They Say I’m Crazy

28 Apr

“They say that I am crazy because I refuse to be crazy the way everyone else is crazy.”

-Peter Mourin

I feel like I can’t blog fast enough before my wheels are turning again with another story I want to share. This space has become somewhere that I feel like I am sharing some of my intimate thoughts and experiences but without making a face to face conversation akward. I feel like I can really say how I feel, and like osmosis people can read it and get a little perspective on what I’m going through.

So, I have been spending a LOT of time at the YMCA across from my house. I am swimming, teaching, working out, and doing lots of catching up with families and members that I have so dearly missed. Many of the conversations have been going swimmingly well (see what I did there?) and some have been somewhat challenging.

The reason I say challenging is because some people just can’t wrap their head around why I would leave the country; why I would work for free; why I would enjoy working with such a challenging population; why I would choose to live in a poor country with a lesser standard of living. Great questions. My first reaction happened in my body as I felt my chest growing red, as if they were putting down my experience, or as if I needed their validation. But really, their questions are quite reasonable. Why would I do all those things, and then come back just to feel crazy, babysitting and teaching lessons to pay my bills.

So, this week, we had a meeting for the upcoming forum at Saint Marks about our group Transformational Travel. We are holding such a forum to answer exactly those questions above for the folks who can’t see the importance and value that we do, traveling across borders but not to vacation or evangelize.  Instead, we have found and believe that traveling can be more productive and beneficial when the focus is more on introspection. Questions we ask ourselves on these trips…”When I see poverty, what is my part in the situation?” “What changes have I made/have resulted in me?” “Am I being transformed?” “Is the hope of our relatively rich church in sync with the world’s poor majority?” “What difference does it make when my blindness is stripped away and I see how most of the world lives?” “What is my understanding on social and environmental justice now?” These questions are asked before, during and after. Our hope is that we are transformed by seeing the world through a different lense. But not for selfish reasons, like we want a new adventure, or we want to push our limits. It falls into the social justice piece that we’ve identified in our hearts and named important in our lives. This kind of transformation has changed and touched our lives in dramatic ways, and I don’t know if it’s making the world a better place…but it makes our worlds better and hopefully for those lives that we can touch. So that’s something, right?

To be frank, we ought to ask ourselves these questions without leaving the country, without leaving our own city limits. But, do we? It seems so often the case that our lives here in middle class USA so easily become a routine, a way of doing things, that not only do we forget to look around or think about others in this great world, but we are scared to look up. We are scared that seeing the way others live will make us feel guilty. And that guilt can be self deprecating, or the guilt might make us, Lord forbid, take a look at ourselves and the choices we make every day. The way we live really does affect the way others live. And this doesn’t necessarily go both ways… We are living in such abundance (even though we don’t feel like it) and freedom. Not everyone feels the pull to travel or  live simply or justly, but please- don’t take this life for granted, and do not take our opportunities here for granted. As a friend said upon returning to the US and seeing poverty said, “It could be a LOT worse.”

Now with that said…I’m feeling blessed at the amount of opportunities I’ve grasped and the amount ahead of me. I’m at a point in my life, and have been, where I get to chose my next steps. I get to lead my own path and follow my own passions. This is such a relief and a burden at the very same time. There are moments when I wish I was the girl who got married young, had kids and is living that family life. There are times I wish I just took a job for the sake of having a steady income, a resume fluffer, and a normal 9-5 schedule. But let’s be honest. That’s not for me, at least not right now. And it’s not the right path for many young adults now. I think there are herds of us swimming around trying to figure out where to go next. And  I might be wrong, but this feels like a generational thing. We are paving way, making mistakes, and learning how we can answer these three questions:

1. What am I good at?

2. What do I enjoy?

3. What does the world need?

I think if we all slowed down, and climbed out of the boxes we are hiding in so comfortably, we’d discover that there are answers and we can be happy being who we are. Not who society tells us, or our parents, or even our peers. It’s scary to do what feels right sometimes.

