Monday, October 22, 2012

Celebrations and the Babysitter

The art and immediate perseverance of parenting has been mountains more than mind boggling thus far.

Like other vehicles of learning, I find myself more responsive to the "jump in and do as you go approach" and parenting is exactly that. There is no e-brake. You simply try by trail-and-error and adapt.
The nuances that come with this approach as an exploration of self. A redefining of what I thought were my own traits. A re-scripting of daily vocabulary, and a visceral wonder of what I have never wondered before.

Firstly I have noticed the major milestones and celebrations that come with new parenthood. These items that dot our small home landscape and shape the themes of days and weeks.
One might think that there is very little to celebrate of a being that literally knows only how to eat, poop, cry and sleep, but that is merely the foundation and the structure is so much more architecturally beautiful than I would have thought.
These celebrations are done in an exaggerated tones. Shouts of joy from another room to "COME AND SEE....", as well as a total overhauling of vocabulary to describe happening events.

The first few days-we celebrate "poopies" and sleep. His first BM (that isn't meconium) is exciting!
The first 2 weeks-we celebrate milk, "poopies", and sleep. Breast feeding has a larger than thought failure rate and when it works and mothers milk comes in correctly...we celebrate!
The first 3 weeks-we celebrate weight, "poopies" and sleep. Many later in life lessons can be learned when we remember that in the first 3 weeks of life, parents want to have a balloon and cake party for every ounce the child puts on! This alone is the measure of success.
The first Month-we celebrate smiles, sleep and positive distractions...."poopies" have become routine and are no longer the bench mark for health but something that is merely inevitable.

So this positive distraction I speak of. This is something/anything that can take your child's mind off of his tantrum, or any other pressing matter that may be consuming his emotions.

Ours is the changing table! We have taken to calling it the "babysitter" and before you go calling CPS, please note that we do not leave him there while we go take in a movie....we simply take longer to change his diaper because there is something about this place that he really loves.
Being a professional observer, I have been marveled by what exactly is happening in this small corner of our already small home.
He lays down, crying or not, and immediately locks his eyes on one spot that I have yet to determine exactly where this is. He then proceeds to smile, oooohhh, aaahhhh, coooo, and reach for. By every definition he sees something that holds his attention for up to 15+ minutes at a time. (In baby time this is an eternity)

Yes there are monster stickers on the wall, but he seems to be looking above that. Yes above that is the blinds, but what is so exciting about blinds?

I am convinced that he sees his guardian angel(s). That this is the place that either my dad or Kristen's grandma come to see their grandchild. Probably both. They spend 5-10 minutes every hour or two at all times of the day touching his cheek, smiling at him, and letting him know they are there and always will be as long as he needs them and he loves them. He knows they are warm and safe. His tiny mind knows that at his darkest hours he will never be alone. He is comforted.

I find myself staring at him and smiling ear-to-ear. He is un-affected by my presence until, like clockwork, I lean over and say "do you see grandpa? do you see great-grandma?" and he breaks his concentration and stare at me and smiles..and I swear, every now and then he winks....I'm going to love this job!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Greatest "Beyond"

I have always written about what is inspiring me at any given moment. Events, times, and places that land themselves on my personal docket and are only appeased when addressed through the written word.

Up until recently my literary inspiration had been driven by travel associated with work, and hence, a blog was born. Previous to that the food and beverage world drove my observational pontificating and thus the parent blog was born.

But here I am today immersed in new parenthood and understandably inspired and driven with a completely different set of flammable inspirations. But where do I put them?
I certainly do not want to start a new blog and traverse all the terrain that comes with that....the set-up, the followers, the shameless promotion in a different direction. It also stands to reason that I will continue to be inspired later by imminent travel and even food and beverage fodder, so the previous platforms will still breathe life, and then it dawns on me...I so eloquently (accidentally) foreshadowed this change of direction when I included the word "Beyond" in the title of this blog.

Beyond is such a wonderfully versatile word, that while originally intended to represent future foreign lands, can now be used at my bidding.

