Who Have I Been Talking About?
I wanted to create this little roster for those of you back home who have no idea who I'm working with. So far I couldn't have asked for better, more heartfelt, genuine people to be stuck with (Sierra Anderson reference) here in Bolivia.
I'm excited to continue to get to know everyone better as we savor every unexpected bug, rainy day, panqueque breakfast, snotty child, adorable moment, stressful situation, and confusing day of unexpected expectations.
"It just doesn't make any sense."
The official dad of the group and one of my friends from Southern, Zoro could be described as a set of contradictory stereotypes all in one. He's a hard worker and refuses to quit even when he's dying of water-borne illnesses. Not only that, he's become invaluable as a translator who's gotten us through countless difficult situations and has become the unofficial foster father to Baby José.
I spend Sundays with Zoro taking care of the Guerreros (9 - 14-year-old boys). Most of this involves cooking and speaking Spanish, two things Zoro is much better at than me; his cooks like a professional chef, something all of us are thankful for. A truly iconic member of the team whose South Carolinian accent is rubbing off on all of us.
"This whole year is community service."
The only other person I knew before coming to Bolivia, Elizabeth and I go way back to freshman year when we were both suffering through general inorganic chemistry and pre-born-again Dr. Nelsen.
Her sense of humor is unobtrusive but pervasive, and her frequent laughter keeps us all in a positive frame of mind. It's great to have someone else here who can be direct and isn't to afraid to state the reality of a situation. I think we're about on par with each other in terms of Spanish speaking ability, so it's nice to have someone else who's not already prodigiously fluent. As the high school teachers, we both are challenged in teaching English, math, and science to six high schoolers who primarily speak Spanish.
"Yo si quiero comer!"
I'll be honest I did not know what to think about this dude when I first heard he was coming, but we were all thankful to have another guy on the trip. Turns out, he's pretty great. He seems to be impossibly always in a positive mood while still conveying authenticity and contagiously spreading the good vibes.
Carlo's a total clown that fits right in with the Guerreros and serves as nearly inexhaustible entertainment for the little guys. He's always great to have around for his genuine questions and gentle patience. Plus it's virtually impossible to be in a bad mood around him.
"I can make that from scratch."
We would have died at least 16 times already if not for Sierra. She may be a registered nurse but she's also a resourceful chef and improviser, making her the certified and self-proclaimed mom of the group. She saved me with drugs and electrolytes when I almost died from throwing up, and always shows up early to breakfast to help cook or to bring a new fruit.
While she can always find the positive in a situation and find a solution to any problem, she also commands authority over the little kids who find it very difficult to disobey her kind but stern instructions. She also survived a bat bite and the ensuing round of rabies vaccinations so that's pretty hardcore.
"Oh my goodness that little kid is so cute I'm going to eat them."
Maddy definitely has the biggest heart for little kids I've ever seen. She cares for them tenderly and patiently even when they scream all morning and have diarrhea (could not be me). She also has great taste in movies and music, can make geometrically and topographically perfect pancakes, and is impossible to take a bad photo of. Always looking out for ways to help or show empathy, she can identified in rainy weather by her iconic poncho.
*Shrug* "I don't know man!"
Emilianne has great vibes and provides love and support for all the little gals at Familia Feliz and she's willing to put up with just about anything that crawls or hops out of the jungle. She uses her excellent Spanish to make jokes with all the kids, cheer them up, get them under control, or inspire them to productivity.
She's also not afraid to talk about heavy topics and deal with difficult situations that arise. We hang out on Thursdays when we have our day off with Zoro and Sierra, and it's great going with someone who's willing to try new foods and barter for a better price on groceries.
I'll be honest I don't really know Katie-Jane that well, and apparently I was the TA who asked difficult questions in her general biology lab so we were really off to a rough start. But from the conversations we have had she seems to have endless great ideas and the energy to execute them.
She sacrificed herself as the only volunteer in our group to live with the Lilas (2 - 5-year-old girls) as an assistant house parent and seems to be loving every minute of it. We don't see her very much since she's kept busy, but when we do see her she's offering us cookies she's made with the kids or letting us use her water filter.
"Ja ja 25/8."
I know Lisiane the least simply because she got here a couple of weeks before us and didn't have to wait for a week in Santa Cruz doing paperwork. From the little bit we've gotten to hang though she's truly an integral piece of the Familia Feliz puzzle. With her keen sense of opportunity for joy and vision for God's work in the world, she keeps both us and the kids upbeat and thinking hard about life.
She's also annoyingly good at the card game Liar, can speak a yet undetermined number of other languages, and has traveled across lands in untold numbers of countries. Fortunately she's been great about sharing vital information about working at Familia Feliz and giving us all the best spots to hit up in Rurrenabaque.
There's a lot more great things I could add about each of you but the hotel is about to kick me out for using their WiFi for way too long. Also if I was way off and totally got everything wrong about you I will be changing my identity and throwing myself into the ocean.