“Not for the faint-hearted.”
That’s what the Lonely Planet guidebook says about visiting Bolivia. The writer is referring to things like frequent vehicle accidents, cocaine-related activities, clever pickpockets, etc.
Last month Jake, Daughter #1, and I traveled to Bolivia. We went to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the camp where Jake was the director for 21 years.
I wasn’t afraid of the roads, the drugs, or the robbers, but I was faint-hearted.
I didn’t want to go.
Was it because I was remembering past mistakes and struggles?
Was it connected to worrying about forgetting my Spanish?
Maybe I didn’t want to see the poverty and suffering or hear the inevitable sad stories.
I don’t know exactly why I was apprehensive beforehand, but I was, so it was a huge surprise when gladness overtook me as we landed at the airport.
I couldn’t stop smiling . . . Bolivia!
I felt I’d come home.
Besides the delight of the special weekend reunion at camp, I loved seeing the beautiful city and parks and mountains . . . speaking and hearing the Bolivian Spanish (I remembered it!) . . . the delicious foods . . . the treasured friends . . . and the constant stream of good memories shared with our daughter.
My heart was strong with joy and gratitude those three weeks.
Then it was over. We said goodbye to Daughter #1 at the Cochabamba airport and flew home.
Those first days home, I found myself stuck on the couch, missing Bolivia, the people, the significant and beautiful experiences. I was listening to negative thoughts, like Sarah, you are old; your life’s meaning is over. and I was seeing lots of yucky mold. (While we were gone, mildew flourished throughout our house.)
I was faint-hearted indeed.
Years ago at that same Cochabamba airport, I was in a crowd of people who had come to farewell us. I don’t recall which leave-talking it was – could have been when Daughter #1 went to college – but I know it was a sad, faint-hearted time.
I’m not sure who it was who hugged me, but I clearly remember how it helped me when that friend whispered in my ear: Valiente!
Izosh! as they say in Ethiopia.
Be strong! my English Bible says.
Getting ready to go to Bolivia this time, God inspired me to paint little tiles with that word ‘valiente’ on them. It was meant to encourage friends there, like that word had encouraged me. One of the tiles I messed up, so I left it sitting on our table, and here it is, urging me to remember again. Valiente, Sarah. Izosh! Be strong!
Maybe those words of warning in the Bolivia travel guide apply to anywhere on this lonely planet.
Life on earth is “not for the faint-hearted.” Troubles and sorrows and injustices and pain abound.
But God, without changing the earth, can transform a faint-hearted girl into a faith-hearted one.
He does change fear and self-pity into joy and gratitude.
I know because I got off the couch.
And all that mold and mildew is washed away.