The Joys of Sponsorship
When my aunt died, she left my mother a small legacy. We decided that the best way to honor her memory was to sponsor a couple of Bolivian students who shared some of her qualities—a love of music and a love of children.
After corresponding with our two students, I had the great pleasure of going to Bolivia on the Quaker Study and Service Tour and meeting them at a potluck the entire group of scholarship students hosted for our group. Maritza greeted me warmly and tried to explain to me about her curriculum in linguistics and teacher training. Janelle came in later with her Christian Mariachi Band which entertained our whole group. It was one of the high points of my life.
I am back in La Paz for a few days so there is Wi Fi, I really am an internet addict!
I suffered a spot of "Bolly Belly" [??] yesterday, so the 4 hour public minibus trip from Sorata was a little uncomfortable as I was afraid to eat or drink in case!! However it soon passed and I have had a great day in the city today.
This morning I went to a presentation on the Aymaran language and its status on the Internet. It was very interesting to compare the issues raised with those faced by the Welsh language. There are no Aymaran schools and Wikipedia is still not available in the language but there is plenty of radio and TV. There are 5000,000 speakers of the language in South America. The students in Sorata are still determined to teach me some Aymara but I am very slow!
This afternoon I visited a Quaker school in La Paz and met the students who receive grants from the Bolivian Quaker Fund to continue their studies. They were a delightful, enthusiastic group and I hope to hold some English classes with small groups of them in November - some have requested basic German too!
Well, I had really expected to be blogging every day, but there is no Wi Fi anywhere in Sorata and the connections in the internet cafes are very slow; so my first blog starts two weeks into my stay in Sorata.
I had a warm welcome at the BQE office in La Paz and I was glad to meet them after my two day journey from home. There was a strike at La Paz airport so I spent the best part of two days in the airport hotel in Miami – not a good start!
The journey by minibus from La Paz to Sorata was breathtaking. The last 40 minutes or so is a dirt track and I still can’t see how so much food, building materials and all the necessities for life in a small town actually get here along those roads.
Well, it took exactly two days to get to La Paz from Abergavenny. There was a strike at the airport here which meant that no planes could land for 24 hours. 36 hours in Miami airport was interesting!!
After a short rest I hit the town. The location is breathtaking and the women really do wear traditional dress. The centre seems quite compact and I hope to have time tomorrow to look at some more places of interest. Most of all I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the Internado in Sorata.
I am really excited now about meeting everyone. I am writing this in the lobby of the hostal as I wait for Ruben. Wi fi access is good here and I have at last worked out how to Skype.
I can't believe that I will be in Bolivia in one month. I am trying to read as much in Spanish possible to prepare and listening to Bolivian news on line. I have gathered a small amount of classroom material but am hoping that I will be able to adapt to the needs of the schools when I arrive. I am completely flexible as to the kind of support I can give staff and students, I just hope I can help. I have good spiritual support from my meeting here in Abergavenny, especially from the small discussion group I attend regularly. These Friends will be reading my blog while I am away. My family are quite excited about my adventure and very supportive. My husband is hoping to visit sometime in October. I have been raising funds for the BQEF through meeting - see attached photos. Bendiciones Hilary
5/24 - Before I came to La Paz, I had heard about the women’s cooperative called Gregorias and was told I must visit, since my work is in women’s microenterprise. Once I started to look into it, I learned quite a bit. There are actually two (at least) organizations: Gregoria Apaza, an NGO started 27 years ago whose name honors a Bolivian heroine, and Gregorias, an offshoot organization developed with the help of Quaker Bolivia Link, an international organization. Gregorias is a wonderful cooperative of a few women who work together in a sunny room filled with looms. They are responsible for their own work and designs, setting their own prices, paying their rent (anticredito) and making decisions together. The community is stable, consisting of several Quaker women and their friends. We bought a large number of chalinas, or scarves, made from alpaca wool and the creamiest texture imaginable. We plan to sell them at our Yearly Meeting to benefit BQEF.
We visited the Quaker School Escuela Emmanuel in El Alto with Juan, Ruben and Edwin. It was environmental awareness day, and the students delivered new trash cans to each classroom. We talked with the children about separating trash and reusing organic waste. They have just purchased additional property next door so they might be able to use a compost bin. We discussed the importance of properly disposing of trash and also lots of other environmental issues. We talked about reusing plastic bags, or better yet, using cloth bags, using the example of a town in New Hampshire where the students succeeded in replacing plastic bags with cloth bags. We told the students they had a big responsibility to help clean up the earth, and to teach their families the importance of doing so.