We had arranged for a bike tour for most of the day. It was not what I expected. I hoped to see some cathedrals, plazas and parks, but instead we rode through heavy traffic, streets and sidewalks full of holes, dirt and lots of people. Sometimes we were on the back roads, then it was more pleasant riding. The tour was a good history lesson on the troubles of Colombia. We saw the National University, lots of graffiti and painted murals everywhere on every bridge, wall, building or gate.
We passed through the plaza where riots took place, a chocolate factory (but we couldn’t go in), a coffee factory with a little tour and time to relax in the café, and the busy market with every kind of fruit, vegetable, fish and meat you could imagine. That was the best part of the whole ride.
The tour guide was kind enough to mention to us that the tour included the red light district which we opted out of. One of the young guides took us around and back to the shop where we waited for our taxi. While we were waiting, Joe engaged in a conversation with Manuel Sanchez. It was obvious he was looking for truth and is searching different religions at this time. He spoke English pretty well and we told him of the Book of Mormon and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew of the Church and lived close to a building, so we encouraged him to check it out and learn from the missionaries what we believe. He said he would and Joe has his follow-up information. That was such a blessing to be with this young man having chosen not to follow the tour.
After the tour, we made a very quick clean up and change to attend the temple. It is a beautiful building and we enjoyed our session there. I listen to the endowment in Spanish and each time I attend, it is a little easier to go through the veil in Spanish. This time I didn’t have a help card and did okay. It was a beautiful experience and a quiet refuge from the crazy city of Bogota.
Our day Saturday started promptly at 7:30 when Jesus Lopez picked us up at the hotel. It was a very fine meeting with both the brothers from Colombia and those from Venezuela. As US citizens, we are not allowed in Venezuela because we probably wouldn’t get out alive. It is very dangerous there and the people blame their problems on the sanctions of the United States when actually it’s their corrupt government. Even Columbia has so many problems, but I found the brothers to be of strong faith and commitment to their testimony. They were a happy bunch and we had a great meeting and enjoyed lunch together.
The people of Colombia and Venezuela have a hard life! In Venezuela, there is a terrible shortage of food and the people are only allowed to shop one day a week, and that day has to correspond to the number of their ID card. When they shop they have to stand in line for at least two hours and then, when they get in the store, they are limited as to what they can buy. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, there is no food. Those with money hire a “line person” to stand in line for them. There are no Bishop’s Storehouses so the people have to help each other.
While the men finished the agenda items during the afternoon, I walked around the mall across from the hotel. This was bigger than any mall I’ve been in!! Four levels of shops, restaurants, a movie theater, banks, food court and a play area, all set up in a maze. I actually got all turned around and came out on the boulevard opposite the hotel. Even though most don’t have money and the country is in trouble, they sure have the fine clothes and other luxuries available at the mall. Our hotel was close to a university so we saw quite a young crowd, and all the women I saw wear the tight pants fitted into boots . . . every one! Here in Lima we don’t see many who smoke cigarettes but in Colombia, we saw it everywhere BUT it is still prohibited in the restaurants and stores.
We are having a wonderful time during our few months of travel. We have two more meetings in Peru requiring air travel, one to the north of Peru and one to the south. We are always glad to get back to our little apartment in Lima. We just feel really fortunate to be able to see other parts of South America, the people and culture!