Connie in Morocco and Beyond

These are my travel experiences beginning with my Peace Corps service in Morocco from 2006-2008. At the request of friends and my own desire to document, I continued blogging my journeys to other countries as well as in the U. S., including my service as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in South Africa for most of 2014. This blog will continue as my travel journal.

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Location: Billings, Montana, United States

The Big Sky country of Montana is home sweet home!

Monday, March 06, 2017

HOMESTAY CONT'D

The next day I went with both Carmen's to school across the street for a teacher's cooperative meeting which recognized various people for various accomplishments.  Here's a picture of some of the students, as well as the teachers.

 That night we went to visit her other daughter who lives in Heredia, in an upscale home and enviroment from where I was staying.  Then, next day, time for an adventure!  Olga, the daughter who lived next door and spoke no
English, and I took a bus to Puntarenes on the ocean for an overnight stay.  It was a good time!

Olga, who did not swim, eventually did go into the swimming pool at the motel, and with encouragement from another "local", went waist deep into the ocean.  Here's a street-food dish that we had for lunch:  Vigarone.  Pork rinds, cabbage, tomatoes, vinegar and oil dressing.
Olga, her aunt, my hostess Carmen and her husband









Friday, April 01, 2016

COSTA RICA HOMESTAY

Prior to meeting the team for the build, I arranged a homestay with a SERVAS member (an international hosting program) for a week.  I flew to Houston on March 26th, stayed at a motel near the Airport, and my friend Vicky Valero came with food from a deli and visited for a couple of hours.

On Easter Sunday I flew into San Jose.  We arrived on time, but when the plane taxied to the terminal, we got stuck in a "hole." The pilot called for a tug, but the tow bar broke and they had to get another.  The line for immigration was very busy due to the holiday.  Carmen Mora Mora gave me a ride to her house, she fed me some lunch of a cornmeal type of bread with some type of filling that was pretty good.

 I thought she knew English better than she did, but I had no problem understanding it was necessary for me to stay with another SERVAS host also named Carmen.  So off we go about a half hour away, and I stay with Carmen and her husband.  I have an upstairs bedroom to myself, and these folks don't speak any English except a few words.  Both Carmen's are retired teachers.  I just hung around Monday, and arranged for an all-day tour the next day, going to a coffee farm, volcano, and waterfall park that also had different areas for frogs, butterflies, monkeys, etal.

Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 MEMORIES





NOVEMBER.  Daughter Heide and granddaughter Jazzy from California came for a brief visit.  We did a day trip to Heart Mountain near Cody, WY, to see the Japanese Internment Visitor Center.  I think it really helped open their eyes to the discriminatory and cruel methods our government has used in the past.





SEPTEMBER. Went on my four-year delayed trip to DC to see
 former Peace Corps Volunteer friends,  Kareem and Leslie Mansour.  We bonded so in Morocco, and it was wonderful to see them again.  They had be be gone overnight, so I spent a day walking around all the monuments, spending time with "the boys."   (Jefferson, Roosevelt, etc.)  Love those two!



Then on to Boston to spend a couple of nights with Lisa Hull, who picked me up there then on to Wellfleet on the Cape for a wonderful visit.  I met Lisa on my first, brief game reserve trip to South Africa in 2011.








August.  Overnight camping at Woodbine Campground in the Beartooths, near Sioux Charlie hike, with Barb Batts          First, but not last! time to camp there





















With the four oldest grandsons (youngest not wanting in the photo) camping at Fairmont Hot Springs near Anaconda with their families.  Lots of fun in the sun and warm waters!

















Sunset at Canyon Ferry near Helena in July.  Enjoyed lots of short camping trips in my little RV this summer.


































Marci's oldest son, Hayden, and her husband Paul hiking in MT.




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ULY.  Had a great time at the Montana Folk Festival in Butte. This is the main stage under a former headframe from an old mine.  Claudia Janacek went with me and we camped out in my RV.








Lots of baseball, with grandson Noah Christophers playing for the Miles City team.




Cinda's Nathan and Marci's Keaton

Daughters Marci and Cinda and I at a picnic for cancer survivors.  Cinda just completed recovery from her second bout with cancer.
Cinda's husband Andy and their little one, Kellen at a baseball game.

Always enjoy cribbage, here in my sister June's backyard with friend Wayne, June and Wayne's son Eric, and his son Zach.

