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Archive for June, 2010

It’s day 69 of the oil spill and day 6 of me sans computer. No solution has worked for either the spill or my computer, not that they are anywhere close to being on equal levels of importance. By the way, I have put this Donate option up on the right side of the screen here last week to add donations to what we raised at the DC Get-Together and not a single person has donated to help those out of work in the Gulf. I am surprised given that so many people offer to directly help me or help the recipients whose stories are here. Please help, I want to send the money down there asap.  Imagine if half of the readers of the blog would give $10…that would be amazing!

As for my computer issues…I mentioned a guy who volunteered his time to help me, however, he went MIA on Saturday and he has not answered my emails or voice mails. I hope he is OK.  My brother Ryan was nice enough to help me run hours of tests and try different solutions, but still no luck. So no pictures or video for a while. Sorry. For now I am using an old Acer computer that my sister-in-law let me borrow. It is a very basic machine that can’t handle large files and doesn’t have Windows or Microsoft Office, etc. It runs on Linux. On a positive note, it is good to get some experience using a different operating system. I bought a new hard drive today thinking that that was the problem. I installed it and still no change, so I am back to square one. Anyway…back to meeting the amazing people from my journey!

Day 183 was the Worldwide Day of Giving. I did some media interviews that day. In the morning I was on News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live and then in the afternoon I was on CNN with Ali Velshi. Both went well. My dad went with me to CNN’s studios. I think he enjoyed that. On our way home he gave away his $10 for the day to a nice guy named Tony. His story is on Facebook here.

Later I went to the DC Get-Together for the Worldwide Day of Giving. A lot of people were able to come and we had a great time. Several TV stations came to cover the event. A nice surprise was seeing Jay Korff and Mark Bautista from ABC and Kate Michael from KstreetKate.net. They have shared my story with their viewers over the last couple months. Some past recipients who attended were: Anthony, Tommy, Sammy, Danny, Molly, Ashley, Mark to name a few.

So, as the celebration began to wind down, I headed over to the bar area and found Mark chatting with a friend at the bar. About the same time I realized that with all the excitement of the day, I had not given away my $10 yet! I didn’t recognize the guy Mark was talking to so I thought, let’s see if he is willing to accept my $10!

It turns out that Alan is actually staying on Mark’s couch this week. They met through www.couchsurfing.org, a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. Originally from Reading, England, Alan came over here for his brother’s wedding in Denver and plans to stay for a bit and open a subsidiary office for the geothermal energy company he works for back in England. Then he plans to go to Ushuaia, Argentina and bike 11,000 miles to the US. If such a journey sounds familiar, you might recall that an earlier recipient was planning to make almost the exact trip only in reverse from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Here is the wild part of this story. That previous recipient was Mark! That’s right, without knowing it, Alan ended up staying on Mark’s couch, neither of them previously knowing that the other one was planning to make a very similar journey. Not only do they share this same dream, Alan has already made a similar trip that is absolutely incredible. He bicycled 13,000 miles from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa. It took him only 348 days to complete the journey. That is a hell of a trip! Check out the details here.

I place a beat-up $10 bill in Alan’s hand and he readily tells me what he will use it for. “I need a new chain for my bike and ten bucks will buy a decent chain.”

We spoke very casually for some time. I enjoyed learning more about Alan and his cycling. He was also interested in my project and I learned that he is no stranger to giving and charitable ventures. During his London-Capetown trip he raised 10,000 British pounds for an organization called Child Reach International. He also says that biking has served as a catalyst for giving as well. “Cycling people are really friendly and people are always giving. You get so much from others while you are cycling that you save up and then help someone else out in the future.”

Alan told me about a website that I had never heard of too: www.warmshowers.org. “It’s a website that shows you where you can get free warm showers.” He takes a sip of his beer and fires laughs as he says, “That’s rather important when you are cycling for months!”

The English are known for their beer so I thought I would ask him if he had a favorite English beer. He didn’t show any strong favoritism to any one in particular but offered up Newcastle Brown.

Other tidbits about Alan that I found interesting are that he has met the Queen of England, thinks Philadelphia is the best city in the US that he has visited and thinks that newly elected Prime Minister, David Cameron, looks like the twin of the new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

I took some video of Alan which I hope to post when I get my computer problems resolved. We said goodbye and parted ways. He was leaving in two days to go to New York. I just found out on his blog that he has had to return to England to get the proper visa to stay here and work to help set up the subsidiary office for his employer.

Note: Here is a blog entry that Alan posted which includes our encounter where he received the $10.

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MLK Jr. Avenue, Southeast DC (Photo: Wikipedia)

It was a Monday as I walked along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia, part of DC’s Southeast quadrant. My neck turning red as the sun’s heavy rays beat down on me. The bricks of many of the houses and buildings along my path no longer hold the rich red color they once did.

Isaac walked by me as he headed toward the Metro which was about five blocks away. Something about him struck me and I doubled back and caught up with him and asked him to accept my $10. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me as if I had just spoken to him in a foreign language. I sometimes forget how unusual this year-long commitment is. Sharing that he has heard of my project either in the Washington Post or on the local news, he agrees to be my 182nd recipient.

The 32-year-old was on his way home from a trade school where he is learning the fundamentals of carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. With less than a month left of schooling he still is unsure of what he will do when he finishes.

Our conversation takes us back in time to when Isaac was a high school student at Chamberlain High School in Southeast. As a young adult Isaac got involved in some things he shouldn’t have which culminated with him receiving a three-year sentence at the McKean Federal Correctional Institution for cocaine distribution related charges. Released in February of this year, Isaac is trying to pull his life together. “Things happen in prison you know, but you just mind your own business and try not to get in the middle of nothing,” Isaac says of his time in the Pennsylvania penitentiary. While an inmate, he tried to improve himself by completing his GED and taking computer courses. “I would like to get a job working with medical records or something like that.” He goes on to say that he has been thinking about enrolling in the University of Phoenix to further his education.

My conversation with Isaac covers the whole spectrum of life. He shares with me that he might be a father. There is a DNA test in progress to determine whether he is the father of a soon to be three-year-old girl. I did the math and determined that if he did father the child then it must have been right before he was incarcerated. “I don’t know. The test will tell,” he says.

As the weight of the world settles on his shoulders, Isaac is also faced with finding a job. Areas which he says that he would be interested in working are: food service, home or office cleaning, building maintenance, handyman and inventory restocking.

My heart literally hurt when he told me that he was going to buy cigarettes with my money. I try not to judge people on their decisions of what to do with my $10, but to buy cigarettes is a painful reminder of the heart disease that took my mother’s life. I felt the same way when Matt from Day 10 told me he was going to get some Marlboros. I have been against smoking ever since I can remember, but I have to accept his choice. I hope some day you are able to quit Isaac.

I finished asking questions and took a few photos. I walked with Isaac all the way to the Metro station. I really enjoyed talking with him. He is smart and easy to relate to. As we entered the Metro station I asked him where he was heading. “I’m gonna stop by my mother’s house.” The thundering sound of the Metro train coming into the station erased all other sounds. He shook my hand and disappeared into the crowded Green Line train headed for Branch Avenue.

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OK, I am really behind now on my blog posts. My computer is dead. My brother and I spent all day trying to fix it yesterday. I think the hard drive is shot. It might take me a couple of days to confirm that and then get the problem completely fixed or get another computer. Thanks to all who offered to lend me laptops. Maybe some company out there will be inspired to give and help me out with a new one! Feel free to send letters to your favorite laptop manufacturer!

Before I share with you Day 181’s recipient, I would like to update you on Kenneth B (Day 30). Kenneth has been selling the Street Sense newspaper at the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro for two years. Unfortunately I recently learned that Kenneth will have to miss about a month or two due to some medical problems. I see him all the time and he loves serving his customers. I went to visit him the last day before he took time off and he shared with me some financial concerns that he had due to the month or two that he will be out of work. If you would like to help Kenneth out (or any Street Sense vendor out for that matter) you can send a donation to him via Street Sense’s website. In the special instructions field, please indicate what percentage of your donation you would like to go directly to Kenneth and the great team over at Street Sense will make sure he receives it. Thanks for keeping Kenneth in your thoughts.

Ashley at Starbucks at the corner of Connecticut Ave. and R Street (photo: Reed)

So Day 181 was the Sunday before the Worldwide Day of Giving. As I passed the Starbucks near my house I saw a young lady sitting on their patio studying flash cards. I haven’t seen somebody using flash cards for years. Full of intrigue I stopped and introduced myself.

Ashley is a 22-year-old recent graduate of the George Washington University and is studying to take the GRE exam. Tonight she is focusing on her vocabulary by studying words like “dirge,” disabuse” and “dissemble.” I took a shot at about a half-dozen words and was embarrassed at how dreadful my vocabulary knowledge was.

Ashley is quite smart. Although she plans to leave for a Peace Corps assignment this fall, she wants to take the test now while her education from GWU is still fresh in her mind and then use that score to apply for graduate study upon her return from her stint overseas. I think the test results are valid for five years.

I asked her what interested her about the Peace Corps. “I love exploring. I want to serve my country and be a good diplomat of the United States.” Ashley was actually supposed to have already left for her tour however her plans got delayed several months after a less than perfect Lasik eye surgery. She explained that she very well may have to have additional procedures to correct the situation. “I think I am going to opt for “PRK” which is much more painful.” Sorry to hear that Ashley!

In the mean time she picked up a second job at a restaurant. I asked which one and would you believe it was the same place I had chose to hold the Worldwide Day of Giving celebration two days later! Small world.

When she is not working, this native of Rapid City, South Dakota likes reading, good food, good wine, coffee, dancing and exploring other places. She has traveled extensively and tells me a little about her trips to Syria, UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Thailand. With all the travel it’s no surprise that she has picked up some Arabic and even some Spanish.

I asked her what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was going to give it to somebody on the Worldwide Day of Giving. And she did! Not only did she give her $10 to a young man named Aziz on June 15th, but she invited him to join her at the Get-Together we had in DC that evening. Aziz came and I got to meet him as well!

Update July 30, 2010: I finally was able to upload the video that I shot when I met Ashley.

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Tommy sells Street Sense and Alex panhandles in the background (Photo: Reed)

I have some bad news.  My laptop may have completely died.  I am going to make some last ditch efforts, but it doesn’t look good.

I am using a public computer right now and will try to continue posting when possible.  I will not have any pictures or videos until I get some things figured out. 

I came across Alex on a Saturday while I was delivering some donated items to Tommy from Day 155 (he was so thankful for all the love that has poured out for him).  Alex was sitting on a crate just a few feet away trying to find some relief from the sun’s sweltering rays. 

Alex (Photo: Reed)

Originally from Robertson County, North Carolina, Alex, or “Country” as some of his friends call him, moved to Washington, DC when he was 18.  Now 56, he has lived here ever since, with the exception of some time spent in federal correctional facilities in Petersburg, VA and Lorton, VA.    “It was crazy in there…I mean people would take lawn mower blades and use ‘ em as weapons.”   Anytime a recipient tells me that they have served time I am naturally curious as to what they were convicted of.  Country tells me that he broke into a Budweiser Warehouse and was caught…although he doesn’t specifically ever say that was the reason for his incarceration.  He also shares that he had a crack cocaine addiction which came between him and his wife and five children.  “My wife wouldn’t even talk to me on the phone no more.”

Alex's sign (Photo: Reed)

But this is all in the past.  Country seems to be doing ok now.  “I don’t got another run in me, not at this age,” he says pulling his lips tight together.  “I don’t do no drugs no more.  I ain’t gonna lie to you though, I have myself a beer or two in the evenings.”  He tells me that he is being extremely honest with me.  “People lose interest with ya when you lie to ‘em,” he says as he wipes the sweat beads that have formed above his brow.  It’s warm and the air is thick.  

