Brasília – January '06
This was the first trip I made where the goal wasn't to work directly with SIL people. Instead, this time I went over to Brasília in order to help our colleagues at ALEM, which in the Brazilian national Bible translation organization. ALEM got its start a number of years ago as sort of an “offspring” of SIL in Brazil; the idea was to create a Brazilian organization in order to encourage more nationals to participate in the work of Bible translation. Brazilians—obviously!—don't need visas to enter the country. Nor do they need to learn the national language. Or local customs. Read the section about ALEM on the Wycliffe and SIL page.
Over the years, it became evident that ALEM will not “take over” the work of SIL, at least, not for quite a while. Rather, they work with us as national partners in Bible translation. During that time they have produced a number of high quality people who work among indigenous areas both in Brazil and in other countries, chiefly Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. Some graduates of their linguistic and cross-cultural courses also work in places where Brazilians are more welcome than Americans. This is another blessing from God in the work of reaching the world for Christ.
On this trip, I met two other SIL computer specialists over in Brasília who had come down directly from the States. Together, we worked on a project to set up a number of new computers, bought with funds donated specifically for these types of projects, so that the ALEM training courses would have a functional computer laboratory. Additionally, we consulted with the ALEM leadership regarding future projects. At this point, we have planned a return trip in March of '06.
During this time, we had the vital assistance of two other people. One of them is a trained translator with ALEM who also happens to be quite proficient with computers. The other is a young man from Germany who is here with his parents as missionaries. Together, we made this project happen, a truly international undertaking.
Unlike my previous trip to Porto Velho, this time I don't have any travel pictures to share. I went over on a bus, and my camera was packed inside my suitcase. The trip was quite long, because the bus had to take the “southern route”. The “northern route” is in a sad state of disrepair, although recent reports from people who have driven through that area indicate that a major construction project is underway.
Nevertheless, everything went well until the bus was about 20 minutes away from the city of Goiania. We were going up a hill, when the driver suddenly pulled over. It turned out that he had seen a huge cloud of black smoke in the rear view mirror, pouring out of the back of the bus. After stopping, he went and had a look, and realized that this bus was not going anywhere for a while, short of being towed. The upshot was that all of us passengers waited for a little over an hour for a second bus to arrive and pick us up.
The buses are very comfortable. The seats are nice, and on the type I went on, called a “leito”, they recline almost horizontal, allowing passengers to sleep in greater comfort. My only problem is that they were made for shorter people! Still, it was better than any bus I've ever taken in the U.S..
After leaving at 7:15 on Friday evening, I arrived in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday.
The trip wasn't all work. On Sunday afternoon I got together with a friend who was there helping orient the new director of the linguistics course, along with six others, and we went out to a local Mexican restaurant called “El Paso, Texas”. That's right, a Mexican restaurant. Brasília is an international city, and you can find quite a lot of things there!
This is the congressional building. The national senate and congress meet here. The dome on the far side is the senate chamber, and the bowl on the near side is the Câmara dos Deputados, or the local house of representatives.
On Tuesday, several of us went out to buy supplies and computer furniture. On this trip I took my camera, and snapped several pics. Here is one of them.
Wally World in Brasília
Yes, believe it or not Wal-Mart has arrived in Brasília! We stopped here to see what they might offer in computer furniture. Unfortunately, we didn't see anything we liked. However, we did eventually find what we needed, and the LORD blessed us in choosing exactly the right kind of table to match other furniture that they already had at the center office. We hadn't even bothered to look before setting out!
The ALEM center is located on the north end of the city, past the “wingtip” (Brasília is laid out like an airplane). Besides the main office, there are several houses, a dormitory, and a dining hall. During my visit I stayed in the dormitory. Because of my height I was given a room with a double bed, in order to allow me to sleep diagonally! I was very grateful for this.
Main ALEM Office and Classroom Building
This is the main office. The classrooms are located on the right; the wall you see with the writing is the outside wall of the main classroom. The two windows immediately to the left of the main gate in the middle are the room that we made into a computer lab. Administrative offices are further to the left, and on the other side. In the rear on the right is the main library.
Refetório (Dining Hall)
This is the dining hall. It was here that we ate our meals (and got to know people!)
Our main job on this visit was to set up 10 computers as a classroom computer lab, in addition to spending time planning for later phases of the network project. To accomplish our task we not only had to spend considerable time in meetings, but we had to spend an entire day out shopping for equipment and furniture. Then we had the task of actually setting up the computers. But when we were finished the ALEM course had a functional computer lab, with all of the machines networked together and connected to the Internet.
Computer Lab while working
This is a shot of the computer lab while we were working. Believe it or not, one of the major difficulties was determining a way to get all of the tables to fit! Fortunately, Cristiano, one of the two men we were working with, came up with a floor plan that worked. You can see it above.
Out buying computer tables
This is a shot of all of us out buying furniture. This was the store where we actually ended up purchasing the tables. The blonde woman on the left is the store manager. The man in the striped shirt is Cristiano Barros, the ALEM member who we worked with. Behind him you can see David, the German fellow who ended up maintaining everything after we left. Seated and relaxing is Bob Wright, who came down from the States, and used to have my job here in Cuiabá! The woman in front is Neide, the director of the linguistics course.
Cristiano working on computer
This is a shot of Cristiano working on one of the computers. Without his valuable input we would never have been able to complete this project in the short time we had!
One of the other fun things was meeting new people. Most of the people I met were students. They were from many places, with many backgrounds and different callings. But they all had one thing in common: they want to serve the Lord in the mission field.
Food Line in Dining Hall
This is a shot of the food line in the dining hall. The two people on the left are actually SIL folk; they are the only two non-Brazilians in the linguistics course. The are now in the process of beginning translation work with an indigenous group here in Brazil. The next two people I confess that I can't recall their names. The gal on the right is Rosângela. She actually spoke a bit of English, which our third colleague from the States appreciated greatly, since he does not speak Portuguese.
Group of students at front gate
These are some of the students at the front gate (see photo above of the main office). Again, you can see the SIL couple. The two on the left were not a couple at the time. The guy's name is Alessandro, and the gal is Joice, who was also the only student from Cuiabá (although she wasn't born there and doesn't really consider herself a “cuiabana”!). They got married a few months later and are planning on doing a translation project together.
I took this shot of another really nice young woman right after the previous shot. I simply turned around, brought up my camera, and she posed. Her name is Miriam Soares. She is from Vitória, a city in the state of Espirito Santo, and has been working in Africa. She returned to do a course in phonetics. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another, and she showed me her entire collection of photos from Africa. She is now in England, studying English, as she prepares to work in another African country.
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