The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Jen had a great gift for me this year for the holidays - she stole me away to Champaign, surprise me with a great dinner at the Big Grove Tavern, and then brought me to the movies to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Dinner was out of this world, if you are in the Champaign, IL area, you really should do yourself a favor and stop in. The Burger and fries tasted great, and I made it through the rest of the night and the entire movie (about 3 hours) and all the way back home without feeling hungry!

The Hobbit - it was awesome! As a long time Tolkien fan and Middle-Earth fanatic I was very happy to have the film live up to my expectations. The entire story was a thrill.

It was a great evening to spend with Jen, she knows the key to my heart (good food and Middle-Earth)!


Teaching Coding

For the first time, I will be teaching 2 sections of a class in the School of Business at Eastern Illinois University this spring. During my undergraduate and graduate years I had thought about continuing on to get my doctorate because teaching had always been a thought in my head.

I love collaborating.

I love getting excited about technology (mostly coding)

I love getting others excited

I love seeing a student or peer make progress and I know I was there to help them learn something that took me weeks of struggling.

Web development is such a growing industry that I am almost completely self-taught. Sure I learned my coding basics and database design basics in school - but 80% of what I know is self-taught. So I'm excited to hopefully give my students a helping hand and give the web development community some better web developers!

Its going to be a crazy semester because not only is it my first time teaching - but it's Jen's too! She is student teaching in a high school english classroom and is super excited to get started.

P.S. In the photo, I'm teaching our friend's kids some basic web coding

1 Year of Awesomeness

Hard to believe its already been a year since me and Jen were married. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have such a great partner in life and adventures.

Let's just talk about how awesome our wedding day was. So much of our family and friends came to support us - the day would not have been near as fun without everyone there to share our joy.

The wedding was great, but day-to-day life is my favorite. Why being married to Jen is awesome (a few reasons):

  • Waking up with the love of my life
  • tickle attacks (she is a rabid tickler)
  • being forced to tell stories
  • buying nerf guns and having wars in the house
  • She's really snuggly
  • I used to hate shopping - but somehow things get crazy when we shop together
  • I laugh more
  • Social activisim
  • Everyday activities somehow get a sense of adventure added to them
  • We help each other reach our own dreams
  • We reach dreams together too
  • I can make brownies better than her
  • She's super crafty
  • love letters (lots of them)!

Thats just a small list, she's pretty amazing (but you've probably gathered that if you read her blog). Lucky to be able to spend forever with this wonder woman! And I'm really looking forward to finding her in London  in 2 days and holding her for a long time!

Tomato-less handsome

July 4th, 2011

Ever since I "joined" the Hindes/Blough family (technically only a few weeks ago, but I feel like i've been a part since I met them about 2.5 years ago) - I've been coming to their Fourth of July weekend.  Its an awesome time, the entire extended family is there, and its a great weekend.

Masanets Wedding_0004
Our "Name Tags" for the wedding


This year, we started our weekend up in Wisconsin for Coach Masanet's Wedding.  He is my former distance coach from the EIU Track and Field and Cross Country team.  We had Rooster riding with us, and we didn't quite make it for the wedding, but the reception was fantastic.  Good to see old faces, and have a good time!

Then we decided to drive through-the-night (left Wisconsin at 11:00pm) and get to Indiana, for a few reasons: Rooster wanted to get back to Springfield, we wanted to avoid Chicago traffic during the day (July 4th traffic is nuts!), and mostly - we wanted to get our new puppy!

We dropped Rooster off at Union Station in Chicago at 5am, and he took the 8am train to Springfield.  And we made it to Indiana by 6:30am, and found our fluff-bucket new puppy!

No time to rest, we took care of Indiana (our new puppy) and enjoy the weekend festivities.

July 4th 2011_0646
Our new puppy - Indiana

We didn't make a boat this year for the Cardboard Boat Regatta - just too darn tired, but we got to watch everyone else!  Here was the winning crew:

July 4th 2011_0606
Winning Boat


And on Sunday we had the auction - which raised $1700 for the Cottage, and $1700 for the Mount St. Mary's Abbey.  Jen and I got some cool things - like a picnic basket and some Roosters!

July 4th 2011_0858
Then we drove back to Charleston, with our new baby puppy, and started moving into our new apartment - another adventure all-together!

40 Mile Relay

Last weekend, I had some friends come down, and we ran (its what my friends and I do for fun). We ran in Charleston's first 40 Mile Relay, and we won it - beating the next team by a whole hour!  There were only 7 teams, but everyone there was in great spirits, and everyone had a lot of fun.  As soon as we walked into the elementary school cafeteria that morning (that's where the race started), we were jokingly boo-ed by the other teams.  We were the only all male team, and we were certainly the youngest.

SteepleWeb Team Wins Charleston 4X40 Relay
Left to Right: Nic Atkinson, Nate Atkinson, Brad Runnion, Bryan Conger - Team SteepleWeb - winners of the first Charleston 40 Mile Relay

I'm not too in shape, but thank goodness the other guys are!  I was certainly our weak leg, but I still ran pretty well - so I was happy.  And I actually ran 11 miles when it was all said and done!

Before we start talking about the race though, I've got to share this great little "instruction manual" that was in the bathroom (keep in mind, we were at an elementary school).

How To Pee
How to Pee

Alright, on to the race.  It was cold, and rainy out - it is November after all, so its expected.  We ran southwest of town - some of my favorite areas to run at.  Started off on a Woody's - Bryan started us off, ran about 3 miles, then handed-off to me, and I ran about 3.5 miles, then handed off to Rooster - who ran about 3.3 miles, and then Brad, who ran about 3.3 miles.  This continued until we ran 40 miles!

The route was great, I liked the weather (although i'm sure some didn't), and I enjoyed the company.  I hadn't seen Brad for a while, and Brad is someone I talk to nearly every day with SteepleWeb work.  Bryan is a freshman at EIU, and he is really a great guy - he joined the team well, a great addition.

Next year we hope to have 2 teams and hope to break 4 hours (we ran 4:06).  Enjoy the selected pictures below (the full album is here on Flickr )

4x40 Relay_0073

4x40 Relay_0085

4x40 Relay_0286

4x40 Relay_0353

4x40 Relay_0443

4x40 Relay_0455

4x40 Relay_0518

4x40 Relay_0592

4x40 Relay_0734

4x40 Relay_0763

Working a Big-Boy Job - My Latest Adventure

I'm loving it - work that is.  I'd have to say I'm an extremely lucky man.  Not everyone gets to do what they love - and sometimes people just have trouble finding what they love to do.  I knew I loved working with computers, so maybe I could be a computer technician and help people with their computers.  Well, I do a lot of that now -but its not my job.  Jen says I should at least ask for people to bake me cookies for fixing their computer - but I still do it for nothing.

And throughout high school and college I did the whole desktop application development and programming with QBasic, C++, Visual Basic, Java, COBOL, etc.. and loved that.  I had some great teachers throughout the years who really taught me a lot - especially good ole Jim Egan - my high-school programming teacher and basketball coach.  Not a better man out there - or crazier.

