Eliphas Daudi sent me another email today. He made me realize that even in a brief time each one of us can touch someone’s life and make a difference. Being present to the opportunities around us can change you and another person.
I was so impressed with Eliphas when I met him at Tumani Junior School in Africa last year.
Tumaini Junior School is a private non-profit primary school in Karatu where all grades, nursery through 7th, are taught in English. Recognizing the importance of teaching the English language to help train the future leaders of Tanzania, founder Modest Bayo and his wife, Lightness, set up their first classroom in their small home with 17 four and five year olds in 2004. With no outside financial help but aided by various community members, they dug trenches, laid foundations, mixed mortar, set bricks and built the building by hand. Today there are nearly 500 pupils, both boarding and day students, at Tumaini — still the only primary school in the village of Karatu that teaches in English. There is a great video about the school at https://vimeo.com/103253819.
Eliphas asked me to help him get more information so he could help his students with physical and psychological challenges. When I got home I contacted a colleague who had the information he needed about autism. I sent him articles, research and web links.
That began our inspiring connection. He has such a passion to help others that I wanted to help him. Although he had little time with all he was already doing for the students I encouraged him to get as much education as he could.
Here is his latest email.
I’m very happy again to come back to you, thank you for your advice and encouragement for my career development. As you advised me to use my education to help the society.
Yes, now I’m working by attending and visiting homes for children and adults with disabilities every day evening after class hours and I hope from next week I will be attending them here at Tumaini Junior school once every Friday as the Director of the school offered me a classroom for that purpose during the evening. I also have some of students in the school who daily receive my service and I thank God they are doing very well.
Also you advised me to keep on studying, this is real and to start with, I already set a fixed timetable which allow me to study everyday for 2 hours and I realized that many extraordinary staffs are hidden in books.I went through your website, www.RebeccaCooper.com. I read and I watch your videos and see again a lot of amazing things you are doing there. Sometimes I ask my self how you thought and come up with very interesting Ideas and establishing a beautiful rehabilitation facility, www.RebeccasHouse.org that I’m sure its very unique, for sure you inspired me and my friends who I shared a visit to your website, I wish to be like you one day.
Thank you again for your concern I will keep you know how I’m doing here and please don’t be tired of giving me your advice.I attached a yesterday photo with some of my clients.
There are people all over the world who are trying to make a difference. In a time when we only hear of the negative things in the world, it is good to remember there are people like Eliphas.
Every year as the Holidays approach I think back on the Christmases of past years. I imagine other people do the same. This can invoke feelings of joy or sorrow. I chose to focus on the positive ones because that is what I want to remember about this Christmas in future years. I know I can make this holiday what I want depending on what I chose to focus on and the attitude I take towards people, situations and events.
In some of the past years I didn’t know I had the ability to make this Christmas the one I wanted to remember with joy next Christmas. I succumbed to the melancholy of the first negative thought that came to my mind and spent much of the season ruminating on my sorrows.
It is sad to remember my loved ones who are no longer with me. I have had a lot of loss in my life. I lost my father at 4 ½ and my mother was not able to cope with two little girls so we grew up with our grandparents. I lost my Grandpaw the summer of the sixth grade and my Grandmaw on my 16th birthday. Life growing up was not easy. I do however remember good times during those years in spite of the heartache in my life then.
One of the best Christmas I remember was also at one of the lowest parts of my life. It was after Grandpaw died on November 22nd and Grandmaw was so sad she was not getting out of bed as the Christmas Season approached. My sister, Rhonda, and I found an old silver Christmas tree in our grandparents’ attic. We also found a color wheel that reflected different colors from the aluminumtree. We stayed up all night making ornaments out of construction paper and we made Grandmaw a Christmas card. We set out a glass of milk and cookies.
The next morning we got Grandmaw out of bed. When she saw what we had done she cried and hugged us. She never spent another day in bed. Today I know that the giving of an act of love is so much more rewarding than the best store bought gift. Don’t get me wrong, I do love presents, but unless it has love attached from the giver it does not mean much.
