Visiting Pocuro

29 August 2005
3:59 PM

I went to my first Mass here in Latin America yesterday. The general format of the Catholic Mass is the same almost everywhere in the world, but I have to admit that I didn’t understand most of what was said. There were a few minor victories, though. I picked up 2.5 of the 3 song numbers that they announced (I gave myself half credit for hearing 109 when it was actually 190).

It has been raining pretty hard for the last three days. It’s cold, the roads are muddy, and the irrigation streams that run along the streets are flowing fast. All the rain has brought the town more or less to a halt. People just don’t go places. Few have cars, and no one wants to trudge through the rain or wait at the bus stop. I was pretty surprised by the extreme effects of the rain. Barring biblical-style floods, rain in the U.S. just makes the day dreary, but it doesn’t usually keep people from their day-to-day routines. The combination of cars with lots of paved roads and extensive drainage systems makes rain less intrusive in our lives. Central heating doesn’t hurt either.

Neither of the associate houses in Chile have central heating. Instead, they have a space heater and a small wood burning stove in Santiago and Pocuro respectively. Now, when winter hasn’t quite left the southern hemisphere, you definitely notice it. It’s cold. I agree with past associates that the cold isn’t that intense—it’s just that you never get very warm. I have resorted to drinking lots of tea and coffee. I’m also very thankful for the down sleeping back I brought.

This morning we went with John, a second year associate here in Pocuro, through his weekly Monday routine. We went to a nearby school and helped with an English language lesson. I wasn’t very good at it because there are many English words that I just don’t know the Spanish for, but I hope to learn. Next, we went to a nearby comedor and met these three women who run it. They were very friendly. When I asked how many people come to the soup kitchen each day, one lady said about 25, but that if Roy and I came to work there, we could attract twice or three times as many women. I’m skeptical. Finally, we went to another nearby school where we watched some children preparing for an upcoming cultural festival. Some of them approached Roy and me and tried to get us to say bad words in Spanish. Fortunately, my language training to date left me prepared and I knew not to repeat what they said.

Tomorrow morning we’re returning to Santiago to see a few more job sites. Thursday we leave for the language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia and (we hope) better Spanish.