Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where I should be

I often lay in bed at night and think about the kids in Bolivia. I see the big picture of everyone from the orphanage hanging up in my room and one or two of them will jump into my thoughts. I think about them as I brush my teeth. I dream about them sometimes. Sometimes I make up conversations in Spanish that I would have if I could go back and talk to certain kids. I miss them. I miss Bolivia. I miss doing what I was born to do. I miss walking with those kids. I didn't do anything profound, I just walked with them. I greeted A. every morning at the first house I passed as I went to devotions. At the second house I would without fail see M. who wanted to ask me if he could do something- what he wanted permission to do changed week by week, but was rarely something I had authority to grant. Mt. would yell at me from the third house that he didn't have any homework. R. would ask me if he could play on the computer today. It was the hardest job I ever had. It was the most exposure to Spanish I ever had. That particular job isn't exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it was a giant leap in the right direction, and it was perfect for me at the time. I don't know if I really made an impact on anyone, but I know they made an impact on me. I think about Bolivia every single day.

During my days here in the States I am focused on me. I am here to get a teaching certificate and it is hard to persevere. It is a lot of work, a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of me, me, me thoughts. I have to do this, I need to read this, I want to look like I know what I am talking about, I need to write this paper, I need to do these observations. Me. Me. Me. Me first. Me last. Me in the middle.

I want to run away. Back to my banana "plantation" where I watched the "sunrise" in the form of morning mists. Back to my rocky hill full of ants and invisible bugs that buzzed in my ear all night long. Back to powdered milk/chocolate mix/coffee in the mornings. Back to dumping a bucket of soapy water on my red concrete floor. Back to the four o'clock breeze and the nighttime bug symphony. Back to "my" kids who were never really mine. I miss them. I miss it all. I want it all.

And yet I must stay here. I am doing this all for them, but with no guarantee that it will be worth it. There is no guarantee that I will go back, no guarantee that I will be a teacher after all this schooling is over, no guarantee that I will ever have that kind of life again. Today is what I have. The US is what I have. I am in the land of abundance and yet I cling to memories. I "should" be there. I must be here. Should I be here? I hope all this "me" business one day turns out to really be for them. I hope all this "me" business opens doors. I won't know, I suppose, until I am finished if it was worth it.

So for now I stay. For now I write papers, read books, write papers, read books, write papers, read books. Maybe one day I will write books and read papers... For now I pass up time with friends, pass up my morning run day after day, pass up opportunities to explore, create, write, dream...For now. Now is not forever. One day I will go "back" to the real me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do not confuse your vested interests with ethics. Do not identify the enemies of your privilege with the enemies of humanity. ~Max Lerner, Actions and Passions, 1949

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Living It

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Top 12

These are the Top 10 (turned into 12) things for which I am grateful right now. I meant to take my own pictures, but decided to collaborate with the genius of others to accent my thoughts instead. Each of these pictures uniquely describes the idea to me.

1. Opportunity- I am so blessed to be a part of a place, a time, a family, a life where I have the opportunity to explore, the opportunity to experiment, the opportunity to have dreams, the opportunity to follow dreams.

2. Potential- Discovering a child's potential is my passion. Helping children discover their own potential is my purpose.

3. Nature – Brilliant greens on cloudy days, flowers blooming one after another, silent snow blanketing the night, sunny warm days, breezes, hills, mountains, oceans, lakes, shade, growth, peace

4. Health – I have never appreciated health so much as during a recent sprained ankle. I wake up everyday, get out of bed, breathe, run, live, love, laugh. I am blessed.

5. Running – Yes, I run for physical health benefits. But that's not what keeps me running. I run for sanity, for peace, for its healing qualities, to be one with nature, to hear the crunch of gravel beneath my feet, to hear my breathing, to have a sense of accomplishment, to feel proud about who I am and what I have done today.

