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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

David’s farewell party

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

I wanted to update you on the latest news about David Ger – the charismatic young man from Kenya that has touched the hearts of so many followers of the Year of Giving.

You can read a more detailed chronological narrative of the sequence of events leading up to now, but basically David was my $10 recipient on Day 258. Through getting to know him I discovered that he wanted to try to find a cousin of his who was last known to be living in Poland. I Googled his name and posted it on the Year of Giving hoping that someone would know him, but no luck.

I snapped this photo of David on a recent visit we took to the Kenyan Embassy to make arrangements for his travel.

But then six months later I got a call from David’s cousin in Poland! I connected him with David and now they are closer to being reunited. After months of discussions and raising money to help pay for the costs, the day has finally come where he will be flying back to his home near Lake Victoria. It’s been nearly 15 years and along with the excitement must come a lot of anxiety too.

I will be sad to see my friend leave, but I think this is an amazing opportunity for him. I am throwing a little going away party for David this Monday night at One Lounge (1606 20th Street, NW) in DC. It’s right near the Dupont Circle Metro stop. Please stop by between 5:30 and 8pm to meet David if you haven’t already met him and wish him luck on his journey. Here’s a link to the invitation. We will also be accepting donations if you would like to help cover some of the costs. I’m hoping to raise $1,000.  If you can’t attend but still want to donate – just click here!

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

When you put people first and politics second, you can get things done.” -President Bill Clinton at CGI 2011

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 22, 2011. (Reuters Photo/Eduardo Munoz)

Even after having worked in his organization for 18 months, the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I am in the presence of our 42nd president Bill Clinton. The 65-year-old statesman is one of our greatest political thinkers.

I can’t think of a better place to volunteer than at the Clinton Global Initiative, an action oriented meeting of some of the most influential people and organizations in the world. It’s hard to grasp unless you have been there, but I will try to give you an idea.

On my way to my first assignment there, I passed Bishop Desmond Tutu, who by the way has one of the most intoxicating laughs I have ever heard. He was leaving his session where he and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar talked with Charlie Rose about human rights, democratic governance and ethnic reconciliation. On the escalator up to the next floor I turned around to see Procter & Gamble’s CEO Bob McDonald standing behind me.

I arrived at the session I was assigned to volunteer at which was titled “Securing Global Nutrition.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times led a panel discussion which featured the head of USAID, the president of WWF International, the CEO of Britannia Industries and one of the leading agronomists in the world. They were gathered to discuss how to tackle the nutritional challenges we face, primarily in the developing world.

Later I headed to a session on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) where I was tasked with taking the official notes of the meeting. About 30 people were gathered – including two princesses from Jordan, the actress Fran Drescher and executives from the American Cancer Society and PepsiCo.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

Before it was all over I saw President Obama speak about service and the economy, watched Chelsea Clinton moderate a panel on leveraging technology to help women and girls in developing countries, saw actresses Heather Graham and Geena Davis and chatted with Michael Jordan’s mother – who’s a sweetheart by the way.  And just when I thought I had seen all that I was going to see, Ted Turner popped his head into the lobby bar of the Sheraton at the end of the day.

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live” -  Irish proverb

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Irish Aid's offices on O'Connell Street in Dublin - right where the airport bus let me off. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Ireland is an amazing place.  This was my second trip to the Emerald Island and it didn’t disappoint.  The people are terrific, weather cooperated this time and there was plenty of Guinness.

After landing in Dublin and navigating my way through Dublin’s new Terminal II, I grabbed my bags and headed toward the AirCoach bus service that has direct service to a drop-off spot about five blocks from my hotel.  I must have had a shamrock packed in my bags because the bus dropped me off directly in front of building that had “Volunteer” written all over it.  It turned out to be the office of Irish Aid: the government ofIreland’s program of assistance to developing countries.  Although they are not involved with volunteering within Ireland, they did have connections to people at organizations that utilize volunteers locally.   Jill at Irish Aid put me in touch with Kate at Volunteer Ireland and within 24 hours I had a volunteer project all lined up.

DSC_0136.jpgAs my luck would have it my trip would overlap 2 days with the European Union’s Year of Volunteering Roadshow –  a five-day fair featuring more than 70 charities in Ireland that depend on volunteers to operate.  There were information booths about each of the nonprofits that were participating as well as informational seminars on a wide range of subjects related to volunteering.   Kate set me up to help out during Tuesday’s event which worked perfectly for me not only because I would be back in Dublin on that day but also because the focus of the day was on charities that engage older Americans – a topic that I thought would be of great interest to the readers of the column I write for AARP.

I arrived around 10:30 and met Kate.  She put me to work helping another staffer hang a banner out a second story window.  Although it didn’t look perfect, we got it placed as best we could without falling 20 feet to our death!

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That's me on the left helping hang the banner out of the second story window of the EU Parliament building. (photo: Krisztina Szabo)

The rest of the day was spent doing small tasks that came up and trying to get passersby to come in and check out the fair – a painful job but somebody’s got to do it.  Although the event had been publicized reasonably well, attendance was light.  I took the opportunity to speak to some of the organizations that were exhibiting and was really impressed with the work that they are doing.

I got lucky that things fell into place and I was able to volunteer.  Despite trying to arrange things prior to my trip, I was unable to secure any volunteer opportunities mostly because of standard bureaucracy related to volunteering in Ireland.  You see typically you have to formally apply, get screened by Garda (Irish Police) and attend an in-person meeting all before being accepted as a volunteer.  If you are thinking about volunteering overseas you check out two articles I did for AARP on the subject for some tips and lessons learned.

AARP Article Volunteering On Your Next Vacation

AARP Article Volunteering Overseas: My Recent Adventure to Ireland

For more information on volunteering in Ireland please visit:

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-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

I woke up to terrible shooting pain in my neck.  It always happens when I fall asleep on flights.  Despite my weighty eyelids, I didn’t think I could go back to sleep.  With another two hours or so to go on my journey to Ireland I decided to fire up my laptop and knock out some volunteer work.

That’s right, you can even volunteer from the comfort (can you hear me laughing?) of your own chair as you glide through the air at 600 miles per hour.  I cracked open my laptop and connected to the Internet – for a “small” fee.  Before we all start bitching that we shouldn’t be paying these fees, let’s not forget how amazing that is in and of itself – to connect to the Internet as you speed around the Earth at an altitude of 36,000 feet.

Children in Cameroon. (Photo courtesy of Connected Youth of Cameroon)

Once connected I logged on to Sparked.com and started browsing volunteer opportunities.  I quickly found Connected Youth of Cameroon, an African based nonprofit whose mission it is to foster youth and women’s civic, social and intellectual development while promoting community engagement and development.  They posted the following on the micro-volunteer site:

Help us with ideas to attract people to our facebook page

We have created a facebook page and need to invite visitors and even have a fan club page. We need your ideas and suggestion.

So, I did about 15 minutes worth of research on their website and their facebook page and then started putting together some advice for them.  It’s that easy.  Check out my recommendations.

An airline passenger surfs the Internet from 36,000 feet. (photo courtesy http://www.usatoday.com)

I’m glad that I hopefully have been able to help this young nonprofit, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about a bigger, more systemic problem that we have.  We need to get every WiFi access carrier in the world to create a portfolio of websites that anyone can access free of charge.  Sparked.comwould be on that list for sure!  If we just take the airline industry, imagine how many people stuck on airplanes might be willing to spend 15 minutes online helping out their virtual community instead of watching some dumb B movie that they fell asleep watching on their last flight.

