“Hola” from BiblioWorks´ newest volunteer! My name is John I´ve been with BiblioWorks for two weeks. I have been traveling through South America and am so happy to have found BiblioWorks. Bolivia is an incredible place to take a little break from the constant bus rides and tourist crowds; and the leisurely pace of Sucre is right up my alley.
My duties with BiblioWorks include helping out in the main office here in Sucre. My Spanish, or Quechua for that matter, is not quite good enough to send me out into the literacy mission field of the rural areas that BiblioWorks libraries populate. Instead, I have been doing a little accounting and a little social media experimentation. Also, I have had the opportunity to see the BiblioWorks libraries in Pampa Aceituno and Morado K´asa. Both experiences were phenomenal for me! It is SO gratifying to get off the normal traveler´s path and see firsthand an organization making an unambiguously positive difference.
Finishing up the newest library in Pampa Aceituno was fun because school was in session as we were painting, and no more than a few minutes could go by between different sets of curious eyes peeking into the window checking on our progress. The library hosted an impromptu chess match between some of the kids and we heard countless “¡Eres grande!” (You´re big!) wonderments aimed our (more specifically my) direction. Six foot, seven inch me is something of a traveling freak-show here amongst the rather height-impaired native Bolivians, and as you can imagine the curiosity of the children far surpasses that of the average “grownup.” Pampa Aceituno is the only library I will get the chance to physically contribute to, and I was very pleased to be able to make my eternal mark in the library. Should you find yourself in the Pampa Aceituno library before kingdom comes, look up and you´ll find some tiny smiley faces painted on the rafters- that´s how you know the Gringo Alto has been there!
My second adventure was last weekend in Morado K´asa, with Mateo and Maritza, soaking in the annual town celebration. The town is the site of the first BiblioWorks library to come into existence and to me, the clueless outsider, it was very clear that a healthy and lasting relationship has formed between the community and the BiblioWorks organization. In such a small town it was not surprising that so many people recognized Matt and Maritza, but the friendship definitely goes both ways. We had fun watching the bicycle and running races (Matt couldn´t quite be convinced to take part, and they didn´t even invite me because they knew how badly I would defeat them all) (eh… not really- at over 9,000 feet of elevation I hardly take more than three steps at a faster-than-walking pace before becoming winded) and my favorite activity of the day was the championship game of the women´s soccer league. Dressed in their traditional Bolivian attire, those gals can really `kick it!’ (That was a terrible and awful pun, for which I sincerely apologize.)
During the day we checked to make sure the library was still doing excellently, which it was and later in the chilly Andean evening we were honored by being asked to judge the dance contest. Although my toes were freezing off because I foolishly only brought sandals, I thoroughly enjoyed my time. The sixteen entries into the contest varied widely from larger groups to the brave souls who had enough courage to perform solo, and also from modern dances to more traditional Quechua-style jigs. Through our short time there we were very graciously hosted by Doña Justina, who did everything from cook us lunch to lead the championship team of the women´s soccer league to immortal victory. I cannot say I´m jumping at the opportunity to spend another night on a straw mattress, but it does make it a little easier to wake up at five in the morning to catch the bus back to Sucre. It´s these experiences that make volunteering for BiblioWorks such a rewarding experience!