Posted in August 2013

Possible AWOL

August 30th, 2013

 

Dear Readers,

 

I am to embark on an adventure starting tomorrow and lasting about ten days. During this adventure I may not have reliable internet access. Do not worry, for I shall be safe! Hopefully. Out there be monsters. Er, lions.

 

Anyways, fear not, I shall blog when I can, and when I can’t, I shall save it and post it later.

 

Love from Zambia,

Kyle

One thought on “Possible AWOL

  1. Marilyn says:

    Safari?

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Let Me Calculate

August 28th, 2013

Now with photos!

Country/Day: Zambia/3

Bikes Fixed: 0

Bikes/Day Avg: 0.00

Wow, day three already? My jet lag is definitely having the best of me. That being said, I did get something done today. In fact, I can already feel myself falling behind as far as blog posts go… it brings me back to India. I’m already planning for a post on food and a “Small Stories,” if you remember what those are.

IMG_9640_small

They are sort of like the amount of space on this road. Small.

So, I’ll just start from Monday and work my way through. No doubt I’ll miss a few things, but they’ll come back later.

First off, I got in Monday at 8 AM, and spent the majority of the day… well, to be completely honest, I don’t remember. Saturday through Tuesday are all blurred together because of my jet lag. Actually, I think it was the 32 hours of travel to get here. I did pretty well in India, being it was only 22 hours of travel, but man… this is ridiculous. Anyways, I’m pretty sure I spent most of Monday hanging out with my cousin.

On Tuesday I slept in until noon (oops). We hadn’t figured out how to get me to Zambikes just yet, but I wanted to get out of the house. Sue (my aunt) had to run some errands, so she dropped Ethan (my cousin) and me off at the mall, and we ended up going to see a movie. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store, where I also grabbed some cash at an ATM, because I had used all my emergency cash buying a visa (they were a bit more expensive than I had anticipated – $50 instead of $20. I had exact change).

IMG_9552_small

Medium by American standards, frickin’ huge by Zambian standards.

Today (Wednesday) was the exciting day. To be honest, I either don’t remember much about Monday or Tuesday, or they weren’t significant enough to remember compared to today. To be frank, after India and Guatemala, Zambia doesn’t shock me as much as it should. I look at almost everything and go, “Yea, okay.” While there are some things my readers might find interesting that I’m not mentioning, hopefully I can get to the meat a little bit faster. This will be useful because I’m only here for 70 days.

So, let’s talk about SIM cards. You guys. Zambia has it FIGURED. OUT (to be fair, India and Guatemala may have been the same way, but I didn’t use a phone in Guate, and in India, my host managed my phone for me). Here’s the delio. You buy a SIM card. Your SIM card has your number on it and some credits (say, $10 (the currency here is Kwacha, but let’s keep it simple for my readers in the USA)). Every time you use your phone or send a text, it displays how much credit you have left. When you notice it getting low, you pick up a “recharge.” These are little cards about 1”x1” worth increments of money – say, $5, $10, $20, $50. On the card is a pin code. You text the pin code to your carrier (my carrier is Airtel, so I text *113*PIN-NUMBER). And your phone is recharged.

It is SO. EASY. And the best part is it’s actually pay-as-you-go. I know there are some US companies out there that think they are “pay-as-you-go” just because they don’t have a contract. False. True P.A.Y.G. is this. You buy minutes when you need them.

I couldn’t find a photo of this, but it exists. I promise.

The best part is, in any developing country, it’s cool to sell stuff in the streets. So when I put in Caleb’s SIM card (Caleb is my cousin from here, but currently residing in the US – thanks for the SIM, buddy!) and found out I only had $0.05 left, I just asked Sue to roll down the window and buy me a recharge. Because, you know, there are people selling them at every stoplight. On the way to work and need more minutes? Roll down the window and buy them.

Dear the United States: You need to get in on this.

(dear readers: They never well. The system in the US is designed to be self-perpetuatingly expensive)

Okay, anyways. Enough about how Zambia has their stuff together. More stories.

