Friday, December 18, 2009

11-05-09, home

hello friends,

i was cut off on my last e-mail from turkoise, club med. i ran out of minutes! so this is just a note to say we are home, and our bed is so comfortable :)

i've attached a few photos of our antics. i should probably explain why we are dressed up in renaissance clothes . . . we got chosen to be king and queen on the last night (joe's birthday).

it was a fabulous vacation and i look forward to what joe is cooking up for us in the spring (he plans the spring trip and i plan the fall).

heidi and joe

10-22-09, provodencial


i ache everywhere . . . i need to get back to work, so my body can take a break from this crazyness. between getting banged around on the dive boat, walking on miles of beach, and doing my speed walk up and down stairs, i barely have enough energy for the nightly ritual of "crazy signs". i haven't made a yoga class yet! joe has managed to get a day of sailing lessons in and he didn't flip the boat over.

last night we were invited to the chief-of-the-village's house for a cocktail party with other guests who rank as either silver or gold members. we are silver. gold is over 100 days at a club med in the last 3 years. one lady at the party has been here since april (yep, six months).

the people here are so . . . unique:) i could write a book on the variety. the sweet hippy couple, who are both physical therapists in seattle. their mother just passed away after caring for her for 12 years. they are here to decide what life holds for them next. the two guest yoga instructors are darling as they eat their healthy food and then sneak chocolate bread.

one of our favorite g.o.'s (employee) got fired yesterday for getting too drunk and doing shots by licking them off of a guest's belly button at 4 in the morning. we'll miss him. he used to go out in the big waves on the rescue boat and try to launch his buddy into the air off the front of the boat. looked dangerous, but they were laughing hysterically.

chokri is a little guy from tansania. he speaks arabic as his first language and he sings too. he's manages somehow to get into every show to sing a solo (or two).

there's the guy that wears a big flower behind his ear every night. another guy who wears a tahitian skirt and shirt, he goes by 'bora-bora-bob'. he comes so often he has a name tag. there are about 6 lesbian couples here, they all look like each other. one old guy has worn the same shirt since he arrived and it smells like sweat. one couple looks like movie stars, i think she must be julia roberts :)

the chief of the village is a lunatic! he reminds me of the animators they used to have. he is constantly disrupting the shows by riding a bike across the stage or some other goofball thing.

then there's the dive lady who goes to a club med once a month with her husband and grown daughters (when they can make it), the group of postal carriers from rhode island who took over sharkies bar and sang along with the music and drank shots, the senator and judge who walk up and down the beach chest deep in water talking non-stop to each other.

oh crud, i'm outta time

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

10-17-09, Turks and Caicos

hello everyone,

this travel journal will certainly read a little differently than most :) we are on an island in the carribean. north and a little east of cuba. it's called provodenciales, and it's part of the british west indies group, turks and caicos.

we are at club med, turkoise. many of you to whom i write are friends we've met at various club meds, so you know all about this! but most of you haven't had the experience.

we arrived a week ago after flying through the night with a stopover in new york. joe and i were picking out our favorite umbrella on the beach by 11:30 that morning. the next morning we went scuba diving off a gorgeous catamaran. it felt so good to giant stride off the back of the boat and feel the whoosh of warm water envelope me. i turned and waited for joe to jump in, we gave the OK sign and dumped the air out of our vests and sank to 90 feet.

the next dive site is called aquarium and it earns that name, you literally swim through schools of fish. i wear a bright blue and white flowered swim cap when i dive (picture that!) and the fish love it. a turtle was so fascinated by my flowers that he tried to land on my head! it was hilarious.

several dives later, joe spotted a massive nurse shark taking a nap out in the open sand flat. it turned into a photo frenzie as we kept going back and forth fetching other divers for this rare sight. joe finally ran out of air and had to rush back to boat and do his safety stop while breathing off the emergancy air provided at the 15 foot bar. this was followed by 3 photographers who also ran our of air! lots of fun!

we spend the rest of our days laying sprawled out on beach chairs under a palm tree or an umbrella. we've made some awesome new friends and run into some old friends too. the couple from paris have been our beach buddies. we took long walks together down the seemingly endless beach, either up on the sand or in waist deep water depending on how hot we get. the sand is so fine that it has to be rinsed off, otherwise it sticks like powdered sugar mixed with flour.

the food is too good . . . especially the chocolate bread. yummy! almost every afternoon we indulge in cheeseburgers and fries. i'm certain i've gained 5 pounds. at dinner we've settled into the routine of making a big salad with various fish on top. mahi mahi is my favorite, but that salmon the other night was pretty wonderful. joe finishs his nights with ice cream and more chocolate bread.

last night was a big mascarade party. you wouldn't believe the elaborate masks and face paintings. the employees wore exotic costumes straight out of a 17th century scene.

there is a circus workshop here. it is fun to sit and watch the fools who are crazy enough to climb that skinny little ladder. and jump off! and get cought upside down, swung through the air and released. we stand there in the shade and drink ice cold beer (yes, if i'm hot enough i drink beer) and watch until the ocean calls us back.

i think i hear it now . . . yep, i gotta go and bury my toes in the sand.

heidi and joe

Friday, December 11, 2009

4-11-09, Home from Mexicali

howdy folks :)

have i ever mentioned how much i love my house? my bed is soooo comfortable, and the house is so quiet. we slept like logs last night.

i told you i would write again if anything weird happened, well i didn't have time because so much happened! we didn't go to the brazilian steakhouse . . . i may need therapy for this! but we ate at a nice place and we were together.

as you know this was a mission trip, so it would be remiss of me to not share some of the spiritual aspect of our journey. let me start with the beginning. this trip was like the others, in that we had more work to accomplish than would be humanly possible. but we commited ourselves to staying focused on building relationships and being open to what God wanted us to do, or who he wanted us to meet. that's tough to do when there's a long list of structural issues needing attention, but we did it!

in san diego, when dan and the group picked up the rental car, an employee asked them to pray for him. so they said okay . . . there is no time like the present. they circled together and prayed with him right there in the parking lot. the man was really moved.