And for me, going to Bolivia was pretty dang scary at moments. It wasn’t easy. And now I’m back feeling crazy out of place and am a lot more broke than had I decided to stay here. But, answering those three key questions lead me to Bolivia and back. I am good at standing up for girls, because I so strongly believe in them. I enjoy traveling, experiencing new cultures, and serving populations that have small voices. And the world needs that. The world needs people to take action for what they believe in. And I’m talking more action than re-posting something on Facebook.

Explaining all this to a mother who has her hands full with kids getting out of the pool, or a water-aerobics -regular getting her post workout coffee is impossible. And that’s why I sometimes feel crazy, because while I’m thinking owning a car and commuting forever to work is crazy, there are plenty on the other side calling a girl who quit her job to volunteer crazy. And that’s ok with me.

“Why do you go away?  So that you can come back.  So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.  And the people there see you differently, too.  Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
―     Terry Pratchett  

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
―     Marcel Proust

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
―     Mary Anne Radmacher

Now What?

23 Apr

Now I am feeling very strange. I feel overwhelmed between so many babysitting jobs, swim lessons, and seeing friendly faces, but also overwhelmed by how alone I am feeling. How is that possible? I’m busy AND bored at the same time. I am wanting more work but secretly wishing no one calls me so I can stay in bed all day. What’s this all about?! I knew reverse culture is a thing, and I always get hit with it harder than I expect. But seriously!

IMG_0841

As I’ve been easing in to this culture that I so willingly left behind for 7 months, here’s a little bit of my daily convo’s that have been happening over and over…

“How was Bolivia?” Me: Um, it was good. And bad. Fun…and Hard. How was the last seven months of your life?

“I bet it was such an adventure!” Me: Yep, it was definitely not a vacation.

Referring to a friend traveling in Hawaii, “Shut up, you just got back from Bolivia!” Me: Ok, not even a comparison. Not at all actually. If you have ever been in Bolivia, you would know these things: no beaches, no nice hotels, no yummy smells fill the air, no yummy food OR good beer, nothing is easy, people are not happy to see you, in fact they all stare at you, very far away from friends and family including hardly internet to speak of, volunteering with a depressing population versus chilling and reading. Very different.

“So what were you doing?…Wait, where were you again?” Me: This one doesn’t upset me, but it’s asked pretty frequently.

“So, now what?” Me: I wish I knew. Until then babysitting seems like a good plan. Right?

“When are you going back?”  Me: As soon as I have a couple thousand dollars lying around…

I don’t hold anything against anybody who asks me these questions. I know they will never understand. How can they? They weren’t there with me. They didn’t see what I saw or experience what I experienced. Their life kept going as normal. Maybe there were changes like new jobs, new boyfriends, heartbreaks, new places, vacations, birthdays, and babies. And believe me, I love hearing what people have been up to! But then comes the part where they ask how I’ve been. I don’t know how to respond. Every day was so different from the next. Do I start with the tear provoking lives that the young  girls each had? Or should I talk about the trufis we got around in in town? Or the hikes we went on? Or the food that I won’t miss? Or the people I met? Or the spiritual and moral dilemmas I faced? Or the homeless women and children that almost became as normal to me as Starbucks on every corner? Or how there IS no Starbucks…at all?

Friends, I feel like I’m drowning, but in Disneyland. I am so confused by my feelings. Everything seems so pretty and shiny and over the top, and everyone smiles when they are sad. And I’m trying to fit in. But I actually don’t know if I want to fit in any more. I don’t like that everyone is constantly connected to their devices, updating the world on their whereabouts. And I never noticed that just to meet a friend, it’s usually at the expense of a coffee, beer, cupcake, or meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all the above. But do even our conversations come at a price? Do I have to budget hanging out with friends?

