“We don’t know what we’re doing, but hey we’re doing it!”
Said in jest recently, this quote pretty well sums up this expedition into the unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable.
Over halfway done!
It is hard to believe that we have already gotten this far. We can only hope that the second half of this journey is as amazing and enriched as the first. We have done everything from cave-tubing in Belize to volcano-boarding in Nicaragua. We have explored Mayan temples in Guatemala and gone surfing in Costa Rica. I could sit here all day listing the adventures and shenanigans that we have gotten into in the last three months, and it makes me smile recalling them.
When spending this much time with the same people day in and day out there are bound to be lows as well as highs. Fortunately for us the highs have far surpassed any minor setbacks we have had. We started out as a loosely affiliated mixture of individuals who wanted to have adventures and go to Brazil on bicycles. We have since congealed into a family who understand and look out for each other.
At some time or another each of us have had strong desires to just call it quits and find the next flight back home to loved ones and security. So far we have been able to withstand these urges and plunge on into the unknown thanks to the love and support from so many throughout the travels. We want to thank all of you who have been with us from the beginning, as well as those of you who have joined us along the way. Your feedback and encouragement goes a long way to strengthen our morale and resolve to keep pedaling.
Thank you, Gracias, Danka, Arigato, Merci
Its great to be back in the saddle again. I never really expected it to be a bicycle saddle, but I am really glad that it is. It is quite amazing the range of emotions one experiences throughout a day of bicycle touring. There is no feeling in the world like a gradual downhill easy clip of 45 kilometers per hour with a slight breeze and looking up to see a jaw-dropping volcano appear in front of you. On the other end of the spectrum a few mintues later I may run into a thousand foot elevation increase with no wind whatsoever and the sun just beating down on you. Those are the times when I spend the hour wishing I was anywhere but on a bicycle. I expected this journey to be physically demanding, but it is really more of a mental battle. The majority of the day is spent with my feet mindlessly peddling and my mind in a thousand different places. Sometimes I play out different scenarios for what might be next after this trip. A lot of times the changing scenery around me brings back memories of places I have been before. Parts of Guatemala reminded me of Brown County, Indiana, lately I have been seeing lots of East African type landscapes. These send me into hour long daydreams of fond memories. Many times these are interrupted by the blasting horn of a bus flying by while dangerously passing a slower vehicle around a bend. At the end of most days my body is quite sore, but it is a good sore, a sore that reminds me that I accomplished something today that put me closer to my goal. At the moment I am thrilled to be alive... at least until the next uphill.
Since I came to Los Angeles I have spent a lot of time on the weekends playing Ultimate Frisbee in a park high up on a mountain under the famous Hollywood Sign. If you don’t know what ultimate Frisbee is, it is an intense sport with some aspects of football and some of soccer, but with a Frisbee. This has been a great catharsis for me to release all of my energy and work out any anger I have from the previous week. Through this activity I have also gained a lot of good friends, many of who I hang out with even off of the field. Some have even asked to come to church with me. I have also had the pleasure to have several of my roommates and old friends come to play with us.
Yesterday morning I went to the field expecting the usual Saturday game. Upon arriving I was informed that one of our friends had passed away this week. This information really blew me away. Our friend Tom was only 24 years old. I found out that cancer was discovered in his body less than a month ago, and now he is dead. I realize that people all over the world die every day from many different causes, but it still makes you stop to contemplate life when it happens to someone you know. A lady from First Pres. Church of Hollywood died this week in a house fire. You never really know when it could happen to you.
Think about what you did last year, last week, yesterday, this morning. Would you change what you did if you knew that it was your last day on this earthly plane? This reminds me of some song lyrics that I wrote last year.
If you were given a warning that you’ll die in the morning, what would you do with tonight?
Would you throw a big bash? Would you blow all your cash? Would you try to set things right?
If you were told by a friend That tomorrow’s the end What would you do with today.
Would you release all your fears After all of these years, Or would you simply run away?
