Enough said

Hundreds and hundreds of millions of people worldwide struggle to gain access to clean drinking water on a daily basis. Nearly two million children a year die from diseases related to dirty water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Explains this kid’s skeptical look, eh?

Source unknown

Watching over me :)

I’m in a taxi tonight winging my way through the dark and empty streets of Lilongwe. The driver’s name is Ben. He’s got a tuque on (its winter here) and he doesn’t talk much. His radio is tuned to a station playing American country music. I ask him if he likes this stuff. He grunts. I tell him I like it too, and he turns it up. I tell him it reminds me of my father. He grunts. Here’s the song he was playing. This would have been a song on my Dad’s playlist for sure… Feel like he is watching over me… Aren’t you Chief?

Don Williams – I Recall a Gypsy Woman

A memory of my Dad

This is my Dad, on a trip to Alaska with my mother in 2005. I find it really captures a peaceful feeling. With the flowers in the background and Davey in his arms, it really makes one look into the picture and get a sense of my Dad. His bulging muscles (I am certain that he is flexing for the camera!), his smile, his wild hair. My Dad passed away August 20, 2011. Love you man.

 

Dad with his dog Davey in Alaska in 2005

 

Turning enemies into friends

“To successfully deal with an enemy, one must learn patience. If patience is a virtue, then our enemies have done us a favour. From this perspective, I believe we can find the kindness needed to turn our enemies into our friends.”

– thought inspired by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, in his book “Kindness, Clarity, and Insight

Lunch with Rotary Club of Lilongwe

I had lunch and a meet and greet today with the Rotary Club of Lilongwe (District 9210) at the generous invitation of Rotarian Stellah. It was my first experience linking with Rotarians since I arrived in Malawi and I was glad to be able to finally make contact. As a Peace Fellow alumnus, I try to meet frequently with Rotarians and Rotary Clubs to share the importance of the Peace program and its contribution to Rotary’s mission of furthering world understanding and peace. I was given the floor to say a few brief words. Thanks Stellah! :)

The club meets on Tuesdays at noon in a hall behind the Sunbird Capital Hotel for a delicious all you can eat buffet. The club has over 70 members and is a very vibrant group, with several younger members helping to inject some fresh momentum (two of which are shown in the photo below). The Club has two important rules: 1) Do not be late; and 2) Do not use your cellphone during the meeting. If these rules are broken they carry a stiff financial penalty!

Today, the Club was quite excited about an eye clinic they have organised in collaboration with Korean eye doctors, Rotary International and a local hospital. And from what I have read on the web, the Club is also supporting water projects around the country – this is no surprise, Rotary Clubs and Rotary International support thousands of water projects globally. If you are a resident of Lilongwe community interested in giving back to the community as well as meeting other like-minded professionals, this may be an option for you. Check out their new facebook page.

With Rotarians Antonette and Stellah from the Rotary Club of Lilongwe

Bungee jumping on the Corinth Canal in Greece

In 2006, on a visit to Athens, Greece, there was a sign on the wall in the backpackers’ hostel where I was staying. It screamed: SEEKING THRILLS? JUMP WITH US! 79m FREE-FALL OVER WATER. I needed no further convincing to try bungee jumping for the first time. But …easier said than done…

The Corinth Canal is a 6.4km long and extremely narrow man-made channel which cuts across the Pelopennesian peninsula in Greece. First conceived and proposed in 7th century BC, its primary purpose was to save ships a 700km (and several days) journey around the peninsula. Over a period of two thousand years one leader after another attempted to build it but either failed to complete it or abandoned the idea. It was finally built in the late 19th century. While most modern ships today are too big to use it, it is still a very useful shortcut for many small ships engaging in Greek or Mediterranean commerce, as well as cruise ships – as many as 11,000 boats each year.

The Corinth Canal in Greece

In 2003, some pioneering entrepreneurs built a bungee jumping deck across the 21 metre span enabling thrill-seekers like me to free-fall out over the water – a 79m drop. According to this website, it is one of the top 10 bungee jumping destinations in the world (top 20 if you ask these guys). They charge about 60 euro, and an additional 10 for a dvd copy.

This is an easy afternoon trip from Athens and it only took me an hour or so to get there from the bus terminal in Athens. If you’ve ever tried bungee jumping and were scared to do it, then you know exactly how I feel. As I signed my name on the waiver form absolving the jump operators of all liability, I started to have my doubts. I had come this far, though and resolved to follow through with it. I gave the thumbs up and they strapped me into the harness.

Getting prepped for the jump by Zulu Bungy staff

I walked out on to a metal platform which is about 10 feet wide. Through the grate you can see the cold blue water of the sea below. I started to get jitters just from the height. My heart started to beat faster and my breath caught in my throat.

The bungee jumping platform

All of a sudden I hear cheers and laughter. I looked over to my left and there was a group of locals gathered there to watch tourists do the jump. The instructor laughed and said, “You can’t back out now!” He handed me off to his colleague who took me through the process of the jump, while he organized the video camera. I paid attention carefully – this was not something I wanted to screw up! In particular, he said, it is important to dive as far out as possible in an arc off the platform to give yourself some swing on the way down. I really didn’t know how I was even going to jump off at all, much less dive out as purposefully as he suggested I should.

As I stepped out on to the platform, the instructor gripped my harness to steady me. I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Seize the day”, I thought! From behind me I heard him count down from five: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … I hesitated and stepped back.  I looked back and said: “I don’t know if I can do this. Can you push me?”

He said no way – you need to do this yourself! So we tried again and I did it. :) So glad I got this video. What happened to me when I jumped happens to very few people, they told me. Listen carefully, near the end the cameraman exclaims “Malaka!” This means “Idiot” in Greek. :)

 

Travel photo – Street vendor in Kathmandu, Nepal

Street vendor in Kathmandu, Nepal (November 2009)

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, a small land-locked country located between China and India and nestled in the Himalayas. As many as 70% of the country’s 27 million people work in the so-called informal economy, meaning that they do not pay taxes and their sales are not tallied into the government books. With a GDP per capita of about US$1300 per year equating to about $4 income per day, folks aim to make a living any way they can. This street vendor will spend his day hawking apples and other fruit around town for a few pennies each.

A smiling Malawian family :)

I still can’t get over the fact that I am living in one of the poorest countries in the world. Malawi has a GDP per capita of about $800 a year, placing it in the poorest ten countries globally. Just boggles my mind in terms of the challenges the country faces at improving economic opportunity, health and quality of life. On the other hand, they are among the most smiling and friendly people I’ve ever met. And how should that translate in measuring “happiness”, “progress”, and “wealth”?

Malawian family in the village of Delachikoa, Southern Region