Friday, June 29, 2007

Cecilia and Oscar

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to Cecilia, the woman who comes by my apartment to clean three times a week. Her 2nd grade son was there cutting out photos from a newspaper, working on a project. She takes him with her to work whenever there are no classes, which seems to be pretty often. This time it was because his teachers were participating in a training.

She told me that her family immigrated to Santa Cruz from Beni three years ago.

“There is not much work there and prices are high,” she said. She works as a domestic and her husband is a jeweler, working in a place where his employer supplies him with the silver and he makes the art.

I asked her how hard it was to find a job. “Not too bad,” she said. Only the first few days were difficult. I looked at ads in the paper and also went out to find work.”

It looks like the next month or two won’t be good for her, as I’ll be changing apartment and her other employer is going to spent two months in America, where he has a daughter.

Her cell phone rang. When she hung up, she told me it was her sister, calling from Spain. “She calls a lot to ask about her children,” she said. Her sister works at a hotel in Malaga. From the $1300 she earns per month, she is able to save $800 of it.

“She’ll return after two years and use the savings for a new house and to establish a business here,” she said.

I have great respect for such people, who are able to leave their families behind, to go to a different country, and work in low-level jobs in order to set a financial foundation for their families. Usually, they lack education and opportunity. But they don’t let that stand in the way, sacrificing time with their family to work hard and give themselves a better future.

Yesterday Oscar and I tried to go to a museum he wanted to take me to. But we turned around when we saw student protests. I remembered seeing on the news that students were organizing large protests for fear of losing the right to private education, and they planned to mass on the central square.

Heading back, a man in a horse-pulled cart trotted down the road, alongside the mass of cars honking, jostling for position, and avoiding near crashes. Horse-drawn carriages, just like the man on a bicycles selling brooms, are the little details that make me remember I’m in Bolivia and appreciate that such diverse people and modes of life can unite in one place.

“Look at that!” Oscar said. “A horse in the middle of the city. That’s just evidence that Santa Cruz is really a village. A big village that wants to become a city.”

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