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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Habitat Build in Chimtewadi Village

This year, I lead a group of 12 people to build with Habitat for Humanity of India in a small rural village 3 hours outside of Mumbai (Bombay) called Chimtewadi. I wanted to return to India because my very first Habitat Build outside of the USA was in India exactly 10 years before in November of 2007.

Most of my team arrived from the USA around the same time – around 1:00 am after 16 hours of flying. After a couple of hours, everyone landed and got through security and we headed to the hotel in Mumbai around 3:00 am for a few hours sleep. The next morning we went to the Habitat offices in Mumbai to learn about the work Habitat is doing in India in housing, sanitation, and market development. After lunch, we loaded up in a small bus for the 3 hour drive to Karjat, where we would be staying at the Rivergate Hotel, the same place where I stayed when I built in the region in 2007

My "tent" at the Rivergate

Each morning, we would drive another hour to Chimtewadi village. The family we were building with lived on the outskirts of the mountain village. Ankush and Sunita had raised their two kids there in huts made of thatch and manure, vulnerable to snakes and scorpions. (And we saw both!) They had prepared for our arrival for over a year, making their own bricks from the red mud that flowed down from the mountains during the rainy season. They had made over 30,000 bricks and arranged them in a pyramid to form their kiln to bake the bricks.

Women washing clothes - a sight we'd see each day on the drive to the build 

The pyramid of bricks

Ankush performing a blessing on the house as the doorframe is installed

On the morning we arrived, only the foundation was there. By the time we left, we had four walls and part of an interior wall built. Ankush was a mason and farmer by trade (growing rice), so he and one other mason hired by Habitat were primarily laying the bricks with some assistance from my team, but my team was primarily moving thousands of bricks from the brick pyramid up the hill to the house and carrying mud which we used as mortar. Just as in the US, Habitat homeowners in India work side by side with volunteers for the construction of their homes.

Preparing rice
Moving bricks

Perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip was the opportunity to return to the village where I built in 2007. I never thought I would be able to return to this remote place, but I there I was, back in Nagachiwadi Village, seeing the house I helped to build 10 years ago and reuniting with the homeowner whose life we helped to change.

The house I helped build in 2007, with the same  homeowner

How we looked in 2007
In 2007, I became friends with Kashav, a 15 year old who helped us build.
Now I got to meet his wife and kid. (Photo courtesy of Indra Tobias)

Me and Kashav in 2007
This mango tree had grown so much!

As we neared the end of the build, our goal was to get all of the walls up. 

Bhau and his boy.
Bhau and his wife Asha were on the brick pile helping us every day. 

The team with Ankush and Sunita on the final day

Are you interested in participating in Habitat’s “Global Village” program? Check out upcoming trips at .

Postscript: Back in Mumbai at the Hotel Silver Inn, on the last night of the trip, before the team went their separate ways, they surprised me with a birthday cake. I love celebrating my birthday on Habitat trips! 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Georgia on My Mind -- Providence Canyon

Sometimes you don't have to go far from home to see incredible sights!

Last weekend, I didn't even have to leave Georgia to visit this amazing place. Located in Stewart County, Providence Canyon is sometimes called "The Little Grand Canyon."

Saturday, October 29, 2016

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

When I was in Peru in August 2012, I noticed that Cusco was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It occurred to me that I had been to several through the years, and I wondered how many there were and how many I had been to. So I decided to do a post of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I had visited.

Since that time, I've continued to update this post. The most recent UNESCO sites I've visited was Stelling van Amsterdam, or the defense line of Amsterdam, built between 1880 and 1914. Prior to that, it was Cape Floristic Region in Cape Town, Africa which I visited in April 2016.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a site designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to be of cultural or physical significance. There are presently over 962 such sites.

The 35 World Heritage Sites I’ve been to include:


• Stelling van Amsterdam (defense line of Amsterdam) in Haarlem

Fort benoorden Spaarndam, part of the defense line of Amsterdam


• Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg

• Historic Centre of Vienna

Vienna Opera House


• Sydney Opera House


• Rapa Nui National Park

Rapa Nui (the indigenous name for Easter Island)
• Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso



• The Great Wall

Great Wall at Mutianyu

Great Wall at Badaling
• Classical Gardens of Suzhou

• Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing

Temple of Heaven
• Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (Forbidden City)

Forbidden City

Czech Republic
• Historic Centre of Prague



• Historic Cairo

Cairo and the Nile
• Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
Giza and the Pyramids

• Palace and Park of Versailles
• Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge
• Paris, Banks of the Seine

Banks of the Seine

Town of Bamberg

• Würtzberg Residenz

• Vatican City

The Vatican
• Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura

Ancient Roman Ruins

• Elephanta Caves

At Elephanta Caves

Inside the Elephanta Caves

• Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama


• City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications

• Historic Centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco

The Zocalo in Mexico City
• Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan
Climbing Teotihuacan

• City of Cuzco

Plaza de Armas in Cuzco
• Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Arriving at the Sun Gate with Machu Picchu below

Russian Federation
• Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow

At the Kremlin

South Africa 

• Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (Cape Town)

• Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada

La Alhambra

Inside the Alhambra in Granada (Spring 1999)

• Works of Antoni Gaudi

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia
Me inside Gaudi's Park Güell in Barcelona, 1999 

• Historic City of Toledo

Toledo, Spain

United Kingdom
• Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church

• Statue of Liberty

• San Antonio Mission (including the Alamo)

The Alamo, 2009

(Updated October 29, 2016 from original post in October, 2012)

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