Thursday, March 24, 2011

Africa




Click here to all my Africa photos and slideshow.

Holy Cornopolis! I feel like I have done more in two weeks then I have in two years. I just spent two weeks in Tanzania Africa with a San Diego based organization called the FFCC. This trip definitely did not have long walks on the beach, g-strings, relaxing hammocks, or Dog the Bounty Hunter, but it was forever changing on the way I think and how I will do things.

I can't even begin to tell you how many people we helped or how many lives we changed. We had many missions that occupied this entire trip. One of our objectives was to lay the foundation for a playground that was a part of the children's center that the FFCC built four years ago. The children's center provides food, water, school uniforms, education, and a place off the sandy streets for thousands of homeless children. And when I say thousands, I mean thousands due to the lack of contraception. Between 800 - 1000 children ages 4-17 are fed rice everyday. The FFCC provides the facility and food if the government provides the school uniforms (which is their tuition) and teachers. Each child must attend school in the mornings in order for them to receive food in the afternoon.

We also installed water filters that will kill ANY water-borne bacteria and lasts up to 150 years. Different families around Tanzania received these small filters that will put an end to their cholera, typhoid, diarrhea, fever, and even death. Clean drinking water is nowhere to be found in Tanzania unless you are privileged enough to buy it in a bottle. This country is truly desperate for a clean glass of water.

I also had the extreme and rare chance to visit one of the world's last tribes and the founding land where modern humans first emerged over two million years ago. After a four-hour, ditch ridden ride in the back of a truck, we finally arrived to the most isolate place in Africa. "The land of the Hadzabe tribe." There they were, carrying their bows and arrows, the Hadzabe tribe waited for our arrival. Unfortunately, our time with the Hadzabe tribe was spent very briefly. We had two goats slaughtered to feed them and spoke with them about building a medical dispensary on their land. With no medicines existing in the area and once numbering over 10,000 members, the Hadza people are slowing dying off into the low hundreds. They are also some of the last hunter-gatherers on the African continent and have even recently stopped wearing animal skins as their form of clothing.

Have you ever been to a leper colony where people are completely deformed and blind?
Have you ever hugged and shook hands with a leper/person that just wants to be touched and looked at like a human being?
Have you ever been to a HIV orphanage where children have no parents and will not live past their teens? These are just a few other incredible places that I had the rare privileged to see, and the experiences that I shared with these people will always stay with me.

To top this mission trip off, we concluded with a two-day safari to the famous Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It was like a natural zoo that kept all the wildlife into a trapped ecosystem. Let me just say this place is pretty "majestic."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Malaysia/Singapore

I went shopping and bought some new shoes, slept near Little China and rode the tram around,
ate Indian food until my stomach was mad at me, and spent a few days at the beach putting off some serious vibes.



Friday, January 2, 2009

Indonesia Part II

Once created by a super volcano 75,000 year's ago, Lake Toba became the largest volcanic lake in the world. Its dramatic scenery kept us there for 2 weeks and it was a perfect place to spend Christmas and New Years. The Island of Lake Toba is the only Christian region in Sumatra and has the most unique charm out of any place I've been to. The Bataak people were extremely hospitable and every night family and friends got together to sing and play music. Music is a huge part of the Bataak culture so every where you went, guitars and voices were being played.

Renting motorbikes and exploring the Island was the occasional activity for us. One day I picked up a 65 year old lady who needed a ride to a local wedding. She closed her sun umbrella and saddled up with me. When I dropped her off at the wedding her broken English confused me a little. She kept saying that she wanted me to return that evening and that she would give me a good price. Good price on what? Our lack on communication/language barrier left me thinking a little too much.

After that, my buddy Sean and I headed towards the mountains where we met a family who invited us in their wooden house for some fresh coffee that they just harvested from the mountain in their backyard. In a circle, we sat on the wooden floor while they explained how they built their home. They couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Bataak. Our sign language and hand gestures were the only thing that kept the unique conversations going. As I looked out of their windowless window towards the mountains, I was extremely privileged to play out on such a cultivated experience.

As we left Lake Toba by ferry, I was "feeling a little vaklempt" and "I promised myself I wouldn't cry" (Coffee Talk, SNL). I shed a few tears as the locals waved us goodbye.
I didn't want to leave this beautiful place.



Click here to all my Indonesia photos and slideshow.

Indonesia Part I

As the four of us arrived in Sumatra, Indonesia, our first objection was to get straight to the jungles of Bukit Lawang. As we waited for a bus with 15 Indonesians trying vigorously to ask us questions in English, I felt a bit scared and a little nervous. I'm in Sumatra, the worlds largest Muslim nation while creepy Muslim music/chants are being cranked from the many mosques outside. Everybody was trying to help us or rip us off, and you couldn't distinguish the bad guy from the good guy.

As we arrived to the small village of Bukit Lawang, everyone was waving and greeting us. It was nice to be outside of all the hustle and bustle especially when you are staring at monkeys and waterfalls. The four of us then rented the biggest bungalow in the villiage and we had the best view out of anyone (See pics and video).

