There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work

31 July 2011

traveling along the Mogollon Rim

A lone female elk raises her head to look at me inquisitively,
then returns to her morning grass.
I stare at a slow moving dark stone, sauntering back and forth
like a drunkard.
I see a black bear appear.
In the darkest of nights, headlights show the tips of danger
as wild animal's horns are illuminated above wild bushes.
Along the Mogollon Rim, one can never anticipate,
know where beauty will show itself,
and therein lies the wonder.
Some mornings all you see is what the the sun has to offer.

30 July 2011

The day of blood

It was only one hour into working on the school project at Unity Centre, day one, when I dropped my trowel over the wall we were building, jumped over to get it, and then was accidentally dropped on some rebar by my brother as he was trying to help me get back up.

I'll spare you the bloody pictures of my side, and my torn shorts that left my left bum cheek flapping in the breeze. That day though was nothing compared to the day of blood.

Eunice, headmaster of Unity Centre, had additional classrooms started from literally the ground up by World of Difference last year. This year we wanted to build the walls up higher, and give them a more suitable roof. 
(The current roof was pieces of old tin tied together on sticks that lay on the top of the wall)

The week was one of the hardest I've worked in my years of going.

But day number four was one I'll never forget. The day started by only a few of us going to Eunice's ( maybe six, no more than eight people) to see what we could do to help the workers there. The rest of the group were at different projects. Eunice asked us to clean out all of the rocks, gravel, and sand that they had been storing in one of the classrooms. We went to work, back breaking work.

One heavy stone at a time, sometimes rolling the stones by pushing them with our feet, sometimes breaking the stones into smaller, movable pieces, we started to clear out the room.
 Eventually, the room started to clear. I had left to go speak to Eunice about the next step in our project. I remember hearing one of the team members yell over to me, " I think your brother just got hit with a shovel..."
I looked around and saw my brother walking quickly to sit down, holding his hand to his head. I ran over to him, and saw a might knot forming next to his right eye, with a nasty half moon cut on his face. Immediately I grabbed him and we went to the van, and asked the driver to get out the first aid kit. As luck would have it, we rode in the van that had the first aid with hardly any supplies.

What I did have was a 2 x 2 gauze and some type of anti-bacterial ointment, but nothing to hold this onto his ever swelling and bleeding face. Instinctively, I grabbed my sweaty bandanna off my head, and tied it around my brother's head to try and hold on the gauze and give some pressure to his wound.
I was freaking out, and thought we should probably take him to the hospital to get stitches, but he wouldn't have anything to do with that. Looking back, I can't really blame him. I sent a text from Eunice's phone to our team leaders, as all calls were going straight to voice mail. I wanted them to know a team member was down. I wasn't getting any response.
One of our team members with us was a Physical therapist, and he examined the head wound, and didn't think stitches would be needed. We gave him something for the pain, and told him to rest in the van the remainder of the day.
Feeling very lucky that he wasn't seriously hurt, the rest of us went back to work. A little while later, a second van arrived with more team members. This was good timing as we needed to move a load of 4 x 4 timbers into the classrooms so that they could be lifted up to start building the roof. My brother wasn't about to sit around while we worked, and against my advice, continued to help at the work site.
His work ethic and commitment to the cause was something I'll never forget.
As we were carrying the timber, I hear the words " someone just had a piece of wood dropped on them!"
" You have got to be kidding me..."
I walked to where we were storing the pieces of timber, looking to see who got hurt. As I came to the last classroom, I was horrified by what I saw.
Team member Jill came stumbling out of the classroom with clotted dark blood covering her face and hands. She was shaking uncontrollably, white as a ghost. Her best friend Mary was holding her and trying to walk with her, looking like she was in just as much shock as Jill.
I could feel the "fight or flight" response kick in immediately. I ran to Jill, and Mary and I quickly got her into Eunice's office. I was yelling for people to get me another first aid kit, water, and towels as Jill was seriously hurt. Luckily, the second van had a fully stocked kit.
Time went into a blur for the next little bit. Blood was everywhere. All I could do was keep my arms around Jill, holding her tight and telling her to breathe, that everything would be ok. Or maybe I was telling that to myself, trying to reassure me, as I wasn't too sure....
Jill also would not be taken to a hospital. We cleaned the blood from her face, out of her eyes so she could see, and dressed the head wound the best we could. She looked like a victim of battle.
 I called the team leaders again to let them know that another team member had been seriously hurt. jD answered this time, calmed me down, and together we decided to have Jill go back to where we were staying, with some other team members, and we would further assess the situation.
I found out later that the first text I sent them about my brother wasn't received until after the phone call I had telling them about Jill. They thought that he hurt himself after Jill, and called back to tell us all to stop working immediately before there weren't any team members left.

The day of blood showed me the resiliency of our team. They were committed to making a difference, and their sacrifice was evidence of that. The day showed me how I can handle a crisis situation, and the love that we all have for each other, in good times and bad.
 It was a good thing that this was our last day of work though for a couple of days.  We all needed to relax and recover.