CIMG0752

So to answer the most frequently asked question “Now what?”– I say, I don’t know yet. I’m still getting used to speaking English, communicating to Rod via Facebook and Skype, organizing a hectic schedule, and grocery shopping in aisles that have WAY too many options just for cereal. But when I can comfortably manage all that, I will most definitely be looking towards the next thing for me. (One thing is already for sure…I’m totally getting a DOG!) I will keep this blog going as I’m transitioning and moving through the next stages. I should probably think about changing the name from BreInBolivia, huh? One step at a time…

CIMG0758

Catching Up

23 Apr

After a few looong but quick weeks, I’m sitting on my bed thinking and reflecting on what just happened. You know those flat escalators they have at the airport in between terminals? Well, I feel like I have been on one of those and just got off. Somehow, I lived through and had a completely different life in another country, a different culture. Yet, here I am again in Seattle looking out rain stained window contemplating my past, present and future. How does that happen? How do I interact in a life here that has no knowledge of who I was, or rather who I’ve become over the last 7 months?

I’m going to paint a little picture of my last week in Cochabamba before I jump ahead to now. It’s so critical to reflect on the steps and passes that have brought us to this moment. The choices, the people, and time.

The highlights include my last weekend in Cocha, my last day at Mosoj Yan, a trip to the Salt Flats of Uyuni, and then my very last day in La Paz before a long trip “home.”

My last weekend in Cocha started with one last spiritual directing session with Kathy. She was such a positive light in my experience in Bolivia. She was supportive and gentle when I was feeling so beaten and vulnerable. Our last meeting was the perfect way to say Hasta Luego (because she lives in Seattle and will be back!) because I was finally feeling like myself again. After feeling down for so long, I was able to rejoice for the sunshine, and laugh at the the quirks of living in a third world country. I’m grateful to have ended on that note with her, but also to have begun my last weekend in a hopeful and happy place!

That last Friday was quite an exhausting one! We planned a girly sleepover at Mosoj Yan complete with popcorn, facemasks, nail polish, chick flicks, and banana pancakes in the morning! The girls were SO excited, and so was I! We had such a good night together with very little sleep and lots girly time! I woke early before everyone to make banana pancakes with honey for syrup. I think overall, it went well, but they all made faces as they said, “This is so sweet! You guys always eat this breakfast?” haha Well, not all the time, but it IS a treat, Enjoy it, Dang it! (didnt have a camara…waiting for the pics!)

DSCN5434

Last day at the pool! Look at them! SO SWEET!

DSCN5456

The Team

Then. What we surprised them with after breakfast was the real treat. And this was a treat that was both for us, the volunteers, just as much as it was for the little ladies. We organized for them…drum roll please…a day at the spa with an outdoor pool and barbecue! It happened because I combined my ideas with the allowance that the 2 other volunteers were given for a last hoorah with Mosoj Yan. I wanted to do something special with and for them, but I also wanted to celebrate swimming with them. Now, all of the girls have beautiful suits, and glittering self-confidence to match. We kicked it in the pool, AND the jacuzzi with its own waterfall (what? YES.), AND the saunas with body salts AND under the sun with hamburgers and hotdogs for all. While it was a beautiful day spent with beautiful ladies, I must share some of the frustrating feelings I felt that afternoon.

The Bolivian culture is not a gracious one. I mean that, thank you’s aren’t heard often. Perhaps it’s because they really don’t feel it. There aren’t moments that really inspire those feelings or words to be exchanged. But I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable with the lack of gratitude and excitement. I suppose I was expecting the girls to jump up and down with huge smiles across their faces. I expected them to love the little meal we put together, and I mostly hoped they would enjoy their day and feel special. Maybe it was selfish to expect that, or just too American of me to hope that our efforts would be recognized. Whatever the reason, I felt a litte uncomfortable as the girls complained about this and that. I knew not to take it personally, it’s a cultural thing. I had to swallow my feelings knowing I’d digest them later, and not wanting to spoil the special day with my own personal struggles. And now looking back, I can barely remember those particular feelings. I remember their faces, and I remember the relaxing and special day we shared.