So now I find myself at my greatest beyond in the truest sense of the word.
-Beyond the original scope of my imagination
-Beyond the previous definition of thresholds
-Beyond my capacity to love another human as much

11 days ago I was thrust into parenthood for the first time. As a planned induction, one would think that pre-planning might eliminate the guessing game. Wrong!

Nobody/nothing, and I assume this goes back to the beginning of time, can prepare you for the emotional flood that comes with your babies first cry of life.
This moment has been documented and dissected ad nauseum and will continue to be for as long as life is created, but I imagine it is different for everybody.

For me it was the realization that a new boss has arrived. The commanding presence that a tiny helpless being can have is remarkable. They are unable to do or say anything yet the first and continually uttered thought is "yes master. your will be done". Subservience has never felt so right.

That moment that my friend told me I would have, when you get home and your wife is asleep and you are left holding this 7lb sleeping cherub. You look around and realize in a silent flood that there are no nurses, doctors, paramedics or police around you. It is silent and for the rest of your time on this planet this "thing" will consume your every other thought daily. You realize that everything you previously knew about your personal parameters of love has just been scrapped and re-written. For at least a little while routines are to be considered futile, and you know in your soul that you have never been more frightened, unsure and excited about anything in your life previous.
 When the past dictates that anything remotely similar might cause you to just run but you know that there is no "do overs" with this. No putting it back. No return(s).
Then you are comforted with the overwhelming understanding that can only come with personal submission and you know that everything you have been in your past is gone and now this is what you do...I am a Dad... that's it... that's all, and you look at the clock, ready and waiting for what the next 10 minutes will hold.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

International Cliche

My translator is heart broken.

Why is this blog worthy? Where does it fit in with the expose of the world we live in? Why is this a "Cliche"?

First allow me to divulge what it is not. Its not obvious. Not for Erdian.

On glance and even during conversation, one would imagine that, like most Indonesians, Erdian is the happiest soul on the planet without a care in the world. His smile is infectious and he has an unteachable vivaciousness about life.
Besides my co-worker from the States, I spend most of my time with this happy islander and believe me, he is no where near the hands deep in pockets, head bowed, frowny, kickin rocks guy that I found out he could be right now, if he were more American.

Over breakfast the other day I engaged Erdian in the conversation I have had with different people all over the world. Questions about how they live, whats the average income, what their social circles look like, are they in love, etc. Questions that would make an American raise their eyebrows in suspicion are met with gusto  over the rest of the world as most people are very excited that a foreigner wants to learn about their life.

That's when Erdian told me that just 4 months ago his girlfriend of 4 year,s that he was supposed to marry, left him for another man and moved home to Singapore. OUCH! Four months wouldn't even be enough time for most of us to get out of bed.
Keep in mind that we are dealing with a culture that literally doesn't say "he is not married". They say "he is not married YET." Marriage is what Indonesians do. Please leave a little room for my naive-ness as I have found that I gravitate to scenarios that directly relate to me rather than those that do not. I know quite well that there are 35 year old clubbers here...I have met them. I assume they all want to be married like me....its the best. But most of the population do look for a spouse, then a job in that order.

So Erdian had no details on the subject and I didn't press, for when he spoke about her was the only time he hasn't smiled and his eyes began to distance themselves from the table as they looked within at his shattered chest. All that matters is she left, and he is desperate to find a wife. He thought he had it figured out, and now at age 34 he was being forced to start over.

This depiction of loss was the same story I have heard from countless friends at home, his face had the same look that I have seen on many Americans, his pain was all too familiar of a pain that I have tasted myself.

Erdians heartbreak is not Indonesian. It is not American. It is too real to have a geographic attribute. It is however cliche-Love (and loss) is an International Language

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Indonesia is Like.....Well...Indonesia

So I stepped off the plane expecting that smell. Not a bad smell mind you, just "that smell". It didn't come.
I stepped out of the airport listening for the horns. The horns that once never stopped have never started here.
I looked for the men peeing on walls and piles of burning trash. They aren't here either.

This search without end was the product of my mind being consumed with comparative analysis. Unbeknownst to me I was looking for India in was not to be, and most notably, shouldn't be.

