Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By the way...

One of the most interesting challenges of my time here is picking up the lingo. Having been a British colony, much of the Kenyan culture and language has been affected by British culture. And in time, phrases and ideas have melded into truly Kenyan sayings. A few favorites so far...

"By the way" - what we would use as a preface to something secretive or gossipy, Kenyans use all the time - at least once in a conversation. Used like this:

"How are you today? By the way, your dress is very nice, where did you get it?"

"I am so bored" - used to mean that things are slow, or someone is feeling tired. In the US if someone says this, at times you could take offense, as if the person is bored in your presence. Here, it's more a statement of things - like, "man things are slow today!"

"You are so fat! You are huge!" - meant as a compliment, because obviously life must be good if you are able to have enough food to eat to be so healthy. Size is also equated with age, so here I am very old and very wealthy. :)

"You are so white!" - the irony is that while the Africans admire my fair skin, I envy their beautiful dark color.

"Sema" - not an english word, rather a kiswahili word, but said a hundred times a day. It means - "say something" - as in tell me how things are? At night, when I try to fall asleep I have this phrase and "by the way" playing through my head!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

5 Ways to Change the World, Start Today!

All of us want to make a difference, it's part of human nature. And yet we are often stumped at how and where to start. Here's Five simple things that having worked on the inside of a non-profit organization and being inside global poverty, that you can do starting right now!

1. Write a check and/or make a monthly investment.
Research and find an organization that you trust (I personally recommend http://www.choicehumanitarian.org/, having worked on the inside I know the impact they are creating the way your dollar will be leveraged!)

Give money, today. Don't restrict it to a certain thing or project - start practicing this now - repeat after me, "Please use it wherever you have the greatest need in your organization."

And do a monthly investment! Sign up for a $20/month EFT. Notice, it is not a donation, it is an investment! Meaning that the dividends are economic, social, karmic and global.

2. Volunteer 4 hours/month
I know this obvious, but just to be clear - that is one hour/week. And often can be an hour at home or over lunch working on a project remotely.

First, find the organization you want to help with. Look for an org that is small, local (even with a global impact) and identify their key objectives.

Next, make a list of the top 5 skills you have or 5 projects you recently completed that you really enjoyed, then email these to as many people at the org as you can find, including the Executive Director and the office manager or secretary.

Here's the secret, important step - go to their office. Show up, bring a copy of your email with you and start meeting your new best friends. This is going to be painful for all involved - the hardest thing for a small, struggling non-profit is how to figure out what someone can help with, when at the very moment they volunteer, you have a thousand things to get done. Trust me, it will be worth it. If they can't think of anything - offer to organize their storage room or to answer phones for a couple hours. Every organization needs both of these!

3. Go READ a Book! (Or listen to it on CD if you are like my mother)
Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

If we don't know about the world, don't start practicing and being different, how can the world be different? Here's a few EMYP favorites, i.e. Extreme Makeover for Your Perspective:

- Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

- Despite Good Intentions by

- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

- Three Cups of Tea by Gregory Mortensen

- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Peters

4. In the same vein, plan a trip, go TRAVEL:
Mark Twain said, "the antidote to ignorance is travel."

You don't have to go far, only far enough to get out of your familiar surroundings and comfort zone. Go to the other side of town. Cross a border. Go to a neighborhood where you are the minority and then just watch. Look for all that is interesting, funny, quirky, smart and universal.

5. Build Your Community
Start by acting and being different. Then bring your friends and family in on the game!

The Plan (a.k.a. One Crazy Idea)

I have now moved to Kenya! A life long dream has come true. And the reality is so much more wonderful and unexpected and as reality always is complicated!

This is one of the first opportunities to be BRAVE. I have come alone, the girls will stay in the USA until January. We talk weekly by Skype and text with our cell phones (gratitude for technology!) They seem to be doing okay, I'm the one that is missing them more.

To bring you up to speed, how we got to today...

August 21, 2008 I left the USA to lead an expedition of 9 people to a small village called Mulunguni.

