Michel’s Blog Entry
Living on a dollar a day-definitely a reality CHALLENGE as well as a reality CHECK. Half the world lives on less than two dollars a day and over 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Guidelines for the next 24 hours? No electricity, running water, or any other luxuries-such as snacks or air conditioning- that would go over the one dollar budget. Everything was done on an honor code basis; you get from the experience what you put into it. Our challenge started the night before, with bucket showers, flashlights, and candles. Living as if we had no running water or electricity, as inconvenient as it sounds, was a refreshing experience-literally. Our lovely helpers, namely Ryan Yamaguchi, placed a large bucket along with a small bowl inside each shower. Most of us then went to take our showers, finding it actually better than the showers we had normally taken in Leon. Afterwards, we all gathered around a couple of candles on the porch, talking and joking with one another. “Affluence separates people, poverty knits people together.” –Ray Charles The next morning, we woke up at 6:30 (noting that this is 1-2 hours later than is typical of a family with this budget), and walked to Quiero Mas to eat our breakfast of Gallo Pinto, purely rice and beans. There was no side of meat or plantains, no new exciting fruit juice, and none of the usual background noise coming from the television. Then, Linda, the other leader of the day, split us into 5 smaller groups- one for each of our host families. Let the day begin. My specific host family consisted of eight family members: the host, Veronica, her sister, and their combined six children. In the four hour time span that we stayed there, we peeled corn, swept the house, and played soccer with the kids. We actually did a lot less manual labor than the other groups; the most tiring part of the day was probably playing soccer (which the kids totally destroyed our team in). Going into the day, everyone had their expectations and fears. Some feared the physical labor; others were hesitant towards their ability to connect with the family. However, our open-mindedness allowed all of us to put those things aside, and really make the most out of the experience. It was incredibly easy to talk to my host family, and the kids started playing with us ten minutes after we had arrived. We talked about everything- from favorite colors to birthdays- and they would laugh every once in a while at our broken Spanish. All they cared about was the fact that we cared about them. After leaving the community, we continued with our challenge into free time, up until the nightly meeting. Listening to others reflect on the day, I was genuinely happy to hear the new bonds and experiences that people had created. We learned the obvious: “be grateful and appreciative of what you have.” In the US, society has become so materialistic that, ironically, we don’t even purely value the materiality of things anymore. More and more, we are concerned with the image that certain consumer goods give off, and so, we “have to buy them”. We romanticize the idea of owning something, so much that the actual content of the good no longer matters. Many people no longer apply to colleges because of their courses or professors, but simply because of how well known they are. When we apply to colleges in the fall, we should take into consideration whether we are applying to a certain college because of the prestige behind their names, or because of the quality of education. Secondly, love really can break down any barriers. I can barely form sentences in Spanish; my vocabulary is limited to less than fifty words. But because we showed interest in their lives, down to the tiniest detail, they opened up and accepted all of us. In our futures, we will meet people we don’t like, and people we won’t be able to communicate with. But it’s important to remember that the simplest things can make a difference, and to treasure all the details. Lastly, I want to answer our question of the day. “What does it mean to live in poverty? What do people have, and what do they lack?” No one will ever be able to name all the things they have, material or immaterial. On the other hand, there will always be something that we feel like we are lacking. However, at the end of the day, it’s about your morals and ideals, because those have the potential to be permanent. The truly rich have nothing but money, but the truly poor have everything but money.
Linda’s Blog Entry
Today was our very first reality challenge. We all tried to survive on a dollar a day. This challenge was a wake-up call for many of us who have had the privilege to live a good and comfortable life thus far. The challenge actually started yesterday night after the nightly meeting. All the lights were turned off to simulate no electricity (however, the fans were allowed to be on) and everyone used candles and flashlights to get ready for bed. Furthermore, to simulate no running water, everyone had to take bucket showers. Initially, I was apprehensive about taking a bucket shower since it was something none of us had done before, but the experience turned out to be very interesting and kind of fun. Today morning, we started our day off with Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) and water at Quiero Mas. Afterwards, we went directly to the community, Los Barzones, where we met the host families. There, we split into five groups and went off with our respective host families. In my particular group, we helped our host family sweep up the leaves around the house and retrieve water from the well. Pulling water up from the well was an extremely strenuous activity for me; however, it was a very interesting experience and it made me truly realize how much work these families put into their daily lives. My host family consisted of three people: the host, William, his fifteen-year-old wife, and his brother-in-law. Initially, I was very surprised by the fact that William had a fifteen-year-old wife. A million thoughts were racing in my head as he told us this fact. For a brief moment, I believed that the marriage was arranged. However, that thought fled after interacting with both of them for a few minutes. The way both of them spoke of their marriage reflected the close bond that they had. The affection they have for each other reminded me that we have to be completely open-minded to unfamiliar customs. What we assume about others may not be the reality of their situation. The four hours we spent with the host family was truly one of the most enlightening and wonderful experience I’ve ever had in my entire life. Although the family seemed to lack a lot on the surface, after getting to know them, I realized that what they lack is insignificant in comparison to what they have. Talking to our host family, I learned a lot about the families that live in this community. They have so much that we, the higher class, can learn from. Their compassion for each other is so inspiring and rare. It was very moving to see them not only show compassion towards each other but also to us, complete strangers. Their capacity for kindness makes up for and even surpasses what they lack. What they lack in material things, they make up for with what is in their hearts. Our host family also had a great sense of humor. They laughed a lot in our conversation and seemed truly happy and content with their situation. While others may have sat there waiting for questions to be asked, William made sure there was never a lapse in conversation by always bringing up a new and interesting topic for us to talk about. His cheerful and optimistic attitude made us feel very at home and as if we were a part of their close-knit family. After coming back from Los Barzones, we had free time, but the challenge continued so that everyone had to restrain from spending money or eating snacks and shower with buckets. After free time, we had dinner, which was also Gallo Pinto at Quiero Mas. At our nightly meeting, we did our very first self-reflection. During our discussion, many people brought up great and insightful comments about the day. One comment that really resonated with me was that instead of focusing on what they lack, we should be focusing on what we lack. What we lack, such as their amount of generosity and compassion for each other, is much more significant than the material goods they lack. The highlight of my day was definitely the four hours I spent with our host family in Los Barzones. The experience was very enlightening and eye-opening. This experience made me truly realize that you can learn so much more than textbook knowledge. The host family today taught me life lessons that I could not have gotten anywhere else. They taught me to appreciate my family and treasure all the small moments rather than focusing on material goods such as money and prestige. And for that, I am forever grateful and indebted to them.