Monday, December 27, 2010

Saving the World vs. Hot Dogs

I got this email from Isabel last week. (Sorry to say it has taken me until now to get this ready to post.) Next week I hope to post something about her mother's 90th birthday party. So much has happened in Chile since Isabel has been visiting there…This is a highlight of her trip:

Hi Sarah

Today I went with Lori (the Executive Director of the Isabel Allende Foundation and Isabel’s Daughter in Law) to visit one of our Foundation´s pet projects: Un Techo para mi País. It means Roofs for our Country, but I am afraid the soul is lost in translation. Please check it out. You won´t believe what these young people are doing:
   Techos was founded in the late nineties by a charismatic priest, Felipe Berríos, who wanted to build houses for the poor. He probably never imagined that his dream would catch fire and in little more than a decade the organization would eliminate the slums in Chile. The devastating earthquake in February left thousands of people homeless.  In just four months, however, Un Techo built more than 24,000 emergency houses. Nowadays Felipe Berrios is working in Burundi among the poorest of the poor, while another priest, Cristián del Campo, has taken his place. (What is it about the Jesuits that they recruit so many handsome dudes?)  Un Techo has grown and expanded; now it operates in 19 Latin American countries, with hundreds of professionals and more than 200,000 volunteers, mostly students. The main cause of poverty in Latin America is not lack of resources but injustice: few people have too much and many people have too little.
  Un Techo para mi País is solving the housing problem for millions of people. It empowers homeowners, builds communities, and also offers young students—who will eventually be in government and public service—the opportunity to learn about the hidden reality of their countries.  Most of us, especially the young, want to do good, to serve, to help, but are too busy or too lazy to pay attention to that longing in our hearts.  I was blown away by the energy, passion, commitment, and joy of those young people, not to mention the fabulous work they are doing.  I wish I were 50 years younger!  And I wonder why on earth my own grandchildren are not working with a hammer and a saw in some remote village, instead of texting about the hotdog they had for lunch.
Love Isabel

This photo above shows number of temporary houses built for the homeless. 33,000 of the 57,503 built in Chile were built in 3 months after the earthquake. All by volunteers!

Marisol Alarcon, Isabel Allende and Cristián del Campo

This is Luis Ortiz. He was so pleased to be able to give Isabel HIS book instead of vice versa–it's an amazing project he created.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Chile It Is Summer

Isabel sent me an email this week en route to sunny Chile:
As you can see, Isabel travels light.

I am preparing to travel to Chile to see my parents. At my age, I still have parents, 94 and 90 years old, both lucid, healthy and with enough energy to fight among themselves frequently. 
I had prepared a big suitcase full of Christmas presents for the extended Chilean tribe and in the confusion of getting in the van and setting the alarm and crying over the fact that we would not see Olivia for three weeks, I left the suitcase in he garage.  As a result, I just learned that nobody expects or appreciates gifts.  Most people feel they have to reciprocate and that creates a never-ending servitude of useless gifts.  All my life I have had a trunk full of renewable objects that I keep buying just in case I "need" to make a gift.  Can you imagine how stupid that is? I have dragged the damn trunk from country to country, first as a traveler, then as a political refugee and eventually as an immigrant.  When I return home I will soak it in gasoline and burn it with all it's contents.
Alvy after a bath...
It's summer here, hot and beautiful.  I miss Olivia and Alvy.

Alvy, by the way is my dog, and he loves Isabel's dog, Olivia. I grimace as I write that since he has not yet managed to work his way into my heart and I am reluctant to mention him. He has been described as the illegitimate offspring of an extinct meerkat-type animal and a terrier in need of orthodontics. Isabel really likes him, and if it weren't for my young and fickle daughter who LOVES him and a pesky contract that states I cannot give him away, I would accidentally "leave" him at her house. However, Alvy was adopted from a rescue organization that forbids any transfer of one of their animals; I would have to give him to them first. Google “Ellen DeGeneres” and “dog” to see what she went through in a similar situation. Or just click here.
This is a photo of Alvy. If you can guess how we came up with Alvy's name, post it in a comment and Isabel will send you a signed copy of her latest book. (Just kidding. That won’t actually happen.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Damn Cookies!

We baked something like four thousand cookies at our annual Angels Baking gathering on Saturday. 
After it was over a flurry of emails went out saying how great the day was and how much fun it had been spending time with one another. There was a general patting on the backs of friends and the term "goddesses" was bandied about. 
Then came a final email from Isabel. It read:
Angels: I am getting a little sick with all your mutual praise.  We are “okay”—not “awesome,” “incredible,” “beautiful,” or “wonderful.”  Just five middle-aged women, two women in their thirties and one grandmother baking some damn cookies. What's so extraordinary about that??? Give me a break! 
That pretty much shut us all up and we went about our lives. As for the cookies, they went to friends and teachers and neighbors and local know, the usual places. 
As a side note, you should check out this article written by Amanda Jones. It has a great list of shopping ideas that benefit developing nations. Click here to read the article.
I mention this because Amanda is invited EVERY year to the cookie party, only, she is too busy saving the world to attend.