August 2009

 The bird house frenzy is on! Alex has built 5 homes… innovative designs, one looks like the starship enterprise. Irene & Metzly are working on a Bird Palace and Casey is building a Bird Hotel. We’ll need more trees to house them. Ed, our fearless photographer came by today to take photos. The kids have a short tolerance for posing… “Can we do art now?!” Class was the usual cacophony of creative chaos. Genesis came by with her adorable bunny. The kids all gathered lemon Balm and spearmint to make tea with… boil water. Steep for 3-5 minuets and add honey. We also harvested a lot of Cilantro.

In August 2009, Esperanza hosted a “Career – Internship Fair” at Mercado La Paloma for the new graduates of the “Community Health Promoters” training program.  A “Resume Writing Workshop” was presented prior the event, and two worshops at the fair: “How to tell your story using Data”, and “Effective Interviewing Skills”.


The Career Intership Fair brought a good opportunity to introduce recent  “Community Health Promoters” graduates to local non-profit and Social Services agencies and to encourage them to apply for interships with participating agencies.


Thanks to the following participating organizations: IDEPSCA, Success A New Beginning, Children’s Bureau, South Central Family Health Center, St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, Rescatando Salud/Immunization Program, Cal Trans, Healthy Homes, Land Trust, SAJE, EsperanSalud, and Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health.

budgie The garden grows.

The Budgie is jealous of his home. When we water, he waits anxiously in the branches above, waiting for us to leave.

Not that he’s antisocial. He entertains sparrows daily.


Two thuggish youth watched me water.

“This your garden?”

“…Well…” I began.

“Looks great!”

“Thank you thugs, “I replied (no not really.)


The kids have decided to build more houses for our other trees. Maybe we’ll get more escaped immigrants.

We have tomatoes, cucumbers, spices, flowers, mints and some weird melonish thingie. (That’s the botanical term.)

We have planted myriad wildflower. I saw my first butterfly today, not a monarch…but they will come.

Like building a ball park. (If you build it… they will come.)

I don’t expect shoeless Joe, but I do expect shoeless monarchs.


Someone has put rich soil all around the magnolia trees.


We (me and Irene 8 and Alex 14) gave a mosaic workshop at SAJE today. Eventually we will mosaic a bench/planter combo.


Afterward Irene and I took some pieces from the Kiln.P1000502

“Wow,” I said. “They came out fantastic!”

(They had been fired and refired about 5 times!)
“Yep,” she replied. “I never gave up on these.”

“As well you shouldn’t.”

“You’re my favorite art teacher.”

““Aren’t I you only art teacher?”

“I have had others, and they always made you do what they say. You let us do what we want.”

“Well, that’s how art should be,” I said. “There are certain ways to do things… but…”

(Also, I suck at discipline.)

“I’m going to keep this forever,” she said holding a vase close to her chest.

“I’m going to keep this my whole life; I’m going to be buried with it. And whenever I look at it, I will think of you. I will never forget you,”

I’m not a crier, but she got me.

Our Garden is amazing!

Contrary to dire prediction, the neighborhood is respecting it. Our vegetables are allowed to ripen.

Yesterday Chris presented me with a despondent chrysanthemum to plant.

 Because we have scattered much bird seed in the garden, we have a fine crop of sunflowers and grain as well as veggies, salvias, milkweed and mints.

We weeded and thinned the grains and seeded vibrant varieties of wildflowers.

 Do you remember, Alex, a 14 year old boy asked me if he could build a bird house? He even brought in food for the birds. (It was actually small animal food, but the concept was there.) He built two, one with a plastic bottle designed to gradually release seed, the other an open box he painted baby blue.

He’s been wondering why no birds come to his feeders?

“Be patient: First, we have seed all over and many birds are eating from the ground. Second, let them get used to it.” 

Well Guess what?!

A small blue budgie has moved into the blue bird house!

I think I’m more excited than the kids!

It’s obviously an escapee looking for a safe home.

The blue bird house is just his shade and size.

Perfect move in-condition.

 Casey and I made a bird food run yesterday.

She is an adorable girl, a good artist a dedicated gardener and a lousy navigator!

She was planning a trip to Vegas (“only 2 hours from the city.”) for bird seed.

I guess that high desert seed is the best.

 Alex is in a camp for a week so he doesn’t yet know the budgie broadcast.

I’ve finally shed my scared-eater skin and decided to try new styles
of cuisine. The decision came to me on New Years 2008, when I devised
my 101/1001 list. “Hey Evan,” I thought to myself, “Why don’t you try
to eat more than American and Italian food for a change? Other people
do, and they don’t all get food poisoning every day!” So I’ve been
trying new things. Tonight I suggested a Peruvian place to Nicci
called Mo-Chica. She almost suggested somewhere else, but then she
read the Yelp reviews and changed her mind. Good thing for us, we had
an amazing dinner tonight. Mo-Chica has definitely been the best
adventure in new cuisine I have taken.


