Thursday, June 21, 2007

Free Nelson Mandela!

Wow, that was fast - he's out!

I'm here in Johannesburg (aka Joburg, which is much faster to type) seeing the sites with Crystal before heading off to Madagascar.

Site 1 - Soweto (aka South West Township) 130 square km (so that's 40 or so miles?) it is huge and home to both rich people with brick houses and 2 car garages, and the very poor people with homes made out of tin and plastic.

We also went to the street where Nelson Mandela used to live and where Desmond Tutu still lives. Mandela's house is now a museum, which guides (who seem rather exasperated by the crowds) take you through and tell you the story of his life.

We also saw a memorial to the students who were killed when they protested the use of Afrikaans as the language they were taught in at schoool. Then we went to the church where they used to gather and where they thought they'd be safe. The police came into the church and shot it up. You can still see the bullet holes today. Other students were kidnapped and killed in rather grusome ways. Our guide said that when the parents found out during the Truth & Reconciliation hearings how their children were killed some of them had heart attacks and died.

In the end South Africa becomes a democratic country. I'm not sure I believe the guide when he said blacks and whites all get together just fine now, no problems. Hmm. How quickly people transition.

Site 2 - We stopped at a shop, which was also a museum of man and science. It's where traditional healers go to get all their snake skins, bones, roots, etc. for their healings. The picture is probably going to show up sideways. After I took it, I realized it's a monkey. :(

Today we went to lion park and saw, yes lions. We got to play with the cubs at the end of the tour. Very precious, though a bit mangy. Not nearly as soft as your average housecat. We also got to feed some giraffe while we were there. Crystal was brave enough to feed the ostrich. The giraffes just put out a long, black, saliva cover tounge which they wrap around your hand to get the delicious pellets. Gross yet harmless. The ostrich pecks at your hand and bites anything in the vicinity... pellet, finger, you name it.

Tomorrow we go to Kruger National Park and then we're off to Madagascar. I haven't done much in the way of the documentary so far, but I've got the rest of the trip ahead of me.

This will probably be it for the next few weeks so enjoy and I'll catch up with you soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Last Hurrah

Thursday night I met some friends for the last hurrah before a frantic day of packing, housecleaning and list double checking.

Though we were thwarted from sitting outside by an overwhelming horde of Gap workers, it was a delightful reunion of friends from Parkway Jr. High, UCSB, former Habitat trips, former jobs and former improv shows. All in all a lovely way to continue to procrastinate packing.

Ah, but pack I did... in a hodgepodge of rolling and stuffing and cramming. Good news, everything fits. Bad news, my bags weigh 4 and a half tons and I am going to have to hire all the 16 year olds on Madagascar to help me carry them around. Luckily, I am here in DC for the weekend and have an opportunity to reshuffle. The most important thing is that my carry on (with all the camera equipment, extra batteries and extra tapes) weigh less than 15lbs otherwise, I have to fist fight representatives from South African Airlines. Heavy checked bags can be bought at the rate of $5/lb... but not so with the carry on. I'm working it out.

John and I arrived at Jim's house last night and have spent this morning rummaging around for food, walking around the lake and then, realizing it's far too hot and humid to walk around, have come back to the house to lay around and read magazines.
I think all vacations should start like this.

This morning I sat outside and recorded a video diary entry, then I talked to the director about what to do in Africa. Basically he said, keep focused on the dream. If you send lots of safari footage, that's great, but staying focused on the dream while I'm there will help him tie it all together.

He did give me some feedback about how happy he was with the interview I did on Tuesday with the documentary crew. When they asked about my fear of failing I told them I was more afraid of succeeding because then I don't know what happens next. The director said that was a concept they wanted to introduce but weren't sure how they were going to do so. He said he hoped one of the people he followed came to that conclusion. Now it's done. All that and pictures of lions? Even though the release I signed said I might... how can I possibly get cut out of this movie now? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Okay. I'm off and will not be checking in again until I'm in Africa! Africa baby!

I'd simmer down, but I don't think I can.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ready for My Closeup

I spent yesterday with a microphone down my shirt and a camera in my face. Is this what being famous is like? Maybe not until you add the paparazzi.

The local film crew for the documentary, Dream, spent the afternoon with me filming me going about my business and talking about my dream of hosting a travel show. It's hard to act normal when there's a fuzzy boom mic right above the head of everyone you're talking to.

I met my mom and my friend Missy at the Beach Chalet for lunch. People thought we were famous, and when I opened up my early birthday present - an Elmo Goes on Safari coloring book - someone thought we were having some kind of book promotion.