It is such a contrast to remember a time in my life where there were so many presents under the tree that is was obscene. There was arguing, chaos and anxiety so thick you could cut it with a knife. No one took the time to even acknowledge the gift they opened but hurried on to the next gift. There was a pile of wrapping paper and a pile of gifts left on the floor as everyone scurried off. It seemed so meaningless and sad to me.
I want to acknowledge that I have regrets of how I was during earlier Christmases. One of my regrets I remember in Christmas past was the need to make sure everything went so smoothly that I couldn’t find one positive moment. I now realize that if I am trying to make sure everything is perfect I have to be vigilant of anything going wrong. It is like trying to not think of a yellow banana and now that is all I think about. Even not wanting bad things to happen makes me think of the bad things. These thoughts grow in my head so much that sometimes I actually think that is what creates exactly what I did not want.
I know today that trying to make everything go a certain way is exhausting, controlling and not living in the flow of now. If I am always thinking of taking the next step in my plan, I miss the now. I believe now is the only place I can find true peace, joy and love. If I am not present now I miss what is happening all around me. I am forfeiting now for the thoughts in my head that can be relived over and over again, so much that I am letting my life pass me by.
I have learned to live in the flow of ever day existence. This is one of the greatest gifts I have given to my Self. I look at life as an adventure and wonder what will happen today. I could worry about what will happen or I can be excited to see what God has panned for me today. When I live life like this it is exciting and I do not miss the little miracles that are happening around me all day long. I wish you a miraculous Christmas this year. I hope you make your memories of this Christmas rich for future contemplation.
My trip to Savannah to be on TV is another adventure. I still love the south. People are so nice here and seem to be more centered than the hustle and bustle of California. It’s funny that I say that because I have carved out a sanctuary for myself right in my back yard that I become more centered in the mornings. It is true that it matters less of where you are physically than it does mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Maybe it is just easier when I am away from the daily routines and stresses of everyday life. Maybe it is because I realize how important it is for me to be centered when I am trying to bring awareness to the devastating illness of eating disorders. I can’t believe I actually will get in front of the cameras and the nervousness goes away as I focus of the importance of the message. Even if one person hears something that gives them pause to reevaluate their relationship with food and them Self it is worth it.
Having such a mission is exciting. I never imagined that the worse thing I encountered in my life would also become my greatest gift. If I did not know first hand how crippling eating disorders were I would not be so passionate about helping others to avoid these pitfalls.
The general public does not even know what an eating disorder is. They think it is someone starving them Self to be thin or someone who should just say ‘No’ to the food. They think they just need to quit eating so much, go on a diet, exercise more or stop the disordered eating behaviors. What’s more disturbing is that so many people whose lives are so compromised by disordered eating do not even know they have a problem. Some people have lived their life struggling with their weight, diets, body image and obsessive thinking about these things that they think it is normal. Eating disorder awareness is where alcohol and substance abuse was 20 years ago.
When I first started working with patients with disordered eating fifteen years ago I worked with people who were having problems with yo-yo dieting. That is why I wrote the book, Diets Don’t Work. By that time I had years of recovery from an eating disorder myself. I listened to these patients with a different ear than most therapists. My patients were describing the self-hatred, loss of control, obsessive thinking, and suppressing feelings and stress with food. They described how this was affecting their relationships with their families and their Self. They described not being truly available to those around them because of always thinking about losing weight, finding the right diet or beating them Self up because they had once more slipped with their diet.
The statistics are that 66% of Americans are overweight and 1/3 of these people are obese. Most of our health care cost is associated with the results of disordered eating. People are spending 60 billion dollars a year on diets, weight loss programs, diet foods, pills and products but as a nation we are more over weight than any time in history. Eating disorders are skyrocketing. We keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. This is insanity. We keep looking for an external solution to an internal problem.
