Jumping to the Point! What Can We Do For Paola?

Jumping to the Point! What Can We Do For Paola?


Since I'm so slow about making these blog posts, I guess I'll skip straight to the important stuff - ideas on how our group can help Paola and her family:
I asked, of course, what they needed most, but didn't really get an answer. So, here are my thoughts ....


STARTING POINT:

I would first recommend that we do a simple $125 fundraiser and designate that the money be spent on (at least) 2 sets of drawers. Right now, the family's clothes, etc. are piled in heaps along the walls. Once cleared of clutter, these spaces could be occupied by dressers or other better forms of storage.


Also, I believe that Paola's 6-year-old sis, Tomasa, is still in need of a sponsor. Marcela thought so, but wasn't entirely sure. She said she'd let me know (but not HOW she would let me know!), but no word yet. I looked, and did not see Tomasa 'advertised' on CI's site - but that does not necessarily mean she's been sponsored. A call could be made to CI to find out for sure.


I'd hate to see Tomasa not getting the same medical care, schooling, and other advantages that her sister enjoys. We should be on the look-out for a sponsor; ideally one not already in our group so we can get some new blood (and by that I mean "money") onboard.

Tomasa, age 6

THE HOUSE:

By local standards, I'd say Paola's house is quite adequate. It's made of bricks, dry, and sturdier than most I've seen when traveling. Maybe something could be done about the flies buzzing around? My only worry would be the health risk to the children if any sort of pesticides were used. Also, the interior is dark. A project to install light fixtures is a possibility (which would attract more bugs!), or the same effect might be accomplished by adding a plug-in lamp to the dresser request.

One issue with the house (as explained by an uncle, or someone like that) is how their courtyard area floods whenever it rains. I asked Marcela, "What can be done about this?" and she replied, "Oh, nothing can be done." I don't think that's true ... ditches, drains, sandbags, SOMETHING ought to fix the problem! We could ask for a field worker to do an assessment; I think things like home repairs just aren't Marcela's area of expertise.

Installing indoor plumbing is a possible - but expensive - project.

AN IGP:

I don't think we would get anywhere with this idea. I learned that Rosa's job is making bricks with the other adult members of the family 6 days a week. Since they all live together as a community, I imagine her reported income is simply a "guesstimate" of her family's share of the profits.

I asked if there was a way to help the family's brick-making trade be more profitable, but Marcela said, "Not really." Making bricks is making bricks, and there isn't any equipment to help things along.

Even if we could think of a career path that would generate more money for Rosa, I doubt that she would be interested. Her family would be reluctant to lose her, I'm thinking, and she probably wouldn't want to leave them short-handed of brick makers. Also, since the brick business is located just across the dirt road from their house, Rosa does not need to worry about childcare. I suppose the kids just play in the brick dust all day (until they reach school age?)


Bricks drying in the sun





The brick firing ovens down the road. Paola's family makes the bricks in molds, the neighbors do the firing.





July 09 Visit, Part 12 - Paola's Pets?

July 09 Visit, Part 12 - Paola's Pets?
There were a number of animals roaming around the compound - were they pets, or just "there"? The first dog pictured was chained to his makeshift doghouse, so he obviously wasn't a stray that simply wandered in. The white puppy was a favorite of Mike's and mine, so we asked the dog's name. We were told that he didn't have one.
There was a skinny horse staked out behind Paola's house, but as much as I would have liked to ride it (lol), I did not ask who the animal belonged to.




July 09 Visit, Part 11 - Dozens of Cousins

July 09 Visit, Part 11 - Dozens of Cousins


As I mentioned earlier, Paola lives alongside a large number of extended family members, many of them other children. All of the other kids hanging around were dirty, too, with one exception. 14-year-old Akela was nicely dressed and well groomed, probably because she is old enough to care about her personal appearance and to do something about it herself.

I wish there had been time to be introduced to each person in attendance, and to find out how everybody was related (or not) to Paola. It's possible that some of the people pictured are merely friends and neighbors, but they all acted as though they "belonged".

Mack's Regret #3 - I wish I'd anticipated how many random children would be running around, and had thought to bring some sort of treat to pass out to everybody. I did that in Honduras, so I should have remembered and been prepared to do it again.
I suggested to Marcela that next time we could make plans to take ALL the kids to the zoo, but she got a pained look on her face and shook her head.





































