I figured I should show at least a bit of the construction site and future home of the boarding school where a vast majority of our time was spent. So without much explanation. Here:

And the last one is for good measure (and do not ask me what I was doing - that was caught at an awkward moment in I think a story of some sort). Yea! End of the Mexico studio (July - August 2007). Next: Apparently, my studio (last!) class is taking a field trip to Chicago in two weeks for five days/four nights. Eighteen architecture geeks running around Chicago - should be interesting, if not a good source for stories.


It is true that during the time that we were down in the mountains, it was their rainy season. These months are the only times that rain re-hydrates the earth in this area, so God knows that the rain that comes has to be sufficient for the whole year. Enter stage left: Noah and his ark. It did not rain all of the time, constantly, but it did rain somewhere nearby all of the time. And I thought that Texas weather could be hard to predict. We would watch as the clouds would start forming into intimidating gray / black beasts and then come toward our way. Then the clouds would split and go around us and join back together somewhere else. This was in process of happening one early afternoon when suddenly the winds shifted. Not more than five minutes after that sign, came running the group of students that were working up the mountain a bit yelling, "It's raining!" Well it wasn't where we were standing ... yet. It is amazing to watch rain fall heavy a foot a way from you, but you yourself not in it. So it rained, and we were trapped on the mountain at the site for a couple of hours until the professor called it a day, and we slowly gained courage to make our way back to the house in the thunderstorm. I was entirely soaked because the day before I had lent my rain poncho to somebody else and forgot to request it back. Oh well, it was my day to shower anyway. A good soakin' never hurt anybody anyway.


(Notice the Snickers' can? Got to love reuse.)


executive decision

I have made an executive decision (which I dare say is allowed by the author) to hurry up with my Mexico trip postings. 1) It is taking much time and words; 2) More adventures are coming and some have already come; 3) and I just simply need to move on. So this post and maybe two to three others seem to be in order.

Welcome to Sinforosa. This is a very beautiful national park that we went to while in Mexico on a weekend. You drive in and walk over to the observation deck to look out over the mountains and valleys. Way down below there is a bridge and even further down (to the bottom) is a mountain stream. A group of us decided to hike down. Down was hard, but so filled with anticipation on seeing the stream that we ended up in a jog in parts (and because some of the slopes are so extreme that gravity is hard to beat). We made it to the bottom walked about and hiked a different way up. While working my way down, I had a small potentially traumatic incident: I dropped my camera and it fell and fell and fell some more, until it landed on a ledge right before a 20-30ft. drop to the stream below. Well, of course I had to go get it. I had not had the opportunity to download two weeks of pictures off of my memory card that sat in my camera, way below my feet. I only lost my footing once while climbing down. But success! And my camera still worked. The hike back up the mountain seemed to be much harder than the hike down ... I wonder why?


mud anyone

Typical day on the job at Beaumont just taping and mudding newly installed drywall. (April, a good friend, in front and me behind). It is amazing that nobody was seriously injured working on 10ft. ceilings by having to straddle, balance, hang, and other fine acrobatic moves between ladders, counters, tables, shelves, and other mostly stable objects.


work left to be done

A team from my church arrived back from a short mission trip to Beaumont, Texas this last Saturday night. It was a wonderful time of fun and productivity as we worked on three separate homes that were damaged due to hurricane Rita from two years ago. I have been asked why they still need help since it was "a long time ago". One of the leaders from the Rita Recovery team stationed in Beaumont explained it to us this way: After the hurricane made its presence known on the gulf coast of Texas, over 2100 houses were tarped to aide the homes from sustaining any more damage. If one roofing crew worked all day, every day, all year (assuming that not one of those days had rain to make it unsafe to be up on a roof), they would be able to fix 350 roofs. Of course there are more than one roofing crew working, but that is just Beaumont, and there were other cities that Rita visited without welcome. That is hurricane relief. The next step is hurricane recovery. Relief is focused on safe and dry; recovery is about bringing life back to normalcy and permanent fixes. So our trip mainly consisted of hanging, taping, and floating drywall in place of molded or swelled walls and ceilings. As we drove from a church were we stayed to the different houses, you could still see blue tarps that are shredded and weathered from the years of waiting for just a bit of help. Can we do that - offer a singular moment in the course of our lives to extend a hand up for those that simply have a need that can truly be easily fulfilled? I surely hope so because that is my hope. I am reminded back to an article in a local newspaper in Poland that was shown to us. It asked the question: Is service to your neighbor a shallow expression or is it more? Can we be that witness of grace that says, "I am here for you. I see a need in your life. What can I do to help?"


