Monday, June 30, 2008

A day trip to Apaneca...

I almost forgot about another weekend adventure that I had. Alice and Kira were both sick so I decided that I could either wallow in the gloomy hotel room or go for a little day trip. I hopped on a bus to a cute little village called Apaneca. It turned out to be a beautiful place with a tranquil garden restaurant called "La Cocina de Mi Abuela." Their Criollo Chicken was some of the best food I've had in a long time! While I was enjoying my food, Alice called me to tell me she was feeling better so she hopped on the bus and met me there. I enjoyed a chocolate cake while she savored the Criollo Chicken. It was a nice rest from our hard work this last week.
Oh, and there were these random monkeys in the garden and one of them grabbed my camera through the chain link fence. I managed to wrangle it away from him but it was funny. He laughed at me and I almost cried :-( I hate it when I'm outsmarted by a happens a lot you know!
On the way back to Ahuachapan Alice and I stopped by a couple souvenir shops and got a couple little things. It was a fun day :-)

Ol' Mission Buddy...

This weekend was really fun! I got to hang out with my old friend from the mission (Joaquín Molina). We had a really fun time and I got to meet his girlfriend too!
He wanted to show me around El Salvador but the weather was a little rainy so we decided to go to San Salvador and check out the mall. I was astonished by how nice the mall was. It was up to par with some of the nicer malls in the U.S. with GUCCI and everything. Unfortunately there was no Neiman Marcus to make me feel at (see previous blog).
Anyway, it was really nice to catch up with him and meet his family (I went to church with them). They are really amazing, hardworking people. Joaquín is working for US Aid--a U.S. government agency that helps subsistent farmers become more productive. He seems to be doing really well and I'm happy for him. He's thinking about continuing his studies at BYU so he can get a master's degree. It would be cool if he does move up to UT because I could visit him more often (although I'm in Central America more than I'm in UT...hmmmm). Anyway, we had a great time!
Today we finished up the last school. It was Kira's turn to be sick this time so Alice and I went to the school. It was a new school for Books for a Better World and they had contacted me to be added to the library sites. They seemed excited to receive the books so I think things will go well. It was a long, bumpy ride there through some of the most beautiful ranch country I've seen in all my long years of life! We saw a lot of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and exciting!
Anyway, it was a fun weekend/day! We're probably going to head to the beach for a few days now that we're done with our work in this area. Then Kira and I will head to Guatemala and Alice back to AZ.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Short & Sweet...

I LOVE Pollo Campero--home of the free wireless internet but no plugs in the wall. I better hurry before my battery runs out. I won't give the details that I usually do (I hear sighs of relief all the way down here)!
Anyway, we visited two schools today. Suntecumat and Tacubita. They were close to Ahuchapan (where we are staying) but they were in the mountains so it was a rough road to get there. Once again we were grateful for 4 Wheel Drive! On the way there we got to see a bunch of geysers which power a giant geothermal power plant. El Salvador generates 15% of it's electricity through geothermal means. It's pretty cool but it smells horrible (like sulfur).
As usual, the kids were excited to see us and we were excited to see them. Something the Tacubita school they had no electricity. It's not too "out there" to find schools here with no electricity, but it was ironic because the power plant was in view of the school. CRAZY!
Anyway, things are going good. We're actually done with our designated schools so we're going to be visiting a few schools to see if there are more we can add next year. We already have a couple of leads to schools in poor rural towns so we just need to stop by and see if they are interested in starting a library. It should be really enjoyable.
Oh, I got a hold of my old mission buddy (Juaquín Molina) who served with me in the mission office (AP) and we're going to meet up tomorrow evening to catch up! I'm excited!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another bumpy road...another great day!

