Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Chile - El Ultimo

Hola Amigos,

Well, I'm back at home and my laundry's in the drier. I am a little distressed that I cannot get my computer to recognize the memory card in my camera. If anyone has ideas of how these pictures and movies can be saved... feel free to let me know. And now to sum up. (This turned out to be a long one so go get some coffee before you start reading)

I guess I last talked with you before I ate the horse. It was Thursday morning on the site and it was another rainy Temuco day. Given that you don't want the wood for the walls to get wet and our assembly floor was in the field with the cows behind the houses, there wasn't enough work for all of us. I was in the group that opted to go into town, change money run errands etc.

Una, Tracy, Carmen, Dennis and I ran around and then went to a place call Num Num for lunch and ordered hamburgers. We were so obsessed with making sure they didn't put gobs of mayonnaise, none of us thought to ask if the hamburger was made from a cow. It didn't really look or taste like the hamburgers we know here... all in all it's a topic better not thought of.

Thursday night, the team went out to dinner in Temuco. Always exciting compared to the dorm style food of the Hogar. All in all, however, the food has been fabulous and the meals that Anita whips up for 20 people on the worksite in Barbie's kitchen are amazing.

After dinner (around 11:30) we went to Oba, a club where we were supposed to meet Lorena, the Habitat Coordinator and Paula, the civil engineer, #1 jefa of the worksite. Thursdays are karaoke nights.

Here's the thing, they only let 8 groups sing because it's a big old contest. John, Dennis, Bryan and Gerard sang "New York, New York". Sadly the only working microphone was in the hands of Dennis, the mumbling Australian. While they were in time with each other, they were not with the music. We applaud them for going first.

Terri and I got up to sing "Dancing Queen" complete with moves and everything... we scored an 8. A few more groups from the Habitat gang sang and after some audience voting (where we were confused and clapped for our people when the idea was you were clapping for people you wanted to leave) there was a Chilean Idol sing off. One woman sang the national anthem... not fair. A winner was declared and we danced to 80's music from the US until the place closed at 4:00am.

The next trick was getting home. How many people can you fit into a Hyundai? Eight. That's how many. Paula drove us home and waited while we climbed over the gate. This was very helpful as the police came by and she had to talk to them. Thank goodness Jessica was on a project and awake to let us in. I hear the photos will be up on www.oba.cl as of Tuesday... though I didn't see them today. Maybe they were only up until Tuesday?

After 2 hours of sleep on Friday, we went for our final day of work. It was still raining and we paraded around in yellow rainsuits, sitting in houses that had walls and roofs, but no doors, trying to stay dry.

There was a house dedication in the afternoon. Thank goodness Una and I prepared a speech, which we had Carmen translate into Spanish ahead of time so we could each translate each other. There were many speakers, a ranting priest and then all the families got Bibles. Finally, off to the ribbon cutting.

Una and I (and the president of Habitat Chile - who knew?) held the scissors together while Lorena ran on the other side to take a photo. The additions we were building seemed so small, but when you walk through from the inside, you see it adds another third to the house. We were both okay until we got to the window at the end and Norma, one of the homeowners and mother of my little amigo Sebastian, was outside waiting for us, crying and telling us she'll never forget us, we'll always be in her heart. Here we go... now Una and I are crying... we walk back out so other people can walk into the addition. Other family members are taking their Bibles around to get all of us who worked with them to write our names inside. It becomes a very humbling snivel-fest.

Little Javier, as opposed to big Javier of the tattoos, asks me to take his picture with the polaroid camera. I do and he comes back moments later to give me his shin guard with his name written on it and his picture stuck on the front. It's a momento from him to me. Precious pookie.

Back to the Hogar for showers and the family celebration... in short, much food, much dancing and much more crying. Omar, one of the maestros and the one whose catchprase "perfesto, correcto, exacto" became the theme for our trip got everyone going. He said God made him fat, ugly and charming and that's the way it is. He wanted to be sure that we only kept the good memories from this trip and buried the bad,then he told us to go back to our families and tell them that he has asked God to bless us all. Then he started singing in the most beautiful, resonant voice. Lordy. Javier of the tattoos started crying so much he had to go into the kitchen, which made Una cry so much she had to go upstairs. It's amazing what kind of connections you can make and how powerful these trips can be when they're only two weeks.

