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Mt. Prindle

Mount Prindle is a granitic mountain in the Yukon-Tanana Uplands. It is located a very close 45 miles north-northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska making it a great day hike or easy overnight. The geologic features of Mount Prindle are Late Cretaceous or early Tertiary, but these features intruded older Precambrian to Paleozoic Metamorphic rocks. Mount Prindle exhibits classic glacial landforms, unlike most of the surrounding Yukon-Tanana Uplands. It is in the Circle Mining District and many of the surrounding creeks have been or are being mined for placer gold.  The area has also been prospected for tin and rare earth minerals. Mine roads and hiking trails provide access to the mountain. A 900 ft (270 m) granite wall on an eastern spur of the massif is an attraction for rock climbers.

Mt. Prindle is a 4,931 foot mountain marked by some amazing granite tors. These granite statues line the ridge all the way to Mt. Prindle. Providing some amazing scrambling and bouldering rocks along the hike as you approach the summit.

The walk in to Mt. Prindle is very easy and flat, as you walk up the valley between the ridges. This walk is open and uncovered with some nice views of the ridge as you walk along. There are plentiful blueberries and another orange berry (that I can’t remember the name of-dragon berry?) along the hike. They have a little bit of a tart taste and are not the best blueberries you will find in Alaska, but still a nice addition.

We hiked in Saturday night to camp in the bowl underneath Mt. Prindle. This gave us some nice views of the tors and was a fairly nice camping spot. During that afternoon I decided to check out a nearby summit along with one other in our party. We made the trek up the summit and found another awesome feature of the Mt. Prindle hike. On the other side of the summit was a herd of Dall sheep! There was a herd of about 20 of them roaming the mountains, with their young making a living.

We woke up in the morning to this! Several of the Dall Sheep had ventured down into our base camp. When we poked our heads out of our tents we saw several Dall sheep with young grazing around our tents.

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Haiti

Haiti_timeline

I am leaving Alaska next Sunday (June 27th) night in order to go to Haiti for a week long missions trip. So this post has taken a long time to come together, so what was supposed to be a pre-trip report and then post trip report is just one report on Haiti as a whole. Going into Haiti with what I knew, the experiences down there, and then the afterwards.

In case you can’t read the image posted above, I have listed the time line points:

  1. 1697 Created as a French Colony, quickly becomes a slave colony where the slaves produce crops for the French
  2. 1804 in a slave revolt Haiti declares its freedom from France. The first and only successful slave revolt in the world
  3. 1825 France recognizes Haiti’s freedom
  4. 1862 US finally recognizes Haiti’s freedom. Many people believe the sole reason is due to US civil war and racism, Haiti can be a spot to unload now illegal slaves or for them to escape to
  5. 1915-1934 US forces occupy Haiti in a strategical ploy against Germany and France. Also claimed to be there for aiding Haitian government, but they (the US military) ran the country for the next 20 years
  6. 1956 Francois Duvalier becomes self proclaimed President for life of Haiti, till his death in 1971
  7. 1971-1986 Jean-Claude Duvalier takes over for his father, removed by a popular uprising
  8. 1986-1991 Haiti is run by military dictatorships and coups and changes in leadership are constantly happening
  9. December 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide is elected president of Haiti by a popular vote winning more than 2/3 of the vote. A president who finally cares about the poor of Haiti, he quickly upsets the upper classes and the upper classes with the backing of the military remove him from office in a coup in October 1991 because he was hurting the rich and aiding the poor. Planners and leaders of the Coup are CIA paid.
  10. 1994 US and UN restore Aristide to power where he stays till 2004 where the US under the Bush administration removes him from office again. Since 2001 the US had been secretly training an anti-Aristide army in the Dominican Republic. 2004 US begins stabilization occupation in Haiti
  11. Rene Preval becomes President of Haiti in 2006 and remains in power until his term runs out. A constant UN presence remains in Haiti since 2004 to present.
  12. January 12, 2010 a 7 magnitude earthquake hits Haiti. The earthquake killed over 300,000 people and left over 1.6 million people homeless. Cholera epidemics followed, a dangerous atmosphere in tent cities and a coming election in November brings riots by opposing groups.
  13. Jean Claude Duvalier returns to Haiti around election time to heighten the tensions. Jean Bertrand Aristride also returns later to Haiti bringing hope back along with more tension.
  14. Elections are a mess and pushed back to January. A runoff election is done to choose between the top two candidates: Michael Martelly (Haition pop singer) wins over Mirlande Manigat (former first lady of Haiti)-too early to tell how this will play out, but Martelly’s campaign incited a lot of rioting and could lead to more trouble.

