Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Camera rolling...and...action!

"For me, documentary photography has always come with great responsibility. Not just to tell the story honestly and with empathy, but also to make sure the right people hear it. When you photograph somebody who is in pain or discomfort, they trust you to make sure the images will act as their advocate." -- Giles Duley

This quote may seem a little out of the blue to many of you, especially since I have been so awful at keeping up on my blog over the last year. However, in this very moment, this quote hits home for me. 

This week, I have entered into completely new territory -- telling a story through a documentary-style video.  Of course, I have seen many documentaries and know a variety of people who have been a part of respective documentary production teams, but in terms of me knowing anything of value? Nada. 

The other day, I made a visit to one of our clients, Don Hernan, at his family home in Cochabamba.  Over the past year, I have accompanied Don Hernan while he was experiencing hearing problems (in one ear, he is completely deaf and in the other, he is just at the brink), as well as visiting him and his wife, Doña Hilda, at their Cochabamba home.  Since we are only three at my workplace, we don´t have the chance to visit our clients as much as we would like.  Each Friday, we set out separately to accompany and follow-up on pending cases.  It had been a while since I had gone to visit Don Hernan & Doña Hilda, so I offered to head to their home to spend some time with them. 

Don Hernan Peralta
What is so interesting about the visits is that they are usually planned the day before.  Very rarely do we call ahead of time and plan a specific time that we will meet that day or visit the house.  Per typical Bolivian custom, we head to the homes at an unplanned moment of the day, sometimes getting lost on the way and walking down the streets of the town asking small store owners and neighbors if they know the _____ family until we finally find the home.  Most times, we arrive and are greeted with open-arms into the homes of our very dear clients.  Other times, however, we travel over an hour and nobody is home! Luckily, I know how to get to Don Hernan´s house on my own, so that was no problem. 

Most of the men and women that we support do not have family who accompany them.  They live on their own, the majority abandoned because of specific events that happened during the dictatorships or their decisions to fight for justice instead of supporting family.  Don Hernan, however, is one of the very few that has a supportive family -- a family that loves and cares for him dearly and is always physically and emotionally present in his life.  Every time I have the opportunity to witness this love, I can´t stop smiling.  With the amount of suffering and loneliness I see in the lives of our clients on a daily basis, I can´t help but to become emotional when I witness the unconditional love between each of them.  

Don Hernan showing me a family photo, with his wife and seven children
When I arrived at the house, I was greeted by two of his daughters (Gladys & Martha), who both hugged me and thanked me for coming to visit.  They both have their houses on the same property as Don Hernan and Doña Hilda.  Unfortunately, they said that Don Hernan had left the house only 5 minutes beforehand and that Doña Hilda was in the countryside.  Don Hernan wouldn´t be back at the house for another 2 hours.  As I was getting ready to leave, Gladys stopped me and begged me to sit down for a few minutes.  Right outside of the little hardware store that she and her sister own, she has a makeshift juice and empanada stand.

"Please, sit down for just a minute", she said to me in Spanish.  So, I sat down as she prepared me a Jugo de Plátano con Leche (a juice made out of banana and milk ) and handed me a homemade empanada. 

As I thanked her and enjoyed the hospitality, we began talking about her family and the history of her family in the small town of Yambata -- where Don Hernan had been a delegate and had been persecuted and tortured during the dictatorships of Hugo Banzer Suárez and Luis García Meza.  Over an hour passed by as she told me parts of the story, so she invited me to eat lunch with her family (her husband and three daughters).  As we shared a meal together, they began talking about how some of the family members were actually going to be visiting Yambata for a town celebration and that it would be great if I could join them on the journey!  I couldn´t believe that I had gone to the home for just a follow-up visit to be invited into the home and lives (in both Cochabamba and Yambata) of this family.  What an honor. 

As we talked about details, I mentioned how wonderful it would be to video-interview the family members to record their history and memories for years to come.  Not soon after, they began talking about names of community members in Yambata that I could interview, the types of information I could receive for their community and family, the scenes that I would have of the countryside, and an insider´s view of the town celebration and dances, if I decided to join them.   

And that, my friends, is why I am in completely new territory.  Tomorrow, at 4 am, I head to Northern Potosí in the back of a truck with the Peralta family to converse, videotape and witness the life and history of the family and the Yambata community.  I have spent the last few days preparing interview questions, reading up on documentary techniques and making a basic plan of the up-and-coming documentary (my final project in Bolivia). 

This would not have been possible without the help of Creighton Journalism faculty member, Carol Zuegner, and Creighton Journalism students Sara Gentzler and Bridget McQuillan, who have been emailing me with last-minute tidbits of advice and encouragement over the last few days.  Also, this would not be possible without Marc Adams, who is graciously letting me borrow his sound equipment for the next few days, or Fernando Fernández, who will be joining me on this adventure and helping me to interview, photograph, and video-record in Yambata. 

