Every September 21st there is a festivity for Student’s Day and it is also the day Bolivia officially welcomes Spring time. It is a fun school day of games, music, balloons, food, candy and cake; like a big birthday party for every student. This is our School tradition; other schools have dances and/or Princess contests. We also make a special dinner for our Senior class since this is their last year as “our students”. In this dinner they are our special guests. This dinner is unique of the Christian School; it is one of our traditions.
Traditions give us a sense of connection, belonging, affinity and stability in an ever-changing world. It might be and seem simple, trivial, casual or insignificant, but the flavor of a dish, the smell of a person or place, the sound of a voice and laughter or silence and quietness for that matter; all play an essential part in the making of a memory.
Someone has said “tradition is the illusion of permanance” so let’s start new ones or continue old ones, but let us give the new generations something to remember.
More Student’s Day pictures in Facebook here.
As I was thinking and preparing to write about today, the day that marks my arrival to Camiri/Bolivia; I looked up words related to “milestone” which refers to a turning point, age, events, happenings, incidents, landmarks etc. Among one of them was the word “survival” and I smiled. Twenty years ago I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it through one day… one month…one year. At this moment, I am writing this blog in the quietness of my hosts’ house, Mr. and Mrs. Train, now gone to be with the Lord. In this table, where I now have a laptop, the Trains had a nice big and heavy electric typewriter from where I wrote my first update with my first impressions, experiences and goals for my visit to Bolivia. I still remember that first day here; everything looked different, felt awkward and smelled peculiar. The days and the years ahead from that day are the days and years from the past 20 years and today everything looks normal, feels familiar and smells natural.
“Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.”
“The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
When people say “you’re getting older“; I reply “And who isn’t?”. We all take this “de rigueur” path from the time we are born. It is unavoidable and undeniable. A few weeks ago I uploaded a video in Facebook of my old good dog Aldo struggling to walk. I received all kinds of responses to the video. Most people were sympathetic and felt sorry; a few looked at it with humor, the dog’s uncoordinated movements and stumbling walk made him look as if he were drunk. The reaction that most got my attention though was from those who asked me how could I dare to: 1.- Keep him alive in pain and 2.- show in public media his suffering. In Facebook we are given the choice to upload our “best” pictures to show the world. We can create our own make-believe lives: all smiles and laughter, good times and parties, good-looking and fashionable. In real life failure, sickness, suffering and death are part of the package.
Aldo is 14 human-years old; he is a senior dog and I write about his aging process thinking about me. A dog’s lifespan is faster and shorter, but I have grown older with Aldo and I am learning from him to enjoy all things: company, sunshine, other animals and above all, food. I am learning as he keeps doing simple things he used to do effortlessly and without sweat that life is worth living not matter how difficult things may turn out. And finally, to sleep, eat and poop are priceless treasures for your well-being. The day comes for all of us when we realize that little things are actually big things.
“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”
A week ago I thought Aldo, my mix breed German Shepherd, would not make it to his 14th birthday, but he did today. He is suffering a common ailment to his breed where he has trouble standing up, pain when trying to get up and his hip is very weak. He has bad days, worse days, good days and better days. I have been helping him to get up and he makes my day when I find him in a different spot where I originally left him. I clap and “hooray” him, “Aldo! You did it!! Keep doing it good boy!! Keep doing it!!” and I hug him.
I know Aldo is living his final days. He is being totally spoiled by me. I love my other two dogs, but Aldo is getting a lot of privileges and benefits of the old age.
I don’t want to humanize him. Although, yes, he could be described as “my good loyal friend and companion” I simply think that Aldo is at his best when being what he is, a dog. I would not want him to be a human. I love him exactly for what he is and with all what it brings to own a dog.
One good thing about old Aldo is that he has not lost his appetite. So after a good meal, he loves to lie down in the sunshine and a walk from the back of the house to the front and backwards, it all it takes to make his day.
WOOF WOOF! It’s time for a Paw-ty
There are many studies about “smile facts” and the number of benefits it brings to physical, mental and emotional health. A smile is more than just a flexion of muscles; it is an expression from within the deepest part of our being denoting pleasure, happiness, delight, enjoyment, gratification or sociability. A smile is sadly almost a lost gesture in big cities since it is the body language of welcoming people into our space and our lives. We live in times of mistrust of strangers.
I recently experience pain due to dental work. I don’t remember ever being in such torment before. For some reason analgesic had almost none effect or so I felt. When I left the dentist’s office I had to make a phone call and meet with some people. All I wish was to be in a dark room, in bed and alone, but I couldn’t. I am sure the people around would be understanding of my bad mood and put up with my miserable attitude, but as in many cases, they are not to blame for my pain.
