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