I am going to Atlanta tomorrow to speak at a conference for mental health professionals about recognizing disordered eating, understanding the neurochemistry changes that exacerbate eating disorders and how to treat this disorder. Again I am so fortunate to have this opportunity. There are so many excellent professionals who have not been able to obtain treatment information or even be aware of this disorder in their patients. I hope I can ignite the desire to learn more about eating disorders so they can help so many more people than I can alone.
I asked the front desk to call me a ‘radio’ taxi and asked a porter to help me with my luggage. The porter, Jeremy, is someone I have come to know during my stay in Buenos Aries. He is such a kind, helpful, very tall, black gentleman with a British accent. Jeremy has helped me interpret the language many times.
I even took a picture of a protest across from where I was having lunch at the obelisk. I took it back to him to see if it was safe. He read the protest signs and said it was safe. The protest was about bringing more awareness to mental health disorders. I went back and joined the demonstration.
Jeremy and the other staff always greeted me when I arrived back at the hotel from one of my solo excursions. Most of the other conference attendees had departed two days ago. It is so much quieter now. I am so glad I took some extra time to stay and experience Buenos Aries, Tigris, and even Montevideo, Uruguay.
This trip had been such an experience in so many ways. I have learned a lot about mental health, other cultures, connecting with other peoples, and my Self. I experienced such a variety of emotions, intense fear, peace, excitement, and bewilderment. I really began to be so conscious of the now. I don’t know if it was because I was so out of place in a strange country, my experience with the fear I experienced on my first day or really reviewing and remember my events so I could continue my process of writing my blog of my experiences here. It was like I was forced to pay attention to my surroundings and intuition. At home it seems like I am always going from one activity to another.
I saw a tweet from someone who was describing what she was eating or not eating throughout the day. It was clear she was in the grips of her eating disorder. It brought me back to how life used to be when I too was consumed with the thoughts of food, weight, diets, body image or exercise.
I can now use that awareness to enter into the world of my patients. I ask about how much time they spending thinking about these things, engaging in the behaviors and recovering from the many episodes of disordered eating. I remember the journals I kept at that time. It consisted of the date, what I ate, what time, the calories, carbohydrates, and fat content of each morsel that entered my mouth. Tell me I wasn’t obsessed.
Then there were days that I binged and I would put an X through the day and record how many times I purged usually with a + sign after the number because I lost count. I went into the eating disorder world of numbness and avoided all my feelings, friends, activities and thoughts that just took too many coping tools that I did not posses. I lived a life in eating disorder behaviors or trying to avoid succumbing to the disorder. Either way the eating disorder was what made up my reality of living then.
Here in Argentina my daily meditations seemed to bring me more peace than at home. But here I can reflect and kept making that conscious contact with my God all day long. It was like I had a partner everywhere I went. Here I have time to write, to connect with my Self and be prepared for whatever my adventure would be for the day.
I hope I continue my pace and awareness when I come home to my everyday life. I believe I would have so much to offer from this place of stillness.
Before getting into the taxi I asked the doorman to take a picture of the “radio” taxi, driver and Jeremy. I wanted a picture of the right kind of taxi to get in Argentina to show my friends in contrast to the one I originally took. I need to admit that it also felt comforting to have the identity of the driver recorded on my cell phone that I could blast out to the world if things went awry again. I don’t know how that would really help but that was my insurance. I also did not want to forget the kindness I experienced from the staff at the Panamericano Hotel. I am sure I was a pain at times getting them to verify safety and translations.
As we drove away the staff waved goodbye. It is amazing how such a small gesture can mean so much. Carlos made his way to the highway through the traffic of the bustling city. It was a beautiful day. Although the seasons in Argentina are exactly the opposite time of the year than they are in the United States this was a beautiful winter day in the low 70s with a clear blue sky.
Carlos did not speak English so we were driving in silence as he listened to his music and I enjoyed the passing scenery. I could barely hear the music but I loved the melody and the beat. I pointed to the music and gestured for him to turn it up. He smiled and obliged. Half of the songs were in English and half were in Spanish. We both were tapping to the beat. I realized what a great experience this taxi ride was right now as he sang along with the Spanish songs and because the radio was very loud, I sang along to the English melodies.