Then I finally found some development for the web - I started coding PHP, and making basic websites.  Through the years, I spent the most time on that, and then I got a graduate assistantship  with one of the technology groups on-campus and did web development and database design for them for 2 years as a graduate student.  During those 2 years I had 2 internships - 1 summer at Caterpillar in Peoria, and another at State Farm in Bloomington.  I enjoyed both (especially the pay), but working at big companies like that just wasn't for me.  So I found what I like, and I found where I liked to do it - EIU.

EIU has been my home for 6 years now, and I've come to know so many great people (including my beautiful and wonderful fiancee) and be involved in so many great things.  So, getting a job here was a blessing - I couldn't ask for anything more.

RattleSnake Master_0194
My office - in the basement of Old McAfee Gym on the campus of Eastern Illinois University!

As you can see from the pic above - I have 2 awesome canvas's hanging on my wall - both pictures I took.  It was a recent groupon - 70% off canvas printing.  I've got quite a bit more work though to really decorate the office well - but its a start.

Friends - They Paved Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot

Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till its gone?
Graduation 201

I'm done living with teammates and fellow college students.  It's exciting to be moving on, and for me, I'm a bit of a neat freak - so I enjoy having a place more of my own that's kept clean.  Even Jen was ready to get out of 2nd street, and the craziness of my roommates.  But now - we've moved on - Jen is living with 2 of her girlfriends, and I have an apartment - but I'm mostly at Jen's.  We both already miss the constant hum of scum and stupidity of 2nd street.  We both already miss someone always being an idiot and an asshole.  We both miss always having something crazy going on.

We both miss my scummy, piece of shit, lazy, shithead roommates.

Today we went and did some bridge jumping with some old teammates - and it was a blast!  First off, the bridge is baller, and its about 30 feet from the water.  The jump doesn't take long, and it doesn't look bad - but when you are standing on the edge of the bridge, ready to jump, it looks like the water is miles down.  Beautiful day though, cool, but warm sunshine.

It was just nice to see some of the crew again.  I've always been poor at keeping in touch - but I really think I'm going to do a better job of keeping in touch - because now I'm beginning to truly miss my friends.  I guess I'm blessed to have gained so many great friendships over my years - especially the friends and teammates from EIU - certainly some special people.

An Evening with the Hindes Family (And Taking in a Ball Game at Wrigley)

adventures 170
Cruisin in the Silver Bullet up the quiet I-57

Jen's got a pretty cool brother, and he is getting ready to head to South America to backpack around the continent for a few months - pretty badass.  Anyway - before he makes his big trip (with his great girlfriend Sara (with an "h" ??)) they decided to take in Chicago a bit.  I took off of work a little early, and Jen and I made a b-line for Greektown for dinner - destination:  Santorini Greek Restuarant

adventures 171
Beautiful day for driving... and a ball game!

It was a very nice place, and I stepped out of my bounds and got some sort of Greek Meatballs that were pretty solid.  Overall though, nobody was that impressed with their meal.  After that, we got back to our cars (with a little help from our valet flying in REVERSE!!).  And headed to Wrigley.  Jen and I lucked out and got a parking spot across the street from Wrigley - we got there in the 2nd inning.  It was a hot night, mid 90's during the day, so we were sweating just sitting in Wrigley ... sitting only about 15 rows behind the 3rd base dugout!  I was determined to catch a foul ball at some point throughout the game to prove my manliness.  There are few things more manly than catching a foul ball bare-handed - except maybe catching the ball bare-handed with a bear in the other hand.

adventures 175

The game wasn't too great - the Cubs were getting slaughtered - they made a rally in the 8th inning - but they need a miracle to get back into it.  I hadn't been in a ballpark for a while - just a lot of fun to watch the people and the vendors especially.  The guys behind us were a racket too, so I enjoyed their commentary throughout the game.

adventures 177
What a badass bunch

After the game, we got back in the car and took on Lakeview drive, Chicago, and the world!  We made it back to Charleston about 1:40am, so it was a late one, and a long drive.  Lots of fun though, its always a blast hanging with the Hindes' (sounds like a TV show title).  I'm looking forward to hearing about TJ and Sara's trip to the "Bottom Side" of the world.


Weekend in Indianpolis

A few months back, Jen got an awesome cooking class offer in her Groupon inbox - so we signed up for "Date Night: Italy!"  We both weren't sure when we would be able to take the class - but Groupon gave us a year to complete the fabulous offer.  Summer rolled in and finally we picked a date - but Jen being the anti-pirate she is - decided we should spend the weekend in Indianapolis.  I was hesitant at first because I like staying home and being a pirate and getting work done.  But, our weekend turned out Great!

Kizz Z Cook

Kiss Z Cook 018
Look at how beautiful my hunny is!

This cooking class turned out to be amazing, and not quite what we thought it would be.  I thought the chef would be upfront teaching the group (which was about 10 couples) - but when we got there, each couple had to make part of the meal.  Jen and I got to make Tomato Bisque - and we rocked it.

Kiss Z Cook 005
The Group (minus Jen, taking the picture)

The class was great, and all the staff and the chef at Kiss Z Cook were great.  But even better was the group of couple there that we got to meet.  Everyone was a fun loving bunch - and the couple from England was hilarious.

Kiss Z Cook 010
Did I mention how lucky I am?

Rock Climbing @ Climb Time

After our stay at the Drury Inn - we headed over to Climb Time!  Jen had never climbed before, and I had done it once since my friends back home worked at a rock climbing place.  It was tons of fun, although killer on the upper arm/body strength.  We did this for about an hour, and were done.  They had lots of courses, and I had lots of fun try to go over ledges and at backwards angles.  Jen was a little nervous at first because she thought on the way down she had to hold my entire weight!  Luckily that's not hte case, or we would have been in trouble!

Looking "buff" in the climbing harness

Childrens Museum

Unknown before we went there, The Indianapolis Childrens Museum is the biggest in the world, and is awesome!  We spent almost 3 hours there looking at all the cool stuff they had.  The dinosaur exhibit was pretty baller, and my hunny decided to get into costume
Indianapolis Kids Museum 017

Indianapolis Kids Museum 020
Scary, I know
Indianapolis Kids Museum 023
Beverage of Choice (Although food courts don't have the best food, fyi)

And here is this baller clock that is run by water!  We got there just before 1pm, so we got to see the clock make a big change, emptying almost all the containers!
Indianapolis Kids Museum 030

A crazy sculpture made out of blown glass:
Indianapolis Kids Museum 033

Indianapolis Kids Museum 066
That's Us!
Indianapolis Kids Museum 079
"Keep Critters on your wrist!" - That is absurd!

Our adventure as spectacular spectacular!


Chihuahua – Day 5 (3/18/10)

We were going to eat breakfast with the kids, but after staying up so late, we didn’t go. We had breakfast here, and then about 8:30 Emilio drove us into town to the centro. On our way there, we saw Paco – he was delivering tacos. Just crazy though – in a huge town like Chihuahua – we ran into Paco. Anyway, Emilio dropped us off at the Cathedral, and first we went to the bank to get some pesos.

Mexico 10 - Doris 157

Mexico 10 - Colleen 133

Mexico 10 - Colleen 140

We loaded up and first I brought everyone down a street for shopping – but nobody was buying anything. So we stopped and asked everyone what they wanted – Doris wanted to go to the Museum “Casa Chihuahua”, so we did. It was 20 pesos per person and it was a very nice place. We spent a little over an hour there. Then we headed to the craft market, and spent an hour there. I really didn’t’ need to buy anything, so Jen and I bought 2 bowls, and she bought some large oversized silverware.