at walmart (yes i go to walmart, but only in mexico) a man came and asked us if we were christians, and then asked us for a bible. this is the 3rd time he's asked americans, and not recieved one. he is bilingual, so when we got back to the hotel i pulled out the bilingual bible josiah had given me to give away. he also wanted to know about fransisco's church, so i included a little calender with the church address on it. the next day we gave it to him. he was pretty emotional about it.

martin, the man i told you about, worked again the next day and he asked us to come to his home because his mother wanted to make tortillas for us (translation = huge meal of chicken and rice). because they are so poor, it took several households on the street to prepare the feast for the american "missionaries". he was so excited and proud to see us actually show up that he broke down and cried with pastor dan. we got him hooked up with the hotel we stayed at for a possible job and gave references for him (which was important because he'd just arrived in town with his mom a month earlier). it turns out he'd worked at 2 different hotels in the states, so he had experience.

the little lady at the hotel, who oversees the free breakfast, joined us on the last day in prayer and bible study (standing quietly off to the side). when we left, we all hugged her and gave her all of our pesos.

jose and daisy were our greatest joy. we drew so much closer to them and he opened his heart to us in a really big way. it turns out he had been a pastor and the pain of not being one anymore was almost unbearable. he shed a few tears with us and hugs went around. they asked us to come out to their new home in the country. in mexico, they build as they have money for supplies. it can take 10 years to build a home, but it's theirs when it's done (it's called a mexican mortgage). so off we went to the outskirts of the city to their little plot of land and we went inside for a tour. inside we wrote blessings and notes on the sheet-rock, and then jose asked dan to pray a bessing over the home. it was a powerful moment for us all. we have become so close to this little family who have commited their lives to God and His will. their financial and physical sacrifice to keep the homeless elderly clean and fed is tremendous.

AND we got the future chapel/ storeroom cleaned out, the lady's room painted and cleaned, the men's room's linens all changed and new blankets put on, 2 walls stuccoed, repaired and patched all the leaks on the roof of two buildings, pedicures and manicures for every resident (sebastian, juan, raphiel, el pietro, manuel, francisca, maggie, and jose's grandma), and we even had the baby shower. AND we stayed in budget!


joe and heidi

4-3-09, Puebla, Mexico

hola ya´ll,

this is our last day of school! we just had a barbeque in the backyard of the school. this is a very small school with only 6 students . . . well the school is big, but the student body is small :) they like to have about 1 to 3 students per teacher. nice and cozy! the problem is that one of the 3 students in my class doesn´t seem to be interested is spanish . . . can´t imagine why she´s here.

we went to cholula again yesterday as a group with the director (an american from denver-hilarious guy). this time we visited the pyramids. very interesting, because there are 3 of them . . . one on top of the other. apparently the one on the outside, the biggest in the americas, was never finished. we got to go inside and see the smaller ones. there is a big church on top of the mountain (which is actually the pyramids, and is the one i told you about that had the native dancers outside during mass).

we went into a church (one of 365 churches) that is said to be the same as entering heaven, or it is heaven, not sure which. i was quite eager to see this, as you can imagine. the center aisle slopes upwards slightly to give you a sense of ascending into heaven. .
the decor gradually becomes more elaborate and intense as you approach the alter. there are carvings of every fruit and vegetable known to the artist. angels literally cover the walls, peaking around leaves and such. there is a carving of Christ seated on the edge of a bench looking down at you with an expression of indecisiveness. it gives one the feeling that your entrance isn´t a sure thing! the actual alter has so much gold on it that my pictures didn´t come out very well because of the reflecting light . . . and i didn´t even use a flash.

tomorrow we head off for mexicali for our semana santa (holy week) mission trip we take every year. usually we go with an enormous group, 100 plus people. this year we will only have our humble little group of about 10. but we will try to be like fishes and loaves of bread and multiply our efforts. in the past i´ve been able to use josiah´s laptop to send e-mails, but not this year. maybe there will be one at the hotel? we don´t have a definate plan, but we may paint the lady´s dormatory, replace a window, clean out the future chapel, have a party for jose and daisy because they have a new baby. we´ll see!

we´ll i´m heading off to go shopping and drinking wine and eating dinner later with my family here (mago, pati, teri and all their friends and family). we might have abondigas . . . meatballs with an egg inside and green salsa sauce. my favorite next to mole poblano . . . yumm.

lot´s of hugs and kisses, heidi and joe

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

4-7-09, Mexicali

hola amigos,

last saturday we left puebla on another bus for mexico city. we ate at an awesome little airport restuarant and hopped on a plane for mexicali. our pastor picked us up from the airport and took us to the hotel. we got to see a high-speed chase with a police car chasing a 4-wheel drive truck that went off into the dusty sunset . . . very exciting! we have seen more police here than at my nephew's graduation from the CHP academy last year! they are everywhere.

we are here to work with the house for the elderly homeless people for the 3rd year. jose and daisy own the house. the last time we were here in february they were expecting a baby. well she has arrived and her name is ashley! she's absolutely adorable. last night we went for chinese food with jose, daisy and ashley. it was delicious. i didn't know that a pretty big population of chinese people lived there.

many of the same residents are still here. it is really special to see them and have them remember us. a new lady lives there now and she is obsessed with cleaning, so it's a great help to the home.
the man who is 102 is still there and today they all got a haircut, so we raved about how handsome he was. he was quite the little king for the rest of the day.

we have the daunting job of trying to stucco the exterior wall of the men's dorm. yesterday we attempted to purchase all of the right supplies for the task, but it was hard. a guy from the states helped our guys pick out the right stuff and showed such knowledge of the stucco that we hired him for 30 bucks to work his buns off all day today. what a great decision . . . this guy was really good and fast too. we reserved him for tomorrow again! he's been talking to pastor dan about his faith, so it is even more exciting for all of us.

as for us ladies, we tackled 2 different rooms (big rooms). one side recieved a much needed paintjob in a pale yellow and the other room was completely filled with donated clothes and blankets. i kid you not, there was at least 150 blankets and probably 20 bags of clothes. jose asked us to clear out the room and to put all of the good stuff out on the sidewalk. we obeyed. 3 hours later when we arrived for dinner, the sidewalk was completely empty! we had to mask up for the job because the popcorn ceiling (with asbestos) was everywhere. talk about a filthy job . . . yuck. today it looked good. we left another sidewalk full of clothes and blankets today . . . maybe there will be some warmer people here on the streets.

