“Tomb Raider” and other stupid things we yell….

Yup, skipped a day on the blog. The 8th was a day of driving, sitting, waiting, blank staring, delayed planes, canceled flights, rebooked flights, some more driving and then some passing out. So not much else to say about that.

But the 9th, oh wow.

After a day of disappointing travel and interesting conversations we arrived at Siem Reap, just outside the Angkor Wat complex. In the effort to get here there was A LOT of time for talking and listening. Among many thing that were discussed of particular interest was my dad recalling his time in the area nearly 50 years ago. I did not know much of it as he never really talked about it much. Some of the biggies I never knew: He was a volunteer tunnel rat, did you read that…Volunteer…. He was shot in the neck during a recon mission. While being patched up and put on a helicopter stretcher he was hot in the shoulder. All on, get this, July 4th. That’s not all, all on the day before he was to be sent home. Some more on that later…….

In our infinite wisdom, at 10 pmish we all decided it wold be a good idea to get up to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. Sounds majestic, right? Well, 4 AM comes very fast when you pass out at about midnight. I will say this, when do you get the chance to see sunrise over the Angkor Wat temple? So I can give up a few hours sleep. There were plenty of other people that had the same idea but the sunrise was so very cool. Granted, we were already sweating before the first rays of light came up but at least it was not 1200 degrees yet.

The rest of the morning was punctuated with some of the coolest sights ever. Each one building on the last. Some of the most iconic images ever. Oh, and monkeys. Don’t forget the monkeys. The last of the morning temple run was by far the most bestest coolest and anticipatedest of all. Ta Prohm temple, or better known to the rest of us as the Tomb Raider temple from the movie of the same name. (Sad how our geography and history tend to come from Hollywood). Anyway, this is the most interesting place I have been in a while. The trees have started to take the land back from the builders of the temple and slowly tear it apart. The temple still stands in opposition but will eventually be defeated by the jungle. In ever doorway and root structure someone had to mention Tomb Raider. I think we all subconsciously thought if we say it enough Angelina Joli might pop out of one of the shadowy corners. She didn’t. Sorry.

 

 

 

 #themostinterestingmissionaiesintheworld

After a sweaty morning of Tomb Raiding…..we paused for lunch and a quick nap and a shower. Maybe not in that order. The evening was put to a vote and we concluded a relaxing boat ride to view the “Floating Village” and catch the sunset was the way to go. OK, first the “boat ride”. This was a boat only in the basic definition. It was on water, it did float. Beyond that it may be more like a boat in the “see what my kid built” sense. After determining who weighed what we distributed the weight accordingly, you know, so we didn’t tip over. The river channel is so shallow this time of year the propulsion consisted of a outboard motor, tilled very far up and a 7 or 8 foot extension added to the propeller so the propeller actually ran along the water about 6 inches or so below. Makes for an interesting spray of very muddy water behind us. But on we go. After a few miles of riding the wake of the other boats like a surfboard, we were broadsided by pirates. Yes, a boat quickly came along side and a boy jumped on board and demanded money. OK, to be fair he was selling cans of beer, but he still demanded money for them. And at the exorbitant price of  $2! So yeah, pirates. Needless to say we obeyed his orders to save our lives and bought his $2 beer. After the terrifying beer pirates we made it out to the floating village. Those words do not do it justice. I found the real Water World! No not the terrible movie but the real Water World. There or hundreds and hundreds of floating huts and hand built homes all moored together int he middle of the huge lake. They even have a school, a church and a few stores. Yes a school. For 300+ kids. In the middle of the lake. OK, if this is not the perfect home for a Mobile Educational Technology Lab I do not know what is. We could make a whole movie about deploying a kit to this school. Oh yeah, that’s gotta happen.

