'Tis the season to be jolly....

...so come one, come all to eat, drink, and most importantly, be merry!

Photo credit: lockedoutcomedy.com

Locked Out Comedy troupe is hosting my "Going Away: Part Deux" party on January 8th at 10 pm at ArtCentre Theatre in Plano.  Buy tickets online for $12 or pay $15 cash at the door.  Five dollars of every ticket sold will benefit Skillshare International and GHARP Kenya.  So bring the kids or make it a date night and come LOL, ROFL, or LYAO while enjoying the comedic renderings of LOC.

Impending Departure

Less than three weeks and counting until I once again leave for Kenya.  I head back on January 10th and barring any weather delays am hopeful to arrive in Nairobi on the evening of the 11th.  Now to decide what fun things to cram in to my final weeks home:

. Celebrate Christmas with the fam
. Party it up with friends on New Years Eve
. Eat copious amounts of Tex Mex
. Finish my final paper
. Pack up everything for the second time in less than a year
. Veg with the cats

Suggestions welcome!

Spam and Procrastination

I rarely delve into the black hole that is my spam mail but this week I was looking for a lost email that I hoped had been misdirected into said folder.  Instead I discovered a plethora of junk emails offering me the opportunity to check my credit, order Viagra (titled "This===will help you!===Soon holidays!" because that makes sense), meet 1000s of single parents, and messages from supposed long lost friends.  Tired of not finding my lost email, annoyed by the numerous scam messages I was finding, procrastinating from finishing my final paper of my masters program, and because I have turned into an incurable insomniac and am very bored very early in the morning, I decided to respond:

Don't Panic!

Photo credit: http://pricegroupblog.com/2010/03/dont-panic/
...are words to live by when exploring the outer reaches of the universe as Douglas Adams tells us in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Apparently it's also sage advice for those traveling through the heart of Africa as well.  AP sources report that two American kayakers maintained level heads while watching in horror as their South African tour guide, Hendri Coetzee, was ripped from his kayak by a large crocodile while paddling down the Lukuga River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The experienced outdoorsman is presumed dead but thanks to his number one rule, "nobody panic," his fellow kayakers escaped unharmed.

"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." Douglas Adams

Beware of Imposters!

We all know who the REAL Captain Awesome is, but an Oregon man apparently is unaware of my alter ego.  He legally changed his name to Captain Awesome recently and his signature to: ---> <---.  Really, guy?

Christmas Spirt is Like an Infectious Disease

Because this is how my family rolls.  And what happens when I'm put in charge of decorating.  If only I had a light up baby Jesus then the scene would be complete.

My mother closed the shutters to prevent the neighbors and homeowners association from being able to enjoy our festive decorations.

Because Chuck Norris Loves Christmas

Who doesn't need a Chuck Norris collectible revolver for only $1,995?  Chuck Norris that's who.

If you went to shoot Chuck Norris with a gun, the bullets would run away.
Chuck Norris doesn't need a gun to shoot someone in the head. 
Chuck Norris wears a gun only to hand it to the enemy and beat him with it.

Holiday versus Christmas

There has been some debate lately over the usage of the phrase Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings versus Merry Christmas with one church going so far as to sponsor a website to call businesses out on their lack of Christmas decorations and so-called spirit.  I mean really people, this is why outsiders hate Christians and by association, Americans.  For one, aren't there more important things going on in the world to care about, like starving children living on the brink of war/genocide/death throughout the world that will never know over-commercialized event you are complaining about?  And more importantly, didn't Jesus teach us to be inclusive and loving of all people?  What's the matter with respecting the fact that Christmas is not the only religious holiday celebrated this time of  year?

In fact, Christianity isn't even the oldest religion observing a significant holiday this month.  And for that matter, Christmas day was chosen for its connection to pagan traditions connected to solstice and feasts to the dead rather than the actual birth date of Christ.  The origins of many so-called Christmas traditions associated with the holiday are in fact rooted in paganism and not historical Christianity including: evergreen trees, stockings, yule logs, and more.