There are a few beggars about and Sue likes to give them oranges. She and I agree that giving handouts (money) isn’t really effective, and giving food might not be “teaching the man to fish,” but at the least, you know it’s useful — whereas money might be spent on alcohol, or who knows what. So whenever we drive by hungry looking kids (the ones with their hands out), Sue will ask Ethan (or whoever is near the collection of oranges) for a few. The reason I bring this up – besides the fact it’s not that common in the states – is because at one point there were some kids on my side of the car. I rolled down the window and held out a few oranges, and… they scattered. Sue told me to just be patient. After a few seconds one of them came forward. Then another. There were four in total, and only three came up. It was just interesting to me – here were these hungry kids asking for food, but as soon as you roll down the window they are wary. I don’t blame them, as I am sure bad things happen, and I think “don’t take food from strangers” is a great lesson to know. But I also know that Sue (and some of the other FM (Caucasian) volunteers) frequently give food, so it was just interesting. Oh and, Sue tries to give to different folks every time, so they don’t become reliant.

– – –

I woke up yesterday to arrange breakfast. There was some leftover quiche (well, crust-less quiche – egg bake, Sue calls it), so I put a slice on a plate and put the plate in the microwave. Just as I was closing the door, Sue walked by and said, “There’s no electricity, so that won’t be very helpful.”

Apparently we share electricity with some other plots. We get it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; they get it Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; we share Sundays. FM has a generator they use when guests are visiting the guest house, so we did have periodic electricity that day. So, don’t be surprised if I don’t update my blog on certain days of the week…

This also explains why each house has its own water tower.

– – –

Yesterday after the movie I indicated to Sue I wanted to visit Zambikes just to say “hi.” I figured I wouldn’t be working just yet, but wanted to at least stop by, and if I was going to be taking the buses into town on a regular basis, I wanted to practice using the bus system. She said I probably shouldn’t go by myself, but could go with one of the kids who worked at the hanger. That is, there are locals who help Flying Mission maintain the airplanes, and they know their way around. She called a friend at the hanger, who called another friend, and so on, until we got a hold of Mesheck. Mesheck is 22 and lives… well, yonder (he’s from Zambia). Long story short, I spent the day today with him.

IMG_0022_small

…and now we’re besties.

He came over today about 9:00 to take me to the bus stop. I wanted to show him a map of where we were going, so we fiddled with Google Maps a bit. I then indicated I needed to brush my teeth and asked if he needed the computer for anything. I expected him to want to check Facebook, but instead he asked if I had any games or music. I did – I opened up iTunes and told him to knock himself out. When I came back he was smiling and asking if he could have some of what he’d listened to.

It was a 15 minute walk from the airstrip to the bus stop. When I go by myself, I’m to go on the street, but Mesheck took me on a shortcut through the… er, neighborhood.

So, pictures will explain this better than words (and pictures will come shortly), but Sue and Joel live in rural Lusaka. There’s a collection of two or three houses around the airstrip that belong to the Flying Mission folks. Outside of the FM land, there’s the occasional collection of mud huts and a new tavern that just opened up (more on that later), but it’s mostly farms. So when I say “the neighborhood,” I mean we walked by the mud huts. There were many kids out and about (school hasn’t started yet), and since I’m the new white guy on the block, they all went (in dialect), “Ooh, white guy!” – thanks Mesheck for translating.

IMG_9600_small

I didn’t feel comfortable photographing people outside their homes, but this photo of a fruit stand should give you a good idea of what it was like.

I asked Mesheck what it was these people did for a living, and he said they almost all work for a landowner. That is, many work on the nearby farms, a few work for the brick-laying company nearby (there’s a clay site on FM property), and many work for a charcoal company. Charcoal is very common here as it’s used for heating and cooking (gas is more efficient, but more expensive; electricity is unreliable). He said there was only one person who worked for himself, and that was a carpenter.

IMG_9596_small

Rock cutting is also a popular profession.

We exited the mud huts to the bus stop, which was right in front of a tavern. I asked Mesheck what he thought about that, and he said he was not very excited. Apparently there are more drunks here than “social drinkers,” if you will. Drunks become debtees, and debtees become thieves. So Mesheck concluded that the tavern would lead to more theft, violence, and general disruption, and it wasn’t worth the few new jobs, which would probably be taken by folks from far away anyways.

As we waited for the van I asked what he was studying in school. Mesheck is in eleventh grade and his favorite subject is Physics. I indicated to him I liked physics as well, and from then on he was always showing off his math skills. He immediately began to calculate how long it would take us to get into town if it was a 20 km drive and the van moved at 60 km/hr. “Let me calculate…” he began.

