Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sorry so suddenly silent: Sick

Currently convalescing.

Prayerful petitions for positive progress 'preciated. LOL

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rachel is home!

Rachel is home! And she's BAKING FOR US!

In Honduras, the military oversees the elections. Since we have a presidential election coming up, Brandy has had some traveling to do for work. He's actually here in the department of Lempira, doing lots of traveling to remote locations where polling places are being set up. Rachel didn't want to stay home alone while he was here, so she came to Gracias by bus, and is staying with us during the times that Brandy is working. She'll also get to spend some time with him, as he has some days off during his time here.

This morning she's baking pumpkin bread, and if the sun shines long enough for us to gather enough power to run the oven, she's going to make some pies, including chicken pot pie!

We're glad to have Rachel home for a few days, as you might imagine!!!!!

Update: 6 loaves of pumpkin bread, 2 batches of molasses cookies, 2 family size chicken pot pies, and several as-yet-to-be-determined fruit pies! It's a happy day in the Sowers kitchen!!!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We're getting ready for Gifts for Gracias . . . are you?

The deadline for your participation in the Gifts for Gracias Christmas project is coming up quickly! Although the last date for mailing packages is the end of November, we continue to receive personal deliveries from the Maryland area for another month after that. Then the container will be shipped from Maryland to Honduras, and the fun begins down here, as we assemble a gift for each of the members of the families on our many pastor lists!

During the last few months of every year, our family spends a lot of time getting the house and our lives in order for the onslaught of the container full of gifts and donations. Everything is very busy and cluttered here once the container arrives, so it helps to have some preparation and organization completed in advance.

For instance, it's very hard to clean the house, once the shipment fills almost every inch of floor space (except for pathways) up to ten feet high or so. Because we know it will be several months from the time the shipment arrives until we unearth most of the house again, we try to do a deep cleaning right before the shipment. Things are still pretty dusty and dirty by the time we're finished, but at least we know we tried!

The kids and I get an extra-large amount of schoolwork done in the last few months before our part of Gifts for Gracias begins. We know it will be difficult to get much done during the time the house is full and we're so busy sorting everything and making gifts, so we try to squeeze extra school in ahead of time.

Usually, we have some left-over items from the previous year. Perhaps we had an overabundance of stuffed animals, for instance, or school supplies, or toothbrushes, or something else. Often these items are given away during the course of the year, but there are always a few boxes of leftovers which need to be pulled down off shelves and put into use along with the new donations. We also sometimes receive items brought down by teams during the course of the year, which are saved for use at Christmas, and those also have to be brought out of storage and put where they can be made use of. We move those items down from the shelves during this preparation time.

This photo is from Gifts for Gracias 2006 - we had a carport at that rental house

The past few years, Ben has completely given up his bedroom to be used as storage space when the shipment arrives. Because we have almost NO room to move once the shipment is unloaded into the bodega, it is difficult to actually work with the items in the boxes. Ideally we would make stacks of boxes containing similar items, so that we could more efficiently gather the specific items needed for a particular family's gifts. In reality, we just scramble up and over and around and through everything, until we've created and distributed enough gifts that we've regained some floor space! It's more than a bit overwhelming at first! (I'm so excited that we are building our own house now, so that soon-ish we should be able to use the entire bodega for this kind of work, instead of having the use of only part of the bodega because we're also living in it!) Since our new house isn't finished yet, we move Ben out of his room, take down his bed and store the parts up against the wall, put his toys up on a high shelf, and just generally clear that space for the shipment. Ben sleeps on the couch, or in Gus' room, until his room is emptied and available for him again. Ben's a trooper!

At the last minute, we rearrange the "house" part of the bodega, so we reserve as little space as possible for our personal use. We push the kitchen table to one end of the kitchen, and we use the bit of space at the other end of the kitchen for a couch, the TV, and the Christmas tree. Boo and Gus also tighten everything up in their rooms, so that we can put some items in those spaces as well.

