Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Journey of Colombia Post Trip #3- Giving up Luxuries

One of the difficult things when coming back from an experience such as I had is that people cannot fully grasp why I would give up a week's vacation time and spend nearly $2,000 to go do hard work in the sun, share a room with 6 women, and give up the luxuries we experience every day.
    When going to a foreign country, you never know fully what to expect. I had seen photos of those who had gone before, I had heard stories of those who had already experienced Brisas del Mar, and I had read facts about the small village.
  But none of those things did the experience justice. I was asked multiple times on the trip if my time there was living up to the expectations I went in with. My answer was that every single experience I had, far surpassed any idea my mind even began to form beforehand.

 I chose to go; I chose to give up the luxuries of life for a week. I was told to be prepared for cold showers and little water. Beware of the fact that you don't flush a toilet unless necessary (if you know what I mean). Be ready for tummy problems because food is different and the body might react on the negative side of life to the differences. Be ready to be exhausted.

 What those statements didn't adequately convey to me beforehand, I want to try to capture for you now.
  The water is scarce there- it's a precious commodity. What we take for granted, they are incredibly grateful for. And I learned to find gratitude for those same things. When it came to showers, I confess to you that I am a typical American- I like my showers very hot and I like the pressure of the water to be hard. However, I want to share with you that to me, a shower had never felt so good as it did there in Brisas. I was caked in dirt and sweat after a hard day of working in the sun digging holes, and so a quick run of water over my skin (then turn off water) lather up my body in soap and try to scrub a bit of the grit off my scalp (then turn water back on and rinse off) felt absolutely amazing. I was grateful to have water. Period. I didn't miss the hot. I didn't miss the pressure. I was thankful for anything at all. And upon my return home, I think twice when taking a forever long shower. I don't take the heat or the pressure for granted any longer. And I hope that sticks.
Women in the village carrying their water

  I became very thankful for clean drinking water at home. While they were so good and gracious to provide clean bottled water for us, the water they drink looks yellow to us. It's not clean. They are accustomed to it, but we'd never survive with it. I know I take water for granted each day. They have to go a distance to get their water. I live with it at my finger tips every day. Every where I go. I am so lucky.
The water ran dry at one point during the week, and this is how they had to bring it back in. Using a tractor, they filled these giant containers of their water (because they have to go a distance to get it) and then run a pipe out of those down into the area that stores their water. Easily Attained? No... it was quite a production. 

  And lastly along the lines of water, because it is such a precious commodity, not easily attained, you don't flush the toilets unless you have to.... and without my being descriptive here, hopefully you can follow that statement. It isn't a gross as it would sound... but maybe that's because I learned how to live with it. The toilet paper goes in the trash rather than down the toilet. To them, it's a way of life. To us, it's an adjustment to remember not to flush or even not to put the toilet paper in the commode. To many in my life, their nose wrinkled upon hearing that fact of my travel. To me, I understood it. Water is not so easily attained in Brisas, therefore, it is savored until needed to be flushed away.
Doing Laundry

Carrying Laundry Home

 And along those lines, since we are on the topic, the septic system there is another foreign concept to us. As part of our construction, that is one of the things we did. We "laid in" the septic system for the church being built. It's far different there than it is to us here. Essentially, it's a giant oversized black plasticish container with a pipe that sticks out of it. As we laid that in for the new building, I just kept thinking "This is crazy." Not crazy bad; Just crazy different from how we live. Normal to them. Eye opening to me.
This is the septic system we put in

Laying the septic system


  I left behind all my electronics for the most part (thank goodness for headphones I had to use to drown out some of the noise around me at night.. I am unfortunately a terribly light sleeper!) I listen to people around me every day complain because the internet is slow or their phone isn't working right. I would like to say that it was SO good for me to be away from those devices for a little bit. It was freeing. Admittedly, I haven't stuck to that so well upon my return home, but I will tell you that there I found beauty in not having those so readily available. I connected more intimately with people because I didn't have a phone or a text or an email constantly distracting me from being in the moment. I haven't figured out how to do that better yet upon my return, but it's one I still am working to incorporate as a lesson learned. It wasn't going without; It was learning to truly live in the moment again- something we so easily miss here with all of our distractions.
  I left my bed.  Many of the people there don't really have a bed. Also, as we were there, I shared a bed with my teammate, Paula Lou, and I shared a room with 5 other women. Was it kinda crazy at times? Yes. They may not appreciate this (sorry team...) but most of the nights held a symphony of snoring. I am a light sleeper, so this was a "rough" part of the trip for me. But, if that's the roughest thing I had to experience... come on... that's not so bad. In fact, I came to laugh about it and appreciate that experience. Was it my soft comfy bed next to my husband? No. But I learned from that. And I bonded with those women unlike any women I have hung out with in the last many years. We came from all different backgrounds but we left with common bonds none of us will ever forget. And after learning what the people in the village don't have and after sharing a room with all those women, I have a great appreciation for my king sized bed with a nice cozy comforter....

 The list goes on. We have food readily available- They struggle to have enough to feed their families. The village has a food program for the school age children, and they don't always have enough funding to keep it running strongly. I have never had to worry about my children going without food.
 They have dirt roads, bumpy and dusty. We have paved roads, and complain at times about potholes....
The roads of Brisas del Mar
 It's all about perspective. Giving up my luxuries for one week became a privilege. I didn't really even think about it, to be honest. Becoming immersed in their culture didn't feel like a foreign world. Somehow, it became home very quickly. That goes back to the piece of love I referred to in my first blog, post trip. None of those things mattered because the people welcomed us with loving arms and surrounded us with their grace and their beauty. They made us feel at home.... and those little every day luxuries we have here faded into the background. The trick is applying those lessons learned now that we are back home.
 Continuing to have an appreciation for water, for food, for a toilet that flushes, for a warm bed, paved roads and cars to get us places, technology to connect (and to blog!) .... those are some of the lessons I want to hang onto and somehow help my family embrace, who were unable to experience this with me. I want to appreciate all of these little pieces.... one day at a time, never forgetting what I learned.

 Stay tuned for Post #4 soon.... where I will share about the clinic and about the medical supplies.


  1. The water situation seems unfathomable to me. Thank goodness for people like you who go and attempt to improve ANY of their living conditions!

    1. The water situation is crazy, isn't it? We take so much for granted....