Today he is back together with his wife living a very modest life in Southeast DC.  “At least I got a roof over my head.  It’s not ideal, but it’s something.  We don’t got furniture, or things like that.  The bed has bed bugs…I can’t seem to get rid of them. ”  

He talks about his life now compared to before.  “You get to a point where you need to find a higher power, whatever that is.”  Despite his efforts he says that he cannot find work and comes out to ask for money in front of the CVS at the corner of M Street and 29th Street in the affluent Georgetown neighborhood.  Country says that he would like to get a job doing construction, something he has done in the past.  “I need some tools though, nobody gonna hire you if you show up with nothing.”  He tells me that he needs a pair of size 10.5 wide steel toed work boot, carpenter’s tool belt, and a long steel claw hammer.  I told him that I would put that on my Lend a Hand section and see what we could do.

Country was going to use the $10 for bus fare.

Update July 7, 2010: I recovered some of the files and added pictures and the following video.  He has some great comments!

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Some of you might have heard that at the Worldwide Day of Giving celebration here in DC I did an impromptu fundraising effort to start raising money for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the BP oil spill.  We raised $150.  That is money that came straight from the pockets of those attending.  Given that it was last-minute and the venue chose not to offer any type of matching or incentives for donating, we fell short of what I would have liked to raise. 

Although BP will pay lots of claims, there are lots of expenses and lost opportunities for Gulf residents that will never be repaid.  Or won’t be repaid soon enough.  I am empowering some amazing members of the Gulf community to distribute the money we raise to those who have been affected by the disaster.  These amazing volunteers will then share the stories of people that they meet and help – very much in the same spirit as I have done my daily giving.  Trust me I know, even $10 can make a difference.  If you would like to help, click on the DONATE button to the right.   

There is an interesting article in today’s Washington Post about grass-roots efforts to help those who have been affected by the oil spill.

Day 179 was interesting.  I went to a little lunch place near my old office that I used to frequent, House of Kabob (1829 M Street, NW).  This place gets mixed reviews.  Yes it’s a bit dirty.  Yes it looks a little sketchy.  And Yes the food is always tasty and the staff are incredibly friendly.  Anyway, I noticed a man who was just raving about how much he liked the food there.  He made a few comments to me and I kind of shook my head in agreement.  I took my spice rubbed chicken, chickpeas, and rice over to a table to enjoy while reading the paper.  He took his order to go.

After my stomach was fully satisfied, I headed east on M Street and arrived at a tiny park where I saw the same gentleman that was raving about the food.  He asked me how my lunch was.  Not having anywhere to be, I stopped and spoke with him.  Meet Chandler.

Chandler is taller than me…which is not too tough, I am only 5’9”.  He was wearing a red polo shirt buttoned all the way to the top, greyish green slacks, and black wingtips.  I am not sure how old Chandler is.  I asked him and he told me 47 and then said 67 and smiled and said why don’t you just guess.

Photo: Reed

I am intrigued with this man and decide to offer him my $10 when he asks me what I do.  We escaped the sun’s relentless rays and sat under a small tree.  We ended up speaking about some really deep topics.  “Some people question what I am here to do.  What am I called to do?” he said.  He went on to say, “It is pertinent for man to understand why we are here.”  

At some point he flips the focus from him to me and the Year of Giving and asks what my purpose is.  I gave him an answer, but he seemed unsatisfied with my answer.  Then he got really serious and moved within inches of my face and said,

I am going to tell you something and I want you to listen really well.  If you only listen to one thing that I tell you, listen to this.  You need to sit down and write your personal vision statement.  You need to be completely honest with yourself and write out who you are and who you want to be.  What your values are.  What are your motivations?  And don’t lie, even if you never let anyone else see it you need to be honest with yourself with this.”

He asked me to ponder what my highest actions and/or characteristics are.  Is it love, God, trust, success, honor?  Whatever it is, I should write it all down.  I think this is a very important exercise and I will do this.  It reminds me of a conversation I had on Monday with a friend who I encouraged to write a business plan for his organization.  It just helps to get it down on paper and commit to it.  

Chandler needed to leave.  I am not sure what he did, but it was something in the legal field.  We exchanged telephone numbers and email addresses and agreed to continue talking when he had more time.   As for the $10, he said he was going to invest in gold.

He left me with one other phrase that I really liked.  “May the highest in you meet the highest in me.”  He meant that we should be the very best and treat others the very best way we know how.  I like that idea.

I took some photos of Chandler and then said good-bye.  He turned back toward me as we walked away and said “to be continued.”  

I have reached out a couple of times via email but have not heard back from him.  I have his telephone number and will have to try to set up time for us to speak further.

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Would you believe that I managed to find two consecutive recipients who were originally born in Ethiopia?  Well I did!  Today I am excited to introduce you to Bekele!

I met Bekele in downtown Washington, DC at a parking garage where he has worked for the past seven years.  The first thing you notice about him is his radiant smile.  He is happy and makes you feel happy when you speak to him.  Although he is 47 and the father of four (including a 26-year-old son), he doesn’t look his age. 

Born in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Bekele moved to the United States nine years ago to avoid social and political unrest in his homeland.  He has built a life here in the United States for him and his family.  “I am so happy to be here in the US,” he told me with a huge smile. 

“Being here has changed my life.”  Now a US citizen, Bekele decided to go back to school a few years ago and recently received his associate’s degree in accounting.  He hopes to find a job where he can apply the skills he has learned while at the same time work toward finishing his bachelor’s degree.

I am amazed at how well Bekele speaks English.  I have lived overseas and know first hand how hard it can be to speak another language well.  He grew up speaking Amharic, a Semitic language spoken predominantly in North Central Ethiopia.  I congratulated him for the effort that he has placed on his own education.  He shrugged it off.  It’s just another way that Bekele continually learns and educates himself. 

Check out this short video of my conversation with him.

I was cognizant that he was working and didn’t want to monopolize his time.  I asked where my $10 would end up and he smiled and said that he had not eaten lunch and would go and buy him something to eat.  We said good-bye and he left me with the same infectious smile that he greeted me with.

Happy belated Father’s Day to Bekele!

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First of all, happy father’s day!

From time to time I look up some of the statistics of the blog.  What would you guess is the number one word searched upon that leads people to the website?  Giving?  $10?  Reed Sandridge?  Nope, the number one word for weeks now is “Mohawk!”  I have no idea why.  I went to Google and typed in Mohawk and the Year of Giving doesn’t come up.  I did mention mohawks on Day 13 when I was sharing that Davie from Day 5 offered to give me a haircut to thank me for helping him out…that was one style that he said he was good at.

Anyway, today’s story is slightly different from most.  I grabbed a cab over to the Courthouse area of Arlington.  I thought I might give the cab driver my $10.  His name was Ismael.  A 54-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, he has lived in Virginia for the last 21 years.

He tells me that he likes driving a cab because “I get to meet nice people like you.”  Despite his kindness, people are not always nice to him.  “It can be risky and even dangerous.”  Although nothing really bad has happened to Ismael, he says that some people have threatened him and occasionally customers quickly jump out of his cab without paying.  “Ninety percent of the people are good decent people though.”

I asked Ismael if he would accept my $10, but he said that he couldn’t.  I asked him to humor me though and tell me what he would do if he found $10 or somebody randomly gave him $10.  “I would pass it along.  If I don’t earn the money then I don’t think I should keep it,” he said.  

I really wanted to give Ismael my $10 and figured that he couldn’t stop me from giving him the money.  We arrived at my destination and the meter read $10.  I would have normally given him $12, but decided to give him $22 and include my $10.  I thanked him, wished him good luck, and handed over the money and my Year of Giving card.  Then I quickly jumped out of the cab probably like those individuals he had told me about and entered the restaurant where I was meeting some friends for dinner.

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Day 176 – Garrett P.

If you frequent the corner of Connecticut Avenue and N Street or the Adams Morgan neighborhood you might have seen this man.

Photo: Reed

As I was walking north on Connecticut Avenue I heard Garrett before I saw him.  Wearing a wrinkled t-shirt and standing behind a 1970s or 1980s Ross bicycle is a thin man with short cropped hair and stubble.  The 65-year-old DC resident who makes his living singing, shaking his maraca, tapping his tambourine, and offering kind words to those on the streets of Washington smiles at me as I walk up to him. 

After years of drug use and several stints in correctional facilities, he says that he has straightened his life out and found God.  He says that he is passionate about Jesus and music.  And his roots in music go deep.  He was in a rock’n’roll band when he was younger.

Garrett moved to DC in 1969 from Poughkeepsie, NY after ending his first marriage to a preacher’s daughter.  He seems to have his life together now.  He says the worst thing he does now is smoke cigarettes.  That may stop soon too as his doctor has advised him to stop smoking as a result of recent complaints of shortness of breath.

Garrett’s toothless smile is contagious.  Hidden behind his dark sunglasses is a man who warmly greats those walking by him.  “I love people,” he says.  He offers a smile to everyone.

Garrett's bicycle (photo: Reed)

Garrett plans to use the $10 to pay some bills, however he says that he regularly helps others out.  “If I see someone down, I stop and talk to them.”  He goes on to say, “I’m blessed.  I don’t ask for much.”  When pressed he did offer some items that he says he could use that you can find listed on the Lend a Hand page.

Take a minute and listen to Garrett’s rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s version of Woke Up This Morning With Jesus On My Mind.  He also shared some of his views on life and what he plans to do with the $10.  Enjoy!

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On my first day back in the US after my trip to Colombia I wandered around my neighborhood looking for a recipient.  I ran into Leonel from Day 56.  He was at Books-A-Million.  He said he was doing well and we agreed to try to meet up that Saturday to watch Team USA play in the World Cup.

I walked over to the Starbucks at Dupont Circle and found a few people sitting outside enjoying the nice weather.  The first man I approached refused to participate and even refused to receive my card.  I walked to another man outside and he shook his head and said no.  He was from Cuba and spoke to me for a minute or two but said he wasn’t interested in participating.  He kept my card.

Feeling a bit rejected, I headed inside to see if my luck would change.  It was there that I found Michael sitting on a stool.  He seemed interested in what I was doing.  After a few minutes, a man came out of the restroom and Michael said, “Hey listen to what this guy is doing.”  I explained the Year of Giving again and his friend said that this sounded interesting.  They agreed that Michael would receive the $10.

“I have been crying all day today,” Michael shared with me.  I imagined the worse and suggested that we not do the interview.  “It’s ok, they were tears of joy!”  It turns out that Michael was celebrating 80 days of sobriety after a two-year roller coaster addiction to crystal meth.  On top of that his friend that was with him was celebrating one year free of the drug.  

Michael is in active recovery and attends daily meetings and has a sponsor.  “I am in a very good place today,” he says.  It’s a day-to-day process though he admits.  “I am focusing on how to stay clean.”  As we begin to talk, Michael’s friend chooses to go outside as it becomes difficult to hear the painful story.

Crystal Meth user (photo: crystalmethaddiction.org)

His addiction started by trying it for the first time with a former lover.  “Meth is a huge problem for the gay community,” he tells me.  I can’t help but listen to Michael’s story without thinking back to Rob’s story from day 117 .  “I lost my job, my partner, my house, my dignity, my self-respect, and my self-esteem.”  A former 20 year alcoholic, Michael is familiar with addiction.  “Addicts are liars.  When I was using my immediate reaction was to lie about everything, even to myself.”  The situation got so bad that I decided to kill myself.  It took an intervention by an ex-partner and a family member that resulted in him going to a treatment center to save his life.

Given the sensitivity of his story, Michael preferred to stay anonymous and not have his picture taken.  He also didn’t want to offer his email address telling me “I will send you an email.”  Unfortunately I haven’t heard from him yet.

“I know exactly what I am going to do with this $10,” he says.  “I am going to donate it to Crystal Meth Anonymous”  According to the website, CMA is a free organization that brings together men and women who share their experience, strength and hope in order to help one another free themselves from their addictions to crystal meth.  Michael spoke very highly or the organization.

The support he receives has helped him stay sober.  He now has a job and is “starting to live again.”  He told me he used to think that he was the only one in his situation.  With the support of the group he now knows that his situation is not unique.

His friend came back and they shared a moment just smiling at one another.  He turned and looked at me and said, “This is the happiest day of my life and I got to share it with someone I love.”

