2.20.2010

Saturday is Travel Day!

Up early this morning to head home to Snowy Ohio! We stopped at Denny's in San Diego for breakfast (I had chocolate chip pancakes!), then we went to the airport. I'm pretty sure you all know what happens in airports and what happened afterward. So, there I leave it. :)

2.19.2010

Oh Friday...

Friday started off as most other days did...work! Today we poured cement in two foundations all before lunch.
After we finished pouring the cement, we cleaned up, ate lunch, then went to visit the families we helped in previous years. We took them some housewarming gifts, because they were moving into their new house and a few clothes for them, too. It was so nice to be able to see them again. :)

Afterward, we went back to the Taqueria for dinner. Yum! Back to the Posada for cards, packing, cleaning, and preparing for the long day of travel on Saturday.

2.18.2010

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday... BIRTHDAY!

Thursday started out with a trip to the health center that Esperanza helped to build a number of years ago. The site used to be a trash dump, and, quite honestly, it still is. Surrounding the health center is the pure definition of poverty and heartbreak. The people live in houses made of scrap wood, garage doors, plywood, tarps, and anything else they can find that will provide shelter for them.

The nuns who run the health center make it their mission to educate the community about illnesses from the garbage, and ways they can take care of themselves to prevent these diseases. They also have beautiful flowers on their property:
Afterward, we went back to digging ditches.




After we worked for a while, we had lunch, which just so happened to be Melissa's favorite food: MOLE!! (Pronounced molay.)
Then more work happened, and Anna bought me a bracelet for my birthday present. :) It says "Maria" on it, that's my Spanish name. (Meighen = Irish form of Mary)

After work we went back to the Posada, had showers, and went to visit a local orphanage. That was fun, and heartbreaking at the same time. The children were so fun to play with, but I wanted to take one of the little girls home with me. Her name is Victoria and she is the sweetest little soul I've ever met. She just sat in my lap and snuggled the entire time I was there. Her laugh was like fresh rain falling from the sky. I adore that little girl.

After the orphanage, we went back to the Posada and celebrated...MY BIRTHDAY!!! :) My awesome friends Liz and Emily (with some help from Jake) baked an awesome cake and decorated for my party. They also gave me one of the best gifts I could ever ask for, donations for my well. They heard my wishes and helped me as best they could.


We partied, had fun and I thoroughly enjoyed my day. I had an opportunity to give to a community and to my well campaign at the same time. Amazing. Best birthday ever. :)

Working on Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. We started off our holy day by going to mass down the street at the Catholic Church. It was a beautiful service, aside from the point when one of the high schoolers dropped Jesus (the host fell out of his mouth during communion). We received our ashes, and then went about our work day.

Today was a lot of work! We went to another worksite and dug trenches for the foundation of a house. The dirt we were digging in was a combination of sand and clay and very hard to get through. We dug all around the foundation and did most of the septic ditch.

After work we went back to the Posada, ate dinner, had another short Ash Wednesday service with our groups, then played euchre and continued to get to know each other. There may have been a few Tecate shared amongst friends. :)

2.17.2010

Ahhh...beach!

Those of you who know me, know I do not care much for the beach. But today, beach was in order. Due to unforseen circumstances, we were unable to work today - so, what else should we do but go to the beach!



We started out the morning eating breakfast (pancakes!!), devotions, library time (my favorite time of the day), and then we drove to the worksite, just in case we could work. No go. So, we ate the wonderful lunch the ladies prepared for us and packed up, went back to the Posada to change, and went to the beach for a couple hours.



After the beach, we went back to the Posada and cleaned up. Today was our day to make dinner, so we made sloppy joes, macaroni and cheese, guacamole, carrots and celery, and a few other things. Then, pursuant to tradition, we played Euchre for a number of hours. :)

We had a beautiful, fun, and wonderful day. Miss you all, Meig

Some more photos for your enjoyment:





2.16.2010

Vacation? WHAT VACATION!?!?

As you all know, I did not sign up for this trip to drink margaritas on a beach under an umbrella with a cute cabana boy. I signed up for this trip to work. And boy, am I working! Today we dug trenches and leveled land for the foundation of a house. A HOUSE! Incredible. It's amazing to think that with all our hands together, we will be giving the gift of a home to this woman, her husband, and children. They will have freedom, space of their own, and unthinkable opportunities. I am in awe of this. Really.

In order to do the work, we set up a line that started with the digging and ended with the dumping. In the middle were people moving the buckets down the side of the hill.



We made serious progress on the house, dug lots on the trenches, and will be digging more tomorrow.

After half a day of digging, we stopped for lunch. Lunch was very tasty papas (potatoes with cheese, onions and spices), rice, refried beans, and tortillas. Yum!! Then we got back to work and did some more digging.



At the end of the day we drove the bumpy roads back to the Posada and had dinner, 'library time' (we all sit around and read our books), then hung out around an outside fire and attempted to make smores. Yay!

Soon it will be more library time and then bedtime because we're up early for breakfast and more hard work tomorrow morning.

Miss you all, Meig

2.15.2010

Vacation Time!

