A Story of a Girl Named Annabeth

After a long night of the baby crying, 12-year-old Annabeth awakes to the 28 girls in Casa de Buen Trato scurrying along trying to get to school in time. Annabeth gets up slowly knowing that again, just like every other weekday, she will be staying behind with the other mothers. She wonders why the baby won’t stop crying. She wishes sometimes she could just leave her with one of the perfectly capable women at the shelter who manage to take care of all of them well enough. But then after the sinking feeling in her stomach she realizes she needs little Josie as much as she needs her. Foggy headed, she makes for the tiny kitchen she shares with another young mother. She fixes some bread and jam for herself and then sits down once again to feed the baby. She hopes this will be the feeding that finally puts her to sleep long enough for her to get through her sewing class in 10 minutes.

They are learning how to make baby clothing. She’s now working on kitting a sweater, but she is distracted. The group of Americas volunteering at the shelter for the week have arrived for their second day of work. She watches them as they paint and joke and laugh with one another. Part of her wants to join, only on the sideline, so that she can be a part of their happiness. Why did they come all this way just to paint some buildings? They don’t even speak Spanish. But this is the case for every group that comes here. She has seen them come and go since she arrived six months ago, still she never gets close enough to know more. Not that it matters, they would all be leaving and back to their own lives doing God knows what with their families and friends in a week anyways. Better to stay inside with Josie.

By the next afternoon Annabeth notices some of the Americans in the recreation building making something with a few of the other girls. She is bored and can’t help but admit that she may just be curious enough to walk over and see what it is they’re doing. She walks in, young women start asking her her name and the baby’s name and how old she is and if she wants to make a bracelet. Or at least she thinks that’s what they were trying to say. She waits for one of them to ask who the father of her baby is, why she’s here, where her family is…but none of them do. She puts Josie in her stroller and sits down waiting for instructions on how to make one of these thread bracelets. She gets started, the girls are singing and laughing and attempting to communicate with them. Annabeth appreciates the effort anyways. She notices a smile on her face. When was the last time she smiled like that? As quickly as it came it disappeared just as fast. Josie was crying again. Times up, she had her moment of fun. She picks up the baby and walks out, frustrated with the ones who get to stay. Angry that the other girls didn’t end up with a baby from all of this. Jealous that at least in some way the other girls still get to be children. But not her, she lost that a long time ago, and she fears she will never get it back.

Each afternoon Annabeth joins the group of Americans in the recreation building with the other girls. She continues on her bracelet and by the fourth day she trust some of the American girls to hold Josie when she cries so she can continue working. They look to be having the time of their lives holding the babies, more power to them. She becomes more comfortable with them and she even approaches some of them throughout the day while they are working. Some of the other girls act like they’re best friends with the Americans. They hug and ask them to write letters for them in their notebooks and cry when they leave. But not Annabeth, she knows that they are going to leave just like every other group. She knows that in the end they are different from them. They have families to go back to and college and a nice safe home. They will probably forget all about us when they go home. They should know better than to get to close, they should know that the only real person you have in this world is yourself.

When the day comes for the group to leave Annabeth is surprisingly sad to see them go. Not sad enough to cry but enough to wish they could have stayed longer. As she watches them dance and play and say their goodbyes she wonders if she will ever be as happy as they all seem. She thinks about being in her home and her life there and how badly she was hurt, she never wants to go back there. She would do anything to have a different family, one that takes care of her instead of doing what they did that brought her here. She would do anything to change her story but knows that she can’t. They only thing now is to try to change things in the future, and she hopes that God will allow her that simple prayer.