Then we went and grabbed some lunch at a small place just around the corner from the market. Oh, Jen also bought a backpack and we bought one for Doris too, she was very happy because she wanted it. Cameron bought a wrestlers mask, and most of the girls bought Mexican blankets.

Mexico 10 - Maura 229

The restaurant we ate at was small and the pipe that was supposed to go from the stove to outside was not connected, so all the smoke stayed inside. A little kid came inside selling things and he kept rubbing his eyes and wanted to leave because the smoke was so bad. The food was very good, but I of course was still hungry. Everyone enjoyed the food and the good juice they had.

Mexico 10 - Cameron 126

Mexico 10 - Maura 232

After lunch – which took a while – we headed out back to the cathedral and then to the food market. We bought oranges and mangos and cheese. After that we bought candy for the kids. Then we headed back to the Cathredal to meet up with Emilio. We got there and shopped around. Doris bought some leaves to make tea! Then Emilio was there and we loaded up and left.

Mexico 10 - Doris 164

Mexico 10 - Catherine 055

Mexico 10 - Cameron 142

Mexico 10 - Maura 312

Mexico 10 - Doris 198

Mexico 10 - Colleen 215

Chihuahua – Day 4 (3/17/10)

Breakfast in the room, and we started working with Maria Del Mar at 8am. At 10am, the would be starting. So we did some last minute cleaning – we swept the entrance plaza outside the dorms – all the way down to the new laundry room.

After cleaning and before the ceremony started, we talked with Paco, and we went and did farm chores. We could not find rabbit food, but other than that it was fine. After that, we went back to our room, and ate food for about an hour. We made gaucomole – like 3-4 bowls, and lots of food. Then Raul came, and he wanted us to get all the crap we cleared into 1-2 big piles so the kids could pick it all up tomorrow. So, the group did that while Cameron and I went with Raul to get the 140 trees. We got a few different kinds, and it was good. On the drive back we talked a bit, so that was fun – it was about a 40 minute drive to the other side of town to the tree place. When we got back, Jen was at the gate, trying to get out of the farm because her skin hurt so bad from sunburn. I felt so bad for my honey bunny. We unloaded the trees, and then Cameron and I went back with our group and continued to clear the yard. In a few minutes, Raul came back and told us we did a great job! He talked to us for a while and was so happy that the place looked so beautiful. So we finished up out there and got back to our place and had lunch at like 4pm – because we didn’t have lunch earlier. Everyone was really tired and sunburned. But we went out and played with the kids. Paco organized a large game of soccer, and that was a lot of fun! We played 10 vs. 10 on the big field. I actually played really well – I scored like 3 or 4 of our 6 goals. It was fun for me to just run fast and kick-butt – especially against kids who are so good with their feet! My team won, it was good.

Then we had dinner, 6 crackers and an oatmeal+milk mix that I did not like. I remember the same meal last year. Gerardo introduced me to his brother, and he gave me a kiss after dinner. Then we went back to the room and washed clothes. We washed them in the sink cause we could not get the clothes washer in our room to work. Half the group went to Chapel with the kids. At 9pm, we went out with Paco and Sergio and Sara for diner – although it was sad because Doris was sick and did not come along. Dinner was good, I got a quesadilla. After dinner, Paco, Sergio, and Sara took us on a small driving tour of Chihuahua – which was kind of cool – but we were all so tired – it was kind of frustrating because we did not get back until 12:30. We did stop at this cool park – like a water park – but not for playing in the water, but just walking around it. Then a cop kicked us out because it was too late.

Mexico 10 - Maura 183

Doris said she was sad because it is the first time she has ever gone to bed alone, and she had a super high fever.

Chihuahua – Day 3 (3/16/10)

Breakfast this morning at 7:15 with the kids. It was crazy – so loud in there and just crazy. The food was refried beans, and I thought it was pretty good, but nobody else really liked it. After breakfast, we waited until 8:15, and then found Maria Del Mar, and we got to work! La Ganja is having a large opening ceremony tomorrow of their new buildings, so they want the place to look very clean. So we swept and mopped and scrubbed things. After that we found Raul and started to work with him. But only Jen, Mel, Carmen and me went with him – the others helped clean the dorms. Yvonne is the woman in charge of the dorms, and she was very excited to finally have some help to clean the place up.

Mexico 10 - Cameron 065

With Raul, the work was not so fun – we “cleared the yard” for 2 hours – something we did last year for only about a half an hour. I got 2 nice blisters and a sore body from it. Mel was not happy that we took her away from cleaning for this, and we were wishing pain upon Catherine, who got to go to the zoo with the little kids. Jenny wanted to go, but we figured it would be better if Catherine did because she spoke more Spanish.

Mexico 10 - Jen 096

Then we took lunch and it was rice and meat, pretty basic, but it was good. Then we came back to our room for a few minutes and got some snacks and then we got to work. All of us went with Raul and hoed all afternoon. About an hour into it, Raul had me go paint with Carlos. We painted the long wall on the far side of el estadio. Mostly just re-painting over the bad spots. That took all afternoon, but it was good. I got the paint/calcium all over me, and it left some marks and sticky spots on my skin – might be a reaction with the sunscreen – or maybe the bits of cactus juice that is added to the paint. Anyway, Carlos and I cleaned up, and just then the group came in from the farm, and we went back to our room and took showers, and then had a nice little creak before having our first hot shower since we have been here – so that was great! We still had an hour until dinner, so we went and played with the kids, and even though we were all really tired, it turned into piggyback rides and running – but it’s all so fun with the kids.

Dinner was potato soup, the girls I sat with did not eat it, but I thought it was good. They kept wanting me to sing Lady GaGa and other songs. But before dinner, pace said they could bring nothing into the cafeteria because it was clean and had to remain clean for tomorrow – so what did the kids do – stuff their pockets with whatever they could. So Doris started frisking the kids before they went in – and it was hilarious. After I was already inside I witnessed a kid walk through the doors after being frisked, and then spit something out from under is tongue! After dinner, we rested breidly, then I talked to Paco and found a place to eat, about 25 minute walk, but the food was very good. Jen and I had hamburgers, and fries. All the food was really good!!

Mexico 10 - Colleen 054

Mexico 10 - Colleen 056

Mexico 10 - Colleen 057

Mexico 10 - Doris 120

So we ate for a while and took some pictures, and Jen went to go pay and said she would like to buy some onions to make gaucomole, and they just gave us 2 onions.

We started walking home, we decided not to take the bus, but after about 2 minutes of walking, this car pulled up – and it was Paco! He had a small little car, 4-5 person – but somehow we got all 10 of us, plus Paco, in the car. After we all got in, we couldn’t close the door because it was stuck on the curb because how much lower the car was sitting after we all got it. We got home, had reflection, and got to bed.

Chihuahua – Day 2 (3/15/10)

Monday things got a little crazier, because all the rest of the kids showed up, but it was good to see old faces – but we also saw a lot of new faces – and we didn’t see some of the faces we remembered from last year.

