Saturday, May 16, 2009

Honduras Bound Sunday

In about six hours I leave for the airport. I am meeting ten engineering students and we are headed to Honduras to work on electrification systems in rural villages and eat lots of refried beans and plantains. Actually, my flight doesn't leave for three more days, but I want to get to the airport plenty early on account of security. :

You know, I really don't like flying. I like being other places, but not so much the getting to other places. Turns out the only way to do the former without doing the later is by reading a book or, say, daydreaming. I think this trip I'll choose daydreaming. There's seldom any food poisoning, and the humidity is lower than the real Honduras.

I don't really have anything to say, I'm just procrastinating going to bed. Sorry to waste your blogging time with empty words, but frankly, you should be used to that by now. Did you know "blogging time" in Spanish is "tiempo blogi" but you have to pronounce it the Spanish way, like "blo-hee". I'm a natural with the languages...

Surprise Letter in the Mail Today

I was writing on the computer this afternoon when The M dropped a fat letter in front of me. It was hand-addressed from someone whose name I didn't recognize. Washington state? I only know two people that live in that whole state, and their last name is the same as mine. As I opened it, curious and skeptical of it's contents, I remembered another hand written letter I got from some conspiracy group from, where else, San Francisco. I still don't know how those nuts found me. The Internet, I suppose. And because I watch too many FBI shows, I also had the thought that it could be a letter bomb. Really, I had that thought. Don't judge me.

To my surprise and delight it was a letter from Lee, the man who received my blood marrow stem cell donation about two years ago. We had been kept anonymous by the National Marrow Donors Network that had matched our blood tissue types way back when. But after a period of isolation, they allow donors and recipients to get each others contact information. I remember filling out a form and mailing it to the Network, but I never heard anything else about it... until this afternoon.

Lee has three grown children, the oldest of which is a year older than me. One of his daughters and his wife also wrote letters and included them in the envelope, along with a bunch of pictures. They were all very grateful, which made me feel rather strange. While I'm sure their gratitude is genuine, I don't feel like I deserve it. Lee called me a hero. I don't feel like a hero. I'm just a guy that got a bunch of shots and made a few extra trips to Dallas. Heck, the Network bought my meals and put me in a hotel. I think I got a pretty good deal.

He called me his blood brother. That phrase struck me. It is true, literally, since the procedure. All his marrow was killed by a massive dose of chemo, and then they implanted my blood marrow stem cells in his bones. Pretty soon they took root (or whatever) and his body started making my blood in its bones. Far out, eh? Now his body has one set of DNA, but his blood has my DNA. Hope he doesn't commit any serious crimes.

Still, it did make me feel good that Lee called me a hero, even though I don't feel like it applies. At least he thinks I am. He and The M too. Maybe all we need is someone, or perhaps a handful of folks, to really think we are something special. They may be delusional, but at least they're happy in their delusion. I'm alright being the hero of someone else's delusion.

Don't think this post is meant to be false humility or a pitiful attempt at fishing for kudos from the blogosphere. It's not that. It's me just trying to capture my emotional response to an unusual letter in the mail. Er... that's it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Engineers with a Mission Party

Thursday evening The M and I had a dozen or so Engineers with a Mission students over to the house for our traditional lasagna dinner. I put out disposable cups and wrote the names of some of the poorest and richest countries on them. So for example, someone drank from Burundi with its $600 GDP per capita, while someone else drank from Qatar, with over $100,000. Cups were assigned at random to emphasize the fact that one can't control the country in which you are born: rich or poor. I thought myself clever for this, which is not hard.

Kim, Joe, and Sarah are some of the newest members of the PIT Crew. (PIT stands for Project Implementation and Testing) We have some of the highest caliber students in our organization!