I chose to continue life ignoring my discomfort and even watched a movie with my hosts. I am in a liquid diet. Things didn’t turn out as I was expecting and the episode of the dental work hasn’t finished. I fear going back to the dentist’s. Such is life, but those circumstances have no control over what I choose and how I decide to act. For this time I have decided that my pain is small compare to what others are suffering. I want my smile to be a reflection of my soul not of my body. I choose to smile not because my smile is perfect, but because it is powerful.
In many cases, I imagine many of you reading this blog from your cell phone. I remember resisting the idea of getting one for myself reasoning that I grew up when telephones stayed at home. If people wanted to get a hold of me, they would call back. Then in 2007 I gave in and acquired my first cell phone, a Nokia 1100 that remained my favorite and irreplaceable one for many years; until my colleagues and family, specially my nephew who is a technophile (ideapokeian), said I really needed to upgrade and start using Whatssap and other similar apps and I did.
I try to stay undefiled by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and apply practical and common-sense rules to cell phone usage. The second-hand cell phone I was using had been given to me as a gift and it had malfunctioned for a long time, I knew the day would come for this gadget to die and that day was this morning today. I am traveling tomorrow and suddenly felt the urgency to quickly get a new one for how would I get in touch with the people I am supposed to meet and many other questions came to mind.
How come I was feeling this uneasiness about going without a cell phone if I had made so many trips in my life without one! The Answer is simply: The cell phone, one of the many useful tools of our times and a neccesary evil if you will.
My dad, who loves photography, tells me how when I was two years old, he had to hide to take a picture of me. Well, I still don’t like to have my picture taken, but like my father, I take pictures of everybody, everything, in any moment and place. I enjoy photography; that is, I am an amateur, I just like to snapshot. I don’t have any formal training or intentions to make it my livelihood. The best tip for me comes from a quote I read from Ansel Adams (1902-1984) “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” Hence I always try to find a good spot or move around; I have noticed that a camera, specially a professional-looking big one, opens the doors to sometimes off-limits places.
In this trendy digital generation a camera, even in cell phones, is a low-cost commodity and always handy. A personal gallery to display photos of all kinds (portraits, landscape, sports, wildlife, etc.) is simple and an everyday thing in Facebook, Instagram, pinterest, etc.
So, I don’t have much to say about the subject. I just want to share that a camera is one of the many useful tools one can possess and dominate to capture fleeting moments and making them long-lasting memories.
Not too long ago one of my students asked me “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” He gave me a skeptical look when I answered him “a teacher.” As if it would be impossible to become what you dreamt or wish to be as a kid. In my teen years I also became interested in “missions” and like my student, I had my doubts as well that one day I would be doing missionary work and teaching at the same time. I never imagined the process, the where and the how, but little by little, step by step God made all things fall into place and even circumstances and events I thought were “a waste” made sense of why I had to go through.
The thought of me fulfilling “The Great Commission” in the “traditional” way (preaching to strangers in a foreign land with different language, food and customs) was the most scary thought. That is why I love what I do and where I am. It is a blessing for me to serve my Lord in a school setting for the following reasons: 1).- People don’t know me as missionary, but as teacher. 2).- The classroom has given me close contacts. 3).- The school provides work hours and I don’t forget the feeling of excitement for weekends and days off. 4).- Teaching, if anything, is influence. 5).- Teaching is a lot of fun.
I know God calls each one to different things and areas of ministry according to the gifts given, personality, background, training, etc. However having a teaching certificate is a useful tool in the Lord’s work wherever you are. As for me, there is no greater joy.
“It is a beatiful thing when
a career and a passion
When I was 15 my dad registered me in driving school and then he gave me a Volkswagen beetle which was my transportation to the technical high school approximately 10 km (6 miles) from the city. Today I admire my parents for trusting me with such responsibility for which I recognize I wasn’t always that responsible and had my fender-bender experiences. The most tragic accident I had (and it wasn’t totally my fault) was while leaving school, one of my classmates suddenly and unexpectedly walked into my lane and her head impacted and shattered the windshield. She, thank God, had a solid-rocky hard skull and was unhurt, but to me was so traumatic I did not want to drive again. My dad literally forced me to “take the wheel” that very same day in another car he had and I learned my lesson to drive slow and carefully.
That VW beetle was sold to save money to pay my first year of college in the USA. The new owner died after crashing on the same road I took every morning to go to school and oftentimes no respecting the speed limit. This is one of the events that makes me soberly think about the “what-ifs” of life.
Once in a while I drive down memory lane and get nostalgic when I see a VW beetle. I remember the hard lessons that taught me to become a safe driver, the fun times I had with friends and the benefical useful tool it has been at various times in my life. I recall the experience of getting my driving license for the first time in Mexico and in the USA and driving in Spain and Venezuela, all with joy and satisfaction.
Now I live in a small city where most places are at a walking distance and seldom wish for a car, except for few occasions. I thank God for the lessons and the experiences and above all, for preserving my life up to today.