The Peace Makers
Dear Live It Everyday community,
I decided that yesterday I would wake up and document my day. Living in Uganda is never dull and every second is unpredictable. So I thought I’d record a random day and luckily for you yesterday was a golden example of my chaotic life.
Wake up to the noise of a lizard’s quick feet (pat pat pat) crawling past my face and learning electricity has gone out. Great start to the day.
No electricity means I better hope my electronics had enough battery power from the day before to carry me through the black out. Unfortunately, my computer was completely dead. (I guess work will have to wait.)
No matter, the day is still redeemable because fresh coffee waits. I walked to the kitchen for a spoon from the silverware bin. The bin is dark so I always know my six and eight-legged friends are crawling around. I chose a spoon, dodge the creepy-crawlies, wipe it off, and proceed to my dreamy French press. What would I do without it?
After coffee I head into town for work. After four months of driving on the same roads I always feel convinced that I have every inch memorized. Gaping potholes, giant sand dune-like bumps, rocks, old nails, and animal surprises dominate Ugandan roads.
Even if I think I’ve memorized the road, there is always something new. For example, yesterday I had to dodge a pile of bricks that took up most of the road and were as tall as the hood of my car. In Uganda, they cover the larger potholes with huge lumps of dirt and rock or, my personal favorite, brick.
Now, why does a tall pile of brick help the pothole situation? I mean, I guess running INTO a stack of brick is better than bouncing through a shallow pothole?
I just don’t get the logic. But that is my life. Dodging potholes and piles of brick.
I arrived to my office to find a group of men working on the driveway that I use to pass through to park at my office. They were making brick and their water jugs, men, and barrels were covering my pathway.
I rolled down my window as a fellow approached. I don’t know what it is but I can tell very quickly whether or not someone is trustworthy and honest, and with this guy I smelled a snake before he even said hello.
He greeted me, half-heartedly. In return I said, “Hi. Can I pass?”
He said something about their work and I told him, “Well I work at the center. And I’m carrying in 200 Kilos of flour today. Can you move your supplies so I can pass?”
Then, out of nowhere, “You ran over my brick!” He accused as he pointed to a pile of wet brick from the night before with a tire mark all the way through the row.
“Excuse me? I did not run over your bricks.” I said firmly, obviously unimpressed by his behavior and showing him I am no pushover.
“Yes you did! You ran over my brick!”
“I did not!”
“They said it was you!”
“People around here! You ran over my bricks last night!”
“Sir, I did NOT run over your bricks. I don’t work at night. ”
At this point we were both heated. He thought he had found an easy target (someone to cough up money for mysterious damage). And I was ticked he had blamed me and thought he could treat me that way.
“Now let me pass,” I demanded.
At that point he argued that he owned the road (driveway), allows me to use it for free (for five seconds as I pass through), and that we had spoiled his bricks and he would no longer allow us to use his road.
Did I believe it? Not for a second. However, in my time here I have learned to choose my battles carefully. So angry and disgusted I turned off my car, slammed my door, and carried all 200 Kilos from the roadside, across the driveway, and into my office. I decided doing the extra work was better than speaking another word to this guy. I think my glare was enough revenge and he probably felt bad watching me carry 200 kilos from so far just because he was stubborn.
My assistant got to work shortly after and told me the man owns pieces of the roadside but NOT the driveway because it is a government road reserve. He just wanted me to pay something either for the brick damage or my determination to use the road. Guess where I parked today? (I moved their supplies and pulled right in.)
After the mishap we left town to head to our children’s club located in a village about an hour and a half away. I was still boiling with anger by the time I was halfway there. Something in me decided to calm down and enjoy the rest of the day, so I let the music take me away.
We made a stop to visit the home of one of our newly sponsored kids. While we were meeting with the family we took note of a storm coming in, which is weird considering it’s the dry season, and with the dry season only comes heat and dust.
As a heavy wind rolled in dry dust swarmed all around us. We ran to the car and once in I clenched my teeth back and forth realizing how much dirt had gotten in my mouth. I touched my hair and felt the coat of residue. Ahh, nothing like a breeze of fresh dirt.
As we drove on I mumbled to Sandra, “no flat tire, no flat tire” because the week before was … convenient.