Paola's House Videos


video


This second video shows the "kitchen" where Rosa prepares meals. I could never handle cooking over an open fire every day! There are times when I can't even summon up enough energy to shove something into the microwave.



video

July 09 Visit, Part 10 - Paola's Home


July 09 Visit, Part 10 - Paola's Home

Paola apparently lives in Casa Numero Ocho, which acts as somewhat of a commune. The small block of connected abodes is occupied by various members of Paola's extended family. The allotment of space for Rosa and her children seems to be an entry way, which also serves as the kitchen, and a single bedroom. I wasn't shown any of the rest of the house(s).

I imagine that all four of them sleep on the one bed, which is workable for right now while the girls are very small. I wonder what will happen when they start to outgrow the single bed? (which, from what I could tell, was a box spring and mattress held up by overturned buckets. The bedding seemed as clean as it could be in a room with a dirt-covered floor. I couldn't tell the size of the bed for purchasing sheets, but perhaps someone else can eyeball it?)

The sink-like thing in the bottom picture seems to be where the family washes. It didn't have any sort of spigot, so I think they fill it manually by drawing water from their well.

I keep saying "seems like" and "I think" because I didn't ask an abundance of questions. First, because the few questions I DID ask weren't really answered, and secondly, because nobody was expecting the Spanish Inquisition. I asked Marcela to explain to the family that I didn't mean to be rude by poking around and taking pictures of everything - I just wanted to show Paola's other sponsors what improvements were needed for the home.

Mack's Regret #2: I wish I'd used my GPS to mark the latitude and longitude of Paola's house so that we could look at it on GoogleEarth. But if anyone from CI noticed me doing that, they would probably freak out, thinking I planned to return and see her without a chaperone.
















Paola with Sponsor Letters

I apologize that Paola doesn't look happier in these photos. We were working fast at this point, as we needed to get on the road, and I don't think she understood why things were being shoved into her hands one after another! I tried to explain, but I'm sure she'll "get it" better once her mom has a chance to read her the letters from everybody.




Yep, Heather. I took your Christmas photo off my fridge and pasted your letter to the back.



July 09 Visit, Part 9 - Meeting Paola

July 09 Visit, Part 9 - Meeting Paola

I thought we might meet Paola first at the community center, as that is how it been done in Honduras. Instead, we were joined by another CI rep, Alfredo, who directed Fernando (our driver) to Paola's residence. When we pulled up, I expected to find everybody ready and waiting - with the kids scrubbed, polished, and dressed up in their best clothes for our day out. Not the case. The only people home when we arrived was an older gentleman (whose relationship was never explained) and a small child sitting in a wheelbarrow. Rosa, the mother, wandered up from somewhere behind us ... but where was Paola? Nobody knew. Everyone began circling the area calling the little girl's name, and eventually she came scampering over from who knows where.

Paola behaved exactly the way I would expect from a 4-year-old girl bombarded by strangers and gifts. She was sweet, but a little shy at first - dividing her time between satisfying her curiosity and burying her face against Mama's leg. Once she'd recovered from her initial bewilderment, Paola quickly warmed to being the center of attention and the primary subject of 10, 000 photos.

I was startled to find our little Paola and her sisters in such filthy condition! On the one hand, it's good to be aware of what must be their "usual" level of hygiene, but I'm shocked that Rosa didn't bother to clean up her brood in anticipation of our visit. The girls had a week's worth of dirt build-up on their faces and hands, and their hair was stiff and matted, like it hadn't been washed in a long time. Zoom in on any of the photographs, and you will see the dirt and grime covering the girls' clothing. On a brighter note, none of the kids smelled like dried urine, as I've encountered in other poverty situations.

We had brought diaper wipes for the family, so I could have easily cleaned the children's faces off ... but I didn't think that would be polite. Don't believe for a second that I'm bothered by filthy children, or that I was reluctant to hug the girls for free of getting my own clothes messy. I really don't care. I would have happily collected just as much dirt under my fingernails as a kid, if I didn't have parents dunking me in a bathtub every time I turned around. And I don't necessarily blame Rosa for not keeping her kids clean. I don't have kids of my own for various reasons (mostly involving laziness and selfishness), not the least of which is avoiding the responsibility of keeping them filth free - even with my advantage of indoor plumbing. It must be very hard to keep kids, clothes, etc clean in an environment like Rosa's. Still ... none of the equally poor children that I observed at the community center were dirty, so the other local mothers are managing.