6. Friendship – there’s nothing like the feeling of spending time with a person that loves me, inspires, me walks with me, KNOWS me

7. Worship – music, song, voices, expression, fellowship, unity, singing with every tribe, nation, and tongue

8. Music – deep expression of the soul, enhanced by every mood, it awakens my soul, gives it a voice, and lets it sing.

9. Inspiration – Nothing inspires me more ;-)

10. Creativity - One of the things that inspires me most. I love seeing/hearing/experiencing the expression of the soul

11. Perspectives - There are multiple ways of looking at things. I love seeing beyond.

12. Dance - Such a beautiful act.

Photos by Marc Adamus, Ian Plant, Guy Tal, Jerry Greer and XRock-AngelX's Photography

Monday, April 19, 2010


What is freedom? Opportunity. Potential. While wealth can enslave, poverty in its essence does enslave. Freedom includes the right to a good education, for without education, potential is limited and opportunity dies. Freedom involves a life free from fear, where governments enable and cherish their people rather than enslaving and killing those who disagree, look different, appear weak. Freedom allows a people a say in how they are governed, rather than a government that dictates who can and cannot live, what can and cannot happen, how things can and cannot be. Freedom includes a right to proper nutrition and clean water, basic medical care and proper shelter. Freedom includes the ability to explore potential, to follow dreams, to create opportunity. Freedom includes the ability to work, to provide for one’s family, to have a say in who you marry and to create a family if you choose. Freedom: a basic tenet of a handful of governments, a basic right for some provided, a basic right for most withheld, stolen, and abused. Those of us who have freedom, who cherish freedom, who believe in freedom should not by our actions, our prejudices, our purchases, our employment, our habits, our luxuries, or our choices prevent others from experiencing freedom. The freedoms the United States holds dear should not include the freedom to do as we please to other nations or peoples, to manipulate others to get what we want, to rob others of basic rights and freedoms so that we may enjoy luxuries we blindly consider necessities. We have allowed our freedom to corrupt us instead of using our freedom to free others, and we have the responsibility to change that abuse of freedom.

African song

Bright orange dirt paths and roads are threatened by wild vegetation eager to take back their rightful claim to the cleared land. War is waged in return by the red-orange ground, covering all surrounding plants in a thick dirt covering. Women grace the path, floating by with baskets of laundry, buckets of water, or bins of bread, fruit, and wares to sell. Nearby women and men alike bend at the waist, machete in hand, clearing brush and farming the land, while others methodically sweep dirt floors and yards with straw brooms. There is a melody in this land. It is not the melody of Africa itself, but of the beautiful African peoples making a life in the territorial landscape. We are connected, these people and I, yet they carry in them an elegant song that I seem to have lost. The struggles have strengthened them, while my comforts have weakened me. When one suffers, one better appreciates easier times. When death invades, life is more readily cherished. When hunger looms, one treasures each meal. Where isolation invites death, community breeds life. I seem to walk through a muted world, while theirs crescendos and decrescendos.

The television shows death, starvation, poverty. These surely coexist with the peoples of Africa, but they do not define them. They chain and shackle these beautiful people, but they cannot silence their music. Where poverty rages, what is the responsibility of the rich? Where starvation eats a body until it kills without mercy, what is the responsibility of the well-fed? Where death looms imminent, what responsibilities do the "immortal" Western civilizations bear?
Those who have the luxury of education have the responsibility of educating. Those who have the luxury of three meals a day have the responsibility of ensuring others have the same possibility. Those with the luxury of medical care have the responsibility of providing it to those who needlessly die to curable causes. Where there are children, there should be hope, but we give hope to the Western white-skins and give condemnation to children of color. We have allowed and even enforced policies that entrench poverty, which allow babies to die because there is not enough food or even basic medical care, and then we condemn the poverty-stricken for not using birth control as a way to solve the "problem."