Seven days ago I had two visiting friends (Cassie and Isaac), my pastor Titus, and my assistant Sandra in the car as we drove to club. As we approached the main road to the club I noticed it looked different today. It was covered in trash and rock, someone was “working” on it the Ugandans informed me.
I told the group, “I hope we don’t get a flat” since that tends to be a monthly norm.
Isaac, my mechanic at home, reassured me, “Well if you’re going to get a flat tire I’d rather be here anyway.”
Cassie, on the other hand, mocked, “Yeah! If we’re going to get a flat it might as well be right here, right now, on this very road!”
*PUM PUM PUM PUM PUM * was the failed testimony of my back left tire.
Titus covered his smile of disbelief with his hands and cowered in the corner.
Isaac gripped the handle.
Cassie was sliding down in her seat, ashamed.
Sandra was laughing.
I was in a daze saying, “No … no ….. NOOOO ….”
To conclude: I totally made Isaac change the tire.
Back to yesterday
We made it safely, and smoothly, to club. We were greeted by about 40 children all lined in two rows across the drive-way singing, clapping, and dancing to our arrival. A bit cliché, I know, but they’re my students and I adored every second of it.
After our club we headed back to town. This particular region is known for the narrow back roads with a mountain backdrop. It’s my favorite drive out of the whole week.
Yesterday, however, it went sour. A motorcycle taxi (called a boda-boda, or boda for short) was speeding with a passenger behind him. He lost control and misjudged the space he had, and he hit my car.
I immediately stopped the car realizing he must have left a scratch and clearly broke my side mirror. I opened my door to find a dent as well.
The guy approached my vehicle limping (theatrical attempt for pity). Did I buy it? Need I say?
I let the pastor handle it first to see if they could reconcile without my involvement. I let them speak in their own language for a few minutes then as they transitioned back into English I realized the conversation had gone South.
“How much does a mirror cost?” The driver asked, now looking at me.
“I don’t know.” I replied.
He and the pastor bargained a bit and concluded for maybe $20 or so.
“Alright. Then you pay me.” He declared.
I laughed, and mocked, “WHAT! I pay YOU? Was that the negotiation? Come here.”
He looked at me strangely like I was the crazy one.
“Come here!” I said again.
I finally got him to come to my point at the front of the car. Another boda was approaching from down the road.
“Look. As soon as YOU hit ME (doing the math for him) I immediately stopped my car. I didn’t pull over, I didn’t turn my wheel; I stopped as soon as you hit me. Now watch this. I have a demonstration for you.”
He looked at me confused, not sure where I was going with it, so I reassured, “Just watch.”
As the next boda came closer I turned to watch him. As he approached the car and slowed I kindly waved him on so he wouldn’t have to pause at our crash site. To my surprise (just kidding) the boda and his three passengers passed by my car with no problem and no damage.
What I did next may have been over the top, but irrationality demands more elaborate demonstrations.
As the boda and his three passengers passed by with no problem I leaned forward in fake disbelief and clapped proudly. After they passed, I kept clapping, said, “Wow! Did you see that?!” and turned around to the driver whose mouth was wide open.
The best part was the group of children surrounding us who joined in the applause.
Then I got serious. “So you see. I parked my car exactly where you hit me. You had enough space to not damage my car. All of these bodas have passed with no problem and no damage. The broken mirror is your fault because you didn’t slow down. Now, you pay me.”
He continued to argue so I counted every passing boda who succeeded my test. I counted to ten before I gave it a break.
We went back and forth because this guy is the poster-child for irrationality. We had about 20 witnesses who were all telling him it was his fault and his responsibility to reconcile the situation. But, like I said, I can smell a snake.
He began pulling out every possible excuse. (I guess he realized the fake limp didn’t stir up my pity) When that failed, he tried every other way to put the blame on me. When all else failed, he called me racist.
At that point I got in the car and asked Titus to handle him, again, before I would lose it and throw a right cross.
Sadly, nothing panned out. It wasn’t his bike and he had no license, so even tracking the bike would lead to a dead end. This guy was truly a snake. He lied, blamed, made excuses, and acted the entire time. He wouldn’t own up to his mistake and every trap we set for him still couldn’t keep him down because the region has NO police and no way to turn in an immediate report to some authority in the area who could be of real help.
