10/14/05 Katrina Relief Montage
The Traveling Guys project is the result of a vision to impact others around the globe. This calling spawned the creation of The Global Awakening, a non-profit aimed at inspiring a new generation of leaders to be catalysts for global change. Our desire is that this vision will ignite a new revolution of leaders to bring inspiration and hope to the world for generations to come. Find Out More...
I wanted to express a sincere thank you to all the supporters we have had since we undertook this project here in Kenya. I continue to be busy with teaching classes and It has been a huge blessing to know that many of you are praying for that God will bless this project and everyone involved.
The computer project here in Kenya has been going superbly well. We have been able to buy a few computers enough to start classes and the impact on this community has been astounding. We are still urgently seeking more donations to be able to accomplish our full desire to equip a full classroom with all the necessary equipment. Anyone may make a donation by check, Credit Card or Paypal by clicking the "Donate" button below.
What a joy it has been to teach them. The students are both young and old. Many have have had only very limited exposure to computers or none at all. A large amount of the classes that I have been teaching has been involving the very fundamental and basic aspects of using a computer.
One memorable moment was during the lesson that I was teaching about the functions of the "windows" such as such as minimizing, maximizing and restoring the windows pane on the desktop. The whole class started giggling and laughing when I asked them to click the maximize button and saw the window fill the whole computer screen with that particular program. It was one of those Kodak moments in which joy, excitement and amazement carried across all ages as they clicked back and forth between the minimize and maximized window. The smiles and laughter that they all had is hard to describe. They simply could not believe their eyes.
We start and end each class in prayer which has been a wonderful part of class. Christianity is very prevalent in this country and it is not uncommon to hear Christian worship music in restaurants, shops or blaring form some vehicle. I was shocked to hear that men and women fear unplanned pregnancy far greater than they fear contracting HIV/AIDS.
There is a commonly regarded that HIV/AIDS is similar to a flu; it can be treated and you can still lead a lengthy life. In a recent study showed that Kenya has close to 550,000 AIDS orphans and an estimated 78,000 children living with HIV/AIDS. A full 15 adults out of 100 has HIV/AIDS! Since 2002, the standard of living has been dropping substantially and Kenya now is considered to be a low-income country. Two thirds of Kenyans live in the country side much like the community that I am in, Maguga, where there is no electricity and no running water. Kenya is no different than many other African nations. In fact, there are other countries that are in far worse conditions. We all need to take an active effort to do what we can whether its clean water, education, food relief or help combat the spread of HIV/AIDs.
A view of the computer classroom in Maguga, Kenya
We are having an overwhelming response!
There are a lot of places I have written blogs over the past year; from dusty Peruvian buses to the glistening Australian beach to the chilling Nepalese altitude. But tonight, instead of writing this blog in an obscure internet cafe, I have the privilege of composing this letter in the comfort of my cozy apartment in Nashville, Tennessee, with my brand new wife, Traci, by my side.
There is a saying that the best things in life come to those who wait. For me, there couldn't be a statement that rings more true in my life right now. Although I have been able to travel to 5 continents and 30 countries in the past year, I can honestly say that I have never felt more excitement in my life than what I feel right now.
In the past few months, I returned home early from across the globe to surprise my wife, got engaged, planned a wedding in 5 weeks, got married New Years Eve, planned and enjoyed a 3 week honeymoon, set up a business, worked on four projects, packed and moved from Seattle, packed and moved Traci from Kansas City and discovered and moved into an apartment in Nashville.
Amazing wedding photos by Ben DeRienzoAnd yet even though our lives are completely chaotic at the moment, we have both never felt so much peace about where we are, and have never felt more confidence that this is exactly where God wants us. It's actually hilarious to me what love can do to someone. As I write this, I am literally sitting in a sea of unopened boxes, squeezed into a one-person chair with my wife (our only piece of furniture) with no idea of what the future will look like. But this by far the best time in my entire life.
I truly believe that God's timing is perfect. And just as I felt a calling in May 2005 to go on this adventure with my friend Patrick, I felt an equal calling to return home to the woman of my dreams in late November 2006. There is so much more I will share in the coming weeks about the incredible adventure I have had over the past year (and answer many questions you might have). But for the moment, I wanted to share this very exciting news, and have asked my wife, Traci, to share a bit of our recent engagement story in the blog below.
Thank you all for your prayers, your encouragement and your support through the peaks and valleys. This has truly been one of the most amazing adventures of my life... and it's really just beginning.
Moments after the proposalLee and I didn't exactly have the typical courtship. We'd spent more than a year apart with five continents and 30 countries separating us. He'd been traveling (a lifelong dream of his), while I stayed back, missing him like crazy in the States.
One morning, November 22, 2006 to be exact, after a late night of talking on the phone, I woke up excited, as he told me there would be a special surprise arriving in the morning. I got ready to begin my day as I thought of him finishing his in South Africa.
Sure enough, after breakfast, my mom (who was in on the surprise) told me there was a box on the porch. Inside the box I found a DVD, a beautiful postcard, and best of all, a sweet love note. I watched the DVD of Lee in the Tokyo airport telling me the first of many clues for a scavenger hunt. He always planned the best surprises, so I couldn't wait!
