The Final Leg…

Today we are two months from Christmas Eve Day and two months from getting back to the States and seeing and celebrating the holidays with friends and family!! Cannot wait!!

On this final leg of my journey, after leaving India and arriving in Bangkok I am entering  into a new phase of my travels with a new mantra, which is to just – chill.

It sounds weird, I know, coming from a guy who has been gainfully unemployed for over a year and who has been on the road discovering the world, but if there is one thing I have learned on these travels, it is that you are exactly who you are regardless of where you are and for me that is a complete to do list, A-personality, work oriented person. I have always been this way, and I have always blamed it on work or school, and sadly whoever my poor boss was at time for making me have too much to do, too much to organize, not enough time to do what I wanted to do. Well, what I have learned after a year of having no one to answer to, I still have too much to do, too much to organize, to many “to do lists”.  I found out I can make a project out of anything. Going to the beach, to do list, going to Ha Noi, to do list. It is just the way I am. In the long run, I am, we all are, I believe, exactly who we are, regardless of where we are, no mater the circumstance or situation! And for me, that is a to do list kind of guy. – So, in the land of Buddha, I am going just accept it and embrace it and do a new to do list with the single main goal; to chill – relax and rest and enjoy!

Wat Pathum Wanaram; Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, Thailand

On my two month remaining’s do to list, I am also planning to try to get in shape. I am about 100% sure that when I get back to Austin, my friends will be going for a run, maybe the Heidi Loop or other, but for sure one morning after I get back we will be out there early morning for a run, and I have to get myself back in shape to be able to run with them all. After a year on the road, I seem to have maybe enjoyed the plethora of new options in food and drink a little too much, and have had a little too much time on trains, and buses and planes and sadly it has left me a bit soft. I have two months of beaches and the like ahead of me, so hopefully finding some fun places to run and exercise will come easy. Being on a beach and seeing this pale blob and other in shape bodies all around me, should help motivate me as well.

I am also planning to take a scuba diving class in Ko Tao, maybe a Thai cooking class here in Bangkok or along the way somewhere else and ideally, albeit it is a little late, I am also hoping to take a photography class. – My hotel in Bangkok is right next door to the amazing MBK Center, which has every electronic known to the world at rock bottom warehouse deal prices. I am sure all the things are either knockoffs or second-hand or something discussed in the last Presidential Debate, for example I bought a replacement pair of beats by dr.dre, running earpod head phones, yesterday for 1/10 the price of what they were selling them for in the i-store in the mall next door, but with a scratch in my camera lens, maybe a new something to take a photo class with may not be the worst thing in the world…

I am also planning to make an assertive effort to meet more people. One thing that I knew, but it has been seriously proven on this trip, is that I am a people person, and people motivate me. So, to be able to do the above, I need to find some people who want to get in shape and run on the beach, and maybe take pictures and cook Thai food. High on my new chill to do list is to socialize and find and run and party with these people much, much more than I have been.

I am also planning to make my plan for the future, for when I get back home to the States. I hope based on what I have seen and experienced and worked with trying to eliminate the water issues in the world, that in the next two months I have a chance to meet and talk more with the mentors and experts in the field and see what I have learned and what they know and how we may be able to work together to help this issue for the long-term.

That’s it – Embracing who I am for the final leg, to do list and all. Enjoying SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, getting in shape and learning a few new skill sets and figuring out how to apply them to future life of to do lists.

Moving forward my blog post may become a little more sparse in frequency. I am coming into another beautiful part of the world, and I will share pictures of what I see and let you know how this new phase of the journey is going, but mainly I will fill you all in on it when I get back home in December – maybe on that run! – Can’t wait to see you all!!

Happy Season ahead!! Talk and see you all soon!!

Joe

Buddha’s in Bangkok

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Namaste

Namaste!! – Greetings and Adoration to you all!!

Rohtang Pass

It has been nearly six weeks since I arrived in India and I am writing this while up in Northern India, surrounded by the Himalayas with the fresh air and amazing vistas every where I turn. I have waited to post about my time in India until I had a quite place to sit back and relax and reflect on the past six weeks, which was not easy to find, but I think I have it here in one of he most amazing places in India, and the world for that matter!

It all started fairly traumatically, with first being turned away from India at 3:50 AM on September 1st due to Visa issues and being sent back to Abu Dhabi, my layover location from South Africa for an unexpected, but still very exciting, week plus of discovering the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I finally arrived on Monday, September 10th, again at the crack of dawn, but this time with a proper Visa in hand and to a warm welcome by the border control folks and soon after by my friends from Blue Planet Network, Peer Water Exchange, Bluefoot Cultural Consulting and Tours and all the friendly people of India!

Hotel Area near Main Bazar

India as they say can be very stimulating to all the senses; smells, sights and sounds to top them all off, but tastes and touch follow closely there after. When in the cities you often hear it referred to as being a controlled chaos, which as I arrived it proved itself true as I found my way through the streets of Bangalore in a little motorized rickshaw, a Tuk Tuk, weaving in and out of traffic, horns blaring, lights flashing, and everyone out and about on the streets talking and yelling and on the move; – which is full on anytime, let alone at 4:00 AM in the morning! This place definitely has some energy!

A good friend told me as I arrived that India is where patients was invented, and for me I can definitely attest to it is where I have worked hard in the process of perfecting that needed skill set. After nonsensical delays due to bureaucracy, a million holidays, and various strikes, lack of electricity, lack of toilet paper, or just the lack of a simple toilet itself, for the non-existence of antiperspirants, but the noted readily availability of ‘body spray’, which I currently smell much like I would assume a 1980’s Miami Vice night club extra would smell like. This place quickly has you adapting to what ever happens next.

Kullu-Manali Valley

All of it if though, has led me to this place, one of the most amazing in the world. And on the way all my senses have been stimulated, in a good way, while traveling through the south of India and seeing all the amazing temples and rock carvings dedicated to the God’s Shiva and Vishnu and their Wives and Avatars, to seeing the amazing Forts and Palaces from the south to the north of India. In the past six weeks, I had the chance to travel through the backwaters, hill stations and tree plantations of Kerala, the beaches of Goa, the Land of Kings in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the Cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi and now doing the mountain treks in the Land of the Gods, in the Himalayas. It is truly a pretty amazing Country; or Subcontinent that is India!

I will tell the story in reverse starting with today, here in the mountains, and going back to my first week here meeting the amazing people, doing so much good in NGO’s in and around Bangalore. All this is before I continue my travels, jumping ahead a little bit, on to Thailand,Vietnam and the rest of South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific before finally getting back to the States and home for the holidays!! I cannot wait!!

Prayer Flags at Rohtang Pass

The Himalayas 

I seem to somehow be taking between 200 to 400 pictures each day, which means I have obviously been seeing a lot of amazing sights each day, but I promise I wont share them all with you. I am hoping to try to keep it to showing you a couple of pictures per day and location. Fingers crossed!

Also, as you know your eyes are an amazing thing, and sadly the camera cannot pick up all and exactly what your eyes can see. Add to that the questionable skills of a photographer and a newly formed crack on the lens of my camera, sadly the following photolog of my travels may not be able to show it all so well, but I hope they somewhat capture at least a piece of the majestic beauty of the Himalayas and of this overall leg of my travels.