It's important to note that aside from the hygiene thing, Rosa gave every sign of being an excellent mother. She was very affectionate with her girls, and delighted in watching them have fun at the zoo. She was always smiling and cheerful, and I think her happiest moment was when I gave her a copy of Paola's CI photo. She obviously loves her daughters very much!







Community Center Video #1

video

This is the first of the 7 jerky and amatuerish videos that I took at the community center. I am not going to post them all at this time, because I know everybody is anxious to move forward and meet Paola!

July 09 Visit, Part 8 - The Community Center

July 09 Visit, Part 8 - The Community Center

Paola's community center is truly spectacular! In addition to a doctor, dentist, library, etc. CI also provides the little ones with a psychologist, which goes above and beyond what can reasonably be expected for a mere $22 per month. I was especially impressed by the well-equipped computer lab, where kids can learn the technical skills they'll need to succeed in our modern world.

The community center is best seen in the video tour series I recorded (once I figure out how to upload those ... looks like I just need to click the filmstrip icon. I'll try it in a minute).


The Lobby


Getting Homework Help in the Library


A Trip to the Dentist


The Evil Rabbit Garbage Disposal System

July 09 Visit, Part 7 - Logistics of Our Visit

July 09 Visit, Part 7 - Logistics of Our Visit

When visualizing this visit, I made a lot of assumptions based on my trip to Honduras in February. One of these was that CI Mexico would have a van similar to the one used by the office in San Pedro Sula. On Monday morning, it suddenly occurred to me that these subconscious assumptions of mine could be wrong! Quickly, I called Marcela (my contact) to make sure she would be picking us up in a vehicle large enough to carry all of our gifts for Paola's family. Marcela assured me that they would be arriving in a truck, but not until 9:30, because it was a 45 minute drive to our hotel from their main office.

This news destroyed another of my assumptions: the one where I'd figured that I could do more shopping on Tuesday, then drop the goods at Marcela's office for delivery to Paola at a future date. I was able to do this in San Pedro Sula, because the main office was conveniently located 10 minutes from where we were staying.

Marcela and crew arrived promptly at 9:30 to pick us up. She introduced us to Fernando, the driver, and Elsa, a second translator. Just to give you an idea of what the day was like for these poor CI reps, here is a break down of our travels over the course of the day:

1. Marcela, Elsa, and Fernando pick us up (from our hotel near the zoo) - 45 minutes
2. We drive to Paola's community center - 30 minutes
3. We drive to Paola's house - 10 minutes
4. We drive back to the community center - 10 minutes
5. We drive to the zoo - 40 minutes
6. We drive back to Paola's house - 45 minutes or so
7. We drive back to our hotel (near the zoo, remember?) - 35 minutes
8. The CI staff drive back to the main office - 45 minutes

The gas we used probably could've sponsored another kid for 3 months!

Mack's Regret #1:

On my first child visit, I made the mistake of basically ignoring the CI staff and focusing entirely on the kids. This time, I spent more time talking to them and asking questions about their jobs (we spent a lot of time in the car together, after all). What I wish is that I had asked them all to pose together for a photo that I could show you. I meant to stage a group picture on several occasions, but the CI reps always stepped back automatically so it would just be me, Mike, and Paola's family. I never insisted that they join us in the photo.

Emblem on the Truck Door


Waiting in the Hotel Lobby with the Gifts

July 09 Visit, Part 6 - "Fun Stuff" List

July 09 Visit, Part 6 - "Fun Stuff" List

I really wanted to get dolls for Paola and Tomasa (I still didn't know that Maria was something more than a squalling bundle of blankets), but the toys at Wal-Mart were SO expensive! I probably would've forked over the money if the store sold anything besides blond, blue-eyed cupids in bright pink packaging. I wasn't willing to take out a second mortgage on my house to give a kid a doll that looked nothing like her and her family! Another thing for the mail, I guess.

Here is a picture of the toys and other frivolous items that I found at Waldo's, or brought from home:

Itemized List:

1 Coloring book

2 Paint-with-water books

1 Disney sticker book

1 Barney story book (in Spanish)

1 Pack of markers

1 Pack of paintbrushes

1 Box of crayons

2 Colorful Rubix cubes

2 Pairs of flip-flops

2 sets of hair barrettes

4 Head bands

3 Teddy bears

1 Can of something "fun" that can be sprayed

(I thought it was silly string, but it turned out to be some sort of colored foam - it says right on the can that the stuff is fun, and why would the manufacturers lie?)