 

-This story is one from my time volunteering with a short term missions group from Ohio in a town called Huanuco in the Andes Mountains. This is my interpretation of the inner thoughts and emotions of a young girl (whose name was changed for her protection) in the shelter for sexually abused young women. There are 30 people in the shelter, 9 mothers generally between the ages of 12-15 and the majority are girls aged 9-18 who have a long history of sexual abuse. Annabeth is in fact 12 years old and she does have a 2 month old baby. Her abuser is unknown to us but for most cases it is a father, brother, uncle, or another family member. She was an incredibly shy young girl who you could see on her face that she wanted to be a part of the activities but didn’t know if she should. Each girl in the shelter acted differently towards us and it makes me wonder in what ways our presence impacts the girls at the shelter. What I want to be known is that we will never forget the impact these girls made in our lives and the truths and realities that were brought to us because of our time there. These are young girls whose youth was stolen from them too soon and whose lives will be a struggle every moment solely because of the family and country they were born into. Just like every person I have met throughout my journey here in Peru, Annabeth will hold a spot in my heart forever and will continue to be the motivation I need to keep doing what I do.

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The US Has What?

The American Dream, Land of Opportunity american-flag-clip-art-waving-waves1

Who doesn’t think of this simple phrase when talking about the United States of America? I’ll tell you who-Americans. The people who think the US is filled with rainbows, butterflies, and chocolate covered opportunities are sadly mistaken. I have an abundance of pride for my country, heck I think it’s one of the best places in the world. I also know however, that it is a country with flaws and a country of corruption, poverty, and injustice. It is difficult to compare Peru as a developing country to the United States for many reasons. Yes we have a better job market, government assistance for the poor, better education systems, a democracy. Though we have these things, I never thought that I would actually have to explain to people that my life there is not in fact, perfect. I knew coming here that people were going to see me as a privileged, relatively wealthy, white woman. What I wasn’t expecting was the extent to which people in Peru view the United States and the people who are from there. Many people here think that Americans are free from all the hardships they face here, that America is land of hopes and dreams. In reality, why wouldn’t they think that? That is what we tell everyone isn’t it? But the harsh truth is that America is a land of dreams for people who were already born privileged. And that truth is the same for Peru.

One day in Compassion I was talking to one of the sisters. I was telling her about my job in the States and how I was working with homeless men with alcoholism or substance abuse issues. She replied shockingly, “You have poor people in America??”.

Another day I was chatting with a friend who works with ministry programs in the states and he told me that after returning home from the US someone told him that he heard that in America you can be walking on the sidewalk, pick up a rock, and there will be money under it.

The Pastor at my church asked me one day if I was going to return to my job that I had before I left once I go home. I said “no, I had to leave that job to come here. They hired someone else.” And he said “I thought they would keep paying you while you’re here and then you could return once you come back. That’s how it works right?”

People have told me over and over again “Shaina, this isn`t the States. We have bad people here”. I can`t help but wonder why people think we don`t have “bad people” in America like they do here. I have to reexplain to them that I lived in an area more dangerous than here by myself for a year- yes the good ole Bronx, NYC. Sometimes I get frustrated with their mindset that something terrible is going to happen to me at all times. When I question them the response is usually always one of three things, or a mix of the three. 1-“Yes but you`re a woman.” 2-“…. but you`re a gringa.” 3-“…. but this isn`t America.”

Now my mother is of course cheering everyone on from over there in New York to keep me safe and well protected. She tells me that my sister and I often think we are 10 feet tall and bullet proof. But here`s the thing mom, this is how you raised me. You raised me to be tough. You raised me to never let anyone tell me what I can or can`t do. You raised me to know my limits but always keep pushing myself to be better. You raised me to take care of myself, to never be dependent on anyone. And I am thankful for that. Because that is the harsh world that we live in, the harsh country that I come from. I come from a country that constantly tells you you´re not good enough. A country where people steal and lie and cheat their way to get where they want to go. A country full of people who only know violence and pain. A country that whispers fables of gran opportunities in your ear only to rip that beautiful image out from under your feet.

This is the truth. I do not come from a perfect country, as there are no perfect countries in existance. I have known violence. I have experienced injustice. I have seen poverty. Yes there is a huge difference between how people live in Peru and how people live in America. But the issues that they face, they exist in America too. Its not their fault for believing all Americans are rich, that everything is peaceful. Our country as a whole wants the rest of the world to believe we are the best. But the misconceptions that this creates changes the dynamic of a mutal helping relationship between 2 societies. It hinders my work here. It affects the way people look at me.

