Thursday, November 29, 2012

Good Grief

FYI for anyone paying attention.  My son is the luckiest person in the world.  I think next time the lottery is half a billion, I'll let him pick the numbers.

Bryan was walking home Monday afternoon and saw our neighbor's maids talking with a woman outside.  The woman they were with was walking to each house around the park talking to people about something she'd found in the park.  Bryan's understanding of Spanish is limited, but he perked up when he heard the word "bicicleta."

Yep.  Davis bike has been recovered.  We revealed it to him on Monday night and Davis flipped out.  He was so shocked and happy.  He ran to jump on it and I stopped him: “WAIT.  NO SIR.  You lose your bike privileges for two weeks for losing it.”  Then he was sad again, but not as much.  J

Davis kept saying “Thank you Mr. Bryan, Thank you, Mommy.”  I crossed my arms and furrowed my brow.  And I was like “No Davis.  Don’t thank me.  You need to get on your knees and thank GOD that you have your bike back.  Because (S)HE is the only reason you have that thing.”  (And I don’t drop the God bomb without just cause.)

Okay y'all.  This doesn't happen here.  Stuff that gets left in public spaces gets gone.  My only guess is that the collective sympathy and hope radiating from friends and family back home moved the Universe to work in Davis' favor.

(Some of you even offered to donate to a "Davis bike fund" - Wow.)

Our family was reeling at the loss of his bike.  It was/is a means of transportation for us, not just fun.  We weren't sure what to do about getting around.  So I'm happy it returned.  It makes life so much easier for us.

All the musings I made in my last post still stand.  It's the same, but it's different.  Personally, I had come to terms with the idea of letting him fail and had embraced the powerful lesson it would teach him.  So I'm just shrugging my shoulders, shaking my head and then just smiling because he is happy again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mother Nature's Son

So my little man is growing up.  He's not just getting physically bigger, he is maturing.  And boy is it tough.

I've mentioned before how there is a park close to our house that we can access via a gate that we lock and unlock when we want to go to a from.  We are in a very safe and secure neighborhood filled with lots of families and new friends.  Davis quickly became popular with many of the kids, their parents, and nannies.  One day in our first weeks here I came home from work and witnessed an interesting scene before making my presence known: I stopped near the entrance to my home when I heard people yelling Davis' name.  Then I saw 4 or 5 kids and one maid standing near the park gate yelling "Dah-vees!  Dah-vees!"  Why were they yelling for him?  Almost instantly I saw Davis burst out out of the front door and run out to them.  Then I made myself known and joined Davis with these other kids.  They were trying to tell him that he left his bike in the park.  It was parked under the farthest tree and had been out there all afternoon.  The kids were heading home and wanted to tell him about it so he wouldn't lose it.  And even though the nanny only spoke Spanish and mine was terrible then, I had no problems understanding her lecture to us both.

Here is what she said even though I don't know what she said:
"You and your son need to do a better job of keeping up with your stuff.  His bicycle was left out here and if we weren't here to watch it for him then someone could easily steal it.  That is a nice and expensive bike and he just left it there.  And his helmet!  (handing me the helmet)  This is a nice helmet and is was just laying on the ground!  You both need to be more responsible in this park and do a better job of taking care of your things."

I could be overstating it, but I know a butt chewing when I get one, no matter what language it is in.  And she chewed me out.

Actually though, wasn't that nice of them?  Yes it was.  And it allowed me to teach Davis a lesson and for us to establish a household rule early on here that you can't leave your stuff in the park.  He was saved by the goodness of strangers with good hearts.

Lesson learned?  Not quite.  After all, he was 8.  I know that when you're 8 and you're craving strawberries (This was his excuse for leaving it outside) it might be easy to forget your belongings.  Lord knows that when I was his age, I lost and forgot stuff all the time.  I. Was. The. Worst.  My poor mother.


Weeellllll, flash ahead 5 months, now he is 9, to this past weekend. I have some bad news:  Davis left his bike in the park on Sunday night and on Monday morning when it was time for school he drew a very scared blank look.  He ran outside to the park and it wasn't there.  He burst into tears.  The bike is gone.  We are all upset by this.  We don't have a car here and biking was a big part of his life.  No more riding to school, no more rides along the Malecon, no more loops around the park, no more bmx track, no more bike.

Super sad face.