Next. I made it home late in the afternoon with enough time for a quick 30 minute nap and shower before I was off to my “despedida” dinner. I was functioning on little sleep and my body was brim full of too many emotions to count. Slowly the little pizza restaurant went from just Morgan and I to a swellin 20 or 30 people who had come to say goodbye. It was a beautiful mix of volunteers, mentors, friends, and past and current roommates. The place we chose was maybe not the best Cocha has to offer, but we sure made it the best place to be that night. It was an overwhelminly good feeling to look around and see all my friends there, but also a heavy and sad feeling to know this would be my last time out, and my last time sharing a meal with nearly all of those people. Every single person there had made part of my experience in Bolivia. All of them knew me, and knew my day to day struggles. They all knew the telenovela love story I shared with Rodrigo. They all knew how I battled and fumed about Machismo. To be honest, I had a hard time enjoying that night as it got later. I said it was because of the sleepover the night before, but I think it was more because of all the emotions I had already begun to process as I hugged everyone goodnight. So bittersweet.

DSCN5366     DSCN5355525324_647380352919_1026301497_n

So that’s how my last week in Cochabamba. I was constantly battling between feeling so happy with the life I had settled into and crying because I knew it cas coming to an end. I treasured those last days with the girls, and I savored every moment I had left with Rodrigo. The last week was filled with many goodbyes, packing, and tear filled hugs.

Thursday was the last day officially in Cochabamba and with Mosoj Yan. I look back on that day and laugh because it was so good and so sad. We celebrated first with girls, but as soon as cards were exchanged, tears were flowing! It was and is a very special place. I will dearly miss those faces and will be forever touched by their stories of courage and strength

DSCN5503

DSCN5507

Dream Tree
Each girl closed their eyes and said their dream as they permanently stamped their hand on the dining room wall.

I know that we will always be connected and I have already begun to work on keeping us connected through a sponsorship program (deets to come soon!). So saying goodbye to them was hard, but not as hard as saying good bye to someone who really knew and loved me through all the ups and downs I experienced abroad; someone I can’t firmly say I’ll ever see again. Rodrigo has been there for me as a guide in the mountains without trails, as a resource to understanding Bolivian culture, and as my biggest fan as I moved in and out of life changing experiences. Thursday wasn’t my last day with him, but it was the beginning of it. He came to say bye to the girls with me, and then got me ice cream (He said he thought that’s what girls do to feel better when they’re sad! haha). Next on the list was to pack up for good from my place with Miros and Jorge. He hung out and made me laugh as I gathered up my things and said my goodbyes to my Bolivian roomies. The rest of the night, we reminisced and laughed until tears rolled down, from laughter and obviously from the date that was quickly approaching. It was our last night together in Cocha because I was heading to Uyuni with a couple other volunteer friends the next morning.

Friday morning, Rod dropped me at the airport with Morgan, Ben and Cristoph. We were headed to the salt flats! Friends, this is a MUST SEE attraction in Bolivia. There aren’t many tourist reasons to visit this little land locked coutry, but THIS place gives people all over the world reasons to pay for the silly visa and enter this darned country. So, I was short on cash and had a hard time justifying spending my last weekend in Bolivia away from my peeps, but I regret nothing about this trip. Initially I was looking forward to being distracted while on a tour with my buds, knowing that the end of this tour would be my last day in Bolivia. But, the majority of out time was spent in a Jeep roaming around the vast terrain, looking out the windows and pondering life. Seriously. That’s what happened. There was SO much down time, and we’d get to our hostals before it was dark (because there was no electricity) and entertain each other until we were actually tired enough to sleep in a freezing bed with ALL our clothes on.

554880_10152742868115641_521282347_n28149_647380926769_1722927167_n734413_647381325969_1013319723_n2497_10152742870270641_1654898356_n40848_647382498619_1462639976_n

63582_647383391829_1468583154_n

Laguna Verde
Green Lake! AND Flamingos!

536994_647384469669_115531996_n

Laguna Colorada con Llamas!
The Colored Lake WITH Llamas roaming below!

543850_647386315969_431461211_n

Dear God, Please give our guide and driver the skills to actually fix this car while we’re in the middle of nowhere. And give us the passengers the patience as we drive slowly so the whole wheel doesn’t fly off.
Gracias.

533823_647384065479_1643773570_n 547686_647385317969_1893698660_n

The trip was definitely beautiful, and did keep my mind and eyes somewhat entertained. And as it turns out, I think it was better that I was able to begin processing things before I had hoped (on the plane…).

