Dearly beloved blog readers,
After climbing over a mountain on a horse and two bus rides later I now find myself at a community internet cafe of sorts. The internet is painfully slow and I am honestly a bit surprised that I still have such high standards considering I have essentially not had internet for the last month. I guess some things might take a while to change. Now that I am finally here and able to fill the world in on my current existence I am having some trouble writing down my experience in the last month. I´m trying to avoid allowing the conglomerate of thoughts, feelings and experiences meld into sweeping generalizations like “my community is really nice” and “It´s been challenging but really great”. Those things are true but I´d like to paint a better picture. Hopefully I can.
I´ve only been in my community for about a month and I think I am going to become a mountain man. And I´m going to get really good at Domino. I also think I am going to like it here. At least so far I think so…
I have only ridden a horse like 3 times but I hope that increases – I have talked about buying one but it doesn´t really seem necessary yet. The younger guys in my village seem to ride around on horses all the time, visit neighboring communities and whatnot, so maybe after I get to know them better I will find having a horse as a good way to pass the time and build relationships. I also haven´t shaved yet, and am not sure when I will. My community hates the beard but I´m a white american so it doesn´t really change the way they see me and I don´t have a mirror and therefore the fact that it exists is of little consequence. And it fits the scene much better than being clean shaven. I also have also been pooping in the woods, bathing in a giant mountain spring and living in a sweet wooden shack. Oh and I just built my own dresser. I really do enjoy it here – maybe except for the pooping in the woods, but that will soon be resolved.
By the way, when you make a pit latrine, don´t: (1) make it 2.5 meters wide and (2) build a 2000lb concrete slab next to it that is impossible to lift even with 20 people and (3) don´t use really crappy materials that make half the thing break. Finally moving the remaining half over the hole was entirely entertaining – the gringo (me) yelling “one two three lift” over and over as we moved the slab about a foot at a time. Lots of kids came to watch and laugh at us, especially when one of my fingers got stuck under the slab briefly. Don´t worry, the other 8 are fine.
Honestly though I have so far not had too hard of a time living in a place that is so completely void of everything I am used to. Routine has played a large role in that, along with attempts to forget selfish desires and most of all because of the community of people that I now live with. Whenever I need some people time, my host mom/dad (more host grandparents) are always willing to talk to me, since I´m pretty sure they are the most talkative people in town, or I can always walk up the hill to my neighbors and stand/sit around or play dominoes. Now that I think about it, I can basically walk anywhere and get invited to sit down, sometimes with coffee, sometimes with conversation, and sometimes with nothing but silent communal sitting. This phenomena (sp?) is actually quite beautiful sometimes, although for me it usually escalates to being uncomfortable fairly rapidly. Maybe it means that people would rather sit together and do nothing that sit alone and do nothing… but I do not claim to understand, at least not yet. My routine of waking up much later than everyone else (usually around 7:30am) and reading has been a wonderful treat. I´ve been able to read Irresistible Revolution, Once Minutos and the Language of God in the last month, along with some daily scripture – something in the past that I never sacrificed my precious time for.
My favorite things so far have been learning people´s names (and consequently seeing their faces light up when I say them), hanging out with the muchachos and jovenes (the kids these are usually the ones I play dominoes with or that come show me how to get to this or that place), seeing the excitement for water and the willingness to participate in the water system project and just being able to be more myself in general. My “saludos” (greetings) have become less reserved and more loud, my conversations have involved more joking around and I just feel a lot more joy and realness radiating from the people when I speak to them now. I feel like I have come a long way from the skepticism I first showed when I found out about this community, and am glad God has givin me a bit of patience to give things a chance.
Other cool stuff I have done is walking to 45+ houses and sitting down and doing a questionairre with the families, hiking up to the source of the local river with some of the jovenes, visiting my friend Rudie with my host dad and (just now) visiting my friends Jeremy, Pedro, Mike and Keeton.
I am praying that God continue to give me patience and the ability to become a part of this community – that they will soon see me as a part of their family. I also pray that the needs of the community can be met (I´ve been trying to get the people to dream big) and that the community can commit to working hard for its own development and put in their necessary part as well.
I miss you and love you all,