The Plan (2)

One Tuesday morning, on the outskirts of La Paz, my mother began to throw up. Maybe it was a stomach flu, dad said. You get these things in a new country.  The doctor at the American clinic wasn’t so sure. He’d seen it before: young couple gets married and a few weeks later–bingo!

They said they happy about it. I mean about me, but what they talked about was how this might affect The Plan. They both a kind of excited disappointment: excited for the birth yet feeling they had let down the college, the anthropologists and everyone who believed in The Plan. Conceiving could be interpreted as a lack of faith.

When I was born, the native people fussed. By then my parents had decided they could still be part of  The Plan. My father would do all the traveling. transcribing and translating. The village women came with my mother to an outlying clinic, carrying food, babies and small gifts. They sang for hours, dipping and dancing to ensure a safe delivery.  This would never have happened back in Pittsburgh. That’s where she was from. The whole idea that the village would stop everything to support her was overwhelming. It made you feel that no one in America ever really cared.

Anyway, that’s how I born. I had a valve problem with my heart and dad  had to fly us back to the USA right away. I guess I’m lucky to be alive. My parents had lived in Bolivia for almost a year.  They day we left, the men carried our books and clothes all the way to the bus that would take us to the capital. Even villagers not carrying anything came along. Every couple of hours, we would have to pass through another village, the men would talk and point, and gifts would be exchanged. Dad said that back in college he could not even get his room mate to help turn his mattress over.

They walked with us two and a half days, and then loaded us with whatever food was not eaten; they planned to walk all the way back without eating. My parents were the first white people who had ever spent more than an hour with them. I was the first white baby they had ever seen and I was a marvel but not a miracle to them. My dad promised that if all was well with the baby, they would come back soon. They believed it like they believed that rain came from the sky.

Just before the bus arrived, the village elders gathered everyone to hear a message. There was an ancient story, they said, that one day a white baby would be born to them, and it would also disappear. This way they would know that the end of the world was soon coming, and they should forgive all debts. bury old grudges, and give up fighting.

Several miles down the road, headed toward La Paz, my parents watched a dozen large trucks carrying bull dozers heading into the forests. They waived through dusty windows at the children along the roadside, and never returned. (541)


The Plan

I’m sorting out my things. Boxes of books, old CDs, folders and Christmas cards from distant friends I’ve forgotten. I found this story written on yellow paper from….I don’t remember when… it’s pretty bad writing, but maybe it can be saved. Let me know what you think.

My parents had me by accident. They were missionaries in Bolivia, fresh out of college and waiting for the day when the sky would split open and Jesus would return. For weeks after my mother discovered she was pregnant with me, she felt waves of fear and anxiety. Not because she wasn’t happy, but because it was not in The Plan.

Mum and dad met in College.  They often talked about whether The End might come before they graduated. It could be at any time; the signs were all posted. My father said it was like a countdown for a space flight. “You wait and wait, with everything ready and then someone says Countdown! Then 10, 9,8, right down to blast0ff!”

So here was my mother, with a child on the way, in the jungle, so far from everything. The Plan was to take the message about the coming new world to every tribe on the planet. Some anthropologists had prepared a database of ethnic groups and put it up on a wall at the College.  Colored maps showed the location of some 637 groups that were still in the dark about The End. Fervent speakers said they knew what it would take; they had heard the mission declared a hundred times: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, every kindred, tongue and people…and then will come The End.” All of which meant: the new world was not coming until the anthropologists had identified every language group in the world, and their locations. and message-filled literature was delivered to them in person.

My parents met at the South American section of the wall map. It’s like a huge upside-down pear, and Bolivia was at eye level for my mum. My dad was trying to pronounce the names, they looked at each other and both said, “Cochabamba” at exactly the same moment, and that was that. Four months later, they were married.

So that’s how it all started. Except I was not in The Plan.