Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 1959 (my mom and her brothers)

I'm off to spend Christmas on the island at Casa Santiago with the kids and my friends Carrie and Eric who arrived yesterday! While I haven't posted enough recently for you to notice my absence now, I'll only be gone for a few days!

When I get back, I'll start posting photos of why I've been MIA lately, action on the construction front!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Nativity Story at the Babies' House

Here are a couple of scenes from the nativity story through the mouths of some of our youngest at NPH Nicaragua. I especially love the silent comment on women and economics in the first clip.

The angel on the right popped up without her halo, so like many times at Casa Asis, there are some helpful hands that come to her assistance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oliver Ridley's Arrival and Departure (that would be the turtle)

Managing expectations. A lot of my job is that. A lot of people’s jobs are that. So it doesn’t feel like my free time should be that. But it is. And it’s hard to manage the expectations of myself!

On Sunday night I went to San Juan del Sur with some of the volunteers for NPH that live at the house on the island. Sure, we went to the beach, had a great dinner watching the sun sink over the pacific. But really I was just there for the turtles.

Beginning around September until January, Oliver Ridley turtles lay there eggs in the sand of the (now) protected La Flor Reserve beach. It is one of 7 beaches in the world that experiences massive arrivals of turtles. Picture thousands of 3 foot long turtles filling the beach, pushing past each other with their awkward flippers for prime nest real estate above high tide, but not too far into the forest.

Because it is remote (only 22km away from town, but over an hour drive due to the rough road), we head out with a tour given by a local hostel at about 9 PM. The turtles arrive and leave in the dark and are pretty sensitive to light (they use it to orient themselves since naturally the light would be toward the direction of the ocean and away from the forest, they haven’t caught onto the fact that in most places the forest has been replaced by the bright motel parking lot).

No one knows when the arribadas (the massive arrivals) will happen, but some conjecture the best time is during the new moon, with less light they are less fearful to leave the water. So on our chosen night, a new moon night, we walked through the forest and turned off our flashlights when we reached the beach.

Red light was used as we walked to make sure we weren't stepping on baby turtles. We were allowed two photos each, one of the nest with the camera situated so the flash wasn't visible to the turtle while it was laying, and one of it's butt as is got close to the water to leave. So I never got a good look at the head end. To see the turtle better click here.

Our guide led the way from turtle to turtle explaining what was happening at each step and over the following two hours we saw a grand total of…. four turtles.

Really, they are impressive creatures. Around since before the dinosaurs, they have experienced a crisis of population in the last 20 years like none before. As they delicately curl the edge of their back flippers to spoon sand out of a hole that is as deep as they can reach (about 2 ½ ft.) before laying their eggs and as they thump their massive (around 80 pound) body on the sand afterwards to compact the fill closing it, it is natural to simply be awed by them.

Now hopefully next time I’ll just get to be awed by a lot more of them!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Another Look

A few more depictions of the house.

In our meeting with NPH Family Services in Honduras last week, they requested that we decrease the number of rooms to two with eight children in each for ease of supervision during the night.

So our architect has completely redesigned the bedroom portion of the house (which with sixteen kids is no small task) and given us two options to choose from. That said, she hasn’t made more cadd renderings like these yet for the new design (which we received last night and so should be choosing today). So the house will be close to what you see here, same style, same materials, but (as always until it’s finished) there will be some changes as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Concepcion Continues Eruptions

Look familiar? Yes, those are the same two volcanos you've seen in the header every time you've come to this blog. Something different? Yes, that would be the huge ash cloud erupting from Concepcion on the left.

Since I wrote last week about an eruption, Concepcion has released ash a majority of days. INETER, Nicaragua's geological research department, says that everything is fine, no need to worry unless we start to have earthquakes. Of course, after INETER told us they would help with a geological survey for our project and nothing advanced beyond the first office visit, we learned to take what they say with a grain of salt.

The sign across the road says "Welcome to San Jorge", with the ash cloud billowing behind and to the left.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Community Remembering

Two days ago Harrington was running at the stadium, training for an upcoming meet when he had a heart attack and died on the track as 15 year old boys are not supposed to do.

In the night, 20 minutes after we first heard the news by cell phone, we sat on rented plastic chairs outside his family’s tiny concrete block home in the dark with a hundred other people who had also just heard the news.

A couple cars, motorcycles, but mostly bicycles came and a few went. Slowly, the gathered crowd clogged the rutted dirt road completely.

The breeze was cool, the constant chatter understandably subdued, even as friends laughed and relayed their stories. Having only met Harrington once, I just listened and thought about the family inside. We could hear the mother as she wailed for her only son, the line at the door shifting people into and out of the home, comforting in its multitude.

A few hours later, I returned home, but the friend I went with and others kept their presence with the family until after midnight.

The next day, they gathered again and cheered Harrington on as his body was carried in its coffin one last lap of thousands around the track. One last time they all could be heard chanting his name, driving him on.

At the end, they followed on foot, first to the church, then to the cemetery.

I could analyze the gatherings, so prompt, so intimate as is standard in cultures without reliable mass communication and body preservation technology (the body needs to be seen, the funeral experienced in order to waylay possible suspicions).

But for now, we’ll recognize the more important priority, a community has gathered to mourn that Nicaragua has one less, full of promise.

The friend who trained with Harrington has long insisted to me that the most important element to win a race is heart, Harrington simply had too much.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Welcome Home! (if you’re tiny)

The decision has been made by the director that the first phase will contain five homes of a rectangular plan that we have from the architect. Construction will begin this month (with the definition of construction including everything we need to do to the land to prepare for the houses).

It happens less and less as computer design software become more sophisticated, but for this project, we had models made for the home designs aside from AutoCAD renderings. So here is an idea of the house that will be a home!