After a while the van pulled up and we hopped in. The minibuses are no bigger than one of those old VW “hippie vans.” That is, they are about the length and width of a decent size sedan, but they have seating all the way back. These vans in particular have three rows behind the driver, and each row has a seat on the door side that folds down. So the van fills from left to right and back to front. As the rows in the back fill, so the seats go down to make room for more people. Fully loaded, they hold four people per row and two in the front (the third is the driver, there is no fourth to make sure the driver is never disrupted), plus the Transportation Officer (the equivalent of an ayudante, for those who remember my Guatemala bloggings). So… 16 people. It’s quite crowded. Oh, and these weren’t made for tall people – I have to sit hunched over and if I’m not careful, I’ll hit my head on the ceiling with every bump.

The minibusses are K6.50 per person per ride. The rate is $1 = K5.5, so K6.50 is about $1.18. Once we got moving, I handed K15 to the TO, expecting change (the ayudantes ALWAYS had change). After a few minutes, I asked Mesheck, “So, do I get change?”

“Yes,” he said, “You will get change. How much change will you get? Let me calculate.”

And then he calculated.

I’m exhausted, so that’s all for today. Short story, I found Zambikes and am going back tomorrow. All is well and stories abound. ‘Till next time.

IMG_9679_small

And remember kids, biking is also a great way to exercise.

2 thoughts on “Let Me Calculate

  1. Marilyn says:

    Glad to hear how it’s going. Fascinating. Is it dangerous? Is that why Sue said that you shouldn’t go alone? If yes, I’m glad that she’s there to show you the ropes.

    Can’t wait to hear more, and about Zambikes.

    • Kyle says:

      Hey Mom —

      Still getting a feel for the dangers. Everybody seems to think going out at night is a bad idea, which is a change from India, at least, and small-town Guate. Other than that though, it seems common sense will go a long way.

      The main reason Misheck goes with me is because he knows Lusaka like the back of his hand, and I find myself getting lost very easily (there are no street signs!).

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And So It Begins…

August 26th, 2013

Country/Day: Zambia/1

Bikes Fixed: 0

Bikes/Day Avg: 0.00

So first of all, yes, I made it safely to Zambia. Hello from Africa!

IMG_9543Hey! A bike that needs fixing! I must be in the right place.

Second: My aunt thinks I should mention that I have just traveled extensively and am quite tired and jet-lagged. So, you’ll have to excuse the thematic ADHD of this post. To be fair, there is a lot to talk about.

 

I’m posting from my aunt’s house, which is about ten miles southeast of Lusaka. Lusaka, for the record, is the capitol of Zambia, and it’s where I’ll be spending the majority of my time. It’s right in the middle of Zambia, and Zambia is flat.

 

Anyways, I’m staying here accidentally-on-purpose. As a Watson proposal, this wouldn’t fly – you’re not allowed to visit any countries where you have relatives. Zambia was in the original proposal because at the time, my aunt lived in Botswana. I’m not sure if I would have been allowed to come if I just promised not to spend any time with them… but whatever the case, this isn’t a Watson anymore, and I am spending time with them. I was planning on visiting, at least, but with the “Ready, Shoot, Aim” mentality of Zambikes, I felt a lot safer starting out here and moving there than vice versa. That being said, I do plan on moving into Zambikes’s guest house at some point.

 

So, a bit about the current state of Zambikes. Dustin McBride is the president and a co-founder. When I wrote my Watson proposal, he was in Zambia, heading Zambikes. Since then, he has moved to Uganda to start a division there called C.A. Bikes. So I will not spend much time with him.

 

My contact here is a fellow named Mwewa Chikamba, who is from Kitwe, Zambia, with a degree from Zimbabwe. We haven’t actually met yet, as he’s very busy – the cause of all the commotion you may have read about in my last post, and the reason I feel safer staying with my cousins for now. To be clear: I’m not trying to speak down to him or his capabilities. Most of Zambikes’ employees have their work cut out for them. That’s why I’m here.

 

I do, however, have a phone setup (thanks Caleb! – one of my cousins who left his SIM card here for a job in the US) so he should expect some phone calls later today if he doesn’t call me first. I’m also going to stop by the shop tomorrow, assuming the address on Google Maps is accurate. As I said countless times in India and Guate, I’m not here to sit on my butt. At this point, I’m not worried… I’m rather enjoying having a relaxing day, actually. I mean, it feels like it’s been a full day, even though it’s only past noon… I guess travel does that to you.

 

Oh. So travel. All the people I sat next to were awesome. I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago, then to London-Heathrow, then to Lusaka. On the flight to Chicago, I met a military veteran named Bob, and we talked the whole flight. Everything from sales (relevant because of my recent experiences at Abamath) to psychology (a degree I will get if I go back to school) to bicycles (duh). He was a really interesting guy, and had some good stories to share. He had recently gotten a job at the Veterans’ Association as a “Peer –“ someone who offers support and teaches classes to veterans having trouble coping with civilian life. If you’re reading this, hey Bob! It was great to talk to you.

 

The flight to Heathrow, and Heathrow itself, was one of the most oddly diverse experiences of my life. I say “oddly” because it was quite obviously diverse, but not in the way I’m used to. I’m used to “diversity” meaning, you know, “different skin color,” “different income bracket,” “different language,” etc. EG, when I went to India, there was a wide variety in all of those areas. Obviously there’s more to diversity than those items, but usually they are involved. On the flight to Heathrow, as a generalization, all the people on board were white, middle class, and spoke English. To be more specific, it felt like we were all family – only we had different accents. I don’t know – I felt, somehow, accepted. Not that I didn’t feel accepted in India.

 

(excuse me while I struggle with my words. I guess this is what happens when you don’t blog on a regular basis for a while)

 

Okay, so not everyone spoke English. There were, I thought, a surprising number of francophones (either that, or there aren’t any direct flights to Paris), and even some who didn’t speak English. I say this knowing full well, of course, that francophones sometimes pretend they don’t speak English, but my evidence is this: Being unable to communicate with a flight attendant.

 

Which brings me to my next point: Why the Dutch are awesome. When I flew Royal Dutch to India, between six flight attendants, they spoke English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Hindi. When I flew American into Heathrow, the crew only spoke English. I know it’s “our country” and all, but I just think there were enough francophones that AA could be bothered to hire one french-speaking flight attendant… *sigh* anyways.

 

For the record, French is probably my best second language, and yet I have never spoken it to anyone. I kinda forgot I spoke it, actually – I ended up asking some francophones for the time by pointing at my wrist, instead of just saying “Quel heure et-il?” During the entire flight, of course, all the French I knew came flooding back to me. Too bad Zambia is British.

 

Anyways, on the flight to Heathrow, I sat next to a Tibetan ex-pat. That is, she had been kicked out of Tibet about 65 years ago and hadn’t been able to go back yet. She was living a good life in the UK, but missed her home. Also, she squirted salad dressing all over me. Someone needs to design sterile containers that can depressurize as the altitude increases. Hm…

 

On the flight to Lusaka, I sat next to an Indian fellow who was an auditor for World Vision, a global microfinancer. Get this: For a living, he flies around to all the things they are financing and decides whether or not to continue financing them. Okay, while that job could be brutal, it also sounds awesome. I mean, not only does he work for a microfancing company, but he gets to fly all over the world on their dime and see all the finance projects in person. How cool is that? I was totally jealous. Also I took his card because he’s going to help me start a company in India. Right, Lauce? That’s what I tell myself. Truth be told, I still have a lot to learn. He did have some advice for me though – think rural. I tend to agree, especially with regards to India, but that’s another story.

 

So, back on topic… shall we?

 

I got way better at packing. I remember for the flight to India, my bag weighed in at 52 pounds. I had to carry my bike lock in my backpack to keep from paying the $150 overweight baggage fee. In Guatemala, I mentioned the SkyCap guy was awesome and said my bag weighed “about 48 pounds…” but I think we both knew it weighed much more than that. But for Zambia? I bought a new suitcase after AA destroyed mine on the way home from Guate. This suitcase is smaller. And I only half-filled it.

 

That’s right. I actually had to add stuff to my suitcase. And even then, it only weighed in at 26 lbs. My backpack was practically empty – computer, book, jacket, sandwiches.

 

I’m just saying… world travel does things to you.