Here are a few pictures from Kullu-Manali and the Trek in the Himalayas with Peaks between 16K and 20K (they say up to 23K) all around us in Himachal Pradesh, India that I did the last four days:

Manali – Mountain Flowers

Manali – Travels Lodge

The Himalayas

Kids playing at 13K

View from the top

 

 

The Himalayas

Mountain Stream Manali – The Beas River

Manali – The Market

Gandhi Museum in Delhi – His final steps

Delhi

The opposite of the Himalayas, Delhi is a seriously crazy city. – I stayed in a backpackers hostel on Main Bazar, close to the New Delhi train station, so I experienced it all first hand for sure. Accommodations where… there – all I can say is I used the cocoon sleeping bag liner my brother Jim gave me so not to sleep on the sheets and pillows and I stayed a total of 24 hours in Delhi, quick to get out and move one. With that time I had there, I did get a chance to have an amazing meal in the Pandara Market near the Gate of India and see both the inspiration and continued growth of Shah Jahan’s empire, the builder of the Taj Mahal and most of the forts and palaces in the areas. A few pictures to show my time in Delhi:

Jain Temple in Old Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb Entrance

Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi, – Predicesor to the Taj

 

 

Taj Mahal Entrance at Dawn

 

 

 

 

Agra, the Taj Mahal, Fort Agra and Fatehpur Sikiri

Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunrise has to be one of the most amazing experiences known to humankind. There are so many stories of the history around the Taj and so many stories by people who have seen it, that the only way to really grasp it all is to experience it and listen to the stories of it all first hand. The eternal love of a man for his wife, the royal family history, imprisonment, concubines, honored deaths of nobleman followed by their whole court, battles and forts and dynasties and kingdoms all tie to this area and these amazing structures that tell the stories through their gates and walls and windows. A few pictures in an attempt to tell a small part of it all…

Taj Mahal at Sunrise

Taj Mahal – Mid Morning

Taj Mahal from Fort Agra – Mid Day

Taj Mahal at Sunset from the Saniya Palace Hotel Rooftop Bar in Taj Ganj area of Agra

Taj Mahal Dome

Fort Agra Gate Entrance

Jaipur – The Wind Palace -Hawa Mahal

Rajasthan

Known as the Land of Kings, I had the chance to visit two of the Rajputs’ dynasties major cities; Udaipur and Jaipur, the White and Pink Cities, and see a half-dozen of the Forts and City and Lake Palaces of the families that led this land. I missed Jodhpur (the Blue City) and the dessert forts of Jaisalmer, but it is always good to leave something to come back for next time. Photos of Rajasthan:

Jaipur – The City Palace

Jaipur – Camels at the City Palace

Jaipur main town Gate to Old Town Pink City

Jaipur – Fort Amber Wall -the city founder the great king warrior astronomer Jai Singh II early 1700’s to 1744

Udiapur – Lake Palace

Udipur – City Palace Court Yard

Gardens in Udipur

Mumbai – LERA Office with Manish

Mumbai

Mumbai was a treat. – I had the chance to visit my brother Dan’s office, and through his good spirit being shown through the overall team of people there, I felt like I was in New York with family! – It was a great feeling. – In addition to Dan, I have to thank Manish for showing me around and Hari and the team in LERA office for their great hospitality. In Mumbai I got to see everything from Victoria Station and the Gate of India to the Dharavi slums, the base home of Slumdog Millionaire. I got to stay in a western hotel in the Colaba area of town, which I was in need of, along with its great bar called Wink, which had to be one of the nicest parts of all. I also got to see Bollywood at its finest and do some restocking on supplies and get my first international (Indian Phone) – #091-9167559208 – I have tried to send texts and make calls to the States, but I have not quite figures that out yet, but I was able to use it to register and buy train tickets in the Indian Rail system and that has helped a ton!! – Pictures of the sights of Mumbai – The New York / Manhattan and LA / Hollywood of India all wrapped into one! 

Mumbai – City View from LERA Office

Mumbai – The Hotel Taj Palace

Mumbai – Bandra Worli Sealink Bridge

Mumbai Harbour

Mumbai Slums; basis of Slumdog Millionaire

North Goa – Beaches near Mandrem

Goa and traveling up the west coast of India

Goa is where India goes to let loose – It is also is where a lot of Brits and Russians come to party after about October 15th. I happened to be there the weekend of Gandhi’s birthday celebrations (Oct 2nd), so it was a four-day weekend for India and they came out to party for sure! – This was my second scariest hotel, second to the hotel near the airport in Guatemala, I guess because of the holiday hotels were not too available. And also I went on the cheaps here. It seems also that I might have stumbled upon bachelor party weekend and destination here in Goa. I went to Tito’s and Britto’s, the two must go to bars/restaurants in Baga Beach Area of Goa, and it seemed like mainly packs of 6 to 8 Indian guys together – literally hundreds of packs of these teams of guys. They all seemed to be having fun and nice enough, so all was good, but since I did not exactly fit in and it was not exactly my scene, I rent a scooter and went up the coast and found a couple of beaches, mainly with Russian women sunbathing, which seemed just fine for me. – Here are some pictures of the time in Goa – The Dewey Beach of India

Goa – North of Arambol Beach

Goa – Scooter Ride!

Fort Cochin – Sunset over the Chinese Fishing Nets

Kerala

Kerala is known for a lot of good things from beaches to backwaters and I got to experience a number of things that made the area famous. I spent a couple of days in Fort Cochin, on the west coast and the Arabian Sea, and the old Portuguese colony where I saw the old churches, harbours, Chinese Fishing Nets and Jewish Town. I also day tripped down to Appalley to go into the backwaters and see the sites of the little villages along the way. I moved from Cochin up to Munnar and had a couple of days there, up in the hill country where I visited tea plantations and saw the natural relaxing beauty of the area. A few pictures to show the story of my time in Kerala:

Munnar Hill Station – Tea Plantations

Munnar Hill Station in Kerala Tea Plantation with Trees used for retaining water to keep tea plants wet

Mannar – Tea Plantations – three types of tea in this picture – Chinese, Indian and English

Fort Cochin – Chinese Fishing Nets

Alleppey Backwaters

Alleppey Backwaters Boathouse

Alleppey Backwaters School Bus drop off

Side note – sadly due to delay getting into India and a single entry Visa, I was not able to make the side trip to meet good friends in Munich for Oktoberfest, which would have been this weekend. – Sorry to Bill, Dan, Ray, Steve, Knut, Sonya, Ken and Nicole, – Wish I could have been partying with you all! – Also it all caused delays to miss Kevin Ferris up in Delhi and Agra/Taj at this same time – Sorry friends – missed you all! 

Tamil Nadu Temple in Thanjavore (Tanjore) Brihadishwara Temple

Trek Across Southern India – in a bus….

Before arriving in Kerala, I had a whirl wind tour of the southern tip of India. Over the course of four or five days I cut across India from Pondicherry to Kerala by taking multiple buses while visiting and staying in multiple places, seeing the country and city and road side life of most of southern India. I was talking to one guy, saying that it seems like there is a new village about every 5 km, he said

Madurai Sri Meernakshi Temple and its 10,000 Columns

“oh yes, maybe closer to every 2 km” – So, if you are looking a map of Southern India and you see a little village, more than likely I have passed through it. – I saw a lot of temples, all in the Dravidian Style which is typical of South India. You will see it in the pictures, the towers look like  Praying hands, like Namaste!! – Some of the more memorable ones and ones that I took most of the pictures include

  • Madurai Sri Meernakshi Temple

  • Chidambarum where the Nataraja Temple or the Chidambaram – Temple dedicated to the Dancing Shiva is located – Shiva won a dance of contest over Vishnu – so it was a pretty cool dancing temple!
  • Tanjore saw the Big Temple and the Big Bull at the Brihadishwara Temple
  • Trichy and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
  • Madurai which is a big City and a place of pilgrimages to the Amazing Sri Meenakshi Temple dedicated to Shiva – Over 10,000 pilgrims come here each day!

Tamil Nadu Temple in Thanjavore (Tanjore) Brihadishwara Temple

Chennai – San Thomes Cathedral – Location of the remains of the Apostle St Thomas – Doubting Thomas

East Coast of India on the Bay of Bengal in a Train!!

My first train ride was a 6 hour adventure from Bangalore to Chennai. Chennai is a big city and I had a chance to see the old English Fort St George, St. Marys Church at Fort St George and San Tomas Cathedral – Which is where the remains of St. Thomas the Apostle are located. Their was a sign there that said this is the trifecta of saint remains if you have visited St. Peter’s Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela and the remains of St James and now San Tomas – check, check, check – I just scored a trifecta – YAY!

