Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tonight I find myself choked with emotion.

I have been greatly and mightily blessed,
beyond what I can even comprehend.

My dreams are being lived.
My family is my rock.
I am going to marry the best man I have ever met.
My friends, all over the world, show me more love than any one person deserves.

My life is beyond full.

i have no words.

my cup runneth over.

My grown up little brother

My brother moved to Chicago yesterday to start his first job.

I got to go to his graduation a few weeks ago - it was so wonderful to get to see where he's been the last few years and meet his friends. He completely rocked college - he was honored as the top Finance student of the university.

I am SO excited for his new adventures and ridiculously proud of him.
I also am excited to visit him and explore Chicago!!

I am watching him and my parents on T.V. (ESPN internet) RIGHT NOW!!
For a graduation gift, my parents got tickets for them to go to the Cubs game - and got seats RIGHT behind the catcher. Every time the camera shows the batter, you can see them.

Super fun - I almost feel like I am there with them!

Go get 'em Bri!!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Parkinson's Law

Hence, I just finished a paper I should have finished two weeks ago.

Hence, I am still studying for my exam tomorrow.

Hence, I will be ready for my exam tomorrow.


Hence, I have to hope this will NOT make me go grey prematurely.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

in sheep's clothing.

a few months ago i visited an orphanage in rwanda, traveling mainly by motorcycle taxi.
rwanda is perhaps one of the most beautiful countries i have ever visited, though i am surprised that i even noticed since every time we traveled anywhere my 'helmet' would fall over my eyes, and i was usually too busy gripping the motorcycle driver's tee-shirts with a death grip to push it back so i could see.
on a particularly bumpy trek down from the mountains one day, my driver was particularly chatty. he would lean back as he drove to ask me questions or comment on this or that.

fyi - this did not make me particularly happy as i thought he should be doing less leaning and chatting and more worrying about staying upright on the road.

none the less, he was a very pleasant fellow, and shared all sorts of anecdotes about his love for his family, his love for Jesus, how glad he was to have a job driving motorcycle, his plans to marry soon, and so on.

at one point he leaned back and asked 'i heard that even poor people in america have cars - is this true?'

i paused.

in rwanda, the only cars i ever saw outside of the capital were owned by aid workers, mainly the UN.

i didn't know how to answer his question other than honestly.

'yes,' i said carefully, 'many poor people have cars there.'

he sighed. 'it is my dream to go move to america where all the poor people are rich.'

i tried to explain to him that even though poor people in america might have cars, they still don't think of themselves as rich. i tried to explain the idea of relative poverty, where even the posession of the luxury of a car wouldn't be enough to give someone status in society.

he wasn't buying it.

the first image that popped to my mind was this man, who in rwanda rode his motorcycle through beautiful green hills preaching about his love for Jesus, who had perhaps never had to wear shoes in his life, whose family all lived together, who had hope to bring a final peace to his nation - and i imagined him immigrating to america, living in a cramped apartment, struggling to pay bills, surrounded by advertisements for credit cards, a language he didn't understand, hip hop music, people who would stare at his deep black skin with suspicion and treat his hard to understand accent with impatience.

that's a negative image, and i don't mean to only portray a negative side of the immigrant experience to america, as has been an will continue to be a land of opportunity for millions.

however, at that moment, i secretly prayed that he wouldn't have to go through that. i prayed that he would go home to his family in the village, that they would laugh and eat, and talk about the crazy foreigners they had driven around that day. and that he would go to bed in peace.

i'm in development.
my goal is to help people live a better life.
but sometimes i don't know what that better life is. and wonder if i am being arrogant to think that i would ever know better than they would.

is helping people make more money so that someday their children could be wealthy enough to have a car, or to immigrate to america truly the point?

to acquire things, bigger houses, more food than they can eat?

to acquire degrees to nail to their walls?

poverty, especially extreme poverty, can be a curse. it can drive desperation, crime, corruption, family violence, and so on.

but can't wealth also be such a curse? greed, sloth, gluttony, and perhaps the worst, apathy - all stem from a misuse of wealth.

so i don't know, sometimes.

its easy for this kind of work to become almost a religion - but sometimes, i wonder if the message we preach, of improving your life, of empowerment and education.. is not just a sly wolf in sheep's clothing.

This is the last week of classes.