Hola amigos! Today was a great day! Alice wasn't feeling well again :-( so Kira and I set out at 7AM to visit a couple of schools. Don Pabel (our faithful driver) rumbled up to our hotel in his noisy Isuzu diesel to take us on our journey. After an hour of driving, we stopped for a little snack--pupusas in the park in San Antonio never tasted so good! I took the rest stop as a chance to meander through the beautiful, white Catholic church in the town square. I noticed a guy sitting in front of the church and I approached him to see if he could take my picture. As I got closer I noticed he was more than a little intoxicated to I decided to just get the church without my beautiful face...sorry guys ;-)
The visits to the schools went well. The first school was rather large and the library is well on its way to looking like a "real" library. Books for a Better World has been contributing to their library for about five years now and the books are being put to good use. We were impressed to find that the school principal had designated a school librarian (from amongst the students) and he does an excellent job of organizing and keeping inventory of the books. The kids were excited to let us read a couple stories to them and we left with about fifty--or so--new friends :-)
The next school was a first-time BBW school recommended by Don Pabel. Texispulco is a small, three-room school in a rural agricultural village. Getting to the school requires 4x4 so we were happy to have our trusty (well maybe not so trusty) truck to get us there. Don Pabel grew up in the area so he told us about the challenges that face kids in the rural areas of El Salvador. It almost seems like the government forgets about these kids because they don't have even close to the resources that kids in bigger schools have.
When we pulled up to the school all the boys were playing soccer while the girls swept and mopped the classrooms. Kira and I found this a little sad (for the girls) but nothing out of the ordinary for this culture. They all stopped what they were doing when they saw two gringos roll up in that rickety old truck. We introduced our program to the principal and she was happy to accept the books into her tiny start to a library. I wished we had more books to give. The kids were so excited! This may have been the first time they had ever seen an illustrated storybook! I made instant friends with the Kindergarten class (who ever said I don't have any and I was sad to leave when the time came for us to return to Ahuachapan.
On our way home we stopped by to see Don Pabel's family. They were some of the humblest people I have ever met. They were kind enough to share their meager lunch with us--tortillas, rice, and cheese (from their own cow) with a little bit of Tang to drink. I was nearly brought to tears as I ate with joke! These people never cease to amaze me!
I enjoyed chatting with Don Pabel on the 1 1/2 hr ride back to Ahuachapan. At one point it started raining so hard that we could hardly see the road but it was ok.
We got back safely and met up with Alice at the hotel to make one last stop at El Hogar de los Niños--an orphanage in town. Although it was sad to think that anyone could ever give up these beautiful children, it was amazing to see the loving care that the nuns provide them 24/7. I enjoyed playing Legos with the little brought back memories. I nearly lost an eye at one point when the "tallest tower in the world" came crashing down due to a "bus accident." It was fun!
We finished up the day with a nice meal at the world-famous Guatemalan restaurant chain "Pollo Campero." It's almost like comfort food to me with all the time I've spent in Central America lately :-)
Despite all of the wonderful times I'm having I have to admit that I'm missing family and friends right now. I love the comments that you've been leaving...keep 'em coming! I love you guys!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Near Miss...

Welcome to another blog post my friends! Today was a miraculous day. Alice has been feeling down with a bad cough since we got here and last night was horrible for her. When she woke up this morning she really wanted to go do the book delivery but she was feeling really tired. So, Kira and I set off to find a school in Texistepeque.
We caught a bus to Santa Ana and easily found the connecting bus to Texistepeque. It was a long trip (2 hrs) but everything was going great. During the bus ride I started chatting with a lady next to us and we started talking about the schools in the area. I told her we were going to visit the school in Texistepeque and explained about the libraries and everything. She thought it was wonderful but wondered why we had chosen to go to the school in Texistepeque because it was considered one of the richer schools in the area. She knew of some more rural schools in the area that may be in greater need. I told her to have the principals contact Books for a Better World so we can get them connected—I hope they do. As we got off the bus the lady kindly showed us the location of the school.
As we walked up to the school we could hear a marching band playing. Kira and I were astonished because we had never seen a school with that kind of a music program in Central America. We were beginning to see what our friend had told us about it being a richer school. We found the principal and he knew nothing of Books for a Better World. We then looked through their decent-sized library and couldn’t find any of our books from years past. Scratching our heads, Kira and I began to realize that we were in the wrong school! Luckily, Kira had been to El Salvador three years ago and remembered having visited the school in Texistepeque before. She remembered that she had taken a photo in front of the school so we went to an Internet café to look through her pictures for clues. She found the photo she was thinking of and it had a beautiful sign, which read: “Centro Escolar Canton Costa Rica.” It was just the clue we needed!
Time was running short so we hopped on a mototaxi (a small, three-wheel motorcycle) and he took us down a bunch of winding dirt trails to where the school was located. I don’t think we would have ever found it on our own!
Just as we arrived, a woman was getting ready to lock up the front gate. All of the children had gone home for the day and she was the last one there. When we introduced ourselves she was so excited! She told us that they were worried we weren’t coming because volunteers usually come earlier in the year. She let us in to the little two-room school and we sat down with her. She told us how much they enjoy using the books and that they have set aside reading hours on Mondays and Wednesdays of every week. One look at the books was all we needed to see that they were being put to good use. As she glanced at the shiny new covers of the books in our collection you could sense the anticipation she had to share them with the students. She almost jumped out of her seat when she saw “Harry Potter.” It was so much fun to see her enthusiasm and we felt lucky to have found her there just in time! We left that school with a great feeling that what we are doing is making a difference in that tiny, two-room school.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I love this place!

