Monday, July 12, 2010

it's a bittersweet symphony this life

you know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? all of the sudden even though you have some place to put your shit that idea of home is gone…you’ll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s just gone. and you can never get it back. it’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. you won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of HOME…

practicing deep breathing seems to be the best thing to do right now. maybe the only thing to do. as terrifying as it is, i am now having to face the truth that my time here is quickly coming to an end. very quickly. and i don’t usually mind CHANGE, but this might be the biggest life change i have ever faced, more so even than moving to peru will be the transition of returning to the states—the definition of home is definitely a fluid concept.

i would like to be selfish and think of myself as the only one feeling the melancholy shift of life, but LIFE has once again left me completely humbled, as so often it does. my transition feels tiny compared with some of the things going on here. my tinyness comes from the horribly tragic death of fiorella, my enamorado anthony’s little sister. in addition to feeling the pain of losing the life i have created here, my own transition has been mixed with the pain and mourning with anthony and his family. it has been the most humble reminder i have ever experienced of the fragility of life. it is indeed a very fragile line between life and death, or maybe not even a line at all, but just one simple BREATH that separates the two.

i continue with the same work in SERVICIOS A DOMICILIO MADELEINE, the program i created back in october for patients with chronic health care need in their homes. it has been such a beautiful learning experience and i will miss my patients and their wacky families so much. although julie and i were fearing the end of the program with the end of our contracts, marcelle and lisa (two other missionaries) have decided to take over in august! anyone who has ever created anything, whether it be a work project, piece of art, or child, knows the joy the i feel at being able to continue with MADELEINE and see the program grow and change.

as far as my work at the parrish, i am still involved in several groups. ENGLISH CLASSES continue as normal and it looks like the program will also continue with paul and roberto, two of our peruvian students who also teach. i love my students, but one of the hardest transitions will be leaving my group of elderly, PROGRAMA ADULTO MAYOR—a group i have worked with and led for over a year. i will be leaving them in the hands of the health promotoras from the posta santa clara, and unfortunately will be missing their big week-long celebration in the end of august. i get to plan the events for the celebration and the big party, but won’t be here to actually celebrate with them…and true, they are old, but still maintain that beautiful peruvian spirit, and love to dance!

the most difficult group at the parrish to say goodbye to will be EXODO, the band that i sing with, and my best friends here. i don’t know how many endless hours we’ve spent rehearsing and experimenting with music and goofing around. i've always loved singing at the top of my lungs when i'm home alone, but exodo has made me realize that i need to sing out loud. always. i might just need to do a little auditioning back in the states…

i’ll leave you all with some concluding thoughts from my journal entry today—
and i’ll be leaving chimbote (in only one breath-long month) not with my head held high and my heart light (as some have suggested)—but with my shoulders shrugged, my hands and mind open, and my heart heavy. i tried. i learned—maybe too many things that i protected myself from before. too many universal truths and occurrences that i can’t compartmentalize to peru or chimbote. things of pain and heartbreak and social exclusion, of struggle and corruption and disorder. things that my bubble-wrapped worldview couldn’t have grasped before. but then there are those truths that aren’t quite so skeptical—things of divinity and collective soul and of community and hospitality. I feel like i'm entering a world that is no longer my own. or maybe it never was and i always suspected i needed to get away to realize it. a world of order, convenience, control, of pretty complexions and pretty people wrapped in pretty clothes, an icon for ideal that can be purchased, but only for a certain ignorant few.

breathe deeply. love fully.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

we are all in this together

for one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
-rainer maria rilke

a modified excerpt from my journal this morning:
...and what have i learned here?! i may not have changed the world in a huge way, but i am learning about humans, about life, about the struggle. i am learning how sensitive i am, how reliant on close relationships, the capacity that i have to look beyond surface definitions or situations and truly forgive, the power that we all have to hurt one another, even without meaning to, in fact, most always without wanting to. i am learning the true power of human connections, the beauty in broken relationships, because they are all broken. we are all hurt, bent, twisted, broken, beautiful. but then again, we all do the best with what we have--and i truly believe that. that is the one thing that keeps beauty in the world--the drive, the push to continue, even through the struggle...and the desire, the need to reach out to another. the need to step outside ourselves in a trivial act of solidarity. to break the barrier, let someone in, and know that we are all in this together.

