The month is long over. The page is up to date for narrative. It is missing pictures from a couple of days before Valentine's Day. I'll get back to you, really I will.
Wednesday, February 1
We start the month in Texas and Nicaragua. Juanita is helping with Way of the Cross in Harlingen, Texas. I am with Way of the Cross in Nicaragua. It’s a little warm for me here (but I can handle it, if I have to, I guess). It’s a little chilly for her in Texas. Two degrees Celsius overnight. Close to freezing. Yesterday she wrote “We managed to spend a few hours inside the outer chapel bagging cookies. Stayed warmer than we will be tomorrow.”
The best time to plant an oak tree is forty years ago. The next best time is today. Last night I stayed up beyond optimal sleeping time to finish the last few chapters of a read the Bible in a Year program. I was fading in and out while reading so will go back and reread those chapters. This is the first time since becoming a Christian in 1974 that I have read through the entire Bible. It is easy to skip the begats and there are obscure passages that never get preached on or become parts of daily devotion guides. Last year I decided to deal with that. Mission accomplished.
Today I read the recommended chapters for the first day of another read the Bible in a year program. Last year’s plan mixed chapters together from various books. This year’s plan starts in Genesis and adds a verse from Psalms as a worship component of each day’s reading. I think it will go in order through the Bible. We’ll see.
With the first reading we see Adam blaming Eve and God for Adam’s sin and Eve blaming the serpent. Taking personal responsibility. Rare from the beginning.
I was awake often through the night and visited the bathroom most periods of awake were accompanied by a trip to the bathroom. A bit too much local cuisine yesterday. When my roommate wakes up, I’ll dig in the suitcase for some Pepto Bismol.
Today we plan to continue with the solar lighting. Byron has a class to teach and I have a dentist appointment, but the lights should fill in any gaps in our busyness.
The students are awakened by shofar at four each morning and are expected to spend from 4:30 to 5:30 in prayer and meditation on the prayer walk. I am awake too. I lie there for a while. Somebody comes by and starts the truck we worked on yesterday. It is just outside our bedroom window. It starts quickly cold. For years it just barely turned over. The local response to the corroded battery connections and painfully slow cranking? It’s always been like that.
I get up in the darkness and do a walkaround. Yesterday’s solar lights are both doing well. They are labelled 1000W and 800W, respectively. Obviously that is not the actual power draw, but some equivalent lighting level of an incandescent light. You’d need around an 800 amp-hour battery. YOU wouldn’t lift that with one hand. You might even not lift it with three friends. Marketing math aside, they work.
I score some coffee and go back to the room to be close to the bano and do some keyboarding. Later at breakfast Nelson approaches me and asks what time I want to go to the dentist. I tell him nine. There is no sign of him at nine. Or ten after nine. I text Theresa. “he’s on his way” “It’s only five minute drive”. I hang our at the gate with an eye out for a taxi. No taxis. At 9:25 Theresa and Ben are getting ready to leave for Managua “right now”. That means as soon as they find their translator and he does his mandatory pre-trip pit stop they will be leaving. I hang out by the gate. At 9:30 Nelson roars up in a truck and turns it around. I get in and race off. After the ten minute drive at high speed while I berate Nelson a modest amount we get close to the dentist office. My one concern with just leaping off on my own was I only knew the general area. Nelson knew a bit less than that. Between us we find the office and he leaves me there. The dentist obviously schedules to accommodate Nica time. I go in when he is done with his previous patient, ten o’clock.
He is wearing a mask and speaking rapid Spanish. I am a little deaf and merely adequate with Spanish in selective circumstances. He explains I will need to go across town to get an X-Ray. Twenty dollars and they do it very quickly. He shows me one. It’s about five by seven inches and shows a whole mouth with all top and bottom teeth. Then he looks in my mouth and explains I will need three crowns. I understand him to say they will be five hundred dollars and change each for metal with porcelain and three hundred and eighty dollars each for porcelain. Pricier than I expected but cheaper than back home. The metal will be stronger than porcelain. I ask about the metal if it is oro (gold). No some other metal not sure what it is called. I ask, “acero inoxible?”. Yes. That’s it. Stainless steel. I had that term drummed into me while spending a fruitless day going from supplier to supplier trying to buy stainless steel welding rods in Oaxaca in 2006.
He changes the overhead TV from a Spanish talking heads current event show to a relaxation video of streams, pretty little birds, mountains, forests, towards the end of the session the loop was starting to repeat. Not bad for two hours in the chair. When he gave me the anesthetic he said to breath deeply. Between concentrating on breathing deeply and watching the video I hardly felt a thing. This guy’s good. Way better than usual. Only thing better would be the dentist who gave me don’t give a darn pills. Not safe to wander out onto the world on your own after that, but back to current events.
Before starting work the dentist gave me a hand mirror and with his light and his dental mirror gave me a tour of the damage. Work began. He hammered on the first tooth. Eventually it popped off. I tongued to the front of my mouth. He plucked it out and showed me the broken porcelain crown. He cleaned up the stump.
On to tooth two, a molar with a large filling. That was a lot of grinding. Part way through I started to feel some pain and he injected more anesthetic. Then the impressions. It’s always good to make a good first impression. He did. Out of the dental chair and into the guest chair at his desk.
I look at my watch. There is standard time. There is daylight savings time. It seems there is dentist chair time. It is one hour since getting into the chair not two. It is eleven o’clock not noon.
I ask him about the X-ray. Not needed. It appears the show and tell with the X-ray was if I needed one.
The dentist explains I will need to pay half up front and the balance when the crowns get installed. I agree. I can find half on my body and the rest at a bank machine before next week. He phones the lab and makes sure the guy can get the crowns back for Monday. Then goes to schedule me for Monday. He says that won’t work because he’s in Rivas all day. I say I can go there. No he shows me his schedule. We will meet again next Tuesday at one thirty. The screen shows 13:30 so I say thirteen thirty and he says no, one-thirty. You have to have better Spanish skills than me with a frozen mouth to say thirteen-thirty such that it doesn’t sound like three-thirty. I agree with him. One-thirty, it is.
He gets my information and slides the bill over. $220 total, with $110 due now. I pay him. I can only figure that when he was saying ciento (one hundred) I was hearing quinietos (five hundred). Whatever. I’m happy. I go out of the office feeling unexpectedly prosperous. Don’t ask me to explain the discrepancy between three and two teeth, He worked on two teeth. I paid for two teeth. Well, half of it so far.
Across the street to Sinsa and buy some glue for $15 for the toilet base and an electrical tester for seventy-seven cents. It’s been so long that I had forgotten this style of tester expected and the store had a choice of two brands! The Stanley was three bucks. I bought the Truper.
After a few purchases at La Colonia I grabbed a cab downtown to our favorite buffet in Masaya. No lengua en salsa (tongue in sauce). I selected gallo pinto, cerdo a la placha (pork steak), a slice of avocado and a Coke Zero. Texting Juanita where I was and that they didn’t have our favorite dish there she replied she wasn’t envious if no lengua. I may have discovered a new diet. Order something you don’t particularly like when you are not particularly hungry. Eat half. Put the other half into a box and give it to a homeless person.
On to the China store. I have a picture I cut off a solar streetlight box. It shows the bracket being used on a pole. Do they sell the other half of the bracket that would make that work? Nope.
Catch a monkey by putting something in a box he can reach in and grab but can’t get his hand back unless he lets go of what he wants. Monkeys are smarter than that, but it’s a good story. Another cab to the Maxi Pali. Oops. Meant to go to a pharmacy. There is little chance the pharmacy at the Maxi Pali would have what I want but I have already got hold of the banana in the box and won’t let go. I won’t sacrifice my eighty-three cent cab fare and get out at a mom and pop pharmacy that will probably have what I want. Instead I carry on to the Maxi Pali. Is one out of three a win?
Two items stay on my list. I walk across the street and grab a torrito back to camp. Byron is finishing installing a light from a deck. No witness of the fall needed if working on deck. We move to the next light. Plan is to move the school bus forward a few feet and to stand on it. On closer examination we abandon that plan. Too much roof curve. We back up the school bus so its not in the way. I hold the ladder. Byron does the scary stuff. We do find the right circuit breaker this time. Another light up.
