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.
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.