We paused at a “restaurant” that had some, well interesting attractions to it. First off there is a 3rd level on it so catching the sunset here was perfect. Before we venture up the planks to get up there and pray the whole thing does not just list to the side and toss us all off…..You gotta stop and see the snakes and  #themostintrestingmissionaiesintheworld alligators. You heard me. You can hold a huge Boa around your neck and then even feed a fish to the dozens of gators. Not sure there is a regulator that inspects this stuff here….ok, yeah I am, there is not…. The sunset was incredible. From out here you can not see the shore line and the lake is massive. The few clouds gave an incredible sunset. The beer made you not care the boat was moving like a drunken sailor. It also helped you forget if you fall over the wrong side, you fall in the gator pit.

 

 

On nearly every trip I take with a team we try to put some “fun time” or down time in the mix. For a few reasons. One is you travel so far sometimes, its nice to see some of the local stuff. See the world as it were. The other reason is to decompress a little. When you are in the middle of some of the poorest and remote areas it is easy to get overwhelmed with it all. It can be hard to digest sometimes. I always try to tell people and remind myself that we see things everyday that we can not “fix”. It is in our nature to try to make things better when we see issues. When you feel like everywhere you look there is something you can “make better” it can get discouraging to know you won’t and can’t. The key is knowing and remembering just like those bricks we placed, one by one in the new kitchen walls, you can help build and start a process to slowly bring change. You might not see the wall finished but you can know you placed a brick. If everyone places one more brick, eventually things get better. Things change. I feel the same way with the METL kits. Every pair of eyes that see the content and learn from it is a potential for the person that could cure cancer, fly to mars, solve world hunger or any other of the million of possibilities. I may never see them do that but knowing I was a part of giving that opportunity, that’s pretty cool. 

So the next day is again a day of traveling. We start our paths home in a day or so. The next post will likely be the last about this trip. Maybe one more but who knows, when you have nearly 30 hours of airplane time ahead one may get time to type stuff…..

METL was a hit!

Our last day here in Pursat Province and the Toul Khmer Learning Center. Another long hot and productive day. Even though we all kind of creaked and moaned a bit while getting into the van this morning.

Before we got a running, er, pained walking start on the brick laying, we took a walk around the local homes of the village area. Next time you think you are in the middle of no where, your wrong. I found no where. I pasted the middle of no where kilometers back and took a left at past middle of no where and kept driving to get here.  The village is spread out over a larger area but homes tend to be built close together, kind of sub villages. We spoke with a grandmother raising her 3 grandchildren, on literally nothing. Once or twice a year some of her other family bring her about $2-$4 but beyond that, completely her. She showed me how she gathered grass from the fields to weave it into a type of grass shingle to cover her home. She said the grass cuts her hands every time but it is best for rain and keeps her home cooler that the ones with tin roofs. Call that the best person in the world to find a silver lining…..

We continued to work on the walls of the kitchen. I do not believe that any of us will find work as brick layers back in the states, but we do what we do. Brick by brick and row by row the walls grew. After lunch we split up a bit. Some of the team continued on with the brick wall, dad started looking at some electrical work while Greg and I busted out METL. We only had 1 translator on our team, he was busy. So Greg and I decided to wing it. I setup the kit and turned on the tablets and waved a few kids over to take a look. In all of30 seconds they knew what to do and was off and running. We started with about 5 kids, then 10, then 25, then….well, I lost count. Every kid from anywhere came it to see what these tablets were about. Now, let me set this up for you. The learning center had some posters on the wall of how to say DOG in English or 1+1=2. All hand drawn. These kids were now looking at videos of addition and subtraction and calculus, they were reading about sustainable crop rotation, they were playing math based games, zooming in on maps of parts of the world they never even knew to ask about. All with no internet. All with no power. (Because you know, dad turned that off to do lights). I mean, come on, how cool is that?!?

The kids explored the content on these new windows on the world until it was time for class. While I could not understand a word of what was being said, I could catch the general gist of it…..They thought the METL kit was the coolest thing they ever saw. I would drop a mic if I had one, but I don’t.

