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Here we are at the end of the year, and I’ve posted nothing since the election.

Partly, I think that the election drained me. I’ve had little ambition to read the Times or follow the political blogs since early November. That will probably change once Bush is (finally) gone and the new efforts starts or stalls. The election, as everyone says, was historic. It’s hard to express the emotions at both seeing the end to Bush and his disastrous incompetence (e.g., torture, Guantanamo, the war, the rebuilding, the economy). Also, seeing a racial barrier fall and the country proceeding (despite what happened with Prop 8) into a new, more inclusive future.

Every three years, the Franciscans have a meeting called a “chapter” at which new directions for the next three years are decided. This is also the usual time for new assignments. My time in Cochabamba, therefore, is coming to an end as I have been assigned to a town called Camiri.

Camiri is a few hours south of Santa Cruz. While Santa Cruz and the areas to its north are in the Amazon basin. Camiri is in a hot, (usually) dry area called the Chaco which lies in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Paraguay and Bolivia fought the War of the Gran Chaco in the years 1932-1935. Over 100,000 died in the war, over half from disease and thirst which gave the Chaco the nickname “the Green Hell.” Paraguay ended up owning most of this dry, desolate land; Bolivia ended up with just a portion of the Chaco, but this turned out to be the area with the oil and natural gas.

Camiri calls itself the “Petroleum Capital” of Bolivia and, along with the city of Santa Cruz to its north, is the center of much of the autonomy movement of the eastern portion of Bolivia. The state petroleum company is headquarted in Camiri, and most of the gas is pumped to Brazil and Argentina from just south of Camiri.

Camiri is a city in Bolivia but would be called a town almost anywhere else. It has a population of 35,000 people, many of the GuaranĂ­.

As for what I’ll be doing, I really don’t know. The friary is not a parish but rather just a friary. It is, however, located in a very poor neighborhood. It also has a studio of Radio Maria, so maybe there can be some work there. Camiri is also the seat for the Vicariat of Camiri (a vicariat is a developing diocese which does not yet have enough resources to survive on its own), so there may be opportunies working with the bishop and the local version of Catholic Charities and/or communications.

All the best wishes for a great New Year — one filled with peace and love — which would be a nice change, wouldn’t it?

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