Friday, April 23, 2010

Howdy Texas

Big 'Ol Texas

I've never really been to Texas before. Years ago Caleb and I took a month long trip around the U.S. and Canada and it took about 2 days just to get across Texas. We did spend a night in El Paso, but that's more Mexico than Texas in my opinion.

So, I got picked up at the Dallas airport by Capi (Captain David as the kids call him at Hogar) the president of the U.S. Board for Hogar Infantil. His bright and precocious 9 year old granddaughter, Cameron was in the back seat. I am happy to say that the first thing we did was drive to Fort Worth and go to Fred's, a popular burger joint. There's nothing like a cold local micro brew on draft with a big messy burger to make a girl feel welcome and break the ice. I watched Cameron hula-hoop to her soon to be step-dad's fantastic guitar playing and decided this was a part of Texas I could easily like. It was good people watching at Fred's too, though Capi made me get a picture taken with two Texans in their cowboy gear. I asked Capi if they were authentic or wearing costumes and though we agreed they were probably off work lawyers, he said they were pretty authentic. I guess boots and a hat are considered post work casual attire for white collar workers. Ha.

Capi's house is situated in this huge gated community that's also a pecan orchard. It's not unusual to see people driving their private planes up the driveway and into the hangers next to their house. Capi's a pilot too and said he can fly from his home to Hogar Infantil in Chiapas in about 7 hours. Impressive. He has two very cool little planes.

I was made to feel right at home, staying with Capi and Leslie and their two dogs Buddy and Maggie. The following morning, I took a nice long bath in their guest room's claw foot bathtub. I can't remember the last time I had a real bath. It may have been almost a year ago. I drank my coffee and read Harry Potter and fully relished the luxury of soaking in a tub. After that I had breakfast. Really my ideal breakfast. Fage greek yogurt, dark honey, Leslie's homemade granola, blueberries and raspberries. It's been over a year since I've had blueberries too, so they tasted like candy. I ate the same breakfast each day I was there and it was such a treat! I almost took a picture to post, but I didn't want to stop eating to go find my camera.

Most of the board members arrived on Friday. It was so nice to put faces to some of the people I had been in email correspondence with for the past several months. Katie and Johanna in particular were great to see. They are the volunteer coordinators and have been such an encouragement to me and Kyla. Johanna was one of the first female truck drivers years ago, when trucking was strictly a male dominated field. She loved the road. She loved traveling and being able to smoothly maneuver an 18 wheeler through rush hour traffic in Chicago. She loved how exciting and sometimes terrifying the job was. Johanna had to put up with a lot of harassment from her fellow truckers for years. She earned their respect by her wit and skill on the road. She is not someone to mess with. And she has a heart of gold. She's the Board's secretary and a firecracker.

Katie is married to a former graduate of Hogar Infantil. She fell in love with Neto while they both has staff positions at the ranch. It's a beautiful love story. Katie has such a passion for the kids at Hogar. She is a brave and sensitive woman who brings a lot of beauty to this world. Unbelievably, she actually brought 3 knitting projects to work on for the 2 1/2 days she was in Texas. She has mad skills and it was Katie who taught most of the kids to knit at Hogar. Her little daughter is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia. Even through this, Katie has found time to be actively involved with Hogar. She's on the Board and in charge of the newsletter, volunteer coordinating, and many other tasks as well. Her translation skills are indispensable. I only hope to be able to speak Spanish on her level some day!

The rest of the board (in total 7 people attending) were also quite the mix of interesting people. Some had been active with Hogar Infantil for the past 30 years. It was really good for me to get a better idea of Hogar's history and how the U.S. Board functions. Like many non-profits today it's struggling to make end meet, but it was very educational for me to see how problems were dealt with, new ideas were discussed and to learn about Hogar's general policies. I'm honored that they gave me a voice in their board meeting. I know that I was able to bring up topics that otherwise may not have been discussed and that I was able to give a fresh perspective on some things. I also tried to be a voice for the kids at Hogar. There had been several concerns on my mind, and I am pleased to say they were heard and taken seriously. I now have a much more complete sense of this organization and my possible role within it.

I had some great, insightful conversations outside of the meeting as well (one night until 3am!). I feel like a sponge, there is so much to catch up on and so much to learn. I do feel like I have a much more well-rounded picture of Hogar, not only from the kids' perspective, but also from the organization's standpoint. It's all rather complex and it has given me a lot to think about.

Thanks again to all who made this trip possible. It was an all around good experience. Texas was even kind of pretty with the wild flowers and cows every where. And I do like a good steak and cowboy boots with summer dresses...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hogar Infantil Update

As many of you have seen, I have a new Chipin widget on my blog. We raised $2,000 dollars in the last round thanks to many generous donations. That means we are nearly at the half-way mark of our goal of $4,500 dollars for the renovations of the boys dorm. I am excited to report that renovations are underway and now we just have to make sure to cover all of the cost!

I get frequent updates about life at Hogar from my friend and former roommate there, Kyla. She's holding down the fort, so to speak. I love hearing from her as it allows me to still feel connected to the daily goings on of the kids and the many adventures that seem to always take place there. Since I've been gone, (one month) there has been another wildfire, this time bigger and closer to the dorms, but at usual, it was contained with tremendous effort and motivation by the amazing kids with their buckets and teamwork. The timing of the fire was lucky in a way, because they had been without water for several weeks previous due to a broken water pump. It has since been replaced and things are back to normal.

