Posted by: billbusc | May 28, 2012

And In Conclusion

Why?: Today is the last regular post on this Blog. All good things must end. This project (I can’t think of a better word) began just about 5 years ago. I didn’t expect it to last this long. But because of YOU, it did. Some of you have already asked why I am stopping. It is not an easy question to answer because part of the answer is relatively negative. But I am being honest with myself … I shall also be honest with you.

75% of the reason my efforts end are strictly financial. I don’t have the money to live any longer in Mexico or to buy any more of what is needed. I am a retiree on a limited budget and I have exceeded it.

20% of the reason is a feeling of completion. The kids I started with when they were in the 4th grade are scattered now in different schools. The kids I knew best at Las Joyas have moved on. And perhaps most importantly, and most fortunately, Las Joyas no longer exists. It now has an official name, two real buildings, and (under)paid teachers (as opposed to no pay). That roof only area that teacher Lucy and I taught in that first year … the area we shared with students, mothers with babies, chickens, dogs and birds and an occasional passing burro is gone. Except for some pay to the teachers, I had nothing to do with the creation of the new school. Congratulations to Lorenzo and all the Canadians, Americans, Mexicans and the involved families of the children on a job well done.

No more Lucy. No more chickens. No more classroom.

5% of the reason is my own ego. In the past year I have felt unappreciated and often ignore by those I had felt closest to. Taken for granted. I am not highly social and not always easy to get along with. I probably offended some of those I am writing about and I probably asked for help from some who were as stretched as I was. Whatever it was, it sapped my energy and enthusiasm. Time to wrap things up!

What was Accomplished: As I mentioned from day 1, I am not much of a record keeper but some great things happened over my 5-year involvement. The biggest accomplishment by far was dragging more than 100 of YOU into contributing something. Most of you were thanked in my book and on this Blog. If I missed you somewhere along the line, my apologies. You were all terrific and collectively have given me the greatest memory in my life. Here is some more, in rough form, from the past 5 years …

Close to 5,000 hot lunches at two schools.

Close to $3,000 donated for school supplies, mostly for Las Joyas.

More than 2,000 pounds of clothing was donated. Much of the clothing was “earned” by the recipients, staying away from a “welfare” experience.

Close to 300 books (mostly in Spanish) to the two schools.

I taught more than 200 hours of English.

I tutored 11 students and teachers on the Rosetta Stone (English learning program).

YOU donated more than 100 uniforms for students at two schools.

Zihua’s top chef (Pepe) conducted two, 4-week cooking classes for students from Las Joyas.

My good friends from Los Angeles came down and threw a “fiesta muy grande” at the beach for 3 years running. (They spared no expense!) All told nearly 100 kids, teachers, parents and one drunk had a great day unlike any they had previously experienced. I also threw a couple of smaller beach parties for some of the kids from my English classes.

International friendships

I sponsored 5 young people to keep them in school. More about this below.

My favorite (best day in my life) memory is the Christmas Day I was Santa Claus (not played, was!) and with best Mexican amigo Fidel and taxi driver Javier, we took large food packages into the upper hills of Zihua to the poorest families. The looks on their faces will stay with me forever.

Santa delivers food and goodwill to 10 families in the hills

And finally, YOU and I served as goodwill ambassadors to approximately 200 Mexicans, young and old, in schools and out, who will have good feelings towards America and Americans. (I know many of you are not American, but they see me and think American. Besides America can use all the good publicity it can get, so thanks for helping us out!)

I hope I made a difference to these children

Some Interesting Stats: This Blog started in July, 2008. Here is a list of my favorite Stats from the Blog:

There have been almost 20,000 visitors. They have come from more than 100 countries (some I am sure were phishing or spamming or whatever you call those evil types).

There have been 231 comments posted to the articles. As I recall, all were positive. Thank you for taking the time to send me your thoughts.

Friends Galina Quigley, Oregon (most) and Terry Paulson, California (2nd most) were far and away the most frequent comment posters. (In fairness, some of you sent me frequent emails that did not show up as a comment.)

Karen: Great news about university student Karen. She has been accepted as an exchange student at UCLA (for those of you out of county, UCLA is in Los Angeles, California). Her arrival date depends on her completing an English requirement. She will be hosted by Ken and Denise Nowack who live in Santa Monica (close to UCLA). I will be on hand for her arrival and hope to show her a few sights before school starts. Karen is a finance major, an “A” student at the University of Guadalajara and a very sweet young lady who has pulled herself up by the proverbial bootstraps. It is a pleasure to help her along and great things are expected from her! For more information and a recent picture of her, go to my previous post (March 31).

Niño’s Adelante: Niño’s Adelante (Children Forward) is a Mexican non-profit organization that provides much needed help to deserving children. Funding comes through a US based organization called Friends of Niño’s Adelante. I pay them $300 per child each year. They in turn give monthly payments (called becas) to Bernabe, Jose Angel and Brayan. These are children who likely would have dropped out of school in the 7th grade because they could not afford middle school.

