Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mi Casa es Su Casa

My B-family keeps asking me if I`ll return to Bolivia in the future... I told them I would like to, but it depends on God, money, and a variety of other things. They often joke around about visiting the United States, in which I tell them ¨mi casa es su casa¨ (my house is your house). They think I am funny. :) We talk about things we´d eat if we were in the USA together... this might not be healthy for me, considering I`ve started to crave very specific food. Chicken fajitas. Pizza. Waffles. Peanut Butter. Hamburgers. BBQ Chicken. Dinner last night was a new creation. ¨papalisas.¨ -small, colorful potatoes. I saw them in the market when I was with Judi. I asked her what they were, and she told me I had to try them, and that we would eat them soon. So, last night I ate a huge plate of rice with these strange potato-type things. They tasted like dirt, and I still can´t figure out why I got a huge plate full, while my little sisters got a tiny plate-full. I saw Silvia sneak her last few bites on Shirley´s plate. Maybe they don´t like them either? It´s a personal insult when you don´t eat all the food on your plate or say that you don´t like something. It´s very difficult to be honest about the food when they ask me several times ¨it`s good, isn´t it?¨ ¨Do you like it?¨ I´ve been advised to talk about what I do like to eat...
¨I really like it when you make mashed potatoes¨
¨I prefer it when you leave the stringy stuff, skin, and fat off the meat and leave the bones out of my soup.¨
¨I would really like to eat chicken enchiladas with salsa, guacamole, and tortilla chips¨

Yesterday, there was a meeting at La Casa de Esperanza for all the women who prostitute in Calle Curasco, the Red Light District. I got to greet the women at the door, which meant kissing 130 prostitutes on the cheek. If I saw these women on the street during the day, I would never guess what they do at night. I ache for them. I ache for their lack of options. I ache for their lack of control. I ache for their oppression.

Many of the women who came through the door carried babies on their backs or walked hand-in-hand with their children. I helped in the guarderia with the kids, and I couldn´t help but think ¨I wonder if she knows what her mommy does. God, protect these children from this type of work. Protect their eyes, their view of women... their view of men.¨

They all gathered upstairs for the meeting, led by the president of the women. The president is a woman who is in charge of this ¨union¨ of night workers. I still don´t understand the purpose of the meeting, but she allowed us to communicate our services - lunch, free doctor`s consulatation, day care. This was a huge opportunity for us to present ourselves to the women who wouldn`t know about La Casa de Esperanza otherwise.

After the meeting, we served lunch to 100 of them, which is 70 more women than we usually serve. We´re curious what things will look like tomorrow at La Casa... will more women show up? Did we get through to them at the meeting? Will they let themselves be helped?

More about prostitution:
The main door, painted red, opens up to a bar area. Small rooms line the perimeter, with a woman standing at each opening. The lightbulbs are wrapped in pink toilet paper to provide a red glow. Porn plays on tvs, conveniently placed in individual rooms and in the bar area itself, further objectifying women and empowering men. Sometimes, there is a room with a normal light - the opening is covered by a sheet. This is the room where children do their homework while their moms work...
She is lined up with other women, and then chosen by a man based on how she will suit him for what he has paid. The door closes...I can`t write more because I´m nauseated by what happens next. These women make 20-30 Bolivianos /10 minutes with a man ($3). Some of the women negotiate their price, depending on what they owe the brothel owner so they don´t incur further debt. Most are required to ¨serve¨ 10 men each night before their shift is over. The faster they work, the sooner they can leave. If they don´t meet the nightly requirement, they must stay all night.
The streets and rooms reek of urine.
I don´t have enough words to describe any further. This information is from various articles that I´ve read and through conversations I´ve had with Heather and Cara about their experiences with visiting the brothels. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, the staff from WMF makes their rounds on the streets, offering hot chocolate to their friends who are working, introducing themselves to others.

Near the end of my time here, I´ll visit a brothel... after I form relationships with the women at La Casa.


Jessi said...

I'm praying for that time when you meet these women and visit a brothel. I know you'll need some extra strength, but your presence there will be like a breath of fresh air your sweet smile, and gentle spirit will minister to those women.

Love you!


Shane said...

Hi El!!! I enjoyed catching up on your life today. I read through your blog for the first time. My life has been so busy that I am beginning to forget about things that are most important to me. Your words have helped me realize that something needs to change. I hope your stomach feels better. I will be praying for you this week. God Bless friend.