Monday, October 21, 2013

Photo Updates: Manos Edition

Three weeks ago marked the start of two weeks of vacation for pretty much all of the kids in our neighborhood. Manos Abiertas was a little more lively than usual with more kids coming to program (between 30 and 40 each day). This photo update is courtesy of a wonderful Friday afternoon during vacation week so I could share with you all the beautiful faces of the awesome kids I work with!
The Alan Lynch School (no longer operating) where Manos Abiertas is held. 
Minute to Win It Word Scramble Activity
More Minute to Win it activities
Minute to Win It Math Race
Playing cards at recess
My beautiful co-workers with some of our kids
Pig pile on M.E.
Arts and Crafts in chiquitos with M.E.

Paved Roads = Progress?

In the three short months that I've been living in Arbolito, I have already seen physical changes taking place in our neighborhood. The most notable of all, roads are getting paved. Probably about a month ago now, some heavy machinery began to make it's way into Arbolito. In no tim, we saw many streets begin to get torn up and leveled out and slowly but surely, pavement was laid. And this wasn't just happening in Arbolito, on my way to Manos the streets were being re-done and in 28 de agosto we have seen the main street which Manos is on get paved which was still so shocking to see even weeks after it happened. Why all of the road works you ask? Two words: election season.

When the trucks first showed up there was plenty of chisme (gossip) floating around about where they were going to pave, how long it would take, etc. When we would ask neighbors about it they would all say the same thing: mayoral elections are coming up in February and the mayor wants to be re-elected. The funniest part of this for me is driving down the road and seeing huge amounts of propaganda painted on the sides of buildings: "Que buen alcalde," "What a good mayor," "repaving this street/this neighborhood, etc." Don't get me wrong, I know this same kind of pre-election road works happen in the U.S. but the blatant "I did that" publicity still strikes me as funny.

Anyways, the paving of the roads is something that has had me thinking a lot and that we have discussed a bit amongst our community. Some would consider paved roads a sign of progress and to some extent, I would agree. In that context, it raises a lot of questions as to how Arbolito will grow and change from here and even what this means for the presence of organizations like Rostro in this community. Certainly I think that the road work is positive in some respects - big things like less dust to be breathing in resulting in improved health situations to the smaller things like getting to see kids riding their bikes down a smoothly paved street on a Friday afternoon reminded me of the smaller joys a paved road can bring.

On the other hand, I sometimes fear that the paved streets will allow people to overlook the other needs of this community. One day while talking about the road work with a neighbor she mentioned the fact that there have been pipes laid for running water for a couple of years but that the water has never been connected leaving Arbolito without running water. Thinking about this, the logical thing to do while they've already ripped up the streets would be to connect the water before paving. Instead, they've ripped up the roads, paved, and maybe in a few years if/when they decide to connect the water, they will rip up the nicely paved roads and have to do it all over again. So, in this respect, I struggle to see the paved roads as a surefire sign of progress.

For all of the positive things it does bring along, I also fear that the problems are simply being paved over, as though they are trying to placate the community with a minor work instead of addressing major issues. Will the paved roads make an outsider think that Arbolito is developed, overshadowing the other less visible struggles of this community? And if so, what repercussions will that have? Furthermore, is this really progress? And if it is, in what way and who for? These are the questions I am left pondering.

This is the view from the end of our street, how most of the roads here looked before paving.
Where the pavement ends. Just after our street, the pavement has ended although it looks like they may continue to pave beyond that.
Newly paved road in front of the church (just at the end of our street). Please also take the time to admire our newly painted church! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Close both eyes, See with the other one.

I apologize again for the months-long blog silence, here is my attempt to play catch up and hopefully get back into the swing of blogging.

