Google
 

Friday, February 29, 2008

One year on the road!


Today marks one year on the road! We were rewarded at lunchtime here at the Whispering Seeds Myanmar orphan camp with a surprise raisin bread they baked for us in the shape of a heart!

It was really nice and completely unexpected. Of course we shared it with everyone. That now includes a TV film crew, a group of Quakers from a private high school in Pennsylvania, and two english carpenters. We have been hot and exhausted working on putting a roof on a the childrens mud brick house and designing the bridge.

Tomorrow 3 of the local refugee schools are having a childrens fun day. We will keep working!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

At the refugee camp




Clara and I have arrived at whispering seeds. We are about 2 miles from the Myanmar border. We were greeted by Mao Mao, a real jungle boy about 6 years old who said "big motorcycle" and started climbing on the bike. A teenage girl whose Burmese mother was a sex worker and died of TB and Aids a year ago was also there to show us the right dirt path to go down. She is incredibly smart, speaking 3 languages despite no schooling ever.

We bathed in the river, ate vegetarian dinner, and slept in a mud brick tree house, on some mats laid over the plank second story floor. A mosquito net is all that protected us from the jungle in these open air buildings, without power or water.



There are other volunteers here, from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada. All very nice, with everyone pitching in to help.


The roads on the way here were fun, nothing like downhill, decreasing radius, off camber turns to fire up the juices! Unfortunately, they are slashing and burning all the land up here, you can smell the corruption through the smoke on the horizon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Help us to Build a Bridge!

Building Bridges

As regular readers of our blog have hopefully seen, one of the purposes of our trip has been to make new friends, learn about different cultures and to build bridges between people around the world. We have taken pictures and written about our experiences to share this with others. For the next phase of our trip we are going to help build an actual bridge to bring people together and we hope that you, our readers, will help as well.

A friend of our alternative education guru friend Jerry Mintz is running a school and shelter known as Whispering Seed in Thailand for orphans and refugees from the troubles in Myanmar just a couple kilometers from the border, near Three Pagodas Pass. It is a very rudimentary place, with power only occasionally from a generator, bathing is in the stream, and they are building houses from natural components. They have a farm which they must cross a stream to get to, and this stream turns into a non-crossable torrent during the rainy season. That is where the bridge comes in. Jim Connors and his partner Nao who run Whispering Seed have obtained some international help from architects, engineers and builders to design a bridge so that they can get to their land during the rainy season. The design is done and the work has begun, but they need help to finish by the rainy season and not lose the work they have completed.

Whispering Seed is a non profit organization and you can learn about the work they do and help donate to get materials and tools to finish the bridge at www.whisperingseed.org . We hope that if you have enjoyed the blog that you will consider donating some money to help get the bridge built. There is an easy way to donate online at their website. We have already contacted our new Thai friends at DBigbikes.com to come and help us with the bridge and they have responded enthusiastically. They are planning on road tripping up to work with us the first weekend in March, and those that can’t ride are donating money.

Currently Whispering Seed is hosting two families with children fulltime, and teaching an additional dozen or so during the week. There are two refugee camps between them and the border so it is a tenuous place to be, to say the least. Of course, we will take pictures and give our accounts of the place once we get there so that donors can see the results of their effort.

We need to build a bridge about 80 meters long out of wood with nothing but hand tools and human labor. Apparently there is an electric drill which can be used with a generator. It makes me think of building the old covered bridges in New England!

Fun in the Sun in Phuket





Here we are just hanging out on the beach! Kevin Boogie Boarding in the waves, Clara with the classic pose, and doing her Baywatch audition!





We finally took a vacation from our vacation and headed to the beach resort island in the south of Thailand known as Phuket. We hung out on the beach for a day doing nothing but sunbathing, body bathing and boogie boarding. We then went for two days on a live aboard dive boat on the Similan Islands, a world class diving area and Thai National Park. We saw tons of fish, rays, sea snakes, a leopard shark, mucho coral and other amazing stuff like cuttlefish.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Scenes from Cambodia





Heroes

As I ride through the Himalayas, a recent email and the death of Bobby Fischer has had me thinking about heroes. To me a hero has been someone to inspire me, someone to appreciate, and someone to emulate on the path to success. As someone with a driven personality, I have always been attracted to people with a single minded determination to be the best at something. Unfortunately, I have often in my life misplaced my faith in heroes who have let me down.

