Monday, August 10, 2009

Saying goodbye

The last few days have been marked by several tearful farewells - at the orphanage, and with the women's and girls' groups with which our students have been working. Yesterday was our last day in Loma Pampa, which was also the anniversary of the barrio. We participated in the celebrations and activities of the day - our students participated in several relay races and events, and took home the prize in the egg toss and dance competitions. They also served cake to the entire community, and received certificates of recognition from the local leadership. The appreciation that everyone expressed for the work we have done in the community was very strong and moving.

Today, students begin the process of packing up and returning home. The program is officially over, with just a few loose ends to tie up. Everyone will be taking home incredible, lasting memories of what they have experienced here; no one, it is safe to say, will ever be the same as when they left home six weeks ago.

This will be my last blog entry of the season. Below are some photos of the last few days. See you again in June, 2010!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First despedida

The process of leaving Bolivia is marked by despedidas – goodbye parties. For us, these began yesterday, as the group that has been working with the women of Loma Pampa said goodbye to their friends in the barrio. The students had spent the morning preparing a meal of charque - dried llama meat - which they brought to Loma Pampa in the afternoon and served to the women assembled. The food was great, and the women so appreciative - our students and the leaders of the women's group all spoke movingly of their time together, and the women expressed their hope that the students would return some day. Our students should be extremely proud of themselves - they helped to found this women's group (and the girls' group, which has its despedida on Saturday), a space for women to get together, share their thoughts and feelings with one another, and learn to do crafts and other activities.
In the evening, another group of students attended a community meeting in Alto Cochabamba, another barrio where they have similarly been working with a group of women, helping them to learn how to bake bread and pastries. At this meeting, the students and our colleagues donated an oven to the community, which will be used by the women in their future activities. This was received by the women there with much joy and appreciation, as indicated by the confetti which they rubbed in everyone's hair. This group has its despedida tomorrow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Learning to Cueca

Sunday in Loma Pampa was busy, as usual. This week we were accompanied by two British students, whom our group met up with during their trip to Torotoro, and whom they invited along to share the fun. They did their share, digging in the dirt to help level the ground for the metal awning (which hopefully will be installed this week), and hacking through dense rock to make the post holes to support the structure. I wondered why two people, backpacking through South America, would want to give up a perfectly good Sunday to sweat in the dirt of Loma Pampa. Aida thinks it's because we have such an amazing program, which offers opportunities unlike any other. People - young people, especially - from all over the world have the desire to help out, to do good for others, even for people they have never met before and will never meet again. Surprisingly, perhaps, the chance to do meaningful work of this kind can be hard to come by. Our program offers this opportunity, in a way that students feel the immediate impact of their contributions.

After classes with the children, don David's daughter-in-law invited our students to learn to dance the cueca, Cochabamba's traditional dance, and somehow convinced them to perform it at the anniversary celebration in Loma Pampa next Sunday.