Posted in November 2013

Thank You

November 16th, 2013


So, the thank-you post. This has been long coming and I will be grateful long after it has been posted. I thought it would be interesting to write, not just for the purpose of thanking people, but because it would help me (and any interested supporters) know all that went into this project, and all that simply couldn’t have done by myself.


Without further ado, then, in no particular order…


Mariya S., for letting me e-mail her countless times saying I’d be coming to Holland, despite the fact that I never made it. It’s among my greatest regrets of the project, and I’m still planning on coming, even if it has to be a few years from now (I might not be going to fix bikes; hopefully What The Fiets won’t need any more help at that point!).


Freesia C., for being the first person to donate, without my even asking. You expressed a confidence in me that I wouldn’t have in myself for a long time after.


Luke S., for donating, of course, for the unique way that you did it, but most importantly for always being supportive, for letting me bounce ideas off of you, and for always being there for me. For not hating me when I chose Zambia over Abamath. Okay, for not hating me as much as you could.


Marilyn, my mom. I think only the word “everything” can encompass all you did for me and this project, as anybody with a mom will understand. During the Watson, editing my essays, doing practice interviews, and keeping me calm over the phone right before my interview. During 90:90, always being supportive, commenting on my blog, and having positive suggestions. Letting me “leave the nest.” On March 15th, when I suggested doing it on my own, you were supportive without hesitation. Thank you.


Bryan S., who not only donated a lot, but was a great salesperson — one of the people you talked to was my second biggest donor and brought the first “holy ****” moment of the project, the moment I began to think it could really happen. Spreading the word is an uncountable way to be supportive, and you did great.


The Physics Department at UPS — Greg E., Rand W., Paul W., Bernie B., Bill B., Jim W., Marcus, and others — for your donations, sure, but also because you put up with my initial less-than-good ideas, and because you continued to be suggestive and supportive even after 100 iterations of everything. Also, Bill, you proofread the entire website… wow.


Kirstin H., for supporting me despite what our student government had to say about it. That really meant a lot to me.


Graham R., for donating without knowing me personally or having any connections to me, saying basically, “Yes, awesome project.” For letting me know I’m not the only one who has blind faith in strangers.


Cynthia H., for being one of the few I canvassed who opened their door, and for being so supportive otherwise.


Tim, the skycap luggage checker, who was the nicest luggage checker I have ever met despite the time of day (4 AM). You started off Guatemala on a good note.


“Amon CG” and the kids at Fauji Cycles, for putting up with me while I tried to fix things the “right” way, and for teaching me to fix them the Indian way. For all the tea, camaraderie, jokes, and for your friendship. I hope we meet again someday.


Prabhat A., for basically being my father figure while in India. For giving me a place to stay; a family; a map of the area (in so many ways); for feeding me; giving me endless, much-needed advice; letting me travel with you; taking silly pictures of me; and, in general, putting up with me while I figured out just what exactly I was doing with myself and how I was going to survive three months in India. For making my first trip outside of the U.S. such a memorable and positive experience.


Viju V., for giving such good advice, putting up with my terrible Hindu, translating so tirelessly, and for hooking me up at Firefox and working out so many of the awesome experiences I had. For being such a good friend during what could have been such a lonely time for me.


Shiv, for being so open-minded, supportive, and in general for being such a cool guy despite being so high up on the corporate ladder. That’s not always how it goes, and you should be proud of yourself.


The guys of Pedal Yatri, for their camaraderie, friendship, and for some good rides, even if they did start at 5 AM on Saturday.


Carlos, for giving me a place to stay and putting up with my terrible Spanish.


Sarah and Charlotte, for being such good housemates, and for being so supportive and open-minded when I needed it most. You kept me sane when I really wasn’t doing well. Things would not have gone well without your support.


Chiqui, for cooking really good food while I learned how to live without a refrigerator.


Laura E., for hosting the website at a sibling rate, for helping code it, and for being supportive without end. For suggesting people to talk to when I needed various bits of advice and you couldn’t give it yourself.


