Caleb turns 9!

May 16, 2013

Visible passage of time is never so apparent as in the growth of children. I keep finding photos I took of the Sch kids when I first arrived in Paraguay, and they look so young! Nearly two years later, gone are the baby faces and miniature limbs. All four are blossoming into full-grown sasquatches, especially freshly 9-year-old C. Crazy!

IMAG0550-1-1His request for Big Lowen’s lemon pie.

IMAG0552Birthday beast.

IMAG0553-1His loyal entourage.

IMAG0554I thought this shirt was going to be too small for him,
so I tried it on to make sure and it fit me perfectly.
It also fits him perfectly. Oy.

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Birthday Bitters.

May 15, 2013

Hiking 008He was so embarrassed about me asking him to smile for the picture.

I pulled up in front of the rickety green gate and stepped out of the car, leaping over an enormous puddle of sewage. The humid air was dank and putrid—pollution, poop, trash, and the nearby meat-packing plant combining forces to concoct a pungent aroma. I approached the gate with my usual hesitation as the E family guard dog is a rabid snarling beast (no exaggeration), and clapped for anyone in the family to come out.

The mom emerged in a ragged nightgown with no under garments and looking worse for the wear. Still, she greeted me with a welcoming smile. I have invested years and countless visits for this smile, and on a gloomy morning, it sure was bright. I wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, I asked her how she is holding up, and inquired about each of the eight children.

She sighed wearily and gave my questions brave answers. Then in a quieter voice, she continued, “Today is J’s birthday. He remarked to me, ‘Mom, I almost died [from a severe asthma attack] a few months ago, and look, I’ve made it to fifteen.’ I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and all he told me was, ‘I don’t want anything. We don’t have enough for me to want anything.'”

J used to drive me CRAZY when La Ruta was still happening. He is the quintessential teenage rascal, aka: pain in the derriere. For some time when I was first getting to know him, it was extremely difficult to demonstrate love and patience with his antics. But as time has passed, he has become one of my greatest lessons on not judging a book by its cover. Or even by its Table of Contents.

The E family father is a piece of crap deadbeat. He suddenly abandoned this family of nine, and left to sleep around town and eventually start another family with another woman, who already had other children. Occasionally, he pops up to seize what little money has been accrued by the mom and oldest son, and to eat greedily from the bare bones stash of food. It makes my blood boil.

The children often ask their mother why he will take care of some other woman’s handicapped child (such a stigma here) but wants nothing to do with them. I have seen the abandonment issues manifest in each child in a wide range of ways, some violent, some desperate, all heartbreaking.

I handed over the cupcakes I made for J. A paltry offering, but one I hoped would remind him that he has so much worth.

Mrs. E revealed that both abuela and tía had called to wish J a happy birthday that morning. J then proceeded to sob and in his anguish, tore down the decorations his sisters had put up the night before, popping balloons and tossing crumpled signs outside to disintegrate in the rain. “WHY HASN’T DAD CALLED?!” he kept repeating angrily. Then he had an asthma attack.

She continued to tell me that when J was asked how he wanted to spend his day, maybe at grandma’s house for a meal, maybe across the street to hang with some friends. He simply stated he wanted to spend every moment inside the cramped quarters of their two-room house. Mrs. E looked at me hollowly and said, “I think he is expecting his father to show up. We all know he won’t, but J still hopes he might.”

My heart breaks.

Celebration Sunday 006The crew with the birthday girl.

I clattered down the cobblestone street and pulled onto the dirt stretch in front of Primero de Marzo. Even though I was my usual twenty minutes early, the children were already waiting outside the cancha en masse. Then they surrounded my car before I could even put it into park, pounding on my windows and clamoring cheerful “Hola, [Lo]!’s” left and right. Everyone sure woke up on the right side of the bed that morning.

It took several minutes for me to communicate via charades through tinted windows that they all needed to take a few steps back in order for me to be able to open my car door. The second my foot stepped down, everyone started jostling to help me unload the car.

They actually argued over who got to assist with lugging stuff across the muddy field. Some mornings I am just so dang proud of these little guys.

After some seriously precarious squishing through the bog that is Primero de Marzo (it rained this week and soggy havoc was yet again wreaked on the compound), I put everyone to work blowing up balloons and decking out the place in festivity. Nothing like a party to unite legions of rascals, I guess, because they were all so calm and cooperative and helpful. Little chums were giving hugs, older chums were sharing, and one sweet dumpling even picked me a weed flower. Precious.

Then just as I was settling into this wondrous world of sugarplums and rainbow gumdrops, a balloon popped and with it, the candy-coated bubble of utopian behavior. Gone were the encouraging words and kind gestures and docile temperaments. Boisterous (but normal) chaos promptly ensued and proceeded to flail its crazy head around for the duration of our Saturday morning program.

By the time, Y showed up, her birthday celebration was in full-fledged wild animal mode. Ain’t no party like a hyper OANSA party!

Haha. Feliz cumple, Y!

Celebration Sunday 002Celebration Sunday 005Celebration Sunday 007

Twenty-Cinco.

July 20, 2012

I have celebrated many a birthday outside of the U.S. This year: Paraguay.

For someone who spends so much time in her own head, I find it kind of remarkable that I have never really given much thought to where I’d be at 25. I suppose since it sounded old and far off, I assumed I’d simply have it figured out.

But here I am and…I don’t. After some cursory reflection this week, I actually find myself a little embarrassed at how unsettled life still is at this quarter-century mark. I look around and see friends my age who have been married for years, nestled into the domestic bliss of stable careers, purchasing homes, and making babies (and lots of them at that). I’m still wracking my brain about what I want to do “when I grow up.”

I struggled as an academic during my time at UCSD–it was just so difficult for me to muster up sufficient interest in subject matters that didn’t inspire straight out fiery passion in me. I dabbled in crisis intervention social work and that almost broke me. And while I am convicted this is where God wants me for now, I’m fairly certain a lifetime of overseas missionary work is not where I’m headed either.

Furthermore, my predilections towards possible future endeavors are strangely balanced, so it is hard to say that any one thing in particular jumps out at me. Graduate school? Cooking school? Back to the working world of fixed schedules and paychecks? So much ambivalence.

These things I do know to be true: I am inordinately good at consuming large amounts of black coffee. Baking fruit muffins with crumble topping is kind of my forte. World travel is my soul song. I have great parents and the best batch of best friends. And even though long-distance ranks up there with poop on my shoe, genocide, and boxed mashed potatoes (tongue-in-cheek, peeps), I love doing life with someone who inspires me daily with their stability and optimism.

Food, family, friends, livable wanderlust, and love–really, I’ve got it all. There is a richness in life that, in spite of the foggy uncertainty and momentary lack of direction, brings fullness and reminds me this is a great place to be. I also know that He abides and His plans are good. And if there is anything I have learned in the last twenty-five years, it is that He brings clarity in His timing and His timing is perfect.

Here’s to twenty-five more delicious ones full of new flights, sights, and flavors. Cheers!