Returning From Durango

November 07

My stay in Colorado was enriching and energizing despite the complications getting there. As I recently wrote, I had to shift everything around and arrived in Albuquerque super late Monday night. My host arranged for a rental car and I checked in for about 4 hours of rest at a motel. The next morning I set out for a four hour drive through beautiful land. I watched the sunrise over the ruggedly sculpted landscape; drove through an Indian reservation; practiced my presentation aloud (since there was little on the radio); and discovered an oasis like coffee shop in Aztec, CO where I was able to enjoy my first nourishing ‘meal’ in two days. From Aztec, the drive was even more gorgeous as I followed the crystal blue Animas River through the mountains to Durango. I flew standby the following Friday as I couldn’t bring myself to rush home without soaking in a little of the town. My dear friend, Ali, hooked me up with a buddy pass so I was gifted two more days in Durango to walk through the town and trails, make connections with people, explore thrift shops, lay in a crystal bed and deepen friendships with my hosts.

Again, I spent an entire day in the Airport as I was flying standby, this time in Salt Lake City. I flew in between the full moon and the sunrise over the snow peaked mountains of Utah. I’ve begun to find my time in the airports a bit comforting except for the ungodly amounts of water wasted between the automatic flushing and hand washing stations. As our part of the country is in a dire drought, I thought I’d lose it every time I witnessed that much drinking water going down the tubes…(BTW, if ever in the SLC Airport, I enjoyed the best airport meal to date at Squatter’s Brewing Co, one of the only privately locally owned businesses I’ve encountered in an airport ;-) Oh, and I decided to leave the hoops that hadn’t found homes in Durango. We felt pretty sure they’d find homes eventually and if not by purchase, by donation.

My host, Marcy, a professor at Fort Lewis College and wellness activist throughout Durango, was an angel through my entire stay. Not only had she created this opportunity for me to teach here in CO because of her sincere enjoyment of hooping at the National Wellness Conference. She and her partner opened their beautiful dome to me and fed me for my entire stay. She and her partner, Barbara – also a kind and gentle, animal loving person- were beautifully hospitable, conscious, inspiring and insightful. I am forever grateful of this time and my new friends. I have so much gratitude for Marcy for believing in me, the hoop and her instincts that my coming would be significant for the both of us.

I arrived in Durango with about an hour to spare before the presentation (on four hours of sleep!) Getting a bit nervous, I set up my laptop for a slide show, ipod, and video camera (as public speaking has been the greatest challenge of this life for me, I decided to employ this ‘record & revise’ technique for improvement as I now do with hooping. For so long, I was so shy and nearly devastated by watching myself on video in any capacity; then was without the archiving tool; and now consider it such a vehicle for learning. I probably stunted my own development as a hooper early on because of my shyness in watching video with practice mates in those early stages. Of course, I’ve yet to watch the video, except for my dance performance which looks OK, but since I had so much floor to utilize, I’m going in and out of the camera lens the whole time; - )

The luncheon was set up for interested faculty and staff to hear about this movement practice and how I believe it contributes to personal wellness and potential for global healing. I told a brief story about my journey as an individual with no particular faith- in fact resentment towards organized religion- through a religious studies program that introduced me to the mystics of a variety of traditions and liberation theology. My studies lead me to explore altered states of consciousness attained through ritualized dance, meditation, prayer and intoxication and the revelations and sensations of empathy and oneness experienced in those states. I left college wanting to experience these mystical insights without a rigid structure, typical ascetic requirements or drug dependence while positively impacting the world in whatever ways possible. However, I always thought those two pursuits would be separate – until the hoop took me! Then I began developing a mystically moving meditation practice that inspired a spiritual belief system that incorporates wisdom from a variety of religious traditions, bodymind philosophies and, of course, revelations from dancing with the hoop. I offered some stories of my history of outreach – working with kids locally & abroad; volunteering to assist individuals living with HIV, participating in construction crews providing homes in Mexico and Haiti, and more specifically the work and play in Haiti involving spreading joy through hoops– in addition to reflections of my personal healing through hoop dance. After the story, I danced and lead them through a brief hoop participation segment so that they could feel the magic for themselves. All in all, I believe it was a successful presentation. If I could do anything differently, I would have danced at the beginning so they wouldn’t have been trying to marry their preconceived notions of ‘hula hooping’ with the spiritual practice and outreach I spoke of. I think, as soon as I demonstrated, there was a room wide – a ha moment – that increased understanding.

