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Archive for August, 2010

DR Mission Trip: July 31 – August 7

by on Aug.18, 2010, under Ashley Bingle

As part of their traditional summer schedule, our youth group sends students to FITS and Great Escape (which Amber and I attended back in 2008) as well as brings high schoolers on a week long mission trip. Previously, groups have gone to Tijuana and El Florido, Mexico, as well as Puerto Rico, but this year one of our leaders, Jessica Andes, used a contact she had with a college friend at Kids Alive to take ten students, 5 boys and 5 girls, to the Dominican Republic.

We traveled all day Saturday to get to Montallano (near Puerto Plata), where we were staying, and on Sunday we went to a Spanish speaking church in town. In the afternoon, we went to the beach as a nice rest before all the hard work the rest of the week at the Park Care Center in Caraballo.

Monday we split into teams that pulled wood off the hardened concrete supports in a block wall, pulled nails out of the wood to be reused, put the muddy black dirt back into the ditch dug to hold the wall upright, and moved rubble down into an area that was to become the pigpen.

Tuesday morning started off with the same jobs of moving rubble and dirt until we were told to drop what we were doing and bring all the shovels and pickaxes down to the river because a large container truck needed to get across to deliver playground equipment. When it had first arrived, early in the morning before we got there, it had gotten stuck trying to go up the steep incline where the road comes back up out of the water, so Brian (the Team Leader at Kids Alive) and two men and a boy from Carabello used our pickaxes to make the road flat enough for it to come across.

There are 94 pictures on the Kids Alive Flicker of our group and the shipping container, and you can see us all standing around watching them pickax. We felt kind of helpless then, but the hard work was still to come when we unpacked the completely full container into the cafeteria before having a late lunch and then heading to a different part of the river to swim, as a nice surprise break. The pictures show the different types of supplies that came with the playground equipment (which we found in the very back): desks, chairs, whiteboards, medical supplies, school supplies, and full backpacks.

If the truck hadn’t arrived, we had been expecting to work with concrete on Tuesday, but since we stopped work after we had finished with the container we went to work on concrete the next morning. The boys used the wheelbarrows to make a pile of 15 loads of gravel, 15 loads of sand, and 15 ninety-pound-bags of cement, which they helped one of the workers, Sandy, mix. While they did all the shoveling to make the pile, the girls sorted a bunch of the supplies from the container, and moved the medicine, hygiene products, backpacks, and food into some of the classrooms. When we finished, we took a short break, until we felt guilty, and went to help the boys with the concrete.

Because we were pouring a staircase on Wednesday, we needed to put the concrete into buckets, which were then lifted and poured by the boys and the workers. It was a very messy job, and our shoes and pants got very dirty, though our shirts stayed slightly cleaner.

Thursday morning three people got to help build the far end of the block wall, and the rest of us tied scrap pieces of re-bar into a rough grid for the foundation of the pigpen. When we were done tying the re-bar, everyone worked to shovel 20 loads of everything for more concrete, before we stopped for lunch. Sandy mixed the pile while we ate and played with kids for a little while. When we came back we began loading wheelbarrows and taking them along the winding, downhill path to the pigpen. Finishing that job took the rest of the day, but it was nearly the end of the hard work.

Friday morning one group pulled more nails from the wood we had used on the staircase, while another group sorted the wood with no nails in it, and I helped Jessica carry 100 concrete blocks to finish building the wall that had been left unfinished so we could unload the truck over it. Before lunch, we had an hour or two to play with the school kids in the yard, who were then given bags of food and sent home. Just before we headed back to the house, we moved all the backpacks again, into a van that would be taking them to Haiti.

That evening we took a trip to a different beach, which was much less crowded, for worship songs and some snacks. We stayed up a little extra late that night because our flight was in the afternoon so we had all morning to clean up, pack up, and rest up.

The plane only took us back to Miami, where Dad and another father picked us up so we could avoid an overnight layover. Our van made it back to church at exactly 11:30 PM, but the other vehicle stopped for gas, so they got in at midnight.

Even with all the hard work and not so much time to play with kids (though we probably rested a lot more than we realized), I had a lot of fun trying new things, like eating sugar cane, tying re-bar, riding in the back of a pick-up, and learning new things, like how to mix concrete, play frisbee baseball, and say “beautiful” in Spanish. We learned to live without many of our modern conveniences: no air conditioning, hot water, TV, cell phones, or internet, though we did have mice, ants, and lizards. We saw how well equipped the house we were staying in was by Dominican Standards: bars, glass, and screens in the windows, electricity (most of the time) and fans in the house, running water and purified water to drink. The Haitians living on one side of the village, were significantly less well off than the Dominicans right across the river, and we were told that living in the DR was a big step up than on the other side of the island, even before the earthquake. Still, all the people we came in contact with were proud of what they had, even while desiring better lives for themselves. We would ask little children what they liked to do and they would say, “play, learn, and work”. The trouble down there is a shortage of available occupations for the workforce and obstacles preventing higher education that would open more job opportunities. I am glad I had a chance to experience this adventure and get to know the people I shared it with. My memories of the Dominican Republic will stay with me for a long time.

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Foggy Goggles

by on Aug.10, 2010, under Donald Bingle, Donald Bingle Family

Yep, I’ve got another story coming out.  This one is called “Foggy Goggles” and it appears in Steampunk’d, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg.

Steampunk is a science fiction niche that imagines that the future had occurred sooner, or to put it another way, that the tech of today had all been invented in the 19th Century and was powered by steam.  Wild, Wild West and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are among the movies that are often cited as being steampunky.  Certainly the collectible card game, Doomtown, and it’s rpg game companion, Deadlands, have steampunk elements, with a heavy dose of horror.

Anyhow, here is a picture of the cover:


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