Thursday, May 31, 2012

¡Pasa Adelante! ¿Qué busca?

Today started off with what has become a typical day here in Ciudad Colon: a quick cold shower that wakes you up, a delicious cheese sandwich and fruit for breakfast with some of the best coffee ever, pack up the homework and the rain jacket, and off to bus stop we went, commenting on the gorgeous weather that unfortunately won’t last and the differing cuteness of the many dogs that decide to follow us around. When we got to UPEACE a bit early and let Professor Paxton grab his coffee, we jumped right into discussing the new Les Miserables trailer and how it should really just come out now instead of at Christmas. (In case you haven’t seen the trailer yet: There are benefits to getting to class early and Professor Paxton grabbing coffee before we start. 
Today's class started off focusing on micro-development by discussing the pros and cons of entrepreneurship. After a class poll and some hypothetical situations we came to the conclusion that most of us are rather risk adverse and would choose to avoid acts of entrepreneurship, such as opening our own businesses. We then addressed the question of whether or not it is moral or acceptable to suggest that people in developing countries develop by opening their own businesses, when we ourselves would be adverse to the idea.
On the macro level, we asked ourselves how ethical or fair is it for powerful states to tell developing states they have to develop in certain ways. We used the example of the US encouraging states to conserve the environment during development while the US didn’t and still doesn’t always consider the environment during development. We considered how difficult it can be to address ethical issues while trying to make development happen. Like most days in class, there were some lively debates, good laughs, interesting analogies, and the rare moment of quiet when the economics of the situation were shown graph. Professor Paxton also finally banned the fish metaphor (“teach someone to fish instead of giving them a fish”) before we all drowned in it – some things do get worn out after a while – and we wrapped up by going over some tips and reminders for this afternoon. Why would we need tips you might ask? Well because this afternoon the Global Scholars headed off to El Mercado Central in San José!
Colleen, Kathy, Jackie
outside El Mercado Central
After lunch we bussed into San José to do our ethnography assignment. Despite our nerves, we had a blast exploring the market, observing the people and market-culture, and interviewing some of the workers. Those of us who know Spanish got to put our skills to the test and find out about why and how the workers became part of the market. It might seem simplistic or ignorant to ask someone why they work (umm to make money, duh) but we found that there’s a lot more to everyone’s story. My group met individuals who had started their own businesses and taken risks to give their families something to depend upon; an elderly woman who loves her job talking with people and watching the crowd walk by while strategically selling lottery tickets outside the market sitting a block away from her son who does the same; a fruit vendor who brings his produce from his hometown and money back to his family and works every day from 5 am until the tarde (late afternoon). We saw people selling touristy knick-knacks, clothes, shoes, leather goods, pottery, artwork, books, hammocks, hats, live bunnies, chickens, roosters, food for the chickens, chickens cooked to order, fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood, flowers, toys…I could go on but you get the picture. (Or if you don’t you can look at the ones I’ve put on here.)
Conor in the market
Ethnography is enlightening as long as you’re willing to take the risk and start up a conversation. You can learn a lot from watching interactions, but hearing what people have to say allows you to understand their actions. We learned about the risks the entrepreneurs in the market made and how they went about with their own development projects. Putting ourselves out there a little and taking the constant shouts of “¡Pasa Adelante! ¿Qué busca?” (Come in! What are you looking for?) as an opportunity to pasa into a conversation allowed the Global Scholars to turn a trip to the market into a pura vida learning experience.

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