So clearly there shouldn’t be much of an explanation needed for why I am going down to Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, a country that has been controlled and seen disaster after disaster, most of them not being natural. The U.S. and other countries have controlled the destiny of Haiti for far too long, and our country owes them a lot. The 7.3 magnitude Earthquake that they suffered in January of this year is just another tragedy in a long life of tragedies. While other countries have had a substantial influence on Haiti, the leaders of Haiti are just as much to blame. They have continued the business as usual for a long time and will continue to.

Flying into Haiti was amazing. There was a lot to take in, especially for someone like me. Looking at the mountains covering Haiti I think about my love of hiking mountains. Something the people here never think of doing, certainly not as fun. People that are found in the mountains of Haiti are often driven there in fear or to scrape a living off of the mountains. There is also the environmental aspect. Looking at the streams running into the ocean you can see a cloud at the mouth of the river, where soil has been washing out of Haiti into the ocean. Haiti has been deforested and regrowth is hard with soil that infertile, and with that many nutrients running out into the ocean. After noticing these two things we start the descent into Port-Au-Prince and then you see the reality that is Haiti, especially after the earthquake. Instead of seeing roofs of buildings or parks you see cities of tents. A country with large portions of its population residing in tents, wherever they can place their tents. Landing in the airport we quickly figured out what the reality is down there. The airport with US helicopters and some soldiers at the airport and UN forces pass by outside shortly after we arrive. Several hum-vs and a few tanks here to protect the peace. The airport is like a gutted out air hanger, there is nothing to it and security is very slim. You do not feel like you are at an airport at all.

Our first day in Haiti we went to take a tour of downtown Port-Au-Prince. It was unreal. Beyond words, but I will do my best to explain the situation. With all the people in the group we were in, no one had ever seen anything like this. This is a group that has had several people go on multiple missions trips before and thus have seen a lot of really bad places, from Africa to Central and South America, and the Caribbean. No one could fathom the situation in Haiti. Driving down the streets you notice tons of people standing out on the streets, trying to sell things or just standing there. All the sellers have little carts selling basic food items, and maybe a few other necessities but nothing to make a living on, even if people were buying. Streets crowded, the roads themselves (if they could be called that) are filled with huge potholes and almost none are paved and its amazing how some vehicles can travel on these roads. The buildings alongside the roads are very basic. Cement blocks and mortar tossed together with a little rebar to be “structurally sound”. Passing down the street looking out the back of the tap tap you count, one building up, one building down, two up, one down, two up, two down, one up, one down. Almost 6 months after the quake and the buildings are still just the way I imagined them to be when the quake hit. Rubble from the collapsed buildings remains where the structure once was or has now started to encroach onto the road, making the roads even less usable. We make it past all of this destruction and then make it to the news story.
In all of the damage that was done in Haiti, the image I think I saw most was the National Palace. Where the government of Haiti is supposed to be working. The palace, destroyed by the earthquake, has the entire middle caved in with the roof falling down onto it. Completely destroyed and certainly not structurally safe anymore. Talking with some of the people, or finding out through some contacts we find out that the government is M.I.A. President Preval and the rest of the government who was certainly shaken and damaged badly by the earthquake is no where to be found. The people of Haiti feel abandon and certainly don’t see any work being done by their government. All of the relief money being sent to Haiti? If it was going through the Haitian government… your guess is as good as mine. Following the history of Haitian politics, a lot of money in the government is stolen, abused, or general corruption just gets at it and widdles it down. That’s why at the end of this post I have listed the website for Partners in Health (PIH). An organization started by Dr. Paul Farmer (read the book Mountains Beyond Mountains) who set up a clinic (Zanmi Lasante) in rural Haiti that is run, employed, and operated by Haitians. This organization provides affordable or free health care for the people of Haiti who are unable to afford it. The program Dr. Farmer sets up has significant aid to the people and greatly increases the health of the people. Even the Word Health Organization (WHO) has taken pages from Dr. Farmers book in order to provide affordable and humane health care for poor people throughout the world. His programs for fighting diseases like TB have the real potential for successfully fighting and eradicating these horrible diseases. Anyways, this organization is great and a safe place to give money that will certainly make a huge and lasting difference. Having worked in Haiti since 1985 Farmer also understands Haiti, and with the Haitian people at Zanmi Lasante a 3 year $120 million plan is under way to build back Haiti, and build it back better.