Jenna C., for diagnosing me with various foreign illnesses — I mean, for thinking my foreign diseases were really cool despite the aggravating symptoms — I mean, for telling me I was going to be just fine.


Mike S., for being the coolest Dean of Students one could ever ask for and for handing me an envelope as I walked to the graduation ceremony, making every other student in my class just a little bit jealous.


Diane B., for basically being awesome, for offering to host dinner party after dinner party in support of my cause, but mostly, for reminding me that there are crazy good people in the world if you just know where to look (…Craigslist. Duh).


Todd at Urban Tri in Minneapolis, for being the U.S. bike shop that supported me financially, for being genuinely interested despite the fact that I didn’t buy anything, and for being an all-around cool guy.


Sue and Joel, for giving me a place to stay, for feeding me and giving me advice on how to survive in Africa, and for reminding me that the starving children were right outside.


Paul, Tik, Mwewa, Israel, Benjamin, and the other guys at Zambikes, for being great friends, making me feel welcome, teaching me so much about Zambia and bamboo bicycles, and of course, for letting me return the favor.


I could go on, but honestly, it would be a while before I stopped. If I didn’t mention your name, that doesn’t mean I forgot about you. In fact, if you’re reading this, I probably have something to thank you for. Suffice to say I couldn’t have done this by myself. But I guess when you put your heart into something you’re passionate about, the world has a way of helping you out.


– – –


There will be one more blog post (Statistics/Final Thoughts) about a week from today, and then I have to go do that whole “job” thing.

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In Retrospect….

November 8th, 2013


I honestly have a hard time believing it’s already been two weeks since I got back.


I wish I could say I was saying that just to excuse myself from not having written anything yet, but I’m not. I have gotten a lot done, but to be completely honest, mostly I’ve been… sleeping.


Yep. Sleeping.


Nobody wants to hear the details of my sleeping, though, so I’ll just get to the good stuff.


Missed this one, didn’t you?

First off, photos are going up on facebook as I type this. For whatever reason, I hadn’t put up my Guatemala photos, so those will be up, too! You can check all three albums (India, Guatemala, Zambia) at Comment, ask questions, all that jazz. Mostly, enjoy.


Second, I have a lot of people to thank. Too many to put here — it would kind of ruin the flow of this post. But I haven’t forgotten about you. Chances are, if you’re reading this, I have something to thank you for. So thank you. I will be doing a post exclusively for thank-yous some time next week. For now though, suffice to say, I am incredibly grateful to a lot of people. I had a great time, I really believe I changed some things for the better, and I have a lot of people to thank for that.


Third — general thoughts about what just happened.

– I (evidently) did not get enough sleep, ever. This makes sense, given the copious amounts of dogs barking, chickens clucking, doves copulating (see: India), monkeys who-haaing (again, thanks, India!), fireworks shows at 5 AM (Guatemala gets that one), roosters crowing at 3 AM (and 3:30, and 3:45 — Guatemala)… really, all those third-world noises we’ve completely forgotten about here in the States.

– My computer (the “netbook” I took with me) hates me. It has seen dirt, dust, extreme heat, extreme cold, eight airports in five different countries, various kinds of animal sh!t, coffee spills, water spills, days without being plugged in, the slowest and fastest internet connections in the world, a plethora of different viruses, a hacked e-mail address, being on for days, being off for days, having a hard drive replaced, and probably a few things I’m missing out on. I have it to thank for keeping me connected to the world and often keeping me sane — you have it to thank for blog updates and photo storage. Best of all, it still works perfectly. If anybody’s wondering, it’s a Toshiba. Oh, and the hard drive replacement was really caused by an effective soaking that happened during my bike tour last fall.


I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for technology.

Okay, there was that one trip to the hospital…

– I have never spent so much time traveling. With the delay in Heathrow, my trip home from Zambia was 37 hours.