Next it was an interview at Alamo Square with the famous Victorian houses, the Painted Ladies, behind us. People were there taking pictures (because of the show Full House?) and MUNI buses were roaring up the street. The wind was blowing and there was a reflector being held up for lighting which was a bit blinding. Despite all this... I had to do my best to answer questions and bare my soul.

Afterwards, off to Fisherman's Wharf for some person-on-the-street interviews about what peoples' dreams are and what they're doing to try and achieve them. The crew let me ask the questions, but said, don't ask questions - which I think was supposed to get me to ask only open-ended questions. It made it harder to do than it looks on TV.

Finally off to Northbeach to meet with Una for a real Habitat planning meeting. Karaoke at Bow Bow got nixed as we wouldn't be able to get the rights to the songs. I'm happy happy anyway.

I'm in the last frantic stages of getting ready. And yet, I'm still going to try and hang out at Palomino on Thursday night starting at 5pm, so if you're reading this and you're local... come on by!


Friday, June 8, 2007

The Beginning

Where in the world do I start to get you caught up?

2004 - Una and I lead a Habitat for Humanity trip to Chile. It is another amazing experience and I become convinced I need to find a way to spread the word about good works that are happening in the world. Habitat

2005 - I buy a video camera and follow Mary Kay to Vietnam, where she is checking on the progress of a school for blind children which is being built with money she fundraised through a non-profit she started. HOPE Project

I put together a 5 minute video for her to use at future speaking engagements. I am struck by something she says when I am interviewing her, "Maybe the message is that you can be one little person from one little area and yet, through your few actions, you can make dramatic change."

I say I will edit the rest of the footage into some watchable Globetrekker-style video. I do not.

2006 - Una and I attend a Habitat leadership training in Americus, Georgia and decide on Madagascar as the place we will lead a trip the following summer. The idea of another trip is very exciting and makes me think (again) maybe this is what I should do with my life instead of work in Human Resources.

It is confirmed that in early 2008 my job will be relocating to a city 40 miles and one bridge from my house. I begin considering my options.

2007 - I have been talking with a life coach who is helping me with practical things, like making progress on tasks and bigger issues like, answering the question, "why am I here?" and accepting that I can not do everything myself and being open to people who want to help me.

I decide now is as good a time as any to quit my job, plan an extended trip to Africa and bring a video camera in the hopes that I can highlight good work being done around the world and turn it into something - a film, a show I host on the Travel Channel, a series of posts on YouTube - this is all to be determined.

June - As I start taking concrete action towards what I want to do... support comes spiraling in.

  • Chris puts me in contact with a producer working on a documentary about people following their dreams. Dream
  • I give my notice at work.
  • I hear from the producer that I have been selected to be in the documentary film.
  • I meet some people at a party who are interested in what I'm doing and begin providing guidance and help me think through my concept to increase its chance of success.
  • People associated with the film have connections in the television world which they say they are willing to share.
  • A film crew will be in San Francisco Tuesday to follow me around for the day as I get ready for my trip.
And that's where I am. Right now, I should be recording a video diary on my progress. I should be trying to see if I can fit everything I intend to bring in my backpack. I should be taking my car to get a smog check. The list goes on. Some tasks I will save for Tuesday, some I will go do in a minute.

Stay tuned... I don't know where this is going, but it's pretty exciting!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The End of the End


Friday morning I woke up at 4:30a.m. and felt like a kid on Christmas. I knew it would be an exciting day but I didn't know exactly what would happen. Never did I imagine a safari hat covered in lettuce.

The preparations people at work went to for my going-away potluck were amazing. Decorations, a cake that wished me well in Malagasy and best of all, a book full of photos that everyone wrote messages in!

After some phenomenal food from Phnom Penh and much to the dismay of our safety specialist, I sat on a chair on top of a table - yes it was as precarious as it seemed - to be roasted. Many comments were kind and many comments reminded me I am probably the most unconventional and inappropriate HR person that office has ever seen. In the end, it was me who made me cry when I told the group that I always knew I was part of the HR group, but that they made me feel like I was part of the research group too. It's not an easy thing to walk away from a group of people who are so open in their appreciation, who are so smart and fabulous and who make me feel like a rock star among rock stars.

When it's all said and done... where to rock stars go for the after party? Forbidden Island, Alameda's very own tiki lounge.

To all the people I have worked with the past 3 years, 8 months and 9 days... there have definitely been ups and downs and some challenging situations to get through. I'm not sure exactly how to represent that on a growth curve, but I know in the end it was an absolute delight to get to know and work with you all.

Before I get too sappy, I've got to simmer down, take a moment and then start getting psyched for the new beginning to come. Africa, a shot at a new career in travel reporting and a documentary film called "Dream". I'll tell you all about it after I get some coffee.

Miss K