27 July 2011

Fleet Foxes & fishing

"Enchanted" would most accurately describe how I felt when she first opened her mouth and sang.

The girl and I stopped our conversation at the sound of Alela Diane and Wild Divine.
The night only got better. Rounds of drinks with old friends and new, home made cookies and pasta devoured, as we all relaxed on the grass to Fleet Foxes.
Straggled home around midnight, and laid down my head for a few hours before I was to rise again.
When the call to fish goes out, I answer.
Before the sun rises, I'm back on the road, sunroof open and breathing in cool mountain air.

It's how I celebrate.
The fish were scarce, but the good company wasn't. With a new watering closet on the boat, we made the best of it....
( no peeksies)

I was able to catch a monster three pounder, but rules are the bugger must be at least 22 inches, and mine was just shy, ( stupid rules) and so this guy lived to swim another day. I know my animal lovers and vegetarian friends will be happy.
That's how we roll on a Pie & Beer holiday weekend in the UT.

20 July 2011

The Adventures of Zombie Butt, Poopypants, & Timonface

When I first heard from Chels that a friend of her's was going with World of Difference to Kenya this year, I was ecstatic. Chels was awesome in 2009. She told me that her friend was going alone, and asked if I would look out for her. Having gone alone the past two years myself, I completely related and assured Chels that her friend would be in good hands. When my brother and I arrived at the SLC airport gate to start our adventure to Africa, I told him to be on the lookout for some chick named Kianna. "What does she look like?" he asked. I had no idea, but I was  pretty sure I'd be able to spot her easily enough. I few minutes later, a girl came walking past us. She looked anxious, confused, lost, and a tad scared. I knew it was her, as I had the same look on me my first time. We introduced ourselves, and she told me that she didn't know what she was getting herself into. I tried to calm her down by telling her that on my first trip, I almost bolted out of the airport I was so nervous, but just at that moment two other team members, Ranger and Jodi, showed up, calmed me down, and subsequently I had the best experience of my life.
There really is nothing like traveling halfway around the world with someone you've never met before, and with your brother. You bond so closely, at least we did. For me, it felt like my little sister was back with us, and the three of us were off on another adventure, having the time of our lives.
By the time we arrived in London, and made it into the city to sightsee during our layover, we already had nicknames.
Zombie Butt : Kianna
Poopypants : Jared
Timonface : me
I could try to explain how we came up with these nicknames, but it is just one of those inside jokes. I'm sure everyone can relate. What I can tell you is that these two people made this trip especially meaningful and fun this year, and for that I'm very grateful. Kenya is a great place because of it's people, and to have such awesome team members to share Kenya with is priceless.
I could ramble on forever about all the good times we had, but I don't want to bore you. Instead, I'll just give you the highlights :
  • Eating fish 'n chips at the coolest pub in London.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( aka poopypants)
  • Wenis
  • Ox Balls " I was ok until I bit into the testy...."
  • "I think your brother just got hit by a shovel...."
  • "Bucket Up!"
  • Ralph, the tastiest lobster ever
  • "I know how to get the cement out of my shorts..."
  • "ooohhhh, I hope it's rice and noodles for dinner"
  • Riding the DFW terminal tram, just for fun.
  • Getting a new water bottle almost every day for two + weeks.
  • Fanta
  • Mangos and pineapples
  • Sheepskin hats
  • Matching Maasai anklets from a Maasai warrior.
  • "Bucket down!"
These are just some that I can recollect for this post. To see more of ZB, PP, and TF's adventures, enjoy :

16 July 2011

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Techno house pumping sounds, reggae inspired beats, occasional raps and plain old fashioned rock and roll cumlinated into the Michael Franti and Spearhead show at Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City on July 14th, 2011.

and I met a girl.

I had secured my own little spot on the lawn, set up the blankets, food and drinks, and was just relaxing when I hear a sweet voice introduce herself.

Small talk ensues as I cringe at the thought of inane conversation. I tell her half truths about myself, keeping my guard up in case crazy shows up.

But all we do is laugh and dance.

I don't need anything more than that tonight.

Franti ends the show having everyone in the audience under 10 and over 60 up on stage to sing the encore. The stage is filled with young and old alike. I give the girl a hug goodbye, and tell her that I hope we both will be on a stage when we are sixty.


biking on backcountry farm roads

A brook babbles it's insane laughter.
The summer sun drenches my body in sweat, I glance over fields filled with tall alfalfa grass, swaying gently in the wind.
My mind goes back to the tall grasses of Kenya, where big cats hunt for their prey.
Here horses slowly swing their tails in synchronicity, like a metronome.
Cows chew their cud lazily.
Asphalt turns to gravel, then to dirt upon which I turn the pedals clockwise, propelling me towards empty space.
Abandoned cottages, barns in bright red, faded blue, a dark green. I see them in the clarity of a black and white photograph.
I come to a monastery, and revel in the serenity of the moment, biking on back country farm roads.

12 July 2011

Hope Learning Centre & Isaac's dream....

