The Travels of Paula

I was a software engineer at the same computer company for 38 although the name of the company changed 3 times. In 2012 I retired and spend my time now golfing, volunteering and traveling (for fun and on missions).
Living in: Haymarket, United States
  • Day6

    ‍This was our last work day.  There were lots of jobs for us to work on today (helping with roof work; putting dry wall up on the front wall of the church; mudding and sanding the other ways of the church.   Three of us, Nina, Rich and I, delivered food.  We spent a long time taking with one or two members of each of the families we visited, except one woman who was ill.  Everyone else was talkative and had lots stories to tell.

    When we returned to the work site, it was almost time to head for lunch, so we began the clean up.  Then it was off to the Missioners' Residence for lunch. After lunch we returned to the work site.  At first we were considering delivering more food, but it would have entailed 30+ minutes of walking and the "foreman" preferred we spend our time working on the church.  I did sanding and some gofering.  Most of my gofering jobs were searching for nails/screws/tools and handing people water to add to the mud or helping lift drywall up to someone on the scaffolding.  I decided not to try working on the scaffolding.  I did not want to pull down the drywall if I lost my balance.  I also do had to give hand sanitizer to Aroche to wash out the cut on his foot.  Because it the hand sanitizer has alcohol in it, it evidently stings.  Next Carlos came over in need of a band-aid and we had to improvise with a Kleenex and masking tape.  He was hesitant for us to wash his cut out with the hand sanitizer, but I told him to quit whining.  So, I cleaned the cut, wrapped it with the Kleenex and tape it with the masking tape and he was good to continue working.

    All to soon it was time to clean up and say our goodbyes.  It is so sad to leave.  We have worked as a team these last few days and become friends despite the language barrier.  It has been a week of laughter and learning new skills and how best to leverage each person's strengths. 

    Dinner tonight was chicken tamales. For dessert we had apple parties mad by Marilu's daughter who is a pastry chef. They were excellent. Then Jhenny have us a piece of a cake that is filled with a layer of pineapple.  I have ordered a box of the cake to take back to the States.  There was no need for an ice cream run tonight.

    Tomorrow is our free day.  We will go to the Volcano National Park and then on to Tazumal with lunch at the beach.   And then we will prepare to head back to the States.  It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone. 
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  • Day6

