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
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.


On the precipice of Peru…

Hello friends!

Well, tomorrow is the day…and all I have to say is, “This is bonkers.” Grateful anticipation coupled with anxious excitement have colored my thoughts and, quite frankly, my stomach in the last few weeks gearing up for tomorrow. I’ll be heading out early Tuesday morning and arriving in my town Wednesday evening…this will include a few pit stops– of note an evening with the Jesuits in Lima (Dreams do come true). If all goes well, then I’ll be hanging out in Anda with weather in the mid-60s and a slight chance of rain. If it doesn’t, well…who doesn’t enjoy a good story about things going wrong? 

Mostly, I write this post to express gratitude for what has been, and what is to come. Dag Hammarskjold’s (former UN Secretary General) writes, “For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.” This races through my head when I think about all that has happened really since graduation. I’m especially thankful for the folks that made the trek out to the East side of the mountains for me. I’m fortunate that the last 4 weeks have been full of silly company, good beer and satisfying wine, snuggling with my dog, and lots of laughter. I even took the GRE twice, of which I only had to use the fire escape once to get out since I was locked in the bathroom. I anticipate to lean back on these feelings, the silly and the comfortable, when I’m tired at night from being beaten up by Spanish or have probably been a ‘wrecking ball’ towards cultural norms as our friend Miley puts it. 

A final abridged quote to leave this familiar US laptop with before I attempt writing on a Peruvian keyboard and all apostrophes go out the window….

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence… Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story… If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans…and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata” (fun fact…that’s Latin for ‘desired things’)

So, cheers to listening to the birds, keeping our feet planted on the ground, finding the fire escape when feeling locked in, questioning surroundings, and honest conversations that invite us to deeper authenticity. Keep making good choices folks…God knows I’m going to try. 

Un abrazo fuerte…