Saturday, May 30, 2009
[Rachel showing her face-painting repertoire this afternoon at the block party.]
[Game on! Jessica blindfolds Crusoe at Horita Feliz.]
[Leading songs at Horita Feliz this morning.]
[Spending time with the Barrio youth Friday night.]
We're looking forward to some rest tomorrow evening and Monday.
We finished the work project and now we're showing it off with a party for the whole neighborhood! When we arrived this room had broken windows, bare concrete walls, and a ceiling so ominous that we were scared to step inside. One week later... this!
We played a few games of fútbol with the neigborhood kids and then I got to rock out with Will and John (percussion and harmonica) as we played music for the kids. (Burlap to Cashmere, Dispatch, and worship songs in both Spanish and English.)
[A job well done.]
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Today: Finished painting the classroom!
The ceiling is finished, too, and we're planning a barbecue/block party for Saturday afternoon. We've already challenged the local kids to some futbol.
Fri: 9pm-midnight with barrio youth
Last week it was just a time to hang out and build trust. This week we're planning a memorable introduction. I'm hoping for a combo of beat boxing, juggling five flaming balls, and spitting fire. ...we'll see.
Sat: Horita Feliz (with barrio kids), block party, and leading youth worship at church.
John, Will, Steven, and myself are working up an acoustic set for worship. We've chosen mostly songs in Spanish and what's funny to us is that the music we've chosen is far more stereotypically Latino than theirs is.
Sun: Attend church and rest
Mon: Some serious sabbath
We're all getting pretty tired.
Tues: Projects around church
Wed: Leave for Lavalle (la-vai-shay) desert.
We've been warned that working in the desert is an experience to be approached with healthy respect. We anticipate that it will be both physically and spiritually intense while simultaneously inexplicably beautiful. The distractions of life will be stripped away and we'll be left with hard work, gorgeous skies, and each other. Because of that, it will be essential that we rest beforehand.
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun: Mixing/pouring a 30'x30' concrete pad in the desert.
We'll stay until the work is done. We're expecting 3-5 days.
Thank you all again for praying.
[Exploring stream beds.]
[Cuddle puddle while reading Narnia aloud in Spanish]
[Constructing the new ceiling.]
[The council of leaders at the YWAM base... deciding to go to the Lavalle desert.]
(Recorded on Wed, May 13 in Bogota and Thurs, May 14 in Bucaramanga.)
Monday, May 25, 2009
Arriving in the barrio for the first time, we see deep holes in the rocky streets. Esteban tells us that the metal grates have been stolen from the road to be sold for iron. We pull up to the Copa de Leche for the first time and inside the building there is a small class in session for the neighborhood kids. We make our way to the back of the building and ask the question of the week, "How can we help?"
...we've been asking that question a lot.
This soup kitchen serves kids every week day at 5, so our team has already made a rotation so that a few of us are there to help every day.
"We've got someone with a bloody toe already! She got rocked... all puns intended." (Aside: "Hee hee. It has begun!") -Will
Friday I got to play on the worship team for the youth service at church. Great fun trying to fit in to an established team with a very different style from my own. (A heavy southern gospel/Israel Houghton influence... with a swooshy synth keys foundation.) We've been invited to plan and lead next week on our own and an acoustic set with wailing harmonica is in order.
It's been a unique trip for me as we've been befriended by the youth at the local church, here. Our team is certainly not working in isolation and a large part of our time will be spent building friendships at church while we serve i n the barrio to help bridge the social gap between the middle class Mendocinos and the displaced indigenous poor in the barrios.
Saturday we were back in the barrio at the Copa de Leche but this time for "Horita Feliz." That's the two hour program for little ones wit h Bible stories, crafts, games, and a snack. It was mayhem of the best kind. I had a blast puppeteering with John as we narrated the story of the good Samaritan and the kids loved it, too.
Jessica: "¿Eres una artista?"
Little girl: "No."
Little girl: "No."
Little girl (aside): "¿Que es una artista?"