joe's not feeling great, but he's hanging in there. taking lots of sudafed and nyquil:) he won't stop working though i did get a great photo of him taking a siesta on the roof!

tonight we will all be going to the brazilian steakhouse for dinner. our favorite restuarant! tomorrow is pedicure day for the residents. we will soak their little footsies in water, cut nails, and rub in lotion. thursday is clean the kitchen and mens dorm day, and then we leave on friday. we'll head over to san diego and readjust to a completely different culture.

we love you all, and i'll probably not write again unless something really wierd happens. we'll be home friday night.

love joe and heidi

Sunday, December 6, 2009

3-31-09, Puebla, Vera Cruz

buenas dias amigos,

when i last wrote to you we were planning on taking a 4 hour bus ride with our friends ruben and anna to visit anna´s grandma in vera cruz. well . . . that´s not what happened! we met them at the bus terminal (anna, ruben, vanessa, rubenito, gabriel, miguel, and margarieta), and headed off for what we thought was vera cruz. 10 minutes before our arrival, after whipping around curving mountain roads, swerving to miss cows, pigs, dogs, and children, ana told me "we are staying at my aunt and uncles house tonight and we will go to vera cruz tomorrow". to stay with grandma? "oh no, that´s too far away, but we´ll go to la playa tomorrow . . .it´s close." how close? "maybe 1 hour" translation . . .3 hours!

that night we climbed off the bus in a pueblo called ayotoxco de guerrero, puebla. the family greeted us with amazing generosity. the teenagers were especially fascinated by their cousins friends from america. you can only imagine how much i stood out :) the food was fabulous, but it was so hot and humid we had to sit outside just to breath.

the next day after sleeping in a room with a fan brought in just for us, we drank rich coffee and headed off for la playa. everyone had their bathing suites on and shorts.
i wondered how we would take this big group. apparently tio (uncle) hired a chauffer to drive us in his big truck, so that he could describe in great detail (as only a man of his age and stature can) the countryside. this description took place while standing in the bed of the truck hanging on to the roll bar while driving through the country (the scenic route . . . do any of you ladies recognize a pattern here). they were 11 of us in this truck, but joe and i had the place of honor next to tio and the roll bar.

sadly enough, it decided to rain and turn cold! we were soaked and freezing by the time we arrived at la playa 3 hours later. swimming turned out to be a kid thing, because the water was dirty and it was cold with a stiff breeze . . . no way was i getting in that water!

the return trip was much the same with a stop at el taco loco. we fed the entire family (all you can eat) for 35 bucks! they though we were pretty generous :)

the next day tio decided to take us to another village where the bus back to puebla would be more direct (only 2 hours). unfortunately, this village was 2 hours away and the fast bus wasn´t available. the village was called cuetzalan puebla paseo. all of the mountain people walk down, or up, on sunday to trade goods for the week. it was absolutely crazy. tia bought a bird for her home, to go along with the other 10 birds on her patio.

2 hours later we climbed on the slow bus and headed back to puebla (the city). 4 hours later we arrived, exhausted.

talk to you all soon, my class is starting.

love heidi and joe

3-25-09, Puebla, Mexico

hola to all of our friends and family,

this has been an eventful trip to say the least. i can hardly express the vastly different experiences we´ve had! we started by being greeted at the mexico city airport by our little family we had adopted up in USA. they have both lost weight and i almost didn´t recognize anna. rubenito is adorable in a terrible twos kind-of-way. we immediatly hopped in a taxi and went to a bus depot further from the airport where it´s safer and boarded the first of countless buses. we went to san lorenzo (which anna promised was only 1 hour) . . . 3.5 hours later we finally walked the last leg pulling all of our luggage down a dirt road to la casa.

their house is huge, but all cement. the floors are painted various colors. it was nice to see we had a large bed for the night (i wasn´t so happy about the bed when i tried to sleep on it that night). we ate as a large family. the next day we left the casa in the care of the oldest brother, because it needed to be guarded at all times, and went for a short 30 minute trip to see a church.
several hours later and more buses and walking with 3 children, we arrived in chalula to visit the church up on the hill next to the little pyrimid ruins. being the first weekend of spring, they had a big indigenous dance ceremony. ironically it was so close to the catholic church doors that you could still hear the priest giving mass while listening to the dancers worship various agricultural gods.

we finally made it all the way back home, and quickly packed up and set off for puebla on 2 more buses. i am amazed at how many people can stand in the aisle of a bus!!!

the director of the school met us at the airport and we got to speak english for the first time. he took us directly to the home of 3 absolutely lovely ladies (grandma, daughter, and grandaughter). this house is gorgeous! the floors are all tiled with 2x2 dark orange tile with a wood pattern design. we have a totally seperate room with our own bathroom with an enormous shower (with water that lasts more than 3 minutes!)

we have already got 2 days of school under our belt and have survived. puebla is a very sophisticated city, with beautiful architecture and nice parks here and there. the people are friendly, if not a bit preoccupied with work and getting the kids to school on time. in many ways it actually reminds me of florence.

yesterday my personal guide (part of the school curiculum) took me to see several of churchs. the rosaria church is stunning! it´s interior is almost completely coated with gold. one side room has so much gold on the alter that i couldn't take a good photo, but i tried (without a flash of course).

my guide is yanina. she's 22 and cute as a button. she can't speak english, but she likes mochas as much as i do, so she is my best friend! we have decided shopping is a good way to practice my spanish . . .

anyway to answer the question foremost in all your minds, it is very safe here. we are in peaceful part of the country. hopefully i will be able to write again soon. this weekend we are going over the mountains to vera cruz with our san lorenzo family . . . on a bus.

lots of love to you all, joe and heidi

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2-22-09, Going to Puebla

hello my friends!

