Update: My Life in Arequipa // Actualization: La Vida Arequipeña

Family // Familia

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My relatives in Lima are definitely in the category of ‘favorite people to love’ because I learn so much from how generous they are toward me. In the same category, my family here in Arequipa brings life to each day and each moment we share feels so normal, but at the same time, I cherish it all because it’s such a vivacious, open, spirited time we have together that I know I am blessed with something that God really went overboard blessing me with- this love is really what gets me through harder days! As for my Minnesota family, I love them dearly and am happy to share time to Skype with them, but I know that this time apart allows my growth so we can be a stronger family when we are all together in one place again. As for the children I see in the orphanage three times each week without their own family, I seek ways to add them to my idea of family (related or not), because I want them to experience the love that overflows in my life, yet I know that I deserve none of it and it all is the generous blessing of God! I seek to provide a sense of family for these children, but I am unsure of how I can do this best.

Work // Trabajo

For those who don’t know the details of my work here in Peru, for half a year I have a position working in the field of occupational therapy at a grade school in a community that is wealthy in love and generosity and have little means to accrue material wealth. I take a combi for fifty minutes from the well-off city center until I arrive to the community with no roads, lots of dust, unstable mud huts housing families of ten or more, and stray dogs that have been known to bite strangers. I am not advised to stay in this community after 4 o’clock PM for safety reasons. I go alone and return alone. My cell phone often does not have a connection. Yet, I depend on God, ask questions of friendly community members when necessary, and it is all lovely.

I love my job because of all the smiles and hugs. There is so much energy to go around at our grade school! There are so many accomplishments in each new day for each child, and I hope to help in this process. This work is fulfilling, but it is new to me, so I am learning LOTS with help from the most amazing Psychology director (my boss) to lead the way!

Some days are not lovely, though- due to my own great impatience with my imperfect language skills. My boss is the best inspiration I could ever ask for, as are the teachers and principal at the grade school. Some days I still find it hard to not worry, though, and I think this is because I still have so much to learn. Honestly, I get worried when I see that a child is so emotionally shut away from everyone, and I am very unlikely to understand this child for simple reasons like a tendency of a child to mumble under his breath. I’ve noticed my consistent inability to understand rapid Spanish or uncommon vocabulary, and even someone just looking away from me when talking creates a world of chaos as I try to break the language barrier that I didn’t realize would still hover over every conversation outside of my family here. Finally, I don’t struggle to understand conversations within my family; thank goodness that I have this comfort in my Arequipan home! How in the world did I survive my time in Arequipa for seven months in 2014? (I’ve realized that now is different; I am working 5 days a week with children with learning disadvantages is a new challenge that I didn’t fully immerse myself in the first time. I also don’t have three fellow UST students at my side for emotional support, English speaking, and time to go to the mall or Starbucks and pretend we are in the U.S. again for a few hours. It’s okay, too. I’m stronger now, so it’s not a necessity for my wellbeing like I would argue it was in my last experience. Last year, I was learning survival Spanish to get through seven months, and now I want to really feel comfortable with the language so I can use it for my future career…huge difference!) On a related note…

Faith // La Fe

Fun fact: did you know that I turned toward investigating many different faiths because I wanted to know the joy and happiness that is the ultimate goal of occupational therapy (through achieving independence in an individual’s life activities)? I searched and ended up where I was raised: Catholic! However, now it’s unlike how I was raised in that I strive to depend on my faith in every second of every day, instead of a few hours each month when I’m daydreaming through mass.

I started using daily mass and Adoration out of times of emotional weakness and hardship in the past year, which was definitely my most difficult year emotionally, yet through leaning on my faith, it was a year of growth and amazing opportunities. I know that without feeling such pain, I could not love to the extent that the Lord gives me the grace to love today. Now, these rare habits of mass, Adoration, the rosary, reading the Bible, and spiritual reading are my sole strength in that I choose it over other important things in my life, because I know what is more life-giving to me. I now know what will keep me going when I personally can’t do it, because God always can!

People wonder aloud, to my face, how I do very challenging volunteer work, and I wonder just as much as they do…because we have no answers about how I create the virtue to persevere (it’s a trick question, because I don’t)! God gifts it to me! It’s just Jesus using my hands and feet with patience and persistence, because I carry absolutely no special talents with me, but I try relentlessly to be available for God to work through me.

For all of my life, I don’t want to give out love in quite a few situations due to indifference or uncertainty, or in my more messy areas of my vocation to love, because it brings me enough pain that tears could flow forever, if not for the grace of the Holy Spirit and a certain dependence on prayer.

I will never be enough for anyone who worships things of this world—relationships, sports, money, amazing vacations, expensive dining, etc. As freeing as this thought is, please understand that I am new to trying to live with my faith as my priority, so it hurts too. It turns my world on its side to see how sorely I’ve been mistaken about ideas on love.

I’m nothing more than an imperfect human who greatly feels my faults that I was severely blind to before learning about what God has in mind for how humans were created to behave (like Jesus, sorry if it sounds dumb, but that’s where the Truth is), and I realize now that my feelings guide me more than they should. Feelings aren’t great guides (I’ve got a million real-life examples of this for anyone who may find this idea absurd, but if you think hard enough, I bet you know someone in the same boat, maybe yourself— break-ups, material obsessions or addictions, pride, closed minds…they’re all tied to at least one person who is guided mostly by feelings, though of course I will note that there will always be a special case for every example, and that special case is not me).

I am upset because I saw myself choose so much wrong…and now to learn even just a taste of choosing the right way to live, I want this difficult, painful, uncomfortable task of ‘choosing the right’ so desperately for everyone in my life, even if just for the strong community it could provide this needy world. At times, I feel really alone in choosing the right in my life, instead of choosing a decent, comfortable life without making moral decisions apart from what society has already made. I need the Lord to inspire each of my choices, and I hope the Lord inspires others to join my attempts.

I’ve learned a lot in valleys of pain. Pain is surely present (ultimately) in each decision to turn away from Christ’s plan. Something I didn’t expect is how much it initially hurts to turn away from sin; I feel pain and isolation in turning toward God, and of course this is because I’m not doing it perfectly. Yet this still is a surprise!

A lot of work in pain to try to depend only on my faith- is it worth it?

This is where I have only faith that it is worth it. As of yet, there is no empirical evidence. I have only faith to rely on as a solution when I want a loved one’s mind to be open to Christ’s love, and my action is only that I can change myself.

God uses EACH of our mistakes for His good if we give Him the control He has always deserved and likewise we offer our trust to Him over the parts in life we feel we can control.

Now you know what my life is like living and working in Arequipa. I miss a community of great international friends who are no longer here, but I cherish the amazing people who ARE here. I see little things as blessings that went unnoticed before. Great things are happening, but my patience always needs to be practiced. Pray for me and all of my contacts here, that we may lead great lives for a greater good! I promise to pray the same for you.

Also, call me ridiculous, but sometimes I look back on the photos I took during the first month of my first time living in Arequipa, and I feel jealous of what amazing experiences that I had yet to experience so soon after those photos were taken. I can only pray that the Lord will not let me down this time either, and I only scare myself because I am changing my life drastically to serve Him, and I fear isolation and pain because I am deciding not to be mediocre and ‘normal’. We shall see, and until then, I will try to maintain peace over a few feelings of nostalgia, but also be present in the great joy that each day brings me increasingly (it was so hard to transition for the first week!!)!

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