Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day Two in Alaska

After 25 years in Alaska followed by another 19 since moving on beyond Alaska, Alaska remains unique. The skies have been overcast so that the gray days are not much brighter than the short nights. Where greenery hasn't changed the view, development has. After three drive-bys, like a mirage, old familiar scenes juxtaposition over today's reality. Starter trees are now a forest and new roads are narrowed by shrubbery and cluttered with old or unused stuff.

Sometimes it's a name, sometimes it's a face transformed for 20 years ago, sometimes it's a combination and sometimes it takes some time, but slowly memories are jostled and time slips back 20 years. Sometimes an acquaintance's remark reminds one that live is not quite the same as in the lower 48. "I got married a couple years ago. And I got an indoor toilet. I'm so happy; I have everything I want." She continued, "Last night after selling souvenirs all day, I sat on the lawn chair sipping wine and swapping mosquitoes as the sun momentarily broke through the clouds and bad a cool day feel warm. Life is good. It would be nice to have enough money to not have to skimp every day." Then, commenting on the 200 tourists in a two street community of 600, "It's so great to get away from this busy cosmopolitan environment."

As we paid the clerk in a new grocery store, the first real one ever at this end of the valley, we asked how long she'd lived here hoping to determine her connection to someone we knew earlier. She said, "Seven year, " and I thought "We've been gone much longer than that." She added, "But my husband's been here 30."
"Now there's someone I might know," I thought and asked, "Who is he."
"Jack MacDonald."
So the small world concept just fell into place. Jack was one of our dearest friends when we lived here and was near the top of our list of persons we hoped to see while here. We gave her our phone number and a couple hours later he called. He lived along the route of our evening jaunt and we had an hour to use. It was a great reunion visit; as if we'd never been apart except we have many stories to tell.

We're here to visit our son and attend the wedding of the son of another dear friend. An early stop at their house led us to moving table under the tents in the field set for the wedding and washing pint canning jars to serve as drinking glasses at the wedding. Not exactly champagne flutes but more in keeping with the lifestyle of the families and the "green" theme of the wedding. At 35 years of age, Nate, the groom started teaching middle social studies and coaching three teams at a school in southern Arizona. Perhaps the closest connection between Arizona and Alaska is that they start with the same letter of the alphabet. Cassalan completed her masters in public health which included an internship doing a feasibility study for a medical clinic in the Trapper Creek area. She reported to the Sunshine Community Health Center board that there was a positive reaction to having a clinic more readily available to the residents and there was a need.

Speaking of the clinic, an institution that Gail, with the support of her husband, and the backing of a group of community members, started the Sunshine Community Health Clinic 25 years, opening on November 5, 1986, to patients with one and a half employees and a 50 thousand dollar grant, now has 40 employees and a multi-million dollar annual budget. Now in its third building, the clinic's growth mirrors the changes in the community and has lived far beyond its expectations and wildest dreams. Within a month during this anniversary year, a free medical clinic will open its doors for the first time in Polk County, inspired and promoted by Gail.

Bake some king salmon from Darron at Gunderson's and the day ends nearly perfect.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Under twenty days

This is the best weekend ever, probably because we're closer than ever to boarding the plane to Tanzania. The Yatima Group Fund had a fundraising booth at the Salem World Beat Festival selling crafts from and for Tanzania. It was an opportunity to exchange stuff: our white lab clothes and money for our stay in Africa for their boxes of 3000 condoms, 40 t-shirts and a couple bags of clothing. Also exchanged were our "what to take" list for details about our stay in Arusha.

Earlier in the day JoAnn King inspired the members of the congregation of Christ's Church to connect with one of the nine individual travelers as a prayer partner. While only nine will board the plane, many more will travel the journey.

Five team members attend the church and discussions around what to take. Briefly the goal is simple, minimal and only with the essentials; leave valuables and cosmetics at home and plan to leave the clothes in Africa when returning to Oregon. Nine people have nine different ideas of the meaning of this goal.

In the remaining days before the plane lifts off, the team will continue to gather items for the schools, orphanages and boarding schools in Arusha and Lengasti, items such as old eyeglasses, used children's clothes, jump ropes, frisbees, soccer balls, bird netting and much more. Any donations including money are welcome.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tanzania bound

Many factors affect our values, interests, desires and decisions. Travel, for many, is synonymous with being away from work and relaxing. While I agree I, and Gail too, find great value in travel that's related to working and living with the locals. To this end we have designed and lead several mission trips in the past, such as to the Katrina stricken area of Mississippi with five teams. This year the trip is to Tanzania.

This trip, like most of the trips, started with the question: would you like to go to Tanzania on a mission trip. With enough "yeses" and some enthusiasm, the planning starts and at first it's crude and vague. With only 24 days to boarding the plane, the details are growing like weeds: what to take, what to expect, schedules, projects with supplies and tools, and projects with what to prepare for teaching. Every morning time is dedicated to compiling the thoughts of the previous day and informing the team of any changes.

This trip involves a team of nine, five students from Western Oregon and four adults including one who just had a knee replacement. As arrangements evolved two students ended up on a different schedule typically traveling about six hours later than the rest of the team. Despite the simplicity of the statement, the details are interesting, challenging and sometimes easily overlooked, like attending the midnight movie with the rest of the team when you don't arrive until 1:00AM.

One of our contacts, a lady in a village called Lengasti, within driving distance of Arusha Tanzania, just emailed us a schedule during our four night stay. It includes a day of welcome, a climb with a view and a swim in a hot springs, as well as teaching health and building garden beds and playground equipment. Our other 13 days will be spent traveling (it a long flight), teaching computer literacy and working with a variety of childhood and health related agencies in Arusha and a day in the Ngorongoro Crater with the lions, giraffes and other wild critters.

We expect to be basically removed from outside communication especially Internet and so real time communication will be limited and reporting back will be relegated to a post-trip movie, collection of pictures and some narrative. We board the plan July 14, return to Oregon August 1 and hope to have a report by mid August. See you then.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

MLK Flashmob Link

A memory of an event that grew from our energy. MLK Flashmob and more.