I’ve been told that the airlines and the WiFi access providers are not interested in enabling such a service for volunteer work.  Let me know what YOU think…can we make this happen?!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

“Imagine making a meaningful difference in the lives of others, while discovering amazing cultures, people and places!”

These are the words that greet you when you fire up the website of Wellington, New Zealand based Global Volunteer Network (GVN).  That’s right; today’s spotlight on volunteering takes a unique perspective.  What if you could combine your interest in traveling with your passion for volunteering?  Well, that is just what GVN has done.Volunteer Abroad with the Global Volunteer Network

Colin Salisbury

GVN Founder and President, Colin Salisbury

Founded in 2000 by Colin Salisbury after he volunteered in Ghana,West Africa, GVN has placed more than 14,000 individuals to about two dozen countries around the world.  Although I couldn’t find a concrete answer on their website, it appears that most volunteer opportunities last for about a week or two.

I like this concept that many people refer to as voluntourism or humanitarian tourism.  Having traveled to 30+ countries and lived in four, I have often seen how tourists to developing countries are perceived.  “They come and open their wallets,” a restaurant owner in Brazil once shared with me, “but they don’t necessarily open their hearts to the local challenges that we face every day.”

A few years ago my friend Kim spent her vacation in New Orleans helping rebuild a community that was devastated by Katrina.    She found the experience to be fun and really rewarding.

Vietnam Youth Tour

Photo courtesy of globalvolunteernetwork.org

One of the program’s that I like most that GVN provides is their Youth Tour which gives 15-17 year olds the chance to explore a new part of the world while learning a life-long lesson of service.  This year their trip is to Vietnam.  Click here for more details.

A recent post on the New York Times blog by Heidi Mitchell focuses on Voluntourism.  If you are considering your volunteer trip, I recommend checking her article out to familiarize yourself with GVN and other groups providing similar services.

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It was a slow week on the blog.  We are without a Kindness Investor to share a daily story of giving from some part of the world.  If you or someone you know are out of work or underemployed and would like to become a Kindness Investor for seven days, shoot me a message!

My blog today is a special one.  I recently was honored to be invited to visit Atlanta to speak at the 95th anniversary event for the Junior League of Atlanta (JLA).

In case you are not familiar with the Junior League, it’s an organization made up of outstanding women who are committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.  They have a little less than 2,000 active members in the Greater Atlanta region who last year collectively volunteered more than 90,000 hours at 95 different organizations saving them more than $1.8 million in labor related expenses.  That is awesome!

My speech was in the evening and so I had some time to visit first hand some of the work that JLA’s members are involved with.  I was met by Audra Dial, JLA’s current president.  She accompanied me to three spectacular organizations where JLA works.  Audra, a partner at a top law firm, is a truly inspiring individual.  In addition to her professional and philanthropic work, she’s married and is the mother of a handsome 18-month-old boy!  People often ask me how I do all that I do, well, I want to know how the heck she does everything that she does!

Atlanta Union Mission.jpgThe first organization we visited was My Sister’s House a 264 bed facility that offers overnight shelter and residential discipleship programs for homeless women and women with children.  Part of the Atltanta Mission, My Sister’s House also provides counselors, referrals to job training programs, and help in finding housing, medical and legal resources. For mothers, the organization has a fully developed childcare facility staffed with a behavioral specialists and social workers.

Melissa, the manager of volunteer services, greeted us and showed us around.  I was very impressed with the facilities, especially the part that houses single women and women with children for up to a year.  They have simple yet comfortable apartments that they call home.  The housing and services are provided free of charge to the women and their children, however, each woman is required to contribute in some way.  Some do laundry, others clean the general facility rooms or help provide the more than 500 meals that are served daily.

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My Sister's House facility.

“How can people help,” I asked Melissa.  She told me that they need volunteers, especially men.  “The children, in particular the boys, need positive male role models.”  They also need people who are able to provide child-care for the guests, mainly on Sunday mornings and evenings during the week.  “We also need volunteers who can help with adult literacy, serve meals and tutor the women on computer skills.”

This appears to be a very well run organization that is full of love.  It was sad to leave, but we had a few other places to visit.

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Nearly New Shop storefront

Next it was the Nearly New Shop, a store that is run by JLA as a source of fundraising for the organization.  “We’re somewhere between a thrift store and a consignment shop,” Scott, the store manager, explained to me.  I walked through the neatly organized store and wandered over to the men’s clothing.  A charcoal Brooks Brothers suit caught my eye, but it wasn’t my size!  Everyone working here is extremely warm and caring.  Jackie, a JLA volunteer, warmed my heart with her smile and calming voice.  “We are always in need of donation items in good condition,” Scott mentioned as he showed me around the storage area.  “Especially furniture and men’s clothing,” Jackie added.

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Jackie, Reed and Audra at the Nearly New Shop.

My last stop was the Atlanta Speech School, one of the Southeast’s oldest therapeutic, educational centers for children and adults with hearing, speech, language or learning disabilities. Co-founded in 1938 by Katherine Hamm, the mother of a deaf son, and JLA, the school has the feel of a state-of-the-art learning center.  Comer Yates, the school’s executive director, manages to squeeze me in to chat for a few minutes.  He was full of awe-striking facts
about language and literacy that made me wish I had taken notes.  If you would like to support this vibrant learning facility please click here.

I ended up back at my hotel for a quick shower before heading over to the beautiful Ahavath Achim Synagogue where I delivered my speech.  The evening presented two “firsts” for me.  It marked the first time I have given a speech in a synagogue and the first time I have been the only man in a room with nearly 500 women!

I want to thank Audra, Sara, Deb and all the members of JLA.  I truly felt the southern hospitality!

If you want to learn more about JLA or support their terrific work, please click here.

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

The Sustainable Organization for Community Peasant Laborer Student Development and Orphans (SOCPLSDO),  a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organization, was established in 2006 by Mr Pong Sena.  The SOCPLSDO established the Chres Village School and Orphanage in the same year for the regional orphans, students, laborers and peasants from the villages in and around the district of Bakong of the Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

The aim of the SOCPLSDO is to alleviate the poverty and difficulties of the orphans and children of poor families in the Bakong district providing support of their basic needs such as food, clothing, education, accommodation, health services and school supplies.

More than 50% of the Cambodian population is less than 21 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.

I went over my $10 today, but it was my pleasure to give my temporary English students the help they needed for each of them to buy school supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Southeast Asia.

Today I gave my $10 to the students at the Buddhism Association School.

The Buddhist monks here offer free English classes to adults.   Tourism is a growing industry in Cambodia and the ability to speak English greatly enhances ones abilities to work, grow their income and improve their lives. While having the opportunity to be a substitute English teacher, I gave the students a donation which they used for school supplies (paper, pencils, pens, etc.) to aid them in their efforts.

Tomorrow I’m visiting an orphanage!

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-Blog post by Traci, a Kindness Investor traveling in Thailand.

