Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Buenos Aires - My Top Ten

Hello friends!

I'm back from my Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip to Buenos Aires and I couldn't feel more fulfilled. I feel grateful. I'm not sad now that the trip is over, instead, I feel educated and empowered. I feel excited. As I try to wrap my mind around the experience, do the math, write my thanks you and put into cohesive sentences, I figured it would be best to start with my Top Ten favorite things about Buenos Aires. Through photos. Here we go.

10. Suckling pig on a spit.

9. Pouring the foundation for an outdoor patio at a senior citizens day facility...

8. and cement mixers.

7. The Tango.

6. The 5 story Habitat for Humanity apartment building…

5. and mastering the art of plastering the walls inside of it.

4. Jacaranda trees and architecture.

3. Volunteers, Habitat families and meeting many local folks from the city.

2. Magical team chemistry (not all present)




1. Ice cream!

Oh and how could I forget?!

Most importantly of course… THE VINO TINTOS! Altos, Don David, Saint Julia… almost any of them as long as it's MALBEC!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Short and Sweet

Hi! Great day today in Buenos Aires! We had a long orientation at the  main Habitat office and learned all about what they do here! Ive for lots of details but those will come later.

We met our first homeowners today too! We went way out to an impoverished community and helped get  their building ready for its roof! Lots of cement mixing! It was 97 degrees today. Then we had one fuck of a storm. Luckily it was quick and after work. Tomorrow should be cooler.

Food here is awesome, though sometimes I don't even know what I'm ordering when I say it! Haha. I need Spanish lessons. The team is diverse in age but all gets along really well with lots of laughs. And every night ends in wine. Malbec. It's Argentinian and cheap. The money system is fucked here and they'll tell you that straight up here. But for us on a food budget, we make out really well. Don't worry, your donations don't go towards my wine! Just straight towards the Argentina Habitat affiliate!

We celebrated out team lead's birthday tonight which brought us all closer.

Tomorrow is a full day and my old NCCC boots are ready at the door!

!Buenos noches sueño con los ángeles!

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Hello Friends! After a full travel day on Thanksgiving, I arrived in Buenos Aires yesterday morning for my week long stay building with Habitat for Humanity Argentina!

Arriving here was my first passport stamp. You should have seen my face! I wasn't alone at the airport which made going through customs, getting my passport stamped, exchanging money and getting a shuttle to the hotel a whole lot easier!

The sky is blue, no clouds and in the 80's today! Sorry for the typos today but here are excerpts from an email I just sent my mom!

Just got back from a solo walk around our area of the city with my Starbucks. Starbucks, McDonalds and a few BKs are EVERYWHERE! Even billboards for Coke a Cola! Cities are so similar everywhere. This one just happens to have a Spanish flare. I wish I knew more of the language! But most people know a few English words so it's easy to communicate. They also all know that deer-in-head-lights look when they say something you don't understand. Haha

It's BUSY here. Like, NYC busy!

No street tango yet. We tried to find some last night. Just found the drum circle though. And a Tango theater with a video playing on the outside screens. Not the same.

I've spent a bit of time with my 2 team mates yesterday and today. Food and wine time mostly! We aren't so much jet lagged as we are confused. Haha "what day is it?" "When does everyone arrive?" Haha. We should meet everyone tonight. So far, "R" and I are besties. She is like my world traveler spirit guide and we will be friends for a long time. She's been everywhere! She is from India but has lived in Cali for a long time. She's in her early 40s. Already trying to hook me up with the waiter at the fancier hotel next door!
Then there is my room mate, "J". He is from Atalanta, almost 30. He did Bike and Build (bike across the country and serve with many Habitats and similar organizations.) He has some great (and not so great)  stories!

People are nice here. I've been acknowledged on the street and I think some girl told me she liked my sunglasses. I keep wondering how well I blend in, or stand out. A tan, some Spanish lessons and some not-so-American clothes and I bet no one would know the difference! People are pretty fair toned here and have dark hair.