– I just did something awesome. I came up with an idea for a project, tried to get it funded by fellowship, got turned down, decided to do it anyways, built a website, printed business cards, made videos, started fund-raising, had some amazing support from friends and family, raised $9200, fixed a lot of bikes, met a lot of really cool people, did things I never thought I’d do (I could probably write a separate post on that alone), and came home in one piece. Okay, I did have a parasite for a bit. But besides that. Did I mention I went to three different developing countries and spent at least a month and a half in each country as a volunteer? I think I did. I must have mentioned that.


So, like, I helped some of these kids get to school.

Fourth — statistics. I’ll be doing a statistics post briefly. Those are fun. I don’t want to ruin it by trying to integrate it with this post though.


Fifth, what I’ve actually been up to, besides sleep (feel free to skip this one if you care more about the project and its impact on my life than my life itself).

– Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve been spending a lot of time on the computer otherwise. In particular, I spent about two days straight on Craigslist, among other sites, looking for a place to live in Madison, WI, where my new job starts in December (more on that in a bit). I scheduled about six visits over a 24-hour period, drove to Madison, and fortunately (and as I was hoping), the first one worked out. It’s a pretty cool house with a garage for my bikes (I don’t own a car and don’t plan on it) and a five minute walk from the bus stop for those days when the bike path hasn’t been plowed yet (yes, there is a bike path all the way to work from my house).

– I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my new bike, a Bianchi San Jose, which will be my winter bike. Last winter I used my touring bike, which I still use for everything else, but snow, sand, and salt getting in the drivetrain (the chain, the gears, the shifters) was an absolute pain to clean out, and probably reduced the life of the bike by a year or two. The San Jose is a single speed, meaning it will stay a lot cleaner.


– I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to playing a lot of Kerbal Space Program, my favorite computer game, a sandbox physics simulator where you build spaceships and do… well, whatever you want. Go to the “Mun.” Go to other planets. Do science to research new parts. *ahem* Anyways.


It sort of looks like a bicycle…

– Working on various projects I won’t have time for when I become a “real person” in a month, including a wax-waterproof coat. My old jacket was getting… well, old.

– Tutoring at Abamath, my friend’s company that I helped start back in August. It’s doing rather well. If anybody in the Minneapolis area needs math tutoring… Just sayin’.

– Catching up with friends.


Sixth, what my plans are, both short- and long-term.

– Short term I’ll be moving to Madison, WI to work for Epic as a Technical Services Engineer. What that means is that I’ll be an expert in one of Epic’s 26 (possibly more by now) software programs and assigned a few clients. If they want to change anything or if anything goes wrong, it’s my job to make it happen. So I’ll be doing a lot of coding and problem-solving, and probably a few presentations.

– Long term I have a lot I’d like to do… (in no particular order):

(1) Pay off my student loans.

(2) “How many countries can I bike to on $10,000?” — Put $10k in the bank, get on my bike, and see how far I can go. Right now I’m thinking I can do South America, take a boat to Africa, and get at least halfway up if not well into Europe. This is, obviously, a few years out.

(3) Start a social enterprise in a developing country — right now I’m thinking either India or Zambia, most likely Zambia. I can’t say too much right now but I will say it has to do with bicycles, and that anyone who donated to 90:90 will have priority as an investor.

(4) Go back to school for Psychology.

Of course, it could be that I end up working at Epic for the rest of my life. It’s a pretty cool place. But I could just be saying that so I don’t get fired before I even start. Not sure. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t plan on working there for at least a few years, but it’s certainly going to be interesting seeing how those few years play out. There’s a lot of potential in all sorts of different directions.


But every direction involves a bicycle being close to my face.

In any case, that’s all for now. As it is, I’d rather do more shorter posts than one longer one. So the next post will either be thank-yous or statistics. Tune in…

One thought on “In Retrospect….

  1. Marilyn says:

    Yes, keep a bike close to your face! Always! Thanks for having the vision, ambition, guts and motivation to make the world a better place despite the challenges of things like parasites. Thanks for making good use of donations. Thanks for your blog posts. Thanks for enriching us all with your photos.

    Keep it up.

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