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Looking back


I can’t help but remember what I was doing this time last year.  It’s weird because in some ways things have changed so much and in other ways, they are still the same.

For starters, I live alone now.  Last year, at this time, I was living with three other people.  We had just moved into the Centro Social and out of our host family’s houses.  I spent my days decorating my bedroom, going to the Mercado and trying to figure out what fruits and veggies I dared to eat, and otherwise, trying to get used to life on my own.

Eating a "tukumana" for the first time.

Hady eating a “tukumana” for the first time.

This year, I moved in to my apartment and already had 99.9% of the things I needed when I moved in.  By my second day here, it was business as usual.  And even though I‘m in a different part of town (and need to shop in new places), I already know what I like and where to get it.  I’m definitely more comfortable.

Then I think about my friends and who I keep company with.  When I first got here, I took every chance I had to meet new people and be social.  This year, things are a little different.  I still like socializing with the larger missioner community but I have my close friends and that’s who I spend most of my time with.  I’ve also discovered, over the last year, that I love spending time alone.  Planning a night at home by myself has become one of my favorite things to do.  That just seems unbelieveable to me.  But it’s true.  I enjoy the time alone and actually really look forward to it whenever I can squeeze it in.

Then, there are my ministry sites.  What can I say?  I have grown to love my ministry sites more and more over the last year.  I didn’t realize when I selected my sites last year how much at home I would grow over the next year.  I love that I have history with the folks I work with.  That we can have conversations and say “remember when…”

When my aunt was here last month, it made me realize how special my relationships are with the women here and how much I wanted to share that with her.  The best part about having the history with the people here is that they know me.  They know when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m feeling sick, when something is wrong.  And they care.  I love my Bolivian family and friends!

Technically I am still deciding whether I will stay here another year although officially my contract ends at the end of 2015.  They are a lot of good reasons to stay here.  But I would be lying if I didn’t tell you some of the challenges I still face.

After being here over a year, I’m still afraid to go out at night.  And I still get nervous when I get in the taxi to go home.  I still feel like I have to pay a lot of attention to what’s going on around me wherever I am, regardless of the time of day.  I still can’t eat whatever I want to eat.  I have to think it over before I can accept a meal – Who cooked it?  Was it prepared in a hygienic way?  Is there anyway it could have been contaminated by non-clean water?  My worse fear continues to be that I will get amoebas and be sick for days.   That and getting hit by a car here.  Cochabamba is not a pedestrian-friendly city.

Thanks for joining me as I looked back at my last year here and took a stroll down memory lane.  When I think about where I was last year and where I am now, I am grateful.  I’m also pleasantly surprised at how settled in I am.  This confirms it – I have always said I can live anywhere in the world – and one year later, I stand by those words.

Paz y Bien from Cochabamba!

Gift and note from (fellow missioner) Nate when I first got amoebas last year

Gift and note from (fellow missioner) Nate when I first got amoebas last year.

A self-described “Hija de Brooklyn y Puerto Rico,” Hady Mendez is the youngest of four daughters raised by Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, NY. A proud Jasper, Hady graduated from Manhattan College in Riverdale, NY, before starting a corporate career in technology that lasted for more than 20 years. Hady has a true passion for world travel and social justice and recently returned from two years of mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia.