Category Archives: training

Celebrate the Socks

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We sat in the minivan, in the darkened garage. The whole way home from school I just let her cry. I tried to understand her through the sobs. She didn’t fit it. She said awkward things. She felt overwhelmed that she was expected to know basic U.S. highschooler things like patriotism and social nuances. She vented. I let her.

When the quiet came and the breathing slowed I waited. There are absolutely no words to heal the hurt of culture clash. This wasn’t the fist time we cried together, it wouldn’t be the last. I looked at her, and a thought came to me.

“When you are getting ready in the morning, are all your clothes suddenly on all at once?” I asked. She looked back at me, confusion was added to the facial expression of the misery of displacement. When she didn’t answer, I probed further, “Like, do you pop out of bed and then all of a sudden your shirt is on, your jeans are on, and your converse are laced up and ready to go?” She shook her head, still wondering where I was going with this seemingly irrelevant line of reasoning.

“Here’s the thing, babe, you don’t expect to wake up all put together. We can’t expect ourselves to be all of a sudden all put together in this new culture. When we get dressed we do it one piece at a time. The shirt. The jeans. Etc. We can’t even put both socks on at the same time. We put one sock on. Then the other.” I took a break from the analogy to remind her of the things she had been able to learn and enjoy in this culture. Simple things, that took effort at first, but were now the new normal. Drinking water from the tap. How things work with family close. Getting to know a few people. Then I made my point.

“Celebrate the socks,” I told her, “Celebrate each little part of learning to live in this new life.”

Now, when our heads start to droop from the tiresome transitional woes, we look down and let our socks remind us of the small accomplishments along the way. We remind ourselves to celebrate those socks on our feet. Poco a poco, as we say in Spanish, little by little. We’ll get all the way dressed, eventually. But for this moment we can be pleased that there are socks on our feet.

Angie

Note: This conversation took place a while back, in the Fall of 2015. There have since been many opportunities to Celebrate the Socks.

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I crunched out through the dry grass of our backyard and opened the rusty hook. The house came with a shed out back. Within the shed spider webs drape what might someday help me start a garden. Rolls of fencing and stakes twist with green hose. I rip a shovel from the dusty webbing. I drag it out to the bushes. Dead leaves of last year’s flowers lie motionless. Sticks of leafless seedlings protrude from the tan brush. A curious urge to clear out the deadness overtakes me. I lift the shovel and bring it down in a fast hack near the base of the tiny trees. I expected to only see dirt. I didn’t expect a surprise. Pinkish purple catches my eye. I lean down and see healthy bulbs growing through the piles of death. I hack and hack. I uncover more and more.

Death.       Life.       Growth.       Cycles.

Things look bleak. The landscape of grays and browns possess a chilling beauty. Yet they do invoke a sense of gloom. I am suddenly struck with the correlation with my own life. Old dried up patterns, now challenged, and being hacked at. Hope for new things poke out under all the death.

Two months have passed. In this land where the seasons change we watch the plants respond. I watch my heart, too, respond to the changing seasons of my life. I mourn the death of the passing. I scrape away the dried up cover. I let the tiny little evidence of growth I see poking through my character give me hope for the new yet to come.

 – – – also, this was my 1,000th blog post. hm.

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Greetings from Limboland

We walked through the lobby of the Real Audiencia hotel in Sucre, Bolivia with our kids. Displayed by the front counter stands a full suit of armor from the days of knights and castles. They said, “Wow!” too many times to count in awe of the ancient artifact. We walked down the corridor of red carpet and through the arch ways draped in flowering vines. We rolled our luggage over the bumpy tiles by the pool, complete with statues of voluptuous Grecian ladies preparing to bathe. The spiral staircase took us to our suites overlooking the courtyard. My oldest threw her hands up in the air and proclaimed, “Imma freakin’ princess!” 

Those sprawling beds were ones of about a half dozen upon which we have laid our heads in the past weeks. Favorite bed thus far during transition? The ones we are in now because they have down comforters which are very cozy during this drippy rainy season. Worst bed thus far? The reclining chairs in the bus on the way back from our royal vacation because I was puked on by my daughter in the first hour of a ten hour ride. You better believe those windows were pried open no matter how cold and wet the night was.