OKAY.  The reason I'm sharing this story with you is more for me and my parental processing than for entertainment value.  When Davis hurts, I hurt with him.  It is involuntary.  My maternal, mommy-kisses, gut feeling when Davis first burst into tears after discovering it was gone was to wrap my arms around him and tell him that everything would be okay and we'd get him a new bike.

But I know that isn't best.  He won't be getting a new bike anytime soon.  If he wants a new bike, he has to earn it.  This will be a great lesson for him in the long run.

Sometimes it takes losing something valuable to recognize that it was ever valuable to you in the first place.  We had fair warning from the universe when the good Samaritans returned the bike the first time.  The lesson and dangers were thoroughly discussed and analyzed.  He knew that if it happened again, he probably wouldn't be so lucky and that mommy and Mr. Bryan wouldn't bail him out.  And while it hurts my heart to say this....I'm going to have to let Davis hurt right now.  I don't know much about anything, but I think this is what growing up means. (Am I talking about him or me now?)

This is a lesson for us both.  He is going to have to feel the pain and responsibility of losing something so valuable.  And I am going to have to feel the pain and responsibility of letting my son fail so that he can ultimately succeed.

This year is about so much more than Peru...

I'm attaching a song that we've always loved and that I sing to Davis often at night before bed.  The cadence and softness of this song remind me of him.  Click HERE.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't believe the hype - The answer is blowing in the wind

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Peru.  Duh.  (I can see some of you going "oh yeah, I guess not!")  The pilgrims didn't have lunch with the Indians on the western side of the South American continent.   So this year, it is imperative that I learn how to celebrate it in my heart with my new family and in our own way.  My hubs doesn't really dig the origins of Thanksgiving anyway (and neither do I fully, but that's a whole 'nother topic.  Especially since my ancestors are of European and Native American descent.)

They have beautiful "graffiti" all over Lima.  This was taken by BC from a taxi.
I won't bore you with what Thanksgiving should be about - we all have our own reasons.  But I've been reflecting on what I like about it- and frankly, what I miss.  Unfortunately, most things that I like about Thanksgiving are not in Peru.  Which then makes me further reflect on what I should TRULY value.

Here is what I like about Thanksgiving and how it will be different for me:

1.  Cold weather  
*NOT IN LIMA.  It is coming upon Spring here now.  Southern hemisphere.

2. Food.  I love the perfect ratio of dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy and turkey all on one spoon in one bite.  
*FOOD IS DIFFERENT HERE.  They don't have turkeys on sale or stacks  of cranberry sauce piled up in grocery stores.  "Traditional" Thanksgiving food is hard to find except for lots of potatoes.
They do have this though. 
3. No presents 

4.  Thanksgiving hype - I like how the whole USofA gets collectively excited about the holidays rolling around.  I don't dig the Black Friday crap or the other marketing onslaughts, but I love the spirit of the season and the drive towards Christmas.  
*NOPE.  Not in Peru.  There is Christmas stuff everywhere now but it just feels totally different without having Thanksgiving be the kickoff.  

5.  Doing nothing all day
*NOPE.  I have to work.  This city and country roll right on through the day.  No existe.  

6.  Family.  For me this is usually at Petit Jean Mountain with the Byrds, Omar, the Prohls, and occasionally other random folks that need a place to spend the day.
*DIFFERENT.  For the first time, my present "family" is just us.  Bryan, Davis and me.  

And guess what I now understand and am embracing?  #1 through #5 don't mean anything.  The only thing that matters is Family.  Family Family Family.  That's all I need.  And I've got a great one.  I knew when I came here that holidays would be different.  I knew that I'd get some new perspective on my own customs and ideas.  This is one of them.   Perspective?  Check.  

More importantly, the best lesson I'm learning comes from the greatest little man in the world.  Davis.  He is so happy here.  He misses nothing (and has even told me this).  Most of the time all he cares about is being with his mommy and playing futbol.  I draw a lot of energy and inspiration from  his contentment here.  Him being happy and not caring about #1 through #5 or any other self-imposed tradition makes my life easier - and it is my hope, prayer and intention that because we are on this adventure, his life will always be easier too.

Of course, I'll miss my extended folks and parents and cousins and the tacky decor in the Petit Jean lodge, but they'll be there next year.  They'll all be on my mind on Thanksgiving day and are forever in my heart.  This year I'm just going to sit around my small kitchen table with my two handsome boys and eat something like chifa or ceviche or maybe even KFC since they deliver here.  It won't be cold outside and it will be after a long day of work and it'll be totally different.  But I'm going to love every minute of it.  

