Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Salary Injustice

I know I’ve written about things like this before generically, but this is more specific. The other day we were talking about a young high school student who was working in the afternoons next door at the hardware store.  She is working to help support her needs at school because it is a struggle for her family. This young lady is earning $1 a day working from noon till about 7 p.m.

Sigh. We had some choice words for the owner!!!

Then the following day – coincidentally - the newspaper had an article about the salaries of some popular soccer players. One was receiving 23 million Euros. Not sure how that translates to dollars but I know one Euro used to be equal to 1.5 dollars. So we read on and another player is receiving 35 million dollars. I can relate to that figure better … Sort of. We just looked at each other Cecilia and I.

Good Lord. What can one do with that kind of money we wondered? So I started playing with the calculator … 35 million is a little more than $2,910,000 per month. It is about $727,500 per week. That translates to about $95,890 per DAY. Dang. Someone check my math!! Maybe I mixed up how many zeros are in a million.

Ok … the poor guy has to pay boo-coo taxes.

But he is playing soccer for goodness sake.

I can remember in the 80’s and 90’s having conversations about baseball player salaries. But at least we had jobs that kept us sheltered and fed. And our children were attending school and we knew we would somehow be able to get them to college someday.
But here – with what I know now – with what I see on a daily basis these facts and figures are so much more difficult to comprehend.  Here and in many parts of the world, SO many people struggle just to survive. I see the reality of how many children can’t go to school because they cannot afford the $4 worth of notebooks they need at the beginning of the year … or the 25 cents a day for a little food to get through the school day … Or they have to walk to (and then from) school for an hour and a half because they cannot afford the one way 75 cent bus/pick up truck ride.

And the constant ill health because immune systems are so weakened by lack of decent nutrition and health care.

What a contrast.

So sports people, actors, big business people, etc are not the norm. I know that.

But even contrasting the ‘norm’ – let’s look at an average family’s income in the states. I’m not sure what that would be in reality. But let’s pull a figure out of the hat … $40,000. That is a relatively moderate figure for an average family from what I understand. It seems high to me though.

Granted things are more expensive in the States … but – if we were frugal and only bought what we really needed (like a modest home … a modest car … cooking rather than eating out … two weeks worth of clothing in our closets rather than a month’s worth (half of which probably never gets worn) … well. We wouldn’t even need $40k a year. This I can speak to because I used to have a really NICE house. Way too big for what we really needed. And I had a closet full of things I never wore. But I still bought more. And things. Good grief. A house full of things for what?? And even after selling the house and giving away most of the clothes and things … so many things… I still have too much. And my small (by U.S. standards) salary is still way more than everyone I work for.

So where is the justice in even that??

October 15, 2010 – We’re still waiting

It is mid afternoon Friday and we are still waiting for the phone people to come and install. They said they would be here this morning. Oh well.
More Cyber Café time…

This job is very difficult without internet. So much is of the work involves communication.

No more complaining.

So without being able to communicate – (had to get one more in) I’ve had some ‘free time’ on my hands. The ladies of the Pastoral Team had other ideas. Thank goodness! The trip to Usulután was fruitful in that we were able to track down prices for construction materials that seemed fair. And the owners were absolutely delightful and helpful. They recognized us as an institution trying to help communities and seem willing to work with us giving decent prices and free transportation from there to Berlin. That was a good visit.

We’ve also been able to speak with a ‘master builder’ and arrange a visit to a community for the construction of a set of bathrooms for a new school. We’ll go out to measure next Friday and he will prepare for us a budget. I had hoped this would have been done while I was gone – but no such luck. So I get to participate! Part of the problem of getting things done while I am gone is that no one here can drive – except Alejandro – and he is in school every day. And he doesn’t have his license yet. No license is not normally a real problem out in the communities – but the police now and again do like to harass people.

This morning (Friday) I made a HUGE batch of spaghetti sauce for freezing for future meals. That was a request of the Team. And for lunch, we took advantage of having good (in our opinion) sauce and I made pizza for us. Otilia was here today so she got to enjoy some, too. I usually only cook in the evenings – and she cannot be here in the evenings. So it was nice to enjoy a meal all together. I even did all the dishes afterwards.

I should take a nap … I haven’t been sleeping well at all since I got back. But I know that as soon as I doze – the phone folks will be here… maybe I should go do that!!! Might speed up the process!

October 16, 2010 – another day

I never made it to the cyber café yesterday … but now it is Saturday.

For the record – I didn’t get a nap in yesterday. I don’t like to nap. I feel guilty. The Pastoral Team never naps … or rests … they might watch a soap opera over the lunch hour … but they are often disturbed by the door or phone. So their quiet time is not often very restful.

Friday night was great. At about 4 p.m. we went to the church to start decorating for the confirmation mass. Blanca is a Catechist. She helps teach/train young people to become confirmed in the faith. We had purchased flowers a bit earlier and there was a young man ready to make arrangements for the altar. I ended up helping blow up balloons with a couple of kids, a woman and two men. Then we had to tie them together in two-somes. While we were doing that, the group that was going to sing for the mass the next day came in to practice. These are old friends of mine, so before they got into the real practice, they played around with some secular music: Cat Stevens, Chicago, Billy Joel, etc. It was fun to sing along.

