Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'll miss you, Caranavi

It is almost time for me to go home. Though the idea of leaving Bolivia is scary, it is also exciting. Everything will be different. Different family, different alone space, different chores, different day to day life, different food, different transportation, different money, different smells, different sounds. There are so many things I will miss, probably more than I realize. Night sounds through open windows (including my dog's weird relaxed grunting), birds in the mornings (especially my black and yellow favorite birds), Bolivian foods (especially aji de postre and fruit juices), walking to work (straight up a hill, my legs are getting nice and toned), mountian views (is there any better place to spend time with God?), afternoon breezes, watching sunsets from the hammock, washing floors with soap and a bucket of water, doing laundry by hand listening to Greg Boyd podcasts, having school with the Krafts, playing with the Casa kids, hearing, speaking, and learning Spanish. Vero. Charo. Chachi. CEC. So much.
As I write, at least three almost invisible bugs fly with their high-pitched buzzing around my head, a nightly occurrence. That will change soon. I suppose I will miss you, too, little buzzers, but only theoretically.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Treasures of CdE

One of the most affectionate, she's an obvious favorite of visitors because she is drawn to the arms of foreigners. She hardly talks, but is learning more and more. I'd say she is doing quite well considering the setbacks dealt her by her mother. They call her restless, which is a good description of her constant motion. She's always on the move, always getting into things, usually happy, always curious. JA is one of a kind, and she surprised me today. Developmentally way behind, she did a puzzle with me today. She didn't get many of the pieces by herself the first time, but when we did it again, she remembered where every piece went. Wow. A hidden gift found in a foam cut-out puzzle of Bolivia. She has a tenderness and motherliness with dolls beyond what I have seen before with little kids. We read books together, which was a treat for both of us, and we colored. She doesn't know the names of the colors, but she can group them by color really well. Oh, what a treasure those scribbled sheets were to her. Oh, what a treat some one-on-one time was for me.

I was warned about her. N is one to watch. I went in prepared, always trying to know every detail of her homework so that I wouldn't fall for any tricks. I saw her eyes flash the first week as she recognized the competition. I's a tricky house, a tricky situation, but the hard shell is softening. N isn't so tough with me anymore. In fact, she almost seems to enjoy our time together. She's smiling more. She's doing her assignments. She is better at division that I am. I see that her behavior problems come out her need to look out for herself and her attempts to look out for others. She is one of the ones that tugs at my heart, that I want to look after. I have been really blessed. I look forward to our time together. I get a kick out of her smile and the way she scratches her head. I'm really glad I know her.

She's a pincher. I've gotten two notes from her kindergarten teacher this week about pinching, but she's a cute kid. It's what she knows; it's what she's learned. Inside frustration comes out in pinching fingers. I get that. She doesn't have a bad heart; she's just in a tough situation. Her upper lip is almost always beaded in sweat, but almost always accompanied by a smile. C just wants to read with me, hang out with someone who will play with her, be silly with someone.

Their dad came today. I found out on Wednesday they're brother and sister, and I found out today that they were abandoned. Their mom and dad visit sometimes. I don't know the situation, but what in the world must be going on in 4-yr-old JG's head? He's a little boy with a man's world of understanding. He takes care of 3-yr-old L. She has a crazy mop of hair, he's always shaved. Her teeth are broken or missing, his teeth are perfect. I never saw the similarity until recently. It's in their smiles, their bright eyes, their round cheeks, the way they mischievously tilt their heads, their off-kilter little-kid-run. What will their futures be like?

Many tears. Tears of fear. They have done something wrong and will likely get a spanking. Tears of frustration. Homework stands in the way of playtime. Tears of pain. Another kid slammed them into the wall, hit their face, or hurt their eye with a coat zipper. Tears in every house. Babies are hungry or just like to yell. Kids are overlooked, overworked, overtired. Tears express the heart better than any words can.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Road to Bolinda

I live at Kilometer 3 on the road to Bolinda. For almost an entire year I have known of this place and wanted to go. I tried running that way nce, but was warned the same day about the dangers of running alone on this road.

