Tuesday, June 30, 2009

OM - Day 30


Today has been a great day for working. Yesterday, Edgardo and I worked on the laptops that I had been working on WAAAY back in Atlanta. I gave a 1.5 hour introduction to Ubuntu Linux, so hopefully he will be able to teach the kids at El Refugio some basic keyboarding and computer skills. We also discovered yesterday that he has two really old computers that are completely shot, but it's fun raiding computers for all their parts! (You nerdy people should at least be chuckling by now. If not, go back and read the previous sentence.)

But back to today. Today we got Windows installed on a nice HP Proliant server with a beautiful BIOS. I had to deconfigure a RAID 1 array to get Windows to detect the disks, so that was fun. Bad news is that HP doesn't think anyone will ever install Windows XP on their servers, so they don't provide XP drivers. We may be able to scrounge up parts from other computers though.

We also got another computer legal and tore apart Edgardo's laptop, attempting to disable the speakers (somehow they ended up making an AWFUL whiny noise whenever the computer was on, so we just unplugged it). Finally, we had an adventure with another desktop. It kept randomly turning off, and Edgardo wisely suggested an overheating problem. Yup, turns out the power supply fan is cooked! It's covered in some kind of black soot/grease and barely turns. If he can buy a replacement fan, I might be able to juryrig it to the power supply by running the fan cable outside into the case.


So today is the last day of June, and I am slightly more than halfway done with my trip. My future travel arrangements include:

- Travel by bus to Uruguay Friday, July 3 (and 4th)
- Travel by bus to Brazil approximately July 9
- Travel by plane to Atlanta Wednesday, July 15 (and 16th)
- Travel by plane to Kalamazoo Wednesday, July 22

All this traveling has left me in a wonderful quirky spot. It turns out that my trip will cost about $700 more than what I have raised at the moment, meaning I need your help. If you have some spare change in a penny jar, you might consider supporting a cause such as this one. If you do, let me know and I'll give you a great big hug when I next see you. (Which doesn't mean much because I'll give you a great big hug anyways...) I may even be able to give you a personalized LOLcat to sweeten the deal.

Ahem. Anyways, OM makes it really easy to give online if you so desire. The steps are as follows:
  1. Go to https://usa.om.org/GiveOnline/ in your favorite web browser
  2. Click the button next to "Give to support OM's ministry through a person" and click "Next"
  3. Enter your information in the appropriate boxes. Enter my name as "Jesse Denardo" and missionary code as 2268760.

That's it! Thank you! I will try to keep you updated with my progress as it happens. Thanks so far to everyone who is taking the time to read my blog regularly. It's good to know that I have the support of a bunch of family and friends back home.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chile Pictures

Facebook pictures are up.

Also, I took a whole bunch of beautiful shots of the mountains and the city and stitched them together to form big panoramas. You can find them here: http://cse.taylor.edu/~jdenardo/panoramas

Sunday, June 28, 2009

OM - Day 28, Part 2

I have made it safely to Argentina. The line for customs was long but fortunately they didn't go through my bags (perhaps partly on account of my very apparent lack of Spanish). I thought Argentina would be a bit colder than Chile, but it was actually warmer when I arrived.

Anyways, Chile was pretty cool. It was quite a different experience because 1. Rich was there and 2. we stayed with an American OM couple, Hal and Sandy. They have been living in Chile for 6 years and know their way around really well. So we got to be quite the tourists, especially on Saturday.

But first, work. Rich and I spent the majority of Thursday and Friday working in the OM office trying to get things working. Thursday was frustrating because the internet kept going in and out and it was hard to pin down the problem. We think it was caused by the faulty router due to the fact that it was behaving strangely even when it shouldn't. So we bought a new router, and eventually the internet stabilized. We aren't sure if it was the router, or the ISP fixing something, or the sheer grace of God. Either way, it worked pretty much all day Friday.