After a few years of being president of the Baylor chapter of EM, Jonathan will be graduating this May. He has been on three trips with me overseas: Kenya once and Honduras twice. He and I have found ourselves in many interesting situations together. Without going into a lot of details, these situations range in topic from undersized toilet facilities, to Cuban cigars, to sleep-deprived fits of laughter!
We gave Jonathan a Honduran bean pot as a thank you gift for all his hard work. I'm going to miss him after graduation; I count him as a good friend and we have a special connection. He and Katie are getting married in October and we are invited to the Kansas wedding!

David, Eduardo, and Brian (clockwise) are all going on trips this month. David to Rwanda, and the others to Honduras with me. I put this photo in as evidence that engineers can, indeed, laugh.
We ate together and socialized and played Wii golf and generally had a good time. The M and I really like being around the students because they are mature enough to carry on intelligent conversations with good social skills, and yet they are young enough to be energetic, optimistic, and just plain fun.

Perhaps I made the coffee a little too strong...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Field Trip to the Zoo

Jono's class had a field trip to the zoo last week. Jonos and gibbons and meerkats, oh my.

Proverbs 30:28

"A lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces."

We have had a few lizards in the house lately. The cats have been catching them and bringing them into the house as trophies or gifts or some other feline instinct with the unintentional result of freaking me out.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Gig for Engineers with a Mission

Engineers with a Mission is expanding to become a 501(c)3 organization. That means we are applying for a status with the IRS to be able to receive tax-deductible donations to support our work. What work is that? To provide engineering support to community development projects and Christian missions efforts around the world. And we may have a new gig...

The president of our organization, Leah Richter, a former student of mine, has connections with a missions organization called To Every Tribe. They do a lot of work in a very special place: Papua New Guinea. They need some help with a solar panel design and deployment at a remote building on an island off the coast of PNG called Chambri Island. You can't even find it on Google Earth, so it must be tiny. The approximate location is shown by the question mark.

As if PNG is not remote enough, this location is on the tiny Chambri Island out there somewhere... The large land mass at the bottom left is the north-east corner of Australia.

This is the building under construction. Looks like it's being built in the traditional PNG style on stilts and with open air ventilation on each end. I know this 'cause I watch the Discovery Channel.

This time I can't go. Insert sad face emoticon here. Since I can't go, I am recruiting other engineers and/or upper level students who might want to go spend 2-4 weeks there this summer. Want to go?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ryan arrives in Honduras

Ryan is going to be in Honduras for two weeks prior to my arrival with students. I spoke with him today and things are going well. He was able to clear up a question we had about the new minimum wage laws there. Apparently, Honduran law requires employers (which we endeavour to be) to pay their employees for 14 months per year. The expectation is that during July and December folks get a double payment. Sound strange? I agree. I wish I could explain more to you, but I'm in the dark too.

Perhaps some of you reader(s) that are familiar with Honduran law (uh... Erin?) could enlighten us about the reasons for this oddity?

Ryan also got to visit some companies that sell electric motors and generators (lucky!) and get pricing. It's about what we thought: a 15 hp induction motor is about $1000, and a 5 kW diesel generator is about $900 - and they're having a sale! Woo hoo!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Base-ball been bery bery good to me

Jono's team, the Electric Eels, has played a few more games in the last week or so. They won two and lost one, which is pretty good. The boys are having a lot of fun, which is great.

Here Jono runs to a base despite the all-out efforts of the crackpot defense.
They are playing "Coach Pitch" baseball, which means the head coach for each team does the pitching. It's one step up from Tee-ball. They get 12 strikes before they are out. Most hits are singles, but sometimes there are doubles. Jono has hit one double and struck out once. Mostly he gets singles like everybody else. In the picture above he is playing third base. The good looking guy in the classy cut-offs is yours truly, being the third base coach, catcher of foul balls, and Jono's cheerleader. Notice Jono has his cap on backwards on account of it being sunny behind us.

Teammates in the dugout, Jono awaits his first pitch. I love the fields where we play. They are thick and overgrown behind the fences, and they conjure up mystery and imagination.

Ready stance. A man of action.