I took his name (probably fake) and the bike number. As my last move I threatened to go to the police but deep down I know they too are corrupt. I’d have to pay them to do their own job and most likely fail since the region is so far and we had no legitimate information on this guy.
We moved on.
I returned home late that night. To what? No electricity, no fan, and no electronics to even document this story. And, to top it off, our cook had broken my French press and I consequently messaged my supervisors to ask them to send me a new one and accidentally wrote, “no Cara for coffee until it arrives.” I thought it was too funny to correct and I am finding out what life is like without coffee. Maybe I’ll write a novel for that catastrophe.
Here in Uganda everyday is a bad day, truly. Every single day something goes wrong. I think if I ever have a good day it would be the day I don’t leave my house and the electricity remains.
But despite every surprise, roadblock, chaotic plot, and problem I realize that I have it made. You see, I’m on the same continent where Ebola is striking down the western nations. Warring neighbors surround me. I’m north and west of some major sex and labor trafficking zones. I’m east of a nation where a terrorist group kidnapped hundreds of young schoolgirls to be wed and never returned them home. I’m surrounded by countries characterized by war, terrorism, trafficking, and crimes much worse than the daily things I have to conquer. Uganda is recovering from her past and is trying to enjoy and maintain peace.
In perspective I often think of my colleagues in the West working in Ebola stricken hospitals. I think of my missionary friends breathing deeply through the sound of bombs bursting down their very own street.
My bad days are bad … I’m covered in dust. I’m victim of corruption and liars. I find toads and lizards under my feet when I walk around at 4 am. I work with troubled children, deadly viruses and diseases, and extreme poverty. My car is damaged and my patience is constantly under pressure … But at the end of my bad days I always try to have a good laugh.
Could the bad day have been more unrealistic? Could the bad day have been more convenient than a flat tire at the butt of Cassie’s joke? Honestly, in Africa, I’m absolutely sure it COULD get more unrealistic and “convenient.” Africa is funny like that.
Still, on your bad days, think of those in worse conditions.
And when it is all over, have a good laugh because there isn’t much else you can do.
From Uganda, Cara Hope
Last week, we released our new volleyball line just in time for the holidays and for the cold winter ahead.
And here at the Live It everyday HQ, we're trying our hardest to hang onto fall. Here are a few ways to dress our world peace tee! One with leggings and a chambray shirt; the other with a maxi!
Photos // Kyser Lough, Apparel // men, women
I've been here for eight weeks launching the program and in that time, I've interviewed more than 50 families to potentially enroll their children in the program. Home visits have been a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
Most of the children live in huts. One hut I evaluated housed about 14 people; they were like sardines. Their villages reside over an hour outside of the closest city and the majority of the families live off of their own crops, only ever selling for a mere bar of soap or an attempt to scrounge up just enough shillings for school fees at the very last minute. (Here, children can attend school initially without paying their fees. Eventually, near the end of the semester, the ones who have not yet paid are sent home.) The interviews are held under the shade of tress surrounded by chickens and goats at my feet. I shake very dirty hands that have just come from attending children, animals, or working in the field. And today, I ran out of hand sanitizer. Sigh.
The home visits have allowed me a brief glimpse into the daily routine lives of my students. I've met their students. I've met their families. I've seen their living conditions; I've witnessed their simple life raw and up close.
In the interviews, I ask certain questions to later assess a family's level of poverty. The list of questions include inquiring about the source of their drinking water. Today, a family told me they drink from a well. I've yet to see a traditional well in Gulu, so I asked where it was.
"You passed it on your way here; you crossed it," the family told me.
"Well, (punny) by golly the only thing I passed and nearly fell into on my way here was a dirty pond, AKA a glorified giant standing puddle!" I thought.
"We passed it? We passed a pond." I decided to say instead.
"No, it is next to the pond. You will see it on your way out." They assured me. On their evaluation I checked the "safe drinking" box and wrote "well" as the source. There have been about four interviews in that area of homes.
After the interview, we left to venture back to our car. The entire time I was checking around my feet and was ready to leap like a Broadway ballerina because an hour before, I watched a black Cobra cross my path. Talk about a rough day. Venomous cobras, nearly falling in dirty ponds, empty hand sanitizer...what would be next?