Dakshina Chitra Artist Colony – Women Silk Weaving

This leg of the trip I traveled south from Chennai, I headed south to a really cool Artist Colony in Muttukadu called Dakshina Chitra where I did some serious shopping and experienced the great setting of the artist get away. All very cool! The same day I went onto Mamallapuram,  traveling down the east coast of India and the Bay of Bengal. Mamallapuram is where the Shore Temple is located built in 690 AD, a shrine cut our of two rocks; one to the God Shiva and one to the God Vishnu. Also the Five Rathas was here, dedicated to Four bothers all cheerish one women – The rock carvings of the Arjuna’s Penance is 96 feet long and 43 feet high and is the second largest monolithic rock carving in the world.

Mamallapuram Arjuna’s Penance Stonework – Monolithic Rock Carving in a single boulder – second largest in the world

Mamallapuram Five Rathes

Mamallapuram – The Shore Temple to Shiva & Vishnu

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krishna and his 16,000 women, looking fairly afraid of me!

After a couple of days I made my way down to Pondicherry and stayed a couple extra days there in this little french area on the coast for Ganesha Celebration and a short delay due to a strike of all services in India as a protest against the increase in fuel taxes. Saw alto here from the Sri Aurobindo and the Mothers Ashram, the French Consulate /French War Memorial, the Gandhi Statue, the Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of  the Angels at Dumas St.) and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Pondicherry – Ganesh Holiday

And Back to the Start – Week One, Amazing week with people in Bangalore!  

Working Day with Team from Blue Planet Network in Bangalore

As mentioned, I finally received Visa and arrived back to Bangalore at 3:50 AM Monday morning September 10th – and went directly to Rajesh Shah of Blue Planet Network /Peer Water Exchange – (arriving at 5:00 AM) – I spent the day with them meeting with Vinita and two programmers discussing Peer Water Exchange, its future plans, the focus of Blue Planet Network, the need in the world of water with a focus on community responsibility; identify what is working and what is not and focus on projects that team with the people early and are sustainable. – With a goal of long-term growth and not just a short-term gifts. – It has been said, if you asked a child if they would rather have a day in school or a day at a party, almost all would say “take me to the party” but the day at school, the continued many days at school, is what gives that child a chance to grow and gives them a future. – The discussion went on that the short-term gifts we give can make a lot of people happy, but do not necessarily add and help with the growth of the people. We need to focus on the long-term sustainable growth. Also discussed was adding advocacy for a change in mindset, a focus on needing a cultural change to make a difference – Now this is what I came here for! – Thank you Rajesh and Vinita and all!!

Bangalore – NGO Meeting – Thanks Kaveri!!

The following day, Tuesday, September 11th was another amazing great day spent touring and meeting and discovering the world of NGO’s in Bangalore, thanks to Kaveria and Bluefoot Cultural Tours and Consulting!  Also many thanks to my friend Chris in Austin for making the original connection. Kaveri is an amazing cool person and gave me an amazing cool experience meeting people like Anita Reddy and her group DWARAKA www.dwarakaonline.com and DRIK/DRRT who has been helping house, educate and empower the people of the urban and rural slums of Banglore for 30 years along with people like Rohan Abraham of PledgeBack http://www.PledgeBack.org who is linking groups together doing and needing NGOs around Bangalore. We visited sites where Kaveri and the groups are making a difference first hand in the lives of so many in need. It was amazing.   

These meetings with all of the above lead me to the rest of the week meeting other amazing people around the City doing amazing things in Bangalore and around India including Susmita and Rajesh via Stanzin and the good people of CDD Society www.cddindia.org /CASS/BORDA who are focused in proper sanitation for those in need. Also I met Vishwanath from Biome www.biome-solutions.com Rainwater Club www.rainwaterclub.org / Rainwater Harvesting who is doing amazing sustainable construction using natural materials found in India and the area they are building.

I also got to do a little touring seeing the Black Magic Cemetery and Shrine and Temple, the Tipu Palaces, the Bull Temples, Universities, Parks, Lakes and Churches of Bangalore

Bangalore – Black Magic Cemetery

First authentic South Indian food in Bangalore with Kaveri

Bangalore – First South Indian Meal with Kaveri (eating with your fingers off bannana leafs

Playing with kids in the daycare center of the place Kaveri works with mothers to make hand bags ad other things to earn an income

Bangalore Temple at the Tipu Sultan’s Place

Bangalore – Catholic Cathedral

Thursday was spent with Edward from DRRT / DWARAKA and visiting some of the projects done by Anita Reddy and her group have done in and around Bangalore  including four communities in urban and rural slums and a new school she is building for those in need. We visited both Wahab Gardens and Mrs. Palya in the urban area of Bangalore and Gollahalli and Nalakadirenalli in the rural are outside of Chickaballapur. Also with the under construction of Drik Viveka campus near Chickaballapur.

Friday ended with Dinner and drinks with Kaveri at UB City, which was a great way to end a great week, – Thank you Kaveri and Rajesh and Anita and Rohan and all for an amazing first week in India!!

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Thank you “The Hills Dental Spa” of Austin and Thank you All!!

I have the coolest Dentist in the world!
The Hills Dental Spa is sponsoring one of the water projects I had a chance to work on with Adopt One Village in the remote village of Yaw Tenkorang in Ghana. They are having a raffle as part of their 10 Anniversary Party this Friday. Happy Anniversary!! – All the proceeds will go to the well and water treatment project that I had a chance to work on with AOV and the community this past July and with plans to finish this January, with your help!!

AnniversaryInviteInsert

A $10 donation will help get clean drinking water to these families in Ghana as well as give you a chance to win in the raffle; a year of messages, a zoom instant whiting treatment, a round of golf or a new patent package! Total prices over $2500 and you need not be present to win! And the drawing and party is this Friday – October 5th!!Thank you Dr. Nemac, Amie, Tanya, Lynne, and all The Hills Dental Spa for being so amazing and thank you to all of you who are able to help and send good thoughts to those in need around the world! –

village laundry and current water hole

To purchase your raffle ticket – email The Hills Dental Spa at smile@thehillsdentalspa.com or call 512-347-0044

Little girl bringing water back to the Village

If you wish to learn more about Adopt One Village and the Water Project along with the other amazing work they are doing, please check out their website www.AdoptONeVillage.Org – or check out some the stories on my blog!

Celebration Dance in the Village – Kudos to all!!

And more on The Hills Dental Spa check out their website at http://www.thehillsdentalspa.com

Thank you all!!

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Anniversary Invite

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One Year!!

Wow; I cannot believe it has been a full year since I started this adventure. Week 55 to be exact, which is crazy!! – Now, you might assume, after a year of being on the road, I would have something extremely profound to say and share with you all; about life, about travel, about the world, about water projects, about places, people and food, about religion, politics and cultures, about anything and everything – but sadly, I have to be honest, I am racking my brain, and I can not believe this, I have a million thoughts each day, but, to sum it all up – I’ve got nothing!

Packed to the Brim, Ready for Travel Sept 5, 2011

My first post on this blog was almost exactly a year ago. Since then I have had 62 posts that I have told about my experiences of traveling through five continents and 25 countries. I have had 17 blogs on my first four months in the US and Canada, another 17 on the last eight to going on to nine months travels around the rest of world. I have had 13 posts on water projects that I have been involved, along with two posts giving references and links on the water issues around the world and the groups working hard to address them. Four posts giving intros, updates and itineraries. A couple recaps on Continents, with a couple of poems thrown in (the yukon and the 4th of July), and a couple posts that I classifies as giving a little “too much information” But with it all said and done, I have to say after going back through it all, all I can really think to say is – I wish I were funnier!

I mean, I have had a great time and have had a lot of laughs along the way, but how about a some side bending belly laughs here!! I hope I am funnier than this. – I think it may be I need people around me to share my stories. I think I am better off telling stories in person, and I like to have people around to help me fill in blanks, ask questions – interact. I guess overall, I just like having people around… and maybe a few beers!