Picture from Big Heart Project in Cambodia

While on a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, I met a young woman named Kathleen from Australia.  She was a fundraiser for an organization called Big Heart Project.  The purpose of their existence is to identify communities and individuals who are living in conditions where basic necessities are scarce, opportunities are limited and many freedoms are inhibited, they then dedicate their time to educate these communities in a holistic way.  The main focus is to prevent children from entering prostitution and situations of slavery and abuse in the first place.  Where they can, they also rescue, rehabilitate, care for and educate girls leaving child prostitution and sexual slavery.

I gave my daily gift to Kathleen who had come to Cambodia to deliver funds that she had collected for the purpose of purchasing land and building an orphanage in Phnom Penh.  They need about $13,000.00 USD for the land and another $20,000 for the building.  Hopefully my gift helped her meet her goal in some small way.

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Day 1 – John

From the moment I found out I was going to be the first person to kick-off the second year of giving I was confident the first $10 I was going to give away would be to someone I met in the hospital as today my father was having a defibrillator put in.

I had a long day in the inpatient waiting room sitting beside my mother and was watching the people come in and out of the waiting room.  Not that there is a right or wrong person to approach for the $10 but I just didn’t see anyone else that day in the hospital that I felt was the one for the day.

The Milkhouse in Richmond, IN

Driving back to my parent’s house that evening I still had the $10.  I passed by the Milkhouse in Richmond, Indiana and decided whomever was working there would be my first person.  I pulled in and was greeted by a man named John.

John had always lived in Richmond and enjoyed his job however the cold weather months he didn’t find it quite as enjoyable.  John was blown away by the $10 and really didn’t know at the time what he may do with it.  He mentioned possibly getting a few snacks.  I didn’t have the chance to speak with John as long as I would have liked because he had customers to wait on but I enjoyed the little time we had.

- By Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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If you are in DC this morning, get off your computer and run down to the mall and check out the Help the Homeless Walkathon sponsored by Fannie Mae.  If you can’t get out there and still want to help, you can donate by clicking here and selecting your favorite local organization.  I didn’t see Street Sense on the list, which many of you know I support.  They are a small organization that uses their funds wisely and are in need of support…click here to directly donate to DC’s only homeless newspaper.

Today’s recipient I found at Dupont Circle around 8pm on a Sunday night.  Sandra is from La Puente, California.  La Puente is just east of Los Angeles and north of Anaheim.  After attending mass at St. Matthews, her sister Aida went searching for a Whole Foods while Sandra waited for her on a picturesque park bench in earshot of the soothing fountain at Dupont Circle.  “She’s a health nut,” Sandra said referring to Aida.  Then they were planning to go watch Trick or Treaters.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking, “Reed is really behind on posting his blogs.”  You would be correct.  This is from October 31st!

I asked Sandra what brought her to DC.  “I’m in town because she is attending a conference here, the NCURA or something like that!”  It turns out she remembered correctly, it’s the National Council of University Research Administrators

Our Metro system here in DC is pretty good – when it is working!  They had arrived the day before and took the Metro from Reagan National Airport to Dupont.  Well, it turned into an awful ride because they arrived while the hundreds of thousands of rally-goers were trying to get downtown to see Jon Stewart at the Rally to Restore Sanity.  “People were mean,” she said.  “It was a big mistake.”  

Our attention was occasionally side tracked by someone walking by in costume.  There were a lot of people dressed up as bananas?  What the hell is that all about?

Anyway, Sandra is one of the 14.8 million people who are unemployed in the United States.  After her mother passed away in May of 2009, she found herself a little lost and unsure what she wanted to do.  She ended up quitting her job last February to go and live with her father.  “He’s much better now,” she told me. 

“I was doing procurement work and I am not sure that is what I want to do now although I have a lot of experience doing that.  I’m kind of reevaluating my life right now I guess.”  I encouraged her to make the leap and try something she is passionate about.  “I just don’t know what that is though right now,” she said.  I think that is pretty common.  I am very fortunate right now to have two jobs that are mentally and emotionally rewarding.  It’s not worth it in the long run just to go in to work every day just to get a paycheck, although sometimes we find ourselves having to do that to keep the electricity on or to feed our family.

She told me she was going to use the money to help someone else out.  I’m hoping she will update us here on what happened to it.

Sometimes when I approach people at night, especially women, they are intimidated.  You have to be careful.  She made me laugh when I asked her if she was intimidated when I approached her.  “No, not really.”  Hmm…it’s a good thing I didn’t choose bank robbing or something like that for a profession.

The temperature was dropping and I was sure Sandra was chilly being from Southern California.  She was well dressed though; she had on a dark coat and gloves.  Aida arrived and we chatted briefly before I excused myself.  Sandra didn’t want her picture to be taken…so no photo for you today.

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Dane fishing in the waters of Valley Creek in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Reed)

While I was visiting my friends up in Pennsylvania we decided to go for a hike in Valley Forge.

Along the hike I spotted Dane doing some fishing in the Valley Creek.  I couldn’t resist trying to give my $10 to a guy wading knee-deep in the water.  I yelled over to him and he made his way to the shore and I handed him the money.  I’ll chalk that up for a first: Gave $10 to person in the middle of a creek!

I honestly thought there was a 50/50 chance that I was going to fall in the creek, because to be able to get close enough to Dane to give him the $10 I had to maneuver down part of the bank where I placed one of me feet on a branch and the other on a rock that jutted out from the bank.

Me photographing Dane along the banks of Valley Creek. (photo: K. Kanelakis)

I asked him how the fishing was.  “I haven’t caught anything today,” he told me.  I realized that if I didn’t scare the fish away when I yelled over to him that my friends two boys were taking care of it as they proudly dumped as many rocks as they could into the creek.  When Dane is not fishing, he is looking for work in journalism.  A graduate from UNC, he hopes to find work in Sports Radio.

Here is a little bit of our conversation…

Later that evening Dane was heading to game six of the National League playoffs.  Sorry the Phillies lost Dane.  I was impressed that four or five hours before they threw out the first pitch Dane was chilling in creek doing a little fishing.  

He said he was going to use my $10 get some Mountain Dew.

If anyone can help Dane find a job…leave a message!

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Victory Brewery, Downingtown, PA

Some high school friends of mine decided to get together in metropolis of Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I carpooled up with my friend Kimon, who lives close by in DC.  It’s about a three-hour drive but we hit some traffic getting out of DC and made slight detour to visit Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA.  All in all it took us about five hours.

This place was packed.  The parking lot was completely full.  We left my car in a questionably legal parking spot and went in just to say we were there, have one beer, and pick up some beer to take to Maureen and Josh, our hosts for the weekend.  When we got inside, you could barely walk.  I was sure that there was some special event going on, but we were later told that it was just “another Friday night.”

I first approached a woman named Kathy.  She was a little bit interested, much more so than her husband who showed up a shortly thereafter.  The couple was waiting on a table and it conveniently became available giving them a polite excuse to exit the situation.

I scanned the area while sipping on my malty Storm King Stout.

Kathy and Jim (photo: Reed)

Nearby I found another woman named Kathy and her husband Jim.  I noticed that Kathy was drinking wine. What?!  Wine in a great brewery.  “I’m allergic to wheat,” she told me.  Not Jim…nope.  He was happily enjoying some of their cold refreshing brews. 

Kathy tells me that her real name was Myra, but as a young girl she attended Catholic School and all the nuns thought she was Jewish…so she went by Kathy.  Jim I think was really named Jim…or James…at least no confessions were made to the contrary. 

