We have now been here for two months and I have the feeling that we are no longer wading into waters but though thick mud. I sometimes have no idea how to move or where to go next. I think this is an important feeling and I need to understand better what it means. Even speaking the same language in Canada (being British) I have the idea sometimes that I really dont ‘get it’. Here with the language and so many different influences, historically, politically and economically, I realise how hard it is to work in another context.
The last week saw many meetings again, hopefully leading somewhere but to where I am unclear. Also, we were joined by my cousin Karen’s daughter, Emily, who is a geographer and enormously helpful with the questions she is asking. We met with Brendan from Working World, who shared with us some fascinating insights about their incredible micro funding organisation and their views on the cooperative structures here. We also visited a very poor barrio in Moreno, where Carlos Levinton was teaching school children how to make hot water from waste plastic bottles – we even saw one of these ‘machines’ in action in a local house – the water was incredibly warm. It was great to see how the work they do manifests itself with the children teaching their parents. I had fun teaching some words of English to some of the children. They didnt understand why I spoke so strangely and when their teacher explained that I was English, they wanted a lesson. We exchanged words, naming bracelets and body parts and animals. I learnt as much as them which was (to them) a surprise and much fun for all.
Our main focus this last week, however, was to visit two of the groups that we hope to work with. A return visit to Bajo Flores sorting unit, to discuss the next stages, and to make plans for a theatre group in their community centre (a sideline that Eric and I want to pursue here) and the most exciting visit – to UST (Worker’s Solidarity Association) in Villa Dominico. We were hosted by our friend Marcelo and met Mario and his son who explained how UST works. It seems to be a ‘recovered’ enterprise in the sense that it extracted itself from the withdrawing corporation TechInt, and negotiated with CEAMSE to become contract workers, to maintain the regenerated land ontop of a huge former landfill. They also work with seven other cooperatives amounting to 80 people who work in a variety of areas such as recycling and building. Furthermore, they told us have the skills to make the machine. Mario was enthusiastic and immediately gave the hotpress plans to his colleagues to start thinking about the design.