Preparing for Morada K'asa, Biblioworks - Week 2

Trip Start Dec 06, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Santa Cecilia Inn

Flag of Bolivia  , Chuquisaca,
Friday, January 21, 2011

Our time in Sucre has been the perfect mix of 'time spent volunteering' and 'time spent doing what we want to do'. The weather has been pleasant and we are feeling more and more at home in the city. We already know where our favourite places are to shop for food, get our laundry done, buy tools and craft supplies and from which cart to buy a tasty, freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice. We know which beggars are regulars and which ones only come into the city on weekends. 

At the beginning of February, our friends from Bellingham, Washington will be here to help us with the puppet workshops, that we plan on giving, in six of the libraries here. The last time that we saw them was two years ago when we were in Xela, Guatemala, so we are very excited about meeting up with them when they arrive in Bolivia. We always have a good time when we are together.

Week two with Biblioworks was quite productive. Basically, the week was spent working on two things - preparing for a work week at a library in the little town of Morado K'asa and working on a frame and papier mache head for a 3 meter high, Andean Condor Puppet, that will become Biblioworks new mascot. We also met the two lovely Bolivian ladies who work with Matt, Maritza and Roxana, who will both be of great help to us.
We started the week off with a Monday staff meeting. It was our first official meeting and Matt decided to celebrate the start of the new year and our arrival by taking us to a great spot to try out salteñas which is a Bolivian morning snack that is like a baked empanada. They are really tasty pastries filled with beef, pork or chicken and mixed with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce, as well as peas, potatoes, olives, raisins and other delicious things. This pastry is served with a little spoon so you can scoop the filling out and not get it all over your shirt. It was delicioso!

The five of us talked about what needed to be done during the week and what Chris and I could do before Pat and Gail came. We decided that we would focus on building the BiblioCondor puppet as it would be great if it were finished by February 14rth for the opening of the new library in Tomina. On Wednesday, all of us would go out to Morado K'asa to see what type of work Chris and I could help the librarian out with the following week - the week before school starts again after the holidays. 

On Tuesday, it rained, so it was a perfect day to set up a puppet building workshop in the kitchen and start the job of forming a condor head from a cardboard box that we had to buy for about $.35. But what does an Andean condor's head look like? We knew that they are big birds (3.5 m wingspan) and they have a fluffy white collar but we didn't realize that they have almost no feathers on their pinkish/red heads and they have a reddish caruncle (comb) above their beaks. Actually they are very vulture like and not that pretty. By the end of the morning, we had one condor head shaped and ready to be papier-mâchéd.

Wednesday was the day that we went to Morado K'asa. The five of us piled into a taxi with bags of used clothing, and food and water for lunch and set off on our 120 km trip. Once we left the city of Sucre, we were in what looked like a no man's land, but we saw people ekeing out an existence there - plowing fields with cows, herding their sheep, hoeing their gardens. On our journey, there were times that we all had to get out of the taxi and walk a bit, as the road was not good enough to go on with a carload of people. The landscapes were amazing, as you will see in the photos.

Arriving in Morado K'asa, was a bit of a surprise as we didn't see any people at first, only animals - cows, donkeys, chickens, pigs and dogs walking the streets. Then, the librarian, Don Dario, arrived with a big smile and a lovely welcome. The library is a lovely space for the young people of the little village, but as we soon found out, it needed a little work. We had a little meeting, brainstorming ways that we could help the librarian, and then we brought in the big bags of used clothing into the library.  Once they were placed on the tables, Don Dario's little daughter went out to gather any ladies who wanted or needed the clothes. They came in rather shyly but after a few minutes, looked through the piles and took sweaters, pants, blouses and shirts for their children and husbands. They were amazingly grateful for clothes that we wouldn't even think of wearing. Clothes with tears, clothes with stains and clothes that don't fit. It was a lovely experience to see a teenage girl who smiled happily when she got an old, well-used and faded blouse.

Thanks to donations from a few of our cottage neigbours, we were able to bring over two hundred pairs of reading glasses to Bolivia. The plan is to give each library that we visit, a set of  9 pairs of different strengths of glasses (1.00 to 3.00) that will stay in the library and be used there. Also each librarian will be given a mixed bag of about 20 glasses to be distributed to people who could really use them.

As many of you know being able to see up close can change a person's life. We have seen cashiers who need to put their noses up to the receipts in order to tell us how much our bill is. We have seen ladies who have trouble seeing what they are cooking. Go for a day without your reading glasses and try to imagine what life would be like. In Morado K'asa no one has glasses. Look at the photos. We gave Don Dario, the librarian, his first pair of glasses and look at his smile!!!!

We were invited to Don Dario's house for lunch. Sadly his cow had died the day before, while giving birth, followed by the calf and because they had no refrigeration, the meat had to be cut up and sold very quickly to anyone who had the money to buy it. You can probably figure out what we had for lunch as well as boiled potatoes and corn. We took a photo of the lovely weaving Don Dario's wife was working on, amidst the meat in wooden dishes and the flies. She was a little embarrassed that we would see this. The washroom was a plastic toilet (outhouse without the house) behind a few bushes and a low wall.

Then we were back on the road to Sucre with lots of ideas of how we could help. More about this in next week's blog.

Thursday was another good day for condor work - first coat of newspaper on.

Friday was a shopping day for Maritza and I and Chris and Matt went back to the carpenter's shop to get wood scraps to build the condor frame, and to borrow some tools from Don Pio.

There are three markets in Sucre - a fruit and vegetable market, a Black Market and a market with everything under the sun. Maritza and I went there to buy fabric for the condor costume, sandpaper, tissue paper for making giant paper flowers and some other odds and ends. Chris and Matt worked quickly and got everything else that we needed in order to fix up the library.

As you see, our week has been interesting. Well to clarify that, it has been interesting for us. In the meantime, we have continued to explore Sucre and try out some of its delicious food. We have met some very kind and interesting people and have enjoyed the flurry of activity caused by the return of university students to Sucre in preparation for another school year and excited little children registering for school with their mothers. February 1st will be a busy day.

On the weekend, we prepared for our 4 day trip to Morado K'asa and were able to get a few more layers on the condor head. 

I would be remiss if I didn't send a big thanks to the puppeteers of Puppets Elora for their wonderful donation towards buying materials for puppets in Bolivia. So far, I have been able to buy lot of things - a Rabbit and Armadillo puppet for a puppet show that we are going to perform, the fabric for the condor puppet's costume, quick drying clay for puppet heads, tissue paper and glue and the fabric needed to make costumes for the little puppets that the children will make in our coming workshops. Thanks again!

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Franki on

Wow. You have such exciting holidays. I love the work you are doing with the puppets. You give so much of your talents. The countryside is rugged, but beautiful - I love it.

mum and dad on

enjoyed this one very much keep safe

Katerina on

What a great way to reach out and help others.

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