This blog entry is part of a series of blogs from Marvin and Martie Wachs, long time friends and supporters of Amizade who have visited and served in Bolivia numerous times.  For more stories from the Wachs visit their blog at www.worldwidewachs.com.

In the United States, we are always in a hurry, and can barley squeeze in time for enjoying friends and family. We rush from one errand, meeting or activity to another. We sandwich calls to our friends and family en route, because we don’t have time to talk otherwise. We pick up breakfast, lunch or dinner at a drive-through and eat it on the way to the next appointment or activity.

That’s why Sunday afternoons in Cochabamba, Bolivia are such a truly pleasant and relaxing experience. As long-term volunteers with Amizade, we enjoyed many Sunday afternoons there. Shops and businesses are closed all day. In Bolivia, even middle class families have day or live-in maids who do the cooking and cleaning, and the maids always have Sunday off. So, what to do with no one to cook and serve you meals? – get the family together and spend the entire afternoon on an elaborate picnic!

In Spanish-speaking Bolivia, when one thinks of family, it isn’t just the nuclear family. Family includes all your sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. So a family get-together on Sunday afternoon can easily include 10 – 20 people at times. Often, the get-together will be at one family member’s home, and everyone will bring a dish. The family spends the entire afternoon together, talking and sharing their lives, playing games with the children, and just enjoying and relaxing.

Sometimes these get-togethers take place at outdoor restaurants –what you might call “resort restaurants”. Resort restaurants are most commonly in the countryside, and have expansive lawns, playgrounds, and sometimes even volleyball courts, swimming pools or lakes. The tables and chairs are set outside on the lawn or patio. The family arrives at the resort restaurant between noon and 1:00 PM, and is seated at their table. And once they are seated, they are expected to spend the entire afternoon there. No waiter or restaurant worker would think of hurrying them along so a second family could use the table that day. So families relax and enjoy the time together, the kids play on the lawns and playgrounds, the adults catch up with each other. With year round springlike temperatures, and abundant sunshine, the Cochabamba weather is almost always perfect for a restaurant “picnic”. And the occasional views of the beautiful Andes mountains bordering the city on two sides are just an added bonus.

During our multiple volunteer service abroad trips with Amizade we had the delightful pleasure of spending many Sunday afternoons. We went to a German resort restaurant in the nearby town of Tiquipaya, where there was a swimming pool and overnight cabins; a seafood restaurant floating out in a broad lake; a resort restaurant halfway up a mountain with sweeping views of the city; and another resort restaurant at a fish hatchery, where the fish was absolutely the freshest it could be!

But more than the surroundings, we loved the relaxing atmosphere of Sunday afternoons and the value Bolivians put on spending quality time with friends and family.

For more information on Amizade’s Bolivia site and to join an upcoming program click here.

-Martie and Marvin Wachs

Bolivia