Indeed, Jesus may be the reason for YOUR season, but for much of the world he is not the reason for their festivities and just because they're different than your own and what you know, these holidays should not be looked down upon as second-rate.  In the US people usually think of Hanukkah as the "other" holiday celebrated in December, however many world religions consider this a holy time of year.  Other religious holidays being celebrated in December 2010 include:

Hanukkah- Judaism

Hijra- Islam New Year

Bodhi Day (Rohatsu)- Buddhism
Immaculate Conception of Mary- Catholicism

Ashura- Islam

Posadas Navidenas- Hispanic Christmas

Yule- Wicca/Pagan Northern hemisphere
Litha- Wicca/Pagan Southern hemisphere
Yule- Christianity

Feast of the Holy Family- Catholicism
Death of Prophet Zarathushtra- Zoroastrianism

Holy Innocents- sects of Protestantism

Watch Night- sects of Protestantism

Now for the Who

Well since I now have a "real" job (as some friends like to put it....consulting apparently doesn't count); I'm getting ready for the leaving the continent again part.  As you know, I am going to be raising funds for a rainwater project, GHARP, in Kenya.  What I didn't mention is that the position is supported by an umbrella organization, Skillshare International.

Skillshare supports development workers in partner organizations across Europe, Africa, and Asia.  While the partner organization is the key implementer of their projects; Skillshare supervises monitoring and evaluation as well as financial management. This is a huge commitment for the organization; in 2009-10 they supported 113 development workers throughout the world.  Funding not only provides living expenses for the workers but most importantly funds important programming such as: reducing gender-based violence, supporting rural livelihoods, creating a human rights culture, enhancing community capacity for self-development, empowering youth, and improving the lives of people living with disabilities, just to name a few.

So while I'm off doing the boring stuff (physicals, dental appointments, and packing) take a minute and check out my Just Giving page and help me raise £500 to support this great organization.  If you're still looking for a great Christmas gift, look no further, 'tis the season to give the gift that gives back to those less fortunate.

Photo credit: www.Skillshare.org

Stay tuned!  Plans are in the works for another fun opportunity to show your support while eating, drinking, and being merry this holiday season.  And, if you want to make things more interesting, leave me a suggestion in the comments section of what I can do to show all of my loyal friends and donors my appreciation for every £100 raised toward my goal of £500 (approximately $780).  Keep it classy, people; this will be performed in a public, child-friendly arena.

A New Start in a Familiar Place

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." Douglas Adams

So for those of you who haven't heard the news, I am headed back to Africa.  No definite return date yet, but I will be in Nairobi sometime in January.  As you know, I took a job last January that moved me to Kenya to support their Sudan office.  This new opportunity as a Fundraising Officer with the Greater Horn of Africa Rainwater Partnership- Kenya Rainwater Association will bring me back to Kenya, a place I grew to love over the eight months I spent there this year.  

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I haven't loved my time back in Dallas catching up with friends and family and going to charity events and holiday parties, but I am very much looking forward to returning to Nairobi.  I know most of you think I'm crazy; why would I give up Tex Mex, culture, and First World living for a low paying job in Africa?  So to help you understand, here are just the top two of many reasons I decided not to stay Stateside: 1) Yes, there are a lot of issues that need to be worked on at home, but there are many people who are willing and enjoy working for nonprofits.  However, how many of those people want to move across the world to do it?  I think that those of us who are willing to do so should do everything we can to get over there and get working.  There's a lot to do and many, many people who need our help.  2) Nairobi is a great place to live (minus the pollution and crime; which, don't lie to yourself, is everywhere).  It is metropolitan and has the perks of big city living (sushi, anyone?) while being just a hop, skip, and a jump from "real" Africa.  I love being able to hop in the car and drive an hour or two away from town to experience nature and animals that many people will never get to see in their lifetime.

Life and the Pursuit of Who Knows What

So as I was reminded recently it's been awhile since I posted on here; not to worry, I am still alive and well and haven't run off into the bush...yet.  However, for those of you who have been living under a rock and have not been following along on Facebook, I will give you the full update of what's been going on with me for the last four months.

