The disorienting Side of DisOrientation

The disorienting Side of DisOrientation

Dis-O…The side of the final annual JVC retreat, ReO/DisO, that I didn’t expect to find myself quite so soon.

Dis-Orientation. It makes so much sense…There was an Orientation, a Re-Orientation, and now a Dis-Orientation.

It’s logical. But goodness, was it disorienting. I have less than two months of work left, and about two months left before I leave Andahuaylillas, and less than three months before I end up back in the land of milk and honey, the Spo-hamptons.

I have many thoughts and feelings that fill the spectrum. Gratitude. Hope. Love. Nostalgia. Nerves. Joy. Readiness. An array of noises that imply despair and being overwhelmed. Wary. Alone. Restless. Dull. Powerless. Disillusioned. Incapable. Incredibly capable. Inquisitive. Rebellious. Fortunate. Gratitude.

I’m finding ways of getting ready to say goodbye to what has been my home in Peru, of saying hello to what has also been my home in the States, and of getting mighty creative in trying to integrate the two lives that feel distinct from one another. Phew. Gives me a headache all feels dis-orienting even writing that.

I will continue to post random thoughts, hopes, dreams, and acciones de gracias here. As for now, I leave you with a fun little song (that could be applied to JVC or drunken nights that leave you reeling the following day…) and a poem that I find myself repeating every day to understand the complex, messy, raw nature of it.

Reflection from a ¨Dis-Oing¨ JV
by Emmjolee Mendoza, Belize 2001

I am a part of things.
I am not the answer.
I am not the solution.
I am not the reason.
I am one small factor
in a series of thousands of factors.
I am one.
I am not the one.
I am one of many.

I will be forgotten.
People will not remember my name.
People will forget my face.
People will not know who did that
or who ran that?
Kids will ask who taught me that?
I will be forgotten.


I will be a memory in this town
and in this school.
Like all those before me.
We have come and gone.
And left a drifting piece of ourselves.

And there is an inclination in me.
To scream at the top of my lungs.
Remember me!
Remember I started that program.
Remember that I taught you how to read.
Remember that I hugged and kissed you.
Remember that I loved you.
Remember my name.
Remember my face.
Remember me please.

But I can’t ask that.
I can’t expect that.
My place here is and was temporary.
I was not meant here forever.
I was meant to live here for a short while.
I was meant to be a part of the life here,
not to change the life here.
I was meant to work with others,
not to create a work of my own.
I was meant to be a part of the solution,
not to be the answer.
I was meant to teach and to learn,
not to save.

With leaving comes many realizations.
How do I tell myself that these things are all true?
That maybe the work I have done will not be continued.
That maybe the children that I helped might not get help
anymore.
That maybe the kids that I love may not remember me.
How do I tell myself this?

Then I remembered something that I read:
A Letter to a Young Activist by Thomas Merton
“Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And there, too, a great dealhas to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”

I know that this whole experience was not about me but about you.
That the reason I was here was for you.
That my purpose was to share my life for two years
with you.
It was you.
You were the reason why I came.
And now it is you.
You are the reason why it hurts so much to leave.

Somewhere the lines between you and I diminished.
You became a part of my life.
And I a part of yours.
I can’t think of anything more beautiful than that.
I also can’t think of anything more painful than that.
But that is love.
At least that is my understanding of love.

It doesn’t matter if my ‘work’ is not remembered
or continued.
Because I came here to live with the people.
I came here to fall in love with the people.
And I have.
That I will always remember.

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Status: Six Months and the Living is Good

It’s been a little over six months since I left the good ol’ town of Spokane and headed down south for the good ol’ town of Andahuaylillas. Though small in size, Andahuaylillas has been a BIG change for me in just about everything. But it’s also demonstrated to me that there are shared values, struggles, and dreams in humanity across the world…which is a humbling and steadying realization (more on that later).

My experience so far has lived in an odd dichotomy, influenced by the learning curve of transitioning, cultural adaption, and slow and steady realizations. Freedom, yet with control. Control, yet with freedom. Realizing the openness and opportunity to engage in each day, but the limits of what culture and work-site politics allow me to do.

The mornings are full of juggling hope and doubt for the coming day. Some nights, I go to bed with the idea of “I’m going to be here for another 18 months!!” Other nights…the emphasis is quite contrary. “I’m going to be here for ANOTHER 18 months???”

Some days, I miss the comforts of a Stumptown cup of coffee and a Northwest berry pastry. Other days, I’m content to have a piece of pan huaro and Nestle cup of coffee with evaporated milk. Sometimes, I realize that I’m legitimately in a relationship with crunchy Peanut Butter. Our long distance relationship (LDR) is challenging and leaves my taste buds longing for something I just can’t have. Other days, I stuff my face with popcorn or potatoes and it’s no sweat (I swear…you’ve never had potatoes until you’ve had Peruvian potatoes).

There are days where I miss the access to the news, the conversations around world events and the stimulation of getting into a heated difference of opinion. Other days, Justin Bieber gets arrested or Tracy Morgan is in a car accident and I’m so grateful that I don’t have access to newspapers or television or internet as freely as I did.

Some nights, I SO DEEPLY DESIRE a fireplace to sit in front of and play Sudoku. And then there are days where wool socks and alpaca blankets work their weighty magic with their fuzziness. Side note, currently we are in the dry, winter season, and with no heating in the house, I often catch myself daydreaming about this one.

Then there are the days that I associate with certain foods or activities…Like pie with Christmas, or green bean casserole for Easter; grilled veggies and burgers and good beer (meat or bean) for the kickoff of summer. But these desires are relatively surface level, because more than anything when I start thinking about these, I miss the people and the places that house these memories.

But I also am extremely grateful for the time away. I’d like to think I’m growing in ways that I previously only had little time for. For example, I love to cook. And I’ve gotten to spend a fair amount of time throwing things together in the kitchen. I’m improving at playing the guitar, writing, and doing pushups thanks to one Yoga video and one Jillian Michaels video. I’ve become addicted to Game of Thrones, and now get to read a lot more for fun—from Tina Fey to Barbara Kingsolver to David Duncan (everyone who is from the Northwest, go read ‘The River Why’).

Here, the world is a vacuum. Andahuaylillas is Andahuaylillas…the Quispicanchi Valley is its own entity. Not many things besides the tour busses pierce the bubble that it is. World War III could start up and no one would move an inch. It’s provided immense time to reflect and get to know myself better, while also getting to know the day to day life here. Patience has not only become a virtue, but a necessary way to live life because one would go bonkers without it.

Maybe most importantly in these last six months is how my definition of success has changed. The definition and standard that I legitimately and internally hold myself to has been reshaped.  As my program coordinator put it, this is not an environment that facilitates success. The resources, the discrimination, the history here make obtaining the success that I have been used to much more challenging to obtain. My success-oriented self struggles with observing and feeling this, and at times, the powerlessness around it is debilitating.

In the times though that these moments are overwhelming or I’m just feeling a little bummed out, I find myself needed to step back from the loneliness it provides. While I entered into my time here seeking to accompany people, I didn’t expect them to be the ones accompanying me on my journey. My friends, students, and co-workers seem to lift me up relentlessly. I am gently reminded of the necessity of interdependency in human relationships through them.

So….Six month status update? Doing fine, and slowly sinking into the reality of my life here, not just a service commitment. Peanut Butter and all that air at sea level are missed dearly, but the sunrises and mountains are pretty incredible. I feel incredibly lucky to be here and look forward to the surprises, the frustrations, and the joys that the next 18 months hold for me. And while the dichotomy is a strange thing to stand in front of and hold, I know that the people and places I call home are doing fine without me.