Saturday, October 30, 2010

Travel Toys

I used to read this magazine that always had an article from a jet-setter with all their favorite tech toys of the moment and their wishlist for other items they wanted. I always liked reading it and comparing to see if I had any of the of-the-moment items, which I usually didn't, but it was still fun. In thinking about those articles I thought I would do my own tribute with my own favs. Here are my lists:

My favorite travel items:
My iPod Nano 4 (16 GB) - I never leave home without it! It's chock full of music, t.v. shows and NPR and 60 minutes podcasts.
Ultimate Ears 700 - noise reducing headphones, great for drowning out screaming kids on a plane.
No vacuum required Space Bags for dirty (or clean) clothes - depending on which I have less of. (I realize this has nothing to do with actual technology but they are awesome enough to make my list.)
Griffin TuneJuice iPod charger - because you never want to have to hunt for an outlet in one of those unfortunate airports who put switch-plate covers over all the spots to plug in!
Cabela's Alaskan Guide LED Flashlight - this flashlight is small and very powerful and has white and blue light!
Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS Digital ELPH 14.1 MP Camera - okay, so maybe I bought it originally because it was orange but it is actually really awesome. Small, takes great photos and videos and has a pretty easy to use interface although I haven't figured it all out yet...
My Wishlist:

USB + AA battery solar charger - would come in handy in Africa especially, no need to drag along plug adapters and this one apparently charges up in the sun, stores the charge and lets you plug in later.
SteriPEN Classic Handheld Water Purifier - Destroys viruses, bacteria and protozoa--including Giardia and Cryptosporidium--using ultraviolet (UV) light for 60 to 90 seconds. So cool! No need to drink water with chlorine tablets no matter where you may roam.
Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack - one of my trip leaders in Madagascar had these and they came in handy on many occasions. I have some plastic dry bags but these are waterproof nylon and are very easy to store.
iPad - I am not entirely sure I want this but it seems cool. I have used a couple and it would be so nice to be able to get work done on the road without my whole laptop coming along. I could use it for books too! (And the best thing about a wishlist is that you don't have to get it all, right?)
There you have it! My little list of likes, hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From East to West

The last week has been a whirlwind of plans! For now, the trip to Rwanda is on hold as I am not sure I am ready for the challenge of the work (and working alone) that the opportunity would provide and they are not able to provide meals anymore due to lack of funding. [Since I don't cook at home I don't think I will pick it up in a foreign country.] I am, however, going to Liberia in February for two weeks. I am going with two amazing women from my church to do a scouting trip for a medical missions trip in 2012. I volunteered to help with the trip planning and fundraising and figured I could be a lot more helpful to the process if I went on the scouting trip too.

This trip will be centered around working at Liberia's rural Fistula clinics. Fistulas are a common occurrence in war-torn countries and occur most often in young women who have been raped and are not physically developed enough to be able to give birth without medical intervention. Living with a fistula often relegates women to very low standing in society and they suffer both the pain of being shunned by their families and the medical complications that the fistula creates. The trip in 2012 will bring doctors and nurses to the clinics to perform fistula correction surgeries, conduct well baby clinics, rehab housing for the patients and the volunteers and whatever else we discover on the scouting trip.

So, this all happened kind of fast but I am so excited that it all worked out. I now need to work backwards a little bit as I don't really know exactly what to do to prepare. We got our plane tickets today. I know I need a visa and I have all my shots from Madagascar so now it's time for some research. If this topic is of interest to you, check out the documentary A Walk to Beautiful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's On!

So as of ten minutes ago, my contest winner, Joel, is finally booked for the prize trip to Kansas City. The adventure will take place on the weekend of December 4th and 5th. We will be exploring the "7 Wonders of the Midwest" (which I have yet to make up). I need your help! If you live in Kansas City (or have visited) I need your submissions of places we should not miss. The only caveat is that they need to be vegan-friendly, so all the BBQ or your favorite slaughter house recommendations are out.