Speaking of Jim, I learned that he has a bit of daredevil inside him.  While in the Poconos he went bungee jumping.  “This sketchy guy tethered me to this rope,” Jim explained adding that he wouldn’t do it again.

It turns out this couple was having a little time out before they picked their daughter up from her high school where she was decorating for Homecoming which was the following evening.  And Jim is going to drive one of the cars in the parade too!  “It’s a red BMW 328 convertible.”  Grinning he added, “Everyone should own a convertible once in their life.”

The $10 went toward a glass of wine and tip for the bartender. (photo: Reed)

It was right about then that I got to see my $10 passed along.  Kathy made her way up to the crowded bar and ordered another glass of wine.  Seven for the wine and three for a tip.

Later I received an email from Kathy with an update…here is an excerpt.

“It was fun talking to you and even more fun connecting to your web site and reading all the stories of the people we are ‘one degree of separation’ from. I loved your 10-10-10 story!  We should have told you about our 8-8-08 night at the Triple 8 vodka distillery in Nantucket!  Anyway – I wanted to tell you that even though $7 of the money you gave us went to the alcohol – $3 of it went to the bartender..not sure if that is ‘donation’ or not but either way good luck in your final leg of your interviews and GOD BLESS YOUR MAMA!”

And as for homecoming…

Jim driving his son and fellow homecoming court nominee. (photo: Reed)

“Everyone had a blast. I think Jim enjoyed the parade more than my son Kevin. It was a beautiful fall day. The home team won.  Life is good.  Keep up the good work – you are on the home stretch!

-Kathy”

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U.S. Cellular Field

I recently had to travel to Chicago for some work related meetings.  I got some emails this morning from readers who read my post that today’s blog post was from Chicago and they thought Oprah had me on her show.  Nope, not the case.  I was there for some work related meetings.  My original plan was to arrive Sunday evening and return home Tuesday late afternoon.  You know how ticket prices can be and it turned out to be a lot cheaper to fly in Sunday morning.  Since I had all day to spend there I decided to find something to do.  As you might be able to tell from some of my posts I am a bit of a baseball fan and love seeing a game at the ball park.  I checked to see if either the Cubs or the White Sox where in town and sure enough the White Sox were playing their last game of the season.   

The White Sox would go on to beat Cleveland 6-3. (photo: Reed)

I got into O’Hare, took the subway downtown, dropped my luggage off at the hotel and headed over to U.S. Cellular Field.  I got there and followed the crowd over to the stadium.  A scalper approached me with some tickets for $40.  I told him that I only wanted to spend like $10 on tickets and he explained that the tickets he was selling were lower level good seats between third base and left field and he couldn’t sell them for that.  In the end he sold me the ticket for $15.  I spent another $5 on a White Sox cap (I buy a hat at every stadium I visit, I have 10 different ones now) and headed inside. 

The ball park is beautiful.  It was built in 1991 to replace the legendary Comiskey Park which dated back to 1910.  Comiskey was the oldest baseball park in use up until 1991; a title now owned by the Red Sox’s Fenway Park which I have also visited. 

Dan has been a White Sox fan for as long as he can remember. (photo: Reed)

I grabbed a bratwurst and a beer and went to find my seat.  Although decent, I was more impressed with the seat location and the stadium than the brat.  As I sat down the guy next to me asked if I had bought my ticket from a scalper outside.  I told him I had and we had fun comparing notes from our negotiating experience.  I think Dan paid $20 or $25, I can’t remember.  Two other guys showed up later who had paid $40 for the last two remaining tickets the guy was selling.

Dan and I posed for a photo on top of the White Sox dugout after the game.

Dan was very sociable at the park.  He’s the kind of guy that by the end of the game knows the people in front of him, in back of him and on both sides…and maybe even a vendor or an usher.  He shared a lot of information with me about the White Sox and the stadium.  It was nice to have my own personal guide!

I offered Dan my $10 and he accepted it.  This was the farthest west in the US that I have given away my $10 so far.  Dan works on the trading floor at the Chicago Exchange.  He is a big White Sox fan and comes to about 25-30 games a year.  He says he hasn’t been to a Cubs game since the Reagan administration.  “This here is for real baseball fans,” he says gazing around the stadium, “and the 2005 season was amazing!”  I noticed he was wearing a 2005 White Sox World Champion hat.  He missed most of the series though due to a trip down to the Caribbean island of Saba.  He also recalls the tie-breaker game in 2008 (also called the “Black Out” game on September 30th between the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins.)  “I was sitting high up over there behind home plate,” he says cocking his neck around and pointing to the top of the upper deck.  “This place went crazy when Jim Thome hit a homer in the 9th inning to win the game!”  It was Thome’s 541st home run and if you want to get an idea of how crazy things were at the ball park that evening, check out this link.  You can see how crowded it was and they show the home run and crowd reaction.  Simply beautiful.

Final scoreboard message (Photo: Reed)

I went to grab another beer and offered to get Dan one.  He told me that he didn’t drink.  “I stopped drinking on December 24, 1998 – It’ll be 12 years this December.”  I congratulated him on his sobriety and told him a little bit about some of the other people I had met through my year-long journey who are now sober (Bob and Michelle).  Dan continues to go to AA meetings and said that he was going to donate his $10 to his meeting group so that they can buy coffee, etc. for the meetings.

I asked him about family.  He is single now although he does have children he doesn’t have a relationship with them.  “That’s all part of why I went to AA,” he said.  Although he didn’t think there was a chance to rebuild that relationship I hope that some day he is able to be involved in their lives in some capacity.  

Photo: Reed

After the game Dan and I went down near the dugout to see if any players were coming out.  I took some more photos down there and then we decided to leave.  We walked back all the way to the subway together.  We were both going the same direction, however I was getting off before him.  He was a really nice guy and I hope to stay in touch with him.  We traded emails and said our goodbyes.  He told me to go to Al’s Beef on Taylor Street for the best sandwich in town or if I wanted pizza to check out Malnati’s.  I unfortunately didn’t make it to either one.  Next time.

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Some of you might recall that two of my recipients are celebrating a very special day today.  October 16th is the anniversary of Bob (Day 251) and Michelle’s (Day 277) sobriety.  Bob has been sober 24 years and Michelle eight.  I am so proud of them both and am thankful to have met them through my Year of Giving!

A VW Beatle sits almost completely underwater as flood victims make their way through town by boat. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella, AFP)

Today I am going to tell you about a fascinating young woman.  But first let me give you a little background on the circumstances that I met Ximena.  In September parts of Mexico were devastated when torrential downpours caused disastrous flooding in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz.  As you might know, I used to live in Mexico and have many friends there today.  Fortunately everyone I know is safe, however, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were affected by the relentless waters.  In September a group here in DC put together a fundraiser to collect money to send to needy families in Mexico.  My neighbor Paulina, who is Mexican, told me about the event and I stopped by to donate some money.

The fundraiser was held at Lupe Cantina, 1214 18th Street, NW (photo: Reed)

In addition to my donation to the fundraiser, I made another “donation” of $10 to Ximena.  She is a performing artist who was preparing to sing that evening at the event.  I found a moment when she was not busy and approached her and explained the Year of Giving concept

Ximena talking to a friend. (photo: Reed)

Ximena is 34 years old and hails from the Mexico City.  This talented young singer caught my attention when she shared with me part of her life where she spent four years living on a bus.  That’s right.  At the time she was living in Austin, Texas when she met up with a guy from DC who had driven a bus down to Texas.  The bus, called “Destino 2000”, would later turn into the home for several individuals.  The core group was about four people.  They loaded up and started driving south into Mexico.  But they didn’t stop there; they kept on going to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, etc.  “We worked everywhere,” she explained in Spanish, “to get enough money to get us to the next place.”