When I was six Bobby Fischer had just captured the imagination of the International community by beating Boris Spassky in a Cold War showdown to win the World Chess Championship, the only American to ever do so. With bold style, flair, and idiosyncratic behavior it seemed he single handedly slayed the methodical Russian Bear with American passion and determination. I was a bit of a chess prodigy, and had my picture on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer playing chess with the express dream to play my hero Mr. Fischer someday. It has been with sadness that I have followed his career over the years, with his paranoia and anti-Jewish, anti-American rants leaving it hard to feel even respect for his remarkable skills. In the end, just sympathy for him having a brilliant mind but being unable to understand much about the world as he passed is all I felt.

Next came the baseball years, and as a young boy growing up in Ohio, that meant Pete Rose. Pete was also single mindedly obsessed, albeit with singles. I read every article I could get about him, how he wasn’t physically that impressive (like me) but he worked really hard to learn to switch hit, and how he also wanted to be the greatest hitter ever. Now a chess and numbers nerd, I could calculate his batting average from the daily boxscores, and I hand made a t-shirt with “Rose 14” on the back which I wore while teaching myself to switch hit through playing whiffle ball. “Charlie Hustle” as he was nicknamed by Mickey Mantle, only knew one speed: full throttle. That meant trying as hard as you can, as long as you can at everything you do, an admirable quality to emulate for a young boy. However, as we all know that tendency to excess led him down dark paths of gambling and lying that led to his disgrace.

Of course, every boy’s real hero is his father and I was no different. I had to be the best at physics, math, and science because I had to go to MIT just like him, the best school in the world. There was no second choice. This hero worship continued on despite our family breakup, where I and my siblings were essentially abandoned by him for 50 weeks of the year and then treated for 2 weeks in the summer to make up for it. My idolatry only really changed for him once I moved in with him and his new wife and children. I was essentially a burden to them, was turned off by their shallowness, materialism and racism. I was told expressly “You will never be anything without us.” Those words inspire me to this day, but only as an extreme example of what a hero is not and to prove them wrong. At 17, I left never to return.

In high school I was shielded from my repressive father and step-mother (couldn’t play with the chess team because they were the “wrong” crowd, couldn’t serve as a Congressional page because I would give them a bad name in Washington, etc.) and shepherded through difficult times to college by my Jesuit priest Principal whose acts of kindness and understanding towards others I saw all the time. I thought if I ever got married I wanted him to perform the ceremony, and to let him know how I thought of him as a father figure and a hero. As my wedding day approached, I learned that he had been removed from a college presidency due to allegations of improper relationships during the time I was at his school. I wrote to him to reach out, but he disappeared to deal with his demons.

I received that email from a friend calling me a hero, high praise indeed, but undeserved. I am someone who follows his dreams and who hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams as well. I have found that people who pursue their dreams are among the happiest, most interesting and most satisfied people I meet, regardless of how much money or success they have had, or even if they are still pursuing that original dream. Sad are the people who never venture to chase their aspirations.

We want to have heroes, perfect people, to look up to and to lead us to the Promised land. Conversely, we also like to put people on pedestals to tear them down. I am yet to see any politician heroes, maybe Gandhi was the last one and even in India we found some people who were not impressed. I lost my hero worship of sports figures during the baseball strike, or the moving of the Cleveland Browns, or of the cheating for and by athletes I saw in high school, or perhaps finally the complicity of the sports reporters not to write about the obvious steroid era in all sports over the last 20 years.

