Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Chilean Blast From the Past: Roy

He wouldn’t shut up about Texas. I kept using this word passion to infuse everything I did. We were miles apart, geographically and symbolically, and we both made our decision before we ever met: we wouldn’t exactly be the best friends.

Arriving in Chile, tensions increased. He’d read a couple of my pre-departure blogs and grew more convinced he wouldn’t like me: too much uninformed passion When he picked me up from the airport looking aloof and wearing goofy slippers that should have never left the house that rainy day, I knew as well, Roy Pequeno and I were two men who would never get along: he was a tool.

Months later, we would sit down in our living room regularly over a plate of Spicy Spagetti and a dubbed episode of “24” or some other quality programming. Besides the turkey sandwich and eggs (both of which we lavished with hot sauce), Spaghetti was about all we made. There, in the simplicity of our house we would sit, reminiscing about the past, talking about life and the funny stories of the day, every once in a while pausing to shout at the TV or pull a prank on Natalie. The hate we shared for each other before August lasted all of about 1 day… ok, and maybe one other day in December when I surprised the group and showed up early from language school- sorry! But really, I never could have imagined back in July that Roy would not only become my roommate, but a role model and a close friend as well.

In Chile, I was nothing short of worthless. My Spanish stunk, I was jobless, and I felt vulnerable and truth be told, in over my head and afraid. My whole community was wonderful and supportive, but, it was Roy who read through the lines and helped me keep my head above water, and to do it with dignity no less. It was Roy who sat next to me on community nights and joined me in hushed jokes. It was Roy who went with me on a house visit or to this place or that when my confidence was shot and I struggled to be my own man. Again and again, it was Roy, in the most subtle of ways that kept my spirits up. He had a way of supporting me, carrying me really, but in a way that allowed me to maintain my dignity and pride. It was a unique gift, one I pray for the grace to receive. And through his example, it was Roy who helped form me into the servant I am today.

It’s in the way I try and speak the language with a local zest (fresco man). It’s in the way I interact with the kids. And in the ways I now deal in a healthy way with the stress that overwhelmed me in Chile. Roy taught me that a hot oil incense burner and a little bit of silence and journaling can go a long way in maintaining your sanity when all the forces around you are attempting to destroy it.

I laugh about our quest, seen on Youtube, to kill the rat that invaded our house. I laugh about the stupid pranks we pulled, mainly on Nat and Michelle because no one messed with Caitlin or Ryan. Cait just because she was Cait and she was too nice and you felt like crap. And Ryan, he’d get us back 10 fold. Long live the time we cut the electricity and ran into Nat’s room dressed in black and with flashlights swinging everywhere!And I laugh when I think about the two of us walking to the neighborhood fast food cart, simultaneously shouting to no avail at our three legged dog who insisted on crossing the street without looking. Never mind the fact that is how he became three legged Jack in the first place.

When you first think about community, you obsess on the possibilities of what can go wrong. Personality clashes, detestable people and the like. You never imagine it’ll somehow become your rock when everything that was supposed to go right goes wrong. And what’s more, you never imagine the guy you thought you’d detest most is the guy you’ve since strived PASSIONATELY to resemble most… other than the ridiculous pony tail and absurd talk about Texas!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Updates to My Working Boys Center Blog

You might notice that after months of absence, I am beginning to update the photos in the photo bar. Take a peak if you like.

You will also notice the blue bar of ads above head along with the Google Search Bar. Why, the cheesy add ons you may ask? The more money I generate, the more I can do with these kids. Simple enough.

I have added some new blog links which are really great. Dave Muccino, a fellow volunteer writes some great stuff. Where I am the dreamy optimist trying to play Shakespeare, Dave has a very straight to the point way of reporting things. Aaron Hendrickson is our resident comedian and his blog gives you true insight to the comedy that is our lives as volunteers.

Also, Angelo DeGuzman. Though not a full time volunteer, Angelo is a friend from back in LA who is in Magis as well as working on a host of other things. Angelo is one of the most insightful and driven men I know, and I felt that reading his blog could be beneficial for others to discover as well.

