Thursday, September 26, 2013

Angelina, La Bonita

When I first got to Cusco, the school director asked me if I had any experience with little ones. One of their newer students was this little one, Angelina. 2 years old, virtually no head control, hypotonic, minimal voluntary movements, with a diagnosis of CP, and likely other neurological involvement. She was significantly visually impaired, with unclear auditory capacity as well. I didn't have access to any medical record for her but I loved her and got to work with her only once or twice. 

Angelina passed away on Tuesday night. We had an anniversary celebration only hours before where I took these pictures. These beautiful images are of a little girl growing up in a tough culture, not friendly to the needs of children with disabilities of any kind. I had recognized my limited resources as a PT quickly, as Angelina could have benefited from durable medical equipment and frequent therapy from all disciplines. At the school, I was looking forward to working with her, her potential, her smile, the joy she brought to her family. These images caught that joy, and her mom that night asked me to get her copies of these pictures. Neither of us at the time knew I would be bringing them to Angelina's memorial. 

Last night when the other volunteers and I arrived in the neighborhood where the memorial was, we were struck by the number of funeral homes, flower shops, churches, and a general sense of heaviness in the air. We were gently warned that this memorial was already in full emotional swing, complete with wailing and shameless display of emotion. I was glad for it. The death of a child is something there are no polite ways around. Its horrible. I walked in the home, these precious pictures in my hand, and when it was my turn to pay my respects to her mother, her precious abuela (grandmother) spotted the pictures and broke down, thanking me for them and taking them over to Angelina's father, currently separated from her mother. What happened next I was totally unprepared for and I'm sure it will be a lasting memory with me forever. Her father, in mid cry, took them and began to cry even harder, "Mi crispita, mi corazon, mi princesa" he wailed. "My curly haired girl, my heart, my princess". I couldn't take my eyes off of him, his grief, his pain, his despair hit me to my heart. 

I had been told that an appropriate condolence was "Pesarme" meaning "Let me take your heaviness", and I felt it. If only I could have known how to say "Let Jesus take your heaviness, your sorrow, your burden" He came for this reason, he became human for this reason, to feel our grief, to be tempted as we are, to know our pain. And then took all suffering, sin and heaviness upon himself and defeated death itself on the cross. Laying down his life, and being glorified by the Father to have victory in LIFE. Life is always something to be valued. Always. The death of this precious curly haired angel reaffirmed this truth in me as I shared in the pain of this family. 

With my eyes fixed on this aching father, I saw him take my pictures and kiss them, wipe his tears with them. These images of a child taken too soon, in a culture not equipped for children with special needs, and in a family broken by the pain and heaviness of grief. "Let me take your heaviness" isn't enough. I can't, I couldn't. I am limited by the language, the culture, not to mention my humanity. The only answer I see is looking to Christ, the only thing that makes sense in a time like this, to the only One who can and will and has taken our heaviness. 

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. For I came to bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Keep your eyes fixed on me, the way, the truth, and the life."

And life is always something to be valued.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

further up 11,200 feet, literally!

Hi friends! SO. I've been in Peru for 4 full days, after an eventful 22 hrs of travel time from Virginia I made it. Higher than I've ever been in my life, I've definitely felt the altitude the last few days. Some muscle aches, headaches, but thankfully there's this magic Coca leaf tea that has been helpful (and no i can't bring you any back, its illegal) Mmmm. 

me, robbie, chelsie #roomies
steps to my apartment
Where i live: I'm living for now with this sweet host family, the de la Torres, in an apartment with two of the other volunteers at the school. 

Thankfully one of them, Chelsie, is fluent so she's been super helpful for me to start this brain exhaustion called spanish immersion. I'm 4 blocks from the school and about 15 min from the city center by taxi. 

What i've said: I definitely told my host family that my dad tells me that i eat like an airplane. I meant bird. #lostintranslation

Yair and his madre #muyprecioso
What i do: During the week I'll be at the school from about 9-1 and working with kids who primarily have Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome or Autism. I'm with a Peruvian doctor for 2 days of the week, and am helping implement an early intervention morning program for children under 3. The other days seem like they'll be a mix between being a classroom helper and taking kids one on one for individual therapy sessions.

What i've eaten: The food is really good! And if you know me, i eat like a bird remember? This is good news! They eat potatoes and bread and coffee and i really don't think they believe in vegetables! Jk, I've had some corn juice. Corn is a vegetable yeah? 

What i've done: A lot of city exploring, and a few of the Incan ruins around the city. The markets are awesome and not too expensive! Plus it's really cold here at night so I've needed to gear up with all this warm alpaca wear that is the softest thing i've ever felt. Today we went horseback riding through some of the ruins outside the city. A fortress called Sacsayhuaman which was completed in 1508 and is set in the most beautiful mountainous countryside!

The De La Torres kids, Andrea y Luis
It was the scene of a pretty gnarly battle through when the Spanish conquistadors came through and took over. I also got kicked in the leg by one of those horses ironically when I was asking what the spanish translation of "annoying american" is. I've got a bruised tibia, but thank God it wasn't my knee!!

What's dangerous: No drinking the water, its riddled with bugs and salmonella. No flushing toilet paper, also you have to bring your own toilet paper with you because for whatever reason they don't think to stock it. The shower is hooked up to anelectric water heater, so remembering NOT to touch the metal pipes is mucho importante. (Although it doesn't really matter if the heater is on because the water doesn't get above "not freezing") That's right folks, cold showers... happening not that often. Speaking of cold, it gets to 39 deg at night, and the apartment doesn't have heat, so, I call that dangerous too.

What i miss: you guys! feel free to email me or get the app called "whatsapp" for texting!

Cusco, Peru!

I'll write more detailed entries when inspiration strikes, but I'll be here plenty of time for that to happen! Mucho tiempo, prayers appreciated! lovelove

Monday, September 2, 2013


People use that word *literally* all the time. Huh? Wait, no they don't. I always laugh a little when its used so incorrectly because its ridiculous. Like Chris Traeger on Parks and Rec, who's body is a finely tuned microchip and a grain of sand could LITERALLY shut it down... um, really? Haha. Well this summer has been such a time of letting go of what I thought is best for my life, and letting the Lord be in control. Like literally. His word to trust Him and go in faith has become more than a nice idea and literally a reality. "Sell all you have and follow me" Do you mean theoretically? allegorically? literally? I left California in June with all that fit in my car, which was essentially my only asset, and now I'm selling it. Crazy. Before we moved from the Kensington house, we had 2 major yard sales and then a come-and-get it curb alert on Craigslist to get rid of some of the miscellaneous junk still left. In Richmond, I helped with another epic mini-estate sized yardsale to downsize things at my parent's house. Goodbye attic treasures, goodbye childhood leftovers. Literally selling all that I have..

I'm leaving for Peru one week from today. Its not a glamorous trip, not a delusional escape to try to find happiness. I feel that its an extension of where i am right now- content in trusting the Lord. My car is on autotrader, I'm dropping my dog off this afternoon with his new foster caretaker, my student loans on deferment - its just not ideal. But it is an adventure that I feel 100% at peace about and that I know about 0% of what to expect. so I am literally at the mercy of God to lead and guide me, and am so thankful that He is trustworthy. Literally.

Let me close with this word of wisdom from someone who is literally the best character on televsion:

p.s. Anybody need a car?