End of school year for party for Niño’s Adelante. Jose Bustos in center; my 3 boys together, front row on knees

I have known Niños Adelante and their director, Jose Bustos, for four years. They do great work and have about 220 young people in middle schools, high schools and now even universities.

They need more sponsors. If you can afford $300 a year you can help a young, deserving person get an education. For more information you can look at the Friends of Niños Adelante website (kept by volunteers), complete a very simple form and send it off to Friends of Niños Adelante, PO Box 1624 Sonoma, CA 95476. You can also write an email enquiry to Bob Albright at bobalb@comcast.net – tell him Memo sent you! (And it is Tax Deductible – they send you the paperwork.)

A special thanks to Guillermo Gower of Southern California for responding to an earlier plea. Because of him, Karla Jasmine gets to go to school.

Periodic Updates: Before I sign off I want to offer those of you who are interested a chance to keep up with Karen and the kids from Niño’s Adelante. I will send out occasional emails regarding them. To be on that email list either indicate an interest in the comments section of this Post or send me an email.

And now I really must go. This time for good.

Adios cowboy

Thanks for coming along with me on the journey. Tu amigo, Memo

Adios amigos

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Posted by: billbusc | March 31, 2012

Karen and Oliver

One of the best parts of my 10 trips and nearly 2 years of total time spent in Zihuatanejo is the relationships I have formed with some young people from the area.

Karen: Top of the list would be Karen. I met her 4 years ago when she was 17 and working at the now defunct La Casa Café. She was working to help put herself through high school, help support her mother and to save some money to go to university. She is a wonderful combination of smart and friendly. She is also hard working and determined. When I met her, she was preparing to leave for the prestigious University of Guadalajara to study business. She would have to work at least full time to make ends meet.

Meet University student Karen!

I am made a deal with her. I would “employ” her. I would pay her tuition if she would write me an email every week, in English, describing what she was studying, what she was learning and how she might use it future jobs.

She is just about through her 3rd year of study. She has a 90+ grade point average, which puts her near the top of her class. And she takes no “soft” classes. (Not for grades, she also studies piano, plays tennis and studies English – none of which she could do without some financial assistance.) Below is a list of classes she is taking this semester:

International Finance
Operations Research
Computers Finance Applications
Applied Software I
Financial Legislation
Portfolio Theory
Banking and Auxiliary Credit Organizations

If that is not enough, she has applied for an exchange program at UCLA (USA). The University of Guadalajara has approved her application. She is now waiting to hear from UCLA. Good luck Karen!

Our relationship has evolved into something very special and life-long. While I can never replace her real father (deceased), she now calls me Dad and I call her Daughter. It doesn’t get any more special than that.

People have thanked me for what I have done for the schools and children in Zihuatanejo. But I am the lucky one with a “new daughter”, Karen.

Oliver: One of the first children I met in Zihuatanejo was Oliver. At the time we were neighbors. His mother, Rosario, was the first to invite me to volunteer. I was on my third visit, a 39 day stay, when she asked me to come to her school (Octavio Paz) and teach the children some English. (What happened next is on this Blog and in the Book.)

Jumping ahead several years: This past year Oliver was awarded a $48,000 a year scholarship to a high school in central Utah. (According to Oliver, to get to the school you drive to the middle of nowhere and then go straight for 3 more hours.) This is quite the achievement. Success at his high school all but guarantees him entrance to almost any college or university in the United States and probably in other countries as well.

For Oliver to study in the US requires a large support system. The scholarship does not include transportation or any support during vacation periods. I am reminded of the expression “It takes a village.” Fund raising and volunteering are on-going to help him during the non-school periods (summer and school vacations). He is being supported by a large number of individuals and at least one organization.

Oliver Garcia visits Garcia Hall at New Mexico State University

He just finished a two-week Spring Break in exciting Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was his host. I think he enjoyed it a lot more than might be expected. About half the people in town speak Spanish and he was happy to revert (at least for a while) to his native language.

Oliver makes friends with some Aliens in Roswell, New Mexico

We did some traveling, including visiting with some Aliens in Roswell, NM and visiting Carlsbad Caverns, although the famed bats (all 300,000) weren’t home. Along the way we visited some missile and space museums.

Oliver walking the white sands of White Sands New Mexico

Oliver is a great young man, the kind that makes his parents proud. Like Karen, I think he has a fantastic future. And like Karen, he has enriched my life.

Thank you for reading the post. Memo (AKA Bill)

Posted by: billbusc | March 24, 2012

Children’s Clothing Sale and Restaurant Review

Clothing Sale: Pardon the delay, but I would like to update you on the clothing sale at Las Joyas on the last Tuesday of February. Simply put, it was a SUCCESS.

Denise (l), Willa, Wanda & Pam lay out the clothes

Regular readers will recall that the school now has 3 permanent classrooms. They were not yet occupied when we had the sale, so we turned the 3 rooms into a one day mall! 11 US and Canadians volunteered to be clerks/sales staff for the day. They showed up early to lay out nice neat stacks that lasted less than the predicted 10 minutes after the store opened.

In one room we had adult clothing and all shoes. In a second room we had clothing for school child (grades K-12) and toys. In the third room we had strictly baby clothing. In total we had more than 1,000 items of clothing and miscellaneous items.