What I want is for people to stop seeing each other as products of a particular society but rather quite simply, as human beings. I want to be stripped of any prejudices that come along with the title “American” and be seen for who I am, as a daughter of God who is here to serve Him. I want to love this country as I love my own, with all the good and the bad that comes with it.

Community and Fitting In

What does it take to truly belong in a country, a group of people, a culture? Is it a born right? Does one need a family history or a certain amount of time dedicated to that identity? For the longest time my answer was yes. Since moving to Peru so much of my world has changed. I’ve realized that it’s a lot less what you do to belong in a community or country but much more about how that community welcomes you. I thought when I came to Peru that it would take months to feel like a part of this country, I thought maybe a year wouldn’t even be enough. Yet here I am 6 months later and I feel just as much Peruvian as I feel American. This is not because I deserve it or because I worked hard to know all the customs and traditions in order to fit in. Rather it’s because my community here welcomed me with open arms the moment I stepped into this world. I focus so often on the issues of Peru while I’m here. I want to write and tell the world about the extreme poverty, the lack of education, the nearly absent knowledge of health and nutrition, the pollution, the stray animals, the sexism and women violence…it’s all on my mind every day. What doesn’t get enough acknowledgment however is the beautiful big hearted people that are part of my every day community. These people took me into their lives and loved me without ever knowing who I was, what my past was, or where I came from. They may live in poverty and they might not have much education, but these are the people I think the rest of the world should strive to be like. These are the people who know how to love with all their hearts, and these are the people I look up to every day.

This past week with my site coordinator Jenny, her husband Jed, and my partner in crime Daniel has been about reflection and personal as well as spiritual growth. We focused on loving kindness, doing justice, and being humble. I wanted to take a moment and shine a light upon a few specific people and groups of people who have shown such love not only to me but to numerous other people on a daily basis.

The Tutors in Compassion: Normally when you think of a tutor or a teacher you imagine they have a college degree or something equivalent. The tutors in Compassion do not have an education past high school. They make precisely $44.11 a month for their 30 plus hour weeks. They do what they do simply because they care so much. They themselves live in poverty, they have children in the program as well. They understand the challenges these families face every day, and they do whatever they can to help even if they don’t fully know how. They are also some of the kindest people I have ever met. They make me laugh every day and they take care of one another like family. If I so much as have a cough they will send me home to rest with a list of herbs and holistic medicines that they tell me I HAVE to use, because they really do care.

My Family: This is lumped into one category but should actually be an individual list. However we don’t have that kind of writing space. My host mother, and apparently all

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Opening birthday presents from my host family!

mothers in Peru, is both smothering and delightfully full of love and the need to take care of any person who walks into her house. I’m talking making every meal, buying your

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My tiny host mom enjoying an ice cream that’s almost bigger than her

antibiotics, telling you the proper way to wash dishes and sweep the floor and how to turn off the faucet properly… She would do literally anything for you. It took her days to work up the courage to ask if I’d change bedrooms with her because climbing up the stairs everyday is getting too difficult for her. All she wants is your happiness, even if that means sacrificing her own. My host siblings are the giant family I was never quite sure I wished I had or not. I can talk to my host brother about anything and everything. He automatically took the place of my sister and mother as a person who lets me unnecessarily vent every day after work. Family is the most important thing to people in Peru, and it shows everywhere you go. You cannot break family and there is nothing you shouldn’t be able to ask your family members for. It’s a beautiful and unfortunately strange thing.

The Kids: I have never seen a child be more selfless than the children in this program. I have learned that if ever I make something with the kids, I need to at least double or triple the amount of materials. It is so disappointing when a child begs for another cookie or another homemade soap so they can take it home to their brother and sister and you have to tell them no because there isn’t enough. Any other time in the States I would think that the child is lying and is definitely not going to bring that cookie to his brother and is just going to eat it himself on the bus home. But for these kids, their whole life is about thinking of their family. Sometimes we even struggle getting the kids to eat all of their lunch because they ask for a plastic bag to take the rest home for their mother or siblings. It breaks my heart every day.