We reached the pond (glorified puddle) as Titus helped me across the rotting logs. I wasn't seeing the well, so I asked where it was, guessing it could be behind the tall African grass. "It is here," he pointed to another pond, an actual pond, but one clearly infested with bacteria. The pond is what they were calling a well. Their "well" was a small spot where people bathe, wash their motorbikes, and collect drinking water from the murky, brown H2O with green bacteria hovering on its surface.
"This...is not...a pond." I slowly contemplated out loud. My team laughed at me. "Sandra, pull out those evaluations and change them to unsafe drinking water, source, pond, please." I required of my assistant.
We keep a first-aid kit in the car because home evaluations are where we witness the most unfortunate situations. Multiple times, I've gone back to the car for clean water, gloves, alcohol, Neosporin, and Band-Aids to care for an open wound.
I once called over a little boy who appeared to have pink all over his skin in the distance. As he came nearer, I realized it wasn't a skin deformation or anything biological, but instead it was a series of open wounds and scars all down his face, neck, chest, and arms. "What happened?" I asked. "He was thrown from a Boda-Boda (motorcycle)," his mother told me.
This family lacked any minor form of treatment to care for his wounds. His skin was peeling off like a severe sunburn and awful, make-me-queezy things were coming from underneath.
I don't think Live It Everyday needs to just be an inspiring "go do this" or "feel this" kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, living life and living it to the fullest is plain awareness. Sometimes, living it everyday is silly knowing that you have it made. Your life is most likely surrounded by clean water and a fully stocked medicine cabinet, things that make a difference between life and death in other areas of the world.
So today, just live it out knowing that you're blessed. Live it out in awareness that other parts of the world are suffering, but to them it's just normal life. Live today as passionate, or compassionate, and do something about it. Be aware! And feel blessed.
Still hiding from the cobras, Cara
Do you ever catch yourself looking forward just like those professionals tell you to? We’ve been trained to look far, far ahead into the future journey to plan, prepare, and eventually reach our goals. (As if we really know our goals, anyway. Many will change over time.)
My job has me traveling in and around Gulu, Uganda everyday. The surrounding districts I work in can almost be an hour away, so I find myself in new territories navigating around potholes which in Uganda are pretty much giant, gaping malicious black holes. I have to keep my eyes open for bikers, pedestrians, and large trucks whaling around corners and curves covered in grass taller than my Toyota Rav4. While driving, I find myself looking forward every single day. (Gold star on my car insurance, right?) I stare blankly at the undefined road ahead of me, preparing for anything to maybe, potentially come my way. I look forward preparing for those problems and any potholes that will surprise my path. I stare ahead only focused on the destination and moving forward to reach it. Do you ever get tired of looking forward?
Today, I let my friend Peter drive since I had never visited the Lakwana district. As he drove, my team and I were allowed to enjoy the ride, but I still found myself staring ahead at the blank, orange, winding road. Why was I still looking ahead?
I turned my gaze out my side-view window and instantly fell in love with the new scenery. My view was covered in green trees, cascading landscapes, untame grass, rolling hills, and beauty untold. I love my job, and I love where I am. So why have I always focused forward on the blank, winding, undefined road when the side-view has always been so much better?
I get so caught up in the stresses of life that I am always planning and working for the complete product. I am never satisfied with the small chunk I’ve accomplished because it has yet to add up to anything. It is hard for me to celebrate one day of home evaluations or primary school scouting because the program still isn’t built, or anywhere near completion. It is hard for me to enjoy the scenery of today when I am bracing myself for imaginary potholes and curve balls that may never appear. Lately, I have been making efforts to savor each day for its own scenery and small accomplishments.
We must look forward to our destination, I still agree, but we can’t forget to gaze into the side-view of where we are right now to memorize and absorb beauty. Furthermore, we must feel content that it may not be the destination but it is nonetheless a treasured moment of the journey.
It can be difficult to gaze into the side-view because in the very moment you are taking it all in, you are passing it. You may merely have a second at each spot, but the beauty can last forever.
Enjoy the side-view, too.
Until next time, Cara
Follow Cara's adventures in Uganda on her personal blog. Donate to her organization, Childero, here. Keep up with her on Instagram here (where she posts the best videos and photos of her sweet kiddos).
Well, *slump and sigh*
I am here. Uganda, the pearl of Africa. Initially, visitors only remark on characteristics like the afternoon heat, the exhausted smells, trash abstractly painted across every way, terrible dusty orange dirt roads, and the bustle of the BodaBoda (motorcycle taxi) drivers who WILL run you over.
