You’d think after spending so much time in the Southern Hemisphere, that I would be used to the casual, relaxed way of life. But I’ve realized you can take the girl out of the type A society, but you can’t take the type A out of the girl.
Friday morning I walk in to work and am told I’ll be gone until the afternoon with our aftercare workers. We were going to drive about an hour and a half outside of La Paz and take pictures of five different clients for our December aftercare graduation. I hurriedly gathered my things and hopped in the front seat of the car.
Over the next five hours, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had been clueless about this photography shoot – the five families we were visiting also didn’t have a clue.
As we struck out at house after house, I found myself wondering why we hadn’t called the families before. But that’s not the way they work here. So I decided to do it their way, to enjoy it for what is was worth, and to literally just go along for the ride.
We are entering what is known as the rainy season in Bolivia. Even now as I write, I’m watching dark clouds creep in over the mountaintops toward my window. On Friday it was no different. As we drove up to the final house of the excursion, it began raining. We took a quick inventory and realized that I – naturally – was the only one with an umbrella. There were four of us in the car. It didn’t matter anyways – my tiny umbrella proved useless as soon as it began to hail.
This was client 5 out of 5 so I didn’t bother asking if we had called ahead of time. But the hilarity of the morning was taken to a whole new level when one of my coworkers said this client lives on the second floor of the building. And that the only way to get their attention was by throwing rocks at her window. Rocks. During a hailstorm. I wish I could say they were joking.
What a sight that must have been – launching rocks up to the second floor during a hailstorm, getting soaked, looking even more ridiculous than we felt. Somehow eventually, the family was able to differentiate the sound of a stone from a hailstone, and they came downstairs to let us in. It didn’t even matter that the client wasn’t there to take pictures. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Driving back to the office on icy, wet roads, feeling icy and wet ourselves, I couldn’t help but think how accurately that situation describes my life and my job here. So often I feel like I’m throwing rocks during a hailstorm, trying to be noticed, wondering if what I’m doing is making a difference at all. I feel like I’ve learned something, that I’m understanding more, and then something happens that makes me question my competency and my qualifications. Life here is a constant dance of one step forward, two steps back. Even in our job, it at times feels like a lost cause. A conviction every now and then can’t possibly make a dent in the number of perpetrators who are living without the consequences of their actions. It’s easy to become discouraged and to feel like you are throwing rocks in a hailstorm, completely at the mercy of the powers that be.
One part of the day I haven’t written about though was the one girl we were able to find. I took pictures of Raquel* in front of her home with her uniform and little backpack on and a purple scarf that was probably knit by her mother. Her case isn’t closed yet, but it wouldn’t have even gotten this far if it weren’t for IJM Bolivia. And so when I looked back on the pictures of Raquel – the only pictures from that excursion – I can’t help but think it is worth it, if even for that one girl, for that one conviction. Hers was a stone worth launching into a storm, hoping that something – anything – would come from it. And it’s stories like that which make picking up another rock worth it, even when it seems pointless.