My YAV Family: This goes to both my YAV family here in Peru as well as my fellow YAVs throughout the world who check up on me and other volunteers religiously (pun intended) and who give endless support to one another. It’s come to the point where Daniel and I joking call Jenny and Jed “mom and dad”. I was sick earlier in February, not unusual since I came to Peru, and Jenny took me to the doctor 7 different days in a two week span. I ran out of my monthly stipend the first doctors visit and I no longer have a debit card thanks to an extremely unfortunate “steal your information and use all your money at Walmart” situation. She helped me out with all of it, including the money. She certainly didn’t have to do that, I could’ve gone on my own but she simply wanted to be there for me. And Daniel, a man who doesn’t have an evil bone in his body. The work he does in Moyobamba fighting for the indigenous groups inspires me. His love for those people and his attitude towards life in general is amazing and also frustrating because who the hell is that positive all the time?!? If you need a friend who will always be by your side, he’s the one you should give a shout to.

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Jenny and Jed, aren’t they adorable!

These are just a few of the people in my community here who should be identified for their kindness and humility. The world as a whole needs to step back and take a moment to analyze how we are welcoming people into our community. This goes for churches, schools, families, work environments, and countries. Are we expecting people to have a born right to our community or that they need to work to show us their dedication before they are welcomed? Do we deny people our love and acceptance because their differences intimidate or worry us? Or is it possible to simply love one another because we are all the same, because we all do wrong and because every person on this earth needs to belong somewhere. Who are we to deny human compassion to any person? Normally people don’t think about trying to be more like the people living in a third world country, but I believe we should. I believe there is a truth in their hearts that cannot be seen without taking a moment to truly try and see it.

Love and Blessings to all those who follow and support me! Thank you for being a part of this with me!

The Vine and the Branches

Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year. The day that we all get to forget about the troubles that ail us and bask in the joy of family and friends. A night where we have no excuse not to remember why we have such joys in our lives-because of the birth of our Lord Jesus. Except there I was, amidst my new family, but separated by an overwhelming ache in my heart. I sat in my room while the others ate their traditional midnight dinner and I cried. I covered my mouth with my hands so they wouldn’t hear the pathetic sobbing coming from the “strong faithful young woman” everyone seems to see me as. I didn’t feel strong. I felt broken, like a child of whom could not bear being away from her parents for a second longer. And yet I knew that even if I were home, things would never be the same as they used to be. I would have had to choose between a Christmas with my mother in New York or a Christmas with my father in New Hampshire. For the first time I looked at Christmas as a sad day. A day that made change seem foul and vicious. I realized quite a while later that normally in these times I would have stopped and I would have prayed. I would have given all of my sorrow to the one thing in this world who could take it away. But I didn’t. I simply wiped the makeup off my face and I left my room with a bitterness in my soul, an anger that was fueling inside of me that I hadn’t yet come to understand.

As I wrote in my last post, I have been struggling these past couple months. Then I went to one of the most awe inspiring places on this earth-the amazon jungle. I had 5 glorious days with my partner in crime Daniel and I did things I never imagined in a million years I would get to do. I held a wild sloth, of whom latched on to me as if I were a tree and tucked her head under my arm for protection. A capuchin monkey swam through the river to jump onto our boat and sit on my lap while eating a banana (how stereotypical). I fished for pirañas and then brought them to a locals house to fry and eat. I trekked through untouched jungle as our guide chopped down lush greenery with a machete while I cursed words even solely spanish speakers understood. I swam in the waters with lord knows what kind of man eating beasts but felt a sense of tranquility as I watched the magnificent pink river dolphins swim past me. I realized something in that moment. I understood why I have struggled so much these last couple months. And it was not an easy realization to come to. And this is it- I came to Peru for the wrong reasons.