    Mission Life is like a box of chocolates

    November 13 in the United States

    ....You never know what you are going to get.
    What is so wondrous and adventurous about mission trip to me is the surprising unpredictability. As we were organizing at our church, some of us regulars decided to come back. But then, John from Charlotte and Nina from Asheville joined after seeing us on the UMVIM website. And then, a week before leaving, I told my parents and sisters I was going to El Salvador again and my brother-in-law Terry joined too! He even drove two days from North Dakota to Northern Virginia to fly with us.
    So we have an interesting mix of people from Jhenny's 16 year old son Frank to three retirees, from native born Jhenny to Terry & me who can't speak a word of
    Spanish. Each mission team creates its own identity or personality and this one is no different. Each person brings something to the table -- you just don't know what that "something" is, hence the box of chocolates.
    We "understood" we would work on the new school and do lots of masonry again. No, the permits were not approved so we will work on a rural church site and do some drywall hanging & finishing. We met Aroche, the pastor of this new church and some other local crew members. We typically see him (since 2009) as a skilled mason so it was a joy for me to see him preach this time!
    We also typically work on masonry buildings in town. This time the church is a steel framed building with corrugated steel outside & drywall inside with large windows. Our very bumpy road (while standing int he back of a truck) is filled with walking people and dogs that don't seem to care about the traffic, full sized school buses, oxen-driven carts, motorcycles and cowboys herding cattle. Oh, and an occasional "stray" horse too.
    ...You never know....
    The first day was a little confusing as we tried to figure out what to do, and it turned out, the local crew as too! But Jhenny translated and after lunch Aroche said I was in charge of the drywall. Bonding between the local crew & our team was special and continued the whole time. We all ended up having a lot of fun together.
    When it comes to drywall taping and finishing, John did a great job coaching everyone and it has been showing in our work. Didn't know anything about him before the trip.
    ...You never know..,
    I warned the team beforehand that drywall finishing is like cosmetic surgery ... if done wrong, it is very noticeable and very hard to fix!
    Everyone seems to be having a good time. I am especially trilled that Terry came. He is talking to everyone (here & back home), using his skills, and said he quickly changed his perspective on people here. He can share more if he chooses.
    ...You never know...
    On Monday while delivering food around the neighborhood, we met a blind man with a blind son.This is an incredible story but briefly, God used his blindness (he says) to help many other people "see" as he travels to many countries evangelizing. He even had been to Israel (!!) and soon to Peru. Humbling and awe-inspiring don't adequately describe the feeling.
    You never know...
    One thing that hasn't changed for me is the pre-dawn view of the volcano where I routinely sit & some time journal. It has power lines, walls & metal roofs in the fore, but it works for me as a place to contemplate. I love the simplicity of this life style and always yearn for more when it ends. And yes,, the endless loudd traffic and 350 little red taxis right outside our hotel hasn't changed. Also, Marilou 's hotel food is as delicious & satisfying as ever. We finished our work and said our usual goodbyes to the crew. We feel the Holy Spirit is driving this all.
    ...Some times you DO know...
    One more day to go. What will it bring?
    P.S. In the USA and particularly in our own Prince William County, there has been a lot of "talk" about immigration. I hope our meager efforts can help make life a little bit better here so that, perhaps, people will decide not to risk their lives over a 1000 miles for a better life.
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  • Day5

    Fourth Day in Ahuachapán (11/12/2018)

    November 12 in El Salvador

    ‍‍Today Jhenny, Frankie and Tim delivered food.  Before they left, we discussed what the tasks are that needed to be done and who best to do them. There were two tasks. One was to put up the remaining drywall in the upper area. The other was to sand the mudding done yesterday on the lower level and tape over the seams and remud the seam and surrounding area. Terry worked with one of the workers to put up the last of the drywall and then started helping the guys working on the roof.  Rich, Nina and I did the sanding, taping and mudding. John showed us what to do; checked our work and did a little mudding and and taping.  A little before we were supposed to head over for lunch Tim, Jhenny and Frank returned.  Tim checked out of mudding efforts and Jhenny and Frank joined with Terry helping the workers on the roof.

    After lunch we returned and Tim and Rich began taping and mudding the upper level with John acting as gopher for them.  Nina and I began sanding the tape and doing any required remudding on the lower level.  Once we had gotten as far as we could on that, Nina and I moved on to other jobs.  I helped as a gopher with Jhenny for the guys on the roof  (Frank did most of the heavy lifting for that job). 

    As the work was winding down, a man brought over corn from his garden that he had boiled for us using our bottled water.  The corn was still in the husks and hot off the oven and it was delicious.

    On the way back to the hotel we again passed the cows being herded down the road.
    Once we returned to the hotel we showered and had dinner and or evening devotion.  Terry have the devotion.  He said he had learned that a school friend had a stroke and he had been asked to pay for her.  He had felt inadequate not knowing what to pray for.  He said in the end he had prayed "Lord please take care of her.".  I thought that was the best prayer because God will always take care of us although not always the way we want.  But with that simple prayer you have basically asked that God's will be done.

    After the devotion, Tim, Terry and I went on the nightly walk to the grocery store for ice cream and a few other is and ends.  It was a wonderful day and we are making progress on the church.
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  • Day4

    Third Day in Ahuachapán (11/11/2018)

    November 11 in El Salvador

    ‍For breakfast we had eggs, "drunken beans" which are red beans with green peppers and onions and sausage. We also had El Salvadoran quesadillas.  They are more like sweet cornbread made with yellow cornmeal and cheese - very good. 

