Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bolivian sabbatical video

I’ve described in earlier blog entries Principled Technologies’ (PT’s) sabbatical program as well as the sabbatical videos we have been creating about some of them. 

As you can see below, we just finished the video about my 2011 sabbatical. I can't say as that I particularly like looking at myself in the video. (Where did those crows' feet come from?) Despite my discomfort, I think the PT studio team did a great job of putting together the video. 

Watching the video brings back fond memories of my sabbatical trip 18 months ago as well as my most recent trip less than a month ago. I especially love how they worked Bárbara's wonderful artwork into the opening sequence.
I'm proud of PT's sabbatical program for both giving people seven paid weeks off every seven years and for encouraging people to do something good in the world during that time. I'm even more proud of what PT employees have done over the past few years through that program--helping causes as varied as the homeless, orphans, and endangered species on four continents

I look forward to the future sabbatical efforts of folks from PT. And, the resulting videos!  

I hope and pray that, in some small way, we will make an impact for the better in the world.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cochabamba, Bolivia

The day after leaving from the beach following Becky’s wedding ceremony, I headed to Cochabamba, Bolivia. I went to spend time with the orphans cared for by the Amistad Mission. I’ve been to Cochabamba to work with Amistad three times before over the last 14 years and I now am trying to go at least once a year. 

Some of the mountains surrounding Cochabamba
Because of many other things going on this fall, it was a fairly short trip. I went by myself this time, but never felt lonely. How could I? I was often with people I’ve come to know and love over the past few years.

Cochabamba is at an altitude of 8,000 or more feet, but is ringed by even higher mountains. The weather is nice most of the year. The city is sometimes called the City of Eternal Spring and is generally arid with pleasant temperatures. There was some rain while I was there but the temperature was in the 70s or low 80s most days, though it got cool in the evenings.  

Typical breakfast at La Morada
I spent much of my time at La Morada, a facility for visitors like myself that Amistad runs. It is the place where I slept, did lots of reading, took warm showers, drank safe water, and ate many of my meals. Doña Celia made sure there was always plenty to eat. Between those meals and the restaurants I went to, I managed to gain weight (as I usually do in Bolivia) in a third-world country.

My trip was made even better by my wonderful translator/tour guide, Sarah. She was there to translate when I needed her, but let me stumble through things when I thought I could. More importantly, she put up with me and was fun to be around. 

Bárbara helps show off the mariposas
I spent my time mostly just being with kids and the people that care for them.Part of each day I was at La Villa which is a group of buildings that serve as homes where the children are raised in family groups, each led by a mamá.  

Life at La Villa goes at a much slower pace than I’m used to. I was able to wander around and visit with different children, most of whom I had met on previous trips. Sarah was usually with me to help me communicate with the children. I had plenty of time to hang out in the library and help some of them with their homework. I also had time to work on some crafts with Bárbara and her house. At her request, I brought down some supplies for making a butterfly mobile. (Thanks to Gina for getting the supplies for me!) While I don’t claim to be as artistic as she is, we worked together and created a couple mobiles like the one in the picture above.

Bill, the gardener, in action
One of the ironies of the week was that I spent some time gardening, which I normally hate. Mamá Jhenny has her own little garden and she had me digging rows for her to plant onions. I had a great time, though I may have cut the vine of her favorite pumpkin. She smiled at me and did not seem to mind. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Enjoying dinner with some of the college students
I also had the opportunity to have dinner with some college students at a nice restaurant, Paprika. They had grown up as children in La Villa, but were now in college studying areas as diverse law, accounting, sociology, and civil engineering. They told me about their studies and their challenges. One of the girls remembered Becky from when she first visited in 1998. We ate a good meal, laughed a lot, and generally had a great time together.

Working hard to finish the ice cream
I spent Saturday afternoon with the children and mamá of Casa Amanecer. We took them to Globos where they had lots to eat including way too much ice cream. Some of the little ones made more of a dent in the generous portions of food than I thought was possible. 

After eating ourselves silly we went bowling. Even the little boys had a blast rolling the ball down the lane. Hitting any of the pins was a bonus. I bowled terribly and lost to Dunia and Marinely. There seemed to be bowling balls, kids, pins, and kids everywhere. It was chaos. It was wonderful.

Dunia and Marinely say their victorious goodbyes
I also had the privilege of spending a decent amount of time with the Bolivian director of Amistad, Lila. She even took me to her church on Sunday where we sang choruses in Spanish. I felt myself crying at one point. It was so touching to be with a fellow group of Christians half a world away. 

I managed to get much of the gist of the sermon in Spanish. It was about the importance of the family. Though some of the specific examples were very Bolivian, most of it would have been equally applicable in my church in the US.

Goodbyes with Bárbara and Casa San Francisco
I’ve tried to understand why I love going to Amistad so much. I’m not sure what it is, but there is something special about the people, both the children in the orphanage and the people who work with them. I’ve been told that my pictures from Bolivia seem to show me with a real smile rather than the often awkward one I have in most photos. Bolivia is the place where I feel the most free to smile, laugh, and cry. I can’t wait to go back.

Beware, however, I will be trying to convince you to come with me the next time I go!  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wuv, twue wuv...

Ignore my expression and look at Becky, Steven and the beach
About ten days ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a wedding ceremony for my daughter, Becky, and her husband, Steven. They were officially married on 12/12/12, but wanted something more meaningful to share with their friends and family. The ceremony was at the beach and both it and the participants were amazingly photogenic as these pictures attest.