Last, but not least, the Peralta Family.  I can´t wait to portray the family so that each of you can witness the sadness, the joys, the challenges and the love that they share with one another and that they have shown me. 

Hasta Sábado, Amig@s!!  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Reflection on Violence

For my postgraduate course here in Cochabamba, I am writing a paper reviewing and evaluating the protocol for the psychological forensic evaluation of children and adolescents who have suffered from sexual violence. To get into the paper writing mood, I decided to dig through my files and find the final ethical position paper that I wrote my senior year at Creighton for my Violence in America class with Dr. Dickel. While reading it, I realized just how pertinent the theme still is and how I have watched as the cycle has continued. From the terrorism attacks and the murder of Osama Bin Laden to the use of atomic weapons and the war on Syria, this is an opinion paper that I would love for you to read. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
                                                                                                                                         May 4, 2011

With the events currently going on in our world, it is an interesting time to discuss the concept and culture of violence in the United States. The death of Osama bin Laden has spurred many political and ethical controversies in our nation regarding violent acts. Over the past few days, I have had the opportunity to experience many of the different reactions in our country regarding violence and death. I was completely astonished when people across the nation were captured in full celebration over the death of Osama. Statuses on my facebook feed read words such as “its America time” or “kiss your mama we got Osama”. The newspapers read “For Americans, ‘a huge boost’”. These headlines are some of the reasons why the cycle of violence continues to exist in our generation.

Much of the current literature supports the idea that aggression and violence can be learned through macrotheories and microtheories of violence such as modeling and social learning principles. Through modeling, people learn social and cognitive behaviors by observing and imitating the actions of others. Although this is most often thought of within direct, personal relationships, social learning can be influenced by the media, as well. Macrotheories, on the other hand, account for violence by explaining how broad, cultural forces allow or even promote it. Smaller classifications of violence, such as domestic violence, are often explained and accepted due to the larger widespread social acceptance of violence. In these theories, we can see how the acceptance and appreciation for the killing of Osama bin Laden assists in promoting violence in our every day culture. Death and violence are recognized as viable options for conflict resolution.

Although these overt actions dominated the majority of our newspapers, news channels, and social media websites, there were many people who expressed concern over the jubilation of death. I saw many quotes based upon the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other renowned peace activists in our world. I even posted a quote from Gandhi, myself, which received numerous comments on both sides of the spectrum. Some who criticized made points such as “Heaven forbid we kill terrorists” or “using violence ended violence in WWII and WWI”. Many of them also agreed that the death of Osama will most likely end up saving thousands of lives in the long run and that his murder was for the good of all people. There is, by no means, an easy solution to the war on terrorism. However, people respond to hate with more hate. It is a constant cycle that will never end unless people actively work to end it. By killing Osama and celebrating in his death, we are continuing the cycle of hate and violence by accepting it as a legitimate resolution for conflict.

There is something to be said about acts which are for the good of all people. John Stuart Mill identified this concept as utilitarianism, in which the outcome determines the normative value of the action. If an action or decision is beneficial to the majority of the people, the action is considered one of worth. However, my concern comes in when the majority of the population believes that the death of Osama is going to be the influential moment in our generation for the end of terrorism. It is so multifaceted. Osama is not the only extremist. He may have been at the head of Al-Qaeda, but think about the many people who have been raised to endure a life of violence in order to continue this war and fight for their cause. Their violence is not just an action, but a mindset and a self-concept. The death of Osama by the United States does not end this mindset, rather, it will most likely give the Taliban and other extremist populations a reason to continue the violence and retaliate later on. If the death of an evil leader was the end all to violence and oppression, then Latin America would not have been in a continuous struggle for freedom from tyranny and dictatorship. There will always be someone who strives to be more powerful than the previous oppressor. Until this is understood by the government and our country and can be utilized in what is best for the people, we are just prolonging our fight for international peace and delaying the millions of deaths that will be a result of violence in the future. By using violence, we are supporting the use of violence and death as “effective” resolutions for conflict and extremism. It is in learning from these actions and now taking them into consideration for our future that we decide whether or not it was the best act for the good of the people.

In recognizing how the actions within our government and within our society influence perceptions of violence, we can see how family violence is socialized within our culture. Our culture finds violence entertaining, as demonstrated by popular movies, music, sports, and video games. Aggression and violence in the home emulate society’s tolerance for violence. Although listening to violent music or watching violent movies or sports does not inherently affect an individual’s behavior, the acceptance of violence in our culture is an example of how cultural forces allow and promote violent behaviors. Our society has a tendency to focus too much on secondary and tertiary prevention, whether it is in healthcare or public policy. It is crucial that public policy begins to emphasize primary prevention through addressing the social ills which contribute to family violence. It takes societal understanding and commitment to eliminate these risk factors.