Mmm, but not me. Uganda is more. I stare at Uganda like an artwork the way the dusty orange roads contrast against the green banana trees growing along the side of the road brushed with the background of the bright blue sky. I love the brilliant colors. The roof on every house is a different shade of red and the people with their ebony skin just makes their ivory smile stand out and shine a little brighter.
There are many refining moments to this trip. I am here for a year in order to launch a new program called Childero. The program financially sponsors children for the educational, nutritional, and medical needs but my heart is in the mentoring part. You see, five days a week I get to hang out with orphaned children and encourage them. That's it, the foundation really. Just encouraging, mentoring, and building up.
But these are refining moments, and today was simply day one. Day one didn't include any of the description above because day one is simply falling into a brand new culture. I am a goal oriented person, I like to see things accomplished quickly and programs are just the opposite.
When you volunteer you see the finished product, errhh ... DEVELOPING product since I believe everything is always developing. Well with me, you get to see it from ground up, and let me tell you the ground is cold, hard, and infertile. But we will get a garden one day.
But for day one, here are my highs and lows.
High: I bought a local phone and got the Toyota RAV4 that I will use for the program. If a RAV4 doesn't scream humanitarian in Africa not sure what does... The headlights are safari certified.
Low: Phone tech not my strong point. I struggled with the device and SIM cards for long enough and have to visit the store again tomorrow.
High: I bargained and got the phone for $20 cheaper.
Low: I miss people from home. I miss my room that I call my sanctuary.
High: I saw a GIANT bird in the city and got so excited. It was a massive colorful flying bird and I freaked out calling it a dinosaur... NO ONE better comment with their obviously googled name of the bird because Dinosaur makes it all that more mystical and wonderful. It looked like it could eat an eagle for tea time AND someone confirmed that it is a carnivore. Bon appetite, birdy.
Low: I am sleeping under a mosquito net and am scared my knots won't hold and it will drop on me in my sleep lol. Woosh, splat!
Last High: I get to visit the NILE River this weekend.
Living it everyday has highs and lows, and lows are just fine as long as you bask in the highs. So, bask in the highs with me and let the lows refine us.
Until next time with my quirky details. Cara Hope Starns.
Epilogue: I am sitting all alone in the common room at 12:40 am when a rampant beast started attacking the door!! #OnlyInAfrica. It is scratching madly trying to get in... The door is rattling. Well, I am still as a stone praying it walks away in failure. If you don't hear from me again you'll kno....
Like she said, Cara is in Uganda for a year developing and jump starting an organization called Childero. You can donate to this wonderful organization here and keep up with her personal blog here, for more information. As always, the Live It Everyday team is thankful for our contributors and those in our community who truly Live their lives Everyday. We love you, Cara!
When you meet people, things usually stay simple and surface level. "Hi. What is your name? What do you do? Okay, cool, nice to meet you." On my end, however, strangers get to know me very quickly.
Sometimes when I introduce myself, I lie.
You see, I am split between being an introvert and extrovert but almost always the introvert in me wins. So, when I introduce myself, I have nothing to say because I'm avoiding further small talk, which we introverts despise. The question "what do you do?" is loaded for me. And it is scary. When I tell people that I travel the world serving in missions and humanitarian aid, I can't get away without the exhausted list of questions that always follow. And I can't run from the crazy looks vibing my direction. So, usually I introduce myself in a mild, bland fashion to avoid the small talk and impromptu interview. It's pretty much lying about who I am. UNLESS I am talking to a handsome guy, then I can pretty much dominate the first impression.
Who am I kidding? The introvert in me avoids guys. My life, sigh.
The other day, though, I could not escape this conversation. I went to the travel clinic to order my prescriptions for Uganda. In this case, I have to tell the specialist exactly where I am going, for how long, and why. No escape. The introvert in me began to shrink inside.
This particular day I wasn't feeling well, and my mood was off due to a rough week. As we sit down for our consultation I cannot even mentally prepare myself. The lady was so sweet, but the questions took off.
Her: "Where are you going?"
Her: "Oh my goodness, that is quite the trip. How long are you going for?"
Me: "A year."
Her: "WHAT! Bless your heart. What are you doing there?"