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you all.

Just to throw you off a little, I'm sharing a slightly different style of music to honor a different style of celebrating Turkey Day.  Click HERE - and then since....

...most of you may not like that I'll offer another to close out the day.  It's arguably one of the best songs ever written and one of the greatest voices to touch a mic.  Listen to the WHOLE THING.  You are welcome.  Click HERE.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Southern Cross

I got to see the Southern Cross.  Know what that is?  If not, click here.  It is a constellation that can regularly be viewed in the southern hemisphere and nowhere in the USA.  I like looking at stars.  My Dad always talked to me about constellations - his Dad knew them too.  My Dad was born in Alaska and his birthday is the same day that Alaska became a state. Alaska's flag has a significant constellation on it - the Big Dipper.  Every time I look at the stars I look for the Big and Little Dipper.  After moving here my Dad asked me if I'd seen the Southern Cross and I responded with "What's that?"  He was appalled.  

And then I saw it.

I haven't really traveled to too many places in my short 30 years on this planet.  At least,  not compared to many of my co-workers and people I've met since in Peru.  I've been to a lot of places in the USA, touristy spots like Cozumel, Canada (which don't count) and to Hong Kong and Nepal.  When I was in Asia, I was really just soaking up the fact that I was in a foreign country and focusing on a Heifer assignment.  Here is different.  

My second day and night in Puno were the very best 24 hours that I've experienced since I have been in Peru.  I mentioned before how I crossed Lake Titicaca to Soto Island on day 1 of my trip to carry supplies and prepare for the group's visit.  On day 2 we made the trip across again.  Remember when Forrest Gump says "They invited me to the White House.  So I went...again.  And I met the president of the United States...again."  That's how I was saying it in my head.  "So I had to cross Lake Titicaca....again.  And I had to meet a bunch of awesome people...again.  And I had to take a nap in a boat...again."

Yeah, I was totally digging my job and my life.

We arrived on another part of the island where the official "port" is.  We were welcomed by members of the community in a beautiful ceremony.  It was so lovely and kind.  They offered us blessings and prayers and gave us beautiful floral wreaths to wear around our necks.  They gave us coca leaves to chew on so we wouldn't feel sick. We went inside their community building and had some breakfast. 
These people were wonderful.
Our blessing and coca leaves.
Our lovely welcome
Inside the community building.
Quinoa pancakes

I can't remember the name of this tea, but it was so delicious.  
Then, we all got back into our boats and headed to the camping spot.  The ride from the port to the other part of the island was so bouncy.  It was awesome.  The boat was probably bouncing 6 feet in the air at the bow.   I was right there hanging on for dear life and loving every minute of it.  Mom will be furious for this, but here's a video of the ride and me bouncing around.  
(WARNING:  Half-way through the camera gets turned sideways so you'll have to turn your head.)

With my lovely flowers.
Finally one of the women in the boat asked me to get down because I was making her nervous.  After arriving on the island the group starting doing their filming and documenting while the other staff and I met with the community and set up for the evening.  The community members cooked us lunch and we all sat around on the ground and had tuna, vegetables and potatoes.  Dee-lish. 

Lunch with some some folks in the community.  
Set up was fun and hard.  The air mattresses needed to be blown up for the night so I started that - using a hand pump.  Fifteen of them.  Yeah.  What was hard was hand-pumping 15 mattresses, but what was fun was that some of the men from the community were totally fascinated with the mattresses and the pump.  They even offered to help!  So I let them.  And then after about 25 pumps, they were like, "This is hard!"  I was like, "I KNOW."

Then I started "helping" the cook.  I don't really know if I was actually helping, but I like to think I was.  Johnny was the name of our cook and by the end of the trip had earned the name "Johnny Rocket" for all of his culinary creations and general goodness.  He made us pancakes and smeared chocolate cream on them for a snack.  I think I ate like seven of those things.  I'm glad pancakes are in Peru.  The below picture is me grinding some cheese on a rock.  That's right.  Grinding some cheese on a rock.  Just another day at the office.
This rock was found in the lake and has been used for generations by one of the women in the community.
Peruvian pancakes with manjarblanco cream.