morning lesson

Say hello to a double rainbow. This sky is what welcomed us as we first approached Norogachi. Truly amazing. Thought I would share.

Here is a morning thought for you all. I recently heard a statement that can be potentially powerful: "It just goes to show you that anything can happen when you show up for work." Hmm. Are you showing up?


Hey look! An SUV commercial.
This was our mode of transportation everywhere, besides when we walked (naturally).

waterfall #1

Our first weekend there (not including the drive down), we took a trip to Guachochi, the "big city" to do grocery shopping (and a liquor and beer stop ... Norogachi is dry). Next to one of their parks is this waterfall. We drove down to the base and were allowed to 'go play outside'. The sound was restful: the constant gentle hum/roar of the water splashing against the rocks and meandering its way down the river. Of course, leave it to me to be the one that nearly falls in - in my defense, it was slippery. It was fun to see the natives, especially the children, get excited with laughter playing near the water's edge. Our next waterfall adventure was even bigger and more dramatic.


This is very disheartening. About every week we had to go take a trash run because of the shear amount of trash that a group like ours produces. We were told that we were going to have to burn it because their land fill is really small. The first visit out there shocked me.

Cans, bottles, diapers, metal. I was honestly expecting something much more pristine (I am not sure how pristine a trash dump can be), more pastoral. I think that I wanted to believe that our consumer, materialistic, disposable culture had not reached theirs. I suppose I should feel slightly relieved that this is the whole town's dump and it is only as small as it is. I feel guilty, though. I do not have a solution, but there has to be a better way than burn or bury.


Part of my job (seemingly every other day) was to chase out the burros (donkeys) or the horses that decided to discover if the grass is truly greener on the other side of the fence - the other side just happened to be our side of the fence at the site. This important job was not given to me; I somehow was one of the first to respond the first time our professor yelled, "Get them out!", and so a pattern developed. By the way, the donkey with the black stripe going down its shoulder blade, we named Brentley - we became very close through the weeks.


week one

The first week of work for me consisted mainly of working on the "compacto" as we affectionately called it. The locals simply called it "la machina" (the machine). It is an easy process with routine tasks, so we would rotate positions. Essentially, you shovel in "la tierra" (earth, dirt) optimally with mainly sands and 20%ish clay mixture. The pounder, manually compacts the steel form with a wood bat as the form is being filled. The pulley arm swings over to the opposite side to compress the block as that person yanks, swings, bounces, and wills the block to compress sufficiently. (The picture shows a multi-person effort to compress a singular block; that was a good block.) We were, however, told later that the block should not be that difficult - that we were packing them too much creating a very dense block using a very high clay content of soil. Oh well.

Some other people made "sokete" - mud to make the larger adobe for the interior and mortar for laying the adobes. Doesn't that just look fun? I seem to remember an "I Love Lucy" episode of grape squashing, wine-making. Hmm. Of course one person had to be the first to fall in - later, people were thrown in, I mean, somehow they found their way into a big pile of mud. Good days.


neuva dia (new day)

This morning is another beginning to a new day. While preparing to leave my temporary home in Mexico with the morning view of the fog nestled into the mountains and the sounds of roosters and burros, I thought that I might have a difficult time (if not at least hesitant) with the return to normalcy. There are many things that are happening and need to happen (that I should really be working on now, but not) that I am not interested in - but what I want lies on the other side. But I went to work yesterday and will go today and continue on, just as if Mexico and Poland were distant dreams. The weekend after this, I am going on a short trip to the east coast of Texas to help with hurricane recovery, which I have been waiting for; then comes Guatemala again; then Berlin. But these too feel very distant. Am I really living my life?