Ximena, originally from Mexico City, lived on a bus for four years. (photo: Reed)

Her experience on the bus taught her many things.  “When you live here you take many things for granted,” she told me.  Sometimes the most basic necessities presented challenges.  “Without drinking water you can not survive,” she added. 

There was one common thread that sustained the nomadic group during their journey: music.  “The music was always the vehicle that opened doors for us and sustained us,” Ximena said.

Last May she received her degree in music education.  She smiled and said, “It took me 14 years to do it, but I made it!”  Although she currently does not have a job she says that she is fortunate enough to pick up small projects here and there.  When I invited her to the year-end celebration in December, she said she would not be able to attend because she would be in Texas in the area that is made up of Juarez on the Mexican side and El Paso on the US side.  “I am organizing some Fandangos in response to the violence that that area has suffered.”  I thought that I met Ximena before the alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican pirates, but after checking it was in fact the same day that I met Ximena.  As a side note, something seems strange about that case…I’m not sure we are getting the full story.

“When you live here you take many things for granted.” - Ximena (photo: Reed)

Anyway, being out of work you would think that Ximena would use the money to help pay for her rent or get some groceries but that was not the case.  “I’m going to send the money to my ‘papa’” she told me.  “He doesn’t work any more and I haven’t had very much to send him lately.”  I thought that was very touching.  Our parents do so much for us as children that it is nice to be able to help them when they are in need.

I unfortunately had another event that evening and had to leave before Ximena performed.  Hopefully I will get another chance.

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Barb in front of the laundromat in downtown Mechanicsburg, PA. (photo: Reed)

Day 266 was Labor Day. 

I spent all day here at my dad’s house.  I needed to go out and find someone to give my $10 to and he offered to join me.  We were going to walk down to the downtown area of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, but his knee and back have been bothering him and he was not sure that walking down there would be a good idea.  So we hopped in the car and drove over there and then walked around. 

We parked in front of Dieners, a breakfast institution in this town. We walked east down Main Street, past Jo Jo’s Pizzeria, which incidentally has possibly the world’s best Italian sub, when I spotted a laundromat just past the Gingerbread Man.  There were two women talking and my dad and I decided to walk up a little further to see who we find.  We past the main square where Main and Market Streets come together and walked another block past Myer’s funeral home, where my mother’s funeral was held, until we arrived at Eckels Drug Store (trivia: this is where a scene from Girl Interrupted was filmed.)

Dad and I headed back toward the laundromat to give the $10 to someone there.  When we got there Barb was coming out with her dog Diva.

Barb's pooch (photo: Reed)

Barb was born in Harrisburg and then moved to Shiremanstown before moving to Mechanicsburg some 45 years ago where she graduated from Mechanicsburg High School.  She has three children and two step-children, 15 grandkids and one great-grandson who will be two soon.  We spent a lot of time talking about her kids.  In fact, she had just returned earlier that day from visiting her son down in Bel Air, Maryland.

She couldn’t decide what she was going to do with the ten dollars, but she did give me her address so I can follow up with her later and see what she decides on.  When I told her that I find one person every day and I chose her for this day she said, “Wow…that is really great.  It is really nice of you that you do this – not too many people would do it.”

“I love people,” the 62-year-old told me.  She lit a cigarette, exhaled and went on, “I don’t have a lot of money to do things for others, but I am always volunteering my services.”  She told me about a friend of hers who was going through a difficult time.  Her friend, who is battling cancer, has a son in prison out near Pittsburgh who got extremely ill and is now in a coma.  “I do what I can for her, sometimes just making some phone calls to let others know how she is doing.” 

Barb didn't make it to Jo Jo's before they closed because she took time to talk to me. (photo: Reed)

Main Street was quite dark now and I checked my watch.  It was 9pm.  She was going to try to get some food at Jo Jo’s so we walked toward the restaurant that is housed in an old fire station.  Unfortunately by the time we got there they had just locked the door.  “I guess I will head up toward the Chinese place,” Barb said.  I felt bad, had I not stopped to talk with her she would have made it in time to get her dinner at Jo Jo’s.  Well, at least she had a few extra dollars for her dinner.

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9/11 memorial

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 years since the 9/11 tragedy.  I remember where I was; just under a mile from the Pentagon.  I remember seeing the crash on TV at my eye doctor’s office and then walking over to my office in Rosslyn, VA and hearing the crash at the Pentagon.   2,996 lives were lost that morning.  To give you an idea of how many people that is.  If we were to honor one person each day, it would have taken until Nov. 26, 2009 – more than eight years – to honor all those who lost their lives.    

Remember Tommy from Day 155?  Well, I delivered some items from Meghan in Pennsylvania and took some video.  Check it out here.  By the way, he needs some items for winter, check out the Lend a Hand section.  

Before I introduce you to today’s recipient, I must apologize for a mix up on my side.  Yesterday I posted Day 256 with pictures of today’s recipient, Lisa, but with the story and notes that pertain to Jessica who was the recipient on Day 257.  Sorry…I think I got it all cleaned up now.  With 365 posts this year I was bound to mess this up at some point! 

Lisa proudly displays her $10

Embarrassingly Lisa saw the mix up and wrote to me to point it out.  Thankfully she was understanding and assured her that I would get it taken care of today.  Thanks Lisa, I’m sorry about that. 

Anyway, I met Lisa at a going away party for Sarah, the person who I replaced at the WWF.  The 26-year-old owns her own graphic design business here in Washington, DC.  After growing up here in the DC area, she went to Pittsburgh to study at Carnegie Mellon University.  Today most of her family is split between Boston and Buffalo. 

Owning your own business seems to have its advantages for this world traveler.  “I try to set aside a month or two each year for travel,” she says.  “My next trip is going to be the western part of South America or India.  She told me about another trip where she went hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro.  When I lived in Brazil I went to Rio regularly for business and often stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel.  From the hotel you can see the hang gliders taking off from Sao Conrado and riding the thermals high above.  Who knows, maybe Lisa was one of those hang gliders that I have seen! 

We talked a little bit about why people give.  “I’m pretty busy and so I often give money instead of my time.”  Lisa went on to say that she does give of her time to her family and close friends.  “I’m pretty artistic, so sometimes I will do a painting for friends.  I’ve also done a friend’s wedding invitations.”  Speaking of giving, the $10 in her hand ended up being used to buy her good friend Sarah some beers.  

photo: Reed

I asked Lisa if there was anything that someone else could give to her that would be helpful.  “I’d really like it if someone could donate five or six hours at a printing shop.  That would be amazing!”  

If anyone is in need of a graphic designer, let me know and I can connect you with Lisa!

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Wow…I am still thinking about Bob from Day 251, aren’t you.  I wish you could have been there with us for the entire conversation.  He was really amazing.  Today’s recipient is equally impressive.  Read on! 

These two guys opted to decline the $10. (photo: Reed)

Day 254 started with two refusals.  First two guys who were sitting on the grass in front of an office building at the corner of 19th and O Streets said “No” because they were deep discussion.  Then I wandered down 19th Street a little further where I found William, a US Post Office mail carrier.  He was sitting in his truck grabbing a bite to eat and said that he was too busy.