Next and final stop: La Paz, where I would meet Rodrigo with my luggage. I’ll try to spare you the sob story, but it was a sad day for us. We walked around the city day and night, entertaining our eyes, and eating VERY cheap meals, trying to pass the time without paying attention to it. Our last meal was a cheap Pique Macho with soda. We cheered and clinked our cups, promising the next time we share a meal, it will be special. We’ll even make sure to clink champagne next time!

Saying goodbye to this man is something that’s still etched in my mind ever so deep. Who knows what the future holds for us…And who knows if we’ll see each other again…Who knows when I’ll make it back down to Bolivia…

It was a painful experience with so many beautiful faces and worthwhile moments. I left so much of me there, that I’m still feeling wobbly walking around in the Emerald City.

It’s Hard Saying Goodbye

12 Mar

I had to say goodbye to a very good friend, Daniel, today.

daniel

That’s him walking to the plane…

Granted, that’s the life of a volunteer here. There’s aleays new ones arriving, and old ones leaving. I’ve said goodbye to many now. But today was hard. Rodrigo and I went with him to the airport, so that he wouldn’t have to go alone. We shared a beer and talked about the trips and different memories we shared. As time passed, all our eyes were red. Saying goodbye to him was just the beginning. I’m leaving Cochabamba next Thursday, and then Bolivia the following week after seeing the salt flats. I looked at Rodrigo and he was crying. I told him we still have time; I don’t leave yet. But his response was just, “It’s too little time.” But I know the longer I stay, the harder it’s going to get. It’s time to be home. It’s time to learn what all this means, and see how we find ourselves in the future.
After saying goodbye, we went for a short 20 minute run. I have felt so anxious lately, and all I’ve wanted to do is run. I’ve been sick and weak since January so I haven’t been swimming, which is the most time I’ve gone without in years. My body is recuperating still. It felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. It made me a little sad to know how much strength I’ve lost. After running, Rod taught me some jitjitsu, and we’re going to work on both every night til I leave. That way, I feel stronger by the time I get home, and I can keep pushing myself.
Of course, after a tough day, I’m looking for the meaning and searching for the good. Saying goodbye to Daniel was hard. But I hope it only helped prepare me, and hold on to what I have while I’m here. Soon I’ll be home and I don’t want to look back on my last moments with regret. And after running, my body is happy. I’m have something to look forward to doing every night with Rod until I return. And when I’m home, we’ll keep it up in our own separate worlds.
Daniel doesn’t know what waiting for him when he gets off that plane. He could be getting ready for something really great up next in his life. And the same for me. I’m saying hasta luego with the hope that someday we’ll all reunite. Who knows if we will but who know if we won’t.
The future can be scary or it can be exciting. We can choose.

The Fourth and Final Summit to Pico Tunari!

10 Mar

Today was my fourth time going up to 6000 meters, hiking Pico Tunari.

The first time I summited A peak, but not THE peak. My fourth day here!

The first time I summited A peak, but not THE peak. My fourth day here!

The second time. Found a different peak...This is our REI photo of the day.

The second time. Found a different peak…This is our REI photo of the day.

Finally made it to the TOP! At 5035 meters, we couldn't see anything but clouds...

Third time. Finally made it to the TOP! At 5035 meters, we couldn’t see anything but clouds…

Third time. Still happy, even tho there wasn't much of a view :)

