Saturday, January 30, 2010


This past week for Spirituality Night, one of my community mates asked that we all reflect on what our spirituality means to us. After spending some time in quite meditation, we then expressed our spirituality in some creative form. I chose to write a poem. Since this is my debut on the poetry scene, I thought I would share it on my blog before I go and try to get it published. (Just kidding.)

Here’s what I came up with. I’ll just say that I think it would partner quite nicely with an interpretive dance….

I inhale. 
I sit quietly
I feel the wind all around me
I feel the Spirit all around me
O Great Spirit, breathe your life-giving element into me
Awaken me
Awaken my senses
Enliven my own spirit with

I exhale.
I stand
I am aware of my shortcomings
I feel them gather in my lungs
I breathe out that poisonous air
I release
I release myself.

I inhale.
I lift my feet
The Great Spirit’s breath carries me away
May I be free like the leaf
Free to dance 
Free to fall
Free to live
Free to be.

I inhale and I exhale, breathing the Breath of Life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Call of Duty

I am officially a working woman! Last Wednesday brought about my very first day of work at Pajarito Azul and I have spent this past week getting settled into the routine of an eight-to-four job (a stark contrast to the leisurely lifestyle I was leading for the previous two weeks.) Throughout the upcoming months I will be working with a different group of residents for one week and after I have spent time in each area, I will decide what my role will be for the remainder of my time in Nicaragua.

I began my excursion of Pajarito Azul in a room called Hogar Ositos. The residents of this room are a mix of toddlers and low-functioning and immobile adolescents. My first week was overflowing with diapers, bottles, and baths as well as smiles, laughs, and games. I instantly fell in love with the kids in this room and the work that came along with caring for them. When there was not a diaper that needed changing, I took to holding one of the Ositos. I passed much of my time this past week in a rocking chair talking to a little one in my arms. That is until yesterday.

I arrived at work yesterday knowing that it was my last day with the Ositos for the next few weeks and, having grown quite fond of them, I was prepared to spend the day with a child on my lap. However, after being at work for about an hour, Maria, one of my co-workers, told me that holding the kids was not a good idea. I didn’t understand. As far as I could tell, it was a great idea. Not only did I love that part of my new job, but the children in Ositos rarely have someone to give them a hug, much less spend a significant amount of time holding them. It seemed to me that they were craving that personal attention and love. As I stood there looking perplexed Maria explained to me that when I hold the kids they grow accustomed to frequent and close personal contact. Thus, throughout the past week when I left work at the end of the day I left the kids crying and longing to be held. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough workers at Pajarito to continue holding the kids the way that I had been.

I was immediately hit by a wave of emotions. I was embarrassed that I had not realized my oversight sooner; I was disappointed that I could not spend my last day with the Ositos as I had originally intended; but most of all, I was disheartened because I simply did not know how I was supposed to spend time with the kids if I couldn´t hold. Maria continued to counsel me and explained that there are other ways to engage the children, such as taking them for a walk in their wheelchair or playing a game with them. I could certainly spend time with the children but I just had to do so in a manner that does not leave anyone in tears when I leave. Although I was still embarrassed, disappointed, and disheartened, I now understood what my co-worker was trying to tell me: I have to be sure that my interactions with all of the residents can be sustained by the staff after I go home at four o’clock and even more importantly, when I return to the U.S. in two years.

Establishing a sustainable role in my job is one of the challenges at the heart of my work as a temporary volunteer. Since I am only here for a short while, I cannot make the residents of Pajarito so dependent on me that when I leave they are not able to continue as normal. I do not anticipate that I will be irreplaceable at the end of my time at Pajarito but Maria’s honesty reminded me of the balance that I will constantly have to keep in the back of my mind as I continue my work. I fully intend to give of myself the best way I know how but I must do so without disturbing the normal order of my workplace. At times this might mean that I have to sacrifice what I think they need (like I did yesterday) and at other times this might mean that I have to give more than I thought I could. However, these are the very challenges that will remind me of my call of duty: to be with the residents and accompany them in their daily lives. And that is something I can do.