Hope Learning Centre was the first school I saw when I started going to Kenya back in 2009 with World of Difference. I'll never forget the imagery of seeing the school for that first time, and I wondered what could our group possibly do in the short time we were there that would make any impact at all? Where does one even start when there was so much that needed to be done?
But I just bent my head down and swung my pick axe in the hard earth, starting the process of digging a trench with other team members.

By the end of our time in Kenya that first year, amazingly we had actually completed a cement roof slab for the school. ( Although at the time most team members thought the work was going to kill us.) I'll never forget the comrade we had as a team, proud of our accomplishment, and for what this meant to the headmaster of the school, Isaac Musembi.

When I returned in 2010, I was thrilled to be a part of continuing our work on Isaac's school. Isaac had taken the initiative to work on making improvements while we were away, and he had completed more classrooms and toilet facilities. All he needed now was another cement slab roof. This was the roof that nearly killed me if it wasn't for Isaac ( you can read that story HERE).

Which brings me to our latest effort in 2011. The team didn't work at Isaac's school, but we were able to go there one day. When we arrived, all of the team was flabbergasted by what they saw. Isaac now has electricity in his classrooms, the walls are painted and bright. He actually has a urinal and a little garden! Isaac's school, in my opinion, is a true success story of World of Difference, and I couldn't be more proud to have some small part in that.

Isaac's family also lives at the school. Isaac has also built a room so that a good friend of mine, Kevin, has a place to stay as he has now graduated from secondary school. As Isaac himself says " It is small, but it is enough."

Isaac is a man who is always dreaming and wanting more for his school, the children, and his people. Currently he dreams to put in playground equipment, wants to provide new uniforms, while his daily goal is making sure each student gets one daily meal.
While I was there this last year, Isaac, Kevin, and Isaac's family asked me if I would help them in this effort. I told them that I would do everything in my power. They asked if I would bring back necklaces that they had made themselves, and try to sell them in America.
All proceeds of these necklaces will go back to the Hope Learning Centre, which will help us meet those goals. When we showed them to the team as we were looking at Isaac's school, most team members loved them so much that they bought some right there.

The necklaces are ten dollars each. Add five dollars for shipping and I'll send you as many as you would like. If you are interested in purchasing one, please e-mail me, or leave a comment and I'll get in touch with you.

You can see the progress of Isaac's Hope Learning Centre throughout the years that I've been going with World of Difference :

10 July 2011

Penpal letters from Elbokoch

While in Kenya recently, I received the pen pal letter respones that the students in America had sent in April. The students at the Elbokoch primary school in Northern Kenya were thrilled to get the letters from the American children, and equally happy to write back.

I truly hope that this type of continued correspondence will enlighten minds both in America and Kenya to each other's similarities and differences, while ultimately opening their minds to the greater world at large.

Some the the children's immediate similarities was their love of football/soccer, their families, animals (horses and dogs in America, cows and goats in Kenya), art,dancing, and going to school.

The differences are best summarized by the children themselves :

"I love ugali and meat. I do not know corn." from Nachi Korie ( Kenya)

"My favorite kind of wild animal is a girrafe. I live all the way across the world from you." from Rebecca ( America)

"I am happy to hear from you. I want to teach you Kiswahili language. Jambo - How are you. Kwaheri - Bye. Pangesi - Thanks. from Koriye Nyemeto ( Kenya)

"I am a boy too. I am 9 also. I like Legos. Legos are things that you can build with. What do you play with?" from Logan ( America)

" I am happy to read your letter. I am happy today. I do not have birthday." from Dorale Korie ( Kenya)

"I am so happy to hear from you. I was waiting so much. We can be good friends, yes. I have not heard of California or Utah." from Titus Hide ( Kenya)

Such a simple thing as a letter can have a profound impact on a child's life. These letters will be delivered to the school's principal in the fall when the children return to school, and hopefully this will continue throughout  the coming school year. Thank you to the Hawthorn Academy!

If you would like to start a correspondence pen pal program with a school in Kenya, please contact me, or leave a message in the comments section.

09 July 2011

Tears and Rain

A man is walking alone along the ocean shore and notices thousands of starfish stranded on the beach from the receding tide, dying. Compelled, he starts to pick them up, one by one, and gently tosses them back into the ocean.

A stranger notices what he is doing, and asks him why he is even trying, as there will be no way he can save them all.

The man replies, " but at least I saved this one."

(from World of Difference team members Dori and j.D.)

Full of hope in the eyes of it's children.
The team moves 50,000 pounds of stone.
Eyes that are full of wonder and curiosity.
The team moves 240,000 pounds of sand.
In the slums outside of Nairobi, the world changes.
The team moves 104,000 pounds of gravel.
It's a place I see where people survive by working together, helping each other.
We mix 104,000 pounds of cement, haul by hand 1,500 gallons of water from the river.
For children's desks, we nailed 178 lbs of nails into 2,948 feet of wood that we cut and sanded by hand.
I make realizations that were hard to grasp previously, the orphaned, abandoned, the hungry, desperate souls. One can be overwhelmed.
We delivered over 2,300 lbs of donated educational and medical supplies to over 11 schools, whose total children outreach was over 1,461 children.
I dream big in Kenya.