Things have gone incredibly well since our arrival a few days ago. Our friends welcomed us with open arms, and everything was in place for our students to begin their work. The students have settled into their homestays, and seem content with those situations. I am very impressed with this group of students - they are upbeat, enthusiastic, and seem ready to meet the challenges that they will confront in Bolivia. This was demonstrated most clearly in the way they threw themselves into their work yesterday in Loma Pampa, the barrio where we have been working the last three years on various projects.
The community center which our first two groups of students helped to build looks fantastic, and the huge metal awning out back of it that our students helped erect last year adds a big outdoor space for activities. Under that awning, don David and members of the community welcomed us with flowers and kind words, followed by salteñas and Coca Cola. Then our students went to work, laboring alongside barrio residents to move a huge pile of rocks and dirt from one side of the community center to the other, to try and level out a piece of ground to be used for a patio. It took some persuading for the barrio directorate to allow us to work - aware that it was July 4th, they felt uncomfortable that we should be laboring on our national holiday. But our students were not to be denied, and they worked in the hot sun for almost two hours moving rocks. Starting next week we will begin constructing retaining walls around the awning area, as well as doing painting and other work in the center itself.
In the afternoon, students split into two groups. One group helped to run the jiu jitsu class that are offered on Sundays under the awning, expanding the curriculum to include dodge ball, tag, and other group games. The rest of the students worked with children inside the community center to make music, banging away on drums and other instruments they had brought for the occasion. They also taught the kids to play "Pato, Pato, Ganso" (Duck, Duck, Goose) and musical chairs, which they couldn't get enough of.
When classes ended, we went as a group to Viva Vinto, a restaurant outside of town, where we ate phampaku and lit off fireworks in honor of our national day.