Anyone who has heard me sing knows that the music needs to be very loud. As an adolescent my sister, Rhonda who sat next to me in church would whisper in my ear not to sing so loud because I was embarrassing her. I learned at an early age that singing is not one of my gifts. Sometimes I will sing even worse than normal in the car with my husband or her just to be funny.
Carlos would glance back and smile. We were both rocking out to the same tunes and we did not understand each other’s languages. Music truly is the common denominator. At the airport, as I got out of the taxi, Carlos ejected the CD he had made himself and placed it in my hand. The music would be a great reminder of Buenos Aires and a simple experience that was so memorable.
I am so glad that I did not allow the first taxi ride from the airport prevent me from having the experience that I had just had. What a beautiful gesture!
I sat on the plane reflecting on my 9 days in Argentina. I felt joy and gratefulness for the journey that I had experienced. I also really experienced a longing to write again. I had been writing because it was required of me, but I realized in that moment that the information was coming from my intellect. My recent articles were about creating awareness for eating disorders, disordered eating, food addictions and my treatment center, Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs in Southern California. The writing came from a place of helping people but it was missing one key ingredient . . . me.
I had totally separated from my Self and that still small voice inside. I was listening to what others told me to write and when to write. It was beginning to feel like a chore instead of the truths that came to mind when I was following my inner direction. I know we need to cooperate with others, but I was forsaking my Self for what others were wanting from me. It was no one’s fault but my own. I hadn’t even seen it until I got some distance from my ordinary life.
It was such an honor to be able to talk to so many mental health professionals around the world in Argentina. Before I left, my husband told me to be very careful in South America. He was afraid someone would kidnap me and hold me for ransom. I think he has seen too many movies with that theme, but it did register in the back of my mind. In fact when I was in a few of these predicaments, the thought, “This could make a great movie script” did cross my mind.
Three hours later we docked in Montevideo. Now surely I will find my tour. I frantically looked for tour signs but again there were none. I showed a uniformed man my ticket. He pointed to a bus. Again no one spoke English around me, but there was a tour director who described everything in three different languages and one of the languages was English.
People got off and on the bus at different locations. I was given a schedule of pick ups and where the stops were. I finally got off the bus two stops before the arrival back at the docks. This brought back memories of when I was a child living with my grandmother in Huntington, West Virginia.
My sister, Rhonda and I had gone to live with my grandparents when I was 6 years old and Rhonda was four. I was about 14 years old when I learned I could walk about one-half mile to a bus stop. I bought a token that I could use all day. I would get on one bus after another with no clear destination in mind. I was on an adventure! Sometimes I would drag my little sister with me but she didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I did. We always found our way back home to our stop. What possessed me with this spirit of adventure even then?
I remember once my sister, a couple of friends, and me was trekking along the banks of the Ohio River and came upon an old canoe. I was always the leader of these excursions and suggested we take the canoe out on the Ohio river. We got a few feet from shore and the canoe started filling with water. Everyone jumped out of the boat and started making their way back to shore, but not me. I said, ”I am the captain of this ship and I will go down with it.” I forgot to mention that I could not swim. The current in the Ohio River can be pretty swift. The canoe sank and I was able to dog paddle back to shore.
I would take my sister on hikes up in the hills beside our house. My grandparents lived with the Ohio River on one side and forested hills on the other. It was a great neighborhood. I didn’t know at the time, but we were very poor. There were other people across the street that had bigger more beautiful homes, but it did not seem to matter much where you lived, at least not in my eyes. Some of my friends lived there and some had small houses like we did.
