Monday, January 30, 2012

Out of Reach

I remember when I first starting flying and tracking my own frequent flier miles. I remember thinking that if I could only get to 15,000 miles, I could go anywhere in the continental U.S. for free. As I flew more and edged closer to that once elusive number, the minimum number of miles went up to 20,000 and then 25,000. And now, even if you have enough miles, you-are-never-going-to-find-a-seat-with-those-miles. I mean, sure, someone gets the seat on the plane but it's probably not going to be you, unless you want to stay in whatever place you are flying to for free for three weeks or just need to get there and stay there forever - lovely one-way ticket dreams.

It's not a surprise that the whole system is rigged toward those with the luxury (or the corporate credit card) of booking flights on the same airline all the time. Since I go with whatever is cheapest, I have nine frequent flier accounts. The only "good" thing about it is when one of my trusty airlines gets purchased by another one and WHAM!, my miles get added together. I know it's not really the point to earn free flights, but it sure is fun and the sense of accomplishment you get isn't bad either. What is bad, is the nightmare you then have trying to book your reward ticket. However, if you fly Southwest, the trips add up pretty quickly and the tickets are super easy to book. Let's just not get started on expiration dates...

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Haiti Highlight

Now that I have had a few days to think about my trip to Haiti, I think my favorite moment was when a group of orphans organized a room full of bottles. The bottles will be used by the community to store the purified water they purchase from the new kiosk at the orphanage (from the filtration system that was being installed). Besides being cute, they gave me hope for Haiti and showed how small people can make a big difference. The group I was with started the process and these kids quickly took over, which was awesome!

The orphans in action!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Haiti Reflected

For people who wonder what I was doing and why, here is the story in pictures:
Many children in Haiti are living in the care of orphanages. They, like everyone else in the world, deserve to have a chance at a bright future.
In order to have a bright future, people need basic things like food, education and access to clean water. The groundwater situation in Haiti, and many other places in the world, is very poor. The water coming from wells is full of bacteria (much of which comes from a lack of toilets) and dissolved/undissolved solids, like salts and heavy metals. Some people collect rainwater (or in this case, runoff water) for drinking.
Another option for water, is a filtration system that will take out the bacteria and some of the solids. This system was like the one that we were installing at one of the orphanages. There was a solar powered element to this system as well, which operated the filtration and, in some cases, the well pump.
Once the filtration system is installed, the orphanages can use their excess clean water as a way to generate revenue to maintain the water system, take care of the orphans and share clean water with the rest of the community.
In all, it was a very interesting solution to consider and see in action. The orphanages are very excited about getting clean water for their kids and the kids are learning about why untreated water makes them feel sick. We taught some basic hygiene classes to the kids and had a celebration with them when the filtration system was finally working properly. I look forward to learning about more solutions to the water crisis in the future. Thanks for checking in!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Culture Shock

I've been home for about 20 hours. In that time I have whirled myself back into the motions of my "normal" life quickly - laundry, shower, sleep, eat, drive, work, eat, work, drive, pay bills, etc. However, I am also feeling some additional layer to all of this - almost like I am going through these things physically but also watching myself go through them at the same time. Maybe that makes no sense, but I feel like I am adding some perspective to the whole experience of travel, besides just going somewhere, seeing things and continuing along my merry way.

This isn't the first time I have felt this way, but maybe it's the first time I thought about it in a way that I could articulate. It's that feeling of being in one place that looks, smells and lives one way and then going to a completely opposite place in the span of 10 hours or so. Even walking into my house gave me a reality shiver (I also actually shivered since I was going from 90+ degrees in Haiti to 17 degrees in Kansas City). Driving my car after a week, selecting a sandwich at a restaurant, knowing it was safe to drink out of the tap, etc. got me thinking more about how to take a trip with you in more than just your memories.

I gave myself a break on this trip and didn't keep a journal. I usually keep a rigid, task-oriented journal when I am away in the hopes of being able to relive the trip over and over again in the future. It wasn't that I didn't want to capture this trip, it was more of an experiment, and an effort to give myself a break. I liked it. It was easier to think my own thoughts without agonizing over whether I would sound whiny or silly in decades to come as I referred back to my journal entries. I had more time to think of things outside of what was at hand. I even had times when I thought about nothing.