Then on to do a couple more. One is in a lot of shrubbery but Byron cuts it back enough so it is only really annoying to work in the spot. He gets a student to hold the light switch until he cuts the wire. Last one of the day. I take the tools back to the shop.
The five o’clock whistle has blown. I got hardly any sleep last night. I feel pummeled from the dentist chair time and am a little wobbly. Byron is still going on prepping for tomorrow. He is cutting a window through the upper story of the jungle to access the next light to be changed from powered to solar-powered. Even if I had gloves for the thorns I have no gas in my tank. I abandon him. Later after supper we move some boxes.
I am in bed by 7:30 listening to a boring video on population demographics. In the morning it shows I have listened to the entire one hour and twenty-five minute video. I was asleep in the first five minutes. Next consciousness to occur at four a.m.
Thursday, February 2
Awake and alert before the four-a.m. shofar I poke at the keyboard until a little after six when I get dressed enough and go looking for coffee to soak my tooth breaking cookie in.
Breakfast and visiting for a while then off to check out the remaining stack of solar street lights and develop a mental game plan. Henry Junior, the welder shows up. Not to be confused with Henry Senior the welder.
We go over what needs to be done and he starts cutting six pieces of pipe to length. The two by the gate will be shorter. No need to be buried with enough steel in the area to weld to. The gardener is busy hacking away the bougainvillea to make room for the gate light poles. I think of one more that can be put on a pole so now the count is seven. The gardener digs holes for the five. Henry starts welding light supports and rebar onto the poles. The rebar is to provide traction with the concrete that goes into the hole with the pole. As poles get welded I take them and paint the welded areas and any missing areas six feet down from the top. We don’t want to be handling wet poles. The lower portions missing paint can be done from a step ladder once the poles are up.
Henry points out that the top needs a cover. He knows where to buy them. Elias, Henry and I embark on a shopping expedition. After looking in enough places the storekeeper finds twelve caps. While we are waiting, I accost passersby and hand out curved illusion tracts. I become enamored of a Minnie Mouse cup for my morning coffee so I am not throwing away Styrofoam cups. Afraid of being judged I choose instead, a “Only the best fathers can use this cup” Father’s Day cup in Spanish.
Off we go to buy sand and cement for the holes. We stop at a pharmacy to address my remaining items from yesterday and back it is to camp. A lightening trip by Nica standards.
Byron is done teaching his class. We start putting lamps on the supports. The first one goes to the gate and Henry is busy welding that. We stage others near their holes until Henry is ready for the second gate light. The gardener has disappeared home for the day by the time we are ready to put poles in the ground.
Henry is reluctant, but trooper that he is, he starts mixing cement. One of the students helps. Henry is muttering a bit about being a welder not a labourer but not loudly. We run out of sand, Elias goes for more sand. He is gone forever. When he gets back he apologizes. They were shopping for a “microphone.” Sigh. We clean up the area where the cement was mixed. It dries. I find a garden hose and spigot and clean it some more. Meanwhile Henry cuts off the rotten post from the church corner. The one that was too scary to lean a ladder against. Speaking of ladders. The garden took the extension ladder home. We had left it staged where we were going to put up the first of the last two lights. There it was. Gone. Byron and I searched the property until we got the news of where the ladder went.
All the poles with light are up. They all work. There are two lights to put up on a dormitory when we get a ladder. There are five poles left. If lights get bought for those we plan to put them up.
That was the day.
After I showered, I assembled today’s work clothes, a towel etc. It wasn’t enough on its own, but Byron donated the contents of his laundry basket. He and Susan were here so often a couple of years ago they ended up with basics both here and in Texas. The washing machine I commandeered when putting away the tools was still available. By after supper we are back to square one with laundry.
Good news by e-mail - I am part of a successful class action suit. Tim Horton’s has credited my app with a free hot beverage and a free baked good to be claimed in the next year.
Good news by the internet - Rio Tinto has recovered a lost radioactive source that fell off a truck on the way to a repair shop. The loss and recovery of this tiny capsule was news around the world.
Old news hushed up – The paper mill I worked in on the west coast made some major equipment changes to a process that was evolving at the time. First step was to demolish the upper deck around the refiner. Second step was to install some new process machinery at the upper deck level. Then build a new deck and start adding back instrumentation. “Where’s the radioactive source?” we asked. It seems it was attached to a handrail around the old deck. The handrail went to the scrap pile on the railway siding. The pile hadn’t been shipped yet. The source was recovered and re-installed. No international news or reports to AEC.
Friday, February 3
This morning, Byron and I installed an inverter in a van. We needed a ¾” cable connector to complete the job. It got added to the list of what we would need to complete five more poles for solar lighting. The sand and gravel and cement needed for the poles showed up this morning.
I watched Byron fix the latch on the back door of the van. When that was done we took a van, our list and went to the Masaya Sinsa. They had everything we needed. When we got back lunch time was well underway. We lined up behind the straggler students.
Yesterday Henry cut the poles to length, welded the light panel supports near the top of the poles, cut pieces of rebar and welded them near the bottom to provide grip for the concrete. That took care of all seven lights we had and needed to install yesterday. Last night Ben and I walked around and identified six more dark areas on campus still needing lights after the installations this week. One has an existing pole with a worn-out old light to be replaced.
Henry wasn’t available today. This afternoon we screwed the panel supports to five more poles, cut the poles to length and drilled holes cross way near the base. We pounded the short pieces of rebar through the cross holes. Ben showed up with six solar streetlights. We have everything we need to install five more poles and one replacement light on an existing pole. Monday we will have the gardener here to dig the holes in the ground and cut the holes through the shrubbery. Hopefully we can get him to mix the concrete as well. Somebody will.
Mid afternoon many of the students went home for the weekend. About three o’clock the power went out which was about when we ran out of power too. End of a busy week. The wind blew the door shut to the house we are staying in. We were locked out until the family returned a few hours later, but that’s fine. We sat round and visited and deleted unwanted emails on our phones. Without power there is no internet but unwanted emails can still be deleted offline.
The power came back about six. We all had supper. Eight of us are going to the Promised Land coffee farm tomorrow so Byron and I got together the tools we think we need to put a new roof over the well there. I packed what I thought I needed for the trip. This time I am aware in advance to be prepared to stay the night. I don’t have to grab everything I own in a five minute panic.
Saturday, February 4
I was awake before the 4:30 alarm and walked over to Ben’s office. The coffee maker was set up so I turned it on and came back when it was done. I read and drank coffee until it was the appointed tome to wake Byron. Once we were both ready to go we glued the toilet to the floor in our bathroom. These toilets were set in place with cement not with wax rings. The toilet has come loose. Gluing it just before we will be gone for thirty hours will give the glue a chance set. We hope.
The van left at 5:30 and we took the familiar drive skirting Managua through Tipitapa and San Benito and up into the hills to the plains around Sebaco. From Sebaco we went into higher hills to Matagalpa and beyond to Tierra Prometida (the Promised Land) where Way of the Cross has been developing a base camp and coffee plantation. We stopped in Matagalpa and bought some sheets of corrugated galvanized roofing, some nails and a hammer. We had prepared for using screws but nails were a quarter the price. The tin is the lightest you can buy here. You can tear it with your bare hands, but it will keep the rain and leaves out of the well. Roman spent eighteen years doing sheet metal work and commercial sheet metal roofs. We took it as a compliment that he had never seen it quite like we had done. That job done we had a free afternoon. Arnold and Salomon sprayed some sealer on some bricks while we encouraged them then they too had free time.
After supper we had a round table devotional and then a brainstorming session about the future of that location. It is built. It is time to decide how it will be used for the furtherance of the Kingdom.
Here is most of the text Ben’s weekly email about the past week:
The salvation’s in Harlingen were 294 this week. It has been a very cold week and as you’ll see in the video everybody was all bundled up. We received two trucks this week. One from Gary in Michigan and one from Convoy of HOPE what a great blessing.
Mexico base camp Gateway the salvations were 80 this week. There again Mexico was very cold this week and made it very difficult to get the people to come out especially long towards midweek as the temperatures were in the 30s and 40s. That is extremely cold for us. Praise God we still have blankets to pass out.