Folks arrive 1 hour early to check out the merchandise

The sale was scheduled for 12:30. When most of the volunteers and I arrived a little after 10:00 there were already a few people waiting. By 11:30 there was a crowd watching us through the barred but open windows. Arms were pushed through the open spaces pointing at items that of obvious importance to the persons at the other end of the arms. By the time the doors opened there were more than 100 people of all ages ready to barge in. You “Day After Thanksgiving (US)” people know what I mean.

Many people and one dog look for bargains

I moved from room to room (as best I could) observing and making change when needed. Within the first 15 minutes, most of the shoes, toys, and under 2-years old clothing were purchased. We showed up that morning with 13 suitcases, bags and boxes. After 90 minutes we packed up the remaining items and placed them in a suitcase and 2 bags. Those items were later donated to another school for a similar fund raiser toward the purchase of school bathrooms.

Adults and children enjoy the search

I estimate we sold more than 800 items on that day. There had also been a presale of a 100 or more items. All told we raised almost 6,000 pesos. The money was distributed to the teachers, each of the five receiving 1,193 pesos. To put it in perspective, the teachers at that time were receiving about 1,250 pesos a month from the city. In dollars, the teachers were receiving about $100 a month. That day they received $92 or $93, just about doubling their monthly income. (In fairness, there is a wonderful volunteer from Canada named Helen who has been providing the teachers with 1,000 pesos/month for a number of months now.)

Teachers are happy to receive well-deserved reward for their heroic efforts

No matter how you slice it, the teachers are still grossly underpaid. But remember when I first started at Las Joyas 4 years ago, no teacher was being paid anything. So we have progress.

And finally, thanks again to all of you who made it happen. More than 1,000 pieces of clothing just don’t show up by accident. Normally I don’t single out anyone because all donations are of equal importance, but forgive me for breaking this rule today: Thank you V for organizing a clothing drive on your Facebook (and your many friends who responded). Thank you Ayala for those bags … and more bags. Thank you Las Cruces Public Library for the employees who contributed knowing nothing about me beyond the checkout counter. And final finally, thank you Rocco for getting your parents and their friends to lug all those bags to Zihuatanejo.

Restaurant Review: Many of the readers of this Blog spend time in Zihuatanejo. If you are like me, you are always on the lookout for a great restaurant. Let me recommend one.

Look for this sign on the main drag (parking in back)

Carmelitas is a hidden-in-plain-site gem that is a tad hard to find unless you know what you are looking for. Let me give you some hints on finding it. It is in the Centro (downtown) area. It is on the very busy one-way street that is going out of town toward the airport. The nearest cross street is Las Palapas (a street crossing through the middle of the Mercado). And Carmalitas is a few doors down and on the same side of the street from Papas (I think I have that right … the Potato place that is only open at night.) Hope that helps and hope you find it.

Victor and Maria greet visitors at the entrance to Carmalitas

When you arrive (breakfast or lunch only), you will undoubtedly be greeted by Victor or Maria or maybe even Carmelita herself. You will be extremely pleased with the interior. Part of the charm is that the busy street right outside seems miles away. You are in an extremely relaxed environment.

Serenity in the city

I learned of this place from two gentlemen travelers who seemed to enjoy taste trips, going from town to town to try local cuisine. They told me (I didn’t check it out) that Carmelitas is rate as the #1 restaurant in Zihuatanejo on Trip Advisor. I can believe it. The food is exceptional for the price. The staff is excellent; some speak limited English. Did I mention great value? And the ambience is so relaxing.

Early afternoon diners enjoy great food and superior service

If you go, make your first order the Carne de Puerco (70 pesos). Wow. You will be back! If you have room at the end and like to finish with something on the sweet side, don’t miss the Platanos Fritos (36 pesos and worth every peso). This desert can easily be shared. Be sure to order the fruit water. While fruit water is common to most restaurants in the area, Carmelitas puts more fresh fruit into the water, which in turn makes it both special and healthy.

If you go, tell them Memo sent you. And you can thank me later.

Hasta luego, Memo

Posted by: billbusc | February 28, 2012

Party Time

Chili anyone? February has been a very festive month, especially for the children. There is an organization called Sail Fest that holds a weeklong series of activities to raise money for the poor schools. My favorite events were the February 9 Chili Cook Off and the Silent Auction. This year there were 22 organizations and individuals competing the coveted Silver Spoon. I sampled 7 and gave up. Too much of a good thing. As far as the silent auction went, I outsmarted myself and ended up buying a parasailing certificate.

"Students" prepare for the caterpillar crawl

Sailfest beach party: On Saturday, February 11 festivities continued for more than 100 poor children from several schools, however Las Joyas (“my school”) had a majority of the participants. Children at the ocean need very little planning, but some hilarious games were conducted including something called the caterpillar crawl and a boys v. girls tug-of-war (boys won). I had no official part, so I was an unofficial photographer.