Becky asked that I read 1 Corinthians 13 and allowed me to say a few words after doing so. Here are the portions of that chapter that I talked about in the context of marriage:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Susie and the happy couple
I told them (and everyone else there) that the love Paul describes must be an action, a verb, not just a feeling, or a noun. Love is something we must choose to do. Every day.

I said that on that day Becky was beautiful and Steven was handsome. They fervently meant their vows, their “I dos.” But, that will not remain always true. Beauty fades. “I dos” and “I wills” become “I don’ts” and “I won’ts.”

I explained that both of them (and all of us) need to put Paul’s words into action. The love he describes is not the natural outcome of the love they had for each other that beautiful day. We aren’t always patient, kind, trusting, hopeful, or truthful. Indeed, human love does fail.

Everyone is jumping for joy!
Human ability is not sufficient to do what Paul describes. He describes agape love, the sacrificing love that God has for each of us. We need God’s help to love each other, even in a good marriage.

I prayed for them (and everyone at the ceremony) that they would allow God’s love for each of them to assist them in loving their spouses.

The muttonchops that almost appeared 
Steven had asked me if I would conduct part of the ceremony like the bishop in Princess Bride. I had planned to do so and went so far as to get fluffy, muttonchop sideburns like in the movie. They were, however, a bit too difficult to get on without being too hard to get off! So, this picture will have to suffice. I did conclude the ceremony by saying, “May wuv, twue wuv fowow you foweva.”

I continue to pray that Becky and Steven (and other married couples, including Susie and I) will put in the effort to experience twue wuv. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Quick book reviews (#6)

Here is another set of brief reviews of books I recently read. These reviews use a scale of one to five stars based on Library Thing (where I post these reviews as well). I am a tough grader and seldom give out the full five stars, so keep that in mind when looking at my ratings. 

A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents—And Ourselves by Jane Gross (4.5 stars)

I wish I had read this book sooner. Jane Gross details her and her brother’s experiences with her aging mother. Their story is both sweet and bitter. Gross describes the tender moments and does not avoid the unpleasant ones. Somehow, she manages to do that while letting through the humor that her family shared during those years. Gross also manages to put in lots of details about things as varied as the intricacies of spending down money to become eligible for Medicaid, the legal issues of parents in another state, and the flaws in how our medical system treats disease. Gross is Jewish and notes that the Bible does not describe the long slow path to death that most elderly now experience. Much of what she writes was familiar to me such as the chapter on therapeutic fibs—the little lies we end up telling our parents to get through awkward situations. That might mean telling your parent that a drug helps enhance appetite rather than that it is an antidepressant because the parent is of an age that does not acknowledge the existence of depression. After all, they lived through the real Depression. I have lived, and am living, through much of what she describes with my father and now my mother. I really wish I had known in advance about more of what she relates in her book. I recommend this book to anyone who has aging parents, especially ones still in good health. That will change at some point and the farther in advance you can prepare for that change, the better.

And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini (3.5 stars)

The latest novel by Khaled Hosseini once again looks at the harsh life in Afghanistan. I don’t think this book matches the standard set by his excellent two previous works, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini tells the story of an intertwined group of people all linked by a single event. At the risk of giving away too much, that event is of a father giving away his daughter in order for the rest of his family to survive. The story is well told, the images are gripping, and I quite enjoyed the book, at least partially because I’m fascinated by Afghanistan. This novel was one of the few books of fiction that I allowed myself to read this year and as such I was a little disappointed. It is possible that my expectations for it were too high. I would recommend this book to folks that liked Hosseini’s previous novels. But if you have not read them yet, I think one of those two would be a better choice. 

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (3.5 stars) 

Wikipedia describes Wes Moore as an American author, businessman, and US Army veteran. He was a Rhodes Scholar and by most definitions is very successful. He grew up in Baltimore, just a few blocks away from another Wes Moore of similar age who currently is in prison serving a life sentence for murder. Moore spent a lot of time interviewing the “other” Wes Moore in prison as well as other members of both their families. His book looks at the similarities and differences between their lives based on that research. He examines what made one Wes Moore a success and the other a convicted murderer. The book is a fascinating and uncomfortable exploration. While I’m not sure of the conclusions (nor do I think that he is), the book is worth reading for anyone interested in the lives of children and young adults in the inner city. 

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson (3.5 stars)

In this book, Chris Anderson (the former editor of Wired, not the head of TED) gives an interesting account of the maker movement. Makers are people who are using the latest technology, such as 3D printers like the MakerBot Replicator 2, to create physical objects, both for themselves and to sell to others. Makers are both taking hobbies to a new level and creating businesses based on mass customization. He shows how the combination of the Web, software tools, and relatively low-priced devices like 3D printers and CNC machines are changing the shape of manufacturing. Anderson uses experiences such as his grandfather’s invention of improvements to lawn sprinkler equipment and his own personal DIY drones experience to explain the changes. He does most of this by looking at examples. Though little of the information in Anderson’s book was new to me, he does a good job of pulling it together. I came away from the book itching to try my hand at some sort of manufacturing business. I recommend this book to both those interested in participating as a maker or to those wanting to know about some important trends in the 21st Century. 

I have more books to finish reading and a few more to finish writing quick reviews on. Stay tuned!