July 09 Visit, Part 5 - "Food Stuff" List

July 09 Visit, Part 5 - "Food Stuff" List

The best policy for buying food for families is probably sending the money through the CI website (no, you can't just hand the cash to one of the CI reps). CI knows where to get those big, bulk bags of rice and stuff. Plus, CI never wastes money on sugary stuff, like I did. Hey, I bought 'em toothbrushes, too, so it all evens out.


Itemized List:
2 Bags of rice
3 Bags of raw beans
8 Packages of uncooked pasta
10 Packs of instant ramen noodles
2 Boxes of sweet cereal
1 Box of Special K
2,200 kg of powdered milk
1 Box of pancake mix
1 Bottle of cooking oil
6 Packages of powdered fruit drink
1 Loaf of sliced bread
2 Bags of individually wrapped snack chip packs
1 Package of frosted oatmeal cookies
1 Package of sandwich cookies
10 Small loaves of bread
1 Bag of pink and white marshmallows

July 09 Visit, Part 4 - "Household Stuff" List

July 09 Visit, Part 4 - "Household Stuff" List

Everybody kept telling me to buy laundry soap. It wasn't until I was in Guadalajara that I started to wonder what kind of soap people use to wash their clothes if they don't have a washing machine? I just bought a bunch of different soaps and cleaning solutions.
I didn't get any baby stuff, because I didn't know how old Maria actually was (still don't, lol). I considered buying baby bottles, then realized that she probably breast feeds (I was correct).



Itemized List:

3 Pillows

4 Bath towels

Silverware - 6 settings + 6 serving spoons

4 Drinking glasses

6 Green plastic cups

1 Starbucks poseable kids' cup

1 Plastic gallon drink pitcher

1 Straining bowl

350 Table napkins

1 Large multipurpose cleaning solution - makes 3,785 litres

3.8 Litres of bleach concentrate

1 Bottle of dishwashing liquid

5 sponges

4 bars of soap

16.9 oz antibactrial soap pump

3 bags of detergent powder

1 Pack of moist wipes

80 Wooden clothes pins

60 Colorful clothes pins

32.64 Ounces of hair shampoo

1 Bottle of sparkley pink "Magic Princess" hair gel

2 Kids' cartoon toothbrushes

1 Adult toothbrush

2 Large tubes of toothpaste

1 Unused (wrapped) airline blanket

3 Collaspable laundry hampers (to carry everything in)

July 09 Visit, Part 3 – Shopping for Paola

July 09 Visit, Part 3 – Shopping for Paola

We took a long nap, and after we got up Mike wanted to shower, shave, fix his hair, and apply sunblock – a process that takes well over an hour. I showered quickly (like a normal person), then headed for Wal-Mart with a little notebook and a pen. I wanted to write down the prices of their merchandise so I could compare them to what we found during our adventures in the city.

The cost of goods at Wal-Mart was insane!!! I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Most things were priced equally to U.S. stuff, or else way, waayyy higher. Toys were the worst. They seemed to stock very little that had been manufactured in Mexico, so perhaps shipping and tariffs drove the prices up? In any case, a doll or a plastic truck that would cost $10 back home sold for around $30 at the Guadalajara Wal-Mart!

As I meandered through the aisles, I took special note of items that had “sale” price tags, and the discounted stuff displayed on the end caps. There were some specials that looked pretty good – large, fluffy pillows for $3 each, a full set of silverware on sale for $16, etc. – the trouble was that these bargains were so few and far between, and the affordable deals hardly covered everything I had planned to buy. Simple items like toothpaste/brushes and dish soap were outrageously expensive!

While I walked back to our hotel, I pondered what to do. Obviously, Wal-Mart is not the place where the average Mexican family shops … but where could I find a “regular” marketplace? I only had one shopping day, and it just happened to be a SUNDAY, when 2/3 of stores were closed. Even if I could figure out a decent place to buy things for Paola’s household, how would I get the stuff back to our hotel? The nice thing about Wal-Mart was how it was so convenient and close!

