I apologize again for the months-long blog silence, here is my attempt to play catch up and hopefully get back into the swing of blogging.
A lot has happened here in Arbolito in the past two months since we've been here and I still can't believe how fast the time is going by although it is something that I try not to get too bogged down by. Now that we've been here for a substantial period of time, I find myself slipping into a routine - Tuesday and Thursday mornings I work in the office of Pastoral Social-Cáritas with Padre Mauro and on my mornings off I try to make it to visit some of my neighbors and spend time with them. Every afternoon I take two buses to Manos Abiertas and work with the kids there. While I appreciate and find comfort in this routine, I also fear how much it has normalized life here for me. Not only normalizing what I do but the things I see or the experiences I have that I don't give a second thought to because its just the way it is, for me, it's "normal."
Mid-August through mid-September brought with it many visitors to Arbolito which not only allowed me to truly understand the meaning of hospitality and the role that it plays in our lives here as volunteers but also to re-evaluate my "normalcy." First, in August came a medical mission group to provide a clinic here in Arbolito and a neighboring community. Not only did this experience allow me to use my skills to translate, but it gave me the opportunity to acknowledge a major need that exists in my community for medical care. But furthermore, receiving visitors so early on in our year gave me the opportunity to think about my decision to be here for a year and about the connection I have to this community.
At the beginning of September I had the priviledge of leading our first retreat group here in Arbolito from Santa Clara University. For me this came at a good time just after our one month mark here. This group was full of inquisitive students who were genuinely interested in all they were to see and experience here and their questions and observations challenged me to reevaluate the things that I live on a daily basis. Their presence brought me back so quickly to how I felt when we first got here - it reminded me of the things that shocked and surprised me, the things that bothered and frustrated me, the things that brought me joy and hope. This group gave me a great gift; to make me question things in a new light but also to break down the normalcy that I had come to feel. Yet still, less than a month after their visit, I find myself slipping back into a normalcy - some days not thinking twice about the lack of running water or being unphased by the homes of the kids at Manos. Don't get my wrong, it`s not that these things don't frustrate me, it absolutely does, I just find myself questioning less why these things are the way they are and just accepting what they are.
"Close both eyes, see with the other one," says the poet Rumi. As I am here trying to break out of my normalcy, I understand the importance of what Rumi says. I want to stop seeing things with my eyes and start seeing things with my heart. I want things to fill my heart with genuine joy but I also want things to hurt and to challenge me - to process the injustices and difficulties I see in a way that is raw, in a way that makes me think and makes me feel. This, I believe, will allow me to move beyond this normalcy. Thich Nhat Khan writes that, "Our true home is the present moment, the miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment." That is where I want to be; fully in the present moment in order to be instead of do, and in order to feel with my heart instead of see with my eyes.