I do, however, see heroes as I pass through the world and this life. They are common people doing ordinary and sometimes extra-ordinary things. I see parents everywhere doing their best to be those heroes for their children. To get them the best education they can afford, to teach them all they have learned about life, realizing that it may not be enough. I see the look in their face of desire and love to be the best they can be, not for themselves but for their children, to shield them from the pain, the disappointment, and the corruption that they have experienced. I also catch in reflective moments the occasional glimpse of fear that they won’t be good enough. I am pretty sure most of them will be appreciated as heroes by those children.

Another group of heroes I see are everyday people doing extra-ordinary things. From activists in Boston speaking the truth to power about the corruption of our government for the common good; to Jerry Mintz, a 60’s activist I met as a youth in Vermont at a table tennis tournament bringing thousands of kids and educators around the world together through homeschooling, alternative and democratic schools all for no personal benefit; to Fasi Zaka in Pakistan using his Rhodes education to write about the ills of corruption, militarism, and religious fanaticism and using his natural people skills as a DJ, MTV host and marketer to show a generation of Pakistani kids that it is hip to be smart, Muslim, Pakistani and to question everything and everybody: all in the face of constant death threats; to Doctors Ravi and Holly and their friends in New Orleans setting up a free medical clinic after Hurricane Katrina to help any and all when the government couldn’t or wouldn’t help the people. I have encountered many selfless people who truly want to make the world and people’s lives a bit better. Why is it that I usually meet these people outside the system, not inside?

About 20 years ago I chose the hero that I think may pass the test of time. He showed unbelievable courage in the face of danger, a plain speaking man who stood up for justice, order, freedom and rational thinking for his people. He became a symbol for millions around the world, inspiring many to speak and act out for what is right. The reason I think he will pass the test of time is that no one knows who he is, where he is, or if he is even alive. I get chills and tears every time I watch the video of what he did. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=O4xtkpO7ZqU) I am speaking of the Chinese man at Tiennamen Square who stood in front of the column of tanks and refused to let them pass. The man who crawled up the turret to speak to the crew and explain that they couldn’t attack the crowd because they were the People’s Army, and these were the People. What could be more plain and logical than that? Years later I had the opportunity to visit Tienneman Square. It was a powerful moment for me, to think and imagine what went on there. I visited the Monument to the People, which is set dead center in the middle of the humongous, imposing plaza. This had been the focal point of the uprising, and it is now roped off from the public so that the People can not visit the Monument to the People. The citizens had been leaving rolled up papers in the cracks, and gifts and remembrances on the sides, and of course that could not be tolerated by the regime. I said a prayer, and a thanks to my hero and the other citizens who stood up for what was right, and hoped that what they started may shortly lead to the society they envisioned.

I think that there is a hero in all of us. It is setting that bar as high as you possibly can, and then doing your best to attain or even exceed it. Sometimes it just doing the right thing at the right time, other times it is a lifetime of hard work. The best heroes are the ones that don’t need to called heroes, but just are.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why is there a GS1200 mudguard in the shower?


Not How You Want to See Your Motorcycle!

So we came back through the "worlds best physical example of corruption" yesterday, otherwise known as 92.3 miles of dirt road, gravel road, potholed road, 8 miles of wonderful pavement, and 3 villages with roads pockmarked by what it appears to be an A-10 Warthog canon firing exercise. 3 hours of bumps bruises and dust. The other roads in Cambodia are fine, but the airlines are paying off the government not to finish the road. So the majority suffers so a few elites can skim.

At the border I accidentally walked into Thailand looking to make copies of my vehicle docs, and I was forced to wait in the line to "leave" Thailand and then explain why I didn't have permission to be there in the first place!!!

When we got to the Thai border I checked the bike over and sure enough the rear mudguard screw had sheared (yes the one the dealers were working on a week ago to rebuild the oil seal). The same bolt that sheared on similar roads in Bolivia.

Then I turned the bike on to proceed to the next station and my front headlight warning light was on. Yes, the same headlight they just replaced a week ago.

This set me off. I started cursing at the bike and BMW, threatening never to buy another one again, and maybe even leaving this one here. If a bike designed to allegedly travel the world can't go 100 miles on rough roads, what good is it?