On these hikes there were times when we would come upon a snake or fall off a cliff, but for the most part we just enjoyed the beauty of the mountains. There was a meadow that was so beautiful in the spring when it would turn into a field of flowers. There was a big rock just at the opening of the meadow. Rhonda and I would sit on that rock enjoying the warmth of the rock and the sun and talk about how pretty it was. There were no houses within miles. We had packed our lunch and would eat it there sometimes. We would be gone all day, but always made it back home before nightfall.
During my stop in Montevideo, I though I should get some money exchanged. I found an exchange place and gave the guy sixty US dollars. He gave me pesos. I didn’t realize it at the time but these pesos were a little different then the pesos I had been getting in Argentina. Since I was able to put my lunch on a credit card I didn’t use my pesos. Later when I got back to the hotel no one would accept these pesos. They were Uruguay pesos, not Argentina pesos. I was told that it would better to get the peso exchanged at the international airport. I did remember to do this at the Atlanta airport were I went through customs for my arrival back to the states. They told me the pesos were worth six-teen dollars. I asked, “How could that be because I had exchanged the pesos for sixty dollars.” He said’ “You got taken.” I still have the Uruguay pesos if anyone is interested.
At 7:30pm I got back on the ship to Argentina. I wondered how I would get back to the hotel when we landed at eleven o’clock at night. I guess the only official tour had been the bus ride around the town in Montevideo. I had given up on meeting anyone or someone directing me to the right location. I hoped I make it back to the hotel.
Now I began to wonder, “What do I do now?” Should I try to find a way back to the hotel or go on the ship to Uruguay? This is one of those times I wished that Scotty would beam me up from the movie, Star Track. I wanted to dematerialize and reappear in Southern California, preferably in my own bed. My adventurous side won out.
I climbed the steps to customs. I had a moment where it occurred to me that I was glad I had no luggage to carry up theses stairs. My second thought was, “oh no, maybe I should have brought luggage. Where is Uruguay?”
I went through customs and back to the terminal where other people were waiting. There was a little coffee area so I asked for coffee. The girl behind the counter spoke English. She understood me! I asked where should I go now and showed her my ticket. She looked at the ticket they had given me downstairs and said I should go to Pier 1. There was a long line of people getting onto a ship that actually looked like a small cruise ship. Maybe I would find my tour group on the ship and we would tour the coastline.
While I was in this line of strangers a woman came up to me and asked, “Are you an America? I thought it was pretty obvious because I had my passport in my hand and I probably looked a little out of place. I said, “Yes, can I help you?” She did not know any other words in English. “What is going on?” I thought. I let her walk in front of me and kept my distance. I looked at the man behind me and he smirked shaking his head. I get it now! She was just trying to cut in line. That was fine with me. I thought she might be trying to pickpocket me.
Inside the ship it looked like the inside of an airplane with big leather seats. Still there was no one with a sign to designate a tour group meeting anywhere. I sat between two elderly gentlemen at the front of the ship. I watched the sun coming up. It was really a splendid sight with orange streaks showing through the clouds. I noticed the ratio of men to women was about 10 to 1. Maybe they were going to work in Montevideo.
I thought about how different it would be if I were still in my eating disorder where I could not tolerate any unpleasant feeling. I knew I was stressed and had cortisol coursing through my body. I decided to meditate. I put my sunglasses on and closed my eyes. Other people around me were either sleeping or reading. Meditation has been such a big part of my recovery. I have been meditating for almost thirty years now. Not only does it release stress, but I always feel more connected to God and on the right path for the day and it reminds me to watch for the miracles all around me.
When I opened my eyes I saw no land in sight. I was beginning to wonder how far was I going? I was glad I had my paperback in my purse. I was really enjoying this book, ‘To Heaven and Back’ by Mary Neal, MD. It is about a medical doctor on an kayaking adventure in Chile where she had a terrible accident going over a waterfall and actually died. Being a skeptic about nonscientific matters she described her time in heaven. It was very much like the book I read on an earlier trip, ‘Proof of Heaven’ by Eben Alexander, MD. I applaud these professionals who are willing to reconcile neuroscience and spirituality. Both of these books are on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I awoke early. I was going on another adventure. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually going to another country. I was supposed to be in the lobby to meet for the tour at 6:30am. My telephone rang at 6:15. The front desk told me my ride was here. What did she mean that, “my ride was here?” The tour was supposed to meet at 6:30am in the lobby. I rushed down and the desk pointed me to a man who did not speak English. I took my tour ticket to the front desk and asked if this man was the ‘tour.’ It did not make sense to me. Where were the other people? Why would our tour guide not speak English?