Oh, America, founded on such incredible principles, for what and for whom are we living? Those who seek personal gain will lose all and enslave others; those who accept personal sacrifice for the benefit of others will be blessed, will be strengthened, will be changed, while enabling a person, a people, a culture, a nation, a land, a world to rise out of cyclical and system-enforced poverty and realize potential, experience freedom, earn an education, and lead their own to higher heights, soaring through a world of possibilities. Let those who "have" not forget or shirk their responsibilities. Let those who "have not" hold on to hope. Let the common thread coursing through our veins allow us together to soar, to dream, to imagine, to teach, to create, to inspire, to live in freedom. It is time for this nation, the land of the free and the home of the brave, to rise up and cause a revolution, that all nations would one day describe themselves the same, that the whole earth would be the land of the free.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When Anything is Possible

I spent time observing a first grade classroom this week. The teacher's philosophy about children, life, and learning is something she is excited to talk to me about, and something that is completely evident in her teaching. She treats these children as though anything good is possible and expected. And suddenly, anything is possible! She treats them as though they CAN learn, and not only that, but as though she expects that they WILL learn, and they find themselves learning on an incredibly advanced level. The academic "WOW" of the class is sometimes shadowed, however, by the incredible level of maturity she is helping to teach them. Respect, acceptance, manners, kindness, encouraging attitudes, and more are fused into every lesson. "What is" does not determine "what can be"; "what can be" determines "what is". The assumption of potential has exponentially multiplied performance and future potentials. I am inspired. I am so very blessed to have been assigned to this classroom.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


As I sat in class last night we debated a number of things. I sat realizing how little I know about recent United States issues, and perhaps dwelling on how little I care to know. One: should we allow a moment of silence (prayer for most, to whatever God, or, for an atheist, perhaps, acknowledgement of self) in our schools? There is a world of issues behind that one. Another: how old, or young, should we be giving our children cell phones? This one has come up numerous times in conversation since I got back from Bolivia four months ago. I myself am still getting used to having a cell phone and the idea of clinging to it like a lifeline after having one in Bolivia that’s only purpose was to sit in the window where it sometimes got reception so that on the off chance I remembered to take it to town, I could receive a call about getting a ride home. Since it was a pay-by-the-use phone, it didn’t matter if I ever used it. I wasn’t losing a monthly mini-fortune just to have it. My conclusion after one month of school in the United States, one month of eating, sleeping, traveling, and being sucked in by the world of television, movies, and life-sucking computers: I don’t want to raise my kids here. I don’t want to be here. It is the land of opportunity, and I definitely appreciate the opportunities I am afforded by being a United States citizen. It is the land of interconnectedness through the use of technology, though I would not say it is the land of interconnectedness in the category of actual community. Not for me, anyway. Communities are something we find online, drawing us even closer to those computers that somehow chain us. Over the last four years, I have become someone who doesn’t fit with the United States, and I must say the United States doesn’t fit with me either. I long for many of the things I left in Bolivia. Just this morning I dreamt about my precious friends at the orphanage next door. Ezekiel proudly showing me his woodwork from school, baby Belen’s precious face as she sucks her thumb. She’s probably walking by now. Yes, the United States is the land of opportunity and I am trying to soak in the opportunities I have here that I may not find elsewhere. Chocolate chips and Colby jack cheese are among the more fattening. Spending time with my parents, other family members, friends. Oh, how I missed doing that in Bolivia. Running. I can run here, and not be doing anything too far out of the norm and without getting heat stroke. I can sign up for long races and join thousands of other runners who somehow feel inspired by running as I do. I can use the internet in my room without going to an internet café, but if I want to go to a café, I can take my computer and buy a calorie-loaded Mint Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino to savor or chug while I “network.” Somehow I find that the land of opportunity for good somehow gets interpreted as the land of opportunity for bad, evil, mischief, etc. Opportunity for bad then equates itself to opportunity for fear, and opportunity for fear is reason enough to sit behind my computer where I am safely doing the things that don’t truly bring me life. An athlete at the Olympics last night, a skier, mentioned not having anything to lose. I want to go through life with that abandon. In doing something I love, “win or lose”, I can’t truly lose. I just end up with less points that someone else. But I don’t need to define winning or losing by points, but by life lived, experience had, joy shared.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An extended vacation

Well, I left Bolivia on Oct 27, 2009, and my adventures are now confined to the freezing winter of Chicagoland. As I don't find my new life in the USA very exciting or worthy of writing long tales about, this blog will be pretty much on hold until the next adventures. Check back in a few years!