Today we've been working to renovate a building where high school dropouts are tutored. We've replaced a few windows and we're painting the interior with the worst paint known to man. (Walmart and the devil worked together to bamboozle us into buying this junk.) While I led the painting portion, Will and others started i nstalling the new ceiling. We expect to finish by this weekend and to throw a block party to show off the new facilities.
[Replacing broken window panes.]
I've been making progress on the GTAB documentary and have started planning an informational video with Will for Resonate Church and Compassion With Action Foundation. Hopefully I can finish the latter before leaving Arg.
Tomorrow is my day on the cooking rotation so I'll get to spend extra time with Julio. He works for the church but has been a constant help with cooking the best food in the world. So much good food...
Please continue praying:
~Discernment as we seek God daily to know not only what we should do, but also what we are called to do.
~Cultivating servant hearts
~Learning about/Adjusting to culture
Wednesday will be the end of week one. Two more weeks remain for me.
I was really concerned about getting any rest staying overnight in the airport in Santiago after my experience with the "soft" Jazz from hell in Miami. But thank you for praying. I found a dead end hallway on the fourth floor and decided to be a little more audacious then usual... there were two security guards working just around the corner but I set up my new hammock between two railings and got seven hours of uninterrupted slumber.
[Sunset over Chile]
[Home away from home.]
Meeting the team for the flight out that next morning was definitely a joy for me and we were picked up at the airport by a small posse including Steve Fernandez and his two kids Michelle and Derek. We made it to Argentina!
That first day we got the tour of where we'll be staying (a house next door to the local church that they are partnered with) then we went out to the Fernandez's house where they stuffed us full of empanadas and we chatted until afternoon. While the others rested through the heat of the day (part of our daily schedule) I got to rehearse with the youth worship team for a Saturday evening service. At 4:30 a small group of us went to the soup kitchen ("Copa de Leche") in the barrio to help out. That happens every weekday so our team leaders, Will and Jessica have written up a rotation so we all get a chance to help there.
Today was day two in Argentina and I'm loving it! We spent the morning doing chores around the church and as the sun was setting we played futbol with Julio (a great guy who works for the church and is teaching us how to cook delicious things each day for the team.) Pastor Besada (who I know from my trip here with YWAM 3 years ago) called and then stopped by to invite me to dinner tomorrow.
This evening continued with a team meeting, a delicious snack, and then worshiping together.
Tomorrow (as always) will require some flexibility as I'm not sure what we'll be up to. But it looks like most days are going to include some hard work, some fun, and lots of delicious food.
I used today's siesta time to get a jump start on the GTAB documentary project. I'm realizing that it would be completely undoable if I hadn't worked my way up to this. Four hours of video in 530 files is a ridiculous amount of video to work with. But I've finished setting up the project file faster than I forecasted and editing interviews is ready to begin!
Thank you so much for your prayers.
My primary concerns became the strongest and best parts of the trip...
The evening before I left Bellingham I got an email from Matt saying that he would meet me at the airport. Huge relief for me and I got to spend even more time with him as we bussed together all over Bogota.
The Acevedos' hospitality is world-class and unparalelled by anything I've experienced before. In both Bucaramanga and Cáchira they provided places to stay, food to eat, and great company. Jairo basically adopted me and rarely left my side throughout the four days in Cáchira: driving me around, introducing me to people, and helping me communicate when I got stuck. His hospitality overflows onto the next answered prayer...
The Acevedos' help meant that I got to see many of the villages surrounding Cáchira. I met professors, toured a handful of primary schools that send students to the Institute, and had instant trust from anyone that met me. This led to a mountain of superb media and interviews that have already started coming together. This trip has already been shown effective as I've begun sharing about the trip and witnessed people's interest.
There were many times that I was concerned for my camera's safety, but never for my own. Having someone Matt in Bogota and the Acevedos in Bucaramanga and Cáchira meant that I was nearly always escorted. Usually that wouldn't have been necessary, but it meant that I got to go to more places and meet more people.
[Cafe with new friends in Bucaramanga]
Monday, May 18, 2009
Psalm 37: Dwell in the land -> Enjoy safe pastures.