    After breakfast we had devotions and then got ready for the drive to Ataco for souvenir shopping.  John and I went into the Textile shop.  John got coffee and I got a cappuccino.  Brian was also there.  The rest of the group hiked up to the cross and then did a bit of shopping and then returned to the Textile shop.   I made veryone show me what they had purchased in Ataco. While we were all together, we decided on our free day activity for Wednesday - we are going to the Volcano National Park and the Tazumal Mayan ruins.

    Then we got back in the van and headed for Entre Nubis for lunch.  After we ordered our lunch we took a short tour of the coffee plantation at Entre Nubis and then enjoyed lunch. I got chicken enchiladas.  El Salvadoran enchiladas are more of a sandwich made of two small tortillas with chicken and cheese with a dab of refried black beans on top. I also got a 1/2 cup of chicken soup. After lunch there was a little bit of time for those who wished to buy coffee and jewelry. 

    Then we headed back to the hotel to get ready for church.  Today we attended La Gloria.  This was a special treat for Tim, Rich, Jhenny and me.  We had worked on the right hand side wall of the church in 2016.  The sermon was about the seeds in the good soil that produce fruit.  The minister related all the acts of service/mission and caring and kindness to the good fruit. Fruit from churches all over the world. Fruit that spreads love and the gospel.  After the service we got a tour of the church.  It was wonderful to see the finished product.

    Then it was back to the hotel for a short rest and then dinner.  Jhenny had bought us some of the local fruit from the area.  So we ended the meal with the fruit.  Everyone enjoyed their favorite.

    After dinner we had devotions and a time of reflection and then some of us headed to the store for ice cream.  I am probably the driving force behind the treks to the store for ice cream.  I hope some of the team will continue to humor me by going every night.

    It was a restful day where we enjoyed each other's company and enjoyed sharing laughter and kidding with each other and becoming friends.  Becoming friends may not always be mentioned when people talk about their mission experiences, but for me becoming friends is one of the things I treasure most about the mission.
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  • Day3

    ‍Jhenny and I went walking again this morning.  At breakfast I asked for volunteers to go in the morning and afternoon to deliver food.  This is better than "springing” it on them a few minutes before they are to leave to distribute the food.  I don't know why it took me so long to come up with this approach.

    After breakfast and devotions, Carlos picked us up and (surprise) took us to the Missioners' Residence to pack the bags for the Feeding Program.  Once we finished being the food we headed to the work site.  When Fernando got the he told us that we would only be distributing food in the morning.  Rich, Nina and John went to distribute food.

    Tim is the team foreman and figures out what the jobs are for the day and which jobs each of us can do.  My first job today was to help Tim cut the dry wall and hand the sections up to Terry and Jhenny. I also added as gopher for supplies they needed.  It was a good job for me since I don't have the construction skill set for the more involved jobs.  Frank continued working on making and spreading the cement for the sidewalk.  That work work took us almost through lunch.  The three food distributers got back a little before we went to lunch.  John and Nina cut the paper strips that will be needed for the drywall mudding.  Rich helped  install the rest of the lower level drywall. After lunch John showed Nina, Rich and me how to do the initial drywall mudding.  It took a while to get the hang of it.  Both John and Tim had to remind us a couple of times that we need to smooth the mud to reduce excessive sanding when it dries.  John was a good and patient teacher.

    When we finished, Aroche did a worship service for us.  I missed the singing part because I was cleaning up the mudding tools.  Jhenny acted as translator.  The sermon was on gratitude.  It was very good.  I was surprised at how much of what Aroche said I understood without having to wait for Jhenny to translate.

    Then it was back to the hotel for dinner and devotion and a time to talk about our impressions.  Then the nightly walk to the grocery store for Ice cream.

