I think it's a cycle that I get to my breaking point, have a lovely respite, and then go back into battle. I found myself halfway through this week back in that emotional turddom of last Friday. I will spare the public domain more angst, so if you really want to hear me whine*, email me and I'll unload (do not attempt).
Last weekend we went to Barranco for dinner. It's a very small little district in Lima that overlooks the waterfront. It was beautiful. I just love the feel of it.
The only griping that you will hear is this: I think that working with the live hens is worse than killing the other chickens. I know it's not their fault that they live in cages and that they live to lay eggs until their rumps bleed and they die, so their days consist of laying eggs, eating, pecking at the guys who take their eggs, drinking water, making lots of squawking noises, and pooping what seems a disproportionate amount to what they eat, and not much else, and that that disproportionate excrement really can't go anywhere but right below them, and with five chickens to a cage and several hundred cages in one place, that's a lot of smell, but...I would think you're supposed to get acclimated to the smell. Somehow that's not working. 2 months down and I'm eager to try a chicken-free diet.
There, that's it. The rest is something I'm going to try putting into a positive frame of mind, namely:
What you can learn about yourself from being abroad in a place where you don't speak the language, and that involves more than just what's said.
You can learn a lot. I didn't quite appreciate that Fr. Regis told me that he HATED Rome the first time he was there living abroad. That's not to say that I HATE it here. I don't even hate it here in lowercase. There are definitely some very trying moments, though. When I have the time to look at them, though, it's amazing what these moments teach me. For example, Hermano Polo had to go to Ñaña to talk with the postulants there, and that left me in charge, more or less. God help us. God help me. God help the children I was supervising. I immediately found myself irascible and wanting them to conform to more rules, less willing to laugh...I essentially found myself modeling the kind of behavior that I question in others in positions of leadership in the Ciudad. I won't speculate why they do what they do, but I can speak for myself. I was not happy with how unhappy this authoritarian model made me, and upon some short reflection realized that I was getting angry with kids more with an insecurity that I had rather than because of their interests. I had their interests as an auxiliary, but I was more concerned with making a good impression and having them follow rules so that I'd look good. It was not a pleasant revelation, but it's where I am, so I'll work from there.
I am experiencing a hug withdrawal. As witheringly as I might look at people for touching me, I am a physically affectionate person, and suffer for lack of it. Fortunately, there are some very touchy-feely kids in San Juan. Unfortunately, they usually want piggy back rides or to fake-spar. These are not hugs. And hugs are magical. And fake-sparring...generally isn't.
I have the privilege of being honest with myself. Sometimes I have to be, but sometimes, I get to be. I get to take a moment to ask, "Wait, why DO I think this or do this?" I don't think that I lie to myself all that often, but I do tend to plow ahead without taking what I think into proper consideration. I've made small victories in self-honesty. And they're awesome.
I need man-talk. Not like, "dude she's hot," man-talk. Just...talking with guys my age. 15 year olds have a very different world view. It involves a lot of girl-induced system failure. Then again, I'm not sure I ever recovered from said failure after my crush in 5th grade...but seriously, nothing beats having some solid friends of the same gender. I'm working on talking with the older kids who work here and with the friars, so that's cool.
Places with four seasons are places I probably prefer to be. The weather is slowly getting warmer here, so that's good! However, I'll say it a billion times...you who live in places where the leaves change color and the mornings come with some mist and the nights are cold and sharp and clear and the sense of family and community seems as natural and warming as the apple cider and sweaters that you're using don't know how lucky you are. I also would like to live in place with clear skies. I have seen one star in the night sky since being here. Maybe two. I can count the number with less than five fingers, though. The blanketed sky makes for a cool effect, nevertheless.
That being said, I'd love to explore the South of the US when I come back. I need to explore that part of my heritage. Also, I would love to explore West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri (I know, not the most southern), Louisiana, North Carolina...and others. When I was driving across the country to get home from CUA, I thought it was such a pity that we couldn't spend more time in WV or KY. Also, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Black Water" are playing on repeat in my head.
