Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 15 - Old Red has a New Home!

Note: videos may be added in the morning; internet again not treating us well...

It's a done deal, and boy oh boy are we glad we did it. I know we haven't posted in a while at length - too much going on, no internet access on my laptop and blogging on a Blackberry is no fun. Time to catch up...

We got out of the no man's land between Mexico and Guatemala around noon Wednesday, after a long and frustrating morning. Kind of like sitting on a plane not going anywhere and the pilot is silent. We had one brief moment of anticipation when they asked us to go open the truck so they could check the motor number against the papers. So there we are with the hood up and finally along comes the lady from the customs office and she walks right by our truck - says nothing! We were quite frustated and just a bit annoyed... And worried since we were running out of cash and didn't have enough for a hotel for yet another night. So back to the importer's office where they had nothing to share. Sit, sit, sit and then all of a sudden the importer guy comes up to us and says 'You are free to go now.' Just like that! What a relief, but we didn't really believe until after waiting in line for about an hour to get through that checkpoint. A friend and coworker of mine named Tom actually called us to see if we were out about ten seconds after we left the final checkpoint. So off we were to Guatemala City, knowing that we were going to meet up for dinner with a big group of Americans from our industry who were down here for a tour. So we were on the road and saw a road sign that says we are going to the capital via the city of Escuintla - this was the coastal route and we were doggone tired of being in the heat and sweat, so we backtracked some distance and headed up the mountains to go another way. When you don't really know the local geography mistakes will happen. Started out ok, but after about 45 minutes we wound up going up this mountain (darn near straight up) for over an hour, always in first or second gear. We were dead tired at this time (and still are) and although the scenery was impressive when we weren't shrouded in fog, it was hard to enjoy such a frustrating drive. Took us over eight hours to go about 300 kilometers this route (about 190 miles). We finally caught up with the group right after they were done eating but they stuck around for a while to catch up on our adventure. A really great group of folks (many of them donors already!) who gave us some awesome support. Stayed up too late with some of them and then the next morning off to Jalapa.

On the way to Jalapa we stopped at one of our seed farms for a quick visit. It was great seeing some Guatemalan friends - Christian, Beatriz, Danny and Alvaro. Then back on the highway expecting to get to town about 3, but alas lots of new road construction delayed us so we got there about 5 last night. Stopped at the Esquejes farm where I used to work and all was quiet. But, my good friend Francisco was their waiting for us. Then off to the hotel in Jalapa - a brand new one called Hotel Puente Viejo (old bridge - you could see it from our window) where they put us up in the Presidential Suite. Now Jalapa really hasn't had any hotels in the past that had a room that could rate that title, but this was actually getting close. We were really quite impressed. What got me even more was that the band I mentioned in the last post didn't get this room! Our friends in Jalapa were really taking care of us.

After getting settled in the hotel it was off to get Old Red washed. Francisco took us to the best place in town where we got the one-hour detail, and the darn truck looked pretty spiffy! After that off to my favorite restaurant in town, El Sheick, the only place where you can get draft beer in a hundred mile radius, I swear. I've been there so many times over the years that my picture, along with another friend and coworker Jane, is on their wall. Well of course some of the other guys from the farm showed up and good eats and some rounds of 'cerveza de barril' later it was off the the hotel to catch at least a few hours sleep.

This morning: tired, stressed, nervous, anxious, a little sad, a little happy. Breakfast at 7:30 with Francisco and then off to the hospital for the transfer. During breakfast Francisco showed us article in one of the Guatemalan newspapers about poor sanitary conditions at the hospital in Jalapa. We had an appointment to meet with a gringo named David Sutton who is a missionary and lives in Jalapa. He helps the group we are raising funds for (LAMP - set up visits to the small towns around Jalapa. So we go the hospital and David is there with a nun from the orphanage named Claudia. She is like second in charge; her superior was 'out of town.' Claudia was a real sweetheart who was very excited about this and turned into quite the chatterbox. We had to park the truck in a secured area of the hospital for the transfer of papers and keys and the lighting wasn't so good, but we have posted a video of it. After the transfer we went into the hospital and met with a Dr. Campos, who is the head guy at the hospital and works very closely with LAMP. Very nice gentleman with a great sense of humor. Walking through the hospital we saw at least forty people waiting to see doctors, waiting for a long time no doubt. This hospital is the only option these people have - we are so blessed in the United States with the medical care we get.

Meeting finished, Mr. Sutton had to depart for another meeting but Claudia and Dr. Campos invited us to visit the orphanage. Claudia doesn't have a drivers license so I drove with her next to me in Old Red. My last time to shift gears in the old beast. We followed Dr. Campos the few miles out of town on some crappy dirt road and finally pulled into the compound. Waiting for us were several nuns strumming their guitars and a choir of uniformed girls ranging in age from about 6 to 16 singing to us as we pulled up. Must have been at least thirty of them. We parked the truck and got out and they sang a couple more songs for us. So Cute! These girls were just adorable and were really pulling at our hearstrings at this point. Dr. Campos tooks some photos of us with the group of girls and then wanted another of them in the bed of the truck with us. So Claudia tells them to get in and that was the sight we will NEVER forget - so many smiling faces laughing and scrambling to get in there. They were obviously so happy to have Old Red; we couldn't have been happier for them. Got to climb in the truck with them for a photo shoot, and then out of truck for a thank you hug from each of the girls. Some would say gracias, some thank you, all were saying it from their hearts. Life is really good some times. And once in a very rare while it absolutely takes your breath away.

We then got a tour of the orphanage. They house about 120 girls at capacity. It was really amazing what they are doing there. Very clean and well organized. They actually have vocational training programs for these kids such as cooking, sewing, cosmetology and computer skills. This means that when they leave the orphanage they have a marketable skill so they have a great chance at improving their lives and helping their communities. We got to see the new second story addition on the main building that was sposored by the LAMP doctors - very impressive.

So Old Red is now in their hands. We spoke with some fine folks from the Jalapa community and were reassured that they would help out if the truck needs service or whatever. One of the best things Claudia told us was that they pay a lot to have their cooking firewood delivered and now they can get it themselves, so Old Red will still be hauling firewood. She also told us that they now have a way to get sick girls in the middle of the night off to see a doctor without having to walk several miles. I think they will make great use of Old Red.

Now we are in a hotel in Guatemala City, tired, exhausted, worn out and ready to go home. We do miss our home, our family and friends, and need to do some laundry. Of course we will be asked if we would do this again, and our answer now is undoubtedly yes; we think it will remain so.

So PLEASE, if you are reading this and haven't yet donated to Latin American Medical Providers, do so now at and let's all try to help those that in some way help us.

p.s. Francisco told us last night that we have a place in heaven and on our way there if we see him hitchhiking could we please pick him up...
Que le vaya bien.




  2. Dear hearts--You brought tears to our eyes, too. What a precious time you had in Jalapa! How great to see you in the sea of folks, and all the girls in the back of Old Red. An unforgettable trip for you and for all of us who've followed your letters and pictures.

    Love, Mom

  3. You said it well. "Life is really good some times". You guys are amazing! And thanks for sharing this wonderful experience with us all.