I'm feeling a bit city locked and would looove to see Uruguay or even a little further South than we are but I think we compiled a list of places we want to explore today. Evita's balcony and grave are on the list!

Bus tour with the full team is tomorrow then work for 6 days! I'm glad I came here a bit earlier!

My wallet is loaded with pecos and my fridge is stocked with bottled water! I guess that's all for now! Hotel has great internet so I'll be in touch!!

Ps. Sorry for no photos yet. I like to but don't have time to figure it out on my phone! See Facebook for photos!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

World At Large

Friends and Family,

"Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger and will make, not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large."

Mahatma Gandhi

The night I opened my acceptance email,
a friend told me I was going to change the world.
That had been my goal.

I wanted to be part of a community helping communities and I had been selected to serve communities up and down the magical West Coast as an AmeriCorps member. For 10 months, I was part of a team, Green 7, and we were just one of 20-something National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) teams based in Sacramento, California for the year.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a team-based service program for 18 to 24-year-olds to build leadership skills through hands-on experiences with non-profit organizations across the nation.

Every day was a new experience.

I lived in a tent for six weeks in the desert. I mentored 1,800 fifth and sixth graders with my team. I gained confidence by leading volunteers. I helped restore a historic building, create a community garden, clear trails, prevent soil erosion and run a wood chipper! I learned how to become a team motivator by sharing personal experiences and emotions and, as a team, we learned how to maintain team dynamics, work hard, reflect, grow, set and achieve our goals.

While in Portland, Oregon, my team had the opportunity of serving with Habitat for Humanity for eight weeks. We finished homes and prepared for new construction. We learned that Habitat aims to eliminate substandard and poverty housing. We also learned that Habitat does not give homes away. Habitat forms partnerships with diverse, hardworking families who buy their houses. Habitat provides safe communities and stable homes worldwide and, with no experience necessary, Habitat for Humanity runs on volunteers.

I am now a second year AmeriCorps member, serving as a Construction Crew Leader with Habitat for Humanity Portland / Metro East. I am assigned to the largest Habitat site in Oregon, with the expected completion of 45 homes in the Summer of 2014. I lead volunteers daily and coordinate construction tasks on the worksite. Also volunteering on the Homeowner Selection Committee, I assisted in the selection process of our 23 new partnering families.

Building homes in over 100 countries, 90% of Habitat's homes are international and Global Village Trips are another great way to get involved. Habitat's Global Village program provides team-based opportunities for people of different cultures to live and work together in the spirit of partnership, travel and community service.

This Thanksgiving, I am traveling to South America for 10 days to serve in Argentina. Nearly 35% of Argentina's population lives below the poverty line, leaving almost three million children in poverty housing. In 2001, Argentina suffered an economic collapse that left 50% of the population under the poverty line. In 2003, floods worsened poverty conditions, initiating “Rebuilding Santa Fe One House at a Time.”

Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina (HPHA) builds in Buenos Aries, Lujan, Santa Fe and Canada de Gomez. The affiliate stresses the importance of the education and empowerment that helps partnering families work toward solving their own housing problems. Community members come together with families and volunteers, using their skills to achieve the self-construction process. In the past, Global Village teams have helped HPHA families restore their roofs, rehab homes and aid in progressive improvements in which housing is seen as a process and not a product. Through motivation and full participation, dignity among individuals in the community is restored.

I plan to learn about Argentina's culture, language, history, context-adapted solutions they use to build and the customs of the community, but I need some help from you. My trip has a cost. Part of your donation goes to Habitat for Humanity International and a portion goes to Habitat para la Humanidad Argentina. The rest of the donation funds food, housing, travel medical insurance coverage and transportation for the week. Today, a third of Argentina’s population still resides in inadequate housing. Join me in serving these communities. It doesn't take much and donations add up fast, so please, donate what you can.

