Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For me this is heaven

New village, new house, new kids. And here are the pictures...

The kids playing (un)American football with bamboo goal posts

Luda watching my neighbor peel coconuts to sell. (not Gavin)

The view from my back porch.


My students at New Grounds Primary.

The sunset one evening over my house.

“Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” - Henry Miller

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Never Say Never

A man from my village named Gavin is a crack addict.

In the mornings before work while I'm drinking my morning coffee on the porch I always see him walking with a big bag of coconuts to go sell, minding his own business. It doesn't take long before I hear my neighbors yelling at him to stop selling coconuts for crack, to get his life together, or to put on some shoes.

When I was coming home from a football game at the village park late one night, I noticed someone walking closely behind me. I started to get nervous, so I stopped walking and turned around. It was Gavin. He had the most beautifully big smile on his face. And I couldn't help but smile back.

Up close he looked so normal. His face was clean shaven, his teeth were perfectly white, something that is very rare here. He looked surprisingly young and I could picture how handsome we could have been, had circumstances been different.

I stuck out my hand and introduced myself.

We walked back from the park together side by side, neither saying a word. When we reached my house, I could hear my neighbor yelling at him to put on some shoes from the next house over. Not seeming to notice, he stuck out his hand and said goodbye.

From then on, every time he passed my house in the morning he would drop a coconut off on the front step of my door. He would never say a thing or ask for anything. He would just go on his way.

One afternoon I asked around to see if any men in the village had any extra shoes. That next morning I put shoes on the doorstep right where I knew the coconut would be later on that morning.

I knew when he picked them up, because I heard my neighbor yell from her window 'You better not sell those, Gavin.' She later told me I was helping out a lost cause. That the shoes would be gone by night time.

Sure enough, he stopped by my house that night not wearing any shoes. I looked at him in disbelief, as he told me he needed to scrub them before he could wear them. In my mind, there was no other explanation, but that he had sold them for crack.

I slammed the door on the same beautiful smile I welcomed earlier that week, feeling defeated and disrespected all at the same time.

But something remarkable happened tonight, which made me reconsider every preconceived notion I have ever had...about anything. Tonight Gavin showed up at my door with two coconuts in his hands and the same dirty shoes I had laid on the doorstep earlier that week, that definitely needed scrubbing. I was wrong and so were my neighbors. This time my smile matched his.

In heaven, all the interesting people are missing--Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jump: A Vertical Movement

To start off the school year, we are doing a huge push with our volleyball organization, Vertical. With the help of some friends, I have put together a blog that will center around the participants as well as people affected by the programs.

So check it out if you feel so inclined
The first entry is, of course, my man Gus Gus.

We also have a new fundraising website
So, check that out too if you're bored.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped get us through the last year, and those who have catapulted us into the next. A million thank yous.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer Skin

One of my largest struggles within St. Vincent over the past year has been the Christianity-infused culture. My first three months here I attended many church services and just could never seem to buy into it. I looked around me and saw so many children without fathers, so many women with unnecessary bruises and so many men with alcohol permanently staining their breath.

I heard countless anti-gay comments naming God as their source. The same men I saw ostracizing other men they considered feminine in the name of their God, were with a different woman every weekend while their wife stayed at home with the kids. I have always believed in God, but I couldn't seem to find God here.

The hypocrisy of the whole ordeal created such a disdain in my heart that I couldn't see passed my own judgement to understand their's.

It wasn't until I woke up to the screeching tires of a vehicle crashing into my house that I realized where I was wrong about religion. At least religion here.

I woke up at 6:45 in the morning to a van wrapped around the pole in my yard. The village was silent except for the eerie moans of the van driver, who was the only one left in the van. When I stepped outside my house to see if I could help, I was directed to a man who had been hit on the road. His legs were mangled and he was propped up on the wall next to my house. His body had gone into shock and all he could feel were the ants biting his feet. As I sat next to him, wiping off the dozens of ants that just kept reappearing, all I could do was pray. I didn't ask God what to do. I didn't ask God to change things. I just asked God to help me and those around me get through this.

Maybe Vincentians have got it right all along. Intrinsically, we as people know the difference from right and wrong. We don't need the Ten Commandments for that. And religion cannot change what happened or what will happen. But religion can get you through things. And although I will probably never attend any more church services here, it is comforting to know that each night me and thousands of other Vincentians ask God to help us get through the next day together. And maybe that's all religion needs to be.

'I don't even know what I was running for - I guess I just felt like it'--Holden Claufield, Catcher in the Rye