Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A doctor, a lawyer and a missionary all get stuck in an elevator . . .

Wow - I wish I knew the punchline for that joke! It wasn't a joke this weekend, however, it really happened! Allen, Russell and I, along with several members of a visiting team, were trapped in a hotel elevator for about ten mildly traumatic minutes! It was the first time I'd ever been stuck in an elevator - and while we laughed and joked about the situation, there was definitely an undercurrent of tension. All was eventually well, we were freed from the elevator in time for - well, just a bit late for - the final team meeting of the week.

The team, consisting of 23 people, spent last week in the village of Gualcince, about three hours drive farther into the mountains than Gracias. We had to drive most of the food for the team into the location in advance of their arrival, as things like eggs, bread, ground beef and milk aren't available in that area, or aren't easy to acquire (for instance, milk and eggs are available from local farms, but this kind of shopping requires knowledge and time - things we don't have while hosting a team). As a medical team, including doctors, dentists, nurses and non-medical support personnel, these folks saw over 2000 patients in Gualcince and four surrounding villages, over the course of about five days.

We certainly appreciate all of the preparation, hard work and expense that go into making a week-long mission trip a success. You guys are welcome back anytime!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A "Chance" Encounter

Well I had some fun this morning! In order to understand this story, and the odds against it happening, you'll need a bit of context. You'll need to know that I'm the ultimate homebody. I really just love staying around my home. I do head into town once a week for groceries, but then I head right back home again - no hanging around in town for me.

Today I had to run some errands - things that absolutely had to happen today - and I didn't have a car. Our friend Kevin, of the Goodwin family of missionaries, was very gracious about driving out to pick me up and take me into town, and then driving me all the way back home a few hours later.

So, I was afoot in town, for really probably the first time since I started driving last year. It was nice. I think I'd forgotten how pleasant it is to walk about in town. I'm not likely to drive in just for that, but I did enjoy it today.

I made a stop at a little restaurant that sells rotissarie chicken, to pick up a rare treat to take home with me, and I ran into a visiting couple, Sonny and Kay, from Texas. We started into the regular conversation we tend to have with visitors (it's almost always interesting to find out how and why someone has wandered into this out-of-the-way corner of the world), when they asked me my name. After I told them my name, they excitedly explained that they'd been trying to contact me. Turns out they're regular readers of this blog! I'm not sure why I haven't received their emails, and they didn't have my phone number, but I just happened by where they were having lunch, and so we met!

We had such fun, exchanging stories! I immediately abandoned Christopher (he was at home, expecting me to come straight back with bread, so he could make sandwiches for the guys who work for us on our property - I told him to make up some boxed mac and cheese instead), and I settled in for some serious chatting! Sonny and Kay are actually living on a sailboat, and right now their boat is docked in La Ceiba while they jaunt about in the mountains for a bit. We used to meet up with sailboaters when we lived on Guanaja, but it's pretty uncommon to bump into them up here in Gracias! They have a blog of their own, which I've just had a chance to check out a bit - it looks like a fun read, with lots of lovely pictures. They keep it updated, so they already have pictures up from Gracias and the surrounding area. This page has the most recent entries. I'll be keeping an eye on it, to see if they write something about me, LOL.

Eventually I did have to finish my errands and head home, but I'm thinking we'll have to make sure to spend some more time with these folks before they return to the ocean - they're great people.

Oh, and did we have cameras there? Yes I'm pretty sure we did. Did we think to take pictures of our fun encounter? Ummmm, well, ummmmm. Maybe we'll do better next time we meet up.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Poinsettia Post

November 1st

November 18th

When Boo read what I wrote the other day about our poinsettia, and saw the picture I posted, she noticed that the plant is much redder now than it was when that picture was taken. I've been sick (a headcold with asthma complications, which always seems to lay me pretty low), so Boo has been caring for the garden lately and I hadn't seen it. Yesterday Boo took the updated picture, above, for you to see (and for me to see, too).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our weird cow . . . again

Our cow still thinks she's a pet. We might be somewhat to blame, letting her live in such close proximity to the family. She likes to follow us around. Although she has her own water supply, she frequently accompanies Boo to the garden, where Boo enjoys giving her drinks of water out of the plastic cup used for watering the plants.

Here she is at the drive-thru, awaiting her drink.

Sometimes the service in this place is really lousy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Poinsettia Redux

Perhaps some will remember the saga of my Christmas poinsettia from last year. If not, you can find that here.

I'm happy to report that the poinsettia plant is alive and well. When it grew strong, we put it into a pot, and planned to set it on the front porch of the bodega. We never did move it, however, and it still sits in the garden, its pot in a partly shaded and somewhat weedy location next to the water barrel.

Apparently the plant is happy with this level of care/neglect, and I noticed the other day that it is starting to turn red! Christmas must be approaching.

Now I'll have to decide . . . do I bring this happy and healthy plant into the house for Christmas, where the chances are that I will either kill it or at least commit near-planticide?

What do you think? It sure would look pretty in my kitchen . . . at least for a while . . .

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another gardening update - berry bushes!

Do you remember those dead-looking sticks I received last month, when I wanted to propagate some of the local berry bushes for use on our property? In case you don't remember, here's what they looked like upon arrival at my house:

Though these sticks did not appear promising, we stuck them into buckets of soil, and have been tending them faithfully. Two of the sticks, which had obviously been harvested with a bit of root attached, started to sprout new growth fairly quickly. Here's what they look like now:

The remaining sticks still just look like sticks stuck in soil, but we haven't given up on them. Under the dirt, we hope there are roots forming. One of the rootless sticks has given us a bit of hope:

I'm excited about how this is working out! I've purchased seeds to try to start berry plants, but starting from local cuttings - plants that I know can live and produce in our climate - gives me a much greater chance of ultimate success.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November Garden Update

This month marks the end of my first year of in-the-ground gardening! I did do a bit of container gardening the year before that. I haven't produced much food, but I've certainly learned a lot, and I'm trying to feel encouraged by the increased knowledge, rather than discouraged by the lack of results.

From what I've learned about the weather here, I'm treating November as my version of "spring." We're currently cleaning out the garden, which had become weedy and overgrown during the rainy season, and we're starting to plant. So far we have onions, radishes, green beans, green peppers, cabbages, kohlrabi, cucumbers and beets (plus one volunteer tomato plant) in the ground. We recently had trouble with the cow pushing over the wire fencing and walking around in the garden (I'll show our solution to that in another post). All that to say that the garden is a busy place right now, and it looks a bit messy at the moment, as you'll see in the pictures.

During the rainy season we improved the garden by putting down gravel on the pathways, to keep down the weeds. Who wants to have to weed pathways?

One of our experiments has involved growing plants inside of a screened, shaded shelter. As you can see in the photo below, the cabbages and kohlrabi inside the shelter are looking good - they haven't be gnawed much by insects or stressed by the intensity of the sun. We're considering expanding our use of this type of gardening.

My biggest gardening challenge (among my many gardening challenges) thus far has been my lack of knowledge about what to expect from the weather. The seasons here aren't easy to describe. The year is roughly evenly divided into rainy and dry, and there's definitely one cold part of the year for about 2 months and one hot part of the year for about two months (and a whole lot of nice warm months the rest of the time), but the changeovers between these "seasons" don't line up with one another. It is rainy and warm-to-hot from May until October. It is quite cold and humid (but not rainy) November through January, but then, as the dry season progresses, the temperature rapidly rises until we have our hottest time of the year, in April. So basically, we have both the hottest and the coldest months of the year during the dry season. In spite of the drastic temperature change and the lack of rain during the dry season, it still appears to me that this time is my best hope for growing veggies.

I'm still working to figure this all out, though, so I'll have to let you know later if my analysis and conclusions turn out to be correct!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Christmas Season Begins!

I know it's too early to put up a Christmas tree, and yet ours has been up for over a week now. We have such a busy season around Christmas that we need to get going early, or our family celebration gets crowded out. It also takes us longer to get to feeling Christmassy here, since the weather doesn't cooperate. Besides, we have to use an artificial tree - which goes against my preferences - and to my mind the one and only benefit of a fake tree is that it doesn't dry out. I figure, if I have to use a fake tree anyway, I might as well take advantage of the one and only benefit and keep the tree up for a loooooong season.

With older kids in the house, more care is put into the final look of the tree. I remember when they were all little - I would let the kids decorate the tree without interference from me, then later, when they were in bed, I'd move the ornaments upward so that the whole tree was decorated, and not just the bottom three feet! LOL.

This year Rachel wanted to decorate the tree with mostly natural and homemade items, and her enthusiasm pulled most of the rest of the family into her plan. We found instructions for making these stars from twigs, on the Chickens in the Road blog, and pretty soon our kitchen table became a star making factory. The other homemade ornaments used on that site wouldn't work for us, however. We can't get away with decorating with actual food in the insect-and-rodent-filled tropics. I shudder to think what would transpire after a few weeks of having strings of popcorn, dried fruits and cookies hanging on our tree! Yikes!

Here's our version of the twig star - Rachel tied the twigs, instead of using glue.

After putting up the lights and a tasteful quantity of burgundy, green, and frosty-white glass balls (tasteful as determined by Rachel) we added the twig stars and lots of small pine cones we'd collected in our woods.

At this point the tree was too dark, as neither the twig stars nor the pine cones showed up well against the dark branches. We had, in our ornament collection, some light-colored stars woven from natural grasses, that I bought a few years ago in Santa Barbara Honduras, where crafters specialize in creating tiny items woven from straw and grasses. The grass stars helped brighten up the tree, and we also added some tiny baskets I bought years ago, just because I like baskets and I think these are cute. On top of everything else we draped icicles: we are an icicle-loving family. The tree just doesn't seem finished without them.

Our country-style rag doll angel, part of our Christmas celebration for many years, looks right at home sitting atop this tree!

And here is the almost final result (we'll be hanging up red and white candy canes once we get some):

Perhaps I can be the first person to wish you a "Merry Christmas" this year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Allen receives a pat on the back!

A blog about bridges and bridge building, called recently featured our bridge project in Mongual on their site. Here's the link.

It's nice to get some recognition for your work, from someone who knows about the technical side of it. Thanks for your kind words, Tallbridgeguy!

Being a bit on the silly side myself, I'm amused by the name, Tallbridgeguy. I assume the creator of the blog is a tall guy, although the name could refer to tall bridges, I suppose. The Sowers family consists of a rather short and stocky group of people (the stocky part makes us look even shorter than we are), and we joke around about our stature quite a bit. The indigenous people in this part of Honduras don't tend to grow very tall (we believe poor nutrition is a factor in this), so a favorite joke in our family is that we work in this particular place so that we can perceive of ourselves as tall. It works, too . . . see:

Allen is 5'8", by the way. I don't know the height of the pastor in the photo.

I wonder if I can get away with calling Allen "Shortbridgeguy", in the future. Nah, probably not a good plan. LOL.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I don't write about - because it's boring!

I haven't posted anything here on the blog for a while, but I've been busy. I do have some interesting things to write about, plus some pictures, but first I'll share a bit about my part in the ministry work, which has been keeping me busy the past few days. Be warned - my part of the ministry is mostly boring and tedious!

Yesterday and today I handled paperwork. I hate paperwork, but it is the only aspect of the ministry work which I can possibly be expected to handle as well as (or potentially better than) Allen and Russell. Those of you who know me in real life know how giggle-inducing is the thought of me building a bridge, laying bricks, or driving myself out into the wild parts of the mountains where the pastors we work with live. So, I help where I can be of use.

This particular batch of paperwork was applications to receive motorcycles. Pastors meet with Russell or Iris at their home, and Russell or Iris fill in the forms - a blessing for me, as those two have good, legible handwriting. A few times a year we submit a group of applications to Missionary Ventures for consideration, and then we hear back as to how many motorcycles we will be able to purchase and distribute. The much-appreciated funds for these purchases come from the efforts of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

My job is to type the information from the hand-written applications into a computerized form created by our mission office, and email the completed forms back to the MVI office. I know this sounds like a really simple job, but in reality few of our tasks here are as simple as they would be in the states.

First, the computerized form into which I need to type the info was created using Microsoft Office Word. Our main work computer doesn't have this program installed, so I can't open and use the form on that computer. My laptop (the one which has given me so much trouble recently), had Word installed, but when I had to reinstall the operating system Word was uninstalled, and I haven't yet gotten it back - there's some problem with the product key. So, I'd planned to do this project on Russell's laptop, but then his power cord started to fail, leaving me with no computer on which I could access the application form.

Yesterday I found a free trial version of Word online, that I could download for long enough to handle this project. The download took six hours! I'd gone to bed before the download was completed, and I awoke to a message that the download had failed! I didn't have much choice but to try again, and this time the program was successfully downloaded within about one minute. I don't have a clue what was going on with all of that!

Finally I was ready to type the information into the forms. Because I'd originally expected to work in the evening (when our power supply is limited), I'd put the Word program onto my laptop computer, which uses less power than the desktop. Of course, that meant using the keyboard which no longer admits to the existence of the letter "T." I'm able to work around this, thanks to the suggestion of a reader that I make use of the available on-screen keyboard. While I'm grateful to have the laptop working at all, it certainly isn't convenient to have to remember to use the alternative keyboard every time I use the letter "T," especially when filling in a dozen application forms.

I'm happy to announce that the forms are now completed and returned to the office. That means I can turn my attention to all of the regular household tasks which had to be neglected while I handled paperwork.

Sorry if this was the most boring post in the history of blogging. I'm hoping for some sympathy for my life being so inconvenient, or maybe just empathy from those of you who hate paperwork as much as I do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crazing craziness

I have a collection of stoneware dishes - they are what we use everyday. Some of these are pieces Allen and I received when we married, some are more recent acquisitions. Although I have much of the stoneware on display in my kitchen, other items are stored away inside my buffet.

Recently Rachel was moving some things around, and she made an interesting discovery. Inside the buffet, a couple of spice shakers had gotten . . . dusty. These shakers are among the older items in the set; they'd have been purchased in the '80s. In their glazed finish, these shakers have a bit of the light crackling pattern known as "crazing." Notice how the dust settled in right along the lines of the crazing. Isn't that just the craziest thing?

The picture shows one shaker with the dust lines washed off. There doesn't appear to be any damage from the dust, although long-term I can't think this would be good for it!

Plus, you have to ask yourself - how did that much dust get inside my buffet?