I will continue to travel, grow and do my part to help change the world. AmeriCorps hasn't changed my life; my service experiences have provided me the tools to shape my life. These experiences make me happy. I just hope that, by paying it forward, the good will someday outweigh the evil. Keeping close to my heart all the offerings of goodness I've received from folks along my way, I hope you join us in serving our world.

With love and thanks,


Or contact me at Cprogen@gmail.com for mailing address to send personal check.

*I also want to give an extra special thank you to my friends and family who in 2009 donated to the Centro Victoria build in Mexico that I participated in. I raised a generous $700.00 for the boy's dorm project and the kids couldn't have been happier to see us! We finished the structure of the dorm while we were in Juarez and the roof was completed after we left. The orphanage continues to flourish with children and I hope to return someday to see the familiar faces and serve their community.*

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Musical Encounters

Day 6.

Since I can't keep up with my own rules, from here on out, my "30-day challenges" will not be consecutive days.

Ah. Sigh of relief.

"Music therapy can be a profound physical, emotional and spiritual support at the end of life…"

Morbid but true, my aunt's new book, Musical Encounters with the Dying is available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble AND Amazon! My aunt, Islene Runningdeer is a music therapist in Vermont and this is her first publication with Jessica Kingsley Publishers! I'm so proud and I wish her all the success!

I found this great photo in a Google search of my little cousin paying her Meme a visit at work!

My Aunt's Bio:

Islene Runningdeer is a music therapist with the Advanced Illness Care Team at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vermont. In 2001 she convinced the Director of the Central Vermont Palliative Care and Hospice Team to allow her to demonstrate the effectiveness of music therapy with a brief pilot program. The positive results were immediately seen, and she was given a position on the clinical team. Islene also has experience as a professional pianist and music teacher. She lives in Vermont.

Book's Description:

Music therapy can be a profound physical, emotional and spiritual support at the end of life. This book looks at a wide variety of cases, explaining how music therapy can be used effectively. It highlights particular components of working with this group, such as creating a therapeutic relationship, helping patients to reach final goals, working within cultural contexts and dealing with difficult emotions, all within the parameters of the musical experience. It also explores the unique needs of people with disabilities or mental illness, and how to support the families of the dying. Therapeutic and philosophical insights related to the dying process are included. This will be a supportive and insightful guide for anyone working with people who are at the end of life, especially music therapists and other complementary therapists, caregivers, hospice workers and medical professionals.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Big Diff

Day 5.

I was honored when my good friend Carolyn, who runs the blog, Stimulate Your Passion asked me to write her a reference for a position at a camp she just applied for. Granted, I was a little slower than she would have liked me to be completing it (sorry!) these are some of the things I wrote about Carolyn.

"Carolyn cares… her motivation and willingness to serve have proved her to be a prize to any program she is a part of... her enthusiasm and smile are infectious and excite people wherever she goes... she sets goals for herself and can see the "big picture"... more of today's youth need a mentor like Carolyn, who can help them see the positive side of life and help them, help themselves to make a better difference in their future."

- Closer To Colin

I love people who love people. We can make a big difference if we all help someone out.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Walk Beside Me

Day 4.

“Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” 

-Albert Camus

Lots of good relationships come to an end this week. During such a busy week of deadlines, it's hard to balance the fostering of relationships with volunteers with the amount of work that still needs to just get done on these homes.

We wouldn't have been able to get these houses to where they are right now without our Collegiate Challenge teams from New Jersey and here in PDX. They volunteered all week, really rocked it and knew how to be amazing.

And we especially would not have been able to do what our current NCCC team did for us in the past 6 weeks. Violet, Nicole, Andrew, Melissa, Jasper, Dani and Emily, I appreciate you all. Thank You. Have fun in Fort Brag and wherever else your 15 passenger van takes you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Get It Done

Day 3.

"Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding make more art."