The socialization of violence in our nation and our world is demonstrated through the many ways in which children can be exposed to domestic violence and how these exposures tend to affect them negatively throughout their entire lives. The children do not need to physically see or directly hear the violent incidents to know that they, or a loved one, are in danger. Hearing stories about the violent acts and seeing evidence of the abuse are common ways in which children become aware of physical aggression. However, through the social learning and modeling theories, we can see that domestic violence goes beyond the exposure to violence. Children not only learn from the behaviors they see, but they learn to identify violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts and often rationalize the use of violence within their intimate relationships. It ends up being an intergenerational cycle of violence.

It is disheartening and upsetting that the government does not commit more time and money to the protection of these children and the intervention and prevention of further violence. The society has a responsibility to protect adults and children from family violence by preventing the violence from even occurring in the first place. In ignoring many of the risk factors and failing to take action in the prevention of abuse and violence, the government is promoting a society that places less value on the family and tolerates victimization of its most vulnerable populations. Children need to receive the needed resources in order to counteract the violence that exists in the world. We live in a society that bases its resources on allegations and immediate need rather than vulnerabilities and influential risk factors. An alliance of community partners under the support of the government is necessary for our society to provide an active role in the implementation of programs which strengthen family bonds and prevent the abuse of vulnerable family members. Social service programs can work; however, it takes a commitment to family protection that does not falter.

It is important for each person in our society to take a stand against the glorification of violence. Taking a stand against mass-media content which promotes violence can make a dent in our cultural acceptance of violent acts. Also, refraining from corporal violence and violence within our own families can model positive behavior and conflict resolution skills in relationships. Although it is unclear as to how much of an impact exposure to violence, in itself, has on children, it is apparent that our actions and our cultural acceptance of violence do influence the mindset that violence is a viable resolution for conflict. It is essential that our society and our government actively work to address these social ills, so that the cycle of violence can be intervened and stopped with this generation.

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013: A year in review

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:
"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." --Henry Van Dyke

Today, I celebrate two years of living in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  On this day two years ago, I took my first step into a brand new life that I could have never possibly imagined--a life full of experiences that have challenged me in every way possible, pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone, flipped everything that I have known upside-down not only once, but multiple times, broken my heart, taught me how to put the pieces back together again and introduced me to completely new ways of thinking and living.

I have been anxious, afraid, content, joyful, depressed, nervous, open, excited, frustrated, lost, surprised, angry, faithful, doubting and loving...emotions that very well describe what it means to be a missioner in a foreign country.

I have questioned almost every thought or belief that I have ever had and have had to open my mind and heart completely to take in everything around me.

I have been in absolute awe of the beauty of Bolivia and the diverse scenery and life that exists here, sometimes unable to even take my eyes off of the side of the road for one minute.

I have experienced some of the best days of my life--moments when the joy radiated through every conversation, every thought and even every challenge.  And I have experienced some of the hardest days of my life--days where it seemed like the sun would never shine and the tears and fears would never come to end.

I have experienced the true meaning of a beautiful community and the beauty and awe of pure loving, non-judgmental, thought-provoking, life-giving friendship.  

I have witnessed and been extremely challenged by a different kind of faith and Catholicism--a Catholicism that accepts indigenous traditions and spirituality and explores the differences between what Catholicism means among a non-occidental population and the "traditional" view of Catholicism that was enforced by the Spanish.

I have had to muster up the courage to start over again with a new community, new living space, new relationships and a new service site.

I have had to face some of my biggest fears and insecurities and I continue to face them as time passes on and new challenges arise.

And I have been changed immensely by each of these joys and challenges.

2013 has been one of the most challenging years of my life, yet I have learned and grown more in this one year than many other years combined.  As each new day arrives, I witness this growth more and more and try to recognize the effects that it has on my daily life...and that's exactly where I am today, at this very moment.  I can't yet say exactly how I've grown or put into words how I have been affected, but I am learning every second what significance it has on my life...and I hope to share that with each of you in the upcoming weeks and months!

Until then, here are a few pictures summing up some of the main events of the 2013 year:
Joining my current service site ITEI, visiting the Jesuit missions in Chiquitania, welcoming new FMS members and forming a community together, adding puppies to that community, prayer with the wonderful people who took classes at the Maryknoll Institute (Bill, Kathy, Marc, Lexie, Emma, Anne, Xavier, Jeff, Annemarie), visiting the Valparaíso region of Chile, starting a new relationship with Fernando, Madre de Dios closing, working with my team from Madre each week on forming a new center for girls, visiting the outskirts of the Amazon, climbing the Cristo de la Concordia in Cochabamba for the first time, and visiting the US for 3 weddings...including the wedding of one of my best friends, Laura!

