Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I got a tattoo.

A Colombian tattoo.  Let me explain.

Two-wheeled Vehicles Are Not My Friend. 

I’ve stated this fact since I moved to Colorado in 2003 and tried mountain biking for the first time.  I’ve never worked out so hard I thought I was going to throw up… until I tried mountain biking.  Maybe it would have helped if I knew how to work the gears. 

This fact was solidified in 2007 when I was talked into taking a mo-ped ride around Mykanos, Greece… although I tried my best to resist.  My lesson in riding this vehicle: “Right hand is the gas, left hand is the break.  Got it?”  First inclination should have been that I wasn’t able to get the bike off the kickstand.  And then when I did manage to, the bike fell to the side.  I had underestimated the weight of a mo-ped.  And it’s take-off as well.  An up-hill, one-way cobble stone street were the circumstances I faced as I began my mo-ped career.  It ended 20 feet later as the famous white-washed walls of Greece began coming towards me.  I managed to scrape the right side of my body and bike against the wall only to fall into an open driveway.  I’ve heard that it is hard for American women to rent mo-peds in the Mediterranean.  I am “Exhibit A”.

In my last post I was explaining how the only way to Paso del Mango is on a motorcycle.  Every time I’ve taken a motorcycle I’ve wondered if this will be my ill-fated trip.  However, I was priding myself on the fact that my death grip on the handle behind my seat had loosened considerably during my two weeks here.  I had even managed to let my arms hang to the side for a few seconds.  Welp… today was the day.

Last Sunday I managed to find a church in Bonda to attend.  It happens to be right next to Anna’s house.  Anna is the awesome Colombian woman I have the joy of working beside everyday.  But after I asked about the church, it took another hour to arrange a moto-taxi and then 20 minutes to actually get there.  By the time I arrived there were two minutes left in the service.  (As a result I asked if there was another church meeting which led me to the rather charismatic service I was enjoying until 2 hours into the service and the Bible had yet to be opened and there was a lot of talk of money and health…)  This Sunday, I was only 30 minutes late.  Carolina’s husband, Ivan, was my moto-taxi driver this time.  Carolina also works at Carpe Diem but usually during the shift opposite me.  Ivan was gracious enough to wait for me and bring me home as well.  All was going well, even with the 10-year old kid we picked up on the way (translation: 3 people on the motorcycle).  We dropped the kid off before a rather big hill we made up fine, but the next big hill didn’t go so well.  We hit a pretty big hole, the bike fell to the left side, I tumbled off, with just a little dust on me, but a rather large burn on my leg from the muffler that instantly removed the top layer of skin.  I dusted myself off, hoped back on the bike with just a few minutes to go to Carpe Diem.  After Carolina and her adorable kids Andrea and Martin, and two lovely British/Belgian guests Rich and Julie all assessed the damage, we decided that ice was the best remedy for the moment.  Carolina took out a big block from the freezer and broke off a chunk to apply to my leg.  Rich and Julie ran to get their rather impressive first-aid kit.  And 4-year-old Martin used the piece of paper in his hand to fan me.  Precious!  Another Dutch couple suggested a visit to the doctor.  That would most likely mean another moto-taxi ride that I wasn’t really all that thrilled about taking at the moment.  6 hours later, as I type this, I’ve applied a pretty serious coating of Neosporin and used a big bandage provided by Rich and Julie.  Right now, I only remember the burn when I look at it.  I’m hoping for the best, and that my new tattoo heals quickly.   

The rest of the story is this.  At church, where my presence increased attendance by about 3%, the pastor was teaching on the story of Joseph.  On the ride home, I told Ivan, who joined for the last 30 minutes of the service, that the story of Joseph was one of my most favorite stories in the Bible.  It’s a story of God’s sovereignty and a plan that could never be laid by man.  It is only after decades that the Lord’s plan and purpose for Joseph’s life becomes clear.  I don’t want to over-spiritualize a burn from a motorcycle muffler but I look forward to seeing how this may play into the Lord’s plan for my time here at Carpe Diem.  Already, I can say that it has helped to mend a somewhat strained relationship between Carolina and myself.  For reasons I don’t totally understand, I haven’t quite been welcomed into Carolina’s life.  However, her care and concern today has been wonderful.  If a fated ride on a two-wheeled vehicle was necessary to make that happen, so be it.  To God be the Glory! 

In other news…

I’ve spent a lot of time reading.  No internet access is good for that.  I’ve completed books that I’ve started years ago.  A few have common themes.  I highly recommend David Platt’s “Radical” and Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”.  If you read the first chapter of each book, you will understand why I was avoiding finishing the books.  But considering the life I’ve been living for the last year, the idea of rethinking American excess as Christians is a little easier to swallow. 

Last week, I managed to turn my day off into 48 hours away from Carpe Diem.  I spent the night at a chilled-out “surf camp” inhabited mostly by Aussies called Costeno Beach.  I spent my second night in a hammock.  It was much more successful than my first night.  The next day I took off for a trek through Tayrona National Park.  I took a less traveled entrance which was my first serious trekking session since the Achilles mishap.  The first two hours were up-hill but on a decent path.  My only company were two Colombians on horseback that passed me half way through.  And then I made it to Pueblito, a settlement reminiscent of the native way of life.  I have to be honest and say the trek from Pueblito to Cabo San Juan, was a pretty gnarly “hike” around boulders and tree roots and obstacles such as deep pits under said boulders and roots.  I managed to arrive at the incredible beach destination of Cabo San Juan without incident and immediately found enjoyment in the most delicious beverage I’ve ever tasted, mango juice with milk.  I spent a wonderful afternoon on the beach and then a pretty restless night in a hammock.  The next morning, I chose to take the hour long horseback ride out of the park as opposed to the three-hour trek.  I had a great conversation with my guide Alex, about faith and family.  Then I made my way back to Carpe Diem… definitely making the most of my time away.  And needing a vacation from my vacation.  

As I was doing my Sunday afternoon task of cutting loads of carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes in preparation for the Sunday evening meal of “espegetis”, I was reflecting on how much I really enjoy my role here.  I’ve never done so much physical labor in my life, but it feels good to work with my hands.  I’ve pulled lots of weeds, most every day.  I’ve swept away mud and dirt from sidewalks and stairways as the daily rains create some pretty significant run-off on our hillside location.  I worked with Julian to plant some grass seed.  I’ve carried buckets of food to the compost pile a few minutes away and up to the chicken coop to feed the 4 chickens and 2 ducks.  And I’ve scraped paint off of a wall, in the rain, which left me covered in a wet-yellow-powdery mess.  And then Julian and I painted the wall white a few days later.    I’m not gonna lie, while I’m completing every task, I’m recalling the tools available in the US that allow each task to be completed in a fraction of the time.  But for the first time, I understand the value and satisfaction that comes from working with your hands with limited tools.  This also means that I have a greater appreciation for the simple life touted by people like Wendall Barry.  I don’t think I understand that fully before.  I’ve also asked myself if I’d feel the same way if I did this day-in and day-out.  I can’t say that I can honestly answer that question. 

But the best part of the job remains the people.  Around the dinner table at night I’ve enjoyed conversations with Colombians, Argentines, Brits, Kiwis, South Africans, Dutch, Germans, and Belgians.  We talk about our travels and learning experiences along the way, world politics, and books we’re reading … all things I love talking about.  Each day, I imagine what it could be like to do hospitality of this sort in my home.  I’m looking forward to the day when my dreams will become reality. 


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