Juan, at the front desk said he did not know anything about a tour. There were two men in the lobby speaking to each other in Spanish who looked my way. The bellhop asked, “Are you Rebecca Cooper? This man is asking for you.” I asked the bellhop if he would translate. I asked, “Is there anyone else going on the tour? It is only 6:25am and we are not even suppose to meet till 6:30.” The bellhop and man communicated some more and I was told I was the only one going.
The tours I signed up for months ago were advertised with the conference I was attending in Argentina. There were 5000+ people attending this conference and I was the only one going on a tour?
I went out the door. It was still dark. The driver opened an unmarked regular car door. Ok, maybe it was because of my first taxi ride day in Argentina that I started feeling apprehensive or else something was terribly wrong. I got into the car and prayed. “How do I get myself into these things? Is it because I am just too fearful and worrying or should I be afraid?”
We drove along a disserted street where all the stores had their iron garage doors shut over the storefronts. There was trash in the streets and a few people milling around. It looked familiar; like the place where the taxi driver took me to steal my money. Up ahead I saw blue flashing lights. Later I noticed that all the police cars have their blue flashing lights on all the time, not just when there is something wrong. My first thought was, “Should I jump out and get into the police car?” The taxi pulled up behind the police car at the red light and the police car drove through the red light.
The driver finally stopped at the shipping docks. I asked, “Where do I go?” He kept waving towards a door to the left of me. I was glad to get out of this car, but where was I going now? I had imagined being on a tour with other mental health professionals from around the world getting to know each other and listening to a Translator, who also interpreted in English, about the sights we were seeing.
I entered a huge terminal for ships with long lines of people waiting their turn at the windows. Now what? I had hoped there would be someone there with a sign with the name of the tour company or my name. But no, no one was looking for me and there were no tour signs in sight.
All I had was a ticket that had been emailed to me. No one there knew what the ticket was for. No one around me in line understood English. I got to the window and they kept asking for my ticket. This one didn’t seem to be the right one. An English man standing in another line came to the window at that time. He heard me trying to make sense of all this. After he finished his transaction he came to me and looked at my ticket. He said, “This ticket says ‘flight,’ was I suppose to be flying to Montevideo?” I hadn’t a clue.
This was not like any tour I had ever been on. The ticket agent took my passport to her supervisor. I could see them talking. They looked up my reservation with my passport number and yes I was in the right place. I was taking a boat to Uruguay and I needed to go to the immigrations office and go through customs. What?
After I finished my blog yesterday I realized I would be late meeting Ruth. We had arranged to meet before the first session in the lounge area to the right of the hotel’s reception. I emailed her that I would meet her after the session instead of before, in front of the door to the conference room. The session was about spirituality and it was one I did not want to miss. The title of the session was ‘Spirituality, Culture and Mental Health Prevention.’
Because I was late all the headsets had been given out. I did not think that the lady understood that I wanted a translation headset, but she did understand me and was trying to tell me there were no more headsets available. Some one behind me understood my English and translated it to me. I was so disappointed.
Why were things becoming so difficult? Was it my negative thinking? Most of the last few years of my life things just seem to flow. In fact I call this “living in the stream of goodness.” I realized I was still in some fear, which I believe is the absence of faith. I made a mental shift or as some people in 12-step meetings said I “let go and let God” or “turned it over.”
