Last country in Latin America, Argentina. Argentina is different compared to Mexico and Peru, or at least different from the places I visited. Córdoba feels, and is, modern. The city has skyscrapers, perhaps not as big as ones you will find in New York City or San Francisco, but quite tall nonetheless.

Transportation is like any of the big cities in the USA. There are other similarities between Córdoba and metropolises in USA, but there are also differences. One difference is the abundance of cafés. On almost every corner there is a café. Sitting down at a café, drinking coffee and eating a medialuna, a type of croissant, is the norm. This is usually done during the timespan of lunch and dinner. This time is a special meal for Argentinians called Merienda. A Merienda is not common in other South American countries, because Europeans introduced this meal to Argentina but not to other countries. In the early 1900s, there was a massive wave of immigrants from Europe. The immigrants introduced different customs and altered the spoken language, Spanish, to a different dialect. The Spanish here is still Spanish, but the tenses are different compared to other Latin American countries. Because of the wave of European immigrants, culture in Córdoba is different compared to Peru and Mexico. In Peru and Mexico, indigenous culture is more evident in everyday life. In Argentina, the culture is more mestizo (mixed).

I’ve noticed less tourists here in Córdoba. Most people I have met from other countries are here for school or volunteer opportunities. Tourism is not big here, especially compared to Cusco in Peru.

My purpose here in Argentina, is volunteering at a government funded community house. There is a daycare, tutoring center, and a kitchen. I am in the kitchen. So far, I have been trying to work my way into the system. I have been able to help, but not nearly as much as I can. For the first 30 minutes, the women force me to sit down, drink tea, and eat bread. It doesn’t matter if I don’t want any tea or bread, I still must eat and drink. After I finish, I normally dry and put away dishes or cut vegetables and meats. Probably, over the course of the upcoming weeks, I will be given more things to do, but for now, I will be cutting and drying.

I have about 35 more days until I am back in the USA. I have met a variety of people and experienced different cultures. This trip has certainly flown by and I am learning a great deal about other cultures – and myself – more on that in future posts.

admin on October 19th, 2017

As I am in my final week in Peru, I can confidently say time has certainly flown by. I have done a bunch of activities in Peru. Whether it is in Cusco or somewhere in the mountain range, I have been a part of excitement and learning experiences. Some of my ventures have led me to common tourist attractions, Starbucks and more. And all my adventures have led me to meet new people and create friendships. The people and places are the reason why my time has flown by.

One of the first tourist attractions I went to was to the statue, Cristo Blanco. I went with four other people. Two of them had shown up in Cusco the day prior, so the climb up the hill to Cristo Blanco was strenuous on them. As for the rest of us, we had already acclimated to the altitude, therefore the hike was not as arduous (still tiring though). When we reached the top, we were greeted by the statue, a beautiful view, and a man trying to get us to ride horses. He was persistent. He didn’t leave. We refused though. After seeing everything we could, we headed back down. A couple of people in our small group almost slipped, but luckily, they did not get hurt. In the end, the hike was well worth the sight.

The next tourist attraction I went to was rainbow mountain, which was beautiful. The altitude was crazy. At the very top of the mountain, it was over 5,300 meters (I don’t know the exact height). Either way, it was significantly more difficult than Cristo Blanco, because of a 1,500-meter difference in height. I was able to make it up the mountain, somehow. At the very top, I traveled a little way to see the red valley, it is right next to rainbow mountain. It was beautiful, all there was were red mountains. The only other color was green and that was due to vegetation, no other reason. On the way back from the red valley, I could really feel the thinness of the air, it was hard for me to breathe and I began having a headache. I ended up spending some money and taking a horse down the mountain, it was worth it and relieving (even though ironic because of not taking a horse ride at the other site). I was able to breathe a lot easier as I rode down. The whole trip was amazing.