Me dying: *Chokes up* "Uh, stuff. Orphan stuff." *Shrinking inside*
Her: "Are you going with a group?"
Dying more: "Well no, I'm going by myself."
Her: "By yourself ... "
Me: "I mean, I uh, I have a team, but I'm being sent to launch an orphans program."
There it is. She wins, she gets it out of me, and I prepare for the avalanche of questions of which I respond to quite briefly.
Despite my best effort to avoid all small talk and further conversation, this lady would not give up. I answered in my introvert-like fashion yet she could see past my mood and into my soul; she knew there was more. "Well, I would love to hear the whole story," she hoped as her eyes dropped to the file in her hands. I cracked a smile, because I already had the story written up and promised to send it to her.
We finished the consultation, I took home my vaccines and prescriptions, but I knew this encounter was something I've seen before. What I do not only pushes me outside of my comfort zone for invasive conversations but beautifully, it invites strangers into my life. People don't just let me walk away once they hear about the work I do, and by the end of the conversation, they've won me over. The shyness dies and we are friends. The clinician and I have already been emailing back and forth -- I think she is secretly an angel. Nurse by day, angel by night. For sure.
Over the years as I've traveled, I've had these encounters all over the world. To this day people from across the ocean email me. Students, volunteers, officials, and entrepenuers occasionally re-connect and send their love my way. At first, I don't get it. It can be kind of weird. But these people have taught me so much. They open my eyes to the fact that not everyone has closed their doors to the world. They teach me about true love and encouragement. Most of all, they just give me hope and assurance that it is good people who make the world. It may not be the good people making the news, but they make the world.
This story isn't just about me. What about you? Do you have passions? What are you excited about? What fuels you to do good things? Share these with people. Even if you struggle with introductions, like me, you will be surprised how sharing passions can quickly bring you into life with the friendliest of strangers.
Until next time (and hopefully from Uganda), Cara
Like Cara said, she'll be traveling to Gulu, Uganda, to help launch a program that her home church in Lexington, Kentucky is beginning, Childero. To see her whole and official story, click here. It'll take you to her personal blog, where she shares stories like these from all over the world.
While we were away, we got some updates from Cara's trip to Costa Rica! Happy day! Don't forget to continue sending good vibes her way as she takes on Uganda in August.
Hey, Live It community! This is Caradactyl reporting from Costa Rica. Want me to fill you in a bit?
Costa Rica is my home away from home. I've been coming here since my first trip in 2010. Over the years of service, I've established a new family here. It can be kind of weird when I explain to people how I can feel home to both places, how I belong to two families, two churches, and two cultures. I always miss one place or another since I cannot be in both at once. So, this trip has been a beautiful one.
The first week I was in the capitol, San Jose. I was catching up with old friends, hiking, and doing some work in a slum with some kiddos. This second week and a half I am settled into the jungles of Talamanca. I live in a town called Shiroles where old indigenous languages, culture, and work still reside. On this week of the trip I am traveling with 20 other people from my hometown. I prefer to travel with the locals since Gringos (white people) tend to stick out too much. Let's face it, Americans are loud and rambunctious.
But traveling with a bunch of foreigners can also be fun for me. I get to re-experience the glory of newness through their eyes. Silly questions and observations make me joyful to reflect on what it was first like to come here, and the first things I noticed.
The night we arrived we were greeted by our kind host, who is also from our hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. Kimi greets us with splendor. Well, actually I ran my face into hers, but, you know, splendor. Then she collects the group together and says, "I am SO happy to have all of you here. I apologize, we don't have electricity. Hopefully we can have it tomorrow." I immediately fall into the adventure and enter the dark cabin and find my favorite spot that I know so well by the big screen in the loft. The little girls downstairs ask when we will have water and electricity. I laugh and respond, "when the jungle decides." Their eyes and mouth widen as they snap their heads over to their poor mother for comfort. Woops.
The jungle is a place of struggle. Upon arriving, my friend Abby and I went to shower because of the long travel. We get into the showers in pitch black darkness, strip, and turn on the faucet ... and ... No water. We share a few "hmmm"s and "uh huh"s and then we put back on our clothes, depressed, and return to our loft. "Jungle 1, Cara 0".
Thus begins the struggle of such life, life preserved and beautiful but life without air-conditioning.