Around the end of May/beginning of June I decided to quit my job at ALARM.  It was a decision not easily made as 1) I enjoyed my position and the opportunity to work with my colleagues to provide opportunities and resources for ALARM's programs in Sudan and 2) I have never left a position without another job lined up and with the current economic climate it was a struggle to listen to my gut.  A long story short as to why I left: there were security concerns that were not being addressed to my satisfaction in regards to a permanent move to Juba, South Sudan.

Fortunately I have some great friends that I've met while in Kenya who were very supportive of my decision.  I have been staying at a friend's flat while job searching and doing some consulting work for a local NGO and an IT solutions company.  I was scheduled to come home in early September but prolonged my stay another month to continue networking and job searching here.  Happily I have a couple of tentative offers that excite me but they will not become firm opportunities until funding becomes available.  OR If anybody reading this post has an awesome job in East Africa/D.C. they'd like to offer me please feel free  :)

That said, I'm not sure what the future has in store for me, but I've stopped attempting to plan everything and am trying to go with the flow and make the most of the situation.  How often in life are we given the opportunity to stop and really enjoy ourselves and not be stressed out about the daily grind?  Taking a breather from all of that has been really great.  In the last few months I have been able to visit a dear friend in Cairo, watch the Great Migration at the Masai Mara, climb Mt. Longonot, visit the hot springs at Lake Magadi, hike the gorge at Hell's Gate, be a beach bum in Mombasa and Diani, and have fun with giraffes and baby ellies.  (Disclaimer: Of course I've also been job searching, volunteering, and working on my papers to finish up my masters degree as well.  It's not all fun and games, Mom and Dad). 

So a big thank you to everyone in Kenya who has made my time here memorable and have helped me keep my sanity throughout some of the crazy times the last few months.  I'll miss you all but will remember you always.  And thank you to all of my friends and family at home who were supportive of my decision to move here and subsequently stick around while looking for a new job.  I'm happy I will be home to see you all soon and can't wait to catch up on your lives as well (over copious amounts of Tex Mex and margaritas of course)!

Captain Awesome

Keeping Up with the Jones': Let's Not

It seems like every time I turn around there is another article about the LGBT community being marginalized in sub-Saharan Africa. I shouldn't be surprised considering the lack of basic rights for the gay community in most countries in Africa and the fact that same-sex sexual activity is deemed illegal in 36 countries throughout the continent. During an informative (and I use that term loosely, it was in actuality a propaganda laced "look at how great we are" session) meeting with the Rwandan Human Rights Commission last summer I was informed that there are no gays in Rwanda and being gay is not an African problem and is only an issue found in western countries so therefore there is no need for the Commission to create to any laws to protect gay rights.

This month, a seventeen year old in Senegal will stand trial for sexual acts "against nature" and two other men were convicted just weeks prior on identical charges and sentenced to two and five years based only on denunciations from neighbors.  Just this past May, after being sentenced to 14 years in prison for 'unnatural acts and gross indecency', for celebrating their engagement, a gay couple was pardoned on "humanitarian grounds only" by Malawi's president after receiving huge international criticism.  That same month, gay activists in Zimbabwe were arrested for posting a letter in their office that criticized President Mugabe's opposition to homosexuality and subsequently abused by police.  Earlier this year another Malawian man was arrested for putting up gay-rights posters.  

In other news, an anti-gay bill is continuing to gain popularity in Uganda. Highlights include: "prison terms for Ugandans who fail to report a homosexual within 24 hours; lifelong prison sentences for a single homosexual act; and the death sentence for a range of acts, including having gay sex while HIV-positive, having gay sex with a disabled person or being classified as a "serial offender" — that is, someone who has gay sex more than once." A recent interview with David Bahati, author of the bill, revealed that he wants this to become a model throughout Africa. He is saying, "this is a project to eradicate homosexuality in Uganda. They're not saying, 'This is a reform.' They're saying, 'We can do this. We are at the crux.'