Also, over the next few weeks, I'm going to be starting a blog series on my life in Bolivia, using YOUR questions as the basis for my blog posts. Here´s what I need from you: Questions on anything and everything regarding mission life and my life in Bolivia. You can send them to me by commenting on this post or by emailing me ( and then I will pick a few each week to respond to as thoroughly as possible! Questions can relate to daily life, faith, transportation, food, market, costs, how I spend my free time, community, how I handle difficult situations, dating in a different country, etc. The possibilities are endless. I´ll be starting this week, so make sure you get your first questions to me as soon as you can!


“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke - See more at:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Quinoa and good for the spirit!

“How would your life be different were conscious about the food you ate, the people you surround yourself with, and the media you watch, listen to, or read? Let today be the pay attention to what you feed your mind, your body, and your life. Create a nourishing environment conducive to your growth and well-being today.” --Steve Maraboli (The Power of One)

Hello from your long lost friend across the equator here in Cochabamba, Bolivia!! As I look back at the date of my last blog, I realize how awful I have been at maintaining a steady update of my life here in Bolivia. You must be wondering if I am still chugging along after my latest post on the string of transitions that I have experienced. The answer? YES and I'm feeling better than ever.
I have experienced a lot of challenges and set-backs over the past year and a half (!) and there were times when I would have serious doubts and question whether or not I could push through the difficulties to the other side of mission life. The fact is, however, that these difficulties are such a crucial part of mission life and, in a multitude of ways, I am blessed to have faced some of these challenges in the beginning of my mission and also at such a young age. I find so much strength, faith and hope in knowing that I can overcome and persevere through any hardship that might cross my path unexpectedly. God sure does have a special and powerful way of being present and working through us in every moment of life.

After three months, I have a mindset that allows me to reflect upon how exactly I was able to overcome these challenges and how, even when life is still up in the air, I can continue to keep my head held high and a smile on my face throughout the uncertainty and unexpected changes that might show up at my door.

1. Community.

First, let me define what this word actually means. Community is what you and the people connected to you in some way make of it...which means that you can be a part of many different communities all at once.

In my life, I am blessed to be a part of so many supportive and loving communities that I can´t even name them all...and each of these communities helps me to keep that smile on my face and my heart in the right place, especially when life flips itself upside down.  I would love to introduce you to them.  

I have my beautiful Franciscan roommates with whom I share walls, a bathroom, a kitchen, a living space, and so many wonderful memories. I think our kitchen floor chats might just be my favorite...and our trips to the Palacio del Api.

I have the greater Cochabamba missioner community that gathers together frequently to enjoy one another´s company, play guitar, and just live in the moment.

I have my incredible close friends Donna and Emma who stay by my side through the best of times and the worst of them and who continue to amaze me with their kindness, their spirits, their faith, and their love.

I have my local street community which includes the most lovely Bolivians who never fail to share a smile, a few kisses on the cheek, and a strong squeeze of the hands with me. If I ever just need to get out of the social center or want to go for a walk, they are my first responders :)

I have the beautiful women from Madre de Dios (and the new shelter that we will be opening "Guadalupe") who give me so much hope and encouragement for the future and who inspire me in the way they live their lives and the way in which they show love and commitment.

We really need a new picture!!
I have the beautiful women at ITEI who inspire me with their hard work and dedication.

I have the lovely Tati, who has been one of my biggest supporters since I first had her as my Spanish professor in January 2012!

And I have the whole Patiño family clan, who have all treated me like their own from the very beginning.   

And those are just a handful of the people here in Cochabamba...not to mention my family, friends, and loved ones from the states who make sure to stay in contact with me, show me their love and support me in any way possible.  I have had the blessing of really recognizing the power of these relationships and these communities in my life and I thank God everyday for the beautiful relationships that I have cultivated and for the people who have walked into my life in many diverse ways.  I am one lucky girl.

2. For health, happiness, and the love of Quinoa.               

How do I stay physically healthy as a missioner? As you can imagine, this is a very loaded question. I don't have a gym membership, I can't go running in the city without receiving an uncomfortable amount of attention and I'm not an amazing cook. So, what's the secret?

Up until I moved into the social center, I was walking back and forth from Madre de Dios at least twice per day plus playing with the younger kids and doing exercises with the older girls. That kept me busy enough to feel like I had exercised all day! However, I still didn't have the cooking thing down and was pretty conservative when it came to trying new foods or taking the time to prepare good meals.