Meaning I am almost no longer a student. And I'm leaving for Kenya in just a couple of weeks. Here's what I need to figure out how do to ASAP:

1. Publish chapter from thesis (I have no idea where to start and it makes me kind of sweaty).

2. Learn some conversational Swahili (asante sana!).

3. Write up a business plan for NGO idea.

4. Find something to do that actually sends paychecks for once I get back from Kenya (income is always a perk, right Dad?).

5. End up in the same city as this guy.

OK. Ready go.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Victor Wants me to Have His Babies

I 'morphed' my face with Victors.... and this was the result. Very. Weird. I saw this on a friend's blog and decided it was clearly what I should do instead of write a paper.

Go morph your face with your significant other's and you too could see what your first child will look like:

PS - Let's hope for less of a comb over with the real thing. And maybe less curved teeth. And if its a girl, maybe less five o'clock shadow.

PPS - This is what Morphthing says our child will look like as a baby:
Tell me that is not at least a little cute.

Ok, I am REALLY going to write my paper now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Something I learned from Rhodes University

Every other year, students at Rhodes University (where I spent my Rotary Ambassadorial year in 2008) get together and decide on a major philanthopic project they want to take on. Students nominate ideas, they vote, and then they spend two years organizing, working with the community, fundraising, and making it happen. The year I was there, the project was 'Galela Amanzi', or Pour the Water. Essentially, the students at Rhodes are fundraising to build water tanks at schools and community centers in the townships surrounding Grahamstown, where most of the schools don't have reliable water sources.

The thing that gets me is that the project is the student-initiated, student-led, student-run. Its a way for students to change their community for the better RIGHT NOW. And it is the collective energy of the entire university, in conjunction with the community, that makes it happen.

At this moment, I wish I was going to be at University of Denver just a LITTLE BIT longer so I could have time to get something like this geared up.

Or that I was a teacher again and could get some students in gear. How cool would that be to see a high school take ownership of a project like this.

Or what about a middle school?

I'm envisioning: kids forming a team to lead the project, talking to community members to see what is needed (or identifying needs right inside their own neighborhoods), learning about the processes that have to happen to implement, creating a budget, presenting at a city council meeting, utilizing the skills they are learning in class to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Community benefits +

Kids empowered =



Camera suggestions?

I am seriously considering investing in a higher quality camera before my next round of travels. Pictures are my journal and the most powerful way I have of sharing my experiences with my family, friends and anyone else I coerce into watching. In particular, I think the next project I will be working on in Kibera will be very powerfully conveyed through images.

So I think I'm going to take the plunge.

Here's what I'm looking for:

  • A serious zoom (at a minimum 10x, but ideally a 15-20x)
  • Compact size (I'm not sure I'm ready for something that requires its own suitcase - I want it to be able to fit in my handbag).
  • Something that is good in low light situations, macro and portraits
  • Has video capabilities
  • Under $500
  • I use my camera most to capture 'life' situations, so I need something that can capture an image very quickly if needed (in other words, a long start-up time would not be the best)
  • I am no camera expert, but am pretty good with the basic customizing that you can do with a point and shoot - I'm looking for an 'advanced' point and shoot, something with more options than a basic, but not quite a dslr.

These are three that I've been looking at, in my initial order of preference, but I have no idea if I am on the right track or not:
I would appreciate ANY suggestions! Leave a comment or shoot me an email if you have any opinions. Thank you SO much!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I just got a typhoid vaccination

and I feel like someone just took a sledgehammer to my arm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

There has to be a better way.

I have to write this down so that it can stop spinning in my head.

I have been so frustrated lately with the non-profit sector.
Not that the non-profit sector has done anything wrong, at all. On the contrary, almost every job, internship, potential job, volunteer opportunity, travel experience, etc. has been directly involved with a non-profit. I am the type where I can LIVE the vision of an organization if I believe in it. In fact, I truly believe to be good at a job, that is the number one key. I have to believe in what I am working for, all the way down to my bones. That's just how I'm wired.

As are most non-profits. So I have nothing against you, non-profits.

Its just... you're not sustainable.

Let me think through this a little better.