My sister told/asked me the other day (more likely yesterday considering I have only been back two days thus far) if I would be willing to share and motivate congregants of her church. While talking with her head pastor and mentor about me (apparently), he asked my sister if I would consider presenting something to the church in Austin. And also something was mentioned about his connections to German pastors and my speaking with them when I am over there or something very fantastical on that line of thought. Seriously!? What an honor that I do not know how to fill. What could I have to say to show people the world's needs and instill within them a desire and a way (application is important, otherwise it is empty, meaningless words) to be a cause of change - and do this for my neighbors up in Austin and my very far away (six time zones and completely different climate region) neighbors? I have this to offer that I formulated while in Poland when asked why have we come such a distance and paying money and time to help these people who knew us not the day before: God has blessed me with a radical freedom to be and do at greater distances than others can, so my neighbors are just a little further away, while others (because of various responsibilities and callings) have smaller ranges of neighbors but can be equally fruitful.

So that is this mornings ramblings for working on a couple hours of broken sleep. I will continue to post stories and pictures of Mexico's adventure, while I work feverishly (procrastinating feverishly at least) writing a research paper for the Mexico studio (that is 30% of the final grade, I believe) and sometime before that actually completing the research that goes along with the topic of the paper - because that tends to help make the paper, well, a research paper.



mountain climb

About six of us decided to "go for a walk" early afternoon before dinner. We ended up climbing up one of the nearest bluffs overlooking the town, as we got to the mesa on top (yea!) it started to rain again, and a bit of really close lightning got us running across the top to another bluff and down back to our house. Lots of fun, a few scrapes and bruises, and really great adrenaline while going up vertical climbs, where a few times we practiced our team work exercises (our professor would be proud).


A couple of us went to the church in town. Our professor explained to us that people from many miles (or kilometers, if you wish) arrive every Sunday by foot through the mountains or by burro (donkey). Interestingly, and possibly sadly, the Tarahumaras sit on the right side and Mestizos sit on the left during the service - quite similar to how many get along throughout the mountains (you over there, me over here), which is one reason for the building project that we are constructing.

I was really hoping that at least in the church, over whatever animosity, Christ would be first. Silly me. The service was in Spanish and was on the 'good Samaritan' parable. After service, the Tara. assemble again outside of the church for their own service which is a mix of Catholicism and their own native practices. The women are first, and then the men gather in front of the leaders after the women leave. It was a good experience ... though by the third week, I could not keep myself from dozing.

bienvenidos a mi casa

We arrived in Noragachi at night with no electricity. Since the electrical lines are stretched across the mountains, storms anywhere along the lines can potentially interrupt current, as was the case for the first couple of days. So our first sight of our new home came at daybreak. Noragachi is a pleasant town of 800-1200 population with small communities scattered throughout the area mountain valleys. The log cabin (the girls' house) was built this last year. There are three rooms with a light bulb in each room. The three wooden huts are our new best friends - the outhouses. What joy! It is not a bad set up. We were well-fed with lots of corn tortillas and frijoles.

to chihuahua city #1

So this is Chihuahua City. We arrived after a 13 hour-ish drive and got there at night. We left Chihuahua City late that morning. The picture on the right is the cathedral on the main plaza.

i'm back

I arrived back from Mexico very early this morning (to the rest of the world, it was last night). It was a great experience in the Sierra mountains living within community among the Tarahumaras and Mestizos helping to build part of a boarding school in Noragachi. Since Internet was not a good option, three weeks will be catalogued shortly, hopefully, without missing any great moments. So ready, set, go.