it's been 11 months to the day since i departed nyc, and have been told a friend has departed to another world. last night, shortly before midnight, ellen rafel became an eternal angel. in the photo above, her hand is to the left and erwin's, her husband, is on the right.
this past month's journey has been intense and an emotional roller coaster. up and down and around my heart has swung. while the month of may started in a fog of romance and trudged up to the peak of heartbreak, down into the valleys of birthdays, and onto a few loops de loops of two new jobs. now, i can see the tracks race off into the distance.
while i'll spare you the lovey dovey personal stuff - let me tell you about ellen's & erwin's birthday. since 1999, i've known Gideon Rafel-Frankel, their loving son. as the years passed, gid would always invite me to their family functions... from summers on cape cod, to weekends in NYC (when i wasn't living here), birthdays, passover, holidays, parties and the like... through all of the events, i was a witness to one of the best damn relationships i've ever seen...
now separated only by physical space, the memory of erwin and ellen and the care they demonstrated for their sons, themselves and all their friends and family has left an indelible mark on my soul. the passion she demonstrated was recognized when over 100 people jammed themselves into a tiny two bedroom penthouse apartment on the upper-west side to celebrate her last birthday.
as we sang and embraced her life, i knew ellen's glorious soul wouldn't be around too much longer. as we said our goodbyes, it became apparent to me that this family had impacted me more than most. with lessons from own family, erwin's tenacity as a refuge and ellen's love as a social worker, i set forth to see the beauty of all we can touch.
along this journey i have found something that is indescribable. something i can never articulate in words, photos nor movies. on six continents, i found this thing buried in every person who open their mouths, families, and hearts... never could i have imagined that the world is filled with so many loving people.
while i haven't been diligaent in writing about the lessions i've learned, since my return i have lived every moment knowing that my passion to make this a better planet is unexcable. the love we can share with each other is something that should never be taken for granted. the opportunities we have to change everything around us is real.
sunday, when i stand with her family and countless other souls who have been touched by her love, i know she will be with us as an eternal lesson that peace and hope are the only two things we need. you don't need to be famous, you don't need to be anyone of any material goods - just love everyone - love the unescapable and work to make it better. well all else fails, be at peace.
ellen, thank you for being one of my teachers.
photo from punkjr on flickr
item #1, advice from my father.
today, i received a few inspirational notes from my father... while i know they are a bit muffled in verse, i was able to hear the sweet tone of loving comfort. let me hum a few bars...
"don't stop thinking about tomorrow. don't stop it'll soon be here. It'll be better than before. why not think about times to come, and about the things that you've done..."
yes, sometimes it's hard to distinguish between my father and fleetwood mac...
the past year has taught me more lessons than i could have possibly dreamed. those dreams found people who not only believed in exploration, but believed that collectively we can accomplish our dreams. though every hello, hug or heaping plate of food, we did it. collectively we've explored the internet world, but we're not done yet.
now i find myself in a precarious position. every night, i dream about the places i've been and the things i've done. painfully, i roll and roll debating endlessly what's the best way to engage the world within this dream, and how to make a living. i checked my bank account and only found $75... but more on that later...
so now, here i am back in america trying to understand everything i've done and make sense of where i'd like to see the world... honestly, it's stressful carving out a grandiose vision of the future based on seven short months. any-who, so work for the children's book presses on...
item #2, my nyc return.
after thinking that i should call my good buddy jonathan, i carelessly blasted out an email routing people to a bar which in perfect pursuit of happiness should be at the end of places to experience in brooklyn. don't get me wrong, it's not a bad place... it's just a better place to end the night. in lew of this miss judgement, jonathan and i are crafting a triumphant return to brooklyn. (btw, you might remember jonathan as the partner of val; the two glorious hosts at the start of the journey...)
yeah, so i'm returning to NEW YORK CITY on saturday, FEB 2nd at 3pm (15h00). well, that's when my plane lands... i'll then find my way onto the subway, down the long corridors of the MTA and then into the arms of a few friends. while i'm jazzing my way back to billyburg, i need you to grab your camera and some ridiculous looking outfit and make your way to the hipster capital of the world.
starting at 5pm (18h00) you are invited to meet me at 303 bedford ave, brooklyn, ny. the bar is/was called wells, but don't worry about a thing. we're commandeering the sound system and maybe brute forcing a discount (thats'a joke, jon is a bartender and we might get a sweet deal if enough people show up). afterward, we'll saunter over to IONA and then over to the keystone bar of the night, SPUYTEN DUYVIL.