There are three sectors, right?
  • You have companies - the profit sector. You know, banks, grocery stores, small business, big business, tycoons, ma and pa shops - all of that. Their goal is to make a profit. Otherwise they shut down. That's how it rolls. They are driven by the fundamentals of capitalism, of supply and demand... etc. This sector benefits some people greatly, but it also demands things like cheap labor and cheap supplies in order to make more profits. This means that it relies on the fact that some people, somewhere will work for cheap, and that supplies can be procured cheaply, sometimes at the peril of the environment.
  • Then you have the public sector - the government. We give the public sector taxes and authority, and it gives us things like roads, public schools, and stimulus packages. It is directed at the common good. We all benefit from having roads. We all benefit from having our population educated, etc. But public sector, you are inefficient. You are big and bureaucratic and its really hard to change you.
  • And then you have the non-profits. Aka nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or not-for-profits. These guys are around the fill the gaps left by the other sectors. The for profit sector can be ruthless and drives inequality - the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. And the public sector just doesn't cut it all of the way either. They are inefficient and bound to political campaigns, special interest and politics in general. So the non-profit sector treats fills in - they provide soup kitchens and education programs and even basic things like access to water in some places. They treat symptoms of poverty, and try to undo the damage done by the other sectors. They often challenge the other sectors to step it up and do their job. But non-profits, you are not sustainable. You have to rely on people to give you money, and sometimes, like right now, the economy doesn't allow people to have a lot of money to give. And you are treating symptoms, not the problem. You are feeding people but not necessarily addressing the reasons why people are hungry.

I love you non-profits, but I hope someday you go away. I hope someday we don't need you any more.

I honestly believe that people want to do good. But it takes time and energy, sometimes, and people are busy and tired. And sometimes poor.

But in the system we live in, we all have to buy things. Like socks, we all need socks. And food. And other things like alarm clocks, light bulbs, shoes, garbage sacks, dental floss, and the other million things we consume every year. What if the companies we bought these things from were responsible? What if they treated their employees as valuable, whole human beings? What if they were benefitting our planet instead of simply extracting from it? What if my sock purchase helped my community, in more ways that just keeping my feet from smelling? What if the sock company was using some of their brilliant sock-making knowledge to find ways to be innovative and make their profits in such a way that was good for me, as a sock buyer, but also good for society? What if my sock purchase meant that a family in Bangladesh ate a nutritious meal tonight, instead of going hungry?


Other smarter people already figured out how to do this.
I want to be like them.
Like Mohummad Yunus.
And David Kuria, who I will be working with this summer.
Some people call what they do the fourth sector.
I like where it is going.
And I want to be a part of it.

The for profit sector can change. They are driven by demand. And I certainly demand things. So really, its up to me. Its up to me to demand that the products I buy are socially responsible. It is up to me to research where my dollars are going, and to look for ways that I can bring creative energy to solving social problems. Not just treating them, but solving them. If you have any good ideas, pass them this way, I'm all fired up.

Ok... ready go.

From TED: Hans Rosling on HIV: New facts and stunning data visuals

After a long day of AIDS writing, this got me all pumped up:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I have a plane ticket.
I'm going to Kenya.

i am a graduate student.

I woke up at 5am.
I worked on a paper.
I ate some cereal.
I worked on a paper.
I went to class for two hours.
I learned some stuff about statistics.
I think.
I'll find out in my lab on Thursday.

I went downstairs to meet my group.
I signed a petition to bring a PhD's student's family here.
He is from Gaza.
The Israeli government won't let his family out.
Or him in.
He has a daughter that he has never met.
I spent 7 straight hours
finishing and formatting
our final project for my project management class.

Our project was to build a girls' school
in Afghanistan.
In an earthquake zone.
With the threat of an attack from the Taliban.
And the stigma against women's education.
With a budget of $500,000.

I ate some sushi.
The pre-packaged kind.
And a rice krispy treat.
I finished.
I took a five minute breather to write this blog,
and now am about to write that paper
Its due tomorrow.


Its a case study about crisis management.
I am using the crisis of HIV and AIDS in South Africa.
And showing
how not
to handle a crisis.

It was 86 degrees outside today.
I love love love
love love
warm weather.

But I was inside,
eating stale sushi,
hypothetically building a school
and thinking,
once again,
about AIDS.

In the midst of my misery,
I secretly loved every minute.

And am so grateful
that I can learn
about what I love.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Things that Make Me Ridiculously Happy

  1. grand schemes.
  2. unexpected hugs.
  3. strawberry margaritas.
  4. talking to my little brother on the phone.
  5. mocha babies.
  6. spanish.
  7. morning.
  8. harmonized voices.
  9. riding in the passenger seat on roadtrips.
  10. the world atlas.

My Official New Life Plan,

at least until August,

involves the largest slum in Africa,

flying toilets,

a Rotary 3H Grant,

an Ashoka Fellow,

and being a teacher again.

Details to come.

Happy Mothers Day

To all the mamas out there.

Especially mine. :)