- Andy Warhol

All of my art supplies are in a box at my parent's house in Massachusetts, although it only take a few magazines to make a killer collage.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Run With It

Day 2.

"Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only time over which you have any control: now."
-Denis Waitley

This is what I was trying to get at last night. Follow your gut. Set a goal. Take the steps. And run with it.

ps. I'm following my gut and I've decided to chose Argentina as my destination for my first Habitat Global Village Trip.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Imaginary Country

Day 1.

“Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country but for most of us it is only an imaginary country. Edmund and Lucy were luckier than other people in that respect.” 
- C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

During our normal routines, when the day gets dull and you imagine yourself in your own imaginary country, where do you seek mental refuge? My mind is always churning what my next step will be, my next goal, my next adventure or short-term commitment. It ends up taking over my mind as a bad habit.

I've always had a lot of ideas and I spent too long reorganizing merchandise on shelves imagining my good elsewhere. As a second year AmeriCorps member, I'm constantly learning how to create a bigger change. Even though the program looses funding each year, I continue to express my gratitude for it's existence during AmeriCorps Week and beyond.

Since I love how 30 day challenges encourage self awareness and remind me to appreciate the little things, I'm starting a new 30 day challenge: Quote of the Day. So even though I've got "the itch," I'll listen closely to the quotes I see, monologues I hear, the words of my brand new pen-pal I read and the lyrics I sing for a kick of focus.

Monday, March 4, 2013

When Adventure Starts

"The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and go do something. Don't wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some things happen, you will fill the world with hope and yourself with hope."

-Barack Obama

"I've spent 2 days staring at my computer screen." - A Closer To Colin original.

Saturday's mark the end of my work week so theoretically, they are my "Friday's." This Saturday, I skipped Happy Hour, went home, showered, crawled into bed with my laptop and watch documentaries on Myanmar, the country in Southeast Asia formally known as Burma. It's West of Thailand and lots of our Habitat homeowners are Burmese. My relaxing night of Service Learning just sort of happened and it all felt so right.

I was choosing a 3rd film when Netflix suggested "180° South." A film following athletically adventurous Jeff Johnson as he sails South to Patagonia after being inspired by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkin's road trip in 1968.

Yvon, the founder of Patagonia clothing and Doug, he co-founder of The North Face are both really cool, outdoorsy, business-dudes who have been super successful with all they've achieved and they reminded me that I am capable of doing what ever I want to do.

Travel. Serve. Mentor. Share. Motivate. Laugh. Change. Grow.

Said best,

"The best way to find yourself is to loose yourself in the service of others."

-Mahatma Gandhi

So, I spent two days watching documentaries and researching life-options on the internet.

I started overhauling my AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader application. My preference is the Atlantic Region, soon to be located in Baltimore, MD.

I applied for a Habitat for Humanity Global Village Trip. My preferences were primarily South America.

Greenheart Travel has a language immersion program in Argentina. I could learn spanish while living in Argentina for 8 weeks!

I want to mentor youth and maybe adopt a child in the future.

I gave a homeless man in Portland a dollar because he made me laugh, why can't I see Patagonia too? I want to live my life without reservation.

"Miss no opportunity of making some small sacrifice. Here, by a smiling look. There by a kindly word. ALways doing the smallest right and doing it all for love."

-Therese de Lisieux

Half of my sprouting ideas may not grow but that's okay, as long as my positive ideas germinate, I will continue to change someone's world. Wondering where all my plans are coming from, I've spent 2 months reflecting on past relationships, current "angels of the day," dreaming of future goals and realizing my dreams are growing faster than I can write them down. I'm not shooting for mediocre goals. I'm aiming for what I am most passionate about.

On the phone with an East Coast friend tonight, she asked if my 2 years in AmeriCorps have made me "adventurous."

I have always been adventurous in my own way. AmeriCorps just gave me a push of confidence and courage to jump.

"The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that's when adventure starts."

-Yvon Chounard

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Threatening Gravity

and here is another, that after years, is finally ready to workshop. ready. set. read.

