Photo of The Day #61

Homes of Hope Project

Homes of Hope Project

 

 

This past May two of my sons and I volunteered with Homes of Hope. We helped build a home for this family in Tijuana Mexico. I was more than surprised by the way that this project effected me and it was one of the most emotional and pleasing efforts that I have completed in my life. There is nothing in the world that could match this family’s smiles and gratitude, after we gave them the keys to their new home.

 

 

To construct the habitat with my two sons touched me more than I ever imagined. Volunteer work is the most rewarding undertaking I Have participated in and I would encourage everyone to join in and volunteer abroad when possible.

Photo of The Day #49

Homes of Hope Project

Homes of Hope Project

 

 

I was thinking back to this photo in Mexico today and how I learned my sons have all become men. This picture shows Kim and my youngest two sons, Chris next to me and Sean holding the little girl. They both worked their rear ends off, to help this family in need Memorial Day weekend and I have never been prouder. Their words of gratitude and praise struck me like a bolt of lightening at the key exchange and closing ceremonies.

 

 

It was an eye-opening experience and one I will treasure the remainder of my life. I only hope that everyone reading this post, has the opportunity to experience a volunteer program and has the additional pleasure of doing it with your relatives, especially your children. If and when you do, don’t be surprised if it becomes an overwhelming emotional event! It was for me.

Capture the Colour #CTC13

 

Okay I am going to jump out into the sandbox and enter the “Capture the Colour” contest this year. I have never done anything like this, as I am petrified to even submit my photos. When you consider the excellent professionals that are involved I really don’t stand a chance, but what the hell, I have to start sometime. Travel Supermarket is sponsoring the contest and each contestant is required to submit five photos displaying their ability to reflect on the colors red, blue, yellow, white and green. Simple enough? Right? No it isn’t! I am here to tell you it took me two hours of pilfering through my collection, to narrow each color down to three or so possibilities. Absolutely nerve-racking! So here goes.

 

Red Ripe Cacao SeedPod

Red-Ripe Cacao Seed Pod

 

 

I took this photo on my most recent trip to Ecuador when I had the extreme pleasure of visiting and touring a Cacao Plantation in El Oro province. It was an awesome trip and as most people do, I love chocolate to death! I can eat it every day. Just ask my wife Kim!

 

 

Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

Yellow-Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

 

 

Kim and I were shopping at a local Home Depot one day this past fall I believe and stumbled upon a collection of potted orchids for sale. I though that they were outstanding and had not seen a blue orchid previously. Loved it and now I am using it in this contest. Wonders never cease!

 

 

Home Depot Orchids

Blue-Home Depot Orchids

 

 

We have three sons and lived in a house on the Mountain, in Austin Texas for approximately 18 years, while raising our sons. I will never forget this snowfall, as it rarely snows in Texas and I was out before sunup trying to get the right photo. This one showed the snow on the backyard umbrella and the trees in contrast to the other colors.

 

 

A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

White-A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

 

 

On Memorial Day of this year I was invited to partake in a project that our middle son’s company sponsors. Homes of Hope is a fantastic organization that builds homes for individuals that truly need help. This calla lily was outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Mexico where we stayed while working on the project. I will never forget the experience of turning the home over to the needy family! It was truly humbling!

 

 

Green-Calla Lily

Green-Calla Lily

 

Thanks to my friend Joe Newman at Cosmic Smudge for nominating me for the contest and forcing me to come out of my shell! I wish I could quote technical photographic data about my equipment like Joe did, but the simple truth is that I used my Nikon digital pocket camera on all the photos including this one that kind of displays all the colors together. (Uh oh I am jumping outside the spectrum). I may have used a little editing prerogative, but that is all.

 

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

 

Part of the contest and a way to increase the participants, which directly decreases my chances (Ha-I am joking. I know I have absolutely no chance against the pros!) is to nominate an additional five bloggers to enter. So here goes. Y’all don’t hate me and please enter this #CTC13 contest and blow the competition away!

