And then there was 1
The first thing I always want to write at the beginning of a blog post is, “I can’t believe how much has happened since the last time I wrote!” You get it, life is crazy here. My relationship with the constantly unexpected events (read more: It’s A Lifestyle) began as a negative one, then it evolved to a state of acceptance, and now I think we have a pretty good friendship. And just so we’re clear– learning more about how to trust in God amidst the chaos is what has made this change in how I view the chaos, possible.
I never wrote about it, but back in June when my family was visiting, I got to travel to the vibrant, mountainous city of La Paz. This city is the largest-populated (2m+) in Bolivia & built literally amidst mountains… so we were in store for a lot of up-hill and down-hill walking, and that large population in such a constricting urban area made for a lot of congestion. I wasn’t a huge fan of the city, but the main attraction for me was using the city as a gateway to get to Copacabana, Bolivia. Here we got to visit this lazy beach town where you can explore Lake Titicaca. We stayed in the coolest hostel ever, their architecture and designs were inspired by Gaudi himself, and we spent a couple of days enjoying the view of the royal blue waters (too cold to swim, IMO), riding for hours on a boat to reach Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) which has a big significance for the Aymaran and Incan cultures, and ate lots of yummy fish.
July was a month of rest. The girls were scheduled to have the first two weeks of the month off, but we know how schedules work around here (read more: They Don’t :). Two weeks turned into 4 weeks and before we knew it, we were enjoying an entire month off of school! We woke up a little bit later, and did more of the normal things like chores and studying but at a much slower pace and only during the morning hours. Then, in the afternoon the girls could watch TV for a couple of hours and/or play outside. My favorite thing we did during the afternoon was go on walks to the “cerro”. Because Cochabamba is located in a valley in the Andes Mountain Range, we’ve got lots of hills. Just behind the hogar, we would go on walks up to the top of this big hill and by the time we made our way home, we had been walking for 2.5 hours! We did that a couple of times and it is always the best thing to see the girls out and about exploring.
July was also a nice opportunity to start doing some of the personal things I wanted to work on. While the girls were watching TV, I was usually sitting beside them on my laptop applying for jobs and/or travel researching. That’s right– JOBS! Up until this post I believe I have maintained that I wasn’t sure when I was leaving, but I have decided that I will be here for just a little over a year and then say “See you later” to my Bolivian family. I have very mixed feelings about it all, but the fact that we have two new volunteers all set up to come (God-willing) is making me feel a little better about it all. But anyways, my job search hasn’t been super fruitful thus far (I worked all July on an application I was really excited about and then it was denied in less than 24 hours– LOL). I was a bit nerve-wracked about not finding my dream job after one month of searching (sounds hilarious to say now), but after coming back to my senses I am feeling very peaceful in the fact that my next steps are not up to me at all.
And then there was 1… In the last couple days of June, one of my fellow volunteers concluded her time in Bolivia, and just a week ago my other fellow volunteer had to leave early due to an unexpected life event, and that has left me here as the only volunteer! Just a few months ago, that would have scared the hell out of me. But when I found out my friend would be leaving unexpectedly, I was shockingly not worried at all (although I was going to really miss her!). I know the reason, too. God has literally been preparing my heart for this over the last couple of months. At the recommendation of a past hogar volunteer, I started reading the book “Kisses from Katie”. At first I was a bit skeptical because I thought the title was pretty cheesy, but it ended up being a book that consumed my thoughts and worries and hopes and fears. This book is about a girl named Katie who planned to do a year in Uganda as a volunteer and ended up deciding to live there… like forever. Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I don’t feel called to live in Bolivia forever. However, this book isn’t really about moving to another country for your whole life, it’s about making the radical choice to say “yes” to what God is calling you to in order to glorify Him. I’m just about the least qualified person to preach on this, as this book has convicted me so deeply about the ways I have said “no” to God before. This book has brought things to my attention that I’m not sure I could say “yes” to God to. This literally hurts to write, because how tied must I be to my humanity in order to prefer my current comforts rather than the life God could be calling me to?
Now I’m not saying that being the only volunteer here is Mother-Theresa-level work. I’m just saying that this book was God’s way of telling me He was going to be challenging me here soon. I was literally anxiously waiting for God to tell me what it was going to be, and when I found out I would be the only volunteer here, I wasn’t worried because I knew that was it. I think that’s it at least… I’ll let y'all know if something else bigger comes up :-)
And after a week of this new chapter as the only volunteer here, I can assure you that it is not at all easy, but that it is already proving to be a beautiful chapter in new ways. The sisters started telling the girls that they had to behave better since I would be the only one here. And although that hasn’t necessarily happened (and I wouldn’t have expected it to, LOL), I have noticed so many of the girls stepping up to help in new ways. And honestly, that is what they need! They need opportunities to be treated like little adults. The ones who relied on me too closely to help them with their homework are now being forced to figure more out on their own since I can’t work 1 on 1 with everyone for the same amount of time as before. The tweens (the ones who are like 10-12 years old) feel empowered when I tell them to help me do the younger ones’ hair. The older teenagers have repeatedly come up to ask me how I’m doing since the other two volunteers left (the answer: good!). Again, this isn’t some massive change that has rocked the world onto its head, but it’s a change that has affected the hogar-dynamics and there is a lot of good coming out of it!
Another change has been that I have grown closer to the two sisters and our hogar-workers since I’ve been on my own. It has only been a week, but I feel like I already know them much better than I did a couple weeks ago. In addition, not having any other English-speakers around has resulted in a lot less complaining about little things, which has already been working wonders in my perspective of various situations (If your mouth is causing you to sin, take away the English speakers) (brownie points for those who got the biblical reference). I have had my fair share of feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of my abilities in the last week, but the support I feel from the sisters and other hogar-workers have made those feelings seem of quite secondary importance.
Life here isn’t easy and it never will be. There are a lot of things I am battling with internally. But I can feel that God is with me in every step I take and He’s constantly trying to teach me new things. I feel bad that He’s working so hard on someone who is so stubborn about listening to Him, but that’s the great thing about God. He won’t give up on you. I am just so grateful that He has given me the opportunity to be here and live a little bit of this crazy life with these beautiful girls.
That's all for today. Enjoy some extra photos below :)
Some photos from my parents' goodbye party
Photos from a day trip to a waterpark / outdoor adventure place that was a 6 hour drive from Cochabamba
Photos from a party we had where they dressed me up like an incan sun god?!