I wanted to believe that 10 months ago I made the decision to spend a year in a foreign country because that was my calling from God. Maybe that’s still true, but I know there were far more reasons for coming here than that but I didn’t want to admit it. I wanted to volunteer, I wanted to travel, I wanted to meet local people and live in a setting where I could get closer to them. I wanted an adventure. I thought I’d have more opportunity to travel, at least places closer by to Lima. I thought it’d be more…exciting. I understood this as I laid in the water because of one simple thought, “now this is why I came to Peru”. I was shocked at myself. Who is this person in front of me? I see her reflection in the water but I don’t recognize her. Then I realized something else. Since I came to Peru I have slowly stopped spending time with the Lord. I used to be excited to go to Church every Sunday at home. Now it’s a challenge to get myself to go because the lecture is too difficult to understand and so I sit there day dreaming about something completely unrelated. I hardly ever pray anymore. I seemed to think that listening to the prayers at meal times would suffice as my daily time with God. I wasn’t reading my bible. To be honest, it was hardly a part of my day at all. I have been slipping. I have had my doubts, and I don’t want to admit them because it makes me feel like a “bad Christian”. Then when I came home I picked up my bible and I came across the parable of the Vine and the Branches in the book of John. This verse struck me,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”.

I believe now that God is trying to prune me, as you do with a vine in order for it to bear more fruit. I came here with wrong intentions, then I stopped relying on the word of God to guide my path. I was cut off, cut away from the vine because I wasn’t creating good fruit. I wasn’t representing Jesus the way he wanted me to. And so I became bitter and I had less joys in my life. Not even less joys, I just wasn’t able to appreciate them. So even if I didn’t come to Peru with the soul reason being for mission work and to spread the joy and peace of the Lord, it will be now. What I ask from anyone reading this is that you send prayers my way. Prayers to build my faith and my reliance on God. Prayers to keep me strong in the times where I feel weak and to remind me that I always have a light shining when all seems dark. I have a new goal added to the list for this year, and I believe it is the most important of them all. My goal is to never give up on my relationship with Jesus and to seek him and his words with everything that I do and keep it as my priority above all else. Thank you to all who support me, all who pray for me, and all who have shown me love! More positive blogs to be written in the near future!!

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Change is Hard

This blog reads a bit more like a diary entry. It gets a little feely, so be prepared.

I have been in Peru for exactly 3 months now. I had the opportunity to go on my first retreat to Moyobamba this past week and stay in the city and house that Daniel is spending the year. Ah the Peruvian Jungle. Set up in the mountains on the other side of the Andes is the start of the amazon jungle. With rolling hills, lush greenery, and fog over the valley, I felt as though I was about to see a heard of Stegosaurs making their way to the river. It waIMG_6261.jpgs absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t help but be jealous of where Daniel gets to spend his YAV year. To be honest, I was a little bitter. We spend the first day having lunch under a bungalow outside of the city where we then swam under a water fall and bathed in the natural sulfur baths. The next day we went deeper into the jungle to a reserve called Tingana where we were completely unplugged from the rest of the world for two days. We canoed down the tiny river, we caught fish and then cooked
them for lunch, we laid in hammocks asIMG_6320 the afternoon rain came down, and we got a tour of part of the reserve in which only 20 families live. So simple. So appreciative. Amazing wildlife all around us. And everything you could need to eat was growing in their back yard. All of this was only an hour and a half from where Daniel lives. He lives in a small city (more of a town) with nature and coffee plantations everywhere outside of the town. It’s a pleasant warm all year round. What isn’t to love? I was in heaven. And I was bitter. And then I was angry because I was bitter.

