A great week in San Lucas Toliman

Today was my last day working with Ajkem’a Loy’a this week. I traveled with a grant from W139 to teach them how to use the internet. A paper-based workshop to explain what the internet and email were, started off the week with a holistic understanding even before sitting in front of the computer.

We then had a couple of days of mixed time, between their workshop space and the local internet cafe in town. It was a fantastic experience. The first reply they received to one of their emails was an amazing, and surprising moment for them. Their finding pictures of our June collaboration on a website was exciting for them, and thrilling for me to watch. And then, seeing them realize that googling could become a design tool, was exactly what I was hoping for.

We’ll have to wait and see if they are able to practice (they can check their email for $.30 for 30 min.) as much as they should to not forget everything we worked on this week. I have been emailing for 16 years now, and it was a beautiful experience to not take for granted every little thing I’ve learned, and even more exciting to revisit those early days of email with a group who had not imagined they could ever actually understand what those young kids are doing in front of the computer for so many hours a day.

Today I was invited to three of their homes. It was extremely humbling and moving to see how they live. The lucky ones live in spaces with enough beds for herself and her two children. Others, a mother of four, shares a bed with two of her children, while the other two sleep in the neighboring bed. They have no floor other than patted down dirt and never have the luxury of walking around without shoes on.

It’s always a sad goodbye, but I feel fortunate that I’m able to do this kind of work, and hopeful for a return next year with students who can share these experiences of working in the developing world.

(NOTE: This may have to be my last post in only English. Now that the women of Ajkem’a Loy’a are reading I’m hoping this blog will now go bilingual! Any volunteers out there who will help me translate previous and future entries?)

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