So, today starts our work delivering books to our sites in El Salvador! We left at 7AM to get started early at a couple of the furthest schools. At the first school (Santa Clara), we were immediately greeted by the principal smiling from ear to ear. He was one of the most positive people I've met in a long time. His excitement for the new donation of books was incredible! He immediately let the teachers know that we were there so they could gather their classes for "reading time." It was so much fun! We went into the first classroom (see above) and started reading with the kids. You could tell they were accustomed to having reading time because they interacted very well with us. This is a sure sign of a school using our book donations to their fullest! It's a great feeling to see the schools taking advantage of a gift that we work so hard to bring them. It also makes me happy for the kids because I can see a bright future in their eyes (in know that's so cliché but it's true).
One of the biggest surprises was when the principal showed us their new COMPUTER ROOM--with internet! I couldn't believe I was in a rural school in El Salvador. I know we take it for granted in the U.S. but this is a huge step forward for this country. We were informed that about 100 of the 5000 schools in El Salvador have computer rooms with internet access but they are working hard to get it in all of the schools. It was exciting to share this accomplishment with the principal!
By the time we got to the second school we were pretty tired but still excited to be there. Did I mention that Kira and I were in the back of a pick-up for about three hours!!! Alice got to sit in the front...lucky thing!
Anyway, the second school (Sisimitepec...try saying that one) was almost completely empty by the time we made our way down the bumpy road and arrived at the front gate. There were a couple guys doing some clean-up so they helped us get to the principal's house to deliver the books. He was a really neat guy and also seemed enthusiastic about the reading program. He must have seen that Kira and I were parched (from being in the sun) so he cut a few coconuts for us and we drank some thirst-quenching coconut water :-) This is one of my favorite things about Central America btw...the fresh, tropical fruits.
So, we sat and talked with Mr. Ortiz (that was his name) and he told us how much it meant to him that we were willing to deliver the books to his house. He was so grateful!
As we were getting ready to leave we notice that our driver (Pabel) was doing something under the hood of his luxurious 1980 Isuzu truck. I just figured it needed more water or oil or something but there was actually a leak in one of the cylinders of the four-cylinder diesel engine. Now, I'm no mechanic but I figured this wasn't! He seemed to have a handle on everything so I wasn't too concerned. He had a good amount of tools but he was missing the one wrench that he needed so we tried capping it off with bailing wire, electrical tape, a plastic bag, and even considered chewing gum. After several noble but failed attempts, some guy driving by was cool enough to help us out and we got the cylinder sealed off so diesel (which is $5.15/gallon btw) would stop shooting out with every sputter of that poor little engine. We crept our way back over the mountainous terrain on three cylinders but we made it back--tired yet content! It was quite the adventure.
I can tell this was a good day by how tired I am right now! Time to shove off to bed soon!
Good night everyone!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Welcome to El Salvador!

What a beautiful place! Alice, Kira, and I got to El Salvador last night and were welcomed into a wonderful little bed & breakfast type of place in San Salvador. We got a great night sleep in a simple little three-bed room (WITH A/C) and, after a scrumptious breakfast, headed to Ahuachapan where we will be doing our book deliveries. The bus ride was quicker than I expected (about 1.5 hrs) and our hotel is right next to the bus stop so it was easy to get all of our stuff in with no problems.
I´m actually really impressed by a lot of things here but one thing is technology. They seem to be much more advanced than most of the other places I´ve been in Central America. For instance, we decided to get a cell phone and it was extremely easy to set up a prepaid cell phone account. If anyone feels like calling me here is my number: 011-503-7155-0185. I´ll have this number until July 5th when I switch a the Guatemala network. There are also quite a few places here with wireless internet so keeping in touch should be easy!
Tonight we went to a local ¨pupuseria¨ where they serve the famous pupusa--a cheese-stuffed tortilla with cabbage and tomato sauce on top. They are so good! The best part is that Alice, Kira and I all ate to our hearts´ content for $3 TOTAL!!!! And we were stuffed! No joke!
Tomorrow morning we are meeting with Don Pabel who will be driving us around to the schools in the area to deliver books to all the kids. I can hardly wait to get started! It´s so much fun and there is so much to see and observe! We have a lot to accomplish so wish me luck! I´ll try to get some photos on here for the next post.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'm bored...

