Wrench Day Preparations

With two days to go until the annual Southern Ontario Wrench Day, I’ve started packing up my belongings.  Since I won’t have a copilot during the ride there and back (read: someone else to take turns driving with) I’ve decided to rig up a good electronic buddy.

iPad with window mount

Loaded up with music and TomTom navigation for USA & Canada, she’s all ready to be my sidekick in the SOWD adventure.  I also stopped by the store to pick up some goods for the journey and for use upon arrival.

SOWD Goods

Gatorade, several microbrews, cases of RedBull, beef jerky, trail mix, and water.  Will pack up the rest tomorrow evening and head out!

Haiti – Part 2

It’s been three full days since I’ve been back in America, and every day I’m reminded how fortunate I am.  From the little, to the big, everything in some way makes me remember how lucky I am to live in this country.  For instance, take our simple living arrangements.

Our "front door"

While I am both extremely grateful and thankful for the living arrangements provider to us by the Missionaries of Charity, I am equally if not more thankful for the home I have in McHenry.  In Haiti, the doors were always locked in order to keep us safe and off the streets.  The large steel doors made it feel somewhat prison-y, but they are used due to the fact that wood doors easily warp when not properly maintained, and steel offers better security against those trying to break in.

The weather never went below 88°F, and we considered ourselves lucky when a slight breeze rolled through our living quarters.

Hot. Every day.

By day 2 I was riddled with bug bites and used to avoiding water unless it came in a bottle.  For me, that was the hardest thing to get used to.  I’m one of those “weirdos” (read: engineer who likes efficiency) who brushes his teeth in the shower.  In a country where you can’t be sure of the water’s cleanliness, that is a big NO-NO.  No opening your mouth in the shower, no brushing your teeth with water from the sink.  Even the jugs that the water came in needed to be cleaned and rinsed with bleach water before we could open them.

Eventually all of these things became habit, but the first thing I did upon my return home was take a shower with my mouth wide open.  It’s just so refreshing.  And if you’ve never tried, you should.

Cooking was also an interesting experience.  Since we couldn’t leave the “fortress”, we couldn’t visit the grocery store.  We did have someone who helped us, a very nice man named Vilar, who could pick up a few things for us if necessary, but that was usually more along the lines of paper platers, napkins, etc.  Our frozen chicken and Bubba Burgers were smuggled in via backpacks with ice packs inside of them.  Cooking in front of a propane stove in 90° weather is not something I would put on top of my “Favorite things to do in Haiti” list, but it was definitely an experience.

Olivia and Dad cooking chicken and rice

No TV, and often no electricity, forced us to keep our minds off the heat and find ways to entertain ourselves.  Sadly I forgot my book at home, and became what Olivia and Mary would consider to be an annoying pest as I found ways to entertain myself.  One such way was to watch the lizards crawl around the ceiling and sometimes attack each other.  Of course everyone watched, and often a little bit of quiet reading time would be interrupted by a finger pointed upwards.  “LOOK!”

My name is Inigo Montoya...

The girls did NOT like when the lizard-battles were occurring directly above them, but I found it to be pretty exciting.  There was a large plus side to no TV/electronics, it was great for everyone to open up and share stories.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed as much as I did on that trip.  We make jokes, shared childhood memories, poked fun at one another, and had a fantastic time getting to know each other.  I can also now say without a doubt in my mind that Mary’s boyfriend, Eddie, is a great guy and is a perfect match for her.  Though I mostly think that because he gives her crap and causes her as much grief as I do.

Just look at those faces

We helped the Sisters in any way that would could, whether it be holding children, feeding the babies, watching youngsters during mass, tiring out the energetic ones before bed, or other miscellaneous things like cutting pills in half.  A whole pill has a dosage that is too high for the babies who need them, so we spent hours cutting pills in half, which would then be administered to the children.

The pill gang

I’m happy to be back.  I’m catching up on all my TV shows that I missed, and reading more of my books.  One thing is for certain though; every now and again I’d like to turn off the TV, turn off the cell phones, sit around with my friends and family, share our stories, and enjoy the happiness that we bring to each other’s lives.