 

Lisa Niver Rajna at We Said Go Travel

Will Castillo at I Will Travel

Karla Aguilar Perez at Traveller Soul

Lauren and Kenin Bassart at The Constant Rambler

Linda and Dan Bibb at As We Saw It

I am cutting my own throat as both Karla Aguilar Perez and Dan Bibb are wonderful photographers and do it professionally. Who know maybe this will help the out! A big “THANK YOU” to Travel Supermarket for allowing us to participate (definitely brown-nosing) and best of luck to all the competitors! Saludos mi amigos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #6

the Pier at The Rosarita Beach Hotel

 Pier at The Rosarito Beach Hotel

 

 

I was fortunate enough to help Homes of Hope over Memorial Day weekend in Tijuana, building a home for a deserving family. We stayed at the Rosarito Beach Hotel and I finally got a chance to explore the beach, the last night we were there for about 30 minutes. This photo spoke volumes to me and I loved the old pier. It appeared very sturdy still, yet in dire need of a good paint job.

 

I am guessing it went out over the water about a 300 to 4oo feet and had roughly 600-900 feet of pier over the sand when I walked it. The sky was overcast and I couldn’t help taking the photo. I was mesmerized by the iron rusted blue poles and the remaining deck worn down by time. So peaceful at that moment in Mexico!

A Virgin’s Very First Time

Okay I know the title might be a little misleading, but in essence I was a virgin at TBEX and had no idea what to expect or what I would gain from the experience. In reality it was an eye-opening learning experience and enhanced my ego (my wife Kim’s feedback)! I knew going in that the fact my Speed Dating calendar had almost been filled, that I was in for an extraordinary event. I just didn’t think about the fact that I had just returned from my expedition to Tijuana, building the house for Homes of Hope and would wind up worn down and really tired. I will never put back to back weekends of this much exercise together again, unless I am asked of course!

 

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

 

My flight arrived in Toronto at 5:30 PM and I arranged for a round trip bus trip, thinking this would provide plenty of time to get my bags to the hotel and go to the opening night party. Bummer…it didn’t transpire exactly like I hoped. There was a transfer to a shuttle van with about 11 other people and of course I was the LAST one dropped off. I got to my hotel at around 7:45 and the party started at 7:00 PM. So…no shower, no change of clothes, however I was able to brush my teeth! Started walking to Roy Thomson Hall for the party arriving about 8:30 half way through.

 

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

 

I met a charming lady who was just as lost as me trying to get into the party. All of a sudden I hear “Mike” being yelled and I recognize the face right away. It was Kenin Bassart of The Constant Rambler and I knew I wouldn’t be alone at the party. He and his wife Lauren have been very cool connections on my social media links and we have grown to know each other fairly well. Kenin directed me to the other side for my entry. I received my badge and walked into the zoo! It was like something out of a movie. A band was playing, food stations were everywhere (with fantastic eats) and of course the bars were flowing with alcohol.

 

Kenin and Lauren Bassart...Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

Kenin and Lauren Bassart…Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

 

I met with Kenin and Lauren downstairs and ran into Derek4Real  from Austin. It was going to be a good night, but I had no idea how good! Toronto was hot and humid, just like Austin so I went back upstairs and enjoyed the A/C inside. Great step! I started walking around and ran into several bloggers that I have met online. I ran into Maria Laborde from LatinAbroad.com and had the ugliest picture of me taken all night! Then I bumped into Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline.de and didn’t even recognize her. She had to tell me who she was (embarrassing)!

 

Derek4Real on the right along with Jum and Warren

Jim and Warren with Derek4Real on the right

 

Poor Maria...She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

Poor Maria…She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

 

I had people coming up and saying hi and it finally dawned on me that my hat was a “brand”. Everyone kept saying they saw my hat and came over to introduce themselves, as I had asked ahead of time. I lot of the bloggers did not look like their profile photos and this old man struggled all night long trying to see who was who. A few that I talk with regularly like Charu Suri of the ButterflyDiary.com, Michael and Nicole of SuitcaseStories.com, Pola Henderson of JettingAround.com, and Alexandra Kovacova of CrazySexyFunTraveler.com I recognized immediately. Others I had to read their badges and at times even that was rough as my eyes are not what they used to be.