Children from my English class join in the fun

Niños Adelante breakfast: The following day I attended the large Niños Adelante breakfast for sponsors of poor children starting at grade 7. There were somewhere between 250 and 300 in attendance. When I attended my first breakfast a year ago there were about 220 children in the program and approximately 10 of those had moved into college/university. There are still about the same number in the program, but now about 40 are in advanced education. I have 3 children I sponsor, Bernabe (8th), Jose Angel (8th), and newbie Brayan (7th). I hope someday they too will want to go on to advanced education and I can help.

My beach party: On Saturday, February 18, my friends from Los Angeles (Ken, Denise, Andy, Jen, Pam, and Willa) were major helpers in a fiesta I threw for my English Class at Las Joyas and for my Niños Adelante students. Technically I invited 18. Actually nearly 30 showed up. It’s Mexico, you always invite your friends and relatives! Fortunately I guessed correctly and we had sufficient pizza (thanks Ken and Company) and drinks and Chocolate and Tres Leches cakes to go around.

Lupe (l) makes friends with American visitor Willa

The kids (and some adults!!!) got to ride the banana boat (most popular event- thanks again Ken and Company) and play on some pretty interesting inflatables (also Ken and Company).

(r to l) Visitor Pam, teacher Lucy, Bernabe, Jose Angel, and his mom Ana

The kids only came around the tables when the food arrived. Safe to say a good time was had by all and the good memories should last a long time.

I count 10 riding The Thing

Downtown party: Children weren’t the only ones having fun. Downtown at the main plaza (and basketball court) there was almost nightly entertainment, much of it professional. Adults and children could enjoy free entertainment in the cool of evening. Crowds were a mix of locals and tourists, which was a fine sight in my eyes.

Free downtown evening concerts

Book Sale: I sold all my books (200)! I had 49 with me and they are all gone with help of “my kids”, Jose Bustos of Niños Adelante and some sales at El Perla Negra. And no reprints are planned. Too much work!!!

I only have a few more days left in Paradise. Last trip … making it a good one. Have much more to share with you in the next few days. Stay tuned.

Hasta luego, Memo

Posted by: billbusc | February 5, 2012

Short But Sweet

WE HAVE A SCHOOL: After 4 years of visiting a mishmash of structures referred to as Las Joyas, I am extremely pleased, even excited to report the completion of a real, honest-to-goodness school building. Three classrooms are now complete with floors, ceilings, doors and barred-windows (tradition in this area because there is no air conditioning). I am told the rooms will be occupied within 2 weeks. Three remaining rooms are scheduled to be built by the start of school in August.

Classrooms with doors, floors, ceilings and windows ... finally!

School Supplies: Thanks to your generosity, an order of school supplies was purchased and delivered in January. Javier, the school’s on-site director assures me that this latest delivery is sufficient for the remainder of the school year (with a good start on notebooks for next year). Thank you again to all who contributed.

Kids At Work (storing school supplies)

Money, Money, Money: A very special shout-out goes to the extended Ratter Family (led by special Zihua supporter Missy) for their generous contribution toward paying the teachers. Thanks should also be given to a Canadian woman named Helen who has taken it upon herself to fund raise just for the teachers. She is making monthly contributions. Thanks to the “Ratter Bump”, the five teachers made just about what a regular teacher downtown would make for a month. Unfortunately one month does not a year make; but the teachers are finally getting some money and all are very grateful.

Payday for Teachers (one absent)

Memo’s Kids: University student Karen has applied for an exchange program at UCLA. This week she high-hurdled the first of two major steps. Her application was accepted by the University of Guadalajara. She now must apply to the exchange program at UCLA. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Teacher Lucy has been tutoring my 8th grader Bernabe for 4 months. His grades have gone from “C’s” to “B’s”. Way to go Bernabe and Lucy! Unfortunately for Bernabe but good for Lucy, she has a fulltime job offer pending. She may soon be moving out of the teaching profession, which is a great loss for Bernabe and children she might have taught. But we wish her well.

Lucy tutors Bernabe

I dropped Lizbeth from the sponsored program. She repeatedly failed to even show up for the opportunities given to her. I now have a 7th grader named Brayon from an extremely poor family. The kid is as sharp as they come. I visited his school and the supervising teacher for the school told me he is the best student in the 7th grade. I saw his report card. Tis true!

Finally, for this week, a personal note: I live on a street named Adelita. It runs through the heart of an area near the beach called Madera. The sewers had to be replaced, so this main area road has been torn up. The sewers have been replaced and the city is in the process of tearing out all existing road structures in preparation for paving. The destruction process has proceeded rather quickly. Thank goodness the jackhammers have moved on! But the merchants are upset with the time it is taking. Removing the debris is taking longer than expected. I captured the picture below yesterday. It offers a hint why getting rid of the rocks, bricks and other rubbish is taking so long.

Removal of bricks and concrete taking longer than expected!

Lots happening over the next 8-10 days so will give you another update soon. Hasta luego, Memo

Posted by: billbusc | January 27, 2012

News And Notes From Zihua

Welcomed back by the children with hugs and chants of "Memo, Memo"

Centenaria de la Revolución is now the official name of Las Joyas. The students welcomed me back with chants of “Memo, Memo” and many, many hugs. It was a joyful reunion. I was excited to see that three honest-to-goodness classrooms are nearly complete. I think folks are hoping for a February occupation. Will be great for the kids. According to current plans three more rooms will be built in time for next year (August) classes. In other words, there will be a real school.