Shiloh base camp Nicaragua we have 80 students. I think things are pretty well stabilized now. It always takes a little while when you first get started. This group of students are extremely excited about learning everything they possibly can learn. This year it seems like the school is easier than last year but I think we are much better prepared. We are feeding around 150 people three meals a day to include our staff and visitors. We are going through at least 100 pounds of rice a day and between 60 and 70 pounds of beans a day. The Nicaraguans are big eaters.
I have been teaching every day and have just had a wonderful time. The students are little more mature some of them are still very young we have one 13-year-old pastor’s son and a few 16-year-olds but they are all doing very well. We also have one blind man and several that can’t read or write. We praise God for the opportunity to pour Gods love into them and train them in the gospel message. I wish you could be here to hear them sing and praise the Lord. You talk about the moving of the Holy Spirit, it is so powerful. I hope when you watch the video you can see the joy on the students faces as they are in class. We went to buy Bibles this past week but the Mennonite bible bookstore was closed. So we will buy them tomorrow morning. They are supposed to be open. The students are anxious to get their new Bible.
Byron and Paul have been installing solar lights around the camp. The students have to be out and going by 4:30 in the morning and it is still dark. We have tried to get the camp without dark spots, praise the Lord. Theresa and I spent quite a bit of time working on paperwork that the government is requiring. It seems to be extremely excessive as they have changed a lot of laws in the last three months. We spent time with our accountant in the government office and time praying.
We talked to some other pastors we know and they all said they had the same problem we were having of the government not accepting their paperwork and they are also having to redo everything. So I felt better when they were saying that as it seems like we are all in the same boat. We will be meeting this Tuesday with two attorneys and our accountant to try to wallow through the paperwork and understand maybe.
Saturday morning Theresa, Arnold, Solomon, Byron, Paul, Roman and his family and myself headed for the Promised Land to seek the face of the Lord. We spent quite a bit of time on Saturday praying and enjoying the beauty of the camp. The evening we spent time brainstorming a plan to get the camp going with a full complement of staff. Along with a program for outreach and a program for assisting other churches in the villages around us. The Lord really spoke to us in the meeting and we tried to write everything down so we would not forget anything. Everything is looking good. The camp is absolutely beautiful.
We also had a number of things on the camp to finish up. Sunday morning we harvested bananas, lemons, mandarins, and various other types of fruit to take back and use for the missionary training school to help cut expenses. On our way, back we stopped and picked up 1700 pounds of rice and beans. Believe me the van was very overloaded so we went slow.
One of the things that was on my list when I got over here was to look for a four-wheel-drive vehicle to travel back and forth to the Promised Land. Theresa has been driving the big ford van and there will still be times when that will be necessary but most of the time not. We had been looking at Toyota pickup’s as parts availability is very good in this country. I probably looked at 15 or 20 trucks. All extremely high-priced. They hold their value well. The cost of driving the van is between $130 and $145 every trip we make. Gasoline is expensive over here and the van is quite thirsty. We make this trip every week so it is close to $600 a month for fuel.
This week we finally found the right vehicle, which is a 2013 Toyota Hilux pickup four-wheel-drive that is a heavy-duty addition. We did not really have the finances to do this but it really bothers me to waste all that money in fuel. The Toyota truck will make a round trip for $40 in diesel so there will be great savings. We have already bit the bullet and purchased it. If anybody has a desire to help we would appreciate it.
Theresa’s girl started college Friday. They headed into Managua on their own. Their day was mostly a day of testing. They felt like they did very well and are excited and I’m blessed by that.
The accompanying video from the newsletter is below. Juanita makes several brief cameo’s loading vegetables into cars in the drive thru food line. It is heavy work and very cold for that part of Texas so by the end of the day she was feeling the effects of all that work.
Sunday, February 5
Ben described our trip back to Camp Shiloh in his weekly email excerpted above.
Once back at camp I grabbed everything I could find of clothes and bedclothes from Byron’s side of the room and mine and threw into the washing machine. I stood by the gate and tried flagging down a passing cab. It was full. Cabs here pick up fares until there all the seats are full. His were. Next transportation that came by was a three-wheel motorcycle torrito. I shared the back seat with two ladies. One on either side of me. We all got off at the Puma rotunda. They headed across the highway while I gave the taxista a tract and then started sharing the curved illusion tract with a person sitting there. By the time I realized I was handing out a tract “would you sell one eye for a million dollars?” to a person missing one eye it was too late the process was in play. Hopefully he will not be offended.
Catching up to my seatmates waiting for buses on the other side of the highway, I flagged down a cab and said I wanted to go to the Masaya market. The person already in the cab was being dropped off on a side street in the other direction so I got a bit of a town tour for my eighty-three cents.
The market was busy but about to wind down for the day. I managed to buy the things I was looking for and handed out 150 Spanish language curved Illusion tracts. There are three hundred left to cover the next three days here and the travel day of Thursday. Probably won’t run out before the airport in Liberia, but the airport could be a good opportunity to hand out any remaining. I have hardly touched the one hundred English version of the same tract.
Tomorrow, we hope to put up some more solar street lights and perhaps go measure a nearby property and see if it can be laid out for future ministry use.
Monday, February 6
I was awake around four and resisted getting up until after the 4:23 shofar when I went and filled my coffee cup and sat under the gazebo for devotions. Later, back in my room, I was summoned to show a group of students where to dig the holes for the light poles, 30 cm. wide by 40 cm. deep. When finished showing where to dig and got back to the first hole those students had dug a hole suitable for a small grave. We don’t have that much concrete. They dug a new, right-sized hole next to their over enthusiastic prior effort. One hole was a little too rocky for them. They only got down about 20 cm. I guess you could say out of the five holes needed they dug five and a half.
Sylvie, the strapping young gardener arrived and finished the half dug hole and hacked off enough shrubbery to provide room to put up the streetlights and ensure they got enough sun. Byron and I mounted lights to the lighting brackets. Sylvie scorned my idea of mixing concrete on a heavy plastic sheet. He used the old duck pond. If you listen to staff the ducks were too stupid to find the old pond. According to Sylvie the old pond was in the sun and ducks like shade. Both sound plausible. They do seem to like their new pond in the shade. We had all five poles up, set in concrete and mounted the three others on old brackets by lunch time. After lunch we picked up our tools from the last one and tidied up any loose ends from the conversion from power to solar. We put up twenty-one solar street lights in our time here. There are few obvious dark spots left and the power bill should be lower.
As we were finishing supper Byron’s mom, Martha, arrived from Harlingen by way of Liberia. Her intended flight companion had some document issues, so she made that trip alone including across the no man’s zone on the Costa Rican/Nicaragua border. She looked surprisingly refreshed.
Byron and I scoped out installing an inverter in the ministry truck that was purchased last week. We found where the previous owner had had an amplifier installed and then removed. The heavy power cable and a good ground cable are there. They just need ends. We know which store sells them in Masaya. “Right after I bring the van back after dropping my son at school we’ll go.”
Tuesday, February 7
Today while we were waiting for the van and driver to come back Byron and I put the one lug we had on the inverter power cable at the battery end. We left it disconnected until we had finished the other end. Based on a couple of YouTube videos we modified the back seat bracket so the seat back can be folded down to access the space behind it. Moving onto a van we mounted an external horn speaker on the luggage rack. We planned where we would run the wire to the amplifier to get a length for purchase.
The other van came back late from the school run. The driver disappeared. I eventually went looking for him. The truck has to be ready by about nine. We go to a store that has the wire for the speaker. Wire but no lugs big enough. Another store. Same small lugs. I start getting even more obnoxious about going to the first store he took us to last time we needed starter cable and lugs. You know, the one that had a huge selection of lugs. I start pointing out that we were due back by now because somebody wants the truck we are working on by now. We go to a couple of more stores. Then finally to the store that had the lugs the last two times we needed lugs.
Screws were bought at another store. That sentence is deliberately written in the passive voice. Good writing does not use the passive voice. In this case I am merely pondering the possible passive aggressive undercurrent of guided shopping trips.
We get back.
“Load up the truck!”
Byron assumes this means we are done. I keep working. I finish hooking up the inverter. I screw it down if screwing it to the plastic truck floor covering is “screwing it down”. It won’t slide and it is constrained from flying around by being under the passenger seat. We hook up the battery end. The inverter chirps. We close the hood and test the on/off button. It makes the right noises. We get in the truck and wait for the interpreter. Then we get tired of waiting and leave. He claimed later he ran down the road after us. I didn’t notice.