The eatery is located near the campus of USC, at 3655 Grand Avenue.
The building which houses it goes by the name Mercado La Paloma. The
best description of the place would be a standalone food court. There
are a half dozen small restaurants inside. Each one has a few tables
dedicated to its clientele. As Nicci and I approached the counter at
Mo-Chica, a young woman helped us to a table for two near a small
stereo speaker emitting Peruvian music. She handed us two menus, and
proceeded to describe the appetizers to us. At first, we decided on
Causa Del Dia (potato salad of the day), but after our waitress told
us that the Ceviche was “famous,” we switched our order. After a few
questions about the main courses, Nicci and I decided on our dishes:
she ordered Aji De Gallina, and since I was planning on ordering that
I quickly switched my order to Arroz Con Pollo. Nicci snidely
commented something about my ordering chicken and rice, but after I
told her I was interested in seeing how it was prepared in Peruvian
cooking she understood my choice.


The ceviche took about ten minutes to prepare and serve. The portion
might be considered by folks looking for hearty portions to be too
small for two people to share. I think we were both satisfied by what
we were able to eat. The dish was prepared with a handful of raw sea
bass cubes, cilantro, corn nuts, hominy, and seaweed in a spicy,
lemony and milky sauce. Everything tasted really fresh. The light
ingredients in that size portion made for an excellent starter. For
$5, it almost felt like theft!

The presentation of the main courses was stunning for such a small
place. Each dish was served along with its sides in proper china, on a
large wooden tray. The plating was remarkable. You’d never think you
were in a warehouse-like marketplace by the way everything was served.
Nicci’s Aji de Gallina was described as shredded chicken, walnuts,
hardboiled egg, and boiled potatoes in a bread sauce. It looked like a
yellow curry, and smelled kind of like alfredo sauce, but the flavors
were definitely Latin. In actuality the sauce was a combination of
yellow chillies, milk and bread. Our waitress was kind enough to
describe all the components of the dish. It was served with a side of
green beans, bread, and rice with hominy. The green beans were
surprisingly sweet. The side of white rice gave us the chance to
sample a trio of homemade sauces. One was a savory cheese/bread sauce,
one was a moderately spicy mustard-colored sauce, and the red sauce
packed a pretty good kick.

My dish, chicken breast (plus one leg) and sauteed rice with peas,
carrots, tomato, onion and cilantro, was served in a salsa madre. It
came with a side salad, sweet green beans and bread. The mixed greens
salad was lightly dressed and — like the ceviche before it — tasted
remarkably fresh. The chicken was well-cooked, crispy on the outside
and tender on the inside. The rice was expertly flavored, and did not
require any of the three sauces I chose to liberally mix into the
dish. The portion size was perfect — not to hearty, just enough to be
sufficiently full upon completion.

As we were finishing our dishes, our waitress returned to the table
and said that the chef had decided to cook for us a dessert — free of
charge — which she called an “experiment.” It was a carob mousse. She
said it would be chocolate-flavored, but I don’t think there was any
actual chocolate in the dish. The first taste completely took us by
surprise. We were not expecting such a delicate yet rich treat. If
they made a beer with that roasted coffee-like sugary flavor I’m
pretty sure I would fall in love with it. Aside from its phenomenal
taste, the dish served a second purpose as the perfect palette
cleanser. Any hint of fire from our spicy main courses was immediately
smothered by our cool, decadent dessert.

The meal we ate at Mo-chica was outstanding. I was shocked to learn
that they’ve only been in business for three months. From the local
music to the stunning presentation and bold Latin flavors, I could not
have asked for a better introduction to Peruvian cuisine. What’s more,
the entire meal cost less than $30! The kind staff and chef at
Mo-chica deserve to be singled out as incredible and friendly food
preparers and providers. The choice to gift us a free dessert was a
very kindhearted gesture, and shows a commitment to customer service
that one rarely finds in Los Angeles. Hopefully once they make enough
money they will open more locations. Nicci and I both look forward to
returning in the very near future to this culinary gem near USC.

Oh, yeah, Mo-chica also delivers! Amazing!

3655 Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Mon. – Sat. 11:00am – 10:00pm

By Evan ~ August 7th, 2009. Filed under: dining out.

More Tales from Esperanza.



Last Friday it was hot. It has been hot for months. Heat has entered our bloodstreams, creating longing for cold seas, mountain breezes, swimming pools… and water fights. 

As we watered the gardens, the kids often missed the plants and wet each other, envisioning rapid growth spirts and glorious careers as basketball heroes.  

We have red peppers now. Something I thought would never happen, as till now our peppers have vanished before ripening.

Our Butterfly plants (Milkweed) Salvias, succulents thrive, and our tomatoes ripen. 

“Can we have a water fight?” asked Irene

“If you all bring a change of clothes and follow some rules,” I countered, “We can, Monday.”

