Last Thoughts…and responses.

Please have a read of our following responses to questions we have asked our selves to give us (and you guys especially) a chance to hear where our hearts are at after this massive adventure we have just finished.

This place and our experience has had such an impact on us already… And it will continue to do so for a long time afterwards… And a long time after you’ve all forgotten that we’ve travelled… And a long time after we have stopped talking to you about it… It will be stirring in our hearts. So my final thought is this- PLEASE take the time to ask us questions about the trip. Questions about the people, questions about the lifestyle, questions about our experience, questions about how we think this time has transformed us & questions about where we are at now and where we think we’re heading. Ask us even 3 years after we have come back. We need it… We need you to help us in this process of learning and soaking. 
Thank you for journeying with us so far… It’s been an honour.

Love Ben and Carly

How are you feeling about coming home?

CARLY: On the 1st of September in Rio airport and we watched the sunset from a cafe off the coast of Salvador last night & it was the strangest feeling to realise 
it was over. Some good closure & reflection always helps me to say
 
goodbye & embrace home again. And 3 days in airports always put a
 
knife in feelings of wanting to hang around longer. There is nothing
 
waiting for us at home other then people we love but I reckon we’re
 
ready to slowly pick up the rest. Sharing the entire year with Ben makes a huge difference…he is the constant in the whole story which is so grounding. I know I just don’t transition well and that’s just ok…Can’t find the words so often, feel off balance and jumbled and I struggle with how my actual life in another world so quickly turns into a story. Questions are good, fire me some chunky questions and I’ll give you my best.

BEN: Right now- in the moment of leaving Brasil for home- i feel excited; sad; ready for a new phase of life and initiate things learned or things imagined or things dreamed; don’t want to start work but stay in this rhythm that exists for me; not sure about what home will be; not looking forward to how quickly 6months of huge-ness in so many ways, just becomes a story; wonder fills me about how this trip will shape me, and Carly for the rest of our life; ready to work & save for Paul and Bonnie’s wedding in Canada… Sick as; longing to intentionally invest in special people these next 3 months (b4 heading off to Canada) like Sarah & Bill, Luke & Jess, family, good friends and community; can’t wait to play cricket!

What have been some key learning themes that kept coming up for you?

CARLY: Solidarity with people who suffer, who are crushed and forgotten. I will never be Bolivian, I will always have rights and privileges as an Australian that will divide me from them, make it hard for me to understand and hard for me to hear the good news from God that they can uniquely hear!

I need them! They are good news to me. They teach me about strength, hope, the fragility of life and what it means to only have God to back you up! And when we become genuine friends we are no longer numbers, statistics and strange living aliens…we bring insight to each other, lots of joy and challenging perspectives and a very natural compassion and empathy can grow. 

The importance of time. Time plodding along to watch and listen carefully, see the threads, see what is already so good, se the loop holes and allow the friendships to slowly slowly form. Do your time and allow yourself to find your home here. 

“Reading the Bible with the Damned”, Bob Ekblad (Has been a very helpful book in line of the above!) 

  • Learning to be small, limited, unknown, humble and meeting God there…
  • Life from death- not running from but staying in the dark places and trusting it can be a transforming place like nothing else…
  • ·Becoming a better carer for my soul and body and giving lots of room to do that and seeing fruit from that…
  • Discovering how much being able to create anything and initiative my random ideas is a core part of me and can help me feel at home anywhere…
  • The grit and glory of planting yourself in a marginalised part of the world and sticking it out long term…

 


BEN:

  • Community living is where our heart is at… Needs to be for us both!
  • We feel the longing to move to where others don’t want to. The ‘ugly’, forgotten, ignored places of the world. El Alto is one such place. 
  • Longevity in one place and to a people somewhere. We don’t need, or want to do another short term trip somewhere… It’s time to dig in, take a risk to make mistakes and get our hands dirty.
  • Darkness. Personally, in our marriage, our relationships with others… And in the poor. It is so easy to miss it, or gloss over it, or pretend it’s not there… The courageous thing is to jump into it, listen to it, learn about it.
  • Embrace fully the stage your in and not skirt around the edges or pull out too quickly.
  • Take courage and trust that I am good enough even if I fail.
  • Generosity to bless others and be extravagant in it. I am generous in many ways, but struggle to be spontaneous in my giving… I’m learning to be that sometimes rather than never.
  • Celebrate Carly. We are different and get excited about doing different things. I have squashed her excitement at times and am learning that it’s so important to celebrate her… Set her free. 

Who will have a lasting effect on you in El Alto?