The most recent attraction I went to was a world wonder, Machu Picchu. Before I went to Machu Picchu, I visited the sacred valley, which is the way the Incans traveled by to get to Machu Picchu. The Sacred Valley was incredible and I had gone at the perfect time. There weren’t too many people there and it was sunny but there were clouds to reduce the heat. Machu Picchu on the other hand, I had gone on a great and a terrible time. Terrible because there was a lot of rain and fog, which means I couldn’t get the classic Machu Picchu picture. But the rain and fog ended up being a positive. There were significantly less people there, and the fog created an effect which made Machu Picchu more mysterious and magical. It was certainly lived up to its reputation as a world wonder and I would love to go back to Machu Picchu again, perhaps on a sunny day for a different perspective.

As I only have a couple more days left in Cusco, I’ve seen so much, yet I know there are a bunch of things that I have missed. Four weeks is not enough to experience Cusco at its fullest, yet this time has yielded me amazing memories. I can’t wait to return to Cusco, but I am looking forward to my next stop, Argentina.

admin on October 6th, 2017

Basilica de la Catedral, one of the two churches at the main plaza.

After a little over a week in Cusco, I have found that I love it. Cusco is different to Mexico, the way people carry themselves is one of the differences. I don’t know if it is because this is a city while my time in Mexico was in small towns and beaches. Either way, the people of Cusco appear to be a bit more timid but still carry the same warmth and friendliness as Mexico. The city is huge yet I have only explored a small section of it (the main plaza, places surrounding the plaza, and the supermarket near my home stay). Through my exploration, I have met a diverse group of people besides Peruvians: Belgians, Australians, Canadians, French, and fellow Americans from the USA. The people from these countries carry very different

The fountain in the main square, Plaza de Armas. This plaza is bustling center of history and activity.

opinions of that of my own and others. Majority of the time, I keep my mouth shut, but sometimes they want a friendly debate (hopefully it was friendly, they are still extremely friendly to me and invite me for lunch, so I’m good). The diversity in Cusco is broad, mainly because Cusco is a huge tourist city.

But moving on to why I came to Peru, teaching English. I am teaching English at an orphanage to seven boys between the ages of 12-15. The boys are eager to learn, but forget or become bored very quickly, which I don’t blame them. English is hard to learn, but it is a very important language to learn, and even in this short time span, they have learned a lot. They are even teaching me as well, accidentally. Mainly it is words that I don’t know that I have to look up because they want to know what it means in English. After a good five seconds of starting class, the kids can’t sit still and want me to play fútbol (soccer) with them.They usually get what they wish for at the end of class: me failing at playing fútbol with them! In the end, as long as they learn their English, there is absolutely no problem.

My English class, from left to right: Richard, Ivan, the man behind is Stefan (he is a fellow volunteer from the USA), he is holding Marco, Yeferson, Leoncio, Edson, Robert, and me and Carlos.

Now, I have to talk about something very important. This topic is how great the food is. I absolutely love it. It reminds me of home. One of the staples in a Peruvian diet is rice and potatoes. A meal has to contain either of those two, unless we are having fruits for breakfast. All of the food in Cusco is right up my alley. Also, walking the streets of Cusco is dangerous. Not like I will get mugged or anything along those lines, but the street vendors’ food smells so good! You can hear the sizzle and smell the fragrance of assortments of meats and potatoes amid the hustle and bustle of the city. Even if you just ate, your stomach will yearn for more, or maybe that is just me. Either way, the food in Cusco is absolutely amazing. Except, the tacos in Cusco are not nearly as good as the ones in Mexico.

Me resting in a quiet moment on ancient stone steps.

There is still so much that I can write about Cusco or the people or the food or where my travels have taken me. But for now, this will be all.

admin on September 21st, 2017

As of today, September 19th, I have only four more days in Mexico until I fly to Peru. In my time in Mexico, I have done a great many things and have seen a lot. A significant amount of events have happened since my last post. There have been two groups that have come to the beach/camp to volunteer and help the turtles. Each group presented new people with different tactics to try and get me to drink tequila. For example, one of the groups told me that I will speak fluently in Spanish after 7 or 8 shots of tequila. I’m glad that I am not gullible nor that desperate. I was able to talk to them in Spanish without tequila (sort of talk, more like stutter). One of the groups did draw me in and got me “dancing.” And, no, I was not under the influence of tequila. They showed me the basics of two different types of dances and I pretty much failed at both. It was still fun though, but it felt really weird. Me trying to dance and speak Spanish are not the only things I have seen and done.

At the camp, I have seen poachers steal eggs (they were a good distance away) and I have seen about six crocodiles. They aren’t that scary, the crocodiles, that is. I say that, but the first one I saw on land, when it moved, I booked it, meaning I ran! In my time at the camp, I have released hundreds of baby turtles. From what I have seen, the nests produce about 40 turtles a time (depending on location, this can happen two times, so a total of 80 baby turtles). All of this means that I have released many hundreds of turtles.

Moving on from the camp, I recently participated in the celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. It might have been where I was at, but it was not as large as a 4th of July for USA. There were some performances of music and the fireworks were kind of crazy. I don’t mean crazy amazing, I mean it was unsafe. They were releasing the fireworks extremely close to people, where some things were being set on fire. The biologist was saying that one year, he was wearing a new shirt and after that night, the shirt was nearly destroyed because it was set on fire. So in the end, the fireworks were crazy. I did have a good time.

But on a more serious note, there have been several terrible earthquakes in and near Mexico City recently. There is talk here about it, but where we are is far away from Mexico City, in a town near Tomatln, and I am safe. My connecting flight to Peru is in Mexico City but it doesn’t look like it has been affected.

This will be my final post when it comes to Mexico. My next one will be about Peru and what a great time I am having there. Unless the food in Peru is better than the food in Mexico. Then I will have to mention Mexico.

admin on September 8th, 2017

This adventure, so far, was everything and nothing from what I expected. I was expecting, which all came true, to see poverty, weather changing from raining at 70 degrees to being under the boiling sun at 100 degrees, and turtles, of course. What I wasn’t expecting was seeing people with joy despite not having nicely paved roads, roofs with no leaks, constant hot water, and more things that some Americans cannot live without. Also, I wasn’t expecting that so many Mexicans were able to speak English and that they loved Football.  I do not know if it is where I am staying at but still, I am consistently amazed. This environment is great. You can feel the friendliness and joy of others.  People talk to each other when they are in the store or sitting at a bus stop. They are not shy and concentrated on their phones.  Do not get me wrong, a lot of Mexicans have smart phones, which means that a lot of them have their eyes glued to the screen.  This adventure was and is everything and nothing from what I expected.

When I first started off on the project, I was happy and full of energy to work, but over the course of three days, that energy teetered.  Not because I wasn’t enjoying the work, it was because of the constant rain and powerful winds.  Rain was always finding its way into my tent which drenched my items.  I have finally been able to find the perfect spot where I am not affected by the rain, but unfortunately, some of my things have a bad smell because of the rain.  My spirit is back to where it originally started, full of energy.

The conservation of the turtles is tiring work, partly because most of the work is at night to early morning.  It has become less tiring because I have been able to spot turtles, their tracks, and their nests a lot easier.  Because of this, I have been collecting, on average, about 500 eggs a night. With these eggs, I sell them on the black market. Sorry, bad joke.  If I were to do this, it would land me at least 7 years in jail. I actually relocate them to a protected area where I build them a new nest. This area protects the turtles from predators and poachers. There we can make sure the baby turtles make it safely to the ocean.  After that, they are on their own. The biologist said that we can average about 5 female turtles, per nest, will live and come back to the beach to nest.  We can average none if this project was not in place.

