Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer days with Diana

Our family has always made the choice to be with our children as much as possible in the summer months. This has been difficult at times, financially and logistically, but through a variety of community friends, some flexibility in work schedules, and part-time babysitters, we have made it work. This has been our norm.

With our MCC positions, the expectation is that we continue with work during the summer months when our children are on vacation. The organizations we work for in Colombia, our country rep, and MCC in general has been very receptive and flexible with our childcare arrangements, and for that, I am very grateful.

Still, this summer our children were with another adult more time than every before. And while there were better days and worse days, in general, it went smoothly.

I am thankful for sweet Colombian friends who understand and love my children when I cannot be with them, and for three children who work hard each day in a second language to play with one another and take care when their parents are at work.

Two Years

Really? In so many ways, with so many hills and valleys and new understandings, it feels like 10. In other ways, we still don't seem to know anything, and it seems we just arrived.

Two years ago, we were arriving in Colombia after getting to know our soon-to-be friends and colleagues. We said goodbye and dove into a sea of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, holding onto each other as closely as possible.

One year ago, we celebrated milestones together with the same friends. We ate together, laughed at all we had learned, celebrated new knowledge and understandings, and continued swimming, sometime with the current and sometimes against, but pushing forward, still holding tight to one another.

Yesterday, we attempted a two year celebration with Elizabeth and Neil. They came for lunch, which we did not get prepared until 5 and we attempted to grill outdoors in the conjunto, but then were moved to the park, where it began to storm all over us only to result in food that tasted strange and a lot of wet bodies.

We also shared hot chocolate, yummy mora turnovers, candlelight, reflections and hopes for each of us in Colombia, one special beer, and a very funny movie. But by that time, we were all too hungry and tired to take pictures.

We have claimed this experience to be good for our family, because it allows us to "be the strangers." In our cozy, comfortable space in quiet little Menno-ville, we lack the vulnerability and perspective to understand what it is like to be the outsider. I can see clearly now that we gained what was needed, and it has made us harder on the outside and softer on the inside (Barbara Brown Taylor).

One more year. We are already making lists of what we want to do before we leave. Will we get to cross them off? The challenge in the coming months for us is to still allow ourselves to really be here, while we begin the much needed preparation for what it will take to return.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morning Commute on the Transmilinio

Aaron and I both commute to work via public transportation for about 1 hour and 15 minutes each way. That is 2 1/2 to 3 hours of people watching per day. We laugh about thinking this would mean we worked in Emporia (and lived in Newton).

Our ethnographic perspective so far has noted the following most common behavior of people who accompany us on this commute.

Mamas and Daddies and Nannies cuddling sleeping babies
Talking on cell phones/texting/listening to ipods
Reading the newspaper, cramming for an exam, or studying English
Putting on make-up / beauty products, including curling your eyelash with a spoon.
Deep kissing / making out
Hovering over seats so as to not absorb the cooties of the person who sat before you.
Pushing, as hard as you can, as if your life depended on it.
Smelling of strangers who are packed in like sardines.

The construction costs for this system are 5.9 million US dollars per kilometer. There are nine lines, 114 stations, and it covers 84 kilometers of the city. There is a "daily ridership" of 1.6 million people. Aaron and I are always amazed that in our regular route, we rarely see the same people, even though we are riding at approximately the same time.

My good friend Elizabeth, who is a scholar told me about a study where the length of your commute is correlated to your degree of unhappiness. Uh oh.

Here is a pretty funny video about how to use the Transmilenio in English. It is a little outdated, but gives you an idea...

A Poem shared at Retreat

Ingredients, by Ruth Goring

Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors (vegetable source), caffeine. One ingredient has been omitted from the list on every can: blood.

I am weary of this world and its ingredients. Its brown fields and its gold mines, buckling bridges, planes that strike tall buildings and explode, open a mouth that screams, gulps thousands to an ignigted belly.