Flew to Seattle in May with Terry to visit niece Laurie and watch great nephew Skyler play baseball.




MARCH.  Guatemala,as blogged separately.


JANUARY.  Started off the new year doing a half-marathon in January with daughters Heide in CA (and her husband Jim), Marci from UT, and granddaughter Jasmine who lives in San Diego, near Carlsbad where the beautiful event was held.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

HOME, SAFE AND GRATEFUL

What a very marvelous experience in Guatemala!  So glad I took the time for the Spanish language immersion, and I'm so motivated to continue learning and hope to do another immersion next year if at all possible.  The Habitat build was just great.  My diverse team WAS a team and we all worked hard and learned so much from our masons, and partner families, and each other.  I hope to lead another team again, most likely to another country in Central America or Mexico.  If I get some good photos from other team members, I'll be posting them here a bit later.

Monday, March 30, 2015

DOMINGO DE PALMAS


One of the biggest days of the year is Palm Sunday, and the entire Semana Santa (Holy Week) draws crowds from far and near.  The Sunday processions start several weeks prior, but Palm Sunday and Good Friday processions are the biggest.



I am sorry to admit that I was so tired and the crowds were so dense that I didn't view as many alfombras or the procession as I now wish I had. So, guess I'll have to go back!





















This is Catedral de San Jose which had a huge alfombra on the floorIt is made from colored rice, sawdust, plant material and lined with colorful fruits and vegetables.















Semana Santa celebrations take place annually. The festival typically commences on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, and goes through the week  until Good Friday, when devotees remember the Passion of Christ, the suffering Jesus endured on the cross and the solemn anniversary of his death. Most Holy Weeks end on Holy Saturday, a day of vigil in anticipation of the resurrection.

Semana Santa celebrations are predominantly Catholic and celebrated in Latin countries that almost exclusively identify with this religion. In Guatemala, there are many fusions between local beliefs, the Mayans and Catholicism, and the farther you travel into the mountains, the more you’ll see the mix. The three main activities of Antigua’s Semana Santa are the processions of floats and horses (procesiones ), carpet-making (alfombras ), and candlelight vigils (vigilias ).  The alfombras are made of sawdust, rice, flowers, vegetables, and are absolutely amazing to see.  Suggest you google "alfombras" to view good photos and explanation of the creations.
Saturday prior to this was a travel day from San Marcos, with a dinner at a very nice restaurant that evening.  Team members left at various times, with seven of us still in Antigua on Sunday.  My shuttle picked me up at 3 a.m. for the airport for a long trip back to Montana, filled with wonderful memories of another special international travel experience, but glad to be home once again.

Friday, March 27, 2015

LAST BUILD DAY

Jackie, family daughter, Connie, Gracie(the youngest team member), Ryan, Samantha, Mike Stevensons from Miles City, Ruben the mason, Cathi and her daughter Sara, Horalia the family mother, Jorge the son, and Willun, the mason's helper

We got very dirty today with concrete bucket brigade, more rebar tying, but first we visited our family's current  house,where Horalia gave each of us a little gift,  then she and her children came over to the work site for lots of photos.

Next was the ceremony with the local Habitat affiliate and both families at the other work site.  More thanks and prayers and short speeches, then a treat of tostados and hibiscus tea.  We bought a pinata as it was Ryan's birthday (the young tall guy in the back of the above photo) and a few days past the birthday of Daisy, from the other family.  This photo is of Jeff, the other team's Habitat rep and interpreter, guiding Daisy.

Dee Dee and Dina from Vancouver, BC: Maura, my roommate from San Fran, Karen Stevenson from Miles City, Rick from Seattle...all member of the other team.
Ambrosia and Trudy (74 yrs. old), granddaughter and grandmother from Seattle area.







CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

Interspersed with the work week are cultural activities.  The main one was on Wednesday morning, when we went to refuge/national park that is known for quetzal nests.  It is a very rare thing for anyone to see these gorgeous birds, and we were blessed to see three of them, including one in flight.  A truly spiritual experience, combined with the lovely cloud forest and waterfalls.  I couldn't capture them with my camera; one team member did but can't send at this time so I am posting a photo from the internet.  At the waterfall with me is Christian, who lives and works in New York but is from Puerto Rico and the only fluent Spanish speaker on our team.  Gracie is our youngest member, age 19, and it was her first time to fly by herself and first time out of country.
Both teams visited schools near our separate work sites, and that was a kick.  We had maps of North America, Mexico and Canada, along with one of the U. S. and sat with small groups of kids (ages 8-11 in one classroom) so they could get a perspective of where we live and tried to dialogue a bit with them with simple Q&A's, like their names, ages, etc.  The teacher spoke to us a bit about the curriculum and various aspects of the school.  They were very excited, as were we, to meet each other!
















One day before dinner we participated in tamale making with the hotel cooks.  The tamales were just the dough with no filling, but a couple of us got our hands in it and mixed the ground maize, water, cream, and butter, then everyone wrapped a blob of it in a banana leaf.  All were put in a large pot to boil and we had them for supper.  They were very similar to dumplings.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ROCKIN' AND BLOCKIN'


We really work hard today, lots of block and rock moving as well as tying rebar.  No water was available at our worksite so we couldn't mix/carry/pour concrete.

My team is really super; everyone works hard and gets along with minimal complaining.  One one hand it seems like we've been here for weeks, but again, just like the other day.
Block brigade.  We also carried two (or one) at a time later


Sara from Albany, New York but in college at Stanford.  She and her mom were there together during her spring break.













Concrete and mortar mixer in foreground.  Not electrical, as you can see!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FIRST DAYS OF GUATEMALA HFH-GV BUILD

Our team all arrived at the hotel in Antigua last Saturday and we departed by a van/bus Sunday morning for San Marcos, which was nearly a six-hour trip.  We arrived just in time to meet the two families whose homes we will be working on, and members of the local affiliate of Habitat.  A nice little ceremony, then settled in our hotel rooms, had dinner,  and  a little orientation before ending the evening.  The hotel dining room is nice, and we are served meals family style.  Plenty of food and it's good.  Rooms are fairly spartan but that is what we expected.  Adequate blankets on the beds and not as cold as I feared.

I divided the group into two teams based on age, sex and roommate's preferences and it seemed to work out okay, with my roommate being the leader of the other work group.  However, she got sick in the middle of the night and couldn't come to the worksite, so I asked my friend Karen to lead that team. Then mid-morning, a young woman on my team got sick so the driver took her and her mom back to the hotel.




One of the first jobs introduced was to tie re-bar. Here are Samantha and Gracie hard at it.



Our family is a single mom with two kids; a girl Jackie age 15 and a boy, Jorge, age 12. He stopped by to see us after school in his soccer uniform.  A real cutie.  He had a harder time with my Spanish than our mason, so I helped him with some English words.

Here's a video of the concreto mixing and pouring.  I allude to it as mezcla in the video, but that is incorrect, as mezcla is the mortar, and has different proportions of cement, water, and gravel, plus lime is added.


WORK IN MOTION


Here's more videos of the work we did Wednesday.



Sunday, March 22, 2015

TIKAL!

 We flew on a small plane (a 24 seater, I think) to Flores, where we were picked up by a drive for an hour drive to the Tikal National Forest.  Our tour included dinner at the very nice lodge where we spent the night, enjoying the meal and the night sounds following.  Up at 3:30 a.m., grabbed a cup of coffee then walk for about an hour to the ruins.  Our guide pointed out a number of fun things in the dark along the way:  a small fox, large tree frog, termite hills.  Would have been swell to see a jaguar, but they are seldom seen.    
We walked up a wooden staircase to one of the temples to see the sunrise.  Listening to the jungle wake up was amazing.   The howler monkeys sounded like huge monsters of some sort, but they are just a normal size monkey.  I tried to video to capture the sounds but it didn't turn out too well.  Some temples can be seen through the foggy cloudy scene.

This is one of the major temples, not allowed to be climbed, but we roamed around with the guide, returning to the lodge about 9:00 for breakfast.  We then walked back on our own and did more exploring for awhile.

Masks were carved into the base of \ the temples. They have built thatched covers over many to preserve them.  There has been a lot of restoration and is still ongoing.

A termite nest spotted along the walk
And a beautiful wild turkey.











Resting in front of our room after a day of lots of climbing and walking.  Wonderful little trip!  Lots more photos and will post more later.  Internet connection is slow and others have better pictures.