There are parallels that exist everywhere I go, and that stands to reason, as we cater medical attention to specific demographic, but the lesson here has been let one country keep it's awesome identity while I figure out the unique one currently being offered. Don't try to fit an Indonesian peg into an Indian hole.

Jakarta is tropical! allow me to repeat that....Jakarta is tropical. Worth repeating in the sense that there are attributes that come with a tropical environment, no matter where you are, that are to be found in every specific nuance of the geographic local.
Everything is green and growing. Even the airport had "living walls" of live plants inside. This concept brings the benefits of "Gods Lungs" inside and notably make a difference.
 Walls of humidity do wonders for the skin and the locals (no matter which class) have skin as if they were all just recently hatched.
There is a general haze over the city, but not a direct product of burning garbage or lack of smog laws. The haze seems to be a gentle reminder that at any moment the sky's could open up and wash the streets. And the sky's they do! Sometimes this afternoon street washing gets carried away and creates feet of water running through traffic in a moments time with no warning. With "chubby rain" (no rain likes to be called fat) comes the other tropical accoutrement of lightning and thunder. Sometimes too far away to receive the thunder at all, other times so directly overhead that the ice (which is safe to consume and abundant) will rattle in your glass.
But the number one attribute that comes with being tropical seems to be happiness. Everybody here is happy, and not that "yeah, yeah I'm fine type of happy, but that "see that guys the guy across the him too, but I mean the other guy" type of happy.
It seems to me that anytime I am in a tropical place there is a vacation switch flipped in my physchi. Time is a little slower, food tastes a little better, there seems to be the need to having a bathing suit on the ready, and people are way more laid back. Perhaps this is a philosophy that lives even in the locals.

Everybody here wants to help you, but not in a pushy way. They don't mind if you take their picture and even though there is a larger language barrier here than anywhere I have ever been, I have communicated with more people through universal creative gestures. Present at all exchanges is that "smile" I was talking about. Ear-to-ear and contagious. Nobody on the street seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere as the line between work and play are blurred. Just ask the guy today sitting on his tractor in a hard hat and bare feet smoking a cigarette.

I get small pieces of my soul gifted to me everywhere I go. Pieces that make up the collage that is me and will become me. If I am to imagine that these pieces represent physical places on my body, then I have no doubt that Jakarta is gifting me my smile.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Television Around the World

This post serves a dual-purpose.

First-I have been grounded for the last month while in between installments and I miss the components that come with travel. IE: posting here about discoveries, taking pictures to share with the world, and even airplane food a little bit.
I miss living off an itinerary so much that in the small amount of downtime that I have, I reflect on quieter memorable moments that served as pegs in the global experience. Those that were not mind blowing, but none-the-less  very important stitches in the fabric of my global tapestry. Things like TV in foreign countries.

Second-I am in the middle of a marketing project that involves dusting off my creative lump located 3 feet above my ass, and I am quickly reminded that I do my best writing in the morning. This post is an exercise in house cleaning as I prime my engine for tear down the track.

While unwinding and watching television the other night I began to get re-wound up thinking about television in Africa. Not quite the "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" that perhaps Winston Churchill brought light to, but never the less as poignant as the Simpson's and Family Guy can get.

Africa's Television Network is called ZUKU. They provide all services cable and have similar practices to home like bundle packages that include Internet, phone and cable television. They even have familiar programming to the rest of humanity that may be visiting the ivory country. FLN (Fine Living Network) which is fed out of Canada for those comforting episodes of House Hunters and Rachel Ray, ESPN which concentrates on rugby and football (soccer) with a smattering of cricket, MTV which once in a while plays a songs I recognize from some other time, and even FOX.

Here's where the differences lie.

While trying to figure out how we were going to maximize our electronic aides, Kristen and I had an impossible time getting game 7 of last years world series from America to us. Sufficed for the details we ended up skype calling my sister and having her turn her laptop towards their TV.

Point is, International rights prohibit any outside television source from being broadcast on local soil. No Internet, no TV, no sports bar. And they locate you through whatever device your using. A message will pop up saying "we see your in Africa. Sorry, you don't have the right to watch this show".