John 14: Abide in me -> Bear fruit.
...join me in thinking about it.
I got to rest this afternoon and I'm making tremendous progress on a script for the documentary. I hope to finish the outline before meeting the Argentina team in the airport Wednesday morning.
-Safe travels tomorrow (departing 4:30am PST)
-Good use of travel time (overnight layover in the Santiago airport)
-Processing what I've seen so that I can communicate clearly
(revelation to see connections, organization to emphasize them, writing to communicate them)
-Preparation for Argentina
(heart & mind ready for what God will do, rested enough to jump in immediately)
(The digestive ailments are arriving and I'm alert in case of malaria symptoms. None so far.)
[The national park in Chicamocha.]
[Me, Tañia, Doñatina, and Jairo.]
[Made with goat blood, heart, and intestine. Tastes like rice-a-roni.]
[A Santanderean snack food fried and salted: Hormigas Culonas.]
(Literally translated: "big-ass ants")
Shards of the exoskeloton stick around in your mouth for a while... not a fan.
[Beautiful spot for thinking on the roof of the 5th floor]
...definitely a fan.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
What I'm up against now, however, is 5hrs of video footage, 28 pages of notes, and a whole lot of stories rolling around in my head... Somehow I need to organize all this into something that communicates the GTAB project clearly.
Tuesday morning I leave for Argentina and get to spend the night in a Chilean airport. Good time for thinking, pray for rest.
[Great lighting for interviewing students.]
[Doñatina (Manuel's mother) reminiscing as she looks at the hillside where she raised her children.]
[Inside Cachira's cathedral.]
[A little car trouble on the way back to Bucaramanga (Tire change and pressure check: US$3)]
Friday, May 15, 2009
Jairo pointed out so many points of interest along the way that I could never remember them all. And Manuel's relatives are everywhere! Uncles here, nephews, there... the countryside is thriving with them. I toured the school where Jairo works and for the first time felt that I was seen as Santa Claus. Perhaps it comes from living in the US, but it reiterated to me the importance in humanitarian work of having a very specific purpose. I realized that GTAB's specific purpose is to enable education, not to make it more comfortable.
We arrived in Cachira yesterday afternoon and after a delicious meal I promptly fell asleep. Waking in the middle of the night, I got up to write and pray (I've found both necessary to fend off insanity) and then got a solid second night's sleep that same night.
My primary concern for today was that I'd have trouble communicating clearly the purpose of the project and asking the questions that I had prepared. But over breakfast I was able to clearly cast the vision of the project to a very patient Jairo and all day he would chime with clarification when he saw me struggling with my words.
Jam-packed with conversation, interviews, tours of the school's facilities, morning mass, a drive into the countryside to find students to interview, a torrential rain that turned the dirt road into a small river, a hilarious lunch with professors, and a rollicking party with live music and dancing for this national holiday for teachers. I felt increasingly comfortable communicating (it's so much easier with children than with adults) and I learned to dance Vallenato and Merengue. I got to join the band onstage and play musical instruments to every one's delight (they were surprised that I could play a little bass.)
...oh, and the professors totally all tried to hook me up with the school secretary. Hilariously forward of them. I'll try to let her down gently.
[Bed time in Miami Airport]
[A glance at Las Floridas (with suburbs upon suburbs of Bogota in the distance.)]
[Checking out the new community center in Las Floridas with Matt and Milton]
[Formal dinner with the Rotary Club (so under dressed!)]
[Meeting professors for the first time at an "Ecological Park."]
[Surveying Cachira from above with Jairo.]
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I'm safe, happy, and God is very very good.