Current tally of observations people have made about our present living conditions:

  • Vagabonds
  • Homeless
  • Nomads
  • Travelers
  • Visitors
  • Guests
  • Drifters
  • House-sitters

We have been living out of suitcases for almost a month now. This will continue for the foreseeable future in the coming weeks.

Our 13 years of life in Bolivia has been whittled down to 13 bags. 

Sometimes the thought of scaling back so much makes me want to cry. Other times I would just like to flick a lit match at the remaining piles of crap as it is tiring to lug it all around. What would be really cool is to have Merlin’s magic from the classic animated Sword in the Stone (my all time favorite Disney movie, by the way) to be able to shrink everything to fit into a dusty old bag with only a song and a dance. Imagine the look on the TSA agent’s face as he rakes his hand through hundreds of teeny tiny objects to determine if miniatures pose a threat to national security.

In the midst of mobility we have been meeting with people and doing the last rites. Last Sunday at church. Last night of youth group. Last visit from out-of-town friends. Last cook out with the ladies group. Last coffee out with friends. Last stroll through the Saturday market. The litany of lasts lasts and lasts.

Every once in a while I let myself be happy anticipating the upcoming flurry of firsts. New weather. New friends. New home. New vehicle. New schools. New clothes. New relative relations. New realities in a new culture. Soon we will trade the now for the new; until then we will wallow in Limboland.

Speaking of mobility and new things… I started my new job on January 5th. Pictured below is my “office” contained in a comfy backpack. Give me electricity and an internet connection and I am working to empower the rescue of victims of human trafficking through the diffusion of truth by way of social media and communications with The Exodus Road. I still have to pinch myself every time I get to work my hours with such an amazing group of people doing such important work.

my office

The kindness and generosity of people towards our family during this transitional season astounds and humbles me. Provision has come in such unexpected, unsolicited, and amazing ways. Yes, there are still lingering details and staggering logistics. Yes, the emotions are too numerous to name. Yet, sparks of goodness illuminate the path in the middle of the darkness.

I’ll leave you with some lyrical loveliness so you can hum along with me:

“I get by with a little help from my friends…”

“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine…”

“Abra, cabra, dabra, nack… Shrink in size very small… We’ve got to save enough room for all… Higitus, figitus, migitus, mum… Prestidigitorium!”

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Bravery, a Derivative

My Teen Girls in Uyuni

I really don’t feel strong or brave. Most days I jolt awake as the rush of nervous acid pours into my stomach. The aftereffects of the daily emotional roller coaster ride make me nauseated. The regrets choke. Thus, I have determined that bravery is not an emotion, it is a derivative.

As I share my story with a low voice, tears in my eyes, so many people tell me I am strong, that I am brave. They see me. They see the circumstances. Then they affirm strength??? I really don’t feel it. Oh boy do I wish I did!

I wince at their words, doubt trumps dauntlessness. I bury myself in my notebook. My hand trembles as I make it pull the jumbled words onto paper. My thoughts slow and calm comes as I think about bravery.

Forged in the fires of truth unhindered, time, and surrender comes forth words to define bravery. Definitions help me maintain realistic expectations of myself, and others.

> Bravery is not a stoic face to mask authenticity. Nuh uh.

> Bravery is not a bully who lashes out in fear. Nope.

> Bravery is not an ungodly holler from a maniac who runs reckless to sure defeat. Sorry Sparta, you can keep that crap.

Bravery: Life lived with strength derived from the assurance that 1. I am the beloved of God, 2. God loves everyone, and 3. His love in me enables me to love well.

So when my teenagers come to me distraught and fraught with emotions I can rely on the strength in me derived from the love infusion from my Father God. Then I can attempt to listen with empathy. I can speak, if I need to. Or shut up. I trust that God can love them well when my resources fail. I choose to engage, rather than cower and hide (which is my default mode, by the way).

So when the days topple on top of each other and mash with the piles to-do lists, and I breathe too quick, and my brain begins to spin like the tilt-a-whirl, I can stop the scared screamy sounds in my mind. I see the lips of my friends who tell me I am strong. Yes, I am strong, because this tangible weakness draws me to the source of my bravery. My bravery is a derivative of the assurance I am loved.