I was told that >80% of Chilean software is pirated. Being a Christian organization, one of my tasks was to "legalize" the office. So I changed the product keys for Windows XP and Office 2003 to legal ones, and I installed Windows on another laptop and did my best to make some of the computers faster. Hal has done a good job with keeping them up to date, so there wasn't much there to do. I was going to put more RAM in one of the computers and discovered that the motherboard only takes 168 pin SDRAM. (For you non-techies, that's OLD!) So much for that. I only brought DDR and DDR2 RAM with me, so I couldn't help that computer. I did put another 512 MB in Mario's computer, so hopefully that helps. Our other task for Chile was to convert their email accounts to Exchange, but the email accounts had not been set up yet, so we couldn't finish that.

Now for the touristy part. On Friday after lunch, Hal, Rich and I walked around a tourist market and bought a couple souvenirs with our very own Chilean pesos. Quite popular in Chile are items made from lapis lazuli, a beautiful blue stone found primarily in Chile and Afghanistan. Depending on the brilliance and craftsmanship, the prices on lapis lazuli figures can vary greatly.

On Saturday, the four of us drove up to the top of a large hill overlooking the Santiago valley, and the view was GORGEOUS! Perhaps the most beautiful view I have seen in my life. They said that usually the smog is thick and makes it hard to see clearly, but that day it was the clearest they've ever seen it. I got my camera out and started snapping pictures like crazy. My goal was to stitch them together into a wide, detailed panorama. When I get them finished, I will post links to them here so you can download them.

The point of this hill is that there is a very large statue of the virgin Mary at the top, where people go to worship or offer praises or whatever else they do with Mary. My view of Catholicism changed drastically after this experience, because of the flagrant idolatry all over the place. If I have any Catholic friends, I'm sorry, but that's too much for me to swallow. Give me the classic God of the Bible any day.

Other random facts of some interest:
  • It is safe to drink the tap water in Santiago.

  • It's rude to eat with your hands below the table. Maybe you're hiding a knife, a sword, or a gun down there?

  • Don't flush the toilet paper down the drain; the plumbing can't handle it well. Instead, dispose of it in the waste basket provided next to the toilet.

  • In Chile, the price is the price. There's no negotiating. But if the seller is nice, you may get a slight discount. :)

  • Chileans don't heat their homes. Or at least, not much. My first night there was extremely cold, and windows were open to the outside all day and night. (Fortunately Hal and Sandy keep a "gringo" home, so they kept it around 70 for us.)

  • Chilean food is typically very bland. You are responsible for your own spices.

  • A huge number of Chileans smoke.

  • Public transportation is cheap. You buy a "Bip" card and put money on it, which grants you access to the public buses and metro (subway). Once you use it, you have an hour to use it as many times as you want on the same charge. So you can catch the bus to the metro and take the metro to your destination and you only get charged once. Pretty nice.

  • (Particularly young) Chilean couples like to make out anywhere and everywhere. I guess they don't have much need for privacy.

OM - Day 28

It's been a while for updates, I know. I have church this morning and I fly out to Cordoba, Argentina later today. Hopefully either today or tomorrow I will have updates from everything I did in Chile, plus tons of pictures that I took. (182 this time! But most of them are scenic shots for panoramas...you'll get to see those too.) My flight leaves at 2:20pm in Santiago and I arrive at 4:50pm in Cordoba.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OM - Day 23

Today is the last day in Ecuador. I fly out to Santiago, Chile via Lima, Peru tonight at 6:35.

My experience here in Ecuador has been quite different. Definitely more American than Mexico, but much more tighter security. Since I stayed in an apartment instead of with a family, I didn't get as involved in the Ecuadorian culture. I did have a couple classic meals, though, so at least I got a taste of the food. (Yesterday for lunch I had McDonald's...I had a McFlurry and it was GOOD! I plan on eating lots of ice cream when I get home.)

