The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

One Word: UNSTOPPABLE AWESOMENESS!!!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Oaxaca Part 4: Lafe's Only Rule on Hiking Up a Mountain

I woke up with no scorpion bites, which is always a good thing. And as far as I know, there were no more mad dashes to the latrine in the middle of the night either.

We had a quick team time that morning. After that, a bunch of us hiked up the mountain to get an early start on the pond. As per usual, it took me a while to hike up the mountain, so Esther and I hung out in the back. We could still see the group out in front of us when we heard some gunshots. I saw the group up front hitting the dirt, so I told Esther that I thought it would be a good idea for is to hit the deck as well. She asked me if someone was shooting at us. I told her that I didn't know, but when you hear gunshots the prudent thing to do is duck. I kept on thinking of how easy it would be to pick someone off walking up the mountain.

Luckily, there were no snipers, just a couple of guys shooting birds. Aaron yelled out to them and they stopped while we passed. When Esther and I passed by, the one guy held up a couple of birds and just grinned.

We started back digging the hole. There were actually more people helping out than there were shovels, so a few of us would sit and chill (though there is nothing chilly about Mexico) out and wait for someone else to get tired. We probably worked up there for an hour or so, when a few people decided to go back down for breakfast. That is when Lafe Benson's rule of hiking up a mountain came in to effect.

It is only one rule, but it is ironclad.

"When you hike up a mountain, you stay up there. You don't go down and then go back up."

So Rick, Matt S. and I stayed up there and kept working on pond. After about an hour, Jason and Ryan came back up the mountain. Jason and Ryan were not going to work in the clinic that day and instead work on the construction crew. The mural team was working on the mural down at the base clinic.

After a few hours, Lorenzo came down from his house to help out. Lorenzo is Margarita's husband and the owner of the fish pond that we were building. He came down and introduced himself and his little son, Mateo. We called him Mateo Dos, since Matt S. was Mateo Uno.

Lorenzo just picked up that pick ax and just started to go to town. He was kicking all our butts working. He made all of us feel like wimps. So we picked up our shovels and started back after it. Lorenzo spoke Spanish pretty well so we could communicate with him pretty good.

After a while with the pick ax, Lorenzo grabbed his machete and was gone. We kept on digging, but after a while we could see Lorenzo on the side of the mountain cutting down trees with his machete. It was pretty impressive. At first, the sight of a man carrying a machete is a bit disconcerting. But most of the men down there carry them. You wonder if they carry it as a tool or a weapon, and in all actuality, probably a little bit of both. But Lorenzo was a master with the machete. A few swings and down went the tree.

He dropped off a few of the trees and came back to help with us. By this time, we had the hole about 5x4 meters and almost 80 cm deep. Now we were working on making a trench around the pond so the pond wouldn't flood out and making a trench so that the pond could be drained. Ryan and Jason were working hard on that drainage trench with the pick ax and a spade shovel. Eventually, Lorenzo got down in there and started back with the pick ax. As we were finishing the trench the usual conversation went something like this.

Lorenzo: "Bien?" Is this Good?
Us: "MMMMMM, Poco mas." Mmmmm, little more
We would point out this one rock that was in our way.
Lorenzo: "Si" Yes

Then the whole conversation would happen again, only this time Lorenzo would tell us we needed to get a little bit more.

By the time Aaron got back up the mountain, we had pretty much finished the digging. He got the drainage pipe out and started fitting it. At that time, I had to tell the only Plumber's joke I know. I guarantee you that every Plumber knows this joke.

What two things do you have to know to be a plumber?

Crap (Insert other word if needed) doesn't run uphill and payday is on Friday.

So while Aaron was working on the drainage, the rest of us started to move a bunch of dirt that had collected near the pond. By this time, the mural team (Esther, Cindy and Bethany) came back up and helped out. Once again, we took shifts on moving the dirt. When I was taking a break and drinking a little bit of water, I was trying to teach Mateo Dos how to give a high five. He wasn't quite sure about it at first, but after a while he got the hang of it.

We also tried to put the pond liner down, but found out it was going to be too small. So Ryan and Matt S. went down the mountain to get another liner that was supposed to be bigger. So we all moved some adobe blocks around the pond. After we finished that Lorenzo and I began planting fence posts. I asked Lorenzo how to say a few words in Mixteca. Words which I have complete forgotten now. The one thing that I do remember is the name of the mountain that he lived on. I believe it was called Yocoo in Mixteca. I also asked Lorenzo if he ever had fallen down the mountain by accident. He said he hadn't. I told him that if I had lived there I am sure that I would have taken a spill down it a few times. He laughed.

Some of the team went down the side of the mountain and started to plant some fruit trees. The neat thing is that the drainage trench was going to take any overflow from the pond and use it to water a bunch of fruit tree. It was pretty ingenious if you ask me. So not only will Lorenzo and his family be able to eat and sell fish, they will also be able to collect fruit. I didn't volunteer for planting the trees because, like I told Lorenzo, I am sure I would fall down the mountain.

A few others began to unroll the chicken wire and hang the fence. We made sure to bury the fence so that no doggies could get in a have a free meal. When the guys came back up with the pond liner, they also brought a few of the Mexican girls who brought some much appreciated gift. They brought up watermelons.

Now I have said many a times that the best watermelon I have ever had was back when I was a kid. My best friend Jeremy and I would walk to a little fishing pond during those long and hot summer days. We used to walk alongside his Grandfather's watermelon patch and pick watermelons right off the vine. We would throw it down on the ground, crack it open and just scoop it out with our hand, which still smelled of the worms we had just dug up for bait. For some reason, unsanitary as that was, I always thought that would be the best watermelon I would ever eat. But I must admit, the watermelon we had down there was better. We were all just dripping sweat and exhausted from the long day. But when we sat down on the side of the mountain, relaxed a little bit and had watermelon juice dripping down our faces, it was so much better.

Which, just for the record, Bethany can spit some watermelon seeds like a champ. I would bet on her in a watermelon seed spitting contest.

After eating the watermelon, Aaron said a couple of people could go ahead and walk down the mountain. When no one really volunteered, Jason came over to Esther and me and told us to go ahead and go back to the base. So we slowly made our way down the mountain.

When we got to the base, I decided that instead of a wet wipe shower, I would try to take a real one. So I hope in the latrine/shower and begin to lather up. It was only then that I realized that there was no water. I yelled over at Esther in the other side of the latrine/shower and asked her if she had any water over there. She said no and that she had been using the bucket that is normally used to flush the toilet to rinse off. I did the same thing but made sure to leave a little bit of soap on me. I figured it wouldn't hurt.

I was still rinsing off when I heard Esther said "Oh no." I asked her what was wrong, and she said that she had forgotten to get her shirt of the clothesline. I told her to give me a minute. I put my clothes on and went out and found her shirt on the line. I threw it to her and then went down to the dinner table and sat down feeling amazingly clean. Esther came out and started Febreezing her clothes. When she sat down I told her that the shower was quite possible the best and worst shower that I have ever taken. She concurred. As we were waiting on the rest of the group to come down the mountain, Ester read a little bit of my Bible and I read the rest of the John McCain article in the New Yorker.

The rest of the group finally came down after about an hour or so. By that time, I had broken into my stash of butterscotch candies that I had brought with me. I was throwing them around to everyone, including Roberto, who was hanging around the base to talk to Aaron. Roberto wanted to know if he could get a ride the next day to go get some corn. I guess Aaron had told him that on Wednesday we were going to be going over a couple of towns over. Aaron agreed and took the pick up to go get the rest of the crew.

When the rest of the crew got back from the clinic, we ate some dinner. I did eat a bit of it. It was pretty good, some sort of raman noodles pasta.

After dinner we had some more team time. It was pretty usual except for Dr. Matt talking about giving breast exams to some of the older women. Evidently, the older women don't really like to wear shirts and none of the other doctors gave any breast exams. So I am not really sure what was going on there.

I hit the hay pretty early that night, I was buck naked tired. The only problem was that is began to rain pretty fierce right before we went to bed. Amy and Jill were out in the rain acting crazy (what's new with that?). No scorpion incidents to speak of that night either. So I just put my headphones on, and tried to get to sleep. Unfortunately the wind and rain was blowing into the room, so Kent and I got up to close the windows. I put my headphones back on, put Snow Patrol's Run on repeat, and drifted off to sleep.

Find out what happens next, in the 5th installment of my trip to Oaxaca...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Oaxaca Part 3: A Margarita for 6

I must admit that I am a pretty sound sleeper, once I am out, I am out. But sometime during the night, Adam got pretty sick. Evidently no one woke up to help him out except one of the translators. Florentino must have tried to wake a few people up, but pretty much just scared them. So he went to go see if Adam was all right and grabbed his forehead and prayed for him. I never heard any of this from my deep slumber.

We started off the morning with some more team time, a few more people told their stories. After our team time, we joined a small worship service in the clinic. Most of us really couldn't understand everything that was being said or sung, but we got the general idea. It was pretty powerful too, the Holy Spirit was definitely in the room and it lead a few of the members of the team to tears.

After the worship service, we ate some breakfast. If you are reading this blog to get a good idea of the food aspect in Oaxaca, you will be disappointed. I really didn't eat that much. And what I did eat, I never asked about any ingredients or any names. I guess I just figured it would be better that way.

After breakfast, the construction team(Kent, Matt S. and myself) and the mural team (Esther, Cindy and Bethany) started to make it's way back up the hill, or as I like to refer to it as it's proper term: mountain.

The thing about digging a big hole in the ground is that the details are pretty boring. You get a shovel and you dig, that's it. No big science to it. So, like information on food, you will be slightly disappointed in the details of digging the fish pond.

However, while working on the hole I did try to ask everyone different questions to find out a little bit about each person. So here are a few fun little facts and stories that I learned (and can still remember a week later) while digging a hole.

Cindy once accidentally crapped in her brother's car. Evidently it was so bad that her brother had to sell the car.

Esther has never really been to a big time, legit concert, but she loves Ben Folds.

Bethany's entire family lives on the same land back in Heber Springs.

Matt S.'s first car was an old Mustang and didn't pee for the entire day.

Kent also crapped in a car once too. Evidently it was his father's, but he didn't have to sell it like Cindy's brother did.

So now that we were so close, we felt like we really bonded.

We were still digging when a small woman came walking down the mountain. She said that her name was Margarita. I believe she was only 26 years old. She said that she already had 8 kids, 4 boys and 4 girls. She invited us up for lunch. She said that she would come back down and get us when it was time to eat.

So we went back to work. We noticed a little girl run down the mountain and a few minutes later she came back up. She was carrying a plastic sack full of soft drinks. Someone asked if we thought the soft drinks were for us. I said that I really didn't think so, because I couldn't imagine them spending money like that on us.

Around 1 or so, Margarita came down and said that our lunch was ready. We all walked up the mountain to her small little house. She invited us into her kitchen.

The kitchen was maybe 6 foot tall at the most. It was made of wood planks. It had a dirt floor and there were chickens running around everywhere. She left 6 bowls of meat out for us and a bunch of tortillas. Then she brought in a bucket full of cool water with a bunch of soft drinks submerged in them. She brought in a bunch of tiny, little chairs for us all to sit in and then closed the door behind her.

We were in awe of the spread that she laid out for us. We tried to eat a bit of the meat that was in the bowl, but the meat was very rubbery and hard. I sucked on it for a while and the flavor was really good, but I just couldn't bite into this meat. Most of the others couldn't either. I think Esther was the only one that made it through the entire bowl. Matt S. ate a bit of his and fed the rest to a dog. Kent ate almost half of his as well, and gave a bit to the dog. I felt really bad for not being able to eat the meat. I am sure it was some of the best food that they had, so I wrapped mine in tortilla and put it in my front pocket. Bethany and Cindy gave me some of theirs as well to hide in my pocket. There was no way that I was going to let Margarita know that I didn't appreciate the meal that she put out before us. I didn't want to offend her. So I improvised the best I could.

When she came back in to check on us, there were a few scraps left in the bowls and most all the tortillas were gone. I asked her if she had of the tortilla warmers that I could buy. She went into her little house and brought back one. I told her that I would give her a hundred pesos for it and she gladly accepted it. Her mother, Sophia, wanted to sell something to us as well. Sofia could quite possibly be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest full grown woman ever. She was so tiny that she was wearing a small child's Rugrats shirt. She brought out a nice tortilla warmer out and wanted 150 pesos for it. No one else had any money and all I had was 120 pesos. I let Bethany borrow it and Sofia agreed to take 120 pesos. When Bethany had the money over to Sofia, she had the biggest grin on her little face. She was so happy and so thankful for those 120 pesos.

It makes you think how thankful we should be for what we have. I mean, 120 pesos is 12 dollars American. When was the last time you say someone light up when given 12 bucks?

Eating lunch had given each and every one of us a new perspective on a lot of things. I have heard the term "dirt poor" many times, but seeing what Margarita and her family lived in made me understand that term. After lunch, I think we all felt very blessed and very humbled.

It was time to get back to work, the mural team went back down the mountain to do some more work on the mural. Aaron walked back up the hill and took Kent up the mountain to try and find a water source. So Matt S. and I kept on digging our hole. We talked a lot about a lot of different things. Matt S. told me about how much he enjoyed the worship service that morning and how he got goosebumps just thinking about it. We talked a lot about our families and of course about women. We talked about what makes a woman beautiful and what we each look for in a woman. We also talked about how hot it was and how the next day we definitely needed to get an earlier start on the digging.

Aaron and Kent came back down the mountain having found a water source. It was almost 4 o'clock so we all made our way down the mountain because we were due a town over for a church service that night. At the base, they wanted to feed us again. Once again I didn't eat, but I did use that time to give myself a quick shower using a few wet wipes and lots of deodorant.

We loaded up in the little pickup and headed over to where they were going to have the clinic. The roads were pretty bad, and at one point, we stopped and filled some holes in. We finally made it to the little church where they were having the clinic.

Amy was giving haircuts outside, and she was covered in hair. Kristen (Missionary Dan's niece), Ryan and Polly were outside handing out medication. Inside Rick and Jill had been getting histories from the patients and all the doctors were seeing people. I walked over and watched Adam and Mark pulling someone's tooth. I had to turn my head a few times because I am a bit squeamish. Everyone that had been working in the clinic look pretty tired, but pretty happy too. When there were no more patients, most of the clinic team loaded up in the back of pickup and went back to the base clinic in El Moscoe.

After milling around for a while, the church service finally started. The worship was very similar to the worship that morning. I recognized a few of the songs. After the singing was through, all the children ran out for a children's service. Since I was sitting down and beginning to get sleepy (and I knew that if Kent was going to start speaking I was really gonna get tired!), I decided to go out and see what the children's service was like.

Bethany, Matt S., Jill and I all followed the translators and Laura to a little courtyard behind a small house. All the little girls sat in the front row and he boys sat in the back row. A bee started to attack Jill, so she went back to go see Kent speak. The translators were telling Bible stories to the little kids, but we couldn't understand any of it since it was in Mixteca. Eventually, we handed out little pictures for coloring and 3 crayons for each of the kids. We learned the word for "beautiful" in Mixteca and made sure to tell every kids that their picture was beautiful. After a few of them got done, Matt S. and I pitched a tennis ball back and forth to a couple of kids. Matt S. and I tried to think of as many tricks as we could, but there are only so many ways to throw a tennis ball.

During the children's service, Matt S. and I both comment on how it looked like it was going to rain. By the time the service was done, the wind had picked up and you could see the rain on the other mountains. We were waiting for the pickup to come back and get us, but Aaron was running late. We kept waiting and waiting, still no truck. The rain was coming. We locked up the gate to the little church and waited outside. Finally it began to rain and a few of us huddled in a small house to get out from the rain. Just as it started to rain, Aaron showed up in the pickup.

I don't know how many people were in the back of this little short bed pickup, but I would guess a dozen. Dr. Matt and I were sitting down in the very back with our backs against the tailgate. Everyone was tangled up with each other, and it basically looked like a game of Twister had broken out in the middle of an elevator. Dr. Matt and I both had to try and readjust ourselves so that our "juevos" would not be crushed or ankles be broken. The translators were just singing and praying.

And then the rain that had begun to fall stopped and there was a hole in the sky right above our truck. It was a miracle, because I was for sure that we were gonna be soaked and have a good chance of getting hit by lightning. You could look up and see the stars through this little hole in the sky, and on the horizon, we could all see the rain.

At one point of the trip, Dr. Matt was wondering how to say "Git r' done" in Spanish. I thought that was a bad idea. And for some reason, Dr. Matt, Kent, Jason and I just started to laugh. Dr. Matt and I were laughing at the fact that there were chairs digging into our spleen and crushing us slowly against the tailgate. So we asked Jason to be ready to pull the tailgate handle at anytime and that we would pop out like they did in Top Gun. We were laughing so hard that I think we kinda scared the translators. Also on that ride back Matt S. discovered that all the translators had a crush on him.

We finally made it back in one piece. Everyone back at the base clinic said that they were worried about us and had prayed for us. We told them about the hole in the sky that God had created for us. We had another team session and a few more people told their stories.

I decided to go to bed pretty quickly after team time. I was tired from the day. Just as I had laid down and put my headphones on I heard someone yell.

Mark was yelling, "There's a scorpion on me!!!"

Ryan and I got up looking for a scorpion, but all we found was a rather large beetle. So I went back to bed trying not to think about any scorpions that could be crawling on me at night.

That is part three...Find out what happens next in the next installment.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Oaxaca Part 2: Thank God for Tetanus Shots

We were supposed to wake up pretty early and going for a run on the beach. The alarm went off at 5 or so. I heard it and looked out the window, but it was pretty dark. I think that Kent felt the same way too because he didn't wake up either.

We walked back to the mission base and ate some breakfast outside the guesthouse. The table was setup on the porch and the back drop was the waves crashing against the shore. After breakfast, we walked over to the Prayer House and prayed for the journey that we were taking that day and for the rest of the week. When we got done, we all started packing our bags and loading them up.

We took a Suburban, a small pickup, and a Pasahero. A Pasahero is basically a cattletruck that people ride on. We piled up into the Pasahero. I sat in the very back of the truck and tried to watch out the back and enjoy the scenery for most of the trip. The other 15 or so people want to play games, so we played guessing games, word games, and asked many questions of each other. I tried my best to focus on the land that was passing behind us, but I was sucked into the games.

There was a game that Esther and I played by ourselves since we were both sitting in the back. The game was called Topes. Topes are speed bumps that are scattered on the highways throughout Mexico that slow people down when they go through the small villages. So the game that Esther and I played was that everytime we slowed down to go over the topes, we would raise our hands like we were on a roller coaster and screaming "TOPES!" Yeah, it was kind of a dumb game, but it was a long ride.

We stopped and picked up another car at a gas station. In that town, the Pasahero driver stopped and had to pick up some tortillas. It took him a while to pick them up and we had our lunch, ham sandwiches with some very sour mayo. (I am not a mayo fan!)

We finally pulled of the highway and got onto the back roads. These roads were pretty rough. The roads are just sand, eroded by many rainfalls. They were very bumpy and rough. Still we played the games.

The games were getting on my nerves.

We stopped again for some drinks and a bathroom break. When the Pasahero driver got done with his drink, I saw him throw his bottle down on the ground. It made me sad. Kinda like that Indian in the old TV commercial that see someone litter and sheds a single tear.

When got back on the road, we realized that the ladder was still down on the Pasahero and I decided that I should try to pull it up while we were driving up a mountain. Which was poor judgment on my part. The people in the Suburban behind us kept laughing because they were sure, and to tell you the truth I was pretty sure too, that I was going to fall out of the truck. Adam said that the Mexicans were pretty quiet on the ride up until the part where I almost fell out of the Pasahero. He said they couldn't stop laughing.

Luckily, Jason helped me get the ladder up and not let me fall of the back of the truck.

(Here is an overly dramatized version of me trying to pull the stepladder back up and Jason trying not to let me fall into the road....

I slung open the gate and looked down at the stepladder hanging on my a thread. I looked back up at the road whizzing past us and said to myself, "Benson, this is a bad idea." I threw my hat down on the ground and began to reach for the ladder. Just as I felt it on my fingertips, the Pasahero hit a bump and I was almost thrown out of the back the truck. Luckily for me I held onto the back of the truck with my index and middle finger. Jason came to my rescue by sliding down the truck bed and grabbing my arm just as my fingers were about to give. My feet were dangling onto the ground and the truck began to speed up to almost 50 m.p.h. I thought I was a goner. I looked up at Jason and said, "I'm done for man, there is no way I am gonna make, just let me go." I could see that Jason was using every ounce of strength he could to just hold me. He looked me square in the eyes and said, "You go.......We go." Then the musical score of Indiana Jones began to play and Jason pulled me back up into the truck along with the stepladder. I dusted myself off as Jason wiped his brow. "That was close," I said. Jason laughed and said something witty. The Indiana Jones Theme slowly fades.)

The ride was pretty rough, so I decided to stand up. The view was much better and it was cooler. The sun was beating down on all us pretty hard. Unfortunately while I was standing up, my hat flew off. I had taken the string off my hat earlier to help tie down the tarp over the back. I thought I was screwed when it flew off, but luckily the car behind us stopped and picked it up.

The ride was pretty bumpy, but everyone else started to stand up as well. We hit one bump in which Kent fell down and then stepped on Esther. He didn't even know it either. Esther had this boot print on her chest, it would have been funny if it didn't look so painful.

With no more incidents, we finally arrived in El Moscoe. We unloaded all our supplies. The first thing we did was move some rocks so that Esther and her crew could get started on the mural. After we did that, a lot of the guys hiked up the mountain to start the fish pond.

The fish pond had to be 4x5 meters and around 70-80 cms. deep. We started to outline it a bit. The sun was getting low, so we tried to do as much as possible. We finally decided to go back down the mountain for dinner. On the way down the mountain, I began to fall and tried to catch myself by grabbing a barb wire fence. Which helped me stop myself from falling, but also cut my hand open.

The girls in the clinic helped me out and bandaged me up. When Laura asked me if I knew when the last time I had my Tetanus shot, I smiled and said, yeah, it was Friday, my shoulder still hurts. The poured iodine on it and bandaged me up.

We ate dinner that night, it was some sort of pasta soup with tortillas. It was pretty good. It was also at that time that word got out that we had forgotten the paints for the mural back at the base.

Wow.

You know, I could tell that Esther was pretty upset, but she took it all in stride. She had to put the entire mural into God's hands. It's never very easy to be humbled, but Esther did well. I was proud of her. Esther, Cindy and Bethany set up their projector and tried to do the best they could with the starter paints that had be brought.

After another group session, I read a bit more of my book and tried to write. For some reason or another, all the inspiration that had seemed to fill me the past two days had left. So I joined in a conversation that Adam, Kent, and a missionary named Dan were having about racism. I told Kent about my recent blog about racism and about how I think there is a lot of stuff that we as a society and as a church need to do to make amends for our racist background. We thought of a few ways to help our church be more diverse. We were still talking when Laura came by and asked us to go look out in the sky because there was some sort of light out there and she couldn't figure it what it was.

We got up and walked out near the kitchen and saw three little lines of light in the air. Laura was beginning to think it was a UFO or maybe even a miracle. The Mexican girls were all chattering around. Kent and I both started to look up at it and we couldn't figure out what it was. Laura was about to go wake everyone up when I finally figured it out.

It was the light projecting over the house from the mural and hitting a couple of electrical lines.

Well, as I was about to head in and call it a night, Esther and the girls knocked on the door. They said they had heard someone cough somewhere in the night and they thought someone was out there watching them. So I put on sandals and went searching for the culprit, which happened to be a donkey in a field. The girls were a bit shook, so I stayed out there with them until they were done and had gone to bed.

I finally pulled my sleep bag out, put on my headphones, and went to sleep...

That was the second installment....Find out what happens that night and the next day in the next installment.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Please excuse the regularly scheduled installment of my trip to Oaxaca for me to call some people out....
Stuart Sullivan, Andrew Steger, and John Nelson and anybody that else wants to go, because I don't want to leave anyone out------September 7, 2005-------Kansas City-------Dave Matthews Band------We are going------If you say no, I will stab you in the face------Find a babysitter if you need to now------We are going-----We need to get this stuff done soon------We are going------Skip work if you have to-------Last night of the concert series for DMB so it is gonna be nice--------Email me because we need to get tickets soon-------I mean really, do you really have anything better to do two days after labor day???

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oaxaca Trip--Days 1 and 2 (May 27th & 28th)

First a list of all the characters on the trip for the few that may not know everyone:

Lafe: That's me
Rick: Firefighter from Lowell and bald like me
Polly: Recent nursing grad that is going to get married and move to Utah
Jill: UA student that speaks Spanish fluently and has a heart for missions
Amy: Hairdresser from Fayetteville
Bethany: UA student originally from Heber Springs
Esther: “Architectural Slave”
Dr. Matt: Recent graduate of Med school
Matt S.: UA student from Rock Town and interning at JC Penny's
Ryan: UA Student, just turned 21, and looking to go to Med School
Kent: Minister from the Grove church
Jason: Dr. from Fayetteville that organized the trip
Cindy: UA grad from St. Louis and Jason's girlfriend
Adam: World famous Endrocrinologist
Mark: ER doc and bald like me

I had Friday off. I spent most of the morning fighting the bureaucracy of local and state government while trying to get my license plate renewed. I swear, everytime I go to the revenuer's offices I tell myself that I am switching party affiliations to become a Libertarian.

I finally finished up and got my tags renewed. I went back home and watch "Ed" on TV, went for a quick doctor's visit for some shots, and then picked up my a few last supplies for the trip. I packed my bag and waited for Kent to come pick me up.

Along the way we picked up Rick at the Springdale Fire Department and finally met everyone at the parking lot of Jose's in Springdale.

(Interesting side note: While in the parking lot, I received a phone call from my friend Josh Lambert. Here is the bulk of our conversation.
Josh: Hey.
Me: Hey.
Josh: Did you know you are missing?
Me: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Josh: You are on the cannot find list for your class reunion.
Me: You just called me. I picked up on the second ring. How am I missing?
Josh: Well, Amy Gilmore just said that you are on the list.
Me: Oh, well tell her I am not missing
Josh: Ok
Me: Well when is it?
Josh: She says in October.
Me: Well, I gotta go, I am going to Mexico.
Josh: Ok, bye.
Riveting stuff huh?)

So we get on our way and caravan towards Tulsa. It took about an hour or so. We all stayed at Stuart Sullivan's parents house in the suburbs. They had a beautiful house and were very welcoming to us. The guys played some basketball in the backyard with a floodlight shining right in our eyes. I played barefoot, which you should never do. Also I guarded Kent, who is much more competitive that he lets on.

FYI: Kent is a serious balla and shot calla.

After a quick game a few of the guys jumped in the pool to cool off. Then Ryan, Matt, Amy, Stuart, his lovely wife Shauna, and myself all jumped in Stu's parents car and went to a coffeehouse infested with high school kids. Stu was supposed to meet his best friend there, but he didn't make it. But, Matt did run into this girl he knows in Tulsa. It was pretty funny. We were all kidding him about it being destiny and egging him on. Amy had one of the best lines of the trip when she looked at Matt and said, "Matt, she's cute. You ought to go hang out with her, the mission trip hasn't started yet."

We all got our drinks and went back to Stu's parents house. I finally got to bed around midnight and three hours later, it was time to get up.

We had some breakfast at Stu's parents house and then made the short journey to the airport. We got the pretty early. Stu and I wrestled outside near in the unloading zone. Luckily, security didn't really care. Since Stu is taller than me, he had an unfair advantage. I also got pretty bored and started jumping our baggage like Eviel Kneval.

After going through security, we all kinda crashed near the gate. We all got on the plane, most of us slept on the way to Houston. I slept a bit, but read a few chapters of a book and wrote a few poems. I was oddly inspired on the plane ride down. I wrote a poem called "Gravity" and a poem about this tiny little woman holding her baby on the plane. I couldn't get over the worry in her face, but the little child was asleep and you could tell just felt so safe in his mother's arms.

When we got to Houston, Kent and I took off on a mission to find a Starbucks. Many told us that we would fail, but we preserved and found one. I also picked up the New Yorker with an article on John McCain, who hopefully I will be able to vote for in 08.

When Kent and I returned, we found Adam pounding away on some Shipley's doughnuts and decided that would be a good idea too.

We boarded the plane finally. It was about a 2 1/2 hour plane ride down there. When I sat down in my seat, I noticed that the demo seat belt was in my seat. So when the flight attendant began giving all the instructions that everyone has already heard a thousand times, I stood up and demonstrated how to use the seat belt. I believe that Jason has some video of it. (Quick Sidenote: There are a few people in this world who I just think the world of: Flight Attendants and Waitresses. The nice ones are always so fun to talk to.)

I slept most of the way down there. I also filled out my customs forms. As we were making our final descent, I started looking out the window and looking at the ocean, hills and mountains. I looked back and saw Jill looking out the window and tears rolling down her cheeks. I think she could see the beauty in the land too.

We touched down at the Huatulco airport. It had a thatched roof and armed guards around the runway. And as we all exited the plane, we felt the humidity slap us across the face. It was hot.

We all passed through customs and found Aaron, the missionary that was going to take us to the mission. We all piled into a Suburban and a few trucks. We wound our way up the road. The scenery was amazing. I could keep my eyes of the land. It was somehow very familiar to me and I instantly felt a kinship with the land.

We stopped in Puerto Escondido to pick up some paint for the mural for Esther (which we shall return to at a later time...) and exchange our dollars for pesos. The going rate is a little more than 10 pesos for a dollar. I traded in thirty bucks and got 320 pesos. Kent and I went up and looked at a small store that had a bunch of nice art stuff. Then I split a coke with him. My first one since Lent. Which, for the record, Mexico has a very very sweet Coca-Cola. It felt like I was drinking crack.

We finally got back on the road towards the mission. We arrived at Rosa Blanca and we were all in awe. It was amazingly beautiful. It looked like a resort. Somehow, Adam and Mark had gotten there early and went out on the beach. We had some dinner really quick and put our stuff away. The two Matt's, Kent and myself all stayed that first night at a house right outside of the base.

We then went on a tour of the base and sat down at the guest house and a few of us shared the stories about ourselves.

I was hot and a bit grumpy. When we were done, the guys walked back to the house, said good night to Pedro the Guard (not to be mistaken with Pedro the Lion) and went to bed. Even though our room had an air-conditioner, it didn't work very well at all. It took me a long time to finally go to sleep. I rolled around in my own sweat most of the night and awoke in the morning to find my sheet drenched, pulled off the mattress and engulfing me.

Wow, can you feel the excitement in the air, or is that just the humidity?

Find out what happens next in the next installment, hopefully posted sometime tomorrow...

Monday, June 06, 2005

15 lbs. of Pride

Well, I got back from Mexico safe and sound. We flew into a pretty bad storm in Tulsa. There were 90 m.p.h. gusts and one of the vans broke down about half-way back. I tried to figure out what was wrong with the van, but came to the conclusion that the computer was in need of repair. I ended waiting with some others in the broken down van and finally got home to my bed at 3 a.m.

Just in time for a bit of Montezuma's revenge.

But I can't complain.

I lost 15 pounds of pride this past week. 15 lbs. that I needed to lose, both physically and spiritualy. Being down in Mexico, I realized how lucky and blessed I am. I was humbled every single day. They served us food everyday that was good, but every time I tried to take a bite I would feel sick. I would feel so tired and so hot that I couldn't eat. And for the first time in my life, I think I felt 1 percent of what it feels like to be truly hungry.

15 lbs. of pride lost due to excessive smiling. I constantly wondered how many more times God could make me say "wow." As a result of that question, I found the answer to be many, many more times.

Today is going to be a difficult day for me. I am readjusting to life. My life has been changed, but life (everyday life around NWA) has stayed the same. And trying to reconcile the two is going to be very difficult. Because I can't just walked around and work like I used to. I can't listen to all the inconsequential problems that I hear people discuss and get upset about the same way. I have to restrain myself from just shouting, "Shutup, it doesn't matter!" How can I go on and live life like I used to. The answer is that I can't and I won't. I need more focus, I need a better perspective, and hopefully, my trip has changed that forever.

I will write a day by day account of my trip here this week, but I just want to tell everyone that I am back and to thank everyone that prayed for us.