I kept on walking down to the corner of 19th and M Street.  I looke across the street to see if Anthony was there, but I didn’t see his smiling face.  It was around there that I ran into Christina carrying a clear container of salad from Mixt Greens and a Netflix movie envelope.  She seemed skeptical of my motives at first, but agreed to accept the $10.  We walked west down M Street as we talked.

Christina poses for a picture with her pricey salad. (photo: Reed)

I find out that she works at a nearby NGO and is on her lunch break.  “This salad cost more than $10,” she tells me as I hand her the $10.  I asked her what she got in her salad, I mean for that price I was hoping that she at least got some truffles or Beluga caviar or a TV.  I mean I once heard of a salad at the Hemel Hotel in London that had Almas golden caviar, Beluga caviar, kreel-caught langoustines, Cornish crab and lobster, plus Florette baby leaf salad tossed in some super expensive olive oil with grated truffle placed in a basket made from courgettes, red peppers and potato and decorated with gold leaf…all for the low price of US$982! 

She was carrying a DVD so maybe they gave her that.  Nope.  Just a salad.  “I think this might be my first and last salad from there,” she says.

I asked her what about her made her unique.  She paused and thought for a moment and said, “Well, I am a brain cancer survivor.”  I swallowed and tried to think of something to say.  She told me that they removed the tumor in July and that she was currently going to chemotherapy every two weeks.  “I feel good now,” she says with a smile.

“How did you find out,” I ask trying to imagine how many things most go through your head when you learn this.  She says that there wasn’t a lot of time to think about anything.  They operated almost immediately once they had found the malignant tumor.  We arrive at her office.  I continue to ask some more questions without realizing that I was now completely focused on her bout with cancer and there is a lot more about Christina and I only probably have a few minutes more before she needs to go up to her office.

Christina loves to travel – especially internationally.  She has a passport full of stamps to prove it too.  Croatia, Thailand and Italy as some of her favorite places.  “Did you go to San Gimignano in Italy,” I ask.  It’s one of my favorite places on the planet.  She had in fact visited the tiny hilltop village.  She fondly recalls some of her memories from her trip.  The small town where there was only one phone booth with a line of people wrapping around it outside.  “We also saw this woman who had this really nice flower garden.  She ended up inviting us in and made us try all these different types of homemade grappa.  One was made with oregano, another with thyme…”  As she is telling me about her trip I can’t help but slip into the memory of my own trip there and how much I enjoyed it.

photo: Reed

She also tells me that she loves movies, hence the DVD in her hand.  “Shoot,” she says looking down at the red and white Netflix envelope.  “We got talking and I totally forgot to drop this off at the post office.”  I had already taken a good chunk of her lunch break so I offered to go and drop it off.

We say goodbye and I start walking back toward the post office when I shout back, “What movie did you get?”  “It’s True Blood,” she says referring to the hit HBO series starring Anna Paquin. 

I got an email a few days later from Christina letting me know that she had donated the $10 to Mercy Corps for their Pakistan flood relief efforts. 

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I am so excited for you to meet today’s recipient.  Her name is Charlotte.  She is 93, born and raised in New Orleans, LA.  I had the pleasure of meeting her as she and her sister enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon view of the harbor in Annapolis, MD.

People always ask me how I select the people that I give to.  I wish I had some really good answer, but it’s much more of a spur of the moment decision than any type of scientific process.  On this day I could have given my $10 to several other people.  I could have given it to a struggling Naval Academy plebe that I had seen that day carry boxes…

At the Naval Academy the plebes were tirelessly carrying boxes all over campus. Some looked near exhaustion. (photo: Reed)

Or these young kids that were patrolling the harbor…

It wasn't until the boat got closer that I realized that they were kids and we were not being attacked. (photo: Reed)

I even tried to give the $10 to Alex Haley…

Me trying to give my $10 to Alex Haley, award-winning author of Roots. (photo: Reed)

Or this guy playing guitar…

A busker playing some music steps from the pier. (photo: Reed)

But in the end I chose the right person…

I hope that I have half of Charlotte's energy, humor and joie de vivre when I am 93! (photo: Reed)

I saw Charlotte sitting on a bench with Jewell, the youngest of her five siblings.  I immediately knew that I wanted to give her my $10 for the day.  She looked so happy and relaxed sitting there watching the sail boats glide by.  You would have never known that she had gotten up early and flown 1,100 miles from New Orleans earlier that day.

I introduced myself and Jewell, who lives nearby, told me that she had heard about the Year of Giving.  The ladies invited me to sit down and we chatted for probably 45 minutes.  The proud mother of ten children, Charlotte shared her entire family with me.  There was the ordained priest, the Jesuit brother, the daughter that lives on a boat, Tommy who moved to Houston many years ago, Charlotte who they call “Suzie”, the son who lived in Pohnpei in the SE Asian Caroline Islands, her 6th, 7th and 8th children who were all boys, and the youngest two who were girls.  Although her first five children didn’t have children the other five combined to have 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.  

Jewell, Reed, Charlotte (photo: M. Legrain)

Charlotte graduated high school at 16 and went to Normal school to become a teacher and began teaching in the New Orleans public school system in the mid thirties at the age of 18.  But it was one summer that she was studying at Loyola that she met the man who ended up being her husband.  “My friend Charlie introduced me to him.  He lived over on Bank Street.”  She told me how things were different back then and they used to go out more in groups as friends rather than couples.  “I had decided that I was going to start dating someone else, but then my husband asked me out for every Saturday night for the next year!”  That’s a pretty good strategy.  Unfortunately he died in 1978 after 40 years of marriage.

The sun began to lower in the sky slightly and I could feel my neck starting to get burned.  Charlotte seemed comfortable though.  She came prepared with a beautiful scarf that not only protected her skin from the sun but also matched her earrings and necklace.  The hot sun might have had a slight influence on her decision to get some ice cream with the $10.

Travel seemed to be something that she really enjoyed.  “I’ve been to France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Thailand, Hong Kong – come to think of it I left a bathing suit in Hong Kong,” she said making us all laugh.  She also made several trips to the Pacific to visit her son who lived in the Caroline Islands.  He had gone there initially as part of a mission and ended up running an agriculture school. 

Mmmmm...Central Grocery's Muffuletta

No matter where she has traveled, she always ends up back in New Orleans.  “You can get just about the best food in the world in Nawlins,” according to Charlotte.  I have to admit, some of my favorite meals have been there.  From the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace to fried green tomatoes from Jacques-Imo’s Café to the world’s best muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery, it’s a food lover’s paradise.  By the way, how do you spell muffuletta…I have seen it this way and also muffulatta and muffalata…but it doesn’t seem consistent.  Anyway, even the coffee at Café du Monde is pretty extraordinary – or maybe it’s the side order of beignets that makes the coffee so delicious!  “Maspero’s Café also makes a good muffuletta sandwich,” according to Charlotte.  I will have to add that place to my list.

About this time Charlotte looked at me and said, “You know the more I think about this I think I have heard about what you are doing on the news in New Orleans.”  There was a short pause and she thought for a second, “But I remember thinking when I heard about it, ‘that’s never gonna happen to me!’” 