All the setting up was strenuous.  Just like when you go camping in the woods in the Ozarks.  Lots of prep and lots of work - all just to eat, sleep and use the bathroom.  But man, it was great.  I was sweaty and tired and a little dizzy from the altitude but for some reason, it felt so good.  Like my body needed me to push it a little further after weeks of sitting at my desk.

We took a break and a few folks even took some naps on my mattresses.

Then I decided to just go sit on the shore of the lake.  I don't have a picture and I can't describe it adequately.  But for me, there is something about being by water.  Always has been.  I love it.  I love the sound and the motion and the smell and coolness you feel from it even when it is really hot.  Rick, the film maker dude, joined me later and we skipped rocks.  He was cool even though he is from Texas.  ;-)   

Later it was time to set up the tent.  Ever put a tent together?  If so, you know it's hard.  Ever done it alone? Harder.  (Mostly.  Sometimes putting a tent together with a person can lead to a pretty big argument.)  It takes thinking.  And logic with yourself.  And some trial and error and a few curse words.  I'm not bragging about being able to put a tent together.  What made this particular experience special is that not only did I put that damn tent together, I did it with FIFTEEN Peruvians watching me, closely.  Weirdest thing ever.  

The whole group had dinner together by candlelight and made fun of each other for all the crazy stuff we did during the day.  

The sunset on Lake Titicaca from Soto Island
Tent is secure, beds are blown up, bellies are full and the sun goes down.  We are at the top of the island and all you can see is the dark sky and stars and tree tops and all you can hear is the sound of the  lake crashing against the shore in the distance.  The sweetness of that sound - no car alarms, no neighbors, no traffic, nothing.  It's rare and difficult to find yourself in a place anywhere in the world (especially in the USA) where you can't hear any man-made noises.  I've only found it in a few places, ever, and here I was again.  I pulled my mattress out of the tent and just laid it on the ground and looked in the sky.  I saw FOUR shooting stars (and like, totally awesome ones that last forever) and then I saw it, the Southern Cross.  

This was a big deal for so many reasons, but two of the best ones are.... 
1.  I can't see the stars in Lima.  Too much light from the city and too many clouds all the time.  For this Redfield girl, stars are important.  I took them for granted when I didn't live in the city and seeing them at this altitude and enveloped by the silence calmed me. 
2.  At the moment I was gazing into the stars, I knew that  my Dad, the star guy, was probably also looking at the sky but at totally different stars.  See, my Dad was working on Pump Station Four on the Alyeska Pipeline above the arctic circle in Alaska while I was in Puno.  Alaska - where he learned to read the stars and where he "takes vacations to work."  Thousands of miles apart.  We were both situated under the sky, "working", and probably thinking about how good life is sometimes even when it's hard and we're away from those we love.  And Davis, we were probably both thinking about Davis.  

The calm I felt that night has stayed with me too.  There are a couple of places I "go in my mind" when I need a mental break - and now Soto Island at night is one of those places.

After it got just too dang cold to be outside anymore I crawled into the tent with Katia, Rosaluz and Rick.  Long night short - let's just say we all know each other a little bit better now.  We were woken up bright and early around 4:00 am by a lovely rooster.  We kept trying to sleep until eventually the sun was so bright (it gets brighter there earlier) that it pulled us out of the tent.   Do you know what I look like when I crawl out of a tent after a long/short night of camping crammed like sardines with three strangers after a rooster woke me up at 4:00am and I really just need to use the bathroom but am dreading it because I know that it means squatting behind a tree?  I don't know what I look like either, but my 15 Peruvians friends do.  The were gathered 'round the tent, staring as I crawled out.  

SOOOOO, bright and early.  We packed up all our goods and gear and left the extra food with the community and began hauling our load back down to the boats.  The folks from the community helped us and that was so nice.  One load per person.  We said our goodbyes, promised not to forget each other and climbed back in our respective boats.  Joining me in my boat this time was Augustina.  Lovely woman.  Somehow she and I managed to have a conversation.   She has 9 children to my one.  Been married 35 years to my 7 months.  She told me about the four different cultural groups on the island and how it is so hard to raise animals there.  

Everything.  The people.  New friends.  The Island.  The work.  The tent.  The water.  The stars.  Man, this is what I love about my job.   Sitting by women, riding on boats, pumping up mattresses, looking at the sky, and learning stuff about others - and myself - that you can't learn any other way.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Of no real importance whatsoever

Right before I left for Peru, I cut my hair.  My sister Megan cut it and did a great job, she always does.  But I wish I hadn't cut it.  I have naturally curly, unruly hair and Lima's weather and my hair don't get along.  