After dinner, the team converged in the space where we meet to do our morning reflections. It was very cool. Some people wanted to talk, some people just wanted to be near everyone else on the team. It had been a very overwhelming day.

Una and I realized... if we hadn't decided to do a Habitat trip, or hadn't picked Chile or hadn't convinced 14 other people to come with us, those families would still be waiting for the additions to their houses. When people come together to work for a common good, they really can accomplish great things.

Saturday morning, we had the last reflection, led by the jefas. We did an excercise where people brought items that symoblized the trip for them and put them in a circle. You had to pick up an item and talk about it... the trick is, you couldn't pick up your own. Una and I threw in random things like a headlamp and a converter and still, everyone was able to pick an item and use that as a talking point to say what they got out of this trip. Yes, there was more crying. It's all good stuff.

We had the team celebration lunch, which included bent nail awards (I am "Jefa La Compactadora") and singing a song I wrote to the tune of "Copacabana", called "Hogar Bautista". John was the inspiration when he sang the first line.

Back up to Santiago in the evening and much of the group was on their way. The rest of us met for dinner.

Sunday, we couldn't find any protest so Una, Alison, Amy and I hung out in Santiago. (We did shake our fist at the American Embassy as we drove by in a cab) We sent more people on their way Sunday night and by dinner time it was just Una, Alison and I - Las Chicas Superpodersas - that would be the Power Puff Girls.

Monday we took a bus into Valparaiso and got lunch at a cafe recommended by Lydia (it was fabu, thanks!) We took acesnsores up hills and down hills and walked around. And here we are.

Is it hard to be a jefa? Yes. Is it wonderful to introduce other people to the magic of a Habitat trip? Yes. Would I do it again? Let me know what you're doing in Spring of 2006 and start your research on Kyrgyzstan.

Chau chau,

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Chile - Numero Tres

Hola Amigos,

"Yo soy compactadora muy bien." That´s what I said on the Chilean news. Yes, the Chilean news. A news crew - okay 2 people - came out to the site today to interview some of us and the families. Of the brigade, I´m the only one they put on tv... I took a video of it with my camera so we shall see. I´ve actually been taking a lot of videos in the hopes that Danny will cobble them all together... hear that DannyÇ

The news clip from MEGA tv:

Lordy, it´s hard to be a jefa. We have to watch out for people who are getting sick. We had a blow up over the election... apparently we let a republican get into the group. I had a representative from a splinter coalition come talk to me about the coalition wanting to break off during the R&R. On top of it all... Una and I stay up until the wee hours trying to figure out the team accounting... our only weakness as co-jefas...give us a calculator and a stack of receipts and we´re up until 1.30 adding and readding.

Our R&R was fabulous. We were at this wonderful B/B in Villarrica where we could sit on the patio overlooking the mountains and the gardens, drinking coffee and playing cards. We trekked around lakes, a smoking volcano and flopped in hot springs. One day we visited a site where Volcan Villarrica erupted in 1971 and killed a village full of people in a wedding party. It was creepy, and yet we still took pictures of each other running across the lava away from the volcano.

The work is going well. We´re working on 7 houses and today got the floors poured for all of them. That means no more shovelling rocks, no more wheelbarrowing concrete and no more tamping. Although, I have discovered tamping is a special skill of mine - yo soy compactadora muy bien. Tamp on, sister. Tracy, Terri and I are creating a group, Terri and the Tampons... and why notÇ

Team dynamics are an interesting thing. Una and I have a jefa conference almost every night behind closed doors. Have I mentioned jefa means bossÇ When things go wrong, I sometimes, in possible violation of the jefa convention, consult with Alison, our Fearless Backup Leader. To all yáll who manage or have managed people, my hats off to you. Lordy. For the most part though, it´s going well. It´s a good group and aside from some people being neurotic and bossy or a bit too long winded, we´re cool. Thankfully, we´ve got a few people of little words to balance us out.

Okay, I think that´s it for now. I´ve done some laundry... very exciting... and it´s possible that there is another game of hearts going on upstairs and I would hate to miss out.

Adios amigos,

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Chile - Numero Dos

Hola Amigos!

Ah, we had a Chilean coup of our own just now. The women took over the men´s shower while they were down the street drinking cerveza - ah ha.