Even in the U.S. where we pride ourselves on being more culturally sensitive to subjects such as these we are still debating whether or not gay marriage should be allowed.  Anytime I see any article posted about this debate a shocking outpouring of hatred always follows in the comment section.  Why are people so vitriolic when discussing other people's personal lives?  How does one person's commitment to another person effect anybody else?  And if I hear one more religious tirade about God condemning homosexuals, I literally might scream.  My God loves all of his children; red and yellow, black and white, gay or straight, all are precious in his sight.  A friend posted a particularly entertaining (read: sarcastic) retort she found on facebook about "why gay marriage is wrong" that I find particularly appropriate in response to many of the close-minded arguments on this topic.

So my response is this: stand up and speak out against the marginalization of your fellow human beings.  Who knows when your government is going to decide that how you live your personal life is wrong and punishable by jail and/or death.  Find an organization in your community to lend  your support.  In Kenya check out Gay and Lesbian Coalition's website to learn more about their partner organizations and community activism.  International human rights organization, International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, also has resources on how to take action worldwide.

Mount Longonot or bust

That's right.  I, Captain Awesome, hiked up a mountain.  However if it had not been for my awesome experienced hiker friend, Cecile, I would be sitting forlornly about a third of the way up.  I blame my ineptitude on the high elevation and my inability to breath.

At this point, I was just happy to have made it thus far.

We began the adventure with an unpleasant encounter with the ticket seller at the park entrance that consisted of her not giving us a student rate so, in my opinion, she and her superiors could pocket the additional $10 per person.  Living in Kenya has opened my eyes to a the world of corruption and how far it reaches.  After listening to many excuses, changes in argument, and newly made up rules, we unhappily conceded to further corruption and pay the full fee.

The merry band

Despite the unfortunate beginning to our day our merry band of five proceeded up the mountain.  She doesn't look like much but she packs a punch in the first leg of the journey.  It's less tiring than difficult as the initial ascent is quite steep and slippery with loose ash.  I also underestimated the effects of altitude on my hiking ability.  The base of the volcano is 2150 meters above sea level with the peak reaching 2780 meters asl.  All of my daily walks around Nairobi were no preparation for my lungs.

Once we finally made it to the rim I hung out with my ipod while the rest of the group hiked around the ledge.  My unfortunate fear of heights and tendency to be clumsy and fall made me think twice about walking around a narrow and, in some parts, steep ledge that might lead to my untimely demise in a volcanic crater.  I almost forgot to tell you all about the birds and how they too were trying to kill me!  It could have been a Hitchcock film.  These two birds the size of penguins with HUGE beaks started dive bombing me for my leftover lunch goodies.  Just sitting on the trail with nothing to keep me from falling down the side of the mountain was freaking me out enough as it was, so when the birds started coming for me I was afraid I might be tempted to get up and run which would inevitably lead to the discovery of my crumpled remains in the crater below.  Thinking only of my friends and how traumatized they would be by this scenario, I slowly scooched away from the baggie the killer birds desired and made my way a safe distance away.  It was a narrow escape; just moments passed before the birds attacked the defenseless baggie and devoured the crumbs inside. 

View from the top of Mt. Longonot of Rift Valley and the crater.

Stay tuned for tales and travails of my previous trip to Lake Magadi....

Survival Guide to Turning 30 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

The stress of turning the big 3-0 is definitely compounded when you live in a foreign country far away from your family and friends and are currently jobless and homeless.  Fortunately for me, when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.  True story.
Stressed but awesome.  

Survival Guide Tips:
1. Start prepping everyone for your upcoming big day.  Explain that just because the word "day" is part of the word "birthday" this does not mean that one should only celebrate for one day.  Especially when that day is a lame one, like a Wednesday.  Yes, Wednesday, I'm calling you out for being a sucky day.  Try to do better next time; strive to be Friday, Friday knows what's up.

2. If your birthday happens to fall smack dab in the middle of the week plan fun events for the weekends on either end. 
Pre-birthday weekend festivities: 4th of July BBQ
Post-birthday weekend festivities: Trip to Masai Mara to watch the Great Migration

3. Surround yourself with people who have already turned the life-changing age so they can provide reassurances that having a 3 in front of your age is not so scary.  Shun your younger friends who take enjoyment from your downward spiral into adulthood.  Take names so you can exact revenge when their big day comes.