No sooner had a read that message than over my left shoulder I hear the TV announce, "Stay tuned for an all new Ally McBeal", then later, "Starting Tomorrow, Season 3 of Family Guy. Only on Fox Africa"....Yeah only here because we watched it already 6 years ago.

Then it dawned on me. To the locals, this is "new" programming. Hence the restrictions on any other television feeds making their way in.

FOX U.S. sells Africa all their old and used programming at a discount and Africa shows it as new. Brilliant! and Frustrating.

While listening to Joe Buck call the 3rd inning at 4am East Africa Time and barely being able to make out his face on skype, I was forced to get excited about the Tracy Ullman Simpson's coming on later that night...At least I would be able to see them, even if it was their baby pictures and they are currently grown adults.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

When I was in 4th grade we were assigned the, homework to write an essay "what does freedom mean to you?"
I am sure, based on the last 3 years of world exsposur, that my response probably had to do with ice cream flavor selection and summer breaks.
Only now, 27 years later, am I ready to write and submit my essay. Does anybody know how to get a hold of Mr. Jones and find out if I can still get credit?

Based largely on the KONY 2012 viral that is circulating and the potent cocktail that it makes when mixed with recent events of my own life's perceptions, I have boiled down the layered question to one word that would fit into a blank space on any grammar school quiz.....CHOICE!

From what I have seen, this is not to be taken for granted, yet is everyday by those of us fortunate enough to live in "the bubble". This bubble it the USA, then California, then The Bay Area, and finally (for me) Alamo, where I constantly stomp my feet for having to take the trash out and sleep with my doors dare I.

We have the choice to take our trash out to the curb to have another man pick it up while we sleep making it go away sight unseen seemingly by magic. Not take small handfuls off the top of our growing piles and burn it on the street.

We have the choice to enroll ourselves in any school and usually have the government pay for it eliminating the global norm of working in the fields behind your house because not only is there work to be done, but the school is too far, we can't afford shoes for the long walk, and you would probably get kidnapped on your way anyway.

We have the choice to publicly chastise our bosses on Facebook for the injustice of them making us work 9 whole hours a day as opposed to the millions of people that want nothing more in this life to work 12+ hours a day for a few dollars answering to a boss that will hold them accountable for the opportunities that they will offer to them and their families.

Enough said about specific get it. But as they say...with great power comes great responsibility.

We live in a bubble where our powers are cultivated then taken for granted and this is not the humanitarian way. What we need to do is plug in to power up with the sheer goal of infecting others through education and helping hands.

Imagine your time being spent at home or the office here in America as charging your body to a physical glow of power. Then remove yourself from your environment and go somewhere where the glow is dull and/or non-existent and physically hold the hand of another human being whose light is all but out. Envision that glow moving down your arm and onto your new friends invigorating a soul that can't get to a direct source of power and not giving, but sharing your power enough to inspire vision, drive, hope.

I believe that we shy away from our geographic power because we think it takes too much time to help others, that it takes a great plan, many hours, and too much physical endurance.
Sometimes...most times, all it takes is your presence. Your face. Your compassion. The blanks get filled in by those receiving.

We should because we can!

Monday, February 27, 2012


So I have been here 21 hours so naturally I am now an expert on the country. Some of those hours were eaten by (truth be told) a delightful experience with immigration...who'd a thunk? The remainder bit was occupied with the obligatory nap and business meeting then followed up by an unexpected guided tour of Old Town Lahore with my business associate Yanaal Khan, and here is what I have to say about it.....

Fox News is full of shit man!