Bukit Lawang is known for its famous orang-utan spottings and intense jungle trekking. The four of us commenced on a 3 night 4 day jungle trekk with our Indonesian guide Eru and a few other local village men. Each day was physically exhausting, but filled with many orang-utans sightings. At this point, I had become a man-like Sigourney Weaver from the movie "Gorillas in the Mist." Not bad. For 3 nights we slept outside, and each camp site (two bamboo sticks and a tarp) was accommodated with its own 25 foot waterfall. When trekking for 5-6 hours each day, our natural and special reward was to go for a swim, a wash, and the occasional poopie.

As the jungle trekk went on, creepy crawlers and leeches continued to infiltrate our pants on a hourly basis. It wasn't until the last evening during our wash we thought our buddy Dan had discovered the worst possible place for a hungry leech. All laughs unfortunately were turned on me at around 9:00 pm as we got ready for bed. Humiliated and embarrassed, I slipt into first place on having the worst possible place for anything to be. I have never felt so violated in my entire life, and the experience actually humbled me. Please e-mail for details if curiosity consumes your thoughts.

After the jungle trekking we headed to the Island of Palua Weh for a little scuba diving session. Being surrounded by Morray eels, the underwater life was beautiful as it usually is. I even got to help a sea turtle free itself from some fishing rope and I swear the turtle winked at me as a "thank you" as he left my hands. Almost convinced.

Leaving the Islands, we arrived back on the mainland of Banda Aceh for two days of surfing. Banda Aceh is where the 2004 tsunami formed and hit the hardest claiming 61,000 lives. I have to admit, being out in the ocean was a little intimidating looking back at palm trees that were snapped in two like match sticks. Daily sunsets proceeded and the views were Sumazing (Sumatra + Amazing = Sumazing).

To be continued........




Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thailand

Thailand was extremely beautiful, but it was the first place that I really didn't feel myself in. Amongst the beautiful beaches and emotional landscapes, Thailand was saturated with spring breakers, tourists, and guidos. It was a great experience, but I never see myself going back. Completely overrated.

While in Thailand, I spent most of my time Island hopping and meeting up with people that I had met in Vietnam and Cambodia. We took motorbikes and explored the Islands for the best beaches and snorkeling spots. Taylor and I split up for a few weeks, but we seemed to follow each others foot steps by falling in love with two Swedish girls. Vise/Versa...I hope.lol After we parted ways with our women, Taylor met me and some friends on the Island of Ko Phi Phi for a two hour Frisbee session while watching the Thail sunset.

I was really fascinated being on Ko Phi Phi because that was the hardest area hit in Thailand from the 2004 Tsunami. I often sat on the beach and envisioned what had happened. I even read a book about the Tsunami and I've decided to extend my trip to volunteer my time for one month in Sumatra, Indonesia to help out with the victims.

One morning on Ko Phi Phi, Taylor, Mike, and I decided to wake up at 6:30am, rent a long tail boat, and to be the first people on the Island of Maya Bay. Maya Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the word and its where the movie "The Beach" was filmed with Leonardo DiCaprio.
While snorkeling in the clearest water, we found ourselves swimming with three baby reef tip sharks. Completely harmless to humans, we watched them feed on a school of fish two feet away. As we continued our swim, I came across a five foot reef shark three feet from my face. I had never been in the water with sharks before, and seeing one up close and personal freaked me out. I didn't know if it was the mother and I was about to be legless, armless, footless, ...the list goes on, and you know where I'm going with this.

Off to Malaysia




Click here to see all my Thailand photos and slideshow.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cambodia

I didn't get to spend as much time in Cambodia as I really wanted to, but it was beautiful and sad at the same time. I've seen some major poverty issues in my day throughout Mexico and Central American, but Cambodia definitely tops them all. I can now say that I have seen actual modern day Indians. Families were living in straw houses with no electricity or beds. The people were using torches and candles to light up their villas for dinner if they had any at all. Kids were naked playing in the streets, and babies weren't wearing pampers. You know what that means.....Surprise!!!! Families would gather on their porch and fish using plastic water bottles, thread, and hooks. The villages were so peaceful and everyone was smiling. Streets didn't have street lamps so you really paid attention to each Cambodian sunset. I really wanted to take a few days and sleep with one of the families, but I didn't have the time.

On my first night in Cambodia, I met up with some Canadian friends I had met in Vietnam. We went to a Cambodian kickboxing match and we were the only white people in the building. Everyone smiled and looked at us in amazement. For a moment, I thought John Claude Van Dam was going to come out for a match. Sadly he didn't, but the lady next to me was breast feeding her baby out in the open. My friend Adam said it best, "When you see a woman breast feeding, its like a train wreck. You don't want to look, but you just have to." That's when I was convinced that I was in Cambodia.