Sooooo,  Bryan, Davis and I are ALL going to grow our hair out while we're in Peru.  It's kind of like a one-year challenge.  Doesn't everyone do this when they move abroad?  Come back with long shaggy hair?  Well so are we.  We (well, I) decided this as soon as we got here and now I'm telling you. 

Here are some "before" pics just in case you don't know what we look like.



And just is what I expect Bryan to look like by next July...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Lord knows when the cold wind blows it will turn your head around"

Puno - Moho - Conima 
Day 1 

I traveled back to Puno this week. It was kind of an unplanned thing for me, but a really cool visit.  I was assisting the Heifer office in hosting a group called Ripple Effect.   They visited Peru to document for us some stories of specific women and livelihoods of Heifer partners - to tell the stories in pictures and from the mouths of the women.  They do cool work.  With their group were three people: Annie, Renee, and Rick.  Groovy people who weren't afraid to get dirty, work hard, lose sleep and just kind of "rough it"  for the sake of Heifer, it's work and their art.  They kept saying, "Let's go make some art" and I liked that.
(I'll share more about the women and the photos and everything once Ripple has developed it all) 
Rick, Annie and Renee
Quick caveat to this post:  I forgot my gal-dang camera and had to use the trusty iphone.  So the pics aren't the greatest of quality.  But you'll get the picture. Ha.

I left Lima on Monday evening for Juliaca with another Heifer employee, Katia and our translator for the whole trip, Rosaluz.  Rough flight.  I always forget that I hate flying until right before the wheels leave the ground and my sense of control is lost.  But we arrived and I'm alive. The city of Juliaca was having some party so it took about an hour to find our hotel through the closed roads and traffic - we met up with Ripple and our chauffeurs and meticulously planned our week over pizza and beers in the restaurant hotel. 
Katia y yo
We got up at the butt crack of dawn and headed out from Juliaca to Conima right on the shores of Lake Titicaca.  Departure at 6:00 am.  Lake Titicaca is so beautiful from every angle.  My eyes just soaked it up.  It reminded me of Lake Tahoe.   In Conima, we visited a Heifer partner named Sophia.  She was awesome, still is.  She was so excited for us to visit her home and to show us how Heifer has helped her and how happy she is now.  (More on Sophia later via Heifer)

These are in the plaza in Conima looking out on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
While the film crew was interviewing and photographing Sophia -  Katia and I took all the camping equipment, food and other supplies across the lake to the Soto Island - in preparation for the next night's stay.  Soto Island.  Talk about amazing and intense.  Not so much the island itself, but all the things it stirred in me.  I will forever remember it and be grateful for what it opened in my mind and heart.   Soto Island is in the middle of Lake Titicaca.  It took a little over an hour from port to the rocky beaches of the Island.  We were in a wooden boat that most of the locals use to get to and fro. It had an engine, but we passed several other boats rowing their way along.  If you row from the port to Soto then it takes 4 hours.  Can you imagine that commute?

You can also see the shores of Bolivia from where we crossed.  The pictures don't do the experience justice and neither does my description, but let me tell you - it was good for my soul.  The movement of the water, the sun shining on my face, an occasional splash of frigid water on my skin, a cold wind, the hum of the motor engine and the steady rocking boat invigorated my senses.   It's the first time I've felt that way since being in Peru.   And not because it reminded me of home (which it did) but just because I let it feel good right at that moment.

Wilbert, the hired boat driver and Percy on the ride across the lake.

Crap.  This is the crap we packed, loaded into the trucks, unloaded into the boats, hauled across a lake and unloaded at the island.  We used every bit of it and I'm glad we did it, but crap!

This is what I love about my job.  Alpacas and old boats and beautiful shores and sky.
We arrived at the island and unloaded everything.  Let me just tell you, I worked my ass off for a hot minute unloading enough food to feed 30 people three times, tents, toiletries, a small gas stove, giant bottles of water, a generator, everything...  And at this altitude - I thought I might just die and was practicing the use of my favorite four-letter words under my breath.  Of course, UNTIL the universe smacked me with perspective again when I passed a woman on the same path wearing no shoes and carrying two heavy pails of water from a well near the beach all the way up to her house.  Touché.