    The drive, in the back of a pickup truck, to and from the work site has been very interesting each day.  The road is bumpy and narrow in spots.  Each day we have seen a man on a motor cycle with a baby sitting on his lap wearing a pink helmet when we head for the work site and when we head back to the hotel in the afternoon. There is a man on a house driving his cattle one direction on the when we head for the work site and in the other direction when we head back to the hotel.  The are always fearless dogs on the roads as well as approaching buses and trucks on the basis road.  As Rich pointed out, it is amazing any cars have side view mirrors.  And most cars we pass have their side view mirrors.  It is a sign of the web and flow of the population. 

    Tomorrow we will go to Ataco.  There the team can do some shopping and I can enjoy a cappuccino or two.

    This was a very good work day.  I think everyone felt they had contributed and enjoyed the jobs they were involved with.  And most were tired in a good way when we returned.  We are gelling as a team.
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  • Day2

    ‍Jhenny and I walked before breakfast this morning.  I did the first devotion this morning and Tim agreed to do the evening devotion.  Brian arrived at 8 and we left for the work site.  Shortly after we arrived the team from Georgia arrived.  The first job was to move the dry wall into the church to be installed.  Although it was heavy I was able to help pick it up and carry it with the help of 2 or 3 others.  Tim and Rich worked with the Salvadoran workers to measure the drywall segments that needed to be to cut to install on the wall.  Frank, Nina and I smoothed out and leveled the dirt where the cement would be poured to complete the sidewalk around the church.

    When we finish that, we were asked to select 3 or 4 people to go with the Georgia team to distribute the food.  I volunteered and Nina agreed to go, too.  I spoke with Tim and he suggested I ask Terry.  Terry agreed and we went to give out food.  I was in the group with the two women from the Georgia team and Nina and Terry were in the other group.  I always learn new things when I deliver the food.  One family had a son in the Navy and I learned a lot about being in the military.

    When we finished up we returned to the work site and Nina and I helped with the group clearing the cut down plants.  I borrowed the wheelbarrow to move the stuff to the pile of cuttings and trash.  Soon it was time to go to the Missioner's residence for lunch.  After lunch we returned to the work site.   As we were heading back Brian told me we would be going to the school for dinner and the marching band would be performing.  We would leave the hotel at 4 pm and need to be at the school by 5 pm.

    We didn't finish up until well after 4 and it was much later by the time we got back to the hotel.  We rushed to change and then headed to the school.  The marching band, majorettes and a rhythm dance group performed.  They were very good.  There was also a girl there that retrieved batons, wiped sweat from the dancers' faces and when helped with hair problems. - all white the other girls continued to perform.  A lot of the music played was Christian Praise music.  After the performance we had pupusas for dinner and a sugar cookie for dessert.  After eating, I went upstairs to see the upper level addition to the school - very impressive. Then we returned to the hotel and everyone decided to take showers and head to bed. 

    It has been an interesting first day.  It was definitely a day to work on being flexible.  But the day was filled with many pleasant surprises and I once again learned a bit more about El Salvador and life here.
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  • Day1

    Arrival in Ahuachapán (11/8/2018)

    November 8 in El Salvador

    Leslie Oakes drove Rich, Tim, Terry and me to the airport.  We left the church at 6 am.  The check-in line for those who had done online check-in wasn't very long.  What was amazing was that the line for TSA-Pre security  was considerably longer than the regular security line.  The flight was fine. The flight was almost over before I figured out which earphone jack got you sound (thank you Rich).  But by that time it was a bit late to start a movie.  But I had stuff to read so I was fine.  The Immigrations line was slow and we saw John Ellis, whose flight got in 45 minutes after ours, in line not that far behind us.  For those who tender it, the airport has done away with the Red/Green light - no more drama.

    Jhenny meet us after we retrieved our bags, took us to where Frank and  Nina (pronounced Nine-na)  were sitting and went back for John.  Then Fernando took most of us to find the toilets before we started the 2 hour drive to Hotel Atillo (our home away from home for the next 8 days).

    Today I spent time getting to know Nina, John and Terry (Tim would call it "talking their ears off").  They are all very interesting people and I am looking forward to getting to know them better during the week.

