY!!!!!  
or at least when we have something to blog about...

So, here is the FIRST official Blog Post of our Bolivian adventure...

     On Monday, December 29th, at 10:30am, my parents took us to the Florence, SC airport.  I wouldn't normally start my story there...so boring...but, we had some FuN happen.  Let me give you the background...Nick and I have been married for 7 years and have never gotten life insurance.  Every time we travel (which is yearly), my mom reminds us that we need some.  So, this time, we decided to go ahead and get some!!!!!!  Yay...we are officially adults!!!!!  haha.  Three days before we leave, we walked into our StateFarm office and told our agent we wanted a policy TODAY because we are leaving the country...you should have seen the surprise on his face.  We talked over options with him and returned Monday morning at 8am to get it all settled.  He had everything printed out and ready for us to fill out and sign...it was smooth sailing.  Until...fast forward a few hours...we are sitting in the airport...I check my emails one last time...there is an email from our agent saying that we forgot to do THE CHEEK SWAB!!!!!!!  After a few emails back and forth, our agent hopped in his car, sped out to the airport and got our saliva right then and there in the lobby...talk about dedication to the job!!!!!!!!!  If you need some life insurance, let us know...we have someone that we can recommend :)  Anyways...while all this was going on, I kept looking at this guy who was wearing this wide leather belt, on top of his t-shirt and on his natural waist.  I kept thinking, "he isn't emo or punk looking, so why the weird belt fashion?"...turns out, he was a convict who was being transported!!!!!  Once I realized this, I was freaked out that I would be the one sitting next to him on the airplane, but they boarded him first and he sat in the back right corner with two men who were transporting him.  All this to say...the Florence airport can actually get pretty exciting!

     After a short flight, we landed in Charlotte and had to run past all of the good food and comfy rocking chairs to make our flight in time...then, once we got to Miami, we had to exit, claim our bags and re-enter to check-in at the Bolivian airline.  We walked to the other side of the airport to find Boliviana de Aviacion and saw that it was closed.  In my mind, I thought "figures".  At the same time, a woman walked up to us and asked if this was BOA.  I said yes and her son commented, "Well, why are they closed?...oh wait, it's Bolivia and they probably just don't want to be open yet".  My family always jokes about "Bolivian time", so it was hilarious to me that a Bolivian did it too!!!  Although, that guy lives in Miami now, so maybe he is on "American time"??????  While waiting in line at BOA, we met a missionary couple, Dale and Debbie Kenyon who live in Cochabamba and know many of our local friends...we even found out that they go to a church that a family friend, Henry Cheah, started!!!!!  So, we were excited to already meet some new people and plan to visit that church :)  Small world...its insane!!!  The more you travel, the smaller it gets!!!

     The long night finally ended when we flew over those last Andes Mountains and into the Cochabamba valley...I was SOOOOoooo excited and felt so grateful to be home again (In case you didn't know, I grew up here!!!!!).  However, I was worried about getting my Visa (Nick had a current Visa from our last trip here) and about getting our bags through for the burn clinic.  I got up to the Immigration Officer's box and as soon as he told Nick to wait his turn, I had a bad feeling.  Normally, everyone is allowed to advance with their spouse/family so I was worried that this guy was going to be hard.  Turns out, my gut feeling was correct!!!  This is how the next 1 1/2 hours went down:

Immigration Officer (IO): You don't have a current Visa
Me: I'd like to purchase one now.
IO:  Go over to talk to that woman.
(As we were walking over, I leaned towards Nick and said, "Welcome to Bolivia"...I knew that this was going down hill fast)
Me (to airport woman):  Excuse me, I need to purchase my Visa.
Woman:  Go over and talk to that man (IO).
Me:  I just talked to him and he said to talk to you.
Woman:  No, go back to him.
Me:  Ok
Me (to IO):  The woman said to talk to you about my Visa.
IO:  I cannot help you.
Woman to IO:  She needs her Visa.
IO to Woman:  She doesn't have any paperwork.
Me:  I have all of the required paperwork.
Woman:  Show it to the IO.
IO:  She doesn't have a bank statement.
Woman:  You need a bank statement as proof that you have money.
Me:  Online it says that I need a bank statement, credit card OR debit card...I have both types of cards.
IO:  No, we only take bank statement.
Me:  That's not what it says online, so I don't have one.
IO:  Then I can't help you.
(He asks us to move out of the way, so we stand on the side and look at each other like we are lost)
Woman:  Give me your card to make a copy.
Me:  For what?
Woman:  For your Visa.
Me:  I don't want anyone to have a copy of my card...the number could be stolen.
Woman:  I need to make a copy.  It is safe with us.
(Well, that's hilarious...the woman and I "argued" back and forth until I handed over my Credit Card and told Nick to email our bank to have it blocked immediately...they weren't going to give me a Visa without a copy of that card).
Woman:  Go sit down while I make a copy.
(Nick and I go sit down and are followed by two other Americans...another Immigration Officer comes over to talk to us...I told Nick, "Welcome to Immigration Jail").
IO #2:  Who can speak Spanish?
Me:  Me.  
(The other two Americans didn't, so I had to translate for them)
IO #2:  If you want your Visa, there are certain requirements that we need in documentation.  
Me:  Yes, I have them.
IO #2:  You need a photo of yourself.  A return airline ticket.  A hotel reservation.  A letter of invitation.  A copy of your yellow fever vaccine.  A bank statement.  $55 in cash to pay for the Visa.  Proof that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay.
Me:  Yes, we all have all of those things.
IO #2:  Ok, then lets see them.
(One by one, we show him all of our documents)
IO #2:  Ok, come up to see me in my box.
(One by one, we step up to the box and take our turn talking to the IO #2 over and over and over and going over our documents over and over and over...I don't even know how many times...we leave all of our documents with him and take turns paying for the Visa that we hope we get.  I noticed that one of the American guys was having trouble because IO #2 didn't have a $5 bill to give him in cash and they wouldn't take anything else...so Nick and I gave IO #2 $5 for the guy...crazy!
IO #2:  Ok, you all sit there and wait.
(At this point, the IO and IO #2 and two other official looking people are looking at all of our papers...they would talk to each other, look at our papers, look at us, etc...over and over and over.  I seriously wondered if I was going to get a Visa)
IO #2:  Emily, come back up.  We need your photo and finger prints.
(The machine apparently didn't work, so I went up there several times to try and was sent to sit back down each time the finger prints didn't work)
IO #2:  Emily, come again.  Here is your Visa (I was thinking "Thank you Jesus!!!!")...you have 30 days in Bolivia.
Me:  The Visa is supposed to be 90 days.
IO #2:  We no longer do 90 days...only 30.
Me:  Online it still says 90 days.
IO #2:  That is no longer correct.
Me:  But my return tickets are in 90 days, not 30!
IO #2:  You will have to return to Immigration every 30 days and pay again until you leave in 90 days.
Me:  So, I have to get another Visa and pay again every 30 days?
IO #2:  Yes.
Me:  So, everything is good and my Visa is good and they will give me a new one every 30 days if I go to Immigration.
IO #2:  Yes.
(He must have seen how upset I looked, because he said that I could come back to the airport and talk to them if I needed any help...he was trying to be nice, I guess, but when he said that I was thinking, "yea right!"

     Long story short, I got my Visa and they didn't care about the materials that we were carrying for the burn clinic.  However, Nick was really upset (under his eyes were black) from all of the Visa issues and from not being able to speak Spanish or understand what was going on....and I was upset and soaked in sweat from worry because they put me through all that and apparently there was never a problem anyway...it was 1 1/2 hours of trauma for nothing!!!!!  So, by the time we got out of there and our old neighbors (Dean and Barb) picked us up, we were exhausted.  It was SOOOOOO good to finally get home to our apartment, see Juana and Sandra, catch up, eat and rest.  I LOVE Bolivia and I'm SO happy to finally be here, but NOTHING is ever easy here!!!!!!!!