Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If you are new here...

I got a large amount of emails from strangers all around the country responding to the story at Catholic News Service.

Please feel free to read some of the posts that try and say what it is like being a volunteer after college.

Also feel free to subscribe to email updates in the right hand corner. I post about every two weeks.

Lastly, the drive to get my kids in Ecuador good supplies continues. As such, there is a paypal donate link to the right hand corner, everything helps!

And ok, this is the real lastly, please feel free to email me or comment with any questions or comments and thanks for taking the time to check the page out...

Papa Vs. Papa- An intro into learning Spanish

Spanish is a hard language to master. Think about the following...

In English, there are six different tenses of a verb like “to eat” for example. There is the present, past, the future, the present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect. The last three are based on the first three and are compound verbs, which means they require a helping verb. Stay with me, it will be worth it.

Six. A challenge to be sure, but let’s look at what the Spanish language throws at us.

Instead of six tenses, we have 14 (grant it not all are commonly used but you still have to at least be able to recognize em’ when they come up). In addition, Spanish verbs change, depending on who we refer to. In English, I ate, you ate, they ate, etc... The verb does not change with the subject. Memorize the simple forms of the verb, and you’re good… But in Spanish, think of it this way: I ate, you ates, he or she or “the other you” (we’ll get to that soon) ato, we atemos, they aten... are you still with me?

Now about that “other you”... Spanish has two forms of the word you- (sometimes three but that is beyond today’s lesson today) an impersonal form and personal (wud up) form. Figuring out when to use which you can be a social etiquette nightmare in itself Not to beat a dead horse, but to say the word “for”, you use por or para, but each have their own laws of usage and are not interchangeable. Damn.

Perhaps at this point you are confused. First, bienvenido a mi vida (welcome to my life) for the last year. Second, let me break it down in numbers...

English= 6 ways to use any given verb.
Spanish= 70… mas o menos.

And so, say I want to learn all 501 verbs in my book of “commonly used verbs” appropriately titled 501 Spanish Verbs.

In English, it would be 3,006 forms. DRUMROLL PLEASE…
In Spanish, we are looking at learning 35,070 forms.
There are no typos here... so please, just sit with the difference between those numbers for a moment.

And, once you master the verbs, such fun things such as gender assignment to nouns and adjectives await. La cabeza and el cabeza, spelled the same and all but yet two different things because one is a feminine word and the other, masculine (la is feminine and el masculine). El papa is the pope. La papa, the Irish pope- that is to say, nothing more than a potato.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Thoughts From Ecuador

After a few days in Quito, Ecuador at the Working Boys Center, I have a few observations right off the bat.

First, elevation sucks. Think about it like this: Quito is a city, at 9,000 feet, about two times as high as Denver which is known as the mile high city. If that weren’t enough, the city is full of hills here and a climb there. San Francisco has hills too you say? Please, a walk in the park compared to this place. If you were in need of a good laugh, I wish you could have seen me play soccer today- both for the elevation and because, well, the only goal I had was against my team.

Second, here, they use the word voluntario not misonero to describe me and they dig spicy food like no other. If that’s not saying Ecuador is the place for me to be, I dunno what is.

But my most important observation is this: this place is something special and unique. People have asked what it is I do and what it is we as a center do? I’ll update you on my own unique roll later, leaving us to describe what it is we, as a center do. Since I am going to be a teacher, here is your homework assignment dear reader. Find a way to articulate in a brief paragraph all this that is done by the Working Boys Center. It may seem like a lot, but rest assured, I left a lot of amazing things out in the interest of space. Good luck!

• 35,000 meals served a week
• 5,000 families (25,000 people) pulled out of poverty in the last 40 years, according to an independent and external analysis of the Center.
• In terms of education, we have Day Care and Early Childhood Education, Grammar School, Technical Education, and Adult Education spanning across three campuses.
• Our kids and their families have free access to on site MD’s and Dentists, as well as a psychologist.
• The Center has a program called “Drop of Milk” providing milk, nutrients supplements, medical attention and parenting skills to mothers in the wider Quito area who have malnourished kids.
• All of our participants participate in community service. The most common and popular is our Sunday “Mingas” which are house building opportunities in the community.
• Again and again, I have heard that we are not a charity program, we are a development program. To that end, participants receive financial budgeting lessons and our boys, who continue to work while going to school (I can explain about why the kids continue to work in a future post), are required to have a savings account with the center. When they graduate, they are given that money as seed money to enter whatever trade they desire.
• Microcredit, otherwise known as small loans, can be applied for by graduates who wish to start up their own business.
• The center also operates shops and businesses like a restaurant and toy store on site that are visited by the greater Quito community and also provide our students great in house training.

I can not tell you how inspiring it is to be a part of this. What’s more, individuals and groups who wish to visit the center get room and board, wait for it… FREE OF CHARGE!

Sounds great, right? But does it work? Consider the following…

Before joining the Working Boys Center (WBC), 60.30% of the participants surveyed in this external analysis of the center lived in single room dwellings. After joining the center, that figure dropped to 2.90%. * One last stat- before joining the center, 40.50% had potable water access. After graduating, 94.70% of participants receive potable water.*

There is not enough space to proclaim the good deeds of this place. And I know, I have not even been here a week, aren’t I getting ahead of myself? Personal challenges aside, like the, “holy crap I am a teacher molding young minds panic attack”- I think if you came and saw this place you too would be amazed. It’s like, after years and years of work and study in this area, for the first time I am a part of something that aims not to be a band aid but a set of tools (be they carpentry, auto mechanics or baking, etc..) meant to empower people to break the cycle of poverty that has possible been persistent in over three generations of their family. This place says it wants to end poverty in the lives of its participants- and it works.

Don’t believe me? That’s fine. Come and see for yourself, after all, you only need to pay for airfare- we’ll provide the rest. (=

*Facts and figures from The External Study of the Impact of Working Boys’ Center, A Family of Families