Wood pallets are used as makeshift kneelers as youth pray after a morning Catechism session with U.S. Bishop Ed Burns Jan. 23, 2019. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Jean Ko Din in Panama: Technical difficulties

  • January 23, 2019
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong today.

The best and most embarrassing example of this happened just as I sat down to write this article in the middle of the afternoon. I unpacked my bag after a sticky, sweaty morning sitting outside for the English catechesis at San Francisco de la Caleta Church.

Just when I felt like I got settled in, I heard some static and then loud music. I walked around my hotel room for five minutes trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. It sounded like a radio broadcast but the radio clock beside my bed wasn’t on. The television? No that’s off, too. I checked the telephone or maybe there’s a hidden intercom somewhere in my room. Nope, that’s not it either.

I called someone from the hotel staff to ask them if they were broadcasting a radio station in my room. A maintenance person came to my room but he didn’t speak any English. After an embarrassing game of charades trying to communicate, we called the front desk so the concierge could translate for us.

I watched as the maintenance man talked to the concierge on the phone as she explained what my problem was. He said OK and then hung up. He walked over to my backpack and pointed down. I dug through all my gear and realized it was coming from my portable radio.

I can’t even begin to describe how mortified I was. We laughed it off together in the moment but when he left me alone again in my room, the shame just washed over me like Niagara Falls (Canadian side). I just pictured myself being the object of a hilarious anecdote that will be circulated among hotel staff that day.

I tried to tell myself it was the scorching heat from this morning and the frustration of my unreliable phone connection. The front desk reminded me that the problems with my hotel billing situation is still not resolved. And I just realized that I left my voice recorder in the taxi, which is the second one I’ve lost in the past three months.

I’m sure these blunders of mine will be hilarious when I look back, but right now it just feels like I’m failing. Things are happening out of my control and I’m just clamouring to recover. Still, it’s important for me to share this story, not so you can also laugh at my predicament (and you can if you want to), but to let you know that no pilgrimage is perfect.

If it wasn’t this failure of a day, it would be something else. I think there’s something innately part of a pilgrimage that strips you of everything that you feel comfortable in. When you hit a roadblock, God challenges you by saying, “What will you do with the cross that I give to you today?”

It’s in these moments, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that I think we are forced to just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Let your will be done, Lord, because honestly, I don’t know what else could be the answer.”

I will spend this quick moment to lick the wounds from my bruised ego and then, I’m going to move on. My pilgrimage isn’t over just yet and I’m sure God has much more in store for me.

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