So, I'm bored at the Houston Airport and these crazy people are walking in place on the "walking sidewalk." I think they are confused...they think this is LA Fitness or something. Lol! I guess it's a good idea. They're reaping the health benefits of a treadmill, enjoying CNN on a large plasma screen and they aren't even paying $24.99/mo. What a deal!

Last Day in HOU...

I'm so excited to fly to El Salvador today! I had a great time here. Yesterday we went to this aquarium that was in the middle of Downtown Houston and ate at a restaurant that was surrounded by fish tanks. Brent's sister went with us and we had a really good time.
Now I'm off to meet up with Alice and Kira at the airport! I'm so stoked! I think I'm gonna miss family and friends. Keep me posted :-)

Friday, June 20, 2008

A few days in Houston TX

So, everything is off to a good start. I'm in Houston right now with my friend Brent. Brent lived in Houston for a while and, a few months ago we decided to do a fun little trip since I always fly through the HOU airport when I go to Central America. I've always been curious about the city so it's been fun seeing what Houston has to offer. Today we went to the mall and I FINALLY got the Oakley shades I've been looking at for the last year. It was fun to browse all of the fancy stores--apparently there's a lot of money in this town.
Here's a funny story. So, I love walking through Neiman Marcus to see all of the newest trends and they always have the coolest displays. I get a lot of ideas from them. Anyways, I know that Neiman's is way out of my league so I'm not trying to fool anyone but I actually found some really cute shirts on the clearance rack so I decided to try them on. The lady that checked me in to the dressing room took one look at me (in my American Eagle shorts) and I could tell she had her doubts about my ability to pay for the merchandise I was going to try on. Like I said, I'm not trying to fool anyone so I didn't care but this stuff was too good to pass up and it was actually reasonably priced so I stepped into the dressing room. The fit was perfect...I proceeded to the cash register. I pulled out my prestigious WaMu Gold Debit Mastercard and attempted to pay for the shirts. The lady gave me the weirdest look. She then informed me that Neiman's only accepts American Express or Neiman Marcus card! I was so disappointed! I carry my Costco AMX about 90% of the time but since I'm headed to Central America--the land of VISA and Mastercard--I didn't have it on me. She, of course, asked me if I would like to apply for a Neiman Marcus card (which I can't imagine using more than once every ten years). I couldn't believe it! I felt so stupid but then I thought about how silly I must have looked in that store in my American Eagle shorts and no-name t-shirt. I should really stick to the real world...the world where people use WaMu Gold Debit Mastercards at Target, Ross, and Old Navy with smiles on their faces :-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Uncle Roger...

I love you Uncle Roger and will miss you.
It's weird how I can feel so close to someone I only saw on rare occasions but I always felt so close to Uncle Roger (my Dad's Uncle). He called me "Big Al" (which I never liked much when other people called me that) and I always knew it was with love that he called me that. He drove Chevy Camaros--which is just cool to begin with--and he had a thing for fancy video cameras. He loved visiting our family and I remember a time when he made it down to St. George to see us. He loved the natural beauty of the desert there. One summer my family and I had the chance to go to Michigan and it was amazing to see that beautiful place and the history that the Beach family has there. My email inbox never saw it coming when Roger discovered the wonders of the internet! I could always count on some kind of joke or late-breaking news from Uncle Roger ;-) I feel like I only had a chance to scratch the surface of an amazing man but what a great opportunity it was to get to know him here on Earth.
I hope to see you again someday, Uncle Roger. God bless you!

Moving Day...