So when terrible scenarios of what-if replay on loop in the darkest corner of my heart I can crawl to that place and face the fears. In the past I have shut that part of me away as “bad” and “sinful” and “faithless”. With weak limbs and scraped hands I can do the next thing. Just do the next thing. And the next thing might be a simple flip of a switch on a plastic flashlight to shine a shaft of bravery on the damp, creepy parts of my soul. A simple task made nearly insurmountable by the paralyzed state created by my imaginations of what will be revealed. But my bravery is not brazen or foolish. True brave strength is surrender to Love. Love knows me. Love accepts me. Love sits beside that awful terribleness, and waits with me for the light.

So what do I do when I just do not feel so strong or brave? I cry. I fuss. I complain. I moan. And when I get that all over with I return to the assurance part of my definition. I can rest when I have been assured. Sometimes this blessed assurance comes from those around me. Sometimes the assurance comes from a song whispered in the recesses of my throat, sang with raspy tones. Other times gritty, holy stories or chunks of scripture assure me.

One prayer from the book of Ephesians has brought encouragement.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  –  Ephesians 3:14 – 21

Love and Peace.

 

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Thanksgiving Gift

Patterns can be deciphered only after the passage of time. We hear beauty in music because we anticipate repetition, as well as remember what came before.

My life used to be driven by goals, small objectives to reach those goals, and problem solving along the way until those expectation boxes could be checked. My eyes fixed forward rarely glanced to the sides and abhorred what laid behind. I rushed ahead at breakneck speed.

Recently, like over the past five years, I have started to value awareness over accomplishment and affection over ambition. In this new way of looking at things I have loosened my grip on accusatory tendencies (both towards myself and those around me) and moved in the direction of unconditional acceptance of all people, including myself. I began to open my vision to more than only what lies ahead, but also to who walks beside me, and occurrences from my past informing my present reality.

Goals are good, but they are only part of all the good in this life.

Accomplishments help people, but they are not the only thing that help people.

Driven people, such as myself, sometimes get a lead foot. It serves us well, at times, to slow down and even stop the car.

Thanksgiving morning I sat in bed doing one of my favorite “slowing down” things: writing and doodling with a pencil in my notebook. As of late my prayers have become provincial and sporadic. Journaling moments have become as prayer for me. Even the drawings are my heart spilled out for my God to hear. He understands. I believe. That morning my thoughts and “prayers” turned to employment in the Sates.

For this fresh start to work we both need to work. I knew that was one of the stipulations we agreed on as we talked through the decision. I wasn’t worried or anxious. I knew, though, that with only my lonely little high school diploma to present to future bosses I had to fill out a resume with life experience stuff.  I also needed to be open to any kind of job that came my way. I had puttered around with putting on paper my past positions and dates of employment. I had done a few searches online to see what was out there in Omaha.

On Thanksgiving morning I made a list of what kind of job I would like to work when we get to the States. The basic gist of the list is this:

“I want to do something I enjoy with people I get along with and get paid for it.”

Reductive living is the name of game at this stage, my friends. I scratched a few more thoughts on the page about weekday hours which allowed time for study. I also noted the idea of working within a creative, purposeful team for a company which was upstanding in the community.

It felt insignificant and ho-hum at the moment. The day progressed with much merry making and lots of fun with a few other families gathered together to eat, give thanks, and play games. I got home late at night. After the little kids were put to bed I sat down to check on my friends who live inside my computer.

One of the messages stopped me completely. The brakes were full on, folks. I read and re-read to comprehend the words on the screen. I cried as I remembered my morning “prayers”.

A job offer!

It felt as though God slipped his arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “Here you go; you don’t have to give up.”

See, the thing is, there was part of me that was grieving the giving up of a missionary life. We are coming off the field. We are seeking stability. Even my Isaac-like life as a missionary had to be put on the altar. I see the necessity of going to the States. It just makes me sad for so many reasons, and this was one of them.

This unsolicited job offer came from an organization fighting human trafficking in South East Asia!

It came from a dear friend, Laura Parker. We met about five years ago through our blogs. I was the first person who came to her mind when the position was being made. The job is Communications Manager doing the online stuff of: the bloggers community, facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. It’s a part time gig.

They want to pay me, too! Where do I sign?

ER signing 12.12.14

Me officially accepting the job I start January 5th, even before we get to the States. I am so excited!

This gift came to me on Thanksgiving and I have not stopped giving thanks for it. I am so humbled to be invited to be a part of this phenomenal team empowering rescue and fighting to end modern day slavery.