The bike must have feared for its life a bit and became a bit penitent. After making it through the final checkpoint, the headlight miraculously started working again. (Leaving me, again, full of confidence). It didn't figure out how to regenerate a steel bolt however, so I had to take the mudflap off at the next service station, then bring it to the bathroom at our $7 hotel for cleaning.

It hasn't rained the entire time we have been in Southeast Asia. If you don't think that it is raining this morning now that we don't have a mudflap, then you just don't understand how the world works in mysterious ways!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Angkor Wat and surrounds



Cambodia! Angkor Wat





We have spent the last two days getting "templed out" at Angkor Wat and all of the other temples surrounding Siem Reap in Northwest Cambodia. Other than the corrupt cops who told us that foreigners aren't allowed to ride motorcycles in the park (because of course three 13 year olds on a moped is much safer than me), we have enjoyed the largest religious monuments in the world. It is definitely up there with the greatest historic sites in the world that we have seen.

Plus it is a nice town, the people are friendly if a bit overzealous towards the tourists, with many nice restaurants, a relaxing river with nice park running through the town, and more foreign tourists than anywhere but Disneyland. And yet again there is the now very familiar smathering of French, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, English, Australian, American and many of the single men have amazingly met local Cambodian women whom they seem to bond with easily!


Today we went off into the jungle and the hinterlands of Cambodia to find some more remote ruins that the jungle has reclaimed. We passed whole villages without running water or power, with houses built on stilts for the rainy season. The people are friendly here and speak the best English (and even some Spanish!) of anywhere in south east Asia.

We have met a ton of great people. From Jerry and Craig at our guesthouse, to Duncan from England a guy who had a stroke but never lost his sense of humor who lives on Sanibel Island in Florida; then there was Lawrence a guy born in Boston with dual Swedish/American citizenship who rode his KTM from Sweden to here, and Mike and Jan a young at heart couple from Washington who are thinking of riding their own bikes around southeast Asia. We have enjoyed drinks and meals with all of them. Cambodia seems to be a slow paced place where people can relax, enjoy, and easily escape from the rat race.

If the locals can get over their recent past and enjoy life and smile big, then certainly we extremely rich (and in so many ways lucky) westerners can do the same!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cambodia!

As we rode the 100 mile butt buster road from Thailand to Siem Reap in Cambodia I was thinking about American Icons. Specifically John Wayne and the Kennedys.



John Wayne because we met a Canadian on a honda 250 cruiser, with his young Vietnamese wife, who lives in Vietnam and has been cruising around southeast asia on his 250 rebel for the last 6 years. His name: John Wayne. We exchanged stories for a few minutes while cruising down the road, he with no helmet, gloves, etc but with a guitar strapped on!



I was thinking of the Kennedy's as well. Specifically the Dead Kennedy's who sang the song "Holiday in Cambodia", one of my favorites from my punk rock teenage years. I was singing it in my helmet as we went the 100 miles of dirt and gravel and potholed "road" that is not being finished because the airline execs are paying off the corrupt government to keep people from driving here.



If someone (Mike and Diane???) Could send me the music file of that song I would appreciate it!



This place is the closest thing to Disneyland we have found in the world. Full of tourists, big hotels, and a quaint city center filled with restaurants, bars and all foreigners!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V day

So for my birthday, known to others as Valentine's Day I decided to upgrade some personal items that were getting a bit worn out....you know, nothing like a bit of some petroleum products to make me feel better.

So we went to BKK BMW motorcycle dealer in Bangkok and added light and lubrication. They were great, and in less than two movies worth of waiting room time we had a new rear tire, new headlight, and most importantly a new rear oil seal on the driveshaft. Having oil leak on your rear tire for 800 miles while carrying your beautiful wife is no laughing matter.

So we stayed on the waterfront last night and are heading to Angkor Wat in Cambodia today. Hopefully we can make it through the allegedly mucho corrupt border guards!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

People's Democratic Republic of Laos





Laos is a poor, undeveloped, communist country with a slow pace, cheap prices, the usual corrupt cops and not much to see.

