A New Country Opens

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I arrived in the ceiling of South America by plane on January 20th. ¨Bienvenido Hermana Minga¨" Ruben greeted myself and 2 other Americanos. I instantly doused my sluggish body with a coca tea infusion. WOW. The peaks of the mountains like primordial sentinels peeked through the fog. At 12,000 feet, I felt wobbly and had to pinch myself to see if I finally had arrived at La Paz. The beauty of the city nestled in the biceps of the Andes was amazing. What had brought me here?

I had wonderful intentions. I had been called to this country despite all the ways it interupted my family life and my work in Boston. But standing in front of BQE office in Illiampu Calle I saw a street full of taxis, mini vans, trucks, carts and women carrying huge bundles with colorful shawls. I didn´t dare put my toe in the street to cross even though in Boston the traffic trains pedistrians to be aggressive. The sidewalk was so crowded with vendors with carts selling juice and stalls cooking chunos and fava beans and other inscrutible smells I had to weave myself around. The vendors visited each other, children were attached to the mothers´ long skirts, boys called out across the streets. I finally decided it was safe to cross the street and try my stilted Spanish, when a mother muttered "por favor". I stopped in my tracks when I realized that the bundle tied to her back had 2 little ears and a woolen baby´s cap. I had almost knocked into a mother carrying her groceries and a baby on the back.

I have learned this first week that I can make mistakes and start again. I have learned patience with my body as it adjusts. I have learned that a smile helps when my tongue is tied in knots. Bolivia is the heart of the continent and despite the hardship of breathing and eating delicious foods that my stomach rejected, the Bolivians have captured my heart. Its´summer here and the new school year will start Feb 2nd. I have learned new levels of trust. I assume that I´m buying a papaya and then I realize that I didn´t buy the right one because there´s at least 2 types of papaya. Happily, Bolivians are tolerant. Most people ask me how I like the weather here. Their second question is "Are you from England? or Argentina? There´s very few people carrying US passports.

I thought the Spirit wanted me to share my faith and culture with Bolivian Friends. That´s what my letter of introduction from Cambridge Meeting in MA said. If I stretch my memory I remember Friends sending me off with joy and their love. Now I still hope I can offer something practical maybe teaching English or doing Alternatives to Violence workshops. But what spiritual lessons have I learned? Mostly that I need to trust that despite my mistakes, something greater is at work. Despite a sick body, we who are from opposite cultures can share a meal with love.  And I know that I have only begun.  Read on next week and we will both be interested in knowing what lessons await me.