joe and i are heading off on another whirlwind adventure. this time we are prefacing our mexicali mission week with two weeks in puebla, mexico. for those of you who don't know where puebla is . . . it is southeast of mexico city. it appears to be surrounded by massive volcanos (like antigua, guatemala was).

historically it was started by the spaniards as opposed to being taken over by them :) puebla served as the stop-over from mexico city to vera cruz, a major port. it's also where the famous battle was won that is celebrated every year on cinco de mayo.

as usual we will be going to language school and living with a family in puebla during the week. on the weekends we will stay in san lorenzo with our young family we adopted here in the states (they recently moved back home to mexico). their oldest son is our godson, rubenito.

from puebla we will fly to mexicali where our church will pick us up from the airport and take us to the base camp to join the mission team of about 75 people (about 40 of which are teens). joe and i are actually part of the seniors team because we go to the elderly orphanage and work on the home and spend time loving on the elderly residents.

this year is special because we hope to involve another church from mexicali for the first time. we would like for jose and daisy to have some support from their own town. i see from reading this that i ought to tell you about the home. usually i'm lucky to get one e-mail off during that busy week in the past, so i've neglected to give details.

jose decided to break away from his prison and gang ministry several years ago. understandably he was worn out from that type of work. he decided to open an assisted living facility as an income to someday retire on. about that time he decided to married daisy. jose and his father set to work renovating an old delapidated building. one day while they were working, the police showed up with a very old person and said they had jose's first customer! jose politely explained that he wasn't ready and it was to be for paying customers not homeless medically afflicted people. besides, jose didn't have enough money to feed anyone . . . he could barely feed himself. the police insisted, and if you've been to mexico, you know what that means.

so for the last 3 or 4 years he has taken care of up to 20 abandoned elderly at a time. the place is still delapidated, but it's clean and so are the patients. the police usually remember to drop off food, and jose has a lady to work during the day while he works 40-50 hour weeks as does his wife at a day care center to pay for the supplies.

this visit will bring a new face. daisy had a baby this month. we are planning an american bbq for them and the patients. that should be fun.

today i went and bought the lotion for our project this year. we are going to clean old feet and massage lotion into them :() we are also going to try and stucco an entire (long) wall in 4 days. the ladies dorm may get a fresh coat of paint this year too. we'll see what God has planned for us when we get there!

wish us luck or pray for us . . . whatever suites you :) i will write again when we get there. until then, via con Dios.

heidi and joe (aka jairi y pepe)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

11-1-08, Florence, Home


my last note until our next big adventure, on my own keyboard! ah the little things in life :) my last e-mail preceded an excellent meal at our friend's home. veronica and paolo have a lovely apartment overlooking a greenbelt and the distant florence skyline. very pretty home and good company. we showed up an hour early because we didn't know the time had changed (italy changes a week before us). oh well! our friends didn't say anything :)

i had to laugh when i read my first e-mail sent out. it said this would be a tame trip compared to others. hah! boy was i wrong. i feel as though i lived 6 weeks of adventure in 3 weeks time.

i have some odd residual memories that have lingered. i remember, as we rode through the western mountains of tuscany towards cinque terre, asking joe if that was snow? the mountains we passed were snowy white! then we noticed all of the marble factories and realized it was the famous white 'carrera' marble.

when i was a kid i worked at denio's farmers market with my mom. we would start work at 4-5 in the morning, rain or shine. near our florence apartment was a very similar street market. before dawn we could hear them pushing their carts down the cobblestone road to the marketplace. they would be there all day on the hard street selling leather purses and jackets, jewelry, ceramics, etc. and in the late evening when joe and i headed out for dinner they would be dragging their carts back to safety for the night.

there wasn't a lot of grass for dogs to do their 'business' on. we learned to look for piles on the sidewalks as we hustled along with the mass of humanity.

when i was hiking in cinque terre, from corniglia to vernazza, i got some minor stress fractures on my forefeet. the steps going down were frequently taller than normal and the stones eventually took their toll on my feet. note to self . . . next time bring thicker shoes with good cushion. i hobbled around for about 7 days because of the pain, but i just wouldn't let them heal. typical PT not following my own advice.

i think the weirdest thing was being charged a cover-charge to eat at a restaurant. here you are, paying for wine and full dinners, and they charge you 2 euros each to sit there! i asked one waitress what the cover-charge covered and she pointed to my paper place-mat and napkin, and the tablecloth. okay.

the uffizi art gallery was pretty cool. saw some famous artists, like michelangelo and di vinci paintings. but i think by then we had seen so much beautiful art we were overloaded. everything was starting to look the same. florence really has some of the most amazing art and musical talent i've ever seen or heard.

on the way home, we had a difficult time landing in paris because of the freezing temperatures and thick fog. we were stuck in a holding pattern for about 45 minutes over paris (i.e. blanket of fog). but it was really cool when the pilot came on and said to look out the left side of the plane (my side) and you could see the tip of the eiffel tower. sure enough there it was, amidst all that fog was the tip of the spear. it really was awesome. i don't know why, but i loved it!

next stop is probably the south-east mexican coast for more language school and our annual mission trip. until then, arrivederci e via con dios!

p.s. the reason we returned on the 30th was because my nephew graduated from the CHP academy on the 31st. he's now a real cop . . . badge, baton, gun, everything. i couldn't have been more proud of him. he looked so handsome in his uniform. it was a special moment when my brother presented him with my father's badge. he has been assigned to central L.A. not where i wanted him to go, but he's happy enough.

heidi and joe

10-25-08, Pisa, Cinque Terre

hello my friends,

instead of trying to shove this experience into 21 minutes i'm going to write again tomorrow. sorry =) you get me twice in two days!
this is the first time that i'm going to try this, but i've been overwhelmed with a desire to tell certain people about something they will be fascinated by. therefore i'm actually going to adress some of the experiences to them, all mixed together. let's see how it works?

well, a trip to 5T (cinque terre) turned out to be it's own experience. we went to pisa on the way. it was pouring down rain as we ran to the leaning tower. andre, the tower leans, but so does the baptistery. deb, the baptistery is archicturally designed to be a musical instrament! if you had sung a note with your beautiful voice it would echo 10 times and therefore you could accompany yourself in harmony. mary-kathy, the cathedral had dreamy art that i photographed carefully for you (you too melissa).

