breakthroughs & blockades

Saludos!

I just got back to work this morning after a nice three day weekend, and things aren’t looking up quite yet. I have this awkward problem with my database that has more to do with the slow internet and frequent shut down of programs than anything, but I need to find a way to work around it. Using computers here is kind of like having one surge protector in your entire house. Everything you plug into it slowly overloads the beast, until things just start to break down & eventually everything stops. I’m careful to keep 2-3 tabs/windows open at a time, but sometimes that’s too much when I have FMP & Excel open as well.

On occassion, a day’s worth of work and record uploads are lost when FMP quits on me. The records and all entry data disappear, but the software remembers how many records I’ve uploaded since my last actual save. This is problematic because it changes the serial numbers for how many total records I have in store. The program thinks I have the 214 records that should have been intact if it hadn’t quit unexpectedly, but there’s actually only data for 179 of them. I can’t cancel or delete the weird gap of nonexistent records, because there is no data that’s been saved to delete. I don’t understand it, but I also don’t know how to fix it…and this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I hate to lose two weeks worth of work, but if it happened to me now, it’s bound to happen to the staff once I leave, and they’ll have an even tougher time figuring out how to fix it. Worse, they might not even notice that something has gone wrong.

I’m now retroactively copying/pasting everything into an excel data spreadsheet to import the information to a fresh copy of the database I developed in FMP. It’s kind of like my cataloging work back at the Law Library, because I have to be very meticulous about entering every shred of data extremely accurately, or it could prevent someone finding what they’re looking for someday. Unfortunately I don’t have Diana’s keen eye on the database here in Bolivia – if I did, this baby would surely be closer to perfect. It’s definitely an annoying process, because I had been making such great progress, but I’m here at MNA for both the ups and the downs of the project, so I’ll find a way to see it through.

I’d like to have all of the remaining data from “database attempt #1” transferred into excel by the end of the day Thursday, but we’ll see. This is one of my 6 day work weeks, so I’ll be here through Sunday. Which means, the sooner I get the frustration out of the way, the quicker I’ll be able to move on security provisions, soliving new dilemmas, and making headway into true record creation! 

Last Friday was Día de La Paz, which is a celebration of the city. Although Sucre is the constitutional & economic capital of Bolivia, the government is here in La Paz. Festivities started later in the evening (as most things do in Bolivia), and I met up with my roommates in Plaza Murillo to watch the parade & walk around the downtown area. Jimmy tried his first anticuchos, we all sipped on sucumbe (it’s a warm, milky, cinammon drink with a little bit of alcohol in it), and we had some fun people-watching.

Saturday evening I went with my roommates to an USAID/foreign affairs officer (Andrew) from the Embassy’s house to barbeque & play a dice game (I forgot what it’s called already, but it’s kind of like yahtzee) with a really fun group of people. We also caught the last half of the Uruguay vs. Argentina game. We cheered like crazy when Uruguay’s awesome goal keeper stopped a killer shot & won the game for them in the PK shootoff after the regular game and overtime! Hooray!

Sunday I volunteered with a group of Embassy workers to do some construction work downtown. The Embassy got a grant through the State Dept back in the U.S. to fix up the Women’s Shelter at the Police Station in La Paz. It definitely needs it, and was in very rough shape when we got there on Sunday morning. The shelter is for women who have been abused or seriously harmed. They can come and stay overnight with their children under police protection, and can make a denuncia against their husbands or attackers at the station. The space serves as the overnight stay, an area for legal statements against abusers, and as an office for the all-female police unit that staffs it, so there was a lot for us to fix up! We heard some awful stories about what has happened to women in the past, but really felt like even our painting, mudding, taping, and trim work was providing a much more comforting and stable place than what it had been before. The Embassy team still has two more weekends to finish the project. I wish I could help the whole way through, but I work every other weekend, so I’ll be at MNA this coming Saturday & Sunday. Can’t wait to hear about the amazing work I’m sure they’ll do, though!

Yesterday morning I went downtown to visit a couple different libraries & archives in La Paz, and even saw the Museo Etnografia y Folklore (Musef), which I come across in articles that I archive all the time. I feel like the standards and concern I’m giving the database on my own is pretty respectable, but I didn’t think I would be completely doing my job without paying attention to how other institutions have integrated digital collections or online catalogs. It’s definitely clear that there are no standards across the board – every place does something different. I noticed the richness of collections here, but they are rarely catalogued with the same care and concern as I’m used to in the states. Still, it was a good learning experience :)

I went back home to run, dive a little further into a new book, and skype with Scott Tsuchiyama, who I don’t get to talk with nearly enough. (miss you!). He’s pretty super, so check out his website & see what he’s doing. If you want to know more, be sure to send him an email or a wuph!

Lastly, a very Happy 23rd Birthday (tomorrow) to one of the prettiest girls around, and one of my best friends in the world, Mary Miller! Sorry I’m not there to bake you themed cupcakes, but I promise I will when I’m back in the states!

Besitos everybody, & I’ll see you all in a little less than a month!

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