Arriving in Amarante.

We managed to make it safely to our Habitat for Humanity build, albeit we had no shortage of bumps along the way.

Let me back track a bit and recount the craziness that was our trip planning process.

A Long time ago, our team took a vote to decide where we wanted to go for H4H 2010, the top choices being Ireland, Portugal and Hungary. As it turns out, Ireland is for US groups only, and the only spot in Portugal didn’t fit our team vision. So, we picked a build in Miskolc, Hungary, where we would be building a home for autistic adults.

About four weeks ago, which happens to coincide with the week before my vacation to Canada, I got an email letting us know that the Danube had flooded out the city of Miskolc, and the city would no longer be able to support a build. So, we scrambled to adjust the trip to the other build location in Hungary, Varpolada.

Well, Varpolada was looking good for a while too. It lacked the Unesco World Heritage site of Miskolc, but it did come with a giant inland lake, which means beach time! Unfortunately, roughly 10 days ago, smack in the middle of my vacation, I got another email from Hungary. This time to let us know that the homeless shelter in Varpolada had decided to see other people, and would be hiring a contractor to do their work.

Getting over the “it’s not you, it’s me” emails from H4H was pretty easy, as we didn’t have much time to organize our yet-to-be-determined Plan C. We managed to get lucky, and our friends in Portugal still had a spot for us. A few thousand euro in flight change fees later, and we had the makings of a new trip planned.

With a little extra money, we would be able to make the trip just fine. We hit a bit of a snag with our accountant and his four week vacation, but I can’t exactly complain as I’m taking five.

And so, Sarah and I left PG on the morning of the 15th, and arrived (two layovers, three late planes and a missed flight later) in Paris on the night of the 16th where I picked up a giant (7700 euro) wad of cash that would bankroll the trip. As long as I could hold onto it for 24 hours, we would be in the clear.

Did you know there are pickpockets in Paris?

On the way to the airport the following morning, a kerfuffle started up behind me that culminated in a slap fight and yelling match between two older women and a young man. While I didn’t catch most of the wording, I did get the idea when the woman pointed at my backpack. Once firmly shut, the outer pouch was now fully open, and the contents were displayed for all to see. Luckily, the thief opened the ‘tampon and kleenex’ part of my bag, and not the ‘camera, iPod and wad-o-bills’ compartment.

This little adventure was bad for my psyche, but was a good reminder about the dangers of putting all your bills in one basket.

After this, the rest of the trip was more or less uneventful. Weade our (delayed) flight OK with all participants, and checked in o our hotel in Amarante. The first 12 hours have been great. We had a delicous welcoming dinner for the group last night, including mixed grill, fried octopus, salt cod, wine, “duck fish”, baked jalepenos, and the best mushrooms that I’ve ever had. This morning involved sitting on a sunny terrace and sunbathing by the river.

Tomorrow, we begin our build. It’s been a long road to get here, but I’m sure glad we’ve finally arrived.

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