 

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

 

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler (This may be worse than my photo with Maria–my darn mouth)

 

Pola from Jetting Around

Pola from Jetting Around

 

As the hours flew by it all became a whirlwind and I realized it was time for the “Senior” travel blogger to retire! I knew I had a jaunt back to the hotel and decided to use the men’s room on the way out. As I left and was climbing back up the stairs a voice asked “Are you Mike”? I turned and had absolutely no idea who had approached me “leaving the men’s room”. I was a little nervous to say the least. He showed me his badge and I almost fell over. It was Ted Nelson of TravelingTed.com , but he didn’t have his hat or sunglasses on and I didn’t put two and two together until I looked at his badge! We both got a big laugh. I asked someone passing by to take our photo and we were on record (of course if you know Ted, you know he had a beer in his hand)!

 

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

 

I walked home wondering what the next day would bring and how the “Virgin” would handle his first ever #TBEX conference. Time would tell! I have to learn to keep my darn big mouth shut for photos, if I learn nothing else from the conference!!!

 

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of Got to Keep Moving in the Center

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of “Got to Keep Moving”, in the Center

 

 

 

Homes of Hope…Day Three

The alarm went off at 6:00 AM again and this time I struggled to get out of bed. My bones were weary from the prior day’s efforts and I had to quickly down a couple of cups of coffee, in order to get this old man going. We all lined up outside and prepared to go to the camp again for breakfast. Chris came up without Brad and it appears Montezuma had rared his ugly head at Brad. Brad was unable to make day number two and had to be left alone to fend off the evil spirits, in his hotel room. The buffet was set up when we arrived at YWAM/Homes of Hope and this time sausage was added to the menu, after only bacon the first day. I was never so glad to see it. I needed the protein for the day ahead.

 

Sean and Chris at breakfast! HHmmm!

Sean and Chris at breakfast! HHmmm!

 

After breakfast and our morning round of updates and instructions, we jumped back on our bus and rode to the house site. We circled up and listened, as Colby gave us the details of the second day and assigned tasks. He stated that after an hour, volunteers would accompany the family to Wal-Mart and purchase items they needed and could use in their new house. Sean raised his hand and went to Wal-Mart about an hour after we started work. Chris climbed back on the roof with Brody and had to finish the plywood. Throughout the morning they continued with adding the felt and then finally the shingles to complete the roof.

 

Dora the daughter on their way to Wal-Mart

Dora the daughter on their way to Wal-Mart ,That is paint in her hair

 

I was given the detail or trim work and it is an very precise process with the 1×2 lath wood. Not to mention you have to balance on a ladder, to do the top of the wall trim (after falling the day before I was nervous). This trim was substituted for our normal tape and floating and the seams were all covered with wood. The remaining exposed sheetrock was painted! We kept getting in each other’s way and I truly think I got about half the paint wound up on my hands, arms and face as I touched and grabbed for balance. It was a little frustrating, but had to be done this way, to complete the house inside within the time allotted. Sean took the camera to Wal-Mart with him, so I have very limited photos of the second day of work.

 

Sean helping Dora decide

Sean helping Dora decide

 

Sean took the job of babysitting Dora the family’s daughter and told me later that Alberto and Reina had never shopped at Wal-Mart. Both became very emotional as they went for their first visit. They weren’t really sure what was what and had to be coached and directed to items that would be of benefit. Sean personally bought a bicycle for Dora and when I discovered this it stirred my feelings. After all Sean thought, why shouldn’t she have a bike? Sean said he was very touched during the entire shopping experience and was only sidetracked by trying to keep up with Dora.

