Endured

It's finally happening. Bright and early tomorrow morning, we'll board a plane bound for our floating home in Mazatlan. We are beyond excited.

For the last 3 weeks, we've endured winter in Seattle. If you are questioning my choice of words, I will assure you that endured is the correct way to put it. I've grown up in Seattle and spent the vast majority of my life in the region so I knew what to expect when we came back here. But I have to say, this boy has gone soft. We've been chasing an endless summer for the past 9 months as we've made our way down the coast of the US and finally into the tropics. The tropics and snowfall are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. It hasn't been an easy 3 weeks. I am happy to say, we survived and we have endured and by the end of the day tomorrow, we'll be back to sweating.

We've gotten a lot accomplished in the 3 weeks we've been here. First and foremost, we've taken care of needed family issues due to my uncles passing and we've cleaned out and fixed up my uncle's house and got it on the market to sell. While we were here, we also did our best to see family and friends, and what do you know, there wasn't enough time for everyone. We did our best. Sorry to those of you we missed. For those of you we missed, just know that 3 days were spent solely shoveling 3 feet of snow off of my uncle's roof, deck, and walkways so needed work could happen. It was a trade-off – spending time with you or shoveling snow...the snow won.

The other big thing that has happened which we are extremely excited about is something I touched on during my last post. Brenda had been talking with the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation while I was knee deep in snow about getting us set up with our own stockpile of glasses to deliver to needy people as we are making our way around the world. Without any arm twisting, hounding, or even begging, they not only agreed to supply us with thousands of glasses, they pulled together the supply almost instantly so we could take them with us as we fly back home to Mexico.

The only hitch for us was that we needed to get to Oregon to pick them up. Since we don't own a car anymore, we borrowed my cousin's (thanks Matt), we braved not only Seattle's traffic but Portland's as well, and spent the day driving. I have to be honest here, one of my favorite things about sailing the high seas is that we don't have to deal with a car or traffic. I despise driving anymore. But, it's a worthy cause and we really wanted to pick them up, so what are you gonna do?

When we made it to the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation's headquarters, we were not only greeted by smiles and friendly people, we also got the grand tour of the facilities, heard stories of the good work that is being done, and made friends that will last a lifetime. It was an inspiring place that really made us proud to be part of the team, even if only a small part.

Being involved in this endeavor for me isn't entirely altruistic. Sure, I am thrilled to just do something nice for another human being. Helping someone out in a way that will instantly change their life for the better is of course a good thing. Especially these days, when there doesn't seem to be anything but bad news out there. With anger, frustration, devisiveness, and deceit all over the news, doing a small thing to attempt to better the world can't hurt. But that's not what it is entirely about.

Our Australian friends on S/V Monkey Fist are the ones who got us involved in this. We have given exams and glasses out in a handful of villages with them holding our hands along the way. The first thing they told us before we even set foot in one of these dusty and remote villages is, “we generally get more out of this than the person with new glasses.” I thought I understood what they meant with that statement, but until I actually sat face to face with a complete stranger, struggled through a language barrier, and worked through finding the right pair of glasses for their needs, I didn't fully understand what they were talking about. And no, I'm not just talking about the warm fuzzies you get just by doing something good for someone else. Because yes, the warm fuzzies are there. Seeing someone's face light up because they can see clearly for the first time in their lives and the joy that brings with it, well, if you don't get the warm fuzzies, something is probably wrong with you.

What I'm talking about, and I think what they were talking about is this. We are traveling the world by sailboat for some vague reasons, such as freedom and adventure, but we are also exploring for specific reasons as well. We aren't overly interested in hanging out by a pool in a 5 star resort (although on occasion we like that too...who doesn't?). We want to be pushed out of our comfort zone. We love getting down and dirty while putting miles on our feet wandering aimlessly, we love to meet new people, taste new foods, experience different cultures, and see what real life is like for people in these new places we are visiting. We are traveling.

Traveling and vacationing are 2 very distinct and different things. Vacationing is a short amount of time generally spent relaxing and decompressing until you go back to the grind. Being a traveler is a different mindset and a different goal. It's a lifestyle that takes years to perfect. At almost 3 years into our adventure, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that we have learned a ton about ourselves, the world in which we live in, and the people which surround us. It's an evolving and growing process that will look different as we get to more places and experience more things.

Being involved in this eyeglass endeavor, for me, checks off all the boxes that I am looking for while traveling. It get's me out of my comfort zone by forcing me to go up to a random stranger, struggling through a language barrier, and asking if they or anyone else in their tiny village may have trouble seeing and may need glasses (my Spanish language skills have improved immensely by this task alone), it gets me into the community and lets me see what real life is like for the people who live there, and most importantly, it forms an instant relationship with a random stranger that is built from something good. And yes, all of that gives me warm fuzzies.

In a recent stop at a small remote village, we set up a “clinic” on the steps of the only tiny store in town (“store” is a relative term which included a few basic necessities that were sold out of someone's home).  We let everyone know that free eye exams and glasses would be available the following morning to anyone who needed them. With the help of our good friends on S/V Monkey Fist and S/V Full Monty, we spent the entire day working our way through just about everyone who lived there. One family in particular had needed glasses for multiple family members, and after we had given them their needed glasses, they figured out the process and not only helped organize the lines of people but worked as translators to make sure everyone who had a need was helped.

After we finished up for the day, the matriarch of this family was so moved, not only by the fact that her family was given glasses with no costs or expectations of anything in return from us, but the entire village was taken care of, that she made it extremely clear that we were having dinner with her in her home with her family that night. And no was not an option.

This village has no power (other than a few solar panels on a few random homes) and no running water. Poverty is real and pervasive and not something that the average person from the United States can really understand without seeing it firsthand. If you are lucky enough to have employment, average salaries are around here are between $150 and $200 per month (that is not a typo) and need to stretch to cover an entire family.

The fact that she wouldn't take no for an answer, she brought us lowly cruisers into her home, and she fed us had me moved. We spent the evening struggling through a language barrier, learning about each other, and experiencing what it means to be a human being. It was a magical evening that sums up why we are doing this.

At the end of it all, she took a picture of us and said that she knows someone with a printer who can print out the picture for her. Then, she would put the picture up in the center of town so everyone would know we are her family, so if we ever come back to this tiny village, everyone would know that we are welcome. Pretty cool.

So, we've brought glasses that total in the thousands to my Mom's house where we've spent a couple of days sorting them out by prescription strength, so we can efficiently give them out in a tiny village without having to sort through thousands on the fly, and now we are now trying to figure out how to get thousands of pairs of glasses back to Mexico and stored on the boat so we can carry on with our adventure. Good luck to us.

If you have glasses that you are not using anymore, please donate them, and if you have a few bucks you can spare for a good cause, well, that wouldn't hurt either. Find details on how you can help at the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation's website below:



Our new friend Tracy giving us the grand tour of the Lions Hearing and Sight Foundation's facilities.

Time to start sorting.  Box #1 here we come.

Even my Mom got in on the sorting action.  Thanks Mom!

If you haven't seen our newest video yet, you are in luck because here it is!  Woo Hoo!!!  If the link below doesn't work on your device, copy and paste this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNSF3ouAojo

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