Budding Photographer 

Yesterday, we traveled from Nairobi to Suswa–a little town about two hours west of where we were staying. As we were driving, we passed a variety of locales–aflluent neighborhoods, slums, industry, commercial … there’s a diversity, alright, as one one expect.
The surprising thing for me isn’t even how far the pendulum swings–it’s in how close together the rich are to the poor. It didn’t seem like morn than maybe half a mile from the sprawling landscape of tin shacks barely being supported and crammed in like so many little cans of humanity to the half-to one acre plots of land where upon sit mansions. For me, that was rather jarring.
Once we got to our hotel and got settled in, we headed out to visit a family. They don’t live far from our hotel, but the travel … the first 1/3 of the drive is on paved road, while the other 2/3 is over really bumpy dirt roads, filled with ruts, deep puddles, and rocks. On more than a few occasion, I could feel my lower back and neck wrench, sometimes on the same bump.
We arrived at the family’s home. Acres and acres of sprawling land. I don’t know what they do with the land, but it isn’t farmed, from what I could see, so I don’t know how they support themselves. And maybe the reality is that they *don’t* support themselves, and that’s why we’re here. Heidi is already talking about a business box for them, so it makes sense that they may have fallen in hard times, even by their meager standards in comparison to our typical American way of life.
Silence is awkward. There are no two ways about it. Meeting a foreign family who speaks so little to no English at all can cause a lot of odd tension. I don’t mean hostile tension, obviously, but … well, okay. For example, I just wanted to run up to these ladies and give them a big hug and show them that we already love them. Can’t do that. Cultural faux pas. So we stood there, smiling, but at the same time, goofily trying to communicate with them on ANY level. Thankfully, we had Moses and David with us to translate, but even that seemed awkward and strange. At one point, I watched Moses ask Jennifer to ask them what their names are. It was comedic, but in a sad, I-wish-everyone-could-have-a-universal-translator way. To Jenn’s credit, she did not give up until she had it right.
At some point, we broke out bubbles to play with the kids. That was the ice-breaker we needed to get the ball rolling. Those kids LOVED them. I have a bunch of absolutely adorable pictures of these kids playing with them, trying to pop them … and the looks are pure joy.
Eunice (I believe) offered all of us some form of tea. I’m not a tea drinker, soI was a little hesitant to accept some, but having lived in a culture where knowing that this kind of sharing is potentially back-breaking for the family, I gratefully accepted their mug of charity and bridge-building. It was *delicious*. And piping hot! Many “ashe oleng”s (“thank you”!) were offered. Probably too many … but since it’s one of the only phrases I know and I was so desperate to communicate with her, I might have gone a tad overboard.
I remember few names out of the dozen or so people that were there, but one little boy stood out. Clinton is 9 years old, if I remember right. He and I had a pretty good bonding moment. I’ll get to that in a bit.
One question I have is how much technology this family has seen. I ask that because Clinton either has a secret camera stashed away somewhere that he’s been practicing with, or he’s just a natural photographer. I don’t know which.
in the course of trying to open up to this family, we tried a lot of different things. What I found that worked best for me was showing the kids the pictures I took of them. They REALLY enjoyed that. A LOT. They recognized Sami from the pictures. One little boy saw her picture as we were scrolling through what we had taken, looked over at her, and stuck his tongue out at her with a big, happy smile. I don’t know what the significance of sticking the tongue out is; it could be how their culture points. In the Philippines, people point using puckered lips. In Portugal, people indicate direction with an upward nod of the head. In the US, people point similarly, but with a downward nod. Sticking out a tongue to point wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
In showing Clinton the picture, he wanted to scroll through them on his own. I very hesitantly handed him the camera, and he looked at every picture. Every. Single. One. There were over 400 at that point, and he looked enthralled with all of them … even the boring ones from the airport.
I asked earlier about how much technology they have seen. Here’s why: Clinton discovered rather quickly how to get into the live view on the camera. He moved it around and could see that the picture on the LCD was where the camera was pointing. Then he started trying to push random buttons–like he wanted to take a picture. I hovered over him, put his little right index finger on the shutter button, and gently pressed down. After that, he was hooked. He took over 120 pictures (in burst mode, so … take that into consideration when applying a jaw drop factor). Lots of waists, sides of structures, keep bumpers … but some of them are downright awesome. We may just have started the newest Ansel Adams down the path of photography. Maybe …
I need to remember to get in touch with Pastor Ben to get names of these people so that I can remember them. I’ll always remember Clinton     That’s an easy one. But the ladies and guys of the family … no idea. I do remember Abigail and Janet. Janet speaks some English. She’s  21, and her daughter–Abigail–is about 14 months.
Emotions. Boy … I can tell you this: I was not prepared. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having met them, played with them, gotten to know them for just the briefest of moments … but the reality is that I may never see them again, and that hurt. The smiles on their faces when we played with the bubbles, the sheer joy of the suckers and candy, Clinton and the camera … I cannot get enough of this.
It’s 6:03 Monday morning. I have no internet connection at all. I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, but I hope it’s soon.