 

 

After the METL blew some minds, we continued on the kitchen. To be fair I found a way to do something else while others worked a bit harder doing bricks. Ronnie and I worked to complete the new electrical circuts. 7 new lights and a new recept for the kitchen area and replace some bad fixtures. This was its own adventure in itself. So, for those that do not know much about the electricity flowing in your house, most this we use require 110 volts. Some bigger items use 220 volts. Everything here is 240 volts and no ground wire to, well, try to keep you from going up in a puff of smoke if you do something wrong. Top it off with the power already running is basically being supplied with the kind of power cords you have on your lamp, thin and flimsy. So we proceeded with extreme caution. I know enough of electricity to not kill myself and manage to do most things without calling in the pros. But this, well, voodoo magic type stuff. After some discussion and those times you turn your head and close your eyes before you flick the switch moments, it works!

The walls did not get completed but we got it about 2/3 of the way. All electrical got finished. METL kit was delivered. Computers were installed. All in all, it turned out to be a good few days. Another cool thing, some of the kids at my dads church made him a card when he told them he was coming here.  They signed it for him wishing him safe travels. He brought it and we found time to have all the kids in the learning center sign it as well so he can take it back and show the kids. Kids, on the other side of the world with commonalities. Whoda thunk it.

 

It is always hard to “finish” a trip. I put finish in quotes because as I said before nothing is ever finished. We started a few walls. We may not see them finished but we know some of those bricks, we placed, we built and we contributed to a new chapter in the lives of these kids and the village.

I will skip the next days blog as it is primary a travel day for us. We now go off to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. I wonder if Laura Croft will be there? If you get that your a nerd and I love you for it.

PS: American Gothic Cambodia Style

#themostinterestingmissionariesintheworld

Come on people, make that hashtag go viral, I don’t ask you for much, just do this one thing for me….

Take a left at the middle of nowhere and drive….

Today was a a work day, I mean a WWOOOOOOORRRRRRKKKKKKK day. Did I mention we worked to day?

So if you take a 3 hour drive NE of Phnom Penh and then another 1 hour more on dirt roads that only resemble roads in the sense that some things that have wheels might be able to traverse them, you arrive at a village. Toul Khmer Learning Center is there. A very small village with a dozen or more thatched roof homes. About 30 kids from all ages. The village is in the middle of pretty much nothing but rice paddies for mile and miles….oh sorry, kilometers and kilometers.

The learning center has been in need of a kitchen area as all food now is prepared on a mat behind the learning center. We were served lunch by the villagers. It was a great experience and good food. Rice (of course) and fresh cooked veggies and chicken so fresh that I am pretty sure the other chickens were giving us the stink eye from outside the door. The children had organized a dance for us upon arrival. A traditional dance for the harvest. That was one of the coolest things ever.

Our primary reason for being there was to build a kitchen. More accurately build the brick walls for the kitchen. Literally, we are all experienced brick layers now. Not that we would pass any safety inspections or anything but maybe we could unionize? Substandard Mediocre Brick Layers Chapter 101 maybe?

With all the driving there has been some great conversations had in the van. We all began to learn more and more about each other. Backgrounds and history and hopes. I know most people on this trip but pretty much only from other trips. It is easy to forget we all go back to “the day to day” world and have so many other aspects of our lives. Greg Wilborn and I had some flashes of insight and ideas for reaching more and more kids with our METL kits. Sneak preview….South America get ready for CADP….. Among all the discussions the ones I over heard with my dad telling people about his time in the region stood out. He has been very freely and openly answering all questions people had. I have learned much more than I ever knew growing up. Some of those included: He was trained for 101st Airborn but they were pull out a month before he deployed so went to Americal division. He volunteered to be a tunnel rat, crazy right? He was shot on July 4th, 1 day before his tour was to end. He was shot twice, once in the neck and then while being lifted out by helicopter shot in the shoulder. He did not even know the second shot happened until they got him back to the med area. I learned some history of why things happened the way they did here. It was a good van ride.

