Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Imagine a life where you have no parents because they died from HIV/AIDS when you were a little boy. There you are all alone, no roof over your head and no food on the table; in fact, not even a table when you have food. This is reality for little boys like this one. The only thing he has in the whole world is what he has on his back, and as you can see in the photo, that's not much. As I traveled throughout the country of Ethiopia, I began to realize how well off I actually had it in life. Here I am, an American who is able to travel around the world to other countries. I might be doing it for a good cause, but many Americans travel just because they can. We have so many holidays throughout the year and we own so many possessions from multiple cars to having our homes (which are mansions in comparison) packed full of objects that we could really do without. In America in 2005, we spent over 287 billion dollars as a nation on gifts for each other for Christmas. Now let me ask you, is that the reason for the season? These children need us! They are dieing from sickness that could easily be cured and prevented. It's time for us to take a stand for the sick and weary.
As I walked the streets, I saw many sleeping on the medians, which are not even wide enough for them to fit on. Many will die by simply rolling in their sleep and getting run over by a car. I looked closer and saw some children come up from the ground. I wondered where were they coming from? I wanted to find out and I did. They were living in a part of the sewer; small holes in the ground just big enough for them to sleep in. I was able to go in a few and take some photos. In the photo to the right are seven of the thirteen people who sleep here at night. It's hard to believe that thirteen people live in a space smaller than most American closets, but it's true. As I took this photo, they all gathered around eating the left over food that they got from restaurants. Without the restaurants that give them food, they would be forced to steal, beg for food, or not eat at all.
As I entered the Country of Egypt, I said to myself, am I ready? Well I wasn't. I thought the city of Cairo was going to be much different than what it really is. Egypt is in northern Africa but is still considered a Middle Eastern country. I have never been to this part of the world. Another chapter in my life was about to begin whether I was ready to face it or not. This is my story, a trip to a very big city, a city of 20 million people.
The people in Egypt are extremely hospitable. Almost everyday I was invited into homes and offered tea, which I never refused. The Egyptian black tea is the best tea I have ever had. Most everyone was so friendly. I learned a lot from my Egyptian brothers. Everywhere I went I heard “Welcome to Egypt” which was good to hear. I could only imagine if they were to come to my country, not many would welcome them. Some might even look down on them just because they are Arab. I have grown to love Egypt more than I thought I would. The people in Egypt are great and they have taught me a lot during these few weeks. Although not many drink alcohol in Egypt, almost everyone smokes cigarettes and the sheesha. (Which is tobacco smoked through a water pipe)Strongholds of Islam
Islam is huge in Egypt as I am sure it is in other Middle Eastern countries. After arriving in Cairo, Egypt I heard the prayer call for the first time. There are five prayer calls each day and they are broadcast over the speaker systems of every actively working mosque. From where I was staying in the city, I could only hear a few mosques. Walking the streets during a prayer call, I could see many people stop and pray which consists of taking their shoes off and bowing down multiple times while holding what looks like prayer beads. I was even eating dinner one night while in the middle of the restaurant all music was turned off so one person could pray during one of the prayer calls. In Egypt there is a mosque on almost every block.
While I was in Cairo, I had the great opportunity of visiting with people in a place called garbage city. Most of the people in Garbage city are Coptic Christians. The reason the city is called garbage city is because all of the garbage in Cairo is taken there and the people recycle 80% of it and then send products back out into the city of Cairo. The first time I entered the city the smell instantly hit me. I mean, it was hard to believe that people could live with the mell, but after awhile the smell didn’t seem that bad anymore. As I walked the streets, I saw trash everywhere, and then I noticed on one street all the trash was plastic and on another street all the trash was paper. There was a real system to all of this. I kept going back day after day and began to get to know the people and their families. I even went to Coptic Mass with them. Even though I didn't understand what was being said, because it was all in Arabic, I still had a smile on my face.
I took a boat down the Nile River (which flows through the middle of Egypt) to an Island. This island has four villages and has 50,000 people on it. Gold Island got its name because the fertile soil provides a way for these very poor people to make money by growing crops. Egypt doesn't have great fertile soil so these people are very fortunate. As I walked on the island and went into a village, I got the feeling that these people haven't seen many white people before. Many of the children ran around the corners away from me as they saw me approach. Others would stand still as if they thought I wouldn't see them. As I took out my camera some became interested into what it was and how it worked. These people were so beautiful! I just couldn't stop taking photos. Around every corner and down every street there was something new to photograph. This is what I was looking for. This type of photo opportunity is one I’ve always wanted
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I just recently returned from Cambodia! I was there for about two months. I have seen things that many will never see. I had the opportunity to work with victims of child prostitution and children forced into manual labor. There were moments of sadness, moments of happiness, and also moments of anger. The people of Cambodia need a lot of help and support. Many times we complain on whether or not we have the best TV or the newest car. They wonder if they will have enough money to support food for their family. I met a family in Cambodia who welcomed me into their home and served me with the best they had. When I left that home I saw that these people had less than I had butwere still willing to give it all up for me, a man from America that they didn't even know. All I did was smile and they were willing to give me everything, to serve me as if I was a friend of theirs for years.
LIVING AS A FAMILY
I went to Cambodia with a group of people from my college. There were eight of us, six girls and two guys (me being one of the two). We all came from different places. A lot of us came from America, but we also had people from Japan, Norway, and South Korea. While we were in Cambodia we all stayed in one house. We did everything like a family would. We ate together, and we even had a time in the day when we all came together and talked about what we did.
When our group went to Cambodia we had no idea we would be teaching English. When I found out I was going to be teaching English to children, I was not to sure about it. I was being reminded about my grades in English class. In fact, English was my worst subject in school! The first couple weeks were hard but I was able to connect with the kids and we had a lot of fun learning English together. The children we taught came from nearby villages. We taught them for free! We had around fifty children come everyday. Which were put into different age groups.
We were in Shinaqville, Cambodia for close to two months. Shinaqville is a small town on the southern coast of Cambodia. We were able to go to the beach almost every day. At the beach we saw tourist from mostly Europe and Australia. We also saw children from four years old to eighteen years old selling anything they could. We made friends with many! It was very sad to see a four year old come up to you and beg for money. Many times I left the beach in tears. We also saw many older people who would come and beg for money many who were missing limbs. We spent many hours with these people at the beach giving them some joy during their day. The girl next to me in this photo was one of the girls who sold fruit on the beach. Her name is Sally. Our whole team got to know her really well. Sally was one of children who are forced to work on the beach everyday all day by her parents who do nothing. In Cambodia many of the parents let their children do anything they want. Our team was invited to a thirteen year olds birthday party and everything was great like a normal thirteen-year-old girls birthday. Later in the evening the adults went to bed and left the children from as young as eight with beer. All the children started getting drunk. We were shocked. it was so sad.
THOUGHT OF ADOPTION
When I left for Cambodia I never knew how much my life would change. I have always loved children, but adoption has never come to mind. The girl in this photograph is five years old. She followed me everywhere I went, and copied everything I did. I gave her the name Abby; because her real name was too long for me to say yet alone write. I always told myself I was going to have a daughter named Abby. Well I know what you are thinking did an eighteen-year-old guy really adopt a five-year-old girl from Cambodia. The answer is NO! As much as my heart broke to leave her in Cambodia, it was just not possible. I think about her almost everyday now. My Abby! A Precious little girl that forever has changed my life.