Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tablas De Mujeres

Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez
Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez
Arena y Esteras Lima, Peru
Villa El Salvador Teatro

As you may know, I teach creative movement to a group of seniors. This group is more of a theater therapy group, because of the hard pasts of each of the women. 

Tablas De Mujeres is a play written, with guidance of the director Ana Sofia, by the senior theater group I work with at Arena y Esteras in Lima, Peru. Tablas De Mujeres means Women's Boards in Spanish. Why? These boards represent the work that these women's childhoods were filled with. Also, these tablas (boards) are heavy, and their weight represents the weight their past has played in their lives. The play is an account of the pasts of these abuelitas (grandmas). It tells the stories of their stolen childhoods which instead of play were filled with dawn to dusk work. Not just work, but abuse if they didn't complete their tasks correctly. The abuelitas act, sing, and share their stories a the microphone. (I was a background dancer and they called me their little angel, hehe). The beautiful thing about this play is that it closes with the abuelitas sharing their dreams and goals. Now they are free, emotionally and physically, and are enjoying life. 

At the end of the play each of the abuelitas shared a few words. It was so beautiful to hear them share with the crowd the importance of believing in themselves. The abuelitas told the crowd that no matter  someone's age or situation, they can become involved and break the cycle of abuse and to create a more beautiful and strong community. As I watched portions of this play from the sidelines it more than captured my attention. At moments I couldn't keep a smile from my face yet at other moments I felt like crying. All the different conversations I have had with these ladies have touched my heart. The life lessons they share with me through their pasts are things that I will definitely walk with in my life and teach to my children, when the time comes. 

Every day is an opportunity to be a light in the world. 
Never forget that.

With Faith,

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Los Pantanos de Villa

Los PAntanos de Villa Volunteer
Los Pantanos de Villa, Lima Peru
Los Pantanos de Villa, Lima

Add this to your list of things to do in Lima, Peru!

Today's lovely photos are a throwback from my recent trip to Los Pantanos de Villa (The Swamps of Villa), located in Lima, Peru in the district of Chorrillos! It is home to over 200 species of birds, many from Peru. However, Los Pantanos de Villa also welcomes birds from up all the way up North ('ello 'Merica!) Because we are now in the winter months here, there weren't hundreds of birds chillaxin' in the swamplands. As I ate my 33 cent ice cream and walked through the tall grass filled swamplands, I felt a bit like Simba from Lion King when he was crawling through tall grass. It was a such a lovely experience that I think I want to go again. When are nature reserves not awesome? Advice: If you are ever in Lima (especially during their summer months), I definitely suggest visiting here! It is a great 2-3 hour day trip in a non touristy area of Lima.

Now for updates from today. Today went great, because I love what I do, every day is pretty wonderful. The first few hours of my day were spent translating a United Nations grant application for one of the organizations I work with. Thereafter, I stopped by my new favorite market which is filled with much friendlier vendors and then went home for a quick lunch. Following lunch I headed back to work where my co-workers and I grabbed the stilts, flags, and juggling balls (for the different classes to be taught). After a 15 minutes wait for the taxi and 8 minute ride in the taxi we arrived. However, when we arrived to the high school there was no electricity, which I suppose is an important part of my contemporary class because all of my 15 teenage students decided they wanted to learn hip-hop outside instead. I feel a bit split on this because I was sad that they didn't want to attend, but I kind of wanted to attend hip-hop with them. Anyhow, I ended up teaching ballet to 8 year olds which became more like a creative movement class. It was very cute because we danced around like butterflies for about 10 minutes.  Every day here is packaged with something exciting and new. However, everywhere I go I try to see exciting things in the mundane. Now I get to experience exciting things daily under a new cultural setting.

I also recently did a great Bible study with my friend over the vine and the vinedresser. I feel like this is one of those classic Bible stories that everyone knows. However, when I looked in my Bible, chapter 15 of John didn't have any markings in it which means I hadn't studied it in the last two years. Interesting! It was really great to go over this and be reminded on how importance our dependence on God is in our personal lives. Yes, we can succeed in this world, but when we are succeeding is it only in the eyes of this world? Are we winning prizes, promotions, friends, but losing God? We must rely and keep God in us for God to reciprocate that back... that's what Jesus tells us! Also, it was super interesting to be able to talk to my friend about this and to talk about how we can apply this to our daily lives. My friend being form Peru, it was also very interesting to talk about the different cultural implications we have in keeping God with us during our daily lives. 