I think the point of all of this rambling is this. If you are not happy with your day to day life, change what you are doing. Pretend that you knew that you would die tomorrow. How would you spend your last day? Would you want to talk with your family or friends? Would you rather spend your last living hours watching television? What is the point of not enjoying life? Many people say that they are not happy with what they are doing, but that it will all be worth it for the payoff in the end. Do the ends justify the means? Sure, you can plan for the future, but at what date in the future does the happiness begin. Lately there have been many billboards put up around Los Angeles that proclaim that May 21, 2011 is the end of the world. This may or may not be true. I personally don’t believe it to be true, but it could be the last day for any of us. We might as well live as if it is.
I’ll finish this blog with the story of Tom’s memorial. Sometime this week a few of Tom’s closest friends organized an ultimate Frisbee extravaganza memorial for today. After church I got a ride to the North Hollywood Park to find games in full swing. Tom’s friends were grilling, having some drinks, laughing, and making new friends. It was estimated that over 70 people showed up throughout the day,and this wasn’t even planned until Friday. It was a great day of enjoying life. I got to know friends better, and even made several new ones. They had a box of some of Tom’s things, like dvds, books, and posters, that they wanted people to go through and take, to enjoy and think of Tom while they do. Overall it was just a great celebration of his life. I’m sure Tom would have had an incredible time if he were there. At the end of the night somebody said that we should have gatherings like this more often. I thought that the comment was very true. It shouldn’t take somebody dying, for the rest of us to really live.
6:50 a.m. First alarm goes off for second time…. Snooze
6:53 Second alarm goes off. Snooze
6:55 First alarm goes off for third time…Snooze
6:58 Second alarm goes off for second time….. Get annoyed enough to open my eyes and write down whatever parts of my dreams I remember. Climb down the step ladder from my loft and get dressed for the work day including khaki pants and burgundy polo shirt. Wake up roommates who should already be awake. Dilly dally around. Make a bowl of oatmeal. As I wait for bowl to cool realize how close to being late I am. Dump oatmeal into Tupperware and put into backpack.
7:25 Put on helmet. Jump on bike. Ride like mad.
7:35 Arrive at work. See my supervisor pulling into garage so hurry inside, up the elevator and into office so it looks like I was there on time at 7:30.
7:40 Check phone messages from the weekend. Write down who they are from and place on appropriate desks. Check work email. Reply to necessary ones. Make and bag 15 bologna sandwiches.
8:20 Board outreach van with outreach partner and call client to inform him we are on our way for pickup.
8:30 Arrive to hillside where clients live. Find a few extra passengers requesting a ride. (One is a pit bull mix) The now six of us head back to town.
8:40 Arrive to Department of Motor Vehicles with two of the clients needing to get IDs. Partner takes other client to hospital emergency room for a broken jaw. We believe we have all of the paperwork we need to get a California ID. Our newest client (of 10 minutes) goes off on his own without any problems. The priority client and I get to the front of the line and are told that the Florida birth certificate will not work because it is a photocopy. I go to a higher up in the chain of command.(who we spoke to last week with LAPD assistance) I tell him we now have what he requested of us. He now says he can’t help us. I ask him who else we can speak with. He directs me to the office supervisor’s desk. Things are not looking as good as we had hoped. We meet the supervisor. I explain my relationship to the client and that this ID is the only thing keeping a homeless veteran from a potential apartment. I explain how this is our fourth trip to the DMV in a week to try to get this ID. We give her a Veteran’s Affairs card, a copy of a Florida birth certificate, a record of all the information the LAPD has about the client, my business card, a weak smile, and a silent prayer. She takes all this to her desk to deliberate. After some agonizing minutes she oks it. We hurry to process it and give the lady the 7 dollars before they can change their mind. Once we get a receipt we know it’s a done deal. Client gets photo taken and we are out of there. We should expect the ID to arrive in the mail in one to two months. We need the ID sooner than that in order to get the client into an apartment, but hopefully the receipt for an ID will do the job.
This is one example of a few hours of work at PATH. I will try to update on different scenarios that I see in my current line of work.