When I sat down with my children to tell them about this new job I used my words carefully. “I will be helping an organization who operates in Asia to legally shut down places where people have women and children as slaves. These slaves are forced to do things with their bodies that they do not want to do. Using online connections I will help people get the word out so more people will join in to help free those slaves.”

One of the kids said, “So basically your job is a super hero.” I have such great kids.

The name of this amazing team of super heroes is called: Exodus Road. <– Click the link to read more.

"Rescue is Coming" Exodus Road t-shirt
“Rescue is Coming” Exodus Road logo t-shirt

I began this post speaking about patterns. A pattern is emerging. I am so thrilled to see it happen.

  • One of my closest friends, Andrea Baker, and her husband Andy lead an incredible ministry called Word Made Flesh Bolivia which serves to give abundant life to woman and children affected by prostitution. I have always admired their work.
  • Our former interns, Melinda and Romon Gore, have begun a ministry in the Dominican Republic to house underage girls who were victims of child trafficking and prostitution. Red Roots is all about bringing restoration to the broken. Love that!
  • My desire to become a midwife has led me to become informed about the dire issues worldwide regarding victimized women. The passion to become involved has been slowly growing.

It would seem that my path has been leading me in the direction of helping bring freedom to women.

I am humbled and honored to be invited to help in the abolitionist movement of my time.

Thank you to all who have been praying for us through this transition. This is one of many answers to prayer that we have been seeing. Though undeserving and still messed up I receive this kiss from Heaven and I am so very thankful.

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Firsts Bolivia Gave Me

“It’s not like Bolivia is a blanket that we were using and now we are throwing it to one side. Bolivia is woven into me and it’s threads are a part of who we are forever,” I said with tears blurring my vision as I spoke with my oldest Bolivian friend sitting in front of me in the coffee shop today.

She gave me a butterfly ring as a going away gift, to match my first tattoo. “These are wings as you go on the next part of the journey God has for you.” I settled in and listened, as I have learned to do when I know the time has come to listen, to her speak out from her heart blessings, encouragement, sweet memories, and kind wishes. Bolivians know how to make heartfelt speeches. I was touched.

butterfly ring

Bolivia has given me many ‘firsts’. I came as a 25 year old mother of three small children, practically a blank canvas just getting started with life. Remember those lists I was talking about in the previous post? Here’s a fun one I did.

Firsts in Bolivia

1. Kiss on the cheek greeting

2. Sushi

3. Pedicure

4. Climbed a mountain to the summit

5. Got a massage

6. Went to a spa

7. Changed my mind about drinking

8. Learned I prefer white wine over red

9. Officiated a wedding

10. Served as a pastor

11. Ate Indian food

12. Stayed at a 5 star hotel

13. Got a tattoo

14. Got on social media

15. Used the sci-fi predicted miracle that is Skype

16. Blogged

17. Wrote a book

18. Bore a Bolivian child

19. Adopted a Bolivian child

20. Had major surgery

21. Learned Spanish

22. Held a baby abandoned on a the doorstep

23. Held the hand of a friend as she was losing her baby at 19 weeks of pregnancy

24. Fell in love with cactus plants

25. Got jumped at knife point

26. Owned a cell phone

27. Owned a good camera

28. Became the mother of teenagers

29. Co-founded an orphanage

30. Co-founded a school

31. Co-founded an international collective blog

32. Traveled internationally by myself

33. Traveled internationally with only my nursing baby as company

34. Traveled internationally with only my five children as company

35. Built a snowman with my kids

36. Won an award for my photography

37. Visited children who live in a prison with their criminal parents

38. Ate Bolivian food

 

Since I am now 38 years old I’ll stop there.

We are looking at a season of some new firsts for our family. Some will be fun, some terrifying, some silly, and some very serious.

Please pray with us about a huge first for our youngest, Kaitlynn. She will soon, by the grace of God, become for the first time in her life a citizen of the United States of America. There is paperwork, appointments, and other rigamarole to get through for this to happen. Not impossible, just needs to get done along with all the other stuff that is happening right now. Thanks so much for praying with us.

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Transition Tools

Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning
Bell Curve Transitions Chart: based on book by William Bridges describing the stages of the grief of transitions, the emotions accompanying those stages, and how we can process those emotions effectively to move through the transition to a new beginning

Since we started moving in the direction of moving I started moving towards resources to help with the move. More specifically, I started to gather aids to help our family with this impending Time of Transition.

