Tuesday, July 19, 2016

This Is NOT My Last Blog Post

So, allow me to be clear on this because I think there's a little confusion. This blog isn't quite done yet. There is still one or two last things to write. I am, in fact, not done with South America. I have my last retreat in Paracas for the next five days and then starting July 24th I will strap on a single backpack and visit many exciting and wonderful places throughout Peru and South America.

Allow me to be clear: August 26th I fly home to Dallas. August 26th there will be one last blog post. I have been planning this post for quite some time and I almost have all the words I need to write it. The only thing I'm missing is the time. August 26th will be that time and I promise you that is when the blog retires for good!

Every YAV right now can tell you we all feel pretty similar. It's the end of the YAV year and things are wrapping up. We all want to talk about how much we've grown, the relationships we've made. I did that not too long ago. But for me now, after leaving Moyobamba and facing a rather large backpacking trip I have to face forward or risk getting a little lost. So, instead of looking back I want to look forward a bit.

Well, to start off with I have this big trip planned! I'm going to Peru, Bolivia, Buenos Aires, Iguazu, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. I've spent a year planning this trip and I've asked myself all the questions you might have. Here's what I will say about this trip: this is very certainly the last chance I will have to take 4 weeks out of my life and travel. Adult life, when it comes, is going to occupy my attention and everyone I have talked to says that you don't get a ton of time to yourself. Rio de Janeiro has been a place I've always wanted to visit ever since I was a little kid (and yes, I have my eyes on the news regularly - I know what's going on there.) My parents have whole-heartedly supported me in doing this trip. I'll also add that this is a good chance to change my scenery and I often reflect/meditate best when I travel. I'm hoping it might have the added effect of helping me process this experience.

Going home - I've seen part of a blank slate and part of a resuming my old life. I asked Jed what the biggest thing newly christened YAV alums have to deal with. He explained to me that recent YAVs will often find things that trigger their memories or emotions (days, weeks, or months down the line) and the person they turn to might be able to listen but not truly empathize. I can imagine hearing those words "When I was in Peru..." Can get very old. My plan is to find coping mechanisms for these moments and to explain to everyone that I may talk about Peru a LOT but I need them to be patient with me.

There is the prospect of being a grown adult as well. Job, apartment, career pursuits, dating, etc. all of that I can more than confidently deal with since my safety net of family and friends will always be there. The adult life actually doesn't worry me.

Church. I have so much respect and appreciation for my home church. Maybe it's nostalgia, but there's a folksy element that's honest and true about my church back home I miss. The slight Texas twangs and the ever-revolving slight congregational drama are just parts of it. I also miss the biscuits and gravy, sausage patty, and breakfast burrito breakfasts. I miss it all and I have to structure my life so I can satisfy this emotion without ruining the reverie or overextending myself. I also owe so much to Grace Presbytery and the Synod of the Sun that I am being 110% sincere when I say I would like to help however I can. I hope they recognize that I have learned a LOT about being a servant and would enjoy continuing that process with whatever work they have.

These are the things I look forward to the most. Sure, all the food and drinks I've been missing out on, but that can wait. It can wait 5 more weeks. On Auguzt 26th I will salivate. Until then I look forward to Train Graveyards on deserts of salt, tango dance halls after churrascaria skewers, Christ the Redeemer watching climb step after step to reach to the top. I have a few adventures left in me. You might not hear from me until August 26th but understand - this is not the end right here. That will come soon enough.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

(Semi) Final Thoughts

So first I need to apologize. The charger cable for my laptop burned out with maybe a week and a half left here at Moyobamba. There was too little time left to order a new one and yet still enough time to have plenty of work left to do. I was in a bit of a jam so pretty much anything computer related went to work. Thus I have not had the time to properly blog or notify anyone of what I have been up to. I am attempting to catch up today while I have a computer and the free time to write.

Its weird. Its wednesday today and on Saturday I leave Moyo for good. Ten months have passed since I left for Peru. Now, when I face the trials of leaving my new home, I confront felings that are very familiar. Whether I was prepared or not last weekend kicked off the farewell tour. My last Sunday at Lluyllucucha presbyterian church. My last visit to the Sulfur Baths. The last time I will see my cycling group friends. Im actually not a big ´last ___ ´guy. When everyone proclaimed ¨Last first day of classes¨ I just shrugged. Its still school.

