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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 #6: Ribbit


Things Which Have Gotten Awesomer For Me Since Arriving In Paraguay

6. Alfred has more time to do stuff outside.
  1. My skin cleared up.
  2. I’m drinking a lot more water.
  3. I’ve lost a couple of (admittedly unnoticeable) pounds.
  4. For the first time in over a year and a half my hair doesn’t feel like I didn’t rinse out all the shampoo.
  5. I get to hang out with Nico, the Hagermans’ friendly, obedient boxer. First order of business upon returning to the States? Convincing my parents to add one of these awesome dogs to their household zoo (which currently consists of: One of these, named Patches) (well, and the ferrets too, I suppose, but that’s only temporary).

Things Which Have Gotten Less Awesome For Me Since Arriving In Paraguay

  1. I’m covered in itchy red bites. I think they’re from mosquitoes.
  2. Now that I’ve finally had guarana after a 19 year dry spell, I get the shakes just thinking about going without it again in a couple weeks.

A Really Neat Moth That Landed On The Table Last Night While I Was Blogging

Cool, huh?

Things Which I Already Knew In Theory, But Have Been Reminded Of In Practice, Since Arriving In Paraguay

  1. Leave spiders alone. If you see a spider in your house, it’s because there is something else living there upon which said spider would like to dine, and it is quite likely that you would rather deal with an unobtrusive Charlotte or two (or thirty) than the hordes of insects on which they are feeding.
  2. While you’re at it, leave the lizards, frogs, toads, and all the other bug-eaters alone too.
  3. If you want to check your cup for bugs before taking a drink, that’s fine, but don’t let that glance linger. If it’s small enough to miss visual detection, it’s (probably) small enough to miss oral detection. You’ll survive. Bottoms up.
  4. It’s tacky when people with things like summer houses, weekend cars, and quarterly vacation plans bemoan their fellows’ unwillingness to donate to humanitarian causes when they themselves are similarly unmoved. (You’re darn right I’ve been guilty of this myself more than once!) Either give, or stop complaining about how others aren’t.
  5. I really need to learn how to drive stick.

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!

******************

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”).

Honduras Blog #6: Revolución Yip


Donna, her son Stephen, and Michael flew back to the States today. It was sad to see them go, but there’s something exciting about it too, you know? Like– here you go on the next leg of your own personal adventure, and it’ll be that much more interesting and informed having just completed the work you’ve been involved in here. (I’ll blog some other time about all the stuff they were up to; now I’m trying to get this post up before the rain cuts off the internet.)

Lunch at Church’s Chicken. L to R: Me, Krystelle, Mimi, Blanca, Brenda

Mimi and I went along to say our goodbyes at the airport (nearly missing our chance to do so when they ended up past security earlier than we’d expected – oops), and to enjoy another sweet treat from Espresso Americano. Yum yum $1.43 mocachino!

From there we headed to Church’s Chicken across the street for lunch with Mimi’s friend Blanca. Brenda and Krystelle joined us, which made it all the better. It’s the company that makes the occasion, you know? The whole thing was a little surreal. There we are in the middle of Tegucigalpa eating fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes with gravy, washing it down with Cokes, while an American football game was being aired on the two flat screen TVs hanging on opposite sides of our sparkling fast food restaurant in the heart of Central America. Or maybe it’s not that strange at all and I’m still just getting used to the fact that other places might actually want the things that other nations, and we ourselves, ridicule ourselves in the States for having (ie. unhealthy fast food restaurants everywhere, super hyped up sports teams full of overpaid players, etc.).

Deserted MAJOR thoroughfare, barricaded airport entrance, riot police with shields and clubs, and yours truly to prove we were there.

After lunch we walked outside to get a taxi to take Blanca home, and to take Mimi, Krystelle, and me over to Supermercado Yip where I could buy some school supplies for the public school we visited last week in San Lorenzo.

But there were no taxis. In fact- there were no cars of any kind. This is unheard of at that intersection; Church’s is directly across from the entrance to the airport. There’s ALWAYS traffic there, complete with enough diesel fumes to choke a herd of bison.

But today? Dead. And across the street blocking the entrance to the airport? A squad of military riot police with riot shields and batons. In front of them in the intersection proper? More police, dripping sweat in layers of black and bulletproof vests, loaded down with rifles.

A young man standing near us heard us talking about what was going on and he joined us in English. He said his name is Fernando and he lives in Miami but has family here. He said just a few blocks down (he pointed in the direction we needed to go) the teachers had the streets blocked off as part of the strike that has caused kids to miss school all this week, plus weeks- months- already this year at other times. You couldn’t take a taxi that way even if you wanted to, he told us. And he advised against walking that road in lieu of driving it. He said if anyone around us were to even touch one of the soldiers it would be sufficient to turn things violent. I thought of the police station we’d have to pass, no doubt packed with soldiers by this point, and just said “Yup.”

Power lines across from the airport. This is actually one of the cleaner telephone poles in town.

Fernando’s Civic-History-Lesson Time: He said when the people here want to demand their constitutional rights be upheld, the first thing they often do is go to the streets and stop traffic to make their voices heard. In a hub like Tegucigalpa, interference with traffic is a big deal. The whole city grinds to a halt if enough major intersections are cut off. And in the meantime every building within spitting distance of the blockages end up covered in graffiti. He said these gatherings shouldn’t have to happen, that the government should always do for the people what their constitution dictates. (Can’t argue with that.) However, he went on to say, in this case the teacher’s union is interpreting the constitution incorrectly for their own gain and asking for things that aren’t really constitutionally protected or guaranteed. It’s hurting the entire country’s children, he said, and higher pay isn’t a constitutional issue in this case so shouldn’t they stop?

I don’t know enough about the whole thing so what else could I do but nod yes? (And I later learned the blocking of the airport was done in an attempt to keep the president from flying out of the country for a few days. The attempt failed, incidentally.)

So back to Church’s we went to wait out the day’s “revolución” in the air conditioning. Ten minutes later cars were back on the road and we could continue on our way. As we passed the police station I saw that– sure enough!– it was crawling with armored vehicles and heavily armed men in uniform. That’s Friday for you, I guess.

After dropping Blanca off, Mimi, Krystelle and I taxi’d on toward Supermercado Yip, a two level store that sells groceries on the lower level and all manner of household goods and school supplies on the top. Noé recommended I go there for school posters when I told him how long it had taken me to complete my multiplication table poster by hand (4 hours!!). He said I’d love it, and wow was he right.

Supermercado Yip: School Supply Heaven!!

As soon as we got upstairs I was in absolute heaven. Aisle after aisle of school supplies, and all for cheap cheap cheap. In the end I bought 18 little notebooks (one for each student, plus an extra), 2 small abacuses (abaci?), a 12-pack box of chalkboard chalk, a chalkboard eraser, 3 pairs of scissors, alphabet posters in English and Spanish, a poster of geometric shapes, a clown poster that teaches colors, alphabet flash cards, two kinds of wall tape, an English/Spanish dictionary, a basic Spanish dictionary for kids, a 12-pack of manila folders, and two 24 count boxes of colored pencils. That’s 37 separate items. Grand Total: $30.31!!!!! Best store ever. If I lived here I would shop there all the time. Great great great.

Now to de-pricetag everything in the luxuriously cool 85+ degrees of our bedroom to the hum of two fans on full power. Ahh. This is the life!

Honduras Blog #5: All About the Benjamínes


A statue in a garden we pass between home and the airport. The graffiti says "Fuera Golpistas," essentially telling those involved in the recent coup to "Get out!"

Wednesday 8/10/10

Yesterday was a bit of a free day. Two new fellas flew in from the States so Mimi, her friend Brenda, and I hitched a ride to the airport in the mission’s van. Across the street is a little strip mall where Brenda needed to get some copies made for a class she’s teaching, and then the three of us planned on heading over to Pizza Hut for lunch.

Ahh Pizza Hut and your delicious stomach-response-predictability.

While Brenda made her copies Mimi and I hit up a couple stores to pass the time. First we stopped into a book store where half the books were in English but they were all pretty expensive so we just looked. When we went to leave we noticed the door opened into the store instead of outward toward the outside of the building. You couldn’t have that in the States– it’s a fire hazard. We checked as we continued our walk and most of the other doors in that strip mall opened the exact same way.

It’s the little differences…

We walked a little farther and stopped in at a bakery where we bought some cookies and a giant brownie. Everything looked delicious but dry. Don’t know if that was true of everything there, but it sure was about that brownie. Manohmanohman. If that brownie had been a joke even Stephen Fry wouldn’t get it.

Pizza Hut was, y’know, Pizza Hut.

The police station a few blocks from the mission house.

Mim and I walked the rest of the way back to the mission house. It’s only a little over half a mile, but in that heat and sun- phew! I was practically dripping sweat to the rhythm of each step. While sweating our way through town back to the house we passed a book store we kept seeing and saying we should go into. So by golly we did.

The store is called Book Master (we went to the one at the top of the page) and it’s a supply store for teachers at the bilingual schools in the area. Everything inside the store is in English. Very little is even in both English and Spanish. Even the stickers! I’d wanted to find some wall posters to give to the school in San Lorenzo when we go there next Tuesday for our third medical brigade, but those kids won’t likely speak any English at all, let alone enough to make any of these posters mean anything to them. The ability to speak English is an increasingly valuable skill here, but access to that type of education simply doesn’t exist in a lot of these mountain schools because teachers who can teach it are all at better paying schools in the city.

Not to be totally undone I instead bought three large pieces of poster board so I could make my own posters to hang on the walls there. I also picked up some rulers for the classroom, and some cute stickers of small, smiling pencils. I know I’m going to make one poster with a multiplication grid and multiplication tables up to the 12’s for sure. Depending on whether or not my writing implements bleed through the paper I can either make 2 more posters or 5 more by using the back of each sheet. Still gotta decide on content for those last few. It’s hard to narrow it down when the classroom currently has nothing in it whatsoever and caters to 1st through 6th grades.

Jesús and his *hairdryer kebab* trick

After a brief cool-down at the house we all packed into the van to drive to the home of Ana and Deniss, the couple that runs the mission. They live with her parents about 7 minutes over and up (literally) from the mission building. We were joined by more friends of theirs, one of whom was given the task of grilling the meat. Unfortunately something was wrong with the grill… or the coals… or something, so he had to keep using a hair dryer to keep the fire going. Not– not quite sure how that worked, but it did. And the meat- served kebab style- was goo-ood. Dessert was brownies, courtesy of Krystelle. Gooiest, softest, yummiest brownies I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE LIFE. She said they’re from a Ghirardelli box mix. Note to self: BUY MANY BOXES OF THIS MIX.

Thursday 8/11/10

Krystelle and me with some of the kids at the feeding program at the church in Villa Franca

Today was all about the kids. We drove out to Villa Franca with an enormous pot of spaghetti and a big ol’ jug of juice to feed the kids there. They’ve got a nicely organized set-up in place. They lined the walls of the church with plastic chairs where the kids sit and wait for the food to be brought to them. This works perfectly as it keeps a crowd from forming around the food table, and it’s especially nice for the littlest ones who can’t carry their plastic plates back to their chairs without spilling. It’s quite a feat when you’re two, y’understand.

Krystelle was telling us this is her favorite place to go and that she loves the kids there. I could see why right away. The only way they ever greeted any of us was with a huge hug. The littlest ones employed the jump-hug method, ensuring they’d be picked up and swung around. And wouldn’t you know a swing-around-bear-hug is just about my favorite thing to give out?

We came back to the mission house for a quick lunch ourselves, then hopped back into the van and headed over to a grade school a few blocks away. A group from Mision Caribe visits this school every Wednesday, and another school every Thursday.

Mariela reading the kids a story while Krystelle and Oneyda lead them in the motions

The game plan for today was to go into four different classes to share a Bible story with the kids and then to head back home. We got a late start so we arrived shortly before recess. We went into the first class where Mariela, a young woman from Honduras who works at the mission, read the kids the story of Elijah from I Kings 18 where Elijah and the prophets of Baal each call upon their own gods to set fire to their altars. Every time she got to the word “Elijah” we had the kids shout “Escuchame!” which means “Listen to me!” because Elijah was a prophet. Whenever she mentioned the sacrificial bueyes (bulls) we had the kids make finger horns and moooooo. There were a few other words like that where we had things for the kids to say or do in response. It was fun. :)

Recess at the neighborhood elementary school

Recess was its own adventure. As soon as the kids came outside we were swarmed. Word got out that I speak a little Spanish, so it was instantly Q&A time for me with my particular gaggle of girls. And you know what? I think I did all right. There were a few words I just didn’t have, but the thing is: All these girls were the same age I was when I was learning Spanish, so my vocabulary level and composition is probably closer to theirs than to anybody else’s. ;)

When recess (aka 20 minutes of DRIPPING sweat even in the shade along the edges of the cancha) ended I was sitting a little ways away from the group with some 4th grade girls, laughing with them about a tiny deck of cards one of them received from her “noooooviooooo!” (boyfriend) *cue: eruption of giggles* As they ran back to class I saw a crowd gathering around a much smaller girl, who was being led around by the arm by another small girl. I couldn’t see what was happening and the only word I caught was “sangre.” Blood.

Aw geez.

The guard outside the elementary school

I ran over and the first little girl had sliced her finger open pretty badly and her friend was leading her in circles instead of straight to the nurse like she said she was trying to do. She looked a little overwhelmed by the burgeoning crowd so the circuitous route was understandable. :S

I took the hand of the girl who’d been cut and her poor little finger was gushing so much blood so quickly that immediately my own hand was dripping too. I think you’re not supposed to do that in the States… Her friend and I walked her to the nurse’s room where I used my Big Teacher Voice to order all the kids back outside so Bleedy McWeeperson could gush in peace. Turns out she had a glass lip gloss tube and when she fell with it in her hand it broke and sliced her open something fierce. Whoops.

Mini-adventure now ended I rejoined the group and we shared the Elijah story three more times before hitting the road for home and an enchilada dinner. All in all: A wonderful day!

Honduras Blog #3: At A Glance


Life in the Mission House

Staying at the mission house at Mision Caribe in Tegucigalpa, HN is a far cry from what I’m used to back in Waukesha, WI. There I have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment all to myself (the ferrets don’t count). Here I live with a big ol’ group of folks, only one of whom I’m related to, where everyone shares a room with at least one other person and a bathroom with at least two. (This is when there isn’t a regular team here. When that’s the case you’re living 6+ to a room/bathroom.)

The People Who Live Here

Krystelle, me, Mariela, Mimi. Taken as Mimi and I prepped for the pharmacy in town to buy more med's for the afternoon's clinic. Just realized I'm the "tall one"...

First there’s the college intern, Krystelle, who I like more and more every time I talk to her. One o’ them smart-and-sweet-and-awesome types. She’s here for a 42 day stint. I’ll be sad to see her go. (Does she look a little like Rachael J. in this photo?)

Then there’s Michael, an early 20-something fella here for about 2 months to conduct surveys on “health behavior” under a university grant. Cool guy. Bakes his own bread.

Then there’s Melissa, who started out as an intern here three years ago and who still lives here at the house, assisting the folks who actually run the place.

Then we’ve got Mark, a guy who’s been here about 6 years helping with anything and everything that comes up.

The People Who’re Staying Here

Mim and I have a room to ourselves, which is awesome and kind of a luxury. There’s a bunk bed in the room which we use to hold our stuff while we sort medicine on the bed we sleep in. Our shared bed is king sized, but it feels like what we’re using are actually two, 3″ deep twin mattresses held together by a king sheet on a metal, king frame.

Melissa, Alan, Phil, and Beth on "the climbing hill" in La Victoria

Then there’s a group of three 1-week visitors from the church sponsoring Melissa; Phil, Alan, and Beth. They got here on Sunday and they’re here to… um… observe stuff. I think. Not really sure so I’ll just leave it at: They’re here to see what the mission does and what it needs.

Finally we have Awesome Donna Pharmacy Queen and her son Stephen. She’s been here several times before for and thought it’d be great for her and her son to spend a month working here at the mission while she’s on summer break from Bible school. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Next up: a friend of Mimi’s named Brenda who will be coming in on Saturday. She and her husband lived here for years and years, and her’s and Mimi’s friendship goes way back to some of Mim’s earliest days here back in the late 90s.

Security

The men loading the supply truck for our trip to La Victoria. You can kind of see the barbed wire on the wall on the right.

The compound (for lack of a less cult-ish sounding word) is surrounded by 7′ high cement walls, topped with three lines of barbed wire, with a security guard manning the office by the front gate during the night. We’re not supposed to leave the compound (there’s that word again…) without a Honduran escort, preferably male.

Apparently there’s a decent chance of getting accosted, mugged, whatever; gringo or not. I imagine it’s a money thing? Honduras is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. I guess I don’t really need to tempt that reality with afternoon strolls all by my lonesome. Still and all, though: It’d be nice to get out of here just Mimi and me for a change. She said we might be able to go out on our own in a week or two if we take a taxi…

Bathrooms
Honduras is one of those “don’t flush your toilet paper” countries. But don’t worry! There’s a trash can right next to the toilet where you can toss it when you’re done! Kindly wrap it in more t.p. first though, please… We can’t drink the water here (it’s not a weenie American thing; the water has parasites in it and the most common thing we treat are the resultant stomach worms) so every bathroom has a covered water pitcher next to the sink for us to use when we brush our teeth.

We have city water twice a week here, and for the rest of the days we have a water tank we use for showers and cleaning and things. Melissa said she’s not sure how much water is in the tank, but that it’s fairly large and costs about 600 Lps ($31.71) to fill. To conserve the tank water the pump is turned off for a large portion of the day, so before using the toilet you always want to check the tap first to make sure the water’s on so you’ll know if you’ll be following up with a flush or not. And there’s no widow-maker in our particular shower, thank goodness. Though with the constant heat and humidity the idea of a cold shower is rarely an unwelcome one.

Food

There are a couple of ladies who work here at the mission when there are teams staying here and they are all amazing cooks.

Evening meal in La Victoria

Marina fields most of the meals here at the house. Mimi told me before we got here she hoped we’d get to enjoy Marina’s arroz y pollo and there it was our 2nd night in. This is a meal Mimi’s remembered and wanted for the past 5 years and now I know why. Delicious.

Another one of the women, Oneyda, was in charge of cooking the meals while we worked at the clinic out of town. That girl performs miracles. The picture above is of dinner she prepared in La Victoria with Melissa and the lady of the house. (Oneyda’s the one in the blue shirt.) Carne asada cooked on a metal grate over coals on the ground, a pot of refried beans, and juice I didn’t want to drink.

Not because it wasn’t good, or refreshing, or oh so welcome, but because an outhouse in the pitch blackness of Hondurans mountains at night is not a fun place to be any more than absolutely necessary…

Transportation

Traffic leaving Tegucigalpa, HN

So far every time we’ve gone somewhere down here it’s been in the mission’s big white van. One o’ them 15 passenger types. The traffic here is incredible, not because of the density so much as the insanity. Traffic related deaths are sky high, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get drivers to stay on their own side of the road, use turn signals, or wait until after blind curves (of which there are many as there are mountains EVERYWHERE) to pass another vehicle on the road. Security comes into play here, too, as we are under no circumstances permitted to ride the city buses without a guide– period!

This section wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the airport, which is about 3/4 of a mile from the mission house. You’d think this’d interrupt things more than it does, but with only a few planes landing per day during times we’re actually around (and none at night that I’ve ever heard), it’s really not bad. Still– it’s a little weird opening the front gate and watching planes taxi down the runway…

Church

So far we’ve only been here for one Sunday morning church service, but every day starts with devotions, with a different person sharing something each time.

Playing after service. Abigail, Aileen, Angela, me, David.

I’m dreading my turn. I have zero idea what to talk about. Lots of ideas, sure, but among the many reasons I got out of secondary education in college was that I’m a bit of a dud at preparing stuff like this to share and then, y’know, sharing it. We’ll see how it goes…

Regular church was pretty cool. Lots of songs I recognized so I could hum along until they sang them through enough times for me to pick up the words. One of the guys at the church is retired army so he got up and spoke for a little bit in full military dress. Neat to see the different patches and pins and things. The person who was going to preach that morning was unable to attend so they asked Mim to preach. She was awesome.

After service I was putting away chairs and had my camera with me. I took it out to take a picture of two little girls who’d been sitting with me during service, when one of them asked if she could take my picture with it. Why not? It’s only a digital camera… my baby… eep!

So for the next half hour this 7 year old cutie pie named Rocio ran around the church snapping pics of everything and everyone that caught her eye, including me and the other girl who sat with us, 6 year old Aileen.

Shopping

Frogs for sale in Valle de Angeles

No trips to the grocery store or anything like that for me just yet. Soon hopefully, though. We did get to spend a few hours in Valle de Angeles on Sunday 8/1, however, which was pretty cool. Mimi and I only went into a couple of stores; not really anything different from one to the next and it all costs about the same from one vendor to the next. Lots of cute things, but the kind of stuff that does two things for the person you buy it for back home:

1) It shows them you were thinking of them (which can also be accomplished by emailing them while you’re away), and

2) It takes up storage space in that unused shelf in the hall closet. Not that one; the one you can’t get to because the vacuum’s always in the way and it’s down that hallway nobody ever walks down.

Plaza at Valle de Angeles

Mostly we just strolled about enjoying the sunshine and the fact that we could walk without an escort because of the greater police presence there versus where the mission house is located. Sweet sweet freedom!

We went to a nice little coffee place called Espresso Americano and Mim bought us each a granita de cafe con crema (frozen coffee drinks with whipped cream; only $1.74 a piece!) which we drank while enjoying the breeze and people watching. And boy were there some people to watch… People and dogs.

Across the street from us during our coffee break was a photo op grizzled old man in a cowboy hat, faded pants, and a vest covered in pins, seated at a wooden table nursing a handful of beers. Mimi asked him if she could take his picture and gave him 50 Lps. He said “Of course!” and handed back the money. She took the pic, gave the money back to him, and returned to me.

The Aviator, Valle de Angeles

A moment later he walked over, gave the money back, and told us about himself. Said he used to be a pilot and that now he’s a “newspaper man” living a short way up the street. As he turned to leave I saw one of his tinier pins bore a swastika. Hrm?

Three minutes later he was back again to give Mimi a shot glass with flashing lights in the bottom that turn on when you press against them underneath. You know: For all those shots my grandmother drinks. *hee hee* Maybe she can use it to hold toothpicks…

By far the coolest thing that happened in Valle de Angeles for me, though, was when Mimi and I stepped into Galería Sixtina and found ourselves surrounded by, wow, just the most luscious, extravagantly sensual paintings I’ve ever seen, all by an artist I’d never heard of, Julio Visquerra. I was struck stupid at the sight. I said to Mim it was a shame there weren’t any postcards or something you could buy with any of the paintings on them because they were so lovely and taking photos in the gallery wasn’t allowed.

As we took in the largest of the paintings I noticed a man standing next to me, sort of overseeing the room. I asked if it was his gallery.

Me with Julio Visquerra at Galeria Sixtina

“Yes,” he said. “But just this room. The paintings in the other room are by another artist.”

“Wait– you painted these? These are your paintings?!”

“Yes, yes. All of these here,” he said quietly, motioning toward the beautiful brightness on the walls all around us. The man was Visquerra. I cried!

I hugged this strange, mustachioed man in the middle of an art gallery in Honduras and cried. Not the *big weepy mess* kind of cry, mind you, but definitely the *red cheeked, watery eyed, sniffly* kind of cry. He responded by hugging me back and laughing.

“Do you have anything I can buy? A print? A book? Anything??”

He walked me over to a table with a book on it containing prints of all of his work. I opened the wrapper on the spot and said I was buying it (I had no idea how much it would be) and asked if he’d sign it for me, which he did. Mim even got a picture of us together in front of one of the paintings. He was just so lovely. (You’d love his work, Old Dave. You’d just love it.)

Cheap coffee, amazing art, *leather* frogs… I’d go back to Valle de Angeles. :)

Medical Brigades (aka Clinics) and Visiting Churches

A painting hanging on the wall at the pharmacy. I don't know who it's by but I just loved it. Please leave a comment if you know what this is!

We had our first clinic on Monday afternoon in the village of La Victoria. I believe it’s only about 60 miles outside the city, but it’s up in the mountains on roads that actually merit Hummer ownership, so it took about three and a half hours to get there. But first things first.

For our initial clinic we hit up the pharmacy first to stock up on children’s vitamins (2,000), worm medicine (2,000), and antibiotics (200) for a grand total of 2520 Lps. That’s right, folks. All that medicine for only $133.21. Just incredible.

By the time we got back from the pharmacy everybody was pretty much ready to make the drive out to La Victoria, a mountain village where Mision Caribe established a church. We were told the village (dirt roads connecting one room houses sprinkled across a mountain with no electricity) is only about 60 miles away from the mission house, but the roads we take to get there track back and forth across and around mountains almost the entire distance, and aside from the first 20 miles or so it’s all unpaved and deeply ridged by mudslides, so it took us about three and a half hours to get there.

Mimi and I working at the "clinic" at the church in La Victoria, HN.

Five minutes after we pulled up at the church and unloaded our mattresses and the generator: the sky opened. Great timing! We took advantage of the rain time to get our gear stowed in a corner in the one room church building (cement walls and floor, windows covered by shutters, tin and tile roof) and to begin setting up the clinic. This involved organizing the medicine (all either donated or paid for with donations) on wooden benches, bagging and labeling the de-worming medicine we’d picked up that morning, and arranging chairs and tables for the different stations. (ie. Blood pressure station, Mimi’s visitation table, etc.) And as soon as we opened the doors when the rain stopped: There was our day, waiting for us in a line 200+ people long. Some of them had walked for hours to get there. Lots of mothers with children. All told we saw about 150 people before we ran out of medicine and daylight. (The generator operated lightbulb hanging from the ceiling just wasn’t cutting it.)

Bedding down for the night. L to R: Mimi, Oneyda, Donna, Melissa, Stephen

We closed up shop and walked in complete darkness at 6:30 pm through mud and horse… piles… to a nearby house for dinner (see pic above in the “Food” section), stretched it out as long as we could, and finally made the dark, muddy walk back to the church to get ready for bed. We laid our mattresses out on the floor, covered them in bath towels and throw blankets for warmth, and tried to find ways to keep ourselves occupied until it was late enough to go to sleep.

Around 7:45 the Coleman lantern started to dim, so that put an end to playing cards. The last time I looked at my watch it was 8:22 pm. I think I fell asleep out of sheer boredom and an intense desire to will myself into the next day. I had to go to the bathroom sooooo badly, but nothing could induce me to leave my chilly mattress and brave the muddy path to the pitch black outhouse with it’s seat-less toilet, 1″ of standing water on the floor, and unsee-able mosquitoes in a country plagued with dengue fever.

We were up the next morning at 6 or so, breakfasted around 6:30 next door, hiked up a nearby hill (I didn’t die, but I did need a hand a couple times), had our morning devotions around 7:30, said goodbye to the folks who’d gathered to watch the goings on, and hit the road for San Lorenzo.

Jose Cecilia del Valle in San Lorenzo, HN

We didn’t stay in San Lorenzo very long, maybe 3 or 4 hours. We stopped at the school, Jose Cecilia del Valle, to give the kids some school supplies donated by one of the other missionary’s church. They sang some songs with us (yes there were motions and yes I totally learned the words and sang along and did all the motions!) and the teacher, Olinda, told us a little about herself and the school. She’s got 35 years of teaching under her belt (33 of them at this mountain village school) and is retiring next month.

We were walking out the door to do some home visits of church members when I asked if it was okay if I stayed behind to sit in for the rest of the school day. It’s a one room school house catering to 1st – 6th grades in a mountain village in southern Honduras. How many chances to you get to do something like that, you know?

The 4th and 6th grade boys playing soccer at recess

I think Olinda thought I was a teacher sent to observe how she managed the classroom because whenever a child acted out or answered a question incorrectly her face pleaded with me to understand.

She’d explain “I have so many classes in one room and they are all learning something different at the same time…” Of one first grade girl she said: “This one’s mother had a thyroid problem when she was pregnant with her so I think it’s made her a little, you know *touches her head and frowns* so that’s why she gets so many things wrong.” She said this to me out loud in front of the entire school (17 students) but no one seemed to think anything of it. As for the little girl: Expect her to get some things wrong. It happens when you’re six. No worries! :)

Olinda was great, though; truly. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves to 35 years of service in a country classroom when the money is almost exclusively in the city.

We had lunch (hot dogs with refried beans) at the church around 12:30 and then hit the ol’ road. But not before I got some fun footage of the church there. Maybe I’ll insert that video into this post once I’m back in the States. (The connection here’s a bit slow so upload times aren’t too video friendly.)

Sightseeing

Jesus statue at El Picacho

I don’t know that there are too many things we’ll do with the mission that are exclusively “sightseeing” related activities, though spending a month in a foreign country means everything is sightseeing in one way or another. We did spend a couple hours this afternoon taking a break at Picacho Hill (aka El Picacho), though, and that was pretty cool. El Picacho is home to the zoo (which I’ve been told is a horribly depressing place and by all rights should be closed immediately), a beautiful state park, and an enormous statue of Jesus. The hill overlooks the entire city of Tegucigalpa, so it made for some pretty neat photo opportunities as well. If we’re friends on Facebook you can find a few such pics in my “Honduras 2010” album.

America

You can’t get away from it, even in Honduras. Since arriving we’ve seen the following businesses: True Value Hardware, Sherwin Williams, Midas, Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, Wendy’s, Quizno’s, Subway, Applebees, KFC, Popeye’s, Baskin-Robbins, Church’s Chicken, TCBY, Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, and TGI Friday’s.

*****

It has taken me four days to write this post. A mission house is a busy, busy place sometimes! I realize I’ve probably made this thing a nightmare in terms of loading times what with all these photos. Sorry ’bout that. :S Hopefully the next one won’t share the same burden of having to cram four days’ worth of activities into a single post!

Honduras Blog #2: Alfred!!


Note: All links open in a new window. Also, I was ready to post this last night when the rain knocked out the internet, so the ending is from then. :)

Friday, 7/31/10
Friday was errand/housework day at Mimi’s as we prepped to head out, so I’ll skip the details. I mean– y’all know what going to the bank and taking out the trash are like, right? My mom’s brother Bill came by around 3 pm to pick up Mim’s dog and to carry our bags down to the minivan. Thank God, too, man. Those things were heavy!! Four large bags, each weighing in at 50 lbs.

Speaking at Mimi's church

That night we went over to the vacation Bible school at Mimi’s church, Christian Life of Chicagoland. The “theme”(?) was Kingdom of the Son, which my mom worked with back when we went to Brookfield Assembly. Er… back when it was Brookfield Assembly.

The kids at this VBS were having a contest to see who could bring in the most offerings for Miss Skip (aka Mimi ;)) and the girls won by less than a dollar. A narrow win, girls- congrats!! After Mimi talked briefly about where we were headed she asked me to come up and talk for a bit about what it’s like being a kid on the mission field. Somehow most of the stories ended up centering on bugs. Hmm… We ended the night there passing out popsicles to the kids before they headed home. Good times. ;)

Outside O'Hare

We got back to Mimi’s around 9:30 pm not quite tired enough to sleep, but knowing full well we had a looong day ahead of us since our first flight would be at 5:35 am on Saturday.

All three of us just sorta paced around the condo, nipped in and out of the news (all boring, all bad), and finally lay down around 11:30 pm, already in our clothes for the next day.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know there wasn’t much sleepin’ going on that night; a little less than an hour of it, in fact. We were up at 1:40 am, on the road by 2:15 am, and unloading our bags onto the curb at O’Hare at 2:55 am. GAAAHHHH!!

7/31/10, Saturday

Now now, little dude. You know how jumpy Red Bull makes you...

We’d checked our bags, made it through security, and settled ourselves in at our gate by 3:20 am. We were supposed to take off at 5:35 but something was wrong with the plane’s radio so we had to wait 45 minutes for it to be repaired. We knew we only had an hour between flights once we hit our first stop, Houston, so we assumed we’d be spending the night in Texas to await the next day’s flight in to Toncontin, HN.

The pilot made an announcement that they’d already notified all of our connecting flights of the delay, however, and that they’d wait for us. Sweet! But there was little doubt our checked luggage wouldn’t make it off the first plane and across the tarmac fast enough to join us as we continued on our way.

As soon as we landed in Houston, Mimy and I RAN a span of about 3 blocks to get to our next gate, huffing and puffing the whole way, loaded down with a rolling carry-on suitcase, and two 30+ lb, over-stuffed back-packs. As I rounded a corner a woman called out to stop me. GAH! All I can think is “Don’t slow me down, lady! Can’t you see I’m on a mission here?!” But I’m so glad she interrupted me, because what she was trying to tell me was my backpack had unzipped from all the bouncing about and my beloved walrus Alfred had fallen out and lay on the floor 10 feet behind me! AAAAACCKKKKK!!!

After my brief rescue mission diversion I was back on course. Mimi and I finished our run to the sound of our names being called over the intercom. Twice. But at long last- we made it. Hallelujah!

Explaining low pressure to Alfred

As soon as we found our seats I scrambled to call Aaron for one last “I can’t believe we can’t talk for a month!” goodbye, and to record a “please don’t leave me voicemail messages” cell phone. I haven’t been off the phone-grid for this long since I was still young enough to have to ask permission to make calls. :S

Mim and I discussed the changes we’d have to make to our schedule for the next few days since there was no way our checked luggage would make it to our new plane in time to travel with us. All of the medicine, etc., as well as all of our personal belongings (save for a few extra shirts and socks we’d stuffed into our carry-ons), were in those checked bags. A woman on a mission team (there were at least three teams on the plane with us) overheard us and said to open our window shade. She said a new baggage truck had just sped over and maybe our things would be on it.

My first real meal in 18 hours!!

We looked out just in time to see the truck open and to watch ALL FOUR of our bags get unloaded and transferred up into our plane. WAHOO!! We’re back on track!

Our 6 am O’Hare to Houston flight had earned us each a palatable chocolate chip(?) muffin, but as all we’d had for breakfast was a slice of toast at 2 am, by the time our second flight took off at 9:15 we were starving! Enter: The Three Cheese Omelet Pita. Sweet Mercy Jane that was a welcome and delicious meal! They also served us muffins, which we made a go at eating (dry… *pant pant pant*), and bananas, which we decided to save for later.

Yes. We saved bananas to bring with us to the banana capital of Central America.

Mimi's and my bed, somewhere under all the meds

There’s more, but it’s 10:19 pm (11:19 pm “our time” back in the states) and I only managed to sneak in an hour nap this afternoon after arriving. 2 hours of sleep in just under 48 hours simply isn’t gonna cut it, friends. Time for bed in our beautiful, recently cleared of PILES of medicine, bedroom. I’ll have to take a picture for you of the mattress… ;)

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!

See Change


When I told friends 2010 was going to bring changes into my life I had no idea how true that prediction would turn out to be. Now I kind of wish I’d thrown some specifics into that prediction, like “On May 1st I’ll help a 98 year old lady cross the street and she’ll thank me by making me the sole benefactor of her gazillionty dollar estate.”

Ah well. Next time.

Aaron and me at The Great Milwaukee Race

As it stands, I’m now a couple months in to seeing the fourth fellow down from the top, and am currently jobless after my employer outsourced my department to Missouri. You know what? It happens. I’ve also been attending church every week for several months now, and have begun a slow return to a lost love: reading for pleasure. I haven’t quite reached “Rachel Fox” levels of literary consumption, but I’ve still managed to work my way through a healthy (for me) stack of libros over the past couple of months. Feels good, folks. Real good. The final change so far is that I’ll be spending a few weeks this August in Honduras with Mimi. Don’t know what all we’ll be doing there yet; I’ll update y’all when I know for sure.

See? Change.

Speaking of all that book readin’, I stopped by Half Price Books today to take advantage of their store-wide 20% off Memorial Day sale. As promised, the rundown on my awesome finds:

For me:

  • Night by Elie Wiesel ($2.00): I know only that his work is powerful and that I should read more of it, so I’m reading this.
  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin ($3.00): I feel like I keep hearing about this book. Was it you? Were you talking about it to me? Anyway- I found it today for $3 so I picked it up. The guy who wrote it sounds pretty incredible. I’ll let y’all know if it’s as good a read as it seems like it’ll be.

4 books for 12.59. Yay!

Mimi in Honduras

For the Honduras trip:

  • Aprende a Escribir Letras ($0.25 a piece): I picked up 8 copies of this book at $0.25 each, which came to $1.60 with the current 20% discount. Woohoo! They’re 25 pages each on heavy, glossy paper so kids can trace the practice letters with crayon, then wipe the pages clean for re-use. They’re spiral bound, which I love because it keeps the books laying flat on the table while kids are using them. A super find!
  • ¿Dónde está el Jorobado de Notre Dame? ($0.50): This book is basically a Disney version of “Where’s Waldo” where you’re asked to locate various characters from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in the midst of bustling street scenes. I was hoping to find a good picture book to take along, so this is fantastic because what little writing there is here is in Spanish, and it’s good for a broader age range than some of the other things I found.
  • Enciclopedia de Oro: Tomos 1 (Apicultura a Bancos) y 2 (Ábaco a Apéndice) ($0.50 a piece): These short hardcovers are the first two books in an old encyclopedia series. I’m not too thrilled with the dated images (entirely illustrated, no photographs), but I like that the entries are about general stuff (King Arthur, astrolabes, the geography of Australia, etc.) so the information itself doesn’t appear to be dated. Still– I will probably end up leaving these two here.
  • Mi primer diccionario by Betty Root ($6.98): This one’s a hardcover book featuring a wonderful word selection with simple, helpful definitions accompanied by a sentence using the word in question. The accompanying illustrations are bright, cheery. Very nice little book.
  • Mi primer libro de números ($2.98): A paperback– finally! Packed with color color COLOR this book teaches numbers, shapes, colors, comparisons (bigger than, shorter than, etc.) with bright, simple illustrations.

13 children’s books for $11.31! Awesome.

Love, Sweet Potato

It has been– wow. Just such a day. Such a beautiful, beautiful– I am so blessed! So blessed. And I’m glad I’m in a place, in a state of mind, to be able to really soak it up, really enjoy every moment of it.

And today? Today was a Day to absorb through every sleepy, sunny, summery pore. The sun was shining in through all my wide open windows, the birds nesting in the tree outside my balcony were singing, the ferrets were bounding (and pooping) happily around the apartment, I found some great deals at an awesome book sale, then walked a mile and back into downtown Waukesha with Aaron for sandwiches at People’s Park. I am in an incomparably wonderful mood!

And now it’s time for s’mores and an episode of Father Ted before heading home.

See? Improvement. ;)

I kind of hate to see this day end, yet I can’t help but look forward to whatever kind of day tomorrow turns out to be. I figure tomorrow will be whatever tomorrow was always supposed to be, I’m just lucky to have had a day like today to precede it.

And I’m smiling.