Monday, November 12, 2007

From Brazil....

I arrived in Brazil yesterday afternoon and spent the day today participating in the Partners of the Americas Leadership Orientation. So far, I haven't gotten to see much of Brazil because we're staying at a very secluded hotel and convention center a little outside the town of Ouro Preto. While I can understand the importance of bonding and interacting with other members of the organization, it is somewhat troubling to me that a group of people, members of a volunteer organization , and , presumably here in order to promote humanitarian initiatives and cross cultural understanding, would choose to isolate ourselves from Brazilian culture... One of the things that has always drawn me to Latin America is that it's usually much more difficult to isolate ourselves in our own privileged worlds.... In Colombia, the displaced families sitting on the side of the road are a constant reminder of the turmoil caused by armed conflict, and the children selling cigarettes in the street keep us from forgetting the need for better education programs.... perhaps I'm being too critical, but it seems to me that it would be valuable for a group of people getting together to discuss social projects and volunteer initiatives to meet in places that more accurately reflect the social reality of the people we hope to help.
In order to get here, most people flew from various countries and states throughout the western hemisphere, flew into one Rio De Janeiro , or another major city, and then took an additional flight to Belo Horizonte, and then paid for transport by van to arrive at the Estralagem das Minas Gerais in Ouro Preto.... part of me can't help but wonder how many meals could have been purchased for malnourished children with the money spent by 100-200 convention attendees.
Maybe throughout the week the value of this location will become more apparent.
That said, I'm having a great time sharing stories and experiences with some truly remarkable people from around the hemisphere. My roommate is from Trinidad and Tobego and there are about 15 other participants in the leadership orientation from Antigua, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and several places I can't remember. Wednesday, people will start arriving for the full convention, which should have about 200 people.