Breakdown on I94

I would have liked to post Haiti – Part 2 this morning, but instead I had a nice motorcycle breakdown on I94 yesterday evening while on my way to visit Erin.  At mile marker 322 I suddenly felt something slap against my leg.  Hard.  I didn’t need to look down to know that the whack on my leg, combined with my sudden loss in acceleration, meant that my chain had broken and my rear wheel was now powerless.

Broken Chain

Thankfully past-Joe thought it was a great idea to include roadside assistance on his motorcycle insurance, and a quick 5 minute call had the tow company on their way gratis. Also thankfully, I was wearing my riding boots, and I can now say that while they are expensive, they were/are well worth the purchase in protecting my feet.

Chewed up chain guard

My chain guard is a little chewed up, but it remains functional and I should have a new 520 O-ring chain ordered by this weekend, just in time for the Southern Ontario Wrench Day!

As an added bonus to this post, here are two pictures of the /r/motorcycles stickers I received in the mail.

Haiti – Part 1

I start this as a part one because I know I will not be able to contain the last 8 days of my life into one post.  My trip to Haiti was exhilarating, heartbreaking, and most definitely an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

My family and I, as well as Father Sherry and my Aunt Renee, flew out to Haiti via Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Monday, May 21st.  It was a tiring morning, as we left the house around 4am, but we were happy on the inside.

The fly out
The morning of our departure

The women were all professionals, as they had made the trip before.  I, on the other hand, had no clue on what to expect once we arrived.  I had seen poverty in China, back when I visited there in 2006, but it did not compete with the poverty of Haiti.  We stayed with the Missionaries of Charity, a group of nuns who have patience and compassion that I have yet to see matched by another human being.  They take care of orphaned, sick, and dying children on a daily basis, something that wore me out after one week.  I cannot begin to imagine all the things they have seen in the years they have been doing their work.

Butch with two babies
Dad with two little ones

For a while I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation.  The first day I was there I thought, “Holding kids is nice, but what can I build to help?  When does the construction/restoration/painting start?  Where is all the manly work?”  It was then that I was fortunate enough to meet a terrorizing youngster named Augustine.  She was a bit of a playground bully, but nice as far as kids go, and always had a huge smile on.  We were playing, and I was giving her piggy-back rides around the playground, when my mom came up to me with a somber look on her face and stated, “She has AIDS.”  It wasn’t meant to damper the mood, rather to educate, and it worked.  I realized that each of those children are there for a reason, and that holding them, playing with them, and letting them feel loved and cared about was more important than any door hinge I could fix, wall I could paint, or window I could install.  Were it not for the Missionaries of Charity, these kids would most likely die within a few days, alone and forgotten.

Helping Jameson shoot some hoops

Holding those children and playing games with them is the most rewarding thing I have done with my life, and while I want to go back to help restore homes and feed the hungry, I will always make sure to take the time to hold a child, and let them feel loved.

Too Many Things, Not Enough Time

What is this now, the forth blog I’ve attempted to start?  Hopefully this one sticks.  All the others seem to have failed due to the fact I would pidgin hole the content.  First there was the tech blog, then the personal blog, then the motorcycle blog.  I’ve come to realize trying to maintain three separate blogs is silly, and I really should just dump everything into one.  So that’s what I’m starting here.  Now.  One day there might be some stuff about Ruby, and cool new gems I’ve found.  The next day it may be a posting about a new microbrew I discovered.  Or maybe just some pictures I end up taking on a motorcycle trip.  Think of it as a personal journal for me.  A chronicling of my life story, except it’s open to anyone who wishes to read.

Oh, about that title.  As a sit here in my parent’s basement, I have a lot on my mind.  I’m moving out to Minneapolis in two weeks, yet I haven’t fully secured a place to live.  In less than six hours I will be flying to Haiti for eight days, working at an orphanage and taking care of hungry/sick children.  And somewhere in between those two events, I’m supposed to be taking a trip up to Toronto, Ontario to visit my good friend Bob.  Mix in family, friends, paying bills, and it quickly becomes a little overwhelming.  I’m on the cusp of the next chapter in life’s journey.  I don’t know what will be coming next, but I sure hope it’ll be fun.