Tonight I can finally say that I have been to Bolinda. I was nothing like what I pictured. A different world with an occasional view of the same “Caranavi” mountains. Much like Naranjos outside of Entre Rios, it is a cluster of homes that dot the landscape next to the road, a school, a church, a manmade laguna, a park, a store situated in a house, a dirt soccer field. I was enchanted. What would it be like to live in a place like this? I would love certain things, but not all things. A man let us go to his laguna, which he made with tractors and shovels, showing us his giant fish, offspring of the ones he had brought in from Tarija, on the other side of the country. The flowers there are different, more exotic, but a flower from home on the Hickey’s porch also made an appearance. An unexpected hike took us up to a coffee drying rack, and down a path that led to…? We never found out after 15 minutes hiking down. We did find more coffee trees amidst larger trees where two people hid above us. We shared a “Soda Real” in plastic cups in the back of the truck, parked on the road between the soccer field and the tire swings. As we drove back, the mountains loomed majestically over my “high” peaks that are visible from CEC. It makes me feel like the CEC is low, though normally I enjoy the height we have over the pueblo. I am reminded of my size. I am so small, a single person living on one hill of thousands, with a view that doesn’t do justice to the immensity of this place called “Las Yungas”.

Gente de Toda Lengua y Nación de Generación a Generación

Señor eres fiel y tu misericordia eterna,
(Lord you are faithful and your mercy is eternal)
Señor eres fiel y tu misericordia eternal
(Lord you are faithful and your mercy is eternal)
Gente de toda lengua y nación
(People from every tongue and nation)
de generación a generación
(From generation to generation)

Te adoramos hoy
(We adore you today)
Aleluya, aleluya
Te adoramos hoy
(We adore you today)
Eres Señor
(You are Lord)
Eres fiel!!!
(You are faithful)
(Eres Fiel, song by Coalo Zamorano)

Toda lengua confesará declarará tu gloria,
(Every tongue will confess, will declare your glory)
las rodillas se doblarán adorando,
(knees will bow adoring)
tu nombre exaltado será,
(your name will be exalted)
y tu reino Anciano de Días nunca pasará...
(and your kingdom, Ancient of Days, will never pass away)
(Anciano de Días/Ancient of Days)

The tears flow as I sing those songs, flowing mostly for Kodjo and my grandmother, but also for all my friends or even just the beautiful people I have seen along the way. I remember people who speak such beautiful languages in some of the places I have been: Ewe, Gourmanchéma, Fon, Aymara, Biali, Spanish, English, Guaraní, Quechua, Chinese, French…I picture my English-speaking Grandmother with Ewe/French/English-speaking Kodjo, and they are singing together in all languages, glorifying the God who understands all languages, who sees all hearts. People of all generations, from Adam and Eve to my friends who have passed away recently, all are joined together singing to a God I cannot fathom, but I long to worship nonetheless. I take such advantage of this all-powerful God, forgetting his faithfulness as I see only earthly uncertainty, forgetting his goodness as I see only earthly struggle, forgetting his mercy as I see only earthly condemnation. Señor, te adoramos hoy, te exaltamos hoy, tu misericordia es eterna.


2.5 hours of laundry at the outside sink bring sunburned calves and shoulders, as well as a refreshed spirit after Greg Boyd’s Animate series sermons. Making agua soldis (our all natural water filtration system) provides a chance to be with friends outside. Cleaning the floor brings a cool feel to a normally dusty red concrete. A bucket bath is always refreshing, as it either brings cooling water to calm my hot skin or warm water to soothe a cold body. The life here is simple, without a lot of chemicals or machines, and I like it so much. Purpose is more obvious, though I have been so overwhelmed lately that I have lost sight of myself and my purpose. I don’t want to go back home yet, though the time is drawing near. I am afraid of my old self, afraid of getting lost in the materialism, expectations, and loneliness, of being in a world of options without a string tying me to anything in particular. This life at CEC no longer holds purpose for me in that I am not teaching my students or the CEC students, but it’s purpose remains in drawing me closer to God. I know I can have that anywhere, and that is such a treasure I cling to as I consider going back to the U.S. Admittedly, it is a treasure I fear losing in the chaos of the U.S. I am riding a fine line, going back and forth between trusting God with me and my future and worrying that the struggles ahead will overshadow all the good, who I have become, and who I want to be in the future.

An unrehearsed symphony

The setting of the sun cues the rising of the evening sounds. The evening sounds are swamplike, buzzing, whirring, chirping, blurping, whooping…how does one describe this symphony, familiar and at the same time altogether different from a United States summer evening? It is my favorite time of day in Caranavi, as the sunset shoots magnificence into the clouds, and purple, pink, orange, red, and blue blanket the green hills and blue skies. The hills’ song comes to life, surrounding me with summer sounds, night time comforts, and physical rest. An evening shower washes away the dust, an evening breeze blows away the heat, an evening chat soothes away the exhaustion. The evenings here are splendid.

