Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bunnies and such...

Its been awhile, eh? Sitting down to this entry, I realize that I've been here in Itagua for roughly three weeks already, and most of you haven't heard so much as a peep from me. As a result, I went out this morning to shoot photos that I will be uploading in the following days. The first few members of a volunteer group from North Carolina arrived today along with a couple from another town an hour or so away that are good friends with Shaun and Sara. Their arrival culminated a multi-week push to renovate a building here for use as volunteer housing, and eventually the meeting place for the church here. I've been busy with other projects you will learn about in the near future, but was able to help some with patching the roof, tearing out and re-making a wall in the bathroom, and of course the final furnishing and cleaning efforts of the past few days. It's been an amazing transformation. More detailed pictures and explanations will follow (probably tomorrow) but for today, I wanted to catch you up with the details of the blog that was lost. Apologies, this isn't nearly as creative as the one that was lost... but... asi es la vida.

A few weekends ago, I had the joy of going to the national 'Expo.' Basically it's like an enormous county fair, with rides, games, and funnel cakes, but there are also enormous animal barns, competitions, and booths for any business that wants to set up. There's everything from cultural demonstrations to motocross. It's big... a sea of people. Anywho... I went with a British magician to find information on beekeeping and generally explore the agricultural end of things for ideas that could be used at the home in Itagua. One of our stops was a building dedicated to 'cunicultura' in which you could buy rabbits, gawk at 6 kilogram breeding stock, and even eat empanadas (like a hot pocket) made out of their kin. I did all three.

Seriously though... I bought a box of rabbits... 3 females and a male for $5 each. As spontaneous as that sounds... it really wasn't. We had been brainstorming ways to provide new protein sources on site for the kids through projects that they can eventually take leadership in. I have very fond memories of Dad's experiments with pastured rabbit when I was younger, and of all the options that I have considered, this one seemed the most promising. Rabbits reproduce quickly, are voracious herbivores, and are easily cared for by someone less than 100 lbs (as opposed to cows, pigs, goats, etc.) The meat is fantastic and healthy... and one of the house parents here has previous experience with them, and is therefore a resource both before and after I leave.

So anyway... the morning after the expo found me bouncing up the ruta between Asuncion and Itagua in a rickety 80's model Mercedes bus with a box of rabbits, watching Paraguay flash by my open window, and thinking what a wacky and whiz-o thing life can end up being if you pick up your feet for even a moment. Hysterical, I thought... riding a bus with a boxful of rabbits... hiking through a market in San Lorenzo to change busses and feeling the different buzz of this hive... hiking the 2.5 km between the Ruta in Itagua and the Home just out of town while motos and oxcarts bounced past on dusty stone streets... and I was happy.

But then, walking down the row of houses as curious kids came running to see what was inside the box... and watching them come alive over so small a thing as a boxful of rabbits... just torqued some little thing inside of me that I think every person needs adjusted now and then. It was beautiful in a way .... well... in a way I cannot possibly explain to you until you have surprised a child with a rabbit from a box.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


The natural world is full of the human, as human psychosocial ecology reflects the natural. My own inner struggles in the past few weeks and months have brought me to a soothing realization, yet one that I suspect could blossom in a bigger pot, given more time.

I was watching a movie the other evening with the English teacher and this scene provided the foundation for the meditation that has followed. (Protagonist is a wine connoisseur discussing 'pinot' a type of wine... referring to the difficulties in growing the varieties of grapes from which the various pinots are made)

...what determines the value of a plant? what characteristics of an imperiled species would knit a conservationist's eyebrows? Must it smell good? Possess a photogenic flower? Is it more valuable for being a survivor, on the edges of civilization? Do we love it for its hardiness, the multiplicity of the seeds it produces, or the thoroughness of its root system? Do we pity more the weak ones, or celebrate the tough ones? Could you appease a botanists desire to preserve a species of exotic grass by showing him Blue-eyed grass?: (technically not a true grass, but cut me some slack)

Pretty little thing... and common as a skeeter. I mean... who needs to go to the trouble of saving that plain-jane looking Congolese species when we've got things like this to look at? Really people...

But of course few would dare to suggest such a thing openly. The wonder and richness of the natural world is due in large part to the intricate complexity which even the most mundane ecosystem possesses. Losing another species is not tragic because that lost species was the flashiest, tallest, strongest or most fragrant. Rather... we mourn it because our world, in its absence, is just a little less interesting. It was, regardless of how it compares to the other roughly 270K known plant species on the globe, an awe-inspiring work of art... fascinating and precious for even a single difference.

The human genetic code (and infinitely moreso the human psychology) is more complex than that of a plant. You and I are not more or less valuable for our colors, smells, strengths or weaknesses either. we simply are valuable. Not a little valuable, or a lot valuable... we are valuable... you are irreplaceable, and no other plant can be you. No other plant can fill the niche you fill in your 'ecosystem.' If they did, it would be a different ecosystem, even if it continued to function.

The whole 'everyone is special because Jesus loves you' mantra has, for a long time, struck me as almost offensively cliche. This however... casts the tired old adage in an entirely new light for me.

God is a conservationist. when a heart is breaking, yours or someone elses... when yours or someone else's psychosocial 'habitat' is being ravaged by fear, bitterness, shame... and as you feel your petals paling... your roots drying... your leaves wilting... and you cry out... I like to think God's eyebrows knit, he grabs a steno pad, and laces up his boots.

If you have no other reason to love a stranger. Love them for that.