Vacation at the Dumps

Jane at the dumpYou remember my super-cool friend, Jane? She’s the 60-something lady from Berkeley who has been to Iraq twice in the past year to see how things are going there, who also made a stop in Africa to check out how AIDS workers are fighting to make a difference, and who is always fighting the power in the White House. She’s a busy woman.

Well Jane recently decided she could use a little vacation, so she grabbed a cheap flight to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico to visit friends for a couple of weeks. This is Jane though, so there was no tanning on the beach, sipping fruity drinks, or spending lavishly on fancy jewellry and clothes. There was pie though. It sounds like she ate lots of pie.

No no, our Jane, consciencious citizen that she is, spent her days meeting ex-pats, giving talks at local cafes about her time in Iraq, finding out how the locals there manage to get by on so little (They have a Wal-Mart, but we’re they really saving more and living better on the outskirts of the tourist industry?), and making me feel truly useless, sitting here at my desk like a good little corporate girl.

Before returngin home, Jane wanted to do one big, last research mission, so an American she met directed her to the city dump where people make their living scrounging through other people’s discarded crap. Jane met a group of people who started the group Children of the Dump ten years ago. They now provide food, daycare and education to kids who would have otherwise been sent to work in the dump by the age of five.

Jane says:
“We drove up the side of the approximately 2,000-foot-high mountain of garbage and on top were acres and acres of the detritus and waste and no-longer-wanted refuge of the tourists of Puerto Vallarta. And at the very top of the pile, a child, two women and a man stood sorting various plastic bottles into various piles. “May I take your photo?” I asked in my newly-acquired Spanish.

“Si, como no.”  Yes, of course.  The Mexicans of Puerto Vallarta are really nice. Even the dump workers are nice. If I had to do what they did all day, day in and day out, I’d be chewing nails. But they simply smiled. How courageous is that!

Then we went to the School of Champions — so-named because the students there weren’t too keen on going to a school called “Children of the Dump”. And if anyone reading this wants to volunteer at the school, that might be a possibility if you can pay your own way and want to teach in a school. Even being able to teach English would be a help. “But we don’t get all that many volunteers. Most volunteers want to save starving orphans. However, these kids aren’t starving.” And why aren’t they starving? Because the program feeds them!  Catch 22.”

Read about Jane’s adventures at jpstillwater.blogspot.com, or learn more about the people she met at www.childrenofthedumpvallarta.org. They’re always looking for volunteers, so what are you doing for Spring Break?

(Photo by Jane’s friend, Sara.)

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