August 25, 2008 Plane in Guatemala crashes with 2 of my dearest friends in the world (more like family than friends) along with several others that I knew quite well, including my colleague's wife.

The next week was one of the hardest and most surreal of my entire life! Grieving for my loved ones, leading an expedition, working with a small rural community and contemplating the future all at once. I think God knew that the most peaceful place for me to be was in Kenya. That the sorrow and grief would overwhelm me, but being in Kenya allowed me to hang on. For that I am ever grateful.

September 5, 2008 As a joke, I say to Mama Rita - let's go check out a school for the girls! What if I moved here?! So we went to the Aga Khan Primary School and took a tour. From there they sent us over to the Aga Khan Academy and just jokingly I asked if they were hiring.

Two hours later, they had my CV and I had an interview. One hour later, I had a job offer and was on my way to the airport to fly home! Turns out they had a teacher leave abruptly and literally had 6 classes sitting without a teacher! Just that morning in staff meeting, they had said "Inshallah (God willing), we will find a teacher." Then, I walked in. God works in mysterious ways...

The entire flight home, I was in turmoil. I've dreamt of this for years. Yet, when faced with the opportunity, it seemed both to good to be true and excitingly scary. I was troubled with questions of can I do this to my kids, is it fair to their dad, can I really do this?

The rest is a longer story for another time. But, the bottom line is, I faced the fear and did it! God moved all types of mountains for me to be able to go, and most importantly for the girls to be able to join me!

Within a week, we packed up the house! We sold half of our things in a yard sale and the other half put into storage. Absolutely liberating! Everything I own now fits in a 10'x10' storage unit and 6 suitcases (2 for each of us girls to bring)! I am no longer defined by my "things." It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Second only to the moment I turned off my cell phone permanently and no one could find me! I was off the radar.

Two weeks later, I received my e-ticket at 9 pm for a midnight flight that same evening! We raced to the airport and the rest is my new adventure!

I am living in Mombasa with a good friend of mine in an amazing house, replete with drivers, maid, gardener and security guard! I'm a five minute walk to the beach! I wake up to palm trees, ocean breeze and the smell of tropical flora! I eat fresh mangoes right off the tree! If I had to paint paradise, it would be Mombasa.

I'm teaching Business and Economics at a private academy, at one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever visited! The students and the staff have been overwhelmingly gracious and warm.

And this is a new kind of challenge for me... One that I think my soul was craving and is ready to tackle. Inshallah.

Live Brave

A new blog to mark the start of a new adventure - one that is all about Living Brave.

Live Brave is about saying and doing the things in life that are important! Often, they are the things that are scary, unpopular, unpolitical, lonely and seemingly irrational. Yet, they are the very acts that will help us to discover happiness. They are powered by truth and divinity, a gift from something much bigger than any one of us.

Rather than titling this blog, Adventures in Africa or Three Crazy White Girls, Live Brave marks an effort and movement by thousands of people to start living in a new way. Live Brave cannot be confined by geography. It is a global movement, called many things from spirituality to enlightenment to development.

Buddha said, "Be ye a lamp unto yourself. Be the light." Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light." To me, this means that we each possess divinity and can know our path and be a light on that path. We have that light within us, if we are willing to connect to it.

This newest journey was born out of a seed planted five years ago. Following a heartbreaking divorce, I realized that I had lost part of my soul somewhere in the recent past. Based on a recommendation from a good friend, I started looking at non-profits. I began volunteering for a small nओं-profit, http://www.choicehumanitarian.org/ . Soon after, I decided that I was going to go to Kenya (and many other places).

On my first trip to Kenya in 2006, I felt that I had "come home." In a very spiritual sense, I felt connected to the country and to the people. I knew I had discovered part of my path. But, with two young children at home, I thought the path would begin in about 18 years.

This past year has been riddled with challenges, loss, sorrow and sadness. At the very same time, it has been a year of gifts, peace, insight and new opportunities.