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A note from Susie

Hi Marleen,

I am truly missing everyone in Paraiso. I would much rather be crowded in a stable than on the streetcar. Hope everyone is well; give pets and affection to burros and the girls.

2 weeks at El Paraiso. Seems I just learned all the names of the burros, the funny particulars of each personality, and got into the rhythm of life, knew the schedule and already it was time to go. With tears in my eyes for miles, the bus carried me away to the hustle bustle mystery of human only life.

I came to El Paraiso because I have enjoyed burro acquaintances of the past and I am not a very good tourist- I would much rather be involved in some action I care about and can learn more about. Here one learns burro, but also so much about other cultures as we come together from around the world for this project. the care the volunteers show one another….an extra day of Carla’s lasagne, THANK YOU

Here I learned that burros can be most excellent teachers, if not unflappable bodhisattvas. These animals have had difficult past life histories and though their bodies may be forever deformed by the hard labour and neglect and lack of care given to their hooves and diet needs, they are resilient and persevere. Watching the ancient ones file out of the stable in the morning the first day wrenched my heart. Each step slow, some burros taking many, many minutes to walk the 12 feet or so down the ramp. Hannah with her left hoof turned out, the little brown sheep like donkey, Jip, legs so crooked and bent, and dear Juliette.


Juliette became my silent hero. Her head and neck hang so unnaturally in the deep gully of her dislocated shoulders. The deepest curve I have ever seen is her back. Walking from behind, I watch the hind legs slip in and out of joints. This girl so overloaded with work and beatings, so slow to leave the stable in the morning, is the donkey furthest away and up the highest hill in the evening. I was told she actually has been known to jump a fence. I often had the privilege of walking her home from wherever she was hiding up the hills. Walking beside her with a hand under her chin (halters are not used here, no reminders of work) felt like a walking a staggering drunk home from his nightly binge. Watch your toes around Juliette because she can’t control where hers go.

I hope to never forget the calming rhythmic sound of the burros munching straw and alfalfa in the stable. I hope someone records this to sell to aide people’s busy minds. It is better than ocean waves lapping at the shore, really. Maybe some tech savvy volunteer can record this and put it on you tube.

Of course their are the humans and dogs and cats that also reside here. Balancing all these beings and their needs, all as well pampered as the donkeys are, is Marleen. What a rare human that can care, so graciously and generously, for both 4 legged and 2 legged. All beings are considered here, the spiders and deer…well maybe not the flies.

There is much to do here, the daily chores of cooking and dishes; the burros’ needs; and also the garden. Fences – a never-ending source of repair and problem solving. The deer get in the dogs get out and the problems this can bring. Finding one’s place and choosing what to do without a structure of authority is a unique part of El Paraiso that took a few days for me to work out. Rare it is in life to work this way- to be asked to do what you feel like doing. That Marleen trusts her volunteers’ integrity to do so and still get things done would be the hardest thing for me to do if it was my operation.

Marco and the finca

I hope that this refuge is successful, sad that it is so desperately needed for burros, and that all the energies needed to support this community of beings grows strong.