I could say no to this world, to my own skin and language for being tools of conquest, desire's deformation: hamburgers in Japan, oil wells on paths of Alaska's caribou, Avon sales in Brazilian jungle towns, Coca-cola everywhere, more fiercely craved than wine and everywhere tainted with blood.

I could say no. I am tired of the empire of petroleum with its poisoned air, its gridlock, its plastic that chokes oceans, its long cunning violence, its oracles of terrorism, and God on our side.

I am tired of empire. I am tired of tasting the ingredients and being forced to drink. I am tired of I.

Speak a new list, my sisters. Let us write it on our hearts. Say it is old, my brothers. Say it can become our DNA, our blood.

Tell me what Jesus says. Jesus says grass, chlorophyll, and lilies of the field. Jesus says worms that swarm in backyard compost or kitchen vermiculture.

Stay awake.
You will have trouble in this world.
Jesus says we.
Jesus says sing.
Get in the way on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus says caribou, sparrows ceiba trees, mustard seeds.
Jesus says hands, apples, loaves and fishes, wine.
Jesus says blood, his own.
Jesus says flesh, God's dwelling,
God's scars.

Jesus says Rogers Park, and Entrea, Colombia, Queens, South Central, Michoacan, Cambodia, Burma, Arctic Village, Egypt, Tanzania, Iran, Baghdad, St. Petersburg, India, Trinidad and Tobago, Plow Creek Farm, far as the curse is found.

Jesus says come to me, all who are tired and burdened.
Fish, lit coals, a bit of salt:
I've made you breakfast on the shore.
Say yes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


If you lived here...

And went to school here...

Would you not do whatever possible to create beauty around you?

SEED tour

Our family decided to join the SEED group during the July 20 Festivo for an economic tour of Bogota. We started in the really wealthy parts of the city and migrated down to some of the most poor sectors. Our children were engaged and thoughtful the whole time, and felt the heaviness of the realitie(s) in which we live.

Thanks to all the MCC supporters, this is what we ate for lunch.

Happy Independence Day, Colombia. I am so sorry that because of all the multinational interests and corruption here, you still are not all "independent." May it be so.

MCC Retreat #7

Our seventh MCC retreat welcomed a new batch of 10 "Seeders" to our team. SEED is a really cool new MCC program, offered to young adults, that combines North American and Central or South American people in a two year service experience that has a strong educational component. You can learn about it here.

That was not the only new component to this retreat. For the first time, our children were NOT involved in a "child care" situation. Since the three of them are now the only children in the "service-worker" category, we decided to integrate them more into the "normal" programming for this retreat. Considering that most of the retreat was focused on connecting, knowing, and understanding each other, and considering that their father was on the planning committee this worked beautifully. They participated in the sharing groups, the games and initiatives, the worship, and almost all of the group conversations. I was not sure at first how much resistance we would experience, and how many times they would ask for friends, but with sweet Adrian David (son of the country rep) and 10 new older adults to play with them, they were very happy. Grateful...on so many levels.

THIS was what I had expected, coming into MCC as a family. This is not just a job for us. We decided to come together as a family; we are navigating it all as a family; and my children experience every bit as much questioning, confusion, and culture adaptations as we do. Here was a safe space for them to talk about it with warm, loving, inspiring: adults who have chosen to follow their faith actively, engage in a global community, and claim peace and justice as their goal. This is all I have wanted for them. This is why it is amazing that MCC welcomes families. This experience will be with them for the rest of their lives.

We enjoyed staying away from the city. The natural world welcomed us. We slept well, with quiet, still nights, heavy blankets, and the songs of crickets. The food was plentiful. There was music, activity groups, candles, laughter, quiet secret worship services*, and a lots of time to play and learn together.

Blessed be.

*For most of the weekend, we played "Persecution," which is a game about Anabaptist history and Abby worked very hard to coordinate and attend secret worship services, in order to be "bapatasized."