A little dejected, I set out with Mike on a walk to the Cathedral downtown. I kept my eye out for open stores along the way, but this was the tourist district, so everything was priced at ‘gringo level’. The one small toy store we ducked into sold only the Armani version of stuffed animals.
Once at the Cathedral, our primary mission was to find a crucifix and chain for Barbara’s sponsored child, Miguel, who will take his first communion this year. Did I mention how I hate to shop? After perusing a half dozen basically identical religious jewelry stores, we finally made the purchase.

Next, we wandered through the aisles of a travel expo set up in the plaza behind the Cathedral. There was a booth sponsored by Zoologico de Guadalajara, where we were able to get discounted tickets for our excursion the next day. We didn’t know how many people we’d be taking with us to the zoo, so we guessed (badly) at 4 adults and 2 children.

On the way back to our hotel, I wanted to stop at a little department/grocery store I’d seen, called Waldo’s. Wow! They had lots of great household stuff, and it was all affordably priced! Between things for Paola and some more for Heather’s child, Brayan, Mike and I filled up three (small) carts full of goods. I was very grateful to be armed with my Wal-Mart pricing notebook, because with it I could easily compare and see which store had the best deal on certain items. Generally, Waldo’s won out, but Wal-Mart had sweet sales on bar soap, rice, and a few other essentials.

A store employee helped us push our purchases to the nearest taxi stand, where we hired a ride back to our hotel. As we drove past Wal-Mart, I stuck my naughty finger out the window, which made our taxi driver laugh out loud.

The hotel owner was startled to see us unload so many things into his lobby. He probably thought we were moving in permanently. The man was even MORE shocked when we returned from Wal-Mart an hour later with ANOTHER overflowing cart full of merchandise!

After our shopping expedition, Mike showered again, while I separated, catalogued, and photographed all of our purchases. I was pretty proud of how well I’d done for a sworn anti-shopper. The one thing that I avoided buying was clothing for the girls. I hadn’t seen the kids yet, plus I suck at guessing garment sizes … not to mention how expensive the clothes were at Wal-Mart. I’ll clothing shop here at home, and mail Paola and her sisters a nice, big box.

Despite our earlier nap, Mike and I were pretty tired. We ate our dinner of bread from the Wal-Mart bakery (day-old; 1 peso per loaf), then crashed into bed.

Stay tuned for itemized lists of what your donation money purchased for Paola’s family …

Liars!!!


The Cathedral

Beggar Woman Outside of the Cathedral

Kid Performers at the Travel Expo



Transportation Options in Guadalajara





July Visit, Part 2 – Getting to Guadalajara

The last time my airline pilot friend offered me use of his travel passes was in 2004. That time, my mother and I were able to fly round-trip to Tokyo with no issues. We went First Class, and paid only around $50 each in taxes and fees.

Wednesday of last week, my friend told me he had some extra passes that were expiring soon. I asked him about possible travel to Guadalajara, and he quickly looked up the flights and told me that the trip should work out fine. He was a little busy that night, taking care of his kids while his wife prepared to check into the hospital for a mastectomy the next day, so he didn’t look as closely as he could have.

On Thursday morning, I contacted Greg to make last minute plans for visiting Paola. Things worked out great on his end – the Jalisco reps were able to talk to Paola’s mother that same day and make arrangements for Monday … except I still didn’t have any actual plane reservations.

My pilot friend was really, really busy, so he gave me his employee log-in info so I could book the flights myself. I called him back in a panic to tell him that the flight he wanted me to take was already overbooked by 30+ seats! “That’s no problem,” he told me. “They oversell like that based on the number of passengers who haven’t shown up in the past. It’s a scientifically calculated risk. You’ll be the only two people on the stand-by list. Since no space has been sold yet in First Class, and the typical traveler who flies to Guadalajara at one in the morning won’t be able to afford the upgrade fee, you’ll be sitting there.”

I dubiously proceeded to plan my itinerary, then immediately called my friend back. “Um, there are already 14 people on the stand-by list for our flight back home … is that okay?”

“No, you’ll never get on that plane,” I was told. “What does the next day look like?”

The situation was not optimistic.

“There’s no point in going if you can’t get home,” he said. “You’d better plan for a different destination.”

“I can’t,” I replied. “There’s a little girl counting on a trip to the zoo.”

My husband HAD to be back for work on Friday, so I heaved a sigh and bought him a ticket to LAX on Mexicana Airlines. I used more of my precious frequent flyer miles to get Mike home from California. As for me, I would have to sit in Guadalajara until space was available on a flight back to the U.S., or until I died of old age, whichever came first.

