Jul 31, 2012

A Thousand Words

Not really. Just a bunch of pictures from days I and II.
Monster Basketball

Boys listening to Doña Yolanda

Art on Day II

Doña Yolanda

Doña y Evan

Don Montilla

Las muchachas listening to Don Montilla

Days I and II

Don Montilla with the campers.
I´ve decided to use Roman numerals this time around so as not to confuse these days with the days from season 1. Heh! Heh! In any event, days I and II of season II are in the books. I was going to write about the first day of camp last night, but there wasn´t much electricity over the last couple of days. As a side note: We take for granted a lot in the U.S.. Take electicity for example. We take for granted that we have unbroken access to electricity (as long as we pay for it). And if the electricity goes out, even for a few minutes, we´re on the phone to the electic company, demanding that we get it back as soon as possible. It just
doesn´t work that way in many developing countries. Here in the D.R. at times the electicity goes out for hours at a time. The reasons for this are complex, to say the least (in a classic Catch 22, the electic company shuts off power because they don´t have the funds for keeping it going round the clock because people don´t pay their electic bills (or simply wire in to someone else´s electricity) and the people claim that they don´t pay their electic bills because the electicity goes off all the time). As Camila and I were sitting in the dark last night, we had a long talk about appreciating what we take for granted in the US. This is a powerful lesson that Tanya and I hope are children absorb.

One more word on electricity. The people here have named electicity Juanita. So when the power goes out they shout: ¨Se fue Juanita¨and when it comes back, ¨Llego Juanita¨ I just love that they have personified an electrical force. There´s something poetic about that.

But I digress.  The first two days of camp, all in all, have gone quite well. We had about 20 children who had registered for the camp, but we really weren´t sure how many were going to show up, especially considering the late time change.  And when we got to the camp on Monday at 2:00 and didn´t see any campers there, I was a bit nervous. (You´d think I´d learn about Dominican time by now) But, by about 2:30 24 campers ranging in age from 8 to 14 had arrived. And today, we had two more, for a total of 26.  Word´s out I guess!!

The first day we spent getting to know each other. Nothing really to write about, though we did introduce the idea of community as the theme of the camp. Then today, we invited two community leaders to come to the camp to speak to the kids. The first was Doña Yolanda, Tanya´s mother. She is the president of all the neighborhood groups in Madre Vieja. She spoke about the history of Madre Vieja (the name of the community) and told us all how the community got it´s name. Turns out that when Trujillo was in charge of things, he controlled all of the farms in the country. This community, back in the day, was a farming community and Trujillo sent all of his older cows here that had passed their calving days and were thus only used for their milk. Hence the name, Madre Vieja. Tanya didn´t even know that story. I find Doña Yolanda truly inspiring. She raised seven children here basically on the little income that their farm provided. She made sure that all of them stayed in school and then sent most of them to the U.S. to get a college education and a future. And over the years she became the leader of the community. When she speaks to them about how the neighborhoood association can help people, the campers listen, because they know. And because in all likelihood the association that Doña Yolanda leads has helped some of their families in one way or another; paying for needed medicine, helping a child, who was detained by the police, get released, providing drinking water. We speak of community activism, Doña Yolanda is the model that we should all follow.

Anyways, the second visitor was Don Montilla, Carmen´s father in law. He grew up on a farm deep in the Dominican countryside, moved to San Cristobal to go to private school, became a teacher and then in his twenties got turned on to chess, eventually becoming the President of the nation´s chess society. He spoke of his life and his travels as the Dominican chess ambassador and was a very powerful speaker. He told this wonderful, if apocryphal, story about the origins of chess. In this version, chess was invented by a Hindu slave in 6th century India. The slave invented the game and brought it to his cruel king. He explained to the King how each piece from the pawns to the knights, to the rooks have their purpose and that without them, the King had nothing. The King was so overjoyed by this game that he told the slave that he would grant the slave anything he wanted. The slave said that all he wanted was freedom for all the slaves, which the King then granted.

The moral of this story, though completely unintended on our part, since we didn´t have much of any idea about what Don Montilla was going to talk about, fit right into our lesson of the day: that everyone in a community has an important role to play and that anyone motivated to do so, could become a community leader. It almost sounds like we know what we´re doing here.

Of course, I could share what happened during Sports, which was a complete mess, with the campers basically running around doing whatever they wanted and shouting at each other a lot, but I think I´ll keep that to myself for now.

One final note, in the picture above, check out everyone in their fantastic green or white camp t´shirt. We have Hector Estrada, a friend of Nelly and Samuel´s to thank. He donated all the funds for the
t´shirts and created the design. Then Nelly and Samuel found a place here in San Cristobal to print them and we got them on Monday morning, just in time for the camp to start (No need to worry about that at all.)  This gives me an idea though: product placement. Maybe we should buy the kids gatorade, for example, take lots of pictures of the campers drinking their gatorade and post them to the blog. Do you think Gatorade would then sponsor the camp and send us lots of money to donate to the community?  Just a thought.