One thing I have learned from being on the team of A Life Overseas is to not take the resilience of the children for granted. Third Culture Kids need to be given the gift of vocabulary to be able to communicate as they process their transient life. They need to know where they belong and how they fit; and it is our privilege as parents to guide their eyes to the truth of who they are.

I have also picked up on the fact that transition is inescapable in life. We can choose to be intentional about the work it is doing in our lives, or we can ignore it and become emotionally constipated and bitter. The emotional ups and downs and sideways and backwards and loop-do-loops that everyone in our family is experiencing all at once must be validated.

Funny thing, too, I have discovered that we are not the only ones doing this kind of thing. Tons of others have been-there-done-that and tons more are right here in-the-thick thickness of it all. Following is a list of some of the things we are using to help us through this transition. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment box. Also, following the list I have included a very special request about a “dream tool” I would like to add to our Transition Tool Box.

Twenty Transition Tools to Try:

1. Counselor via Skype

2. Book – –  Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by: William Bridges

3. Book – –  As Soon as I Fell: A Memoir, by: Kay Bruner

4. Velvet Ashes Article – – I Have Listened to Your Stories, by: Melissa Chaplin

5. A Life Overseas archive – – Third Culture Kid

6. YouTube: Canadian lady, Robin Pascoe on Repatriation

7. Video from a French lady, Anne Gillme: “7 Tragic Mistakes Families Make When Moving Abroad

8. Email subscription through the website of the French lady: Expatriate Connection

9. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: Geographically close people who I can be intimately authentic with

10. REAL LIFE PEOPLE: I call, skype with, email, facebook chat, etc. who I can also pour myself out to without fear of rejection

11. Journal – – A magical awakening of my spirit stirs to life as my hand makes the shapes of letters, words, and phrases. As my ears hear the slight scrape of the pencil on the page the crusty, dry encasement of my soul scrapes away to reveal a clarity not known before the slow quieting of writing.

12. Reading aloud to my children – – I read a portion from a book or a new article I have found about transition, third culture kids, etc. aloud and then we talk about it. I ask leading questions to get them to voice what is going on inside of them. This has also built a beautiful trust within the siblings.

13. Charts around the house – – Like the image above

14. Lists – – I make some kind of list or chart every day for all kinds of things. Allowing myself to go a little overboard with the list making as we go through this transition has been soothing and helpful.

15. Crying, Laughing, Shouting, Sleeping, Watching Shows, Saying the Hard Things… living in the moment. For most of my life I shunned emotions. This has been a huge point of growth for me to value emotions, and not be scared of any of them. Attentive to my emotion at the moment I allow it to be expressed in a healthy manner, then I move on.

16. Coffee

17. Enneagram study- – This is an ancient tool aiding in self awareness and appreciation for the diversity in the people around us

18. Travel – – If I don’t have a trip to look forward to I can become stir crazy; I know this about myself. To keep sane I plan trips.

19. Exercise – – I jog

20. Nails – – Self-care is the catch phrase I hear often as I educate myself about transition. Getting my nails done is a tiny bit of that. Every time I see my cute nails I am reminded that it is good and necessary to take measures to care for myself.

Dream Tool:

Almost every missionary who has been through a similar transition speaks of debriefing. Most recommend this one in Colorado called MTI. Here is what a friend had to say:

“…the program at MTI is just wonderful for the kids. That is one of the reasons we went there rather than somewhere else. Just wanted to let you know, too, that the debriefing program is not actually counseling. They will recommend counseling afterwards if they think you need it but they don’t do counseling. It’s really just a place to share your story and process what you have been through. The most valuable part for us was being with others who were sharing their stories and realizing that even though locations and circumstances were different, we were all going through the same processes and we were not alone! Just normalizing our experiences was so beneficial. The program at MTI is also just one week.”

Here’s the thing folks, and I am just being real here, the week for our family would cost thousands of dollars. Oftentimes when a missionary is connected to an organization these kind of services are provided. As independent missionaries in a bit of a money bind this idea sounds unreachable to me. But I want so much for our family to being able to do this! Can you pray with me? Should God desire for us to attend a debriefing I trust that He will provide for it. Thanks friends.

