Monday, January 18, 2010

5500+ Miles

I took a really long road trip during Christmas break. 5800 miles, 23 states, lots of loved ones and one amazing romance. Courtney and I were humbled over and over by the generosity and love that was extended to us during our journey. It was a beautiful 23 days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wow, it has been a while.

It has really been some time since I wrote last. Since writing last, I have finished my first graduate level class, begun programming an experiment which will be used to determine peoples' willingness to pay for the proposed Peripheral Canal in California and I have also been climbing quite a lot to stay sane. Life as a graduate student is interesting. I suppose it is a lot like Linfield life was. The academic requirements are no more stressful than they were at Linfield, but all the other things are constantly on your mind. What do I do for research? How can I be working on the Peripheral Canal project? Should I be playing right now or should I be in my textbooks. I need to meet with so, so and so about this, this and that. The days go by quickly, not because I stay consistently busy, but because I have to hop from thing to thing, and those mental transitions take time.  

This post was inspired by Bryce's recent update he provided on his blog. It is not polished, particularly poignant, or even funny, but it does answer the nagging voice that sits deep in the recesses of my brain saying, "You really ought to blog soon..." It is a blog post, written to ease my mind. If it is boring for you I am not sorry because I did not write it to entertain you. Hopefully you will enjoy some of the photos I plan on posting if you don't like these words. 

One thing that just popped into my head as I glanced out the large front window while sitting at the Bean Cycle, "How is the parking officer so large? All he does is walk around and look at license plates... you would thing he gets a good amount of exercise. His diet must be horrible." Similarly, I have thought a lot about how great it would be to retire as a mailman. You get to walk around, get exercise and build community with people. My friend Drew and I have talked about it at length. He just got his Masters in International Relations, and being a postman is still at the top of his career dreams. They always have such nice calves. 

I have been reading a lot about small scale sustainable energy projects lately. There is an organization here in Fort Collins called Trees, Water and People. The things they are doing really excites me. I don't know what I want to do with this advanced degree I am getting, but if I can help pursuits such as theirs I will be happy. I want to contribute in any way possible, to increase the efficiency of their operations. 

The Photos are from the couple's backpacking trip we went on earlier in the semester. We were in the Gore Range hiking from Vail to Copper mountain. Beautiful wilderness that is very accessible.  

I have to go to class now. 

Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Change of Seasons

It isn't quite the end of summer. The leaves are still a vibrant green and the air hasn't taken on a bitter sharpness that it usually does when fall hits. I can still ride my bike with my old man shorts on and throw the frisbee around with no shirt. Even the mountain air holds its warmth well into the evening. Summer is not definitely not over, but I am about to enter into a new and starkly different season of life come Monday morning. I start graduate school on Monday morning at Colorado State University. I will be working towards a Master's Degree in Natural Resource Economics and International Development in the department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. I have just gone through orientation and now it is really beginning to set in. 

The last couple of days have been a treasure. My dear friends passed through Fort Collins on their way to their own new season, and another one of my friends came up to celebrate the change, as he is entering into something new as well. While sitting at dinner last night, drinking too many margaritas, I began to think of the collision that was taking place on the back patio. Six people, all taking steps towards something new. Most of us don't know exactly what that means, bit we are confident in the actions we are taking right now. New York, Boulder, Fort Collins and Minnesota are the next stepping stones for our communal journey. These places will be changed by our time spent in them, and hopefully we will be changed and matured as well. 

For a brief moment our various walks took us to the same place. Telling stories of the past and celebrating the unknown futures ahead, we basked in our community. It was an encouraging evening. One that reminded me how intricately interwoven we actually are. Some of my brothers were not present, mainly because they are interacting with and changing somewhere else on this beautiful planet, and they were missed. But, their absence was encouraging as well. It was a testament to the values we instilled over many years. It was evidence that we are not made to idle. That we invest in one another so that we may go, change and be changed by the divine places and the divine people of this kingdom. 

I have but a couple days before my time is consumed by studying and research. Things will be hard and time management will be crucial, but I am sure it will be doable. Fulfillment will come from the classroom again. Life will continue to move forward. As I said earlier, I am thrilled to be a part of this process, one season into the next. A progression of great people taking steps towards an unknown location. It kind of reminds me of "The Oregon Trail" computer game. We are kickin' it in sweet wagons, moving towards a luscious place that we have not seen before. Some of us hunt for buffalo, for the big kill, and others settle with a couple of ducks. Drew and Laurel will ford the river and Kyle will hire an Indian. Erik will probably try to build a raft. I just hope that little Timmy doesn't get Cholera. 

Keep taking steps. Keep walking into new seasons. I hope that I may continue to be influenced by the summer sun and the crisp fall air. Peace and Love. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Consuming the Congo

I have a friend in Central Oregon named Matt Smith who is doing some really amazing stuff for World Relief Next (an organization similar to World Vision). Right now he is on a media team that promotes the projects World Relief is participating in. They decided to submit a video to the Enough Project's cell phone promo video contest. The rules were pretty simple: create a  one minute video explaining the war and corruption involved in the mining process for tungsten, tantalum and tin. Right now Matt's video is in the top three and was placed on the YouTube's voter page. If they win the contest their video will be played for the Hollywood Film Festival in front of thousands of very influential people. If you have a couple of minutes (literally) you should watch the three videos and votes which one is the best right here:

 I am not going to tell you which one is Matt's, because I am pretty confidant that it is easily the best one. (Matt is a really talented spoken word writer...) Take a couple of minutes and vote... if anything you will learn something about your cell phone. Thanks guys.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do I Even Try...

How do I do this?

