Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I get grumpy when I don't eat lunch...

Yesterday, when I was riding home on the bus the sky was blue painted with pink clouds and the moon was full. Did you notice? It was lovely. I could have just stared out at it but, I was tired. It is amazing how exhausting a day at work can be. I got home and sat down on my bed. The next thing I knew I was trying not to fall asleep.

You see, at work I don't do anything glamorous. Sometimes, I have to imagine how to explain concepts like "what is a wiki" and "how stuff shows up on Google" but mostly, my tasks involve some research, some translating, a lot of 'uploading' to the internet (which can take forever if the internet is slow), and most of my emotional energy is spent on trying to understand why things happen the way that they do here. Yesterday, I got quite a bit of work done in the morning and by 2pm I was called to join everyone for our (very late lunch) birthday celebration for the director.

"Lunch" (when it happens) is a little bit of a surreal experience. I don't know if you've heard stories of back in the olden days when people would close their shops and have lunch and a siesta for two hours but, that is sort of what happens here at my workplace sometimes. Yesterday, we waited for everyone to come to eat and then we ate, talked, and talked, and ate. Everything happened so slowly and yet strangely lovely in its own way. I get asked a question about Panama and then I get asked if I know the national anthem. Thankfully, I remember most of it, "Alcanzamos por fin la victoria..." and we started to sing. She has a wonderful singing voice.

"We lived in all of these countries," she said "we were taught that we were citizens of the world." Then she sang the anthems from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, and then Ima came and they sang the Costarican anthem together. They had great old-fashioned voices and they sang their hearts out. Her siblings all love to sing. Last Friday, we went out to eat after work and her brother came with his guitar and friends and they went into the garden in the back of the little place where we were eating and they starting to sing old Spanish ballads with deep melancholic voices. They never came over to where we were sitting, it was like someone was singing the songs in whispers into our ears. We finished singing, she gave a speech and then we ate some cake.

Two hours had gone by and I had heard stories that you would only dream of reading in some strange, lost memoir. "War" she said, "is a terrible thing. We can disagree but that does not mean that we are enemies." And her daughter told of the days when she was a little girl and the children would be recruited to fight in the battalions. Children, how fully can they make decisions on their own? Do they just do what they are told? They can believe in almost any cause, how do you know if they are being taught the right one? These conversations bring some sort of connectedness in the midst of the terribly discouraging issues that we're working with.

Today, we learned how to use the program to change documents into PDFs and worked on some of the same old... reading, translating, and uploading. The day went by quickly and before I knew it it was past the "late lunch" hour and we hadn't eaten anything. Now, some of you have heard me start humming when I get hungry but, the truth is that I get grumpy when I'm hungry and I cannot concentrate. It was terrible. By then, it wasn't worth it for me to just go get something to eat and come back. I finished the project I was working on and left for home when I usually do, except without having eaten any lunch.

I arrived exhausted, mostly because I hadn't eaten. I don't understand how they can go without eating. "We're used to it" they say. I made it home and ate some food and felt a little recovered but, still more tired that usual. I wonder about all the people in the world who give themselves to social causes and ministries and completely sacrifice their lives for the sake of the people they are trying to help. Is it good? Is it right? We want to help others live lives with dignity and self-worth and we completely depreciate the value of our own lives. It is somewhat of a contradictory message. But, there are moments and times for complete self-sacrifice. How do we know when it is that time?

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke