Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Blog


Sunday, June 13, 2010

honesty is the best policy (i think)

When I first arrived to Santa Cruz, I was slightly disappointed. I know I came abroad to learn but I still had my requisitos! I wanted to be working with people from the west, I wanted the weather to be tropical (but not too hot), I wanted the city to be walkable, I wanted to like all the food, etc. Pretty much I was expecting Quito again (minus tropical weather). Santa Cruz is different.

And I still fell in love with the city.

For me, it was a hard city to adjust to. Its usually super super hot for most of the year, there is a lot of dirt/sand, and a lot of trash. It takes a good hour to get from one end of the city to the center. The culture dominant culture is that of the lowlands and not of the highlands. And everyone always tries to look good all the time (that was hard for me...haha).
But there are so many things that I overlooked when I was grumbling in January and February to my co-SALT friends. The children playing soccer in every corner of the city. The hospitality of the people. And the community that fills the air here. I am not saying that people from the west arent like that, I wouldnt know. But I do know the cruceños are community oriented, if I am allowed to speak that generally. I have always felt welcomed and included by the people I have interacted with here.
So thank you Santa Cruz. I havent always been kind to you but you have always been kind to me. So kind enough to give me piojos, hongos, alergies, amoebas, and a chronic cold! :P

On a different note...here are some pictures from the guarderia!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Family Visits

Visiting families is by far the most exciting and most educational (for me) part of my job. I am feel so privileged that these families allow me to come to their home, often intruding on their family time to chat with me about personal aspects of their lives. It allows me to see the realities they are confronting on a daily basis. Realities such as having their children work as well when they are not in school to bring home a few coins, or the reality of having to sleep only four hours a night because they need to take care of their homes and work, or the reality of their kids getting sick because the city is so dirty and there is so much dust, sitting water, and humidity where bacteria can fester.

And I am not sharing this because I think we should feel guilty. Not to say that guilt cannot be a productive emotion because it can, but when we get stuck in that guilt, live in that guilt and only respond with “I have to eat all the food on my plate because there are starving children in Bolivia,” well, that helps us finish our food but where does that leave us? Us full feeling guilty and those kids still hungry. It’s important to continually challenging ourselves to keep making sustainable changes towards peace and justice.

I visited one of my favorite (shhh…I know I should not have favorites) kid’s mom a couple of weeks ago and she was so open and hospitable. Something that I always appreciate because it’s more than I should ever ask for. She is 19 and is a single mom of a beautiful, intelligent 2 year old. And after our visit, she walked me to take a micro even though I said that it wasn’t necessary but she insisted I would get lost. On the way out her nephew (3 years old) who also goes to the guarderia wanted to come with me and when I said I would see him on Monday at the guarderia, he starting crying. So his aunt said he could come with us to the micro stop and that calmed him down and we walked down that dusty road together, him clutching my hand. On the way there, she said to me…

“We are all going to miss you when you leave. Especially the kids.”

“You think? Maybe the kids won’t even remember me.”

“Oh no, they will definitely remember you. I remember going to church when I was a little girl and meeting all kinds of foreigners that would come to help us. I can still remember each of their faces til this day”


“Yea, but they never did come back. I wonder why….maybe they didn’t like it here or maybe they just don’t have time to visit us.”

That conversation has been on my mind ever since. I have been reflecting and going over her words repeatedly for a number of reasons. The biggest reason being that these volunteers came to “help them” and that she would always remember them but never see them again. I wonder if they remember her. And another being that I want the kids to remember me, but not as a foreigner who used them to get a rewarding experience, but as one who felt absolutely privileged to walk alongside them.

So what does it mean for us to go to other countries and visit? How can we make sustainable changes in our lives that allow us to be in solidarity with our global brothers and sisters? What can we do so that they never feel abandoned as this mom…

Monday, April 26, 2010

A reflection of sorts

I wanted to post pictures of "Dia de los Niños" but the internet is so slow and it wont post. So I will have to try to post from my host dad's bookstore!