To summarize my feeling of saying goodbye though I want to point to a previous blog post I wrote last May. Lots of what I feel now match how I felt after graduation (although maybe watered down a bit.) Check it out here:

In these last few days Ive been wrestling with a question that Ive been asking myself since I first got to Moyobamba,

¨Why did I choose to leave home?¨

The answer is complicated and Ive addressed it in personal writing several times for months now. 

First it has to do with the desire to leave home. I wasnt done traveling the world and this was my decision to leave home far behind. I wanted to see who I was without my safety net I grew up with. Some of that fervor for traveling is fueled by jealousy of my wealthier peers who vacation abroad like its normal and part of it is the understanding I will not have a chance in my life to do something like this ever again. Ive found the experience to be more valuable than a semester abroad or an extended backpacking trip.

I also knew I needed to mature. Lets be honest I knew next to nothing about social, political, economic, racial issues. I only read what Buzzfeed wrote out in a list. I think we can all agree Buzzfeed is not really a news source. I did not have opinions on much of anything that was not related to movies or tv shows or books or video games. Its not that I wanted to be this way I was just in a different context that did not always require such presence of mind. I also had a bad habit of apathy. I recognized all these things and decided I needed to change on a fundamental level. From prior experience nothing changes you more than leaving your country. I decided that, in order to evoke the change I desired, I should submit myself to the crucible of living abroad.

In order to defeat apathy I needed to practice empathy and what better way to do so than work as a volunteer. By dedicating myself to a cause I was unfamiliar with I would become familiar with processes of applied empathy that would change my world outlook. I learned about the work involved for advocacy. If I was gonna leave my country and try to grow as a person let it be in the service of others. Jesus transformed others by caring for them. He set the standard.

Lastly I found myself yearning for church. In college I took a dedicated break. My religious curiosity, while subdued, grew as I slept in on Sundays. Now, let me be clear: I needed the break. I was right by realizing my high school faith was irregular. ´Church Camp Faith´I liked to call it. I see now theres nothing wrong with that. I just personally craved for more interaction. That meant getting back into the Presbyterian Church (USA) and by doing so from an international perspective. I grew my faith while engaging with other parts of the Presbyterian church in Peru as well as understanding just what exactly is this international church Im a tiny part of.

So why do I keep asking myself this question? 

Because they are the goals I wanted to accomplish. Admittedly they are rather abstract goals: grow up, become politically conscious, grow in your faith, learn who you are when you are way far away from home. Broken down into concrete actions though I feel successful. I read the news daily (from  multiple sources.) I found things that I care about. I discovered my opinions on topics Im more than happy to discuss. I pray every night (or morning if its been a cazy day.) I have to say, my wanderlust has significantly decreased since coming to Peru. I know now that if I left home I do have the skills and personality to make friends, find a job, learn to live with others, and eventually thrive away from my safety net. Knowing Ive accomplished the many things I set out to do makes saying goodbye easier.

People often joke Im going to find a Peruvian bride in the last two days here and stay. To which I disagree vehemently. Its all in good fun, but the reality is Ive accomplished what I set out to do and thats more than enough for me. Its still hard to say ´adios´ to everyone. My host mother tears up when I mention leaving and I get a little misty-eyed from time to time. 

I dont know when Ill be back in Moyobamba, Its a little unnerving and Im not the first volunteer to have mixed feelings about leaving. I love this town and I love the people in it. They have shown me a different way of life. I also miss my home, my family, my friends. There are people back in Texas waiting patiently for my return. I also have a few more adventures left before I go home.

Ive started packing my bag early to help me get in the mentality of leaving. Still, all of this retrospection can only mitigate the incredible amount of feelings I have. Yeah, I have two more months to go, but those months are filled with new adventures. I can not wait for those adventuress sure, but I will always hold Moyobamba in my heart.

Para todos mis amig@s Peruan@s gracias por acompañarme en este aventura. Ha sido increïble y estaré pensando en como va a ser por muchos años despues. Espero que no me olviden y que nos vemos mas tarde- Recuerda - siempre estas bienvenida en Texas! Gracias. Nos vemos pronto.

 - Daniel Pappas -