Moving forward I will attempt to do my best to be a little more humorous. Like I probably should have told you all the story about being so tired when I check into a hotel in Spain that I accidentally pee’d in the bidet by mistake. That night, I only remember not being able to figure out how to flush, so it was not until the next morning when I went into the bathroom and saw there was no flush, that I realize my mistake. Maybe not that funny, but at the time I almost fell to my knees laughing – maybe in part because something similar had happened on travels to Munich Oktoberfest a couple of years back, which I am sure my traveling partners in that case would have been very thankful if there would have been a bidet involved at a minimum!

I will try to tell more stories of the moment to moment stuff, which actually can be pretty funny. It does not always seem funny at the time, but I am sure for example the other day, every security guard at the Madurai airport was cracking up after they could not let me into the airport without having Air India issue me my ticket and the only way to have Air India to issue my ticket was to go inside the airport to have them issue it at the counter (I had purchased the ticket on line and had an email confirmation). Not sure I understand the logic, but it all worked out after 90 minutes of waiting outside the door of the airport trying to get the attention of anyone from AI (picture me yelling and waving my arms at anyone in an AI uniform inside), that one of the guards point out one of the airline employes out for a smoke break, who was kind enough to help me (after his smoke) and just 30 minutes before my flight departed.

Another story of my current situation, which is pretty crazy, but some of you may have experienced, is that I am up in the hill station of Munnar, India in the midst of beautiful tea plantations and mountain retreats, but seriously lacking in sitting toilets. They seem to prefer much more the “squat and wash” method of toilets ?!?! – which there may be nothing too funny about that at all – but it truly a whole new learning experience – with some pretty crazy scenarios that ensue when you are standing in this bathroom with what can be best described as a high power kitchen faucet sprayer in one hand and your shorts held tightly in your other hand – …not sure what the heck to do, but definitely wishing I had another hand or two for balance and other things… – I guess at a minimum it may be helping me understand the whole Hindu Religion a little better and why most the Gods seem to have four hands!! – Let’s just say, I am still learning!

Current Load on Travel – Downsized from the car a little bit – Pic taken last week Sept 17, 2012

For now, I am just going to leave it at I am excited about the last year of experiences, and I am looking forward to the next three months of travel ahead through SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, but more than anything I am excited to be getting back home for Christmas and have a chance to see you all in person and tell you all these happenings over a beer! – Until then, I will try my best at being a little funnier and be looking forward to seeing you all in person soon!!

Many, Many Good Cheers, – Happy One Year!!

Joe

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AFRICA RECAP; Kawula, Jambo/Habari, Sawubona, Bonjour and Salaam!

I cannot believe how fast two months in Africa went by. I did a lot and saw a lot, experienced a lot, but time flew!! Which I guess shows how great it was and supports the number one way I would sum up my time in Africa and that is “welcoming, making you feel at home”. The feeling was given by everyone, not just being in their continent and respective countries as an outsider, but more in the way of just being a fellow human beings, all part of this same overall society of this big round world. It was an unexpected feeling, but a very comforting ones.

Two months later, after a short diversion to the United Arab of Emirates (UAE) to get a Visa, I am safely in India and today is Ganesha’s Festival Day. So before I get into summarizing my time in Africa, please let me wish you all a Very Happy Ganesha Day!!

Happy Ganesha Festival!!

Ganesha is the God of good fortune, of new beginnings, the remover of obstacles, as I understand it. So pretty cool guy. You probably all know him, he is the God that has a head of an elephant. Apparently his father, Shiva, one of the major God’s cut off his head accident not knowing he was his son, while Ganesha was standing guard protecting the door as is mother, Parvati, another God, and wife of Shiva, took a bath. When his father realized what he had done, he quickly went out and cut of the head of the first thing he saw, to replace it on his son, which here in India, it happened to be en elephant. There are others stories, but that was the first one I was told, so I am sticking to it. A pretty happy looking elephant for all matters, and seems to be doing some good will for all, – so Happy, Happy Ganesha Day to you all!!

Africa Recap: 

Africa is my fourth Continent on these travels, my second new one and while in Africa I had the chance to visit four new Countries; GhanaKenya, South Africa and Mauritius. I was able to team up and work with two different groups on two different water projects; Emmanuel’s Adopt One Village in Yaw Tenkorang, Ghana and Fr. John’s Ewuaso Kedong Parish Project funded by Cross International in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. I had the chance to meet up with an old friend from High School, Jeanne and go on a safari in Kenya in three different national reserves; Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli at the foot of the Mt Kilimanjaro. I also was able to meet up with my niece, Kerry, in South Africa and visit the apartheid sites of Johannesburg. I got to touch the southern tip of South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and drink wine with new friends touring the wine country of South Africa. I was able to fly out to a remote island country of Mauritius, a 4 hour flight from Joberg, the home of the extinct Dodo Bird and the original Blue Penny Stamp and swim and relax on the beaches of the warm Indian Ocean.

Community and AOV working on existing domestic well with storage and treatment

water tough with Ewuaso site in background

Sunset over the plains on Safari

With Kerry at Joburg Airport!!

Cape Point where the warm currents of the Indian Ocean meet the cold currents of the Atlantic Ocean

Belle Mare East Shore Mauritius

All and all, another amazing time and a time that flew by. It seriously seemed to take longer to write this last paragraph as it did the time it took to experience it all. But that all leads to my tops and bottoms of my time in my time in Africa:

Top of the Tops

  • Ghana’s Hospitality – Very Bob Marley-esck
  • People of the Ewauso Kendong Parish and  the Maasai Community
  • Safari in Maasai Mara and seeing Mt Kilimanjaro in Amboseli
  • Seeing Family on the road!! – THANK YOU KERRY!!

Celebration Dance in the Village – Kudos to all!!

Friendliest and Happiest People

  • Ghanaians
  • Maasai Tribes
  • Indigenous Africans in South Africa
  • Indians in Mauritius

The Maasai Tribe, Father and Son

Best Meals

  • Seafood in Cape Town – first night
  • Seafood on Mauritius
  • Barbecue on Safari
  • Meal at Carnivore with Nirvana

Grande Baie view from the “Beach Party” Bar and Grill – Seafood for Lunch in Mauritius

Most Exciting Adventure 

  • Seeing four of the Big Five on Safari – plus a Cheetah with cubs
  • Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean off of Mauritius
  • Seeing African Penguins on the Cape Tour in South Africa

Elusive Cheetah with her four cubs playing (and protecting) in the deep grasses of Maasai Mara

Favorite places I stayed 

  • Condo in Cape Town, Seaside found through HomeAway
  • Retreat at Ewuaso Kedong, Kenya
  • Serious Upscale Tent on Safari

condo view toward the ocean at sunset

Best Travel Advice 

  • Matt Perry and his Brother Armand (and his wife Sarah) who live in Swaziland, gave the best advice ever for Cape Town and the area – Thanks guys!! – Also Matt had a good friend agreat contact in Ghana, living now back in Portland).
  • Emmanuel and his people for making things happen to get in and out of Ghana
  • Jeannie Koss for making all the arrangements and made the Safari in Kenya happen so  smoothly!

Sunset with elephants on their way home

Most Heart-Wrenching Scenes

  • Hector Peterson Memorial in Sowato, Joberg, South Africa
  • Training through the Kibera Slums in Nairobi
  • Touring the prisons that Mandela, Gandhi, Bishop Tutu and all the other political activities had to endure in South Africa during apartheid
  • Scenes from the ongoing labor dispute riots going on now in South Africa

Kibera Slums in Nairobi

Before I close, I do want to send my sincere and heart-felt sympathy out for Ambassador Chris Stevens and his family and the others and their families that lost their lives and love ones last week in Libya. As mentioned above I had the chance to visit a Muslim Country for 10 days, about a week before this all happened. An unplanned stop over for  my Visa, but what a great diversion it turned out to be; I loved it! – I very much respected the strong religious believes that I saw in the UAE and greatly appreciate the opportunity I had to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which was amazing. I felt extremely comfortable and welcomed while I was there, which is what I have felt for the most part from all the people I have had the chance to met this year. It is just too bad there are such extremist out there. The ones that put out disrespectful and hurtful media and the ones that retaliate with unneeded violence. Never does an immoral act create a moral outcome or can be it justified for what is considered at the time a needed outcome. Retaliation, in any way, no mater how good it makes you feel in the short-term, never leads to ultimate good, even if you think the retaliation is needed because of some wrong doing. We all need to forgive and prey for our fellow humans beings.

