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Fuzzy Brains, Suitcases, and Salsa: Preparing for Bolivia

My eyes ache and my brain is so fuzzy that I think, “This must be what it’s like to be drunk.”

It was half past midnight last night (this morning?) before I clicked off the little wire-necked light on my side of the bed. And then the alarm clock bashed into my dreams just five hours later. Between yoga class, laundry, writing, meal prep, a Bolivia team conference call, packing, art class, and a baseball game, a nap was but a figment of my addled imagination.

packing for Bolivia

My suitcase sprawls across a corner of our room as I try to piece together the puzzle of carry-on (not too heavy but with every contingency) vs checked bag (high probability of getting lost but has wheels).

Copies and more copies of passports, visas, itineraries, and phone number lists scatter across the cedar chest as I reshuffle the pile for me, the pile for him, and the ones to hide somewhere on my person for the entire trip… you know, in case everything gets lost but me… or I get lost from everything.

It’s the perfect picture of how I feel — scattered, puzzle still being pieced together, probably missing something here or there. How do you prepare for a life-changing trip, especially when the rest of the world is going on as normal?

All during dinner the kids poke at each other with forks, one keeps reminding another to eat their fruit in a tone of voice I am all too familiar with. A cup of water spills all over the floor despite the lid and straw, and the child who knocked it down just stares at it.

I raised my eyebrows high as I drove home, trying to force my eyes to stay open.  As the list of things remaining to be done today scrolls across my mind’s eye (laundry, showers, remake the boys’ beds, blog posts), the knot in my stomach twists and every cell in my body screams out for quiet and no interruptions. But the kids continue to be kids, alternately picking and arguing and riotously laughing… all at full volume.

Grit grind clench.

I stretch open my jaw and rub at the stress knotted up in front of my ears.

I don’t have to be grumpy.

I sit up a little straighter in my seat and take a deep breath.

It’s true I think. I can choose to show grace even though I can barely see straight. God will help me do that. I could ask for help.

Twenty minutes after their posted bedtime I close last bedroom door.

Thank you God, for keeping me from snapping… til that very last second. I sigh. The boy had screamed he needed to say something to me over and over until I finally cracked open the door. “Do you think that some day…” he began, but I cut him off. “No way. No no no no. You can wait to tell me that in the morning. GOOD NIGHT.”

The wall holds me up as I fall towards the couch.

Echoes of my prayer during final relaxation in this morning’s yoga class flit through my head. “God, I can’t function like this in Bolivia. I need your help to sleep, to remember the important things and blow off the insignificant, to be peaceful and calm, and to form coherent sentences. Give me your words, the words you want people to read. Allow me to encourage and help these people we’re about to meet in some way.  And especially help me to cut the American tether to the time and wait calmly in this culture that doesn’t prize efficiency and speed.”

A friend of mine encouraged me this week with these words, “Traveling overseas for the first time is like childbirth – you know you have to go through with it and you both want to and are terrified at the same time.  But through the process someone new is born.”

I crawl into bed at 10:30pm and sleep an hour past my alarm. The next day my brain is less fuzzy as I repack my suitcase again…. this time for warmer weather.  It’s easier to say yes when I’m rested.

At dinner, mouth full of taco, my son asks, “Mom, can we make the salsa that Chipotle serves?”

“Sure! Let’s do it when I get back from Bolivia.”

“Why do you keep saying ‘when I get back from Bolivia’ Mom?” my daughter grumbles.

I pause. “Well… I guess we could do it tomorrow. But we have to eat it all before we leave.”

The kids jump and cheer. “Just don’t make it too spicy, ok Mom?”

Looks like on my last day home, we’ll be making salsa. That’ll do nicely.


Proud to be a Bolivia BloggerOur team begins their journey to Cochabamba Bolivia Saturday morning and arriving Monday morning after many connecting flights and layovers. Please pray for us in these last few days – the anticipating and the preparing is some of the hardest parts of a trip like this.

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