Saturday, November 29, 2014

Life in Lusaka as a volunteer with vulberable children

Its been 20 days since I have been in Lusaka now. I am getting used to volunteering in the compound (slum) at KAFWA (school for orphans and vulnerable children). It has been a real and learning experience during the hours that I am volunteering:
6:30am Thomas and John pick me up at my house and we walk to the soccer field picking up fritters on the way
7am-9am soccer at the local soccer field, my favorite part of the day

9am-930am walk as a group from the soccer field to the school
930am-1:30 teaching: English songs, hang man, chalk board games, reading to the kids, preaching, the other teachers teach math as well. Also I sometimes help cook or walk into the compound to get carious things: fruit, charcoal, clothes for the kids etc (I raised some money to give as donations to the children).

1:30-3pm: Eating food, cleaning the school, playing a few games with the kids hanging out.

Spaghetti Photo bombs are the best

Esnut's birthday lunch

School ends between 2-5 depending on the day, it varies a lot.
A picture I gave Thomas 6 years ago is now being drawn by master artist Daniel

At Kafwa we like to party

In the evenings I do different things, I am still trying to get into a routine. Sometimes I meet and hang out with people. The custom it seems in Zambia is if you invite a Zambian to hang out you are often expected to pay for them which I can understand due to a large portion of the population having very little income (but not all), but it makes it hard to hang out with locals all the time as it gets expensive, but I am trying to go meet them more in the compound where things are cheaper.
Lucky's first time eating Pizza, showing him the finer things in life :)

School shoes for Francis (you need them to attend public school

One thing that I will take as a reference for the rest of my life is that the kids that I work with prefer living in the compound compared to a richer area. They say in the compound everyone sticks together, people are nice and there is always entertainment and fun happening, where as in the rich areas, there are gated walls, people are very quite, and life is boring. I would have to agree with the kids on this, I much prefer hanging out in the compound with the kids than being home at night either at the mall or locked in my house because it is dangerous to walk the street as I may get mugged (although I am starting to go more out at night and just being careful), and people are constantly watching TV. I am spending my nights reading, writing a book, blogging, editing videos, coming up with lessons for the next day, doing push ups, etc. Sometimes I meet people in town.

Where there are some offices at the compound, this old car was taken apart for scrap a day later

Being here many people tell me that I am a very kind and amazing person for doing this. I want to make it clear that I am doing this for selfish reasons as my favorite thing in life is to bring joy to others, and coming to Zambia and volunteering in the compound and helping the kids with giving them basic necessities and entertaining them is an easy way for me to get my thrills. Unfortunately I won't be living here permanently being able to work with these kids (there are people who do this and they are real hero's), and the longer I am here the more I realize that I really do want to become a world class counselor back in Canada where I can help empower people to help themselves (and for selfish reasons as well). The reason being is working with the kids everyday I wake up at 5:30am very excited for the day, and I want to have this feeling which I do more and more as I learn about the world everyday of my life. I heard a good quote and I want to make “my Monday's more enthralling than most people's Christmas's”. I don't mean that I want to have a better life than anyone, I hope every single person in the world (and especially you reading my blog ;)) has an amazing and empowering life (which you will if you are reading this as you obviously you are curious and are constantly learning about life like me) even more so than me. Unfortunately I see so many people who walk around with sad looks on their face, living for two days of the week, and are not passionate about what they are doing and end up using their own special talents in the wrong places. We can help these people (like you and me) by leading by example with constant learning and taking actions towards our own dreams and visions.
My friends pool at his house in Lusaka (rented by a bunch of people), shows the difference in standards of living, notice how it is walled in with barb wire and there is a guard. This is an unfortunate reality of life in Lusaka

Walking on my way to school

The compound I teach at is right beside the city's sanitation plant (stuff that goes down the toilet)