Children can't wait to get into their new classrooms

I continue to teach English to 5th and 6th grade students after school three days a week. Those with good attendance have been invited to participate in the second cooking school conducted by Chef Pepe at his excellent La Gula Restaurante. Classes will be held on the 4 Tuesdays in February. Students learn safety, cleanliness and all facets of the restaurant business … but of course the two favorite parts are preparing the meal … and then eating it. Pictures to come!

Pepe puts on his hat to help the poor children

Clothing – Pre Sale: Word got out fast that I was in town with donated clothes. People representing two other schools have stopped by and bought some of the clothing. It was a difficult decision, holding a pre sale. It means the best clothes never make it to Las Joyas (I’m still using the old name). But there is still plenty and the folks from Los Angeles travel with more than 100 pounds in donations in February and local winter resident Josie has a suitcase waiting for me, so I shan’t feel too guilty. Plus, I have already raised 1,075 Pesos for Las Joyas.

The economy: Worst year in recent history for tourists. There aren’t many. My part of town has been hit particularly hard. I live in a beach area call Madera. I live on Adelita, the main street of Madera. For those of you who have previously visited the area, you may know the street as “Restaurant Row”. Some mighty fine eateries along this street. Well, the city decided that this was the year to put in new sewers. The project looks to be about 6 months in length, right smack in the middle of tourist season. The street is now referred to as “Devastation Row”. Salvador’s is only open nights and is only half filled. The Cyber Café closed at the beginning of construction and will try to open next year. La Gula, the best restaurant in all of Zihua is doing about ½ of normal business

El Perla Negra: If there is any good news out of all of this (besides a nicely paved road next year) is that El Perla Negra is thriving. Long time visitors remember, usually quite fondly, La Casa Café with Lorna at the helm. Her daughter Lisa and husband Abe started their own restaurant 2 or 3 years ago, serving mainly dinners. They were forced out at the end of last tourist season, but have reopened at a great location and are doing breakfasts/lunches in the La Casa Café tradition and after a short break, reopen for great dinners at extremely reasonable prices. Happy to also report that many of the staff from La Casa/El Perla are at the new location (including my secret sweetheart Magda). The place is doing great business. Many of the other local restaurants are wondering what is their secret. I am thinking that great food at reasonable prices with friendly staff might have something to do with it. The less successful restaurants have tried to compensate by raising their prices. Fewer customers … hmmmm.

(For those of you coming in February/March, El Perla Negra is now located at the entrance to Madera, across the street from the canal and the taxi stand.)

Owner Abe and waitress/university student Karen

Niños Adelante Breakfast/Book sales: Niños Adelante is the volunteer organization in Zihua that sponsors poor children with good grades from grade 7 and up including college. Right now they have more than 220 children in the program. The money for support of these children comes from Canadian and American sponsors. I sponsor three children. One great thing about sponsoring the children: 100% of the sponsor’s money goes to the children. Administrative costs are covered by separate fund raisers and donations.

Bernabe (l), Jose Angel and Karen are super book sellers

Each year Niños Adelante hosts two breakfasts to honor the sponsors. Many of the sponsors come to Zihua for at least a week or so each year and the breakfasts are a great way to put the children in contact with their sponsors. I just attended the small January breakfast where “my kids” helped me sell my book. Sales were brisk! I have also had good sales around town. With the large breakfast two weeks away I expect to sell out!!! And before you ask, NO!!! there will be no reprints. This book thing is a lot of work. I am glad I did it, but enough already.

Well I have taken up enough of your valuable time for today. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2012, Memo

Posted by: billbusc | January 6, 2012

Happy New Year

Fare thee well: January 10 I leave for my final visit to the school and the many young people I have grown to love so much over the past 5 years and multiple visits. Things are about to change for the better at the school. Most of the children I have had the strongest attachment to have or will this year move on to other schools. My personal funds are drained. It is as good a time as any to wrap it up.

I ask all of you not to dwell on the ending. Let us all celebrate the success. Over 100 of you became involved in your own and unique way. A book was written to documents your achievements. Hundreds of Mexican families are better off because of your efforts. You are the Beautiful Americans … and Canadians … and Danes … and Brits.

Isabella and Johnny send me off with a song

Book sighting: I would like to share a personally amusing moment. Zihua friend Josie and her husband love to travel. This summer they were in Homer, Alaska and Josie was in the Homer Public Library and she delightfully reports there is a copy of my book (Journey to Zihuatanejo) available for patrons. How these things occur make for entertaining guesses. Small, small world!

Speaking of reading: I want to thank you, the readers of this Blog. The Blog is now in its 5th year. This is my 85th (and longest) post. I started with about 60 readers on my first post. Today I have 263 on the list. Not all who receive this link read the posts. But other people find their way to the site. I had about 3,100 visitors to my Blog in 2011. Of course some of you came visiting more than once, but still there were still lots of folks that stumbled onto the site. Since the Blog began I have had 17,853 visitors and counting. According to the Blog statistics I had visitors from 6 continents. Makes a guy smile!

