Monday, January 30, 2012

Our 35th KIVA Loan

We have made our 35th KIVA loan.

42-year old Máxima lives south of Barranquilla, Colombia with her husband and their three children aged from 12 to 20 years. She was born in Bolívar Department. Together with her husband Máxima has a business selling fish and she also sells puddings. They use the income from these two jobs to support the household and would like to expand the businesses so they can earn more money and have a better life. As well, they wish to provide their children with a good education.

Máxima’s husband takes fish (bocachicos and mojarras) to distant neighbourhoods and sells them door to door, while Máxima sells from the house. Her customers are families who live nearby. Her husband buys from the market and sells strictly on account.

Their customer base has grown because people recognise the freshness of their product, so they now need more money to buy more fish. Up until now they have been able to finance this themselves. Now Máxima is asking for a loan, the first she’s had from the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation, to buy fish. She also earns money from the sale of little puddings which she sells from her house. She alternates between selling fish and selling puddings so as to earn money.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Big Bad Me

I had an interesting experience this past week. A friend told me that another friend had taken information I'd shared about a third friend's illness as a criticism of him and had immediately gone to the ill person to expand upon and report my "treachery". Some unrelated incidents were apparently remembered from the past and tossed on the fire until these two had built a roaring case of big bad Deb.

The reporter then went on to confirm that two others are spreading rumors about the content of my character, or more to the point - my connection to reality. Anyone who knows me well knows I am crazy silly, in a good way, but I'm pretty grounded in reality. However, there's a territorial imperative at play there.

In years past I'd have gone blazing to defend myself and confront these gossiping tongues and slanderers, but I guess all these years of meditation has (finally - thankfully) diminished my sense of self-importance. What's said about me is not so important. People will form their own opinions of me from dealing with me.

People who find it delicious or satisfying to speak ill of others are driven by a need to dissipate tension, relieve their anxiety, or build up their own egos or position in other's eyes. I've been in that state myself, and I always felt soiled afterwards, and ashamed.

Being free of the need to defend myself is liberating. There's no feeling of anger, and no pain that I've been "betrayed" by a friend. I don't have to change how I deal with these friends.

I like feeling like this. I'm hoping I can hang onto it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Simple Gift

I'm not sure what sparks our dreams, but last night I dreamed of my high school history teacher CW Stevens Jr. In grades 11 and 12 I was his student assistant. I graded papers, kept the bulletin board displays current to the subject each class was studying at the time and led the occasional class.

CW was a meticulous man, immaculately groomed and tailored, like no other man I'd ever known. He was not handsome. He had a bald head, a small jaw and weak chin. No difference. I adored him. He was witty and intelligent and he'd travelled the world - he'd even been an intelligence officer in China in the late 50s and had some truly awful stories to tell.

He told of one spring day when he took a visiting friend to lunch at a local cafe. The friend needed to use the "facilities" which meant he had to walk through the kitchen to a latrine in the alley. When he came back he was green-faced and had lost his appetite. He urged CW to take the same stroll. "Oh, he said, "Look at the stove as you go by."

CW went, and as he passed the large cast-iron stove he cast a glance at it. Encrusted with grease, and in the grease thousands of fat and happy blowfly maggots wriggling away.

"Ewwwww!" I said, when he told me this, "What did you do?"

"Went back to my table and enjoyed my lunch," he said, his blue eyes dancing with mischief. "If you're worried about eating a maggot in China you'd starve in a week."

But I'm profoundly grateful to this lovely little man for something entirely different. He introduced me to classical music. One day he brought a record album to school and asked if I had a phonograph. I did, so he lent (or perhaps gave) me the album. This was followed by others. Operas, symphonies, a whole range of composers. His favourite was American composer Aaron Copland, and I never listen to Copland without thinking of my beloved teacher. Thank you sir.



Copland "Simple Gifts" from Appalachian Spring is based on the tune of the Shaker Hymn "Simple Gifts";

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,

'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.

To turn, turn will be our delight,

'Til by turning, turning we come round right
'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,

'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,

And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,

Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,

'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight.

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,

'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",

And when we hear what others really think and really feel,

Then we'll all live together with a love that is real. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Days and Nights Mixed

My mother would say I have my days and nights mixed. And that's the truth. Otherwise why would I be sitting here at 3:30 am working on a blog post?

I tried going to bed earlier, but my bones hate going to bed. I'm as loosely strung as an old marionette, and when I lie down the backbone connected to the funny bone and the hip bone connected to the hop bone somehow find themselves in new and uncomfortable configurations. Now, why I don't just get smart and take the pain pills two hours before a reasonable bedtime I don't know. My optimistic side takes inventory, finds nothing acant, and says, "I don't need pain meds tonight!"

So here I am at 3:30 am, having not yet slept, waiting for the pills to kick in so I can lie down.

Sprawled on the floor near my chair is the magnificently spoiled Cattus Salvadorus. Salvador means servant in Spanish and never was a name so ill-chosen for a feline. Yes, I know it's because he sports a little Dali-like moustache of freckles just below his duffer nose, but he is no one's servant. Just the opposite. Last night I had not a single hour of uninterrupted sleep, courtesy of a lonely cat.

Where we might just scold him and tell him to get in his bed and lie down, we're a bit soft on him right now. Two days before Christmas he became desperately ill. For a while it was touch and go whether we'd lose him or not. Even now we're a bit apprehensive about his future. He has a back problem, and his hind legs are beginning to fail. He's also lost a substantial amount of weight. We snuggle him a lot. We sneak a pain pill into him tucked inside his "cookie".

Yes, he's a terrible nuisance but he's just the kind of nuisance we love, and any way you look at it, despite all the vet intervention, injections, pills and potions, we can hardly help but wonder how long we'll have him with us.

With him or worrying about being without him, it's very hard to sleep.