Feet on the Ground With My Head in the Clouds

We have been in Kenya for a little less than 24 hours, and I already want to move here. Friendly, beautiful, serene (see, Lori?! WE COULD TOTALLY LIVE HERE! IT’S SERENE!!) … there’s nothing to dislike.
We went shopping for picnic stuff. Their prices here on most food items are insane. And I mean that in a *really* good way. Loaf of freshly baked bread? $1.00. Bottle of Coke? 50 cents. Stuff here just doesn’t cost much.
Tonight, we are going to a concert for a guy named Lemarti. Check him out on Youtube. He’s a seriously big deal here in Kenya. The reason we’re going is because he invited us. So … of course there’s a story. 🙂
One of our partners over here is a guy named David Senchura. He is a Maasai warrior from a tiny area southwest of Narok. He built a house. He had a house warming party. Lamarti put on a concert for the party. He met Heidi Totten. And that, as they say, was that.
Lamarti owns a construction company. He’s going to help us build the cultural center that we’re trying to get funded. He wants to work with 100 Humanitarians as closely as he can. This is basically another miracle that keeps those of us in 100 Humanitarians in constant shock.
I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be a  part of this. It’s an honor and a privilege that still baffles me as to how I managed to become attached to such a great organization.
I’ll have more to say later. Right now, I really need a nap … 🙂

Our Cruising Altitude Will Be 35,000 Feet

Phase One: board plane to JFK.

Status: Complete

It’s still nerve-wrackingly surreal to me that I am going to KENYA. Yes–nerve-wrackingly. For some reason, I have been *so* on edge the last few days. I’ve been looking forward to this since the beginning of May, so … what? 6 months of unfettered, kid-like giddiness. countless hours of exploring west of Nairobi on Google Earth. Reading articles about Kenya.
As my family was dropping me off at the airport, it became increasingly apparent that my younger daughter was *supremely* distressed. And I mean STRESSED. I felt so horrible for abandoning her. I gave her an extra long hug, told her that I *will* come back to her, her sister, and mommy. So God, if You read this, kinda need You to have my back on this one. 🙂
One thing has become painfully apparent: I miss my family already. I miss my one daughter’s random hugs. I miss my other daughter’s awesome singing. I miss my wife’s smile, touch, hugs, kisses …
And weee not even in the air yet.
But I’m off. This experience is going to be jaw-dropping. And I. Cannot. Wait.

Weird happenings before the trip 

So here I sit outside the Farmington Utah Apple store, waiting to get in for a genius bar emergency appointment. The camera all but stopped functioning in its entirety. It would open, but a) I couldn’t take a picture, b) I couldn’t even see what was on the screen. It just froze out of focus. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen my phone do.