We had breakfast in the room and finished off the Zucritas. Then we just went and played with the kids – since its San Benedito Juarez Day, there is no school. At about 10am, the kids went to watch the tele and they watched “Treasure Planet.” We watched about half, and then we walked to the “alsuper” – supermarket. It was not the same one Luiz took us to last year, but it had an ATM and it worked! We bought some good food, and juice, and got some pesos. We started walking back, and just after we left the store, we caught a bus – so that was perfect so we didn’t’ have to walk the 25 minutes with all our groceries.

Got back to our room and snacked a bit on all the good food we bought. We finished off all the pico we bought, and nearly a bag of chips. Then we went and had lunch with the kids, pasta and pizza. It was a big lunch but good. After that, it was playtime. I took Romero to the bathroom a few more times, even had to take #2, so that was a bit of an experience. Paco came and we started to play games. First was a game of handball?? – Kind of like ultimate Frisbee, but with a ball. It was good. Then we played volleyball for a long time. Then we just ran around with the kids. They all started showing up – coming back from their holiday weekend. We saw Diva and Ariel, 2 kids we definitely remembered from last year.

Mexico 10 - Cameron 052

Mexico 10 - Cameron 054

Then we had dinner, it was optional for the kids, so not everyone ate – it was cereal, like puffed wheat – it was pretty good, although it was soggy instantly. Then after that we came back to the room and ate some more, and then talked for a bit and then had reflection. It was about sharing what you had and sharing gifts. I read the parable of the talents for the group. We had solid discussion, it was good. The group is definitely coming together better, everyone laughing more. Took another cold shower then went to bed!

Chihuahua - Day 1 (3/14/10)

The trip was better this year – less of an adventure though. Last year was the first time ASB came here to Chihuahua, so this time we knew all the ropes, and we have Doris along – so she is much better with Spanish than Margie was last year, and a little faster on the draw.

Mexico 10 - Colleen 003

Day 1 we woke up early (at least I did, Cameron’s alarm went off 5 inches from his head, and it didn’t wake him up, but certainly woke me up, it was loud!). We had Zucritas, and then we went to church at 10:15. We got there about 10, and Doris wanted to sit in-front, so we did. The church is very beautiful, and the mass was good. When we were there, Hermana Ana came and said hi to us – it was great to see her again. We also saw some of the kids from the orphanage – Roberto (Mario’s brother), Lalo, Daniella. Romero broke his leg this morning – or maybe it was just a fracture. Romero is still super cute. Lalo is still the man, one of my favorites – because is always seems happy. After igelsia, Hermana Ana (la jeffe) gave us the presentation on the orphanage. After that we played with the kids until 1:45, then lunch (finally! I was looking forward to getting some real Mexican food again!).

Playing with the kids is easier this year, my Spanish isn’t really better – but I guess I’m just more willing out put myself out there and make the kids laugh. Lunch was good, I sat with Benito, Romero, Lalo, so sat with the ‘cool’ guys. Lalo is such a tank; he gets food and things for Romero who can’t walk, it nice to see the kids take care of each other like that.

Mexico 10 - Maura 051

After lunch, Paco came and we hugged and then we got on a bus and headed to a park downtown to play with the kids –something we didn’t do last year. Like last year on our first day, it is Benito Juarez Day, which means not all the kids are here – only about 15-20. So we got to the park and started playing games: futbol, twister, volleyball, and ran through the skate park.

Mexico 10 - Colleen 036

Mexico 10 - Colleen 043

Mexico 10 - Colleen 045

Romero had to got the bathroom at one point, so I had to carry him to the bathroom, but we got there and the toilets were gone! So I had to improvise, I brought him to the edge of the park to pee, and tried standing him up on his one good leg – but he couldn’t do it. So I ended up just holding him in the air while he peed – Romero got a good laugh from it. Then we ran back and played some more.

On our way back to La Granja we stopped at another park with huge statues of doves, and played there a bit. The kids ran into the street at one point, and it was not good. Finally Paco got them rounded-up. Then we headed back and had some dinner. It was noodles & hot dogs, and leftover lunch (Rice & Chicken). Then we turned in for the night. We were hoping to go to the supermarket, but we did not have permission to take the van. So we had reflection, which went pretty good. Our group isn’t too talkative, but it’s only the first day. Took a cold shower – for some reason we don’t’ have hot water. Then I passed out and slept great in the nice warm beds of La Granja.

Ireland - Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

We got off our plane, and it was a little chilly outside, but nothing too nasty.  Picked up our luggage, and I changed some dollars for euros, too bad the exchange rate is downright shitty, I got about $140 euros for my $200 dollars.  Got our bag, we had 1 checked between eh 2 of us, and then headed to Hertz to pick-up the rental car.  Everything had gone great up until this point, and this is where I found out the Hertz does not let you rent a car until you are 25 years old.  So we had to get a car from a different rental car company – which sucked because we already paid for the Hertz car when we booked the trip.  So this was our first, and really only problem in the trip, except for a few issues on our way out of the country.

So we dropped a few hundred more euros and got a car from Budget rental.  We went with an automatic – I can drive a stick, but I haven’t had that much practice.  I did practice with Dave’s car back in Charleston, but Jen just felt a lot better with me driving an automatic – and so did I.  Wed went out and found our car in the snow covered parking lot – that had the car numbers written on the pavement, under the snow.  We finally found the car, and I tried to open what I thought was my door, but it was frozen shut.  Jen got in her side and help kick my door open.  When it opened, something didn’t look right, and Jen laughed – the steering wheel was on the right side of the car.  So we switched sides, and started to defrost the frozen car, a car without a scraper or brush, and soon to find, without washer fluid.

We took out the Garmin and plotted a course for Kilkenny.  The roads were a little tough, but everyone was driving really slowly, but we just figured everyone was being cautious.  We got rolling out of Dublin; we got the fudge out of Dodge, so to speak.  We got out of Dublin and the roads got better and I could cruise 100-120 kph.  We changed our destination for the Rock of Cashel – a castle just north of Killkenny.  We rolled through Castlecomer, a small town that Tim and Mary Kay (Jen’s parents) said they had stayed at, and we saw the Avalon house just off the main drag, and that’s where they said they stayed.  We didn’t stop though, but continued on our way, with Jen continually reminding me “Stay Left,” and having to stop occasionally to clean out windshield with the water from our otter bottles, because the car had no washer fluid – which we needed because of the snow.

Ireland 009

Ireland 008

We got to the rock, and found some parking just down the road, and then walked up to the castle.  It was a nice morning with frost on the grass.  There were only a few other people at the rock, a nice quiet we enjoyed everywhere we went – a perk of touring in the off-season.  The castle was cool, and they had some cool old artifacts, so we browsed around there for nearly an hour, and then we made our way back to the car, and then tried to find the Dunmore caves, but sadly the Garmin led us astray, and we ended up driving down some really small roads (only a car width wide instead of 1.5 car widths), and we ended up at someone’s driveway.  So we forgot the caves, and made our way to Kilkenny and find a place to stay for the night.

Ireland 024

Ireland 035
Lots of these kinds of pictures since there weren't many other people around (too cold)!