--video from Miami may be on vimeo (if the internet connection lasts)--
I couldn't have dreamed up a more intensely well spent day than yesterday. (Believe me, I tried.) Matt met me at the airport and after checking my bag into a locker we bussed/taxied/bussed/hired a jeep to the very southern end of Bogota and up the hill to "Las Altas de Florida" where Fusion is doing an tremendous project un collaboration with 10 other humanitarian organizations. I got to tour the new communty center buldings and hear all about the contrasts of the two neighborhoods where Fusion does the majority of their community development. This one, Las Floridas, is a very young community of people displaced by violence in other parts of Colombia and it is growing quickly. Because of it's newness, there is not yet the same kind of paramilitary presence or gang activity there as there is in the other, more established slum.
Two things stood out prominently to me about Las Floridas: dignity and trust. These people are very active in improving their own situation. Job training and entrepreneurship are things that Fusion emphasises, but after hearing Matt converse with two of the self-appointed community leaders, it's clear that they're already taking matters into their own hands. I got to taste fresh bread from the new bakery and hear how one seamstress has already hired three employees. This says so clearly to me that these people refuse to pity themselves and will instead do everything in their power to improve quality of life for themselves and their children. It's those vey same chuldren that showed me itis a community of trust. Along every street and catching glimpses between the carefully tended shacks I could see children playing everywhere... little ones calling out to each other with fists full of green grass and the bigger ones playing futbol or racing scooters. On every street no every block they were everywhere. As we walked back down the steep hill leaving Las Floridas we passed families walking up together.
...I'd rather raise my kids in extreme poverty surrounded by strong families than cushioned by wealth in a relationally bankrupt neighborhood.
From there we bussed/walked/bussed/walked to the very north end of Bogota for one of the fanciest dinners I've ever had - excluding weddings. Every man around the table was wearing a tie exept for myself and my two companions. We were at the Rotary club meeting where Matt presented a slideshow of the completed community center. We must have been two hours late, but dinner was just being served when we arrived and I've rarely found a group that knows how to celebrate so well. It was their annual evening for giving awards and they did just that - awarding each other with fancy certificates, plaques, and much applause - for the better part of an hour. Matt introduced me and explained breifly what the GTAB project is all about and afterward I was warmly welcomed, thanked for what I am doing, and received a handful of invitations back. I said that I hope to bring a bus the next time I pass through Bogota.
Matt escorted me back to the airport to pick up my bag and then we taxied to the bus station where I climbed aboard and didn't wake up until the driver stirred me in Bucaramanga (9 hours later.)
Manuel's sisters Gladys and Ana Isabel met me at the terminal and we taxied to one of their apartments where I met a husband (Jairo) and son and was treated to a delicious breakfast of arepas (hooray!), cheese, and eggs. Now we've walked over to the other sister's apartement where she lives with her mother (latino culture rocks) and I have opportunity to correspond, bathe, and prepare to drive to Cachira.
Their hospitality is overwhelming. Even after picking me up at six in the morning they've been very generous and Jairo has just arrived to drive me out to Cachira instead of my taking the bus. So generous. It's a three hour drive.
Ta ta for now!
Monday, May 11, 2009
...not finished packing, definitely still concerned about safety, have a lot of praying to do, but I'm eager.
Each time I make a new video I pick something that I'll focus on, learn more about, and endeavor to excel at. Lighting, sound, camera movements, editing, color... each time something improves.
Each time I travel there's some new part of it that's outside of my comfort zone. My YWAM school in Venezuela and Argentina had me traveling internationally with a group. Romania with Will last year was my first time in countries where I didn't know the local language. This is my first time flying solo. It's definitely the next step outside of my comfort zone.
Tonight I heard from Matt Alexander (founder of Fusion) that he plans to meet me at the airport in Bogotá (Colombia.) From there he'll take me to the slums to show me where Fusion does the majority of their work before my 9 hour bus ride through the night to Bucaramanga. That's the plan for Day 1 (Wednesday.)
The tentative schedule...
- Tues am: depart from SeaTac
- Tuesday night: sleep in Miami Airport.
- Wed: tour slums with Matt.
- Wed night: 9hr bus ride through Colombia to Bucaramanga.
- Thurs am: (somehow) 4hr bus ride to Cachira
- Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun: in Cachira... filming, photographing, learning.
- Mon: return to Bucaramanga
- Tues: off to Argentina!