Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bladders of steel

Bladders of steel

 I'll be frank. I pee more often than I did 30 years ago. For this reason the bus ride from Bogota to the CPT office always makes me feel a little anxious. In the past it took 9 to 10 hours. We were told that road construction was now taking it up to 14. I've never been a fan of bus bathrooms, but the ones in South and Central America can have serious problems. One time it was out of order altogether.

 My strategy is twofold. Number one is no coffee to avoid the caffeine crisis. Number two is to drink ginger tea for breakfast if I can or ginger ale at the bus station. Those are my preferred motion sickness meds.

 We boarded the Copetran bus a 9 AM. I made it through to the restaurant lunch break at 3 PM with no problem, the only stop on the whole trip. That was about the half way point. Around 6 PM I knew there was going to be a "situation". We had checked the bathroom on boarding to make sure it was functioning. It was actually a two-bathroom bus, men's and women's. So I made it back to the men's and found that the previous occupant had used the stand-and-pee method with only marginal success. Lacking any any cleaning supplies I decided to see if I could do any better than he did.

 Ladies, bear with me here as my male readers will appreciate the intricacies of peeing into a toilet bowl that is moving in various directions while your body is being thrown around in other directions at the same time by an bus careening, literally, down a mountain. It is not for the faint of heart. At the same time, it was hard to keep from laughing out loud, as I felt like I was in some bizarre carnival ride.

 I'll just say I did better than the other guy, and that we arrived safely in Barrancabermeja 12 hours after we left. Hallelujah.

  The office, briefly

 Many of you have asked in the past what we do when we are not on accompaniments out in the countryside. Currently there are six full-time members of the team living in the two houses that CPT rents, 2 Colombians, 2 Canadians, and two from the US. The houses are one-story cinder block row houses with corrugated cement roofs. In the bigger house that serves as the office there is an 8 foot wide "hall" that runs the length of one side of the building. This space serves as foyer, dining room and kitchen. [pictured] Off the hall are a living room, three bedrooms, and the room used for computer and tech stuff. The office room has the only air conditioner. There is a large patio with tall brick walls at the back where in evening some team members might enjoy a beer and play Scrabble. There are two windows in the front of the house, one in the back, and on some days it feels like you are living in a big brick oven.

 The official day in the office starts with a half hour spiritual reflection followed by a news update, which in turn is followed by an overview of the current work schedule: who's writing articles or journal entries, buying boat or bus tickets, Skyping a meeting with the Toronto office, or communicating with one of the several communities we are accompanying or other NGOs. In my case, the work list may include fixing some fans, shelving, or light fixtures. Julie and I both have had to spend time reading recent log entries to get up to speed on the project we'll be accompanying this year.

The team eats a mid-day meal together prepared on a rotating schedule. Other meals are on your own or informally together. House chores are divided up and charted. Accompaniments outside of town are assigned on a rotating basis.

 There are also local accompaniment events such as the one pictured that we were asked to participate in last night. This week is an annual series of memorial services for local victims of violence related to the on-going civil conflict. You readers who are members of our church will recognize the quilt banner I am delivering to our sister church in Armenia following our CPT work. We used it in the reflection we led. Also, last night I got to do some guitar playing and song leading.

Julie and I head out tomorrow on a four-day accompaniment to a little place called Garzal. More on that when we return.

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