Third time. Still happy, even tho there wasn’t much of a view 🙂

(To be fair, the first 2 times, we couldn’t find it. So really this was my second time summitting.) It’s about a 3 hour trufi ride from town. Then we have to hike straight up for 4 hours, each step getting harder and harder to breath. By the time we were about 3 hours in, it started to hail and clouds swirled around us. I suppose we were high enough to literally be in the clouds! We probably should’ve turned back but we were determined to make it! It just keep hailing harder and harder until we finally made it to the top. We were planning on having our lunches at the peak, but it was miserable up there! The hail hurt! We weren’t gifted much of a view because we were literally in a cloud, and we didn’t spend much time enjoying the fact that we made it. (Fotos will come soon– didn’t have my camera with me…) We were laughing tho because everyone’s hair was sticking up. Until thunder struck and we all screamed and started to run down. Then we realized we need to hike down carefully and slowly despite the snow now, and the fear of being hit by lightening. I was trembling because of the intense coldness, and the fear overtaking my body. People were slipping, falling, crying, freezing, and swapping shoes. It only took us 2 hours or so to get down, but it seemed like allllll day. When we had finally made it down, we noticed not a drop of water had landed below and that the shine was still shining over our beloved Cochabamba. The trufi ride back home brought us from the scary mountain back to the warm weather and clean clothes.
We laughed all the way home, and admitted that despite the top being a little scary, we really enjoyed ourselves. And that we now all have quite a story for what we did on Sunday, while most the world slept in.
I had a good day, even tho at times I was yelling, I don’t like this! I don’t want to be here! But it made home so much sweeter. My home here, and my home in Seattle. I was happy to come home to a hot shower and a good meal before passing out. And as I thought of the adventures waiting in the beautiful mountains of the Northwest, I coincindentally got an email from some girlfriends in Seattle. We went on an all girls backpacking trip, Kaeli, Kendra, Marykate and myself. girls hike

It was a memorable trip, and we’re hoping to go on many more this Spring and Summer. The email I received was a jump start to getting on our plans, dates, and locations for our next adventures. I am so look forward to them, and it helped me feel more pulled back to home in Seattle. Next weekend is my last in Cochabamba, and I’m finding it hard living between 2 worlds. I’m enjoying every last moment with my friends, the girls at Mosoj, and my boyfriend, Rodrigo. But I’m also hyper conscious that we’re sharing our last moments and in matter of weeks I’ll be on a plane heading home. I’m trying to imagine myself sharing stories like the one on top of Pico Tunari, while catching up with friends I love in the city I truly love. It’s hard to imagine, but it gives me motivation to really enjoy my last moments here, to stop myself from crying. I want to return home with a suitcase full of memories of friendship, trips, adventures, love, and laughter.
I have just come out of my own personal thunderstorm, and I have to remind myself it’s over, and I am surrounded by sunshine. Freakin enjoy it while you can! And get back to Seattle a happy girl ready for whatever it is that’s waiting for me there.
Now normally, I might have realizations profound and deep atop a mountain or in the middle of a lake. But not this time. It was from the comfort of my sweet bed.
So here’s to the next few weeks of bliss before I catch a plane to more friends, moments, and adventures awaiting me in the Emerald City!

International Women´s Day Or The Day I Thought About Everything

8 Mar

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today has been quite a day! I started the day with a pancake breakfast at the SB house. Delicious! It’s nice to come back and be with other friends and volunteers, and share meals meals together. I think it’s so critical in forming and maintaining relationships. Something intimate is shared when we eat together, and share our stories. And, yum!!!

Pancakes
Alas, I still had to sprint and get to work. Upon leaving, I came across a strike against public transportation and found myself wandering the city looking for my trufi. I ran into a march, and recognized the chant…”Puede ser tu hija! Puede ser tu hermana! No queremos ser la proximo manana!” (It could be your daughter! It could be your sister! We dont’t want to be next tomorrow!”) We chanted this a few weeks ago when we were protesting women’s rights. Today, as I learned, is International Women’s Day, people were out celebrating women and demanding a stop to machismo. I found some friends of Mosoj Yan and marched with them for a while. (will get those photos up tonight!)

marcha3marcha2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

marcha1

 

 

 

 

 
When I finally got to my girls at Mosoj, I found one downstairs crying, and super upset. All the rest were upstairs acting as normal as could be. Turns out that the girl downstairs, who has just come to the shelter in the last few weeks, did something bad to a few of the other girls. There was a meeting this morning about what went down and she was punished. I don’t know what happened, but since she’s been here, she’s been clearly unhappy. She looks like someone who has suffered a lot. She’s very timid and hasn’t seemed to make friends with any of the girls. It breaks my heart what these girls are battling. And they are all battling their own demons, while still trying to be a teenage girl, living amongst girls doing the same. Not the easiest living situation.
Whilst of this was happening, the rest of the house carried on and tried to treat today as a special day. And as if the feeling in the house wasn’t already a little uncomfortable, we were shown videos of starving children around the world right before eating lunch.