Now I want to salute some folks who helped make this last trip the biggest and best ever. May you all receive infinite good karma. (Readers, please note how far and wide the gifts come from.)

Contributions – Clothes: I asked if any of you had some children’s clothes. What’s that expression… “Beware what you ask for”. I received a mountain of replies. Two 7-foot mountains to be more exact. One 7-foot stack is here in Las Cruces. Another awaits travel orders in the Los Angeles area. SuperHero and wise Trojan fan V used Facebook to organize an army of donors (including Ally, Vivian, Meg, Rachelle, Sue, Terri and Kamla) in the Greater San Francisco area and sent me 4 large boxes of children’s clothes. Las Cruces donors included friend Barb (known to me as Aunt B) and Estella, Kelly and Lanee (from the Las Cruces Public Library). Other donors include longtime friends Ayala and Jeanne (Southern California areas), Paul and Kathie (Midwest) and Josie (from Zihua). Matt is the winner of the contribution that traveled the longest distance. His donation comes from near Cambridge, England!

Contributions – $$$: I received the largest single financial donation yet. Most of the money will go to supplement the meager pay of the teachers from Las Joyas. The donation is on behalf of the Ratter family. There is a story that goes with the pledge and I am reprinting it at the end of this post. The story gives me Happy Tears. Hope you will read it. Meanwhile, a big MUCHAS GRACIAS to the Ratter Family and spouses: Patriarchs Bill and Mary (Napa, CA), sons, daughters and in-laws Rich and Missy (Annapolis, MD), Joel and Joy (Riverside, CA), Jeff and Cindy (Encinitas, CA), David and Christine (Napa, CA), Jonathan (San Pedro, CA), Steve and Max (Los Angeles, CA). I also received a very generous donation from Barge girlfriend Sally (Chicago, IL) and a nice pledge from Irv and Claudia (Sacramento, CA).

Memo and 4 underpaid teachers at Las Joyas

Contributions – Transportation Workers Supremo: Almost none of this would be possible without my Clueless (ed. Click to read.) friend and part-time boss and his wife and associates: Ken, Denise and Rocco, Andy and Jen, Pam and Willa. These strong, (mostly) willing bodies will be lugging the other 7-foot mountain of clothes from the Los Angeles area. They will be arriving just in time for the February clothing sale at the school. Proceeds will go for needed supplies and to supplement the teacher’s salaries. A detailed report will be coming in late February or early March.

Now for a story. It comes from Missy in Baltimore. She sent out a holiday letter this year (45 friends and family), as she usually does. The first 60% was traditional content. But the last 40% wasn’t your usual family/friend letter. Below, with Happy Tears, I share with you what she wrote:

“A special blog we’ve been following is my ‘Uncle Bully’. He’s not really my uncle, but he’s the son of a patient that my mom cared for back around 1955. The patient, his father, died and Bill’s mother was badly burned in a fire. He was only 10 yrs old at the time and my mom, a young nurse, cared for him and his brother, while their mother recuperated. When my parents married, Bill Bradley just became an integral part of our family as we grew to be 6 children. He showed up regularly thru his college days, heading off to war in Vietnam, and then during his highly successful Business Executive life. He came to my high school graduation and my mom always made him a birthday cake, no matter when he visited.

Now Bill is retired and taken up a special project caring for the very poor children of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Bill began a heartfelt mission to ‘Make a difference’. He has orchestrated a whole group of volunteers to provide food, donate clothing, teach English and much more. He has even written a book about his adventures. He is Bill Bradley at http://www.zihuabill.wordpress.com. There is also a short but poignant review of his efforts by a colleague on an online page titled Tossing Starfish Back into the Ocean: A Tribute to ‘Memo’ the Unsung Leader. (ed. Click to read.) It’s a beautiful tribute. I am so very proud of him. Just as my mom recognized his spirit all those many years ago, I always knew he was a very special person too. I just wanted to share this story with all of you as we think about everything we are grateful for at this time of the year….”

Now I have to finish packing my stuff. More soon from sunny and friendly Zihuatanejo. Memo

Posted by: billbusc | November 19, 2011

Zihua in October

I have returned from another trip to Zihuatanejo. My first official act upon my return was to catch the mother of all colds. Three weeks later and I still have reminders! But you don’t want my health report, you want to know about the trip. Well, here are the details.

The Town: There was not much in the way of good news during my stay. Apparently there is a “La Niña” out there somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The effect on Zihua was a series of late seasonal storms. The worst part wasn’t the rain. It was the humidity afterward. Most days were 90+ temperature and 95%+ humidity. Not much fun moving around!

Unfortunately the economy of the area is no better. October is not a tourist month. Many of the familiar restaurants were not open yet. Several, including El Perla Negra, are not going to open. There was a general feeling of unhappiness that I had not felt before. Everyone is having a difficult time getting by. I am hopeful that when I return in January that the yearly tourist influx will bring the town back to life.