In my time here I built two computers for the Ecuador office. They are dual-core Pentiums with 1GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard drive. Yesterday was extremely long. In addition to building the second computer, I stayed until 9 or 10 waiting for their IT guy to come and show me what's wrong with backups. Apparently, he tried making backups of their server onto DVDs, but the DVDs would not write...only CDs. A quick glance at the front of the case told me the problem: the DVD drive is a DVD-ROM (i.e., it can't write DVDs). Backups would take about 10 DVDs or 50 CDs, so I said, it would be better just to back everything up onto another hard drive. So we waited 1-2 hours (I lost track of time) for 65GB of information to copy over USB. I was about ready to leave it for the night when I noticed that it was almost finished, so I stayed a couple more minutes. I guess this is their first backup in years (maybe forever?). Perhaps I'll install an extra hard drive and back up everything once more just to be safe. They can then have two copies of their data from the time the strange American was there.

Anyways, my flight isn't all day this time (thankfully!) but I arrive in Chile after 2:00am. That's...not pleasant. But then again, it could be nicer since the airport won't be as crowded. Pray for safe travels and easy customs! Time to continue my adventures in the southern hemisphere. (Oh, plus, it's going to be colder in Chile! weather.com says 50-60 degree weather! Yay winter!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

OM - Day 19

I made it to Ecuador two days ago, and walked off the plane with some really good stories! My first flight was from Mexico City to Houston, Texas. Apparently, you have to go through U.S. Customs even if you're on a connecting flight and your baggage is automatically transferred. Nevertheless, I made it through, if only to stay in America for a few minutes. I had good phone reception so I used what time I had to make a couple calls before I left again.

On the plane to Panama City, I sat next to a guy named Michael, who is traveling to Panama to stay with his mother for a month before he starts college. He was nice and took lots of pictures from the plane, which I hope to get from him. A girl sat in front of us who went on to Santiago, Chile to study abroad (don't know her name). I told her I'd be in Santiago in a week, but I'm sure we won't cross paths again.

The Panama City airport is nice because you don't have to worry about customs or immigration if you're not staying in the country. On the plane from Panama City to Guayaquil, Ecuador, I was sick of flying (almost literally sick). I didn't have a good seat, and it was getting late. I just wanted to lay down and sleep for days. I sat down next to an elderly lady who only spoke Spanish. Soon after, a guy from Ecuador sat on the other side of me; he spoke English very well. We started a conversation, and he asked me what I was doing in Ecuador, etc. It didn't take long before I mentioned the word "gospel" and he said, "Oh, do I need the Gospel! What do you know about it?" This was perhaps the most exciting moment of the trip so far. This man (whose name I later found out was Luis) had grown up Catholic but separated from the church because of all the hypocrisy he saw. He recognized that his life was in a bad spot, and I had the chance to share the gospel with him! He asked some really good intellectual questions. I was quite impressed. I didn't have all the words to say, and what words I did say definitely came from God. God also provided the witness of the lady on the other side of me. As we were talking, she said something to Luis, and he told me that she was a Christian. Later on, after we were done talking, she and Luis had a deep discussion about Christianity in Spanish. I don't know what was said, but I trust that God used her to reaffirm the truth.

As far as I know, Luis wasn't a believer when we parted ways in the airport. But hopefully a seed of truth was planted in his heart, and God will use that encounter and many others to draw this random Ecuadorian man to Himself. If you would pray for Luis and that God would send the Holy Spirit to teach him truth and to convict his heart, I would appreciate that. I doubt I'll ever see him again on this earth, but I'm hoping and praying that I'll see him in eternity.

And that was the plane ride.

I got to Ecuador and felt like sickness was in the air because of all the people wearing masks. At any rate, I got dropped off at an apartment, where another OMer is staying. Darren is a guy from South Africa (an MK I believe), and he's been working with OM Ecuador for a while. He's out pondering life right now.