When the balloons were done, I helped Blanca and Cecilia make name tags for all the confirmation kids. We had to wait till the 5 p.m. mass was done to actually begin decorating the church. For all the above pre-prep, we were in a big meeting room off the sanctuary.

After the mass, we had a chance to all eat together. Then we started in on the flowers and placing the balloons. It looked lovely when all was done. And the camaraderie was special. It really is a gift to me if I can contribute in some small way to the special celebrations of life here.

On Saturday, the Bishop came to serve mass at 10 a.m. Of course, I attended. And it dragged on for almost 3 hours. The Bishop has this beautiful and lilting way of talking. And being as tired as I’ve been for the past week … I wanted to nod off at times. (And looking around me, I was not alone with this problem). Fortunately, he “yells” a few times during his homily. Not yelling per se – but he emotes. He throws in a few jokes now and again. And this helped keep me focused.

Afterwards, I went home and had a quiet lunch with Idalia (bean soup with veggies and a tortilla). The others stayed behind to tidy up and participate in the photo taking. Just after we finished eating, one of our new translators visited with his wife and two little children. That was a lovely diversion. William is a fabulous translator and it was great to meet his family! They have very CUTE children aged 2 and 3.

Then Tito showed up to visit a bit (our technical school scholarship student).

By the time everyone left … I was tired. But I needed to check emails. So I visited a cyber café (but didn’t post a blog … sorry). The one I went to the day before was closed so I asked around and found another. In a day and a half I received 48 emails. And about half needed a response. Sigh. Such is the life.

So now – Saturday night … I find myself very tired and in my room ready for bed by 7:30. How pathetic is that?? But I decided to write this instead. So you see … I DO love you! Ha-ha.

I’ll post this when I can get to the cyber café on Sunday. Hopefully one will be open.

But for now … good night. This mission co-worker wants to sleep.

Oh … and I know that God has way more important things to take care of … but a small mention of ‘internet for the Pastoral House’ would be appreciated.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I’ve returned – to no internet!

I have arrived back to Berlin ready to get back to work after a whirlwind and lovely visit to see my son and his wife in New Zealand (which is an absolutely STUNNING place!)

And I arrived to no internet …

The Team had been debating changing phone lines – and as in most things – it is never an easy or fast process.  So the old phone number is no longer active.  We’ll have to get that off the website.  And we don’t know our new number yet.  We might be reconnected by Friday.  But I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I have to go to a cyber café to access my internet.  So if you are trying to communicate with me – it will take longer than normal for a response.

So what shall I talk about?

I could say so many things about New Zealand.  I am so happy I had to opportunity to go.   I had to save up lots of quarters – it is an expensive flight and I was amazed at how expensive things in general are there … ouch.  So I’m not sure if I’ll ever get another chance – unless I someday win the lottery… (But if I ever hope to win the lottery – I might need to start buying tickets!)

That aside – it was a fabulous trip.  Firstly – it was great to see Paul and HeaYoung.  It had been nearly two years.  They had spent their first Christmas together in Iowa – which happened to also be just before I moved here.  I can’t believe they have been married two years already.  And that I have been here that long too.  Wow.

So I got to see my son and his bride on their home turf.  And what a beautiful place it is!!  It is so green.  So fresh.  There is so much ocean.  And so many sheep!  Ha-ha

People are friendly – the food is good.  The only odd thing was that practically everything closed up by 3 or 4 p.m.  And even earlier on the weekends.  You could find a few bars (but we weren’t really interested in that).  But even restaurants were hard to find.  Unless you wanted fast food fish and chips.  This gets old.

It was a fast two weeks.  We did get to see lots of the island.  And it truly is beautiful.  We walked black sand beaches, hiked to waterfalls and mountains amongst the sheep sometimes … we got to drive on the OTHER side of not only the road, but also the vehicle.  And they drive FAST there.  On curvy mountain roads usually.  A bit un-nerving at times.  I love my son, but he really drives fast.  I sometimes closed my eyes!  Even HeaYoung asked him to slow down a few times.  Sigh.

But I’m back now.  Without internet so it makes things more difficult.  But I spent the majority of my first day back in ‘meetings’ with various members of the Pastoral Team, and we even went out to a community for an impromptu meeting with their Directiva.  And I’ve already made a trip to Usulután to check some prices in the Ferreterrias there.  And now I’m in a cyber café trying to get some things sent.  I’ve saved some time (and therefore money) by writing a bunch of emails in a Word Doc and just cutting and pasting them into an email.  Ever frugal: me.  And I’ll read a bunch of emails, take notes and compose more emails tonight to send tomorrow from the cyber café if we don’t actually get our internet by then. 

So as normal – I arrived in Berlin with both feet running.  Which is how I prefer it of course. 
Enough for now. 
Talk to y’all later!