    It was great to see Meme and Marilyn again.  Brian dropped by to introduce himself.  It was good to see him again, too.  We won't be working on the school we were scheduled to work on because the permits still haven't come through.  There will be roofing and dry walling to do at the project we will be working on.  Tomorrow we will be working with the team that is already here (it will be their last day).  I am looking to see what God has planned for us. 

    After a delicious Chicken soup/stew everyone but Nina tried down to the Supermercado for ice cream, Gatorade, snacks and whatever else took our fancy.  I bought a coffee mug so I don't use styrofoam (that makes John Ellis and the environment happy).

    I am going to try to get to bed earlier than I normally do because Jhenny and I are going walking at the very track tomorrow morning.  Going to Central Time is like going through the time change again  (falling back one more time).  Can't wait to start working tomorrow.
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  • Day15

    Day 14 - Exploring Venice

    August 24 in Italy

    ‍John and I decided to forego the glass blowing factory tour.  Instead we decided to do as the slogan says and "get lost in Venice".  Which really means to just wander aimlessly which was very relaxing. One nice thing about Venice is there are signs on all the streets pointing to one of the bridges, so it's ready to travel around without getting to lost.  First we went to the Rialto bridge and to the fish, meat and produce market.  Then we wandered around and had lunch in a little shop.  John got mini ham and turkey sandwiches.  I got a vegetable and cheese in half a toasted pita.  I also tried the Spritz (a mix of white wine, Aperol and a spritz of Seltzer water).  It was okay, but more but then I expected.

    After eating we returned to the hotel and took the hotel water shuttle over to another island and wandered around there for a while.  When we returned we meet or group for a gondola ride.  It was so much fun.  And we had Musicians in our gondola.  One played a guitar and the other sang.  I think the serenading was for Bretna and Lonnie since their anniversary was a few days ago.

    Then we returned to our room to shower and dress for our farewell reception and the private St. Mark's Basilica tour.  While we were getting ready John got a call that Matt was being discharged today.  The hospital was arranging for ambulance transportation.  However, the snag was getting his prescription filled and put in his pill box. John tried to get someone close to Merica House to get the prescription, but could not get in touch with anyone.  So I contacted about friend, Marian,  and she agreed to pickup the pills and put them in Matt's pill box.  John continued to work on getting the prescription filled and the logistics off the discharge.  While John worked on that, I went to the reception to let Florence, our Tour Director, know we would probably not be going to St. Mark's.  It started raining a little after the reception began, so we moved indoors.  I stayed for the reception and then returned upstairs to our room.  Then we went to dinner in the hotel, so we could ensure we had cell service to contact the hospital and anyone else.

    We had dinner in the hotel restaurant so that we would be assured of Cellular service and WiFi.  Finally, the prescription was sent to the CVS near Matt and I could let Marian know.  And while we waited we got packed for the 9:45 am luggage pickup to head home.  Marian texted me when she got to Merica House and put Matt's pills in the pill box.  Now everything was settled and all we needed to concentrate on was going home.  It has been a fun trip and we have made a lot of new friends.
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  • Day14

    Day 13 - Arrive in Venice

    August 23 in Italy

    ‍‍We said good-bye to Florence and took the high-speed train to Venice.  The train ride to about 2 hours.  From the train station in Venice we took water taxis to our hotel.  At the hotel we had a buffet lunch.  On the buffet was a penne pasta with pesto sauce.  We were being served and without thinking I accepted the pasta or on my plate.  I also got chicken and green beans.  As I was heading for a table, our Program Director, Florence, stopped me to give me a plate of pasta in tomato sauce since I am allergic to the pine nuts in the pesto.  Thank goodness to Florence for looking out for me, since it would not have been good if I had eaten the park on the penne pasta.  And up to that point I had been so careful.

    Once lunch was over, we meet or our local guides and headed for St. Mark's Square and the Doges Palace.  There were a lot of steps and it was hot and the building was not air conditioned.  Our group was fine but the other group did not do well and some cut the tour short and returned to the hotel.

