Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Technology without borders in La Carpio

This is old news, but once again, good news. It sometimes takes me awhile to post new developments, for which I apologize. I posted a video about "New Horizons" in La Carpio back in February, but I never explained what was going on in the video. Here's what's up...

There have been lots of changes and some exciting new developments in La Carpio. Leaving the previous computer lab intact, we did some shuffling around to a new location with another partner ministry in La Carpio. This has been a great chance to springboard off our previous project and help out at another well-established partner ministry in the same slum. We had a group of our faithful cohort from the previous site join us in opening up the new pedagogical tools, and within a few hours they had assembled a battery-powered physical therapeutic treatment apparatus (read: robotic back massager).

One of the most exciting things was that some of our guys from the previous place, along with some guys from the new place, helped build and install some new computers. With my supervision, they essentially assembled them from scratch. They've been excited with some of the new features and made a few videos to show off some of the cool projects we've been doing.

Here is a video showing clips from the computer installation process:

Here are two more videos showing clips from the process. I will let you decide which one was made by the missionary and which one was made by one of the teenagers.

Featured in these videos are:

  • Freddy and Queso, our two main lab technicians from the original learning lab
  • The new mac-mini that the videos were edited on
  • Me demonstrating the new tactile feature of the mac that senses air movement across the screen and moves the mouse cursor accordingly (they think of everything!)
  • A few new friends from "Christ for the City", the local organization we're partnering with there.
  • Pretty eye candy in the Edubuntu 10.10 linux operating system

Pretty exciting and encouraging stuff! The idea is to sort of to recreate what we had in the previous computer lab, using some of the lessons we learned, and the expertise of the same guys who helped construct it. This location offers us a more controlled environment to do that (still located in the slum, but with better security). Also, please keep this new development in your prayers. We still need lots of prayers for momentum, and for the missing pieces to come together to provide a long-term benefit for the community.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On purple fingertips and other immigration issues

I arrived in the house today after church to find that the entire
family was over and everyone had one purple-tipped finger. No one else
seemed to think this at all out of the ordinary, so I withheld my
confusion and after a few minutes asked about it casually in conversation.

The purple-tipped finger signals that a Peruvian has voted. Today are
the presidential elections for Peruvians, and so here in the Peruvian
household where I live there is a big hooh-hah about the current
candidates. I haven't heard anything regarding the elections until
about a week ago, but the degree of electricity in the air inspires me
to write about this fascinating occurrence. Cousins and aunts and other
relatives are all over, each bearing the purple mark on their fingers
to show that they've voted. Voting in Peru is mandatory... you are
fined something like $57 dollars if you try and perform any legal
transaction using your ID card if you haven't voted. So everyone here
in the house made sure to vote.

Some things about the elections seem the same. Over lunch there is
passionate conversation about the different qualities each candidate
brings, small concessions made for the opposition and huge claims made
for the family favorite. The conversation ranges from position on
social issues to how the candidates look and dress. The "authentic
nationality" of one of the candidates is a big issue of contention.
Some people keep switching the channel to Smallville between political
updates. Everyone in the family votes for the same person except the
rebellious teenage son, who votes for someone else for reasons that are
unclear and infuriating to the rest of the family.

There are some major differences as well, from what I am used to in
elections. First of all is the mandatory voting thing and the purple
finger. You gotta make sure it covers your fingernail and don't you
dare wash it off for at least 24 hours. Also, there are five main
candidates running with a distinct possibility of winning, not just
two. The far left candidate (not referred to by name but as the
Chavista, from Hugo Chaves) is actually far left, not just less
right. There is a woman in the running, the daughter of the infamous
Alberto Fujimori which I remember learning about in International
Relations class only because of what I thought of as a very non-Latin
American sounding name. Also, I found it interesting that when I asked
what political party the family favorite was from, they said he came
out of nowhere and was basically running his own party.

As I am surrounded by the excitement of the small Peruvian consortium
in my household, I am intrigued by the fact that in the Costa Rica
world right now, nothing is really happening. In most households right
now, it's just like any other Sunday. I was reflecting that this is one
of countless experiences I've had with other immigrant groups here in
Costa Rica - Columbian independence day, Thanksgiving dinner with U.S.
Americans are two examples. These national celebrations turn immigrant
populations into an uproar and throw everyone together to tune into
news or sports from "home," while the streets outside seem quiet and
totally unaware the need for excitement and activity.

Another thing that strikes me about these celebrations, especially with
my church (the majority of which is Columbian) that I realized early
on... that we're all immigrants in this country together. I never
thought of myself as an immigrant partly because of the stigmatization
attached to the word, which isn't really directed toward myself. I tend
to work and congregate with other immigrants, though. I remember
feeling this especially toward the beginning of my time here when I
realized that other immigrants had this valuable pool of knowledge
about how to make the best of their time here in Costa Rica while still
being foreigners without official citizenship. Other immigrants are
super resourceful about how they get around and know some of the most
beautiful, free places to spend time (at parks, cheap beaches, etc...).
They also have these huge celebrations for events from "home" that no
one else is privy to. They also have their special food products that
can only be found in their home country - regardless of whether these
special foods actually taste good or not, they evoke memories of their
childhood and home (for Peruvians this is Inca Cola [which tastes like
every other carbonated fruit drink I've tasted], chicha morada [which
is a really uniquely flavored purple corn drink], and some special
brand of Christmas fruitcake [has to be the special brand] which is not
really that appetizing.)

This is such a familiar feeling for me, though... walking in on an
explosion of activity where everyone knows there is a clear cause for
celebration and drama, yet the reason and excitement is lost to me.
Even after the reason for all the hoohah is explained to me, I still
have a hard time getting as excited about everyone else about it. It's
pretty interesting to watch, though.