Next, I found out that fees have gone way up for international travelers using “free” passes. Suddenly, my complimentary trip came with a price tag of nearly $300! That’s still cheap for roundtrip transport to Mexico, but the expense was unexpected (especially considering how we also had to pay for Mike’s ticket + one leg of not-so-free travel). “I had no idea the fees would be so high,” my friend said. “Do you want to cancel the trip NOW?”

“Nope, I still can’t,” I told him sadly. Jalisco Children International was closed for the weekend by this time, so the only way to inform the family of our cancellation would be for a rep to show up at Paola’s house on Monday morning - after the kids were already scrubbed and ready to leave for what was possibly the biggest event of their lives thus far. Not possible!

So … Mike and I arrived at LAX in the middle of the night, all dressed up to sleep on the plane. Again, my friend was wrong about everything! Almost all the ticketed passengers showed up for the flight, which meant that Delta had no choice but to fill up the First Class section with the overflow from Coach. And they weren’t exactly selective about who they upgraded. I looked down at the world’s ugliest dress shoes that I’d bought just so I’d be eligible to sit in First Class, and I really, really wanted my $11 back!

Mike and I barely made it onto the plane, and I think we only got seats because of Delta’s policy that English speakers must sit in the exit rows. I didn’t care one bit about having to fly Coach – my only wish was for a set of comfortable clothes!

The flight was just 4 hours long, which was barely time for a decent nap. Immigration/Customs in Guadalajara was as crowded as an open audition for American Idol. It was the most disorganized entry I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve entered A LOT of countries!

There are three main ways of getting from the airport to Guadalajara City: a taxi for 210 pesos, a nice bus for 10 pesos, and a bumpier bus for 5 pesos. Under normal circumstances, I would take the cheapest option … but we were excessively tired + we didn’t know where the bus would let us off in relation to our hotel. We splurged for a taxi.

We really lucked out with the hotel that I’d blindly selected. With no time to research neighborhoods, I based my decision purely on price – Hotel La Calandria cost only $13 a night for a double room w/private bath. The place was great! The room was simple, of course, but perfectly functional. The hotel was secure, and the owner was friendly and helpful. Best of all, our location was awesome! We were within walking distance of the Cathedral & tourist district … buses to/from the airport left from across the street next to the 24hr convenience store … the nearest MegaBus stop was only a couple blocks away … on the corner right next to Wal-Mart!!!

At around 9am, we collapsed into bed for a much needed nap.

Btw, this was not my first trip to Guadalajara … but things have changed a little since 1976.

Our Hotel

My First Trip to Guadalajara, 1976


Buying Zapatos in Guadalajara

July Visit, Part 1 - Layover in Los Angeles

I went to bed at midnight on Friday, but I got up again at 3am to finish packing. When our plane took off at 7:30am, I was understandably exhausted! Lucky for me, one of the flight attendants held a trivia contest, and I was able to win a $6 can of Red Bull for knowing Winnie-the-Pooh’s real name. It turns out that I don’t much like Red Bull. It must have been my first time drinking the stuff, because I’m sure the nasty taste would have stuck in my memory if I’d ever had it before. Mike was a gentleman and finished the can for me after I choked down a few disgusting swallows – enough, I hoped, to get me through a day of driving in California traffic.

Mike and I flew to L.A. using Frequent Flyer Miles, because LAX was the launching point for our “free” Delta employee passes. We arrived in the city at around 9:30am, and our flight to Guadalajara didn’t take off until 1am the next day. What would we do for the next 14 hours?
The obvious answer would be to visit Mike’s parents and brother, who live in nearby Hollywood. Yeah, right. My in-laws FREAK OUT if they are not given 6 months advance notice of a home invasion. They also TOTALLY FREAK OUT when I take their son with me to third world countries. After the Great Moroccan Panic Attack, we’ve learned not to even mention things like our backpacking jaunt through Southeast Asia … or our 2007 trip to Central America … or the fact that Mike has a driver’s license (against their will) and owns a vehicle (of sorts).

The next obvious plan was to rent a car and drive the 1.25 hours to my grandmother’s place, as she adapts more readily to surprise visits. So, that’s what we did. There was no hurry as we headed in the direction of Loma Linda, CA, because it was the Sabbath and Grandma would still be at church. Mike and I decided to kill time by doing some worshiping of our own . . . at Church’s Chicken. Dang, I wish we had that restaurant chain at home – their food is super cheap, and the biscuits have honey baked right into ‘em!