I am so thankful that I have been able to experience all of this. There is much that I have seen and not written yet, and there is a lot that I have not seen.  Thank you to everyone who supported me financially, through prayers, or any other way. I would not have been able to do this without you.

admin on September 8th, 2017

The day has arrived. I have taken my first step to a grand adventure. Thank you so much to the people who have supported me in any way that you could. Thank you to LifeSuppprtM for giving me the push and the help on this trip. I would not have been able to do it with out them.

admin on April 25th, 2017

Two weeks in Tecate, Mexico, building homes and helping in the kitchen (La Cocinca). We also donated our trailer. Thank you to all our donors and supporters for sending us to do this wonderful work!

admin on November 16th, 2016

Each time we go on a house building mission to Mexico, Jeff and I reflect on how grateful we are to be able to be of service. We are continually moved by the generosity of our donors to send us out on this work, and we are especially moved by the heart and soul of the families we build for. We were blessed on this mission to have with us, another of my Dominican University of California work colleagues, Henry Jamison, Sr.

      

And, we are, of course, always grateful for the work of Amor.org and the pastors in Mexico that make it possible for us, and all who wish to participate, to come to Mexico to help families stay together.

      

On this mission there were three families who received homes, built by a group of over 60 folks from across the United States. The home that Jeff, Henry and I worked on was for the Munguia Lopez family. The neighborhood was in eastern Tijuana, in the town of Valle Verde where the streets in the neighborhood were names like Valor, Dignity, Cooperation, and in our case, Sincerity. These street names were especially poignant because we saw how the family we built for, and their neighbors, came together not only in the building of the house, but also recently during a terrible tragedy. Only one month before our arrival, the father of our family, Norberto, lost his home to a devastating fire. The fire leveled Norberto’s home and several others. But the most tragic loss was that of Norberto’s 32-year old son, Manuel, and Norberto’s best friend, Jorge, when the fire caused the house to collapse as Manuel raced back in to save Jorge.

      

Each family that we have built for in our twenty years of mission work has had a unique story and they have often expressed to us how their home will be the beginning of a great new chapter – for Norberto it will be a bittersweet new chapter, the joy of a new home tempered by the grief of his loss. His surviving children and grandchildren do live close by, and one of his daughters, Veronica, and her three young children, will be moving into the new house with Norberto.

      

In this time in the world it can feel like things are falling apart, and in Norberto’s world, that is most true. But, at the same time, there is hope, there is cooperation, there is dignity, and there is valor – in every word and deed we have the ability to make the world a better place with love, and with sincerity.

Blessings to all, from Leona and Jeff and LifeSupportM.org

 

admin on November 9th, 2016

Thank you to our many donors for your generosity toward our upcoming House Building Mission to Mexico and our donation visit to Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage. With your contributions we will be able to bring a first time Mexico House Building team member, Henry Jamison, Sr., with us on the trip. On our way, we will be dropping off a truck full of supplies, diapers, and clothing – and a check for $400! – to Casa Hogar Sion Orphanage. We look forward to sharing more photos and stories from our trip when we return. Thank you for helping us help families and children in need, and share love, generosity, and understanding across cultures.

admin on August 3rd, 2016

Tijuana, Mexico: House building for the Sarabia-Diaz family. Their new home is next door to their parents and grandparents homes where the family raises their own goats, rabbits, and chickens. Pablo works at one of the factories in town and Luz works at a local grocery store. Pablo and Luz are expecting their first child in December and they are grateful that they will now have a safe home, close to their parents, so they can all be together when the baby comes.

The house building team, thanks to Amor.org, consisted of folks of all ages from Henderson, Nevada; Southern California; and Northern California. The Northern California crew, representing LifeSupportM.org, was Jeff, Leona, and Daniel Estrada (Leona’s work colleague at Dominican University of California).

Thanks to our generous LifeSupportM.org donors, and the Dominican University of California’s Kathryn McGovern Community Service Award,  for helping us raise the funds for the mission – especially since it gave us the ability to welcome Daniel to the Life Support Crew! And, thank you to all the administrative staff, Mexico pastors, camp staff, field staff, and fellow team members that make these missions possible.

p.s. The week before we built for the Sarabia-Diaz family, Jeff built a double wide home for a family just down the street. So many blessings for making good things happen in the world!