item #3, the future as mentioned in the past.
as my around the world journey ends, a new one begins. i am so poor you won't believe how poor i am. over the past two months i've spent less that $600 USD to get by. for the past month, i've been beggin for handouts and frothing at the mouth for free food. i've max'd out my only credit card (actually i owe them $800 in late charges). i've got $75 bucks in my checking account, and $8 dollars in my wallet.
if you look at my ticker, i still have $700 USD to fundraise (which won't even cover my credit cards, but i've called them and they "kinda understand")... and if the phone call from my roommate is any indication my housing situation, i'm gonna need to kick in close to $900 in rent...
so what does this mean to you, the reader... well, one thing... my life has taught me to follow my heart and build on what i've learned. next week, when i land in a foreign country without a euro in my pocket, i will proudly stand in front of some of the world's smartest and extoll tales of our journey together. (for you geeks out there, LIFT is like TED but for normal people.)
if you haven't pre-purchased a copy of the luck of seven children's book, i hope you consider contributing $11.11 USD. if 70 people purchase a copy, i won't ask for another cent... (that's until i start the mel brooks swag campaign) if you've contributed and can contribute a little more, that would be awesome! thank you for making dreams come true!
a big thanks to the most recent contributors - KUSHTRIM XHAKLI, Megumi Nishikura, and Joe Vieira.
(btw, i'm also need a job, if you know of anyone who's looking for a well skilled student of new media, send them my resume...)
(this awesome photo is from flickr user leppre - check out frosty sunrise 2 in full detail!)
a week in ohio has brought about an level of personal intimacy that i wouldn't have found any where else. with less funds than i need, i've sprawled out on my childhood bed spending countless hours planning the next four months. between east coast offers of a roving camera man & thoughts of giving up, i find myself in a precarious position.
my life in ohio is simple. my life on the east coast seems extravagant. this journey around the world seems extraordinary. yet, i still look in the mirror every morning and see the same short bearded face. when i look down, i see the same small hands. with a warn out seat, my pants are five years too told. my socks holy. my back, feet, arms and legs feel the burden of the world.
my 29 years on this planet have been extraordinary. it's taken me quite a while to truly understand the detachment my parents gave me. growing up in the last decade of the cold war, in a small bedroom community of a military base, i was exposed to a world far beyond the reach of the three creeks that surrounded my suburban ohio house.
the journey from california to ohio is normal, a loving military couple moves to maximize wealth and opportunity to provide for themselves and their young sapling. a few years later, another young sapling comes along. all the while, the two work endlessly to teach their children of the family tree and the world's forests.
as the older sapling grows, the world takes it toll - accidents, fires, health issues, etc... but eventually the sapling realizes that the world's forest are massive. as he grows, he hears things that don't make any cense. he reads things that seem to have no tangible relationship to the world he lives in. yet, for some reason these stories are the notable stories - for some reason, these stories are the constitution of public discourse.
confuse by their importance and lusting after a deeper meaning - not all of these stores are lost. this young sapling knows that his forest and all the animals that inhabit the surrounding area must be similar to the one he reads.... they must be similar to all the stories he's been told... to all the stories he's dreamt... and with a slight hand of a shovel, he packs his roots, loads up an old VW van and departs to visit the forest beyond.
from the forests out east he sees an urban forest where trees are valued but not harvested. up and down the american coast he finds others who seek a grander meaning from sea to shining sea. across the sea, older sapling and taller trees that seek a similar exploration. across the world the sapling sees the stories, views first hand and oogles images of forests far and beyond - locations with out a single tree in sight - vast beaches of stubborn shrubs rooted on tiny rocks - vast urbanities where all trees have been removed...
all in all, after countless accidents, fires, health issues, loves and losts... returns to his original forest for a feast. like the year before and like any year after, the feast is more like any other family's... filled with it's unique quirkiness and unbeholden to any austere tradition - this family sits around revels in each other's stories, branches and quirks for a specialty ordered feast.
within a few days, this sapling once again departs into the unknown. this sapling has done it before. he's traveled the paths, climbed the rocks, trolled along the beaches and buried his head in the sand a few times. off in the distance there is a mountain, paths to the top are unknown, unproven and most fo the time unrewarding to anyone but itself.
beneath the ground, this sapling sees roots of many colors, shapes, sizes, from a million and one time zones. this sapling knows the roots are strong, healthy and ready to spring forth a new alternative ecosystem based on healthier soil.
while this sapling doesn't quite know his own destination, height or width - he's grown to know the trees, valleys and streems. he knows the glory of unity, the power of diversity, and the love of the world. he knows that he couldn't have done it without the unflinching support of a global family firmly rooted in passion.
thank you. blessing be with us all.
