It’s with a bittersweet excitement that I write this one. Tomorrow I’ll board a flight for Nairobi; luckily, it’ll be the last time I have to pack up my life in a box for at least a year. A bit of gratitude is due for making this such an incredible experience:
To the Buffalo staff, thanks for the opportunity to join the family. To Dave, for the copious amounts of sushi we consumed and Wolong Chinese. To David, for showing me Canadians can actually be cool, and for Fringilla Butchery. To Linet, for the connections in Kenya and in advance for going out in Nairobi. To the Eubanks brothers, for showing me you never have to grow up. To Harry, for Branston Pickle, and for the companionship.
To Beth, for showing me that Peace Corps volunteers aren't all the same. To Lauren, for showing me to always watch your belongings at the bar. (Too soon?) To Arina, for Bananagrams (times two). To Michelle, for not hating all Americans…? To Sylvia, Kabita, and my Zambian family, for the hospitality over the past few months. To Danny, for calling me the wrong name for 4 months, and teaching me I am most definitely not ready for kids. To Matthew, Kenzie, and Jacob, for showing me that someday I will be. To my real family, for the love, support, and encouragement to do what makes me happy. To Zambia, for teaching me patience beyond my wildest dreams. And for your most amazing countryside. You've been a fantastic introduction to Last Great Frontier. And to the dog next door, if I were into animal cruelty, you’d be first.
I’m incredibly grateful to Zambia and everyone within for this experience, but am greatly looking forward to tomorrow and the 12 months ahead of me.
2014 is going to be one hell of a year.
October ended on a high -- 1,603 bicycles were distributed to students, teachers and community supporters in the Chibombo district just north of Lusaka through WBR's Bicycle Empowerment Education Project (BEEP). Ceremonies were held at Chititi Primary School, where hundreds of community members were present to welcome, witness, and celebrate.
The following is a speech given by the district education board secretary in Chibombo. My comments follow:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to be part of this great day, I'm calling it a great day because it is a day when our children and our community have received a great gift, a gift that will help get to school and thereby help broaden their horizon.
Government is doing its best in providing access to quality education throughout the country, but government efforts alone are not enough. That is why the efforts of partners such as World Bicycle Relief (& WV) who have come on board to supplement government efforts are very important.
Heartfelt gratitude go to World Bicycle Relief (& WV), for this gesture of supporting 13 schools in our district with bicycles.
Bicycles are used by millions of Africans to transport everything from children to chickens but the vast majority are cheap, flimsy, and generally unreliable imports.
An American charity World Bicycle Relief (WBR) hopes to change all that - by assembling reliable bikes locally.
Its ultimate aim is to create bikes completely manufactured in Africa - from the frames to the spokes.
Appropriately named the Buffalo, this sturdy bicycle is a new product with a retro look.
Its design is based on the British touring bikes of the 1950s - but with the latest technology, including a tough metal rack at the back for carrying up to 100kg.
There are now more than 70,000 of them in Africa, many of them donated to charities and non-governmental organisations. [Edit: as of Sept 2013, there have been 160,000+ bicycles distributed in the field.]
WBR is an offshoot of the American SRAM Corporation, which supplied parts for Lance Armstrong's high performance racing machines used by the US former cyclist in the Tour de France.
It started life in response to the 2004 Asian tsunami when it donated 24,000 bicycles to Sri Lanka.
Thoughts were flying through my mind as I boarded the Kenya Air flight not even a week ago:
“Is my layover in Nairobi safe given recent events? Will I have to work in the ‘office’ I swore to never step foot in again? Hope people are friendly; I really need some friends. First, I need a place to live. Is rent expensive? Because I am broke. Please let there be air conditioning. Has Wi-Fi hit Africa yet? Have computers? Shit, I hope there’s electricity. Will I get to meet Ako
Where would we be without Al Gore inventing the Internet? I'd probably be a few pounds lighter, a bit more educated, and perhaps even have a girlfriend. And what about Google? We'd probably still be paying for email and asking things like "a/s/l" to strangers in Yahoo! chat rooms.
I used these 2 new age inventions to learn some things about the country where I'll land in just a few hours. So in the spirit of education, here's a comparison between America and what I think I'll be calling the great country of Zambia (I'm not pulling a Snowden, just a mere, factual comparison).
Over the past 6 weeks or so, I've been living in Hoi An, Vietnam, roughly halfway between Saigon and Hanoi. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Hoi An has joined the elite rank of Chichen Itza, Uluru, the entire city of Rome, the Statue of Liberty, and Independence Hall, just to name a few. It's no wonder why it's now home to about 120,000 people from around the globe.
But I'm no history major.
And neither are these people. Life is so simple here. There's no push for big careers, no deadlines, no "ASAP," no closing hours, no fixed prices --- no rules, really. And no religion. Thank God. You just do what you can do to get by and everyone looks after each other. There is a lot of Wi-Fi though, albeit tremendously slow, but it's everywhere.
Last June when I left my job in America, I left with intentions to work on a boat or "something like that."
Clearly that goal eluded me (or I it) in Australia, but now, well over a year later, I've finally had that experience. If you've never had a job that requires you to be outdoors and/or on the water all hours of the day, I encourage you to stop reading this email, draft your resignation letter, immediately turn it in, and start searching.
What an incredible experience. Blue Coral Diving is the top recreational snorkeling and scuba diving tour company in Hoi An that operates daily a 40 passenger boat for tourists and locals alike.
Turns out that being able to breathe 100 feet under water is pretty damn awesome. Diving and getting advanced certifications for free were also awesome... But the money's run out, so it's time to move on, re-fill the accounts, and then do it all over again.
In a few days, I'm heading over to Lusaka, Zambia to do some freelance consulting for the World Bicycle Relief.
This 6-month contract will be a good opportunity to "do some good," exercise my brain, make some cash, and see Africa for the first time. The thought of company safaris was also a big factor in the choice.
You know as much as I do about Zambia, Lusaka, my living situation, my job role, safety level, economic condition, and just about anything else that one should know before making a major move. But I'm sure it'll be just fine.
To Vietnam, I appreciate your Bánh Mì ladies (capitalized as one wise soul taught me to do), your free ketchup, your 25 cent beers, your $7/day accommodation, your motorbikes, and your delicious food. You've come a long way from our first day together where people were defecating in the streets.
To Zambia, step up your game. You have a lot of work ahead of you to beat this magnificent country. A good start would be free public (and Western) toilets.
Here are some pictures, and some more of the diving sites.