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The day had finally come that I had to return to Washington after almost two weeks of incredible work in Manizales. 

I am working on a collage of photos of my trip that I hope to post soon.

I left the coffee and banana finca for the last time and made the way up the mountain.  Four-wheel drive is a must.  I hopped out as we got to Adriana and Augusto’s store and switched the ten dollar bill and we continued on our way.

It’s a pretty drive, wrapping around the mountainous roads of Colombia’s coffee belt for two hours. 

I arrived with plenty of time and started to make my way through the check-in process.  Now I have been to Colombia before and am familiar with the multiple revisions that they do of your luggage, but this time it went a step further.  I had purchased some coffee and other goods to bring back as gifts for some friends.  They poked holes in almost every item I had and tasted it.  They opened up the Colombian rum that I had purchased and poured some over their finger to make sure that it wasn’t liquid heroin!  I know the man was just doing his job and that he is doing it for all the right reasons, however, it’s frustrating to watch someone open and damage all of your gifts for others.

While I was being searched I noticed another man that was being searched who looked familiar.  I asked the customs officer who he was and he said that it was Tego Calderon

, a well-known Latin American Reggaetón artist.  I had heard of his name but couldn’t say that I was familiar with his music.  Anyway, I thought he might be an interesting person to give him my $10. 

Tego Calderon

On board the flight from Pereira, Colombia to Panama’s Tocumen International Airport I saw Tego again.  He was being moved up from coach to first class.  We arrived in Panama and were met on the tarmac by a shuttle bus that took us to the terminal.  As I squeezed into the crowded shuttle bus I found myself shoulder to shoulder with the Puerto Rican musician who appeared to be travelling with his wife and some friends or band members.  I asked him how the concert went in Pereira and he politely replied that it went well.  Then there was a little silence and he turned to chat with one of his friends.

So many of you have written to me talking about anxiety to approach someone and give them $10.  Well, let me tell you…I was very nervous about Tego to accept my $10, but I did.  He accepted my card and read both sides of it.  “So what is it?” he asked in Spanish.  I explained very quickly the concept and he replied, “Man, I don’t have time, we got to catch a flight to Santo Domingo.”  I assured him it would be fast, but he just smiled and laughed and shook his head.  As the doors opened and he exited the shuttle bus he said “I’ll check out your website.”  He and his entourage quickly vanished.

While waiting for the flight to depart, I tried to give my $10 to Alfredo, a COPA Airlines pilot, but he just didn’t feel comfortable.  He asked a lot of questions but didn’t seem to get the giving project.

I boarded my final flight, COPA 488 from Panama to Washington’s Dulles International Airport.  I had seat 14A which is by the emergency exit and doesn’t have a seat in front of it.  As I approached my seat I saw that someone was sitting there.  After double checking tickets, it turns out that Roey was supposed to be in 14B: the middle seat.

The flight was just under five hours and was scheduled to land at 12:55AM.  So I knew I was going to continue the streak of 174 days without missing a day of giving, I needed to find someone on this flight and give them the $10 before we land.  

The plane took off and I pulled out a notebook to try to write some of the blogs from the previous days.  I was so far behind (and still am) and needed to get caught up.  I didn’t have my notebook out one minute before Roey, now in 14B, asked, “Do you journal?  I have more than 2,000 journal entries.”  Inside I was smiling as I realized that I just found my day’s recipient!

Roey (Photo: Reed)

Roey is 29 and lives in Bethesda.  Originally from Israel, he moved here when he was five.  He is passionate about his religion and his heritage and shared openly with me.  When he is not out pursuing some adventure in Costa Rica, Roey works in information security for a firm that specializes in auditing government information systems for compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act.  

He was traveling with three friends on their way back from a trip to Costa Rica.  They met on Gesher City DC, a social website that according to the site is the “one-stop connection to all things young and Jewish in DC!”  They had been on an amazing eco-farm while they were there.  Roey got his camera out and showed me the many photographs he took while visiting this beautiful natural paradise.  Here Roey talks a little bit about his general impressions of the “Ticos” – that is the name given to the local people of Costa Rica.

We talked about coffee, as I had just been on a coffee plantation and some of the people that he met on his trip were in the coffee business.  It sounded like the highlight of their trip was a day that they visited the Cacao Trails in Cahuita.  Roey said they got to see the entire chocolate making process.  And no tour apparently is complete without tasting the final product.  “It was the best chocolate I have ever tasted,” Roey told me.  He explained that the flavor is so much better because they do not extract the cocoa butter like many commercialized chocolate manufacturers do. 

Roey wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the $10 but he said he planned to do something for someone else.  I look forward to hearing how it was used.

We talked the length of the entire flight.  I met his two friends Julia and David too (the fourth friend took a different flight).  In fact, I even gave Julia and David a ride home.  They didn’t live too far away from where I live so it was nice to be able to help them out.  Roey stayed behind as his parents were on their way to pick him up.

Roey fresh off the plane (Photo: Reed)

Roey is a guy who likes to make connections.  He loves to think of the people that he knows that might be able to help you out or simply be a good friend.  I think I left with a half-dozen names of people or places that he thought might be of interest to me.  I haven’t followed up on them yet, although I should.  Roey loves to meet new people and if you are in the DC area and open to meeting new people, I know Roey would love to meet up!

An interesting tidbit.  The following day the blog was accessed by somebody in Santo Domingo.  I don’t have too many visitors from there, so who knows, maybe it was Tego!

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My father, Manny (blog follower), and Sammy (Day 113) at the WWDoG DC Get-Together (Photo: Ryan Sandridge)

Thanks to all of you who participated in the Worldwide Day of Giving!  It was amazing.  So many great stories from all over…pictures and even video from some people!  I received a lot of emails from people who said that they tried, but just couldn’t do it.  It was too far out of their comfort zone.  That’s ok.  You tried.  Keep trying. 

I also received lots of emails from people who want to continue doing this every 15th of the month…what a great idea.  Feel free to continue to post your stories here or on Facebook WHENEVER you pay it forward.  I will remind everyone on July 15th for those who want to give it another try!

A lot of you have asked how the DC Meet-Up went.  I was so happy to see so many former recipients, followers of the blog, people I only knew from their comments, and even people who had received $10 from someone on the Worldwide Day of Giving that then joined us at the happy hour.  All the local news stations were also there.  I will try to get links for all the media from that day, including the two earlier interviews I did that day on News Channel 8 and CNN.

I am excited to write about my recipients for today’s post.  As my trip was winding down in Manizales, I started to get sad as the trip was coming to an end.  The day before I left I was in the Guacas area where I was staying getting ready for a barbecue that Roberto Gonzalo was organizing.  About 10 minutes up (literarily up the mountain) there is a small store that has some billiard tables and a TV for neighborhood people to come together.  Roberto Gonzalo and I had stopped by there on a few occasions and bought items we needed or enjoyed a beer at the end of the day.  This night I thought I would go and get to know them and see what they would do with my $10.

I left the gated area of the plantation and started to ascend up the mountain.  I can’t convey to you how steep this hill is.  The store is only about 200-250 yards away, but it is a workout to get there.  Pinto the dog escaped and was at my side as I lift one leg in front of the other.  My heart starts to pound and sweat is rolling off my forehead.  I stop for about a minute to catch my breath.  The altitude adds another level of complexity at 7,000 feet.  Pinto knows the way and he runs on ahead of me as I crest the incline and see the store off to the left.. 

Adriana, Augusto, and Pamela

The store is owned by Adriana and Augusto who live upstairs with their seven-year-old daughter.  I had seen them a few times while I was on my trip.  Augusto was always out front working on something; cutting wood on the lathe, welding some metal, working on a car, etc.  Adriana tends to the store and their daughter. 

It is a holiday weekend and many people have traveled leaving the store void of the usually two or three locals chatting about the election or the upcoming World Cup.  I find Augusto leaning over a table that has a large metal door laying flat on top of it.  Clad with goggles he wields a welding torch with his right hand along one of the edges of the metal door.  He gives me a wave and I walk toward Adriana who is sitting outside at a table with her daughter. 

View from Augusto/Adriana's store (Photo: Reed)

By this time Augusto had retired the blow torch and had walked over to the table.  We made some small talk and then I told them about my project.    I sat down and shared with them the journey that has become my passion over the past six months.

Adriana, who is 28, tells me that the store has been there for as long as she can remember.  It has been in the family for years.  She manages the store and also makes homemade morcilla which she sells in the city.  Morcilla is a type of sausage that is made by cooking blood from pigs, cows, goats, etc then adding a filler such as rice until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled.  I was introduced to morcilla when I lived in Valladolid, Spain.  Although it is quite tasty, I usually try not to think about what goes into it.

Augusto is the Colombia version of MacGyver.  Every time I would see him he was fixing something.  He is an industrial mechanic by trade, but he is a skilled woodworker, metalworker, carpenter, plumber, auto mechanic, etc.  He even likes to do car detailing.  The 32-year-old builds more in a week than I have in my entire life.  I asked him what the door was for and he said that the local prison had contracted him to make 12 doors for them.  I would think they would contract those sort of things with large companies, but “MacGyver” has a good reputation and the work flows his way.

A former police officer, he made the career change after being sent to the tension stricken border area between neighboring Ecuador.  “It was too dangerous for me,” he states “and I like to work with my hands.”

Adriana said something to her daughter and she disappeared into the store.  Pamela had been sitting patiently at the table the entire time that we spoke.  She reappeared minutes later and walked over to me and placed a cold bottle of the local beer, Poker, on the table next to me.  That is just the kind of hospitality that people grow up with here.  She smiled and went back to her chair.

I wanted to find out more about how Adriana and Auguto met.  Adriana told me about how they had actually known each other almost all their lives.  In fact, they even dated when they were teenagers, but later separated.  They reconnected years later and married.

Augusto had several questions about the Year of Giving.  We talked about how it got started, my family, and some of the other people I have met along the way.  I explained that they could look up the blog online, but they didn’t have internet access.  There is another small store about 100 yards away that has a computer where you can pay to surf the web.  I mentioned that they could go and look it up there.  Maybe they will do that.

I offered them either dollars or pesos.  Augusto said he would prefer dollars.  “For now I think I’ll  keep it as a reminder of us meeting each other.”  I only had one ten dollar bill with me and it was really beat up.  I placed it in his hand and told him that I would stop by the next day on my way to the airport and give him one in a little better shape.  He nodded as if to say that was ok, but not necessary. 

We wrapped up our conversation.  I paid for the beer and bought a few more to take to the barbecue.  As I headed down the driveway and turned onto the dirt road to make the journey down the mountain, Pinto appeared out of nowhere.  I had completely forgotten that he had accompanied me on the journey.  It was now pitch dark out and the lack of street lighting makes the walk down the mountain slightly challenging, although I’ll take walking down the mountain in the dark over walking up the mountain any day.  Especially with Pinto by my side, he knows the way.

The next day as we left for the airport, I hopped out of the jeep to make good on my word about exchanging the ten dollar bill.  Augusto and his family were sitting at a table eating lunch.   “I have been thinking a lot about your project today” he said.  “It’s really amazing.”  We switched the $10 and said “until the next time.”

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Good morning and welcome to the Worldwide Day of Giving!!!

Today is a day that you can do what I have been doing for 182 days (I am behind on posting my blogs).  It’s so simple…find someone you don’t know, tell them you are participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and give them $10, or whatever you can afford, no strings attached and find out what they will do with the $10.  Hopefully you can learn a little bit about them as well.  I always get their contact information and then try to stay in touch.  Have fun with it!  Then I hope you will share your stories here…if you take pictures or video, you can post your stories on the Facebook Page.

I have a couple of media interviews today.  This morning I am heading over to News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live for an interview with Natasha Barrett and Melanie Hastings.  Then around 2:30 I will be on CNN with Ali Velshi.  Finally this evening, I will be celebrating here in DC at Café Dupont (The Dupont Hotel) from 6-8pm.  If you are around, please join us!

