Friday, September 27, 2013

A table for 15, please

An update from Dana

When I was living with the McCarten family in the Washington, D. C. area after college, they surprised me for my birthday with a night at the famous Marrakesh Restaurant in the District.  Named for the city in Morocco, this restaurant was simply the most exotic locale and dining experience I’d ever had.  With gorgeous North African tile, Cyrillic writing on the walls, and a belly dancer at our table for dessert, it’s a night I’ll never forget.  We sat on pillows on the floor around the very low tables.  Now whenever I don’t have enough seating for dinner guests, I just say I like to pretend we’re dining in Marrakesh, Morocco, and I put all the kids on the floor around low coffee tables.

Our little tables came in handy when we recently had the pleasure of hosting 15 for lunch.  While the kids didn’t have exotic cushions to sit on, it was fun to host a big group of Bolivians and Australians.  Another lunch at our apartment was with an Argentinean mom and two kids from our school.   A cheery and funny lady, she spoke so fast I barely understood her during the whole visit.  But somehow talking about the kids and school makes a great starting point for a friendship.

Being an avid MSU Bobcat football fan in Bolivia has its disadvantages.  One can’t just go to the sports bar and watch the game.  But in today’s internet age, it is possible to follow some of the action.  While Quinn was recently tracking a game, an opposing player was penalized for “excessive celebration.”   I thought this was funny because that kind of sums up Bolivia’s love for parties.  Almost every weekend here in Cochabamba there’s loads of fireworks around the city and there’s an abundance of holidays sprinkled throughout the year.  
Fun games: the mom caught crossing her legs during the night must  wear a
 "baby" on her back,  in traditional aguayo fabric.
Speaking of celebrations, I was happy to be asked to co-host a baby shower for a friend.  Another ex-pat and I decided to keep the event “low key” and stay away from potentially embarrassing games and the like.  Oh no, this would not do—the women who came to the shower brought their own ideas and supplies for games.  It was a riot, complete with lipstick designs drawn on faces, eating contests while blindfolded, and so on.  The raucous night was a great way to build relationships. 
Kellton and Astoria help out with "Day of the Student" festivities
Kids' party
Kellton and Astoria's class
 learned an elaborate dance for Cochabamba Day
Children here also benefit from the spirit of celebrations.  On back to back Fridays, our kids had an elaborate event for “Cochabamba Day” to commemorate the founding of the city, and then the next Friday had “Day of the Student”—complete with gifts for every child, chocolate dipped marshmallows and 10 kiddie pools set up on the lawn.  And festivities for “Day of the Child” are not far off.  Kind of reminds me of a Savior who is the life of the party and turned water into wine.  Here in Bolivia the celebrations may be excessive, but hey, no penalty.

John 10:10b (NIV) Speaking to some famous party crashers, Jesus said “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (emphasis mine).
Does this look like a baby shower with moms?

Astoria wears traditional braid extensions
 and a hard white hat signifying she's "from Cochabamba"

Some last minute dance instructions from Profesora Nancy

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It All Adds Up, by Quinn

I loved my job at the Legislative Fiscal Division as a Fiscal Analyst.  But to be honest, when I was focusing on the budget of the Health & Human Services Division, I wasn't exactly operating in my areas of passion.  At the time, my bosses knew I was planning for and working toward leaving for Bolivia within the next year.  So working on the development of an Excel model for tracking and forecasting the cost of Medicaid to the State of Montana often felt like an activity with no connection to the rest of my life, but I hoped it would be helpful to my co-workers at least.

So what did I do last night?  Well, I taught a workshop on Excel, in Spanish, here in Bolivia.  But more than that, at the end of our time together, I learned that two Bolivian ladies I was teaching actually work in an HIV clinic here in Cochabamba, and that they have data going back to 1984, which they are interested in learning to use in a very similar manner.  Now they plan to spend the next month or so trying to get the data into a usable format, and then we will meet again to work together to develop a usable model for them, which will help them operate more efficiently in their clinic, allowing them to better assist people with a very real need.

Using Excel to help people with HIV.  Can't say I saw that one coming.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Compassion International in Bolivia

I had the chance to visit a Fair put on by Compassion International recently.  Compassion has invited us to provide them with some feedback on their plans for encouraging entrepreneurship among their youth as a way to break the cycle of poverty.  It's very cool to see what business can do for people who otherwise have few options.

Compassion International does some great work with kids in dire circumstances.  But I was very impressed to see that they were working hard to help these kids find a way to become self-reliant.

My colleague Duane, from Canadian Baptist Ministries talks to some of the Compassion project directors.
Talking to some girls about their marketing plan.

Combining the idea with the understanding of business processes.

Potential business ideas ran from very traditional, to quite innovative.