CARLY: We will always have a home in El Alto. I can imagine our host family 
will always be in Bolivia & they made sure we understood that they’re
 
home is our home. That is an incredible gift. Different people within
 
the youth feel like our siblings or cousins…their lives are rough
 
but I don’t feel depressed or overwhelmed thinking about their world,
 
just hugely hopeful & excited for the opportunities that are evolving
 
for them. They are strong & resilient & they depend on God in a way I
 
might not ever understand. (a gift that will ensure we won’t forget
 
them is a miniature wooden coffin, made for us by Remberto. Not
 
everyone cam claim to have their own coffin hey? Perhaps when we die we’ll put our ashes in it and send it back to Bolivia)

Sal and Gregg plus kids are some of the most unique, strong, real and adventures people we have ever met and they will definitely keep teaching us and pushing us as we go along. (and always whispering in our ears as we puff and pant up Mt Lofty, telling us it’s not a real mountain!)

 

BEN: The Beisly family for sure. Such flexible, honest, generous, patient and adventurous people… The youth have some very special people supporting them.
Reynaldo- our Spanish teacher and friend… A very annoying at times but hilarious guy! Such a good heart.
Edgar- El Alto is an ugly place, but this man is truly beautiful. So are the rest of our host family- Belinda, Da Marice and Moises.

All the youth we met over our 3.5 months will remain in my heart forever. 

Classic Bolivia?

CARLY: It has to be the timely road blockade on just the day we needed to 
leave on a tight time frame to catch a plane in Santa Cruz. After
 
struggling to get back in from Peru a week earlier, it was a complete
 
mystery to the last minute as to whether we could get out! The
 
‘classic Bolivian’ way of life. First it’s a novelty, then it’s
 
infuriating & by the end it’s generally hilarious & wouldn’t be
 
Bolivia any other way!

BEN: Where else in the world do you live in an absolutely barren, and hostile wasteland… and yet are surrounded by some of the worlds most beautiful mountains and people. Classic. Oh and 4 flat tyres in 3 months…

A dark season that has impacted/transformed you?

CARLY: I’ve named a handful of days black Saturday or black Wednesday…days that felt completely suffocating. By language, by my inability to understand, altitude weariness and sickness, Ben and I responding to it all so differently and feeling lost and unknown amongst it all. So good but so hard to only have each other. One day of riding my bike around El Alto in tears, feeling like it was all against me…especially the dogs. I’m slowly learning not to run from it, fear it, fight it but remain in that place for a while and feel everything there is to feel. From this empty place my prayers are so honest, my longing to hear God is so strong and I can’t pretend or hide…nothing but God and I don’t need to understand that. I have loved chewing on all thoughts of life from death. Beauty in ugly places. That everything we eat and drink must die before it becomes something new that brings us life when we eat it.

 

 BEN: I had about a month darkness, depression, lack of motivation, struggle with language and el alto life style and lots of confusion about why I was here and what could I do to help in my immense weakness and lack or care? I tried to stay in It and not run from it to learn, as hard as it was. I’m not sure exactly yet what I have learnt how, but i really think it has impacted me.

Standout tasty Bolivian food dish? (and worst?)

CARLY: Host mum, Belinda’s delicious vege, chicken & numerous other 
ingredient soup. With crunchy bread on a butt cold day- hits every 
spot! Worst, deep fried cow stomach…I was pushing through until Ben 
suggested it also smelt like cow & then it was all over. (And was 
secretly fed to the dog later that night!)
 
BEN: The special chicken dish that Edgar and Belinda made for special farewell occasions… Marinated and crispy to perfection… And not sweet potato or chunyo (black potato) in site!
Worst: 40 small, salted, battered, 4cm long fish called Ispies… with 30 potatoes [3 different types… Normal, chuka (a root like potato), and sweet potato (imagine a pink, overgrown witchitty grub)] I never thought I’d hate potato so much!

When did you jump right in the deep end?

CARLY: 5400m above sea level mountain climbing definitely stretched me, with altitude sickness to make it harder. But the scariest challenge was 
joining a Capoiera Roda (dance circle) in Itacare, Brazil and playing
 
against huge, dreaded African/Brazilian men…and surviving without
 
too much pain or being laughed at too hysterically! Brazil, especially the north, is the mother land of Capoiera…and saying that you play Capoiera is nothing special at all…it’s how you play and how much balls you have to put yourself out there and give it a go. The history is so rich and the people are so proud of this beautiful dance.

 

BEN: As funny as it sounds, giving the rock climbing walk a go at the Beisly’s house. I definitely was afraid of being crap at it so it took me 3 weeks to balls up enough and be ok with looking atrocious. From that I have found jumping in to youth, mother Teresa house and other things much more of an easier step- don’t be afraid to look stupid… And jump in. 