(this is a recreation a photo my father took of my mother in the same yard. click on your fav part and be transported to a magical day filled with globetrotting, house hunting & a birthday celebration.)
it's one hundred percent certifiable, my body has traveled around the world. on 24 may 1978, i was born at loma linda university hospital. on 12 november 2007, i drove around the hospital to seal the deal and officially proclaim my body around the world.
as a descendent of new world explorers, i am now the first modern hidalgo (of moca linage) to circumnavigate the globe. do i feel different?
yes and no. it's kinda like turning a monumental age. you've always dreamt of reaching the milestone, but wondered if you'd make it. nonetheless, you persevered over every oppositional thought and roadblock. i could wax on about how i feel like a billion sea shells or how there's a new spring in my step...
i know tomorrow will be another day - unscripted, unedited and unfiltered. many things can and will go wrong.
i know hundreds of people have placed me on their shoulders and carried my dream across the globe.
i know that i must work twice as hard to show my appreciation for the beauty of all things.
i now know nothing will stopping me from working the world's lemons into lemonade.
i know i am not alone.
this was original written somewhere over the south pacific.
as the hour turns, i cross the equator for the first time. in a nondescript tiger airways airbus, i find the toilet really doesn't flush counterclockwise, i find no big celebration, i find nothing special about this landmark event.
yet my heart, my head, and my stomach bounce in delight. it might have been the most recent copy of the economist or the $3USD korean ramen or 100g of a dark chocolate and hazelnut concoction. but somewhere deep down inside, i think it's because i'm finally making it to australia.
many years ago, when i was in junior high, i use to hang outside the principles' office. surround by wood paneling and a trophy case of the school's awards, my hacker/geek/outcast friends sat under the sole pay-phone wondering how we could harness it's copper to escape from our dreary midwestern lives.
on the weekends, my father and i would drive to book's and company (the most cosmopolitan book store in dayton, ohio) and pick up our monthly addiction of computer magazines, mondo 2000, and 2600. during the week, my friends and i would sit next to the principal's office and scheme up plans to take over the school's PA system or hack the LED student council sign or plan our next 24 hour LAN party.
we were kids. we were geeks. the internet had yet to find it's way into our daily life.
one day, in a fit of youthful frustration, i called quantas and made a reservation to Australia. before the agent hung up, my dreams were dashed. somehow i would have to muster $5000 USD and apply for a visa.
seventeen years later, i have taken care of the two.
while my original plans had me in country much longer than two weeks, my flight to hawaii came at a high cost - fly out on Oct 20th for a few hundred or fly out later and pay close to a thousand - SO my first three days in australia will be spent in darwin sorting my bearings, catching up on emailed contacts, planning my US roadtrip and gathering steam for my trek across australia.
on monday, 8.10.2007 (or 8.10.2007 depending on which side of the world you're on) humpy doo, katherine, newcastle waters, tenant creek, alice springs, coober pedy, woomera, adelaide, melbourne, and sydney will no longer be names on a map nor places a crocodile dundee movie. they and the places in-between will be filled with faces and their stories'.
as i plan out my last four months, i am not just seeking interviewees, sponsors, drivers and hosts... i am seeking out traveling companions. i have always stated this is not my journey but our journey. as i reflect on the the people whom i've encountered, i want to bring you along with me.
while i can't pay for you (heck i can barely pay for myself) i want to open the door and invite you along. i can tell you this will not be an opulent journey. the trek will be hazardous to our mental health, but i can attest there will be nothing like it in the world.
within the mix of interviewing and traveling, i want to hit the ground and traverse the ground we tread. i'm not looking for midnight buses. i'm looking for a car, van, truck, scooter, camel, elephant, moped, etc... i want the banality of road signs, maps, and gas stations. if we can remove gas stations, that would be sweeter!