4. Ignore your friends' suggestion that you have a drink for every year you are turning.  "That could be interesting" is not the correct response.  Ignore their rationalizations that 30 drinks over a week is completely possible and the fact that you live in Kenya is not a good enough reason for you to try and accomplish this feat.

5. Chocolate is the key to getting you through this nerve-wracking time.  Little known fact*: Chocolate will end world hunger, cure cancer, and, if used correctly, bring world peace.  
*More of a hypothesis than a fact.  But it is known to induce happiness when taken in large portions.

6. Give yourself permission to pig out at your birthday dinner AND eat dessert.
 Mmmm, flan.

7. Realize that being another year older just means you have maintained your awesome status for an entire year and embrace the fact that you get to bask in your awesomeness indefinitely.

Life After the World Cup

Life in Kenya and the mania surrounding the World Cup brought out the very hidden, unknown soccer fanatic in me.  I am certain that I have watched more sports in general and soccer specifically than ever before in my life.  However, now that the World Cup has concluded and Team Orange sadly lost to the Spanish hotties, I'm not sure what to do with all of my free time.  Life before the World Cup is hard to remember so I've come up with this list of suitable replacement activities for how to spend your new found leisure time.

1. Stock up your google reader with an excessive amount of blogs.  My current favorite is Hyperbole and a Half; Allie Brosh is hilarious.  And she likes David Sedaris and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  It will suck you in and you then you will look up and realize that you've been reading blogs rather than being productive for hours on end.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

2. Check facebook frequently.  Upload pictures to facebook from the fun times you had watching the World Cup.  Read through your newsfeed to catch up on all the posts your friends made while you were sleeping.  Look to see if any of your friends are online to chat with even though it's 3 am their time and 11 am where you live.  Cyberstalk Alan Tudyk.  

3. Research the next two 25 page papers you have due in a month.  Do this instead of reading blogs and checking facebook.

4. Catch up on correspondence.  Respond to old emails.  Write new ones.  Look to see if any of your friends are on gchat even though it's 3 am their time and 11 am where you live.

5. Work on consulting/volunteer work.  Meet with volunteer agency.  Write proposals.  Be productive in general.  

6. Go to the mall and wander aimlessly, like you're a 15 year old.  Go to another mall and watch Twilight, like you're a 15 year old. 

7. Be touristy.  Visit the giraffes and feed them.  Visit the elephants and adopt one.  Visit the park and play safari. 

8. Write a blog post.  Brainstorm new blog posts.  Look through pictures to see if there is anything entertaining/random you can include in your blog post.  

 You're welcome.

9. Walk a mile to Java.  Sit, read/research, eat, listen to your ipod, stare aimlessly into space, people-watch, walk back.

10. Recruit friends to entertain you. 
      a. Watch numerous bootleg movies.  Brainstorm new movies/tv shows to buy for only 100 KSH. 
      b. Go to dinner/drinks/late night-early morning dance parties at various shady establishments.
      c. Convince them to cook dinner for you in trade for wine and beer.

The Sights and Sounds of Cairo: The Banks of the Nile

By the banks of the Nile I sit perched on the railing of the bridge.  I watch cars drive past while engrossed in the music blaring from my ipod.  I see Cairenes look interestedly at me as they walk past my seat.  They are dressed in everything from traditional burqas to hip western wear paired with a hijab.  Honks, exhaust, and the breeze from the Nile rush through my hair cooling me from the hot African sun.  I look up and see a monument to a man in the median and wonder what he did to warrant such recognition.  After enjoying the solitude of my rest in the middle of town I head back to reality.

The Sights and Sounds of Cairo: Arrival and Accostation

The hooting of car horns, the trill of bicycle bells, shouts, and calls to prayer float past the open window I am sitting near in an oversized cushy armchair at my dear friend Brittany's apartment in Cairo.  I arrived in Egypt early Tuesday morning from Nairobi ready to navigate my way to Dokki, armed with directions from Brittany and instructions on how to find a taxi. 