The next day we find out that we wont have electricity or running water for a few days. Luckily the showers at the nearby church work, so no problemo. AND there is always the river.
This place screams unfiltered beauty. Everywhere you look the mountains are covered in green canopy, grey clouds, and insects on steroids. Nightime lightning, wild flowers, and a five inch neon spider.
The following day, I took a shower and the water shut off on me twice. In the corner was a giant black beatle starring at me as I prayed the water would come back on... Jungle 2, Cara 0.
In the morning, you are woken up by nature. Roosters crow, birds chirp, and the horses are galloping around neighing. Along with them are the goats, dogs, and chickens who walk around freely and the cows who are herded in their special places.
On Sunday, we went hiking to visit a community higher in the mountain. And by hiking, I mean I nearly ascended to my death. The hike took our group a little over three hours; the first two hours were a direct incline and the last hour was swampy. We trekked through highland, lowland, swampland, and no man's land by the time we reached our destination and the trees were spinning. They were spinning. I managed to only slip twice, but my crew told me it was graceful. I call that a win. Jungle 2, Cara 1.
On the way back down a team member was bit by the very bug we have always been warned about: A Bullet Ant. Bullet ants are large black "ants" with the skin of a beatle. They are black and conveniently on every branch that you would like to use as support. When bitten these ants can insinuate the pain of a bullet shooting across the tasty limb from which he munched, for my friend it was his ankle. Our team member took it like a champ and walked the remaining terrain. Next time I saw him, he was sitting in a rocking chair, sock down, and the fan blasting at his ankles in agony.
The electricity and water finally returned and we rejoiced. Even in the jungle small things such as a convenient sink and electric fan give you peace when there is challenge. The houses that I visit are usually one room cabins covered in dust and roofed by sheets of metal. These one room houses serve as the kitchen and community room, including for sleep. These houses are also overcrowded, imagine a family on five living in only your bedroom as your total home.
Many children are neglected and unloved. Many are in poverty and depression. Many cope with alcohol, sex, and drugs. Many are sick. The challenges that this life is accustomed to are brutal but there is hope. Their are people here who invest themselves into the darkness. Kimi, my host of splendor, is working with her staff to build a home to receive children, envisioning small business models for selling chicken and growing corn. They have clubs for children where they come and play but most of all these people are extending love and encouragement.
A few days ago, I was given advice about world aid. A wise woman told me to be careful and to not cry over every single person who has a problem, because everyone has a problem, and you can't fix their problems. This women was undoubtedly wise, and correct, but she has a short circuit.
I accept that I can't "fix" every person's problems. True. But speaking in that mentality opens doors for giving up, and I don't give up. You see, these people need basic needs but one basic need that I can ALWAYS fix and ALWAYS provide is love. Depressed people need a smile. Abused children need a tender hug. Addicts need a pure source of fun and relief. This woman doesn't understand the depth of aid, and the depth in the impact that simplicity and sincere human interaction can provide.
This relates to everyone. It doesn't matter whether you call the jungle home or the city with it's lovely, wonderful air-conditioning. You may not be able to provide a solution for every problem but you can surely provide relief for every burden by sharing love. Cheesy. But think on it.
Pura Vida (Pure Life), Cara Starns
The narrative looks different for every person but the story is we've all dealt with difficult people at one point or another. Whether it was a student in school, a family member, or stranger we have all encountered someone who is just difficult to love.
This is a story about cherishing hard love.
I've spent the last five years mentoring a group of girls who are now juniors in high school. My girls are rotten to the core and I love them with all my heart. They are beautiful, care-free, and devious. The only reason they don't get away with their shenanigans is because I claim to be worse than they. Any stunt, teenage criminal act, or prank they pull I promise them I've already done it and did it better than they. I warn them not to prank me or I will get them back 10-fold! (Insert evil laughter: Mwahaha.)
Quick side story: One day the youth group took a retreat to some cabins in Tennessee. On retreats we collect phones so the kids can focus on the challenges and get away from life at home. I brought my plastic bag and infiltrated my girl's room to ask for their phones. One of my kids gave me her phone and for some odd reason I had a hunch that she was lying. She handed me her phone and I commanded, "Hm. Give me your REAL phone."
I had no reason to be suspicious beyond the gut feeling telling me they were pulling a stunt. She replied, "That IS my real phone."