I will now post about something different....a reflection of sorts

I have less than three months left. And I honestly cant wait to go home. I have realized that my journey of traveling abroad for extended periods of time ends with this one. I have become convicted. I am convicted that we are always to go back to our country, our roots, our communities, and work for change there. I dont know if I believe in international missions work even if it is not evangelizing and instead peace-making like MCC. On the other hand, I do think it is good to experience life outside of one's own in order to see how one lives life in their country affects the lives of others in other country. And those beliefs are contradictory.

I am learning a lot...that I know has changed me for a lifetime. I have had the privilege to travel but those I am learning so much from dont. How is that fair?

I work with an organization that is all about solidarity and peace-making yet they have multiple vehicles (that are used for organizational and personal use by volunteers), high speed wireless internet, washer and dryer, electricity, computers, copiers, and all of the families that work within the city of santa cruz (international volunteers) but one couple (because their job is to work with a certain community) live in the center (within the 2nd ring), richest part of the city. While I work with parents that can barely (and some cant) afford to pay $6 to a daycare center. And they need daycare just to put food on the table! How is that fair?

There is a family that was so desperate for money they had their two sons (ages 9 and 6) sheer sheep and the 6 year old cut is hand pretty badly. He earned 5 bolivians=75cents that day. I know a mom who left her home in desperation (but came back) because she couldnt feed her kids because of her drunk husband spent all of his money in alcohol to drown the sorrows of his broken relationship with his father.

There comes a time where learning and witnessing all of these injustices isnt enough anymore. Where saying, "This struck me" or "This is injust" isnt enough anymore. But its so easy to say and so hard to do! And I am so guilty of ignoring and avoiding the main issue at hand...which is violence.

It is easy to say "I am not going to drink coca-cola" or "I am not going to buy used cheap clothing that was originally made in Bolivia, sent to the US, used by US citizens, then returned to Bolivia that pushes local business out of the market because they cant compete" or "I am only buying fair trade gifts."

No, I am convinced that it is changing a mentality. Changing a life style to true peacemaking and solidarity. We will never reach perfect peace and solidarity but we have to move from just reflection to action. Here is a quote from a friends blog that as been on my mind the past couple of weeks. This quote was said by our mentor in El Salvador who deconstructed with me many lies or false beliefs I had. I am still processing through that week and it has been more than a year.

“To work for peace and justice in societies which value possessions and consumerism can be a very trying experience, because that is what is promoted, sold to the peoples and nations in the world. Thus, the ways to create balances and keep the clarity to go on is essential. This is the key to the path of peace, and one must be about this every day. It is not about optimism, nor faith. It is about having come to a certainty – with no doubt – that this is one’s way, and that this is the contribution you are to make here on earth. It is about being able to see the vision, the light that is much farther than the day, the year, the working on the issues, or even present needs, and for that light and vision to guide one’s work to impact the seventh generation and beyond. To know – not to believe, but to know – that this is your call, your challenge, and then to be ready to carry it out in a most creative way, in joy, so you can be about your path and create possibilities so that society in its entirety can be about this nationhood project – the durable, sustainable peace project.”

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lost the battles...

But I have won the war! Sorry for the delayed posting. It was all for a good reason.

So many of you may know, and some of you may not. One of my challenges this year has been having little creatures crawl throughout my scalp, make babies, and suck my blood. Yes, piojos...aka lice. It all started when my family came to visit...in December....

My head was itching like no other, and my mama told me, "Arelis, I think you have lice." And I said (after considering all of the lice infested kids at the guarderia)..."Mama, I think you are right." And she was. It was confirmed later that week by my host mom, Juana.
Little did I know at that point in time that I would be fighting long battles up until the end of March. 3 months. So in this posting, I want to thank all the people who helped me fight and eventually win...by combing, plucking, shampooing my hair (at one point Juana (host mom) put rubbing alcohol in my hair), and pulling out and popping eggs.

Josh, Kathy, Juana (host mom), Juana (MCC), Julie, Laurie, Corrie's host mom, Vicky, Maritza, Liz, Lupe, Paolo, Corrie.