Now that you know what we're doing . . . what are YOU doing now, or planning to do, to help with Gifts for Gracias? We can surely use your help!!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Driving over a cable bridge . . . some fun videos

Living in Honduras frequently requires one to do things that would be considered ridiculously unsafe in the US. Today I am going to show you some videos of vehicles crossing the old cable bridge in Las Flores, Lempira. This bridge will eventually be replaced by the bridge we are currently building . . . but for now, there is a LOT of traffic over this very unsafe bridge. (Our apologies that some of the videos are sideways. Boo didn't know that I don't know how to turn them before posting, LOL)

Here's a heavily loaded truck crossing the bridge. Boo is taking the video while standing above, on the uncompleted new bridge:

Boo took this next video while standing down on the cable bridge. You'll notice, as the truck gets close to her, Boo has to reposition herself on the outside edge of the bridge, so the truck has room to pass.

Now, this video I can't get to post here, so you'll have to click a link to see it . . . but DO LOOK AT IT! I promise you will laugh! It is a video, from inside a vehicle that is crossing the bridge. Allen is driving, and visiting team members are in the vehicle. You WILL enjoy their conversation as they cross!

Click here for the video

Now, don't let these videos keep you from coming to see us. Remember, it's going to be an adventure!
(Thanks for the team trip video, Michelle!) 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 3 - still mixing and pouring, but also smoothing the surface

As I've been watching all of these videos of the bridge construction work (see Part 1 and Part 2) it occurred to me to wonder how many bucket loads of concrete it took to complete the work of this one day. I had Allen do the calculations, taking into consideration that the buckets were being filled about 1/2 - 2/3 full each time. His answer? 2500 bucket loads. 2500 trips back and forth from the mixers to the edge of the pour. That would certainly make for a long day!

 . . . and, another section of the bridge deck is poured!

Next up . . . videos of cars and trucks crossing the existing cable bridge! I think you're gonna like these!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 2 - mixing and pouring the concrete

Part 1 is here. The following videos are from the same day as the video in part 1. 

With all of the materials placed where they will be fairly close at hand, the volunteers bring buckets full of sand, gravel and water, and bags of cement, and dump these materials into the mixers. The men running the mixers keep track of the proportions of each type of material, so that the final product has the proper strength.

In the next video, the men are filling buckets with the mixed concrete, carrying each bucket to the edge of the area being poured, and dumping in their load of concrete. It must be a bit overwhelming, to see how very little the whole project is furthered by each individual bucket load! But as the number of trips grows, somehow the deck of the bridge is created, bit by bit!

In the following video, Boo concentrated on the work of the men maintaining just one aspect of the job - the sand pile.

In this last video I'm going to post today, you can start to see the pile of dumped bucket loads turning into a mass that can be smoothed out and will eventually be the surface of the bridge.

Let me know what you think of Boo's videos, if you would. The men are mixing and pouring concrete again today (the videos in this post are from last week), and Boo is out there, taking more photos and videos!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 1 - staging the materials

Last week, I had Boo go along to the construction site on a day the men were pouring concrete, so that she could get some videos for me to post here.

The day didn't go as expected. As we started in on the deck portion of the bridge, we had around 45 volunteers show up for the first big pour. The second big pour day around 70 volunteers came out to work, but somehow, the word didn't go out to bring in the needed volunteers for the most recent pour day (recruiting volunteers is the job of the local government officials), and so only 14 men (all from one village) showed up

Our intrepid crew, along with these few volunteers managed to do the pour in one very long, grueling day, even though one of the cement mixers broke down along the way! Here are some of Boo's photos and videos, so you can experience the day:

Side view of the bridge. The left span is completed, the forms are in place for the pouring of the middle span, the right span still consists only of beams resting on the supports.

Top view of the bridge. Nearest section is completed, and will be the location of the mixing of the concrete for the next span. In the very back of the photo you can see the third span of the bridge, where there are still just beams, and no deck.

The video below shows the men gathering the materials and placing them on the completed part of the bridge deck, so they'll be close at hand as the mixing and pouring begin. Each of those bags of cement weighs about 100 pounds.

I'll post part 2, showing the mixing and pouring of the concrete, as soon as I can get the videos uploaded (it takes hours for me to upload a single video).