After going back and forth for a bit I stood still and looked around the room to see where she could possibly hide her real phone. I noticed the VCR player to my left. With the room in total silence my fingers lifted the flap-cover, reached inside of the black box, and slowly pulled out her REAL phone. Her mouth dropped. I think they were partly impressed and astounded that a leader toppled their mission. I proved to them that I will ALWAYS be more devious than they. And that was off a mere hunch.
These are my girls. I love them. But sometimes the people you love dearest are the hardest ones to love.
One of these girls and I were having a conversation over messaging one Thanksgiving Day afternoon. She was having a rough week and I was encouraging her. Out of no where she fired at me, "You're such a bitch. I'm so tired of you, why can't you just leave me alone?"
I paused because I felt a blend of hurt, confused, and a little hacked off. I began typing a response but decided to set my phone aside and give it a second. I let my mind run over thoughts of what was going on, how she could be mad at me, what I did, where this spurred from ... And then it hit me.
This amazing kid had been betrayed, misused, ignored, hated, and hurt time after time in her short life-span. She was putting me to a test.
I picked up my phone and responded, "You can push me away all you want but I'm never leaving you. You can screw up every day and I will never be mad at you. Nothing you do will ever make me disappointed in you because I don't hold expectations. You are amazing as you are. I love you. I'm not giving up."
Her response was filled with peace as she dealt with the shock of the first person who had ever responded in such a manner. To this day she has never acted out irrationally against me.
Here's the thing: People who have been hurt and betrayed in their lifetime can't trust others. This kid was putting me to the test whether she realized it or not. When she screws up, they are disappointed. When she yells, they leave. When she inflicts pain, they hit back.
She put me to the test to see if I would do the same.
Don't leave me.
Don't hate me.
Don't hurt me.
Loving people is hard. Sometimes people just need patience, trust, love -- things that are failing in a world divided between the selfish and self-less.
Who are these people in your life?
The old lady customer
The grumpy clerk
The homeless man that gets under your skin
Anyone and everyone, especially those who's stories are untold.
Sometimes people have no reason to trust humanity. And sometimes anger is a test acting as a defense mechanism.
Consider this next time you encounter a person you don't understand.
Return hate with love.
Irrationality with patience.
Pain with kindness.
Return what had been taken from them and expect nothing back. Have you guys ever experienced anything like this? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment! Let's chat.
Until next time, Cara Hope Starns
Live It Everyday is passionate about whatever it is in the world that inspires. Sometimes, that's soccer. Sometimes, that's peace. Some days, those two worlds crash together. In spirit of the World Cup, I thought I'd tell you about when I was inspired by one soccer player's humorous response to racism. Don't worry. You don't have to be a futbol guru to get this.
Dani Alves is quite the character. He is Brazilian born, a fantastic defender, and plays for FC Barcelona. Playing for a Spaniard team and coming from Brazil isn't exactly a harmonious transition. Over the years, Alves and players like him have suffered from numerous racist attacks. Alves experienced his most recent attack during his match against Villareal, but his quick and humorous taste (literally) shamed the offender.
Here are the details.
As Alves was getting ready to kick the ball, a banana was thrown at him from a Villareal fan in the stands. What happened next was epic. Alves picked up the banana, peeled that sucker, ate it, kicked in the ball, and went on almost playing simultaneously. What a CHAMP.
When life throws you bananas ... Eat them like a boss!
All of us may not face discrimination against our race, but at one point in your life, you WILL find yourself in a position where you are being looked down upon, held back, or deciding how to respond to an offensive action. We all have to decide how to react to these kinds of situations.
Alves could've done ANYTHING. He could've delivered his middle finger, thrown the banana back into the crowd, or any other childish response to match the play. Instead, he ate the banana and played on. The symbolism remains deep even as he, by this immediate reaction, had no idea how it would greatly astound the world. Picking up and silently eating it shamed the offender by Alves, radiating how little he cared, how he would remain unaffected, and his team would finish with a cherry on top of the banana split as they walked away with the victory. Olay!
So next time you encounter a moment where your patience is tested against a situation that ridicules, belittles, doubts, hurts, or betrays you ... Remember to eat it like Alves, shame with a taste of humor and honor.
Live on & until next time, Cara Hope Starns