When I moved to the social center, my routine changed and I only had to walk four doors down the hall in order to get to the office. I realized that what I had relied upon before wasn't going to cut it...that I was going to have to change my lifestyle to stay healthy and energized.
Here's what I learned and what I will take back with me and utilize for the rest of my life:

1. Breakfast is fantastic. Yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and you are set!

 2. The more that you have to cook from scratch, the healthier. We don't have a freezer here and we have very limited refrigerator space, so we cook our meals each day from the main staples and veggies that we have on hand.

 3. The fresher the better! Jeff is our Cancha guy. He goes to the market once a week in order to buy fresh veggies and fruit for our community.

4. Eat a big lunch and then a small snack for dinner. Dinner was always my main meal until I got to Bolivia. Here in Bolivia, lunch is the main meal and people usually have tea and bread/crackers in the evening after work.

5. Utilize your time! Since I don't go to the gym or go out running, nor do I have a lot of time to spend on my fitness, I try and utilize my time wisely. When the water is boiling for my morning coffee, I do squats, push-ups, and calf-raises. When the water is boiling for pasta or the quinoa is cooking, I do plie squats, tricep dips and jumping jacks. Trust me. It works!

6. Get a good night's sleep! I'm the worst at this since I don't sleep well anyways, but when I can, WOW is there a difference in life.

7. Stay away from street food in foreign countries. I know it smells amazing and a lot of people are eating it, but trust me on this one. Just don´t do it.

8. Know your good staple foods (ie. rice, quinoa, potatoes, etc). Quinoa is my go-to staple. I think it is easier to cook than rice, it is healthy and it is so gosh-darn tasty when you figure out what spices to use.

Here's a guideline for a recipe that I created while here in Bolivia. It is one of my favorite meals and is rich in protein, veggies, and calcium (if cheese is added). Vegetarian friendly. Gluten friendly (without soy sauce). Vegan friendly (without cheese). Sorry that it isn't exact, but I just kind of do it by feel.

1 cup Quinoa 
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 mini onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
Soy Sauce
Sesame Oil
Salt & Pepper
Chili Powder
Cheese (Mozarella would work)

  1. Mix one cup of quinoa with two cups of water in a pot (2/1 ratio). Put a dab of salt and bring to a boil. 
  2. When it comes to a boil, cover and lessen heat to a simmer. You can stir it during the process (unlike rice!) 
  3. Concurrently chop and peel onion, carrot, green pepper, garlic, and cucumber (in that order) 
    1. The onion will start to flavor the quinoa as it boils. The carrot goes in next because it needs to soften and cook with the quinoa. The green pepper (for the same reason). Garlic = flavor. Cucumber last so that it isn't too mushy! You can also add the cucumber in at the end. 
  4. Add black pepper so that it seeps in as the quinoa cooks. 
  5. When there is still about an inch or two of water at the bottom, add soy sauce and a little bit of sesame oil to the remaining water. 
  6. Add chili powder. Cover. 
  7. Wait until water has fully dissolved. 
  8. Cube a slice of Mozarella cheese and mix it in with the quinoa dish while it is still really hot and can melt fully into the dish! 
  9. Add peanuts. 
  10. Eat, enjoy & be sad that you finished this amazing and nutritious meal when the pot is empty. 
In terms of other daily life advice: smile a lot, look up when you walk, engage in intellectually stimulating conversations, meet new people, meditate, drink lots of coffee (and water), listen to great music with headphones, thank God every day (even when it is a difficult day to count blessings), play music, sing, write, drink wine, read, take a nap, go on pinterest to inspire your creativity, write letters, spend time by yourself, paint, turn your cell phone off.

#Life of a missioner #Life of Kitzi.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013


“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us, are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.” --Elizabeth Lesser

As I reflect upon the last two and a half months, I find myself struggling to find the words to express exactly where I am in life at this precise moment. I have sat in front of my computer screen and stared many times before, just hoping a few words and thoughts would show up on the page. However, to no previous avail, I am sitting and staring at my computer screen once again (thankfully, with a bit more luck than I have had in the past :))

The only word that keeps coming to my mind is transitionI am, yet again, in a period of transition. And for that matter, not just one single transition, but a series of transitions that seep through and influence my every day life.