We got to the land that is under consideration for purchase. The four of us walked the property and I interpreted, if it can be called that, between Ben and the caretaker. Byron took a couple of measurements with a distance wheel. Its about 580 feet long by about 80 feet wide. We said we might be back later.
Ben and Theresa dropped us off, picked up the interpreter and headed to a meeting in Rivas. All our assigned work on that truck is complete. Back to the van and the P.A. system. We drill a hole in the roof for the wire. We run the wire to the speaker using a home brewed passthrough fitting made from a wire nut and construction cement. It is still holding our toilet down it should work for wires, right? The amp takes input from USB, microphone, analog auxiliary or MP3. It felt fitting to test a Chinese amp and speaker with the only Chinese song in my MP3 library. Then a Spanish worship song. Works fine.
It is time to shower and change for a trip to the dentist. I leave Byron building theft deterrent bracket for the amp. When showered and changed I head to the gate and stand in the shade. A bus shows up. I get on, pay 15 Cordobas (42 cents) and hand out a few curved illusion tracts. About half the bus gets off at the Puma Rotonda. Me too. I walk a couple of blocks to the dentist handing out tracts on the way. It is an hour before my appointment so I go across the street to the mall and hand out more tracts until I will only be a half hour early. The dentist is ready and standing in the reception area. We go straight in and get down to business. It takes an hour and another hundred and ten dollars to install the two crowns. They feel strange for now. That is kinda normal. I hope. Time in a dentist chair is always stressful for me. Finding my own way there on my own schedule was priceless.
Back to the mall. A few more tracts. A sit down at a table next to the Eskimo kiosk. Bought some travel snacks and handed out almost all of the tracts I had left. It was a three block walk to the torrito stand. I walk more here. The nominal target on my pedometer app is ten thousand steps per day. I seldom do that many. Usually, it is closer to six thousand steps a day in Harlingen and about two thousand in winter Canada. Every day in Nicaragua the app has recorded over ten thousand. Twenty thousand one day.
Byron had some challenges with the bracket handling the stresses from the folding seat back. He has new ideas, but all the vehicles have gone on outreach with the students, so work on the van is on hold. When some vans get back, we grab one and go back to the property. Since being there this morning, we have been given an officially stamped map computer generated using precision GPS waypoints. Not much point of a couple of guys wandering around with a wheely thing to generate their own measurements. We do, however, measure the house and its distance from a waypoint so we can show it on the map. I converted the meter values to feet for better understanding. That’s about all we could do. Should be enough to work with.
I surf a bit after supper and am about to face plant in the keyboard but thought I should write this account and post it first. Writing has woken me up. I wrote up yesterday’s account, yesterday but had no internet when it was ready to publish. Cheers.
Just two more sleeps and I get to see my bride. Somebody asked me if I had had enough Nicaragua for a while. I said I was happy to be getting back with Juanita but would be just as happy sending her an airline ticket and staying. (Probably in Matalgalpa, though 😉)
Wednesday, February 8
I was up early and out under the gazebo with the daily reading, a couple of tooth breaking sugar free cookies and a cup of coffee to dunk them in. Back in the room I marked up the map of the potential property for lots. That done, I turned to work on the blog and brought the narrative up to date and published it.
Not many responsibilities today. Over ten times the bandwidth on the internet connection. Good time to add some pictures to this month’s and last month’s updates. I copied two months of photos from the cloud into a couple of working directories. I don’t need much sleep. Byron does. The next step required me to make paper notes. I moved back out to under the gazebo and carried on. Breakfast was called and we lined up. During breakfast I used two chairs. I’d start running a script and eat until it finished. Move back to the other seat and start another script.
I was sitting there working and visiting after breakfast. A hen flew over my shoulder, laid the laptop screen flat. I pushed it along its path. It knocked Ben’s coffee into his lap on its escape from an amorous rooster.
Byron got up for breakfast and I moved into the room. I tried starting a laundry and diverted to looking at a broken washing machine. It filled but never moved successfully to the wash cycle. Byron moved the load to the other machine when it finished and we looked at a few other things but it was nothing obvious. A job for the itinerant appliance guy. Not us. Not today. We looked at the pressure tank for the water system. A tool and a part needed to do more. They get added to the shopping list for later.
I went back to adding pictures to the blog. Byron went to do finish installing the amplifier bracket. He got off to a slow start. Some worker bees were assigned to clean the work bench. He couldn’t find a bracket he had invested an hour into yesterday. Eventually he tracked down the tidiness zealot and was shown to a box hidden away with stuff off the work bench. The bracket was on top.
He came back and worked at packing up tools that get stored away when he is not here. The students had an early lunch and piled into a ministry and a rented school bus to go to Catarina for an object lesson overlooking the cordillera. They all had cut pieces of bamboo. They were going to hear Ben’s talk on the staff. Is that a staff meeting?
I finished adding pictures to February. Byron and I grabbed a passing three wheel moto-taxi (aka torrito) to the Puma Rotonda. We walked across the street and got a cab to the Masaya buffet for an okay lunch. The bike shop he remembered has been replaced to the Chinese electronics and dildoes store. Another cab to the market. He tried to drop us off on the close side. I protested. He knew we wanted bike parts. I said the bike stores were on the other side. He said they were just inside on the corner. He lied. When we found them they were where we remembered them to be. Didn’t matter where they were they didn’t have what we wanted. “Sinsa”, they said. Another cab. Nope. Not at Sinsa. That’s fine the two other stores were in the same mall.
Then we walked across the street and Byron waited while I had my teeth floated. Better. Maybe not perfect yet, but a lot closer. Speaking of Byron waiting for me. Juanita has learned to walk behind me. Otherwise, when I stop to hand out curved illusion tracts she finds herself a block ahead of me. Byron discovered that dance today.
On our walk to the torrito hang out we stopped at a tire store and got a valve core and a broken but serviceable tool to remove the old valve core from the pressure tank. There was no air in it. We managed to pressure it to 30 psi. That should stop the pump cycling.
I carried on adding pictures to January with a few breaks to walk the prayer walk and get over ten thousand paces. Is that spiritual? Probably not. Neither was supper but it was good.
We leave at here at seven tomorrow morning to cross the border into Costa Rica and fly out of Liberia to Houston. We are scheduled to get into Harlingen at eleven tomorrow night. I’ve packed as far as possible until tomorrow morning. Now to post this, have a shower and go to bed. The light in the bathroom burnt out. No replacement was forthcoming. I stole one from over the workbench. It was the only one I could reach without a ladder.
Thursday, February 9 Nicaragua - Costa Rica - Texas
I was awake before the shofar but waited for it to before going to grab a coffee. Coffee, dunking cookies and a daily reading program. Nothing could be finer. Then on with packing and daily pills. Purified water was in short supply. I walked down to the village tiendas. The one closest to the camp was closed. The one across from the school was open but Nicaraguan school kids don’t buy bottled water. The store doesn’t stock it.
At six thirty when I was about done packing by flashlight it was time to wake Byron. I finished packing. Then somebody announced breakfast. Byron headed to the store closest to the camp to return his returnable soda bottle. The owner lets him operate on the honor system. I followed him to check that now opened store for water. Our ride to the border showed up as I was going out the gate. Fifteen minutes early! The store that is closest to the camp stocks small, medium, and big water bottles. I bought a medium (1 L.). He stocks to his clientele as much as the other store does. Missionary school students and American missionaries buy bottled water.
Hugs and handshakes all around. We loaded up. Off to the border. One large bird tried to use the truck as a suicide device, but the driver swerved successfully to avoid windshield damage. At the border we rented a bicycle cart for the luggage. All the big bags that were used to bring stuff to Nicaragua have to get back to the States somehow. This seems so strange. Juanita and I travel with a carry on and a personal item. On this trip that’s all I brought for me even though there were two ministry bags checked in my name on the outbound trip and one inbound. On reflection I could have had half as much stuff in my carry on for what I used. I brought two towels but towels were supplied. I had twice as many work tee shirts as I used. They dry faster than anticipated when hand washed at the end of the day.
The no man’s area at the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is clean, modern and well paved but confusing as to directions. I would have taken a few pictures to illustrate this if it were not for the ban on photos in sensitive international areas. Or maybe the real reason. I didn’t think of it until too late.