Lives lost in Libya (picture provided by a friend)

I saw a touch of the impact first hand a couple of days ago in Chennai where there was a violent protest at the American Consulate. I saw it after the fact with the many Indian Guards at hand protecting the Consulate. My heart goes out to all that are being effect by this and I hope and pray for all involved.

US Consulate in Chennai

It is the end of the day here now in Pondicherry, India and I just came back from seeing hundreds, if not thousands of statues of the God Ganesha being honored and thrown into the sea for a a better tomorrow, a new beginnings.  Lets hope it comes with a new and better respect and understanding for one another. With prayers being said for all!

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Accidental Tourist; Hanging Out in the UAE: Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Arabian Desert!

As some of you may already be aware, I am apparently not overly good with the administrative requirements of getting into a county. Most recently I was turned away this past Saturday, at 3:50 AM from the Bangalore Airport to be sent back to Abu Dhabi, where I have spent the last week as an accidental tourist discovering the area while waiting for a proper Visa to get into India.

Arabian Dessert Sand Dunes

Apparently I was not quite ready for India yet, and that was go, because although I had not planned to visit the United Arab of Emirates (UAE), it has actually proven to be a great experience discovering the Gulf and Desert and the Cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

After the last couple weeks and posts of being on the ocean, this photo log is focused a little more on the drier climates of the desert and the big cities, including going up in the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, 828 Meters tall, over a half a mile high with 200 floors.

Burj. the worlds tallest at 828 meters

To put it into perspective the John Hancock Building in Chicago is 344 Meters with 100 floors. – Crazy tall – and crazy interesting cities and areas.

The added good news today, a week later, I received my Visa and I have a flight booked tomorrow (Sunday) night into Bangalore with scheduled meetings with the group from Peer Water on Monday and city tours planned later in the week with Bluefoot Tours with thanks to Chris for the great recommendation! – Can’t wait!!

But until than, I will let the following photo log tell the story of my time here in the Middle East.

Slideshow

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Gallery

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Mauritius Photo Log; In Search of the Dodo Bird, the Blue Penny and Overall Bliss

From Johannesburg,  I caught a four-hour flight to Mauritius, a small little bit of paradise Island Country 1100 km east of Madagascar in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It was a recommended by a good friend Amy about 12 years ago when we both lived in DC. She had been in South Africa for work and mentioned that she had not been to Mauritius, but it sounded like a great place to visit. – It was, she was 100% correct!

Mauritius Boat Dock – Trou aux Biches

I spent 8 days on the Island on the NW beaches near Grand Baie in a small area called Trou aux Biches, which was absolutely beautiful. The beaches were a mix of white sand and jet black volcanic rock. The waters were mixes of blue and greens and turquoise with a coral reef protecting the island and giving for great snorkeling.

Mauritius East Coast

The Island is best known for the Dodo Bird, which was only found on this island and is now sadly extinct. Apparently the Dutch thought it tasted a little too much like chicken. The island is also famous for its Blue Penny (two pence) Postage Stamp, which is one of the oldest stamps around.

Crystal blue green sea snorkeling in the Indian Ocean

Today the Island is probably most famous for its local beer, Phoenix, the beaches, sunshine and amazingly friendly and welcoming people. At least that is what I seemed to focus my time on while I was here. The island is made up of 65% of people originally from Indian, 15% from other parts of Asia, 15% from Africa and the last 5% of three different original colonists, the Dutch, French and the English, who each ruled the island for about 100 years (Brits for 200 years) before QE II gave independence to the Island and it became a Republic in 1992. The main language is French Creole, but luckily for me, English still seems to be the second language of most people on the Island.

Phoenix Beer

The below is a photo log of the week + on the island; slide show and gallery.

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South Africa Photo Log: Cape Town and Johannesburg, with Kerry and Penguins

Many FB friends may have already had a chance to see a number of these photos already, but I wanted to share them on the blog for those who may not have seen them as well as I hoped to add a little more information on the places and the pictures and the experiences in the captions and descriptions below.

In the big picture of my time in South Africa, bar none, the top experience was having a chance to meet up with family, my niece Kerry, in Johannesburg!  It was only for a day on her route to start a semester of studying in Durban, but it was an amazing great day and definitely the highlight of my time in South Africa.

With Kerry at Joburg Airport!!

The photo log below include pictures from the day with Kerry touring Johannesburg, including going to the Apartheid Museum, having lunch in Soweto (South West Township), visiting the Vilakazi Street there in Soweto where two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Mandela and Arch Bishop Tutu, had both lived up the road from each other. Also stopping just down the street where Hector Pieterson, the young school boy, was shot down by police while walking home from school during the school riots for liberty and freedom of being able to be able to go to school at all.

Hector Peiterson

Below also includes pictures from another day I had in Joburg, as well as my week in Cape Town with chances to visit the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, a video of the first  penguins I have seen in the wild, at Bolder Beach, and a winery tour along the way! – I hope you enjoy!

Happy Feet at Bolder Beach, South Africa

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Slide show of Photo log of South Africa in Cape Town and Johannesburg

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Gallery of Photo log of South Africa in Cape Town and Johannesburg

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Third and Final in the Series of Three Posts: The People, the Retreat and the Lessons Learned on the Ewuaso Kedong and Cross International Kenya Water Project

This is the last in a series of three posts on the Ewuaso water project in Kenya and it is the one I have most wanted to share with you all. It is the story of the people I met and the emotions that they emanate and the sense you feel while you are with them and for long after you have left.

This feeling is similar to what I have felt on other projects this year, but somehow it was magnified here. Maybe because of the situations; the tie to family and my childhood, or maybe the settings; which were so relaxing and welcoming, it almost felt like I was on a retreat, but more likely it was all this, plus being half way around the world, with these people I had a chance to meet and learn from, collectively, it gave a spiritual feel; a feeling of a place where lessons are learned by tradition and example and people are proud to be exactly who they are and are deeply involved in doing so much good for their neighbors – being surrounded by true  humanitarians, in the essence of the word.

So, please pour yourself a glass of wine and possibly grab a diet coke for a little extra backup caffeine jolt, as I share these feeling, I hope successfully, through these stories of the people I met and time I spent in Ewuaso Kedong.

sunset at the parish

Ewauso Kedong Parish and My Retreat

It all started with Father Stan, a Priest from Tanzania, picking me up in Nairobi on his way back from celebrating his 25th year of religious life in his hometown on the toe of Mount Kilimanjaro. The drive back to the Parish was through the rough terrain of the Rift Valley with me hearing stories from Fr. Stan about the Parish, the people, and the climates that impacts their lives, along with the experiences that come with it. As I sat in the truck, as we passed by zebra, I listened to these stories all being told of the people and the place, by this religious man who just finished celebrating his life and what he has been doing the last 25 years of it, which all was the gradual introduction to the coming 10 days of my time in Ewuaso Kedong with the people of the Parish and the Community.

The Drive

The Parish itself sits on the edge of the main town in the Kedong Valley. Fr. John over the past six to seven years of being there, along with Sister Ilona, who I will tell you about more shortly, have built a pretty amazing spot. As we arrived, Fr. Stan gave me a tour of the place, which includes as you enter a small, but very sacred little chapel, that reminded me of the little church at the top of the hill in Durward Glens Monastery where we played when we visited our Uncle Jim Cody back in Wisconsin.

Chapel

To the right of the chapel is an area surrounded by trees, that I later learned were planted by the kids who go to school there in connection with trees that were planted back in Wausau, Wisconsin at St. Anne’s and St Mark’s and some of the other churches in Wausau who have worked with Father John and his Parish over the years. I know I mentioned before that I have my sister Chris to thank for this great connection and experience, but before I arrived, I had no idea how much direct contact there would be back to Wisconsin and making me feel at home, right down to the trees around us being planted in connection with the school my sister was a teacher and where my nieces and nephew had gone to school. This was a cool place.

Trees planted for Churches in Wausau

The trees wrap around a number of small buildings and play area that the Parish every day have 150 to 200 children come for kindergartener taught by the nuns, along with a solid meal, cooked in one of the little areas by the school for the kids each day.

Kindergatern play area

Along side the school is a Mission with three houses that currently is home for seven young girls who have run away from home so they would be forced in to having a circumcision, what World Health Organizations (WHO) calls female genital mutilation (FGM), and be put into an arranged marriage. The girls were between the ages of 12 and 13 with only one being old enough to be in secondary/high school. Their arranged husbands may be as old as 60 and have three or four other wives.

The homes built for the girls are in the style of the Maasai village homes, but with modern amenities like electricity and running water along with rooms for studying, sleeping, eating and entertaining. Meeting these girls and seeing these girls at mass every morning, gave this even a stronger feeling that this was a special place. Knowing the Parish was there to give these girls a chance and in the long the whole community, hopefully showing by example the importance of equality and respect of all their people, men and women, is the right way to live and grow.

homes for the girls at the mission

The Parish also has a farm, again showing by example in addition a livelihood on livestock, growing crops can provide additional resources. The farm has a number of cattle, sheep, goats and chickens and are growing crops like maize, carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, different squashes, along with a number of fruit trees; orange, mango, apples, banana, …more than I know the names.

drip irrigation in practice in a field at the parish

After the tour is was time for dinner, so the last two stops we had were to the spot I was going to be staying the next couple weeks and the sister’s house where we had dinner every night at 7:00PM – Since I had brought a couple of bottles of wine, Fr. Stan said maybe we should go over at 6:55 so we can pour the wine before dinner. – Although once we arrived Prayers came first, and then wine and then prayers again. It felt like home, although in the before dinner pray, they say “from they goodness” rather than “from they bounty” and I did not know the after dinner thank you prayer at first, but I did my best to hum through it and learned it pretty well by the end! The dinner was all from the farm with the exception of maybe the rice, but the salad, all its sides, the chicken, the milk with the tea, and the dessert all were from the property.

Over the number of meals I the chance to share with the nuns and priest over the next couple weeks, it truly was the first place I have really felt like it did make a difference if I ate everything on my plate. And I did my best. Even the couple of vegetarian meals they had. Although, the Sisters picked up pretty quick that veggies were not my favorite thing, and made a point of mainly having some type of meat on the table for me.

dinner – now we are talking!!

That first night after dinner, Fr. Stan and I went back to the place I was staying and as we arrived, at about 8:00 PM, Fr. Stan said good night and went into his room and closed the door. – Lights out at 8:00 PM… I guess. – I proceed to my room to unpack and get settled and decided I guess I should – read… – so I decided to download a book – Hours from anyway, in the middle of the Rift valley – full access to Amazon.com and their plethora of books. – I love my Kindle!!

my home for the in Ewuaso

I have wanted to read “50 Shades of Grey”, which I seem to have been hearing a lot about lately, but staying at essentially a monastery, I decided maybe that might not be the best choice. I decided on Bible instead!

Other than having bits and pieces of the Bible read about a million times in mass and having the occasional time to read at a few family and friends weddings, I actually have not read it from cover to cover, and I thought it was about time. Now I will say, as I am sure many of you already know, a number of times after reading about chamber maids hopping in the sack with their masters and daughters deciding to do the same… I had to check back to the home page to be sure which book I was reading… – but, all in all, it was a great choice and only helped add to the retreat feel, during our quite time each night at 8:00 PM on this stay in Ewuaso Kedong.

And this all was in the first day – the first evening – like in 2 hours of being there, I can not tell you how the feeling or warmth and belonging swept over me. I don’t know how best to describe the feeling in detail, but I will try by telling you the story of some of the people and the happenings that I experiences, like that above and continue below to hopefully be able to share the feelings how I felt them, as I felt them, just doing what we were doing each day; going to bed early and getting up early. Meeting and working with the people of the Parish and the Community each day. Having a lot of down time to read and prey and think and relax my mind, my body and my soul a little bit here in the remote area of Africa.

full moon

The People

The next morning and over the next couple weeks while working on this project, I had a chance to meet the rest of the amazing people of the parish and the overall community. In addition to Fr. Stan, who I had the pleasure to drive with for a couple of hours, and Fr. John, who had not had a chance to meet yet, not being back from celebrating his 25 years as a priest back in his home in Ireland, but I knew from the stories and the surroundings, he was a very caring, good person. There was also the Sisters (Ilona, Caroline, Nell and Paulina) I had a chance to go to mass with and eat with every day, although the bulk of them had to leave for some training in Nairobi, so I had my first three days, mass, breakfast, lunch and dinner with one Sister, Sister Ilona, who I ask, since everyone seems to celebrating their jubilees this year, where was she on hers…. she replied by saying she was getting ready to double it with over 42 years as a nun and years in the order before that… – She had some experience in the world of religion.

Over those three days I really loved having the chance to learn more about Sister Ilona and her childhood growing up in India, joining an order based out of France, living in Rome, traveling else where and finally settling in Kenya. She has a sister and niece in England and family in India.

I mentioned in my initial post and have referenced a few times since, that I believe my Mom had a longing to do something like this, to be at a place like Ewuaso Kedong. Teaching kindergartens and working with the girls in the Mission and just spreading her love. As I also have mentioned, she still did do plenty of work to help a lot of people in need and be with people, living and teaching by example, but this is what I was thinking about when I mentioned it initially, this is where I could have seen her spending the last years of her live, continuing to help and serve anyone and everyone!

school kids on their way home

Daily mass was in the chapel every morning at 7:30, although I learned it is best to get there by 7:2o because they seem to start when they are ready and they assume everyone is there… Sunday mass was in the church hall and included an hour and half of singing and dancing – I was lucky to have the mass that was planned by the kids, so the kids picked the songs and dances and all – so they were all pretty joyous, to say the least – Talking about massive amounts of good energy everyone felt that Sunday. Although, I have a feeling that all their masses are pretty much a similar celebration!

where they have mass at one of the out stations

I have been on a number of projects that I have put in to the category of missions, but this was the first one that I have been on that was actually being done with other fellow Catholics. The religion as most of you know I grew up with and have calculated on a run with friends in Austin that I have covered my religious obligation requirements of going to mass until I am about 88 years old – It was a complicated equation based on going to mass every day through grade school and close to it through college (where I was praying every night to get through differential equations). We calculated have been to mass conservatively over 5,000 times – take that minus the number of Sundays and Holy days of obligation, which works out to be about 60 per year… – I am good for while… – I mention this not as an excuse if I miss a Sunday here or there on travel, but because of my familiarity and truly feeling at home in Church and in turn with Priests and Nuns and this group of people over all. I have loved having a chance to work with so many other religions, and believe strongly that God loves all, regardless of what you name you use or don’t use; God loves all! But, with that being said, this was home, familiar territory.

rebar for new storage tank cover

Nirvana 

I have mentioned in the last couple posts the difference of getting to the Parish with Fr. Stan in two hours versus my return trip to Nairobi that took four hours. The difference being the drivers and the routes they take, but similar to the drive with Fr. Stan the trip back included a total bonus conversation with few new found friends that I met the day before I left, including a women from California, but the name of Nirvana.

