Remembering Yolanda Salinas Hess

I was surprised this morning to see an obituary in the Post-Dispatch for Yolanda Salinas Hess. I wanted to share a little bit about her brief, but bright, impact on my life.
It started one morning late in Oct. 2002, when my dad told me to read an article in the Post-Dispatch about a new Hispanic bookstore that was opening in St. Ann. He said it had mentioned something about selling Bolivian music.

I read the story and headed over to “Librería Cultura Hispana” to see what sorts of Bolivian things they might have. I didn’t count on meeting a live, Bolivian person.

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Waits and measures

Maybe waiting is the measure of a man. We have done our share of it.

Today, I daydreamed back to a sweltering Bolivian night eight years ago when we made pizza for Yoli’s family and I got down on one knee to propose. Not many days afterward, I boarded a plane bound for St. Louis.

I knew we would be separated for a while, working in two countries on the paperwork to obtain a fiancee visa. But I didn’t know how long.

How long turned out to be nine months. At the time I called it ‘the interminable wait.’

It seems to me that the waiting was hardest at the beginning (where the elation of getting engaged was followed by the loneliness of returning home alone) and near the end (though we never had a clear idea of when exactly “the end” would come).

My mind wandered, remembering those months of waiting, then returned to the present. I thought of our eighth wedding anniversary, just around the corner: Nov. 22 and 24.

But even sooner, I thought, our family will move back into the little brick house that was shattered by the Good Friday tornado.

Then it struck me: we have gone through another “interminable wait” this year.

In some ways it’s been harder. There was little joy at the outset, except maybe the solace that comes from knowing nobody was hurt and many of our possessions could be saved. There were so many unknowns: how do you pick a guy to cut down your tree? We chose one, and it went badly. How to choose the best mudjacking Denver to fix driveway? Our temporary housing moved us farther away from all our usual places. We couldn’t walk Jadzia to kindergarten as we had planned, nor could we walk to the farmer’s market, or the bank, or the library.

But in some ways it’s been easier. Yes, we were separated from our house — but not from each other. We’ve been in exile, together. The rental house where we’ve lived was actually bigger than our own home, though it lacked some things (dishwasher). Our friends and family rallied around to help us. And our wait has lasted only six months, not nine.

Still, there’s no getting past the waiting. As with our engagment eight years ago, we had a vague notion of how long this reconstruction process would take. But the ending proved to be elusive. We would get close, and things would drag out.

At last, though, the finish line is in sight. Today our little house was full of people: cutting tiles, running pipes, painting walls, tracking in mud.

Tomorrow our long-stored belongings will begin to arrive at the house. Before the end of the week, we hope to be sleeping in our own beds again.

I would like to think that this “interminable wait” helped us, strengthened us inside.

Time will tell.

We lost Tio Adonai

Today, Yoli’s Tio Adonai died.

Though he had been struggling with some health problems for a long time, this turn for the worse happened very suddenly. We had just begun talking about how it might be possible to go down to Bolivia sooner than planned in order to see him.

But it wasn’t to be. God took him home early.

Unfortunately, it seems certain Yoli will not travel to Bolivia. His burial will take place tomorrow. Deaths and burials are not handled the same down there as they are here. When someone dies, they don’t wait around — mostly because they aren’t able to. It’s a tropical climate and almost summertime right now.

Tio Adonai was a very special man, and it’s almost too sad for me to even write. We will miss him. We are sorry he didn’t have the chance to meet Josie.

If you have time, please pray for Yoli’s family, and especially Adonai’s wife Miriam. This is a devastating loss.

Coming to America

Today was the culmination of a lot of work Yoli and I and her family have been doing in recent months: Yoli’s parents received tourist visas so that they can come to America!

This is not a particularly easy process for Bolivians. It requires paperwork, making an appointment online with the embassy, and traveling to La Paz. That trip is no trifle: it is an extremely long bus ride, and it is high in the altiplano. Since Yoli’s parents are older and because they live in Santa Cruz in the lowlands, we were very worried about altitude sickness.

