Saturday, October 25, 2014

Feeling the Music, Living in the Moment

Sometimes I delay writing a post because I’m not sure which story to tell from the previous week.  Of course, too much times passes and there are even more stories to tell.  Then I feel like I’m not doing justice to the Journey.  This is what I find myself thinking presently. 

I’m 2 hours in to the 22 hour bus ride from Cartagena to Bogota.  There’s been a smirk on my face for most of the last two hours.  Much of it has to do with the music I’m listening to. Last May I made a playlist called “Havana Day Dreaming” as that’s what I was doing when I made the playlist.  It has 3 songs on it.  Extensive, I know.  I chose the songs because they reminded me of Havana… but they could easily be heard throughout all of Latin America.  I’ve decided to listen to these three songs on repeat until I finish this blog post.  One might think that it would make you sick of the music, but I’m confident I’ll be wishing the blog post was longer.  If you want to feel what I’m feeling, take a minute to find “Oye Como Va” by Tito Puente, “Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony and “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias.  Go ahead.  The blog can wait. 
Or... open the link to the playlist in Spotify:

Can you feel it?  The music?  I don’t know what it is but it just gets me.  Like all over.  In the music I can see the Latin American world.  And right now it doesn’t have to be just in my mind’s eye.  As we pass through town after town, I see the tiny tiendas on the side of the dusty road … men resting with their shirts pulled up to their chest revealing a round belly, the color Carpe Diem Anna would describe as canela pasion – cinnamon passion. I see kids in their bleached white shirts and navy skirts and pants, their school uniforms.  I see men driving motorcycles (a woman driver is a rarity… I think I’ve seen 4 in the last month) helmets on, helmets half on, no helmets, their hand-woven bolso draped over their shoulders, typically with one passenger, maybe a kid sandwiched between two adults.  I see lots of deep green trees… palm trees, mango trees, papaya trees, avocado trees, and any other tropical tree you can imagine.  I see cinder block houses painted Pepto-pink, Tigo-blue, Aguila-yellow.  A few minutes out of town the colored houses fade to grey with make-shift roofs: sometimes corrugated metal pieced with some black or blue tarp, sometimes it’s made of palm leaves.  It often seems that someone is mid-construction project but my bet is that if I came back a year from now, the same cement bags, shovels and buckets won’t have moved very far. 

The music gets me in my hips, right where salsa is supposed to hit.  I love to dance but Colombian women put me to shame and therefore leave me wishing I had just a hint of the natural talent that oozes out of them.  If only I could have gone back for salsa lesson two in Trinidad instead of limping into a hospital in Guatemala, I’m sure I would be light-years ahead of where I am now.  They ask me how do people dance in the US.  Salsa?  Merengue?  Bachata?  I’m learning the difference between each of these and try to explain that in the US, people dance “libre” – free.  But when my “Profesor de Bailando” at Carpe Diem, Facu, asked me where I learned to dance implying that maybe I had a little skill, I almost believed him.  As I dance in my head, I know I look like a natural.  Somehow when I live out the dream in reality, I’m reminded that I’m very much a white girl from the Midwest.  But a girl can dream, no? 

The music gets me in my heart.  It reminds me of the people I’ve met through the years in the countries I’ve been blessed to visit South of the Border.  I think of my first friend in Guatemala back in 2007 – Estela… and how when she first told me “Dios Te Bendiga” I thought she was telling me “Dios Te Vendiga” which I translated as “God have vengeance on you.”  I thought it was a strange thing to a tell a new friend as she said it with a smile.  She was telling me “God Bless You.”  I think of the sweet Guatebabies from Nido de Aguila orphanage.  I wonder often where Rosalia and Miriam are today.  And am amazed as I get to watch kids like Nathan, Cam, Baylia, Nathan/”Colocho”, grow up with their forever families through Facebook friendships.  I think of Lola and Giancarlos who served up the best lattes in Huaraz, Peru.  I think of Miguel, whom I met my last night in Havana as we shared a beer in the Plaza Vieja, and talked about the things I had learned and experienced in his country, and hoped to return again someday but under less-clandestine circumstances.  And then I think of the surreal experience of spending an evening walking around the plazas on Friday night, my first night in Cartagena, with Juliana.  It was clear that Juliana had taken up the trade of the “oldest profession” in history.  Somehow we struck up a conversation that left me wondering why I was sitting on that particular park bench at that particular time.  There were many things I wanted to tell her before I left her to her business later that night.  Things like: “You are worth more than you are selling yourself for” or “What made you decide to pursue this career?”  But all I could get out was “Jesus Te Amo y espero que Dios Te Bendiga”.           

We continue down the road.  And then I see a row of people looking off a bridge into the water below.  The bus slows to a crawl.  I ask the bus steward “Que es eso?”  He whispers “muerto”.  A death.  And suddenly the joy I’ve been experiencing  from the rhythms of Latin American are cut short.

Many times I wonder how I have ended up in these different towns, plazas, hostels, meeting so many people from so many different backgrounds.  I have wondered what my purpose is here, in this place, at this time.  And then I’m reminded that I know what my purpose is.  I figured it out a few years back during a retreat with the Vail Leadership Institute.  My purpose is to be a blessing.  So whether that is making coffee for Anna and I before she showed up for work at Carpe Diem or enthusiastically recommending that fellow tourists seek out Free Tour Cartagena led by Edgar to enrich your Cartagena experience or sitting on a park bench and offering up a warm smile to the guy shining shoes next to me, I hope that I am living out my purpose.

Saying "Goodbye" to Carolina and Anna

I left Carpe Diem on Friday morning with an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness for the month I had in such a unique place, one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever had the blessing of spending time at. 

Click on the Bubbli Links for a 360 degree view of some of my experiences... (Hammock Kiosko at Finca Carpe Diem)
I made my way to Cartagena for 4 days that were every bit as enchanting as people had promised it would be. (The cutest bookstore in the world, in Cartagena) (The monstrous fortress of San Felipe) (Teatro Heredia in Cartagena)

But on Friday afternoon I began to realize that my next Workaway placement was falling through.  I found myself in a situation in which I was absolutely open to whatever the Lord had next for me, without being too bummed that I would be missing out on what looked to be a pretty cool gig in Jardin.  Sunday afternoon, I popped into the cathedral during mass and prayed while the foreign Catholic traditions were being carried out around me.  I prayed for an open door.  And then prayed for my friends from Carpe Diem – which I’ve promised myself to do every time I look at my new “tattoo."  And I walked out the door to inquire for work at a cool looking bed and breakfast I had passed a few times while getting lost in the Old City.  It seemed like a long shot, and it was.  I left my info but never heard back.  A closed door.  I sent out 7 more inquiries on Workaway, explaining my situation and that I would be available as soon as someone told me they would take me and a bus could get me there.  Monday morning I had 3 possibilities waiting for me in my inbox.  I chose the vineyard outside Sogamoso – or 4 hours from Bogota.  I don’t know what is in store but I trust that the Lord has a plan and I’ll do my best to be a blessing.  And vivir mi vida.

You can turn off the music now.  Or maybe it’s gotten to you too.  De Nada.    

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