Both photography and writing fall disappointingly short at conveying the magnitude of emotions that even the simplest of experiences illicit. I sit here reflecting on the Killing Fields, staring at a dissipating lake, trying to peace together sentences and poignant fragments, to somehow capture the truth that can be, not learned, but felt while playing with a Cambodian orphan. I put pen to paper or fingertip to shutter, but am consistently disappointing by my results.

I believe that only the most artistic of souls can capture the sheer weight of our experiences. Can I begin to do it? Should I even try? My answer, to my own question, is a resounding "Yes." I will try to compose moving and meaningful images and I will attempt to paint literary portraits. Not to fulfill any goals or to meet any standard, but instead to explore what it is that I experienced. By writing I am reflecting, and by reading I am remembering. These two, or four, acts help me to build my own world, or my perspective of it, a little more thoroughly. It is only then that my heart and my soul fall in line with what I was trying to accomplish by traveling in the first place. To be changed.

So, as Ernesto "Che" Guavero writes in The Motorcycle Diaries, "The The person who writes these notes passed away the moment his feet hit Argentinian soil. The person who reorganizes and polishes them, me, is no longer, at least I am not the person I once was." The man who writes these words that you are reading right now is different than the man who experienced what they are a response to, and in much the same, but entirely different way, the person who re-reads them over again will be different than the one who first jotted them down.

It is my hope that this process continues as I move away from this crazy capitol city. I hope that the process not only continues, but in fact perpetuates further change as I go to Siem Reap, Ko Chang, Bangkok and back on home to America. I suppose in writing this a new discovery was made: The greatest hope of my life's journey is that relationships, cultures and experiences continue to perpetuate change, growth and a more active pursuit of love in the deepest recesses of my heart and soul.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Everything or Nothing

What philosophy to you subscribe more to: ''Everything is Nothing'', ''Nothing is Everything'' or ''Everything is Everything?''

This is taken from a journal entry from a couple of days ago:

Drew leaves in two days. I am very sad that he won't be with us anymore. In a way it feels as though all of our trips are ending with his, but then I remember the beautiful things we have packed into any two week period prior to this one. Surely it will be different, but it will also be good. I look forward to see the way our group dynamic changes after this amazing brother's absence.

He makes all of us laugh a lot with his insistent rap lyrics and off-the-wall ghetto vocab. He is and will forever be one of my best friends. He has imparted in me new and rewarding types of confidence that I never thought possible. He has allowed me to take it
easy. Most importantly however, he has helped me to see the world for what it is. Nothing more, and definitely nothing less.

I always struggle to convey how important and meaningful a person is to me, how much I value the time I spend with them, or how much I care about their role in this kingdom. But I can never convey all that I feel. Not an entirely unique struggle I would imagine, but what if we could fully love someone. Fully show them their worth. And, fully experience how much I am worth. As I
dreamt about earlier on this trip, maybe that is a part of heaven, being able to love transparently and to be loved fully.

Drew has the unique ability to convey how much my friendship means to him. Conversations are not forced, or are they overwhelmingly frequent but they are powerful. The time we have spent speaking to one another about family, love, relationships and people have been incredibly valuable, and irreplaceable. This dream I have had about a more transparent and thorough love has come closer and closer to fruition because of my time spent with Drew.

I am so thankful that he came on this trip, that he has taken the time to be here with us. I have left many of our conversations with a more beautiful understanding of what this kingdom is really about. We all came on this trip to expand our world view and to see more of the world, but more so, he came on this trip to invest in me, Erik and Jordan. To try and love us more fully.

I look forward to our brotherhood. I look forward to exploring more of this beautiful world with you. Never stop seeing people and places for what they are. Everything is Everything.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nothing Special

Sitting on a beautiful deck feeling the damp Mekong air slide across my glistening skin as the afternoon rainstorm moves in. I just finished reading "The Beach" while sitting in front of the small row of bamboo bungalows that will be our home for the next couple of days. I don't know how to describe this place. It is kind of an average of many of the places we have been. Not too extravegant, relativelly peaceful, but not like Muang Ngoi. The water is nice, but it is murky. Strangely however, I enjoy not really loving any one part of this place. Maybe that is why yesterday's bike ride was so meangingful.

Located in the southern tip of Laos, the Island of Don Khong is part of an archipeligo in the Mekong River delta. Surrounded by slowly moving water, murky and brown like you would imnagine rivers in this area to be, the islands are a pleasant place to spend some time. The landscape on the island is not covered with picturesque monoliths or painted limestone cliffs. Instead, plot after plot of partially flooded rice fields, flat as the most miserable parts of Kansas, cover the entirety of the island. I suppose, upon reflection, what made our 35 kilometer ride so special was the lacsidascical nature of it all. We left with no agenda, pushed shuffle on the IPod, and began to leisurely cuise on our "beach cruiseresque" style bikes.

What will remain most salient, as the memories from this trip slowly fade, are the hundreds of children, some of them clothed and most of them naked, yelling "Sawbaidee" to us as we slowly moved into and out of their unfamiliar lives. I will rememer the way the sun reflected the brilliant, but opposing, images of starchy white clouds off well worked rice fields. I will remember how scared I was while running across that miserable beach, with the sounds of a concrete mixer distracting me from the pain coming from my burning feet. I will remember the way we would fall into and out of meditation as we slowly rode through, less than spectacular, scenery. The way conversation would drift away and the uncomfortable silence would transform into a Zen-like state of simple satisfaction. I will remember how fresh a crisp and slightly chilled orange soda tastes after being in direct sunlight for nearly five hours.

Hopefully, and more important than any of that, I will remember the love and sense of community I felt, not only with the dearest of friends pedaling beside me, but with the hundreds of people that provided the faces for an even larger and more beautiful kingdom. Thank you for blessing me with such a beautiful day. One that lacked drama, but was bursting with glory.