This city is gorgeous and not worth the secretive fretting that I have been doing since I found out I would be coming here.
Is it clean? Well no, but most 3rd world countries cannot fill those descriptive shoes. The difference is that you can clearly see how once upon a time it was. History oozes from the freakishly small bricks that were used to create some of the most mammoth structures I have ever seen, and carved marble structures that can't be climbed without carribeners and rope. Lantern lit streets reserved for foodies and pedestrians dotted with the smile ready locals all dressed in filthy 3 piece suits and sandals. Descriptors come back to me now in such rapid succession that for once I come to the conclusion that it must only be experienced, but alas, I will do my best.
Acres of manicured lawn trampled into submission by 5 times daily prayer and pigeons as fat as Disney cartoons.
Is there poverty? Yes of course, that is why I am here. To bring the much needed affordable health care to those that can't afford it, but its not a smelly poverty. Pakistanis are remarkable clean (save for their clothes) the Muslim faith requires it.
Are they hostile? No. At no time have I felt anything but welcome by service staff and locals alike. They seem happy to see me, considering that there is no room (or point) in the government budgeting for tourism. That doesn't mean they don't want us here. There is a higher population of guns on people, so I won't be blinded by false security in testing the night life but under the watchful eye of my host, the enormous expanding sky is my limit.

From the remarkable hotel room I have to the vast palatial walls of Fort Lahore I have been stricken by this place. India taught me the meaning of the loud speaker prayers that reign over the city 5 times every 24 hours, but Pakistan has taught me to associate that ominous chanting with comfort and affinity.

As home sick as I am on this trip, I feel that I have made a connection to the city of Lahore that usually comes with meeting the staff I will be working with and that doesn't happen until tomorrow.

I thought that I would easily forget my 38th birthday as I spent it in a Bangkok airport. I had no idea that it would be one of my finest, just a day late.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sankrati is Celebrated with Kites....And I Celebrated

First of all-2 BLOGS IN ONE DAY! I feel like a celebrity tweeter..

So after my morning to early afternoon soul introduction to "Toby the Traveler", I decided to do what anybody staying in a 5 star resort would-decompress by the pool.

About an hour into my book, surrounded by other ex patriots,  and burdened by the lack of energy poolside, I get bombarded by a kite. Straight out of nowhere, crash, right next to me.
 Then it dawns on me....The youth of Hyderabad celebrate Sankrati by flying kites.(youth=4yrs-30yrs)  So I look up and there are dozens of kites dotting the skyline. Most barely visible, all higher than the circling hawks of early evening.
Then I hear the music. Loud party music in the distance. Slightly muffled, coming from somewhere far behind the 20 foot walls of the hotel pool.
I try to ignore it and go back to my book.....YEAH RIGHT. I'M OUTTA HERE.

Back to the room to put on some sensible shoes and I head out in the direction of what seems to be a party.

About 2 miles into the twisty back streets of Hyderabad, I finally seem to be on the trail. I had lost the music all together at one point and went on gut instinct and general feel. I kept checking around me to make sure that I could see the occasional rickshaw, so if I got lost I still had a way out. My 3 wheeled breadcrumbs.

Down a long narrow alley, full of suspicious stares I finally hit my most encouraging landmark of my treasure hunt. Children scrambling madly on the surface streets running towards the next downed kite. Then I look up. 7-10 stories above me on multi-leveled roof tops are young adults blaring music and flying kites.....THOUSANDS OF THEM.

I have found what I was looking for. So I do what anybody at a finish line does....sit down and watch.

Enter Maruthi (sounds like Martin). Smiley 20 something full of questions. All questions are answered graciously while I crane my neck skywards. 
"America". "Yes Obama". "Medical Clinics". "ITC Hotel". etc.
Then he asks the best question of all...."Do you want to fly a kite?" YEAH I DO. I was instructed to wait right where I was for 10 minutes...don't leave.

15 minutes later (the extra 5 minutes were loooong) Maruthireturned with 2 shiny metallic kites, no string.
"Come-I live up there". To the top of the tallest building I have been staring at for the last half hour.

Up a narrow stairwell full of cement steps pitched at an impossible angle, we ascend higher and higher, until we break out into the sun.
We are on the roof with 3 of his friends who have climbed a latter to the top of Maruthi roof top apartment in an order to get 10 feet closer to god, and kite wind. The very perch I have been watching from below, which is now impossibly far away and dizzing to look at.

Around us on other rooftops are young men blasting Indian Club Music, and sporadically bursting out into Lawrence of Arabia Camel Race yells form roof to roof as they compete to get their kites skywards.
I can see the whole city from here, including Hussein Sagar where the Buddha Monolith still holds vigil 10 blocks away.