Interviewing Sandra in her classroom (Photo: Roberto Gonzalo Ceballos)

On day 172 I found myself at the Instituto Tecnico Marco Fidel Suarez (ITMFS), a grade school in Manizales.  The kids here are similar to the those at the San Agustin school.  They come from very simple backgrounds.  Poverty is rampant and sometimes the brightest part of their day is the time they spend at school.  “Sometimes the meal they get here might be the only meal they get all day,” says Sandra, and English teacher at the school.

The bilingual chorus that I was working with at this school was made up of Sandra’s students.  After we were done rehearsing with the students, Sandra stayed to talk to me some and I found my recipient for my 20,000 pesos.  

Photo: Reed

An educator for the past 13 years, Sandra never imagined she would be teaching at a school like ITMFS.  “I was teaching at the University.” And before that she had some pretty impressive jobs translating and interpreting for the Ambassador from India.  “I don’t know how it happened but somehow I ended up teaching here and I am so happy to be here.” 

Colombia divides it’s neighborhoods into socio-economic categories called strata.  The wealthiest is six and the poorest is zero.  This school has children from the zero and one strata.  To me the concept was unfamiliar to identify people so readily by a stratum based upon where they lived, but here it was quite common.  In fact, many of the students that I met would ask me which stratum I belonged to.  A question that I didn’t know how to answer but comparatively speaking, it was surely much higher.

Sandra is passionate about teaching.  She speaks English all the time and expects her students to try their hardest.  Most of the students were lucky to know a few words in English.  The hope is that by learning the songs that we teach them that they will make a connection and learn more quickly.  There was one girl who was quite advanced in the chorus.  She had an amazing natural ability I think for languages.  Sounding almost like a proud mother she nodded her head and said, “Yes, she is quite good isn’t she.”

I learned that English is not the only thing that Sandra is passionate about.  Now the proud mother really came out and she flipped through her phone for a second and handed it to me.  “I have the most special baby boy: Juan Felipe.” He is three and looked so happy in the photos she shared.  

I shot a little video of the class singing as well as Sandra explaining what she was going to do with the $10 and why.  This one is in English.  Enjoy.

Versión en español

En el día 172 estuve en el Instituto Técnico Marco Fidel Suárez (ITMFS), una escuela del sector público en Manizales. Los niños de acá son parecidos a los del Colegio San Agustín. Tienen un historial muy simple en donde la pobreza es excesiva y algunas veces, la mejor parte del día es el tiempo que están en la escuela. “Algunas veces la única comida que tienen es la que comen aquí” dice Sandra, la docente de inglés.

El coro bilingüe lo integran los alumnos que asisten a clase con Sandra. Después de haber terminado el ensayo con los estudiantes, me quedo con Sandra para hablar un poco y encuentro a quien darle mis 20,000 pesos.

Sandra, siendo docente durante 13 años, nunca imaginó que estaría enseñando en una escuela como el ITMFS. “Fui docente  a nivel universitario” y antes había trabajado como traductora e intérprete para el Embajador de la India. “No sé cómo sucedió pero de un momento a otro terminé enseñando aquí y estoy feliz de hacerlo.”

Students at ITMFS (Photo: Reed)

En Colombia los barrios se clasifican en categorías socio-económicas llamadas estratos. El estrato más rico es el seis y el más pobre es el cero. Los estudiantes de esta escuela provienen de estratos cero y uno. Para mí el concepto no era familiar, es decir, identificar a las personas rápidamente sólo con base en el lugar donde viven; pero aquí en Colombia es algo demasiado común. De hecho, muchos de los estudiantes que conocí, me preguntaron a qué estrato pertenecía. Una pregunta que no supe cómo responder, pero comparativamente hablando, de seguro mucho más alto.

Sandra es apasionada con respecto a su trabajo, habla en inglés todo el tiempo y espera que sus estudiantes hagan su mayor esfuerzo. Muchos de los estudiantes son afortunados al conocer algunas palabras en inglés. Se espera que aprendiendo las canciones que les enseñamos, los estudiantes hagan una conexión y aprendan más rápidamente. Había una estudiante en el ensayo del coro, quien estaba muy avanzada con respecto a los otros; creo que tiene una extraordinaria habilidad innata para los idiomas. Con el tono de voz de una madre orgullosa Sandra mueve su cabeza y dice: “Sí, es muy buena para el inglés”.

Aprendí que no sólo el inglés es lo que apasiona a Sandra. Aparece una madre orgullosa quien saca su teléfono celular, busca por un momento y me muestra una foto: ¨Tengo el bebé más especial: Juan Felipe.” Tiene tres años y se ve muy feliz en las fotos.

Grabé un corto video (encima)  en donde aparece el ensayo del coro y Sandra explicando qué va a hacer con los $10 y por qué. Está en inglés. Disfrútenlo.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Sandra Toro en Manizales, Colombia.

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Tomorrow is the big day.  Have you been thinking about who you might give your $10 to?  Don’t over think it.  Follow your heart.  Tell them what you are doing.  Explain to them quickly what the Year of Giving is about.  If you are at a loss on how to start the conversation, maybe this example that I sent to some friends will help. 

Hi…I was wondering if you could help me on a personal project that I am doing…well, let me explain to you what the project is and you can decide for yourself. I am participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving, a day that celebrates altruistic giving and community engagement. The project is simple….I find one person who I don’t know and give them $10, no strings attached. I would love for you to be the recipient of my $10.” 

If they say yes, you can ask other questions and learn more about them….etc. If they are still unsure, explain that if they say no, then you will simply have to find someone else. If they say they are not worthy of the $10, tell them they do not have to keep it and that they can do anything they want to with it. If they say that they prefer that you give it to someone who needs it, remind them that they can also do that. Sometimes you get a few objections….but hang in there and you will find the right person. 

Then submit your stories here

Changing subject a little, I didn’t get any takers to meet up and use my $100 game card at the ESPN Zone.  They were not very flexible in letting me use the credit for anything else (like food at their restaurant, etc) so I gave my card to some school kids there on a class trip.  They were ecstatic. 

I wish I had captured Doña Myriam smiling in this picture, but she had her serious artist look going on (Photo: Reed)

 

Today I have a beautiful story to share with you.  While I was in Manizales, I spent a good amount of time at the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  One day there was an adult art class taking place.  I was taking some photos of them painting when the work of 85-year-old Doña Myriam caught my eye.  We started to talk and I knew I had found my recipient for the day! 

Doña Myriam gave me so much energy.  She has so much passion to learn new things and live an active life.  She has taken up painting and if you take a look at the video, you will see that she is quite talented.  

She raised 10 children.  Sadly her one son, an electrician, has passed away.  I think back to the recent death of my cousin Ricky and how hard it was on my aunt.  My heart always goes out to parents who lose a child.  There is just nothing that prepares us for that.  She also lost her husband who died in 1976.  

Our conversation turned to happier times, like her childhood.  She shares that at 12-years-old she wanted to join the communist party.  By 15 she had changed her mind.  But this interest in politics and government led her to want to pursue a career in law.  “But times were different then.  My father forbid me to go study at the university.”  Well, she is making up for lost time now as she follows her passions. 

Photo: Reed

 

I asked her how she planned to use her 20,000 pesos.  There was an electricity in her voice when she answered me.  She smiled and placed her hand on top of mine and said, “I am going to buy some more painting supplies so that I can do more painting!”  She has been making paintings for each of her children.  Maybe with the additional funds she can start making paintings for all those grandchildren! 

This woman had something special.  She warmed my heart and I was sad when I left.  It was like I was saying goodbye to my own grandmother.  I gave her a hug and we exchanged phone numbers.  I have uploaded some of the video from our conversation.  It is in Spanish, but even those of you who don’t understand Spanish might enjoy seeing her paint and just watching her expressions.  She’s beautiful.

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Mañana es el gran día.   ¿Has pensado a quien te gustaría darle tus $10?  No lo pienses tanto, sigue tu corazón.  Mi consejo es que les cuentes lo que estás haciendo, explícales rápidamente que significa el “Año del Dar”.  Si no sabes cómo iniciar la conversación, quizá este ejemplo te sirva. 

“Hola.. quería saber si me puedes ayudar en un proyecto personal.  Déjame te explico mi proyecto para que decidas si me quieres ayudar.  Estoy participando en el día mundial del Año del Dar, un día que celebra el dar sin condiciones y el compromiso de la comunidad.  El proyecto es muy simple… yo encuentro a una persona que no conozco y le doy $10 sin ninguna condición. Me encantaría que tú seas la persona que recibe mis $10 el día de hoy. 

Si la persona te dice que sí, ahora puedes hacer más preguntas y aprender más sobre él/ella.  Si no está seguro, explícale que si dice que no, simplemente tendrás que ir a buscar a otra persona.  Si dice que no vale los $10, dile que no se los tiene que quedar, que puede hacer lo que quiera con el dinero.  Si dice que prefiere que tú se lo des a otra persona que lo necesite, recuérdale que él también puede hacerlo.  Algunas veces recibes algunos rechazos… pero sigue intentando para que encuentres a la persona correcta. 

Después, comparte con nosotros tus historias aquí! 

Cambiando de tema, no pude encontrar a nadie para reunirnos y usar mi tarjeta con $100 para jugar en la Zona de ESPN.  La gente de ESPN no fue muy flexible y no pude usar el dinero como crédito para otro gasto (como comida en el restaurante, etc).  Acabé dando la tarjeta a unos niños que estaban de paseo con su clase de la escuela.  Los niños quedaron encantados. 

La profesora de la clase de arte (Photo: Reed)

Hoy tengo una historia muy linda para compartir.  Ahora que estuve de visita en Manizales, pase un buen tiempo con la Fundación Rafael Pombo.  En una de mis visitas, tuve la oportunidad de entrar a tomar fotos en la clase de arte para adultos.  Estaba tomando fotos de los alumnos y de sus pinturas cuando de repente encontré el trabajo de Doña Myriam, una señora de 85 años.  Comenzamos a platicar y supe que había encontrado a la persona que le daría los 20,000 pesos de ese día.  

Doña Myriam me dio mucha energía.  Ella tiene muchas ganas – y mucha pasión – de aprender cosas nuevas y vivir una vida activa.  Ahora está tomando clases de pintura y si ves el video, veras que tiene talento.  

Doña Myriam crió diez niños.  Desafortunadamente, un hijo hombre, un electricista, murió.  Esto me hizo pensar en la muerte reciente de mi primo Ricky y lo difícil que fue para mi tía.  Mi compasión siempre va para los padres que han perdido un hijo.  No existe nada que lo prepare a uno para eso.  Doña Myriam también perdió a su esposo que murió en 1976. 

Nuestra conversación cambio y comenzamos a hablar de los buenos tiempos, como su niñez.  Me comentó que a los 12 años, quiso unirse al partido comunista.  A los 15 ya había cambiado de parecer, pero siguió teniendo mucho interés en temas políticos y de gobierno por lo que decidió estudiar la carrera de derecho. “Pero los tiempos eran diferentes, mi padre me prohibió ir a la universidad.”  Ahora trata de recuperar el tiempo perdido y de seguir sus pasiones. 

Photo: Reed

Le pregunté cómo planeaba utilizar sus 20,000 pesos.  Hubo electricidad en su voz cuando me contestó.  Sonrió y  puso su mano sobre la mía y me dijo, “Voy a comprar más provisiones de pintura para poder pintar más!”  Ella ha estado pintando cuadros para cada uno de sus hijos.  Quizá, con las nuevas provisiones de pintura, Doña Myriam podrá comenzar a hacer pinturas para cada uno de sus nietos! 

Esta mujer tiene algo especial.  Me sentí  triste cuando me fui.  Fue como si le dijera adiós a mi propia abuela.  Le di un abrazo e intercambiamos números de teléfono.  Subí un video en español de nuestra conversación.  Es muy linda. 

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Carla Tena en Washington, DC.

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It looks like there is a glitch with the website today.  Instead of my usually banner of the open hand that is at the top, I have a nice picture of a foot bridge and some trees.  Not sure why that is happening.  Is anyone else seeing the footbridge picture instead of my normal banner? 