We managed to all gets some brick work done and make some structures that resembled the beginning of walls. I am sure when we return to finish today the locals that were helping us wll have fixed our mistakes or just started over, yet to be seen. All I know is now when I want to build that brick fire pit at home and my wife says I don’t know how…I have picture proof I do…..

One more day with the villagers and the bricks and we leave. It always seems so short. I continually remind myself of what I tell others. You won’t see the end result but you can put a piece of the puzzle together.

I will train more on the use of the kit today and tomorrow and leave it with the directors capable hands. It is like I am handing over a piece of me when I deploy one of the METL kits. Yeah its just a bunch of computer what nots and doo dads but when you hands mush them all together into something that can be a piece of a puzzle to help educate people and be the next step to get out of a poverty spiral, that collection of computer things becomes a living thing that has meaning.

Wish us luck and send some good thoughts that our back and arms and legs will survive this day. Maybe send some Advil to….or morphine….your choice.

I will update with pictures later today, internet is a bit slow here.

Phnom Penh and beyond….

Early morning on top of the Royal Hotel over looking the river and the Kings house, not a bad way to start.

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So we spent the majority of the day at the Mango Tree Learning Center. A few hours installing 10 new computers, fluff and buff the older ones and show off the new METL kit to the staff and director. Oh, we sweated….a lot. I don’t mean a trickle of sweat here or there I mean we drenched every fiber of clothing. Totally worth it though. 20170405_12513117799098_10213062564784875_3864235464894752445_n

After the techy stuff we ha a great meal prepared by the community members. The story here was both gut wrenching and powerfully inspiring all at once. After being forcefully removed from their homes, twice, they rebuilt a community here. I say forcefully but it does not even come close to describing the way things happened. Imagine this: you are in bed, after a long hot day working in the rice fields for a few pennies. At 6 AM tear gas canisters begin raining down in the neighborhood. By 7 AM or so bulldozers are leveling your home. You leave with maybe a pot or a sack or a handfull of clothes. Now, imagine it…..again. Yet here they are, again, building a community that relies on each member to be a success.

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One story: Jhim has a family. To feed them he learned to lay brick. For much of his life he was told by so many he did not matter. He saw his family go hungry. He felt defeated. During a community meeting in the new location it was asked if anyone knew how to build a wall to enclose a new computer lab for the kids. He did. He helped create a loaction for the new computers. Jhim has the foresight and understanding that he may only know how to lay a few bricks but in doing that he sees that his kids, his family will have the access to an education. To be able to learn computer skills. He knows by placing those bricks he was a part of a plan that will give his family and his community something few had.

 

I have shared with many people I take these trips on how I think of all of the things we do as a puzzle. If you go somewhere and help install a computer, help build a wall, or just play with some kids, you are placing one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. You won’t see the full picture when you leave. You may go back many times but you may never see the completed picture. Each of us places one piece and while we can not walk away seeing the entire plan, we can know we helped build the image. That can be hard to accept sometimes. when you see so much that needs change and so much that could be done, you have to walk away knowing you can not “fix it”. Knowing you may never see the solution enacted. trusting that the next person will place another piece of the puzzle. Trusting…..that is hard for people. We always want to say “I see it is broke, I will fix it. How much? Where to? How long?” but the real answers are always so much more complicated.

We left the learning center after wringing out our clothes and made a 3 hour drive to Pursat Province. The location of our next few days of work. During the drive we had time to think and talk and stare. My dad shared stories of his time in Vietnam and differences he sees now, nearly 50 years later. I heard things today I have never heard him say. Things I never knew.

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So we sit here in the hotel after a great dinner out. Great food that I will have no chance of ever pronouncing correctly. Watching the geckos scurry around. Exhausted and humbled. Know, trusting, that the small piece of the puzzle we placed today will someday show a full image of the deletion of poverty, an image that none of us may ever see. But we trust none the less.

So that happened…

Met with the remaining members of our team at the Singapore airport this afternoon. After a very hot day walking around Little India the quick shower at the hotel was very welcome, and I am sure was appreciated by my plane mates…

The sights, sounds and smells of little India was incredible. Walked through the market areas and paused to walk through a Hindu temple. The art and devotion in the building was a true sight to behold.