Later that night we went to the town square to throw my light up Frisbee that I brought from home. The town square was surrounded by temples and stars. I don't think that the Cambodians had ever seen a Frisbee before, let a lone a light up Frisbee. There were about 60 people watching us and the children were going crazy. Like little monkeys, the children were jumping all over me, and they even got a few throwing lessons.

My next mission was to see the great temples of Angkor Wat. We woke up at 4 am to be there for sunrise and what a site that was. The sunlight was amazing and you could even see a few morning planets. At around 7 am, I could see 3 rainbows directly above me. Two of them were connected and were bending in different directions. I was like, " That's pretty cool I guess."
Later on in the morning, we met a 24 year old monk named Sannah. He showed us around Angkor Wat and even took us back to his village during lunch. Right before sunset we picked him up, and he took us to the highest temple of Angkor Wat. You could see the entire city, Angkor Wat, and the sunset. It was amazing dot com.



Click here to see all my Cambodia photos and slideshow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Vietnam

Good morning Vietnam!!! Vietnam is awesome. Twenty minutes after we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City we were on our way to rent scooters. The driving is absolutely insane, but after I saw grandma on a motorbike I was up for the challenge. Driving in Vietnam is like playing a video game and playing chicken with everyone. There are no rules, and at times I found myself driving on a sidewalk three deep. Walking across the street is like playing Frogger.

After a few nights in, we attending a German Oktoberfest. That was definitely an experience. We partied pretty hard with Vietnamese corporate locals while standing on tables and chanting the night away. Any chant you started would end with about 30 chanting men slamming mugs and doing it all over again. Good night Vietnam!!!

Taylor and I then decided to embark on a 5 day motorbike trip through the mountains with our local tour guide "River." This action would probably be the coolest thing that I've ever done besides traveling for four months. I was riding a motorbike through many small villages, waving at all the minority children, honking at women with the weakest horn imaginable, and trying to hit little baby chickens while watching the clouds peak over the tallest mountain tops.....just kidding about the chickens. During our 5 day moto trek, we spent the night in a rice field surrounded village and woke up to a Vietnamese elephant ride. Let me get this straight, I was in Vietnam... surrounded by little women wearing coned straw hats working in rice fields... riding an elephant through a lake...watching solo fishermen drift in their little wooden boats... all while listening to Incubus's song "Aqueous Transmission." Please don't hate me. (go to youtube.com and type in Aqueous Transmission to hear the song. You can listen to it while looking at the blog photos)

As I was getting my scuba dive certifications in Nha Trang, I got the rare chance to see a large octopus. It was amazing, I had only been in the water for two minutes with my guide Gab (who looked identical to Chris Martin the lead singer of Coldplay) and I was about two feet from this "majestic and jositile creature."lol The octopus changed two different colors in about 5 seconds. "Awesome!!, Totally awesome!!" (Sean Penn, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.) I spent 5 days scuba diving and made some really cool friends that week. I was sick to my stomach and didn't want to leave them, but I must go on... must go on. I'm' pretty sure that they were sick to their stomach's to see me go as well.

I spent 3 days and 2 nights in Ha Long Bay, and it was probably the most beautiful place that I've ever seen. At that moment I wished that I was on my honeymoon cause some serious things would've happened. The views were astonishing and each day kept getting better and better. We kayaked each day for a few hours through caves and cliffs to find our own coves to swim in silence. I couldn't believe that I was there, listening to my favorite bands, standing on untouched Islands, hearing nothing but wind and waves crash, and knowing that I was in the middle of beautiful no where. The pictures I have posted give no justice. Just times them by 78 hours. And for the record, rooster testicles taste identical to duck embryo, but different to fried baby eels.


Click here to see all my Vietnam photos and slideshow.

video

Monday, October 6, 2008

Australia

Wow!! Australia has been extremely good to me. We did not have much time in Australia so we decided to stay put in Cairns for about 10 days. For the first two days, Halen, Taylor, and I rented scooters. It was beautiful, we rode up the mountains and through the rain forest to a lake that is sitting on top of a mountain. I felt like I was on the set of Jurassic Park. There were no people, just mother Earth. Words nor pictures can describe the view.

The next few days were spent out on the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is about 20 miles from the coast so it was an awesome boat ride out there. I snorkeled with some of the most beautiful fish in the world and even touched a sea turtle and a few clown fish. I felt like a young Jacques Cousteau and a Steve Irwin. I remember watching Jacques Cousteau constantly on TV as a kid and, it was surreal to be in the same places where he dove.

After spending quality time on the reef, I decided to do a little sky diving. I jumped from 14,000 feet and had a free fall of a 60 seconds. The feeling was crazy, and at times I felt my brain moving towards my feet. We fell through a cloud where there was a tiny rainbow from the sun being behind you. You could see your own shadow in the small rainbow until you passed the clouds. Pretty psychedelic!
The bats here are the size of vultures so that is pretty cool I guess. Huge flocks will come out at sunset so I feel like I'm back in Austin a bit. Off to Vietnam now.
Click here to see ALL my Australia pictures and slideshow.