We flew kites until sundown, and the image of silhouettes against the sun with their outstretched arms, connected to a piece of tissue paper hundreds of feet in the air.  The sounds of distorted club music from speakers not built to handle the volume, the high pitched tongue flick yells of successful liftoff, and the jumble of Hindi being spoken by our roof top aviators was too rich not to sit down and write about.....Even if it is the second time today.

Today I Met My Traveler Self

I am not sure if it is because in India, today is Makar Sankrati-the holiday to represent the transition of the sun into Makara Rashi (Capricorn) marking a day of harvest.
I am not sure if it is Sunday, my heritages linear day of peace and rest.
I am not sure if it is because I started my day logging on to my computer to find out the the 49ers beat the Saints.

What I am sure of is that today I set out on foot into the streets of Hyderabad with no direction, no destination, and no schedule, not unlike what I have done quite a few times now in the not so distance past in Africa and here. But today, for reasons unknown, as soon as I left the hotel property, I was enveloped in a bubble of confidence and peace. A tranquil comfort that scripted a permanent grin on my foreign face. A lesson understood seemingly for the first time.

Here is what happened: I did not walk blindly. I walked with a purpose, but very careful to physically stop whenever something caught my attention for any reason and really mentally explore how I felt about that from an Indian me and American me. For instance: I left the hotel hungry. I wanted food in a locals only, cheap, "don't gauge the American" place with good food. I wanted to show that I belonged there. I walked right up to the first open aired cafe I found and ordered the Chicken Tikka (because I had eaten that before and could tell if it would be different). I paid the exact amount like it was my own currency and instructed him that I was going to climb the narrow ladder to the loft to take my meal at the table up there, please send up my food, and thank you very much. All with my plastered genuine smile.

The shop proprietor seemed to congratulate me with his eyes on a transaction well done and nodded his approval.
Then I climbed, sat, and picked apart the experience to understand it viscerally.

It was the same all day. I walked past the poor begging woman like I didn't see her instead of stopping to try and explain that while my heart wanted to give her money, I realize its not the answer. No need for wordy explanations. Smile and pass...tough love.

I relied on my ignorance when it suited me without even thinking about it. I asked for answers to questions that were obvious to locals but obviously not me. Then I turned right around and acted like a local when it suited me to survive, like crossing traffic. No hesitation, no surrender, all senses heightened.

I admired local street art, and the people doing it, but politely asked permission to take their picture...

.....all with my permanent smile.

As I returned back to the hotel, I realized....that was interesting and very natural.

I now realize that being a traveler calls for attributes. Attributes that may even attach themselves to the 7th Chakra that is so prevalent here in India. The Crown Chakra. The 3rd eye. The seeing of the unsee able. The understanding of the untaught. The calculated certainty of an anticipated event. A natural comfort in a potentially uncomfortable environment.

Today, after months of training, I became a traveler. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The National Language in India is Horn

and the local dialect is "beeeeep, hoooonnk, wwaaaaahhh".

I'm now in possession of a brand new obsession and theory.....motorized rickshaws and their ability to open a door of understanding cities on an intimate level.

For 3 seconds I began to feel bad that I never rode in one of these contraptions that seem to be everywhere BUT America, while I was in Africa. Then I remembered that I walked and took public transportation everywhere allowing, NAY, force feeding dirt and dust consumption in quantities that are uncomfortable to think about. I physically ate so much African dirt and exhaust that I should have been forced to claim it at customs upon my return.

Imagine if you will a three lane road cutting through town like the formula one race tracks in Italy. (Ok-imagine the final race scene in Cars 2).
These 3 lanes are fat enough across for one bus 2 motorized rickshaws, and 3 motorcycles....well not really, but that"s what they fit here.
Now imagine if you will that they all go 35-45 mph, are never less than 5 feet from the vehicle in front or behind, weave in and out of their designated lane paying attention to only that in front of them and letting everything behind fend for themselves, and use their horn a minimum of 15 times a minute.
SIDE NOTE: none of these numbers are massaged for affect.