On the island.  This is the view from where we set everything up for the next night's stay.  And this is also the hill that I climbed a dozen times loaded down with crap.  
I wasn't the only one tired.  This man helped too - we all needed water and a breather after that load.

Gotta go to the bathroom?  Have fun!!
So we set everything up, took a breather and a few photos and headed back via boat to meet the Ripple crew back in Conima.  The water was really smooth and I was exhausted so I climbed onto a pile of nets and tarps and slept most of the way.  I've learned to sleep anywhere.  (And now I have a sexy little sunburn on one side of my face.)

We arrived back in Conima in the town square and had some lunch.  While we were waiting on the crew to finish, the Universe gave me another awesome gift: a thunderstorm.  Thank you sweet baby Jesus.  In a previous post I mentioned how I missed rain and storms in Lima.  Well I got one.  Lightning, thunder, hail, wind - I was one happy girl - and only got a few odd looks from the locals and my travel companions for being so damn happy because of rain.  In the big, open sky at this altitude you can see a storm come and go (kinda like in Wyoming - Go Pokes!)  It started raining pretty hard so we all climbed into the truck, shared a Coca-Cola, I had my first granadilla fruit and then we all sort of dozed off to the sound of the rain on the truck roof and windows.  I was in heaven.
This is a granadilla fruit.  Interesting.  It had an okay flavor, but you're supposed to put your mouth over the hole and suck out the seeds and stuff.  The flavor was decent but the texture was just more than I could handle.  I think that will be my last granadilla fruit.

Here it comes....
Sweet, yummy, smell good rain.
Time to close my eyes and sleep.
Eventually, the rain passed and we all headed back to the town of Moho to our hotel about 30 minutes from Conima. Shotty accommodations but whatever.  I'm not complaining, (just providing context.)  (And by shotty I mean this: stained bedspreads, no electricity during the day, no shower curtain, no towels, no toilet paper and no hot water.  I'm not even sure how they legitimately call themselves a hotel.)  I got to take a cold shower!   With no towel to dry off with!  So I used yesterday's clothes!  In case I wasn't sure before, I was reminded that the only time I like taking cold showers is never.  
THEN, to make the hotel experience even better, I went to use the bathroom - I was one of the lucky ones because I had a toilet seat - I closed the door behind me, did my business, washed my hands, went to open the door and wouldn't you know? I was locked in.  No door handle.  Just a hole where it should've been.  But, oddly enough, it did have a lock.  Go figure.  So I was locked in to the bathroom with a door with a lock but no handle.  ???  Thank god the girls were also in the room to hear my pleas for assistance but they couldn't get me out.  We tried everything short of knocking down the door.  Rick, the guy with Ripple, was summoned to help and come to find out, when he opened the door to HIS hotel room, the door handle just fell out in his hand.  ???  Rosaluz went to get someone who worked at the hotel but was told, "he is at dinner."  ???   God help us all.  We tried everything.  More four letter words.  I felt, and probably looked, like a jackass.  Finally, the dude with the hotel finished eating and came with a screw driver and popped me out in three seconds.  (A fun picture of me exists in someone's camera somewhere from this trip of my eye peeking through the hole in the door - I'll submit as evidence eventually.)

Good times.  Not my finest hour, peeping through a hole in the door from a bathroom.  Frustrated as hell.  At least I had somewhere to sit.  

That night we all gathered again for dinner, had some cerveza and just chilled out replaying the day.  Good stuff.  

So, that is day one.  It was long, exhausting and awesome.  James Taylor was this trip's background music and I can't get Fire and Rain out of my head.  "Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun."  Lord knows, when that cold wind blew on my face across Lake Titicaca, I turned my head around.  And this time, it felt good.   And for whatever reason, I let it.  I saw a sunny day that I thought would never end.  And then it did.  It brought me a thunderstorm.  And that was even better.  

Me.  On Soto Island in the middle of Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Got This

Alright.  So the last two or three weeks have been totally awesome and have totally sucked.  I haven't posted in a while for both reasons.  

Why have they sucked?  Basically I have been throwing myself a pity party.  I've felt like crap physically and mentally and I've done nothing but whine and focus on the negative.  I certainly didn't want to bring you all down with my Debbie Downer crap (no offense, Mom).  But I also just didn't feel inspired to write.  I've had these odd panic attacks when I think of missing things like half-n-half in my tea instead of condensed milk.  Or when I see pictures of people on Facebook with their families - and I just burst into tears.

