missionary

That which has been your delight


Timmy, Norberto, Anahi, Julie Kurrle

Over the years I’ve shared with several of you the blog of a woman I found in Paraguay, Julie Kurrle, who served there since 2002 with her husband, Norberto, and their 6 year old son, Timmy, as missionaries. (I found her blog around the same time I found that of Christie Hagerman, with whom I would eventually stay during my January 2012 visit to Paraguay).

Julie’s is one of those blogs I check almost daily, getting to know her family through her recounting of their adventures, and of their struggles. It was through her blog that I read about their work with youth in their area, their years long struggle to adopt, their final success in that struggle when they brought home their beautiful daughter Esther Anahi, their adventures in peanut farming, their great love of Paraguay, and most of all their passionate love for God.

Julie’s blog post from April 14, 2011: “Helping Poor, Rural Farmers Increase their Profit Is Easier than You Think. (You can Help!)

Norberto talking last May about the peanut harvest:

This was a beautiful family that loved each other and their fellow man in a way that was so tender and obvious and full of joy that it shined through in every single post I read from Julie. I couldn’t help but want to know this woman in real life!

So of course it was to my great delight and privilege that I got to meet Julie and her family in person when I traveled to Paraguay in January 2012, and to spend several days with them at their home in Encarnacion. They opened their house and their hearts to us, fed us an amazing meal, took us out to the pond next to their house to relax, to play with the dogs, to watch Timmy get covered in mud… The next day my hosts, the Hagerman family, and I spent the day with theirs and another family at a nearby beach sweating, laughing, and sharing stories over burgers, potato salad, and plenty of tereré. You just never met a warmer, friendlier bunch of folks. And that love they had for God and each other and their community? Even stronger and more visible in person!

A (particularly adorable) video from Julie on how to wash clothes on a wash board:

Julie updated her blog yesterday saying that the family would be heading into Asuncion to pick up their daughter’s birth certificate and passport. Adoption is a complicated process under any circumstances, and in Paraguay it can become particularly messy, but things were finally wrapping up for the Kurrles with their beautiful new daughter, now one and a half years old.

Anahi’s first steps:

This morning I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Christie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone to text or call her about something, only to remember I can’t because she’s so far away. But I only had a moment to be excited that I was hearing from her, because she was calling with heart-breaking news.

Timmy and Norberto

Some time around 5 am local time this morning, the Kurrles were involved in a terrible car accident on their way into Asuncion. Norberto and Anahi survived the crash, but it claimed the lives of the beautiful Julie and her sweet son Timmy.

My understanding is that Timmy survived long enough for his father to get to hold him and talk to him one last time, for which I am sure all who know the family will be forever grateful. Norberto is a good, good man and Timmy was such a smart, funny child.

And now I hardly know what to say or think.

Yesterday Julie was laughing with the judge who was handling their adoption case, and today- unspeakable tragedy.

I don’t know what is going to happen next. I dare say the family probably doesn’t either. All I do know is it is just sickening to be here so far away, unable to hold my friends and cry and pray with them in person. I rejoice with all my heart that Julie and Timmy are with the Lord, and weep that the world, that this family, that their community, lost such a vibrant woman, and such a friendly, outgoing child in such a sudden and shocking way.

If you have a moment I urge you to visit Julie’s blog: http://kurrles.blogspot.com. Read the posts, smile over the pictures, click through to go back, back, back to watch their ministry unfold in reverse. Click through to be encouraged by the love this family bore for each other. And, if you are a believer, click through to be encouraged and uplifted by the love they bore for God, our Source and Supply, our sustainer not only during the devestating times, but during the beautiful.

"El enjugará toda lágrima de sus ojos, y ya no habrá muerte, ni habrá más duelo, ni clamor, ni dolor, porque las primeras cosas han pasado." Apocalipsis 21:4

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
– Kahlil Gibran

QEPD Julie Ana Beam de Kurrle y Timoti Samuel Kurrle Beam, 18/4/12

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ETA: Christie was able to attend the memorial service at the Kurrle’s church in Paraguay. You can read that post here: Memorial Service for Timmy and Julie Kurrle

Paraguay Blog #4: Catching Up


Time to get chronological-y with these posts or I am never gonna get down on paper the kind of memory-prompt record I need. Ready? Here we go…

January 11, Wednesday

Still chilling at the R’s house, we started the day with grits- courtesy of Ken- and orange juice to get our blood pumping red, white, and blue.

Gringo Bait: Potato salad

Around 11:30 we took off for a beach in Bella Vista for an asado and to swim in the Paraná. We were a pretty sizable group, and not just in the “wide and towering North American” sense. It was the Hagermans, the R’s, the Kurrles with Julie’s mom and their friend Michael, and me. An impromptu 15-person asado ain’t half bad!