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit 
He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit 
He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
You are already clean because of the
word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot
bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:1-4

Working on Tolerance this Week,

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Update from Lima: Leadership Retreats and Dance Classes

(Photos from a recent leadership retreat we had at a beautiful campsite. It was such a treat to visit somewhere so clean, with grass, with all the awesome youth I work with.)

Wow, it has been a while since I posted an update about my daily life in Lima.

Reflecting upon the past two and a half months, I am so glad to be where I am. The first two months here were a very hard adjustment, to say the least. I didn't know if I would make it abroad for five months in an environment where I really didn't have a strong dominion on the local language. Yes, I could go about all the basics, but not much more than that.  Now I am very happy with everything I am doing, my Spanish has improved exponentially thanks to my daily work, but more so than that, because of local friends I have made. I even feel comfortable where I live and have become less fearful of all of the catcalls and glares from the local population of males. In my work I am making connections with the youth and love to see how they love to learn what I teach. :D

I  love that I love what I do! Every day I am excited to wake up and share my talents with others, knowing that I am offering services that the youth here are interested in receiving.

On a daily basis, what am I doing here exactly? Well, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I teach a small English conversation class, teach contemporary dance at a high school, assist with acrobatics classes at a primary school, and also teach a dance class to grandmas! Then on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays I lesson plan, teach a photography workshop, and help lead two youth leadership classes. On Sundays I go to a different district to take free Latin dance classes in the park for three hours then I spend time in Lima with one of my local friends. My Sundays end with church in the evening.  I really enjoy my church because the priest is Italian, so when he speaks Spanish it isn't faster than a Nascar race, but I can actually understand his words. On Mondays I have another day off. I typically go to the market, go out with friends, and/or sleep like a mama bear.   Every day is an adventure. :)

One more reflective point, sometimes it is hard to know your place as a volunteer. The difficulty comes between the balance of self-fulfillment, and offering what is needed to a recipient. I always want to make sure that I am not just volunteering for self-enrichment, but I want God to use me as a tool so that I can offer what  a community needs. In this, I hope to have always leave a positive imprint which others can continue growing from. Thus far the most affirming moments for me have been:
  1. After my contemporary dance classes, there is a small group of girls who want to continue learning additional dance steps and moves
  2. Being told by youth that I work with that I have positively impacted their lives, and they are glad they have met me and can grow and share their life with me (I find this interesting because it is actually me, as a person, that they are attracted to, not what I have done or what I can do.) :)
  3. Being told by local friends that I have positively impacted their lives and that they are glad to have met someone who shares similar mindsets and goals and aspirations
  4. Being told that I have made others feel important and loved

I am not sure which is the most important, nor in which order I personally rate these words of affirmation that I received. However, I do know that I feel fulfilled and am seeing that I am having a positive influence on at least a few lives through the work I am doing here in Lima, Peru. Among all of these wonderful things that are happening to me here in Peru, there are also very sad things that I am learning, specifically about the history of the grandmas that I teach dance to.

Hearing stories from the grandmas' childhood makes my heart sink and my face go numb. Many of these women come from extreme poverty either in the jungle area or the mountain area of Peru. I have learned of so many stories of abuse and non-existent childhoods that I don't know how to react when I hear yet another story from them. For example, most of the women don't know what childhood play is because as children they worked from sun up to sun down. Many of the women were abused and hit, I learned about a woman who, as a child was stabbed with keys, was forced to drink urine as a punishment, was hit with a wooden panel, was nearly lit on fire, and was dragged across the floor, pulled by the hair. Even more shocking is that they say these stories are not uncommon. I can't even imagine what this means. How many children behind closed doors are being abused at this level today? It really brings me to appreciate my life, childhood, and family even more than I do. I look at my life and at their lives now and am in awe that people can live on the same planet but in such dramatically different circumstances.  I knew this in theory, but working alongside these women have shown me the reality of this previous "statistic."  Today, these women are strong, and are "enjoying their old age" as they have told me.

Every day in Lima is a learning experience where I give and receive. At times it is surreal to know that I am actually here.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, 
for love will cover a multitude of sins.”
- 1 Peter 4:8

Waiting today for what comes tomorrow,

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