Pay Attention – Lessons Learned in Cochabamba

image Pay attention to where you’re going. It’s one of the lessons I learned in Cochabamba.

Daily I had to be aware of what was in front of me. Figuratively and literally.

Uneven sidewalks, crumbling concrete, hidden holes — all threatened to trip me up as I walked the streets of Cochabamba. Entire slabs of cement jut out like in the aftermath of an earthquake. No sidewalks are flat and even. If I wanted to stay vertical, I had to pay attention.

image

Typical Cochabamba sidewalk

And if walking on the sidewalk wasn’t easy to maneuver and threatened my safety, crossing the street was worse.

Pedestrians never have the right-of-way in Cochabamba.  No matter if you’re in the crosswalk, the traffic light is in your favor, or you’re already half way across the street. Drivers will not stop or slow down.  They constantly beep their horn at you. Even if you’re only near the curb  or simply walking in that direction. Their message is clear: “Don’t even think about it.”

Other lessons I learned:

How to approach strangers and strike up a conversation, asking important questions like “Where can I buy  the best helado (ice cream)?”

How to meet desafíos (challenges) and speak up for what I needed in a language I was only beginning to learn, with people I was not entirely  comfortable with. Not easy for an introverted, introspective person like me. But I did it. Time and again. It gave me a taste — just a taste — of what it’s like for a migrant trying to survive in a foreign country.

How to look the other way when encountering a naked campesino —peasant farmers that have come to the city to work —squatting in the canal to relieve himself or to wash his body in the only water available.

How to hold and feed one baby in my arms while pushing another one in a Fisher Price swing, using my elbow or foot.

I miss holding those babies at the orphanage. When I imagine Teresa and Pablo, Adriana, Jhon, Nichol, and Breiseda, when I remember the tiny knots in their hair from lying in their cribs for so long, and I wonder if anyone is cradling them now, I cry.  Their situation seems hopeless. Yet I know it isn’t.

I also know I can’t go back to care for those orphans. Here’s why. As much as I loved the beauty and culture of the country, my teachers, and friends I made, something was missing. My heart was not in Cochabamba. It remains with the migrants and refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border. Still.

Did I need to go all the way to Bolivia to learn this? Apparently so.

Because besides learning Spanish and gaining clarity about where my heart lies, I received other necessary lessons. Lessons about courage to face the feelings arising in what I was experiencing. Lessons about finding true hope in the midst of feelings of hopelessness.

If all had gone according to my expectations, according to my well-laid plans, it would have been easy to have faith in my self-made God, to “hope” in my ego’s ideas of what the world “should” be. But God asks more of me than this. God asks me to trust even when I feel betrayed, angry, hopeless in this place of my own making. And then to be present to those feelings. Long enough to come out the other side.

As the Pathwork teaches, through the gateway of feeling  my hopelessness lies true and justified hope. That’s something I’ll need if I’m to serve those who would have little reason to hope.

Spiritual writer and teacher Cynthia Bourgeault says in Mystical Hope:

“Hope fills us with the strength to stay present, to abide in the flow of the Mercy no matter what outer storms assail us. It is entered always and only through surrender; that is, through the willingness to let go of everything we are presently clinging to.”Cynthia Bourgeault_MysticalHope_photo1

May I let go and surrender. To the presence that has always been right in front of me.

 

 

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About Pauline

I've been a freelance writer and editor for many years and I'm seeking to follow my heart in this stage of my journey, as the major roles in my life as wife and mother have changed. Not sure where this will lead, but I'm taking one step at a time as I listen within.

Posted on April 22, 2016, in Living from the heart, transformation, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Pauline, your true calling is revealing itself to you on your journey. It is a true blessing to be allowed to witness your growth. I am happy for you. God is so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You seem to be doing a good job in your search. I pray for you daily!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pauline,
    I thought of my limited experiences in Guatemala, and the suffering I saw in the only hospital in the country that cares for the mentally ill adults and seriously ill babies and toddlers. As much as I wanted to help out, I realized my calling was here in the U.S. working with the immigrants living among us.
    Thanks for your words of hope, for I struggle with the demands of my time in doing the work of Sin Barreras, and yet, I prevail because of the other volunteers who sacrifice their time and have a great commitment to serve. But more importantly, because we all God’s children and I know what we do makes a difference in people’s lives.

    Peace and blessings,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Little by little, clarity is coming to you, Pauline. Trust your deepest instincts, as you are doing. And yet I am not sure we ever get perfect clarity in this life: I suspect there is always some murkiness on the path, some continuing need to step out in faith.

    Just today I read some words from Merton that seem to speak to your situation in this very moment: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

    ¡Vaya con Dios!

    Love,
    Rob

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mary ellen knoblock

    You always speak to my heart mek

    Liked by 1 person

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