We laughed a lot. From L-R, Charlotte, Jewell and Jewell's husband. (photo: Reed)

Jewell’s husband arrived and took a seat next to his wife.  “I made ten dollars while you were gone,” Charlotte quipped. 

I had so many other questions in my head for Charlotte.  She was such a wonderful woman, but they needed to get going.  She doesn’t use email so she game me her home address.  I plan to send her a letter with this blog posting printed out.  I told her that I was going to look her up the next time I was in New Orleans.  She smiled and said that that would be nice.  She’s avid bridge player and I’m looking forward to having her as my bridge partner. 

The three turned their backs to the sail boats and the glimmering water and Charlotte steadied herself behind her walker.  I watched them fade toward the center of picturesque Annapolis. 

What amazing people I meet!

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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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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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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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Last night was a late night trying to get the bike video put together and uploaded.  Today I found an internet cafe downtown that seems to be working a little better for me.    

Yesterday they had elections here in Colombia.  No candidate got more than 50% of the votes, so there will be a run-off on June 20th between the top two candidates: Juan Manual Santos and Antanas Mockus.  Most the people that I have met here support Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants.  A philosopher and academic, his opponents say that while he seems intelligent that he doesn’t have clear ideas, has flip-flopped on ideas, and isn’t capable of being a strong leader.  On the other hand, those who support Mockus say that Santos is too much of a military-style leader.  Serving as President Uribe’s Secretary of Defense, he has been very aggressive toward neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela.  I think Santos will end up being elected as it will seem like the safer vote for many Colombians.  Just like in the US, people were glued to their TVs and radios following the results.

 Anyway, back to last Monday where I had a busy day getting ready for my trip to come here to Manizales.  On top of everything I had to do, I was foolish enough to get locked out of my apartment and lost several hours waiting for the locksmith company that said they would be there in 30 minutes.  I should have hung up with this company after the following conversation:

Woman: Hello? 

Me: Hi, is this the locksmith company on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Hello?

Me: Yes, hi, is this the number to the locksmith?

Woman:  What do you want?

Me: I’m sorry, is this the locksmith on New Hampshire Avenue?

Woman:  Why are you calling?

Me:  I’m looking for a locksmith.  Have I called the right number?

Woman:  What do you need?

Me:  (now a little frustrated) I need a locksmith…am I calling the right place? 

Woman:  I am not a locksmith, but I can have a locksmith call you back….

Well this went on for a while, anyway I finally figured out that I did have the right number and she was going to send a locksmith.  It would cost $29 to come out to the house and then an hourly labor fee for the work.  I asked how much the hourly rate was and the woman said that the only the locksmith would be able to tell me that. 

So the locksmith arrives and assesses my “simple lock” at $199 plus the $29.  I asked how long it was going to take and he said he didn’t know.  He also wouldn’t tell me what the hourly rate was, but $199 seemed insane.  In the end, I negotiated it down to $29 plus $71 to get the door opened.  He had it open in less than five minutes. 

Ok, enough venting…but hopefully you learn from my experience.  If you haven’t already make sure one or two people have a spare key to your home and if you have to call a locksmith remember that you can probably negotiate with them.

Later that night I was walking through Dupont Circle and saw a couple that seemed to just be enjoying the beautiful night sitting near the fountain.  I stopped to talk to them.  It turns out that Julia and Ken became my first recipients from Canada!  It was not easy at first convincing them that there was not catch to the ten dollars.  Ken was particularly suspicious.  “At the end of all this you’re not going to try to get me to join some church are you?”  Afterall, we were sitting a couple hundred yards away from the founding Church of Scientology.  I assured them that there were no conditions related to my gift and that I just wanted to take some time to get to know them.  Ken cautiously agreed to proceeded.  

Julia & Ken (Photo: Reed)

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, they had been in DC for 5 days and were leaving on Tuesday.  They came to DC for a small wedding but managed to extend the trip a few extra days and make a mini-vacation out of it.  They were staying a stone’s throw away at the newly renovated Dupont Hotel.  After a full day of visiting the Air and Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American History, and the National Art Gallery, their tired legs and feet were enjoying a peaceful moment in this urban respite.  They really enjoyed the wedding.  There was a musical group made up of several Ukrainians who were excellent.  “They were only supposed to play three songs but they played all night,” they told me.  While they were at the wedding the met a man who was from Winnipeg as well.  After talking some time they realized that he used to live in the same neighborhood where Julia and Ken also used to live.  After a few more questions they realized that the man actually used to live in the exact same house that they did.  Bizarre right.  What are the chances to run into someone who used to live in your exact house, especially in a different country! Well this couple is no stranger to coincidences.  As we sat on the bench, another Winnipeg couple from the wedding strolled by and said hello.  They weren’t staying at the same hotel even, but they happened to be walking through Dupont Circle after getting turned around after dinner. The $10 they assured me would go to someone else or some organization.  “I promise you it wont be spent on anything for us,” Ken assured me. 

Kelekis, Winnipeg, Manitoba

If I ever get to Winnipeg, they gave me a few pointers on what to see and do there.  Grand Beach, a very shallow sandy beach, is a very nice place to visit in the summer they told me.  Ken added that this beach was once rated on of the top ten beaches by Playboy Magazine (Ken only read the magazine for the articles apparently.)  “You should also go to Kelekis and get a hot dog, they are the best,” according to Julia.  They also have wonderful theaters, symphonies, operas and even the Royal Ballet.  I particularly enjoyed a story that Julia shared with me about leaving Kelekis one time and seeing an old man walking back and forth looking confused.  She approached him and learned that he was looking for the bus stop.  Well, Julia recognized him as Leo Mol, a Ukrainian (they seem to like Ukrainians!) born artist that achieved worldwide notoriety as a sculptor and offered to give him a lift and he accepted.  He was already in his 90s and still working regularly.  There is a sculpture garden in Winnipeg she told me that has several pieces of his work.

I asked if there was anything that we could help them with, but they couldn’t think of much.  “Perhaps some tips for our son who is going to travel through South America for six months,” Julia mentioned.  If anyone has some tips on making the best out of a six-month backpack style adventure in South America, leave a comment for Julia and Ken.

  We said goodnight.  I made a quick joke that I wanted Ken and Julia to join my church and went on my way.

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View nearby where I am staying in Manizales, Colombia (Photo: Reed)

I have arrived safely here in Manizales, Colombia.  I am a little behind with my posting but that is somewhat acceptable if you consider what my internet set-up might be in such a beautiful location like this.

By the way, I have been thinking that it would be a good idea to document the giving experiences from Colombia in both Spanish and English.  For one reason, if a recipient doesn’t read English very well they won’t be able to read their own blog posting which just seems wrong.  Given my schedule, it would be great to have a native speaker “guest translate” for each of the days that I am here.  If you are interested, let me know.

Last week the New York Mets baseball team was in town to take on the Washington Nationals.  I grew up a huge Mets fan.  Living in Central PA you would think that I would be a Philadelphia Phillies or Pittsburgh Pirates fan.  The only explanation that I can give is that I started to follow them because we got WWOR Channel 9 from Secaucus, NJ which carried almost all of the Mets games at the time.  It certainly wasn’t because of the team’s record back then.  I started following them in the early 1980s when they were not a pretty sight.  They got better though and went on to win the 1986 World Series.  My father took me to game 5 of the National League play-offs that year against the Houston Astros.  It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.

