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.


Jennifer Nelson said...

Betsy told me your cat was huge... I think you will have to stop calling it a kitten!

Glad to hear you are well and feeling productive. Your pictures are amazing, as always.

Did you like Anna K? I love Tolstoy but I just couldn't finish it. Toni Morrison is another matter of course - if you enjoyed Beloved, I should send you The Bluest Eye.

Love you very very much.

Kristyn said...

that´s interesting about the cheese yogurt taller. tons of people here make queso, cuajada, and riqueson, but nobody makes yogur, that would be a good project. the higene part is really important, i like the bottle hand washing stations. nice pics. i´m going home in july for about a week and a half.

lostinlifeagain said...

Sarah, I am thrilled that you have found such a promising project. Tell me when I can officially dub thee the Bolivian Dairy Queen. I have always found the process of animal turning hay/grass into milk a bit of a miracle, and of course when man figured out how to process that into cheese and all other dairy products was just pure genius in my book. I think this will be a grest sucess for you. I miss you and love you.

Sarah said...

mz. jennifer,

in fact, i did like anna karenina. i found it easier to read and more enjoyable than beloved. hmm. reading a steinbeck now that´s got some great description without overdoing it. let me know which books you want me to bring home for you. :)

Jennifer Nelson said...

Mz Sarah,

Which Steinbeck? I loathed Grapes of Wrath but I loved East of Eden for the descriptions.

No need to waste packing space on books. Just be sure to have room to take them back.


Sarah said...

cannery row. quite noice.

LCpl Roger Willey, USMC said...

The workshop sounds very promising. How wonderful that it got people so interested in it that they wanted to take the skills home. I like the idea of such a hands-on workshop that gets the people really interested in what it's teaching, especially for the skills that they can then think to apply to other aspects of their lives. Hopefully all it takes is the one special area to interest them enough to start applying that kind of thinking to the rest of their livelihoods.

It's profoundly encouraging to me that you feel so contented with the work you're doing there, so pleased with where you are and what you're accomplishing. It's that kind of enthusiasm that I'd like to find in a career choice, and it makes me really happy that you've found it for yourself.

I reckon by the time you get back you're going to make me look like I've never read a book in my life. Those are some pretty weighty names you're dropping there: Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Morrison, Sedaris. You've got your grounds pretty well covered there. I cannot claim to have read a book by any one of them, yet I fancy myself a literati. That's something I've always appreciated about you, that my own bloated ego alone could not compete with your real accomplishment. It forces me to either step up or become a better bullshit artist if I'm going to hang with you. And I've never been a very good bullshitter.

Kristyn said...

sarah! where are you? i misssss you. next week i go to algonquin, woot! i wish you were coming, too, and we could go to that moose bar. i hope ur doing well.