They left Monday from Santa Cruz, and traveled first by bus to Cochabamba. Cochabamba is higher than Santa Cruz, but not so high as La Paz. They spent a day there sightseeing, in order to help their bodies acclimatize before continuing on.

They had to wake up early this morning (Thursday) in order to make sure they were at the embassy before the 8 a.m. appointment. I understand that Yoli’s dad was on his knees praying much of the night! We all had a very real fear that they would be denied the visa. After all, when it comes to the embassy, you are guilty of wanting to become an illegal immigrant unless you can prove otherwise. We have heard many horror stories.

When they got to the embassy at 7 a.m., there were already 10 people in front of them in line. Ah, the benefits of age: the embassy folks moved Yoli’s parents to the front of the line. Apparently they were treated well and not asked very many questions during the interview.

Anyway, this is exciting news. We aren’t 100% sure when the visas will take effect, but we should know in a few days. Our assumption is that we will be able to have Yoli’s parents visit beginning some time in June.

Killing time in Miami

In two weeks, we’re flying to Bolivia. As usual, we connect to our international flight in Miami. Unlike past years, this time we have a five-hour layover. So basically we will spend an entire day (from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.) in airports or airplanes.

The girls might go stir-crazy. Heck, I might go stir-crazy. So we’ve been considering our options for the layover.

One thing we’ve been wondering is: would it be worth it to leave the airport and do something in Miami with the girls? Is there anything fun to do that’s relatively close (reachable by bus)?

Any experienced travelers out there? Let us know, we’re counting on you!

Ammy-ville

Today I was with Jadzia and Ludi at the school, playing on the playground. As things were winding down, I was talking with Jadzia about airplanes, reminding her about our upcoming trip.

“We’re going to take TWO airplanes. We’ll take one from St. Louis to Miami. Then we’ll stay in Miami a few hours. Then we’ll take another plane from Miami to BOLIVIA!”

Without missing a beat, Jadzia replied, “No, we’re not going to YOUR ‘ammy.’ We’re going to MY ‘ammy!’ “

Early wake-up call / Bebe numero dos

This morning Yoli and I awakened at 4:45 a.m. We were preparing to get her and Jadzia to the airport for their trip to Bolivia. I will be joining them next week. That’s an early morning for someone who works until at least 11:30 p.m. every night. On the bright side, it gave me some extra time after I dropped them off to scan some in some recent ultrasound pictures of our next baby (see below)!

This is not a “traveling light” trip, my preferred modus operandi. Yoli will be making a wedding cake and also teaching a cake-decorating class at El Jordán during this trip, so she took all the pots and pans, etc.

Yoli and Jadzia’s trip will last three weeks; I will join them next Sunday, so I’ll be there for two weeks. During this week, Yoli will post a few entries on our Bolivia weblog. Once I join her, I will be posting stuff there as well, so please check often!

Anyway, I know what you really want to see are the ultrasound photos. Here they are:



Back from the east

Well, our mission in Washington D.C. was about 85% accomplished.

Yoli was able to get a new Bolivian ID card (with her married name), but not a new passport. The Bolivian consulate in Washington was out of them. It’s difficult for me to understand how a consulate can run out of passports, but such is life. Instead, they gave Yoli a 6-month extension on her current passport, which will enable us to travel to Bolivia in April. But we’ll still have to go again to a consulate (probably Chicago) to get the passport sometime after the 6 months are up.

Jadzia and geopolitics

We’re off to Washington DC tomorrow for the purpose of renewing some of Yoli’s Bolivian papers. If all goes well, we will able to visit some friends, see a museum, and eat at a Bolivian restaurant before heading to Virginia to visit some other friends. There is a large Bolivian community that lives in the DC area, so I’m very excited to try a Bolivian restaurant in America.

However, things might not go well if the Bolivian consular officials decide to give us trouble. If you have a minute, pray that we would have favor with these folks and that Yoli’s papers would be processed quickly.