For those of you who will be participating in the Worldwide Day of Giving and sharing your stories with the world, you need to post them here.  If you have photos and video to share, you will need to do one of two things.  Either upload those on the Facebook page or write the stories here and put links to the photos/videos on a 3rd party website (such as YouTube or Flickr).  Sorry to do it this way, but there are some technical challenges that prevent uploading the pictures and videos straight into this website. 

I am so excited to hear about your giving experiences!  If you have some questions, check out the comments here that should help answer any questions you might have. 

So this morning I have an interview with DeLuca and the morning team at Q92, a Canton, OH based radio station.  I have spoken to them before and had a good time with those guys.   Later in the day I am talking with Tim Day of KG Country 99.5, a radio station in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.  I spoke with Tim about a month or so ago and he wanted to check in and see how things were going.  

Then I was thinking about going over to the ESPN Zone tonight.  I heard that they are closing tomorrow for good!  I have some game cards with like $100.  Although there is no mention of them closing on their website, I did hear it on two different news programs.  Anyway, I don’t think they are going to refund me the balance on the cards, so they need to get used.  If anyone wants to meet up tonight and help me use the rest of the credits on my card, let me know! 

Today’s entry is a very special one.  While I was in Manizales, I met with the Secretary of Education for Manizales, Dr. María Constanza Montoya Naranjo.  She is a wonderful woman who is working hard to deliver the best education possible for the students in Manizales.  One day we were talking about the Year of Giving and she suggested I give my $10 to the Mayor, Juan Manuel Llano Uribe.  I had seen him on Friday at the event with US Ambassador William Brownfield.  Anyway, she said she would give him a call and try to arrange something.  Well what do you know?  She arranged a meeting the next day! 

Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe

 

I get invited into a large conference room to wait for the Mayor.  Already seated are four students and two teachers from a local school that had recently returned from a science fair in Dallas, TX.  These students had built some robots that are prototypes for larger scale versions that would be used to help in the coffee production process and they were there to demonstrate their ingenuity to the Mayor.   

Well, how the hell am I going to follow that act? 

Anyway, the school children leave and I get a few minutes with the Mayor.  He invites me to walk over to an adjacent room which turns out to be his office.  It’s spacious with very nice views of Manizales.  There are a couple of comfortable chairs arranged around a coffee table on one end.  He disappears for a moment and then returns.  We chat for a little while and I try to do my best to explain the Year of Giving.  I am not sure what he thought of it, but he agreed to talk with me. 

He spoke about the growth and globalization of Manizales and the expected increase of tourism to the city.  “What should a tourist be sure to see or do while they are here?” I asked.  He said that one should definitely try to see the eight different shades of green that Manizales has.  He was referring to the vast natural beauty and the stunning variety of greenery that exists there.  I was certainly doing that by staying on Roberto Gonzalo’s plantation.  He also mentioned that I should visit Nevado del Ruiz, a snow-covered volcanic peak that has been active in recent history.  The current cone was formed about 150 years ago.  Atop the mountain is a massive glacier.  The Mayor says that this is the only peak of its kind that is accessible by car.  That is impressive, not to mention that it’s at 5,135 meters, that’s more than 16,000 feet!  Well, I didn’t make it there unfortunately, but next time! 

He stressed his commitment to making Manizales a bilingual community and that they were strongly behind the educational transformation that is needed to make this shift.  There are two critical investment areas for this to be a success according to the Mayor: technology and human capital.  “It’s sowing the seeds for the future,” he said.   Here the Mayor speaks about his vision for Manizales (in Spanish). 

When the Mayor is not hard at work on the future of Manizales, he says that he enjoys playing golf and riding motorcycles.  I wonder if he has taken his bike up to Nevado del Ruiz.  That would be pretty spectacular! 

So what do you think the Mayor is going to do with the $10…or 20,000 pesos in this case?  That was what was on my mind throughout the entire conversation.  I circled back to the 20,000 peso note that sat in front of him and asked what he planned to do with it.  I got an answer that I have never heard before.  “I’m going to take your 20,000 pesos and give you 100,000 a year from now.”  I am not sure exactly how he plans to do this and I didn’t ask.  I just let it be.  

Mr. Mayor…I look forward to seeing you next June!

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Just two days until the Worldwide Day of Giving

If anyone is located in an area affected by the oil spill or knows someone who is, please drop me a note.

Today’s recipient has a very special treat for you so I hope that you have a way to watch the videos that are posted on here.

Giovanni at work at the Batuta Foundation (Photo: Reed)

While I was in Manizales, I met Giovanni, a 31-year-old talented musician.  Although born in the nation’s capital of Bogotá, he originally came to Manizales to play the bass for the city’s orchestra.  He continues to perform in Manizales and cities throughout the region in addition to teaching music at the renown Batuta National Institute; a national system of youth orchestras that aims to foster social development through music.

He says he really likes life in Manizales.  I got a rather first hand view of his life as I was Giovanni’s neighbor for the 12 days I spent in Manizales.  He was living in the area of Guacas where Roberto Gonzalo lives and has his coffee plantation.  To go to work, he regularly makes the exhausting 30 minute walk up the mountain to grab a bus that goes down into the city.  It’s at least an hour or more to get into the city.  I know that because I did that several times while I was there!  

Giovanni invited me into his home.  It’s simply decorated with the essentials.  I can not help but notice the large bass leaning against the wall.  I was hoping he would play it for me.

We speak a mixture of Spanish and English.  He is very comfortable talking to me and even starts to prepare some dinner.  Dressed in a t-shirt, pants, flip-flops, he moves around his kitchen.  I asked him what he was cooking.  “I am kind of inventing right now.” I tend to do the same thing.

Before I know it he had made some coffee and served me a cup.

This is what was on Giovanni's music stand (Photo:Reed)

He says that he personally likes jazz, symphonies, and chamber music.  With a music degree from the Technological University of Pereira, he has a solid appreciation of many music genres.  If Pereira sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because that is the airport where I arrived.  Giovanni added that it is also where his parents live. 

Since I have been here during the election period, I also asked Giovanni who he felt would be the best leader to continue Colombia’s positive development that it has experienced over the past several years.  He gave me that slightly uncomfortable look that many people do when you move the conversation to political views.  He says that he has the most faith in Antanas Mockus from the Green Party.  “But I think Juan Manuel will win,” he says referring to Juan Manuel Santos who leads the poles.  

Like Viviana from Day 164, he opted to receive $10 instead of 20,000 pesos and also said he planned to keep the money as a memory of this experience.  That is touching that he would want to keep it to remember our meeting.

I asked Giovanni if he would play for me and he obliged.  Take a listen to this.  It’s beautiful.

Giovanni had some questions for me as well.  When I told him that I grew up in Pennsylvania, he told me that he had been there and that he travelled there regularly to perform.  His grin told me something was not as it appeared though as he divulged that he was referring to Pensilvania, another city in the state of Caldas.  Somehow I think that William Penn had no idea that years later there would be a city in Colombia that would share the name of the US state that was named after the colonial leader.

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Version en Español sigue abajo

We are three days away from the Worldwide Day of Giving!  Check here for more details.

 Also for those of you in DC, many of us are getting together on Tuesday at The Dupont Hotel.  There will be former recipients of the Year of Giving, blog followers, and a special appearance from my Dad!  Come out and join us from 6-8pm…the hotel will have some free appetizers and reduced drink menu for Year of Giving followers!  Also, I will be organizing some grass-roots relief for those out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.

On Day 168 I didn’t have any meetings scheduled in the morning so I decided to find an internet café in Manizales where I could get caught up on my blog.  I found a place in the heart of the city and logged a few hours of work there.  It was really cheap too!  About 65 cents per hour.  And the connection speed was fast!

After I finished, I wandered down to the small plaza and fountain in front of city hall.  It was there that I saw Jorge just sitting in the center of the plaza.

An out of work telecom technician by trade, Jorge is actively looking for work.  Something I could identify with.  The feelings one has and the challenges one faces while being unemployed are not so different in another culture.  Being out of work triggers similar emotions and responses regardless of the language that is spoken or the geography of the locale.

Realistically Jorge doesn’t even have that much of an option to consider moving from Manizales to other areas in search of work such as Medellín, Cali, or Bogotá.  He was born and raised in Manizales…in the Barrio Caribe area.  He is separated now, but has a 14-year-old daughter.  So this makes his situation a bit more complicated.

I asked Jorge what he would ideally like to do professionally.  “Unfortunately due to the complexity of the current economic situation you got to do what comes your way” he laments.  I thought I would see what Jorge’s political views were given the correlation to the economy.  “It’s too bad Uribe had to go…I think things here have been pretty good,” he says about Colombia’s current president who managed to change the law in order to serve two terms but was not successful in further change so that he could continue in power. 

Despite his general content with Uribe’s time in office, he chose yesterday to vote for a candidate from a different party.  He gave Antanas Mockus from the newly formed Green Party his vote.  “Juan Manuel is too aggressive militarily and he never asked for forgiveness,” he said about current President Uribe’s Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, who leads the poles and is a member of the current administration’s U Party.  His comment about never asking for forgiveness most likely refers to the “False Positives” scandal where the Colombian military, under Juan Manuel Santos, has admitted to murdering civilians and dressing them up in guerrilla or paramilitary garb so that they could claim to have caught and executed members of these radical cells.

I shifted the conversation away from politics and toward what he planned on doing with the 20,000 pesos.  “I’m going to buy some resume paper,” he told me.  

I was able to shoot a short video with Jorge where he talks about two dreams that he has: be an ecological volunteer and skydive.   This video is in Spanish.

VERSIÓN ESPAÑOL

Estamos solo a tres días del Día Mundial de Dar! (Revise aquí para mas detalles)

Además para aquellos de ustedes en DC, muchos de nosotros nos reuniremos el martes en Hotel Dupont.  Ahí estarán algunos recipientes del Año de Dar, seguidores de blogs y una presencia especial de mi padre!  Vengan a unirse a nosotros de 6 a 8 PM… el hotel tendrá algunas picaderas gratis y un menú de bebidas reducidas para los seguidores del Año de Dar!  Además , estaré organizando alivio de raíces para aquellos que se quedaron sin empleo en la región del golfo debido al derrame del aceite.

En el día de dar numero 168, no tenía reuniones pendientes en la mañana, entonces decidí buscar un Internet-café en Manizales en donde podría ponerme al día con mi blog. Encontré un lugar en el corazón  de la ciudad y allí me conecte por un par de horas de trabajo.  Además fue bastante barato!, acerca de 65 centavos por hora y la conexión era muy veloz!

Después que terminé, vine a parar en una pequeña plaza y una fuente en el frente de la Alcaldía. Fue allí en donde vi a Jorge, sentado en el centro de la plaza.

Un técnico de telecom fuera de empleo, Jorge esta activamente buscando empleo, algo con lo que yo me podría identificar.  Los sentimientos que uno tiene y los desafíos que uno enfrenta mientras se esta sin empleo no son tan diferentes en otras culturas. Permanecer sin empleo desata emociones  y respuestas similares  a pesar del lenguaje que se hable o la geografía del local.

Manizales (Photo: Reed)

Realísticamente Jorge ni si quiera tiene mucha opción para considerar mudarse de Manizales a otra áreas en busca de un empleo, tales como Medellín, Cali o Bogota. El nació y creció en Manizales…en el área del Barrio del Caribe. El se encuentra separado, pero tiene una hija de 14 años y esto hace que la situación sea un poco más complicada.

Le pregunte a Jorge que es lo que idealmente le gustaría hacer profesionalmente. “Desafortunadamente, debido  a la complejidad de la actual situación económica, uno tiene que hacer lo que venga” se lamenta. Yo pensé en ver lo que Jorge opina políticamente debido a la correlación de la economía. “Esta muy mal que Uribe se tuvo que ir..pienso que las cosas  estan mucho mejor,” el dijo sobre el Presidente actual de Colombia que se las ingenio para cambiar la ley para así poder servir dos términos pero no obtuvo el éxito en dichos cambios para poder permanecer en el poder.

