This blog has been on (off?) vacation for too long. For personal reason my traveling has been cut back dramatically since the Around-The-World trip. In December of 2013 I did go to Haiti with some donors to visit the Mercy & Sharing orphanage, schools and projects. In December of 2014 I went to Cali, Colombia to help lay the groundwork for the project that I am currently on. Maybe if I get a chance I will backtrack and blog those trips.
Cali, Colombia – 2015
Friday, March 13, 2015
I arrived in Cali on March 13th. The day was quite uneventful. The travel went according to schedule and the arrival left little time to do anything interesting. I grabbed some food at the food court in the huge mall that is right across the street and mostly just turned in to get some rest.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
The people in our group that had arrived in Cali went to the area of the city where we will be working. We visited some houses that we will be working on to improve. Sister Frances, the nun that is coordinating the project had picked out one particular home. After looking at it she realized that a lot of the reason that the house was in such bad condition was that the husband was just plain lazy and did nothing to keep it up. She decided that she wanted no part of enabling a lazy person and picked out another house. We thought that was an admirable decision and gave us a lot of confidence in her management and responsibility regarding the project. We will also be doing some painting and repairs to the facility she operates that feeds some of the impoverished kids and provides them with activities when they are not in school.
The group got together for a nice dinner and and turned in for the night.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Today was scheduled to be a day where the group took a tour of Cali to get a feel for the city and the area. We got a good deal on a bus that is otherwise used as a party bus. It had a roof but was otherwise open aired. It had disco lights and the driver insisted on blaring local dance music which got to be somewhat annoying at times. First we went into the mountains where there were some spectacular views. At one point we stopped for drinks and snacks and the owner of the house across the road invited us to see his house and the gardens he maintains. There were a lot of exotic flowers along with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It was quite generous of him to extend the invitation to a bunch of strangers. We headed back to the city all the while holding our breath that the brakes on the bus would hold out.
Cali is not a tourist city. It is quite modern and has a population of between two and three million depending on who you talk to. I’m not sure what the basis of the economy is. It is near the ocean but there is not talk of beaches and resorts. There is a significant amount of poverty but it is not overwhelming. There are some areas that are very affluent and a good number of high rise buildings. The vehicles on the street are nice and like developing countries these days there are a lot of motorcycles and scooters.
After getting back to the city we went to a restaurant where we were fed a very nice meal. It turns out that it was donated by a man who helps out Sr. Frances. We thought it was quite generous on his part. Afterwards we headed back to the facility the nun runs and a program was put on for us. We took the city bus back to the hotel and again went out to dinner as a group.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Today the work project started. The first day is always the slowest because you have to get familiar with the local project managers. There is not always agreement on how the project should proceed. With projects like this it is important not to be too demanding or feathers get ruffled. Sometimes the locals are able to take into account factors that are not readily apparent to an outsider. Still, the locals can sometimes be obstinate and incorrect but its not usually an issue that can’t be worked through. We are taking on a lot. The three houses we are working on are basically tear-downs. Thankfully, the locals are doing the heavy lifting of digging for the footings, mixing cement and bricklaying.
We were warned that the neighborhood can be unsafe. We were cautioned not to carry anything that is of significant value. There is drug dealing and it can be very dangerous after dark. We noticed that in the morning there were an abnormal number of police cars around. They were checking out who we are and what we are doing because we obviously looked out of place. However, the nun put out the word that we are not to be made victims and she carries a lot of influence in the neighborhood. To give an idea of the situation, our project leader Mike attempted to hire some locals to work for us. When they heard what he was offering they said they could make more money robbing people.
Once we got started things proceeded quite well. I didn’t have much to do with the group to which I was assigned so at lunch I got myself assigned to another group. In the afternoon I worked at a jig bending rebar to construct the inner supports for the cement columns at another house. That was good productive work and kept me busy.
That evening we ate at a nice Italian restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.
Note: I’m having some problems with the disk space on my laptop so I’m having a bit of a problem loading photos. I will add more to this later and post photos. Be patient.