Day two, Sunday:
We got up, had breakfast (most important meal of the day!), devotions, then set off for La Bufadora. It's a beautiful place a couple hours' drive from here, along the coast. Bit of a touristy place, but very nice. The water spits up along the cliff's edge and that's why it's called the Water Spout (La Bufadora). Very cool, and also a very great place for shopping. I managed to do some AMAZING bartering and got some fun things to take home with me. :)
Then came the drive home. That took almost as long as we spent there! We were looked at supiciously by a number of Mexican Army guards at a check point along the way (that line was about a 2 hour wait in itself) as though we were a van full of sketchy traffickers. After that mess, we finally got home, had some dinner and then (you guessed it!) played more Euchre! ;)
Now I'm sitting in a quiet room, tapping on the computer, and contemplating the busy day I have in store for me tomorrow. Up early to get some houses built!
I miss you all and wish you the best for everything! Talk soon, Meig.

Bienvenidos a Mexico

Day One of my adventures to Mexico...
This was the day of the 10 hours spent flying and/or in the airport waiting to fly. What a day! We made it to San Diego on time, around 2:25pm PST and then drove to the Posada where we are staying. The Posada is outside Tijuana and is very beautiful. It's a gated grouping of rooms with a kitchen, common room, central square and an 'internet cafe' (which is being used as housing for the boys from another large group for the week). I managed to find a little bit of internet, but it's sketchy on its coverage.
Anyway, the drive to the Posada was just stunning. It reminded me so much of Puerto Rico. The colors of the houses, the palm trees, the water... I also found it interesting that there were so many beautiful houses surrounded by so many troubled houses. It was intriguing to me to see the stark difference between the classes so closely bound together in this city.
Nevertheless, once reaching the Posada we unpacked our bags, made our beds, then set off to do some grocery shopping. That was lots of fun. :) I decided that since I had forgotten Big Bird at home (he usually travels with me), that I needed to buy myself a valentine. Especially since Sunday (which happens to be today - the day I am writing this) was Valentine's Day and I didn't want to be left out of the lovin'. So, I bought Frederico. I call him Rico for short. He was named such because when Beth and I looked at him we were reminded of my Dad, Fred. He also is a larger version of the bear that I gave my dad as a keepsake when I was a child. :) So, thus, Rico became my buddy. My confidant, and my Valentine. :)
After grocery shopping, we went down to the local Taqueria and had dinner. YUMMY! :) Very tasty, aside from the cows head that was being steamed. I steered clear of that. Otherwise, amazing experience and opportunity para utilizar mi Espanol. ;)
Then, we did as every traditional Northeastern Ohioan does: played Euchre for a few hours. Wonderful times! I also managed to finsish my second book of the trip. (So, um, Mom, no...I DID need to bring that many with me...) Then it was off to bed to start another wonderful day.

2.11.2010

Repost: Water: essential for all known forms of life.

A repost:

I, myself, have never experienced life without water. It has always been at my disposal. I have tried to never take it for granted. I take short showers, drink only as much that will keep me hydrated, and try to prevent falling into the stereotype of the "wasteful American" that so many of us are. I do my best to remember that there are so many in this world who have to endure life without clean water every day, and I am grateful that this is not something I have to live through.

I rarely ever ask for gifts for Christmas or my birthday. Not because I don't want things, I usually do, but what I want is never anything of value beyond myself; books, CDs, things that I can get myself. Really, what do I need with more stuff? I don't.

But this year I'm asking for something. Something really big. I'm asking for everyone to help me raise $5,000 to fund a well through Charity:water in order to get clean water to 250 people in a village. 250 people! A whole village! An entire well!

I turn 25 on 2/18/2010 so I am asking people to donate $25. If I can get 200 of the people I know to donate $25 for my birthday or for Christmas I can build this well.

Here is the link for where to go to check it out: http://mycharitywater.org/gigen

100% of the donations from this organization go to funding projects in countries all over the world building wells in communities and providing them with lasting solutions to their water scarcity and sanitation issues. This is the best gift I could ever ask for, or possibly give, and I am thankful every day that I am in the position to give back to the world that blesses me with its diversity, charm and love every day.

Olive Branch

For many years the olive branch has been a symbol of peace. This image struck me and I fell in love. It embodies the pure essence of the meaning behind the olive branch and peace at its center.

What do you mean I can't have my baby?

I'm currently sifting through The Shriver Report for information to use in speeches and other assorted places during the campaign. Thing is, it has me thinking about all sorts of things related to women and how we are still living in a very patriarchal society.