AUSTRALIA - on Oct 5 i'll land in darwin. i'd like to hop into humpy doo, katherine, newcastle waters, tenant creek, alice springs, coober pedy, woomera, and into adelaide; then through victoria and melbourne, finally trekking into new south wales for sydney. this should place me right through the heart of the outback. where i can interview people, asking them how the internet has changed their life. with only 13% of the australia on broadband (and a majority of that is in the south) i want to travel through the center - walking, talking and driving around, asking people about their connectivity.
UNITED STATES - i'll land in hawaii on Oct 20 and then fly to the northwest. i'm looking to drive down along the coast through northern california, san francisco, lodi, and into los angeles. from the city of angels, we will hunt out route 66 and travel through my birthplace, loma linda, and venture east to meet friends in las vegas, new mexico, oklahoma, kansas and the plainstates. somewhere along the way, we will divert to my parents home town of dayton, ohio.
in addition to the standard work that i'm doing, i want to add a live Ustream feed. i want to bring you into the heart of luck of seven. i want you to follow every drink, contact and step... you'll get to watch me meet old friends, find new ones and see my family for thanksgiving.
SOUTH AMERICA & ANTARCTICA - i have plans. yes, i have plans to make a grand conclusion to the luck of seven. as i have always stated, i plan on making antarctica before the summer season ends.
right after thanksgiving, i'm turning south. from the southern united states, i want to hit mexico, central america and then work my way along the west coast of south america. somewhere along the way, i will find a route to antarctica and then work my way up the east coast.
out of all the journeys, i know this will be one hell of a trek. i look forward to kick earth and seeing what few get to see. i know internet will be next to non-existent, but this does not dismay my grand journey of enlightenment. with every step and fumble, i want you with me.
WANT TO GET INVOLVED?
are you an NGO working in the area? are you an startup and have grand ideas of kichy press? are you a backpacker with a pinion for excitement?
here is your opportunity! contact me and we'll turn the world on it's head.
it's day 77 and with the wings of mercury, i've hit 15 countries, taped 31 hours of video, and visited the only lasting ancient wonder of the world. despite my rants of trying to breaking bad habits, i am having a blast.
today, i received two refreshing emails... the first came from my mother who said "...do not misplace your faith" and the second came from an old friend who said "consider this your great adventure. don't start planning for another until you've finished this. experience this while you're living it. don't experience it in retrospect."
both emails came as a nice pleasant blow to my mental state of annoyance. maybe it's my present location that's affecting my head. the guest house where DigitalBridgeCamp is located is a former home for shell shocked WW I & II solders. it would be easy to dismiss my distraught thoughts on the ghost stories of war veterans, but my reality is that i'm trying to understand a gap that's enveloped me. i'm looking for a bridge to ride my painted pony into the 21 century.
today also contained another seminal moment. shortly after lunch, i found myself reiterating a presentation i made two days ago. with the help of a bottle of wine, some country liquor, and a good night of sleep, i sounded more like a scratchy record than fresh fruit juice. lucky for me, a few people disagreed with my viewpoint and it fired up my hungover brain cells into something tangible.
from DOTsub, rocketboom, alive in baghdad, make weekend projects, galacticast, jetset, the burg.tv - to - my name is bill, the tuxedo travelers, the yes men, not an alternative, drishti, video volunteers... i spent an hour or so talking about media and the power of making our own media.
with a camera, an idea, an internet connection and a tool kit, we can tell our own story. in the hands of underrepresented communities, the true face of the world comes into focus. just look at video volunteers and you will stare into the face of the global future.
(ed note, alive in baghdad is right now the creme de la creme of community video units. it's just so sad to watch.)
the following are just small list of organizations, projects and resources. i know my knowledge is limited. if you have any addendum, leave a comment.
video resources for social change
- witness - using video to document human rights
- global voices - a global perspective of online conversations
- drishti - an indian based video advocacy shop
- video volunteers - an exelent example of building local rural media outlets
- dot sub - translate your video into any language
- tactical tech (NGO in-a-box kits) - free tool kits
- ashoka asia
- taproot foundation's - non profit technology listing
- Ideallist.org - tools for fundraising
NGO resources to understand digital technology
- tactical tech - best practices & tool kits for change
- NPO Groups - Rider's News & Rider's Tech
- mobileactive - social engagement with mobile phones
- NTEN - nonprofit technology network
- DotOrganize's report on non-profit's and NGOs
- tech soup - tools, forums and resources
- personal democracy fourm - online political engagement
"Always fall in with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with." - Robert Frost
as you might have noticed, today marks one month until departure. in my head, there are many thoughts... too many bubbling thoughts to place in writing. somewhere between Zanzibar and wanting to scream at my inner child, i will not lie, i am very conflicted. gratefully, my father's words reverberate in my head as they were first muttered 20 years ago. "you come from a family of explorers."