As soon as I walked out of the terminal I was accosted by a swarm of taxi drivers, but being the seasoned negotiator of cab fares thanks to my daily taxi rides in Nairobi I bartered down the prices from 100 Egyptian pounds (LE).  I climbed in the back of the taxi and confirmed with my driver that the price was reasonable.  The driver, Ahmed, was very talkative for 3 AM and once leaving the airport he pulled over to the side of the road and insisted I move to the front so I could chat more easily with him.  Warily I moved up to the front seat since he refused to drive further otherwise.  Red flag number 1: women do not ride in the front of a taxi when unaccompanied and alone.  He kept his friendly demeanor and pointed out tourist sites as we drove through the city.  Red flag number 2: he started asking me what the English word was for parts of his face including his mouth.  As we crossed the Nile he once again pulled the car over under the guise of showing me the river.  It was then the accostation began (accostation: a combination of accost and molestation) and he decided it was appropriate to touch my leg and ask me to kiss him or "give him lip/mouth."  After playing dumb for as long as possible I finally explained politely that I was indeed married (I had been forewarned of Egyptian men's proclivity to hit on western women with the assumption that we are all promiscuous and wore a ring on my left hand just in case). 

Once we finally arrived at Brittany's apartment I went to pay him the agreed upon amount.  Drama ensued.  He feigned no knowledge of our agreement and argued with us for 20 minutes trying to force me to pay 100 LE instead of 40 LE because he claimed he was a "limo" rather than a taxi.  I informed him he was not driving a limo and I wasn't paying him any more than what we agreed upon.  In a very inappropriate un-Egyptian manner he followed us into the apartment building and refused to leave until he received his 100 LE.  Brittany went to get the rest of the money and then he had the audacity to ask for more saying the 100 was for the car and he should get paid more driving me.  Acting very culturally inappropriate we told him in no uncertain terms he was to leave the premises and Britt hurled some bawdy Arabic in his direction and pushed him out the door.  Once in the apartment we could see him stand outside and complain to the guards but fortunately they sent him on his way without causing a larger scene.

Toe Massacre 2010

So it is official.  I am THE clumsiest person.  However I managed to prevent yet another toe from breaking by some miracle and escaped with only a hideous bruise and possible muscle/ligament damage.  On the plus side, the nurse who wrapped my foot totally made my foot look like it is flicking someone off at all times.  Kinda awesome.
Pre-examination.  Toe is lookin' kinda sketch.
So I was a bit confused why Jana offered to come with me to the clinic.  Four hours later I was grateful for the company, as was the coffee house, Savannah's, next door to the hospital where we spent at least 2 1/2 of the 4 hours waiting to be x-rayed and waiting for the x-ray results.

The Africa Diet

And people wonder why I eat out so often.  If it weren't for cheap Ethiopian food and samosas I would be left to my own devices and sustain myself solely on knock off Pringles and canned beans.

Golf 101: TIA

Captain Awesome learns to golf!  I always knew I'd be a natural thanks to my superhero skills.  I didn't want to outshine my fellow golfers on the driving range so I kept my awesomeness under wraps and played as any first timer would be expected.  With a few pointers from the caddies on stance and form my awesomeness quickly took over.  I made a few balls in the air but would regularly swing and miss, hit a wild ball, or knock one only a few feet so as to not intimidate my friends practicing alongside me.  I love that I move to Africa before learning how to golf, despite being surrounded by countless golf courses in Dallas.  Here are some pictures of Jon, Jana and me at Railway Golf Club in Nairobi.

Most awesome caddy ever!

My golfing buds
Fun at the driving range

Expat living

Being an expat in a large city affords one many luxuries that you would not necessarily experience staying in a small village that many assume is typical African living.  This includes the opportunity to meet lots of people in social settings and not have to sit at home watching bad Kenyan tellie every evening.  Fortunately early in my African adventure I discovered a fabulous facebook group, Nairobi Expat Social, that I joined and met many of my new friends while doing fun things around Nairobi.  However, the downside to expat living is that many people come for volunteer opportunities and short term assignments so there is a constant turnover in your friend base.  Sadly, the process has already begun; a couple of my new friends have already headed home, but before they left we had one last fabulous weekend hanging out in true NES style.  Here are some pics from our send off weekend for Mia and Richard.