Filling up on Canola oil (not gasoline), talk about environmentally friendly

Life in Zambia is very social and happy. I can see that it can be much more difficult though if you want to move up in society here and create a positive impact on a world wide basis.The infrastructure just isn't here. For example there is no public library, and books are very expensive, and a lot are just unavailable. Internet is often not available, or slow, making it hard to even watch a Youtube video. These types of challenges make it very hard to get access to world wide information like we have now in most parts of the Western World. Another thing is that there is not much in the way of social services: Where I live there are at least 30 teenage boys who sleep on the street, stay warm and alive by sniffing chemicals, and survive by doing odd jobs and unfortunately stealing. Talking to these boys, many ran away from home for different reasons but with a theme of abuse. Society here doesn't except much of them and calls them thieves, which they end up becoming, and the cycle gets worst. Then it creates problems for everyone for example not walking alone after dark late due to the chance of getting mugged, having security guards monitor your house, putting up big walls and bars on your home with barbed wire, etc.... Please remember where ever you live that when you see someone who is down and out, treat them with respect like you would other people, as they are a person to who is going through a difficult time, as you or someone you know may be in that same situation one day or now (Lets hope not, but just want to make a point) and how would you want to be treated?

Young boys sleeping outside during the day

I hope you enjoyed the photos, if you enjoyed this blog post, please share it around, and leave comments and feedback so I can work to serve you better (although I will always stay honest in this blog and speak from my heart as that is what I want when I read others blogs)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Journey to Lusaka Zambia- Volunteering with at risk children

My first day back at Kafwa
Watching the sunrise over the Sahara

Well after a full three days of traveling/ packing up my place in Vancouver to showing up in Lusaka Zambia I finally got there (I packed up my things because rent is very expensive in Vancouver (housing is overpriced more than anywhere in the world except Hong Kong, and I am not yet a very rich man ;).

I am going to go off on a tangent as I truly had a good time during the journey to Zambia. My parents selflessly  drove me to Belingham across the US border to catch a bus. After a great meal, they dropped me off and I am sure I heard my mom say “keep the change” as she drove away.

I met a girl sitting beside me on the bus who has been traveling all over the West Coast of the USA for over a year, and was finally on her way back home to somewhere outside of Las Vegas in the dessert. When I asked her why she traveled, she told me “she gets bored of doing the same thing for too long”, good answer!

I had a few hours in Seattle while waiting for my flight. I met up with a really amazing Couch Surfer (per-arranged online= CREEEEEPPPPYYYY :p) who picked me up from the Grey Hound, took me out for dinner, and dropped me off at the airport afterwards.  Again I can't advocate for how useful/ inspiring Couchsurfing can be, not just to stay with people but also to make friends (by this guy/ me having our profiles up on Couchsurfing we become automatic friends). The Couchsurfer is from the  state of New York, where he liked living in isolation in the woods somewhere. He is in Seattle studying his Masters (2nd one) in music for film. He gave me some good suggestions for listening to some classical music which I am trying to get into as a way to expand/ relax my mind more: his suggestion: -Aaron Copland- Appalachian Spring
Couchsurfer Josh

People lined up for a Method Man Concert

Just walking downtown, American marketing

We had Starbucks Coffee from the original Starbucks store in Seattle (the first one ever), which I must say the guys running it were hilarious, with the jokes I am sure they say a hundred times a day. One other interesting thing I noticed and heard from a lot of people is that there is a huge and growing homeless population in Seattle. I had to use the washroom before our drive out to the airport so I went into a Target  (not what you aim at, but the department store) in downtown Seattle, and two guys who were obviously not using the washroom had just shot up Heroin (they left their syringe in the washroom for my viewing pleasure). Imagine one of the richest men in the world (Bill Gates), as well as multi billion dollar companies such as Boeing and Amazon co-exist in the same city as homeless people. Imagine if we came up with solutions that got people off the streets, off hard drugs; how much we could accomplish and how many more billions in wealth we could create?
The original Starbucks, with the only manual espresso machine

I flew out of Seattle to Washington DC. From DC, to Addis Ababa, and then Addis to Lusaka. I barely slept, and when I did it was not comfortable as I was on an airplane. Addis Ababa, from looking out the window from the plane, does not look like a super appealing place to be, but I may be bias, as there are current warning from the government of terrorist threats from Al-Shabaab. There were a lot of high rise buildings, followed by a lot of houses, mainly from the looks of it with tin roofs. I am sure if I actually went and visited Ethiopia it would be an amazing country as I have heard and read about, as just observing some of the people in the plane were from there, they looked very interesting and unique and a part of the world I am yet to know about.
Getting on the plane to Ethiopia

