Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Woman without a Country

That´s what I am feeling like these days as I contemplate our home assignment. First a little background on what home assignment is. Our mission requires that we go back to our “home” country for 9 months after three years on the field. In May of this year we will have been in Bolivia for 3 years so that means we will have several months to spend in the States reconnecting with friends and family, visiting supporting churches and raising funds to spend for the next several years in Cochabamba. Along with these things we plan on having some serious fun. Unfortunately Joe´s dad passed away last July. He left us a small inheritance and Joe had the idea to use it while we are back in the States by taking a couple of vacations. We wish that we would have been able to go on these vacations with him, but are grateful to him for the opportunity to be able to do some things that we don´t normally get to do living in Bolivia. We already have our tickets purchased and will arrive at Dulles Airport on June 3rd…just one day before my parents´ 50th Wedding Anniversary. It will be fun to be there in person and to celebrate this momentous occasion with them.
Now back to the ´without a country´ part. I think that´s really how I feel. I know I am a foreigner here in Bolivia. I don´t look like a Bolivian and I certainly can´t speak Spanish as well as a Bolivian. There are many things about Bolivian culture that I either don´t understand, can´t relate to or sometimes even don´t like. I know that I don´t really ´belong´ here although I now consider this my home. I also don´t fit so well in my ´home´ country any longer. I have had experiences that have changed me from the person I was. My eyes have been opened to the poverty that is unheard of in the USA. A woman begging at the gate for food for her and her children. She literally cries with gratitude when provided with the food. Boys 8 years old who live on the street and stiff glue to try and escape what has now become their homeless, parentless reality. Churches who meet in the campo (country) under a small wooden shelter on homemade wooden benches and are just so glad to be there. I now know what a privilege it is to have clean drinking water and eat at places where I don´t risk catching a disease, an amoeba, or a parasite. I am thankful for the rare weeks when no one in our family has one of these dreaded critters.

Even though I am looking forward to many things in the United States including but not limited to:

• shopping at Costco for large quantities for our large family
• buying prepared foods and not having to cook every single thing we eat from scratch
• getting to spend time with friends and family I haven´t seen in way too long
• having all my clothes dried in a dryer and not on the line, and while I´m on that subject…dryer sheets!!!
• eating some great Mexican food…actually great foods of all kinds
• not having to bleach/sterilize all the fruits and veggies we consume
• not having to worry that I won´t be prepared for a different cultural situation I might encounter anytime I leave my house
• worshipping in my heart language
• being able to buys books at a real bookstore
• the library
• going shopping without having to take along teens to tote my purchases and provide ´security´
• efficiency, cleanliness, and customer service
• not having to pay someone to watch my car everywhere I park
• heating and air-conditioning
• spending extended time with Seth and Jake
• being able to accomplish more than one task in one day
• drinking directly from the faucet
• being able to return something that doesn´t work or doesn´t fit once I´ve left the store
• not looking so different from everyone else
• Yankee Candle Company
• a dishwasher (that isn´t one of my children)
• Blue Ridge Bible Church
• celebrating birthdays with grandparents
• not having to check the covers or my shoes for scorpions
• a garbage disposal
• malls
• free water at restaurants
• having gas piped directly to our house and not having to chase down a truck to exchange a tank of gas
• good roads
• Bath and Body Works
• being altogether with my whole family for Christmas
• not getting yelled out if I take my baby out in 85 degree weather without socks or a hat on or without her all bundled up in a wool blanket
• going to one Super Wal-Mart or Super Target for all our needs under one roof….yes, ALTOGETHER in ONE place, and INSIDE and HEATED or AIR-CONDITIONED!! They even provide a convenient basket on wheels to carry all my goodies in. How convenient is that?

Anyway I digress. My point is that while I am looking forward to many of the things that I miss in the US the most important being my family and friends, I´m not sure how well I will fit in there anymore. I´m not the same person I was just 3 years ago. I have a whole set of new experiences and see life from a new perspective.

I have a whole list of things I will miss here in Cochabamba while I am in the States including but not limited to:

• Going to the open air market each Saturday where I not only can buy all the fruits and vegetables that we can eat in a week for less than $50, but I also get to see lots of friends as they are there doing the same thing. It´s quite the social event.
• My friends here who are so willing to drop everything in their very busy lives and just have a cup of coffee or a chat when I need them.
• People and relationships being the priority above things and accomplishments
• Learning a better perspective of God as I discover more of what and who He created.
• Going out to eat with my family without having to take out a bank loan.
• When it is necessary to take a child to the ER, we can usually get everything we need done for less than $75.
• Worshipping in Spanish
• Wonderful organic fruits, vegetables, and juices available for pennies year round.
• Living in a big city and being close to everything. We can be at the movie or any restaurant we want to go to in less than 10 minutes.
• The intimate friendships that missionaries form.
• Silpanchos (meat or chicken pounded so much it is flattened on top of a bed of rice and fried potatoes then covered with a fried egg, and topped with tomatoes, onions and peppers).
• Running red lights and ignoring one way street signs…in other words ´fluid´ traffic laws
• Feeling like I am a part of something ´big´
• Public transportation
• Walking, walking, walking
• Seeing everything from a few goats to a whole living room or dining room suite in and on a taxi
• Following God´s plan for my life
• My Bolivian friends
• My little apartment that is “home” to me
• Spending lots of time together as a family
• Being able to afford snacks at the movie.
• Buying movies on DVD before they come out in the theater in the US….and paying less than $1 for them.
• Seeing people excited about what God is doing everyday around them
• Seeing motorcycles used as family vehicles for 5 or more people.
• Feeling part of a community.
• Helping new missionary friends get settled and adjusted to life in Bolivia.
• Carachipampa basketball games

As you can see there are many things I miss while I am here in Coch and many things I will miss from here while I am back in the States. I´m not sure where I ´belong´ anymore. I´m not sure where I ´fit´…. if anywhere. I am a woman without a country. I guess I will choose to look at it positively and say I am a woman with two countries. I miss one whenever I am in the other.


@ngie said...

No matter where you are, mi chica bonita, there is a corner of my heart carved out in a perfect Denise shape. I will hold you there until you get your bearings. Praying for you!

Joe Holman said...

You my dear Angie are one thing that I will miss most! Maybe you will be able to come and visit me in my other life. ;^)

The Holmans In Bolivia said...

Oops!!! I was logged on with Joe´s profile. Although I am sure that Joe will miss you too, I will miss you most.


Stumbler said...

Culture shock for you... and even more so for the kids.

Don't forget Krispy Kreme!!

Coicidentally I picked up a leaflet from the Yankee Candle shop in Worthing today... and here it is on your Blog. So... pick a "Flavour" Denise!!


laura said...

My dear friend... how I truly felt every word that you wrote! When I was home last week I heard a missionary say, the only place she was truly at peace was in the airplane b/w her two worlds :) I think my favorite thing in your list was the being part of something "big". It is so amazing what we get to do here, and together (no matter what work we're a part of) we are here to share the gospel in it's truest form :) love that I get to be a part of this with such great people like you Holman's :)