Anyway, I made it to two Mets games last week.  My friend Chris and I were leaving the game and getting on the Metro when I saw a young guy playing the violin.  I offered him the $10 but he declined when he learned that I would write about the encounter on the blog.

I scanned the scene for another recipient.  It was almost as if a river current was carrying everyone to the Metro.  In the middle of this swift moving mob was a woman holding her own against the current while she handed out the Express newspaper; a free paper published by the Washington Post that is mostly distributed to commuters.  I have given several times to the vendors of Street Sense, but I have never given to anyone from the Express organization.  So I did.

Sharon hands a Metro rider the Express (Photo: Reed)

Sharon was busy trying to capture the attention of the mostly disinterested passersby.  She has handed out the Express for three years she tells me.  “On a good day I hand out about 1,500 papers.”  I remember responding to her with something like, “Wow, you sell a lot of papers!”  I knew the paper was free but I just misspoke.  She quipped back, “Honey, if I was selling these things I’d be a millionaire by now!”

She went on to tell me that “the people are the best part of the job!”  Although that evening was almost perfect, Sharon says that she dreads the hottest and coldest days of the year.  “That’s the worst part about this job: the weather.”

Originally from West Virginia, the 49-year-old now calls Washington, DC her home.  She certainly makes a lot of us feel at home here when she give’s us our paper and wishes us a nice day.  She told me that she was going to use the $10 to help pay for her transportation to and from work.  I didn’t want to keep her from her job much more so I thanked her (and she thanked me right back) and said “goodnight.”

I am looking forward to writing more about Manizales this week.  It’s a beautiful tranquil space.  This should be a very busy and exciting 10 days!

Check out this short clip of Sharon in action!

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Last Monday I spent the morning doing some phone calls and interviews.  I got outside a little to walk Ruben, the dog that I have been taking care of, but other than that I was pretty much inside.

That evening I had plans to have dinner with some former colleagues of mine from my last job.  We decided to meet up at my friend Patricia’s house in Arlington.  I took Ruben out for another walk before leaving, stopped by a wine shop and a new gelato shop to get some wine and gelato for the evening.  By the way, I got the gelato from Dolcezza in Dupont.  I sampled a bunch of the flavors, but settled on dulce de leche granizado and lime cilantro.  The lime cilantro was such a unique flavor, I had to get it.  The citrus flavors combined with zest of the cilantro created a deliciously refreshing dessert!

The evening was great.  I got to spend time with some old colleagues.  Laura and her husband brought their four-month-old boy Griffin too!  He is amazing!

Bar at the Afterwords Cafe (Photo: Reed)

Anyway, the night winded down and I dropped Kate off at her hotel in Chinatown.  It was 11:45 and I still had to give away my $10.  As I drove I kept my eyes open for somebody on the streets.  I passed a couple of large groups of people, but didn’t think that stopping them and explaining what I was doing would go very well at midnight, so I pulled over at Kramerbooks near my house.  Inside I found a young couple sitting at a table and offered the guy my $10.  He politely declined and I looked toward his friend.  She somewhat reluctantly agreed.

It turns out that she is the bartender there at Kramerbooks.  I didn’t realize that though because she was sitting at a table at the otherwise empty bar.  Get this, I realized I didn’t have a ten dollar bill.  For that matter, I didn’t even have $10!  I think I had $8.  Then I remembered that I had a bag of quarters in my backpack and grabbed them and counted out the rest of the money for her.  It was a little embarrassing, but Cynthia rolled with it and didn’t make me feel awkward at all.

Cynthia said she likes to travel.  Two of her favorite destinations are Dubrovnik, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  Camping and snowboarding are also high on her list of things to do.

About this time several people made their way into the bar and I let Cynthia go wait on them.  She returned shortly with a glass of water for me and asked if I had any other questions.  I could see that she was busy and I didn’t want to take up more of her time…so while she was preparing things I asked her what her favorite drink and food items were on the menu at Kramerbooks’ Afterwords Café.  Her favorite drink was a tie between the Brewmaster Reserve by Brooklyn Brewery and the Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewery.  Her favorite dish is the Bison Burger.  Honestly, you almost can go wrong there, everything is good.

I wrapped things up and let Cynthia get back to work. 

Her $10 is going toward the purchase of a new dictionary for a homeless man who she knows.  Someone stole his bag which contained his dictionary.  I asked if there was anything that I could include in the Lend a Hand project and she mentioned that her car needs some work so she would love to get some help with that.  Heck, maybe a show like Overhaulin would come and help her out!

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Filter, 1726 20th St., NW, DC

On Sunday I checked out a new coffee house in Dupont called Filter.  It’s well located, tucked behind Connecticut Avenue on the more laid back 20th Street.  I descended a few stairs and walked into the cozy, hip coffee joint an ordered an espresso.  The prices seemed slightly higher than Starbucks and Cosi, both of which are right around the corner.  Overall I liked the place, despite a guy who was working there complaining that a nearby restaurant manager sent about 10 or 15 of her staff over to get espresso so that they understood what a good espresso tasted like.  He didn’t like that they got it to go and one person reached for a cup before it was ready, etc.  Anyway, when you work in an open atmosphere you need to be cognizant that others can hear your conversation.  As a new location, I would have been thrilled to have 15 customers.

While I was there I met Mark, a graduating senior studying economics at the George Washington University here in DC.  He graduates on May 17th and is frantically wrapping up his final papers and studying for his last exams.  I remember my last week of college.  It was a great feeling to be “finished.”  Little did I know that I was only finished with another segment of life and that new challenges and tests were just over the horizon. 

Mark is from the DC area.  He grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Magruder High School.  

He and I have something in common related to the $10.  Well, in a round about way.  So Mark has a plan to go to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and embark on a bicycling journey all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.  I asked him how far this was and he said, “I don’t know exactly…several thousand miles.”  Well, I did a little checking and I calculated that it will be at least 11,000 miles!  That is like going across the continental US from ocean to ocean 3.5 times!  Along the way he plans to give people $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.  He will ask that they send him photos, stories, poems, etc. to him as well as a note explaining how they used the money.  He sees it as a way to get to know the individuals as well as study the marginal propensity to save (or to consume) in different cultures.

Anyway, watch the video and you will learn a little more about Mark’s interest in cycling, his cycling trip around Spain and France as well as his plans for his upcoming trip from Alaska to Argentina.  I also included a small piece where he talks about volunteering to help an adult read better.  

As you might expect, Mark put the $10 toward his savings needed to make the trip.

I asked Mark if we could help him with anything on the Lend a Hand page.  He said he needs funds to help him make his journey to Argentina.  He applied for a grant from the University but was denied.  I think there is a way to make this happen with corporate and individual donations.  Furthermore, he needs to find a house/apartment in DC for the summer.  He is looking for a place in DC that he will share with three other friends with a monthly rent of less than $3,000/month.  Mark is also looking for a summer job, possibly in economic development but he is also open to other ideas.  He seems like a great guy and would be a good addition to any business.  

Reed and Mark

Before we said goodbye, Mark asked if I would consider being on the finish line in Argentina when he gets there.  I would love that!  We agreed to meet in a couple of weeks and do a bike ride after I get my bike out and get into shape a little.  I was so inspired after our conversation, that I went home, got my bike in working order and took it for a short ride that evening.  Thanks Mark!

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