Straight from Puerto Rico, it’s Chiro, Lery, and Demeric!!!
For two whole weeks, they are here, in OUR house, whoo-hoooooo!
They first got the idea for the trip (I think) one night when they were bustling around getting the pinchos ready for the volunteers and I said, “You know, these would be great for the relief sale.” (We’d already told them about the sale and how we make thousands of donuts each year, so they knew what I was talking about.) Without batting an eye, Chiro said, How many do you need? A thousand? and Lery said, We both still have vacation days. What are the dates?
Realizing they were dead serious — they would just drop everything and fly to the states to volunteer for a sale they’d never been to — I backpedaled real quick, explaining that it wasn’t my place to invite them and that I’d need to talk to the board first.
But then one thing led to another and now here they are!
They spent the first few days in Pennsylvania, visiting Kenton and Co and attending meetings at MDS headquarters (their status as long-term, on-the-ground leadership volunteers is now official, whoop!), and their last few days will be dedicated to making hundreds of pinchos for the relief sale, but the two-week space in the middle is dedicated to a whole lotta R & R.
Saturday night they arrived at our place and we’ve been going strong ever since.
Everything is an adventure — feeding calves, lighting fires in the woodstove, green beans eaten hot (not cold out of the can, as is their custom), vegetable stands selling food on a trust basis, attics and basements (their first time in each), bathroom doors without locks (horrors!), buying a 50-pound sack of popcorn direct from the farmer, borrowing/stealing potatoes from neighbors, purchasing produce from an Old Order Mennonite farm, etc.
I love hearing their reflections: It’s so quiet here! What views! The weather changes so fast and so dramatically! There’s so much green!
Lery told me, I knew you lived in the country, but now I’m here and I see how TOTALLY different it is — how in the world did you survive in Ponce for four months?!
Friends from church loaned the a car (thank you, friends!), and I’ve been charged with managing their social calendar. They’ve sat in on the kids’ choir rehearsal, visited the rescue squad with my son, stopped in at the barn where my daughter works, and fallen in love with Gift and Thrift. They’ve been meeting different people for lunch, and going out for coffee with friends, and visiting the university. They come home utterly exhausted from speaking English all day long, and we nod knowingly and then laugh, Now you know how we felt ALL SUMMER LONG.
Last night we hosted a potluck party for all the local people (and their families) who volunteered in Ponce over the summer.
I grilled dozens of hot dogs (and scorched the last grill-load black, oops), and everyone brought food and lawn chairs. We sat outside in the yard, soaking up the last rays of sunshine — after a week of rain, the sun and blue skies were the best part of the whole event — while the kids raced around kicking a soccer ball and jumping on the trampoline and playing with Coco and the calves.
Our older son set off a fireball (of course), and then, once it got dark, we set up an outdoor projector. Nilda and Norleene had sent a video clip for us to share with the group, though I didn’t know about it until their faces appeared on the big screen/bedsheet: What a treat to see the two of them sitting side by side in their new home, sending their love to all of us!
And then we showed the video that Rolando had made for our despedida. The whole situation felt extraordinary, really: All these people had helped at different stages over the course of the summer and now here they were, standing together in the dark in a semicircle in our yard, watching the project in its entirety — from clips of Maria ravaging the island, to shots of Nilda sifting through the rubble, to the empty lot, and then — oh joy! — to the many, many people working together and a new house rising.
P.S. After everyone left, we crashed in the living room to process the evening’s events, and then just when I was thinking it was time to call it a night — everyone was so chatty, shouldn’t they be exhausted? — Rolando walked in the door.
In our house???
We were completely stunned and disoriented. We knew he’d been in meetings in Canada, but he’d never said a word about coming to Virginia! (Chiro and Lery knew he was planning to surprise us — thus the reason that they were, we learned later, trying to keep us from going to bed, ha!) Once things settled down, they set up a bed for Rolando in the guestroom, and John and I fell asleep to the distant hum of their chatter drifting up through the floorboards from below.
And so the party continues!