We used our trust Ireland Travel Book by Lonely Planet, and found the Tourist Hostel, and Jen and I got a double room for $42 euro.  We got there, and had our first experience finding parking – so we found the parking ‘disc’ that we had to pay for and display in our car, and then walked around Kilkenny and tried to find some dinner.  We walked down the main street and stopped into a few shops.  A very nice town, lots of families walking around and kids.  We decided on Pam’s deli, I had a nice sandwich, and my beautiful girlfriend just had a hot chocolate – at this point she had not eaten since our sandwiches in Atlanta.

Ireland - Friday, January 1st, 2010

Delta Air Lines 1945 Class U

leaving on Friday, 1/1/2010 at 1205

from Chicago O` Hare to Atlanta-GA

arriving on Friday, 1/1/2010 at 1545

Delta Air Lines 176 Class U

leaving on Friday, 1/1/2010 at 2025

from Atlanta-GA to Dublin

arriving on Saturday, 1/2/2010 at 0910

We left Jen’s house about 4pm, and headed for her Aunt Maureen’s condo in Des Plaines, only about 10 minutes from O’Hare.  We got there just fine, used the Garmin GPS that Jen’s parents gave us for the trip to Ireland – we bought the European maps a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving. The silver bullet was loaded up with all our gear for Ireland, and lots of stuff that needed to get back to Charleston – by the time we got back to Charleston, it had been over 3 weeks since Jen had been there – far too long for her.  I had only been gone for less than 2 weeks and I already missed it.

We brought our gear up to Maureen’s and met her and her boyfriend Wally, and then Jen and I scooted over to Panera, just down the street and I got a great Panini, and she had a great soup.  Headed back to Maureen’s and watched some TV with her and Wally, and Jen and I had our Macbooks out and we were surfin the net, and doing some last minute couch-surfing – so far we had nobody to couch-surf with, so we were really tryin!

We got some sleep – our last night on regular time.  Jen and I got up and went to Panera to buy breakfast – we got the 18 bagel pack – and we got a huge variety.  They were really good, and we had a bunch to eat in the airport too!  I had 5 for breakfast, each one a different flavor.  We made sandwiches, Jen did a great job of planning the trip, and she brought bread and lunch meat, and we made 2 sandwiches each so we didn’t have to buy crappy, expensive airport food.  I parked the silver bullet out in the back parking lot, still loaded with a good amount of stuff for Charleston, and Maureen drove us to the airport.  We got there, got checked in, and got through security all in about 15 minutes!

Got to our gate, and just chilled until we could board.  We got on the planes, and got settled in, and saw the plane was equipped with wifi, so we looked, and someone on an earlier flight and written down a code to get free access, so we did some really last minute couch-surfing on our flight to Atlanta.  We had it all worked out that Jen and I had seats next to each other on every flight – I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Flight was fine, and we got into Atlanta a little early actually!
Ireland 003

We didn’t’ have to wait around in Atlanta too long, just a little less than 2 hours, and we had our sandwiches there.  We got onboard to start our nearly 9 hour flight, so we would pretty much skip the night, and get to Dublin at 8am, jumping ahead 6 time zones – and we already jumped 1 time zone by getting to Atlanta.  Jen and I sat next to eachother, and we had the window seat, the plane was arranged [AB – CDE – FG].  The flight was decent, it almost seems like they fed us constantly.  Started off with dinner, then drinks, and then movies, and then they gave us breakfast too.  Jen did not really eat at all on the plane – understandable since plane food isn’t that good – but it didn’t stop me from eating my meals and hers!

We got into Dublin, and they had just had some snow – little did we know this would be the start to some problems.

Day 8 – (3/21/09)

Really no break in the days, just a continuation from yesterday. The bus got going on-time from Chihuahua. I think almost everyone was sleeping right away, except Hannah and I talked for a while about lots of stuff, but I was going through my mp3 player and it seems as though we like lots of the same music – and I was thoroughly impressed that she knew The Boss wrote Blinded by The Light. We talked for a while then we started sleeping on and off for the next 4 hours. We stopped it seemed about every half hour for food or to be searched buy Federal Police, and they had some big guns. So we got woken up often, which blew, so never really got any good sleep. Stopped at the same restaurant in the middle of nowhere that Hannah bought chocolate wafers and we talked with Saul at on the way up. It was a cool night yet again, and it brought back good memories – seemed so long ago that we made our journey down and it seemed like so much had happened.

Mexico - Nate 213
Mexico - Nate 212

El Paso

We finally made it to the border and there was a long backup to get into the U.S.A. We waited in the bus for about 45 minutes to get to the front, and then we unloaded everything and went through customs. Everything went through just fine and they only scanned my passport, no stamp! Took like 15 minutes for them to finish searching our bus, then we reloaded the bus for our 5 minute ride to the El Paso terminal. Sylvia was there waiting for us, it was very nice to see here again. We loaded up her van with our bags, and she had Kerry’s cell phone that she had lost a week previous in Sylvia’s van.

Sylvia brought us to a restaurant to get some food, we were all starving and tired and beat and emotionally drained. We went to a Mexican restaurant of all places – like we haven’t had enough Mexican food yet. I ordered sausage & eggs and a cheeseburger. They came with fries and refried beans and hash browns, and I ate it all, so I dominated. We bought Sylvia her lunch that was Margie’s idea. P.S., I’ve been traveling all day with my nice Cowboy hat, so I feel pretty badass. Sylvia brought us to El Paso airport, and we had some stereotypical airline moron check us in, he finally got it all done, and we moved through the 16 gate airport in a matter of minutes. We had about 2 hours to spend in our gate – Margie immediately scoped out a spot on the floor to sleep, we got a great picture of it – she looked hilarious! We had a really good time just sitting around and laughing. We continued a conversation about me being “On the market,” and got personal with that. It’s amazing how comfortable everyone is with each other in this group.

Mexico - Nate 227

We boarded our plane, and we were all sitting right with each other, except Margie was in the back. I fell asleep right during takeoff along with nearly everyone else – we passed out! I was in the middle of writing in my journal, and I just went comatose. Got to Dallas and took a little train to our next gate, and immediately grabbed some Subway – first American meal in a week. We still had an hour to wait, so we met some EIU alumni there, so we talked to them for a bit. I took a walk and had to clean some sauce off my pants, so after that I did some classic Dumb & Dumber “Send out the vibe” moves and the girls thought that was pretty funny. Hannah was deep into her Twilight book, she had been since El Paso. We boarded up, and we were all scattered in our flight to Chicago. We all felt rejuvenated from our nap and food, although Jen and I had been talking about eating bagels when we got back to the states, since we couldn’t’ find any in Mexico –but sadly we found none in Dallas, although we did not look too hard.

I talked to Rooster today on the plane for about 5 seconds; he was running the track meet, the high school girls. Also talked to mom & dad, and I only talked a little bit about the trip, but I almost started crying just thinking about it. I look back on it and the kids were a little slow to accept us, but even the first day at the river, we bonded – but I would have never guessed it would have been so hard to say goodbye. Carmen and I were talking too, that on Friday we all had a weird feeling in our stomachs. It’s crazy how the mind & body works, and even though we didn’t think about it, our body & mind knew it was our last day, and it was so hard.

