Saturday, April 30, 2011

Notes on Reliability

I have always thought of myself as a reliable person. I work hard, I try to never be late, if I make a promise I will do everything I can to keep it. I am loyal and faithful and if I love you, watch out, 'cause you're really gonna get it.

I am constantly heartbroken, however, when the world is not as reliable. I am fully aware of my control issues, thank you very much, but this is a little more specific. When people give their word, I have expectations. Actually, I have extremely high expectations, since your commitment to other people is the most important thing in life, I'm pretty sure.

So anyway, when people let me down, I fall hard. And it takes everything I've got and then some to forgive that person (if I ever do, I'm also aware of my trust issues, thanks).

So, last night was the Earth Day program that I had been planning for a month. It turned out great, mainly because there were a lot of great people helping me out. However, it was truly a blessing that it wasn't a total flop.

The Municipio (basically the City Hall) totally bailed on me last minute. As in, all the help and materials they promised me for the program (giant screen for the Environmental Education presentation and movie, tables and tents, and general volunteers) were instead used in a different program in the main park. A political program, which was encouraging people to vote a certain way next week by offering dancers flown in from the mainland, free booze, and singing. This was the mayor's doing, using public materials for his political agenda.

Secondly, many of the volunteers and anticipated performers bailed, too. There was supposed to be a band (they weren't around), there were supposed to be a small show of giant puppets made from recycled materials (not ready yet), and the Queen of San Cristobal, one of the English students, was supposed to make an appearance and give a short introduction to the program's festivities. Apparently she had better things to do...

So there we were, a small group of gringas and a few locals, reorganizing the schedule, using the two tables (three more were later scrounged up) that were supposed to be eight, hanging hand-painted signs, offering face painting and recycled material arts, and waiting for everyone else to show up.

Luckily, once the few of us donned our costumes made from recycled materials, a few kids happened by and the spirits were soaring.

One little boy, (the little brother of one of my students) was the very first to come. He rode up on his little skate-scooter, his mom following behind him. He was the poster-child for enthusiasm, wanting to know everything about everything that was going on; he got his face painted, participated in the art station, played cardboard frisbee, rode his scooter all over the place, and was surely one of the last to leave almost three hours later.

Vicente, my soon-to-be father-in-law, a natural leader and joker, was happy to take the microphone (when one showed up) and between reggae songs, did the announcements.

After about an hour of arts and general silliness, the bike contest began. Police cones were arranged and around fifteen kids on bikes and skateboards and little scooters participated again and again until the winners were selected. They received adorable books about bike safety, written and donated by the Charles Darwin Foundation. We also awarded them each t-shirts, as we had ample gifts that had been donated from the local agencies and businesses.

A while later, the kids who were in costume took the stage and described their costumes. There was a girl in cardboard mini skirt with matching vest, a boy with karate pants and shirt made from trash bags, two robots, and "organic trash" a boy with a mask and wearing a trash sack. All very original costumes which had obviously been labored on with great care. All were winners, so they also were awarded t-shirts.

Next there was a local naturalist guide who had created a special presentation about the history and importance of Earth Day. Without the screen, we just projected it on the wall and it turned out great.

Finally we had the adult costume contest. This was a very difficult contest, as there were seven of us women who had very eclectic costumes. There were three who had truly gotten into the spirit of a festival and used only recycled materials, while a few others (myself included) had less impressive costumes.

After strutting around on the stage, begging for applause and describing the materials we had used, the winners were picked. Because I had mandated all my students to come, the applause I received put me into third place. I bowed out of the prizes, however, because I felt like the other participants deserved the prizes, while my prize was that everything had finally fallen into place.

Finally we had a local musician sing a new song he had written and played guitar. After that, we thanked everyone for coming, dispersed leftover materials and cleaned up.

My English teacher cohorts and I went out for a celebratory ceviche dinner, after which all but one fell fast asleep.

I am pleased with how the event turned out. Again, it went great, considering how terrible it was destined to turn out. This whole time, they were my ideas of the minga and festival. Everyone was skeptical, few were interested in helping at all. But in the last few days, everything came together.

Nothing could have happened if my very important support group hadn't of believed in me and my ideas for a cultural event, a celebration of the Earth, not just Galapagos. A positive way to celebrate our place in the natural world, instead of so much negativity and accusations like the local population is used to.

At the end of the day, I know that it was my friends and family in this beautiful place that I am able to count on, to support me, to help me, to listen and understand me, to try to play along with whatever random activities I come up with and thrust upon them. It is these people who have shown me a new side of Reliability.

Lean on me, and lean I did. BIG LOVE!