One plane, two plane, jet plane, blue plane

Fortunately, our pilots realized there was a computer problem while we were still on the runway. Back to the gate, onto another plane, then three hours later we were off. Kudos to Jet Blue for making it as painless as possible. We were lucky to have a relatively mellow crowd on the plane, so grumping was almost non-existent.

I noticed a yellow Global Volunteer tag in an overhead bin, so I used my keen investigative skills to locate Jeanne. Knowing I would not be the only latecomer was quite comforting. I was confident that together we’d figure out a way to get to the hotel.

Luckily, our team leader Warren was kind enough to wait for us, so after clearing customs we hopped into the van and headed for JJ’s paradise. The hour and a half ride up, down and around the mountain could be described by numerous adjectives, but I’m going to stick with “memorable”. Suffice it to say that we were grateful that Warren was behind the wheel and used to driving on the opposite side of the road.

We joined the rest of the team at dinner, but Warren saved introductions for Sunday morning.  In his introductory comments, he told us that the first team, in January build a very solid base upon which we can build.

He also told us the St. Lucia project is unique in that the teams are bigger, and we are being dispersed throughout the community. In his words, “there are lots of moving parts”. The 27 of us are formed into teams for the infant school, preschool, primary school, secondary school, medical, home visits, computer education,construction and community gardens.

He left us with this thought for our first day:
“Leap and the net will appear.”

Here are some visuals of my home for the next two weeks:


My room—WAAAY up the hillside.


The most I’ve ever weighed…

Whew, our luggage scale was definitely a worthwhile investment.  My checked bag weighed in at 48.5 pounds on the JetBlue scale, almost identical to the reading I got at home.  (I left a little cushion, to allow for calibration differences.)  So, between my checked luggage and my carry on bag,  I am tipping the scales at 74 lbs…not counting my back pack.   I have never even come close to the weight limit on ANY  trip, even when we had to bring clothes for two climates.   As you can see, I DID squeeze some clothes into my carry on.

Fortunately, while I was still in the packing stage, I connected with Michelle and Paddy, two incredible women who were members of the first team assigned to the Kiddie Homey Day Care Center.  They clued me into the cheap laundry facilities at the hotel, which meant I could bring fewer clothes and more supplies.  I also stocked up on protein snacks to supplement the box lunches I’ll be getting, and stuck in an umbrella (for the frequent, brief surprise  downpours).  Thanks to them, I feel prepared–at least when it comes to packing!

I was not thrilled about flying out of JFK, because the trip from central Jersey to that airport is normally rather arduous.  What a pleasant surprise to get from my garage to the gate in an hour and a half!  That includes going through  bag drop and security.  Of course, leaving the house at 6:15 AM on a Saturday might have SOMETHING to do with it, but if Mike has an easy drive back home, and if fetching me on a Saturday night goes as smoothly, then JFK will definitely be a future travel option.  The jet blue terminal is beautiful and well designed.  I love the free wi-fi, which is something that Newark airport lacks.

Time for another adventure

I leave on Saturday, March 10 to serve on a Global Volunteers project in St. Lucia.  I’ve never been to the island, but from what I’ve read, it is very lush and beautiful.  Unfortunately almost 30% of its population live in poverty.  Community leaders in Anse la Raye invited Global Volunteers to send teams to help deliver essential services to the children in their village with the hope that by working together, over time, the cycle of poverty will be broken.

The St. Lucia project is new.  I will be a member of only the second team, so this will be a learning experience for everyone.  I just got my assignment and was thrilled to learn that my team will be working with 75 preschoolers, from infants to age 5.

The first team returned a few weeks ago with lots of helpful information, including a list of things that the preschool needs.  Books, school supplies, soap, hand sanitizer and baby bibs were in short supply, so for this trip, I am packing very differently.  Ah, Dr. Seuss, I’ve missed you.  We spent oh, so many nights together.  This will be a fond trip down memory lane.

Good thing I own a luggage scale.  This stuff alone puts me at 29 pounds!  Fortunately, I have never been a fashionista because this stuff took up half of the one checked bag I’m allowed.

I chose to work with Global Volunteers because I love their philosophy.  Teams only serve where they are invited.  They work under the direction of local leaders, doing whatever those leaders request.  Because self-reliance is a primary goal, the volunteers work hand in hand with the locals.  In fact a key requirement is that there be at least as many locals working on a project as there are volunteers.

