It seems that lately our weeks are full and our weekends are fuller. Between Hans’s work with students (which mainly fills afternoons and evenings) and family activities, we’ve been going strong. And when you add house hunting to the mix, it’s gotten a little crazy in the past few days.
We’ve been meeting with the students going to Bolivia every Saturday. I started making breakfast for the group and they decided the ten minute trip to Dollar Bay was worth it. (They were meeting on campus until three weeks ago.) Since next weekend is the beginning of spring break, we had them over for a movie night instead of a morning breakfast and watched También la Lluvia (Even the Rain), which is set in Cochabamba in 2000. It’s the story of two filmmakers who are producing a film about Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas and the cruelty which then occurred to the indigenous people the Spaniards interacted with. At the same time they are making the film, the water wars are erupting – as the city cries out against the foreign owned, privatized, and expensive water company.
It’s the first time we’ve watched the movie since moving back to the States and it was fun to see streets we knew well. The group was interested in how the water wars were resolved and we spent awhile talking about Bolivia and the inequality that still exists there. We’re excited to see how God uses the group through their time in Bolivia – and how He teaches, challenges, and changes them.
In other news, we’ve been viewing houses sporadically and haven’t seen anything we liked until last Friday, when we found a house we really like. Later that day we found out that there are others interested in the house as well. With that phone call coming late Friday afternoon, today has been a day of phone calls and emails to get everything organized. We make an offer tomorrow morning!
Talking the other night with another InterVarsity staff, we came to the topic of leaving college and finding a church. We talked about how InterVarsity alumni leave college longing and searching for a church community that matches the intense community experienced as a student. Many alumni struggle with the fact that Christian community is not the same after college, since churches have a different type of community. (When was the last church you’ve visited that offers a dorm for people to live together?)
What struck me about the conversation was that I feel a similar adjustment occurring in our lives right now. Just like we experienced a change in what community looked like after college and had to adjust to embrace that community, we are experiencing a change in what community (and indeed, life) looks like now that we are back in the US.
One of the difficult facets of our transition to living in Bolivia was the fact that we were still adjusting to living post-college and post-InterVarsity. We were lonely because we moved to a new country, and we were lonely because the community and friendships we had in college were still fresh in our minds. Fast forward three years and we’re in a similar spot. Bolivia is gone and it is sometimes hard be okay with our life here in the US because we still remember vividly what life used to be like.
It’s like we are experiencing Bolivia withdrawals. And for me, they happen at random moments: in church, at the supermarket – really, they can happen anytime, anywhere. Sometimes they hit me for a whole day, other times just for a minute. The most recent was at church when a missionary couple from the Philippines presented a video of their ministry. Instead of seeing images from the Philippines, I saw our church and our friends in Bolivia. It made me sad to think of everyone we left behind.
But already my withdrawal symptoms are getting better. I don’t cry about missing Bolivia anymore. You may see me get sad for a while or become quiet and thoughtful – but the mourning process is progressing and it doesn’t hurt as much to think about the past. I am able to embrace life here without hurting from missing life there. Thinking back to our move to Bolivia, this transition has been much smoother – partially because the world we moved back to was much more familiar than Cochabamba, and partially because we don’t have that deep longing for a community that doesn’t exist in the post-college life we live in.
This doesn’t mean that we will forget Bolivia… that could never happen. But time will dull our memories of Bolivia and the future will give us new memories. I’m looking forward to making those memories.
A little of what I’m missing…
“Is it bad that I haven’t thought about Bolivia lately?” is a question that we’ve asked ourselves lately. We have been back in the States almost six weeks now, and with such a busy travel schedule we haven’t really had much time to miss our lives in South America yet.
The three years overseas already feel like a distant memory because of how busy we’ve been since we returned. I feel so far removed from Cochabamba, our church, and our friends there – it feels like we’ve been gone for six months, not just six weeks – and I think I’m now starting to grieve the loss. We knew it was coming – it’s a part of re-entry – but I think the busyness of my sister’s wedding and a two-week road trip (spending two nights per city) has prevented it from really sinking in.
But when something triggers a memory, we really start to miss Bolivia. We remember the delicious, large mangos from Bolivia when we see the tiny, green ones in the supermarket, or are reminded of the chaotic Bolivian traffic when driving on the highway through Detroit.
We’ll get an email from a friend in Cochabamba and recall good memories with them, wishing that they weren’t just memories.
At church on Sunday, when the pastor was speaking from Acts 9, another memory came to me.
We taught the college students (jovenes) at our church how to do an inductive Bible study, and then passed off the responsibility to our friend Noelia before we left. The last study before we left was the beginning of Acts 8, and I knew that they would have started Acts 9 by now.
I found myself longing to study this passage with the group of jovenes – our group of jovenes. What observations would they have about the passage? What applications would Noelia come up with for the group? How far have they made it through Acts? How is the study going?
We studied the book of Jonah and the first part of Acts with them. We hosted them in our apartment countless times, taught them how to make pancakes, and learned how to make humintas. They loved Caleb so much. They were our family in Bolivia.
We’re excited that God has called us to work with MTU students through InterVarsity, but are still struggling with some of what we’ve had to leave behind to follow Him. Please pray for us as we grieve the loss of what we had in Bolivia, and begin to focus on students in Houghton.
Today is our last full day in Cochabamba. It’s hard to believe that we are leaving after three years. Sure, we’ve had two official goodbye parties (one of them being an early 1st birthday party for Caleb), gotten together with friends almost every night in the past week, packed our suitcases, and moved out of our apartment, but it still doesn’t quite feel real.
We’re excited for what’s coming, but we’re sad to leave Bolivia behind. And so it makes for a bittersweet time in our lives right now.
Here are some photos from the past week.