 

(I did forget one thing: I was supposed to bring a charger for a Zune to my cousin. You can’t buy them in Zambia. Don’t know how I’m going to fix that one. Oops. But hey, it could be worse).

 

– – –

 

Okay, so let’s talk about Zambia. That’s why you’re here, right?

 

Well, as you might guess, I don’t have that much experience with it yet. I’ve driven from the airport to my aunt’s house, and to be completely honest, my aunt’s house is pretty sheltered. Her and her husband work for Flying Mission, a service organization that functions in a few countries around the world (their website lists Botswana, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and the US). The idea is that they provide pilots that connect volunteers to the people they want to serve. So right in our yard is an airstrip. It’s nothing major (it’s not paved), but it’s still pretty cool. My aunt tells me a story about a doctor – well, every doctor, really – who won’t drive out to a village to treat someone. The reason is that it might be a two day drive, and by the time they get back, ten people have died, because they were the only doctor at X hospital. With a plane, however, they can get there and back in less than a day. Flying Mission doesn’t only transport doctors, but you get the idea. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit them on the web at flyingmission.org.

 

Anyways, this “isn’t Zambia,” I don’t think. My aunt just ran through the list of other Flying Mission workers, who either live nearby or live in the guest house (which is next door) often, and they are pretty much all Caucasian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great environment, especially for a global volunteer such as myself. But you can see why I’d want to stay at the guest house (answer: for the experience).

 

Driving to the airstrip, however, I noticed quite a few things. Most of what I noticed, I think, comes from my experience in India and Guatemala. I know the people walking on the side of the road are going to school or work. I know they’d get there faster if they had a bike. And hey, the cool thing is, I even saw some Zambikes.

 (this is the part where I’d post all my photos if they didn’t take so long to upload)

I saw people carrying things on bikes.

 

I saw streetside shops.

 

I saw a divide between where the people with money shop and where the people without money shop.

 

I saw cheap mass transit.

IMG_9553_small

Here it is.

And yea, I’m well aware I’m making a few assumptions. I confirmed as much as I could with my aunt as we drove through. I was pretty proud of myself for not thinking any of it was “weird –” the only thing I hadn’t experienced before was that everyone was African, instead of Guatemalan or Indian. And yea, I know there’s work to be done.

 

I probed my aunt as much as I could about bicycle enterprising in Zambia. She doesn’t work much with bicycles, except when they have to be flown places, so I want to thank her for putting up with all the questions I couldn’t ask Zambikes just yet. She had been a small part of a distribution one time, however, and had an opinion on the matter. In short, bicycles are great, and everybody wants them, but there has to be a system for distributing them. In particular, there has to be a system for distributing them fairly. Apparently a bicycle was given to someone, and then another was accidentally given to their wife. Soon enough, everybody and their wife wanted a bicycle – that is, two bicycles per family, when one might be almost as effective and yet affect twice as many families.

 

I still have to probe into where the money for this sort of thing comes from. There’s always donations, obviously, but that doesn’t seem terribly sustainable. I tried to pry it out of Mr. Microfinance on the plane, but it didn’t work out so well. Namely, I think it ended up sounding like I wanted him to give me a business idea, when I was just trying to learn more about Social Enterprising in general. I guess this is the part of the learning process where I look foolish for a bit. Oh, well. I did explain to him why it didn’t make sense to me – that, when microfinancing, one expects small returns, so one would expect small investments. That was when he handed me his card and told me to call him when I had a business model I wanted to run by him.

 

So, that’s where things stand. I’ll spend the rest of the day today hanging out with my aunt and cousin, trying to stay awake in order to battle my jet lag (if I can just make it to 8 PM, I bet I’ll wake up at a reasonable hour tomorrow, and then it’s set). If Zambikes hasn’t called me by tomorrow, I’ll venture down there and get the ball rolling.

One thought on “And So It Begins…

  1. Marilyn says:

    It sounds like you are hitting the ground running as far as Zambikes and making a difference in Zambia. That’s great. Glad you arrived safely.

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Ready, Shoot, Aim

Country/Day: Zambia/-2

Bikes Fixed: 0

Bikes/Day Average: 0.00

So, gearing up to leave for Zambia. I head out in four hours.

And no, I haven’t packed yet.