I actually thought of attending the session anyway because just the energy in the room would be good. I have found that a crowd of people assembled for spiritual purposes have a healing kind of energy as a group conscious. I have attended 12-step meetings in different parts of the world where I had not understood the language, but I always could make out some of the dialogue and had an uncanny feeling of peace. I have experienced that same sensation in cathedrals, mosques, and temples and especially in the old city in Jerusalem.
This year has been such a blessed experience. In February I was asked to present at the 2013 Israeli Association of Eating Disorders Conference in Jerusalem, Israel on Eating Disorders and Food Addictions. One day I hired a tour guide to take me around the city and show me the sights. You see so much more with a guide and also get an explanation of the historical value of what you were seeing. We went through little allies and down old worn steps to see places where Jesus walked. There were some places in the old city that I felt like I could just drank in the energy of those places. The old city is a wonderful place where the four great religions are all residing inside the city walls and working peacefully together.
It feels safe there even with the presence of young military men and women standing around with machine guns. The citizens are required to serve two years of military training. It was a somewhat tense period in world affairs at that time; the Egyptians political unrest and other happenings of the ‘Arab Spring’ was in progress, but I was told that I would be safe in the old city.
I had an amazing experience on top of a building there that overlooked the entire area. There was a group of soldiers listening to their commanders. In the background the Dome of the Rock was in full view. I took a picture of a soldier wearing a Yakama with his gun strapped to his side gazing at the Dome of the Rock. What a contrast in themes; the Holy of Holies, a place that is supposed to be the most holy place on earth in the background with a soldier contemplating his military missions. Over history there have been so many religious wars to possess that site. Sometimes religions just do not make sense to me. Why kill one another in the name of spirituality?
While I was standing in that position with my camera, church bells started toiling, at the same time I heard the Muslims call to prayer over the loud speakers. A flock of birds ascended into the crystal blue sky at the same time. It was truly a magical moment to experience that I will always remember.
As I turned to walk away from the session I had been so excited about attending, another person who apparently understood English said, “This lecture is in English.” There are not many of us who are presenting in English here, but the translation headsets have completely removed that obstacle.
As I entered the conference room I spotted only one seat across the room. I sat down and then there was a rush of new people wanting to attend. The chairman of the session told the mass at the entry to come in and sit on the floor like they had done at my session the day before. Argentina evidently does not have ordinances about total occupancy allowed in a room. Then there was another wave of more people assembling at the door. The chairman again told the people to come in. There was not one more place to sit even on the floor.
The room was packed with mental health professionals from all over the world from many beliefs and religions. This was truly amazing to think about. All these diverse mental health practitioners who were in the business of healing were coming together to learn about different worldviews. There would be an opportunity at the end of the session to ask questions. I thought that would be interesting.
Because of the overwhelming majority of professions in the room who spoke Spanish, the presenter decided to speak in Spanish instead of the scheduled English. Everyone clapped. My heart sunk. The lady sitting next to me saw my disappointment. She took off her headset and handed it to me with a beautiful smile. I too smiled back placing my hands together and nodding my head with gratitude. It is amazing how you can connect with another without using language. I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating lecture. I need a whole blog just to talk about what I learned.
The session went over the scheduled time by an hour. I had missed Ruth again. She had emailed me that we could connect at another time. I decided to have lunch before my tour in the afternoon. During the last few conferences I have taken some time off to see the country I am actually visiting. I spoke at a conference in Portugal a few years ago and never saw anything but the hotel. What a wasted opportunity. I vowed to never do that again, at least not if I had traveled to a new county.
On the tour there was a couple from Arkansas and the tour guide also spoke English. I was able to share my experience about the taxi ride from the airport. The tour guide said she felt terrible that this had happen in her country. “There are some bad people in my country, but not all,” she said. I told her it was not her fault and we too in the United States have some of the same kind of people.
