[the picture is of my dear friend Maria Illuminata from San Cristóbal, who invited me for an almuerzo of cuy which i helped her cook over the open fire; i fanned the fire...]
i´ve been sick with a touch of el gripe (the flu), and so were pepe and ana cecilia. we are all recovering...
It was Carneval for the last week here. It's a big holiday in ecuador, but does not have the atmosphere of the mardi gras of rio or new orleans. mostly its celebrated at home, so everything is shut down for 4 days! the only public tradition i can see is just a really annoying tradition of throwing water on people, including on perfect strangers walking along the street! i´m sure there is some ritual meaning, but for the life of me i can´t figure it out, and no one has been able to explain it to me. i was able to avoid getting mohada which means soaked. thank goodness, since i already had a touch of el gripe... pepe, however, got hosed down and soaked just walking along the street.
At Casa Maria Amor, the women of the lavandería Mujeres con Exíto are making progress all the time. it can be difficult because there are always new women entering. But together we created a formal system of accountability and training, so now things are running more smoothly. there is a peace corp volunteer (a woman in her 50s named susan ) working with the laundry, but her language skills are still pretty elementary so she has a problems communicating with them. i don´t think my language skills are all that great either, but i was able to help out on both sides...
several of the women i worked with last year are still involved at the laundry, even though they don´t live at the casa. sadly, this weekend, another woman i worked with last year - Carmen - and her 6 kids returned to live at the casa. She had returned to her husband, but it appears even though she changed, he certainly didn´t. she is moving to Guayaquil soon, since it is too dangerous for her here because her husband knows where she is. CMA has helped an organization in Guayaquil called Hogar de Cristo open the first shelter in Guayaquil. Carmen will be moving there with her family. Que triste!
in san cristóbal, i am working with the three officers of the bank on a project to train and hire 2 women from their group to act as prometoras, who would travel around southern ecuador scouting out tiendas (shops) and ferias (fairs and open air markets) where they can sell their different goods directly, without a middleman. i will use part of the money i collected in Vermont to help fund this project until they can sell enough stuff to generate a commission which could pay the prometoras.
i also plan to use part of the money to pay for capacitaciónes (training) in computer skills for the socias (members) of the bank. and the money is also funding the training for the new savings program they are starting.
the money from Bethany Church´s budget will buy two more computers for the community; now what the community needs is more training, mostly for adults. like in the USA, the kids seem to have skill, but the adults like the women in the bank need training. for their training the women of the bank plan to hire the kids to train them!!
it still remains to be seen when and if san cristóbal will get internet access, but at least if the socias have the basic computer skills, they can travel to Cuenca, if necessary, when they need the internet. meanwhile once they have the skills, they can put all their bank records on the computer, and that will make them a lot more efficient.
It is the rainy season here, and i´m not sure if it makes the news up north, but there have been a huge numbers of flooding rivers (inundaciones) washing out roads and destroying whole communities. this is occuring mostly north of here and on the coast, since there has not been a lot of rain here in Cuenca. Yesterday, a volcano near Quito, Tungeragua, erupted, sending ash about a mile into the sky. there is also volcanic activity in Chile. Also a multinational oil company had a huge oil spill in the amazonia of ecuador yesterday, destroying more of that precious environment... both mother nature and human nature seem to be on a rampage.
well, i have about a month to go. and i keep hoping for some sense of nirvana, or wisdom or something indefinable. but of course it just keeps eluding me. I must admit how much it disturbs me when people act like i am a great person because i am here. nothing could be farther from the truth. i am here working with areas of society that have been rejected, because it seems to be the only way i can make friends with the parts of myself i have rejected. its all interrelated. and muy dificil... and the language issue makes it so much harder. even though i am here with people i love and who love me all the time, because i can´t express myself well or always understand very well, i sometimes feel very alone.
it has always been clear to me - intellectually, that is- that we need to work on ourselves to help others, but also that we help others in order to work on ourselves. but intellectually and emotionally are two different things. pray for me!
i´m off now to watch "The Simpsons". In spanish! that should cheer me up!
abrazos from cuenca,