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)