This third post of three, started with the story of the ride with Fr. Stan and closes now with this ride back with Nirvana, which both could have been posts in themselves, but they both also proved to be the base and the icing on the cake of an already amazing experience. So, before I get into a summary of pluses and minus and lessons learned, let me try to give you the readers digest version of the four-hour drive with Nirvana, back to Nairobi!

The Maasai Tribe, Father and Son

Meeting Nirvana started with a discussions over dinner at the Parish with Sister Ilona mentioning that a woman had stopped the convent and asked to use the shower. Sister only described the women as having been from California and was now living in a tent outside Ewuaso District Office building, next to the Parish, with no running water and place to take a shower. Sister knew she was there to do some type of humanitarian development work, but did not know the details.

As always my mind started running on that outside potential; maybe this is where I finally find the women of my dreams… in the bush of Kenya. So, I thought I should stop over and at least introduce myself, as fellow American here in Africa and learn a little more about what she was doing. – Sadly though, similar to other times this idea has crossed my mind, it turned out the women from California was married and her husband was arriving the next day and her daughter following a couple days later. But happily, also similar to other times, I did get a chance to meet an amazing person, doing amazing things and I had the chance to learn about it all, that day and on the ride back to Nairobi, which she offered to take me back in route to pick up her husband at the airport, which also included a stop at Carnivore, a great Nairobi tradition for travelers to have dinner of various exotic meats all served on a skewer.

Nirvana at dinner at Carnivores in Nairobi

On the drive I learned that Nirvana has been on quest of shorts since the mid 80’s to help resolve the world hunger issue. She started with the group called the Hunger Project (www.thp.org) and since than she has had some ups and a few downs and refocusing to what she is doing now, which is a program test model here in Kenya to resolve hunger first hand by working with the people in their communities and changing their situation by first changing the way people think about their situation. By changing the way you see your situation you can than focus on changing the way you react to it and the way you resolve it. The concept is similar to what I was trying to understand more and explain in the first of these three posts; “Big Picture”, saying there needed to be a change what I called people’s mind set and attitudes that comes with culture and tradition, but the discussion with Nirvana took this to the next level with actually applying it in a practical, tangible way, right here in Kenya, in the Ewuaso Kedong Valley with the people we have been working with in the Parish and Community.

When I met Nirvana I also met two other people she is working with Eric and Wise, who also joined us for the ride back to Nairobi. Eric works for a group called the Global Peace Makers and Wise is an engineer works directly with Nirvana’s organization which is called Ecosawa (Swahili for “it’s all ok”). I had a chance to fill them in on what I knew about the draught relief project that Fr. John and the team of people were doing, and they were able to fill me in on what they where doing with their program to change people’s view points. Something Nirvana called “Intentionality” – getting what you expect, what you think about.

Family

Eric and Wise along with some others put together a play, called “time bomb” which to paraphrase the story; someone in a village gets a new watch which they are very excited about, but which also needs to be wound each day to keep it running. When he has to go out of town, he asks a friend to wind it while he is gone. That person ends up asking another friend to help keep it wound, saying how important it is to keep going.  As the story continues around the village, it was feared all the terrible things that could happen, if they did not keep it wound – like it might explode, like a time bomb. The village all focused on keeping it wound, until one day a young boy forgot to wind it… – everyone ran for shelter worrying what might happen, but, nothing happened. No explosion, nothing bad, the watch just stopped running. It was all a just a worry, but it was only a worry because they thought it was something to worry about. When it stopped running, everyone was fine.

The play goes on to ask the audience, what “time bombs” they have in their lives – what things do they feel they need to do to keep everything going – And are those things that actually cause you to not be able to be who you want to be or do something want to do… – pretty impactful, opening your mind, in a very simple and tangible way to say… holy sh@#t – I don’t have to do this or believe that… the world is not going to end, and in fact, it might even get better if I thought differently.

Nirvana went on to explain that the thought is based on the fact that most people would actually stay in a situation, even it is bad one, because it is a known situation. The fear of change stands stronger than the comfort of being assured of an outcome – good or bad.

Intentionality takes accepting change to a new level by seeing the potential good that the change will bring you. Actually to the point of knowing change is what is needed to get what you want and expect you should have to the point of not being afraid of change but instead knowing the potentials are limitless by intentionally expected the outcome you want, and know it can and will happen, if you are willing to change your view-point on what “time bombs” might be hold on to!

The tangible part of the effort is that they than work with the community to tackle changing whatever the community identifies in the meeting as their time bombs. The most recent example was the community identified their need to continue to be a transient society, because they felt they needed to be for the sake of the livestock. The solution in part may be drought relieve and adding agriculture to their regular life, which of course what ties Nirvana and her teams lives and goals together with what Fr. John and the team are doing with the drought relieve water project. – Pretty cool small world.

Tree

Overall, of the time I had at Ewuaso Kedong, the feeling I had I would describe as peacefulness. No stress, with people accepting you as you are, with no judgement. Staying at a place full of love and goodness, feeling completely welcome; if my stay was for a day or a year, if it was today or next year. I cannot go as far as saying being without title or identity. There definitely was a hierarchy; with priests and nuns and committee and community leaders, but it came with pride rather than vanity and was used more in a way of order and responsibility. Everyone had a role and everyone contributed to the community and the parish based on that role. It was feeling that there was an awareness and a growth taking place there, and I had a chance to be part of it for a short time, which felt good.

I am a list guys, and I oddly enough have not done them in many of my posts, but in closing I will give a quick list of plusses and minuses and lessons learned from my experiences in Ewuaso this year.

Pluses

  • The mission for girls
  • Peacefulness
  • Welcomingness
  • Lack of Judgement
  • Contributing
  • Responsibility
  • Growth
  • Water
  • Crops
  • Intentionality

Minus

  • The fact that they must have a mission for girls
  • Gender discrimination
  • Hunger still exists
  • Poverty still exists
  • Feeling of limitations

Lessons Learned

  • Quit time can be good
  • Reading the Bible is a positive
  • Accept people with out judgement
  • The world is not that big
  • Everyone makes a difference
  • Know you can succeed
  • Let go of time bombs – the things you think you have to hold on to, to be who you think you are or suppose to be
  • You can be anything

Happy Labor Day Weekend Everyone!! Hope you are all doing great!!

Joe

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Second in a Series of Three posts: The Project Itself: Kedong and Cross International Kenya Water Project

This second of three posts is about the actually water project that I had the opportunity to visit and be involved with in the Ewuaso Kedong, Rift Valley area of Kenya, about two hours west of Nairobi (up to four, which I learned on my drive back to Nairobi, it is very much dependent on who is driving and what route they take).

The project is the Ewuaso Kedong Valley Long Term Drought Relief Water Project.

Ewauso Kedong, the area being served by the project

I am often asked how I learn about the different projects that I have the good fortune to get involved with. In this case, by a lucky circumstance, it is due to many thanks to my sister Chris, that I learn about the great work Father John Fortune, a priest from Ireland, is doing in his Parish in this remote village in Kenya. While visiting home and family over the holidays this past Christmas, Chris was telling me that she and her church have worked with a friend of her’s, Don Ryder, on water projects in Kenya, which she proceeded to call Don and I had the chance to meet him as well and learn first hand about the work he had done with Fr. John on an earlier water project in the region. I also learned through Chris and Don about the good and positive work that the Churches of Wausau along with Cross International, continuing to work with Fr. John and the community on this water project. My 100% Irish Mother is smiling upon us all for sure!

Catholic Church in Maasai

Father John and his team have been working with the community to improve their access to a clean drinking water supply for over 42,000 Maasai people living in the region, along with over 210,000 head of livestock; mostly cattle, goats and sheep. As part of the project, they are also adding drip irrigation and green houses near all the water storage and supply areas to promote agriculture in this mainly livestock focused community.