I love Peru. And don’t get me wrong, Lima is certainly growing on me. But it’s difficult, and it’s not what I was expecting. I live in an outskirt of the city. It can be dangerous, and it’s poor. I cannot go out at night by myself. Which means no bars for me, and we all know how much I enjoy my Friday evening beer (oIMG_6306.jpgr beers). Even so, most people around here don’t have the money to go out and do anything. Everything is dirty, even the few trees are covered in a layer of dirt. The only park around is closed for the year to prepare for the next summer Olympics. Of which is totally badass by the way. Yes Comas will be hosting the volleyball portion of the games in the next summer Olympics. Can I get a whoop whoop?!? Anyways, life is difficult for me here. I’m a nature girl and not having it around me makes me cranky. I don’t have much control over what, how much, or when I eat; which also makes me cranky. My language skills are still in progress and it makes for a lot of communication problems, which makes me cranky. I miss my family, my relationship, my pets; and that of course makes me very cranky. And after expressing to Daniel and my site coordinators my struggles over the past three months, I realized I sounded very….cranky. I sounded unappreciative and unhappy. It made me feel uncomfortable with myself. However the best (and sometimes worst) part about only being a 2 volunteer site this year is that Daniel and I are very close. We have a special bond that really can only be described like siblings. And with that means that Daniel gets to figuratively slap me across the face and tell me to suck it up and get over it. At first his attitude towards my attitude pissed me off, but then I realized that he was right. But don’t ever tell him that. I need to make a change.

We are creatures of habit. We repeat the same behaviors and think the same thoughts even when we know we shouldn’t. Parts of our personalities are very difficult to change. My tendency to complain is a definite personality flaw. And I know, I’ve always known. But I got a masters degree in clinical social work, which means I know a good deal about psychology. I know that we can try and try to change a part of our personality but the truth of it is that we most likely will fall right back into the same behaviors. So therefore, I don’t always try to change. Making me the exact person who sits on the other side of me in my office as my cliIMG_6229ent. How ironic. I also know it’s not impossible. Therefore, that is my
personal goal for the remainder of this year. I need to change the way I view the imperfections of my life. Because I am so grateful, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than here. I want to tell my stories and have people love Peru and feel all that I feel for this place, not the silly complaints. The silly things that after the year is over won’t matter anymore. If this retreat was supposed to be about reflection, it certainly worked. I am absolutely ready to continue with the next 8 months of this year of service, and come out of it as a better version of myself.

 

Finding Compassion in the Faces of Children

I have struggled to begin writing this post because I already know that I am setting myself up for a writing experience filled with sadness, frustration and doubt. Yet with that comes pure joy, a joy that is brought on by 200 smiling children. What I am now starting to realize is that if I did not feel these things everyday, then I wouldn’t have a reason to be here. My hope is that you feel something too, because that’s where change starts-a simple feeling that something just isn’t right in the world.

Compassion is a worldwide program offering children in extreme poverty a place to go after or before school where they can receive extra learning, help with homework, meals, as well as assistance to their families. Because of this program many families have built stronger and safer homes for their families. My first visit to one of the homes of a child I work with was a small wooden house on the hill that had 2 bedrooms, a small living area, and a small kitchen. I was quite impressed. Though it  was very basic and did not have running water, it still seemed more than I was expecting the “extreme poverty” to be that these families were living in. I found out later that this single mother and her three children had been living in a tiny shack made of metal until they were accepted in the Compassion program. With the help of the program, she was able to build this house and can now focus on finding work.

Then I got my first real taste of this so called “extreme poverty”. I will briefly share my experience of visiting a home in the district of Collique. I went to see the family little 11 year old girl who I work with along with the sister of whom is the teacher of the classroom. After walking up the steep hill and climbing up way too many stairs that made me question my plan to hike the Inca Trail, we arrived at what looked like a giant hole in the ground. There was a big metal spiral staircase that led to a tiny metal house with a door fit for a hobbit hole. We entered the tiny house in a room

A Friendly Welcome Into Their Home

A Friendly Welcome Into Their Home

that served as both living and work space. I later found out that it took them 12 years to collect all the materials and build this house. We sat in three broken chairs and talked with the girl’s father as he sowed insoles for shoes. He told us about how no company or store will hire him because he is over 50 and therefore had to start his own business from home. Unfortunately most of the year he hardly has

