Capt. Don's Retirement

Capt. Don's Retirement

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Annabelle and Grandpa Charley in Costa Rica

I have three granddaughters and have told them that if they take classes in Spanish I will take them to a Spanish speaking country.

First up was Annabelle Rose Sylvanowicz, 14 years old and in the 8th grade. She is the oldest daughter of my daughter, Kerry, and lives in northern Massachusetts.

She first flew to Colorado to spend a couple of days here with family and especially her cousin Mackenzie.

Activities include a visit to the Butterfly Farm and indoor rock climbing.

Annabelle and I then flew down to Costa Rica.

First up was a trip to Monteverde and a soaring over the rainforest on a zip line.

Then tours on other days to a coffee/sugar/cacao plantation and both day and nocturnal explorations on foot of the rainforest we had earlier sailed above. 

We then headed down to the Pacific Coast for warm weather, a crocodile swamp boat tour, beach time and an introduction to the surfing center of Jaco.

Then we traveled back to the central mountains to the town of San Ramon. We visited the market and another forest walk. We then drove to see the dormant volcano, Arenal, and the nearby lake of the same name, which is the largest in Costa Rica.

As all good things have to end, we then were on our way home.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Clean Water for the Community of El Siuce in Jalapa, Nicaragua

On December 15, 2017 for the third time I travelled to Nicaragua to promote a clean water project. Once again, I was joined by my friends from Boulder Valley Rotary, John and Maud Kenyon. John is at the beginning stages of writing a Rotary Global Grant for the small village of El Siuce, located on a rutted, steep, dirt road outside the mountainous northern city of Jalapa, fast against the Honduran border.

We previously have been involved with successfully rebuilding gravity-fed potable water systems in the near-by communities of Pasmata and El Trapiche. Again, we are partnering with Boulder Friendship City Projects (FCP) and their local representatives Karla Pozo and Greg Bowles.

I arrived the evening of the Friday the 15th at the Managua airport and was met there by Greg, a U.S. citizen married to a Nicaraguan. They live about an hour south of the capital city near the small town of Diriomo. He invited me to spend the first night at his place. There we turned off the porch and yard lights to appreciate the stars, something not possible with all the ambient light at home.


Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17- As we always try to mix fun with work on these trips,
I spent the next two days in the old colonial city of Managua. I followed a walking tour suggested in the Lonely Planet Travel Guide that included centuries-old architecture, museums, the central plaza and a boat tour of the small islands in Lake Nicaragua. I stayed at the wondrously named Mansion de Chocolate. 

John and Maud, who arrived in-country on the 16th, joined me for the second 


Monday-December 18- Greg, John, Maud and I traveled by taxi to Ciudad Sandino, just north of Managua, to meet with Mike Woodard, an American member of the local Rotary Club.

Afterward we ventured a short distance to the closeby clay water filter factory, where we met up with a delegation down from El Siuce in their chartered bus that included Karla Pozo, the Jalapa based FCP representative.
After a tour of the facility and a training session in the use and maintenance of the filters, we loaded the 127 clay filters, along with their plastic containers, onto the bus for a long slog north to Jalapa.

The trip was highlighted by an hour stop by police who had a difficult time figuring out what we were all about.

El Siuce presently has a barely functioning, cobbled together, dam and pipe (in some cases garden hoses) water system. Tests on the water show high concentrations of agriculture waste, e-coli and other impurities. 

These filters are a stop gap measure. If properly maintained, they can provide from one to three liters of 99.8% pure water an hour for up to 5 years. Boulder Valley Rotary and FCP are in the beginning stages of writing grants to cover the expected cost of up to $80,000 for and entirely new system. The grant process takes time however, and the filters are a way to provide drinkable water to the residents until we can get this done.

Tuesday-December 19- We woke up in our home-away-from-home in Jalapa, the Pantano hotel.

We then all headed out through rain to the site of El Siuce to distribute the filters to community members. Boulder Valley Rotary and FCP had each contributed $2000 dollars for the purchase of the units at $23 each. Recipients were required to cover the cost of transportation from Ciudad Santino, which amounted to $450, so they to had “skin in the game”.