Threatening Gravity

I must have gone mad,
left clutching the bad,
sitting on the bridge, looking over the edge
and staring up, back at the stars.

Listening to the secrets of the wind touching my face,
I declared, I shared,
I told, I showed,
for you I dared my love would grow.

But how do I turn nothing into something out of one thing?
I'm spinning spools of gold from pocket lint.
I'm dreaming as you're deciding, thinking about slipping into the dive,
with no spare shoot to fall and not enough rope to hold onto.

The truth is in my finger prints lifted from your body,
being spread so thin on wings across my heart.
Gently pressing more pins into my map,
I must take flight to leave my mark.

I hear music in the sun rise,
you see the colors but they don't shine
like they did
when you were mine.

Every lifetime has it's moment
but it would take a lifetime to record all of my favorite moments with you.
Each one hitting an unfamiliar kitchen counter without a throw rug to throw down,
as I crawl back up your backbone to find my saving grace.

Gravity threatens
but with your head in my hands and your hands on my lap,
I'll never let go of you, let alone forget you, my love.
You were the first.

nothing says "i love you" like a heart-shaped slab of meat on this valentines day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blind Amplification

Happy New Year!

The holidays were relaxing, as I didn't travel home for Christmas and I was glad when 2013 started off with some very nice weather. In the dead of the North Pacific Winter, I see blue sky out my window and muted rays of sun shining in. I feel very grateful for having the opportunity to work outside all winter long without trudging through feet of snow but am also grateful for the long weekend.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a National Day of Service and is this coming Monday. Where will you serve? Our construction site which is generally closed on Mondays will be open with a list of close to 50 volunteers already signed up!

I have a few non-profits that I have been meaning to call but have currently been focused on serving extra time beyond my required hours with Habitat for Humanity by participating on their Homeowner Selection Committee. It's been great to sit with applying families and get to know their stories.

Last weekend though, I took some time for myself to put some final revisions on an old constantly evolving poem. I'm always envious when I hear an artist talk about how a piece of work just “flowed out of them.” Most of my pieces, undergo many stages of editing and/or end up taking many, many months to construct themselves.

“Blind Amplification” is about guilt and the feeling of being judged and scrutinized for insecurities but being able to confidently compartmentalize emotions and calmly put aside differences. “Blind” started as a dark rant on a stormy night and took years to reemerge. Upon resurfacing, it spent months on the butcher block, undergoing brutal cuts, re-stitches and multiple variations of a title that never stuck. It wanted to be simple but not delicate and finally now, is content enough to be shared. Since yesterday was Throwback Thursday, I figured I would post.

Blind Amplification

Mona Lisa's grin glares across the candle lit room;
In the peaceful darkness,
she doesn't know me.

Reality vanishes,
hiding behind a condescending smile.
Her assumptions are what she creates them to be.

As I am audio,
she visualizes celtic speeches
and I hear indigenous drums,
using words as weapons of mass percussion.

The smirk she gives indirectly speaks to me
and a flavor of recognition thickens in the air.
Nothing is louder than silence.

Nervous spanish children speak in tongues outside my door.
They never knock.
I imagine they speak of food in the warm, Southern winter air.
They bargain,
"Swallow our fire and we'll devourer your sins."

Regardless of the potential that sticks unshed,
we've lost sense of our own self worth.
I live equidistant to the catatonic fear and their subtle appetite,
They tell me to reach into the sky and feel what hides inside.

Patient lips, pale and thin,
Mona Lisa's grin glares across the room again;
She doesn't know them.

Like a pantomime,
plotting constellations,
I set her sun into a moon
and without her feline eyes,
the guilt is gone.

A subdued exit after a gut wrenching performance,
liberation lingers in unnatural illusions.
Mona Lisa's grin glares across the room;
She doesn't know us.

(This photo is not my work nor property, I found it posted here by Carlos R.)