Friday, November 27, 2009

amazon trail

new pictures added from my adventure to the peruvian amazon with mom. plus a few from lima and our day trip to huanchaco. click on the pictures link on the right, then courtney's pictures tab, then the album "amazonas octubre 09". it was an INCREDIBLE trip. just like the discovery channel. and absolutely BEAUTIFUL sharing this part of my life with mom. enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

spring forward

there is no place so awake and alive as the edge of becoming. –sue monk kidd

the last few months have been absolutely CRAZY! they have brought huge changes, both with the community as well as in my work and personal life. as always, there’s been beautiful highs matched with painful lows, and the continuous promise of good things to come.

well, i guess i’ll start where i left off in mid-july: changes in the community. in september, todd wrapped up his 2 years in chimbote with numerous going-away parties and events. we had several weeks of good-byes, matched with more welcoming events for jenn and marcelle. it was hard to say good-bye, as todd has been such an essential part of our first year here, but he’s off on his own adventures yet again, with the assurance that his time as an IWM was fruitful. he’s left his fingerprints on so many beautiful projects in chimbote!

one of the highlights of the going-away events was a weekend trip to cajamarca with JUMIFRA, the youth council at the parish. 17 of us headed into the andies for a gorgeous weekend trip. it was absolutely beautiful! we spent the time exploring several incan sites, the beautiful incan/colonial city, and just enjoying time as a group outside of chimbote. it was such a privilege to go with JUMIFRA. most of them are our close friends and they don’t often have the opportunity to travel—a beautiful experience to be able to share together. highlights of the trip were: hiking through incan ruins, breathing clean air, climbing the cerro to get a gorgeous view of the city, a quick rainstorm (the first for our chimbotano friends who only know life in the desert), and the incan baths (which are hot springs that have been built up to be small public bathtubs—possibly not very sanitary, but being submerged in hot water felt awesome…something i will never again take for granted in the states).

we’re now starting to settle down a little bit as a community of 5 women! jenn jumped right in at the parish, taking over many of the roles that todd had occupied including confirmation classes, theater, and helping with english. she’s also thinking about starting a woman’s group at the parish. this had been a dream for jane and i since we started our time here, but hasn’t happened yet for lack of extra time, so we’re all really excited that jenn will help make it a reality! i’ve always been interested in feminist spirituality, but being a woman in a machismo society has made me much more aware of the feminine wound and societal limits that are placed on women…

marcelle, julie, and i have been busy with our new program—Servicios a Domicilio MADELEINE. this is the project that i had mentioned before—home health care for patients with chronic health issues or short-term home-health needs. julie and i have been in charge of the project, along with an administration intern at hospice, and it has certainly been a learning experience! i never in my life thought i would be starting a new business in a foreign country! after months of planning and meetings and making supplies by hand, we’re proud to report that after only a week, we have 2 patients! poco a poco, no? next week we are hoping to have a few more join—we’re planning several campaigns to spread the word about the program and hopefully widen our patient base. we’ve been assured that there is a great need for a service like this in chimbote, but like most things in peru, it just might take a little time to get rolling.

this also means that my time officially working for the posta and hospice has come to an end. i will still be available to help with certain projects, but my focus will be on MADELEINE. i ended my time with the posta with a bang—a huge health campaign that i planned with one of the other nurses in a zone of chimbote that is incredibly impoverished. i’m happy to say that it was a huge success! our focus was on children between the ages of 1-9, and we were able to offer medical consults, fluoride dental treatments, nutritional diagnostics and nutritional counseling (about 25% of the kids we worked with are malnourished), treatment for parasites, hemoglobin/anemia testing, free hair-cuts, and family planning consults with a midwife—many much-needed services to an area that cannot afford healthcare.