Our hoped for festive distribution of the filters was muted by the wet weather, as we all huddled on the porch of someone’s home for an impromptu training session conducted by Karla. 

The handing out of the filters was a laborious process that involved making sure those who received one had originally ordered and paid their portion of the transportation cost. 

Nevertheless, the atmosphere was that of appreciativeness, as the community has come to recognize that many of the health problems they are suffering from are probably caused by the contaminated water. As not everyone chose to sign up for the original order, Karla took a list of names for a future order that will total about 30 more units.

The village provided all we visitors with a hearty chicken soup meal.

Wednesday-December 20- We drove from Jalapa to visit a previously unknown, nearby clay filter factory, that will be much closer to our Jalapa projects than the one in Ciudad Sandino. We will thus be able to reduce transportation costs on future orders.

We then spent most of the day hiking, wading, floating and swimming the Coco river in Somoto

That evening with participated in a meeting with the Somoto Rotary club and secured their commitment to serve as the Host Country Club for the new Rotary grant for El Siuce.

Thursday-December 21- Our trip from Somoto back to Managua was highlighted by a side trip up to GalerĂ­a del Arte de Jalacate. This arduous hike up Jalacate mountain brought us to the site of the interesting rock carvings done by Antonio Guitierrez, a semi-hermit octogenarian, who has spent his life in his work.

This evening we met with Rob Bell of El Porvenir, who agreed to help us in several ways with our El Siuce project.

Friday-December 22- Travel back home to begin Christmas season.

All in all, a good trip for moving the El Siuce work ahead and for finding fun and adventure.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Best Birthday Party

On January 28, 2017 Cindy Schlager celebrated her "I'm Still Here" 67th birthday party.

What made the party special is that she IS still here and the way she celebrated it.

Cindy has been battling cancer now for almost two years. She has gone through radiation and chemotherapy with little positive affect. In the summer of 2016 she reached a low point of needing a cane and wheel chair to get around. That is also when she started a two year clinical trial for a test drug called Keytruda at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The results so far for this trial have been miraculous. So Cindy invited 150 of her friends to a big party to show them how much better she is feeling. Click below to see for your self-

For sure check out "Chicken Lips Parts 1 & 2" and "Cindy, Alex, Michael and Neyla Driscoll tap dance".

Cindy and Alex Ryer sing "I'm Still Here"

Michael Moore Yodels

Chicken Lips Part 1

Chicken Lips  Part 2

Cindy, Alex, Michael Gold and Neyla Driscoll tap dance

Bob Wells Toast

Linda Trenbeath Toast

Claudia Barkmeier Toast  Part 1

C Barkmeier Toast Part 2

Crowd and Cake Cutting

Group Dance

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Nicaragua- Trip and Celebration for Completion of El Trapiche Water System

On Thursday, December 1, 2016 I took off from Boulder with two friends from Rotary Club of Boulder Valley, John and Maud Kenyon, for a 10 day trip to Nicaragua. This was our second time there and the principle reason for the travel was to help the village of El Trapiche, near Jalapa in the north of the country, celebrated the completion of the rebuilding of their water system. Our Rotary
Club had provided funding and successfully applied for a Rotary International Global Grant to partially cover the costs of the project. After that we planned to see other parts of the country that we had missed on our previous trip. John, our photographer, would chronical our adventure.

We had originally visited the area in the spring of 2014 to participate in an inauguration ceremony to commemorate the finish of another water project in the small, nearby pueblo of Pasmata. As was done later in El Trapiche, BV Rotary had partnered with Boulder Friendship City Projects (FCP) and the area residents to finance and build the system. While there at that time, the local FCP
representative, Karla Pozo, introduced us to the impassioned Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) for El Trapiche. They explained to us that their antiquated, gravity-fed water system no longer worked well. It also was not designed to adequately supply the needs of a population that had increased many times  over to the then present 2000 inhabitants. FCP was already committed to the project and we agreed to see if we could find Rotary financing to cover the first two phases of the work; rebuilding the dam and replacing the downhill mainline pipe and pressure breaking boxes. FCP would try to fund phases 3 and 4, building a new collection tank at the base of the hill and establishing a network of piping from the tank to the individual homes. 8 Rotary clubs, District 5450 and Rotary International would end up donating $38,925 to this project.

