Thursday, September 17, 2009

Volunteering! And, a history lesson.

I am beginning to feel restless. I have just finished reading Long Way Round – a book by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman about their trip around the world on two motorcycles. The challenges they faced and situations they overcame while riding through some of the most foreign places I can imagine (Mongolia, Siberia, etc.) were astounding.

We are quite cozy in our little existence in Sucre. I feel ready for the challenge of a new destination, especially as we meet new people every week and learn all about the places they just came from! Perhaps I was always meant to be a nomad? Hard to say, it is still very early yet… =)

For now, we are grounded in Sucre for an estimated six weeks more. Our Spanish classes will continue, albeit less frequently. We are less concerned about learning new things as being comfortable with using what we have already learned. Next week we will stick with only three days a week as we turn our attention to other things.

Pete and I are now committed to volunteering for the rest of our stay in Sucre, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! I am sure that this experience will give me the challenge I am looking for.

Nanta (pronounced “Nyanta”) is a drop in center for street kids. Up to 250 kids a day are provided breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea every day except Sunday. There is a shower facility, computer room and school room. Organized activities for the kids include arts and crafts, music lessons, and they even have a swim club. While it may sound glorious, the space that they are currently operating is in a pretty poor state (I will try to post some pictures when I get a chance). There are some paid workers at the center, but a lot of programs are run by traveling volunteers who can commit some time when passing through.

Nanta is entirely funded by private donations. Unicef and other such organizations will not assist the facility as most of the kids are supported in their street work (90% of kids over 12 and 50% of kids under 12 at Nanta do some form of work in the streets – shoe shining, selling chiclets, etc to support their families). Nanta also gets no help from the government – Bolivia is very obviously divided into two distinct regions based on political thought and Sucre is on the wrong side of the current government.

I am going to help the swim club every afternoon. For Nanta to be able to offer this opportunity for these kids is a big deal. Swimming in Bolivia is very much an upper class activity to do, and so the kids who frequent Nanta would never otherwise have a chance to be in a pool and learn to swim. While they do have two paid instructors to teach the kids, I’ll be working with the younger kids who need extra help in the shallow end.

Yesterday was my first day with the kids in the pool! When they first learned that I was there to help them swim, they were eager to show off their skills as well as have me show them what I could do. While the real instructor focused on helping the kids with their front crawl, I spent most of my time with a smaller girl named Natalie who was obviously behind the others. I struggled, given that our Spanish lessons haven’t focused on phrases to use in the pool, but I was able to demonstrate for her: “Mira a mi!” (Watch me!) It was so awesome to see her face light up when she would improve and I could say: “Muy bien Natalie!”

On the way back to Nanta from the pool, I practiced my Spanish with an older girl named Nancy. She knew some English as well so we were able to have a good discussion – to the point where she even managed to comment on the fact that I had no babies of my own yet. Nice – glad that I can now get harassed about that in more than one language!

Pete has many activities on his plate! Every Tuesday and Thursday, he will spend his mornings as a pastry chef – helping to cook some little treats for the kids with their afternoon tea and to sell to local restaurants to help bring in money. In the afternoons he will be offering drop-in English classes for kids that need help with their homework (he has two students scheduled this afternoon already!). For the other afternoons in the week, he’ll be helping drag kids to the dentist (they will find any excuse not to go!) His first day is today, so while I write this he is probably elbow deep in dough.

And while he does that, I am off on a little shopping spree – I need some flip flops for the pool and a pair of shorts to sleep in. My “spree” shouldn’t cost me more than $10 I am sure!


A history lesson

Pete and I finally found time to visit one of the recommended museums in Sucre. Called “Casa de la Libertad”, or The Liberty House, it contains artifacts, paintings and other items to do with Bolivia’s independence from Spain, including housing the declaration of independence in the actual room it was signed in back in the day.

2009 marks their 200th year of independence - or so the posters say. In actuality, 1809 was the year that they started fighting for independence – they didn’t actually gain it until 1825. However, for whatever reason, 1809 has been adopted as the official year. I think they just wanted another excuse to throw a big party this year!

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