Saturday, July 01, 2006

Thank God for Margaret Post. Not only has she arrived with much energy, much love, and much wonderment at this place -- but she's also helped me give my exam, CORRECT my exam, stop worrying about my exam and generally breathe deeply and celebrate the end of my time here. And if that weren't enough she whipped up a scrumptious Italian dinner and one of her famous fruit crisps (this one was apple cranberry!) And if THAT weren't enough, now she's a Guest Blogger and Photographer! Read on as we peek into an e-mail she sent yesterday to her dear ones . . .

Hola mi familia:

We're having a low key day here in Carmen Pampa where the clouds are thick and the rain is trickling occasionally. Because of the rain, we took the campus "bus" (which is really a truck, where we stand on the back and hold on over the bumpy roads!) to the upper campus. A group of us helped Zac give his final exam--a scavenger hunt around campus where the students had to answer a series of questions in english. I was stationed where the students wash their clothes (by hand) and managed to learn a few new spanish words in between the groups coming through for their challenge. I mostly spent my 1.5 hours there marveling at the clouds and mountains, and laughing a lot at my inability to communicate with Alfredo who was washing his clothes and enduring my pathetic spanish!

This school is incredible. Carmen Pampa received an award for being one of the best institutions world wide for alleviating poverty. I learned last night from Sister Jean (who is from Dorchester!) that Carmen Pampa is the only rural campus in Bolivia of the Catholic University. Most of the wealthier students go to the campus in La Paz, whereas Carmen Pampa enrolls poorer students from the villages and towns outside the bigger city. For them, this is their only opportunity for advanced schooling. While Carmen Pampa doesn't received money from the Catholic University, it does have support mostly from donors in the US, and US AID--both of whom recently supported the coffee plant on campus. Even though there is a great deal of support, there are so many needs here. The food cooperatives on campus make it a bit easier for students to afford their meals, yet many still go hungry. For the Carmen Pampa Fund this is a dilemma because there are also many resources needed to support the students' learning--books, the library and the computers, the staff and volunteers.

Amidst these paradoxes though, Carmen Pampa is a place of great joy and beauty. The school is located in the town of Carmen Pampa, so nestled in between the two campuses are the homes of many families. On the road between campuses it is likely that we will meet students from either the college or the high school, small children and their parents (some of whom are students themselves) and administrators and staff of the school. It's also likely that we'll meet a few dogs, a cow or two, and always chickens! My favorite parts of my time have been exploring the beauty of the cloud forests, meeting the people, and sharing meals with the other volunteers on campus. As you may suspect, I *adore* the nuns who have devoted their lives to building this place, and who have a spirit and energy that surpasses understanding when faced with the challenges they meet every day. And that spirit is what is so hopeful about being in Carmen Pampa.

PS from MP: This photo was taken just outside the door to the house we are staying in, and right outside the garden to the house where Sisters Jean, Theresa and Carmen live. I've been playing around with my new camera, and took a chance on some black and whites of these gardenia bushes. This one is Zac's favorite and he made me put it on the blog.


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