What does all this mean for coming home

CARLY: Hard to leave and hard to return home but so many things seem more alive in us and dreams seem much more possible from completely unraveling life as it was, letting go of lots of precious things and being in a foreign place. We’ve been free to really listen and are now free to make choices one at a time as to how we’ll start again, where and with whom.

There still won’t be any kind of life rhythm until next year as coming home means moving from home to home (which we’re really looking forward to) and getting as much work as we can. So it seems the backpacker’s life will just continue! But how good to be free enough to live with people we love, and to just have what you need in a bag. We went wanting to hear from God about what was next and we feel he’s given us a bit of glimpse, but not to far ahead, just enough to move a little forward. It was a time to let go, to be saved from the hurricane life I had created that was sure to crush us, to only have each other and live that fully, to soak in another culture and make ourselves at home, to chew through the realities of what it would mean to live in tough areas of the world and open up our home and family to the people we live amongst and to have enough room to take seriously some of our crazy dreams.

 

 BEN: I am pretty much ready (after we get back from Canada in Jan ‘12, to jump right in to some intentional living in a place that’s pretty low on the ‘let’s live there’ scale. Not 100% sure where yet. 
I have been journeying with soul a lot lately and coming home gives greater opportunity to explore that. As well as my follow up on my Initiation that I participated in, in Queensland last year.
Also, I have been asking and searching from god about whether continuing teaching as I was, is all of me and could sense something more was being longed for… But didn’t know what. It’s still being formulated but I felt god give some leads and I’m excited to follow through with these when I get home. If you wanna know more ask me in person.

How has our marriage been shaped & affected by this adventure?

CARLY: We like each other lots…it’s still true! Ben is a strong, beautiful, layered and complex creature. We hang out, say lots of things and say nothing. When Ben went mountain climbing for a few days I felt pretty lost…we didn’t have enough time together at home to feel this, it’s always been pretty easy to come and go. Nothing to hide…sickness, fear, what jumps out of us naturally, our best selves, our very boring empty selves…we’ve seen a lot, a lot more than we would’ve sharing working lives at home in this same amount of time and we really needed that. We frustrate each other more than anyone else in the world and that can be scary but it’s ok. We’ve discovered lots of new gems and realised that we’re more on the same page then we thought!

Ben and I also needed to see what we’re made of, what we’ve got, what it looks like to be together everyday and really only have each other. To grind through the really freaking frustrating stuff and wholeheartedly enjoy being such close friends. We want to choose to live in parts of the world where many wouldn’t, we want to be completely ourselves with the community we share life with but we had to jump in the deep end with each other first or we just would not last.  Ask us more, we’re happy to share!

The ‘Common Prayer’ book shares 12 values or commitments that mark a ‘new monastic life’, a life following and wrestling with Jesus and lived deliberately with people on the margins of our world. They have become some important foundations for us. Some we feel at peace with, others to keep working on and some that are a deep challenge.

  • Locating our lives in the abandoned places of the empire
  • Shared Economics
  • Reconciliation
  • Celebrating singleness and marriage
  • Submission to Christ’s body, the church
  • Care for creation
  • Geographical proximity
  • Peacemaking
  • Contemplative prayer
  • Hospitality
  • Formation in the way of Christ
  • Nurturing a common life

BEN: Wow, in so many ways! One thing I ponder as I write this in Rio airport is that I don’t feel as sad about leaving and having life change all around me with no one truly being able to understand… Because Carly is constant… where everything else will become a story and just history. We will always share the joys and struggles and blessings of this adventure. What a gift for our marriage as we start out.

  • we know each other so much more now than we did when we started
  • we have heaps more fun together
  • we know how to frustrate each other even more
  • we have come away knowing each others heart for vocation, and mission and community
  • we are ready to share our life with others
  • our values are lining up more because they have been thrashed out, talked out and lived out.

I am so excited to live out this next season of life with Carly and feel so at peace knowing that it’s her next to me.

How can we continue to support the youth, our host family + the beasly family in El Alto?

CARLY: Somehow at some point in the future we would love to return. I’m sure it would mean packing up shop, quitting jobs & selling stuff all over again but as difficult as it is to live there, it’s gotten under our skin. Until then we want to plod along saving & fundraising for the youth church until we help them gather $30,000 to buy the block of land next to their church.


BEN: Prayer; We also want to decide on how we can continually invest $ into the youth to help them generate a consistent source of income… That is one of the main issues of the church-because they have so many great ideas about investing and ministering into their greater community, they just don’t have the resources; talk about them with people & tell their stories as often as we can; we want to create a link to their website on our blog so you all can check them out.

