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Victoria Vieira - Tomas Tomas Translator
Victoria speaks four languages and teaches language arts at the College of Marin in Marin County, California. She has spent many years traveling throughout the world and has been involved in the formation of several non-profit foundations that help support the Hispanic community in Marin and in Mexico. The following is her log of the Alamos library Phase III installation, 
from June 22 to June 29, 2002.



Our Charter
Library Projects
Fund Raising Events
Book Requirements
Tomas y Tomas
Contacting Us

(Or working in 114 F temperature with Tomas Tomas)
June 22 - June 29, 2002


After traveling more than twelve hours, we arrived at Obregon Airport at 4:30PM Luis Levya of FAI, Luisito and Luis' Father-in-law were there waiting to greet us. We went to Luis' house where Tom helped install an air conditioner. It's extremely hot! ... more than one can imagine! We then visited the grounds of FAI headquarters. Luis showed us the small lake near FAI that had completely dried up - Sonora is in its seventh year of drought. After the tour of FAI, we went to our hotel to rest for a while and then to the restaurant to eat carne asada.  


In the morning Luis took us to meet Jose Maria Tavales Castillo the man that we are going to purchase books and videos from in Obregon. Jose Maria's motivation to sell books came from his love of books as a child and his realization of the lack of books in his country's culture. We reviewed books and videos and made a preliminary selection and said we would return later to purchase the material. Then we went to a store to price a television set with built-in VCR and an air conditioner for the library. Over lunch we had discussions about the safety of the equipment and how the library would need to be made more secure. We revisited the headquarters of FAI which is built entirely from straw bails and adobe in a very traditional Mexican style with natural colors. Luis showed us the nursery where they are growing Chiltepin, a chili pepper that used to grow wild and is very difficult to find these days. FAI intends to propagate these plants and reintroduce them back into the wild for the use by the people. 

We visited two Yaki communities, 30 miles east of Obregon. FAI is helping these people build houses (6m x 3m). The houses are built from straw and adobe through a grant from the Government of Spain. The poverty, heat and lack of water is appalling. One of the villages Casa Azul had no water and has to pack their water from miles away. Death and disease due to bad water is prevalent in this village. The woman on the right just lost a child a few days before we arrived. We met one of the promoters within the Yaki community, Rosario, a strong and self assured woman. She is the motivation, the nurse and the direction for her people.   


In the morning we purchased the TV and air conditioner and in the afternoon we finalized the purchase of books and video tapes with Jose Maria. In addition to what we purchased, Jose Maria donated an additional $1,039 US in videos and books for the library. Tom paid for the materials in Travelers Checks. When Jose tried to cash them at the bank, he was not able to cash them. Tom had to go to the bank with Jose's assistant in order to cash them. The bank process took almost an hour, it was after hours and a guard stood by the counter with hand-on-gun the whole time.


The next morning we left for Obregon traveling 90 miles by car to Alamos through the desert. On the way we ate some delicious "Coyotas" sweet cookies filled with "dulce de leche" that we purchased in Obregon followed by lots of water. After an hour and a half we arrived in Alamos. In Alamos we first went to Author Boe's house to deposit our suite cases since we were scheduled to stay at his house.  He has a beautiful home, however it was 114 F and he had returned to Wyoming due to the heat, so we were not able to stay there. It's extremely hot! We found out that the entire city of Alamos is without water. They are trucking in water from Navajoa 40 miles away. People stand at there doors with bucks, they will not receive water again for another week. From there we stopped at Maye's house just to say hello. Tom said that Maye was one of the founding spirits of the library along with Juan Zoilo in 1999. We found Maye's house in grieving, her mother had just passed away and was to be buried that afternoon. All the neighbors and family were there and we sat with the body for awhile. It was a moving experience. From there we went to the school where the library is and met with Juan Zoilo the principal of the school "Revolucion." The morning school has 460 students and the afternoon school is called Lazaro Cardenas and has 160 student. The afternoon school consists of very poor students many without shoes. 

During the afternoon and evening Juan Zoilo, Tom and I looked for workers that were going to install the wall mounted video equipment, air conditioner and iron bars around the windows in the library. As we started across the street to find the electrician who lives somewhere in the village, he came walking around the corner. Throughout the entire visit serendipity and coincidence seems to be more prevalent than expected. We got together with the electrician, the carpenter and the iron worker - all agreed to start the work the next day. We then visited Marisol, Tom's sponsor child and her family. Marisol told Tom that she was going to be 15 years old and was planning the "Quenceanera Party." Young girls in Mexico when they turn 15 have a big party. The girls wear a long very fancy dress and have an escort. Marisol asked Tom if he would be her God father and buy the dress. Tom agreed to pick her up the next morning to take her to Navajoa to buy the dress. 


