Monday, July 11, 2011

Mountains Beyond Mountains

July 9-10, 2011

So I have the app “Overdrive” downloaded on my Iphone. It allows me to check out books from my library in Grand Haven while I am in South America. I am currently rereading Mountains Beyond Mountains. This book is so powerful. Paul Farmer has sacrificed so much and has made such a difference in the world it blows me away. He seems to emphasize the distribution of wealth and how so many problems could be solved by allocating resources to the poor. He uses impeccable research along with personal stories of triumphs over disease. I am riveted once again and suggest this book for anyone reading this blog.

I wondered what this motorcycle trip might do to me. Even though I am still in the beginning stages of the trip working for Rustic, I am becoming more and more sensitive to the plight of the poor. It is definitely a subject that I need to do a better job of self-education. I wish I had taken more classes in college about social justice and poverty.

I posted an article written by Nicholas Kristof for the New York Times a while back on my Facebook. Essentially it talked about how the trend in America is starting to reflect how many developing countries operate. The wealthy grow wealthier by passing tax breaks and cutting public services. As the separation grows, they send their children to private schools, hire personal security, buy generators, and leave the masses to themselves. I most certainly am not trying to start some sort of political discussion, but am I seeing a version of this in Peru? No transportation for kids to go to school means girls’ education ends at grade 5. Corrupt men can easily manipulate the system to gain more land and wealth. Teachers are paid so little they often don’t even show up. These are things I have seen so far, I wonder what else I will discover here. This clearly isn’t a very well thought out paragraph, but these are the thoughts running through my head as I grapple with the differences between our current village, old village, the Sacred Valley Project, and my own town in Michigan.

On a lighter note, Saturday night Carlos and I played guitar together. We have the same taste in music and it was really fun. He is teaching me a few Spanish songs which I am pretty excited about. It reminds me of the days back in high school when Marcus, Justin, and I used to play guitar.

I also showed The Girl Effect video last night. The two girls from Michigan came into our tent to ask more questions and see how they could get more involved!!! Awesome, maybe together we can educate the next generation of young women and create some positive change in the world.

This (Sunday) morning we created a couple long lines passing roof tiles to the houses spread throughout the village. I am reminded of all the times on Interact trips when we formed long lines passing supplies or bricks from one place to another.

After that I helped Grace and Lauren finish the bricks at their house. We had a great talk about the dorm and girl’s education. They also are interested in getting more involved! I am so impressed with this group’s energy, togetherness, and willingness to learn everything they can from this culture, allowing it to expand their worldview to include the people of the Sacred Valley.

I finished Mountains Beyond Mountains this afternoon. Here are a few quotes that struck me.

#1 Paul calls white liberals (this includes people of all races, it is just his way of grouping them) WL’s. He says, “I love WL’s, love ‘em to death. They’re on our side. But WL’s think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches.”

I can’t say I understand fully Paul’s meaning here, just that I can relate to the sacrifice part. I am here to try and actually do something about an issue of education I feel strongly about. I don’t mean to compare myself to Paul, I only am comparing myself to my own life and how I feel that I need to sacrifice certain things to help who I can.

#2 Paul makes this comment after being asked about the fact the he spent $20,000 on a young child to bring him to the US in order to try and save him from cancer. He ended up dying a few weeks after arriving. Some people questioned this use of money. “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don’t dislike victory.”

I needed to hear Paul say this and it somehow makes me feel way better inside. I often quote the starfish story and explain how much I hate it. Paul’s quote helps me. The starfish story goes something like this: “A man was walking on the beach during low tide. He saw someone in the distance lean over, grab a starfish, and throw it into the ocean. The person continued to do this over and over as he approached. He asked the stranger what he was doing. The stranger explained that the sun beating down was killing the starfish stranded on the shore. But the man argued, there are thousands of starfish here, you will never make a difference. The stranger then reached down, grabbed a starfish and threw it back. He replied, I just made a difference for that one.” This story drives me crazy because all I can think about are the other 999 starfish dying on the beach. But that is the long defeat I suppose. I assume Haiti is beyond repair, but his hospital is an oasis of little victories that inspires me. Maybe I should worry less about all the people I can’t help, and more about the tiny few I can.

#3 This quote I read to the students last night. Paul ended a lecture with this simple quote from a woman in Cange, “You want to stop HIV in women? Give them jobs.”

This one fits perfectly into the message of the Girl Effect.

In the afternoon we played a couple soccer games against the locals. We lost but only by one goal again. Our girls (Katie and Maddie) were amazing, and Sam had a couple awesome headers. It was fun.

Tomorrow is our day off and a badly needed shower. I can’t wait to head back to Huilloc and do the incredible mountain bike followed by river rafting.


Kristen Dyke said...

John, I'm so glad you are talking about Mountains Beyond Mountains-its extremely relevant. i wish i could have talked more with you about the contrasts i experienced in sa-i understand. don't be overwhelmed, but know that the problems are overwhelming-and worthy of educating yourself and others about them. a few at a time, each one counts. take care. ps biking from Madrid to Paris sounds awesome!

Megan Reed said...

AMAZING stuff, Mauro :) Not only are you helping all those people in Peru, but your enthusiasm and genuine humanity is truly contagious and creates a ripple effect that, as it spreads, absolutely can light up the world.
Keep working, keep inspiring, try not to get in too much trouble :)

What time is it? GO time!

moose said...

John, you hate the starfish story, but I love it. What you're doing is a great example of how you can work to make a difference for a few...but imagine if everyone you've talked to about this project decided to follow your lead, even a tiny bit. I know that I've shared your story with others, who have been interested, and may also find themselves inspired to do more than they currently do. These ripples that Megan's talking about DO happen, even if you are not aware of them. Believe in that. In the long haul, good will win, because of small things that good people choose to do.