The couple told me that they had been warned to only use taxis that said “Radio Taxi” on the door and on the top light. The other taxis look identical but have these words missing. You are able to get these taxis reserved inside the airport. I went outside of the airport where there was a very official looking black and yellow ‘Taxi’ area where I went to find a taxi. I told them where I was going and asked how many pesos it would cost. I should have had enough pesos, but of course that was not what happened in my previous blog. A man picked up my bags and motioned to his cab. I got in and he said something in Spanish. I said, “Lo siento, pero yo no hablo español.” (Sorry, but I do not speak Spanish). We proceeded in silence for most of the way as I enjoyed the scenery of Argentina.
I awoke with an uneasy feeling today. I stated thinking about my trip here. My last thought was about the plane ride here. Someone needed medical assistance on the plane about an hour into the 10-hour flight from Atlanta. The person was lying on the galley floor about ten feet from where I was sitting. The flight attendants were asking for a medical doctor to come forward. She repeated the request several times while the other attendants rushed for the oxygen tank and first aid kit. I thought there must be a doctor on board. Then they started asking for nurses or anyone with medical training. The attendant sounded desperate. I wondered if people were afraid to get involved because they might get sued. Please God don’t let that be the reason. Finally three people came forward. All I could see was a group on people huddled around the person lying on the floor. Finally they dispersed, but I never saw the person or learned what happened to him or her.
Then I started thinking about my arrival in Buenos Aries. I had a bad experience with the taxi cab driver from the airport.
I have not talked to anyone about it. It is very hard to communicate here in English. The translations in the conferences are about the only proficient English I have found. When I talked to my husband I told him I had an interesting cab ride and I would tell him about it when I got home. I didn’t want to worry him.
I tried to put the cab incident out of my head because I don’t like to focus on the negative. I also had some positive things to think about, especially feeling so honored and excited to speaking at The World Mental Health Congress. What an opportunity to help other professionals understand more about the treatment of eating disorders. I was not going to allow that experience to ruin my trip.
But today I awoke feeling fear. I tried to examine where this feeling was coming from. I wondered if it was about Ruth that I am supposed to meet this morning. She responded to one of my Facebook or LinkedIn comments I had posted about being at the conference. She said she was attending too. She works with local patients with eating disorders too and would like to meet me. I gave her my itinerary and said I could only meet her today or Friday before I leave. I have learned to pay attention to my intuition, but was that the reasons for this feeling or was it about my first experience in Argentina?
The cab driver spoke very little English, but finally conveyed that the road at the hotel was closed for a festival and stopped the cab about 8 blocks from the hotel. He told me the fare, which was higher than I had been told. He then was trying to help me convert the fare to US dollars. He grabbed 2 one-hundred-dollar bills he saw in my wallet. I told him to give it back. He tried to give me 2 one-dollar bills, but I told him I knew that he took 2 one-hundred-dollar bills. He then gave me 1 hundred-dollar bill and a one-dollar bill, arguing all the time in loud Spanish. I stood my ground and he finally reached onto the floor like he must have dropped it and gave me the other one-hundred-dollar bill. He then showed me he had 2 twenty US dollars and asked for the 1 hundred-dollar bill and he would give me $40 in change. We exchanged money and he took my bags out of the cab and placed them onto the curb.
It was a desolated area. It was early in the morning and the shops along the street were boarded up. He pointed in a direction and left. I took my bags and started walking. In a few blocks I found a person and showed him my hotel reservation and he pointed in a direction. I walked till I found another person and he pointed and I walked, then another. When I got to the hotel taxis where pulling up in front of the hotel.
I am getting ready to meet with Ruth and hope this is not my source of anguish. At least I feel better getting this out. It is amazing how much journaling (or blogging) can help you get the thoughts out of your head and onto to paper (or computer). I tell my patients this all the time, “Journal before you act out on your eating disorder. When you get the feelings out onto the paper it forces you to go deeper to see what is really bothering you. This is a tool you can always have and need no one else to help you but your Self. The feelings will lessen when you get them out. Once they are out you no longer need to push them down with the eating disorder behaviors.”
I haven’t felt like using my eating disorder in decades, but I also refuse to set in these uncomfortable feeling. Maybe that is one of the reasons for my long-term recovery.