and the fun part: i get to be a nurse by day, and a singer in a rock band at night! another thing i never thought i would be doing in a foreign country! or really anywhere. the group has been in progress for about 2 years now with some guys from the parish, but just recently has officially started! we began rehearsing in mid-september and have already had 3 shows, including a big concert downtown in one of the plazas overlooking the ocean! there’s a horrible video of the show that i’ll try to get posted on youtube as soon as i get a copy. although it takes every free minute, it has been a ton of fun! i’ve always loved to sing, but life in chimbote has made me realize my need to sing out loud as much as possible!

other great news: my mom is coming next week! it will be beautiful to share my chimbotana life with her—to show her where i work, who my friends are, what i’ve been doing with my life—all the things a mom needs to know about her baby girl.

ALSO!!! we just got internet in the house! very exciting news! i can hopefully update this blog more than once a season, as well as be much more available to skype with YOU.

take care. laugh often. love well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

txt msgs

hey all. to the few of you who have sent text messages to my phone, MY CODE HAS CHANGED. the clave is now:


keep them coming. it´s always nice to know that you´re loved!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

highs and lows

lord, grant me the serentity to change the things i can, the courage to accept the things i cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. –st francis of asisi

a new season means it´s about time to update you again. it has finally turned into winter here. for all the midwesterners reading this, you would laugh at the word, as winter here basically means highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s…pretty mild to apply the word, but chimbotanos are cursing the weather and cringe whenever they have to go outside…i personally am really enjoying the break from the heat. things like walking through the market or between patient`s houses for hospice seem so much more manageable these days…although, other simple tasks like drying laundry are much more difficult, considering clothes take a few days to dry without the sun.

june was a complete roller coaster for me—it brought both the highest highs and lowest lows of my experiences thus far in peru. i won´t go into the lows here, but i will tell you that i took a much-needed vacation! my beautifully amazing friend heidi (from my loyola years) came down to visit me! the visit could not have come at a better time, as i was in dire need of seeing some of the more beautiful parts of peru, being reminded of the incredible country and culture i live in, but mostly, needing to be in the presence of someone who loves me and knows me outside of this context. we dined well in cuzco, climbed the mountains of macchu picchu, and enjoyed the tourist sites of lima. this being my third time to macchu picchu, i was almost dreading the actual travel part of heidi´s visit. as i mentioned when allie came, there´s an incredible guilt that comes with seeing a part of the country that most of my peruvian friends will never have the opportunity to see, especially when i am choosing to live in solidarity with them. however, the third time was indeed a charm! we went during the festival of inti rami—the incan festival of the sun, which celebrates the winter solstice and honors the sun god. unfortunately, we weren´t able to go to the festival`s culmination, a ceremonial sacrifice of two llamas, one balck and one white, in the ruins of sacsayhuam├ín. it was incredible to be there during that time, as cuzco became an unending party with countless parades and dancing in the streets. the most beautiful part for me was that the majority of the people celebrating were peruvians. obviously there were a ton of tourists, but it was encouraging to see a cultural festival in cuzco that brings peruvians together, one that is not designed specifically for gringo tourists.

june also brought another huge festival specific to fishing cities like chimbote—the feast of san pedro and san pablo (saints peter and paul, patron saints of fishers and farmers). the city was filled with events and fairs and concerts. it was incredible to see chimbote come so alive! san pedrito ends on june 29th with a special ceremony—the idol of san pedro is carried down to the port in a procession of incense, flowers, and hymns. the entire city watches as the statue is carried by boat throughout the bay to bless the waters.

