A New Kind of Adventure
Hello, hello friends! I have officially been below the equator for 2 whole weeks. More than that, I’ve been nestled away in a little village just outside of the vibrant city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Within that little village is a lovely home filled with three long-term volunteers, two sisters (commonly referred to as nuns), a parrot named Celeste, an unnamed tortoise, and 36 beautiful young girls for whom this home exists.
We call this home ‘the hogar’, which simply means ‘home’ in Spanish. The girls live, eat, and play at the hogar but since the ~icky virus~ arrived in Bolivia, the girls have also been doing online school here. And with 36 young girls living almost their whole lives in one place (albeit a big place), not a single day of life here resembles another. Each morning I wake up knowing I’m in for an adventure and each night I sleep better than the night before.
However, the daily adventures don’t consist of the fun touristy things you associate with traveling to another country (although I’ve gotten a couple glimpses of that as well). The adventure consists of figuring out how I might possibly persuade a girl to get her chores done before class. The adventure consists of waking up early to exercise before the girls wake up, and by the end of my workout I have 4 shadows alongside me. The adventure consists of helping a child learn to read in my second language. The adventure consists of waiting in line with a child for over 5 hours for her to get dental care only for her to refuse to open her mouth (the public medicine system here results in very long wait times). The adventure consists of being in bed for a day because Bolivian food is figuring out if it will work with my body or not. The adventure consists of making sure every girl gets a hug before bed. The adventure consists of all the little conversations I have with these girls, learning who they are and loving them more and more.
Two weeks in, I can say that this is the most fulfilling adventure of my life so far. But one big thing I’ve realized over the last two weeks is that I’ve never been on this kind of adventure before. Those who know me know I love to travel— whether that be a day trip in-state or studying abroad in another country. All previous travel adventures I’ve ever been on, however, have been purely selfish. I travel because I want to, I travel to where I want, and I do what I want when I’m there, taking as much in as I can. This adventure is very different. I traveled because God wanted me to (well, we conspired together), to a location where He revealed a need that I could fill, doing things on a daily basis that are not for entertainment-purposes, and seeing how much I can give of myself.
Before I make myself sound like a superhero, let me break the record and say that it’s difficult and unfortunately my patience has broken on a number of occasions. But it’s hard to stay annoyed or upset for long when you have so many little humans running up to hug and love you.
For example, Saturday is the day off for the volunteers at the hogar. After the last week of really desiring some rest and alone/quiet time, you can imagine my annoyance when a girl yelled up to me asking if I could come down to unlock a door for her. I know what you’re thinking, “Olivia, that’s a pretty small ask. Why the heck were you so annoyed?”.
Good question! But I was. And as I walked down the stairs to unlock said door for this girl who definitely did not deserve my attitude, a section from C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters popped into my head. For reference, this book consists of letters that two workers for the devil write back and forth to each other, discussing how they can work to pull humans further and further away from God. It says,
“...These things anger him [humans] because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours … The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
And boy oh boy how true is that. My time is not my own, every single dang day is a gift from my Father who created me. I knew before I came to Bolivia that my purpose was to care for these girls, and I’m more on board with that purpose than ever. But that doesn’t change the fact that giving of yourself can be hard. Especially for a person, like I, who has always found a dangerous amount of comfort in controlling time.
But after I unlocked the door for that girl, it opened up the opportunity for me to sit with a girl for a few minutes and make sure she felt cared for before the rest of her day commenced. It forced me to slow down and remember why I’m here, as I had briefly forgotten in that moment of annoyance.
Well, thank you for reading. I honestly love my life with these girls in Bolivia. And any doubts I may have had about following this calling before have completely washed away. This is where I’m meant to be and at the end of the day, these challenges are a true privilege.
Until next time, enjoy a few photos I’ve taken with the girls around the hogar and out in the city.