Sunday, October 23, 2011


Ok so this week I got my first bout of amoebas.  I can't say that they were the worst experience of my life.  Hands down that award goes to a little friend I'd like to call Salmonella followed closely by a concussion.

However, as far as being able to blog they definitely take the bite out of ambition.  So I'll be terse (I hope that word means what I think it does).  Anyway, I'm just going to sum this Shizzle up really quick.

This week Carmen left.  It was super sad and I'm going to miss her like crazy.  She became like a brother to me and was really there for me when it came to the important things down here.  As a perk I got her room which has a freaking hot water heater and refrigerator...  I'm being spoiled down here now.

Ok then on Wednesday I locked myself out of my room and the man with the spare keys (Padre (the priest)) is out of town on Wednesdays. So after trying out my ninja lock opening skills I slept in the dinning room of Padre's House with my arms wrapped around my backpack hoping it would magically protect me from the swarm of mosquitoes.  I also ganked a sheet which is almost as good as the backpack.

Wednesday was pretty cool cuz I did get to play baseball with some of my kids which was AWESOME. Yes I'm going to use AWESOME instead of going into intimate details because I'm sick!

Thursday I got checked out and found out I had a blood infection (WTF) and amoebas.  If you wanna know what amoebas do then google it.  I'll give you a hint tho, Stomach pain, fever, nausea, dizziness, another d word, diarrhea, and muscle soreness.

It sucks but if I can get outta bed it's not that bad right?

Anyway, I'm up I'm about.  I'm going to teach tomorrow.  I'm going to take some meds tonight, but I really don't have the mental capability to focus on this any longer so I bid you good night and I'll try to have a wholly satisfying blog up some time when I'm feeling better.

Goodnight my friends,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lords and Surfs

This a nice house but not the nicest...
Today we had a visitor in Okinawa, Melia.  To show here this divide, we took her on a tour of Okinawa.  Within Okinawa we have many different Barrios (or district) and each has its own flavor.  In the Japonese Barrio there are two story houses with electric gates, buzzers, satellites, boats on trailers, one or more cars, solar panels, trimmed gardens, etc.  These are houses built of brick, covered with stucko so the bricks don’t show, and painted.  There is a fence around the property and space between yards.

On the other side of Okinawa we have the barrio where I went to pray the rosary.  This barrio has a very different feel.  Nice houses are made of exposed bricks, then there are houses made of wood with thatch roofs, the cheapest houses are mud huts with thatch roofs.  Sometimes there are multiple families living in each house. 

This is a shack, but not the worst...
Our discussion today surrounded the injustice of poverty.  We talked about poverty here as compared to the states.  The Japanese here didn’t always have wealth; many of them fled Japan after WW2 because they didn’t have any land (due to radiation or other factors.)  They started here with nothing and their wealth comes from their crops.  They flaunt their wealth in their houses because they are proud of their success. 

Conversely we have Bolivians who have lived on the same land for generations and have not been able to get a leg up.  They are living similar to how they lived for generations without the motivation to build up.  Some of these shanty shacks will be built right next to the Japanese houses.  It's very much like the lords and the surfs of old.  The money "trickles down" from the rich to the poor.  Although it may be more of a drip than a trickle.

Yet, how do we address this gap when asked?  What do we do when a child comes up to us and looks for inspiration or support?  I think Melia nailed this on the head, there is dignity in poverty.  We can be proud of the privileges that we do have, not taking them for granted, yet not wishing for others to the detriment of our personal sanity.

This is the mentality that will help volunteers get from working in a field filled with poverty to living amongst our family again, as privileges become common place again.

Why is this all important to a volunteer?  Well as I’m sure you all know volunteering means giving up a certain amount of privelage.  It’s always there even though the people who are hosting you try their hardest to minimize this.  I still have running water (and sometimes it is hot!).  I have a bed a toilet that flushes.  I can afford to get my clothes washed.  I have books and a computer.  Yet even with all of this, to a volunteer poverty is very IN YOUR FACE. 

I’d draw the comparison to a phantom limb lost somewhere in life, you may get used to missing a hand but it never feels quite right.  That is the life of a volunteer; we are always halfway between cultures.  My phantom limb consists of potable water, air conditioning, my truck, a flat screen TV, Playstation 3, Laundry Machines, etc. and it itches constantly. 

No matter what I do I sense the feeling of loss.  As I lay awake at night I feel the heat beating down on me.  My one sheet is too much tonight so I toss it aside.  The few mosquitoes that have made it into my room awaken me once or twice with their infamous eardrum flybys.  I’ve developed a cough over the past few days, I don’t know what it is but I pray its just a cold and that it isn’t a symptom of something deeper. 