Currently I'm reading about how the Pregnancy Discrimination Act only protects women who already have access to paid time off (PTO), sick leave, etc., and are working for companies who have more than 15 employees. Why more than 15 employees, you ask. I'll happily tell you. Because unless a company has more than 15 employees, there is no stipulation that requires it to uphold the laws surrounding PTO contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act made it unlawful for employers to 'discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or priveleges of employment, because of such individual's ... sex.' That's all well and good, but what happens to those of us who work for companies with less than 15 employees?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was pushed through in 1978 and it provided for equal benefits for all employees, despite their gender. Here's the catch - if the employer does not provide PTO or sick-leave or vacation, they are not required to offer these benefits to pregnant women. What? Really? For those of us who work part-time jobs that do not offer health insurance plans, PTO, sick-leave or vacation, we have to take the chance that if we get pregnant, we can keep our jobs. If somehow, depsite telling our bosses that we've gotten knocked up, we keep our job through most of the pregnancy, when we leave to have the baby there is no guarantee that we will still have a job. It is unlawful to target layoffs and firings based upon pregnancy, but it is not unlawful to fire someone who is pregnant.

So where do we go from here? The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 managed to secure at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified workers. This helps to secure their jobs; however, it is not a guarantee that their employer will agree. And 12 weeks without pay is a long time.

Much needs to be done in the area of family leave and PTO. Somehow we think that it is the person's responsibility to secure for themselves the necessary means to survive, but often it is not the case.

I would love to have a full-time job, with benefits, PTO and vacation. I do not have that. I pay out of pocket for my health insurance every month. I come into work when I'm sick so that I can pay the bills (and feed my cats). They say, the more education you have, the better the options you have for getting a better paid, with benefits, fancy schmancy job. This isn't always the case. I have a MA and I work two jobs (at minimum) because all the full-time jobs around me are unavailable for one reason or another. I'm either over-qualified (ha!) or I'm under-experienced in the field. You have to start at rock bottom to get anywhere, and when student loan companies are pounding on your door for payment, things can get a little scary.

I'm sure someday I'll have a big girl job with PTO and the like, but until then, I'll take my week of unpaid vacation time to do some good for the people in Mexico.

2.09.2010

Ignition or Ignorance?

I'm sure by now you have all heard about "Palm Gate" as it has been wonderfully coined. If you haven't, you're missing out. CNN has some info here: Palin's Palm Gate After she received some criticism about it, she mocked critics by writing "Hi Mom" on her palm.

See, here's the thing: Palin has no grasp as to what this has done to her image, especially for those who were already critics of her in the first place. Writing on your hand is for middle and high school kids, not for politicians who want to be taken seriously in the global community. Now, I understand that the Tea Partiers think that we need more common folk in the government running things, and I somewhat agree with them. What I don't agree with is the lack of common sense they seem to think needs to be in the government. Common folk can have common sense, a valid education and a respectable career. They don't have to be limited to poor vocabulary skills, ignorance and for-show-only degrees from sketchy colleges.

The bigger issue at play here may possibly be what she wrote on her hand: "tax cuts", "energy" and "boost American's spirits". Ok, now, I don't know about you, but if I were trying to gain headway in the public eye and pose myself on the podium in preparation for a presidential run, wouldn't these items be something that are ingrained in my every day speech? I should think so. One would think that if you're purporting to be the folksy, lovey-dovey, perfect voice for the American people, these three talking points would be so habitual that there would be no way to forget them. Let alone during a Q&A session.

Nevertheless, I realize that you don't have to have a PhD or JD to be intelligent (I only have a MA), but you can be informed and capable. Those are the kinds of leaders I'd like to have running my country. Not ones who are uninformed and ignorant about the world around them.

So, that said, please inform yourselves about issues and the world around you so that you can make informed choices at the polling stations. Let that be the ignition for your life, not the stopping point of it.

2.02.2010

The Road Not Taken

In less than 2 weeks I will be in Tijuana, Mexico. I cannot wait! It will be my first trip to Mexico (yay passport stamps!) and it is also an opportunity for me to do some work in the community of Tijuana. Now, don't you worry, we won't actually be in Tijuana proper or within reach of the vicious drug lords. I promise I'll come back in one piece. :)

Nevertheless, we will be doing work to rebuild the shattered community and provide homes and opportunities for its inhabitants. These are the kinds of things I love to do. If I could go on work trips for the rest of my life, I would. It's everything I love about being a human being. I have a soul that cries out to help those less fortunate than me and I have opportunities to reach out and make a difference. What an incredible feeling!

While I'm there I won't have access to the internet, my phone, or the world back home. I'll be calling the parentals to tell them I made it there safely, but that's about it. I think that this week of no contact will be good for me. It'll be a chance to cleanse my mind from the computerized world that I live in. It will give me an opportunity to remember who I am and what I am doing, without the entire world weighing in on it. I'm looking forward to a bit of 'silence' and the opportunity to actually finish the 14 books I have started reading. I am also looking forward to spending time with some incredible people and learning more about them. (Don't worry, I'll bring some tequila back, too.)

I am lucky to have so many opportunities placed in my life's path. I just need to take more chances and go for it more often than taking the safe road and not venturing outside the box. One of my favorite poems is by Robert Frost, called "The Road Not Taken." The text is beautifully constructed, but the lesson is simple: take the road less traveled and your life will be enriched by the experiences you have as opposed to standardized like others' lives.

Here is the poem for your reading pleasure:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I hope that you all take something from that poem. I also hope that you take the opportunity to take the road less traveled and make a difference in the lives of others.