This morning I had the privilege of being a panel speaker at a Mennonite Conference in Northridge, CA. It was a great experience. Basically I was there to explain how I came to be in the position I am currently in and what I am doing in said position. As per usual I had no idea what I was going to say until I was up to bat. As I started my rambling stream of consciousness a thought really struck me. I started thinking about how many people are truly involved in this process of volunteerism. This is not a one-man show. If I had to list everyone involved in the process I know that it would take up pages in very small font. And then I talked about how important communication is to all parties involved. As I was thinking about this, I realized how much room I have for improvement on this aspect of my current vocation. I think that one way of doing this is to simply blog more. Sometimes when I contemplate blogging I build it into a big thing in my head. I think I should just start writing more about everyday events, because most of you can’t really picture my day to day activities. I will start that this week. I will choose one day and just write down everything that happens and then relate it to you the viewers. I am posting this now just to hold myself accountable in this area. So thank you all. Also you all could help me by giving me specific areas that you would like to know more about what I am doing here.
As many of you have probably noticed(and some of you not so much) I have not written a blog in quite some time. Like four months or so. Apologies are in order for both you the reader, and to myself the writer(or non-writer as of late). Every week for the past four months I have promised myself that I would write a blog. And every week for the past four months I have broken that promise. It has not been for a lack of desire. And it has not been because I have been too busy. I sit down to do it, and just can't. I make up excueses even when I have none. Call it writer's block. Lately I have been really having a strenuous time mentally and emotionally dealing with some issues. Don't get me wrong, I am glad to be here in Hollywood doing the work I am. I really do feel like this is where I am supposed to be for the time being. I think that a lot of my problems have to deal with the stark contrast between my life six months ago and my life today. Six months ago it was a 45 minute walk to the nearest town; now I can get to five different pawn shops in less than a ten minute walk. Six months ago I was watching bootleg screener movies that I could buy for twenty cents a pop; now I live a stone's throw from where some of these same ones were filmed. Six months ago the toughest food decision was what can we cook with tomato and onion sauce; now its which of the 500 grocery stores or fast-food chains do I want to buy from. Six months ago I could go outside and hear only the birds and wind; today I fall asleep to the lullabys of ghetto birds(police helicopters) and angry chihuahuas. Six months ago I lived in a land where a person would give one of his last dollars to another in need; today I live in a county that has upwards of 80,000 persons without a constant roof under which to sleep. (As well as over 262,000 millionaires.) Six months ago I knew high school students who said that they would die to live in the America; today I live in a city where they do. I felt like Kenya was a land of optimists. Things may be bad now, but we have it better than some, and tomorrow will be better. If you focused on the hardships, you would drown in the questions of "Why us?" Today I feel like now I live in a land of entitlement. "I deserve this even though I have done nothing to deserve it." "I have so many resources available to me, but I will ignore them and complain about how I deserve a better life" In short; much of the world has little and can make the most of it, yet another portion of humanity has much and turns it into so little. This culture shift has really been playing with my mind lately. I realize that this post has been kind of a downer, but hey I was able write something at last. I want to make this a habit. If I have not written a post in over two weeks, please email, facebook, or call me and tell me to write something, if not for your sake then at least for my own sake.
Hey everybody, long time since the last post I know. I'm going to go ahead and use the excuse I've been too busy. Last you heard from me I was in good old Kenya. Since then I have proceeded to go back home to Indiana after a day of visiting friends in England; Spent a few weeks home doing important things like napping and eating American junk food; took a road trip across the country in a U-Haul; and now am in my newest home...HOLLYWOOD. I feel like its going to be a great year(of course I feel that way about every year though.) I am living in a house with five other similar minded young adult volunteers. Our house is located next to Paramount Studios, just a few minute walk from Hollywood and Vine. It is all quite exciting but also quite whelming. I'm not overwhelmed yet, but I think parts of my brain are. We have gone to the beach once; walked to Grauman's Chinese theater on the walk of fame; prepared meals for a massive operation that gives 1600 meals to people with terminal illnesses every day; and stumbled into a free big name band concert in a music store where we just wanted to buy a CD. Most of us will be working in some part or another with the organization PATH. Check them out at www.epath.org. I'll let you know more of what I'm doing when I figure it out myself. Until then, thanks for reading, and have a "Good morning, and in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night"