Monday, May 26, 2008

Howdy folks! It’s been a long time, I know. I thought I should preface this entry with the ever-encouraging statistic that something like 90 percent of development projects fail. If my entries are sparse, it’s only because I don’t want to waste your time with all of my failures. So just think, when I haven’t updated in a while, I’m probably just getting that much closer to success. Well, at least I like to think that every time a project fails my odds get better that the next one will work. Aaanyway…

I have started work with an organization called SARTAWI. I am very hopeful about this work. The people in the office are well-organized and motivated. I am working with a woman (Sonia) from SARTAWI on a project for the product transformation of milk into cheese and yogurt. We are working with sixty-something families in the municipality. We are starting with the basics and will work step-by-step to help the families improve their businesses and therefore their incomes. Our first workshop (taller) was this past Saturday, and it was incredibly encouraging. We are starting with production standards and quality control. This includes basic hygiene, hygiene of the work areas, proper milking, using a recipe and measuring, care of milk products, etc. We were able to cover the ideas of what is a production standard, what is quality control, why it is important, and personal hygiene. The families that attended each made a handwashing station out of a recycled 2 liter bottle and they liked them so much that several people asked for extra string to make more at home. The participants were very active in the discussions and activities and I felt like the whole thing was a great success. I can’t wait to go back again, which will hopefully be next weekend, so we can talk about proper milking techniques and hygiene, and using a recipe. I want to do follow-up on the production standards and then move on to other business skills, depending on their needs. I’m also working with a man (Abel) from SARTAWI on financial reports for the families’ businesses. This endeavor is much more tedious and dry, but necessary. We’re a bit rushed but after we get this report finished, I want to work with Abel to set up an Access program that people from SARTAWI can use on a regular bases to track and analyze the finances. Eventually I’d like to get the families themselves to have some sort of accounting and financial records and knowledge, but that is pretty far down the road. To say that I am hopeful about this project is an understatement.

Here are some books I’ve read recently:
· Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
· Getting Stoned with Savages,
· Beloved, Toni Morrison
· Naked, David Sedaris
· Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
· Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins
I’m currently reading “The Places in Between” by Rory Stewart.

Everything else is going just fine. My health is fine and I am truly happy and lucky to be here. Getting to know this area from the inside and getting to know the people who live here is a work benefit that far outweighs any salary or company stock I could have gotten with a job back in the states. I’ve always thought Peace Corps was the right thing for me to do next, and now I see that I belong just exactly where I am right now. I’d like to thank everyone who has sent me mail or packages or any other signs of encouragement since I’ve been here. You’ll probably never know what they mean to me, so a simple thank-you will have to suffice. You’re all welcome and encouraged to come visit if you have the chance! Love,


PS here are some pictures, out of order. and unlabeled. is pissing me off. sorry.