Once we survived the lines for each country with systemic nibbles of various fees, our driver for the trip to the airport was waiting for us on the other side. It is about a hundred and twenty kilometers to Liberia over a good two-lane highway. We stopped in town for a lunch at Burger King. Probably cheaper than the States at around elven bucks for a combo and way cheaper than airport food.
We arrived at the airport around eleven thirty. The line up area for Southwest was almost full when we arrived. With us it was full and the line behind us formed into the terminal. The drug dog sniffed our luggage. It seemed to be being trained and videoed as well as working. It found a purse with something in it that the security observer had placed next to some luggage. It presented and was rewarded.
The counter opened and processed people and luggage. We headed to security to prove we had no liquids or otherwise prohibited items. There are a lot of shops and restaurants in the secure area. They look busy. I handed out all but the last one and a half Spanish curved illusion tracts and made inroads on the last hundred English ones. Usually I handed the Spanish ones out to workers in the shops and food vendors. Their English is way better than my Spanish. As is their Spanish for that matter. In one shop a woman exclaimed “five dollars for a small bottle of water!” I had just picked it up with the intention to buy, but hadn’t seen the price card. I put it back. A penny a millilitre. Wow. I’m not that thirsty. Yet.
Later I was that thirsty and went shopping. Found a litre bottle for only $5.50. Travel is broadening. Only an hour before I would have considered that outrageous and now it is a bargain.
Southwest loaded the plane Southwest style. We were early in Group C so ninety-three people were ahead of us. They were loading the plane using stairs front and back instead of a jet way. The front stairs were full when we got there. We were directed to the back stairs and quickly found seats. I am on an aisle. Usually the aisle and window seats fill first and the T-Rex middle seats get filled last, but there was a couple in the window and middle seat of the next to last row. I like the aisle seat. I can get out without bothering anybody. I can live with traffic from the washrooms banging my elbow when keyboarding.
We have a long lay over in Houston then a late flight home. Immigration is painless. Officer reminds me that December 27 wasn’t last time I entered the United States but January 14. Yes, I crossed over to Progresso for a few hours. You know you can’t live here. I know. Waited FOREVER for bags at the carousel so we could drag them past the bored customs people and wait in line to recheck for the rest of the trip. Normally Juanita and I walk past all the people waiting for the luggage carousel. This is a good reminder to travel lightly.
TSA went smoothly. In celebration of my birthday last month, I am exempted from taking off my shoes and the micro-radiation scanner. After a bit to eat we head to the gate and wait for the next flight. It leaves almost on time. A little over an hour and we arrive to be greeted by wives. I am unbelievably tired but as usual overcome with surprise at the deep happiness at seeing Juanita waiting at the bottom of the escalator. What joy floods my soul to borrow a line from a hymn. What kind of emotion is this for a crusty old curmudgeon? Juanita seems pleased to see me as well.
Friday, February 10
We woke without an alarm at the usual time. My body is screaming at my circadian clock. Don’t you understand I need more sleep? Guess not. Breakfast. Shower. Chapel. Oscar spoke at chapel for the last time for a while, except for Sunday church service. He plans to head up to Houston on Sunday afternoon to try and sort out some issues with a valid but unscannable passport.
After chapel I check they have enough workers under the food line tent. Juanita starts setting up at the vegetable distribution at the gate. I head back home checking the Bob Cat on the way. Russell has removed and reinstalled the motor while we were away. It has a new ring gear on the flywheel. He is so pumped about how well putting the flywheel in the freezer and the ring gear in the oven went. I look at the wiring harness and try to remember how we left things when we set aside installing accessories. I think I know. A few minutes with a meter will confirm if my memory is right.
Back home I take the suitcase from Nicaragua out of the trunk of the car and leave it in the office. Theresa texts me the physical address of the training center and I call the propane company for a delivery. While waiting for that I go through the stuff that arrived from Amazon for the Bob Cat and put it together in a bag in the trunk. I also kind of unpack my carry on. Up on the roof of the coach I take pictures of the refrigerator vent. I had thought just the cover needed replacing but the whole thing is rotten. I take pictures for reference and check prices on Camping World and Amazon online.
The propane truck driver phoned that he was here. He filled the tank, got paid and left.
The RV parts store in town had all I needed to install the previously ordered skylight and plumbing vent covers. They also had a new refrigerator vent and cover. The price was a couple of bucks more than online, but they had it today. When the owner opened the box the part was damaged. She set it aside for return and we checked the next box. Plan A had been to do the work on the skylight, etc. tomorrow. That was based on our granddaughter arriving tomorrow night. That changed. She arrives tonight. Plan B was to wait until later in the month. Plan C was to do it today. Plan C didn’t last long. It is so windy today that you would have trouble keeping your parts and supplies from being blown off the roof. Plus, it is too cold for the self leveling sealant to flow well for a good-looking job. Back to Plan B. I stored all the supplies needed for the future day.
I got back to the WOTC warehouse a little after noon. On the way to the RV parts store and the warehouse I checked that the horn button will fit in the control lever. That moves that project down the field about a millimeter. Can’t argue with progress.
We loaded some crates in the car for use as an impromptu desk. With a guest, writing will move from the dining room table to our bedroom. We will build a desk there with crates and a piece of plywood. At Walmart I discovered they only sell men’s dressing gowns during the Christmas shopping season. Sweatpants and a tee shirt will have to supply the appropriate modesty for having a guest. Walmart did have a charming folding table right next the folding chair that was on my shopping list. The crates were dropped off when I picked Juanita from her strenuous day at the food line. We are both worn out. I lay down for a nap and woke up for supper a few hours later. I still feel run over.
Enough writing for now. Need to move some stuff around and drive an hour to McAllen International airport to pick up Sasha. Should be a fun few weeks. Her sister got to help in Nicaragua with us. She gets Harlingen. Covid changed things.
Friday Chapel Notes
Apologies for my spotty notes. Oscar’s talks can be followed on WOTC’s Facebook page.
Oscar Brooks spoke, referencing Genesis 29
Going to make reference to some important portions in this chapter. There is a difference between teaching and preaching or prophecy. A preacher or prophet may say things that people don’t want to hear, but they have to say them. A teacher can’t teach if the person doesn’t want to learn.
Genesis 29:1 “So Jacob went on his journey…”
Don’t you just love it when a complete stranger tells you what to do?
Going to find relatives.
Goes to well
Wherever two or more people gather you will find conflict.
Moses found that in Midian at well.
At gathering places you will find conflict.
Just a few days ago he had status, servants. But he got there and had no status but started ordering people around.
Like retired military start ordering around. Have to be reminded that’s what you were but now…
Where ever you go if you were a problem there you will be a problem here. If a blessing then a blessing
It’s my parents, my coworkers, my spouse. Change that and find things are still the same. The problem is you.
Jacob was right. They had a bad system. All the flocks had to be together. If early had to wait.
Don’t walk into a new situation and start ordering people around. That will make you unpopular.
Brother who had never been a missionary was telling Oscar how to be a missionary.
While Jacob was right he was not right in his approach.
These guys must have sensed an authority so they didn’t react. And Jacob broke the rules but there are future consequences.
Paul was a trailblazer. He broke rules and we have what we have today.
Need to rely on God to give position and insight and kindness
Through all this Jacob became the very best shepherd
He had to walk into the presence of God and realize he had to pay the price.
When I walk up to Byron, Mike and Ben talking about mechanical stuff they are not going to listen to me until I prove myself.
People are not going to follow you until they see you live the life.
Not the one who puts on the armour but the one who is taking it off.
Jacob is not understanding that he does not have the status but he does know what he is talking about and he does know what he doing and the results end up speaking for themselves and he becomes blessed.
Saturday, February 11
Sasha managed her first airplane travel on her own with flying colours. United Airlines helped to make the occasion memorable by changing gates at IAH for the flight to McAllen five times. They shuffled her between various gates in terminals C and E until a half hour delayed departure. The board in McAllen showed 10:31 “Arrived - On Time” for a scheduled 10:10 arrival. Gotta be nice being your own score keeper. But she arrived. Tired and cheerful. We strode past all the heavy lifters waiting for their luggage. As daughter Deborah said to me on the phone today, “No child of mine travels with more than carry-on luggage.” It seems I have left a legacy.