What's interesting and stupid about this is that I am here in Peru working for Heifer to help make a difference in the world.  And the people that I am helping have way bigger problems than me.  I live in a developing country and I don't have to look far at all to see people struggling and real poverty.  I bitch about having to always take a taxi or bus because I don't have my precious Avalon - all while I'm watching people walk to work because they can't afford any of those. How ungrateful am I?  My last post was true, I've really had my eyes opened about humanity.  I've got "perspective" looking me right in the face all the time.   But over the last three weeks, I haven't been looking back at it.  I've tucked my head down and hidden from it.  I've cried a lot and felt sorry for myself and had a shitty attitude about everything.   

SO FINALLY, I'm done with that.  And  here is why the last three weeks have been totally awesome:

Bryan went to Columbia last week for a photography job leaving me solo for the first time in Peru.  Talk about scared.  I didn't have my parents or army of friends to help me with Davis to and from school.  I still had Spanish classes in the morning blah blah blah lots to do.  BUT, my coworker Mariela (who I've mentioned before) came to the rescue and her nephew Heinz stepped up to help with D.  Check that off the list.  He was awesome. Then, we found out that Monday and Tuesday were holidays so no school and no work.  Two free days that I didn't have to harness the universe!  Another check.  And then the following Monday was a holiday too.  Wow.  

Providence totally moved my way, again.  Like it always has and will because that's what it does.  

For those three days where I had to take D to school alone, find a new bus route to work, work, come home and cook dinner for him, homework/bathe/bedtime/love - it was hard.  But it also occurred to me that I'VE DONE ALL THIS BEFORE.  ALONE.  And by God, I can do it again if I have to.  I was a single mom for almost 5 years before moving here and if I could do it then, I can do it now.  I've got the same kind of support here from new friends.  The time between Davis and I felt like it used to.  Just us doin' our thang.  And it felt good.  

Then, even after that good week I still let myself sink back down into the dumps.  I whined on Facebook and received a plethora of supporting words.  The amount of love I feel from my family and friends back home has been truly amazing.  But/and, I got one random text from an old friend saying this, "Quit bitching on Facebook about being homesick and your stomach hurting because of it and whatever.  You're a ****ing soldier and it's unbecoming in a bad-ass like you."

So there you have it.  That's what I needed to be reminded of.  That's what got me here.  Those words, combined with dozens of other messages of love and support, did it.  I'm done being homesick.  Done.  I  won't let it get me down any more.  Three months in and  I am actually starting to understand the language.  I'm more committed at work.  I'm more committed to Spanish class.  I'm more committed to myself.

Moving forward, my posts will be about Peru and not sad feelings about missing Dr Pepper or cheesedip.  They'll be about the awesomeness of this country, my life, and the amazing experience I've been blessed to have.

I got this.

I leave you with three things. 

The first is my favorite quote that prompted me to move here and was weaved into my wedding vows:

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back - Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now."

The second is a song that I've been rocking to today that just feels good:
Click here.

And the third is a picture of me when I came out from under my rock for a minute and went to a German bar in downtown Lima with my coworkers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

You're My Blue Sky, You're My Sunny Day

“Lord you know you make me high when you turn your love my way.”

This song has been in my head for five weeks.  I read Greggory Allman's book (stellar read, I loved his writing style) and he talked about this song.  (It's actually called "Blue Sky" and was written by Dickey Betts - who also sang it.  The two don't speak now but whatever.)
I was reading his book when I was in Puno.  He was quite the dude.  Lots of drugs, music, sex, marriages, death, Cher...

I don't know why, but a lot of what he said resonated with me (I mean, most of it.  I've never done heroin or Cher).  Maybe it is the fact that he is from the South?  I love me some South.

OR, maybe it’s just because he is a human being.

While I was in Puno and since I’ve been in this country, I’ve been really lucky to meet all kinds of people:  staff in other NGOs, farmers, moms, dads, kids, taxi drivers, maids, other ex-pats.  And you wanna know what the NUMBER ONE thing that I am learning about living here is?  One clue: it isn’t about toilets flushing the opposite direction or how to say “How much does this cost?” in Spanish or how to get a taxi or what fruits are the best or how to fix my hair with this humidity.  