In the morning Juan Zoilo picked us up to go to Navajoa to buy all the electrical supplies for the installation of the new power line, TV and air conditioner, as well as, to purchase Marisol's dress. (The weather has been horribly hot since we landed in Hermosillo and continues to be hot.) We arrived in Navajoa at 11:30 am and went to the first electrical store, they, of course did not have everything we needed. By the time we finished with our purchase there it was 1:00 pm and the stores close from 1:00 to 2:30. We had lunch, Tom and I eat a whole Red Snapper fried (delicious). Then it came time to buy Marisol's dress. We went to several stores. We helped Marisol try on several dresses (It is so hot!) Finally we found a beautiful dress, shoes, earrings and necklace. Marisol is delighted - she looks like a princess in her dress. Tom and Juan are patient. Then we went to buy the rest of the electrical supplies at another store. Tom is delighted! This is his kind of thing to do. The ride back to Alamos is a happy one - the goals of the day have been accomplished. 

In the evening we visited
Emma Michel an architect and delightful person. She lives in an old Spanish style house decorated with her own paintings. Carmelita is there visiting her. Tom asked Emma and Carmelita if they would consider being on the library committee and they both accepted. Emma invited us to come for dinner at her house the next evening.


The work started at 7:30am and by 3:00pm the electrical had been installed, the TV was up on the wall and the iron is almost ready to install. The rod iron around the windows will protect the library and it's equipment. (No one will be able to brake in.) Five girls from the morning school came to clean the library after the construction and get it ready for tomorrow's committee meeting. The electrician and many school children continued working on the electrical system into the afternoon. Juan Zoilo's teenage friend of the family, spent the day before and most of today digging 180 feet of ditch for the new underground electrical line. Tom worked with the welder into the night. They stopped working around 8:30pm, but still had not finished. We left the school grounds and Tom walked me one mile up a dry creek in the dark (a short cut) to Emma's house for dinner. Emma's son had prepared a wonderful meal and we ate out on Emma's front porch. It was a lovely evening visiting with her and her two sons. We are both a little warn out from working in sun.  


The work began early on the iron and was finished by noon. After our usual walk into town for taco's at the square we meet up with Jorge Valenzuela, FAI's Director. Jorge took us in his car to visit the FAI field office in Alamos. Carmelita was there and showed us around. Tom commented that Carmelita has an angelic inner strength and would be a good leader and she is very good with children. He hopes that FAI will some how be able to keep the field office open. We also visited Jim Toevs who is helping to get community financial support to keep the field office open. Although FAI Sonora has been operating at a 97% efficiency rate (according to an audit by STC), it appears that Save the Children of the United States is preparing to cut funds to FAI Sonora in 2003 effecting an estimated 12,000 children.. From the field office we went to a lookout point that looks out over all of Alamos and then headed for the school for the meeting of the library committee. Just before the meeting Cuco showed up with all the new bookshelves.

The meeting took place at 6:00pm. The seven committee members were present and participated in the signing of the addendum for the phase III upgrade to the library. Tom gave a brief history of Tomas Tomas and its mission to build libraries for the children of Mexico. He told the group that Tomas Tomas would be encouraged to continue to do more if the library is opened 5 days per week from the hours of 8:00am to 5:00pm. And that any other decision regarding officers, scheduling, usage, volunteers, etc was the responsibility of the committee. Juan Zoilo will call the first meeting of the new committee next week and they will begin the process of managing the resources of the library. The meeting went extremely well. Everyone seemed very exited and committed to the operation of the library.

Around 7:30pm we left with Jorge Valenzuela for Obregon. On our way out of Alamos we stopped one last time at Marisol house to say our goodbyes. In Obregon, Jorge took us for dinner and we later meet up with Luis at the hotel for a review of the project.  

With  the help of many local people the following was accomplish in just 7 days: 180 feet of new underground electrical cable, new electrical panels, installation of an air conditioner,  wall mounted video equipment along with 50 video tapes of documentaries and educational films for children in Spanish, 69 new books, 100 new dictionaries for the incoming 6th grader's Personal Book Program, installation of steel bars for the windows, 5 new book shelve modules, a world globe, completed book inventory, 4 more local people to the library committee (for a total of 7) and setup the beginnings of a Pin Pale program between Tualatin High School students in Oregon and Revolucion School in Alamos. The library now has 1249 books and is currently being used by 600 children per day.


Early the next morning Luis Leyva from FAI picked us up at the hotel and provided transportation to the Obregon Airport. On the way to the airport we stopped one last time to say goodbye to Anna. Anna and Luis were instrumental in helping the spirit of Tomas Tomas when Tom Waits and Tom Sawyer first arrived in Mexico in 1999. From Obregon we flew to Hermosillo, the capitol of Sonora, then to Los Vegas and home to San Francisco. Security was very tight coming back into the United States and the 96 degree weather in Los Vegas almost seemed cool. In San Francisco we missed our ride back to my house, but in the end were saved by a cell phone and Marin Door-to-Door. It was a fully packed adventure that covered all spectrums of the heart.

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