Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Bolivian Journal, Day 2 + 3: His eyes light up when I said he could have a double.

I always forget how long the trip to Bolivia is… I arrived in Santa Cruz at 10:50pm this evening with a 4am start time. I am VERY tired.

Often I justify my decisions by reminding myself of a certain situation my father was experiencing at a much younger age than myself, the Vietnam War. At the tender age of 17, he was shipped to a foreign country to fight a war that he knew nothing about. I often search for that same courage and strength that he had to exhibit. The most recent example is my overnight stay on a bench at the Santa Cruz airport. I have this crazy feeling inside to experience the impossible, challenging myself to be in the most “out of the comfort zone” experiences. It is easy for me to find courage and put trust in the world around me. Being the slightly unorganized person that I am, I had a miscommunication with my ride and overnight stay in Santa Cruz, leaving me with roughly 8 hours overnight between my flights. I had two options, take a taxi into Santa Cruz and stay at a hostel/hotel (sounded too easy) or pull an all-nighter at the Santa Cruz Airport. No question asked, the later sounded much more interesting, and was exactly what I did. I lasted 3 hours awake, 1 hour walking around the airport, and then decided to pile my three bags on the nearest bench lay completely on top of them, and rest my eyes for a few minutes. I fell asleep for 3 hours, waking to the sound of my flight boarding. In a state of total disorientation, I rushed through security and got into line only to find out that I had been standing in the line to Argentina. HA! My Spanish mind had yet to be awakened. After proper direction, I boarded my plane to Cochabamba and was greeted by my colleague Jose upon my arrival.


AHH Cochabamba, my love! This city holds such a special place in my heart. El Cristo welcomes me with open arms as the hot temperature immediately adds a rose color to my cheeks and dampness to my forehead. Jose welcomes me in the traditional Bolivian manner, a hand shake and kiss to each cheek. I am so excited to see him that I immediately pull him in for a tight, Italian/Irish/Polish (I am a great mix) embrace. Looking like I only had 3 hours of sleep on an airport bench, Jose recommends I take some rest. I am also informed that his uncle passed away and that he needs to be with his family. Jose is a remarkable man. I feel so lucky to be working with him. He lives a life of service to others, striving to be the best father he can to his four children and the children of his country. In Bolivia, many men escape fatherhood, leaving their women to fend for themselves and care for their children; Jose is a complete inspiration and ray of hope to this country.

After sleeping most of my day away, I decide it is time to venture into the city for some food. In Bolivia there are lots of street kids, young boys and girls between the ages of 8-16 (probably older… I mostly see the younger kids) that are selling and begging in the streets. I always have a hard time looking into their sad eyes. These children are not in school. Often times they are orphans or are pushed into the street to help support their family’s income. I am told not to give these children money, so their actions are not supported and agreed. This is very hard for me. Whenever I see these children, I want to embrace them and tell them that they can make a difference, they can dream. I wonder why it is that I was born in the United States into endless opportunities and these children are born here, fighting for their lives and the lives of their family.

I am going to be honest; I do not like Bolivian food. HA! In the states I each many more vegetables than I do meat. In Bolivia, it is very hard to find a dish without some kind of meat and potato. Bolivia is the home of starches. I do find that ice cream is always tasty in all the places I travel. While in Bolivia, many of my meals are a simple ice cream cone. Today, the ice cream tastes even better. While walking the streets I met Marco, a young street kid who spends his day shining shoes. Marco approaches me, asking to shine my terribly kept shoes. “Marco my shoes are so bad. You will not be able to shine them,” I respond. “Yes, I have magic. I am really good. You need it,” Marco assures me while tugging my sleeve. How could I say no to this young child? “Marco, I need a friend. I just arrived here and I have no one to get ice cream with me. Would you like to join me?” A huge smiled fills his face, just as mine. We walk hand in hand to the ice cream store as we learn more about each other. Marco is 13 years old. He likes music, ice cream and thinks that 27 years old is REALLY old. Once we arrive to the ice cream store I order a double and a single cone. His eyes light up when I tell him he can have a double. I sit and watch him, smiling as he happily consumes his cone. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle our worlds. In this moment, I am at home. Our lives can be so much more.

I am now COMPLETELY exhausted. Tomorrow begins my adventures meeting with my current producers and visiting with new groups and artisans. I go to bed smiling as my heart fills with all the energies of Bolivia.


Jen xoxo

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Bolivian Adventure, Day 1: Even Superheroes have fear.

Yesterday (Saturday) I had a great meeting with my mentor. Together we are a powerful team. He is a great voice of reason with the ability to connect people and encourage communities, and I am an energetic (sometimes na├»ve), spastic encourager and creative mind. We had a great conversation like always. This time, he ended the conversation with two questions: “Are you scared of the future? Do you fear anything?” I have to admit, I was taken back for a second. Often I move at the speed of light, never stopping to second guess my instinct, or movement. I never before stopped to think about fear. He has a great ability to calm my mind, and make me process things. I have gotten this question before, and have provided an answer (Most definitely, Heck NO!). But for some reason, this same question, coming from him, brought my mind to a complete stop. Perhaps it is the fact that I am now graduated (!), or that I am living on my own… maybe even it is because that now after our first (great) season, GREENOLA feels like a reality. I can’t really know for sure. For the first time, I realized that yes, I do have fear. In this moment of complete vulnerability, I have decided to share them with you.

  • I am fearful that I may have to get a “normal” job.
  • I am fearful that I will not be able to take my regular afternoon breaks to enjoy the fresh air with a long run.
  • I am fearful that I will not be able to travel as much as I do.
  • I am fearful that I may let down the 50+ producers I work with.
  • I am fearful that I will not allow myself to slow down, forgetting about my dream to have my own children.
  • I am fearful that I won’t become the business woman I want to be, creating a sustainable business that supports both my producers and myself.
  • I am fearful that I won’t make an impact in this world.

Now I know why I avoid being in that mental space called fear, it hurts and brings me down.

Yes, I have fears. I am not a super human, like I often like to portray. I have so much energy inside my body, so much passion driving my movements… I know I am just one person, one person who is going to make a world of change; If not through my own hands, through the hands of others long after I am away. Fear is ok, it is humbling. With out fear and challenges, we wouldn’t find the strength behind persistence.

As I embark on my latest adventure to Bolivia… I have fear of saying the wrong words, as my Spanish is a work in progress. HA!

Join me tomorrow as I share Day 2: His eyes light up when I said he could have a double.