Join the Facebook group a friend started for us if you would like to help with practical needs as we set up our new home:

Welcome Back Washingtons

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Four Schools for Distance Study to become a Direct Entry CPM (Certified Professional Midwife)

I have narrowed my choices down to four schools. These provide distance study programs to become a Direct Entry CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). This path of schooling is distinguished by the fact that I am choosing to not become a nurse first.

These schools share a few things in common:

  • First 2 years – technical training
  • Second 2 years  – technical training, clinical hours, and attendance of a certain number of births with a certified preceptor
  • Finalization of the training – taking the NARM test to be certified

Ordered by preference, Est. total cost* ($US) for the 4 years of study

# 1 Institute of Holistic Midwifery, based out of Virginia, 10,300
# 2 Midwives College of Utah, 28,900
# 3 Nizhoni, based out of Michigan, 25,900
# 4 Aviva College, based out of Minnesota, 29,400

*Includes: application fee, administration fee, tuition, other school fees, NARM application ($1,000), book costs ($2,000), materials costs ($300)
*Not included: travel costs to attain the necessary clinical hours and attend the required number of births with a qualified preceptor

The U.S.A is playing catch up

My search pulled up so many fabulous programs based out of Australia, New Zealand, England, the Philippines, Belgium, and The Netherlands.  The midwifery situation in the U.S. seems to be tangled up in many political issues which has stunted its progression. It only makes sense for me to study with a program from the States because of my citizenship, paperwork realities, and financial aid options. For the travel requirements of the second half of my training the logical country to ping-pong back and forth from is the U.S.  so I might see friends and family while I am there.

As I continue to explore my options other more brilliant choices might present themselves – especially for the second half of my training. I am excited to see where this path leads, quite literally.

When

My realistic aim is to be enrolled to start classes August of 2015. That’s a year away. One year to sort out the financial side of things, apply (and get accepted), and find a way to get my hands on some text books. Doable, right?

Wanna help?

My natural inclination after so many years as a missionary is to invite you to participate in this journey with me. Thank you for doing that already by reading, showing interest with your comments, and for encouraging me along the way. I think a support group of people is so vital.

Another way you could help me out is to continue to pray for: clarity in my brain, creativity to solve the logistic realities, energy to see this through, provision, and connections with key people. Thanks for that!

I am really so very excited about this. DaRonn has been super supportive and encouraging, I love that! All my kids are happy for me too.

Toborochi Tree

This morning I had a revelatory moment as I pondered my favorite tree. I first fell in love with the tree during my time living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia so very long ago. My oldest were toddlers at the time and would call these trees ‘honey pot trees’ because they are swollen in the middles. In Bolivia this tree represents femininity because of its form and the pink flowers that fill their branches in the Spring. Even way back then I was drawn to a womanly part of nature. The deeper significance of that yearning has reassured me once again of the good path I am on.

Me next to a Toborochi tree April 2012, family vacation to Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Me next to a Toborochi tree April 2012, family vacation to Santa Cruz, Bolivia

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Ignorant Bliss on a Life Overseas

I suppose the greatest form of ignorance is to believe one knows it all. But what do I know? Today I share on A Life Overseas blog about where my soul is right now. Here’s a little excerpt:

Our shiny vision statement listed everything in plural with big numbers. We knew that we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as they say, what our next few decades, heck, what the rest of our lives looked like.

Or so I thought.

This November 1st marks 13 years in Bolivia. So much has changed in that relatively short span of time. I miss the ignorant bliss of being a know-it-all.

Right now as I walk through the valley-of-the-shadow one of the few certainties I have is the shadow of doubt.

The trade off was too big. Home life is strained. Our finances suffer under huge debt. Relationships have become difficult. I could go on with the list of stressful situations we face; I’ll leave the rest for my skype call counseling sessions.

The ancient story of the Hebrews who clamored for a king haunts my heart. They thought they asked for a good thing…

Click here to read the rest: The Ignorant Bliss of a Know-It-All

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A Missionary, an Astrologist, and a Midwife walk into a Yoga Center

Sounds like the set up for a great joke, right? It amused me to be the missionary in this scenario; so to that extent it is humorous. Aside from my own chuckle this is nothing more than a statement of fact:

A missionary, an astrologist, and a midwife walk into a yoga center.

My exploration of midwifery training began with a good ol’ Google search. Using as many phrases in Spanish and English I could think of I searched for schools and midwives in Bolivia. Then I extended my search to Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Conclusion: midwifery in Bolivia is 1) rare and 2) rural.