This morning we all slept in. Juanita left for the laundromat at her usual 7 am. Sasha and I lounged around until her return and beyond. Around ten we headed out to see the world. Partway to Boca Chica we realized we didn’t have all the paperwork ICE may require to pass through their checkpoint on the way back so we diverted to South Padre Island. Walking on the breakwater and the beach at a few spots. When we arrived at the breakwater we broke out the binoculars and looked across the water at Space-X. The breakwater would be a good spot to watch a launch. Searching for sea shells. All the normal stuff. It seems the marine research station didn’t survive covid or something. It is no longer open for tours. Some kites were flying, though. Denny’s was open. Pro tip: when travelling with vegetarian grandkids you get their bacon and sausages.
Back across the bridge we stopped and climbed the Port Isabel lighthouse. Years ago when we checked out the lighthouse museum the lighthouse itself was not available for the public. Today it was, although the museum was closed. The traffic across the bridge from South Padre Island was light, but the traffic to the Island was
We stopped at Bobz World in Los Fresnos. Juanita and I had always driven by but thought Sasha might be interested. It would be a good place to hold a kids’ birthday party. We wandered around the gift shop with schlocky shell creations for sale and watched the hermit crabs.
It was almost sundown when got back to Harlingen. We did a drive by of Lincoln Avenue where the Grackles accumulate to spend the night on the power and telephone lines. On the way home we did a drive by of the WOTC warehouse and the staff housing. We were all drowsy so didn’t stay up long.
WOTC Weekly Report Video for February 6 to 12
Here is the video attached to the weekly update that WOTC emails to their list. WE watched it in church. I caught a cameo by Juanita in the food line. Look closely there might be more!
Sunday Sermon Notes
Oscar Brooks was the speaker. He hopes to go to Nicaragua this week if his passport difficulties can be sorted out. He started in Job 39:13 My notes fell short of keeping up but the video is available here on Youtube.
Sunday, February 12
After breakfast Juanita took Sasha to meet a friend living on the Training Center grounds. I had a shower and resumed keyboarding. Bandwidth is such that after posting the narrative of the last couple of days I started downloading pictures. First step of an extended process with the editing software used.
Church was well attended and Oscar worked up a sweat delivering a barn burning sermon. Check out the clip above.
We rushed off after church for a quick lunch at the corner Laredo Taco company and drove to Starbase at Boca Chica. We drove to the end of the road. We parked on the last bit of pavement. The beach looks solid but damp with salt water sand is not my preferred pavement choice. Juanita and Sasha headed for the beach and the tideline. I climbed the dunes for a better look at the Space-X launch pad then joined them for a bit. Then I walked south a bit toward the mouth of the Rio Grande River. I asked someone walking north how far to the river mouth. She said she had not walked the whole way but had been told two miles. I looked at my watch. No time or that and the zoo.
We discussed the time. Off we scurried to the zoo. It was 3:30 as we approached. We decided that if closing time was 6 we’d go in. If five, the zoo would be another day. Five it was. We carried on to the border wall and past one border crossing to a McDonald’s on International Street for flurries and a sundae.
After stopping at the Walmart in San Benito we walked the loop at Pendleton Park and said hi to the ducks and geese. Back home the crock pot had done its job so we ate supper and spent a quiet evening and an early to bed. I had the jam to follow the repetitive process up adding pictures for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but not to write up today’s exciting events. That had to wait for future Paul on Monday morning before breakfast.
Monday, February 13
Chapel starts at different times depending on the day of the week. Monday is earliest followed by a staff meeting. Wednesdays and Fridays are next earliest to accommodate the drive through food bank.
Today Ben delivered a devotional and showed the video tour of the Promised Land he recorded when we were up there ten days ago
Chapel starts at different times depending on the day of the week. Monday is earliest followed by a staff meeting. Wednesdays and Fridays are next earliest to accommodate the drive through food bank.
Today Ben delivered a devotional and showed the video tour of the Promised Land he recorded when we were up there ten days ago.
Promised Land Video: https://youtu.be/7-N7DEw4rHI
After staff meeting, I went to the staff motel and started adding accessories to the Bob Cat while Byron and Russell installed the starter and repaired the flat tire that had run over a screw. We got the horns working. They started loading it on the trailer for transport to the warehouse. Back at the warehouse I had lunch with Juanita and Sasha who had spent the morning helping there. After lunch I mounted a couple more lights before quitting time.
We drove to Port Mansfield with its quaint seaside houses. As we drove around town, we admired the deer roaming freely through the town. There are signs mentioning that the fine for feeding them is $200. We didn’t see the signs last year until we had fed a number of deer. Today we stopped in a parking lot where people were feeding deer and wild turkeys. They offered us some bread, but we declined with thanks. The deer are so tame that they will sniff your hand, but are smart enough to realize you have no food in your hand and quickly back off.
We saw a police car headed in our direction. Even though the deer were only sniffing, it looks suspiciously like feeding from across a field. We decided it was a good time to drive around some more to check out the rest of the town. Then back to Raymondville, then to Sam’s Club, Harlingen where we filled up with gasoline and frozen yogurt.
Another quiet evening for Sasha with two tired old people. I watched Wheel of Fortune and switched off the TV. When I went to turn it back on for NCIS Juanita and realized we would probably sleep though the show so we went to bed.
Tuesday, February 14
Happy Valentine’s Day
Today was a free day. We headed to the Gladys Porter Zoo, arriving at shortly after opening time. Sasha had the map and we followed her guidance to every exhibit in this pleasant, well laid out, well-stocked zoo. We wandered at a leisurely pace for close to three hours with few other people touring compared to the numbers who were there on Sunday. It definitely was a good call not to try to rush through the crowded zoo in an hour and a half when we showed up at 3:30 on Sunday.
After the zoo we went to Lin’s Chinese Buffet for lunch. There was a good spread with lots of choices and no rules against eating into a coma. The only downside other than overeating was on Valentine’s they have an all-day price with no discount for lunch time or seniors. I think we ate enough to cover that.
Good thing the car has cruise control to catch a few zee’s on the drive to Progreso. We paid our two bucks and parked the car and walked across the bridge into Nuevo Progreso, Tamaulipas, Mexico. It is a border town with lots of dentists, pharmacies and trinket vendors. We mostly just walked around and took in the atmosphere. Juanita bought a few items for grandkids. I handed out curved illusion tracts in Spanish and English.
We stopped at a Stripes for drinks on the drive home. It was 32C outside with a nice breeze. In the coach it was obviously a lot hotter. We turned on the AC and sat outside until the inside was cooler than the outside. We were still feeling the effects of over buffeting so ate a light supper. After Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune the evening became old person quiet. Sasha seems to be surviving our evening lack of activities.
Wednesday, February 15
After chapel Juanita and Sasha worked on the food line handing out food to the lined up cars. I puttered at the Bob Cat lighting.
When done at the warehouse for the day we went to the Hugh Ramsey Nature park and walked one of their loops.
In the evening, Sasha went to Brownsville for a youth group activity.
Thursday, February 16
There is a common saying – “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.”
This morning I experienced a variation of that – “Only floss the teeth you want to keep in a baggy”.
One of the crowns done in Nicaragua popped off and landed on the floor while I was flossing this morning. I put it in a baggy. The dentist I went to in Progreso about thirteen years ago is gone. He bailed from Mexico after his wife was abducted, tortured, and released by a cartel. Salomon makes arrangements for me for next Tuesday with another dentist across the free trade bridge. I ask directions and expect a long walk. I can’t take our car across. Ben decrees that Byron will drive me in a ministry van. Good deal.
Sasha and Juanita prepped under the tent for tomorrow’s drive through food bank. I continued with the Bob Cat lighting circuits.
Friday, February 17
Sasha and Juanita worked on the food line for the drive through food bank. I helped for a few minutes to give Juanita time to eat lunch. Other than that I carried on working on the Bob Cat lighting. They all work now.
Back home I ran the car onto a vacant RV slab and checked the back up sensors. All of them are putting out pulses except one. It’s the coolest troubleshooting. You can see the pulses while you make a voice memo recording on your phone and heat the clicks when you play it back. All sensors are putting out pulses except one. I go to the local Hyundai dealer. The parts guy gives me a part number and a price. Ouch! On the way home I check with Matt at AutoZone. It’s genuine Hyundai or nothing. No aftermarket sensors offered for sale. Later I order on line for about seventy dollars less.