Angry I complain to myself.  I think of how nice my house is in the states, the fact that I can sleep with a BLANKET in the summer.  The thought of ice water from the faucet makes the luke warm water from my reused 2 liter bottle taste bitter.  Tonight I’m bitter, I missed mass because of the pounding in my head.  The sound of others praying seems to set me on edge, even though it should bring me peace. 

My heart seems to be in a black mood tonight as I think of a place where I have a fiancĂ©, a loyal dog, my car, my TV, my language, my, my, my…

I wish I could tell you that this was some sort of fabricated story, but this is how I felt last night.  Bitter and sweaty I laid in my bed wishing to be somewhere else; to enjoy the privilege that I deserve.  I hate to admit these thoughts, and the only thing that got me to stop my whining was when I thought of the children here. 

I thought of children who are sleeping on a shared family bed, huddling close to their parents in the winter to fight the cold and seeking space in the summer to fight the heat.  Children who don’t have mosquito nets, so rather than the 1 or 2 flybys they become a tasty little pincushion for mosquitoes as they rest.

I think of the Television that they don’t have.  The deflated soccer balls they feel PRIVELAGED to play with.  I think of the dirty water that these kids drink which carries amoebas, bacterial infections, or some other stomach bug they can’t afford to get rid of.  I think of the houses that I walk by down here: the rich, the working class, and the poor.  Even the nicest of the houses here in Okinawa Numero Uno is not as nice as my parent’s house in the states…

These are the thoughts and experiences that allow me to get through my time here.  They remind me that I don’t deserve my lot in life.  Life down here has taught me that my phantom limb wasn’t a right I had but a privilege and I pray when it is returned to me that I never take it for granted again. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Praying for food

What does it mean when we pray for the hungry?  Does it mean we hope that food will magically appear, that it will rain meatballs, or that the sensation of hunger will disappear?  Personally, I believe that when we pray for the hungry, we are praying for an openness in our own hearts that allows us, as people, to help one another when need arises.  I hope that you'll see in this blog that does happen.

The month of May is all about the Rosary in Catholic Communities.  I’d never seen the type of praying that they had done here before.  Every day they wake up at 5 am walk down the road, dreary eyed and exhausted to pray the first rosary of the day.

This year I decided to pray the rosary every single day, either with the other volunteer, the kids, or by myself.  I know many of my friends from school are probably like… WTF are you doing Large!  I can’t really explain what it is but praying the same thing every day puts you into this semi meditative state.  It’s amazing what some time away from the TV and Computer can do to help you think.

I’ve recently started praying the rosary again and I’m trying to keep it to every single night.  I do some yoga poses and will hold them for an entire Hail Mary or two.  It is more about self discipline than anything else.  I’ve lived much of my life doing what I WANTED to do and not feeling fulfilled I think it’s time to start doing what I need to do first.

So here is a story.  A common prayer is for food for the poor.  I never realized it but that’s what they pray for too.  It all started when Carmen (my fellow volunteer), invited me to go do the rosary with her in the Barrios (suburbs) of Okinawa.  Usually the Barrios we go to are the poorest areas.  I reluctantly decided to join here, because I was still not enjoying doing the rosary every freaking night, but I went.

We show up at a stranger’s house where Carmen and I are warmly welcomed.  We are given seats, of which there aren’t many, and polite conversation until it is time to start.  I don’t know if any of you recall the story I wrote about picking a kid up and removing him from class, but that kid was there.  We saw each other from across the room and the glare could have melted steel.  I know I should be more love but this kid seriously got on my nerves. 

Anyway, I pushed it aside, or tried to, and prayed the rosary.  They do three rosaries and one of the kids gets a turn to lead.  It really is beautiful.  At the end they go around and instead of doing 10 Hail Marys they do 1 for each little kid there.  The thought being that God hears little kids better than he hears adults. 

After every rosary is food some sort of snack of cookies, saltenas, or soda.  The food is provided by the owners of the house because the children have come to say the rosary.  It is a gift for a gift.  Sometimes the owners of the house don’t provide anything, believe it or not, that usually happens at the best furnished and nicest houses. 

We would visit three houses every night.  And without fail I was always offered seconds, which it would be rude to refuse.  I learned how to sneak something to the kids around me but I couldn’t always manage it.  I usually prayed that the kids would find some food, shelter, and love; things hard to come by in Bolivia.

