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Day 22: June 8th, 2016 -- What is free time?

Hilarious how I thought Akshay leaving would give me more time. Today I had meetings/activities from 10am until essentially 11pm. The day began at 7:30am with my last run in this country (because tomorrow is spinning). It was fun times and who knows maybe I will miss the 2-3 8am cat calls. Not that it’s going to get any better in Ecuador.

Then I had a meeting with Maria Eugenia and Angelica at 10am to talk a bit about how Angelica’s NGO - Serve Abroad-- could work with the women. Maria Eugenia was pretty skeptical of working with them and proceeded to talk about how we should not work with procasha or at the least be skeptical of them. I agree that it’s important to tread with caution and to really get to know who we’re working with but I also think Angelica is a genuinely good individual who is just trying to find a place to work. In the end we ended up saying that the women will have to discuss if they want Angelica and RB to work together to create literacy workshops over the semester to teach them while we are not here. Our goal in the connection was really to find people to do the work we want during the year because Red Accion is great but they are already extremely busy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the women say on Monday.

Then Maria Eugenia and I had a meeting about how we should write up some formal document, documenting our history together and just how far RB has come and grown with Red Accion because we really have grown together and side by side for the past 3 years. So then I got the bright idea of writing a thesis about it -- something that I really should have thought about much earlier, it’s probably impossible to do now because I was supposed to have taken my junior tutorial last year if I wanted to write a thesis -- something that was in fact made clear to me. But regardless I emailed my concentration advisor asking her about the possibility. She’s super nice and said she would look into it but thought it might be impossible. If it’s possible I’ll probably do it because it would be fun and I think I could easily get a nice professor to be my advisor and then just write about whatever I want. I don’t really get how a thesis works and didn’t think it was useful to write one unless the story really interested you -- but if I could write like a decent piece of writing on RB and managing an NGO as a student I think that would be pretty amazing and useful for the future/ just be nice to have in general. If I can’t do it then I guess that’s okay and I’ll have to write something formal on my own time (hopefully) I can probably take some research classes or something.

Then Maria Eugenia and I went to lunch and kept talking about organizational things like what to do with future partners, Quito conference and working with students from Univalle -- something she was much more receptive too. Then we went to the barrio to talk to Sandra about the business model and check up on the bathroom. Update the mason is still on vacation, but we told Sandra to start using the bathroom so the worms wouldn’t die and she agreed. I also briefly brought up the business model and she was all over it -- she said she already had talked to her husband and they were going to get a shower pump and buy soap and shampoo to sell on the side in case people forget to bring there’s. Sandra is really a business woman so I’m glad we built the bathroom where we did -- pretty fortunate. We really emphasized that the bathroom had to be done. And I also realized that she had bought tile for the walls. Who has tile on the walls in rural Bolivia…. Well I guess that’s where the $300 to tiles went. This bathroom is going to be ballin. So I just hope it gets finished. Like now. Like soon!!!! She bought windows that were super nice too. I know they’ll start using it this week so at least that’s something.

Then we went to a meeting in 4 de Marzo -- the neighborhood we had worked in, in January to talk to them about how much we needed to put in so they would finish their bathrooms. Shockingly 3/7 bathrooms had been finished-- 1 more than I was expecting. They said they would give us an estimate by Monday so I’ll have to wire that money over from Ecuador, so let’s hope that’s allowed. Then they talked about this sewing workshop/business that they had started with the help of a sister from the catholic church. They had 5-7 sewing machines and had “class” from 2-5pm Mondays and Tuesdays to learn how to sew things. The women were so enthusiastic and loved talking about it. They had so many ideas and I promised them I would bring them 30 clients in January so if you are a future volunteer reading this get ready to buy some pretty amazing handmade Bolivian clothes. I already promised to buy several skirts -- which they promised would be “miniskirts to show off my body”-- really hilarious women. They also had the idea of making an all women soccer tournament which I think would be fun, I said that if we did it during January on the volunteer’s last day I would put in money for the prizes as long as they were health related like first aid kits or pads and the women seemed pumped. I’m already thinking that since there will be like 30 volunteers I’ll divide them up between Harsh and Akshay and make them the team captains. That’ll be fun to watch especially since Akshay is sooo not competitive. I think everyone would have a blast though. It’s always amazing to see how organized and motivated these women are. We haven’t really talked about the reality that they live in but here it is: most of them have nothing. Their 1 bedroom, concrete floor houses aren’t places of refuge; rather they are a place to escape, the women don’t like being home, they don’t like being constrained to a life of raising kids and waiting for their husbands to come home. Of struggling to put together $2 to buy a piece of protein for their meal. Of praying that their kids will have the chance to go to school. Of taking showers once a month. Of being forced to have sex with their husbands. Of sleeping on the ground while their kids get the one bed. Of being married to men who have multiple women. Of going hungry to feed their kids. And yet, they work so hard in their earning groups, they are so vocal and joyful and alive. Something that I’ve failed to see in many of my classmates at Harvard. Their dedication is astonishing. Sometimes Akshay says I’m an amazing person because maybe my life wasn’t picture perfect-- but these women are actually, truly amazing. They were so proud to show me their sweaters and to make plans to play soccer and to do a parade to show of all their clothes. They were so happy when I remembered their names, so happy to say “oh say hi to Harsh and Akshay and Jason! They are our friends in the United States!” They are so incredible and I’m so blessed to be working with them. Sometimes I wonder how and why I got into this…. But I think that’s enough random emotions for today. Don’t worry tomorrow’s my last post and I promise it will be a solid amount of emotional musing/ rambling so if you are a future volunteer or someone trying to learn more about our organization you don’t have to read the next post. The work is essentially done. It went amazingly. Love everyone. Oh but tomorrow I will go to Seton to see if they actually kept up their end of the deal with the data input -- sneak peak, I’m pretty sure they haven’t not because they don’t want to just because technology is hard. Also tonight our report comes out on live TV!!! Will be dope.

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