We went to Dairy Queen for treats. Pro-tip: If the sign says “senior discount available” you don’t get it if you don’t ask about it before paying.
Saturday, February 18
Juanita headed to the laundromat at an early hour. Sasha and I stayed home. Normally I would have used the time to update the blog. Instead, I roughed out my chapel talk for next Wednesday. With Ben and Oscar gone to Nicaragua for Missionary Training School graduation we get to take turns.
Just as I was wrapping up the first pass of my notes a neighbour showed up requesting assistance. I helped him for a while with an electrical problem on his rig. We both got re-educated. Question one - “Is the switch on?”
We went to a farmer’s market south of town then drove to Don-Wes flea market. Typical winter Texan flea market. We didn’t think to take Sasha to a typical Mexican flea market until t was too late. Oops. Maybe next time. After checking out the wares offered for sale and the old cars that people had brought to show off we headed to CiCi’s pizza buffet for lunch.
Gorged beyon belief we went back home for a while to recuperate before going to a used bookstore and Sam’s club to find a book for Sasha to read on her trip home.
In the evening we enjoyed dinner with neighbours on site.
Week of February 19 to 25
Sunday, February 19
Bob and Glenda Reese were in church this morning. We haven’t seen them for years since we did some work together at the Way of the Cross base camp in Aldama, Mexico. He spoke briefly to the group about their work in Africa since leaving Way of the Cross. They have schools in Kenya and Somalia which they raise funds for from their home base in Memphis, TN.
After church we went to South Padre Island for lunch at Denny’s and then a long walk on the beach. On the way back we checked out a bookstore in Port Isabel and a bookstore in Brownsville without success in Sasha finding a book she wanted to read.
She found a couple of books at Barnes and Noble in McAllen. While I waited in the car I was eyeballing the Bakery Café across the parking lot. I showed the five-year-old menu to Juanita. That’s reasonable for salads we agreed. The special I saw on the board on the way was marked “sold out” when we got to the counters. Nothing else appealed to me. Prices for salads have almost doubled in five years. We weren’t that hungry. Hard pass. We hit a Taco Bell drive through on the way home.
Monday, February 20
Happy Presidents’ Day
My turn to speak was Wednesday, but Monday’s speaker was running late so I volunteered to get it over with. I learned that from Juanita. She was always uncomfortable speaking in front of others so always wants to be first in any situation where being up front is inevitable. Get it over with and stop worrying is good advice. A second advantage is I wouldn’t have to spend another half hour polishing the words.
The theme was the curved illusion tracts. I like them because the cards have a good message on the back. It is a tract that people ask for and keep in their wallets. A dormant seed, waiting for the right time. They also remind me that things are not always the way you think they are. There was a time in my life I thought things were fine, but I was missing out on the main thing. That changed when I met Jesus.
After chapel Juanita helped with prep for the Wednesday food line. Kim and John are headed to Austin tomorrow on ministry business, so the tent needs to ready a day early. Byron and I tried to figure out how to hook up the alternator. The Bob Cat engine is not the original engine and the alternator it came with was being used as a belt pulley. We took the new alternator to a shop where they bench tested it and we learned which terminals did what.
After the alternator was installed and working, we fab’ed an exhaust gasket and installed that.
We came home, turned on the AC and left for Sam’s to eat frozen yogurt and buy eggs.
We watched Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and NCIS. I started a new to me Ken Follet saga and read until 12:59.
Tuesday, February 21
Blades across the border.
I puttered at figuring out Bobcat wiring, then Byron and I took a van and we went across the free trade bridge to Mexico where the dentist fit the crown and cemented it back on. The crown had still been a bit proud. Perhaps that is what loosened the cement. This dentist did the trimming before cementing the crown in place so the procedure was not unpleasant which is about as much as one can hope for. The person who recommended her to me said she has never caused him any pain while working in his teeth.
The trip back across the bridge was slow. There were three large trailers each with a blade for a wind turbine. They took some maneuvering to get through the entry way onto the bridge. Then again at the US side they had to maneuver through the border crossing using the lanes normally used by southbound freight trucks.
It was quiet at the warehouse with all the prep under the tent for Wednesday being done yesterday. While I was at the dentist, Juanita and Sasha went to the RGV outlet Mall. We all made it back about 12:30 and ate lunch together.
After lunch we traced wiring for the instrument cluster on the Bob Cat. Lots of severed wires and corroded connections. We bought a voltmeter gauge for installation tomorrow and ordered an alternator bracket to replace the chunk of scrap steel thrown on to get the machine running for the house demolition.
On the way home we stopped at the grocery store for greens. Back home we changed clothes and went to the Golden Coral. Better food intake control will come next week. We pledge.
Quiet evening. More Ken Follet. Some keyboarding. Jeopardy and Wheel.
Wednesday, February 22
Sasha and Juanita helped with the Wednesday drive through food line.
Byron and I did the Voltmeter install and bolted up the gauge panel the same as we had done for the switch panel. The original plastic holes are stripped out. Things happen in almost thirty years of hard use and indifferent maintenance. Byron installed a new primer bulb on the fuel line. Then he started to power wash the Bob cat while I distanced myself.
Sasha went to youth group in the evening.
Thursday, February 23
Sasha and Juanita prepped under the tent for tomorrow’s drive through food bank. Byron and I fabbed and installed new skirting on the floor sweeping machine. After that was done we got news the alternator bracket was in. We installed that including the chrome nut cover!
At the end of the day we gave somebody a ride to the training center then beat feet in a forty-two mile drive to the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. It was cutting it close to make it there before the visitor’s center posted closing time of four p.m. The detours for road closures didn’t help but we made it with five minutes to spare. Only to find that the national listings of penny press machines was in error. They had no penny press. Sasha did not get the hoped for pressed penny from the gift shop. She did get a drive through backroads with fields of onions and broccoli and a cold drink on the way home.
The people who wrote the instructions for the “lasagna” MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) I prepared for Sasha suffered from the curse of knowledge. They knew what they meant when they were writing the instructions for the MRE. They could have labelled the fill line as “fill line” but it was obvious to them that random unmarked line was the fill line. They did say not to overfill. Not realizing where the line was I overfilled.
I’ll know better next time. That’s similar to what I say when I get persuaded into something against my better judgement. I’ll “No!” better next time. But I digress. The microwave solved the under-temperature problem caused by overfilling the liquid for the heat pad. It did nothing for the taste. Lasagna with beans, tasting somewhat like chili? We found something else for Sasha to eat.
Friday, February 24
This morning we drove Sasha to McAllen airport, waited in line while she checked in, walked her to the TSA security, watched unto she was through that and on her way to the gate. The ticket agent warned her to check the displays when she arrived in Houston in case the gate for her next flight changed. I think she knows that. On the way here it changed four or five times in Houston.
We bought a few things Costco and sampled their appetizers before dining on their world famous hot dogs. Then off we went to the nearby health food store. We stopped by some friends’ house in Bibleville, but they were out so we headed home with a few stops on the way. The rest of the day was exceedingly quiet as we re-immersed ourselves in our empty nest.
Sasha made her Houston to Calgary connection. The Calgary to Edmonton flight was cancelled. The airline gave her vouchers for meals, a hotel room and transportation. They rebooked her for tomorrow morning.
Saturday, February 25
Juanita did the laundry at the laundromat. I washed the car at the wand wash across the street from the laundromat.
Back at the coach I spent most of the day on the roof. I replaced the fridge vent cover, the tank vent covers, and the skylight over the shower. Then we went to the grocery store. While there I checked my email. The sensor had been delivered to the WOTC office. We picked up the sensor and I isntalled it and tested it. Nope. Still doesn’t work. The problem was not the sensor. It is either a connector, a bad wire or the master module. I checked what I had access to. I have no desire to rip the rear bumper off the car to get better access to the wires and module. I guess we live with the problem.
February 26 to 28
Sunday, February 26
After church we had lunch at home then ran a few errands.
As we left the Walmart parking lot there was a couple with a baby and a stroller. They were holding up a sign “Pampers…., anything”. This saddens me. It confuses me. I was not moved to help. Not moved to judge. Too much to process.