The Beer Lao is about one dollar a bottle, and I would say is probably the best beer for the money in the world. We spent a few days in Vientiane and driving 300 or so miles along the steadily growing Mekong River as it heads south forming the natural border between Thailand and Laos. The Lao people were friendly and laid back, with easy smiles from the people and waves from the children.

We saw all the main sites in the capital in one day, the pseudo "Arc de Triomphe" made with American concrete, the Buddhist temple and symbol of the country Pha That Luang, and the oldest and most important temple Wat Si Saket. In addition we got our visas to Cambodia and Clara had another throwdown cage match with some corrupt communist officials.

As we putted by a police checkpoint hut which they have on all the major intersections in the city the police whistled at us to stop for some unknown reason but we continued on. At the next intersection an officer on a step through 80cc bike pulled up and told us to pull over. Apparently you have to wear your helmet, which I was, but Clara was carrying hers so as to not mess up her hair. He made us follow him back to his hut where he intimated that he would take our bike for a day, and would impound it at the station. He kept saying that we hadn't stopped and weren't wearing a helmet. Clara took charge and kept demanding our paperwork. They guy said his boss would be there in 5 minutes and ignored her. Then she pulled out her camera and took a picture of him which she said she would show his supervisor. This definitely got under his skin. I stayed in the background, turned around and pulled the excess cash out of my wallet and hid it in my jacket in case we were going to have to bribe our way out of the situation, I didn't want more than a few bucks on me. Then a kid whizzed by without a helmet on and they didn't do anything, which we all noticed. Time went by and Clara was insistent. The kid finally gave up and gave us our paperwork back, I thanked him and we moved along.

If you are scoring at home, the current score is:

CLARA 2 CORRUPT COMMUNIST OFFICIALS 0

The Mekong is in low dry season and we could walk across the sand bar to within about 50 yards of Thailand. Clara played with the baby frogs floating about. There are open air riverside eateries where you can fill up on squid, fish, steak, frog legs, fried rice, BeerLao and other specialties for $5 a head and enjoy the views of the river and the lights on the other side. You can overhear Europeans speaking English with their Lao dates, 50 something men insisting they had never been married or in love in their lives, while the women quietly listened and ate up a great meal. Either that or backpackers deciding whether to make a big deal about the fact that no one got what they ordered, but it was all good and cheap anyway so maybe it wasn't worth it to make a fuss since the translations are all lost anyway.

As we headed south down the two lane highway 13 which is the backbone of the country, it quickly became nothing but overgrowth interspersed with tiny villages. The mighty muddy Mekong was on our right, and the low mountains of Laos were on our left. An unseasonably cold wind was blowing across us all day, coming down from the Chinese Mainland. The mountains, or overgrown hills had all sorts of odd shapes, as if a bunch of 3rd graders got to design them. "I think I will make a flat topped one with a pickle coming out of one side", "I think I will make one that looks like a camel with 3 humps". None were very tall, all covered with low trees and bush, with wisps of mist not burnt away by the sun that was covered by high clouds all day. The locals were wearing winter jackets in the 50 degree or so weather.

Many of the local cars have blacked out or mirrored glass, and the motorcyclists mostly have helmets with similar visors. They all obey the traffic laws diligently, and I wonder if they don't want to catch the eye of the police at the intersections. There definitely is an odd sense of too many cops, nothing to do, and nobody wants to get caught in the dragnet. At one intersection, the usual gang of three in the police hut just pulled one guy on a scooter out of the group of 15 or so of us waiting in line. It seemed completely random, and he protested but complied while the rest of the group seemed to try and nonchalantly move out of the way of the chosen one without causing any attention to be brought unto them. Again, no need to have so many police in a country where the vast majority are subsistence farmers.

The only business we could see for 200 miles was rice farming and some logging, and selling fish at the roadside salted and barbequed while stuffed with bamboo shoots from the river.

Still, aside from the police the place has its charms and would be a great place to head off into nowhere on some dirt bikes.

We might have done so....but.....it looks like the great Achilles heel of the R1200GS has reared up. My drive shaft is leaking gear oil at the hub and so we are going to try and limp back to Bangkok before the almighty BMW implodes at 32,000 miles.

