There’s nothing to put time into perspective for you quite like a countdown. A few weeks ago, I was considering skipping the tween girls meeting. I was just exhausted and thought that it would be so nice to just come upstairs at 5:00 and not have to do anything else besides relax. Then I started counting just how many Thursday nights I had left with the girls. When I looked at it as only maybe half a dozen more opportunities to get to spend time with the girls, I quickly saw it for what it was. An opportunity. I may have been tired, but spending time with them wasn’t going to be a hassle for me knowing how little time here I have left to do so. It made me wonder how my attitude or mindset might have been different all along if I put things in that perspective from the very beginning. I don’t think we should all go around with running countdowns in our minds of how much time left we have to do this or that, but perhaps we should take things seriously realizing how limited our time is in general.
I’ve developed a new routine in the last month or so here. I really wish I had started this earlier. Every morning, Andrew and I wake up early so that he can go to the gym to do cardio and I can walk through town to get some exercise as well. I’ve never been a morning person and I have to admit, it surprises me some that I am even slightly for such a plan. The first week or so went beautifully. I would get out of the car and start walking towards the church. Just as I was arriving at the church, morning mass would be getting out and I would circle the block one more time while they all filed out. I would go in to pray for 10-15 minutes. There’s just something about sitting in a grand cathedral, letting the light shine through the stained class like fire, praying in the deep silence of it all. Right after my prayer time, Aroma’s would be just opening their doors and I’d walk there to get a cappuccino de caramelo. Then, I’d walk back to the car to meet Andrew while sipping on complete and pure deliciousness. Now I must say, the routine has changed ever so slightly. While I was previously waking up with the Catholics, it appears that perhaps they have changed their routine. I didn’t even know it was possible. The first day it happened, I was quite taken aback. I thought maybe there was a funeral or something happening. I just kept doing laps around the church, every time I passed I would study the people inside a touch more closely to see if they were wrapping it up or not. They weren’t. After a week of this, my only conclusion was that mass was now starting earlier. That’s just awful. I thought I was waking up early with the Catholics before, and now they are getting up earlier! As it is, occasionally I can make it in just after they let out and pray for a few moments in not so much silence, but a dull chanting. There’s a little group of old ladies that stays after mass for their recited prayers. The first day, it kind of bothered me. They were off in their unison just enough (and speaking in Spanish of course) to really throw me off. But all is well now. The new routine is to spend about 15 minutes doing laps around the church and using that time as devoted prayer time. I still go to Aroma’s everyday to get the cappuccino. I have compromised with the Catholics on the use of their space, but the cappuccino de caramelo cannot be compromised. Plus, the entire morning staff knows my order and I don’t even have to say it when I walk in any more. That’s the coffee shop relationship I’ve always dreamed of.
I’m just going to throw this out there since I can imagine at least one person might be thinking it. How can a missionary afford to buy a cappuccino everyday? Is that the wisest use of funds for someone who makes no money? Well, as I said, I wish I had started this routine before but I didn’t. We’re talking about two months of coffee for someone who has spent next to nothing on themselves for the past year and a half. And we’re not talking Starbucks prices by any means. Andrew and I set a small amount of money aside to travel or do something fun while living in Central America since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity living abroad. If you knew how much we worked and how often we could have used a vacation and didn’t take one, then you’d not only be aware of how dumb the question is to begin with, but you’d also be mathematically aware that I can afford a daily cup of coffee if I want one. Now enough talk about the coffee, I’m starting to salivate thinking about tomorrow’s!
One neat thing about waking up early and walking through town is that I get to see Steven walk to work almost every day. Steven and I had an interesting relationship to start out. All I can really say is he was an unbelievably disrespectful teenager who hated me for months. Somewhere along the way, he asked why I hated him. I explained in mediocre Spanish that I certainly didn’t hate him, but I didn’t like his attitude or lack of respect towards myself and other staff at the mission. From that conversation onward, he has been respectful towards me and all is well. I think in a lot of ways, he can be intimidating and that most people, adults included, don’t bother to call him out on his behavior and attitude. For some reason, I don’t think Steven will ever respect people that don’t stand up to him. That’s exactly what it took for us to now have the relationship that we do. In any event, Steven is one of the only teenagers, albeit 18 years old, that I know who dropped out of school but is choosing to be a productive member of society. Most of the teenagers here who have dropped out of school are somewhat unrealistically waiting around to see what happens, as if something productive will happen for them as a product of them doing absolutely nothing. But not Steven. He went out and got a job. And I’m proud of him. He works at the Mundo Magico store on the corner across from the church. They always have the obnoxious people out front with microphones shouting out their daily deals and attempting to entice people to come inside and shop. Seems a bit odd that yelling at people would translate to a sound strategy in luring them in, but to each his own. Steven has yet to be that obnoxious person and for that I am quite grateful. Nonetheless, each day is a reminder that he is doing what he needs to do to earn a living and survive.
I had a truly wonderful reward the other day when I walked all the way back to the mission on my morning walk instead of back to the car to meet Andrew. I have no idea what made me decide to walk home instead of meeting Andrew like I always do. Perhaps I was thinking of how nice it would be to get back a touch earlier and have a decent shot at a nice, hot shower before work. Regardless of the motive, I was greatly rewarded. As I passed by the street where the elementary school is, I saw several kids outside playing during an early morning recess. I made the right turn and decided to walk up to the school to see if I knew anyone. I had hardly made the turn onto the street before hearing my name being screamed from multiple little voices. I saw Hierguth playing with his friends and said hello to him. I quickly said hello to a few of the girls that called me over. I went up to the fence and greeted as many of the kids as I could. I didn’t want the teachers getting too freaked out by this strange gringa coming up to see the kids during recess. When I turned to leave, I walked back past Hierguth and said goodbye but he didn’t hear me. I felt that twinge of disappointment as I kept on walking. I don’t know why it mattered but right before I turned the corner, I glanced back one more time. There was Hierguth waiting for me to turn around. All of his friends had already left to go back inside and he was standing there alone, waving goodbye to me. I must have had the biggest smile on my face as I waved back at him.
I can say with great certainty that I’m excited to be waking up tomorrow at the crack of dawn to get out and be a part of all of those things that take place when you wake up with the Catholics! Only 5 weeks left to enjoy it all!