A pesar de su contentamiento general con el tiempo de Uribe en el mandato, él decidió ayer votar por un candidato de otro partido. Le dió su voto a Antanas Mockus del recientemente formado partido “Verde.”  “Juan Manuel es muy agresivo militarmente y nunca pidió perdón” dijo él acerca del Ministro actual de defensa del Presidente Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, quien lleva la ventaja en los polos y quien es miembro de la administración actual del partido U.  Sus comentarios acerca de no haber pedido perdón seguramente se debe al escándalo de los “Falsos Positivos” donde se encontraba la militaría de Colombia bajo  Juan Manuel Santos asesinando civiles y de haberlos vestido con atuendos de guerrilla o atuendos de paramilitares para luego poder reclamar haber capturado y ejecutado miembros de células radicales.

Cambié la conversación fuera de la política y hacia lo que el planificaba hacer con los 20.000 pesos que le di, me dijo  “Me voy a comprar hojas de vida (papel de currícula).”  Tuve la oportunidad de hacer un corto video donde Jorge habla acerca de sus dos sueños, ser un voluntario ecológico y paracaidismo. El video que se encuentra arriba, esta en Español.

Esta traducción fue hecha gratuitamente por Jeannette Pérez.

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Versión español sigue abajo.

For those of you who have not seen the video I posted yesterday about my life on the plantation in Colombia, check it out.  Although totally different than my life here in DC, life there on the plantation was excellent.

 Are you ready for the Worldwide Day of Giving?  It’s this Tuesday.  It’s your chance to do what I do for one day and then share your story with the world.  I want to collect as many experiences from around the world about giving that day and share them here…let’s make something beautiful happen.  I need your help though to get as many people involved as possible.

For those of you in DC, I am looking forward to actually meeting up on Tuesday evening with those who are interested.  I am currently working out the final details with a local venue (Dupont Circle) and hope to host the event there.  In addition to celebrating the Year of Giving and the Worldwide Day of Giving, we will do something to help those who are out of work in the Gulf region due to the oil spill.  I hope you can join me!

Sunday the 30th was election day in Colombia.  I was excited to see how the election process took place in another country.  Roberto Gonzalo’s sister was working at a polling place.  He was voting at another place.  It was pretty much like it is here.  Voting levels are about the same as here I think, somewhere around 50% of the population voted.  As I mentioned yesterday, the election resulted in two candidates going to a run-off election on June 20th.  It’s widely believed that the Juan Manuel Santos will prevail.

While I waited for Roberto Gonzalo to vote, I met Giliante.  Giliante works for the El Gran Cafeteiro company and sells coffee on the street.  Dressed in somewhat of a space suit, he walks the street with a metallic canister on his back filled with piping hot coffee.  He then has a hand control that he dispenses coffee out of for about 25 cents per cup (he makes about six cents per cup).  Check out Giliante in action preparing a coffee for me.

The 34-year-old Manizales native has been doing this for nine months.  It beats the construction jobs he was doing before.  He enjoys the fact that he meets a lot of different people every day.

I asked him what he would do with my 20,000 pesos and he said he would use it to buy some medicine he needed: flouxetina (prozac) and acido valproico (valproic acid).  I had never heard of flouxetina and acido valproico so I asked what they were for.  The educated and well spoken mobile coffee barista looked at me and said, “They are medicines to help me not get depressed, because when I get depressed I have a problem with cutting myself…with self mutilation.”  It was then that I started to notice small scars on his hands and on the right side of his neck.  He must have noticed me staring at them and said, “I have hundreds more…most of them on my arms and stomach.”  He lifted his shirt up and I was stunned.  His chest and stomach were completely covered with crisscrossed lines.  It was impossible to look away from the center of his chest where a fresh-cut was present and maybe a half-dozen stitches protruded through the skin.

Giliante (Photo: Reed)

Giliante was so calm and mild-mannered, I could not envision him doing this to himself.  He said that when he does not take his medicine, he gets depressed and feels the need to cut himself.  The latest cut happened about a week ago he told me.

I asked to take a picture of his chest, but he got very shy and said he would prefer not to.  I respected that and we said goodbye. 

Roberto Gonzalo then asked me what his answer was to my question about what other people might be able to help him with.  I had not asked him that question though.  I scanned the crowd, but he had dissolved into the sea of anxious voters.

As we walked back toward our car, I hoped we would see Giliante again so that I could ask him how people could help him.  Would you believe that about a half hour later we saw him five blocks from where I originally saw him.  I got his attention and asked my question.  He didn’t hesitate, “I would like to find a surgeon who would remove some of my scars for me.  They are painful reminders.”  I vowed to try to find a surgeon who would help him with that and also offered to try to get the medicine that he needs.  He was so thankful.  If anyone can help Giliante or has suggestions on ways to help him, please let me know. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about him for days.

Gilante talks about his job and the elections…

Spanish Version

Para aquellos de ustedes que no han visto el video que publique ayer acerca de mi vida en las fincas en Colombia, échenle un vistazo. Aunque totalmente diferente a mi vida en DC, la vida allí en la finca fue excelente.

 ¿Estás listo para  el Día Mundial del dar? Es este martes. Es tu oportunidad de hacer lo que yo hago por un día y luego compartir su historia con el resto del mundo. Quiero reunir la mayor cantidad de experiencias de todo el mundo de tratar de dar en ese día y compartirlas  aquí… hagamos que algo hermoso suceda. Necesito su ayuda para conseguir el mayor número de personas que participan como sea posible.

Para aquellos de ustedes en Washington DC, estoy deseando una reunión en la noche del martes con los que están interesados. Actualmente estoy trabajando en los detalles finales con una sede local (Dupont Circle) y espero poder realizar el evento allí. Además de celebrar el Año de Dar y el Día Mundial del dar, vamos a hacer algo para ayudar a quienes están sin trabajo en la región del Golfo debido al derrame de petróleo. Espero que pueda unirse a mí!

El Domingo 30 fue el día de elección  en Colombia. Me emocioné al ver cómo el proceso electoral se llevó a cabo en otro país. La hermana de Roberto Gonzalo estaba trabajando en un centro de  votación. Él estaba votando en otro lugar. Fue más o menos como aquí. Los niveles de votación son casi lo mismo que aquí, creo que alrededor del 50% de la población votó. Como dije ayer, la elección dio lugar a dos candidatos a una segunda vuelta el 20 de Junio. En general se creía que Juan Manuel Santos seria el determinante.

Mientras esperaba que  Roberto Gonzalo votara, me encontré con Giliante. Giliante trabaja para la compañía El Gran Cafeteiro y vende café en la calle. Vestido el algo como un traje espacial, camina por la calle con un bote metálico en la espalda llena de café humeante. Luego el tiene un control de mano que le dispensa el café por unos 25 centavos por taza.

El nativo de Manizales de 34 años de edad, ha estado haciendo esto durante nueve meses. De acuerdo a el es mejor que los trabajos de construcción que estaba haciendo antes. Le gusta el hecho de que se encuentra con un montón de gente diferente cada día.

Le pregunté qué iba a hacer con mi 20.000 pesos y me dijo que lo utilizaría para comprar unas medicinas que necesitaba: flouxetina (Prozac) y ácido valproico (ácido valproico). Yo nunca había oído hablar de acido valproico y flouxetina así que le pregunté qué eran. El educado y bien hablado barrista móvil de café me miró y dijo: “Son medicamentos que me ayudan a que no me deprima, porque cuando me deprimo tengo un problema con cortarme mí mismo… con la automutilación.” Fue entonces que empecé a notar pequeñas cicatrices en las manos y en el lado derecho del cuello. Él debió de haber notado mi mirada fija en ellos y dijo: “Tengo muchas más… la mayoría de ellos en mis brazos y el estomago.” Él se levantó la camiseta y me quedé atónito. Su pecho y estómago estaban cubiertos completamente con líneas cruzadas. Era imposible apartar la vista del centro de su pecho, donde un nuevo corte estaba presente y tal vez una media docena de puntos sobresalían a través de la piel.

Giliante estaba tan tranquilo y apacible, no podía imaginar que él hacia esto a sí mismo. Dijo que cuando él no toma su medicina, se deprime y siente la necesidad de cortarse. El último corte sucedió hace aproximadamente una semana, me dijo.

Le pedí que me dejara tomar una foto de su pecho, pero él se puso muy tímido y me dijo que preferiría que no. Yo respete eso y nos despedimos.

Roberto Gonzalo  me preguntó cual fue su respuesta a mi pregunta sobre lo que otra gente puede ser de ayudarlo a él. No le había hecho esa pregunta. Lo busque entre la multitud, pero él se había disuelto entre la aglomeración de votantes ansiosos.

Mientras caminábamos hacia el coche, yo esperaba ver a  Giliante de nuevo para que yo pudiera preguntarle cómo la gente podía ayudarle. ¿Creerían ustedes que alrededor de una media hora más tarde lo vimos cinco cuadras de donde originalmente lo vi. Llame su atención y le pregunté  mi pregunta. El no dudó: “Me gustaría encontrar un cirujano que eliminara algunas de las cicatrices en mi cuerpo. Ellos son un recordatorio doloroso. “Juré tratar de encontrar un cirujano que le ayudara con eso y también ofrecí tratar de obtener el medicamento que necesita. Estaba bastante agradecido. Si alguien puede ayudar a Giliante o tiene sugerencias sobre los medios para ayudarlo, por favor hágamelo saber. No podía dejar de pensar en él durante días.

Encima hay dos videos de Giliante grabado en español.

Este blog fue traducido generosamente por Nancy Alvarez en  Los Angeles.

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Version en espanol va ser publicado al final de jueves.

On Friday Roberto and I decided to have a few beers at a local convenience store that has a TV, two billiard tables, and a few tables where locals can sit and relax.

After our second beer some neighborhood kids asked if we wanted to play some street soccer.  We agreed.

Not only am I terrible at soccer, I was completely out of breath running back and forth on the gravel road that was our “field.”  We are at about 7,000 feet which is about 6,990 feet higher than Washington, DC.  That on top of the 24 ounces of beer sloshing around my stomach had me completely incapacitated.  Thankfully Roberto played well and scored two or three goals for us while I rambled around wheezing.

The next morning was Saturday and Roberto took me down the mountain to show me his plantation.  He grows coffee, bananas, guavas, etc. and has pigs, chickens, turtles, dogs…you name it.   Here is a short video in English about life on the plantation.

Later that day he took me to his mother’s house where the entire family met for a long lunch filled with conversation about the following day’s presidential election.  Most people in the household were supporting Antanas Mockus, however he ended up coming in second place with less than half of the votes of Juan Manual Santos.  Nevertheless, there will be a run-off election between the two candidates on June 20th.

We spent a few hours relaxing at their house after completely gorging ourselves with homemade soup, rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains and crunchy coconut clusters for dessert.

That evening we stopped at a small food stand in front of a residential building in the Francia neighborhood where Rubiela stood stoking the charcoal fire.  There was only one thing on the menu: arepas.

Grilled arepas (photo: Reed)

Arepa is a flat bread made of corn that is very popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and even parts of Panama and Spain’s Canary Islands.  Picture a pancake-like bread…or maybe a really thick corn tortilla. 

Rubiela takes ground corn and mixes it with water, salt, and butter to make the dough.  She then takes the dough, cooks it on the grill, and serves it with a thick tomato and onion stew (guiso) or cheese or both.  Every day she makes at least 3 kilos of arepas which yields about 66 pieces of bread.

I found that there are several varieties of arepas and that they are consumed just about any time of day. 

Rubiela and her son Cristian (photo: Reed)

Rubiela, a single mom, has been firing up the grill in front of her home for seven years.  This is the way she provides for her and her 12-year-old son Victor Manuel.  “There was nothing else to do so I started selling arepas,” she tells me referencing the economic struggles in Manizales.  She says that it is even hard to find a job as a maid, much less an office related job with benefits.  Ideally she would like to work in an office environment where she could help with receiving guests, serving coffee, and other small tasks.  