It’s this (and bear with me because I’m not articulate enough to say it like Goethe):  

Humans are the same everywhere.
Sound the alarms.  Jessica has had an epiphany.

Yeah yeah yeah.  We’ve all heard it before and YOU have said it before. We post quotes on Facebook about it and we spout it from our presidential stumps and our parents tell us all about it at the dinner table and you learn about it Sunday School (some).  You hear it all the time a thousand ways.  I know I have. Mother Theresa and Oprah and Mister Rogers and Lady Gaga.  And it isn’t that I’ve never believed it.  I’m sure I did.  And do.

HOWEVER, being here has shown it to me in a different way than I expected.  You might think that meeting a woman or farmer in the countryside who is very poor and struggling and now has new-found empowerment because of Heifer would show me the power of humanity.  And it definitely has shown me a lot.  But I think it is something else, at least right now, that is teaching me. 

You see, I cannot understand what most people are saying to me when they talk.  I can’t understand the bus driver or my supervisor or the woman trying to tell me about her struggles before Heifer gave her help.  Because of the language barrier, I have to rely on a whole new set of nonverbal clues.  Intonation, tone of voice, body language, context, eyes rolling, eyebrows, what other people in the room are doing with their bodies and hands.  And it helps me understand what is really going on even when I don’t understand the words.  I am seeing so much more than I ever have.

If you haven’t stopped reading out of boredom at my "epiphany", here is why this is important:  You may have already guessed or know, but I am one generation away from the equivalent of Mayberry. (I'm including the link for the non-Americans reading this blog.  Could the Russians please reveal themselves?)  I'm from a tiny town best known for it's greasy spoon restaurant called the Mammoth Orange.  It has one 4-way stop, no red light and a population of just over one thousand.  "Humanity" was our next door neighbor, the preacher, the truck stop, the hair salon, the full service gas station where men drank coffee/told lies in the mornings, the ballpark, Tar Camp Park and Jr. High "Redfield Lion" basketball games.  This was my world and my normal and the lens through which I saw the world.  And even though I've been to college in a far away state, gotten married a couple of times, have a kid, lived in a few places and work for an international organization - this is still where my understanding of life took root.  And, not that there is anything wrong with a small town perspective, but for me it has taken moving to another hemisphere and to a developing country to realize just how alike all humans are.  That Harper Lee was on to something when she said through Atticus that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Well holy hell.  I might not be walking around in Peruvian skin, but I am paying attention to the world around me now.  And it's different y'all.  It's bigger than me and it doesn't revolve around me.  Imagine that.  Mom was right.
You name it.  Women, just like me, go to lunch every day and talk about men and their kids.  Groups of women huddle together in corners at parties and talk shit about other women.  Kids on the playground are embarrassed when there is something different about them.  Couples fight before the server comes to their table and they quickly straighten up to order as if nothing is wrong.  The janitor is frustrated because no one seems to think it is important to pick up the paper towel off the floor when they missed the trash can.  Moms pull their daughters back by the hand when they are about to walk into traffic.  Men hold their chests high in the taxi when they tell you about how they are sending their kids to college in the United States when he has no formal education. This kind of stuff is everywhere.   So much, man.  I am seeing so much for the first time.  I am regretful too and kind of ashamed that it has taken me so long.

Well now I'm paying attention.  It's amazing what you can learn and see when you keep your mouth shut.
So what does this have to do with Gregg Allman and "Blue Sky"?  Nothing really.  Except that when I was on my way out of Puno and passing Lake Titicaca, I was listening to this song on my iPod.  I was sitting next to a Peruvian woman who looked very tired.  A female tourist sitting in front of us was trying to take pictures out the window of the van and the cold wind was blowing in our faces and I was kinda pissed at her for being so inconsiderate.  It was like 25 degrees outside.  So I lightly elbowed the Peruvian woman next to me and nodded towards the tourist and made a look like "she sucks."  The Peruvian woman just rolled her eyes, nodded her head, and sighed.  We smiled at each other.  I gave her one end of my iPod ear buds and we jammed to the Allman Brothers for 45 minutes on our way from Puno to Juliaca.  

And we were like best friends in the corner talking shit about another woman.  

Humans are the same everywhere. 

This is on the edge of Lake Titicaca.   Not a great shot, sorry.  But I urge you friends, plug in your computer headphones and click here to hear this great song. Imagine yourself in this picture with a cold wind in your face and you're there.