Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Death

It's not often that you meet somebody on a Monday and by Friday they're dead. But that is what happened with Jamleck, in Kenya. I hope this post doesn't end up being a downer.

I went to Kenya to train about 30 teachers, and Jamleck was one of them. He stuck out in the crowd. The other teachers teased him because the clothes he wore made it apparent he came from a lower-income area. He also mentioned one day in training that he had "slept out" that night - in the street. In truth, all three teachers who came from a certain school seemed to be employed by the gracious headmaster for their own rehabilitation purposes. One was HIV-positive, another was a little mentally slow, and the third was Jamleck, who had a drinking problem.

He seemed like a really nice guy - he smiled all the time, had a timid expression, and I noticed that he took over mowing the lawn for the gardener for free after one of our eight-hour training sessions. I liked the guy and felt badly that he was teased so often.

He didn't show up for training on Friday. I knew he was dedicated to the training and wouldn't blow it off unless something was seriously wrong. Some laughingly said he got lost on the way to the training. Others claimed he was hungover somewhere. I told them he was probably either in the hospital or dead and we should look for him but nobody took that seriously. I brought up the same concern the next day and the following with the same result. That Monday he was found at the mortuary. He had been murdered across from the street from his residential area.

I felt so badly because there was an unoccupied room open right next to my room at the convent on Thursday night that the organization was paying for. The girl staying there had college graduation on Friday and had checked out Thursday afternoon, but I didn't think to offer the room to him until after training had ended and he'd already left. Maybe if he'd stayed there the disaster could have been avoided - nobody really knew if he'd "slept out" again on Thursday night or why he was hit.

It made me think.

First, I want to do better at defending those who are being teased in a mean-spirited way. Sometimes I just stay out of those things because I don't want to end up being teased too. I need to be more courageous. It is sad that I probably wouldn't even be feeling guilty about staying out of it if he was still alive. It's something I should always do.

Secondly, life is short and death can be totally unexpected. Everybody is going to die at some point including the people I love the most. That thought is terrifying. I just want things to continue as they are forever but that will not happen in this life, and loss will be a part of my life. Now is the time for me to tell people I love them and to show them through service. I don't want to take anyone for granted anymore.

Thirdly, I am mortal. I need more guts. My advice to everyone is the same. Why wait? Take a chance, take a risk. It doesn't matter where you travel, how much you make, what your GMAT score was, whether or not you have a PhD, how many instruments you play, or how many languages you are proficient in. What really matters is how you help and lift others and who you become.

I barely knew the man, but if somebody had told me on Thursday night that Jamleck would be dead by Friday, I would have made a special effort to talk to him and boost him up. To not let people belittle him his last day in this world.

If somebody had told me my mission companion was going to die four months after I went home, I would have written her more often. Instead of having my second email to her in four months be replied to by her sister - "she's dead." Same with Edith, Isaac, David, and other friends that I taught in South Africa.

The thing is, we are usually not forewarned about these things. Every day counts. Become who you want to become, love beyond your fullest capacity to love, tell people you care, show people you care, kick failure to do so in the face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Email from Mommy

And you wonder where I get it? This is an email I received today, verbatim, from my mom.

_______________________________________________________

But how can you help decorate the Christmas tree from AFRICAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

BTW (which means Better To Whistle): I've finished planning my Institute lesson and I am kinda' bored.

FYI (which means Flogging Yields Intestines): if you want, [you can invite a certain male friend] over for Thanksgiving--it's your call (Not as in phone call, but as in decision to make in a decisive manner.) I decided I don't like what FYI means above, I'm changing it to mean Frozen Yams are Inefficient--as in to eat--terribly inefficient to eat. Therefore our yams will not be frozen on Thanksgiving day. (See how I tied all this together?)

Better get to bed before Ambien kicks in. (I kinda' think it has already.) Oh well, LOL, which means Longwinded Over Logical-which describes this email.
__________________________________________________________________

Life was never boring where I grew up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dirty Dash

My friend Megan sent out an email about a unique 10K team race through the mud. I thought, "Cool. I like running. I like mud. Let's do it." I didn't really have the slightest inkling of what it would be like in reality. I knew I'd get muddy, but NOTHING prepared me for the spectacle that I witnessed, and indeed helped create, at the Dirty Dash.

This was more of an obstacle course up and down a mountain than a race, with mud pits to swim through, hay bails to hurdle, tubes to crawl through, 8-foot tall walls to climb, tires to jog over, fire hoses to resist, swamps to slop through, and a giant slip-and-slide. It was really more of a 6.2 mile mud-slinging party with several thousand participants.



I can normally finish a 10K in about 45-50 minutes, but this one took me over two hours. Granted, a lot of that ended up being rolling around in the mud and hurling slop at people.

I think we were the only team without costumes or at least team shirts. There were some really creative (and scary) costumes though. I never want to see a shirtless man in short spandex shorts again!


Jess, me, Brenden, Brandon, Megan

The hardest part for me was the swamp that had to be at least half a mile long. I nearly lost my good running shoes in it's depths on several occasions. Jess and I finally decided to just crawl for the last quarter mile or so. She promptly gashed her leg open on a rock and began bleeding profusely, although we couldn't tell until we stopped crawling and started running again. I was also bleeding from my forearm, but only a little. Some random guys provoked us to another mud-slinging war and we obliged. It was about at this point I started to (a) doubt my sanity, (b) wonder what strange disease I would end up with after immersing myself in this swamp with open wounds, and (c) regret wearing a shirt with sleeves. I felt about 30 pounds heavier with all the mud that was glopped all over my clothing and on my shoes.



