Philip Gerard, my first mentor in the Goucher MFA program, at On the Same Page Literary Festival this September. Hail to all the Gophers out there!





This, and the photos below, are in Jerusalem on our trip there in March. It was so incredibly good we're going back later this summer and working on an archaeological dig with UNC Charlotte with the same folks from the March trip.



















COMING SPRING 2015 -- A new anthology from McFarland Publishers, edited by Chris Arvidson, Scot Pope and Julie Townsend -- stories, essays and poems about the New River.

I'm Back!

February 21, 2013

Tags: Habitat for Humanity, Charlotte, El Salvador, building, mason, trowel, bucket, Miggy

Wonderful trip to El Salvador this year. We were in at the beginning of a project to build homes for 400 families who have been living in "temporary" shacks since an earthquake 12 years ago. That is not a typo -- 12 years of promises these people have endured. Their living conditions are unbelievably appalling, really, completely indescribable. So, it felt great to be a small part of something so incredibly useful and important.

I started calling our group a "cult" this trip -- many of us are repeat offenders, and we only see each other on this February work project in El Salvador. We are experienced at what we're about when we are there and we really get some serious building done. Many of us also use the time to "reconstitute" as I described in my recent post, and in this way it is really a kind of honor to all be together for these 10 days each year.

The people of El Salvador are really amazing. They are kind, happy, and hopeful -- and all of this in the face of some really crap circumstances. To say that they, and in particular the staff of Habitat El Salvador, are an inspiration is a pale description of the deep impression they make.

And, here's a small world story about this trip. Kathy is a dedicated Habitat El Salvador cult member who has been on this trip many times. She is also a fellow adventure traveler with Wilderness Travel, the company Henry and I went with snowshoeing in the Alps this past March. Kathy and her husband did the Tour de Mont Blanc this summer with Wilderness Travel. On that trip she met Gail and told her about the El Salvador Habitat cult. So, this trip Gail comes from San Francisco to join us, and brings her sister-in-law, Jane, from New York, too. They were a wonderful part of the crew.

Also on this trip was a woman who had been a nurse at the U.S. Embassy at the height of El Salvador's civil war (late 80s). Her husband was working on the new U.S. Embassy being built at the time; they lived in a hotel with two small children. Needless to say their stay was not long... but, how's that for karma?

We also had family members along this time, too. Mike brought his daughter Brittany this time around. Next year, I hope Henry will be with me, too.

Click on the photo essay tab above and check out some of the photos I took this year. And, if you're so inclined, drop me an email and I'll let you know how you can help -- or even come along on our trip next time.

It's All Perspective

May 14, 2012

Tags: El Salvador, Habitat for Humanity, Charlotte

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the day with an amazing young woman. Patty works for Habitat for Humanity in El Salvador. Back in 2007, on my first building trip there with Habitat Charlotte, Patty had just started working for the organization. She was our "minder" our "handler" for the week.

Even though she'd worked there a only handful of weeks, she did an incredible job with our group of gringos, taking perfect care of all the details, devoting reassuring attention to us, ensuring we had a productive and rewarding time in her country and that in addition to building, we got a chance to learn a little bit about the culture and the wonderful people. She briefed us on appropriate toilet etiquette, made sure we were safely ensconced in our hotel, and fed sufficiently each day. Everyone who has been to El Salvador for a work project, from all over the world, knows some of Patty's rules: 1. Walk around only in groups -- two is not a group! 2. Don't pet the dogs. 3. Don't eat food from street vendors. 4. Don't drink the water from the faucet, etc.

I also met Kendal Stewart that week, another new employee at Habitat El Salvador. Kendal is a North Carolina native and a Davidson College grad who stayed in the country after an internship there. Both Patty and Kendal are taking on ever more professional duties at Habitat El Salvador since back in 2007; it's no surprise. Habitat is lucky to have two such outstanding and inspiring people working with them.

This week, the dynamic duo are visiting North Carolina. It's Patty's first trip here. Having been in town a couple of whirlwind days, we had the chance to hang out, eat a long lunch, and do a little shopping. It was a small breather for Patty, just about the only one she's likely to get on this trip, which is jam-packed with meetings and tours all across the state.

Do you know what this incredible woman said to me? She said that after seeing how beautiful this place is she was more impressed than ever with us -- that we would come to El Salvador and give up all we have here for 10 days to work on houses there.

Whhaaat? I about drove off the road.

It made me think of what I told Henry when I got back from that first trip in 2007. I told him how incredibly nice the people were... how we here in the United States have everything, and we whine about it. Why are they so nice? -- I'm not sure I'd like me if I were them.

Right. And Patty lays on me how impressed she is with US. Makes you think, don't it?

El Salvador!

February 22, 2012

Tags: El Salvador, Habitat for Humanity, Charlotte

Here's the crew with whom I dug a septic tank all last week.
Another great trip to El Salvador with my Habitat Charlotte buds. Once again I am amazed at the resilience of the Salvadoran people, their generosity of spirit, and good and open hearts. In short, we here in the U.S. have everything and they, by our standards, have little. It's 20 years since the end of a brutal civil war and memories of their personal losses are still fresh and yet they are a positive and hopeful people. It is a pleasure and gift to work together with them for a few short days, helping to make the world a better place if only for a small handful of folks. Showing up there, it feels to me, does matter. And that is reason enough to go. (Click on the Photo Essay tab above for more pictures.)

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