Back to EIU

We finally made it to Chicago, and it was nice to be back. We started walking towards baggage claim and we saw Doris! She was there to bring us back to Charleston, her and Brian. We waited about 15 minutes for our luggage to come through. In the meantime Carmen and Margie left with their families – Margie on the way to the Carolina’s for family, and Carmen home with her family. We found Hannah’s bag, and then the body bag. I almost grabbed a black bag instead of our maroon one, so everyone got a good laugh about my color blindness. Sun block had exploded in the body bag, but not too bad. We loaded into the Newman van through the front door since the sliding door is in bad shape. Me, Jen, and Hannah on one bench, and Victoria and Kerry on the bench behind us. We were pretty low on gas, and barely got to a station in time. Also, Doris had never used an I-Pass, so who knows how many we successfully went through. We got gas then went to a McDonald’s across the street, but they closed the lobby an hour early, it was only 10:00. So we did drive through, and Jen & I got large chocolate shakes, and there were huge and good. Hannah wanted to sleep, so she used my shoulder. She passed out and got about an hour of sleep, although I had to keep pushing her head back up on my shoulder. We finally made it back to Newman, then we all hugged each other goodbye – they all went to Kerry’s house, and I walked through the south quad back to the shithole alone, in the quiet night of a dead campus. Just as I got into the quad, I realized I left my cowboy hat in the van – guess I’ll have to get that later.

Thus ends our odyssey – a trip filled with evidence that the hand of God guided us the whole way. The clearest evidence being the people God put on our journey. People to help & guide, and be examples of true love & compassion. This trip has given me a new motivation, a new spark for giving myself away because of the example of people like Paco, Raul, John, Mary, Janiene, Luis, the sisters, my group members, and mostly the kids. The way we opened ourselves to each other was so refreshing, and for them to love us the way they did makes me want to go and see them again and show them I really do care.

Day 7 – (3/20/09)

Got up, brushed the teeth and shaved. Had a granola bar and got ready to go to the market. All the girls were dressed up and looking beautiful and I was just wearing my Newman t-shirt and jeans – so I was looking dressed down, but it’s all good. We took the city bus, and the driving is insane here in Mexico, and the bus drivers are no different. First we bought our bus tickets for our trip back home to El Paso, and then we hopped on the city bus for 4.50 pesos. The driver was insane, driving fast as heck on corners, stopping a dime. We had to stand since there were really no seats left when we got on the bus, so we grabbed the handrails on the ceiling held on! I had to use both hands. Kerry is short enough where she could still grab the handrails, but when the bus stopped quickly her feet went flying up and she just held on by the handrails. Jen held on to seats instead, and when she did that, she held onto a seat where some random guy was sitting, because that’s where there was room and she could still stand by us. Well, this put her in the position where her chest was close to the guys face, and she commented “This guys is about to get a closer look at what he was just looking at.”

Mexico - Nate 131

Town Centro

We got to the stop, and took a short walk to the Cathedral and it was very beautiful. We only made a short stop in the Cathedral, and then we walked down to a trinket shop and spent an hour there buying gifts and such. I bought a light blue Cross for mom & dad, and a flute for Rooster, and a Rosary for school, and a nice little hand bracelet with religious pictures & people. Then we moved on to more shopping (big surprise with a group of women). We went on our own without Janiene & Luis, and decided to meet back up at 1:30 at the Cathedral. We did breakfast together first though, we all had Chillequilles, what was like old tortillas with a hot red sauce and cheese, and it came with eggs and refried beans.


So shopping on our own was good, we had Margie with us to save us when we ran into trouble. It was mostly girls clothes shopping, so I just walked and around and looked badass (or tried to as much as I could with a group of 6 girls). One guy followed us a bit, our group attracted lots of attention – a group of young attractive ladies, and one of them being a black person (nearly non-existent down here). So we had people whistling and shouting at us – and the staring was non-stop. It got damn annoying the way all the guys just stared at our girls! The guy followed us a little bit, and when our group stopped by phone, he went and picked up the phone to make it look like he was calling someone, but just stared at Hannah’s butt – kind of creepy. I tried to point this guy out later to one of the girls, and I said he was in a white shirt, but I found out later apparently it was blue. Update, I’m colorblind.



The girls bought some nice shirts and Hannah got a nice dress, and I bought a sweet white cowboy hat. I’ve very pleased with it, although maybe I should have gotten a size larger. Then we headed back and met up with Janiene and Luis, but before that we went back to the first trinket shop and bought more stuff, namely Jen buying Mexican blankets. I ended up buying a sweet poncho, really badass, so I’m glad we went back there. I was proud of my Espanol tambien, did I good job of buying it. Then we met up with Janiene and Luis and got some lunch. I ordered quesadillas and a Sprite, and in the meantime ate some chips and Salsa. I put some on a chip and about died! My lips burned for nearly a half hour, I had to order another sprite from the cute little girl working there.


Mexico - Nate 137

Saying Goodbye

Mexico - Nate 152

Then we headed on back home, and the bus home was not nearly as crazy, so that was nice after our long day. We got back about 3, then took a quick nap, or at least some of the girls did, then we headed out to play with the kids at 4. We got out there, and we saw 3 kids, but I guess the rest were watching TV, so they came out after a while. They don’t get to watch TV often, so it was big for them. We were all so tired, but we worked up the strength to do work. We kicked a soccer ball around – all the kids use their feet, which is darn tough for me. Then we played some soccer, for probably nearly an hour, just 5 of us, while Paco and the girls did dancing with the kids. Then we all joined in on the dancing for a bit, Hannah led us all in the chicken dance, and I think the kids really enjoyed that. Then someone had the crazy idea to do the Macarena, and the kids loved it! They had me do it at least 5 times.

Mexico - Nate 183

Mexico - Nate 185

Mexico - Nate 194

Mexico - Nate 189

But before that, Jen was dancing with one of the girls, and then the little girl wanted me and Jen to dance together. So me and Jen danced it was bad news bears, we are the two worst dancers ever. So then I did cabellito and Macarena with the kids, and apparently at that time the group said goodbye to Paco, and I missed it!!

It started by Jen saying that she was going to miss Paco. Then Paco said he originally thought there would be 30 of us, and he thought he could not handle us all, but he was happy to find out it was only 7 of us. But after spending a week with us, he wished there was 30 of us. When I saw the girls next, they were crying, especially Jennifer – damn she can cry.You piece of shit. You owe me for that. I had not cried all week. I went in the lunchroom, and said adios to all the kids who were still there (most of the kids went home for the weekend). I was doing fine through then. Then I went outside to Paco, and said goodbye to him, then I started crying talking to him, but only a little. He said he would not forget me, and that we did a great job this whole week. He hugged me, and we started walking back to our room, and that’s when it started. All the kids ran to the windows of the cafeteria & kitchen, and yelled goodbye to us out the windows. Even the older kids ran over to the windows. All the kids were running after us, and yelling and waving goodbye. It was so sad and beautiful at the same time, and we were all weeping uncontrollably. Then Janiene & Luis came, and we all met at the house and Janiene was surprised at first that we were crying, surprised that we got so close to the kids – but after thinking about it, she did realize that we did so good this week – and we really gave ourselves to the kids. We talked and cried outside for a while, and we laughed at me having slobber hanging from my chin.