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On all the trips I have taken there have been so many firsts for me. New places and people and ideas and projects and experiences. This time another first….and hopefully last. We were struck by lightning as we were flying out of the Singapore airport. About 20 minutes into the flight a bright flash or 2 and every eye in the cabin widened to the size of plates. There may have been a bit of incontinence. Not saying there was but may have been.

Dinner out to sample some authentic Cambodian dishes. The bed is sounding better every minute and up and at it to go see some kids and jiggle some computer bits and bytes around, 7 am.

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Our TutTut driver for the night

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My dad, Ronnie and Jake trying to not fall out of the TutTut
20170404_221804Me and my partner in crime, Greg. Yet another country and continent we can say we made vaguely inappropriate jokes in…..

Singapore in a day (or so)

So we end up getting into Singapore at about 1 am. Hotel by 2 am. Bed by 3 am. Up and running by 8 am. ….. ouch.

Full day and a lot if those “wow, look at that” moments. After walking the river paths down to the coast line we explored the Gardens by the Bay. Incredible botanical gardens outside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.  Every type of tropical plant you can imagine. Then we made our way to the 58th floor of the sands to what is nothing less than amazing. Designed as a full size ship perched on top of 3 buildings. Housing bars restaurants and infinity edge pools. Not much better place to have a beer and look out over the Singapore skyline.

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Dinner at a local famous seafood spot. Then a tired stroll back to the room to collapse. The entire city is the cleanest I have ever visited. Literally.

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Early breakfast despite my strong desire to sleep in. The jet lag still hanging on a bit. But onward. Today we will wander around Little India and see temple and open air markets. Then this afternoon we start the real reason we are here. We travel to Cambodia and begin our time working with the kids and schools.

こんにちは (hello for the rest of ya)

13 hours in a big metal tube. From Huston that gets ya to tokyo. Couple things, whoever invented noise canceling headphones…love you. Now, make them better to cancel the snoring guy across the isle and the elbow bumps from the drink cart. 

After 13 hours it was great to be able to check into the United club here in Tokyo and have a shower, some sushi and some saki. 

All good so far. Good conversations with some a few people about why we are going to Cambodia and then more about why dad is going back. He got thanked for his service by a few people. Nice to here. 

8 more hours in the tube to go so gotta load up on this great sushi and saki. 

Ain’t pre-check great?

Almost 7 am at Tulsa Int. NOT MATTER THE SITUATION I am always flying out of the very last gate. Why is that? It started to dawn on me this trip will check off a 3rd continent that my feet have touch but for CADP it will mean 7 counties and 4 continents. All in a years time. And many more coming. 

Anyway, here we set. My dad, Ronnie and I. Staring into the blankness that is pre coffee and early morning. In roughly 27 hours we step off in Singapore after a stop in Tokyo. Man I hope those movies I downloaded are interesting because lets face it, that “in flight magazine”, it ain’t gonna cut it. 

Chapter 1 of what ever this trip will be starts now. This consciousness brought to you by Starbucks. 

Here we go!

Hey All!

So in the coming days and weeks CTRL ALT DEL Poverty (henceforth known as CADP) will be traveling to Cambodia to deploy yet another METL kit. This is a special trip. I have traveled a bit to help many kids (this is Mark by the way). I have had the unique opportunity to get my daughter involved with the kids in Dominican. Now we go a step further, ok a big leap forward…. My dad will be traveling with me to Cambodia to help the kids there. This is made even more poignant as it will be the first time he has been to the area since he left after serving his country in the Vietnam war. After discussing it with him, I will be trying to document this trip on a daily basis here on our blog. A lot about the computers a lot about the schools, some about my dad and all about the kids.

So, stay tuned for some terrible writing skills and highly likely misspelled words, grammar errors and maybe some good pictures. Hey, I don’t want to set the bar too high, right?