– – –

Zambia is going to be different. Not different-bad, just different. I think this for a few reasons.

First, Zambia is in Africa, and I have never been to Africa. I have never been close to Africa. I mean, there are many places I have never been, or been close to, and Africa is just one of them, but whenever you visit some place new… well, that’s the obvious one, anyways.

Second, I’ll be spending some time with family. This is sort of inadvertent, but my dad’s sister lives in Zambia with her husband and one of their sons (the other is state side). How did that happen? She was on a missionary trip and he was her bush pilot. Very romantic, I know. Anyways, while it will be nice to see them, it does change things a bit. Namely, they are close enough to the city (a short bus ride) I can live there if I need to. Also, if anything goes wrong, I have a place to go. I’m kind of glad this is happening in the last of the three countries, because I think it would be cheating if it had happened any sooner. At this point, I’ve got the whole “international travel” thing down, so any safe guards are just bonus. I don’t need them.

That being said, it is nice they are there. And yes, of course, I am excited to see my cousins!

Third, Zambikes is very much a start up. They are past that “will it/won’t it” stage, of course, but I was perusing their website the other day when I came across an interesting page. It’s the goal page for Zambulance distribution (for more information on Zambulances, go here), and it looks like this:

africa_map

— for a total of 20,000 Zambulances. Then at the bottom it says this:

Progress So Far:

Zambia: 950
Uganda: 50
Congo: 125
Malawi: 25

So, you know, 18850 to go.

Neither Fauji Cycles (India) nor Maya Pedal (Guatemala) were startups. Okay, Maya Pedal became BiciTec, which was being run out of someone’s garage… so that was fun, but Zambikes is already established in two (!) countries. I guess it’s just cool to me that there’s obviously so much to do. I think there are a lot of places you can volunteer nowadays that don’t have long-term growth goals. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good organizations. But I think working at the ones that are growing can be more exciting. As I learned in Guatemala though, it can also be more frustrating.

Fourth and finally for reasons Zambia will be different is the unofficial company motto: Ready, Shoot, Aim. Yesterday I was in a bit of a panic because I hadn’t heard from my contacts in about two weeks and wasn’t sure if I had a place to stay (sound familiar?). I ended up spending half an hour or so collecting e-mail addresses and phone numbers from the Zambikes website and contacting as many people as I could.

One of the people I ended up on the phone with was Executive Director of Zambikes USA, Tom L. He gave me some more phone numbers, and we talked a bit as well. He said, interestingly enough, that he wasn’t surprised this had happened. He said, basically, this:

“They have gotten as far as they have because they are okay with uncertainty. This has never been done before, so planning it out probably wouldn’t work anyways. Dustin (the President/Co-Founder) has always said, ‘Ready, Shoot, Aim.’ Sometimes it seems like it shouldn’t work, and sometimes it’s frustrating. But it seems to be working.”

– – –

Last of the reasons I’ll mention here — and perhaps the most significant — is, well, me. Since I got back from India I’ve been thinking a lot about starting a company. Don’t worry, future employer, it won’t happen for years. But there’s a lot of possibility in places like India, and there’s only one thing missing — I don’t know what a successful model for a Social Enterprise looks like.

For those of you who, like me, are still learning, a Social Enterprise is an organization that focuses primarily on improvements in human and environmental well-being instead of focusing on giving profits to shareholders.

The people at Zambikes know how to make this work.

I’ll be taking notes.

– – –

Anyways, I still have a bit of a to-do list I need to chug through. My next update will be from Zambia.

retouched_bamboo_race_cutout1-460x260

This is their overseas marketing campaign.

3 thoughts on “Ready, Shoot, Aim

  1. Marilyn says:

    I can’t wait to hear about your experience with Zambikes.

  2. Grandma says:

    Sunday p.m. here – you should be there now. Am anxious to hear your comments and what caught your eye.
    size of avacados in their yard – I did measure one but can’t fine what it was – they are huge – right?

  3. Dad says:

    Here’s to the development of your uncertainty tolerance!

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Do What You Love

helicopterweek

Never thought you’d see me in slacks, did you?

Apologies for the cheesy smile. I was coerced.

Wow! Been a while. The clock is always been ticking, though: Two weeks to Zambia!