Down the Spiral Staircase

Down the Spiral Staircase

enough work to bother with. But now that it’s November and Christmas is coming, he will be working non stop for the next two months. As we talked I wonder where the mother went. About 10 minutes later she came back with juice and cookies for us. It blew my mind to think of the incredibly kind hospitality this family was giving us when that money and food should’ve been saved for themselves. They told us stories of their struggles in the past and their concerns now. They have three children and desperately want their 2 year old boy to have the opportunity to go to Compassion. But that would be impossible since Compassion is ending here in Lima (to be discussed later). The father gave a long speech about how grateful he is for the program and all the the Lord has given his family. With tears swelling in his eyes he talked of how much change there is still to be done in this city and in this country. I left that house in pain. A pain that I knew couldn’t be healed with government assistance, homeless shelters or soup kitchens, because those do not exist. I left with that pain because this is simply the way it is, this is life.

The Beautiful Family

The Beautiful Family

The children are just like all the other children I have ever come into contact with. They are loud, they are needy, they are messy and dirty and play with way too much physical contact…but they are precious. When I look at them I don’t see all the things that are wrong in this world, I see all the things that are good in it. I see innocence and hearts that want to be filled with love. I see 80 more years of health and happiness. I see the future of Peru. And yet when I leave the project I think about those futures and what they could be, what they should be, and what they most likely will be. And I get angry. Because it’s not fair. The oldest son of this family was able to finish school and have a vision of what he wanted to do with his life. He has a strong church community who supports him and the resources to be able to make things happen, and it’s because of this program. He is currently going to college for computer engineering. The family’s youngest son may not have the same opportunities. Compassion will be closing down in Lima within the next 5 years. Compassion currently has 60,200 children in the program throughout Peru and a large portion of those children being in Lima. So why? The program is run by sponsors in other countries. It is not

Who Wants to Make Some Play Doh?

Who Wants to Make Some Play Doh?

solely a peruvian project. Therefore when the “big folks” up there working in the organization look at Lima’s statistics they say “Lima is economically stable and doesn’t need assistance through Compassion anymore”. This is absolute (insert vulgar word of choice here). When they look at these stats they see big tourist and international communities such as Miraflores and Magdelena, places that are mostly international business people and wealthy peruvians. But the majority of Lima does not live this way. They live in the hills. And yet, they get their resources taken away from them because of a false statistic on a piece of paper. So, what do we do now? Do we sit back and take it, or do we find another way? I will leave you to ponder that for awhile.

Making A Wonderful Mess

Making A Wonderful Mess

A Day’s Walk In My (Very Dirty) Shoes

8:00 am I am awakened by the alarm on my phone. I toss and turn as I listen to the sounds of Lima already in full motion for the day ahead. Children are yelling in the streets, mototaxis honk squeaky horns for them to get out of the way, dogs bark as they pass one another on the sidewalks.

I roll out of bed, slip on my sandals to protect against the cold concrete floor, and slump my way into the kitchen where mom is preparing breakfast. She gives directions of what to put on the table- fruit, bread, avocado, instant coffee, sugar, cups of hot water. We sit, we give thanks to God. I listen to a prayer in a language I hardly understand. My host brother and I share our plans for the day. He relays the conversation to my host mom. As we talk I savor my fruit and yogurt, my favorite breakfast treat. The sweet liquid yogurt over papaya reminds me of my mornings camping under the African sky last summer.

8:55-Spanish lessons in 5 minutes. Clear the table, throw on some semi presentable clothing and grab my books as my Spanish professor rings the doorbell at precisely 9:00 on the dot. Two hours of Spanish tutoring. 11 am-time to shower. I need to shower: Necesito ducharse. I am going to take a shower: Voy a tomar una ducha. Conjugate. Conjugate. Conjugate. I turn on the shower, hold my breath, count to three and step into the icy water. I now take very quick showers. I get ready for work and wait for someone from the church to pick me up at 12:00 pm.