One of the secondary kids that I hung out with a lot ran away the week after I left. The cause is a bit unclear and a guess at best. Something to do with a girlfriend and getting into trouble at school. One day he just went to school and never got back on the bus in the afternoon. It was taken very seriously by Hogar and a thorough search was conducted of all the possible places he could be. He's lived on the streets before in the city of Tuxtla, so I guess he has survival skills, but to me this is not that comforting. He still hasn't turned up yet, and I know sometimes things like this happen especially with kids with an automatic fight-or-flight response due to past hardships and life experiences. Please pray that he shows up soon. He could be selling fruit on the street in Tuxtla or hiding out with a friend somewhere....these are my best case scenario thoughts. I just keep hearing his voice saying , "No te vayas, Marci..." and thinking of him so sad at my going that he had tears in his eyes. He is such a sweetheart.

Kyla has been able to spend a lot of quality time with the kids. Last week was Spring break so most of the kids went home to relatives and friends. About 9 kids remained at Hogar, so Kyla was able to do all kinds of fun things with them and in general the time was much more laid back and relaxed then normal. The directors took the kids to a movie, swimming, to the beach and one day to a waterfall. I'm so glad to hear of all the fun that happens at Hogar too! I also correspond with several of the kids on a regular basis, so it's been good to hear from them that they are doing well.

I have news of my own. I have been invited to attend the annual U.S. board of directors meeting for Hogar in Texas this April 17th. I'm excited to be going as I feel like this is the next step in taking my commitment to Hogar to the next level and developing a even deeper understanding of the organization. I'm also glad to be fresh off the boat so to speak, having just returned from Hogar and my time with the kids. I hope to be a voice from the ground and represent the kids. So, I'm expecting to learn a lot at this meeting, develop relationships with the board members and hopefully contribute a bit. I'm really looking forward to meeting two of the board members, Katie and Johanna who have been incredibly helpful and supportive in the past several months. They are some amazing think I have stories of Hogar....well these two have put their hearts into the organization for years and have even been housemothers for the kids in the past. I'm sure I can learn a lot from them! Not to mention they are hilarious so I'm sure we'll have lots of fun. :)

I also want to thank all of you that have made it possible for me to make this trip to the board meeting next week. Without your support and donations it wouldn't have happened and I take your faith in my contribution to Hogar seriously and humbly. Thanks for your encouraging emails and I promise to do my best and continue regular updates regarding Hogar Infantil and the kids.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Michaela and I on our sunset dinner.

Abigail and I - children of the sun.

Michaela, Abigail, Dan and Caleb at Salsa.
Caleb and Dan

Work as usual... geeks!

Felix and me after snorkeling.

Felix and Ben make dinner...yes that
is smoke, but it all turned out well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Long Overdue Update

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of coming back from Hogar, getting a stomach amoeba, having five guests all at different times and just tonight, getting roped into a part time job.

Let me backtrack... After my time at Hogar, I ended up getting really sick my first week back in Tulum. I think some of it was due to the fact that I apparently food poisoned Caleb and I both the first night I cooked at home. However, the doctor said I had also contacted an amoeba while in Chiapas, so then I was on drugs for a week. This is becoming pretty normal for me by now!

Caleb's sisters Abigail and Michaela came to visit the following week and we had so much fun. We had breakfast atop the Coba ruins, went dancing until the wee hours of the night, soaked up lots of sun, snorkeled, feasted, and had lots of quality time. I am blessed to have sisters-in-law like these two.

Half-way through the week with the girls, Dan, Caleb's best bud, came and visited us from San Francisco. It was great to see Caleb and Dan relaxing together and laughing and having fun. Often they talk crazy schemes and work stuff over Skype. This week they could both sit at their Mac's and do the same thing, but in person. It was pretty cute. I think it was the first vacation Dan's ever had and the first one of Caleb's friends to visit us here. Next time Dan's bringing his wife Emily and little baby boy, Jack.

As soon as Dan left, Felix, a friend and fellow volunteer at Hogar Infantil and his buddy Ben, came and visited for four days. It was great to see them, such good natured, kind and considerate 19 year old German boys. They even made us dinner one night and were really excited to surprise us with it. I went snorkeling with them on a chilly, grey day, but we had a blast following a sea turtle and swimming among schools of fish.

Sunday was the first day Caleb and I have had just to ourselves in ages. We loved having guests, but it is so nice to have some quality time just the two of us again. It was Easter, and usually that means we go to church, have people over, I make a huge ham and a ton of side dishes.... but we stayed in our pj's half the day then wandered into town and had some tacos. We ended up at Elemental as usual and I had the best cucumber mint margarita in the world. We played cards and hung out with friends. It was a great laid back day.

Today, I helped Sabrina at Elemental watch her little boy, Nico and help a bit around the restaurant. They want me to help them out as much as I can and for now that means I will be there 3 days a week. Back into the restaurant biz....not something I've anticipated, but I'm always up for helping a friend out. Also, I'm working in trade for food credit, and they have great food, so Caleb and I will be well fed the next few weeks.