A lot has happened here in Arbolito in the past two months since we've been here and I still can't believe how fast the time is going by although it is something that I try not to get too bogged down by. Now that we've been here for a substantial period of time, I find myself slipping into a routine - Tuesday and Thursday mornings I work in the office of Pastoral Social-Cáritas with Padre Mauro and on my mornings off I try to make it to visit some of my neighbors and spend time with them. Every afternoon I take two buses to Manos Abiertas and work with the kids there. While I appreciate and find comfort in this routine, I also fear how much it has normalized life here for me. Not only normalizing what I do but the things I see or the experiences I have that I don't give a second thought to because its just the way it is, for me, it's "normal."

Mid-August through mid-September brought with it many visitors to Arbolito which not only allowed me to truly understand the meaning of hospitality and the role that it plays in our lives here as volunteers but also to re-evaluate my "normalcy." First, in August came a medical mission group to provide a clinic here in Arbolito and a neighboring community. Not only did this experience allow me to use my skills to translate, but it gave me the opportunity to acknowledge a major need that exists in my community for medical care. But furthermore, receiving visitors so early on in our year gave me the opportunity to think about my decision to be here for a year and about the connection I have to this community.

At the beginning of September I had the priviledge of leading our first retreat group here in Arbolito from Santa Clara University. For me this came at a good time just after our one month mark here. This group was full of inquisitive students who were genuinely interested in all they were to see and experience here and their questions and observations challenged me to reevaluate the things that I live on a daily basis. Their presence brought me back so quickly to how I felt when we first got here - it reminded me of the things that shocked and surprised me, the things that bothered and frustrated me, the things that brought me joy and hope. This group gave me a great gift; to make me question things in a new light but also to break down the normalcy that I had come to feel. Yet still, less than a month after their visit,  I find myself slipping back into a normalcy - some days not thinking twice about the lack of running water or being unphased by the homes of the kids at Manos. Don't get my wrong, it`s not that these things don't frustrate me, it absolutely does, I just find myself questioning less why these things are the way they are and just accepting what they are.

"Close both eyes, see with the other one," says the poet Rumi. As I am here trying to break out of my normalcy, I understand the importance of what Rumi says. I want to stop seeing things with my eyes and start seeing things with my heart. I want things to fill my heart with genuine joy but I also want things to hurt and to challenge me - to process the injustices and difficulties I see in a way that is raw, in a way that makes me think and makes me feel. This, I believe, will allow me to move beyond this normalcy. Thich Nhat Khan writes that, "Our true home is the present moment, the miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment." That is where I want to be; fully in the present moment in order to be instead of do, and in order to feel with my heart instead of see with my eyes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Photo Updates

So if keeping a blog has taught me anything it's that I'm not good at keeping a blog. While there is a draft in the works, I just wanted to upload a few pictures as a way to update on what I've been doing for the past two months. Keep your eyes peeled for a post coming soon!

 After in-country orientation, the new vols spent a day at Malecon 2000 in Guayaquil!

The next day we moved into our new home! Here I am with my communitymates, Brian, Meg, Brittany, Gavin, M.E. and Jerry and one of our pups, Wookie!

 A few weeks later, Brittany and I celebrated our 22nd birthdays in Arbolito! Here were are with the Mount Sinai volunteers and some of our friends at our birthday dinner.

And one random Monday morning, it was time to clean out our cistern which quickly escalated into less cleaning and more of a water fight...

At the beginning of September I had the pleasure of hosting our first retreat group here in Arbolito from Santa Clara University. Here we are at Manos Abiertas, the after school program where I work.

With my friend Aide at Manos Abiertas!

The day we were clean. Aka, the day we finally got new t-shirts to wear to after school programs.

Some casual Saturday morning hair cutting on our patio...

This past weekend we had a bingo to raise money for our church. Here's a little snapshot of the festivities.

And of our supermodelo communitymate, Gavin raffling off a chicken at the bingo..

And lastly, some more hair cutting... The first time in 22 years that my hair hasn't been cut by my aunt Chantal (sorry! haha)

 So all in all, things here in Arbolito have been going wonderfully. Loving life and happy to share it with you! Sending lots of love to you all!