Guayaquil is busy and loud. On first impression (which are never really that good), it seems to be more American than Mexico City, but poorer. I've heard that it's not even safe to walk two blocks from the office to the apartment with a laptop or other valuable items. Everything is locked up really well. You need three separate keys just to get to the apartment I'm staying at (which I don't have, so I rely on others to get me places). Like in all Latin America, the tap water isn't safe to drink, so we have large jugs of purified water. I have internet at the office and at the apartment, but it's not as reliable. Neither is the electricity. I don't know why, but my cell phone won't charge at the apartment, but it will at the office. My laptop works fine. The outlets aren't grounded, but they are the same interface as America. Ecuador also uses USD as its currency, which is nice if I ever bought something.

Without boring you to tears, I'll try to close up. There are three German students working here. They've been in Santiago for 9 weeks and have been here for 3 weeks already. They are doing stuff like going to orphanages, putting on presentations, and ministering to local people. I have a nice long list of things to do in Ecuador, but I haven't been able to work on them too much. I got some computer problems fixed, but I have to wait until tomorrow to work on some other things. I might be helping Roberto buy the necessary hardware for two PCs and then building them, but I have to decide if I have time to do that. I leave Tuesday for Chile, so it would be stretching it if I decided to do that. More updates later.

OM - Mexico Pictures

I have uploaded my pictures from Mexico into a Facebook album.

Sorry for the bad interface if you're not logged into Facebook...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

OM - Day 17

I'm spending all day in the airport traveling to Ecuador. Wish me luck!

EDIT: I have arrived safely in Ecuador. I don't think I ever want to fly that much again, except I'll have to on the trip back home. Oh well, at least then I'll have home to look forward to.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Do not fear, for I have pre-ordered Skillet's new album, Awake. I am expecting great things from this awesome band, and I have confidence that I will not be disappointed. Their single, Hero, is absolutely amazing! August cannot come too quickly, for so many reasons! In fact, I can think of 3 + 96 = 99 really good reasons right now...

Monday, June 15, 2009

OM - Day 15

Ok, here I am again. Like I said, Mexico City is ridiculously huge! With over 8.8 million inhabitants, it is the 10th largest city in the world. It is quite densely populated. There are few trees and basically no grass anywhere (sound familiar?). It's basically your big city, but in a valley in the mountains and very, very Mexican (obviously).

If you're an American who hasn't yet learned the virtue of total, unconditional trust, being driven around Mexico City will quickly teach it to you. Perhaps this is just my naive, ignorant American self, but from what I can tell, seat belts don't mean a thing here, stop lights don't mean a whole lot more, and the concept of lanes quickly deteriorates once you get off the main roads. The back roads are so narrow that you are forced to silently cooperate with other drivers/bicyclists/pedestrians to get through, often having to back up to let another car go or fold your mirror in so you don't hit it.

Church yesterday lasted from 11:30 to 2:00. There was nothing very surprising or culturally different. We sang worship songs and hymns in Spanish, had a few times of personal and corporate prayer, heard from members of the congregation what God was doing in their lives the past week, and listened to a message about money and tithing. The youth had their own service, and it appeared that the women had a separate meeting or something after the service...not quite sure what that was about. Going to church was actually quite convicting for an American. The attitude wasn't go to church because you have to, listen to the message, and leave ASAP. The drive was quite long (for us), and people stuck around for a good 1/2 hour to an hour afterwards to talk and hang out. I ended up talking to many people after church (much more socializing than I've ever done). I felt bad, because one lady was trying to talk to me in English, and her English was not very good. She kept apologizing for her poor English, when in fact my Spanish is much, much worse. If I ever visit again, even for a day, that is the first thing I would change. (Though I am getting better! Yesterday I was able to form the sentence "Mi novia es muy hermosa" all on my own.)

Even though I've only been here two days, I love the Mexican daily schedule. Apparently every family does it differently, but in Fernando's house, we eat a big breakfast at 9:00 in the morning, lunch around 3:00 in the afternoon, and dinner around 9-10 in the evening. If I could do that every day, I would totally adopt that eating schedule. No more of this 12:00 lunchtime where I'm not at all hungry because I ate breakfast only a couple hours earlier!

But there is one thing in which the U.S. and Mexico are not at all different in the slightest, and which both have an abundant supply of...couples. It's no surprise that love is universal.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

OM - Day 14

I have arrived safely in Mexico, and I am dead tired, otherwise I would write more. Mexico City is HUGE! More later...when I'm rested.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

OM - Day 13

Time to leave for Mexico! I am ending up taking an extra suitcase with me to Mexico, full of computer hardware that will be left there. Fortunately, Delta allows 2 free checked bags on international flights. It should be pretty simple...a direct flight from Atlanta to Mexico City, only crossing one time zone. This will certainly be the easiest of all my international flights.

Depart: 7:38pm ATL
Arrive: 10:04pm MEX
Delta Airlines 367

I've never been through customs before, so please pray that this goes smoothly and there are no problems with bringing a bunch of technology through. I have a letter of excuse from one of the OM Mexico guys saying that it's not for resale and for internal OM use only. Also, if you could pray for the hardware; it's important that everything gets to Mexico undamaged.

I won't be blogging from the US again until July 16th! See you on the other side.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I had some time on my hands this weekend

Braid constellation

...plus I finished the first season of Stargate SG-1 on Hulu. It's pretty kickin'.

Google Gears

Offline Gmail and Google Docs are awesome! So handy when you don't have an internet connection.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What does it take?

What does it take for evil to have a grip on a person? Is it black and white or are there shades of gray? What does it take for a thing to be ungodly? I only ask questions and do not presume to have the answers to any of them.

These thoughts stemmed from a recent conversation with a friend about media. I don't care what it's rated--hand me a movie made in the last 10 years and I'll be able to find something ungodly in it. Even some of the most innocent G rated movies have loads of swearing these days, not to mention violence and inappropriate images. Everyone has a particular limit as to how much bad content can be in a movie before they won't watch it, and some are more conservative or liberal than others. Personally, I care not at all what a movie is rated and instead judge it by its morals, its production quality, its maturity, and the amount of sexual content. Most violence doesn't bother me, but if a movie has a significant amount of language or sexing, I choose to avoid it (and of course, the word "significant" is very relative and undefined).

I never claim that this is a good standard or that it would work for anyone but myself, but the point is: how much is too much? If you could assign a point value to every immoral or questionable thing in some particular movie, what's the limit? Before we even get to that, we must consider whether everything weighs the same or if some things are "worse" than others (basically the question of "Are all sins equal?"). Once we have that figured out, what's the number? Does it take 100 units of badness to classify a movie as ungodly? Perhaps this could amount to 10 minor cuss words, 2 major ones, a couple of scantily clad women in the background and a few explosions with a bit of blood. Most people I know would be okay with that movie.

But what's the limit? 100? 10? Or just one? Does a thing have to be completely pure in all its parts to be pure as a whole? Or can a thing be wholesome and good despite a few flaws? To slightly misquote a popular 90s cliche, what would Jesus say about it?

I started rereading a book I really love by Greg Johnson called The World According to God. In it, he simply states that the purpose of a thing's existence is a direct result of the purpose of its creation. He says that in order to find out how we are to be living our lives as Christians, we must start with why we were created in the first place. In the context of popular media, its purpose is simple: it seeks to provide us with entertainment--nothing more, nothing less. Entertainment by itself was created good, just like sex. It's how it's used (or misused) that determines its godliness.

I do not seek to condemn anyone for the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the web sites they visit, or even the places they go. Besides, I'm as guilty as anyone. But I think we ought to take a second look at the reasons why we are so infatuated with our entertainment. I firmly believe that God wants us to enjoy life, and he gave us entertainment as a way to do that. But we must honestly ask ourselves if the cost is worth it.

OM - Day 10

Things are starting to get wrapped up around the office. We got a whole bunch of goodies the other day (picture below), and soon we're going to work on packing everything into my suitcase in the most efficient way possible. We have 5 old laptops for the kids in El Refugio, and a replacement for a secretary's old computer in Argentina. Her laptop screen is barely working; apparently, she has to keep it tilted just right or the connection breaks. Hopefully this will be an upgrade on the specs too.