It's different being back home, but I think it's getting easier to take people and experiences with me in a way that is more than trivial. I know it will take me more practice to really grasp and live out that whole "world citizen" concept, but I'm getting there. Thanks for checking in!

I'll be posting more photos soon, but here is one that I liked and wanted to share. These girls were part of the group I referenced in my last blog post.

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Day More

Today we spent the day in Port-au-Prince visiting orphanages, churches and schools that either have working water systems or want one. One of the orphanages had a large group of girls who had been rescued from a human trafficking ring. Despite being through a lot, they were trusting of us and desperate for hugs. It was heart-breaking to think about what they had been through. They sang songs and played games with us. I was grateful to the orphanage for being there.

In other news, the weather here has been beautiful. We drove by the remnants of the Presidential Palace and got to see a lot more of the earthquake damage. My friend that I came down here with is finally feeling better after being sick for three days. It was interesting to experience Haitian health care after reading a book about global health care while I was here for a policy class I have next semester. We are leaving tomorrow morning but we won't be home until late. Looking forward to sharing photos with you soon!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

From Haiti

Just a short update from Haiti to say we're doing fine. It's been an interesting trip so far and I will have plenty of stories and photos to share when I get home. While we were here, the two-year anniversary of the earthquake took place. Although we haven't been in Port-au-Prince much, it was easy to see that the aftermath is still widespread, with 2 million people still displaced and the economy struggling. Hope you are all well and I hope to have more updates soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Landed in Haiti! Let the heat begin! Spending the night in Port-au-Prince, heading up to Santillus in the morning.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Additions

As I have been preparing for my trip to Haiti (the day after tomorrow!) I have come across a couple of new things that I am excited to try out in the field. Several of them were already featured in my 'Wish List' post (you can read about my new silk sleep sack, my super lightweight shoes and the wi fi SD card there if you want), thank you elves for those. Here is what is going:

I am not sure these were on my mind because I read that they were good or bad, but I thought I would give them a go. I got one of each flavor in case one seems better than another. They have Omega fatty acids, are low in sugar and are lightweight, so they made the bag.
Because we are limited to carry-on bags, I needed some help with limiting my liquids. Since I need bug-spray and sunscreen, I decided to try some solid shampoo. I am bringing a hat too, just in case that was a bad idea.
It's been my experience that some places lack adequate trash options and, short of littering, I have thought about packing plastic bags to carry trash until I find a place to dispose properly of things. I figured there must be a biodegradable option out there and found these 3 gallon bags which should be perfect. I can take a few with me and have lots left over for my next adventure.
Finally, my last new thing I am taking is the first season of Pan Am. I saw previews over the summer but with school and work, haven't had a chance to see it yet. Looking forward to checking it out.
I am restraining myself on how many clothes I pack this time - since it will be in the 90's during the day, it makes it easy to know what I won't need - pants, long-sleeved shirts, coats, etc. All of my homework will be done, as of tonight, so I will only carry my Kindle and my iPod. I am really looking forward to this trip, not only to see Haiti and work on this water filtration project, but also to have a break from the busyness that has been the past six months of life. It feels good to be off again, after the streak died in December too! Thanks for checking in!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resoluted

I don't normally make New Years' resolutions. Since I find myself always trying new things and trying to get better at other things, I think setting time-frames on such goals is too oppressive. However, I know there is huge payoff for writing down goals, even without any idea when they might actually be accomplished. Last year, after reading the book The 4-Hour Workweek, I wrote down some goals on a Dreamlining sheet on my trip to Liberia and thought nothing of it. Then, a year later, I looked back at it and realized that a lot of my goals had been realized, even the ones that seemed far-fetched like quitting my old job and working where I currently am working.

This year, short of writing down a bunch of giant goals and seeing what happens, I want to focus on one thing:  failing better. As a competitive perfectionist I have a hard time dealing with my own screw-ups. I am not always reasonable with myself when I make mistakes. I somehow think I should've/could've peered into the future and known better. I know that doesn't even make sense, but I do it and then beat myself up afterwards for whatever I didn't do correctly.

The funniest thing about all of my failures is that I somehow think that they shouldn't happen to me because I try so hard not to mess up. But, I'm human. I know people, and I, do things they didn't mean to do and the world keeps turning. Mistakes are things to learn from and we all need to deal with them in a way that is reasonable. Need to remember that this year, it will make me a lot nicer to me. Thanks for checking in and I hope you have a very happy 2012!