I may sound dramatic...and its because it was. Hopefully, I will make it through the rest of my year without getting it again!

But working with the precious kids at the guarderia makes it all worth it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Life is precious

This week has been busy. BUSY. We have been getting ready to open the new guarderia (pictures to be posted soon). The preperation period has consisted of painting, climbing fences to paint, attacking ant hills...more like ants attacking us, drinking lots of cheap soda, and waxing floors by hand. Unfortunately, one coworker had to skip out on all the fun this week. Maggie went to the emergency room Monday night with the worst stomach pain probably anyone this side of the country has seen. But it turned out to be something quite more serious. Due to my lack of spanish medical term language I couldnt quite understand anything. But what I gathered was the Maggie had a tumor in her ovary that had gone undetected and popped/exploded which then contimated other organs. When my boss, Yuneth, took her to the hosptial that night everyone thought she wasnt going to make it. They didnt know what was wrong, and she was passed out. She was completely yellow and weak. Doctors at first did not want to operate because they didnt want to be blamed for her death if she were to die during the operation. Gracias a Dios, a doctor took the challenge and saved her life. She was operated successful Monday night without being put to sleep.
I went to vist on Tuesday night and almost passed out in her room. I just couldnt bare to see her lying there so weak and in so much pain. She is only 25! So I exited the room, sat down to calm my head down, and started crying. I composed myself as much as I could and then walked back in the hospital room to be with her. She told me not to cry but I couldnt help it. It wasnt until that very moment that I realize just how much I love my coworkers. Naturally, we almost always have our cultural conflicts but we are always end our days laughing together, and many times at the expense of someone :P But seeing her lying there made me realize just how precious life is.

"Thank you, dear Lord, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not enjoy it enough."

Although Maggie is healing wonderfully, keep her and us in your thoughts, as we figure out how to help her pay her medical bills...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

to wear or not to offend

There is a significant amount of diversity here in Santa Cruz, as it goes for many major cities. Or at least this is what I first thought when I first arrived. And although it still remains true to some extent, I believe there are 3 different ways people dress here.

1. the indigenous look- two long thick braids down the back, a hoop skirt that hits the knees, sometimes a straw hat or top hat or sometimes nothing. And often times carrying a child or items in an aguayo. An aguayo is a multicolor woolen cloth that they strap around themselves to carry things on their backs.

2. the camba look- Bolivians in Santa Cruz dressing in US styled clothing. Often the women wear heels and have a big, fake flower in their hair.

3. the mennonite look- there are thousands of mennonites that live around santa cruz within conservative traditional colonies. often times they will come into santa cruz to do business.

I have come to realize that I struggle to rock any these looks. And the one the that I should try to pull of is the camba look. Women here look good most days most of the time. They usually match perfectly. They wear heels. They have a lot of great beautiful hair. To illustrate, I once came to work wearing jeans, black flip flops, a black shirt, and a yellow headband. My boss hit me on my forehead and exasperatedly informed me that I do not match! I apologize for not having a black headband? what? And these are not the first comments I have received about my lack of style. I realize that I dont dress to impress. But I honestly dont know how to move forward! I dont want big fake flowers in my hair or prance around the cities dirty streets with heels on. But I am slowly trying to improve. I bought a skirt at a used market and sandals with with three huge rhinestones that strap around my ankle. Let the transformation begin!

Some of you may be wondering...who cares? be yourself, be an individual! I thought that too for a long time but now I am not so sure if that is the best approach. I dont get off as easy according to Bolivians because I dont look gringa. I look Latina and as a result I am held to another standard. Additionally, I am working with families that highly value looks and if one is put together. Yes, this is important even to marganilzed poor families. They will look strive to look their best when they go out even if they are struggling to make ends meet. So what does that mean for me? Shouldnt I try to assimiliate as much as possible? Wouldnt assimiliating help me establish crediblity? But the real question is...how far is too far?

Share thoughts please.