then off to 5T. the weather was lovely and the region is simply breathtaking. we stayed in a medievial town called manarola, the second of the 5 towns.

now the male friends of mine who said this was a girl trip (you know who you are bill, ken, outback bill, etc). there is no other country where you can eat pizza, drink beer, gorge on ice cream, all while watching some of the most beautiful girls in the world walk by. so i don't want to hear it any more!

mgbb, we hiked (yes hiked) from one town to the next and it was along the path that the villagers have used for centuries. they must be part mountain goat. anna (from work), you, your husband and kids must come here. your children would love it! there are 7 miles of regular trails and who knows how many other side trails (one leading up to a monastary).

and for you girls who want to know if the men are handsome? oh yeah! especially in 5T, these guys have the same tall dark and handsome looks of the city guys, but they have blue or green eyes. dreamy.

i have one minute to push send :) i love you all

10-20-08, Florence

hello my friends,

sorry about my last e-mail, i had so little time and i didn't spell check it :) i still don't have much time!

we are really have a marvelous time. the weather has been perfect. this city is amazing. the streets come and go with remarkable abandon. suddenly you are standing at a 5-way intersection with a massive church looming over you. we go into every church that is free and i believe we have seen some of the finest art this way.

walking has become our passion. we find it entertaining to accidently arrive at a piazza we searched for the day before and couldn't find. the piazza with the huge statues has very good accoustics. there is a man and woman who play there for free on most nights (put money in the guitar case). they sound like simon and garfunkel, absolutely wonderful. a lady stands in the square and sings opera.

we went to the museums to see the art! oh my goodness! the david statue is huge and the art covers the walls. the pitti palace is going to collapse from the weight of the art hanging on the walls. and where there is not art hanging the walls are painted with frescoes that killed my poor neck.

veronica and paolo took us out to dinner one night to a lovely wine restuarant called an enoteca, and then sunday they came and picked us up for a drive in the country. CHIANTI! we were driving through little ancient castle towns and stopping for wine tasting and then a fabulous lunch at some little restuarant overlooking the wineries. and then off to touring a wine museum, then a salami store and finishing it off with a drive into the back part of firenze, right past the old medicci country home.

i have 3 minutes left and so much to say. we are going to cinque terre tommorrow and i don't know if they have internet. we will be back in florence (firenze) on saturday.

we love you all and hope all is well, heidi and joe

10-18-08, Florence

hmm, ive learned some odd things here;

computer keyboards arent the same in every country . . . they dont have the apostrophe! i guess they dont contract like we do :) the floor at the internet shop is slanted so i have to dig in with my feet to keep from rolling out the door.

we are renting an apt in an "international" neighborhood. they are lots of people from india, middle east, and africa here on our street. when people are yelling at each other it doesnt mean they are fighting . . . they might be loving or joking or just talking normal -- with italian passion.

italian passion . . . its seems everything here is passionate and intense. the women walking with style, the men saying "ciao bella", the woman smiling over their shoulders as they swish away down the cobblestone street in their knee high leather boots. the way the old men and women (and some younger ones) pick their noses on the street corner. the young guys reaching down and shifting their privates. the way people honk when they blow their noses.

i learned that the light for our third story flat has a timer that lasts long enough to get the key in the door. unfortunately i couldnt get the key to open the door and that was even harder in the dark.

you have to pay-to-pee, but joe says its worth it. 80 cents :) the museums have free bathrooms.

our favorite hangouts are the market place where they have a coffee and pastry shop amidst the vegetables, pasta, and pig heads. we belly up to the bar and say doo-ay cappa-cheen-ay poor-favor-ay. they smile at us and give us miniture cups of coffee. we also love this one pizza joint next to the court house where they heat up the pizza and we can take it, along with a beer and cup of wine to the steps of the court house. its cheaper than sitting inside and eating it (it costs an extra euro to eat at the restuarants). we also enjoy sitting in front of this doorway to a bar that has 4 wooden stools . . . 2 for the 2 old men and 2 for joe and i. the people watching is more leasurely because its in an alley.

we learned that if you sit in front of the duomo long enough, the whole world passes by.

i will write again soon, we love you all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

10-16-08, Rome, Florence

hello everyone!

we made it one piece, which is no small feet. we had an incrediably long journey getting here. to start we left our home at 3:30 am and arrived in rome the next day at 8:00am. we promptly hopped on the train to downtown rome, and had a little glass room like on the harry potter movies on the train. we checked in our baggage to a locker site at the train station and took off on foot.

we were crazy-tired with maybe an hour of sleep, so we just kept walking. we came around a corner and a magnificant cathedral loomed over us. we went inside and were silenced by the opulant granduer of the interior. we slid into a pew and took a few precious moments to thank God for this gift. then off again . . . we went down a hill and had a gypsy accost us and got away, then we turned another corner and there was the colosium. The Colosium! sorry no words to describe that one. we lingered under this big arch and rested. as we climbed up through the city towards the train station we both had a physical meltdown and ate cliff bars and drank our rationed water.

next we flew to florence (after falling asleep on the floor at the rome airport and almost missing our flight)and took the easy way out and got a cab. alicio was his name and he was adorable as he leaned out the window at intersections and yelled in italian. the yelling has not stopped since we got here. everything is big and emotional. the generiosity and kindness is amazing.

our little apartment is so cute and functional. tonight we had thick sliced soft salami, white cheese with green herb crust and wheat bread. yummy. the marcato centrale is a blast. the food is like art it's so pretty. i mean the fruit and vegetables and cheese and meat.

we have seen the amazing duomo and though does it justice, it is still pretty bizarre to stand and look up! we went inside, and it was big but not as opulant as i expected.

today we went to the accademia museum. wow! it was so cool to see the transition from art of the 1200s to the art of the 1300s. michelangilo's david was stunning to say the least. man, that is one big statue. and they had a whole room of statues.

we met veronica for lunch and had a delicious long meal and a whole bottle of wine. veronica is a darling friend we met on martinique several years ago. we have stayed in touch and she and another friend, silvia (who we met in guadeloupe)are the reasons we are here in italy. we sat outdoors in a piazza. everything i have ever heard about the food is true. it is fabulous!