 I met a girl on the flight from Addis to Lusaka, who was from Detroit, but scored a job after university living in London England, and who had the job of traveling three times a year for 15 days each to different parts of Africa to assess and report back about the economic conditions of countries investors are looking at. I am not a huge fan of the traditional “career”, but this job does sound sort of fun. She recommended the Ivory Coast as the country in Africa that is booming now due to a new government in place who is doing good things, and Zimbabwe as the country not to put your dollars into mainly because of the recent currency collapse (You can be a Trillionaire there for less than a 1 USD).

I arrived in Lusaka and got picked up by the family who I had volunteered with at their drop in center 5.5 years ago. They were quite excited (I like to hope anyways) to have me come back, and I finally got off my chest the fact that I had promised about 50 people in Lusaka that I would come back within 5-7 years.

Zambia is a very different country compared to where I am used to living, although I haven't really lived anywhere permanently in a very long time. It is a very poor country (meaning a large part of the population lives in compounds (slums), sharing one room shacks made of mud bricks, tin roofs, cardboard, etc. I took some pictures:
Toms- Shoes you by in the western world, and for every pair sold they donate a pair, to kids in poor areas who have little, like where I am teaching!

Happy to get new soccer balls (I have yet to see any "real" soccer balls in the compounds except with the school teams

The soccer field where me and the kids play soccer from 7am-9am every morning before it gets to 30+ degrees Celsius out

Over the first few days I met a lot of the kids who I used to teach last time I was here. Most of them are now 16+ years old. Unfortunately a lot of them are still in government school at young grades: grade 7/ 8 and they are now older (15-20), and a lot of them have children of their own. I am not going to comment on this right now, as I want to spend more time in Lusaka seeing everyone and what life is like more, and then I will comment as “you can learn a lot more from listening then you can from speaking”.
The Kafwa boys who I taught last time I was here and are now grown up. I took them out for a movie, for the two youngest, it was the first time they had been to a movie in their life, one of them even wore a suit for the occasion!

Morgan and Thomas who are now in government schools, I taught them at Kafwa when they were 10/11

The new kids at the center (the center has changed locations to a worst spot due to funding- It is now located in the slums in one room, and it gets very hot in the room and it is over crowded due to to many kids and not enough space) seem very happy and are very excited to have a foreigner come to hang out with them. They have pictures of me up around the classroom from last time I came to visit, so they knew of me, but had never met me as last time I was there they would have been very young. It is quite the experience so far being the only foreigner, and life is a lot more wild then it is in the west (garbage burns on the side of the road, people make houses out of anything from bricks to cardboard, everyone hangs outside a lot due to the hot weather and internet is not as readily available. My guess is that life in Lusaka Zambia is something like it would be in the 1950's in America, very religious, people spend lots of time with each other, school is strict/ kids are respectful, people have very high values and are very respectful....  
Kafwa's classroom (thank you everyone for the donations, I will use them for the school throughout my two months here)

Bush meat- Impala

Wild boar (which I ate and learned to cook last night)- Boil and then fry

The president of Zambia recently passed away and everyone in the country seems to love him. The funeral is tomorrow (November. 11Th, 2014). This president apparently did  a lot infrastructure wise for the country, and was not corrupt according to the people.

I am glad to be back as I consider this country and people to be my second home, and its good to be back at KAFWA playing soccer in the mornings with the kids and teaching English and other things to them in the afternoon.
caterpillar- crunchy protein

making houses at school, when this kid smiles you cannot be sad

He wanted to see a picture of himself eating (his name is future)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Taiwan= Crazy Food= Awesome

The tallest tower in Asia (Taipei Tower 101 (509 Meters including the tip mehehehe)
So Taiwan was one of my major stops in Asia, as I had promised my good friend from high school Alston (who also happens to be born on the same day as me) who lived in Canada during high school and university and flight school, and now is Taiwan's most up and coming airline pilot! I know this from him flying me during high school on the computer with Microsoft Flight Simulator, where we never crashed except when I would become a terrorist and run us into a building; and when Alston would let me join him in a Cessna over Vancouver (WWWHAAAT!!!)
Alston isn't in it for the chicks and $$$, unlike me, and I swear I wasn't scared on my first take off with Alston in a two seat plane

Alston was Vancouver's most eligible bachelor...
 So after the Philippines
, I got on a flight to Taiwan, it was noticeably a colder in Taiwan compared to everywhere I had been in South East Asia, I even had to wear a sweater!