20 Things I Learned in Bolivia

Some of the Many Things I’ve Learned in Bolivia

1. Always check your toothbrush for ants.
2. You can clean everything with ACE (pronounced ah’-say).
3. French fries go with everything, even and especially soup.
4. “Catholic” means different things in different countries.
5. A dog can teach you a lot about your relationship with God.
6. Toothbrushes are better bought in the U.S. Gel, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap, fruits, vegetables, and so much more are better bought in Bolivia.
7. It’s best not to have internet at your house. You get sucked in.
8. Orange juice squeezed in front of you tastes amazing.
9. When bananas are ready to be cut off the tree, you have to cut almost the whole tree down or no more will grow.
10. Banana tree juice stains and tastes terrible.
11. Idolatry exists in many forms, and it exists in every country.
12. Outer appearance is less important than what is going on in your heart.
13. Circumstances don’t determine happiness, you do.
14. I can worship washing dishes (by hand or machine), hear a sermon while washing clothes (by hand or machine), and pray while commuting to work (on foot or in car), but I still need to set aside time to just be with God (daily).
15. Climate, altitude, landscape, temperature, culture, transportation methods, and price ranges can drastically change during a four-hour drive.
16. Walking is much better than driving.
17. I don’t need 95% or more of the stuff I thought I needed.
18. Not everyone thinks like I do.
19. We will never be able to receive true acceptance if what we give is condemnation.
20. Deciding to live as a missionary subconsciously includes a decision to nevermore belong to any one culture.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Her Loyalty is Evident

I’ve noticed a change in her recently. Our relationship is much more intimate now. She used to acknowledge my presence, occasionally followed me out of curiosity more than love, occasionally sought my presence. Now she eagerly looks to me to see not where I am going, but where we are going. She patiently awaits my timing, eagerly follows my lead. When people see her, they notice her loyalty and they ask about our relationship. They comment about how much she loves me and ask what I do for her. To her, it isn’t about what I do for her, but who I am to her. She used to be lost, wandering from one person to the next, seeking love and satisfaction, but always drifting. Now her loyalty is evident. She’s willing to go to great lengths to follow me, even breaking boundaries she’s never broken before. Where I go, she goes, and though she often leaves to run ahead, she won’t go very far without checking in with me. She was recently wounded in her pursuit of me, but her loyalty hasn’t wavered. She makes sure she stays by my side, limping along, pained but glad to be by her master. Her faithfulness is noteworthy; her love is rewarded with much affirmation. She is mine.

She has stopped caring so much about me as the task. I can see that she is deeply involved with her tasks, so much so that she has lost sight of me. She has started going on without me, not really interested in following me, but comfortable in the work I have given her. Though she is still present physically, the difference is obvious; her faithfulness to me is waning. She is caught up in the tasks, and she no longer looks to me. She runs ahead without looking back, she stays behind without looking to see where I am. The sacrifice of the relationship saddens me. The work being done doesn’t even matter; it was the relationship I wanted.

My dog Chachi’s faithfulness to me mirrors my relationship with God. Sometimes I am so involved with the relationship that the tasks don’t seem to matter. Other times I am simply lost in the task without giving thought to the reason or relationship behind it.

We have a lot to learn from dogs.

All over the place

Day 8 at the Casa
I feel like I was MADE FOR THIS. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way before. Teaching. Orphans Both... I’m not ready to leave. This feels like it FITS. I love that feeling. I don’t want to lose this life. It feels right.

Day 11 at the Casa
I’m dry. The days are long and filled with things I need to do, not with things I want to do. Life at the Casa is hard, heavy, dry. Trying to handle almost all of the kids is too much…I’m tired of thinking. I’m tired. It’s only Monday. Shoot.

Day 15 at the Casa
Though I lack gut, Spanish, and law enforcement, I feel like my presence is a fairly good fit.

Day 17 at the Casa
I’m so tired of this life. I don’t like it. I am ready for a change. Tonight I am glad I don’t have kids. I don’t even want a pet tonight. Ugh. I hate this attitude, this frustration.

Day 19 at the Casa
Today was calm, fun. I had a chance to help. I’m getting more used to things.

Life at the Casa for me has been all over the place. I have said from the beginning that it is a blessing to be there, and I stick by that. I have been immensely blessed there, able to deepen my relationship with many kids and adults, able to explain certain school things to kids, able to fill a staff need they have. I have learned much more about the Bolivian schools and much more Spanish. I look at the time there, and I see a tired Bethany, but a much bigger purpose. It has been an incredible blessing to be there.