i will write again soon, i have 3 minutes left at this internet shop. so i say arrivederci !! we love you all and goodbye for now. joe and heidi

10-13-08, Leaving the USA

ciao my friends,

joe and i are off on a much tamer adventure than usual! we are leaving for italy on monday morning at 3:45 am and arriving in rome at 8:00 tues morning. we plan to jump on the train and go into town and take a tour bus that winds through rome for 2 hours.

than back to the airport and off to florence for a week. we'll be in florence visiting our friends veronica and her new husband, paolo, and also silvia, thomas, and baby ettore.

we will go over to cinque terre for 5 days. cingue terre is a national heritage site like antigua, guatemala and guanajuato, mexico (our last 2 crazy vacations). this is our first visit to a non-third world country (besides banff, canada 15 years ago).

then back to florence for another 4 nights and then homeward for 2 days!

a fun activity for the kids is to go to and click and drag to italy or type in florence or cinque terre. zoom in and switch to satelite and for florence you can switch over to birds eye view. really fascinating! check out the duomo--we will be hiking to the top of the dome. also can zoom your own house--kinda spooky.

i'll find a cyber cafe and share my crazy days with you all. until i see you again, arrivederci!

heidi and joe

Monday, November 23, 2009

3-23-08, Home

hello my friends,

i feel as though you traveled with me! we had an interesting adventure together, huh? well, we are thoroughly content to be home. our bed is even more comfortable than i remember.

the last evening together, with the mission team, was spent at new song covenant church in irving for Good Friday services. they had a really moving experience for us to participate in. six rooms were set up with different ways to remember Good Friday. it was very nice and a bit emotional.

now i will admit that joe and i almost didn't go on this trip, because of the risk. before we left, we had been warned that it was very dangerous right now. armed ex-military gang members were setting up blockades and forcing buses to stop. they would board the bus and you can imagine the worst. we really struggled with our desire to see marvin and ardela and our fear of danger. when we left i almost started crying because i was so scared. but marvin and ardela took very good care of us and antigua is probably the safest place in the country (it's all relative). on our last day there, president colon (not sure of the spelling) showed up in antigua to attend a concerto at the foot of the cathedral (the grey haired guy, center of photo, chin in hand). we walked right past the secret service and the 50 caliber machine gun mounted in the bed of a 4-wheel drive pick-up and took pictures of the president. i guess you could say we got over our fear, huh?

well, until the next adventure! (visiting veronica, sylvia and thomas in italy this fall). abrazos y besos

3-21-08, Mexicali


are ya surprised to hear from me again? i'm surprised to be writing. they have this auxiliary trailer set up in base camp with this sweet computer set-up. so here i sit with dusty shoes and clothes in the sweltering heat . . . ah a breeze just blew through the trailer.

it has been a trying experience here in mexicali. the small church bus broke down in the very beginning creating a transportation crisis. the vehicle we came down in was commandeered for a youth taxi . . . and then it was promptly sideswiped. after the mexicali insurance agent (for both party's involved) assessed the accident, he decided he wasn't at fault and walked away from it. one of our fearless leaders ended up with a staff infection on his foot, a senior in my group got severe food poisoning. both had to be taken across the border to the hospital at separate intervals on the same day, thereby taking two more cars.

last night was the big mexicali church fiesta, 8 local churches and 4 sacramento churches, joined together for fellowship, food and major alabanzas (worship/dance music). it lasted about 5 hours.

our elderly orphanage home was changed quite a bit. they are beginning the process of creating a small chapel on-site. i was called from the kitchen (sorting donated medications) to see what one of my patients from last year was doing. i rushed out to the yard to see him doing bicep curls. he had tied a rope to a cinder-block (because someone had stolen the dumbbell from last year) and was using it for the exercises i taught him. i almost started crying.

well, we finish this journey saturday when we fly home. thanks for your time and prayers. we love you and hope all is well with you.

love, joe and heidi

3-16-08, USA

as i type i am listening to my husband combat leopards and lions in the front room of my niece's house in monrovia (in the los angelas area). i thought returning to the usa would be safer, but apparently not! our nephews make vicious little predators. joe is not too thrilled about being a gazelle under these conditions.

it has been great to get a good night's sleep. we had feather pillows last night and a long hot shower this morning without the fear of being electrocuted. i felt really strange putting my toilet paper in the toilet though!

we are waiting for pastor dan to pick us up in a van and whisk us off to mexicali. i'm not sure when we will break bread with the mexicali camp, but i think it will be late. i imagine we will go to the motel first, but who knows? tomorrow we will visit the elderly orphanage to assess their needs and then go to home depot or walmart and get supplies.

thanks for letting me use you all to decompress my emotions through my journaling.

wow!! the tables have turned here . . . joe shedded his gazelle disguise to reveal that he is really a fire-breathing dragon. the hunted felines just ran past me in giggling terror.

abrazos y besos, heidi and joe

3-12-08, Guatemala

my senses are on overload. there is so much to see, hear, feel, touch, taste!

everywhere we look it is gray or painted-over gray. it is like a giant sand castle. you can paint it all you want but the paint crumbles away and reveals what it all really is . . . rocks. crushed rocks, cobblestone streets, stone walls covered with cement. flowering vines creep around every corner and brighten even the grayest building. the color comes mostly from the people, especially the indigenous people. the brilliant colors just boggle your mind. a quick look around the city makes you realize how vulnerable one is here. the most dangerous volcano in the americas is looming over me everyday (volcano agua), usually with a cap of clouds on it. 45 degrees to my right is an active volcano that is currently spewing out a plume of smoke miles high. on the street winds a procession that will last 10 hours as 20 or 30 people carry a huge representation of Christ carrying the cross--it is probably 30-40 feet long, followed by the virgin mary which is equally as big. the traffic congestion at this time is literally indescribable. people simply walk away from their cars in the middle of the street to see the procession.

the sound of rattling cars and tuk-tuks is constantly competing with car alarms, honking horns, dogs barking, kids playing, laughter, drums for the processions. everywhere is people calling out " special precio for you", "buy two", "husband buy present for you".