I've also made public my support of Barack Obama for president in my sidebar. I write on the tail of the New Hampshire primary but still strongly believe in that which Senator Obama stands for. It's a time for telling Americans what they need to hear, not what they want to hear is something I have heard him say a lot. It's a time to rise above the fray of party politics and once again, hope for greater things. It's a time, for a movement like his, a movement no other candidate can match. Watch the videos below from and tell me you don't want to believe. The top video is 1 minute, the second, longer but worth it.

So check out the blogs, watch the Youtube video, and forgive me for the tacky blue bar!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Christmas was hard. It’s supposed to be- being thousands of miles away from your friends and family, from the snow and eggnog and pasole, etc… But it was for a different reason. In the middle class lives we lead, Christmas is looked upon as, at best, utopia, at worst, a reprieve from whatever struggles we are fighting off. But walking the downtown streets of Quito on Christmas Eve, I saw no utopia, nor felt any reprieve. I found mothers with babies in tow, begging for change. I saw little kids in tattered clothes, working like they would, any other day of the year. I walked aimlessly through these sad streets, my mind attacking my senses from time to time with only one preoccupation, one seemingly little question: why?

It all started on December 22nd as I stood in a crowded cafeteria overlooking a crowd of poor families waiting anxiously for potato sacks of used clothes and a second-hand toy or two. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great gesture from the center to its participants. But there is something indescribably sad about watching people get excited about a potato sack of what is, if we are to be honest, nothing more than some other person’s junk. I thought about my own family and the Christmas they had given me for years. The seemingly limitless presents, of which only a few would manage to entertain for more than a few days before becoming considered “junk.” Again, I could only wonder: why?

With all that on my conscious, late on Christmas Eve., I loaded into a bus of festive volunteers reveling in a “Joy to the World” like holiday cheer I felt so distant from. The world was suffering on Christmas Eve just like it did the day before and just like it would continue to do the day after and the day after that. It seemed preposterous to even pretend like I could partake in the same old Christmas jingles and cheers as we snaked our way into a wealthy expatriate area community. It was “Gringo Mass” and it was there I thought I might find resolution to my questions.

Forgive me for saying this, but the Mass just stunk. You’d think being around people who were foreigners living abroad or hearing Mass in your own language for the first time in over a year would be great. But instead, I felt nervous, uncomfortable and horribly out of place. There were no upbeat Latino Church songs with off beat clapping. No chorus of little voices shouting Amen after each prayer. I tried to concentrate on the Mass and the songs, convince myself again and again that I should feel at peace- this was after all my culture and my language. How was it all that different from Masses I used to enjoy at LMU? But something wasn’t right, and again and again the voice haunted me with a question that seemed to symbolize so much: why?

And so I left the church and sat outside on the steps. Just beyond the guarded fence of the chapel grounds, two indigenous elderly women, small children swaddled up in their arms, waited in the cold for the opportunity to beg the Gringos for a bit of change. I sat in the darkness and locked eyes with one women. “A bit of change” she seemed to beg with silently pleading eyes.” I came here with the goal to do just that,” my eyes pleaded back, “and look how far it’s gotten the both of us.” Again, the question surfaced: why?

I’m fighting this losing battle day after tired day, not because I’m convinced I’m gonna beat poverty anymore. That part of me seems to have died a long time ago. The ideals and the causes are gone, and all I have left to lean on is conviction. Anymore, I am doing what I am doing, because it feels right and like it NEEDS to be done, not because I really see myself as an agent of change anymore.

Saint Catherine of Siena supposedly said “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” I don’t really believe that anymore. But from somewhere deep within, a voice I hardly recognize anymore instinctually rises to plead with me: why the hell not?

But then there is this, "Letter to a Young Activist" which more and more, provides great consolation in this work that I have undertaken.

"Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And there, too, a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually as you struggle less and less for an idea, and more and more for specific people." READ THE REST HERE OF THIS WONDERFUL QUOTE HERE