Then we headed inside and Janiene started making us sandwiches, really good ones, we also cut up a watermelon – Jen & Hannah bought it and Jen and I cut it up – and it was so good to have fresh watermelon! The meal was excellent, but we were all so tired and emotionally drained from the day and saying goodbye to the kids. Then Ana Ramirez came to say goodbye to us, and we talked for 15 minutes. She asked us how our stay was, and what we liked and what we would change. We made a good list, most of it good things – I felt like nothing should be changed – the whole trip was so beautiful and changing. Then Ana Ramirez shared a story of two children that were taken off the Granja Hogar de los ninos by their father who is cleaning up from alcoholism. He had his boy steal 600 pesos from the boy’s grandma. The boy confessed when asked, and since then the kids have not been seen at La Granja Hogar. So upon the suggestion of Margie we prayed for the kids and their family. Margie prayed first, then we had minutes of silence, then Sister Ana closed it, and many of us were again brought to tears. It was so sweet the love shown for these kids, the effort Ana Ramirez puts in for the kids. Then we had our reflection – about compassion again. I brought up what I thought of last night about Quasi and leading. Then we got into the reflection. We talked about times we felt compassion and what gave us strength to show compassion and the joy of compassion. The “joy of compassion” fit perfectly given we were all just weeping for our love that had grown for the kids. The reflection turned out to be mostly a reflection of our group and how good our group was and how everyone worked together well and how everyone in the group gave themselves away and did not complain. Then we brought up the point that this group was hand-picked, and told Mary that I’m sure it was not in their plans to have their bikes break down, but it was God’s plan that they spend the week with us. It was so amazing to meet people like them and spend time with them. I felt so blessed to have my life so touched by God this week, I don’t know if I will ever be the same – I cry now even as I write these words.


Mexico - Nate 206

After reflection, Victoria, Margie and Mary & john went to bed, and the 5 of us stayed in the main room – Kerry, Hannah, Jen, Carmen, and I. Hannah & Kerry started looking at schoolwork – back to the real life. Jen continued to work on her book, I continued to document in this journal, and Carmen was doing nothing productive – as usual. Hannah fell asleep right at the table after a while, then woke up with the biggest belch I have ever heard – she was darn proud, and she should have been! That thing went on for about 4-6 seconds, and varied in pitch and rate. Then she went to bed, and I continued to write. I finally got my journal caught up, so I showered up and packed my bags, which took all of 5 minutes, I barely brought anything. We packed up the van at 1:20am, and Janiene gave me a box of snacks that I really did not want to carry, but I did anyways – it was funny. Luis told me to pitch it the first chance I got. John & Mary woke up to say goodbye – not like they had much of an option, there was no way they could stay asleep. We hugged then Janiene & Luis brought us to the bus terminal. I got the body bag checked, and spoke good Spanish to the man checking – Janiene threw me a compliment, so I felt like a big shot. We loaded up the bus, gave Janiene & Luis a hug goodbye.

Then we started our Odyssey back to EIU!

Day 6 – (3/19/09)

Raul came to the house, and got us so we could do work on the farm. Raul was there this morning to direct us and be with us. Janiene told us he felt bad that he had not spent any time with us this week, but he really appreciated that when he came into work, all the work was done. Luis used to do it, but he got assigned to other work that needed to be done.

Last Day on the Farm – Painting

So we went down to the farm, and we started with the rabbits. Raul had heads of lettuce to feed them today, so that was a nice change of pace, you could tell the rabbits liked that better than the usual pellet feed. As we were working, Raul would teach us words in Spanish and in Tarumari. Like many of the people here, this man has so much love in his heart, you can just see it in the way he carries himself. Mary told us that Raul is the one that really made her feel at home here when she and John were here for a year. Mary told Raul that she would not cry when she left – and Raul said he knew better, he said “I’ve seen you with the kids Mary, I’ve seen your love, and I love you Mary.” Right there Mary started crying and Raul embraced her with his big arms.

After the rabbits we went on to the hens and did the normal stuff, but Raul also showed us eggs hatching, so we got to watch little hens come out of the egg. It was exciting because there were like 6 eggs hatching at once. The newborns were very cute, and Raul knew we would love to see them.

Then we moved on to the chickens, and we did the normal routine there, but after we cleaned we then laid down fresh sawdust over the whole floor. The place looked clean already from the calcium we painted yesterday, but after we got the sawdust down, it looked great and smelled 100 times better. Hannah and I were digging the hen coups – where they laid their eggs – we cleaned it all out and they put fresh sawdust in. Cleaning it out involved scraping caked-on poop off and it smelled horrible – Hannah gagged a few times, and so did I.



The funniest part of that was when I took a chicken that had gotten loose and threw him over the chicken wire back into his cage. Raul said “No te gustas”, and I looked around and all the chickens had gone silent. Just funny how all of them were scared from seeing another chicken go flying over the wire.

We moved on to the ducks, and cleaned that out and in the meantime Raul went to get more calcium ready for painting. We got the ducks done, and then laid new sawdust down. Then began the painting – but before we began we told Raul we needed better brushes, or else it would take forever. So Margie gave him some money and he bought some real nice brushes, much better than yesterday, and some were nice and long. But just as we started painting, the sisters needed some help moving blankets into storage at the bazaar. So me, Hannah, and Victoria went over to help. It was lots of blankets, heavy too, but we got it all done. We got back to the painting and the girls were really far on the painting already. They finished the duck building, and already had a good start on the main barn. I got to work on the compuesta – compost area. There was a big wall to paint, and I went solo on that while the girls continued on the barn. By the time I finished, the girls had gotten the whole front done, but not with out a little conflict.

But we nearly got the barn done, and Raul said that we could stop at 1:00, and the kids would finish it tomorrow. This is what everyone wanted because nobody wanted to work tomorrow since we want to see the city.

Raul then offered to take us to a part of the Sierra Madres that was extremely beautiful, he wanted to repay us for our help. Most people seemed excited for that, but I could tell a few people were less than thrilled. But probably rightfully so, maybe trying to cram too much into a day. But we got back to our house about 1:15, and lunch was at 1:30, Kerry had already showered because she started getting a rash, so she left a few minutes before us. So I showered, but nobody else had time.

So we went to lunch, I sat with a different crew today, and I still feel bad because I can’t talk much Spanish, so pretty much eat in silence. But the meal was good, cut-up hot dogs and little noodles, although it didn’t sound like anyone else liked it. But we also volunteered to clean up the kitchen after lunch, so that took a half hour at least. We did the same routine the kids do every day – swept the floor, then mopped, and in the meantime some of the girls started on washing dishes. Some of the kids started helping us too, which was very nice of them. After we finished cleaning, we had to set it all back up again for dinner. Great thing about our group is how autonomous we all are, everyone just jumped right in and did work, and nobody needed to be told what to do, we all just found work.

We got that all done, and went back and most people took naps. We started planning our “tournament day” as well. Today we did a bunch of activities with the kids, although the older ones were not there.

Tournament Day


We got out there about 4, and we told Margie what we wanted, then she told Paco. Paco is the man, and the kids listen to him. First thing we did was 200 meter dash, we had 4 races – Boys – Girls, 9 and under, and 10 and over. The races went pretty well; we timed them all so we can make them a record board with the stadium records. Then I said whoever wants to do 2 laps, I will race and lots of kids came out, but I think only about 4 of us ended up finished the race.