Monday, February 27
Chapel happens at three different times during the week. Monday, combined with a staff meeting, is always the earliest, at 7:30. Michael spoke on the story of Joseph how we see the highlights of a lifetime in a few chapters, but much more obviously went on in the years that are glossed over. The primary point is that of all the bad things that happened to Joseph God meant for good. Joseph recognized this and reassured his brothers. They were fearful of revenge for their actions. All the good things that happened to Joseph and his people were the result of what looked like bad things at the time.
The task of the next two days for Byron and helpers is to install two split air conditioning units in two of the upstairs apartments in the fourteen plex at the staff housing motel. The first step of this is to remove the existing compressor unit hung high on the wall. Byron goes to get set up for this. I putter while Russell helps get a van and trailer ready for trash hauling. When he is done I give him a ride to the motel. Juanita stayed to help in the warehouse and to prep under the tent.
When Russell and I arrive at the motel the scissor lift is stuck in the patch of soft grass that somebody helpfully watered early this morning. The batteries of the scissor lift are a bit challenged so Byron took the shortest route to the task location. With the lack of rain this winter soft patches of grass have not been a problem. Unless they get watered, of course. Judicious use of a tow strap and the lifts own power gets it unstuck. The long way is hard enough to get the scissor lift in place for the first unit, but the batteries are on the low side by the time it is place.
Russell and Byron remove the old compressor unit. The last time I saw it, it was hanging from its wires and tubing. The bracket had rotted. When the volunteer team installed all the split A/C units a few years back they made brackets from pressure treated wood. By the time they got to the last one they had run out of pressure treated boards so the used a couple of regular wood. They didn’t last long in this humid climate and the compressor unit fell as far as the wires and tubing would let it. In the past year somebody built a new platform, but the compressor suffered its form of suspension trauma. Today is replacement day.
While they are doing this I run an extension cord to the built-in charger aboard the scissor lift. They get the old unit down and the new unit up almost in place. The platform is too small for the new unit. Down it comes. After some new PT bards were found, cut and screwed in place Russell and Byron lifted the new unit into place and screwed it down. With the heavy lifting done I give Russell a ride to the training center. While there I add our personal burnables to the trash pile the crew is burning.
Back at the motel I check out what Byron is up to and head to the hardware store for some supplies. On the way back from the hardware store I went by the warehouse and picked up the box of drill stuff. I used the scissor lift to caulk and foam while Byron was working inside. Then it was lunch time.
After I had lunch with Juanita at the warehouse I came back to the motel. All the parts were no longer in the drill box. Byron went to buy the hole saw extension that wasn’t in the box. I took this opportunity to remove the annoying tire from our car. I checked for presence of the hub centric ring and fit of hub. All okay. I did notice the wheel had been balanced with only a single weight when the new winter tire was installed. The last time this wheel ran well it had been dynamically balanced. A single weight implies it was only statically balanced. Another rabbit hole to explore. Maybe this one will have a rabbit.
We finished drilling out the hole I help Byron lift the inside air handling unit onto the bracket he has installed. The tubes and wires are sticking out, high up the wall waiting to be hooked up to the compressor unit. The scissor lift is dead in the water. The onboard charger is not working. The lift is in too tight a to work on. There is nothing I can do to help. Juanita shows up. We go home.
RV’s typically have several vents with hand cranked covers that can be opened to let air in or out. People often install after market rain covers so the vents can be open when it is raining. You don’t want to open a vent, so the rig is coolish when you come home and come home to find it raining. The coach we are borrowing has four vents with four covers. One vent has a FanTastic brand fan. It has a special cover to allow the vent lid to open wider and permit high airflows.
Back home I remove rain covers and wash the vent lids. The rain cover over the FanTastic fan is cracked. I take it down to ground level for later attention and open all the now washed lids so I can pick debris off the screens. Back down to close lids. Back on roof to replace the covers. Juanita is back from a visit with a friend. I pound on the roof to get her attention when I need help from below. She closes the lid. I install the rain cover. I use different mounting holes than before. The old ones are cracked. I pound on the rood she opens the vent cover to make sure the cover doesn’t interfere with the lid with the cover in a slightly different position. All but the FanTastic fan cover are done. I come down.
I try gluing the cover with a crazy glue that says it is good for “most plastics”. I apply glue to some of the crack inside the cover. “Most plastics” don’t include this one. Also I discover there is about four inches of glue in a four-dollar bottle for a two foot crack. Supper break.
After supper I work on covering cover with aluminum tape. Done. I touch the still wet crazy glue and get it all over my finger-tips. I can’t use the door handle. My finger tips smeared with crazy glue. I knock on the rig door for a while. Then I pound on the door. I kill an opportunistic mosquito and mix blood with the crazy glue. Juanita thinks I’m back on roof. She opens vents to find what I want.
She decides to go outside to look up at me on the roof and yells “I’m putting on my shoes.”
I yell back, “You don’t need shoes, just open the door!”
By now the crazy glue has set up. No more fear of sticking to anything. No fear of getting it off, either. Nothing we have touches it. I watch the last five minutes of Wheel. Where are your priorities, Paul? You worked through Jeopardy and almost all of Wheel of Fortune.
I make plans to go to an O’Reilly’s and buy a quart of acetone so I can use half an ounce. Have something else on my list from there that is not urgent so only a 90 percent wasted trip. Finally I get smart and check shop on campus. There’s a gallon of actone. Clean fingers again. Notice that Russell has mounted a new to the ministry air compressor on the tank. The EMT with the wires needs attention.
Another day of doing tasks that are not new but so far in the past the dance steps have to be relearned.
Shower and bed.
Tuesday, February 28
Byron overnight has released the parking brake on the scissor lift and towed it out far enough to troubleshoot a bad charger and put a different 24 volt charger on it overnight.
He has some maintenance work to do on terminals. He goes to motel. Russell heads to the TC shop with a helper. I go to Home Depot to buy flex and connectors to wire the compressor back up. After it is wired it appears to be running backwards. Wires didn’t change. Same motor. Is the compressor broken. Does it need to run in a different than the compressor that came out? We have no idea what we are doing or what to do next. No idea of history of this compressor that showed up with a broken pulley. Chaos, confusion, I’m done here.
I call Byron to check in. The second compressor unit was low on freon. He added more. The unit is running as a check. Back to warehouse for a late lunch. Juanita is done for the day. We drop by the motel. The A/C unit has quit. Byron has more to do before knowing the next steps. I take Juanita home and come back to the motel. The compressor is running. We are in wait and see. Or is that wait and seeth mode. Frustrating to not know what one is doing because you only do it occasionally, not enough to get knowledgeable. While it is boring to do the same thing every day. There is the ballet of a framing crew with their expertise of repetition of the same set of tasks. Or of an A/C installation crew, for that matter.
I go to tire store to hand out tracts and read while I wait my cars turn. Tire and wheel check out okay. They rebalance dynamically after some confusion. “Hey! There’s something wrong with this tire. I can’t balance it.” Boss, “Read the work order. Remove tire and vacuum out the balancing beads, then balance.” “Oh.” I test drive the car. The tire is marginally better. I think. Maybe I’m just fussy.
Back home. Handpicking the debris didn’t do the job perfectly. I go to the first vent screen. Remove handle and shroud. Remove screen. Take outside shake off debris. Wash screen. Replace in reverse order. One screen done. Looks great. Next screen is FanTastic fan. Take off screen. Wash it.
The fan has not worked since we have been in the rig. Start troubleshooting. Chase wires and circuit around, Two sets of wires. Power to one. Check fuse at panel. Put unit fuse in. Power at both. Follow circuit around until it is just this strange little block of plastic. Stop for Jeopardy and Wheel and supper. Research FanTastic fans during commercial breaks. Finally go and short terminals on strange block of plastic and fan runs with vent cover open.
Pull block of plastic to get part number. Is it a thermal overload? Nope. It’s a relay. There’s a remote switch somewhere. We search the coach bedroom, walls and dash. Finally, Juanita notices orphan thermostat not used by A/C or furnace. The fan runs if the vent cover is open and the thermostat is set above room temperature. There was nothing wrong with the fan. Seems like there is a plague of not knowing. Reassembled. It looks great. It works great. fantastic! Another successful episode of wheel spinning that got us to a happy destination. Start to take apart the next vent. The handle is frozen on. Resists coming off. If I force it, it might break. Maybe the vent looks good enough. We’re done for the night and the month.