Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Humility and Hope over coffee

I’m sitting here in Bella’s Cafe, letting my mind dissolve into Quietude. This is the one and only restaurant in Cajamarca where you can order a real Mexican flour tortilla…this place opened 2 weeks ago and lucky for me, just in time to enjoy handmade tortillas produced by the Mexican wife of the Peruvian owner.

I just came from our “Café y Pan” event (Coffee and Bread); this was our informal attempt at creating a space for women to come into the AFIDER office between 3-6pm to chat with me about their experiences and desires for 2009. Needless to say, we were completely surprised (and not prepared) for the nearly 90 women who gathered with us to share their feedback and experiences. Simply said, it was awesome!! I arrived tardy in Peruvian fashion, thinking that maybe a couple of women would be arriving within the first 30 minutes. But as I walked up to the door, Nora looked a bit frazzled. She told me that the entire office was full of women waiting for the “official program” to begin. The AFIDER staff scurried for chairs, stools, and benches to seat the women who just kept lining up at the door.

The scene was totally inspiring—walking into women wall to wall, some I recognized and came forward to hug me, others welcomed me with the courteous nods, and always, children whispering to their mothers about the Gringa with blond hair and blue eyes, a site some of them only see once or twice in their young lives. “Mira mama!” (Look Mom!), they whispered…it is always so cute as they try to be secretive, but they are totally obvious and point straight at me.
Nora and I realized quickly that you can’t really do anything informal here—it’s just not the “way things are done.” Soon we found ourselves giving official welcome speeches focused on this year and what we could create cooperatively. My main sharing was to ask the women to walk through the door of opportunity if they wanted to, and to take advantage of Nora’s work here to help create spaces for them to grow.

The women were spread across three rooms and I went room to room asking the women what types of development classes they wanted this year. Soledad, the AFIDER microcredit promoter, soon began soliciting even more feedback from the group and in 30 minutes we had three poster size wall sheets filled with class requests and a lot of work for Ms. Nora this year! Tomorrow Nora and I will take some time to digest the requests together so she can start on solid ground with all her year two goals as I prepare to return to the U.S.

Peruvians are infinitely patient as I’ve said before, and after 45 minutes of close quarters, the office started to get warm as the women were anxiously awaiting their “Café y Pan.” When you make a promise for food or drink, as small as it may be, people will wait for hours as this is a big treat for them.

Nora was busy passing out invitations to our monthly meeting-of-the-women’s-minds, and so I started passing out “galletas” (crackers). Somehow the bread got replaced with crackers, but there were no complaints as I began to pass out several crackers to each woman and child. Truly, I can’t tell you how humbling it is to see people have such an immense level of appreciations for 3 Saltines. Some women put them in the bags to save for their other children while others ate anxiously—and I felt so many blessings from being around these women and the creation of such absolutely simple Joy. One of our women, Marta, who taught marmalade classes for us last year, also shared dollops of her sauco (blueberry) marmalade on each of the women’s crackers. Marta also gave me a special package of her marmalade that she proudly sold at our DiscoverHope artisan fairs last year. Nelli, another village bank leader, also got up and sang two Peruvian songs for me and all the women. Her voice trembled in the beginning, and then she belted out the notes with pride. It was a seriously loving moment.

The preparation of the coffee was another chaotic story as boiling water for 90 women with one serving teapot became a long hot wait. But wait they did…The women were laughing at me when I opened the big bag of brown sugar and offered them teaspoons of sugar with their coffee. Little did I know that coffee is always prepared with the sugar in it, super sweet and black! I showed them how an American Café is prepped for some of us. Little by little, our pots of water boiled and we finally poured the 90 cups of coffee after warmth, conversation, gratitude, humor, and inspiration.

Simply said, this—my friends—is why I do what I do every day of my life. To see hope in their eyes is more than words can say and fills my heart to the brim.

To Humility and Hope over coffee, MM

1 comment:

amy b said...

Mags, these stories are so amazing, touching, incredible! Thank you for sharing them with us.

Our hearts and hopes are with you as you do this much needed work down there. And with Nora, too.

We miss you, hope you're doing well and feeling well and look forward to hearing more stories!

Love, love, love,
Amy B.