Just because it was colder doesn't mean I don't eat ice cream. This Turkish guy lives in Taipei and is famous with his ice cream serving tricks. He teased me by giving and taking away my ice cream/ cone for about a minute and somehow he manages to keep tricking me even though I know its a trick..... watched on by a crowd of Taiwanese who joined in laughing at the me. GET A LIFE PEOPLE!
I am just going to be straight to the point. Taiwan is all about eating food, it's what people do when meeting socially, its what people there talk to you about to gain rapport. I don't have a problem with this as food is one of my favorite things, and I love Chinese food, so I knew I was going to love Taiwanese food and Taiwan because I would be a great conversationalist. Alston is the master of knowing where to go to get the best food, so we took his scooter all over Taipei (he was impressed by my scooter driving skills- I told Alston after driving in Jakarta, Taiwan is child's play) and his home city of Tai Chung seeing the sights and eat great food. I will have to say I finally passed up on a on trying a weird food for the first time on the trip: eggs marinated in horse urine, but feel free to try it for me when your there and let me know how it tastes ;)
Reminds me of Mario Kart

People are aloud to swim in this lake once a year, and then 1000's come to swim it in a race....

just an average Taiwanese street

Only the best for us

Alston didn't know why I did this, but agreed to take the picture

If you have a little money (food is very cheap), you will never go hungry

I am excited to go for an adventure on the subway

I just thought this cake looked really good, if I already hadn't had 3 other cakes I would have eaten this one

Sasha who I had met previously in Thailand lives in Taipei and we met for more food!

This was the best burger I had ever eaten. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the real thing because I was so hungry that when it came I devoured it, and it was so good, I thought I would at least take a picture of the menu.

Pork, deep fried in some sort of Taiwanese version of Shake and Bake

One of the hundreds of Night Markets, people go to them every night. I must warn you if you move to Taiwan you may get really bad at cooking because restaurants are almost cheaper to eat at and they are everywhere!

Alston's Crib

Some art I thought was magnificent

Chinese yo yo mang!

A famous coffee shop people line up for up to 30 minutes to get a cup!  There is a major recent news story here, with somthing like the ex manager trying to kill someone at the coffee shop for insurance money- doesn't seem to scare off business! 

I was hoping for a more romantic first time on the tandem bike, but this was the next best! My guess is because me and Alston were born on the same day, we must ride the same bike? 

A bike along some path in Taipei 

Old Taiwan neighborhood

Tofu in somthing

There was so much different food I can't tell you for sure what this is but I believe its eggs (*non horse urine)?

she squeezed 4 oranges into my morning shake, and it was like a $1 

Wonton soup on steroids? 

one of the many street vendors with a set up tent/ dining area

protests, they were everywhere. I actually went through a huge one. Taiwanese students were protesting a new bill set out by the government allowing the Chinese government to give approval before major corporations in Taiwan are allowed to hire a new CEO. Many Taiwanese are very scared that China may end up taking control of Taiwan, like they say has happened to Hong Kong, It is mandatory for Taiwanese men to take part in military service.

|People were lined up for hours to take pictures of these "Panda's" who were apparently an art show on a Panda World Tour!

Taiwan is a great country, and Taipei would be a great place to live for a while to teach English (they pay pretty good), or run an internet company out of due to how close it is to Asia, how cheap food is, and how much fun you can have. I found the people in Taiwan very different then other places, so it was a great experience, and one would have to spend a lot of time their to learn/ understand there way of life. My recommendation is to going check this country out and start a food blog!