Monday, March 15, 2010

Going to the Venta

It’s 6:30pm, and Amanda and I are just getting home. Hmmmm, not much in the kitchen to cook for dinner...luckily, there are several ventas all within two blocks of our house in Batahola. Ventas are like small convenience stores, usually on the porch or front room of someone’s home. While you can usually find all the staples such as rice, beans, oil and sugar, there isn’t much to choose from as far as produce is concerned, beyond the crucial onions, tomatoes and plantains. The venta is also a convenient place to buy prepaid minutes for our cell phones

Most of the items sold at the venta can be bought per unit rather than per package. You can get one egg for 15 cents, a stick of butter for about a dollar. Rice, beans, and sugar are sold per pound. You can buy a single roll of toilet paper, and even bring in an empty plastic soda pop bottle to refill with vegetable oil. This makes it easier for households that rely on a small daily cash income to buy only what they need for the next meal. Also, it’s not really common to stock up on cooking ingredients here, since not every home has a refrigerator.

The abundance of ventas makes me think that they’re a popular small business venture. Venta owners can start out small by buying a few products and gradually expand their inventory. And there is the convenience of working at home, where you can take care of your kids, clean or cook meals whenever there are no customers. According to statistics, most venta owners are women. However, it seems that I have seen multiple family members sharing the tasks in every venta I’ve been to.

For us, the best part thing about the ventas is that they are close enough that it only takes a few minutes to get last minute dinner or breakfast supplies. The problem is remembering to get everything we need in one trip!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Solidarity, Art, and Change

Recognizing and taking advantage of the potential for human development and not just artistic development in arts formation is an integral part of the mission of the CCBN, a goal that is being realized through retreats, recreational activities, and gender discussions with the arts groups. I have spent several evenings and Saturdays in retreats and discussions with youth from all the arts groups at the CCBN: choir, orchestra, theater, painting, and dance. We’ve played, we’ve sung, we’ve danced, and we’ve shared about our experiences as artists and as young people.

Before the closing retreat, several of the youth expressed concern to me that they wouldn’t get along well with the youth from the other groups. Seats on the bus were clearly divided by arts group, and our initial circle of chairs was also pretty segregated. By the end of the day, though, everyone was mixed up, laughing and sharing their art with each other.

I’ve been interviewing some of the youth to document their reactions to the events and get their ideas for the future. Many have shared that they learned much about the values of solidarity, respect, and camaraderie. But what most struck them is the way in which they were able to share with members of the other arts groups, despite the fact that they had never really gotten to know each other before. The youth are energized, and they are taking that energy back to their rehearsals and performances, strengthening both their artistry and their sense of identity.