    After the tour we returned to the hotel to check-in and get our room keys, go to our rooms and shower and meet again to go to the restaurant.  This was our farewell dinner so the attire Evening Smart (aka dressy).  Our meal consisted of three courses.  For my first course I selected a vegetable roll.  Since John didn't think he wanted either, he selected the Caprese salad. The vegetable roll was like a spring roll, so I let John have that and I took the Caprese salad.  For my second course, I chose the vegetable lasagna; John chose the steak.  For our third course, we both chose the gelato.  It was a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate.  And there was lots of wine, of course.  Then it was back to the hotel and time to relax and then go to bed.

    John called the hospital and Matt was doing better.  The nurse said that they migh discharge him on Saturday, but they still hadn't gotten word back on what bacteria was the culprit.

    I was struck today by all the different ways there are to turn on the water in sinks; get soap for my hands; and dry my hands.   
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  • Day13

    ‍When I returned to the room after breakfast, John was on the phone.  It turned out that during the evening Matt's fever Rose to 104 and the aides called 911 and Matt was transport to Alexandria Hospital.  He was admitted to the ICU there (John didn't mention that Matt was in the ICU until later in the afternoon when I asked him about the phone call).  John spoke to the nurse who told him that they thought the fever was because of a urinary tract infection.  John provided or health insurance information and said he would call them later in the day to get an update.

    We had the day to ourselves to explore, but talking with the hospital resulted in us getting out later than planned.  We decided to go to the Cathedral Museum first.  We learned a lot about the contribution of the Duomo.  As we were leaving the museum John noticed the skies are darkening, so we returned to the hotel to pick up our umbrella and the rain ponchos we had been given in Rome.  While we were in the hotel we heard a lot of thunder. 

    We decided to get lunch before going to the next museum.  We selected two restaurants near the hotel, but in the direction we would be heading to the museum.  We found the first restaurant on our list easily enough and were seated right away.  We were given menus and began selecting what we wanted to eat and drink.  But no one came to our table to take off order.  Then I noticed a table that had been empty when we were seated who had drinks and bread.  We waited a few minutes longer and then left.  Our second choice restaurant seated us; provided menus and told us about the specials; and came back and took our order.  Meanwhile, it began to rain pretty hard.  Our meal was good and we finished when it looked like the rain had subsided.  Unfortunately, it was just a false sense of security, because it started pouring within a about a block.  We tried sharing an umbrella, but I just got soaked, so we both stopped and put on our rain ponchos. 

    At the Galileo Museum we stuffed our backpack, ponchos and umbrella in a locker, and purchased our tickets.  We were able to download the Museum app and because I had my Bluetooth headphones with me I could listen to commentary on each of the rooms.  John was only able to read text.  However, most of the display cases include information in English.  We toured the museum long enough for my sandals to dry out (no need for the hair dryer).

    We completed the tour and returned to the hotel to shower and meet the group at 5:30 for a tour of the Ufitzi Gallery.  The Ufitzi was very impressive and I got to see several paintings I have seen in books.

    After the tour, John and I walked to the river and crossed the bridge with all the gold shops just to look.  We considered having dinner on the other side of the river, but since we weren't very hungry, we decided to get soup or something light near too the hotel and to get some gelato at the shop or guide recommended (Perché no!). So we went back to the Yellow Bar.  I had vegetable soup and John had bread soup.  Both were closer to stews than soup.  I enjoyed mine, but there were too many green vegetables in his four hours liking.  I also had a bottle of the Toscana beer.  Then we had for the Gelato store where I got black cherry and hazelnut and John got black cherry and a cream.  I liked mine a lot, John thought his was just okay, since he prefers Lemon and they didn't have that.  We returned to the hotel and John called the hospital to get an update on Matt.  Matt's fever had gone up again and they still didn't know what the bacteria was, yet.  Matt was asleep, so we didn't get to speak with him.  Then it was time to pack so we could leave for Venice in the morning.  Looking forward to Venice.
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