Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Long Overdue Update (Ethiopia, 08 - Charleston, Present)


Yes We Can! (in Kiswahili 
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Greetings from beautiful, hot and muggy Charleston, South Carolina. It’s good to be home.

The photo above is of the back of a dahla-dahla, public transportation in Arusha, Tanzania. I love the Obama Love in East Africa!

Wow, there’s so much to update I hardly know where to begin!

Since many of you have asked how you can buy a copy of the book, I’ll start by saying it’s not available for purchase yet. Details are below. Now I’ll move on to what’s most important to me these days.


Mom & Pop 
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Giving Thanks for my family’s health


Back at the beginning of June, after eighteen months of living out of my backpack, primarily leading experiential learning trips for US youth and working on my manuscript, I thought I’d finally have a chance to take a few deep breaths and relax during my two-week visit with my folks.

However, shortly after my return home, Mom was rushed to the emergency room for symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and loss of equilibrium. She didn’t want to go to the hospital, but luckily for us, Pop’s insistence prevailed. We all thought she was dehydrated, and would be back home after a night with an IV in her arm. To our surprise doctors discovered and subsequently removed two life-threatening cancerous tumors -one of which was as it was restricting the flow of fluid to and from her brain - in the nick of time. Things were touch and go for a while as she was in and out of ICU for a week, but she was back at home recuperating by time I left for Tanzania as an Expedition Leader for National Geographic Student Expeditions on June 20th. She was rushed to the hospital again last month after fainting while cooking breakfast. The doctors are still unsure of what caused the temporary loss of consciousness, but her recovery has been steady since then, so we all have reason for continued optimism.

June and July were scary months, but we’re all counting blessings because we’re fortunate that 1) Mom was diagnosed in time, 2) the tumors were operable, 3) she survived the surgery, and 4) she is more and more herself with each passing day.

There was also a brief scare with my grandmother this month. I had to call an ambulance for her when her slurred speech and disoriented state suggested she was having a stroke. Doctors were unable to confirm exactly what caused her fall and temporary loss of consciousness, but after a few days in the hospital, she was herself again, and she too is now recovering at home.

I’m glad to be home for another week spending quality time with my family, as well as cooking nutritious meals and chauffeuring Mom and Granma to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and pharmacies.


Cousin Umar, Aunt Fatimah & Mom 
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Not only did I get to see my cousin and aunt, who were in town for Granma, last week, I’m also happy to report that for the first time in a very long time I got to hang out with my brother and sister, as well as all of my nieces and nephews this summer.


Anaya & Cheo Jr, my youngest niece & nephew 
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Sondra Saadeka, my oldest niece 
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My brother, Cheo, with Tawana’s family and all of my nieces & nephews, including Kamau, the oldest 
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Warm, heartfelt thanks go out to Ethan at Carpe Diem, as well as Jeff and the management at National Geographic Student Expeditions for their help in getting me home.

Giving thanks for friends and editors


Thanks for the love, fam, and apologies for the false alarm concerning the book. I had planned to self publish it in June. However, thanks to feedback from my editors, I’ve decided to put the book on hold for a while.

The overwhelming reviews were positive, but a few reviewers with agenting and publishing experience said the book has mass appeal, and they highly recommended that I work out the kinks and shop it to commercial publishers. I want it to be as good as possible, so I'm committed to giving it more time instead releasing sub par work into the atmosphere just because I want to be done with it.

Much love to friends and family who came out of the woodwork to plow through the manuscript and offer constructive criticism in a timely manner.

The New Plan

September – December: Leading a Carpe Diem expedition to Uganda and Tanzania (info at: www.CarpeDiemEducation.org).

December – March: Hopefully, teaching underprivileged kids how to snowboard in Colorado, and perfecting the query letter and book proposal for the manuscript (provided Mom and Pop are in good health).

Spring: Take my book advance money to a beach in Latin America - where it’ll last longer - and spend up to a year perfecting the manuscript. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be in book stores by summer 2011, if not sooner.

If I don’t secure a book deal by the spring, chances are I’ll head back to Korea for another year. Five-hour workdays, a low cost of living, and a nice salary will allow me to finish the book, pay off some bills and come back to the US with funds for the next phase of my life: earnestly working on getting my own experiential learning program for disadvantaged youth off the ground in Charleston by 2015. In my mind’s eye it’ll be a charter school featuring a multicultural curriculum of which service learning and international travel will be integral components. So, needless to say, it will be a multiyear endeavor.

National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tanzania!

(www.ngstudentexpeditions.com)


NGSE TZ, 2009, Group A 
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NGSE TZ, 2009 Group B, inside a baobab tree 
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Cultural prejudices aside, anyone who knows me well knows how much my youth was shaped by National Geographic magazine. I spent hours upon hours flipping through the publications, inserting myself into the photographs, imagining myself hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, scuba diving off the coast of Thailand, exploring the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and photographing lions while on safari in Africa. So it was a dream come true to serve as a National Geographic Student Expedition Leader for two separate trips this summer.

And what a fantastic summer it was!

Both groups were great. I especially appreciated how Group A surprised me with a birthday cookie on June 28th. The first group was your typical group of US high school students – happy to be abroad for the summer, but a little more excited about being in love with each other more than they were about being in Tanzania. Still, I was proud of them. They worked hard on the community service project (excavating a deteriorated water main) and they produced a top quality final photo exhibit.

But I fell in love with the second group. Whereas we had to enforce quiet hours and remind the first group to look out the windows on the second day of safari, the second group went to bed early on their own, woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, and were ever vigilant during each day of the safari. Karma is beautiful. Their vigilance was rewarded with sightings of hundreds of elephants and elephant calves,

 
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A leopard and a leopard cub (one of the most elusive animals to see while on safari),

 
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Rhinos (East Africa’s other elusive animal), baboons and birds and ungulates galore,

 
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Crested Crane, Ngorongoro Crater 
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AND Twenty five lions!


Young Male, Tarangire National Park 
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Including a zebra kill!


TWO Lionesses Stalking Zebra 
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We also danced with Maasai warriors and spent some time with some of my favorite people, Mzee Pete and Mama Charlotte at the UAACC (www.uaacc.habari.co.tz).


Mzee Pete 
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Mama C 
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Mama C

Yep, it was an amazing trip, and in addition to giving thanks for all the wonderful people and sights we experienced, I also have to give thanks for the opportunity to help create better the world through empowering youth to live consciously and compassionately. Groups like the second one, in particular, remind me of why I love being an expedition leader.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give thanks for the love of beautiful friends who took good care of me in Ethiopia and Kenya from December to May.


Ethiopian Highlands, Near Lalibela 
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Blue Nile Falls 
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With Pilgrims in Lalibela for Ethiopian Christmas 
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St George’s Church, Lalibela – view from the top 
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St. George’s from below – it’s carved out of solid rock! 
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I’m still happy, healthy and loving life, and I hope you are too!

1 Comments:

Blogger Syber said...

Nice pictures. Have a great family. Keep it.

9:42 PM  

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