Saturday, June 16, 2018

family week

Last week, my parents and Kenton's sister and her husband (the parents of the four kids that came to stay with us for a week back in April) and Kenton's younger brother came to help out. Basically, it was a family reunion but with only a fraction of the usual gang and extended by a bunch of days and and centered around work. They all left this morning (except for Kenton who extended for a third week, fist bump) and now the next group is here. I'm too tired to write actual words but here are a few pictures.

This same time, years previous: a new pie basket, high entertainment, the quotidian (6.16.14).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

up, up, up to Utuado

Last week the project directors met in Utuado for a meeting.

he takes his meetings with a side of zen

MDS has three worksites on the island. (Actually, there are more than three, but only Aibonito, Utuado, and Ponce are currently taking volunteers from the States.) Our whole family visited Aibonito a couple weeks back, and my husband went to Utuado with some co-workers one day, but last week was my first trip to Utuado.)

Remember what I said about Puerto Rico being an inverted valley, flat around the edges and then getting all bunchy and steep in the middle? Well, going inland is like traveling to a different world. The topography is utterly fascinating: hairpin turns and blind corners and impossibly narrow roads that plunge nearly straight down (or at least that’s what it feels like it) Everywhere we went, there were houses situated in the most precarious of places: directly along the edge of the road or built into the side of a cliff with 30-foot posts propping up the side that hovers over the abyss.

The land reminds me of a Dr. Seuss book, jutting out at weird angles with houses sitting at the ends of a long narrow strip of land, drop-offs on both sides. Imagine the land is a dock and the water is air and there is a house at the end of the dock, and there you go. Basically, go out to water the flowers, take one wrong step, and drop fifty feet.

After our meeting in the town proper, we drove the twenty minutes up to the worksite: two new buildings (a house and a church), and a house repair, all three atop one of those long docks of land.

We checked out the work, observed the local make-shift plumbing system (we see this type of set-up all over the island), and ate a lunch of pork chops, rice, and fried plantains.

Fact: project directors must keep one hand on a hip at all times.

See? Hand on hip.

The kids ran around, playing with the cats and foraging for mangos and oranges.

And then back down the mountain we zipped (we passed a handwritten sign at the end of a lane: at the end of this road are people without power, help us), swerving around low hanging electrical wires and washed out bits of road, and honking our horn — an attempt to warn oncoming traffic — around the sharpest of turns.

The end.

This same time, years previous: taking flight, the business of belonging, this, too, shall pass, microwave flower press, freezing strawberries, strawberry shortcake.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

plan our vacation for me please

Our respite week is fast approaching. The tentative plan is to ferry our van to Vieques, rent a cottage, and crash. Maybe there will be hiking in the rainforest and snorkeling and horseback riding and daytrips to Culebra and fantastic street food and nice dinners out and hammocks and icy sweet drinks with wedges of fruit perched on the rim ... or maybe not.

Quite frankly, at this point we’re too tired to think straight, let alone plan a relaxing vacation for six, so there’s a fair chance we’ll end up never leaving the house at all, instead spending our precious few free days slumped in our chairs, staring at the wall.

This concerns me.

So, if you’ve ever vacationed in Puerto Rico and know of inexpensive, not-to-be-missed places/activities, let us know. And if you want to draw up a detailed itinerary, that'd be great, too. The less thinking we have to do, the better.

P.S. I thought about including other details in this post — like the fact that my husband suggested, in all seriousness, that we not go anywhere (ARE YOUR FREAKING SERIOUS WE ARE IN PUERTO RICO FOR CRYING OUT LOUD), or like how we never go on vacations in the States so I really don't know the first thing about planning, and spending money on, an entire week of leisure, or like the time when we were in Guatemala and planned a glorious vacation to Belize but then ended up getting on the wrong bus and spending two dismal days on some god-forsaken peninsula where the water was full of raw sewage and stinging jellyfish (if vacation PTSD is a thing, then we for sure have it, which is probably, now that I think about it, why I'm suffering from Vacation Planning Paralysis), or like why we are so exhausted and how this job is more deeply draining and intensely demanding (as well as incredibly fulfilling, rewarding, and fun) than any job we have ever had simply because we can not ever leave it and thus the reason we really need a vacation — but then I was like, I can’t even, and so I didn’t, sorry.

This same time, years previous: spinach dip, the smartest thing I did, Greek cucumber and tomato salad, sourdough waffles, fresh tomatillo salsa.

Monday, June 11, 2018

the quotidian (6.11.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Morning broken.

Jealous: my 4:30 pop-awakes are no fun.

Happy campers.

Fresh strawberry jam: what my mama brought me.

T-shirt with matching gecko.

Someone got driving clearance!

Sweetness: even though they think we're weird for eating "plastic candy," 
they bought us some anyway.

Prepping for the first volunteers.

Sunday afternoon.

Fun and games.

Orientation: safety first!

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.12.17), reverberations, photo book, mud cake.

Friday, June 8, 2018


Once the footers were dug and the first two volunteers arrived (both on Saturday), everything picked up speed. The build was suddenly — ba-BAM — underway. After a full month of mostly invisible, and often tedious, legwork, boy, is it ever gratifying.

Sunday the rebar was delivered, and Monday was spent bending the rebar and preparing to pour the footers.

Tuesday, the footers were poured before lunchtime rolled around.

Here, the concrete truck is a little different: the gravel, sand, cement, and water arrive in separate compartments and then get blended together on site in a giant mixer. It’s loud. 

Wednesday, sand, block, and cement arrived, and they started laying block, forming up the corners and laying the first course along the back wall.

When our supervisors showed up for a visit, the jobsite was hopping.

Thursday, the crew continued to lay block while my husband and I and the two younger kids took off for a project director meeting, but judging by the photos they periodically sent our way, things continued to hum along just fine.

Friday, today, was more of the same: laying block, ordering supplies, managing volunteers.

In between and around all that, the tool trailer got a set of dandy shelving, the volunteer trailer got a large awning, a medical kit, fridge, microwave, and power (!), and tons of local volunteers showed up.

Plus, May's finances got reconciled (whew), food got cooked, things got cleaned, reported on, emailed, purchased, and washed, basketball games got played and runs got runned, people got hosted (us included), and ice cream got eaten.

‘Twas a solid week of work is what I'm trying to say.

This same time, years previous: pulling the pin, the quotidian (6.8.15), delivery, white icing, thorns, how we beat the heat, on hold, what it's about.