Her laugh is contagious and fills the air with joy.  I try not to let it completely hide the fact that I know that she dreams for something different.  She is thankful though for her and her son’s health.  “There are good days and bad days, but we never go hungry,” she tells me.  

Roberto and I left to run some errands and agreed to come back later that evening.  When we returned hours later, the sun had set, her son had retired into their home, but Rubiela was still tending the fire and cooking arepas.  Her hearty laughter had subsided and she was noticeably tired.

We both got two arepas.  I got mine topped with the tomato and onion guiso.  Roberto got his with guiso and cheese.  Each arepa with guiso was $0.40.  If you wanted cheese on top, add another $0.60.  Pretty cheap.  They were delicious.  We ate, laughed, and talked politics…hard to avoid with the election the following day.  She was voting for Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate from the incumbent U Party.  

Rubiela said she was going to hold on to my money and put it toward the rent that is due on June 4th.

Here is a short video of my time with Rubiela, part of it is in English part in Spanish.

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Version en español sigue abajo. 

Today’s story is going to move you.  I have been thinking about Alirio since I met him. 

On my third day in Manizales I participated in a very interesting event.  The Centro Colombo-Americano in Manizales invited the youth choir from Colegio San Agustín to sing at an inauguration of the recently renovated and rededicated Centro Colombo-Americano’s cultural center and John F. Kennedy library.  This event was attended by Manizales Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe, Caldas Governor Mario Aristizábal Muñoz, and US Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield.  The children performed beautifully and Ambassador Brownfield was very gracious in taking time to shake their hands and share a few words with each of them. 

Later in the day I attended a meeting at the Manizales Normal School with the representatives of the 12 schools that the Secretary of Education has selected to concentrate their efforts on for the Manizales Bilingüe project.  After the meeting Roberto and I walked about a block to where his car was parked.  A few feet away from the car was Alirio, a 33-year-old parking attendant.  The local system is to put a slip of paper on the window for each hour that the car is parked.  We had three slips of paper on our window. 

Reed talking with Alirio and his son Cristian (Photo: Roberto Ceballos)

In theory this job is simple.  Accurately account for the time that each car is parked there, go and collect payment from the vehicle’s driver when they return, and report the totals to the city’s Department of Transportation.  But this job presents unique challenges for Alirio who is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.  I contemplated asking him about how he became paralyzed and took a risk and politely asked him.  I was not prepared for the horrific story that accompanied the explanation. 

Alirio’s family had owned three coffee plantations in the 1990s.  At one point some paramilitary forces tried to extort money from him and his family for protection from the FARC guerrillas.  They always refused. 

The threats began to intensify and culminated in a bloody massacre which resulted in the murder of his parents.  He was shot twice. A bullet that entered his neck and exited under his arm left him paralyzed.  Three years later the harassing continued and his sister and her boyfriend were also murdered in a roadside attack. 

Click below to hear Alirio speaking about the loss of his family members as well as what he plans to do with the $10. 

I listened to his tragic story.  My attention 100% focused on every painful detail.  

His life was forever changed.  With his son Cristian by his side, he does what he can to get by.  His dream is to drive a car again.  “I still own a car and would really like to be able to drive again some day but for that I would need a special adaptation for the car so that the foot pedals can be controlled by hand.”  This is out of Alirio’s economic grasp.  I have added this to the Lend a Hand section.  Perhaps a company who learns about Alirio’s tragic story will graciously modify his car at no cost so that he can once again experience the freedom of being able to drive himself places. 

As for the $10, Alirio will add it to his savings.  He has worked since an early age and has always been a person that saves so that he can hopefully retire at an early age. 

Spanish Version 

La historia de hoy te va a conmover. He estado pensando en Alirio desde que lo conocí. 

Después de tres días in Manizales participe en un evento muy interesante.
El Centro Colombo-Americano en Manizales invitó el coro juvenil del colegio San Agustín para cantar en la inauguración de la recientemente renovada y re-dedicado Centro Cultural Colombo-Americano y la librería de John f. Kennedy. En este evento participo el alcalde de Manizales Juan Manuel Llano Uribe, el gobernador de Caldas Mario Aristizabal Muñoz y el embajador de E.U en Colombia William Brownfield.  Los niños hicieron una actuación muy linda y el Embajador Brownfield fue lo suficientemente grato en tomarse su tiempo para darle la mano a cada uno de estos niños y compartir unas cuantas palabras con cada uno de ellos.(vea el video arriba) 

Mas tarde en día participé en una reunión en la Escuela Normal de Manizales con los representantes de las 12 escuelas que el secretariado de educación ha escogido para concentrar sus esfuerzos en el proyecto bilingüe de Manizales.  Después de la reunión Roberto y yo caminaos una cuadra en donde estaba su vehículo estacionado. A unos pies de distancia de donde estaba el carro estacionado, se encontraba Alirio, un empleado de parqueo de carros de 33 años. El sistema local es poner un papel en la ventana de cada carro por cada hora que un vehículo está estacionado. Nosotros teníamos 3 papelitos en la ventana de nuestro automóvil. 

Parking lot tickets (Photo: Reed)

Teóricamente este trabajo es simple. Un conteo actualizado por el tiempo que cada auto permanece estacionado, ir a colectar el pago del chofer del vehículo cuando regresan a sus carros y reportar el total colectado al departamento de Transportación de la ciudad. Pero este empleo presenta retos únicos para Alirio que está paralizado de la cintura para abajo y confinado a una silla de ruedas. 

Contemplé en preguntarle acerca de como él fue paralizado y me cogí el riesgo y le pregunté. Yo no estaba preparado para la horrible historia que acompañaba su explicación. La familia de Alirio eran los dueños de tres siembras de  cafetales en los años 1990.  Hubo un tiempo en que algunas fuerzas paramilitares trataban de extorsionar dinero de Alirio y su familia para protegerlos de las guerrillas del FARC. Alirio y su familia los rechazaban. 

Las amenazas empezaron a intensificarse y culminaron en una sangrienta masacre que resultó en el asesinato a sus padres. A él lo abalearon dos veces, una bala que penetro en su cuello y salió por debajo de su brazo lo dejó paralitico. Tres años más tarde las amenazas continuaron y su hermana y el novio de su hermana también fueron asesinados en un ataque de carretera. Haga un click en el video mostrado arriba de Alirio hablando sobre la perdida de los miembros de su familia y de lo que él piensa hacer con los $10.00 dólares.
 
Escuché su trágica historia. Concentre mi 100% de atención a cada doloroso detalle. Su vida cambio para siempre. Con su hijo Cristian a su lado el hace lo que puede para seguir adelante. su sueño es poder volver a manejar un auto otra vez. “Aun tengo mi carro y me gustaría muchísimo en realidad poder volver  manejarlo algún día, pero para eso necesitaría una adaptación especial  en mi carro para que los pedales del carro puedan ser controlados con las manos.”  Esto está fuera del alcance económico de Alirio. He incluido esta historia en la sección del “Lend a Hand“( Prestar una mano). Quizás, una compañía que descubra la trágica historia de Alirio podría gratuitamente modificar su auto sin costo alguno para que el pueda una vez más vivir la experiencia de poder movilizarse libremente. 

En referente a los $10.00 dólares, Alirio lo va a añadir a sus ahorros. El ha trabajado desde muy temprana edad y siempre ha sido una persona que ahorra para poderse retirar a temprana edad.
 
Esta traducción ha sido gratuitamente traducida por Jeannette Pérez de Miami.

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View from my open living room on the coffee plantation (Photo: Reed)

My second day in Manizales was wonderful.  My main contact for the project I am doing here is Roberto who works for the Secretary of Education for the city of Manizales.  Roberto owns a coffee plantation where my accommodations have been graciously arranged for during my stay.  Although Cielo was right about it being hilly, it is not ugly here.  It is beautiful.  And as far as being cold, coming from Washington, DC I don’t find it cold but it does get a little chilly in the evening.  If she had told me it was the city of rain, I might have agreed with her.  It has rained a lot but then again it is the rainy season.

Colombia has taken on a very aggressive mission to become a bilingual country by 2019.  To do this, every state, or department as they call them, and city has made action plans for how to reach this goal.  One of the unique ways that this can be achieved is by leveraging the interest that students have in the arts to assist in language acquisition.  Part of my involvement here is to work with an amazing non-profit organization focused on the arts, the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  This is an excellent organization with a 25 year history of giving the community a place to explore the finer arts.  Their Bilingual Performing Arts School can play an integral part in the efforts to improve the English proficiency in Manizales and even accelerate language acquisition rates.  

On Thursday I visited the San Agustín Elementary School, a primary school that serves a severely impoverished area of the city.  We worked with a wonderful group of students who were chosen to sing at a ceremony the following day for the governor, the mayor, and the US ambassador.  Roberto and I, along with the school’s music teacher, Camilo, rehearsed two English songs with them.

Rain drops drip inside the Pombo Foundation soaking the 75-year-old floors (Photo: Reed)

Later that afternoon I stopped by the Rafael Pombo Foundation.  I met the small staff and took a tour of the facility.  The building is an impressive old European style mansion that is owned by the city of Manizales.  Unfortunately, the city has completely neglected the upkeep of this historic landmark.  From chairs that need reupholstered to holes in the roof that allow water to flood the building to overgrown landscaping.  The facility is in dire needs of some funding so that it can make the needed repairs and continue to be a cultural epicenter in the city for the arts.

While I was there I met Viviana, the coordinator for the foundation.  Viviana is 27 and lives in the Belen area of Manizales.  With a degree in art education, she fits right in at the Pombo Foundation.  In addition to her role as a coordinator, she also teaches some of the art classes.   Her interest is in abstract painting and she credits local artist Margoth Márquez as an inspiration and mentor.  

When she is not helping to run the Pombo Foundation, she is running her own foundation, Manizales Florece, an environmental group focused on issues in the Caldas state.  

Viviana opted to receive ten dollars instead of 20,000 pesos and plans to keep it as a rememberence of our meeting and the Year of Giving project.  Here is a short video in Spanish of her talking about her impression of the Year of Giving.

You will certainly hear more in the next two weeks about the Rafael Pombo Foundation, the Manizales Bilingüe Project, and the children of the San Agustín school.

SPANISH VERSION

Mi día segundo en Manizales fue maravilloso.  El contacto mayor para el proyecto que estoy haciendo es Roberto, quien trabaja para la Secretaria de Educación para la Cuidad de Manizales.  Roberto también es el dueño de una finca de cafe donde mi alojamiento se han organizado durante mi estancia.

Aunque Cielo fue correcta que el área es falduda, no esta feo aquí.  Llegando de Washington D.C., el frío no me molesta pero los noches siento algo fresco.  Si mi ha dicho que Manizales fue una ciudad de lluvias, de acuerdo.  Ha llovido mucho así es el tiempo de las lluvias.

Colombia ha tomado una misión muy agresiva que hacer un país bilingüe por 2019.  A hacerlo, cualquier estado – digo departamentos como se llaman – y ciudad han hecho planes como hacer este meta.

Una de las maneras que pueden hacerlo es aprovechando el interés de que los alumnos tienen en las artes para ayudar en la adquisición del lenguaje.  Parte de mi participación aquí es trabajar con un organización sorprendente sin fines de lucro con un foco de las artes se llaman Fundación Rafael Pombo.  Es un organización excelente con una historia de 25 anos dando a la comunidad un lugar para explorar las artes fines.  Su Performing Arts School bilingüe puede hacer un parte integral en sus deseos a aprovechar fluencia en Ingles en Manizales aun acelerar sus niveles de adquisición.

Students of Colegio San Agustin (Photo: Reed)

Jueves pasado fui a visitar La Escuela Primaria San Agustín que sirve los gravemente pobres de la ciudad. Trabajemos con un grupo de alumnos escogidos a cantar al una ceremonia el día siguiente para el gobernador, el alcalde y el embajador del EEUU.  Yo y Roberto con el profesor de música, Camilo, ensayemos dos cantos de Ingles con los alumnos.