During my formation period in D.C. and my first months here in Cochabamba, I was constantly reassured by previous and current missioners that the second year of mission is when you finally feel settled--comfortable with the new language, the cultural differences, the way of life--and are able to adapt fully into your (new) home. In many ways, this is true. I have happily accommodated to my Cochabambina lifestyle. I can unconsciously flag down a trufi or micro on the streets, I know my way around Cochabamba, scouring for deals at the Cancha is a norm, my primary responses are in Spanish, and I know when I hear thunder, I need to immediately duck and run for cover. However, what I didn't expect was that things could turn upside down so quickly.
Within just a few months, I went from:

Plus, the recent termination of a romantic relationship and the implications that it has taken on my support systems here in Cochabamba

All of these changes put together have made for one heck of a last few months (and beginning to my 2nd year of mission here in Bolivia).  In many ways, I feel like I am rediscovering life in Cochabamba.  My schedule has changed, my support systems have changed, my work relationships have changed, and most influentially, my service site has changed.  I am rediscovering who I am amidst the crazy rotation of my life. 

I have my great days and my bad days.  I have my days of pure optimism and my days when reality just kicks me in the behind a little bit.  I have my days when I just can't help but laugh because past experiences have shown that this was bound to happen at one point--everything changing all at once is pretty typical in my life! 

However, through all of these changes and difficulties, I have been able to witness just a little bit of how much I have grown since I first arrived in Bolivia. I have seen this change within myself in how I handle transitions and how sometimes these transitions only bring greater clarity into my life.  I have witnessed how I allow my difficult moments to become gateways into deeper relationships with others.  I don't hide like I used to. I seek out others to join in these moments with me and to get to know me just a little bit better.  I also try to see my darker moments in relationship to the suffering that I constantly see on the streets and within the children and women that I work with.  It doesn't take the struggle away, but it does help me to put it into perspective and be increasingly conscious of my thoughts.

For now, I'm just trucking along.  It is so hard for me to believe that I have been living in Cochabamba for 15 months already.  It is even harder for me to believe that I only have about 8 short months left here.  Life passes by so gosh-darn fast.  

I know that the next month will only bring wonderful things and will challenge me in ways that I have never known.  I am so blessed to have so many people on this journey with me and to support me through the beautiful days and the darker days.  I would not be able to do it without you.  Thanks for receiving my phone calls, skype calls, providing companionship, and providing so many prayers throughout the journey.  I wouldn't be here without you :)

All my love and abrazos fuerrrrtes,


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round...

"What is true of the individual will be tomorrow true of the whole nation if individuals will but refuse to lose heart and hope"--Mahatma Gandhi

It is hard to believe that months have passed since the last time I have posted.  So much has happened since November...many things that have made it extremely difficult to find the time and energy to sit and write.  As it is, I am currently utilizing my time in the waiting room of a dentist's office right now using old-fashioned pen and paper (my favorite!).  One of my adolescent girls Herlinda is currently receiving two fillings and a root canal (poor girl!) thanks to the generosity of a Bolivian dentist who has been giving of her time and profession to our girls for many years.  Thank God for people like her. 

The past few months have really been a whirlwind for me.

I went on my first and only vacation of 2012 to Santa Cruz over a long weekend.  We stayed with a friend´s aunt and cousins and had a chance to visit downtown (including a famous basilica in Latin American History), a small waterpark for a relaxing day in the heat and humidity (my first time swimming in Bolivia!), a visit with our good friend Mari who lived in Cochabamba until June, and a day-trip to the beautiful Mariposario outside of the city.  The trip to Santa Cruz was all too short, but a wonderful mini-vacation.

Inside of the clock tower at the top of the Basilica
A mural depicting the war between Cortes and the Natives. The Basilica is right in the middle.
Enjoying the BEAUTIFUL Mariposario!
Beautiful duck in the Mariposario
With Senor Peacock
One of the many beautiful parrots we saw
A breathtaking tucan.  This is one of my favorite pictures that I took.
A beautiful butterfly in the butterfly dome
We went kayaking, too!
I also said goodbye to the four other FMS missioners who finished their three-year contracts at the end of 2012.  It was bittersweet as they each said their final goodbyes during the months of November and December.

Our last time all together!
In December, we found out that my service sit will actually be closing at the end of this month.  I has been a heartbreaking and challenging past few months as we went back and forth with our foundation.  The decision, however, is final that we are done.  Right now, we are doing everything we can to find homes for each of the adolescent girls and children who are residing with us...and the hardest part?  Even though we will be closing in 2 weeks, we still are receiving new girls from the government.  Why? There truly is nowhere else for them to go.  We are the only short-term shelter for adolescent girls in the entire Cochabamba region.  What is going to happen after January 31st? Please pray for us and for these girls.  We need your prayers more than ever

Besides the continuous stress and heartbreaks of this injustice, I was able to enjoy my first Christmas and New Years here in Bolivia.  As many people within social services know, there aren't many breaks during the holiday season! Since the only other volunteer left the region for the holidays, I was even more needed during this time.  I helped to prepare all of the festivities and gifts for Christmas and created activities for all of the girls, on top of my normal daily work responsibilities and helping to organize the packing of our home.  I was a very happy, but very tired girl.  Each day, I would return home feeling like I had worked an entire week.  I think I am still catching up.

