Thursday, April 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

The mosquito bites have finally faded, I guess that means an entry is way overdue. That and the fact that I am leaving tomorrow for Ethiopia! I have been home now for three weeks and have enjoyed every hot shower, walk with Brie and movie curled up on my uber comfy couch.

Being home got me thinking about my dual lifestyle. I can literally get by with nothing when traveling, but once I get home I slip into a completely different routine. I mean, I lived for three months with a 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner, body soap, but less than 24 hours after landing, I was in the chair for a manicure/pedicure. I know there is nothing wrong with either, but it makes me question what I really want when I live this transitional lifestyle and am happy on either extreme.

Regardless, I do appreciate a fancy cocktail and a couple home-cooked meals. And now that I have filled up I am so ready and excited to move on again. I expect my latest endeavor to have very few similarities to my Guatemalan life, however I imagine one to build nicely off the other. There is no measurement to this invaluable experience.

I am often asked “why?” Why do I want to go to obscure places and work with people I don’t know?

Well sometimes I question this myself. It is so emotionally taxing. Inevitability I fall in love and have to leave but at the same time I would never want it any other way. Doing this make sense to me. Even though the social problems of the world are so vast in insurmountable in their entirety, I never let that deter me from doing what I can. Working with people is difficult, unpredictable, intimidating and often frustrating and it is impossible to measure the ways you touch another person’s life, but I have to believe in the little successes. Everything is complicated and uncertain but there are always tiny moments where change is apparent.

I recently read a Hawaiian parable in Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It’s an incredibly powerful book about this century’s most widespread human rights violations throughout Africa (including Ethiopia) and Asia. I highly recommend! Anyway the parable goes:

A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water.
“What are you doing, son?” the man asks. “You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.”
The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.
“It sure made a difference to that one,” he said.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

El Futuro

Disclaimer! I wrote this on Thursday, before I actually left…

The realization of leaving has finally set in and it’s making me feel rather uninspired blog-wise. I am finding it so much harder than I ever anticipated and I have so much swirling around in my head that facing a blank page is actually intimidating.

Everyday more kids come up to me and give me notes telling me they love me, they will miss me and that I have inspired them in some way. This alone is hard for me to deal with because I am rather uncomfortable with good-byes as it is, but the hardest part is that I am pretty confident I will not be remembered for very long anyway. I don’t mean that in a bad way, and I know you can never measure how you touch another person’s life, but let all be the realist that I am for a moment. The babies can’t remember yesterday and the older ones see so many faces, have so many volunteers in their lives that who am I really? It’s like that moment when you come back from a trip and you are still high off of it. You are in love with everything about the place you were and it’s hard to imagine any details escaping your memory. Then the days, weeks, months and years of normal life pass and suddenly one day, you can only remember that you once went. Regardless, it’s difficult to face that you will be forgotten, blurred in the mind of the children with countless others.

I keep thinking of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash lyrics: “So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.”

Mostly, it’s becoming more difficult for me to comprehend leaving because no other place has taught me more about myself. That probably sounds a little selfish, but really working here has been a selfish experience in disguise. The kids never needed me as much as I needed them. Yes, I may have brought them some excitement or taught them something new, but again I know that they would have survived without me. With or without my existence, their lives would remain relatively stable. It’s me who has been turned upside down. Being here has been a blessing for which I am forever grateful. I am humbled.

So now I continue, sitting in Antigua.

Actually walking out the door literally took every bit of strength I had. When I arrived 11 weeks ago I never imagined that it would be so difficult to say good-bye. That I would fall in love this much. This all adding to the fact that good-byes make me feel uncomfortable and I get really awkward and I never know what to say, or how to express how truly grateful I am.

My last night I attempted to put Ludwin to bed, but I found that I couldn’t put him down. I just wanted to stand there forever, rocking him and telling him that no matter what he would always have a family. Even if it is impossible, there is someone that wants only him. I felt like I was leaving my child.

But at Casa Bernabe there is only the future, that’s all they have worth looking towards. And that is exactly what I am going to do. I will miss them forever. I will miss the expression and excitement when my kids connect two things in class. I will miss walking into the baby house every afternoon and hearing 10 voices shouting, “Ana, hola! Hola Ana!” Twisting their hands back and forth in the air. I will smile in remembrance at all the kids alerting their teacher “Miss! Ingles!” But mostly I will miss the constant noise of children playing. The constant reminder of their resiliency. The reminder that even after all they have been through, they can still play, they can still be children and that I have had a part in affording them that right. That despite all, from now on, they will be fine. The orphanage is not perfect, but as long as the children can be children, they are succeeding.

So the future awaits, and while I am certain I will return, right now I have a new change on the horizon. Of course I am taking a couple of days to see Guatemala, before I fly out on Friday (mark calendars please), but shortly I will be off to Ethopia to fall in love all over again. I still need to work out the details (oh yeah and the flight), but I know that another great experience is about to unfold, and I couldn’t be more excited.