pulitzer prize

I think the intention was right, but the way it was approached wasn’t so effective. We watched a few short videos, and then without saying a word, went downstairs to eat. Conversations continued as normal, and nothing was said about what we just saw or why it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and to be thankful they don’t have it so bad. I wished that there had been some sort of follow up conversation. I know I was affected by seeing children in much worse situations than here. Children who literally are starving to death, or are orphaned without a shelter to go to.

What are we here to do? What can or should we do with that kind of information?

I wish I had answers, and even more I wish I has sustainable answers that could really make a difference.

It reminds me when I went to protest the School of the Americas in Georgia. Because we were there defending Latinos, and fighting for human rights and social justice, we were bombarded by loads of other activists who were fighting for change. We were told not to drink any products by Coca Cola (which is basically everything), not to wear Nike, or let alone anything made in other countries by sweat shops, to eat locally, to recycle, to ride your bike, to side with either Pro life or Pro choice, to write our senator about this or that, to buy only used clothes, eat and buy fair trade, support womens rights, gay rights, and the list just keeps going. I was deeply impacted by how overwhelming it is to do it all right, to protect the rights of humans, animals, children, women, gays, and the earth. How can we ever have a life if we are only constantly aware of who we might be hurting by shopping at Old Navy, or drinking a Coke? How can we make sense if it all without going mad?

I’ve decided just to stay focused on particulars and do the best I can without overduing it. I can’t be here in Cochabamba defending childrens and womens rights, and trying to end machismo at the same time I’m looking for answers to end homelessness in my own town, or hunger in Africa. I have to move step by step and live in the moment and fight for the rights that are being ignored right in front of me.

In my life here, I’ve dressed in the same skirt and a variety of tank tops and t-shirts. I have shopped at ourdoor markets, rather than big comercial super stores. I have bought real coffee from the jungles here, even tho it’s 3 times the price of Nescafe. I have spent every day hugging those ladies, and teaching them to swim while planning how to continue helping from Seattle.

How we use our dollar, our time, and our energy can make a difference. I’m not saying by any means, I’m doing it right, and living the life that Jesus would, but I’m doing my best. I’m staying conscientious, and am thinking of the world, and the bigger picture. Today, I shared a meal with friends, ran into people fighting for fare wages and a higher fare for trufis (we pay 1.70b’s, which would be less than a quarter), people marching for fair treatment to women and an end to machismo, teenage girls trying to survive and just be girls, the reminder that children are starving in Africa, and then listened as my friend cried about a recent heartbreak. Today was troubling, yet motivating. Lets use days like these to make the world we live in better. Maybe we can’t end machismo today or solve world hunger, but we can offer a hand where we are, and lend an ear to those who are hurting.

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming!

7 Mar

I have to write up something about the swimming program. I need to make sure everything is in order so that when I leave, everything continues. I am going to explain why I think it’s so important the money raised is used for swimming and not something else. Ah, there are so many reasons!
1. Exercise! These girls eat rice and potatoes every day, and never get out to exercise! It’s so important to me that they can learn another way to take care of themselves.
natacion3
2. Exercise also helps us with our body image. We feel better after burning steam! What most of these girls have been through has ruined their own self image. Being able to feel good (let alone in a swimsuit) in your own body is helping them find the beauty and strength they all have within.
natacion1
3. Opportunity! Most people in Bolivia don’t know how to swim. It’s a privilege these girls get by learning how to swim. They can be proud of something they learned while staying at a shelter.
natacion2
4. They’re setting a goal, and are truly working on it. You can see improvement every day we swim, and the effect that has on their self esteem is powerful. It’s empowering!

High-Five!

High-Five!

5. Water is healing. It’s not a coincidence that we are baptized in water. It’s healing, pure, and cleansing.
6. There’s something therapeutic about letting yourself float, and learning to trust the water. They’re conquering their fears.
natacion