Home / Stories / Mission Monday: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

Mission Monday: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.


 Missioner Nora Pfeiffer is not the only one moving on from their community in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  And saying goodbye to neighbors just makes you realize how much you appreciated the company.

I find myself recently reminded of the words from the Joni Mitchell song “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you got till it’s gone…” It’s true, isn’t it? In Absence is where I often encounter how much I appreciated someone or something. I could talk about many people, but today I’d like to talk about my neighbors who have moved away, the kids I often talked about (even sometimes complained about their noise or pestering) who have shared the building I live in.

When a child gets a really bad burn and doesn’t have the resources to get all the proper follow-up treatment or surgeries, they often end up in a program that helps Bolivian children in their recovery and recuperation. This program used to have its facilities in the building I live in, but recently they finished the construction of a house, with lots of space and built just for them, which means that they no longer are my neighbors, and I miss them, oh how I miss them.

I miss walking in the door and being greeted by loud shouts of “NORA, NORA, NORA!” or depending on who is there “MORWA, MORWA, MORWA!” accompanied by arm waving and dancing. I miss going into the hallway to go to the bathroom from my room and having a ball kicked by me because I’ve unknowingly walked into a soccer game. I miss cleaning my room and having so many helpers just because they like to help not because I ask them…and then those that don’t help play make-believe cars running around the ground with my shoes on their hands.

I miss all the hugs and kisses. I miss baking cakes together for peoples’ birthdays and seeing the eagerness and joy in their eyes at being able to participate in the process and enjoy the fruits of their labor afterwards. I miss their silly jokes and hair styles. I miss the help in the garden. I miss seeing them grow month to month..
I miss the energy, the LIFE they gave this place, the LIFE they gave to me. Sure I complained about the noise super early in the morning, or the nagging, but the truth of the matter is that these neighbors of mine made all the difference to me. They made it “home”. That aspect has gone with them, now it feels like a building in the middle of the city.

When we chat with friends or family, we may ask how work is going, how family is, how our hobbies are, but it’s rare that someone asks you upon meeting or reconnecting, “How are your neighbors?” Despite this, it’s actually a pretty important part of our lives, or at least it can be, and if it’s not, why not? Having a good relationship with my neighbors helps me feel more connected and increases my sense of belonging and security. Since I am coming upon the end of my time living here, maybe this is good as it helps me to disconnect. I still miss them though. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you got till it’s gone…”

5 Things I’m Grateful for Today: the two plus years I’ve had to be a neighbor to the kids recovering from burns; the cereal Craklin’ Oat Bran; music that lifts my spirit and makes me dance; getting 3 pineapples and a little watermelon all for less than $2 this morning at the market; my friends and family who bring me so much love and joy, thank you!

To learn more about Nora’s mission in Bolivia, read her blog A Walk in Bolivia.

Nora Pfeiffer is a returned missioner who served in Cochabamba, Bolivia from 2009 to 2012. She currently works at Franciscans International – Bolivia.