Near the end of the race was the World's Largest Slip N' Slide. Down we went in the freezing water until it spit us out at the bottom into - you guessed it - another mud pit.


That is Jess in the foreground, Brenden behind her, and me in the back

At least 6,000 sweaty and probably bloody runners had already been in the final pit during the first wave of the race that day. I tried not to think about it.

For some reason unfathomable to my currently reasonable mind, Jess and I decided to emerge from the final pit and slide down the last little hill. It looked slimy and soft. Nope. It was full of sharp little rocks and gravel. I gashed my right side open during the last few seconds of the race. But of course, our wounds didn't deter us from taking some team pictures.


Jess, me, Brenden, Brandon, Megan

I think then is about when the misery started setting in. I tried to suppress and clean out the gash in my side without subjecting myself too much to the freezing showers. For fear of hypothermia, I decided against better judgment that the shower would have to wait for an hour or so until I got back to Provo... the water was far too cold for me to attempt to wash my hair or any other part of me, and I was already literally visibly convulsing with shivers, and according to Jess, my lips were blue. Jess hurriedly escorted me back to our vehicle and I wrapped my wet and muddy self up in a towel.

By the time I got home I was freezing, famished, still black with mud, incredibly smelly, and looked a lot like Bob Marley. Especially because by that point, my hair looked and felt like dreadlocks. Seriously, it was more a coagulated mass than individual hairs. Immediately after getting home I showered for a good half hour, washed my hair five times, discarded my clothing in an old recycling bin and washed it five times by hand before putting it in the washer, and swore I would never never NEVER EVER touch mud of any form again!!!

Feeling clean and happy, I proceeded to girl's night.

Where, ironically, I was greeted by roommates wearing mud masks. Who really wanted to give me a proper mud mask. With cucumbers to boot. I submitted.

Now I am trying to organize my team for the April Dirty Dash.


Megan, Brenden, Brandon, Jess, me

Rough Stone Rolling

I just finished reading this book yesterday. If you have read it, please please please contact me! I would love to discuss it with someone, but haven't been able to find a single person who has read it cover-to-cover yet.

My Dream Wedding Reception

I've never really caught the vision of what I wanted my wedding reception to be like... until now.

To preface this, let me explain my personal feelings toward receptions.

First off, they are suspiciously similar to funerals. (Except for me, funerals are happier since they remind me of Christmas - which may be confusing if you don't know my family background).

Secondly, what's the appeal of sitting awkwardly at fancy tables with a bunch of humans you don't know, trying to pleasantly converse about the weather, decorations, or any other commonalities you might have, with said stranger who is sharing the same uncomfortable experience?

Thirdly, you are probably having the aforementioned conversation while attempting to get the whole chocolate-covered strawberry into your mouth before the goop dribbles down your chin and onto your blouse in the most unclassy manner.

Finally, you are expected to wait in line for half an hour just to say hi for five seconds to an exhausted couple that looks like they are about ready to drop dead.

They've already been through: hours spent getting ready for the day, the ceremony, the paparazzi, the bride walking around in a dress that probably weighs more than she does, and the general stress of actually GETTING married and all the changes that entails. These people don't want to be there after all that, shaking hand after hand. They're married! Release them from their present torment!

Apart from making the couple feel exhausted and anxious, and the guests feel superfluous and awkward, I just don't see what this ritual does to help humanity.

To be fair, there are some positives.

1. Knowing your friends are supporting you on your wedding day. (I guess I'd rather just have them come to the ceremony).

2. Loot. ie: Presents. (I'd rather just take the money NOT spent on the venue, decorations, and food and buy my own loot).

3. The parents get to celebrate and the siblings get to meet the spouse's family. This is the most valid and irrefutable argument in favor of receptions that I can think of. And this alone will probably cause me to have a reception when the time comes.

Which is why I have now planned out my dream reception to make the experience more positive.

My Dream Wedding Reception!!!

My colors will be red and white.

For refreshments, I will have cookies and orange juice.

My family won't have to pay for it, because my entire reception will be sponsored by the Red Cross.

No presents please, my honorable guests, just relax and lie down on this comfortable recliner. We're going to surprise you with a blood drive!!!

Yeah! Now THAT is a constructive use of time!

Disclaimer: I really don't hate wedding receptions as much as this post indicates. I have also, on occasion, enjoyed them. Especially if it looks like the couple is also enjoying it. I would be more than happy to come to your reception when the time comes for you to get married. :-) Oh, and I'm not really going to have a blood drive, so you can come to my reception without fear, too.

My Health Age

My 29-year old friend posted on her GChat status that her health age was 23 years. So I went and took the Health Age test.

According to my health, I am 10.4 years old.

And my life expectancy is 95.7 years.

Looks like I have plenty of time to improve myself before I die. Whew! Now to go eat some doughnuts while skydiving. ;-)

Link to Test

A Lil' Sunshine

So, I kind of wanted to add this because I've never tried posting a video to a blog before and I wanted to see if it would work. But I also kind of wanted to post it because I love these girls. That's Megan on the left, roommate Emily next to her, old roommate Brittany next to her, and of course, I'm far right with the guitar. We were serenading a boy from the neighborhood who purchased our serenade at a charity auction. We are wearing togas because of the previous serenade, which I shall not be posting. ;-)

video