Friday, March 29, 2013

Cartoon 39: Receive


I was sitting in a busy circus tent working with a young man who had honey colored eyes, a half shaved head, and gigantic holes in his ears. We were practicing meditation techniques to develop presence and focus to support our circus work. We got so deeply invested in the exercise that we didn´t realize that lunch time had arrived. The buses that were meant to take us and everyone to the cafeteria filled up with all the other colorful singing laughing crazy circus folk and headed off on down the road. We opened our eyes to find ourselves alone in the huge red and blue tent with empty bellies and no transportation to get food. So we each decided to go scavenging.

As I walked through the campground of the circus convention, I happened upon a big white van with a license plate that said Cordoba, Argentina. It was the temporary home of the two smiling faces and open hearts that calmed my growling stomach with a delicious fish sandwich and hierba mate (traditional Argentinian tea). It was only appropriate that that's how I met the people that would later receive me in their home in Cordoba and teach me a lesson that life has been trying to get through my hard head this whole trip: how to receive.

A month later when I arrived to their home, they welcomed me with a bed to sleep in and delicious Argentinian style barbecues every night. When I asked about their hopes and expectations for the time that we would be working together, they said, "We just want you to be happy."

It's amazing to have not worked for money for almost a year now, I work in exchange for food and housing. I've never given so much in my life. And I've never received so much. In every country, complete strangers have taken me into their homes, They have trust me with everything they have, open up their hearts to me, share their tears with me, their laughter, their hate and frustrations. And they have given me everything I need. Often times the people who are taking care of me aren't even part of the community I'm working with, they just believe in my project.

Many times I've found myself so worried about deserving what people are giving me, that I don't even truly receive it. My mind swims trying to figure out what they are expecting of me in return. By stepping out of the monetary system, I have stepped into a grey area that has opened my mind and heart to deeper understanding of what it is to just accept and enjoy what people want to give to me. I'm not getting what I need because I'm paying for it, or because I've worked for it yet (when I first arrive to a new community I'm learning the context, diagnosing and planning so I'm not producing anything tangible for a while). I'm getting what I need because people want to give it to me.

I'm now watching myself in all parts of my life when people are giving to me. A compliment, admiration from people I meet, a person who finds me attractive on the street. I notice that I get tense in these situations, wondering what I should do, what does this mean, what does this person want... I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm just going to let what people give me wash over me like a river, nourishing me and filling me up just like the person who gave it would want it to.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cartoon 38: Peoples Stories of Dictatorships

It was raining torrentially and I was sitting on a bus in Santiago, Chile.  I asked the guy seated next to me where I should get off so that I wouldn't have a long walk to the metro and he told me.  Then, he looked at me and said "You're from the U.S. right?" I nodded and he came back with, "So what do you know about your government's involvement in the military coup that put Pinochet into power?" He was happily surprised when I said that I had learned that, along with the usual training and weaponry, the U.S. government had financed in large part the manipulation of the media and transportation systems so that people could not get food or honest information eventually facilitating the coup(I had only just learned about this because of similar interactions). We continued to talk for a while, him offering me more detail about how everything went down. This type of interaction has happened to me so many times on this trip.  It seems like people are bursting at the seams to explain to me what's really going on with U.S. foreign policy.  Along with the more political conversations, people also share with me their personal experiences....

In Santiago, I stayed with a sweet couple who made home cooked meals everyday with yummy green beans just like at home.  During the 'sobremesa' (the tradition of sitting a while and talking after eating) they told me stories of their experience of Pinochet's regime.  They explained that the first year was like hell on earth.  The mother only left the house when totally necessary, like to pick the children up at their different schools because so often people, even children, left their houses and never came back.  Everyone had to be inside their houses by nine at night, if you were out it was a great excuse to be  disappeared. The mother said she didn't really even want to leave the house so that she wouldn't have to see the dead bodies floating down the huge river that runs through the city. Amazingly, she said, she didn't loose any immediate family, just a young man in the neighborhood.  He was involved in the resistance movement and one day was sent to leave a pre-set bomb at a strategic location.  At the last minute the location was changed. On his way to the new place, time ran out and the bomb exploded.  His friends still remember seeing parts of him splattered and hanging on the powerlines.

An army tank driving through downtown Atlanta or any other city of the U.S. is unimaginable to me, much less all of the other horrors that these folks lived through.  So I'm only left with questions and a wild search for real life ways to answer them through my actions....
How do I deal with the fact that my government did this claiming to protect me from the 'Communist Threat' when the government that was taken out was a Social Democracy chosen by the people?
How do I make it so that my tax dollars don't pay for this to happen anywhere else???!!!!!
Could this happen in my country?
Inside the U.S., what would we do if it did?
We live such separate lives...would we be able to unite enough to forcefully and peacefully resist?