The School: Things are looking up for Las Joyas. It has been certified by the State so now it is officially a school. It also has a new official name which is rather long, so I will just keep calling Las Joyas. All the adobe homes on the property have been torn down (I am glad this Blog has some pictures of the old homes to remind us of what “was”). I have been informed by a reliable source that there is money available to begin building 3 classrooms late this year. There is a big fund raiser each year in February (Sail Fest) and I am told that money from the upcoming event will be available for building the remaining needed classrooms and maybe some other improvements. I hope by the time the kids return from the 2012 summer break they will have real classrooms in a real school.

Clothes Donations: I took down two suitcases of donated clothes for a school sale. Thank you donors.

Some of the kids are used to having a sale, so we were much better organized this year:

junior clerks

Right up to the moment of the sale:

Everyone likes a cool sale

And thanks to some Chicago area donors, there are some new Cubs baseball fans (aren’t they adorable?).

Little Cubbies

Thanks to the tremendous response for $$$ for school supplies, I had some cash left over. I made an executive decision to add the money from the school sale and give it to the 5 teachers. I was able to get some firsthand information on how much these teachers make a month. Each receives about $100 (US). They all have to do other things to subsist. Between the extra cash and the school sale I was able to give them each about $35 (US). By our standards, not much. By theirs, it was a godsend. Below are four of the five teachers happy with their money bag!

Muchas gracias from the teachers

Supply Donations: Thanks to the exceptionally generous donations of the Nowack family, Jeanne Hartley and Bill Overman the school was able to purchase most of the school supplies it will need for a year. The kids show their appreciation in the pictures below:

Muchas gracias Ken, Denise y Rocco

Muchas gracias Jeanne

Muchas gracias Bill (Memo)

Memo’s Kids: Regular readers of this Blog know that I sponsor three children so they may attend school. I have been mentoring Bernabe, Lizbeth and Jose Angel since they were in the 4th grade. They are now in the 8th grade. Jose Angel is an exceptional student and is doing quite well. Bernabe and Lizbeth struggle. In an effort to help them, I hired friend and out of work teacher Lucy to tutor them for an hour a day, three days a week. Bernabe is trying hard and is also learning English on the Rosetta Stone. I am very proud of his effort. Lizbeth, not so much. Despite considerable effort by several people she puts more energy into finding excuses for not doing what she is suppose to do than actually doing what she is supposed to do. Not everything I have tried has been a success. Unfortunately this may be one of those times.

Teacher Lucy is also teaching English to students at Las Joyas who are willing to stay after school for an extra class. Lucy and I laugh about her assignment. She is about one day ahead of the students as she learns English too. There is an old saying that teachers are the biggest learners. Hats off to Lucy.

Lucy y Bernabe (and isn't he getting tall!)

Karen: Many of you have followed college student Karen for the past 2.5 years as she attends the prestigious University of Guadalajara. She is a business major with a special interest in international business. She is also near the top of her class. I continue to support her so she can study without having to work.

She has just begun the process (a very, very difficult process) of applying to come the United States for summer school in 2012. Her university has an exchange program with UCLA. She has several people who have already assured me they will assist her in Los Angeles if she is accepted. I have a hunch I will be involved somewhere along the way. Anyway Karen fans, let’s all wish her well in this endeavor. Never has someone worked so hard and been so deserving.

Karen finds a little time to "horse around" in Guadalajara

One Last Plea: I need baby clothes. Well not me, but some very poor children in Zihua. I have another clothing sale scheduled in February. The parents asked me to bring baby clothes and clothes for children in grades K through 2. If you can help at all (no package too small), please send some clothing (especially shoes) for little people. My address is (Bill Bradley), 3650 Morning Star Drive, #2402, Las Cruces, New Mexico, 88011. Muchas gracias from those in need.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Blog. Couldn’t have happened without you! Muchas gracias amigos – one and all! Memo

Posted by: billbusc | September 25, 2011

Volunteers Are Very Special People

Volunteering in the United States: A very recent Federal Report issued the following: “Volunteers are resolute in their commitment to serving their neighbors and communities, with 62.8 million adults volunteering almost 8.1 billion hours in local and national organizations in 2010, service valued at almost $173 billion.”

What is interesting to me is that the above is data collected in a formal process. It is a wonderful report but it says nothing about the hundred of thousands or even millions of informal volunteers who do good things without any formal recognition. People like you. There are more than 100 people in the past three years who have helped me and they are not included in the Federal Report. I am sure that the untold number of informal volunteers like you would add significantly to the number of people who help their neighbors both near and far.

Financial Support: And speaking of wonderful volunteers, since my last post I have received very significant financial contributions to fund school supplies for Las Joyas. Thank you Rocco (and parents Ken and Denise) and Jeanne Hartley for support. And thank you Canadian supporter Amanda Ayles for your very generous pledge.

Rocco in training

Jeanne with me at LA book signing

Clothing Drive USA:

Lindsey and Margaret at Las Joyas

My plea for clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. has been met with big boxes from Jeanne Hartley (California) and Lindsey Easom (and family and friends in Michigan). Teenagers Lindsey and Margaret were in Zihua earlier this year (with their moms) discovering the joys of volunteering as they spent some time teaching English at Las Joyas.

Las Cruces comes a Volunteering: I think the most amazing part of today’s post is the responses I have had from residents of my new home town of Las Cruces. I have clothes donations from camera shy librarians Estella Verrett and Kelly Miller. They work at the main library (they did this as individuals, not as an official library function). Estella also told me that my book has been checked out three times since I gave the library a copy two months ago!

I have donations from local artist Lois Smith (currently showing at City Hall) and neighbor Ronda Gryniuk

Artist Lois and Ronda

I have 3 bags of clothes from Adrienne Duran at restaurant Tokyo Sushi

Adrienne (l.) with co-worker Emilee

I have a new family of friends and supporters, books buyers and pledged clothing at El Tiburon Restaurant. They have roots in Mexico and know exactly what I am trying to accomplish. They are very special people. If you go (504 E. Amador) be sure to tell them Memo sent you!

Memo, Annie y Maria

Zihua bound: I am off to Zihua for 3 weeks this next Sunday. I am afraid that I can’t get all the donations to Z town this trip, but I am going back in January, so it will all get there. We will hold two clothing sales. One in October and one in February. All the money from the October sales will go towards the purchase of school supplies. I think I will use the money in February to give to directly to the volunteer teachers who work so hard at Las Joyas and receive no payment for their efforts. How they do it I still don’t know.

So I will report back in about 5 weeks. Meanwhile, thank you for all your support and for taking the time to read this. Bill, aka Memo

Posted by: billbusc | September 5, 2011

Random Thoughts and Notes From a Zihua Traveler

I send you greetings on this Labor Day Weekend (Dia de Trabajo Fins de Semana). If you are in the United States I hope you are enjoying the holiday and perhaps taking a moment to reflect on what is good in our lives.

BOOK RANT CONTINUED: I made a mistake over the past few days. I took some time to listen and watch various “news” and opinion programs. It is so sad. The talking heads continue to talk about the freedom and “rights” … but only if you are part of their belief group. The “news groups” give us endless reports on religious groups preaching hate and freedom groups preaching totalitarianism. In the United States, never have politicians worked so hard to represent the views … of those who supply them with money. I must stop following the news.

This all came to an ugly head two days ago. I was talking with a woman who lives nearby. I told her I was about to return to Mexico. She asked why. I explained a little about what I have been doing. This is a pretty accurate quote of her response: “I am a Christian who believes we should take care of our own poor children. There are plenty of them in the United States.” I interpreted that to mean that 93% of the children in the world don’t count. I also do not believe that she was speaking for all Christians.

I told her that I felt that each of us should do what we can where our heart takes us. But it seemed to have no effect.

Don't these children deserve help too???

All this was beginning to get me down. Then I remembered YOU! I remember the more than 100 of you who have made my Zihua adventure fun, rewarding, productive. Gosh darn it, together we have made a small part of the world a better place. I will continue to give thanks to all of you through my last day.

LAST CALL: As I wrote earlier, I did not plan to go to Zihua this year to work with Las Joyas (the school). But my replacement, Bill Overman, is under doctor’s orders not to travel, so I have all his gifts and his commitment to journey forth and do it one last time (sorry Javier, but this is it amigo). I leave October 2 for 3 weeks to get the program started. Going to be a big push on English this year. I will get an English program started. A former Mexican teacher will keep it going while I return to the US and then I will pick it up again in January for 2 months.

One last request for assistance. I know times are tough but I am asking once again. I would like to raise at least $300 dollars for school supplies for Las Joyas. Even small amounts help a lot. If you know me and trust me, you can send a donation to me at

Bill Bradley
3650 Morning Star Drive, Unit 2402,
Las Cruces, NM 88011

Also, if you have “clothes with dignity” that you could donate, please send them to me at the same address. Shoes are especially welcome (but no high heels). This year the clothes donations will go to a school fund raiser for school supplies. So check out your closets today! (BTW: Soccer shoes have been our best sellers.)

Las Joyas could use our support. Thank you.

UPDATE ON KAREN: I continue to support Karen on her journey through college at the University of Guadalajara. By my latest count she has received 23 “A’s”, 2 “B’s, and one Pass. Two of those “A’s” came through this just completed summer session. She is now a junior. She has tentative plans to study in the US next summer. That is truly exciting. More on that as I know more. Meanwhile, for those of you who enjoy tracking her progress, here is a list of her classes for this semester:

Statistics II
Cost Accounting
Fiscal Law
Organizational Behavior
Human Resources
Management Audit
Piano (for fun)

Lizbeth, Memo, and Bernabe

OCTOBER: While in Zihua for three weeks I will be splitting my time between working with “my kids” Bernabe and Lizbeth in the mornings (they are both struggling in school) and at Las Joyas in the afternoons. Don’t tell anyone, but I am off for 4-5 days to Guadalajara in the middle of the trip. I hope to see Karen there and maybe get some pictures of her at her school. I will give you a full report when I get back.

Bonus picture: How the poor bathe in Zihua

Thank you for reading this. “Memo”

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