We set up the food under a thatched roof quincho near the water; burgers, potato salad, sweet bread, and watermelon. Gloooorious. Norberto and J cooked the burgers over a charcoal fire on the ground using a grate borrowed from a nearby group of picnickers. We thought there’d be grills there to use, so when we discovered there weren’t any we decided to use a piece of corrugated metal (cleaned off with a rock) someone had found there on the grounds. What is it about makeshift arrangements that makes things feel more adventure-y?

Sweetest baby you ever met.

While most of the group headed down to swim, I stayed at the quincho with Christie, A, and baby F. It was up around 110° F (43° C) and breezeless, but I just wasn’t feeling the “jump in the river” urge. Or maybe I just wasn’t feeling the “change into my bathing suit in a 120° outhouse with its accompanying baked aromas” urge.

On our way back to the R’s that afternoon we stopped at a roadside shop with a giant US flag painted on the front. They get in shipments of used goods from the States and sell them for the most random prices you’ve ever seen. Ken found a Star Trek mug there for me. Somehow it just doesn’t feel right that my second souvenir purchase was a $1 mug from the States. I calmed my uneasiness with a second helping of Camille’s chicken and pasta dish at dinner that night.

January 12, Thursday

We took off that morning for Jamie and Marion Lee’s house in Ciudad del Este. Their gig primarily involves working with kids there in CdE, and painting these giant boards with a verse and an image from the Bible and then donating them to schools, hospitals, and the like. The boards are pretty awesome, especially when they end up in places with no real color to speak of; a bare-walled elementary school, the children’s ward at a hospital, etc.

Jamie and Marion, both from the London area, are also pretty awesome.

When we got to the house we were greeted by Marion, a dog named Cheeky, five tortoises (two of which were at least a foot long), and a steaming pot of bori bori (a kind of meat and dumpling stew). Paraguayan food– at last! After lunch the girls and I took a dip in the pool. Naturally the rain came five minutes after I got in. ;) It’s all good, though. Much of the country has been experiencing a terrible drought so the rain was welcome.

Brit Art

While staying there I was treated to my own room, which rocked a great deal. Thank you Marion for being willing to give up your office for three days! I had my own bed, a desk with a chair, and an air conditioner. I could live with just that for the rest of my days and be blissfully happy. Having Jamie’s colorful prints hanging on almost every wall of the house was the icing on the cake. The experience made me want to start looking at houses I could buy back in Milwaukee just so I could finally have colorful walls of my own. ;)

After lunch Ken and Jamie stayed at the house doing boy stuff while Marion took Christie, the girls, and I to a salon so Christie could get a 35,000 G ($7.58) haircut. While waiting I watched the city’s trash floating downhill outside in the floods of rainwater filling the streets. I guess the moral of the experience there was that if you’re moving to CdE, aim for the high ground.

KUAT!

A few hours later we all hit the road for a shopping mall across the Brazilian border in Foz so we could eat at a Subway there in the food court. I ordered the  frango with azeitona, tomate, and alface. You know– because I needed another language to struggle with on this trip. Gah! Incidentally: Fast food cashiers in Brazil quietly speed-mumble just as much as fast food cashiers in the States. Nice to know some things stay the same no matter where you find yourself.

On our way to Foz, Marion pointed out the trash covering one of the roads we were on. I figured it was what had collected there during the day’s rain, but Marion said the place we were driving through- deserted at the time- was  actually where the smugglers remove the packing from the goods they’re going to ship to save weight and space, before wrapping everything up in black trash bags before moving it across the border.

Oh.

We finished up the night listening to the story of how Marion and Jamie got together, and about the time Marion’s brain broke and she went to heaven– like y’do. It’s a pretty incredible story. If I could come back here and record one story to share, it would be this one. She’s a powerhouse, that one is. A powerhouse, and one half of a kickass comedy team. Seeing the two of them playing off each other so well renewed my belief in the “there’s somebody just right for every one of us” idea.

January 13, Friday

EMPANADAS AT LAST!!

The next day brought a leisurely morning for all, followed by a lunch of chipa guazu, empanadas, milanesa, and salad from Ña Morocha, a local eatery Marion loves. One bite into my long awaited ham and cheese empanada was the “proof in the pudding” for how this place has become such a favorite in the Lee household. Man oh man was that some good eatin’!

A little while later we were treated to afternoon tea, complete with tea kettle, cups and saucers, and cookies biscuits with the Union Jack stuck in ’em on toothpicks. You know– just to make sure we got the full British experience during our stay.

Good grief. You’re going to think all we did was eat on this trip. I promise that’s not the case, it’s just that every visit took place during a meal. A really, really good meal.

Christie and Marion at tea time. Doesn’t a laugh like that make you want to smile along? :D

That evening we headed over to Clint and Rita Vernoy‘s house to have dinner- hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies!- with them, their daughters Jewel and Jade, and Janice their Great Dane, at their house on the edge of town there in CdE. Rita? You serve up one heckuva hot dog. Clint and Rita lived in Venezuela for a number of years, then moved on down to Paraguay, spending most of their time living in this, that, or the other jungle.

Back to Jamie and Marion’s to chill with Camille and Caroline for a bit before rejoining the big kids for a few relaxing hours of conversation in the living room. Man. What a neat couple. They’re both neat couples. What a great trip!

Ate turrón #6 that night. Merciful heavens was it good.

January 14, Saturday

Dulce buckets? Commence drooling!

Jamie and Marion sent us on our way with a bag full of goodies: bananas, rolls with dulce de leche, and cups of yogurt. It blows my mind how some people have such a gift for hospitality that its impact carries on even when you’re not around them any more.

Tooling along Ruta 2 we stopped at Lactolanda, home of 11 lb blocks of butter for $7.58, and 55 lb tubs of dulce de leche for $64.94. We left with a single cup of $0.22 coconut yogurt ’cause I needed to relive a memory. Dad and I used to buy that stuff at the co-op where we’d get our bread and eggs and all that. Mm-mm was it good. It’s not like US yogurt; it’s thin and drinkable. And ooh is it sweet! Good times.

We went to Viva el Sabor for lunch. More ham and cheese empanadas with a guarana? Don’t mind if I do!

Shortly thereafter we passed by an Arnell family favorite from back in the day, La Casa del Mani. We used to stop there for thinly sliced roast beef sandwiches and soft serve ice cream back in the day on our way out to the Teen Challenge camp in Pirareta. At that time the camp was still under construction, so it often served as a camping spot for folks from the mission who were looking to get out of the city for a bit, and who didn’t mind bucket-flush toilets, no electricity, and fire ants. On our way out there we’d enjoy one last luxury of civilization: Casa del Mani, home of what was then the only soft serve machine in the country.

La Casa del Mani (The Peanut House)

From there it was only a half hour or so back to the Hagerman’s home in Itauguá. We unpacked, sweated, napped, sweated, swatted giant flying insects, and sweated until evening when Christie and Ken took Caroline to the hospital to make sure she hadn’t come down with something weird. Poor thing’s eye was all puffy and oozy, she had a headache, joint pain, arm rash, swollen glands– the works. When you come down with symptoms like that after taking a dip in the Paraná, source of more than one case of leptospirosis in the past few years, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Turned out she has pink eye and the flu. Poor girl. She’s taking it all in stride, though, and handling the whole thing very well. And luckily she’s still got three and a half Harry Potter books left to keep her company while she recovers.

January 15, Sunday

The view from Viva el Sabor

I’m sitting here with the remains of a cup of coffee (Who knew I could drink coffee on 100° days??), having just finished a waffle with homemade syrup. The family’s boxer, Nico, is asleep on the floor next to me, the fans are spinning away, the birds outside are singing like they’re getting paid for it, the sun is shining, and I’m not sweating yet.

Amen amen amen!

Paraguay Blog #2: Fixin’ to Ride


Cast of Characters
Ken and Christie Hagerman: My hosts. They live in Itaugua on the grounds of Hogar Ganar with their daughters Camille and Caroline
Julie and Norberto Kurrle: A couple homesteading on the outskirts of Obligado with their four year old son Timmy
The R’s: A couple studying Guarani and agriculture in Obligado with their three kids

(Click here for the previous post in the series.)

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Arriving at the airport in Asuncion

For the life of me I can’t figure out how to start blogging about my trip to Paraguay. Being here feels so normal I hardly know what would be good to share. Of course half the roads are dirt or cobblestone. Of course the milk comes in bags. Of course you don’t flush the toilet paper.

Is that interesting? Is that news? Is that blog-worthy??

I’ve never traveled anywhere that felt so beautifully underwhelming in spite of its uniqueness, its novelty, its quirks. It’s not that being here feels anything like being at home in Wisconsin. It’s just that with the way it feels so familiar- even after nineteen years’ absence- I almost feel like I’ve simply taken a road trip to Oregon or the Wisconsin Dells; it’s all just different-ish

As I’m writing this I’m at the top of my fourth day here. We’re at the R’s apartment and some time around 11:30 this morning we’ll be heading to the beach in Bella Vista for an extended test of SPF 45, and an asado.

A real asado. It’s been so long. Good Lord I’ve missed this food.

The menu so far this trip has actually been pretty atypical of Paraguayan food. This morning’s breakfast? Grits and oj. Last night’s dinner? Homemade pizza with a wheat crust (“Wheatza,” Ken calls it), salsa, mozzarella, corn, beets, and palm hearts. Breakfast was homemade bagels; lunch was chicken and chorizo jambalaya.

The R’s are Southerners, for all y’all that didn’t pick that up yet from reading that there menu. They’re this awesome couple in their 20s studying Guarani for two years after a year studying Spanish in Costa Rica. I might have some of these details a bit confused, but I think the way things will work for them is that in about a year they’ll be moving farther into the interior and working with the local folks primarily in the areas of agriculture, conservation, and reforestation. (Read up on the destruction of the San Rafael forest some time. Unbelievably tragic, and much of the damage is irreversible.)

Our first day here in their home, Monday the 9th, they stayed up until 4:30 in the morning watching the Alabama v LSU game, to the tune of purple and gold homemade pizza, and LSU logos on all their kids’ clothes. NFL football means so little to me, and college football even less, but I can tell you that from now on whenever I hear LSU is playing a game, you’d better believe I’ll be rooting for them.

Camille and Caroline had been talking back…

Our second day here, Tuesday the 10th, we spent the morning in nearby Trinidad visiting the ruins of a 17th century Jesuit settlement. It had been at least twenty years since I’d seen them last, and while the ruins haven’t changed much (an added support beam here, a roped off staircase there), the surrounding area has changed immensely. The grounds are now blocked by a gate with a guard house. Before that there’s now a tourism building where you pay to get in (pay to get in?!), a restaurant, AND A TOWN. Luckily it was in the low 100s with a warm breeze and a clear sky so that *some* things still felt familiar.

Then it was back to the apartment for the aforementioned, totally non-Paraguayan gumbo, and an afternoon of relaxed conversation in an unlit living room, bodies sprawled out against the cool of the floor tiles, oscillating fans moving the still summer air from room to room. Afterward the R’s (with their youngest little one), Ken, Christie and I piled into the car for a tour of Obligado and Hohenau, and then the outlying settlements and countryside, including a drive down a long dirt road all the way out to the Río Paraná.

We waved at Argentina, then drove back to the apartment for the beet and palm heart pizza.

You wish you were here.

Carol and me at the beach in San Bernardino

I didn’t start out this far south east. When I first arrived late in the evening on Saturday the 7th I landed in the capital city, Asuncion, where I was greeted at the airport by four smiling Hagermans, complete with signs with my name on them just like in the movies. Now that’s all right. :) They drove us back out to their house where I was finally able to give the girls the books and Skittles I’d been stockpiling for them. We stayed up talking and laughing ’til 4 in the morning. What a great way to start a trip!

Sunday the 8th was a relaxing day spent packing for Monday’s drive, and sitting by the pool at my friend Carol’s house. Carol teaches at Alverno College in Milwaukee and has a home in San Bernardino. I found her through the same place I found Christie back in the day, Expat-Blog.com. It was great getting to finally see her home, to cool off in the pool for a bit, and to walk down to the lake. While at the lake we watched a handful of boys ride bikes down a long pier and off a 6′ high ramp into 3′ deep water. Ask me how much you’d have to pay me to do that. Answer? MORE THAN YOU COULD EVER AFFORD.

My family never spent any time in that area- I think we joined friends there once to swim- so there was a bit of culture shock for me when we rolled into town. The outskirts are pretty normal, but around the lake and the city itself? Phew there’s some money in that town!

Walking to the pond next to Julie’s house

Monday the 9th we packed the car and drove the four or five hours southeast to Obligado, a town near Encarnacion, to see Julie and Norberto Kurrle. Julie and her mother made the sweetest chocolate cake with coconut and pecan icing from the States. We took a walk to the lot next door where we watched the dogs play in the pond- some big ol’ teeth on those dogs- then went back to the house for salad, squash, mashed potatos, chicken, and the best cornbread I think I’ve ever had in my entire life.

I wouldn’t say you should buy a ticket to come here just for her cornbread, but I will say that if you come down here and don’t have her cornbread the trip was wasted.

Guarana, chipitas, mandioca, turrón de maní

After dinner we hit the road for the R’s house in time for the start of the LSU game from a few paragraphs up and… well there we go. All caught up I gues. Bit of a round-a-bout way of telling it, but I think I got it all.

Oh! Except the treats! How did I almost miss those? Geez…

So the two food items I’ve been craving the most since moving back to the States were Guarana (a soda) and a particular brand and type of turrón de maní (a candy). I’ve also had a real hankering for ham and cheese empanadas, chipa, chipitas, sopa paraguaya, mandioca, and dulce de leche. Some things you just remember and then always need, you know?

My first full day in-country I got to enjoy both of my top two mega-craves, and a bag of chipitas. What a great way to start a trip! :D

Paraguay Blog #1: Whys and Wherefores


Even Brodie’s feet are punky.

“THAT IS UNWELCOME BEHAVIOR!” I yelled, extricating myself from my blanket nest on the couch.

This was my eighth such leap from comfort to stop my punkier ferret, Brodie, from trying to burrow through my zipped luggage. I scooped him up and flipped him onto his back on the carpet, looking him square in the eye. “You’ll rip the bag and my stuff will fall out and all the other passengers will laugh at me,” I explained. He responded by sticking his tongue up my nostril.

Ah motherhood.

The luggage in question is a wheeled orange and gray duffel bag, and it is about to travel 10,000 miles. As am I.

That’s right, folks; I am finally making a trip back to Paraguay, where I will spend four weeks staying with this gal, her husband, and their two awesome daughters.

I’ve been asked more times than I can count on 14 fingers why I’m taking this trip. Shrugging has yet to pass as an adequate response, which is too bad since it’s so much easier than fumbling around with words (inadequate) to explain (impossible) why I want (need) to go. I will still attempt the shrug response, but for those for whom that will not suffice, words:

The Simple Reason: It’s time for a refresher course

The family’s “missionary picture.”

It’s been 19 years since my family moved back to the States after living in Paraguay for two and a half years while my parents were missionaries there, and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. I just need to see it again, you know? I need to see the city and our old homes, to walk the streets we used to walk, to eat the food, to hear the accent, to smell the trees, to see the poverty, to see the wealth, to see the litter, to see the art, to hear the music, the buses, the kids, the street vendors. I want to see it again, but this time through adult eyes.

I’m also looking forward to hearing Paraguayan Spanish again. The majority of the Spanish speaking population in my area is Mexican and their accents are so different from what I grew up with that I’m often unsure if I’m hearing a new word, or just an old word in which all the letters are actually being pronounced. My Spanish has gotten pretty lousy from twenty years of only occasional use; I’m hoping being around it for four weeks will kick my brain-o back into el gear-o.

Plus: Have you ever been to Wisconsin in January? It’s bloody cold here! Time to get me the heck outta Dodge.

(… she said, as the temperature dropped to (an unseasonably balmy) 20° F while the wind howled through the iced branches of the barren trees outside her window, skeletal reminders that death by hypothermia is kept at bay only by a few inches of uncaring drywall and saggy insulation.)

The Complicated Reason: I– Yes.

Things are about to get a little stream-of-consciousness here. Bear with me.

I’m treading water. I’m uncertain. I’m faltering. I’m fading. I’m creating expectations for myself, assigning their creation to other people, and then chastising myself for failing to meet those expectations. I’m digging a pit, filling it with icy hose water, and treading, treading, treading…

I need to see something else. I want to see something else, but I also need to see something else. Someplace else. To immerse myself in places and things I once knew well and loved deeply, those places and things that once brought comfort but which were taken away before I was ready, before any of us expected them to go. Is it like that theory that kids who suck their thumbs do so because they were weened too soon? I look for substitutes and create false goals to make up for having lost prematurely those things I might have set as goals anyway.

I also need to see Christianity against the backdrop of another culture. I need to see what it looks like when big “A” America is stripped away and replaced by little “a” american-culture-in-the-form-of-Facebook-and-hipster-hair-as-owned-by-developing-nations. I need to see what we consider “church” here that also shows up in vastly-different-elsewheres. Is there something to be salvaged in whatever it is we’re all concluding is worth keeping? Are there conclusions we’re all drawing, all of us all over the world, about God, regardless of the cultural templates we lay over our daily lives?

Whatever that is, whatever that is that sticks across cultures, I need to spend some time with that, and in a place where I am forced to pay better attention, a place where I can dig into a little intentional listening. I am seeking a balm. More than a balm- a poultice, in the hope it will encourage my heart that it is possible to draw out the infection of fear and self-centeredness I have nurtured in myself the past several years.

How It Came About

A couple years ago I worked in claims reimbursement for a phase 1 durable medical equipment provider that specialized in continuous passive motion devices.

Yep.

The products were good ones, my coworkers were great, and I loved being able to clock out at the same time every day, a luxury I’d rarely been afforded up ’til then as I’d been working for small businesses for years. But the benefits of the job ended there as the work itself was almost unendurable. Not the actual bill calculation or information gathering, but dealing with the reactionary aggression of the people expected to pay those bills.

The ultimate black hat in claims processing: Continuous Passive Aggressive Motion (© Revolution Studios)

Here’s the thing:

The dark side of humanity isn’t reserved solely for bad guys in black hats.

It’s also found in 50-somethings SCREAMING into the phone that you- yes you, the cubicle monkey on the other end of the line– are the reason the health care industry is going down in flames. That you- yes you– are personally trying to rob them, are abusing the system, are stealing food from the mouths of their children, are depleting their kids’ college funds, are emptying their retirement accounts by allowing them months on end to pay the $20 in coinsurance they owe for a $16,000 equipment rental for which my employer will receive $200 total payment when all is said and done. They wrote down your name at the start of this phone call, smart-ass. They’re going to call your manager, know-it-all. They’re going to alert the Better Business Bureau, you lying ageist. They’re going to see to it that you’re fired, and that your employer is shut down, and that none of you people ever work again because you are thieves and evil and everything that is wrong with this country.

It was a nightmare. But it was a nightmare with a paycheck in an uncertain economy, so I willed myself to stay asleep.

My only escape during the work day was on my lunch break. I’d scarf down my Diet Mt. Dew and pb&j on my fifteen minute break in the morning, then spend my half hour lunch at my desk reading blogs from people who lived in Paraguay. I took such pleasure in seeing their pictures and reading their stories, especially missionaries’ blogs because their tales felt particularly familiar.

During one such lunch break I came across a blog from a woman living as a missionary in Paraguay with her husband and their two daughters. Over the next several months I plumbed her archives and read every single post, following this family’s adventure as it took them from the US to Peru to Paraguay. I left them comments, I shared their blog links, I even dropped a penny or two in the pot, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I really wanted to do, needed to do, was to meet these characters. (And boy are they characters!) I didn’t know how that could ever happen since there I was, nailed to a headset with screaming humanity shouting at me from the other end, but just in case: I started saving my money.

Me (far right) with a few of my co-workers after the “pack your desks and leave” announcement.

Fast forward to a sunny morning in April of 2010. A Thursday. My coworkers and I were called together and read a letter explaining that most of us were being let go, effective immediately. And so, after a year and a half, I was out of work once again.

Out of work, laden with free time, and coddling a growing desire to book a flight southward.

Since then I’ve picked up the odd job here and there being in commercials, helping my dad with roofing projects, and working for several months as a temp in an office with a fridge full of Diet Dr. Pepper. (Win!) A few bucks at a time I’ve added to what I squirreled away during my claim processing days, until I finally reached the point where I had both the time and the money to take this trip. One round-trip ticket purchase later and I’m on my way to meet a family of quasi-strangers 5,000 miles from home, eat an unhealthy number of empanadas, and sweat like it’s my job.

I’m probably causing permanent nerve damage to my smiley face-parts with how excited I am about this trip. I can’t wait to share the adventure with you here!

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P.S. Yes I have made arrangements for the ferrets, and yes I will have folks stopping by my apartment to check the mail and make sure no crazy people have tried to break in and steal any of my… laundry? second-hand hardcover 1970s fiction? poop scoopers?

Honduras Blog #8: Super Gringa


Mimi and Carol at Mall Cascadas

Sunday 8/15/10
Mimi and I waited and waited and waaaaaited until it was late enough in the day to take a taxi down to Burger King for lunch.  Yep. That’s what we refer to down here as a “slow day.”

Things picked up when we got back to the mission house and I got a call from our friend Carol (she and her husband work in child services here) asking if we were free to meet to “talk blog stuff.” (I’m helping them with a blog project.)

YES! YES! WE’RE FREE!! PLEEEEASE COME GET US TO TALK BLOG STUFF!

She said she was excited to get started on their new space here at WordPress, and so was I, so off we went in her truck (with seatbelts!) to Hiper Paiz (the Honduran Walmart) at Mall Cascadas for some quick grocery shopping before settling into a booth at the McDonald’s across the parking lot.

Gotta love free wifi, air conditioning, and the smell of french fries.

Flooding in Tegucigalpa

You don’t gotta love rainstorms on the drive home, however. It was so bad that a huge section of the road collapsed and a guy on a motorcycle ended up lost in a water-filled, 65′ deep sinkhole. This was five days ago and as far as I know the body still hasn’t turned up. And the stories keep rolling in about houses (read: shanties) being caught up in mudslides and rolling down the mountains surrounding the city.

Yeah– bad.

Monday 8/16/10
Monday brought the departure of Krystelle, the mission’s most recent intern. It’s hard to lose somebody so awesome and so willing to help with literally everything that comes up. I am sure she’ll be missed more than I could possibly realize!

The seriousness of the occasion did not, however, keep me from enjoying the ever-loving daylights out of a mocachino from the airport Espresso Americano. I mean– it’s sad and all, but let’s not get crazy and miss an opportunity for some awesome, cheap coffee, right?

Christine and Mimi in an HCA classroom

Post-lunch Mimi and I joined Christine and Rex Morey at Harvest Christian Academy, the bilingual school in Periodista where Christine teaches. Now there are some people who know how to make incredible use of unusually shaped rooms! It’s a gift, and the people at HCA have it in spades.

The building they’re renting for the school wasn’t originally designed to be used as such. Originally it was used as a sort of landing pad for Honduran periodistas (journalists, writers, etc.) Casa Club Periodista, it’s called. Neat place. I’d include links, but they all come with malware warnings. Yeesh.

A view of HCA from the back of the school. I love the architecture-- and their playground!

That said: It makes an awesome school.

It’s got loads of space, an auditorium, yard space for a playground, and a spectacular hill-top view of fields, mountains, hillside colonias, and the airport. If they waved at planes taking off and landing, they’d get a response from every passenger with a window seat. So. Close. Amazing views all around.

School starts this coming week so the place was full of teachers getting their rooms ready for the new year’s students. We got to meet just about everybody there, which I loved, of course. New people? And they teach?! YAY! I just hope there’s no quiz coming up on the names. :S

Welcome to the neighborhood.

After visiting the school we drove over to the ministry center they’re building in Predios de Recreo.

It’s a rough area. When we pulled up to the property’s outside wall Christine shared the very sad story of two young men who were shot at different times right there in that area. Anyone in any neighborhood could provide countless similar stories. We think we know gun violence back in Milwaukee. By comparison: We’ve got nothing on Tegucigalpa.

Rex and Christine Morey at the new ministry center

I’d describe the center, but it’d just be a repetition of the text of the Morey’s website, so here it is in their words. It’s “a three story building that when finished will have an auditorium for 220 or more people, 6 large classrooms, a dividable multipurpose room, administrative area, kitchen, library, computer lab, 2 stories of storage space, 7,000 gallon cistern, restrooms with showers, apartment, soccer field & multi-sport field (3rd story), playground, and a youth room.”

Awesomely multi-purpose. And after having toured more missions, schools, churches, etc. than I can count on this trip, every single room-type listed in that description has me nodding in agreement. Yep, that’s needed, that’s good too, mondo-cistern is a go, playground totally rocks… And as big as it looks and sounds, I can already see it being packed beyond capacity from Day One. Click here if you want to get involved in this truly awesome outreach.

Dinner at Las Tejitas with the Moreys. L to R: Grace, Olivia, Abigail, Christine, Mimi, me, Rex.

From the center we headed over to the Morey’s home for a little mid-afternoon rest out of the sun before going to Las Tejitas for dinner. My dinner was called the Super Gringa. No kidding. It was two tortillas with chicken, guacamole, and beans, and then there was a salsa bar on the lower level of the restaurant. Fun, open air place. Great meat. Yummy salsas. Grainy horchata. I guess it’s Mexican horchata or nothing for this gringa from now on. Those folks know where it’s at and God bless ’em for it.

The internet was down most of the day yesterday due to a thunderstorm that brought internet-blocking rain… lots and lots and lots of rain… so I’m still catching up on internetty stuff. Hope to catch up on the rest of our trip so far by tomorrow afternoon? Sunday maybe? Got to get back on track as we’re only here for six more days. Yipes!

Off to “eat dinner at Marina’s” (read: “gain four pounds”).

One week to go!



Hair stuff, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, tooth brushes, Tylenol, Neosporin, floss

A week from today my mom and I will be driving to my grandma’s (Mimi’s) house in Chicago before Mim’s and my flight on Saturday to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Excited as I am about the trip, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I think about how much I have left to do before we leave. I’ve gotten a lot of things done already, except that so much of it is stuff y’can’t see, so sometimes it feels like I’ve accomplished approximately zilch. But I can live with that. ;)

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can’t see are attending a new church here in Waukesha, El Buen Samaritano, to work on my Spanish. My comprehension is SO much better than I had hoped it would be seeing as I haven’t used it in 6 years nor studied it in 9. Whoops! But speaking? Wharbargl… It is hard… and I am le tired… I first learned about the church when Aaron and I met the pastor, Rosa, at an event in Frame Park about a month ago. I’d hoped to attend every Sunday until our departure, but missed one week for a wedding, and another week to attend Elmbrook to hear Jill Briscoe speak. It’s been great to go when I’ve been able, though. Such a warm congregation.

Among the things I’ve gotten done so far that you can see are finding some great children’s books to leave with the mission, and picking up a few meds ‘n’ things for distribution. Nowhere near the quantities we’ll ultimately need, but Mimi’s the one fielding that part of the trip, thank goodness. I’m just the nOOb trying to find small OTC medicines to cram into every available space in my suitcase. ;)

(And thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s donated goods, time, and financial assistance toward this trip. I’ll take as many pics as I can so hopefully you’ll get to see some of those goods in use!)

Wahoo! So many books!

As for the books- sad to say but a few will undoubtedly not make the trip. They’re just so stinkin’ heavy! It’s possible to pay extra for luggage over the weight limit, and for taking extra bags, but with all the medicine Mimi has gathered we’re already at the ultimate baggage limit. While that is actually great news because it means we’re taking along as much medical aid as we’re physically able to carry, it’s also a tough reality for me to face on a personal level.  The need for books, for education in general, is just so great. And as education and reading are so close to my own heart I want so much to be able to get involved in some way in connecting those things with people who need them.

There’s always the mail, though. And donations to existing education-oriented groups. And additional trips… ;)

To give you a taste of what it takes (me, anyway) to get ready to spend a month volunteering with medical clinics in the Western Hemisphere’s 2nd poorest country (after Haiti), here’s a snippet of what’s left on the ol’ To-Do lists…

Tryyyying to write something to share

HONDURAS TO-DO LIST
Write: testimony, 2-3 devotions, update red journal from Mimi
Email: Pastora Rosa, Laurie, Mimi’s peeps at MC (“about me”), Old Dave
Shopping: lightweight tops, capris, dresses (2), shorts, watch, netbook, netbook case and sleeve, heavy-duty sunscreen
Books/Research: Finish “Intermediate Spanish” book, attend EBS for Spanish review, taking blood pressure, field pharmacy organization tips, maps
Pharmacy: pack OTC meds, print 360 labels, downsize packaging on purchased meds
Paperwork: Confirm passport is still good; make copies for mom, Mimi, suitcase
Pack: books; meds; netbook (cord, mouse, case); camera (charger, memory cards); cell (charger); clothes (shorts, capris, dresses, light tops, jeans, swimsuit, scrubs); shoes (walking, dress); toiletries (sunscreen, bug spray)

 

To Do List...s

PERSONAL TO-DO LIST
Write: Blog update about trip (books, meds, basic itinerary), thank you to M.K.
Email: Jerry W. re: health ins, Marcy R. re: SHE IS BEAUTIFUL, Mark S. re: German dialect tapes
Shopping: David’s birthday present, apt keys for mom ‘n’ dad
Ferrets: baths, razor talons snipped, wash cage/misc, transfer to mom & dad’s house, buy more food
Apartment: laundry, clean kitchen & bathrooms
Job Search: reschedule/attend Remployment class; update resume/job site profiles;  resume to dad to submit for me with list of potential employers
Online: Change Facebook password and give to Becca R., cancel Blockbuster, arrange for bill payment
Call: Bank re: using card abroad, Cell carrier re: int’l usage rates
Fax: Student loan deferment forms

Brodie sleeping... somehow

UPCOMING EVENTS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
7/23: 8 pm “Hair” at Sunset Playhouse
7/25: 11am Church, birthday lunch
7/26: 3 pm RTW audition (1:30 arrive early to read the stinkin’ script first!!)
7/30: 9 am Drive to Chicago with mom
7/31: 5 am Fly to Houston> Tegucigalpa…

I don’t know where I’d be if not for Aaron and the fam. They’ve not only graciously agreed to stop by my place to pick up my mail and check on my apartment while I’m gone (Lord knows the only things of value in it are my netbook and passport and those’re coming with me…), but my folks have also agreed to watch the weasels for the entire duration of the trip. Yippee!! The boys are very excited to stay with their cousin, Patches, and to show their Mimi how good they are at using their litter boxes at least 60% of the time…

And just like that it’s 5:35 pm. Time to get crackin’ on crossing a few more items off the ol’ list before heading to Sunset Playhouse tonight to see their production of Hair. (Pics should be available on their Flickr account soon.) Everybody’s raving about this show, and I’m not surprised in the least!

Beads, flowers, freedom, happiness everyone!