Scary enough to watch from the hotel window on the 11th put yourself into the rickshaw. This is  a 3 wheeled golf cart with motorcycle hand controls, vinyl seats for maximum slippage and no doors.

This all amounts to AWESOME!

You see, you smell, you feel heat everywhere, you get close enough to people in other cars to tell the time on their wrist watches, and you feel alive.

I loved it so much during the day, that I just got back from my night trip, and no there will be no photos of that. I needed all my faculties to survive! That story has to be told in person, but here is the movie trailer..."In a world, where a white man in India decides to tackle the streets at night in a  rickshaw. Only one man holds his fate in his hands and he is angry, has ADD, a learning disability, and no sense of direction. He is....THE RICKSHAW DRIVER". Coming soon to a Sunday Dinner Table near you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

India-First Impressions

Ok-so I had less than an hour to get to my gate in Dubai, landed in Hyderabad at 230 am Sunday morning, and am writing this Sunday afternoon. What does all this mean?
First of all, I have no idea what Dubai looks like short of knowing that the airport is large, clean, and streamlined (and the lovely person checking my boarding pass upgraded me to Business Class just to be nice.)
Secondly, even India is barren at 230 am, however; the airport had a go cart race track in front of it and batting cages next to the taxi stand (very strange) and people in both....230 am...things that make you go hhmmmm.
Third, I have not left the hotel, so I have experienced very little.

I can tell you that it seems more modern and more American friendly here than Africa. What i mean by friendly is television has HBO, CNN, American sports, etc. and I have already seen a Burger King which says alot. The pigeons are the same as America and the hawks are the same as Africa...low flying and large.

I ate at the Sunday Brunch Buffet (Indian Style) and it was marvelous! India makes eating vegetarian a worth while experince  and I can appreciate that, and its always note worthy  to have 10 things for dessert that you have never eaten before in your life.

The hotel has the coolest looking swimming pool I have ever seen...with no water in it. So what if it is 85 degrees...its January, which means routine maintinence in the off season. No swimming for me.

Everybody in uniform seems to love the word "Sir" because they use it 8 times per sentence, and in case your ever here, recognize that when they bobble their head back and fourth while you talk, it means they understand what you are saying....not having a seizure, so best to keep from shoving your wallet in their mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue and smile right back.

Tomorrow I venture out, and by the sounds of the constant horns in the distance (seriously they never stop) I will have much more to write about.

Till Then

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Africa is My New Tattoo

I have been home now all of three weeks, and felt the responsibility to NOT share feelings in written form until such a time that I have truly been able to wrap my mind around them.....I am jumping the gun.

I don't think that I will ever be able to place, isolate, dictate, recognize, or share the waves of cognitive emotions that wash over me in regards to my time spent on the Ivory Continent. However; of one thing I am certain-Africa will never leave me.

No I have not taken the illustrious, and predictable "Toby" way of actually having Africa tattooed on my body...not yet. If for no other reason, I feel as if it is the first real tattoo I have ever gotten directly on my heart between God and myself.

When I returned home, of course everything seemed the same. Familiar. However; there was this unseen shroud that moved everything 1/8 of an inch to the right...just not quite the same as it all was when I left. I waited for the old familiarity to take hold, but alas, to no avail.
This is when I realized that I have been changed. Things are never going to be quite the same again. Not unlike looking down at my forearm now and seeing my fathers childhood image staring back. My forearm will never be just a forearm again, and my heart will always see Tabitha happy in her flip flops and owning nothing else, or the lady that walked 12 blocks out of her way in downtown Nairobi to make sure I got to where I needed to go, or the young boy in the clinic suffering from Malaria.

Am I sad or scared? Absolutely not! The promise of reshaping my spirit is more than exciting.
As mentioned I will be travelling to many far away places, and not to sit pool side at a Marriott. I will be going to inject myself into cultures and everyday lives. I will be conversing with their sick. I will be asking the locals how we can make things better. And I will most certainly be having my heart moved 1/8 of an inch to the right every time I do.

In addition I will  be bringing it all to you, as I take it on myself.

I leave for Hyderabad, India the day after tomorrow and I'm bringing my heart with me....won't you come along?