Somewhere along the way, I let the sarcastic gruffness actually become gruff in part, and that was an error. I'm not a cinephile, so I feel okay and not at all emasculated to say that some chick flicks are great.
Hannah O'Sullivan once thought about standing outside of seminaries, waiting for guys who'd discerned that priesthood wasn't for them, because there's a caliber to those seminary boys. There's some truth in that, at least for girls discerning the religious life: I have a mild crush on one of the postulant nuns. After one of my previous endeavors into love, this seems like a regression: from going to girls contemplating the religious life, I'm now attracted to those currently in it. Why do they have to be so intriguing before they wear veils? I'm trying to rationalize that it's a friend crush on an attractive young women who happens to be a postulant nun. Also, there is a woman working with the preschool-aged kids whom I find very attractive. She won me over when at a meeting Hno. Hugo asked what her group would be making for the anniversary of the Ciudad and she temporarily had a very flustered, almost defeated, look. So I like helpless and/or unavailable women. Perhaps you can now share in the irony of all the boys in San Juan asking me for girl advice.
IMPORTANT - I am now a godfather. I was asked at the last minute to sponsor a 9-year-old boy named Bradish in the sacrament of baptism. What? I don't know, either. And I will be the sponsor for a boy getting confirmed this Friday, too. I guess the need is there. I better brush up on my theology-speak in Spanish (this is why they housed me in a small library with many catechesis books). Bradish's two older brothers are also at the Ciudad, and their mom is really kind and has essentially welcomed us into the family and wants to make sure we're present, so that's really cool. Prayers?
I'm sure I forgot some things I've learned about myself, but I think they might be things other people know and that I'm getting/needing to learn for myself now. I do find it interesting that I, at least, often will respond to uncouth or insulting or unseemly behavior in an uncouth, insulting, or unseemly manner. I'm learning here that doing so won't result in making my situation better, instilling them an understanding of why what they're doing is wrong, or that they shouldn't do it. By responding in kind, I have to count on being more powerful, with authority to prevent the temptation to escalation, so that teaches that the might is right, I'm responding to them in the same way, so I'm acting as a first-class living example of hypocrisy for them to either ridicule or emulate (or both, if they're like me), and they know not to do things when I'm watching because I'm taught them nothing more than to prevent a certain stimulus-response pattern. Were I to act as they did in an overblown manner to satirize their behavior, that might be different, but it's insulting to them, requires premeditation, and there's the chance they don't get it. I guess that chance is always there.
I just wonder about this stuff because some say that what makes us the most irritated is the quality or qualities we see in another that we find ugly or wrong in ourselves. Maybe that's right, because we usually respond to what we find very ugly with ugliness. Makes me want to think through everything.
Final thought of a tired guy: After much thought, before totally getting rid of my hairdo that will be very long, I will first craft my facial hair to be a goatee...ish. I will then buy a circular hat with a star on it. I will set it atop my shoulder-length hair, look off into space purposefully at an angle, have somebody take a picture, and then maybe I will be as popular as Che Guevarra.
Probably not. But I think the irony of his face being a popular consumerist decal is delicious. Also, the t-shirt with his face and the writing: "Communism killed over 10,000 people and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" is amazing. But this goes back to what I was saying earlier. Some say that violent revolution is the way to go. As a casual observer who hasn't experienced grief at the hands of corrupt government officials, I feel like that illustrates (in a sick way) the humanity of everybody. The oppressed who overthrow and gain power battle ugliness with ugliness. The "better world" sometimes seems to involve a world where roles are reversed in place of some actual greater equality. Too much to talk about for two paragraphs, and I have no answers, and I'm very tired. Know that you're loved and missed. And if you read this but don't communicate with me, you make me sad, but I still love you and there's legit only a little bit of pressure to get in touch with me (because I have to be honest, right?).