Archive for the ‘30,000 Aymara Quakers?’ Category
“I live in the Tahuantinsuya barrio in El Alto. I want to tell you about my Friends church, Tahuantinsuta meeting. I participate in the Iglesia Santidad or Holiness Friends church. I help teaching the children, about 11 children every Sunday. I teach about the Bible and many other things. We combine many ages in the same class, so they are between 5 and 10 years old. Teaching is very important because I long for the children to serve God. I teach Bible stories, and how the children can serve outside the church. I also enjoy playing with them.
The TV is a major influence. I teach the children that It’s good to learn, but only to learn healthy actions. While watching TV shows, the children pick up that fighting or insulting is acceptable. So I discuss that with them in Sunday school. I ask them, ‘How do you treat your friends?’
In my family all of us have attended the church for 20 years. I go with my 3 older sisters (and sometimes a brother) and my grandmother. My mother died 20 years ago. My father doesn’t want me to go to church, and this worries me. He argues with me, saying it’s a waste of time. He wants me to work and earn more money. This is painful for me. My father is still angry with me. My father works as a bus driver and is a mechanic. My two sisters both work as professional chefs. One works in the Spanish Embassy and the other works in the Korean Embassy.
Every Sunday we sing many songs. I love to sing Seguir los Pasos, Following the Steps (of Jesus).
The adult class in my church has three pastors. They teach us many things about the Bible and about social problems. For example, one problem is between parents and children. Parents often are lost in how to help children behave. Some parents are very frustrated and exasperated with the children’s behavior and they end up yelling at them. It’s true that the church is helping them–I saw this with my own eyes. One or 2 children told me that their parents have changed. Somehow after the Bible class the parents don’t scream as much.
Every Sunday we collect donations. Many of our donations go to our monthly meeting where the money is used for poor. One group goes to the hospital to give a little help to whatever sick person is in need. If we only have a few donations that week the money goes to Friends (members of the church) who are sick.
My church learning compliments my university learning. I am so grateful. Thank you for all the help that you have given me.”
Aldo Chiri, 21 years old, is studying engineering at the Main Campus of San Andres University. He is in his third year, and expects to graduate in 2014.
“This semester I’m studying the complex Variables in Calculus, Differential Equations, Basic Advanced Physics (III), Thermal Dynamics (chemistry) and Fluid Mechanics. In these last two classes about 30 are in the classroom. Some classes have 100. In my classes there are few women, maybe 3 or 4 in the specialties. And about 30% in the Engineering Department are women professors.
I live in El Alto with my mother and sisters. Our only means of livelihood is my mother who is a weaver. She uses a loom and makes polaina (kneesocks without feet), blouses, scarves. She uses cotton and polyester. She has a home industry and sells her clothes to nearby shops. I have 2 small sisters; my youngest studies in 2nd grade. I suppose my mother wanted to spread out the childbearing over years.
I’ve been in the church 2 and ½ years. My church is Emmaus. One day my paternal uncle said to me, “why don’t we go to the church?” He took us (3 siblings) to the local church even though he doesn’t attend there. I liked the church the because of the reception . I went to the front and all the church sang and they sincerely were happy to see me. “Bienvenido // los hermanos de aqui nos gozamos en decir Bienvenido. Dame la mano// y mi hermano seras.” (Welcome. The brothers here joyfully say Wel-come. Give me Your hand and my brother you will be.)
When I first attended at Emmaus there were so few youth. Now there are so many more young people my age. We celebrate each other’s’ birthdays, we visit our friends at home for special occasions. In November 2011 we celebrated the 23rd anniversary of our youth group. It lasted 3 days, we invited other youth from our quarterly meetings. We probably had 120, the church was packed. A folklore group called Revelation played for us with their sampoñas and charangos. Revelation is a Friends group. Another Quaker band is called Luz y Vida who also rocked the church walls.
We all shared a huge cake. The adults at Emmaus were willing to provide the cake and refreshments for our celebration. For that we were grateful. There’s a tradition for anniversaries, that the youth leaders come up front to take a bite of cake. The platter of cake is held up for all to see. Then when they came to receive and eat their slice of cake, we pushed it in their face. White icing makes a beautiful decoration on top of the rich dark skin. The whole church bursts into laughter.