Also, you know you're working with really old computers when you're genuinely excited to see 256MB of RAM and an ethernet port on a computer.

Computer hardware
Above: A sample of goodies I'm taking with me to Mexico and Ecuador.

Monday, June 8, 2009

OM - Day 8

Good news...my visa arrived much sooner than expected! It got here on Saturday, so that was a huge relief. I have all my papers and passports, and I should be good to go to Mexico on Saturday. I'm kinda nervous about going through customs, especially since my first customs visit will be Mexican customs, and I will be transporting a bunch of electronic equipment in my suitcase that we just got today. Packing will be very interesting. I'll have several hard drives, dvd-rw drives, a couple of routers, and more odds and ends. Fortunately, I won't be taking the laptops with me (of which 4-5ish work now!). Turns out that the two laptops that I thought were the same model (and switched keyboards on) turned out to be ever so slightly different. Between these two, one has a broken keyboard and one has a broken monitor, and neither of them are easily fixable. Hopefully, some use can be made of them. Please keep the whole team in prayer as we figure out what to pack, what to leave, how to get from place to place, and how to do it quickly and efficiently.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

OM - Day 3

I checked this afternoon and my Brazilian visa has been processed, approved, and ready for shipment! With next-day U.S.P.S. shipping, it should arrive here probably by Friday, and I'd guess no later than Monday! This is great news, because yesterday I bought my ticket to Mexico for June 13.

At the office, I've been working on some old laptops--trying to get Ubuntu installed on them. Most of them have awful problems, and they are all very old. One's screen doesn't work, one's cd drive is unreliable, one isn't booting from the cd even though it says it can (plus Windows is corrupt, so there's no way of doing anything with it), and another one uses a European power supply, so I need to get a converter from the guy next door.

On another note, I froze my laptop battery for 24 hours and cycled it about 4 times to see if that would get it to hold more of a charge. (I read about this procedure on the internet.) Good news is, I think it actually worked! It can still only hold a charge for maybe half an hour, but if you've seen how long my battery lasted before, that's not so bad. Should I try it again or leave it alone? I don't want to be killing my battery now that it's almost usable again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

OM - Day 1

June 1 seems to be quite the day in my life. Three years ago, it marked the end of hated high school and the single worst day of my life. Last year, June 1 fell on a Sunday, and a talk I had with Paston Darren was both rejuvenating and helpful. Today, June 1 marks not the end, but the beginning of an incredible summer that is both nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. When God seemed so distant three years ago, I know He is here with me now, even though I feel alone in a big city with no idea what I'm getting myself into. I have no idea if I'm prepared enough for what I'm going to encounter this summer, but I know He will protect me. He has to, because there's so much to live for that I know He wants me to do.

The greatest blessing God has given me today besides Jessica is the wonderful fellowship with Taylor alumni here in Atlanta. After being picked up from the airport and dropping my stuff off in my room, I was starting to get overwhelmed. Rich, a guy I will be working with, took me to his house for dinner, and two couples from their small group joined us. All four of them are Taylor grads, and I had met one before when I interview for Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta last year. Reminiscing with them was so relaxing and wonderful. Even though I didn't really know them that well, there was so much familiarity between us that I felt like they were already close friends. Both husbands work at Chick-Fil-A and were computer science majors at Taylor. Everyone was really disappointed when I told them Gerig doesn't have the eggnog drinking contest anymore...

One last thing before I stop for today: I got to drink the most amazing tea today called Mate (mah-tay). It is a green tea and by far the strongest tea I've ever had, but it was amazing! Apparently, it's got a good bit of caffeine and it's supposed to be really good for you. Most teas I've had are not nearly flavorful enough to rope me in, but I wouldn't mind drinking a cup of this every day. We shall see.