Travelling with us was local resident Greg Bowles, an American who is married to a Nicaraguan and is also on the FCP Board. Greg has been involved in projects in the Jalapa Valley for at least 10 years and, in addition to being a very good traveling companion, is knowledgeable about all things Nicaraguan. On this trip we decided to forego riding on the cramped local buses and had Greg arrange for a car and driver.

We first stopped off in the town of Ocotal to lunch with the members of the Rotary Club there. This small club had acted as the required "Host Club" for the El Trapiche Rotary Grant. The meal was hosted at the Hotel Frontera, owned by member Maximo Ramos, and spirits were high due the end of a long, and sometimes difficult, grant process. They shared with us the very impressive marble plaque they had ordered to commemorate the endeavour.

That evening we checked into our old friend, the El Pantano Hotel in Jalapa. The next day, Saturday, December 3rd, we met up with the valuable Karla Pozo to visit a couple of potential future projects in the Jalapa area. Both Siuce and Santa Cruz are, like El Trapiche, small, but growing hamlets, spread across the side of a mountain. Unlike El Trapiche however, their sources of water are not secure. Siuce's present system is makeshift using hoses and is contaminated with the residue from the cultivation and processing of coffee. Santa Cruz' challenge is that their water supply volume is not adequate, especially the past few years of drought. Here for video.

Between ourselves we decided that we would need an engineering study of the two settlements' potential for reasonable solutions to their water problems before there would be any consideration about moving forward in any search for funding . We'll see if this gets done. This evening we arrived late at the home of Orlando Zeledon, who we first meet earlier in the year when he visited Boulder Valley Rotary. He and Marlon Matute have an interest in starting a Rotary Club in Jalapa, which would greatly assist us in writing future grants in the valley. They appear enthusiastic.

Next day, Sunday, we headed up in 4-wheelers and later on foot to inspect
the high-up source of water for the village of El Trapiche. With us was all of the Ocotal Rotary Club, the El Trapiche Water Committee and FCP representatives Karla and Greg.
The long, steep, narrow and slippery foot trail gave us great appreciation for
how difficult it was for the people of El Trapiche to just reach and carry equipment and materiel (think bags of cement, heavy steel pipes) to the dam construction site. And, that was before the back-breaking labor of digging the repository pool, removing boulders and where possible, burying the main pipeline.

Back down the mountain we visited the new holding tank and viewed the temporary holder for the plaque. Later all had lunch at the home of one of the CAPS members.

The afternoon was dedicated to the inauguration ceremony itself at the local primary school. Attendance was light, as no meal was offered because the $450 required was beyond the budget. Speeches were made, hands were shook, a raffle of 5 each picks and shovels was held and certificates were handed out. All and all, a good end to what sometimes seemed like an endless project. Here for video.

This concluded the "business" part of the trip. We now headed off to visit the old colonial towns of Leon and Granada, long the political polar opposites in Nicaragua's many centuries of civil wars.

"Liberal" Leon, founded in 1524, as was Granada, is located north of the capital city of Managua. Streets are narrow and crowded. We spent Monday night there, as I was ill for part of the time, I only got a chance to walk around the central area on Tuesday morning, including a visit to their art museum and impressive cathedral.

Tuesday night we stayed at Greg and his wife's spread south of "conservative" Granada. They recently moved in and Greg has what appears to be an endless list of projects he hopes to accomplish there. On the way to Greg's we did look down at Masaya Volcano to see molten lava.

Granada sits on the bank of massive Lake Nicaragua, with broader streets than Leon and a more prominent foreign presence. Only a morning there, but I was impressed with their museum, especially the display of the newest thing, Nicaraguan "primitivista paintings."

Wednesday afternoon we flew across the country to Nicaragua's Corn Island off the east coast in the Caribbean. This rustic jewel was perfect for us. No fancy resorts, just small outfits with cabanas. The dark skinned population speaks good English (the island was colonized by English pirates and escaped slaves from the British Caribbean Islands) and the Spanish that is taught in schools.

Two days there, with a lot of rain that took little away from our enjoyment of the experience, and back to cold, late autumn weather in Boulder, Colorado.