There is no proselytizing–no hidden religious or political agendas, other than a desire to promote world peace.

The organization cautions its volunteers to remain flexible, noting that things don’t always turn out as planned.  Well, considering that my INITIAL plan was to serve in Italy last October, and I had to cancel because my retina inconveniently decided to detach 6 days before I was scheduled to leave, I figure I’ve had a bit of experience with plan changes.

I’ll be going on this trip alone.  I don’t know anything about the other volunteers on this second team–how many, where they are from, who they are, but all will be revealed by next Saturday night.  We will be working all this first weekend, but will have a break the second weekend, so I’m hoping to get a chance to see the island.

Adventure awaits!

And the winners are…

Fanny has 49 points, Lissy 45 points, Lindy 39, Sue 31,  Marion 4 and Dan 1.  Fanny, Lindy and Sue all get their prizes this weekend.   Marion, one of these days you and I will be in the same town at the same time, and I will buy you a glass of wine, (or two or what the heck, we’ll split a bottle!)  Dan, nice try, but maybe next time…

Anyway,  for those of you that didn’t think Ecuador is famous for its roses, here’s proof.

You’ve heard of red roses for a blue lady, but blue ROSES? Ecuador has them.

One of our traveling companions sent me a picture she took of our tubing adventure.  I was actually enjoying it a lot more than it appears in the photo…too bad tubing happened before the moonshine visit. That bottle strapped to my chest would nothave been filled with water!

Remember the question about the horn from a snail’s shell?  Pablo, our guide tried to teach me how to play it, but I was musically challenged.

I DID go snorkeling.  Notice the fins and mask i was holding in my hand, while boarding our boat.And no, I did not wear the hat while snorkeling, or the life jacket either.

Mike took this picture of the blow gun competition.  I did NOT hit the target. Fortunately, I didn’t hit anything else either.

I love this picture that Mike took.  I call it “sibling rivalry”.

Finally, what blog of the Galapagos would be complete without a picture of its world-famous tortoises?

And thus ends this adventure.  No more blogging for a while, gang.




Ecuador: Sunrise, Sunset, and a few things in between

What an amazing country!  Although Ecuador is one of the smallest in South America, it has incredible diversity.  Quito, the capital, is on the Equator, but is high enough in the Andes that in the evening I put my long underwear to good use, despite wearing my bathing suit earlier in the day.

You can’t measure distance in linear miles alone.  Although it doesn’t look very far on the map, it took all day, by bus, to get back and forth between the Amazon and Quito, because we were winding up and around mountains.  What a perfect way to see this spectacular countryside.  As you can see, our travels took us through a “cloud forest”. 

Suddenly the clouds lifted to reveal the lush valley and part of the mountain that just minutes before had been hidden.

The ride, however, was not for the faint of heart. The sign says “Danger, death curve.  Reduce speed”.  They weren’t kidding.  Shortly thereafter we saw what happens when you ignore the warnings.

We were very fortunate to have a highly skilled, responsible driver.  Here’s Paul, at a roadside cafe, making a lunch recommendation for us.

Our road trip was broken up by a visit to the famous hot springs spa.  Here I am, doing my Mrs. Potato head imitation. This bathing suit is perfect for us “Catholic school gals”.  Hey, don’t knock it.  Less territory to cover with sun block!  And yes, everyone HAD to wear a bathing cap!

Onward to those sunrises and sunsets in the Amazon basin!  This is the view of the pool from the Casa del Suizo’s crows nest just before sunset, and then a few minutes after.  You can see the little pond in both photos.

We were up at 5:30 am to visit Bartolome Island, in the Galapagos.  This island was formed by an extinct volcano, and offers a panoramic view of Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding area.  The wooden walkway was constructed to protect the island from being destroyed by visitors walking on the fragile volcanic rock.  It has over 300 steps (I lost count) to the top.

What, you don’t think it looks very steep?  Take another look.

Are we there yet???

The view was definitely worth the effort.  Can you figure out which land mass is Pinnacle Rock?

Time for a group photo of the 15 intrepid travelers.  And what a delightful group it was.  I thoroughly enjoyed our evening gatherings for wine and conversation.

One more sunset–this one from our boat.

Next post–the contest winners will be named.