May 30, 2011

...Dead Reburied

So, I promised in my last update that my next entry would be about the experience that I had going to Padre Pancho´s mother house to commemorate the anniversary of his fathers death. I wish I could say that I am making this entry up, I really do. But, like many things that I have experienced just can't make this stuff up.

Kristen and I were woken up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning to make the three hour trip. I'm more accustomed to long car rides than I would like to be. My entire extended family lives (or at least used to live) in and around Chicago, so growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin, it was a three hour car ride every Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Graduation, Baptism, First Communion, occasional long weekend and birthday. Also, I went to college three hours away from home, so I`m used to making such trips. However, one thing about traveling in the good old United States of America is that the roads are PAVED. And for the most part, even with Wisconsin´s never ending construction season, relatively smooth. Here, the paved roads are few and far between. Even gravel roads are scarce. For the majority of the route to Pancho's mothers, we drive on dirt, around giant pot holes, and even through the occasional stream, brook, or low river. Thus, this particular journey requires a sports bra and Dramamine. But it is what it is. We arrived at the house with only a minor case of whiplash and began meeting the endless stream of Pancho's siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Kristen and I ate some sancocho (a very common food here. Basically a stew type thing.) before helping set up for the mass which was to be held on the porch.

A large table was set up to be used as an alter, with lawn chairs surrounding it. The mass began with about fifty people in attendance. In the center of the alter was a large wooden box, about 18 in by 1in. with a cross carved on top. After beginning the mass with a prayer and a short explanation of the significance of the day, Padre Pancho walks to the alter, leans over and carefully removes the lid of the box.

Immediately, all of those around the alter begin to edge forward, leaning over in an attempt to get a glimpse of the contents of the box. A few of members of Pancho's family step forward, peer into the box and place their hands on the contents. Meanwhile, everyone else present, (save for me, Kristen, and Raphael) crowd in, waiting fortheir turn to see.

Witnessing this entire process take place, I began to formulate several guesses as to what the box contained. But, truth be told, I wasn´t all that sure I wanted to know, much less see for myself. However, my curiosity heightened when cameras began appearing. Within minutes of unveiling the box, cameras were flashing in every direction. So I thought to myself, I can't possibly be right about the contents of the box...could I?
After a few minutes, I turned to Kristen and whispered, "Um, are they looking". Staring straight ahead she answered, "I don't want to know"..

The mass continued, with the occasional guest making his or her way forward for a looksies or the random flashing of a camera. Then, in his concluding remarks, Padre Pancho invited everyone to come forward once more to pay their respects. I glanced at Kristen, who just shook her head. But I had to confirm my suspicions. I inched forward, bracing myself for what I may see. Taking a deep breath, I leaned over and peered inside. The box contained, just as I had suspected. There I was, looking at the actual the bones of Padre Pancho's father. This was definitely one of those moments in life when you are forced to stop yourself and try to absorb the situation.  The mass concluded and people began to to disperse. Needing a few answers for my questions, I approached Raphael and inquired, "So, what's with the bones...?" He laughed, shook his head and said, "You know, I was wondering the same thing myself."
But as it turns out, there was an legitimate explanation. At least, as legitimate a reason that possible for a box of bones. Padre Pancho's father passed away 16 years ago. Like many Latin American countries, the dead are buried above ground in a crypt.. There is a cultural mindset that the dead should not be buried underground. (I can't be sure on the reason behind this mindset). So, when Padre's Pancho's father passed away, the family could not afford to put him in a crypt. Thus, it was necessary to bury him underground until enough money was saved up. This day happened to be the 16th anniversary of the father's death, hence the unveiling of the bones at the memorial mass. Like I keep saying, you can't make this stuff up.

May 18, 2011

...Digestive Rebellion

(Okay, I know, I know, the title is questionable. And you are probably considering exiting out of this Blog for fear that I will reveal more than anyone could ever want to know about me. But don´t worry...The entry won't be as bad as it may sound...)

 The topic of this particular entry is due to the unfortunate fact that after mangaging to live the past nine+ in developing countries without serious incident, I have recently survived my first (and God willing, the last) bout encounter with Food Poisoning. Yes, capital F, capital P. The very large probability that I would eat something bad while here has always been something I have feared. I mean, being sick is bad enough. And being really sick without your mom there to take care of you...well, that just plain sucks.