 

Sean and Chris putting the bike together

Sean and Chris putting the bike together

 

They got back earlier than we thought and rode around a few minutes to let us finish the house. When they arrived, we emptied the supplies, groceries and few toys inside the house. While they were gone shopping, we setup a new bed set, a propane oven and a dining table and chairs for their use purchased by Homes of Hope from Ikea. We then set up lunch, which Reina made partially. In addition to the pre-made sandwiches we had her tamales, frijoles and salsa. I couldn’t eat enough of her fabulous tamales. We ate outside their new house and discussed our efforts.

 

The family ate first

The family ate first, The Tamales were in the big pot…Yum!

 

After lunch we circled and each said a word or gave a thought to the family and had our wishes translated by Felipe. I have never been prouder of Chris and Sean in my life. They both stated very impassioned, prophetic phrases and when it came my time I stated I was glad that Reina’s wish of not being wet any longer was coming to fruition. Reina started crying and I couldn’t control my emotions and burst out crying also. It finally came time for Alberto to speak and he teared up and thanked us profusely for building their new house and providing shelter for his family. We gave them the keys and let them go in for a few minutes and then knocked so as to be their first guests. It was a phenomenal ceremony and allowed everyone to express themselves.

 

Alberto and Reina brought to tears during the ceremony

Alberto and Reina brought to tears during the ceremony

 

We presented them with a photo of our group. The words on the photo expressed the house was given with love in hearts and a desire they would cherish their new home.  We left and waved our goodbyes and headed for the hotel, with time left to shower and explore before the final nights activities. I was ready and was literally all worn out. I had no energy left, as we boarded the bus I looked back and knew that in my 63 years I had never done such great volunteer work.

 

The first thing they hung on their walls

The first thing they hung on their walls

Homes of Hope…Day Two

The wake up call came after my first cup of coffee and I took a quick shower. This allowed Sean an extra 30 minutes of sleep and I am guessing all three boys needed the sleep. I went to the lobby and found Dennis the Defender Direct man waiting. I then called Chris and Brad to make sure they were up and around. Slowly but surely the crowd managed to arrive and we finally boarded our bus at around 7:05AM. Breakfast was at the YWAM/Homes of Hope campus and was actually fairly good, except I can’t eat bacon and it was the only meat this day. We received our last minute instructions and anxiously hopped in the bus that took us to our home site.

 

The Current Home

The Current Home

 

We arrived after bouncing over many a pothole and chugging up a hill that I though the bus might not make. The Blue Team poured out and we looked the existing “home” over and most of us kept our eyes turned down, realizing that this family actually lived in the shack next to the concrete foundation poured ahead of time.  The wife and children came out and met us all and joined in the circle for prayer. Colby our construction leader and other staff went over the procedures and  safety rules. Felipe said a prayer for our safety and the home we were building. Colby and Brody the assistant construction leader, immediately divided up the team into painters, framers and the woodcutting team. Sean got on the framers and Chris, Brad and I were the team on the saw, cutting all the various lengths needed to complete the walls, windows and door jambs.

 

Felipe leading the prayer with Reina, Ariel her son, Sean, Chris and Brad

Chris, Brad, Sean, Felipe leading the prayer with Reina, Ariel her son

 

We emptied the van of all the tools and supplies that were not already on site. All the wood had to be divided up and carried to various stations prior to any work beginning. The team did a great job and everyone that could, pitched in and carried something.  The siding and plywood stacked over by the painters. The 2×10’s, 2×8’s and 2×6’s were stacked by the cutting team. The 1×4’s went to the framers who immediately started framing the trusses. Sean joined Brody and they started hammering away with this group.

 

 

Sean Nailing Trusses

Sean Nailing Trusses with Brody

 

Each station had sawhorses that acted as tables to lay the wood on for prep. Brad and Chris secured the saw to a a couple of 2×6’s, set a jig in place after a few small cuts and away we went. We (Brad, Chris and I got a routine going (I should say Brad and Chris, as I was just trying not to get in the way). They tacked a piece of a 2×4 at the exact mark that would allow each piece of lumber to be dropped into the jig and cut it to the appropriate size. Bright young men I must say! I think they have done this before. In no time all the wood had been cut and marked in red, as to the lengths.