One exciting part of my life is that I’m learning how to play the keyboard. I’ve been playing the piano during church now for 6 months. The only keyboard I have access to is the one at church. I have to concentrate while accompanying the songs. Many songs I’m learning by heart. I love the hymn called One More Day in the Hands of the Lord.” Written by Aldo 2011. Translated by Minga
Mabel Lourdes Mena Fonseca is a 29 year old Aymara Quaker living in El Alto, Bolivia. Mabel plays the ancient Andean flutes, las sampoñas. Like many Quakers in Bolivia she is poised to use all her talents for the good of her people. Here is her story:
Do you want to know how my ministry of music began? Actually, I launched my music career in the church. I started at 18 y old and I didn’t know a thing about music. I started with a malto, a flute with 2 rows of reeds that you blow into. Now I play the sampoña with 3 rows and a chromatic octave. I have experimented with the Sanka and the Toyo which are even larger cousins of the sampoña.
At first we were 3 Quaker friends who played together, Sarah, Eva and Mabel. We knew each other in Rio Seco, part of the Altiplano. The 11 of April in about 2001 was our first concert in the large church Max Paredes (the mother church in La Paz). We then played for another event in our own small church called Vida y Paz on 25 de mayo which is Mother’s Day in Bolivia. Mother’s Day is special for me, because my mother is the breadwinner for a family of five. She works hard everyday selling food in La Ceja. She sets up the stall as early as 7:30 and works on her feet until dusk. In 2001 our church was still young with only 20 attending on Sunday. I felt so happy the day of our concert because we had a great turn out, many people came who hadn’t been seen by Friends before. Attenders invited their mothers and grandmothers. Mothers invited their children, and it ended up being a good publicity for the church. And I gained confidence. There’s nothing like getting hugs from the people you love to boost your ability to play in public. And imagine a concert in the church where Friends are praying and clapping. (more…)
El Alto is perched 1,000 feet above La Paz, the capital or Bolivia. When the sun glitters you stare down into a cascading spiral of lego-like houses. Once your lungs have adjusted to less oxygen, El Alto seems like Kansas City. Except everyone speaks Aymara or Spanish. Except there’s no SUVs. Except instead of greasy hamburgers, open markets sell quinoa drinks and fish soup. And another extraordinary fact: teenagers in Bolivia are eager students. Education is fresh to them.
I fell in love with the Aymara students at Emmanuel Friends school. I met Flavia, Marta, Estevan, and Eduardo in 2011 when I volunteered for 6 weeks. Some classes had 7 students but most classes had 18 students. In high school Bolivians study English twice a week. It’s usually their 3rd language and they can start it as early as 6th grade. Their class load is immense, and even 8th graders study philosophy and technical arts.
The K-12th grade Quaker school has 4 stories, standing tall between the Santidad Iglesia de los Amigos and the sports field.Â Avenues are wide in 40 year old El Alto, known for its robust political activism and Bolivian modern music scene. Have you ever heard hip-hop in Aymara? Can you pronounce tuqitpachwa qillqanipxstani?
The students eagerly shared their stereotypes about the US and asked me lots of questions. Eduardo showed me his science project on “el Medio Ambiente.” In 10th grade he was preparing to give a poster presentation on green energy. Before class, Flavia sang me the Bolivian national anthem and was learning to site read. I answered her question about the US national anthem by singing “Oh, say can you see…” wondering how I could turn the “Star-Spangled Banner” into a useful English lesson. Bolivian history, like the US has been a series of battles and domination. Nor did I want to tarnish my country as being the evil empire. I wanted to be a Quaker ambassador speaking even-handedly in English class about the positive and negative aspects in the US.
Did I feel that teaching English was difficult? Sometimes. Did I feel confused? Yes. Sometimes, classrooms would switch and as the bell rang I walked into the wrong group of students (They were polite enough not to laugh). Plus, I had to decide what kind of classroom discipline to use. I wanted students to use the Internet, dictionaries, and libraries. Emmanuel students had none of those, not even an English textbook. Was teaching a positive experience? Definitely! Â I learned so much about myself and what Bolivians see as valuable. The students liked learning English lyrics from Mylie Cyrus and 50 cents on their MP 3s. But I was still puzzled as to whether teenage Quakers would understand the peace testimony when Northamericans sing.
“Oh,say does that star-spangled banner still wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
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