Later, he called one more time to make sure the package had arrived. And then I was on my way to find the first clue. Each clue led us to a place where Lee and I had a special date and also included a small gift. But the final clue was the best of all as it led to my favorite chapel. When I walked in, I saw the aisle lined with candles and filled with rose petals, and one of our songs, "If You're Not the One," began playing. One dozen perfect red roses and a small note sat on a podium illuminated by spotlights. As I walked down the aisle to the flowers and note, I assumed the surprise was over.
But there was a knock at the side door, and I approached, expecting a friend with another gift. I never thought it would be Lee! After all, he just called from Africa this morning! I opened the door, and there he was, dressed in a suit with a huge smile. I dropped everything and screamed! He got down on one knee and said he couldn't stay away one second longer. He was home to stay and asked me if I'd marry him!
The story he told of his journey home blew me away. He traveled across the globe in a week sleeping in airports at Tokyo, Helsinki, Russia (deported BACK to Helsinki), Paris, London, Chicago, Champaign. Staying up ALL night, he prepared each clue and gift. The next morning he and his mom drove seven hours to Missouri. He went to each business, met with managers and planted clues. The next day, after calling "from Africa," he went to the chapel. Setting our song on repeat for over an hour, he hid in the small side room until I arrived! Astoundingly, the song started as soon as I walked in the chapel! The dream continued, as we were married just five weeks later on New Years Eve.
Our Goal: A Kenyan computer classroom!In a few short weeks I will be going to Kenya to take part in an incredible opportunity to change the lives of a town called Muguga, in Kenya. Despite the fact that Kenya is considered one of the more forward moving countries in Africa, it still faces many challenges- one of them being the way people are being left behind by modernity because they lack proper access to modern equipment such as computers and crucial access to free information via the internet. One of the biggest promoters of changing the lives of people in this way is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Interestingly, they have found that 1.) computer and access to the internet are two vital and necessary tools to help people improve their own lives and 2.) "the vast majority of the world's population-more than 87 percent, or 5.5 billion people-lack access to these powerful, modern tools".
The village of Muguga is one of these pockets of communities that desperately need these modern tools. I feel privileged to be able to take part in setting up a computer learning center, as well as teaching computer classes.
I would like to ask any of you that feel pulled towards helping to please donate money to this project. We are in great need of $3,000 to cover the cost of computers and networking gear. Our goal is to be able to provide 5 computers and other related computer gear such as cables, printer, router etc. to fully equip a computer classroom. Please take a moment to think of how much you could give to change the lives of this community and most especially, the multitude of school children who deserve the proper tools to prepare them to be great future leaders of their own communities and country. Your financial help has exponential benefits.
Merry Christmas!After a long trip from Seattle via Taipei, Hong Kong to Johannesburg and now on to Madrid and all the way back up around the globe to Switzerland, I'll be staying there with my family friends to celebrate Christmas. The hiccup in Hong Kong eventually caused a number of delays and the rescheduling of our Kenya project. We are now rescheduling it for mid-February. Stay tuned for a Kenya update next week!
Right now, I want to extend a special thank you and Merry Christmas to all the supporters we have had since we undertook this project. It has been a huge blessing to know that we have people, some who we know and some who we don't, praying for us, the projects that we undertake and the people we meet. Without prayer, this trip could not be a success.
This Christmas, I am thankful to have this opportunity to travel and serve and am pondering just how much we've experienced. It has been amazing. For example, I came way from our project in India, filled with renewed energy to continue to make a difference and impact the lives of people I come across. The fact that we could bless so many people simply by reaching out and helping them repair their farm is simply awesome. It only underscores how our actions can truly positively impact someone's life. Whether it is in a tiny village in India or in our own neighborhood, the same idea applies. I encourage you to do the same; give someone around you a helping hand and you'll discover how much it also blesses you in return. So reach out to someone this Christmas season. Then do it again and again and you'll realize how immeasurably blessed you will become.
Hong Kong International Airport.The last few weeks have been quite unexpected. I arrived to Delhi after my journey to Ongole, needing to make some schedule and routing changes with my American Airlines Round-the-World ticket (RTW). Since I have a paper ticket, it normally takes a full day to reissue an RTW. However after spending two futile days at the AA office in downtown Delhi trying to get my tickets reissued, they gave me an option of going on to Hong Kong and having it reissued there in a few hours. Not wanting to waste more time, I chose to go onto Hong Kong. I spent a full day at the incredible Hong Kong airport waiting and then waiting some more. In the end, they were not able to reissue my ticket unless I paid over $800 in taxes and some additional fees beyond that. Not willing to pay taxes that I already paid when I bought my ticket, they gave an alternative. Miss my red-eye flight to Africa and wait until Monday to speak to the AA office in downtown.