La Granja Hogar Estadio Mejores


Then we did banana relays, which took a little while to explain – but we got it all explained and we had two races, each with four teams. We did an example first to show them, and that helped. The whole relay was 4 legs, just running down the home stretch of the track, then passing it off. The race went excellent, and it ended with one of the kids stuffing the whole banana in his mouth all at once – it was hilarious, the look on his face, like he wanted to puke.

After that, we did a game of plato plato gonzo – duck duck goose. The kids really liked that one, and we played for probably a half hour. Then after that we just went loose, and did whatever. We brought out the jump ropes, and that was a good time. I went through a few times, then I went through the jump ropes with kids on my back, and that was pretty intense, but they really liked it – nearly all the kids wanted to do it.



Then I was “cabellito” for the next 30 minutes until dinner time. Dinner was pretty basic, not much food. I sat with a different crew – Domingo and his little brother. They were very nice, giving me food first and asking if I wanted more. Then we handed out candy to all the kids on the way out of dinner, and they were happy, many of them trying to sneak back in a get a few pieces.







Then we went back to our house and decided to go to the hamburger stand we went to a few days earlier. We hung around for a bit, and Janiene talked to Maryimar, and we found out we had to choose between a trip with Raul and a trip to the city Centro. Maryimar wanted us to spend more time with the children since they loved us so much. So we choose to do the Centro in the morning, and then play with the kids in the afternoon. Everyone wanted to go into town too, we didn’t want to miss out and going out into the heart of Chihuahua.


More Food & Reflection

Then we walked over to the hamburger stand, and most of us got hamburger and potatoes, I got the same as before, doble con queso y papas especial. The guy working there remembered us, and his wife was very nice, and she said ‘God bless you all” – she was very kind to us. We then walked on home and ate it all up – nom nom nom!


Went into the reflection for the night, which was on compassion – a subject I was looking forward to, but it turned out hard to discuss. The reflection started with a verse from Romans that essentially defined compassion. Jennifer shared a story about her grandma being really compassionate and Jennifer felt like she had big shoes to fill – and I guess I feel the same. Grandma Margaret has been such an influence and such a good example for all of us grandchildren. She has spoiled us, and shown great respect for other people who may be different or do things differently.

My interpretation was just to “give yourself away,” and what gives me strength to be compassionate is seeing the indifference in the world, seeing people not care. I closed in prayer again, and we went to bed.


Day 5 – (3/18/09)

An Early Start – Poop Crew & Painting

Got up at 6:30, showered up and got ready to get breakfast. I went and picked up a box of breakfast from the cafeteria and brought it back to the house for all the girls and I to eat. It was decent, but not great. We only hung around the house till 8:30, then we got to work – everyone was ready to go this morning with lots of energy. So we went down to the farm and got to the rabbits. Jennifer and I were on poop-crew, same as yesterday. Then we moved on to the Cornish hens, and somehow about 10 of them were loose again, so I picked those bastards up and put them away. Then Jennifer and I were on poop-crew again, and we emptied all the poop trays for the hens, and it was a big job and really nasty, I almost barfed a few times. Green watery poop – I’m gagging just writing about it.




Then we cleaned the chicken pen, and that was a job like usual. Then onto the ducks, and we actually filled the duck pond and got the ducks to go in, and we got some pictures with them. Then we took a small break, and then started painting the chicken house. We painted the inside walls with calcium to kill any germs or bacteria. It took us about an hour, but it was good work. Had to take a shower after painting, we had calcium all over us, and my skin was extremely dry, I felt like my hands would bleed from dryness. Then we washed up and headed out to lunch with the kids. We had some sort of pasta and vegetable type of soup that was good. I also gave my Tank Baller bands to some little kids, they liked them. Then we went back to our house for some more food, and we walked down to a little store 2 blocks away and bought some ice cream. I got a fudge bar, and it was great. Came back and hung out more until 3:30 and then we went out to play with the kids. As Mary was washing some dishes though, all of a sudden we hear her say “Little shits stole my spoon!” Probably one of the funniest things we all heard all week – partially because it was so unexpected, and partially because how she said it.

Arts & Crafts




We decided to do some arts & crafts today, so we actually opened up the body-bag and used some of the stuff we bought. We brought out the sidewalk chalk, string, and coloring books. I probably played about 50 games of tic-tac-toe with the kids using sidewalk chalk, then we played hangman, and we spelled our names. The kids knew enough to realize my name in English is not Raul, so they spelled my name in English through a game of Hangman. The kids were so great, and I really enjoyed spending more time with a different crew of kids today. I really wish I could speak with them more; I may even take a Spanish course spring of 2010. Then we played about 6 games of volleyball, only after communicating with Paco about drawing boundary lines for the volleyball court. Paco is a great guy, good with the kids and is a great example for the kids and older folks. He is so young at heart, he can connect with the kids – but he also is a great leader and organizer.

After volleyball, most of us were too tired to eat with the kids, so we decided to walk down to the “van” that we tried to go to earlier in the week, about a 20 minute walk. Before we left, we sat around and talked with John & Mary for a while. We talked about coming back to La Granja Hogar this summer, and most of our crew was interested. I think it would be so awesome to come back here and know more Spanish, and hopefully the kids remember me.

Dinner at “The Van”

The walk to the van definitely took more than 20 minutes, it ended up taking about 30. It was cool and crisp outside, and a cloudless sky. A really beautiful walk. It was a fun walk, I am surprised at how not hungry I am, even though we did not end up eating until nearly 9:00pm, I did not feel that hungry. It was really good though, I had tortas – sandwich with meat. The shop had 3 options: tortas, tacos, and something else I can’t recall. All had the same meat, and that meat had a flame blasting on it, literally, and they just shaved meat off it and served it up. I also got a Pepsi, but only had like 5 sips – it’s amazing how I really can’t drink pop anymore.


The walk back was lots of fun – Carmen, Kerry, Jennifer, and I walked faster so we were ahead, and we started one-upping each other non-stop. It was another giggle fest all the way home – which happens a lot with this crew.

Our Crew, Reflection, & Other Thoughts

After the walk back, we all got down to the reflection – tonight was entitled “The Stream.” It was about being able to adapt and surrender and allowing someone else to help you. Sometimes we get so stubborn that we won’t take advice from anyone and we try and continue living the same way – even though we have close friends telling us to change. The stream tried to cross a desert, but had to surrender itself into the clouds and then into rain to cross. Another great reflection tonight with everyone sharing – most people in our group are leaders as it seemed obvious to me. People like to be in control, and you can see that in this group. But Hannah and Margie said they were followers, but I guess that doesn’t fully surprise me. We thought that being a follower actually gives you more freedom because you aren’t worrying about leading – just doing what you want.

Carmen brought up how this group seemed hand-picked by God, and I couldn’t agree more. We all get along so well, and we share everything, and we all pull our own weight. Then I brought up that I thought it was also God’s plan to have John & Mary here, and everyone quickly agreed. Everyone we have met on this trip seems like they have been put on our journey for us. We then broke into closing prayer – I closed us again, and we went into an Our Father to end the prayer.