Más tarde esa tarde dejé por la Fundación de Rafael Pombo.  Me reuní con la reducida cantidad de personal y tuvo un recorrido por las instalaciones.  El edificio es una antigua mansión de estilo Europeo e impresionante que es propiedad de la ciudad de Manizales.  Por desgracia, la ciudad completamente ha descuidado el mantenimiento de este sitio histórico.  Desde sillas que necesitan reparación hasta agujeros en el techo que permiten agua inundar y un jardín descuidado. La facilidad es en terribles necesidades de algunos fondos para que pueda hacer las reparaciones necesarias y seguirá siendo un epicentro cultural en la ciudad de las artes.

Mientras estuve allí conocí a Viviana, la Coordinadora de la Fundación.  Viviana tiene 27 anos y vive en el área de Belén de Manizales.  Con una licenciatura en educación de arte, ella encaja justo en la Fundación de Pombo.  Además de su papel como coordinadora, ella también enseña algunas de las clases de arte.   Su interés está en la pintura abstracta y ella menciona la artista local Margoth Márquez como una inspiración y mentor. 

Cuando ella no está ayudando a realizar la Fundación Pombo, ella está ejecutando su propia Fundación, Manizales Florece ~ un grupo ambiental centrado en cuestiones en el estado de Caldas.  Decidí Viviana a recibir diez dólares en lugar de veinte mil pesos y tiene planes a guardarlo como una memoria de conocernos y el proyecto Un Ano De Dar. Arriba tiene un video corto de ella dando su impresión del Un Ano de Dar.

Seguramente vas a escuchar más en los próximos dos semanas sobre la Fundación Rafael Pombo, el proyecto Manizales Bilingüe, y los chicos del colegio San Agustín.

Esta entrada del blog se tradujo amablemente por Penny Pérez.

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Versión en español sigue abajo.

Last Wednesday I made the journey from Washington, DC to Manizales, Colombia.  I didn’t sleep the night before.  I had a lot to do to get ready for my trip and I had to leave for the airport at 3:45am, so it wasn’t really worth going to sleep.  Besides, I would have all day to sleep on the plane right?

On the leg from Washington to Panama I got a window seat and the two seats next to me were empty.  It was odd, since the flight was fairly full.

I arrived in Panama and had a few hours until my connection to Pereira, Colombia.  I have been through Panama before, so the airport was familiar to me and I walked around browsing some of the shops.  I picked up a few last-minute gifts to give to people along the way.

Cielo (Photo: Reed)

I boarded the plane around 11:30am.  Much to my surprise, my seat was in business class!  That was nice.  I was hoping to give my $10 to someone on the plane, but there was nobody seated next to me.  There was a woman in front of me whose cellular phone must have rung or made noises a dozen times before take-off and there was a woman sitting quietly across the aisle from me.  I thought I would ask her to participate, although I have to tell you that I was nervous about it.  I don’t know why, but giving my $10 away on the plane seemed very awkward!  On the positive side, the people can not go anywhere so I have a captured subject for the length of the flight.  On the flip side, if things go bad or if it is awkward I will be a captured subject and be forced to endure the awkwardness for the remainder of the flight.

The cabin was completely silent after take-off.  I waited until the seatbelt sign was removed and people started to move around the cabin.  Right as I was going to ask her they served us food.  I took the opportunity to tell her that I was doing a project and hoped that she would consider participating after she finished her meal.

Our trays were cleared and I invited Cielo to become my 163rd recipient.  She agreed with a sincere but reserved smile and we began to talk.  She was on her way back from Costa Rica where she had been visiting her sister who just had her third child. 

Cielo lives in the town of Armenia, the capital of the Colombian department (like our states) of Quindío.  Armenia is a mid-size city of about 370,000 that is situated between Colombia’s three largest cities: Bogotá, Medellín and Cali. 

Both Armenia and Manizales are part of the heart of the coffee region in Colombia.  It’s hard to talk about these areas without talking about how coffee and the coffee industry has shaped this region physically, socially, and economically. 

Scheduled to graduate in June, Cielo has spent the last seven years studying biology.  Although she had a job lined up to start after she graduates, she recently found out that she lost this opportunity as a result of her trip to Costa Rica.

Cielo says she is not sure what she is going to do with the 20,000 pesos yet…but agrees to let us know when she decides.  I have a feeling that it might get used in a giving way, given her story about helping the woman at the airport (see the video) and lessons about giving that she said she learned in the Girl Scouts as a young girl.

The following video is in Spanish.  Cielo shares a little bit about her thoughts on Manizales.  She is not a big fan…calling it the city of the three F’s: Fria (cold), Feia (Ugly), and Falduda (steep/hilly).  She also talks about an experience earlier that day helping a stranger out in the airport.

Our flight landed and we said goodbye to one another at the customs declaration area.  I found my ride to Manizales and embarked on a two-hour journey through the mountainous coffee region and finally arrived at the Finca (Farm) Loma Linda where I would be staying while in Manizales.  It is atop a very steep mountain with a stunning view of the town. 

Let the adventure begin!

SPANISH VERSION

El miércoles pasado hice el viaje desde Washington, DC a Manizales, Colombia. No dormí la noche anterior. Tenía mucho que hacer para prepararme para mi viaje y tenía que irme para el aeropuerto a las 3:45 de la mañana, así que no valía la pena dormir. Además, tendría todo el día para dormir en el avión, correcto?
 
En el tramo de Washington a Panamá me tocó un asiento de ventana y los dos asientos a mi lado estaban vacíos. Algo extraño, ya que el vuelo estaba casi lleno.
 
Llegué a Panamá y  tenía un par de horas antes de mi conexión a Pereira, Colombia. Había pasado por Panamá antes, por lo que el aeropuerto era familiar, así que camine alrededor viendo las tiendas. Cogí unos cuantos regalos de última hora para dar a la gente en el camino.
 
Abordé el avión alrededor de las 11:30 de la mañana. Para mi sorpresa, mi asiento estaba en clase de negocios! Eso estuvo bien. Tenía la esperanza de dar mis $10 a alguien en el avión, pero no había nadie sentado a mi lado. Había una mujer delante de mí, cuyo celular debe haber sonado o hecho ruidos más de una docena de veces antes de despegar y  había una mujer sentada en silencio del otro lado del pasillo frente a mí. Pensé en pedirle a ella que participara, aunque tengo que admitir que estaba nervioso por ello. No sé por qué, pero dar mis $10 en el avión parecía muy incómodo! En el lado positivo, la gente no puede ir a ningún lado así podría capturar un tema por la duración del vuelo. Por otro lado, si las cosas salen mal o si es difícil seré un tema capturado y estaré obligado a soportar la incomodidad para el resto del vuelo.
 
La cabina estaba completamente en silencio después del despegue. Esperé hasta que la señal del cinturón de seguridad fue retirada y la gente comenzó a moverse alrededor de la cabina. Justo cuando iba a preguntarle que participara nos sirvieron la comida. Aproveché la oportunidad para decirle que yo estaba haciendo un proyecto y esperaba que ella considerara participar después de que terminara su comida.
 
Nuestras bandejas fueron retiradas e invité a Cielo a convertirse en mi beneficiario numero 163. Ella acepto con una sonrisa sincera, pero reservada y empezamos a hablar. Ella estaba en su camino de regreso desde Costa Rica donde había estado visitando a su hermana que acaba de tener su tercer hijo.
 
Cielo vive en la ciudad de Armenia, la capital del departamento colombiano (como nuestros estados) de Quindío. Armenia es una ciudad de tamaño medio de alrededor de 370.000 habitantes, localizada entre las tres ciudades más grandes de Colombia: Bogotá, Medellín y Cali.
 
Tanto Armenia y Manizales forman parte del corazón de la región cafetalera de Colombia. Es difícil hablar de estas áreas sin hablar de cómo el café y la industria del café han dado forma a esta región física, social y económicamente.
 
Programado para graduarse en Junio, Cielo ha pasado los últimos siete años estudiando biología. A pesar de que tenía un trabajo en línea para comenzar después de que se graduara, recientemente se enteró de que había perdido esta oportunidad como resultado de su viaje a Costa Rica.
 
Cielo dice que no está segura de lo que se va a hacer con los 20.000 pesos… pero está de acuerdo a hacernos saber cuando ella lo decida. Tengo la sensación de que podrán ser utilizados en un forma caritativa, teniendo en cuenta su historia sobre cómo ayudo a una mujer en el aeropuerto (ver el video) y lecciones sobre lo que aprendió en las Girl Scouts cuando niña.
 
El siguiente video es en español. Cielo comparte un poco sobre sus pensamientos de Manizales. No es una gran fan… dice que es la ciudad de las tres “F: Fría, Fea, y Falduda (cerrado/montañosa). Ella también habla sobre una experiencia ese mismo día ayudando a un extraño en el aeropuerto.
 
Nuestro avión aterrizó y nos despedimos en la zona de declaración de aduanas. Encontré mi transporte a Manizales y me embarque en un viaje de dos horas a través de la región montañosa cafetalera y finalmente llegue a la Finca de Loma Linda,  donde me voy a quedar mientras en Manizales. Es la cima de una montaña muy empinada con una impresionante vista de la ciudad.
 
Que empiece la aventura!
 
Esta entrada del blog se tradujo amablemente por Nancy Alvarez

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I often get asked if I regret giving my $10 to anyone.  The question has always seemed foreign to me.  Sure, some encounters go better than others, but I don’t regret having met any of the people that I have come in contact with on my journey.  I find that even the people who I don’t feel a strong connection with teach me something.  Well, the person that I met last Tuesday comes the closest to being a regrettable experience. 

Lately I have noticed a woman sitting north of Dupont Circle at 1625 Connecticut Avenue during the day.  It’s very close to the Chipotle there.  Anyway, I have walked by this woman a couple of times now and haven’t had time to stop and speak with her.  But Tuesday I decided to introduce myself to Arlen.

The 29-year-old was dressed in an oversized sweatshirt sitting on some blankets with her legs tucked under her.  She looked like she had not showered in some time.  She had a considerable amount of somewhat long facial hair covering her face.  She sat almost motionless, staring out toward the street.  As I got closer she slowly moved her head to the right and up to look at me.  I crouched down in a baseball catcher’s position and introduced myself.  She took the ten dollars and slowly moved her head back center and looked downward and started to smile.

“Do you have a cigarette,” she responded in a slow hypnotic tone.  I explained that I didn’t smoke and she asked if I would go find her a cigarette.  I decided to try to speak to her a little more before I went on a scavenger hunt, but she seemed obsessed with finding a cigarette and managed to pull herself up and stagger over to some people and try to bum a cigarette off of them.  Although she seemed to be talking to them for a few minutes, she continued to another set of people where I imagine she posed the same question.  A few minutes later she returned with a lit cigarette and sat down.

She was so out of it that I thought I better cut to the chase and ask her what she was going to do with the $10.  She said she was going to buy food with it.  “Are you homeless,” I asked.  He head moved again slowly and her glassy eyes met mine “Now you’re being disrespectful!”

I apologized and explained that I was not trying to be disrespectful in any way but that I just wanted to understand her situation better.  “I make $10 a day and you ask shit like that,” she said.  I apologized again and said that I hoped my $10 would be of great help.  “Whatever, you’re a son of a bitch,” she snapped back. 

Although she seemed to obviously be completely drugged out of her mind, I could not control feeling offended by her behavior.  I responded back, “You say that you only make $10 all day long, I just gave you $10.  A thank you might be more in line than calling me a son of a bitch.”  She sighed and mumbled something under her breath.  We both sat there in silence for about 10 seconds until she got up and walked over to the people who had given her the cigarette.  I waited for her to come back for about five minutes but she didn’t even look back over toward me.  I decided to leave.

I try to focus on taking something positive away from this experience.  It’s hard to know what that is though.  She was not a likeable person although I know she was not in her right state of mind either.

So, do I regret giving Arlen my $10?  Not at all.  Do I wish it had went differently?  Absolutely.

Day 163 is the day I arrived in Manizales…so get ready for the Year of Giving to go international!  I give my first $10 away on an airplane too!

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