we love you and will be as safe as we can! my computer time is up!!!

joe and heidi

3-5-08, Guatemala

hi everybody!

this might have a different feel to it because i'm so tired. it seems that we go non-stop here. the 40 days before easter builds in intensity everyday. last weekend was so crowded that we missed the famous procession through town . . . again. it occurs each sunday until easter, so we have one more sunday in this city to see it. the streets are carpeted with flowers and grass in various religious designs and then the catholic guys dress up in purple robes with big pointy hoods (kinda spooky). the men carry the huge artifacts-statues on their shoulders down the flower-lined streets while the boys wave incense. this winds all through antigua.

last weekend we went to church with maritza and carlos. it was two and half hours! my brain was mush by the time we left. later we went to our friends house in gautemala city for dinner. we had huge hot dogs with guacemale. it was yummy. we also got to tour the school they work at. it is a very nice school and big too. their youngest daughter, xela, helped with the tour. she is absolutely adorable.

yesterday joe hiked up to the big cross on the mountain above the city. he went with the school and the tourist police. i went to a hospital to get set up to volunteer. i took a tour first and was almost brought to tears several times. i can't handle seeing the children. it breaks my heart. but the hospital was very clean and extremely old. to say the least, the equipment is antiquated. tomorrow i will start helping in the physical therapy department. a PT student from utah wants to works with me . . . how sweet!

we went to san antonio today on the chicken bus (but there weren't any chickens). we went to a interactive museum and joe and i participated in a wedding ceremony. joe and i were the parents of the bride and groom. we wore the ceremonial costumes and everything. it was very cool. then we watched them make my favorite food . . . tortillas and pepien and then we ate the food! i like interactive museums:) i bought a beautiful cloth with the mayan story embroidered on it. the cloth took a month to make and i only payed 40 dollars for it. amazing.

joe and i made a mental list of all of the things we have done that our doctor warned us to not do. we have eaten from street vendors, talked to strangers, pet dogs and cats, been bitten by pulgas (fleas) and mosquitoes, walked around at night, taken a public bus, hiked up into the mountains, driven the road betweent antigua and gauatemala city, stayed in a home, eaten in a home (every day), visited a hospital, but we haven't taken a taxi or a tuk-tuk. tuk-tuks are little 3 wheel taxis that don't even follow gautemalen traffic laws. but against all odds we are alive and well.

abrazos y besos, heidi and joe

3-2-08, Guatemala

hello everybody!
good news . . . antigua has lots of coffee shops, and they make mochas! i am very happy:) the restuarants here are very good, but we do not eat out much because maritza (the lady who runs our flat) is an excellent cook.

the mayan culture is very strong here. the locals wear clothing from their regions. after awhile you begin to see the differences in the elaborate embroidery of the woman and girl's skirts and tops. the little girls are so wrapped up it is a miracle they can walk at all.

as far as i can tell, it must be a guatamalen custom to completely disregard traffic laws. green light means go, yellow means speed up, red means slow down (if you see someone coming across the intersection), otherwise red is go. alto apparently does not mean stop! cars, people, motorcycles, bikes and horses swerve around each other in every intersection. everywhere you go people are walking across the street between cars that do not even slow down. at first joe and i stood and waited at the corners, but now we just dodge the cars, motorcycles and horses like the locals. sorry moms. it is nothing to see the passenger in the front seat holding a double barrel shotgun in his lap as the car goes by. what a crazy place, but we love it.

my teacher has been focusing on teaching me the words i need to do therapy. it is great! she is even helping me translate some of the exams and tests i do at work (for julie and melissa- she translated the tinetti test- yeah!). today i did an exam on a lady who lives here . . . she hurt her back. i met a doctor (Maritza's brother) and he is trying to get me into his hospital to see a hip or knee replacement surgery before i leave!! next week i will go to the hospital and volunteer in the therapy department.

last night we went bar hopping to find the local live music . . . we found it! most of the people listening are foriegners from europe. the gautemalans, so far, are so nice.

well we need to go . . . we have lots of plans this weekend. we will get to spend time with ardela, rachel and xela here in antigua. next weekend is with marvin and his sister.

abrazos y besos, heidi and joe

p.s. i cannot figure out how to use this keyboard, so please excuse my punctuation.

2-28-08, Guatemala

we made it! our first meal was at mcdonalds. is that crazy or what? we never eat there, but it is different here . . . they have McCafe. similar to starbucks!

we are staying in a dorm with a lady who is there all day cooking and cleaning, so we still get to practice our spanish. the pillows are made out of cement! i swear! but the place is really nice and spacious. two girls are there also (english speaking).

today we started school. we each have our own teacher. it is good but very hard.

well, adios for now. i will write more later.

joe and heidi
p.s. the shower is a widowmaker, but i did not get shocked:)

2-22-08, Guatemala

hello everyone, actually . . . goodbye everyone,

joe and i leave tomorrow for our next grand adventure. this time we are going to antigua, guatemala. we will live with una familia again for 3 weeks, and we'll go to spanish language school 5 days a week. then we will come back to los angeles for one night and then off to mexicali for our annual mission trip to the elderly orphanage for another week. a month! we'll be back for easter.

our first weekend (we arrive in guatemala city on sunday) will be spent with our friend, marvin. marvin lived with us for 6 months 2 years ago as a visiting youth pastor. now he's the senior pastor at his family's church (his dad is retired). we get to go with him to his church and then spend the rest of the day with his family. we're so excited.

after that we will go to antigua to our new family! monday school starts. i will write again when we get settled.

the second weekend will be spent with ardela fry and her 2 daughters in antigua. they'll be there for a huge missionary's conference (>800 people). ardela is my old neighbor's sister (theresa). ardela has been there with her husband and children for 10 years.

on another note; it should be interesting to find out if the shower heads really do electrocute you when you touch them . . . i'm sure the term "widow-maker" is just a joke, right? ardela assured me if i don't touch anything in the shower i'll be okay--especially the exposed wires! she's so funny.

talk to you soon, heidi (and joe)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