I will be telling the story of the project mainly through pictures, and since the project’s number one purpose is working with community, I am starting with  some pictures of the people we worked with along with their livestock, which are considered “their living, walking bank account”.

school girls hiding out

boys playing near one of the new water troughs for livestock

walking bank accounts

As little forewarning to this story; if I was worried that in my last post I might have gotten a little too deep in giving a little “too much information”, this one I fear there is no question about taking a full dive into “TMI” – This one is more due to maybe getting a little too specifics on some boring details of the water project itself, more so than giving too much of my opinion as in earlier posts. But regardless, unless you happen to be a fellow geeky engineer or you truly are looking for something to help you fall asleep, way quickly, this one may be a good one to test your speed reading skills on… – But, please bear with it, since this is what I am doing out here, water projects, I wanted to at least provide you with a bit of reference to one of the actual projects and this is a good one. I promise the next post will not cause your eyelids to feel quite so heavy!

The “sexiest” engineering picture I could find to try to entice you to read on…. – new storage tank and control building!!

Ewuaso Kedong and Cross International – Drought Relief Water Project

The area being served by this project is blessed with having a natural spring that provides a reliable source of clean water. The area also has a water line that was installed in the early 1950’s by the English during colonial time that transports water from this source, approximately 20 km north-east of the main village and continues on running another 10 km beyond south-east to reach the extreme end of the service area. There was also piping installed serving the areas 5 to 10 km on either side of the pipeline east and west.

natural spring source of water

The original asbestos four-inch line was replaced in 1980 with a four-inch steel line, which is safe, but with minimal storage in the system and little or no management of people tapping onto the line or of how much water one uses, the system is no longer able to serve the people at the end of the system and there was often water stoppages during peak demand further up the system closer to the main town, due to heavy use closer to the source.

old and newer pipe

The project is adding storage tanks at various locations along the line near villages, schools and centers of population and locations typical livestock grazing areas. At each location the storage tanks are being added along with is multiple water troughs for livestock, water faucets for human consumption and typically a green house and drip irrigation system for agriculture. Also, all the connections to the line to serve specific homes, schools and out reaching areas are being centrally located from the new storage facility areas. Storage tank sizes and the number of storage tanks at each location are dependent on both the quantity and category (livestock, human, agriculture) of demand the tank is serving.

storage tanks with school in the background

Overview

The project started this past January and was expected to take a year to construct. All and all the project is on schedule being a little over half way done at a little over half way through the year when I visited the first couple weeks of August. The first month was focused on fast track coordinating and mobilizing, due to only learning about the funding from Cross International the first week of January and some delays have occurred during the raining season, which just ended. But still the work has continued well and the team has gotten caught up to their needed schedule. The majority of storage tank construction has been completed, and the work remaining is primarily the piping work along with the installation of greenhouse and final coating of tanks and completing the controls systems.

The construction itself is being done lead by a great guy from the community, Raphael, who is a self-taught contractor and foreman. He has learned a lot by doing other projects for Fr. John and the Parish. First by following the lead of other building, plumbing and electrical contractors and masons and more recently taking the projects on himself and teaching others from the community the trades. He is an amazing guy and the process and this project are helping a lot by employing those in the community while teaching new trades to the people of the villages.

Raphael took the time over the ten days I was there to show me around to all the project sites and walk me through all the work going on at each. I also had a chance to meet Raphael’s family and visit his home where he is in the process of building a new house himself as well. All amazing!!

closest picture I have of Rapheal is of his truck

Overall, I was very impressive with all the work completed to date and the status of the work for the planned completion. The quality of work and the overall supervision and oversight on the project is excellent. Raphael is very skilled and all the work he was doing was superior. Father John’s management and guidance of the project is also excellent and can be seen to be following a well structure plan to resolve long-term drought relief water issues in the Ewuaso Nkidongi / Kedong System and overall upgrade and operational management of the system.

Location Map

To give you a little more of visual of where this project is located, the Ewuaso Nkidongi / Kedong Village is the main village I have refereed to and is the location of the parish I was staying. The village is in the center of the system and the Kedong Valley, part of the Great Rift Valley. The area is west of Nairobi by about two hours on rough dirt roads, so assume 50 kilometers from Nairobi by way of Karin and Ngong (four  hours by somewhat nicer roads to connect to the main road to the Maasia Mara wild game reserve). The below maps hopefully give some perspective to the proximity of the project service area and the location of the Parish and the Villages and the Community being served by the system.

Ewuaso Kedong Valley Kenya

Ewauso Nkidongi Kedong Valley

Service Area

The system is serving at least five different larger villages ranging in population from 8,000 to 15,000 and many smaller outcrops of smaller villages and homesteads. There is at least one of the primary schools located in the main village that has 800 children attending, and I believe there is a least one more primary school in the valley. There is also at least one boys and one girls secondary schools in the Valley, in Najile, near one of the water storage facilities. There are 150 to 200 children who attend the kindergarten at the Parish and I know of at least one other church run school in the area all being served by this system.

kindergarten at parish

But truly regardless of the exact population those being served by and benefiting by this project, is everyone; everyone with in the Parish and in the Valley overall.

family

The fact this project is so focused on the people it is serving, and that the community has been involved in the planning and implementation of the project since the start and the fact they have a water committee made up of representatives off all the communities that it is serving is the number one reason that I feel this project will have a long-term success. I have seen the community people working on the project, volunteering their time and services and contributing to make the sites ready for new tanks and troughs and greenhouses and domestic water supplies, as well as work on redirecting drainage around the sites to protect them for the long-term.

Chairman of the Water Community and the Church Parish Council

Serving the people, their livestock, crops and livelihood, are the primary purpose of this project and the reason it will succeed. So with a focus on people, I start this overview with photos of the people this is being done with in the Valley.

women carrying water home

System Description

The system is quite extensive, reaching approximately 20 Kilometers to the northeast of Ewuaso Center Village from the supply source to the southwest approximately 10 km to the end point of the existing pipeline.

This main pipe line is running that full length of approximately 30 km ranging in size from 6 inch near the source, reducing to a 4 inch before reaching the Ewuaso Center Village, where it first branches off to the west at a station and community called Osero to serve two communities (Olgumi and Olokirding). It branches off again just before the Main Ewuaso Village Center at the location of the main control and four storage tanks, to serve another community to the southeast (Enkusero) aas well as the Ewuaso main village center and west of Ewuaso. The main pipe line continues on past the Ewuaso Center Village, remaining a 4 inch to Najile where the two secondary schools are located. The pipe continued after Nijile as 2 inch until it reaches the end of the pipe system at a community called Ewkurika and the location of a future tank and trough.

These branches east and west add an additional approximately 20 km to the pipes systems length to give a total system length estimated at approximately 50 km.

The below rough sketch should hopefully provide additional reference to the system lay out and the major piping and location of the primary project site location, which corresponds with the primary system storage tanks, system flow control stations and water distribution stations for domestic, livestock and agricultural use.

Ewuaso Hand Sketched System Map

The system consists of eight primary storage and control locations, distributed water to serve an approximately 30 km long by 10 km wide location. There are also various secondary locations with troughs and domestic discharge that use the primary locations for storage and control. The primary location are listed below and described in the following sections of this overview, mainly in pictures in a photo log of the status of the project the week of August 2nd to the 10th 2012 during my visit.

  • Site F-3 – Namuncha – Supply Source – Northeast Start of System

Supply Source

  • Site F-2 – Osero – System Tee Controls and Storage

Osero – controls and storage tank

  • Site F-1 – Ewuaso – Four Storage Tanks and Main Controls

water tough with Ewuaso site in background

  • Site F-4 – Olgumi – Storage and Controls

two tanks at Olgumi

  • Site S-5 – Olokirdingai – Out Station Storage

Tank at Olokurdinigai

  • Site S-6 – Najile – Storage and Controls

two tanks and control building

  • Site S-7 – Ewkurika – Southwest End of System – Future tanks

2″ pipe line out to Ewkurika

  • Site S-8 – Enkusero Keri

fence line

And a closing sunset shot for those of you who got to the end – which will also be the first photo in the next and the final of the set of three posts of the story of my time in Ewuaso!

sunset at the parish

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