 It all began with a trip to Padre Pancho's mom's house (Padre Pancho is a priest here who is kind of a big deal. Everyone knows him. So by association, Kristen and I are as well!)  Being invited to his house is an honor. Which is the reason Kristen and I found ourselves waking up at 5:30 am on a Sunday, which happens to be our only day off,  to make the three hour journey down the treacherous road to the local priest's home village. The Delgados (my host family here), Kristen and I had been asked to join in the mass and gathering of Padre Pancho´s family (Oh, he is one of 15, did I mention?) to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the death of Padre Pancho's father...(Incidently, this experience has caused the creation of the next blog enttry...). Anyway, as it turns out, having a large amount of food at family gatherings is a universal custom.

So, after being surrounded by many of Pancho's family members in an enclosed area, and head hurting from trying to make small talk in Spanish, when the food was ready, I helped myself to an overflowing plate of rice, potato salad, coleslaw, and shredded chicken-- which looked particularly delicious...And then, I went back for seconds.

It didn't begin right away...Everyone was so full from the food at Padre Pancho's that none us had any dinner. I woke up early Monday morning, my digestive system much more, um, active than usual. Still, I didn't think anything of it. My stomach didn't feel all that great as I spent the typical Monday morning trying to pay attention in meetings, but again, I didn't think anything of it. Going to the convent for lunch, I wasn't particularly hungry and after I managed to eat a tiny bit, my stomach, once again, began to make its presence known. But, through all of this, I felt relatively fine and finished out the work day.

It was during my and Kristen's daily 3 mile run that I started to feel like something wasn't quite right. Within the first few running steps, I felt each movement of my throbbing joints. Perhaps I should have stopped immediately, but I tend to push myself, and managed to make it through two miles before stopping. I walked the last mile, choked down some dinner, and attempted to shower. When the water against my skin was too painful to bear, I put myself to bed before 8 pm. The rest of the night remains a blur. I should have recognized how sick I was when I woke up in the middle of the night at opened my eyes to "see" a pillow-sized cockroach in my room, and my only reaction was to close my eyes and go back to sleep. What should have tipped me off to the fact that I was hallucinating, was not the appearance of a pillow sized cockroach staring at me, but the fact that my only reaction was to go back to sleep.

I honestly do not remember ever being that sick in my entire life. I realize now, after the fact, I should have gone to the doctor. Probably even the hospital. But I was so sick that I didn't even realize how sick I was. I spent all of Tuesday in bed. Managing to hold down only a tiny bit of soup at five pm before returning to bed and staying there (with the exception of bathroom trips) until noon Wednesday. With the care of Kristen and my host mom, Marina, I was able to go back to work on Thursday, feeling 75%. And after about four hazy days, of which I will spare you the wonderful details, my body slowly began to make its way back to normal. And now, 7 days later. All I can say is that this past week has given significant and unwanted new meaning to the phrase, "This too shall pass".

Too much information? Sorry :)

May 04, 2011

...Daring Resilience

Being here and in Mexico for the a total of almost nine months thus  far has taught me so much more than how to become semi conversational in Spanish. I am SLOWLY gaining confidence in my ability to understand and speak Spanish. The process has been so much more difficult, exhausting, and LONGER than I had ever could have imagined it to be.
Each and everyday here is filled with new beginnings, new experiences, and several, okay, actually MANY new challenges. Nothing about this experience and journey has been very easy, but I have grown to understand that the seemingly constant challenges and obstacles are merely part of the process. Throughout the day I have to repeatedly remind myself that I have to let go of the fear I have and be willing to make mistakes. Because I know that the longer I hold on to that fear, the longer it will take to feel comfortable with the language.  Although there are times I feel like giving up, I am comforted by the love, prayers, and support that I know is being sent from my family and friends.  I am searching hard to try to maintain the sense of peace that I am where I am is where I am supposed to be at this moment in time. And so at the end of the day, remembering why I am here and trusting that God wants me here is what keeps me dedicated to my service and inspires me to work all that much harder. And it is the knowledge  that I have countless people who believe in me and support me in what I am doing here, that fills me with the strength courage that I need to continue this process.

I thought I would share some words of Oscar Romero which sum up what I am trying to express in this blog entry. I think he says it much better than I did...

Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.  No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission.  No set of goals and
obvjectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.  we cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. this enables us to do something, and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest