11–13 of 13 entries from the month of: June 2008


June 7th

I am in the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, where I am pretty sure the humidity tops 90% and the temperature hovers at about the same. The only relief is the afternoon thunderstorm that rolls in each day about 4 pm and pounds the city until well after we have all gone to bed. There is something about the sound of rain in the tropics. It doesn´t just come down on the tin roof. It beats and dances and falls at a pace that leaves this desert dweller astounded. The volcanic, black earth soaks up each drop like a garden sponge. The cobblestone streets and sidewalks are green with a slight cover of moss and algae that thrives in this Central American pitre dish.
This work team has been phenomenal. You never know what you are going to get when you throw 8 strangers together (premise of many a reality tv show). We´ve done well balancing the personalities and strengths. It has been an interesting trip and I can say that I´ll keep in touch with this crew. They are kind, humble folk and I am so proud to be working with them.
Tonight we celebrate our farwell dinner before heading off to the airport in the morning to each fly home to our respective cities. I´m in Phoenix long enough to do a load of laundry and head back to the airport. A week from today I´ll be in Malawi on a tea plantation. There are days I cannot believe this is my life. I am beyond lucky.
At the moment, I am also beyond tired. I am ready not to be group leader, not to be the sole translator, not to be the one to get everyone back into the car, to dinner, to the airport. Eight days is enough. I´m reconsidering my dream of having a huge family.
Looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tomorrow and downloading and sharing photos of this leg of the summer´s journey. The orphanage was amazing and they were very, very thankful for the clothing.

More manana,


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Journal, Travel
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High in Nicaragua

June 4th

The last three days have left me a bit crippled. I am not cut out for manual labor. Triathlons? No problem. Running, hiking, sewing like a sweatshop worker? Cake. Digging ditches, moving heavy roof tiles, shoveling countless truck loads of sand? I am worthless.
And sore. And trying hard not to lash out because I hurt just about everywhere. Plus Tall Dark and Handsome sent me an email today that, in fact, he will not be joining me in Africa. Damn it.
There goes that idea.
Needless to say, I am now drinking Chilean white wine, listening to an afternoon downpour and cheering myself up by admiring my tropical surroundings now that the day¬¥s work is complete. There have been a series of highs and lows in this adventure. We have been very productive — a plus. We¬¥ve put on a roof, helped several other future home-owners with the construction of their homes and hopefully left these rural Nicaraguans with a good taste of hard-working Americans. Today we painted roof tiles with paint that was, let¬¥s say ¬¥¬¥extended,¬¥¬¥ with a hefty dose of gasoline. We painted about 200 before I thought I was going to be sick. Several hours later and I¬¥m wishing I¬¥d gotten my first Nicaraguan high from a Cuban cigar instead of Venezulean petrol. Gasoline and tropical heat don¬¥t mix. Who knew?
I´m rambling. Consider it the after-effects of the wine and the gas and the exhaustion. The work continues. Tomorrow we are digging ditches and laying pipe for a community water project. Friday we deliver the peace t-shirts to the orphanage. Saturday we tour Granada. If you have a second, Google ´´Nicaragua, Granada.´´ One of my favorite cities in the world. I can´t wait for a great cup of coffee and a day without a shovel.
See? I told you I´m not cut out for this manual labor. I´m a whiner after just a few days. These Nicaraguans without a doubt know how to pace themselves much better than we do.


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Journal, Public Health, Travel
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Siesta Fan Club

June 2nd

Hola! I made it to Nicaragua safely with my 7 traveling companions. I¬¥m leading a work trip and we are here to build houses and work on a water project. We traveled Saturday to Managua, the capital, and yesterday took a microbus to our project site in Jinotega. I¬¥ve been here six times now with this NGO and still fall head over heels in love with this sleepy little Latin town. I swear Jinotega, with its high, lush green jungle mountains, water falls, fields of calla lillies and hydrangeas and geraniums, was exactly what Gabriel Garcia Marquez had in mind when he wrote his ¬®Love in the Time of Cholera¬®and“One Hundred Years of Solitude.“
The people are equally remarkable. Nicaraguans are just kind to their very core. They are welcoming, generous and sweet people. I feel safe here, and there is nothing better when traveling with a random group of very foreign Americans.
My group is basically entirely strangers. The eight of us include 5 folk I´d never met before our flight to Houson. Thankfully, we seem to be melding well. These are donors who have decided to spend their summer vacations working hard labor in the humid heat. Color me impressed with their dedication to improve the world. I get paid for this. I don´t necessarily know that I´d want to spend my vacation working as hard as we did today.
It is 6 pm and the group is finally rousing from their naps. We are about to head out the door to a small sandwich shop for dinner. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon working on the housing project with the most rudimentary of tools. My work team includes and engineer from Chicago, a former professional football player from California and a man who owns a construction company in Phoenix. Needless to say, I spent a good bit of time today soothing ruffled feathers that there simply isn¬¥t any other way to get this work done. No, in fact, we cannot rent a tractor. No, there aren¬¥t any other tools. No, I can¬¥t do anything abou the giant puddles we are trucking through — it rained all afternoon.
So, we are dirty and tired and slowly making progress on these houses. It is a great project and I¬¥m happy to be a part of it. I¬¥ll post photos soon — when I briefly return home to Phoenix on Sunday — and in the meantime post travel details as I can.
The shirts haven´t yet been distributed. We will go to the orphanage to work on Friday and surprise the kids with goodies then. Thank you again for your kindess and well wishes.


p.s. foreign keyboard = wonky punctuation.

p.p.s. One thing I love about this country — they don¬¥t wake you up with calls to your room. Instead a hotel worker comes and gently taps on the door and wishes you a good morning. It is so much more peaceful than a phone ringing off the hook next to your head, don¬¥t you think?

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Community, Journal, Public Health, Travel
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