Confidence inspiring????

NOT!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pictures across Thailand




A large reclining Buddha, a reclining Clara, and our camping friends from DBigbike.com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bye, bye thailand

We have arrived in the Capital of Laos, Vientiane. The place is crawling with Westerners, who knew?

We will try and figure out what the attraction is.

We joined a renegade Thai biker gang yesterday "DBigBike.com" is their website. They almost all ride illegal motorcycles from hayabusas to gsxr1000's to ripsnorting Honda 400's. We met them at coffee hill on the magnificent route 12 and we raced with them to NamNao National Park where we obtained a tent and drank whiskey and beer with them under the stars until the wee hours of the morning; laughing, joking, drinking and bonding. As always, building bridges and tearing down walls.

120 miles along the Mekong today, stopping for soccer matches, a motocross derby and a stretch of highway where Edward Scissorhands lives with topiary for miles in either direction.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pictures from Thailand








Ayutthaya is the ancient Capital filled with palaces, monuments, Buddha's and Stupas

Clara got a full body one hour massage today in the city of Chiang Mai for $5 from a blind Masseuse at the blind massage center. The Thai people are very hospitable, the food is delicious and inexpensive, the hotels have hot water, and there seems to be plenty of attractive young thai women around for lonely old British and European men. Just watch your back, as apparently it is not uncommon for some of them to die in mysterious cases after the weddings!

The weather is wonderful here in the hilly north country, in the 80's during the day and cooler at night.

On our way here yesterday we took highway 106 which is an out of the way yellow line on the map and is the kind of road which makes you appreciate having your motorcycle. It was lonely and twisty as we made our way up through the jungle and forest hills, passing tiny villages which were often celebrating Chinese New Year with a pagaent or feast in a restaurant or soccer field by the side of the road. Golden temples would flash by on either side of the road, or be seen on hilltops off in the distance. Unlike many of the shrines in Nepal or India, these are all in good condition, spotless, and well visited.

Thailand so far has lived up to its reputation as THE destination retreat in southeast Asia, and the hordes of backpackers and other foreigners enjoying the good times here are impossible to miss.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Clara channels her Inner Buddha




Is that a BIG STUPA or are you just happy to see me!!!

New Country, Same old headbutting technique


knock, knock

who is there?

The Subcontinent?

The Subcontinent Who?

EXACTLY!!!

Looks like it was a good thing we couldn't find a place to watch the Super Bowl. We are in the Northern Thailand town of Tak, about 50 miles from the Myanmar border. One of us wants to cross the border and start the revolution, the other doesn't. Guess which one is which?

We spent the morning headbutting baby elephants in tests of strength, Kevin v. the Elephants! Sort of like World's strongest man with kids. We were visiting an elephant retirement and breeding home, which included a tiny premature baby elephant who hung out under her mothers belly most of the morning. You can visit the reserve and be "assigned" an elephant to take care of, you feed it, clean it, clean up after it!, and take it into the river to play and into the forest to eat. Elephants eat over 300 pounds of food a day! They are so smart, so playful, each with very different personalities. We can't get enough of them.

The scenery is rice paddies, sun with occasional clouds, humidity, different palms, trees and bushes, many varieties of orchids around which makes Clara happy and interested. The roads are nice, the people are very friendly although language difficulties abound, and the food is good. Thailand really is one of the paradises of the world.

It reminds me a bit of Costa Rica. They are the only country in the area never to succumb to foreign rule. The king is revered, and there are pictures of him everywhere. Due to the fact that they haven't had wars, things are in good shape, the people have houses, clothes and schools, things are clean, they have univeral health care. In short, a great place to live. We have already met a number of ex-pats, including an English teacher who is shuttling between here and Istanbul, but fully plans on retiring here. We had a nice dinner with him, John or Giovanni, a good Italian boy who grew up in Providence, RI.