11-11-07, club med, columbus


joe and i are in florida for the night. tomorrow we head home. we have been in the bahamas for 2 weeks, on san salvador. this is a very pleasant, nearly deserted island. the locals are so sweet and they claim that 60% of the people are directly related. so i guess i could say that it seems to be a very nice family .

we arrived right before hurricane noelle (she wasn't a hurricane when we met her-just a BIG tropical storm). for 4 days it rained as the storm very slowy wiped out dominican republic south of us. we still swam and played in the heavy surf . . . it was fun. the club med staff tried their best to entertain us savages by playing games and bringing out all the monte carlo tables. joe's mother tried to teach joe, jeanette and i how to play bridge. she was very patient, but to no avail. it was to difficult for us young'uns.

this last week was fabulous diving and i saw my first hammerhead shark. i was so excited! we also saw turtles, black tip sharks, nurse sharks, lobster, crab, baraccuda and a zillion other tropical fish. there was even a grouper that liked to be petted. it would come right up to you and wait for you to pet it's belly and then go to the next diver for about 5 minutes.

we ate way too much food and exercised a little . the yoga class on the dock was the best. at the end she would say "close your eyes and imagine you are on a deserted island in the bahamas". that sure was easy!

talk to ya'll soon, joe and heidi.

3-20-07, Guanajuato, Mexico

hola everyone,

i am probably going to start repeating myself:) we are so busy! salsa and chocolate was fun, and so is the walking (i´m glad i brought good shoes-barb:).

sad news for our familia . . . guadalupe´s brother passed away. she had to fly to aculpulco for the funeral on friday and she comes back today, hopefully. the house isn´t the same without her.

joe and i went to see some landmarks finally. a big statue (not in the pictures because i ran out of memory on the camera) called pipila, i think. it was at the top of the city. great view, we used the regular camera. we also saw the callijon de beso, the alley of the kiss. it´s so narrow the balconies almost touch.

we went to fabulous little church on sunday with toni. it was an extremely brisk 35 minute walk. then we went to toni´s house for the opening of her hostel. it was packed.

i have come to realize that this city is archicturally designed to direct water run-off in rain storms. from the edge of the bowl this city is built in to the other edge is practically all stone and cement angled downwards toward some mysterious exit. flash floods are the name of the game here. there is NOTHING to soak up the water. every tree is in a confined planter box surrounded by cement and stone.

well i must go study, our teachers ripped us apart today. i must learn conjugating verbs . . . yuck!!!

abrazos a besos, heidi and joe

3-17-07, Guanajuato, Mexico

hola me amigos,

wow!! this is an amazing experience. today we had a classmate breakdown crying from the stress of trying so hard. i´m glad i´m not young:) i don´t take things so seriously anymore.

we still seem to be going non-stop. i´m beginning to understand much more of what´s said to me. last night we got a group of people from our school and went to a hostel to eat. it was nice and cheap.

we walked down into the famous underground highway. it´s incredible! but there are no people walking because it´s so dangerous and smoggy. the thing that really amazed us was it was the first time we had been alone, really alone (defined as no one in sight). we were stunned by the realization of how many people there are here. probably 60-70% of the people are between 10 and 25. the schools all run in 2-3 shifts.

i have walked 500 miles in less than a week:) all of the streets and sidewalks are made of massive stones laid like brick and it makes san francisco seem flat. it is immaculate and the locals are very nice. there are dogs everywhere, they seem friendly. the birds are so loud in the parks, it is deafening.

we met a lady who sold everything and moved here to start a christian youth hostel near the school. she´s from sacramento! her place is so cool.

i have to go pretty soon . . . joe and i are going to a salsa class and then we are meeting a teacher later for chocolate. mmm que rico!

the director of this school loaned me his digital camera for the rest of our stay, so we will be sending you pictures as soon as i can figure it out.

the only down side to our stay is the smog. my allergies are out of control. oh well, gracious a Dios para sudafed and benedril.

well adios mi amigos, i must go dance with my handsome husband and eat chocolate!!! love heidi (and joe)

3-14-07, Guanajuato, Mexico

hola everyone!

we are having the time of our lives! we had more adventure in one day than we have in a month back home. our first impression was the leon airport, which is all marble--amazing!

the taxi driver took us to the address after miles of tunnel and pointed to 3 doors and shrugged and said "no se". he jumped back in his taxi and sped off. after an hour and half, we were finally led to the new address (straight up hill with four pieces of luggage). . . our host family had moved that weekend. we spent the rest of the day helping them move. walking back and forth with arms full of clothes and stuff! up hill both ways:) we still found time to go to church (yes mother we went to mass) and go to the town market, which was similar to a californian farmer's market.

there are cars here, lots and lots of cars. the streets are extremely narrow. about half of the streets don´t allow cars, which is nice because the sidewalks are only about 2-3 feet wide. the drivers are very courteous. i have never been anywhere so noisy in my life. the number of people here is enormous.

our family is extremely popular amongst the young people (18-22). the first day there was about 20-30 people coming and going--always eating. guadalupe and rogerio are always cooking. they cook for a living at the schools. as most of you know, i´m not a big carbohydrate eater. the dinner started with macaroni noodle broth soup, tortillas and white bread, with a jar of thick cream (like mayonnaise) to plop in the soup! i didn´t eat much:) but then she served fajitas and i was happy.

anyway school is good, a little hard but good. we spend most of our free time wandering the streets and looking at the amazing architecture and eating los familia calderones food.

sara, tell evilia that the lotion and the chocolate was great gift. the women smell different every day and they are always sniffing each other. the madre simply took the chocolate and that was that. she has not shared it with anyone as far as i can tell. tell reed that they have 2 huge black dogs and he would hate it:) they also have a cat.

the house is completely open, except the banos and bedrooms. there is a piece of plastic on stilts as a roof for the main house. it is 3 stories tall with little circular slick marble steps.

the people here have a great respect for therapists. they treat me like a doctor, but more tender.

i am leaving out so much, but so much has happened in my first
few days. i will write again soon. sorry there are no photos yet, i haven´t figured that out yet.

lot´s of love, heidi (and pepe too)