I did just that. However Monday came and went. Tuesday, Wednesday also rolled by painfully slow. And so began my unplanned week in Hong Kong. As the hours and days wore on and as more people became involved in my ticketing dilemma, my problem grew more and more complex and grim. Ironically, the $800 in taxes was now looking like the best option, if only they would honor that first offer. In the end my worst problem put me in a stalemate. The computer system they found, showed me flying to cities that I have never even been to. Cities that I had no ticket for. All attempts to convince them otherwise failed. Computers never lie apparently.
Everyone involved had a problem with my ticket and a different answer. I spent my time between the Cathay Pacific office (American Airlines partner in Asia), American Airlines Hong Kong office, the airport offices or I spent endless hours with the Tariff department in Dublin and the RTW department in Dallas. Their inability to communicate in real time (because of the time zone difference) with the main offices in Dublin and Dallas also proved to be a headache.
Hong Kong's Skyline at Night.While in Hong Kong, I stayed with Ryall, a Canadian expat who is residing in Hong Kong as an English instructor. He was a wonderful host that I came to know through CouchSurfing, a phenomenal travel site that connects like minded travelers. Its more than finding a free place to stay. Its about sharing one's experiences, background and culture. Lee and I have gotten more out of one night of CouchSurfing than a week at a hostel. Its a rich and fulfilling experience. I encourage anyone traveling abroad to try it and for those who reside state side, open up your home to host and impact someone's life.
After a quick trip back to the States, resolving my ticketing dilemma (for the most part), I am now back ready to get back on the road again. I have loved the RTW, though it hasn't been without some painful experiences. I'll see how the rest of my RTW ticket experience goes before giving it a thumbs up or down.
A few of the water buffalo at the farm.Last month, as we passed through Tibet, and Nepal and India, I went down to Ongole, India, the location of our Water Buffalo Project.
I arrived to a very rainy southern India. In fact, the southern region was experiencing torrential monsoon weather that was causing massive flooding. Unfortunately this precluded me from being able to visit the farm. The farm, normally accessible only by jeep and a few hours away, became inaccessible.
The project we undertook was sponsoring the purchase of Water Buffalo as well as some farm upkeep. The organization that we connected with was Peace Gospel Ministries International from Houston, Texas. In Ongole, I connected with Pastor B. Samson who oversees the water buffalo farm and ministry there. I had an extraordinary time with him and his wonderful family.
The farm is quite remarkable. This farm not only gives jobs to this very small community, training and sustenance but it is also profitable and invests back into its small community!
Villagers looking on with interest.Peace Gospel started the dairy farm last year with 10 water buffalo to help fund outreach programs such as an orphanage, slum mercy projects, widow's sewing school and church planting. The farm has now been producing proceeds of about $1,000 per month!
While I was there, the farm sustained substantial damages from the torrential rains. The $2,500 that we had pledged came at perfect timing! Is God not great? They have now been able to allocate much of that money towards repairing the damages that was sustained during the floods. Thank you to all of you who gave towards this project. It is awesome to see an investment such as this one flourish! I wish to encourage everyone to keep giving either financially, volunteering with your time or with your prayers. If you feel led or motivated to become more involved in India, Peace Gospel Ministries International is an exceptional organization to do so. For those of you who want to continue or become involved with The Global Awakening and our mission, please continue to do so and contact Lee or myself. Thank you again for all your support in making our Water Buffalo Project a success.
View during the journey.We had an amazing opportunity recently to travel on the Lhasa Express, the world's highest rail track at 16,640 feet. The train travels across an immense number of landscapes as it makes it's way from Beijing all the way to Lhasa, Tibet. The $4 billion project just recently began service in July of this year, so it was a delight to be able to be one of the first to take part in the adventure.
We booked a midrange (and somewhat cramped) hard sleeper for the 48 hour journey, which cost around $150. The berths were stacked three high in sections of six beds, without a door or individual reading light. The bottom bed functioned as the social sofa during the day.
The journey traverses over 2,500 miles of permafrost and towering mountain passes over three days, going right through the heart of China. According to rail statistics, more than 600 miles, or over 80% of the railway, is built at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet, over half of it is laid on permafrost, and 675 bridges on the line. The train's sealed windows also prevent passengers from littering Tibet's fragile ecosystem. The squat-variety vacuum toilets compress waste, zap it with disinfecting ultraviolet rays, and discharge it only in stations.
According to a recent Wired magazine article, there was concern during construction that the rail tracks would not hold up, as nearly half of the tracks were built on permafrost that thaws and becomes muddy during the summer. Chinese engineers dealt with this problem by building elevated tracks with foundations sunk deep into the ground, inserting vertical pipes that circulate liquid nitrogen and cold nitrogen gas into the ground, building hollow concrete pipes beneath the tracks to keep the rail bed frozen, and using metal sun shades. However, global warming may require new methods to be invented in the coming decades to keep this railway operating.
Due to the thin Tibetan air (35-40% of the oxygen of air at sea level), special passenger rail cars were used, which are sealed and have the abillity to provide passengers with oxygen-rich air (witnessed in the video).
We will spend a few days in Lhasa, Tibet before traveling overland (via guided Land Cruiser) through the Himalayas to Kathmandu, Nepal. Our plan is to also spend a few nights at Everest Base Camp.