Traveling over the unpaved crater infested dust covered road into the South America jungle, my Peace Corps friend suggested to me that this time it was not the destination, it was the journey. In spite of the road condition and the discomfort from the ride, the journey was magnificent. I am now a believer!
Sometime ago I mentioned to my friend that the mission trip I was about to embark on was not for vacation. I was going to work and he agreed to arrange transportation from the airport and accommodations that would say "work." What I did not know was that he was serious.
I exited the terminal and there was my driver with my name printed on a card. I passed the taxi stand feeling somewhat important as he took my bag and headed to the parking lot. So far so good. We chatted as we negotiate the busy city streets on our way to where I would be staying. My driver told where and if my suspicion served me correctly it would be a quiet place since it had the word "Convent" in the name.
About forty five minutes after leaving the airport, my driver pulled up in a driveway. The building appeared to be just there with no particular attraction. We wait at the door as some opened all the locks on the inside. I was greeted by a Sister who quickly explained the rules and ushered me to my room on the first floor. No sooner I entered the room I immediately felt like St Francis of Assisi. There was only a single bed, a small wooden desk and a metal chair. There was no television, no radio, no telephone, no internet and only one small window that revealed the soul of the outside world. The Sister gave me my key to the room but I was not able to leave the Convent without stating where I was going and when I would be returning. There I was, nothing to do but pray and meditate.
The first day was fine. I felt like I was becoming a monk, but by day two my friend Ron joined me. He also was given a small room without windows at the end of the corridor. We could not help it when we started to break the rules by staying out beyond the 9:00 pm curfew. That night the Sister was forgiving, but the third day we were reprimanded for staying out beyond the 10:00 pm compromise. There was no hot water the next morning. Could it be that was our punishment for staying out later than we should have?
Day one was fine but by day four we knew we would never become Monks and were ready to leave the Convent. We were too radical for the Sister who was in charge and at more than a hundred years between Ron and myself, the good Sister could never teach these old dogs any new tricks.
Day five we left the Convent and found more conventional accommodations where we enjoyed the amenities of the modern world; television, telephone and yes Internet. We did not have to give account of our daily activities to the Sister or anyone. We did what we had to do and participated in a national prayer vigil which kept us out well beyond midnight.
We reflect on our time in the Convent and conclude that it really is not the destination. It had to be the journey.