The Nativity Play!
The younger girls as the Pastores (Shepherds)
The Christmas Photobooth I made for the girls :) So fun!
so great :)
 I was very blessed to spend Christmas Eve with a Bolivian family.  We counted down to midnight, gave one another hugs and well-wishes for the Christmas season, shared in a delicious 1am feast with turkey, chicken, pork, rice, potatoes, and, of course, Coca Cola, and then spent time together as we waited for Santa to bring the gifts (one of the older cousins).  It was a wonderful family celebration that I was blessed to be a part of.

The beautiful living room at the grandmother's house
The table with the delicious meal!
The beautiful manger
Is this really supposed to be me??
Cool Santa...we were laughing so hard!!
And Santa out.
For me, New Years was very low key and just what I needed after two weeks of non-stop work.  I spent the evening with a Bolivian family at their home.  We counted down to midnight, toasted, gave one another hugs and our hopes for each person in the new year, and then shared in a delicious meal--Chinese food from one of the only Chinese restaurants in Cochabamba.  Que rico! Then, we waited for another hour to watch the ball drop in New York and then called it a night.

On January 13, I celebrated my one-year anniversary of moving to Bolivia.  I can hardly believe it! The night before, my friends and I went out for a few drinks to celebrate and then on the 13th, we came together to make Sushi! We were all hesitant about how it would turn out, but we succeeded! We will definitely be making it again sometime.

I'm making sushi!
The beautiful presentation
Alejo putting the sesame seeds on the rice
 I can hardly believe that the two new FMS missioners, Annemarie & Jeff, arrived in Cochabamba this morning.  After so much talk and anticipation of their arrival, it seems surreal that they are really here in Bolivia.  I began preparing a few months ago, but I still feel like my list of things to do before we move-in together in March keep increasing.  I am very excited that I have a community here once again, although it will definitely be a big transition for me as well.  I'm the veteran! More to come regarding their introduction into Bolivia and the formation of our community in the next month.

They arrived safe and sound!
Other than those things, not much more is going on here (and I'm very thankful for that! I think I have enough on my plate for the time being).  I did, however, start taking Salsa and Bachata dance classes the other night! I am very excited about it, as it is something I have been wanting to do for a few years now.  I also had a chance to skype with my entire family for the first time before Christmas! It was the first time we had all been together since December 2011.

Thank you for all of your support over the last yea and keep praying for my service site.  We are in dire need of prayers and thoughts. 

All my love,


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Christmas Carrots

"Your journey has molded you for the greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be.  Don't think that you've lost time.  It took each and every situation you've encountered to bring you to the now.  And now is right on time" --Asha Tyson

What an amazing thing it is to be able to give.  It is on days like today that I am so full of life and so reminded of how blessed I am to be here…for it really is in giving that we receive.   For me, today was a simple reminder of how the simple things make a much bigger difference than imaginable and how there are many people who contribute to this giving, sharing, and receiving.

When I arrived this morning at Madre, I was surprised to be greeted by five of my adolescent girls and about ten of the girls under age 8 on a nearby street, before I even had a chance to turn the corner and knock on the door.  I was greeted so brightly and so unexpectedly by the girls I accompany.  Each one wanted to give me a “besito” and lined up to have her turn to give me a big hug and a little kiss on the cheek.  They were on their way to get water from another location because we didn’t have any water at Madre and were unsure when we would receive water again.  As I started walking toward the house, I heard them sing one of the songs they love to sing right before eating lunch. 

“Bendita Señor la mesa.  Bendita Señor el pan.  Bendita Señor el agua y alimentos que nos da”
“Bless the Lord for this table.  Bless the Lord for this bread.  Bless the Lord for the water and the nourishment that He provides us”

Today, this song really hit home.  Thank you Lord for providing us with water, even when we don’t have any at our home.  The 70 girls living at Madre will not go thirsty. 

For me, it is unusual to see the girls outside of the walls of Madre.  Most of the time, they are not permitted to leave the premises unless they are one of the few who attend school.  Many of them have fleeting thoughts about escaping or leaving Madre de Dios.  They have ideas about what life for them would be like if they were on their own or involved in prostitution again and they truly believe that the walls of Madre are the only barriers to their free lives.  Madre may not be the picture of life they had in mind, but it sure is a place where the people inside really want the best for them and care for them as much as possible. 