It is nice to be on some straight roads here after the Himalayas. The roads there make the Isle of Man look like a dragrace. We went 170 miles one day in 7 hours, and we were by far the fastest vehicle on the road. Constant curves, bad road, and slow traffic (even some Indians in brand new Tata's to drive the curse home!) make for some exhausting, although visually exhilarating riding. I kept thinking of the line from Caddyshack: "and it dropped down a 10,000 foot crevice". At times you could peer over the side of the road and there was a multi-thousand foot crevice right there.

It's in the hole!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Status update

30,000 miles
We have each worn out a pair of jeans.
Kevin has worn out a pair of sneakers.
39 Countries
A number of. Buffalo momos
Our riding clothes are starting to fray.
Clara's hair is starting to grow long.
2 headlights
10 tires, about 5 punctures (1 current)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A proud moment for Clara

I would like to proudly anounce that one of my dearest friends from Colombia, Sandra Jaramillo, has just released her second solo CD: "Que Te Vaya Bien". Sandra was my best childhood friend and the closest thing to a sister. She had a tough year in 2007, in fact, she was one of my inspirations for cutting and donating my hair before going on this trip, but I know that 2008 is going to bring her nothing but love and success. So, I send her a huge congratulations on this great achievement and I hope her beautiful voice and unbreakable spirit propel this record to the top!
For more information on her and her music go to www.sandrajaramillo.com
Besitos.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Nice pictures, and positive thoughts of change for Super Tuesday


As Super Tuesday looms between Barack and Hillary it has been truly remarkable how so many people in the world are following along and care deeply about the outcome. Needless to say we have yet to find any supporters of our current president, more honestly we receive vile and filth that can't be printed in this family oriented blog.
It actually has been surprising that people are nice enough to separate us from American policies and give us the benefit of the doubt.

As we have traveled around it has become more and more apparent and overwhelming how much women are disadvantaged in the world. From the mountains of Peru, to the Flavellas of Brazil, from the Burkas of the Middle East to the plains of the subcontinent it is clear that women are doing more than their share of work, food preparation and child rearing and getting from nothing to very little in return. So many communities are made up of women doing the work in the fields collecting the food, watching and caring for the kids, and then preparing the food. So often the men are a few hundred yards away, drinking tea or playing cards and discussing the "important" things of the day.

I believe a Hillary Presidency could give identity and value and power to women across the Globe. A source of inspiration and resource that women can not only be equal but better. The key word here is could, because I'm not sure that Hillary would use that bully pulpit to the fullest extent possible.

Along the same lines, another theme has run concurrent with the oppression of women:
the blacker you are the worse you are. It has been amazing how many times people who have no exposure to blacks at all tell us that "black people are bad", or "that area is dangerous" because of the dark people or black people that live there. People who have no idea what they are talking about associate bad things with black people. Sometimes just to change things up for humor or when it is not a conducive time to be an American we tell people we are from Colombia, which is half true anyway. People who know about the problems in Colombia, will say "it is dangerous there because of the black people". If we are in one part of India and another part is mentioned as dangerous they will say it is because of the "dark people". In Nepal, where we didn't see a single black and where they advertise "facial whitening cream" on TV someone who works in computers and deals with Nigerian and Brazilian fraud schemes said something like "you can't trust the black people". He didn't know anything about the racial makeup of Brazil or what Brazilians look like, he just assumed that since bad things were coming from there, it must be due to black people.

Time after time around the world, out of the blue when the conversation had nothing to do with race someone would say something derogatory about darker people. This would come from different types of people, some with exposure to blacks, some without, some with money, some without, some people we liked, some people we didn't.
An Obama presidency would start the long, long, long, long, long road to changing these attitudes. However, there is a difference between he and Hillary. As I saw Rev. Jackson say on BBC the other day "blacks have been ready for a change, the question is whether whites (or browns, asians, etc) are ready." Even if Barack wins, his every screw up will be magnified as a failure of blacks. I don't think Hillary's potential failures will be seen as greatly as a failure of women.

With either person, there is going to be a better government and hopefully a change in the way America interacts with the World and how the World views us as a beacon of democracy, civil rights, and equality.

Clara Taking off to FLY!

video

Clara flying free in the Himalayan Skies