 Friday at Gipsy's, cheers to Mia!  (Guess what's in the Nakumatt bag)
Saturday at Brew Bistro, Katie loves hanging with us!
Richard: You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when I met Jon, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Jon joined in later.
And we're the three best friends that anyone could ever have!
Who wouldn't love this face?  Katie sang, shadow danced, and provided much entertainment after our escapades at Brew Bistro and Casablanca.
Sunday dinner at Fusion.  Kudos to Richard for finding the best samosas in town.

Happy Belated Earth Day!

I'm a day late, that's what happens when you are on African time, but I hope you all took a moment yesterday to celebrate Earth Day.  Working in a third world country (correction: developing country) has made me so aware and grateful for how considerate we are as westerners (especially Texans- Don't Mess With Texas!) of the world around us.  No, we're not perfect, but we are trying and that counts for something.  In the developing world however trash is tossed on the ground without a second thought and there is no city government program to collect and dispose of the trash.  While visiting Juba I had an empty water bottle taken from my hand and tossed in a ditch because the girl I was walking with could not understand why I would hold onto it to try and find a trashcan, a task I quickly learned is next to impossible in Sudan.  Again, on the drive to Yei I was laughed at for my refusal to roll down my window and throw my empty soda can out.  I explained to them I would rather not contribute to the pollution of their countryside even if it doesn't bother them.  Nairobi does not have a city trash collection system either and you will see some trash littering the roads, but, for the most part, people collect their own trash and burn it to keep their city from looking like a landfill.

I believe it's the little things that count.  This year think of ways you can cut down on waste.  I for one have started using cute reusable bags for my grocery shopping instead of accepting plastic bags at the checkout.
Photo credit: stylehive.com
They're stylish; you can fold it up to fit in your purse; they make it easy to carry many smaller packages; and for someone who walks to and from the grocery, it is much more comfortable to throw this over my shoulder rather than lug 4-5 plastic handled bags home. 

Recycling is practically unheard of here but you can compost from anywhere.  Check out this super cute ceramic compost bucket from World Market for a stylish way to collect your kitchen scraps.
Photo credit: http://www.worldmarket.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3597599

Buy green while supporting African women!  Ugandan beaded necklaces are made of tightly rolled paper beads – from recycled magazines, calendars and scrap paper.  Click on the link to check out how to purchase these necklaces and raise support for African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries' programs.

Photo credit: womenspeacecollection.com

How to Gate Crash: A Guide by Captain Awesome

1. Choose the target and scope out the situation.
  • We drove past a gathering on the side of the road and our curiosity was peaked.  Hundreds of women in red and white were sitting in lawn chairs in a field.  We continued on our way.
2.  Don't tip off the party-goers/hosts of your interest in their gathering.
  • We casually drove past and followed our original plan to visit the Juba Bridge.  It is the only bridge in Juba and traverses the Nile.
3. Casually return to the event once more invited guests have shown up and try to slip in unnoticed.
  • As we drove back past the event we noticed traditional dancing taking place in the field and that a larger crowd had gathered.  We pulled over and decided to stand inconspicuously behind the crowd.  
4. Be ready to adapt your plan if you are discovered.
  • We were quite stealthy and would have succeeded in our mission had two of us not stuck out like two glowing white thumbs.  Fortunately they spotted Captain Awesome amongst the group and we were ushered in and given seats up front and center along with a translator to make our experience more enjoyable.
5. Once your cover is blown (if you are awesome enough to remain at the event) immerse yourself in the experience and be gracious.
  • After watching the celebration that included traditional singing, dancing, and drumming from our primo seats the attention turned to various speakers.  
  • They explained why they were outside celebrating this day.  They were a group of Anglicans who had been fasting for the previous 21 days in remembrance of the 21 year civil war.  They fasted and prayed during this time for peace during the presidential elections.  The previous day the church leaders met with the current president of Southern Sudan regarding their hopes for a peaceful and fair election process.  After the group leaders spoke to the gathered masses at the rally they invited representatives  from our group to speak.  Pastor Steve Roese, from Irving Bible Church in Texas, thanked them for their hospitality and explained our interest and support for them.  He was followed by Dr. Celestin Musekura, ALARM's president and founder, who spoke a few words of encouragement as well.