“Can we bring food?”

“Yes, to be eaten AFTER, the fight.” 

Monday & I arrived hot and muggy.

But unlike Monday, I carried with me 8 cheap water guns and some balloons. The early arrivals (Metz & Irene) helped water the garden and engaged in some squirting and chasing. Your browser may not support display of this image. Soon more kids amassed, including Genesis.

Genesis was born without legs & only one thumb.  She is a wise child, patient and humorous. She is an inspiration to all who know her. I am always especially touched when this gracious child has an opportunity to join in something fun and physical.Your browser may not support display of this image.

The water balloons were almost impossible to fill and even harder to burst. They bumped off of stomachs and heads into the sidewalk and remained intact! 

Then Brandon & Chris showed up Your browser may not support display of this image.  

Chris is 2 or 3 and Brandon a very serious 6.

Brandon came armed. He lugged with him the incredibly enormous water gun he had been given for his birthday. This gun was the size and weight of a medium Sherman tank.Your browser may not support display of this image.

It was larger than most of my cars. It fired both forward out of one barrel and backward out of two.   

“You guys, better go after Brandon,”


Irene transformed, into General Irene.Your browser may not support display of this image. She mobilized the kids, having them fill and carry buckets, dictating what each bucket was to be used for (one for filling Guns and one for foot washing.) Who could use the buckets (Only the good (her) team.)

The good team consisted of everyone except Brandon, Chris and (by choice) Casey.Your browser may not support display of this image.

Due to the complex mechinisum of gun, it was very difficult to make it squirt; also, it weighed almost as much as Brandon.

That poor kid, not only was he out gunned and out numbered, due to his weapon; he was hardly able to move. Soon the tiniest children were lugging buckets of water over to Bandon, hoisting them overhead and emptying them on top of him.Your browser may not support display of this image.

The odd thing was that the kids still viewed THE GUN as a superior weapon, even though it demonsterably was not. I tried to fire it once and during the time it took me to pump it up, I was surrounded by an army of water gunning Lilliputians. 

After everyone was chilled and my fingers had turned white and bloodless from filling water balloons, we changed clothes.

Some of the moms arrived with quesadillas, salads of cucumber, carrots and apples marinated in lemon (yum!) nuts, soda and cookies. 

Then the children insisted on “doing art,” until I finally made them go home at about 9:00pm

I brought in some 4 day old kittens yesterday. The kids were enthralled. They were even delighted when they peed and pooped.
 Two recalcitrant youth who have always regarded me with suspicion and hostile glances (perchance because I am generally coated in a clashing variety of colors and clays…They are probably aspiring designers and I offend their nascent fashion sense…. yep that must be it.) were lured in to touch (lightly) the kittens.
I was rewarded with dazzling smiles and waves. Other species are often the best intermediaries.
“I brought in some 4 day old kittens!” I told the moms.
“Vivos?”  (Are they alive?”)
“Of course they’re alive! What do you think I am?!”
“I meant are they clay,” Sandra explained 
And speaking of kids (sort of)… there are tons,  adults & teens, 11- 4 year olds, painting, modeling  greenware ( unfired clay), throwing on the wheel (and if I’m lucky, not on the wall) , glazing & dipping bisque (fired clay), watering the garden, examining the garden, smelling and tasting plants, finding worms….
Last night at about 7:00pm  I heard a commotion outside, looking out the  classroom window I discovered about 20 people, young and old.
I inspected the street, but noticed nothing unusual (except conceivably me, dirtier than normal if possible, encrusted not only with clay glaze and paint as usual, but with soil as well.)
“Is there a problem?” I asked
“Just looking, ” one young man answered.
“At the class?” Or at the incredibly grubby woman before you?
“No, at the garden. We are admiring the garden.”
“We love the garden.”
I could have cried, adding trails of salt to my overall filth. Luckily I’m not a crier.
I noticed a rose in the garden when I arrived, but we have not planted any roses? A mom whose kids have all been in my class said, “I planted a rose, in the garden.”
How easily,often and beautifully are mysteries solved and miracles explained… I still don’t get how they fit an entire tree into that tiny seed  case though. ~Evie Art & Science Director

Esperanza will be having a Career and Intership Fair for all promoters who are interested in stregthening their professional network, sharpening their interview skills and create a great job portfolio.  In addition, Promoters will learn about Esperanza’s Intership opportunities and connect with local non-profit and Social Service agencies and much more!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009 at Mercado La Paloma 3655 S. Grand Avenue. Los Angeles, CA 90007.  Registration & Continental Breakfast 8:30 a.m. and Workshops will begin at 9:00 a.m.  Intership Fair starts at 11:00 a.m.

Please send your registration form to Norma Benitez by fax(213) 748-9630, email: or call (213) 748-7285x 18.  Registration Deadline: August 5th, 2009.

Don’t miss this GREAT opportunity!