During one of our lunch breaks, we scan the Journey to Freedom books in the women’s dorm. And in Week 24, in a chapter on Reformation vs. Transformation, we come across a key passage. The author is talking about trading in one addiction for another (reformation) as compared to giving up addictions altogether (transformation) which is done by following the path that Christ has set out for us.
Some of the examples of reformation: a person might give up overeating, and take up yoga instead; a person might give up an addiction to television and substitute an addiction to meditation.
Now we get it. The key program taught in this prison, sponsored by Christians from the U.S., teaches that yoga and meditation aren’t transformative practices, just second-rate substitutions for even worse addictions.
No wonder so few people at the prison have embraced CBCT. I know that the open-minded people who have participated fully in the course have gained from it, and I am grateful that we have made a difference in their lives.
Yet it is clear that no one in the prison administration reviewed the materials I sent about the curriculum, or thought about the potential conflict with the other programming they provide, and I am deeply angry about that. Part of my anger stems from the fact that we could have spent more time with the other partners we are working with, deepening our programming with their organizations.
Part of my anger stems from the fact that I have been lied to about this project, every step of the way.
This is happening within the larger context of ongoing ugliness from people who were supposed to be helping us — ugliness that has now led to a place where we are unsafe.
I have a foolproof method for dealing with electronic temper tantrums: the delete button on my keypad. And that’s how I handle the nasty emails and messages I receive from people who don’t like what I am writing about Belize.
In my opinion, people who spew hatred in emails and text messages are communicating a great deal about their own current state of mind, and not much at all about anything else.
But then someone crosses the Rubicon. An email arrives that contains a threat.
I realize this communication comes from a privileged, spoiled woman who is accustomed to getting her own way in life by throwing around her family’s name and money. She’s certainly not the first such person I’ve encountered, and I doubt she will be the last.
I understand, as well, that she is not accustomed to having boundaries placed on her behavior.
She has now run up against a very firm boundary: No one is going to tell me what I can or cannot write.
I am not going to be silenced by a bully.
I can handle the challenges and will put up with the environmental threats of working here. But I won’t tolerate a threat to my safety or well-being. So I make sure that key people in the U.S., people with power and influence, know that we have been threatened, have copies of the email, and know who is responsible.
T. and wish we were the kind of people who can blithely walk away from their commitments (and find some way to blame someone else for what they didn’t do). If we were such people, we would have gotten on a plane and gone home the second day we were here. But we’re not, and we’re going to do what we came here to do. We left extra time in our teaching schedule to allow for the unpredictability of teaching in prisons and outside of our own culture. So we have plenty of time to cover the curriculum for the classes we are teaching.
We have had to cancel one of our classes, because of the violence in Belize City. More about that later.
We funded this work ourselves, with the generous help of our friends. We are getting nothing in return for six weeks of work — six weeks we could have devoted to other projects, six weeks we could have been earning substantial money at home. We expected nothing in return for our work, except to see if the CBCT program might be helpful in this country with its many daunting challenges.
But I guess I did have one expectation: that I would not be subjected to interpersonal violence, along with the environmental violence.
And so, on a Sunday morning, while we are waiting for the bus home from the grocery store, I observed myself making a mental shift: I was no longer sorry to be leaving.
When we returned to our apartment, I started packing.
If don’t know if I will ever return to Belize. If you asked me to make a decision today, my answer would be, absolutely not.
I’m ready to go home.
This trip is costing us a huge amount of money. If you’re in a position to help us offset the costs, please visit this site: https://www.youcaring.com/teri-sivilli-and-tom-comstock-542222
© 2016 Teresa I. Sivilli. All rights reserved. No part of this material can be used or reproduced in any way without permission of the author.