So we}re two days into the work now. I have become queen of shovelling rocks. Why? My wheelbarrow skills have improved but they are still not as good as other peoples. We are digging out the foundation for 7 houses. Once we{ve dug out all the dirt, it{s a lasanga of big rocks, cement, big rocks, cement and then people start tamping. I have taken to shouting out Tamp On, Tamper! This is a bad habit. I also shout when people get their pick on. We have some very enthusiastic excavators.

Many of us now own very fashionable plastic yellow rain suits. It{s better than getting wet, because we only stop working when it rains really hard. We were amusing the Chileans standing under a shelter while it was raining singing Singing in the Rain and MacArthur Park.. someone left a pala - shovel - in the rain...

What else. Una and I have to meet with directors of the board and all sorts of people because we are the first brigade and everyone is stopping by the worksite to say hello. We are the jefas. Every night we have a jefa conference to find out who on the team is driving us nuts - and they are, blanche, they are. The main jefa of the site is a woman named Paula who is a civil engineer. She gets to boss around the maestros. She is very friendly and we all love her.

I spent the bus ride home learning words in Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche. My brain gets as tired as my muscles sometimes. Okay the carpal tunnel is kicking back in and there{s a line so I{m going to sign off.

Also... we{re all very sad to hear about the election. Booschwin. That{s what Gabriel, one of the homeowners told us and it seems to be true. He will be in Santiago on the 14th and so will we. If I{m late coming back to work it{s because we went to protest with the Chileans and I{m in a Chilean jail somewhere. Send bail money.


Monday, November 1, 2004

Chile - Numero Uno

Hola amigos!

Estamos aqui en Temuco! I´m having some problems withthe keyboard so forgive any typos... there is a lineso now is not the time to be formal.

We´re all here, staying in the Hogar de Bautista - theBaptist house for girls. There are communal showerswhich we have divided up into boys and girls becausetaking showers with strangers of the opposite genderis just too much. It´s very cold and all the bedshave 4 wool blankets. I feel like I´m suffocating andstart having claustrophobic fits. Other people feellike they´re in the womb - all about perspective,really.

Anyway. Santiago is a big urban city. On halloween they were having mayoral elections so most everthingwas closed. We found some place to have lunch and gotmicrobuses to the airport. Today in Temuco, and allover Chile it is All Saint´´s Day - so once againeverything closed.

We did go to a Mapuche museum to see some pots andthen to a Mercado to buy scarves made of alpaca furand some musical instruments. I now have a drum andhorn I´m considering using for a wake up call.

We met some of the families tonight in a bienvenidaand were forced to speak Spanish for a long enoughtime that my head hurt. The directors from theHabitat board and some of the family members got up tospeak, so of course Una and I had to say something. Connie our Habitat contact was translating theconversation to English for us so I thought she wouldtranslate our conversation to Spanish, but no. SinceI had been throwing my Spanish around, I got totranslate for Una. Lordy. It actually went okay andI impressed some of the non Spanish speaking membersof the team.

The team is great. We did our orientation Saturday...one of the games is where you throw a string aroundwhen answering the question of what your greaterpurpose for coming on this trip was. You hold on tothe string so it ends up looking like a big web onceeveryone has gone and then we talk about this beingsymbolic of us all being connected and we cut thestring up and give some to everyone asking them thatwhen they get frustrated over the next two weeks that they look at their string and remember why they arehere and why other people are here and to chill out. EVeryone is wearing their string around, on theirwrists, using it to hold their nametags, etc. It´scool.

For all our trying to get to know people before thetrip, they surprise you. We´ve got quite a few chattyCathys so we´´re trying to make sure everyone gets achance to speak up. Every day provides a newchallenge for Una and I team wise and logistic wise. So far, they´ve mostly been personal challenges... butsome of them have the potential to go team wide.

Áh well... what would it be without a challenge and alesson to learn, eh¿

Tomorrow we finally get to work. It is currentlypissing down rain, says Dennis, and we will worktomorrow, rain or shine. I´m a little sad to find outthe scotch guard didn´t take to my jacket too well andI´m not really waterproof. Gives me something else tolook for at the mercado besides spice racks and piecesof wood that say welcome to Temuco.

Okay, this has been far too long. The computer is atthe Hogar so I imagine I´ll get to write again. Though this keyboard is so stiff I think I´ve justdeveloped carpal tunnel.

As they say here...