As time went on Jose Louis and I bonded, not quickly, but it was there.  He’d forgiven me for embarrassing him in class and I was realizing how tough he had it.  One day I asked him why he came to the rosary.  He obviously didn’t like it.  He mumbled the prayers if he said them at all.  His response was, “This is my dinner.”

p.s. I am a little to busy to edit my blogs right now so... I hope you'll forgive me. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I stole this pic from the internet
Yup that’s it.  I've had a long as-heck week and I just can't seem to organize my thoughts so you get them in an un-edited charlie foxtrot.  I'm sorry to do this to you, wait no I'm not cuz that means I don't have to edit this crap.  What Have I been doing?  The beginning of the week was normal, then s- got harder.  Thursday I started my visa process which is, in the mildest of terms, a pain in the keister.  I mean how hard should it be to volunteer to help educate someone elses country?  And the people who work at the best jobs have the WORST attitude.  Don't say hi or else you get kicked out!  What the Foxtrot is that?  Corruption...  Gotta love it!  So instead of a cohesive blog you get this... You can all thank the Bolivian Government. 


Spin me?
Seriously, What the Foxtrot?  Sometimes I don’t know why I’m here, I mean I do, but I don’t…  What good am I actually doing?  I frack up so much here that I might as well just be another dude,  I’ve been trying to become good friends with this kid named Diego, yet every time I try to set up a meeting I freaking miss it.  I don’t want him to think that I don’t care but honestly I have other priorities that I have to put first… like getting my Visa info done. 

How to Chill 101...
Day off,

Some weekends I feel like slacking off on Saturday, it is quite literally my only day off down here.  Yeah I may be able to catch a nap sometimes during the week but it’s the only time I get to say no to all the things that are piling up around me.  I woke up at 11 today.  Sure I was up at 4:15 so I could get my visa done and went to bed at 11 pm but that’s my fault!


Sometimes I feel like a man in the middle of a blizzard with a little gardening spade.  I can’t seem to dig fast enough.  As I get more familiar with the needs of the community down here I see all the different things they need me to do and my time to return to the states is quickly approaching.  (hence the bad feeling about my day off).  Then on top of that being here has made me super susceptible to getting sick.  A cold could last a month or three.

Dorthy Sucks...

When in another country you never quite feel healthy.  There is always something nagging at your health.  I can’t put my finger on it but it’s this worry, the diet is different (I miss veggies soo much) and anything you eat that isn’t cooked could potentially give you some sort of bug.  On the flip side it is extremely rude to say no when someone offers you a gift of food.  It is just like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up.


Yet with all that s- piled up this is one of the most awesome experiences of my life.   I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.  It’s been as memorable as my college experience with close friends (Haitians, Bolivians, Americans and more), great experiences, and a feeling of fulfillment.  I can complain about many things down here but not the experience as a whole.

Just a cool pic.

When you finally get the feeling of being accepted by the community at large it is an amazing feeling.  For me it happened when they started calling me “Big Show” for the Big Show, Y’all know who I’m talking about.  They seem to think it’s a term of endearment and it fits so I don’t fight it.  I just smile and wave whenever I hear my new name and recognize that I’ve been accepted into the community here. 


Down here nicknames seem to be a huge deal.   Everyone has one (except Sister Nora who is going to be a Saint).  Sor Leo is Sister Lion, because when she yells it’s freaking loud.  Every volunteer who comes down is “Ticher” but that doesn’t translate to Professor or Teacher as we know it.  It just means volunteer.  I’ve heard this name being shouted from the darndest places.  Kids who I’ve never seen will run up to me and hug me because I’m just another “Teacher.”  This has to be one of my favorite things down here.

Oh so you can do it… Right?

There is an assumption down here that Americans can do a very wide range of things.  Being an engineer doesn’t mean that I can make airplanes it means that I can fix a copy machine, do a little plumbing, and basically anything else of that sort.  I love it but sometimes it gets me into a little bit of trouble… such as offering my services to help someone build a kit helicopter…  I think it was in Spanish and things are still a little hazy as far as that’s concerned. 

The Volunteers,

Freaking A, I just want everyone out there to know that volunteering with other people is a different experience.  I have been on a site by myself and with other people.  Being the social butterfly that I am I tend to prefer the company of others to my own.  EVERY single person I have met on mission has been amazing in their own way and I’m going to write up personal profiles for each of them so you can all get to know what they are like.  Cuz guess what, they rock!

Anyway that’s pretty much all the randomness for right now.  I miss you all and I’ll see you shortly… I hope.  If you have any prayer requests feel free to hit me up and I’ll get the community on it. 

Over and out,