The secretary (and my translator) from the Compassion program comes to my door. With a big hug and a kiss on the cheek she greets me, “buenos tardes Shaina!” We walk and talk. Across the street we wait for a combie heading in the direction of the church. They all look the same to me. She chooses, we get in.

About 15 people are packed into the one combie. Women with babies sit in the front seat painted red. Children sit on parent’s laps. Michel and I stand hunched over one of the seats trying not to smash our heads on the ceiling. The man taking the money asks for 1 sole for the two of us, about 15 cents each. Every couple blocks or so someone yells “baja!” and the combie slows down enough for the conductor to slide the door open to let the people out while shouting to people on the streets where they’re heading. The combie continues moving while the conductor hangs out the side of the vehicle looking for people to get on.

About 3 minutes later we arrive at the main intersection. We get off, most likely hitting my head on the way out, and walk to the corner where all the mototaxis are parked and waiting. Essentially a less motorcycle more bicycle structure with a padded bench in the back and a canvas covering. “Arriba, la tercera de el milagro”. We get off at the corner near the church. I observe the dead cat on the sidewalk that died the Friday before and is slowly starting to rot away. Knock on the big metal church door. Time to begin.

Children waiting by the kitchen for their lunches run over to me yelling “hermana Shaina!!” and I am embraced with approximately 12 hugs at one time. I make sure I kiss each one of them on the cheek and greet the cooks and the teachers. I grab my lunch from the kitchen which usually consists of rice, some sort of mixture of potatoes and vegetables in a sauce, and some chicken. For my they top it with eggs because I’m vegetarian. Lunch is always served with water. Though water here generally does not mean water, it’s some kind of fruit juice. Warm juice.

I take my lunch into the classroom and sit with the kids and eat. They rush through their plates of food and often finish the rest of mine. They ask me questions about the United States, they teach me spanish words. After lunch they brush their teeth. 2:00 we start a class. I give a basic English lesson: Alphabet, fruits, numbers, colors. The kids are starting to get antsy, they’re running around outside the classroom and some are tormenting the church cat Micho. I decide they need to release some energy.

I take them outside to the park. We play soccer on a concrete field, no nets in the goal and a volleyball as a soccer ball. There are 5 stray dogs roaming around the park watching the commotion from the side lines like a group of high school burnouts. We play for about a half hour and go back inside. It’s time for the kids to go back to their houses, most of which are up on the hills in the extremely poor areas. Some kids leave right away, others linger as long as possible. We clean and discuss plans with the teachers. When 5:00 rolls around Michel takes me home.

We walk down to the main intersection dodging trash in the street and stray animals. I watch the main street clean up after another long market day. An elderly woman sweeps fallen fruit from the road into a pile in the middle, a stray dog picks at the leftovers. At 5:20 I’m back home.

I greet mom and talk about my day. I flop on the couch and take out my computer and resort to my guilty pleasure-Netflix. When my host niece comes home from school she brings our dog Dollar downstairs and we play and wrestle for awhile until she decides she wants to paint my nails. She spends the next hour giving me an intricate manicure that I should’ve paid $40 for.

My tummy is growling. Back at home I would’ve already had dinner and be relaxing before bed (because I’m a grandma). Mom asks me if I’m ready for dinner at 8:15. We sit at 8:30 and eat whatever she cooked for the lunch today. Usually rice and a vegetable/potato mixture or soup, maybe pasta and tea. It’s a struggle to get through dinner without my host brother because she speaks no english and my spanish is not up to par. We finish and I clear the table and help wash the dishes. I boil more water to cool and fill up my water bottle for the night. Time for get ready for bed.

I head into my room for some time to talk to loved ones from home. I miss them so much during the day and hearing their voices at night is a gentle reminder that they are right here with me. As I lay down and put my head on my pillow I close my eyes and pray. I thank God for what he is given me. But mostly I ask for answers. I ask for some sort of understanding of the cruel realities of this world. Why I lay here in the comfort of a warm double bed while just outside these walls hundreds of people are going to bed praying for something as simple as a full stomach. Lord I wanted humility, and at the end of the day I feel as though I might have found it.