When someone mentions the word carnival, I wonder what comes to mind, may be its the long procession of floats toed behind tractors or lorries, decorated in some theme or other, with spectators throwing money into the floats that is then to be designated to some charity or other (of course these days things are a little different and not quite so much fun with health and safety!). Or maybe its the spectacular costumes and displays and processions like that of Rio!
Here in Bolivia it has somewhat mixed images. On the positive side for us its a 4 day holiday and has been a good opportunity for getting a few more jobs done around the house as well as having time to connect and spend time with friends.
One of the traditions here are the water fights that break out across the country which in recent years has developed further into ‘foam’ fights. As you walk the street you can see children (big and small) armed with water pistols, spray foam cans and water bombs. On Saturday Ed took Alana up to the Prado with a family from church to have some fun in a mega foam / water fight, they seemed to both enjoy it (though not sure who enjoyed it the most!). Monday we spent time with two other families and enjoyed the fun of water and foam fights - though Isaiah was not too sure of it all and kept his distance.
For the local people however carnival also holds another significance as the time of year to offer sacrifices to Pacha Mama in the hope of receiving good luck for the year to come. This normally means decorating their homes, cars and businesses with streamers and balloons, setting off fire crackers at whatever hour and then throwing a mixture of flower petals, gold and silver painted beans over said thing and finishing off by pouring alcohol onto the said thing and ground. ‘Challa’ as they call it, is big business with stalls popping up at every busy street corner selling the appropriate wares. Along with this ritual comes much drinking of alcohol and drunkenness. During carnival it is said that a person needs to get as drunk as possible so that the evil spirits can leave the persons body, any sense of coherence then the bad spirits remain! So it perhaps is not surprising to hear of so many tragedies during this time of year with so many people drunk. Whilst we are able to enjoy the fun and friendships it is a sad reminder of how trapped the people of this country are in traditions and ways that keep them in a place of poverty and far from the freedom found in knowing and following God.