Legality

Two seasoned midwives in other countries have suggested that my next step in midwifery training be to find out what the legal requirements are to practice midwifery in Bolivia. As I understand the laws the government is still figuring out the best way to incorporate midwives and their ways.

The law requires the midwife to be registered with the “Ministry of Health and Sports, Vice-minister of traditional medicine and interculturality” branch of the government. Registration is obtained by the presentation of a formal letter from a certain government official in your town or city of residence on your behalf validating and vouching for your abilities as a practicing midwife in that region for the previous five years. Upon approval this registration allows you entrance into any hospital or clinic to perform your midwifery skills. This is the process required of all those who practice traditional medicine to grant them validity and clinical privileges, such as: herbalists, naturalists, spiritual guides, witch doctors, and midwives.

I know that “Western” practices are far from infallible. I also know there is much we have dismissed or forgotten from our ancient ancestors due to prejudices, industrialization, and commercialization. These errors are essentially throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Yet, I am still coming to accept where the government has chosen to slot midwives. I am not yet at peace with it.

Rural Bolivian Midwives

In the Bolivian countryside and the small towns, which make up the majority of the land in this nation, the midwives learn their skills from the generation before them. Their aptitude is identified as young as 11 years old. Usually the skills are inherited and instilled from an elder in the family. It’s a beautiful thing to think how natural and communal it is to give birth in the villages. It is also a frightening reality that many of the practices are based solely on tradition rather than science. The rustic rural areas are located far from additional support services of modern medical facilities.

To put myself under the tutelage of a traditional Bolivian midwife in a small village would give me loads of experience with laboring women in-the-flesh. But I don’t think it could provide the level of training that I seek to obtain. I respect those midwives and I see their role as vital for this nation. I just don’t feel like that is the path I am supposed to take to receive my training.

The full list of those officially registered in Bolivia can be found online. I scoured the names and categories to find the ones registered in the department (state) of Cochabamba. There were 22 (out of a population of 1,900,000+). I did a Facebook search for each of their names. I didn’t find any on facebook. Most likely they are all in the small villages of our department.

Vivi
Vivi

Urban Bolivian Midwife

Through Facebook, though, I did find one “partera” (midwife) in Cochabamba. I wrote a little message to her introducing myself and explaining I would like to meet her to discuss the training options that exist for a person like me here in Cochabamba. I also googled her name and found a few articles by and about her. I was able to ascertain from a YouTube video that she became uneasy and unsatisfied with the entitled, prejudiced, and rude treatment of the doctors towards the women she began to seek out a different way. Her journey led her to become a midwife.

She responded to my message with kindness and suggested a time we meet. At first we were going to sit in a plaza and talk. The day of the meeting she texted me to say that a friend of hers had graciously offered the space of her yoga center for us to meet. I was so excited.

I found the place and remembered seeing signs out front that they specialize in prenatal yoga. The place was every bit what you would expect. Low lights, soothing decor, and incense lingering in the air. The yoga instructor ushered me in to Vivi, the midwife. Vivi is lively yet calm with a sweet countenance of peace and acceptance. She has a soft voice that resonates confidence. Her long hair, beaded jewelry, and flowing flowery garb reminded me of pictures I had seen of my parents’ hippie days. I loved her right away.

We sat at the small table in the kitchenette and drank herbal tea sweetened with natural honey. She shared her story. I shared mine. Then I asked about the education possibilities. She spoke of her dreams of a state of the art birthing center with a training arm here in the city of Cochabamba. Then she spoke of the challenges of money, initiative, and legality. I understood. She encouraged me to continue on this path and urged me to seek out the training in any way I could.

As we rose to leave we encountered one of her friends in the entry way. She introduced me to the astrologist and explained how they work together. Vivi has a few women who are expecting babies in the coming months. She does their prenatal care and then attends their births.

Beyond Bolivia

I was disappointed to know that training to be a midwife would have to come from abroad. I was surprised, too. I thought there would be a more midwives because of the practicality of the role in a society like this one. I feel sorry that the expectant mothers in the urban areas do not have the option of the services of a  midwife. It just makes sense to simplify and reduce the high number of unnecessary cesarean sections with a midwifery program. The great divide created by classism is shocking and quite abhorrent. Bolivia could benefit greatly from more midwives.

Now I have to look beyond Bolivian borders for a school. That search has begun.

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