Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bitter Becomes Sweet

I am suddenly living solo. After a year of living with family then two years with a roommate in the U.S., and four months later with four families in Honduras, I am back with me, myself, and I. Four days and counting.

The past month of living with my host mother, Rosa, has been so abundant with wonderful experiences and learning that to my surprise, I found myself not wanting to leave and just stay with her for the rest of my volunteer service. For a change, I didn’t have to worry about being lonesome or having a real home, as I had it all in the company of this lovely woman and in the cozy abode that she has. I met so many people and learned a lot about the community through her and discovered as well the extent of compassion a human heart can have.

However, I had to take a refresher course on humility and acceptance when the honeymoon had to end. Rosa’s heart was willing to take me in longer, but her commitment to keep her space open for a greater cause called for letting me go. As painful and sad it was for me at first, I immediately turned to counting the blessings I received through her and became grateful for the experience.

Apartment Blues. No transition is ever easy, especially not when it involves a business-like transaction in Honduras. Immediately after I signed a lease contract with my landlord for an apartment beginning November 1st, she told me that I couldn´t move in until the 2nd because the current tenant (i.e., her brother-in-law) had not vacated. Okaaay. So I returned the following day to pick up the keys only to have her tell me that the apartment wouldn´t be ready until the 4th. She told me my host mother wouldn’t mind my extending my stay with her because she is a kind, calm person. Yes, this is considered a professional excuse in this country. No more nice Leah at that point. So I put my foot down and told her I had to move into the apartment by hook or by crook, since Rosa was expecting family members to arrive and occupy my room, hence I had to pack up and leave, hasta pronto.

Somehow I was able to move into the apartment, but the place still had all of the previous occupant’s things- furniture, clothes, and appliances. Not to mention it was filthy. Instead of trying to take advantage of the Cornflakes-laced bed that was still there to sleep in for the night, I opted for the wickerwork-type of couch. Needless to say, with all the additional emotional and physical transitions I suddenly had to go through, that night was a definite low point. To sympathize with my pain, it maybe helpful to mention that in the last six years, I lived in six different places in the U.S., but if this seems rather crazy, it´s nothing, really, considering I just outdid myself because in my four months in Honduras, I had just moved for the fifth time.

Feel me?

After a good cry, I collected myself and reflected on what had just happened with my life. I knew my patience and faith are being stretched even further for my own good, hence, at that time, I didn’t have the need to get hysterical nor have a nervous breakdown. Besides, that would be very un-Leah. If anything, I have been my usual stoic self in the face of uh…crisis? Killing the landlord and her brother-in-law with kindness even when they tried to scr*w me over eventually worked to my advantage because the apartment ended up being emptied out a day earlier and I got a bed frame and a drawer loaned out to me. I didn’t have to sleep on the floor, after all, like I thought I would and I was able to empty out my suitcase. Sweet!

Back to Basics. Last night was the first time that the apartment, even in its vast emptiness, started to feel, not quite like home yet, but at the least, like my own place. It finally got cleaned, Honduran style (i.e. hose everything down with water) and I felt like I could finally breathe and in my solitude, find some inner peace. I felt that it was the real official start of my volunteer service.

I am now the proud owner of a twin-size colchon (a pseudo-mattress made of foam), bed sheets, and a pillow. I have a loaner fridge and two chairs for another week and a stove is about to be donated to me. So far, so good. For a while I was a bit stressed out how to fit the $200 allowance the volunteers got to furnish our respective places, but I refuse to sweat the small stuff much longer. I decided to trust that everything I need will find its way to me when I need them, not sure exactly how, but it will happen.

I am bringing to new heights learning to make do with what I have and extinguish any desires of acquiring so much stuff. This is what I wanted to leave in the U.S. so bad, and unfortunately, it hasn’t been easy as I hoped because a lot of people in this country, despite their poverty, are unsurprisingly materialistic. I swear, it is the power of cable television. The clothes, shoes and fancy cell phones of some people here definitely do not reflect their actual economic status. Dirt roads are not a deterrent to women painting the town red in their shiny stilettos. As for me, I refuse to fall back into a consumerist lifestyle and instead would like to savor the minimalist wayI find myself living in.

Alone, but Not Lonely. As much as I have enjoyed being out and about meeting the whole town (literally) in the past couple of months and always being in good company, finding myself solo in my empty apartment one last Friday night was a breath of fresh air. I found refuge in the company of a new shipment of books from my dear friend, Ericka, and a pile of books in Spanish begging to be read. For a change, I heard myself think and felt myself really feel for an extended period of time. I remembered the projects I originally wanted to do on my quiet time and got excited all over again.

Sure, it seems like I have been on an endless roller coaster ride, even before I left San Francisco. True. But with each dip I discover something new as I rise back up, equipping me better for the next dip that I’m about to encounter. It´s not a secret that life is full of ups and downs, so I´m not sure why people keep trying to run away from or deny the ”downs” that inevitably occur. There are a few rules in life that I swear by and one of them is to live it with the utmost grace, even in the face of adversities. I knew all along what I was up for when I chose to become a volunteer and having the right frame of mind makes such a big difference. It probably doesn’t hurt either that I´m ridiculously patient and optimistic no matter how hard the hits I take.

I am pretty fortunate that even if I choose to become a hermit here in my town, it will be impossible to do so given that I already know a ton of people and any given day that I would like company, all I would have to do is step out of my door. I already know my neighbors prior to moving into my apartment and with invitations to eat out or hang out coming in abundance, truly there is no excuse to feel alone. If anything, all the attention and company can be overwhelming, but , this a subject matter for another time. For now I will just enjoy finally having the balance of alone time when I´m in my place and having the company of the whole of Olanchito when I´m out.