So I came to the store in a fit of panic. On my way to the store, I set my phone on the dash rather than my normal hands-free cradle. Some guy cut me off, and then he immediately slammed on his brakes. I, of course, followed suit. My car stopped, but my phone didn’t. It went sailing st about 80MPH into the windshield.

You should see this screen …

Yet somehow, the touch screen is still  usable. No idea how this is happening, but whatever.

So now, instead of possibly getting the phone replaced for free, I may have to pay for a refurb … unless they play it super nice as they are often wont to do at the Apple Store.

Of all the times in the world for the camera to stop working, it would be just before I go to. Kenya.

Interestingly, the camera works now. I restarted the phone a couple different times, and now it keeps taking pictures. Figures …

So I guess I’m just gonna scrap the WordPress app. It doesn’t auto-post anything, so what’s the point?

Speaking of Kenya, I need to start packing! GAAAAH!! SO much to do … so little energy to do any of it.

At least I have the blog posting thing figured out. One check box I can mark. 🙂

Test: Getting ready for Kenya!!

This is just a test to see how the plugin I just added posts to FB.

Talk about blugh … holy crap. I had to update my hosting plan to a whole new server, update .php hosting from 5.2 to 5.4, install the plugin, create a whole new app in FB JUST to allow the plugin to work, and now I’m testing it.

In 3 … 2 … 1 ………

A Family that Rushes Together Stays Together (Time Stand Still)

In 1987, this one idiot named Rick on my school bus mentioned that he was excited for a new album by some band who would be using electronic drums for the first time. I wasn’t the least bit interested.

 

I was also a young, dumb idiot.

 

That band was Rush, and they were on the cusp of releasing “Hold Your Fire,” their quintessential 80s offering. A perfect blend of guitar, bass, drums, and synth, this album was ironically destined to become one of my top 5 albums of all time.

 

I didn’t really join the Rush scene until 1989, with the release of “Presto.” I forgot to send the “Selection of the Month” card back to Columbia, so I ended up with the cassette tape. Gave it a once-through, and set it aside until college, where I met James. James had *everything* Rush had done at that point, plus some bootleg concert tapes. He let me borrow them, and I was *hooked*. After my first year, I came home and hit the local exchange store and bought everything I could find.

 

Tonight, my family will join me at the Maverik Center in Salt Lake City, where we will witness what could possibly be the last large-scale tour Rush ever performs. My 5th show, my wife’s and older daughter’s 2nd shows, and my younger daughter’s first ever show. I have been waiting for this for longer than I can remember, and tonight, it actually happens. We will inculcate my daughters into the fine ritual of carbing and proteining up before the show (read: dinner beforehand). We will show them how to properly rock out to some of the world’s greatest musicians. Afterward, we will take them out to eat again to re-carb and re-protein (yes, those are now verbs). Or at least get some water.

 

I’m excited. My kids are excited (at least I think they are). My wife is … well, she’s trying (right, honey?). God bless her and her patience with my rabid fan-dom. This is going to be one of those moments that I’m going to want to freeze and remember forever. My kids aren’t getting any younger. They’re getting older, coming into their own with likes, music, and shows. Goodness gracious, they’ve actually discovered *boys* (though that was years ago …).

Hashtag Hell (or, How I Learned to Love the Pound Sign)

So, I hear a lot of people asking, “What is the point of a hashtag?” and saying “They’re so stupid! I hate them!” That’s because most people use them incorrectly. You *can* use a hashtag of #ThisIsTheLamestThingEverAndItSucksMoreThanBroccoliSoup … but no one will ever see it except you and your handful of twitter followers/facebook friends/instagram addicts, depending on where you deploy your tag.