As I mentioned in the earlier blog, I believe I was invited because of the combination of being a long time hoop devote and my vision of taking hooping to Haiti to promote joy and human connection. Fort Lewis College had chosen Tracy Kidder’s book “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer who has dedicated the greater part of his life to providing health care in Haiti, for their campus wide book reading this semester. As Dr Farmer introduced me to Haiti through a book describing social, historical, political and medical histories in Haiti, I was honored to have this opportunity to relate my story to his and relieved to get some extra time in my travels to read this biography (perhaps the reason why my travel didn’t go as smoothly as desired.) Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti (and the US) deserves more than a brief mention in this blog, but I promise to dedicate another to him, his work and his beliefs about the savage inequalities in the world. He is certainly an inspiring role model for me.

After the workshop, I went on to a radio interview. The college radio station is currently featuring guests in conjunction with the book, “Mountains beyond Mountains.” I felt honored to be a guest on this program as the previous two shows broadcasted a two part interview with the author of the book, Tracy Kidder. The radio station manager, Nancy, was intelligent, humorous and insightful (and very hoop enthused.) Her questions (before, during and after the official interview) really challenged me in a good way. When I receive the radio show on disc (as I haven’t heard it yet) maybe I can post the recording somehow.

As I stated in the last installment, I did my best to remain calm about the shift in travels with a curiosity about ‘why’ this delay was happening. Sitting and reading this book and my old journals gave me a little perspective. Life had been moving so fast since I first decided to return to Haiti. After the decision to go, there was a fund-raiser, then the trip, summer camps, Wellness Conference, workshops and tax deadlines, blah blah blah… Re-reading my journals, I realized that I was at the point of returning to live in Haiti at the end of both visits but hadn’t really had enough time to soak all the feelings in. Returning to my life here and the positive movement and momentum of things, have somewhat distanced me from the passionate connection I cultivated with the Haitian people I have met. But it’s so difficult to just let life go and re-locate to a country like Haiti – especially when you’re in love, feeling creatively inspired and finally being on the cusp of gaining some sort of financial stability – (something that I haven’t really had since I began dedicating so much time and energy to hooping.) As beautiful as it is there, I think I should take things slowly and see if there are other ways I can participate with the community there. I am still cultivating relationships through emails and letters and know I will continue to nurture them as time moves on.

So I suppose its time to envision the next visit. Of course I have the work I enjoy and feel compelled to do here and may support taking the love abroad. My hope is to travel with others and decide what talents & strengths we have between us that could be helpful in Fondwa and/or neighboring villages. I feel strong, experienced, connected and aware enough to get a group into Port au Prince, to a guest house where the food and water can be trusted, then out to the rural area where I am familiar with a variety of people and projects. The re-forestation project is fascinating and miraculous. There is a plan for a garden space in the orphanage. There is a desire for some type of water/sewer management at the orphanage (a latrine or composting toilet)…Garden work at the Guest House…Potential work at the School… Dance and music demonstrations/playdates at school and orphanage…So I believe this is the next step – to organize a unique “mission” trip with the intention of spreading joy and offering labor to create sustainable systems in this region of Haiti that has nothing to do with a specific religion, but instead human compassion. The nun at the guest house encouraged me to bring a group. She believes that music and dance are important for the kids and they definitely can’t afford teachers. (I also know that Wyclef Jean spends a lot of energy there with city cleanup and arts projects, as it is his homeland. He sometimes offers free concerts on the beach. It would be awesome to look into his next performance there.)

If you’re interested in going to Haiti, let me know.

In gratitude,
Jewels (aka Julia, Julah)

PS..If you’re ever in Durango, CO, places of interest include:

The Steaming Bean (coffee) Places of note
Animas (Great store with socially conscious products, Buddhaful clothing, misc.)
Reruns (Thrift shop)
Carpe Denim (Vintage shop)
Durango Natural Foods
Fort Lewis College (including amphitheatre and indoor theatre)
Pathways in Bayfield (Offering various healing modalities, books, oils, crystal bed)