Friday, October 30, 2009

The Minimum Necessities

Jeanne learning how to strip dried corn from the cob

Dear Blog Followers,

That doesn’t sound too flattering for a name but what do I call those of you who faithfully tap in hoping to find some updated news? Suggestions are welcome!

In a little more than three weeks, I’ll be northern bound, praying that whoever picks me up at the airport remembers my jacket and gloves! It’s hard to think about COLD when it’s so blooming humid and hot. It rained hard all last night but is bright and sunny today. I have come home soaked to the skin twice this week because of the heavy downpours we’ve had. The point is that we are now in the DRY season, WINTER. Well, it will never be winter here, but it will be dry….someday! I did manage to get my laundry dry yesterday, which was a minor miracle. One becomes grateful for any little thing….small breeze, bird call, a turned down boom box, a smile from a child, frosting on the end of your nose because you’re eating a piece of greatly frosted cake without the assistance of an implement, etc….you get the idea.

I’m looking forward to time home so I can connect with a number of you who so faithfully hang in with this far-flung friend. I’d also like to remind all with whom I’ll meet that red beans, boiled bananas and white rice are not items I’ll miss in my diet!!

I just received word that I will be able to connect with friends I’ve not seen for many years who live in Falls Church, VA. They are generously flying me to D.C. so we can reconnect and catch up on each others lives. I’m so grateful for so many friends and the various ways in which our lives have intersected and paralleled. While home I’ll make my annual retreat (Cleveland) and connect with my CSJ Mission Circle in Wichita right after Christmas. I’m grateful that I extended this visit in order to peacefully reconnect.

Two young friends just 'hanging out'

Life here continues to be hectic in terms of government – but not physically dangerous. The people continue to struggle for daily sustenance, especially in the rural areas where crops did not do well due to lack of usual rainfall. Some farmers chose to risk using seed to do a second planting and hopefully the ‘out of season’ rain we’re receiving will give them an additional % of harvest of beans and corn.

One of my favorite entertainments….bus riding…continues to amuse me. The other morning I took the wrong bus! Imagine, after almost two years here, I still do such things. Well, I immediately noted the error and hopped off at the next stop and boarded a bus that would take me where I wanted to go. Actually, it was a happy fault because this bus was much more comfortable and had fewer people on board. The usual flow of folks come and go….preachers of the Good News and seekers of a few coins, sellers of ballpoint pens and parasite medicine, people asking for help with medicines or operations, children singing and begging (this is one of the more disturbing aspects), a blind gentleman who is a ‘regular’ who sings a hymn and then hopes for a few coins… and the list goes on. These are daily reminders of the extreme poverty the folks live with. And there’s no sign that this will change anytime in the near future.

One of the blessings is that this year we did not have as many problems related to hurricanes and tropical storms. For that we’re grateful. Also, it’s dawning on me that we’ve not had a volcano threatening to explode lately. Since we have five active volcanos in the country, it’s unusual not to have one of them getting het up!

Pablo, Alejandro and Claudio discussing new latrine construction

I continue to visit our rural sisters and brothers and that’s always a joy. The community promoters are indeed an inspiration as they do their best to help their local area improve in small but meaningful ways. We meet with them monthly for an entire day and soon we’ll have a two day gathering of all the leaders from both rural sectors (Mateare in the north and Belen in the south) to report and evaluate and dream and plan. The group of women who meet every 15 days – that’s how you say ‘every two weeks’ in Spanish! – is also a joy for me. It’s not too hard to get there, but returning sometimes presents a challenge…but then I’ve always enjoyed challenges!! I accompany English speaking visitors on occasion and do written translation. I also am privileged to be Spiritual Companion for two women. Interacting with our “dear neighbors” is another ‘typically Sister of St. Joseph ministry’ which we enjoy. Joe Mulligan, SJ (from Detroit and Gesu Parish) and I connect periodially, especially at the ‘every 15 days’ Mass he offers at the Government Physical Rehabilitation Hospital. I visit there on Sundays, and on Saturdays I try to get to the women’s hospital and visit those who are there due to cancer related problems. So….I am privileged to be involved in a variety of activities and also just a lot of ‘presence’ with the people. This is in answer to several of you who ask, “What do you do?” I do keep busy but also take time to reflect and relax. I remind myself that being 71 should have some perks!!

I’ll close for now and send this on its way, thanking each of you for who you are and what you do each day to make God’s plan for each of us and all of us become a reality….a dignified, healthy, respected life in the here and now.

Blessings and gratitude,
Your sister, Jeanne