Yay! I'm done moving! So, if you can't tell from the picture I have a lot of stuff so I'm so sore right now. This move was quite the adventure. My friends (Justin, Brent, and Dominic) arrived at my condo in Phoenix in the morning and we started loading my dad's truck and trailer. Everyone had their doubts that we could make it in one trip but I was bound and determined. As you can see from the picture I stood everything up on end to make it fit. I think the trailer had more wind resistance than a parachute by the time we had it all loaded!
It was a great time and we only suffered one favorite lounge chair wasn't as heavy as I thought and it decided to jump ship on Indian School Rd. It was crazy because it almost hit the car behind me! Luckily, nobody was injured in the process :-)
Anyway, I'm happy to say that everything (except the chair) is now at my place in Mesa. I'm excited to be back at Circle Tree Condominiums living the good life with my roomy Justin (see pic). Now I have one more week before I leave for Central America. Let's see if I can get this place orgainized before then!

Monday, June 9, 2008


I'm moving on Thursday so that means I get to do the lovely job of packing up all of my belongings and moving them to Mesa. I would like to take this moment to thank my parents for doing such a great job of teaching us kids how to orchestrate a successful move. By the time I was 18 yrs old our family had relocated to twenty different residences so I have plenty of experience!
Anyone who would like to share in the joy of moving is more than welcome to join me on Thursday @ 10:00 am at the condo in Phoenix. I'd hate to keep this all to myself ;-)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mesa, here I come...

So, I got a bit of pity from people about my "lemonade" blog but I want to make sure everyone knows that I'm actually excited about moving back to Mesa (the home of one million check cashing I was just over chillin' with my future roommate/friend (Justin) and I really enjoy being around him so I think it's gonna be cool :-)
Best of all, it will be wonderful to be closer to all of my "East Valley" dwelling family. Sometimes it seems so far to drive from PHX so it will be great to see a little more of them!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer of Travel...

I'll be in Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) from June 19 to August 22! Whoo hoo! I'll be updating this blog every chance I get while I'm down there so keep coming back. I'm in a competition with my sister (Crystal) for site visits...j/k!
Hasta luego amigos :-)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Making lemonade :-)

I have always loved lemonade! I don't know if it's the contrasting taste of sour and sweet or the refreshing cool it injects into my body on a hot day. There's just something so wonderful about lemonade!
I'm sure everyone has heard that cheezy cliché about "making lemonade out of lemons." Apparently this saying is meant to inspire all of us to take a bad situation, add a little sugar and turn it into a wonderfully refreshing experience. Well, I know this sounds cheezy but that's what I'm doing...
It all started a little over a year ago when I decided to purchase a beautiful condo in a high-rise building in Central Phoenix. It seemed like a great idea...close to work, in the middle of all the action, and a view to die for. The special incentives were great and a new light-rail project was sure to be a boon to property values in the area. The financing went smoothly (thanks to stated-income) and everything seemed perfect!
Well, to make a long story short, the decision to buy this property has led to my most challenging financial dilemma since I was welcomed to the world by that friendly doctor at Utah Valley Hospital! The building (which was supposedly completely remodeled by a developer) has a lot of very expensive problems which have been passed on to the homeowners. My HOA dues are now in excess of $500/month!!!! And that is not taking into account "special assessments" for broken pipes and deteriorating infrastructure. Yikes! Anyone who knows me well realizes that I am not a millionaire who can afford to fork over thousands of dollars to a home owners association.
So, after a lot of thinking (and about three months on prozak...j/k) I have decided to graciously gift this property to it's rightful owner--the bank. That's right, I will be foreclosing on this condo and it breaks my heart but the purpose of this blog is to show how I plan on making lemonade out of these lemons in life.
Many of you may know that I have always dreamed of owning my own furniture business. Something about interior design and furnishings intrigues me. I'm sure I got it from my Mom! Anyway, with the HUGE expense of this condo out of the way I will finally have the freedom to follow my dream. I am going to design and manufacture chic, eco-friendly home furnishings and interior decor items! I will attempt to use items that we normally throw away and make them look like something other than trash. I'm so excited to get started!
So, I quit my job at WaMu and I'm off to start a new adventure! To start off I am going to spend a couple of months in Central America to volunteer with Books for a Better World and draw inspiration from the local craftsmen down there. When I come back (in Aug.) I will work my brains off to get this new business off the ground. Wish me luck!
I cannot express how blessed I feel to have the ability to see past the bleak experience of loosing my condo to a bright, hopeful future. So next time you sip on a glass of lemonade remember that Allen is somewhere on the Western Hemisphere making the best of a bad situation.