 

Hashtags actually serve a very useful purpose. Think of them as a sort of index for your post. For those of you who have no idea what an index is (read: the under-20 crowd who barely know what a book is), think of your old text books or instruction books. In the back, you have an alphabetical index of key words that are very specific to a functionality or a task. If I’m looking at an HTML book, and I want to know all about “classes,” I can search the index, find “classes,” and it will give me a list of pages where you will find useful information. It’s the same with hashtags. You tag key words that you want to use to help others find your post on whatever social media platform you’re using. Twitter has been great for using hashtags for years and years. Instagram, a little less so, but definitely getting up to speed. Facebook … yah. A work in progress, and we’ll leave it at that.

 

In your post/tweet/pic, you have a point you’re trying to get across. You specifically mentioned something. For example, let’s say that I just took a picture of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. My caption reads, “Hey, check it out–it really *does* go off every 75 minutes or so!” My hashtags, IF I want them to be useful, would be something along the lines of #OldFaithful #Yellowstone #geysers #awesome (because let’s face it … OF is freakin’ insanely cool, as are most other geysers). The first two are specific to Old Faithful. They say where you’ve been specifically. The 3rd is a tad more generic, but it’s still specific to OF because it is a geyser, and Yellowstone houses the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The 4th shows your feelings (not a necessity, but sometimes a nicety), and anyone looking for something #awesome is going to find your picture. Eventually. Probably. I mean, I’m sure a lot of pictures or posts are tagged as “awesome” because most people view their vacation pics as such. “Awesome,” though, is subjective. YOU believe it’s awesome. Others may agree; some may think, “Really? Water blowing out of the ground is ‘awesome’? Whatever …”

 

Now … some people like to use hashtags as a way to rib their friends/followers. That’s definitely one way of using them. The odds of it being useful in a search are pretty close to zero, but it can be done. My friends and I do it all the time. Doesn’t mean we *want* people to find it; we’re just using them as a short-handed form of teasing. #Idiot, #LMGTFY … stuff like that. It’s pretty fun.

 

Another thing to consider when using hashtags is the use of capitalization. In conventional writing, you typically capitalize the first word of a sentence, then the rest of the sentence is lower-case (except for the appropriate pronouns and proper nouns). However, with hashtags, to make them more readable, the smart tagger capitalizes the first letter of EVERY word–regardless of whether it’s a small word, big word, proper noun, gerund, objective prounoun … doesn’t matter.

 

This concludes my primer for tagging. I’m sure there’s a lot I’m leaving out, but these are just the things I’ve observed since using hashtags. They have their place, and they’re definitely a great tool … IF you know what you’re doing with them.

2015: The Year of … Something

Well that went fast. 2014 is in the rear-view mirror, and our road ahead stretches in some as-yet-to-be-determined path. Is it curved? Looped? Straight?

 

Trust me … I’m not trying to wax philosophical; I’m genuinely curious to see what this year brings for me and my family. Personally, I have goals for this blog (“Yes … of course you do. We’ve heard this before.”), and I have a plan in place to make sure I follow through with it.

 

To start off, I’ve mentioned that I’m a huge fan of photography. Lately, I’ve been shooting raw images as opposed to in-camera jpg images. Here’s a very clear demonstration as to why.

IMG_9591a

 

As you can see, this picture looks a little dark. Pretty, kind of haunting … but dark. The image below is what I was able to do in Photoshop with some raw processing.

IMG_9591b

I don’t know about you, but glowing trees? Very cool. Now I just need to go in and get rid of the now-obvious wires that are dangling in the background, but for now, I’m happy with this.

I learn more every time I play with my camera, open Photoshop, and dig around online for tutorials on better post-processing. This is how anyone gets good at whatever it is he or she wants to do. I want to be a better photographer and do better post-processing, so I study, learn, play, try, fail, and eventually succeed.

 

You can do this too. Not necessarily photography, but whatever you want to achieve. Think it, dream it, do it. Just get at it!

 

No, this was not designed to be a motivational speech. It just turned all Tony Robbins-like cuz … well, it is what it is. You can’t become better at something if you don’t try and practice.
Now go forth and conquer.

Things For Which I Am Grateful

Two Sundays ago, I woke up with a fever. I decided to do what everyone with a fever does–warm up. My method of achieving comfort involved standing under a steaming stream of flowing hot water … the exact opposite of what I needed. Instead of feeling better, I felt exponentially worse. As the water cascaded down around me, I could feel myself starting to slip into that very special hell reserved for those stupid enough to take a shower with a fever. My muscles fought tooth and nail against whatever oncoming infection was on the offensive. They lost. Badly. I eventually ran out of hot water and was left standing with a level of convulsions typically exhibited by those having a grand mal seizure. It was all I could do to dry off, get dressed, and crawl back into bed. Somehow, I pulled it off. I slept all day. Ended up in some state of delirium where all I could think of was the bass line from Big Data’s “Dangerous.” Not an entirely austere bass line, but catchy enough that I had it playing in my head throughout the entire psychosis that was my Sunday.

 

Then Monday came. My fever of 102.9 from the day before dropped to 100.1. Manageable, but still a fever. I stood up to go to the bathroom, and I felt an immense pressure building in my lower left leg. A panic and dread filled me with a speed rivaled only by light.

 

A quick trip to the ER revealed what I already strongly suspected: cellulitis. This bacterial disease infects the dermal and sub-dermal layers of the skin, and it creates a pain in every individually infected that is the male equivalent of giving birth. Think I’m kidding? Wait until you go through it. I sincerely hope you don’t have to because it’s horrible, but if you do, you’ll understand what I mean when I say the pain is just that intense.

 

I was admitted to the hospital Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t discharged until Saturday around noon. 8 rounds of IV anti-biotics. More blood samples and tests than I’ve ever seen. Pills galore.

 

And not a penny of health insurance. Oh, this is going to be fun. Lots and lots of fun.

 

Despite the fact that we don’t have health insurance right now, I’m incredibly optimistic about our future, and really life in general. Some things for which I’m grateful:

 

  • My family is amazing. Supportive, loving, awesome.
  • My friends are equally amazing.
  • Aside from the cellulitis, I’m generally healthy.
  • We have essential oils all over the house that help with our physical and psychological health. This cellulitis is definitely the exception and not the rule.
  • I’ve lost over 42 pounds in the last 3 months. Go grab yourself a bag of rock salt for your driveway or water softener. *That* is how much I’ve lost. Tell me that’s not awesome.
  • My new job is so understanding of everything. They know I’m down for the hard count, and we have this massive, looming deadline that is non-negotiable … but we’re working through it. My manager overnighted all the materials sitting on my desk so I can have them at my disposal here at the house, allowing me to work from home as I can.
  • We have food in the cupboards and a good supply of extra in the basement.
  • Both of our vehicles are running just fine. They need oil changes and fluid checks, but other than that, running just fine. AND they’re both paid off.
  • Our house is getting better and better as we make improvements.
  • We have more music and movies than I care to admit. I collect … so … yah.
  • If it comes down to it, I have some very useful talents like tie-dyeing that I could use to help pay off some of the hospital costs. I would include photography in that list of talents, but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. Could I turn a profit? Maybe … but it’d take a lot more studying, practicing, and research before I even attempt to go that route.
  • And above all–most important to me–I know who I am, and that is a son of a God who loves us and watches over us. I know why I’m here, and where I can go when I die. Do bad things happen to me? Sure. Do I blame God for them? Not at all. Sometimes, the only way to grow is to go through the refiner’s fire and see how you come out. I’ve been through challenges exponentially worse than this, and it was only by clinging to that knowledge of God’s love that my family and I made it through the challenges we have.

 

Like I said, my optimism is pretty high. The first sign of medical bills might kill that, but I’m going to work really hard to make sure it doesn’t. I’d much prefer a positive attitude to a crappy one.

 

Oh well. Onward and upward.

© 2024 A MarketPress.com Theme