a quick update on work situations—
work at the posta continues to be a little challenging. currently i am working two days a week in the clinic, as well as one afternoon with the promotoras de salud (health promotors). i could not have imagined what i was getting myself into when i accepted the title of leader of the group, a title that continues to frustrate and humble me! i had anticipated that i would be there as a reference person for the health teaching aspect. instead, i have been charged with leading the group in all senses of the word, which has been incredibly challenging, to say the least. imagine going to pluto and being handed a group of baby aliens and told, ``well, they`re all yours`` without any sort of instruction, knowing what to feed them, where to get diapers, or means of communication with the little devils. well, this might be a bit extreme, but it has been interesting! i have definitely had to look to outside resources and be creative with what i do with them, but the truth is, i´m still not exactly sure where to go with them sometimes…if anything, it has been another lesson in humility and creativity…

time at hospice continues to go really well. i currently spend three days a week doing home visits in the community, although i am considering adding more time in the upcoming months…i feel like it was a smooth transition, and my time there is always well-spent. a typical day consists of visits to 8-11 patients, providing wound care, IVs, bed baths, massages, foley and nasogastric tubes, and spending time chatting with patient and family. one of the most beautiful parts has been working with the staff. as difficult as the subject matter is of hospice care, they always seems to bring joy to the work and truly touch the lives of the families we work with. that is the true beauty of hospice: providing patients dignity in death while allowing them to continue living fully in the last phase.

last week at hospice, i had another ´´this is why i`m here`` moment. the patient i was with has always been one of my favorites—he just turned 20 and is dying of leukemia. i ended up at his house alone for about an hour, waiting to meet up with the rest of my team to visit more patients. he isn´t much of a talker, and is generally pretty depressed, but always seems to brighten up a little and talk with me. it was so basic, but we had beautiful time of just playing cards and talking and laughing. it seems trivial, but it´s moments like these that remind me of my mision here and encourage me—i am alive to love god and love others, whatever that may look like, and not just in chimbote. i was laughing out loud, thinking about how beautifully sacred the moment was.

we are also in the beginning of planning and brainstorming for a new ministry in chimbote. hermana juanita is dreaming about starting a home-visiting program for patients with cronic illnesses. the work would be very similar to hospice, but we would be serving a different patient population. many of the potential patiants are people who are interested in hospice care but do not necessarily qualify, as their diagnosis is not yet terminal. the project is still in the beginning phase, but i`m really excited about being a part of the group that will initiate this much-needed service in chimbote.

i have also been working with the youth at the parrish in preparing them for confirmation. it has definitely had it´s challenges, but mostly in the frustrations of typical peruvian meetings, such as starting at least an hour late every week! but on the other hand, i have really loved getting to know the kids and spend time with them. i honestly love kids at that age and i am finding that peruvian adolescents are remarkably similar to u.s. adolescents! we had a huge confirmation event last weekend at the parrish as a way of introducing the kids to the other groups. the day consisted of numerous relay races, a dance-off, and a concurso de barras—each group performed a song and cheer in competition with the other groups. although my community of kids took third place (mostly due to faulty judging…), it was a lot of fun. one of the beautiful things about this culture is that although adolescents still get embarassed easily, they always love a good dance competition.

the end of winter will also come with some major changes for our missionary community. todd will be coming to the end of his two-year term in august and is headed back to california. it will be incredbily hard to see him go, and all of chimbote is already wondering about how some of his projects will continue in the upcoming years. one project that he will be leaving in the hands of the youth council of the parrish as well as the missionaries, is constructing a new youth center at the parrish! the community is really excited about this project, as it will provide computers, classrooms, as well as general space to hang-out. there is unfortunatley very little for youth to do in chimbote, along with limits of safety, so the project is being met with great anticipation and excitement! much of the funding is coming from outside sources, and we are still looking for financial support. if you are interested in supporting the center financially or with materials, please let me know by sending an email: thank you for the support!

fortunately, we will also be recieving two new missionaries in august! jen is a recent graduate from st. louis university and is going to be working in the parrish. we are all hoping that she will continue some of todd`s ministries as well as bring some fresh ideas to the parrish. marcelle is an experienced nurse from texas. she is thinking about joining us at hospice, and hopefully helping with the new home-visitng program (although she doesn`t know that yet!!). the transition will definitely be challenging, but i am really excited to have fresh new faces and be reminded of the excitement and energy of starting a new mission!

love god. love others.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


new album added from camping on the beach, retreat in tortugas, and bullfighting in trujillo (see photo link on the right). enjoy!