Today, however, we were reminded of the people on the outside of our walls who remember us. Today at Madre de Dios, Christmas came a bit early.  Today, we were given six huge sacks filled with carrots from a local distributor.  It might sound silly to think that carrots can bring the happy, childish feelings that we often feel around Christmas, but it really was an amazing site.  It looked like Christmas morning. 

Most of my group’s adolescent girls went down to help sort the carrots…and seeing as though we had so many (literally a conejo’s (bunny’s) paradise), I was told that I could take some home.  Well, the girls were so excited to be able to give me something that they all came around with handfuls of carrots, saying “Señorita Kitzi! Here!” and then didn’t want to stop.  Each of them wanted to put carrots in my bag! After going around the circle, I had more than a few pounds of carrots.  When I go to the Mercado, I usually buy half a kilo of carrots…at the most, 1 kilo.  This was probably at least 5 pounds or more.  The bag was heavy! What was I going to do with all of these carrots?

I didn’t worry too much about how much I had in my bag just because there was no way we would be able to use all of the carrots at Madre.  They would have gone bad.  So, I decided to take them home and then figure out what to do with them.  I couldn’t eat them all, either! 

On my way home, carrying this huge bag of carrots in my left hand, I walked down the street like I do each day.  As I was walking, I gazed into the eyes of a beggar on the street.  He had seen my bag of carrots and his eyes lit up.  He started making noises and stuck out his hands with such excitement.  I looked at him and asked “¿Quieres algunas zanahorias?” and he just shook his head.  I took his hands and filled them with as many carrots as I possibly could.  Carrots were falling to the ground! He looked at me, smiled, and crunched his carrot between his remaining teeth.  I smiled and went on my way. 

As I neared my apartment and crossed the street, I noticed the lady who owns a little cart with candies, cigarettes, and snacks.  She and I have established a relationship over the past 4 months.  I may not know her name and she may not know mine, but each day (at least three times a day!) we greet each other as I pass by her cart.  I say “Buén Día, Señora” and put a hand on her shoulder as I walk by and smile and she says “Hola Señorita!!!” looking away from whatever she is doing to greet me. 

Just a few weeks ago, I went to buy credit for my cell phone at her stand.  Because she owns a small little cart, I always try to buy my cards from her as I truly appreciate her warmth towards me each day and I know that she can use the business.  Most times when I need a certain amount of credit, she has the cards available.  However, on this day, she didn’t have what I needed.  Even though she had a customer waiting behind me,  she ran to a shop three blocks down to get me the amount that I needed and ran back to make sure I wasn’t late for work.  This is something that I easily could have done myself, but she refused to let me go and insisted on getting me what it was that I had asked for.  What a true representation of the Bolivian people.  This little old lady ran just to make sure that my silly needs were taken care of.  She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well, as I walked back to my apartment, I approached her little stand on the side of the street.  She frequently wears the same clothes to work each day and works 7 days a week from 9am-9pm.  I looked at her and knew what to do.

“Hola Señora!” le dije.  “I have a lot of carrots here and I would love to share them with you because I cannot use all of them myself!  Would you like some carrots to take home to your family?”  She looked at me, looked at the bag, looked back at me and said “You would like to give them all to me?”  I said “Si, Señora! I’m going to just take a few for my apartment and then you can have the entire bag!”.  I took a few carrots out of the bag and handed her the heavy bag of carrots.  She looked at me in disbelief and just said “Gracias, Señorita”.  I smiled and went on my way.

It may seem like nothing, but what an impact it had on all of these people.  It makes me think of the many people it took to provide the carrots to these Bolivian people…even if I just start thinking from the moment the carrots arrived at Madre de Dios. 

For example:  

 The distributor dropped off the carrots at Madre de Dios.  The carrots are brought inside Madre by my group of adolescent girls.  These adolescent girls help to sort the carrots and put them into different categories and bags.  The Social Worker and the Spanish Nun who I work with, asked me if I would like to take some carrots home.  I said, of course, since I had used all of the carrots in my apartment.  The Spanish Nun hands me a big bag to fill with carrots. My adolescent girls want to help me fill the bag.  Each wanted a turn to put at least a handful of carrots into my bag—Martha, Mari, Rilda, Katerin, Rafaela, y Angela.  I walk back home with a huge bag of carrots. 

But, I wouldn’t be here in Bolivia or at Madre de Dios without my family, my financial and spiritual supporters, my friends, or FMS.  So, without all of these people involved, these two people would not have received the nourishment they were looking for that day. 

So, if you are reading this, I thank you so much. The "thank you’s" from the little cart owner and the beggar are for you, too. None of this is possible unless we support each other and recognize the effect that each of our actions and thoughts make.

I am here because you all made it possible for me to be here. I am on mission because you are on mission with me.

Never underestimate the small things and the way God works in each of us :)

With all my love,