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2-months in Colombia!

Dsc01776The end of this week marks approximately my 2-month anniversary in Colombia.  The luxury ofDsc01759 spending so much time in a foreign country getting to know these wonderful people and their culture is offset only by the sadness I feel in not being able to do more. It's truly painful when someone from the local neighborhood shows up at the site and asks, "Can I have a house too?"  How do I tell them that we've already chosen the 25 families and unfortunately they weren't among them?  I just keep reminding myself that together we *are* improving the lives of a few hundred people, and below I'll walk you through the progress we've made thus far in a sort of virtual tour...

Dsc01878_1The bathroom: This is the room I'm most proud of, for reasons you'd Dsc01754have to be here to appreciate.  In the states we hardly even notice our bathrooms, but here in barrio Alto Rosario, where raw sewage flows freely in the streets, a bathroom with flushing toilets to central sewer lines is simply a triumph of progress over disease.  And this shower will be the highlight of some lucky family's day when they soak under a cold stream of clean water.  The guys at the site should be so lucky when it comes to me and my lack of showering...

Dsc01752The living room:  Here's a picture of Isabel, future homeowner and mother of two little boys, in her living room watching the roof be completed.  Behind her is an enclosed patio, which will have a window through to the kitchen.  Often dinner is served outside to enjoy the (hopefully) cool evening breeze.  Also off the living room, next to the front door, is a terrace with room for chairs and a table from where they can look down the hill to the shantytown where they used to live.

Dsc01745The kitchen: Many of you will (rightfully) ask how I could possibly know anything about kitchens since IDsc01768 haven't cooked since sometime during the Reagan administration.  Thankfully I can tell you that much thought was put into designing the kitchens by our architects who have put full electric appliances, sinks, and running water into a room with direct backyard access to an additional laundry area and a sink.  All the sinks and toilets in the house will be connected to the central sewer line which we were very excited to connect to earlier this week.

Dsc01765The master bedroom:  On these houses this bedroom will overlook the shantytown of barrio Alto Rosario where many of these new homeowners used to live, which is quite fitting if you ask me...  In this picture Umberto, one of the architects, is measuring the window overlooking the barrio.  For smaller families (less than 5 people) the parents will get the bedroom to themselves.  For larger families of 5-8 people, some of the kids will sleep in the bedroom with their parents (not to mention in the living room).  While it might sound cramped to me and you it's a big improvement from their current situation - everyone sleeping on the dirt floor of one tiny room.

Dsc01824_1Dsc01813Click here to see more pics of the houses and all the progress we made this past week.  It was a particularly hot, sweaty, messy week of construction yet spirits on the site were amazingly high.  We've now laid the concrete foundations for all 24 houses, connected them all to central sewer lines, and have almost fully completed the exteriors of the first 10.  By this time next week we will have made great progress on all 24 and will be adding roofs to protect the kitchen appliances from the rain.

Other exciting news:  I've been invited to San Francisco (and possibly NYC) to do some media interviews, both television and print, in order to get more publicity for the project.  I'm not sure exactly when I'll hop back up to the states but don't be surprised if you bump into me walking around downtown San Francisco in the coming weeks.  I'll be the guy with the pint of Ben & Jerry's and a 64-ounce big gulp full of ICE!



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