 

Nomadic Texan with Chris on Saw

Nomadic Texan with Chris on Saw

 

The framer teams nailed the two side walls together including the siding. Felipe our translator and really good carpenter put the middle wall together. We then lifted the two side walls and tacked the middle wall in place. I tacked 2×4 pieces to the side walls to provide support and stop the drifting. This was all  done in a matter of an hour or two. I was astonished at the progress, the coordination, cooperation and organization of the Blue team! It was amazing.

 

 

Walls up with two side walls

Walls up with Middle Wall in Place

 

We then framed in the rear and front walls without the siding to get all four sides in place. I then climbed a ladder (against Kim’s direct orders) and tacked in the 2×4’s above the rear walls. I think Felipe did the front walls. The team then tacked the siding on the front and rear sides. Brad helped in the rear and I must say it was a precarious perch with only about 12″ of sand to work with and walk on.

 

Brad Nailing Siding and Trying Not to Fall Down the Hill

Brad Nailing Siding and Trying Not to Fall Down the Hill

 

Now that the walls were all secured the trusses were brought in and Chris and Brody hopped on the top headers and started installing the trusses. I had to look away as it made me very nervous for Chris to be up that high, with literally no support or safety net. Another team started putting Sheetrock up around the interior walls. Brad was working with Felipe and I started working with them and Colby to some extent and we finished most of the Sheetrock except a few small places by lunch.

 

 

Front View at Lunch

Front View at Lunch

 

I was on a step ladder and missed the second step on the way down. Tumbled head first into the concrete, scraped and bruised both knees badly. My pride was hurt more than my body I think! It was embarrassing to have the only injury of the build! Sean was elected to string wire and run the electrical in the house from the junction box to all outlets. This became a major task! Glad he knew what he was doing!

 

Sean Listening to the Other Old Guy Talk Electricity

Sean Listening to the Other Old Guy Talk Electricity

 

In the morning talk, the lady mentioned that we should each try and ask the family what they would like about their new home and what would make them most happy. During lunch I asked one of the staff to translate for me and I asked Reina what would make her most happy about her new home. She stepped back and though a brief second and responded with “I will be so happy not to be wet anymore”. It was all I could do to maintain my composure.  I thanked her and turned away, losing it completely. My eyes swelled with tears, as I realized how lucky I am and the fact I am never concerned about my “roof” leaking on a dirt floor.

 

Reina with her Son Ariel and an Unidentified Gentleman

Reina with her Son Ariel and an Unidentified Gentleman

 

It got to a point in the afternoon where I could no longer lift my right arm from so much hammering. Next time I must use a 2×4 piece ahead of the build and work my muscles up. I turned to the painting table and joined the fabulous Ruth in painting the plywood deck for the roof. I learned her former husband was a painter by profession and she taught me a few tricks about painting with rollers and with brushes. Needless to say all the paint did not get on the plywood and my arms were covered with white paint by the time we stopped and started packing up the tools and supplies.

 

Ruthless Ruth the 80 Year Old Trash Talker

Ruthless Ruth the 80 Year Old Trash Talker

 

Chris and Brody got all but two pieces of the roof deck in place. Brad and his team got all the exterior siding and all but a few last minute Sheetrock cuts in place. We were a tired but happy bunch of workers. We loaded all the tools into the van, placed all the extra wood and supplies in the house and nailed a piece of plywood over the door. By this time the windows were also in place. We loaded up and left for dinner at the camp. Dinner was the “Taco Man” and the staff raved about the quality of the tacos. They did not mislead us. We ate until we couldn’t breathe and left for the hotel.

 

The Taco Man

The Taco Man

 

Sitting in the dining room I realized how tired I was and how emotional I got at Reina’s comment. This old man was ready for bed and I hit the hay without even taking a shower. Sean left and said he would see me later. It only took about 30 minutes and he came back and jumped in bed. It must have been about 7:00 PM. Were were both so tired that sleep came quickly. Wake up call left for 6:00 AM again and on to Day three!

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