On a related note, several people have asked me about who Joel is so a two second description of him is that he is my best friend from high school's little brother. He currently resides in Virginia but will be moving to L.A. soon. He is the Director of Marketing for PETA and is a fellow adventurer, although he has been to far more exotic places and has traveled more frequently than I. Stay tuned for the adventure to come...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Scary 7 foot mascot bear w/Whitney, Jessica and me. It's eyes and mouth moved too realistically.
I am currently in Atlanta for the Independent Sector Conference, which has been an incredible experience for me. Last night's reception took place at The World of Coca Cola and was a blast. They had a jazz band, international soda tasting, food, open bar, 4D movie and fun things to look at. Despite billing the event as a "dance party" there was not much dancing going on except for me and my new friend Jessica. We are a little worried about all the photos that were being taken of us, not sure where those will end up but it was a good time. The Atlanta Aquarium is just across the way so if you ever visit Atlanta you should check those both out!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Streak

Have you ever started something, developed a trend and then felt superstitious about breaking it? I realized today as I was recording my trips for 2010 (which I started doing in late 2008) that I have a streak going of traveling every month for the past 26 months. This has been mostly due to work but as you know, if you've been following along, there has been some fun along the way as well. I head to Atlanta next week and have two trips planned for November but my month of December 2010 is wide open and I am trying to figure out what to do.

I can't possibly keep the streak going forever, even though I would love to. I am trying to figure out if I should keep it going or throw in some balance since life can't always be one trip after another. I feel a resistance to settling down and staying put for a month, maybe I should go for that challenge but the streak is more fun to see how long it can go...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weston Weekend

The Rose Balcony room at the Benner House - ooo, roses everywhere!
This weekend was the Westin Irish Festival! We went up Friday night and stayed all weekend at the Benner House with a gift certificate from Brian's parents from Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad Beard!). The place was nice, comfortable and delicious food and within walking distance of the festival - no parking hassles! After checking in we headed to the festival and soaked in three days worth of music - with a couple of breaks for food and sleep. The weather could not have been more perfect and the festival posted record attendance numbers. We wandered around town a little bit, enjoyed the very start of the fall leaves turning for the season and saw friends and family there. Here are some pictures of the fun!

The outdoor stage
The Screaming Orphans from Donegal, my new rock heros! This was the stage six stories below the earth in O'Malley's Pub.
Mel and Thomas came by the festival on Saturday and we had some ice cream together in town. Thomas used the word "cold" often, he had a better hang on that than on using his spoon so he used his hand mostly.
There is a new cigar store in Weston where they make hand-rolled cigars. Not really something I buy but it was cool that the drying barn was a couple blocks down the street and this guy was making them for the festival that evening.
Hanging out with Brian Beard. (For the record - Brian said he didn't like this picture because he looked bald, but now you know, he isn't really bald it's just the photo.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Skyping Rwanda

As I had mentioned a post or two ago I have been thinking about Rwanda. One of my past AmeriCorps members was just there as a Peace Corps volunteer and she said it was amazing. In my on-going interest in Africa, I have tried to take in information through books, movies, news, etc. in hopes of understanding this amazing continent. One of the most notable for me was the 2004 film, Hotel Rwanda; not only for the heart-breaking true story and the braveness of a man harboring over 1,000 refugees in his hotel but for the line spoken by one of the film-makers covering the Rwandan Genocide who noted at dinner "that people would watch the footage of the massacres, think it was horrible, and then go on eating their dinners." Those words have stuck with me ever since.

With these things in mind, I set out to find a way to get there and do something to help. Through the WorkAway website I found a posting for an organization called Tubahumurize which is located in the capitol city of Kigali. Their mission is to support and empower Rwandan women victims of violence in this country through regular trauma counseling, micro-financing, skills training and other educational programming. I sent them a message of interest and they contacted me about my resume and we set up an interview for this evening.

I spoke with Simone, one of their volunteers, about their current needs, things going on, what to expect, etc. They are doing some amazing things but are in great need of funding help (grant writing), among other things. She gave me a lot to think about. So now I am thinking and I will be giving her my thoughts sometime this week about my plan to move forward or not.

In the meantime, if you've ever felt guilty about all the privileges you've been given, you can always do something to give back. What's your favorite way to give back?