the time i spent with my family to make episode 4 affirmed my unquestionable believe that we really are explorers. my parents, like my grandparents, married at a young age. since that day, they have seen the best and worst this world has to offer. from birth, love and beauty to segregation, genocide and terminal illness... my parents have always fought for a better world.
episode 4 is just a small smidgen of the hour long interview i conducted with them. in due time, their words will pop up again and again... until then, let me introduce you to my other partners...
for now there are three, and incase you're wondering, a partner not just some schmo who comes off the street offering wine, women and song. these partners, have been vetted to have similar beliefs. also, they see the merits of sending me around the world without asking for too much in return.
Transitions Online (TOL) - http://www.tol.cz - founded in 1999, this Czech non-profit was founded to replace it's print predecessor, transitions magazine. TOL works within the vast post-communist region of eastern europe to help young, up-and-comming journalist to take advantage of electronic communications for journalism.
after a chance meeting at the salzburg seminar, TOL's Evgeny Morozov sought me out to help present a week long course on new media essentials. since the course was scheduled to coincide with the start of my trip and they offered to cover a portion of my transportation costs, i couldn't refute an offer to help fellow citizen journalists learn about new media.
Mobile Active - http://mobileactive.org - is a global network of people, tools, projects, and resources focused on the use of mobile phones for activism, campaigns, and civic engagement. Mobile Active focuses in on four principles - 1. expand access to knowledge, ideas and experience about the use of mobile technology, 2. reduce learning costs for civil society organizations, 3. accelerate the use of effective tactics in campaigns, and 4. provide a comprehensive platform for building partnerships, and for facilitating access to technology and funding.
as a former campaign coordinator, technologist and volunteer, i know all to well the intimate complications of skill sharing within organizations that have little to no budget and infrastructure. when katrin, also the executive director of nten, contacted me about forming a partnership, i couldn't think of a better complement. while on the road, i'll be reaching out to organizations who are using mobile technology and profiling their use in the field. conversely, Mobile Active will provide logistical and mobile technology support.
Michael David Vineyards - http://www.lodivineyards.com/ - home to the award winning seven deadly zins and seven heavenly chards, and producers of "seven brands of distinctive wines for each of your varied whimsical desires." Michael and David Phillips are fifth generation of growers in Lodi, California. though not certified organic, Michael~David Vineyards strives to use all natural methods including integrated pest management, beneficial insects for pest control, trellising, leaf pulling and natural mined sulfur for mildew control.
in their initial donation/email, they wanted to send me a few bottles of seven deadly zins and seven heavenly chards. then i informed them, that i'll be hosting a few salons, and they snapped at the offer to send a few more! as i make my way back to north america, i've added lodi to the list of places to visit. let's just hope that Creedence Clearwater Revival did not write a premonition.
also, i hope you are in new york city on the day of departure, 7 july 2007. my friends and i are having a mid-day roof-top brooklyn bbq! so save the date and see you real soon!
Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
the past two weeks have given me introspective time to think about one of the most important part of this trip... love. the unrelenting, always self giving love. you know, the type of love that builds from years of exposure and common kinship. the type that type that exists from parent to child. the type of love that builds among friends who grow up experiencing the same joy, excitement and loss. the type of love never seems to die.
thankfully, the past two weeks have been spent with some of my oldest and dearest friends, stories of treasured memories, my brother and my parents. as the next five weeks unfold, there are many things that must be done. a majority of them will rattle my cage, shake my will, and question my own personal resolve. one thing is certain. love is immortal.
this morning, as i uploaded several photosets to fickr, i read a pleasant piece about two late-twentysomethings who will embark on a similar voyage around the globe. throughout the article, i can hear the same answers to the same quick witted questions i am asked. when it comes to why we attempt such an experiences, well...
“People are always willing to lend a helping hand,” Ms. Collins said, “because there are so many things, like the wind, that are completely out of your control.”
...and frankly i feel the same way... my mother has always said, "if you are nice to people, people will be nice to you."
over the next week, i'll be cranking out two video pieces, a travel narrative of the past few weeks and a very special announcement (that has taken longer to announce that original conceived). until then, i leave you with Buddha's four immeasurables - love, compassion, joy and equanimity.