Friday, August 24, 2012


Mom actually has two new sponsored children, but she has been so busy with the conventions and stuff that she hasn't had time to write to them or learn anything much about them.  But now Mom's first Big Project after the convention is to write letters to all her sponsored kids.

Anyway, today I am going to tell you about Ximena, who is 11 years old.  She lives in Bolivia in the Altiplano, which means "high plain" in Spanish.  The Altiplano is a plateau area in the Andes Mountains.  There is a huge lake in the Altiplano, and it is called Lake Titicaca, which is a really fun word to say.  Nobody knows exactly what "titicaca" means.  It is a combination of words from two local languages, Quechua and Aymara.  One possible translation is "rock puma."  The native people think the lake has the shape of a puma hunting a rabbit. Frankly, I don't see this, but I will take their word for it.  Another translation of "titicaca" is "crag of lead."

Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America, if you go by volume of water.  The average depth of the lake is 351 feet.  Titicaca is also called the highest navigable lake in the world, meaning that even big, commercial boats can go there because of how deep the water is.

Ever since 2000, Lake Titicaca has been shrinking.  It is now down to its lowest level since 1949.  The reasons for this are that the rainy seasons have been shorter, and also the glaciers that would usually feed the lake have been melting.

Ximena and her family live near a small city named Achacachi, which is another fun word to say.  The people in this region speak Aymara, but most of them also speak Spanish.  Long ago, before the Spaniards came, Achacachi was the capital of the Aymara Empire.  When the Conquistadores got there, the Aymara fought very fiercely, and even though they got conquered, they at least won the right to keep speaking their native language.

The Achacachi area is 12,644 ft. above sea level, and the climate is mostly cold, with temperatures between 28º and 59º F.  The land is flat, and it's dry because there isn't much rain.

Ximena's parents are farmers.  They have cattle and maybe some sheep, and they probably grow potatoes and fodder crops to feed the animals.  At least that's what the other people in that area grow.  Maybe they also have some llamas, but when Ximena wrote to Mom, she just mentioned "cattle."  When you look at pictures of the altiplano, you wonder how anybody can grow anything there.  But maybe it's different in the rainy season.

Ximena and her mom
Anyway, Ximena has a brother, and her family lives in an adobe house with an earth floor and a cement roof.  I have been trying to figure out why anybody would make a roof out of cement and then put it on top of adobe walls.  Finally, after I saw some photos, I decided that maybe the roof is made of tiles, and the translation has the wrong word.  The family cooks over a fire, and they burn animal dung for fuel.  Their latrine is a hole dug in the ground.  They can get water from a pipe in the compound, and that means they don't have to walk long distances to bring water from a river or stream.  Which is a good thing.

There is a school nearby, and Ximena is in the 6th grade.  After school, she helps with the farm work.  It takes 45 minutes to get to the nearest health facility.  The information sheet did not say if this facility has a doctor or just a nurse or what.  Also, they don't say if the 45 minutes is on foot or by bus or on some other type of vehicle.  If I knew more, I would tell it to you, but I don't, so I won't.

Mom has been to Bolivia before, and she would like to go again because she thought it was a very interesting place.  Also, she wants to go to Peru again because she really liked seeing Machu Picchu.  Mom thought the worst part about going there was trying to get used to the altitude.  It took several days for her to adjust, even with altitude sickness tablets.  And after that, she still got really tired every time she tried to climb a lot of steps or walk uphill.

That's all I can tell you about Ximena right now.  I wish I knew if she has a dog, but that important information somehow got left out of the sponsorship packet.  Maybe Ximena will tell us in a letter sometime whether she has a dog or not.  I really hope she does!

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