As they say, no news is good news — still on track, and Zambikes hasn’t faltered or fallen through like Maya Pedal did two weeks before I left for Guatemala. That being said, I wanted to check in and let everybody know how the world is treating me on my vacation-of-sorts.
First off, the extra funding from Guatemala was distributed per the requests of those sponsors — about half went towards the rest of the project (visa expenses, tools, medical insurance), and the rest went towards World Bike Relief. This divide was per the requests of the donors and how much they donated. Nobody asked for a refund.
Second — life. What have I been up to? Have I been volunteering? All this, and more. Tune in Wednesday… today is Wednesday… right:
Most of my time has been spent helping my best friend, Luke S., start his tutoring company. Abamath, LLC opened its doors in Knollwood Mall last Thursday, August 1st. There’s been a lot of work to do, and as one of Luke’s only two employees, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours (including one 21-hour chunk the day before we opened — yes, I’m still catching up on sleep). I’ve done everything from constructing mobile walls, to designing and mounting our storefront sign, to interior decoration, to PR, to… well, the list goes on.
sign
Yup. I had a hand in that.
…on that?
Despite the fact that I’m working long hours, it did remind me of something. It reminded me that it’s possible to do what you love. I don’t think I had forgotten that, but after everything that happened in Guatemala, a reminder was certainly very nice. I’m really looking forward to Zambia, but at the same time, there’s got to be something after, right?
Excuse me while I get a bit existential.
The most exciting thing I’ve done at Abamath thus far has been implementing a program for low-income students. Fortunately, Luke is a good guy. An education — and especially one in math — is worth a lot of money; all the same, we expect most of our customers to be those with a little extra cash on hand. But not everybody who needs help can afford it. So I convinced Luke that we could have a sustainable program for low-income students. He basically said, “If you make it happen, I’ll allow it.” The next day I had drafted how the program would work and what it would look like. That’s when I realized I was doing something I truly loved.
So, it would seem that whatever the future holds for me, it’s going to be something involving helping people who need it. That sounds awfully idealistic, so excuse me, but those of you who know me know I’m a bit more practical about it than I sound.
As well, a friend of mine sent me a book called Poor Economics. It’s about — you guessed it — how to save the world. Okay, you almost guessed it. It’s a very dense read, but talks about possible changes in the current economic system that could help level the playing field, as far as income goes. The best part is, the authors aren’t afraid to ask hard questions.
Sometimes we tell stories when we should be asking questions. No offense, Fox News…
I think most people want an answer to poverty like, “Let’s just donate some cash and the problem will go away.” Of course, the problem is more complicated than that. Poor Economics asks all those questions, attempts to answer them, then asks even more. The first chapter alone is spent on the merits of donating bed nets to countries with high rates of malaria infection. It asks questions like, “If we give them bed nets for free, will they use them?” “If we give them bed nets for free, will they ever buy them again, or do they expect them to be free from now on?” “If we give them bed nets, will we put local suppliers out of business, and might this eliminate availability of bed nets in the future?” “If offering bed nets not for free but at a discounted rate is the right answer, what rate will see the highest use of the nets, and the highest reuse?” “What is the cost-benefit of spending money to educate people on the benefits of bed nets?”
You get it. Economics is complicated. Anyways, it’s a really good book — albeit really heavy, though necessarily — and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. And thanks to Aubrie B. for loaning it to me!
So, I’m not done yet — I haven’t had much time to read with the whole “helping a friend start a business” thing — but it has made me do a lot of thinking about 90:90 and the impact I’m having… or not having. A lot of the questions I had already asked, a lot I hadn’t. Perhaps most significantly, it’s let me know there are other people out there thinking about this sort of thing, and doing this sort of thing. It has, in a weird sort of way, inspired me to continue being a humanitarian.
Anyways, I’ll leave thoughts of the future out for now. They will come in November, once I get back from Zambia and start curing my sunburn. Which reminds me, I should probably go buy some shorts…
Expect an update in about two weeks, just before I leave for Zambia!
K-dawg, out.

4 thoughts on “Do What You Love

  1. Grandma says:

    Sounds like you have done well in your part time job project and a great idea to be helping those who need help.

  2. Kailash Singh says:

    It’s seems India effect.

  3. Jim says:

    I liked reading about your program for low-income students. It sounds exciting and very worthwhile.

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