Stand out toilet disaster?

CARLY: 4 days of diarrhoea is always a significant feat of strength…but I am 
quite proud of the 4.30am ‘fart that was so much more’ on the Inca
 
trail, Peru. I’ve managed the shock & trauma & am now free to
 
celebrate! (Mr Benjamin Squire helped me with that process, a seasoned
 
expert in the field.)


BEN: There are a couple, but here’s one. Busting to go, in a local village w a public toilet, not enough time to make it to the squat toilet and organize myself so I don’t get pants wet on dirty, wet, poo-ish floor ( can’t squat and poo while keeping my pants on so I have to take them off), can’t hold it in any more and I miss judge the angle and therefore miss the hole completely… Covering the back wall with my gift… It was tough to clean up let’s just say that. Gross.

Sacred Moments?

CARLY:

  • I wrestle with contemplative prayer & having any kind of routine or discipline…so I loved the times that just presented themselves & there was nothing to do but sit & be quiet & completely present.Sitting on the shoreline of what felt like a huge black sand dessert in Peru, with crashing waves & thousands of bright red crabs scuttling around.
  • Top of Charquini mountain, the 4th time. Such intense, dramatic, freezing, overwhelming beauty in every direction & how exhilarating is it to finally arrive.
  • Sitting on the side if the road in the main city in El Alto. Exhausted, reflective, sad to be leaving & mesmerized by watching people hurry about & enjoying how familiar their faces, clothes, conversations, routines, food & ways of just living had become to me.
  • Dancing in the sand on a palm tree surrounded beach to the ‘1 Giant Leap’ soundtrack as the sun sets.
  • Sitting in Sal & Gregg’s house with one of youth as he surprises himself by crying as he shares about his incredibly painful childhood of being completely neglected by his father & at times left to sift through rubbish dumps for food. His story was a revealing insight into the lives of many of the other youth as well.

BEN: 

  • 2.5 weeks at Sal and Gregg’s house when they were in Peru. We had sun, space to be silent, paint and wary Seinfeld.
  • copping shizzle from Gregg about how much better NZ have been playing in the rugby, then Australia beat them in the Tri-nations final!! Yeeaaww.
  • going to the baptism of 8 youth at lake Titicaca
  • Playing wally every week with the youth
  • Exploring and finding markets, people, landscape and things you would never have just sticking to the main drag.
  • Visiting Franko’s village, 12hrs in a car from el alto. The village is in the jungle and has the most stunning creek to swim in!
  • moments of deep and hilarious connection beyond words with Edgar (our host dad) in the kitchen at mid night… We both rendezvous randomly to create haphazard dinners together.
  • meals everyday with our host family. Saying Thankyou to everyone after every meal… “provencho”
  • climbing Charcynni and Huana Potosi… Another world of beauty
  • the farewell party the youth held for us. Reynaldo and friends sang us some pretty special goodbye songs. It was a 3 hr goodbye service/party… Such an honour. I cried saying goodbye to everyone when they got us up the front and then all came up in a line to say goodbye. Some re-entered the line 3x.
  • getting out of El Alto after the blockades… And just in time.
  • singing, guitar, playing on the rock wall at Sal and Gregg’s house with the youth and the Beisly family
  • Wednesday morning communion at Sal and Gregg’s
  • having the privilege and honour of hearing Gregg’s story about his dad, climbing and story while camping at ‘rock camp’ 500m up Huana Potosi.

Favourite place in Bolivia?

CARLY: Our local fruit, vege & everything street markets. Riding a bike 
there, buying extremely cheap goodies from all my favourite ‘Cholitas’
 
(indigenous Bolivian women), having a glass of freshly squeezed OJ &
 
returning home to our host families kitchen to invent soups, pizzas,
 
lentil patties, cakes & more!
 

BEN: Camping at ‘rock camp’ on Huana Potosi (camping at 5,500m is something that doesn’t happen every day). Bolivia’s places where so amazing but this moment was stand out.

Most frustrating Spanish word/conversation?

CARLY: Being involved in a conversation with a girl & her mum…both were 
very frustrated with each other, many tears & fast paced Spanish. I
 
could pick up bits & pieces but there was barely anything I could do
 
to say or help the very complicated situation, I just wanted to
 
understand! (Good thing Gregor was there to pull some kind of solution
 
together!) On a side note, I would always pronounciate ‘airport’ wrong
 
& often end up saying a highly offensive word meaning ‘arse’ or
 
something!

BEN: Not being able to say ‘already’. Could never work it out. It’s amazing how much you need that word.