I wasn’t sure what time Grandma would be home, but I decided to go straight to the house of her adopted family, as I assumed everyone would gather there for lunch anyway. It was a good move, because the family had slept in and missed church. They were ecstatic at our unexpected arrival – even when caught still wearing pajamas - which again confirms my belief that it’s best to choose your own family members instead of sticking with only the ones you are granted at birth.

Grandma and her sister (my great-aunt) arrived soon, and were delighted by our surprise visit. The kids performed a concert for us on the cello and violin, then they wanted me to take them geocaching. We geocached all afternoon, with breaks in between for me to run necessary errands. The first side trip took me to Kinko’s, where I printed out copies of our Delta flight itineraries. The warnings on the pages made it clear that while we were flying as “guests” of the airline, we were expected to represent the very best of the Delta family. Since people on passes often fly First Class (because those are the seats least likely to be sold), we were required to dress nicely or risk being refused entry on the plane. I heaved a sigh as I stopped at Wal-Mart to buy a pair of uncomfortable formal shoes, just in case my dirty sandals didn’t pass inspection.

In the evening, Grandma took everybody out to eat at (I kid you not) the Happy Family Vegetarian Restaurant. After sampling the meatless shrimp, I don’t think our family was quite as happy as the name of the place might imply. We finished our meal, handed out hugs, and hurried back to the airport to ensure that we’d be ready and waiting to board our plane … if there was any extra space for us.



My Niece and Nephew


Geocaching


Happy Vegetarians

Outline for My Trip Report

I know most of you are only interested in stuff that directly relates to Paola and her family, but I also plan to post general information about my trip for those who are curious. Also, much of what I say will be useful for people planning visits to Paola in the future.

Here is the proposed list of installments for my full report. I will tag them each with "Visit July 09":


Part 1 – Layover in Los Angeles
Part 2 – Getting to Guadalajara
Part 3 – Shopping for Paola
Part 4 – “Household Goods” List
Part 5 – “Groceries” List
Part 6 – “Fun Stuff” List
Part 7 – Logistics of Our Visit
Part 8 – The Community Center
Part 9 – Meeting Paola
Part 10 – Paola’s Home
Part 11 – Dozens of Cousins
Part 12 – Delivering the Gifts
Part 13 – Off to the Zoo!
Part 14 – Doin’ the Zoo
Part 15 – Photos from the Zoo
Part 16 – Journey’s End: Marcela Blows Me Off
Part 17 – What Next? How Can We Help Paola’s Family?
Part 18 – Tuesday Touring (for those interested)
Part 19 – Getting Home From Guadalajara



A few photos while you wait for the full story ...

Tomasa: Age = 6


Paola: Age = 4


Maria: Age = Baby



Waiting anxiously......

The waiting for Paola's photos and video is intense here! I so wish I could have gone and hope to visit her someday. According to Mack's short note it sounds as though we all came in at the right time to help this little girl and her family. Its amazing what 13 people can do in such short notice. I'm sure the family was overwhelmed for Mack's visit and the gifts she brought. Paola will have happier thoughts knowing she is loved and cared for. I think Mack's visit was perfect timing!
Dee

Letters to Paola

Ok, everyone... Mack had to rush away to get to Mexico this morning, so I will update you on the situation. Everyone who sent me paragraphs to send to Paola are getting their message hand delivered by Mack. Last night, Efrain stepped up to do the translations (since I was bombarded with work all day). After Efrain tweeked the letters, he sent them to me. I added my own paragraph as well. For some reason, I am not able to cut & paste the letter into this blog from my work computer, so I will have to post that later. Anyway, Mack got the mini-letters and printed them on nice paper to deliver to Paola.

Also, we raised $120 + for Paola, so Mack will pick up some things for her and her family when she gets to Mexico. If you still want to donate, there is still time. Just send a paypal payment to my account, and I am forwarding the money on to Mack.

We will have pictures & video next week!!!! WOW!!!

3 Bears & 1 Monkey


I'm packing my bag in preparation for departure in 20 minutes. The three teddies for the girls + Stanley BeanBottom, the world traveling monkey, take up about 65% of my luggage space.

Should I leave behind my clothes or my toiletries? Which is worse: smelling bad or getting a full body sunburn?

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