Day 1
How do you explain the mind blowing and heart crushing scene in Haiti? No picture, words, song, writings. No literary legend nor baby could express the raw emotion felt on this day.
I’ve been to the Dominican Republic twice and I feel like I know a lot about Haiti due to my reading about Haiti and specifically Uses of Haiti by Dr. Paul Farmer. I thought I could prepare for this experience. Knowing Haiti’s history and knowing how the Dominican looks I thought I would be fine. Nothing has proved more wrong.
Driving around Haiti in the tap tap I was constantly biting down on my lower lip in anger and deeper sorrow, trying to prevent myself from bursting into tears. The pure devastation is beyond words. Row upon row of tents. Tarps wrapped together, above tents, and with tents. Housing hundreds of thousands of people in what I enjoy spending time in the outdoors in, but for only brief periods of time. How can people live in conditions like this? More importantly how can others be so self-centered that they can let people live like this?
The earthquake that hit in January may be a primary cause for the damage now but in reality its a secondary or tertiary cause of the present conditions in Haiti. The Haitian government has been riddled with corruption since its origin. Unable to cater to the needs of the people. Worse yet though is how our government has “helped”. Capitalism and Imperialism of the U.S. have driven politics since we began as a country. Our goal of teaching democracy has been a farce in many situations. Like Greg Mortenson’s strategy in Afghanistan/Pakistan that only books and not bombs will help the situation. Giving financial “aid” to the wrong people, all to save a buck on the homefront. Caring all about our dollar and not about others. That is what strikes as one of the first reasons why I’m here. Being poor is one thing, but being this poor is a completely different animal. The feeling that there blood is stained on my hands due, in part, to our countries workings is unbearable. How can we? I? let this happen to the people of Haiti?

How do you return from Haiti back into normal life? This has been hard. Unlike from when I returned from the Dominican Republic, Haiti has been hard to comprehend. It was a lot harder
to get back from Haiti (flying to Florida, getting stuck there for a night, flying to Boston, Minneapolis, Anchorage, and then finally Fairbanks) and I think this contributed to making a hard and weird transition. It didn’t hit me until a full week after being back. Something just wouldn’t sit right, it was hard to sleep or concentrate at times. After seeing Haiti, I can’t comprehend continuing living life the way I have been setting up things. How can I live a privileged and perfect American life when I realize what it’s like down there? The reunion from the trip was just last week and after getting back from that my mom told me that 3 people from the trip have changed majors in college or are considering going back to school because they need something more now. Am I one of those? I was positive I wanted to go to grad school before going to Haiti, and I still think I will but I spent the whole month of July freaking out about this aspect of whether I should go to grad school or something more meaningful, like the Peace Corps. I don’t want to go to grad school for the same things I wanted to before hand, looking at forest dynamics or peatlands isn’t the same without a different angle on it now. I still want to do environmental science, but it needs to be more meaningful. Global warming and climate change is all fine and dandy, but how would me researching it really help anyone? Unless I look at certain areas and collaborating projects. Carbon and the biogeochemistery in Africa and its influences on the people, or rainforest change in the Amazon (clearly a global warming topic) but also the opportunity to help the people in the Amazon utilize the rainforest without destroying it and thus help fight global warming but also help improve their lives. So that’s my goal; I am trying to find a better way to contribute and still do what I love. I can’t ignore what I saw in Haiti but I also need to continue doing what I’m best at and want a “normal” life to some extent. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, because I have no clue what I am doing or want to do right now.

http://www.pih.org
http://www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti
http://www.pih.org/pages/pih-e-bulletin-2010-06

Alaska So Far

So this will look very out of order, but here are some old posts that I had elsewhere about Alaska that I am transferring over.

So I flew into Alaska real early on June 1st. Getting into Anchorage on the 31st of May but not into Fairbanks until the 1st of June, real early in the morning. So I wanted to jot down a few first thoughts about Alaska now that I have been up here for a few days (by the time I post this, a couple of weeks).There is definitely a need to write about this immediately. While on facebook, they have the little ad section on the right side, where you can pay for an ad with a little description, picture, and link. Since I’m in Alaska it directs the ads to that and the ad on the side is this:

Wes Sonnor for Congress (with picture of him)
Gun raffle! Support Wes in his bid to restore representation and protect the 2nd amendment!

Alaska is a really cool place, and yes quite interesting, but I love it. I went to a party at a cabin the other night and it was a lot of fun. Why am I putting this in? Because its completely normal and very common up here for this to happen. Its not rare for people up here in Alaska to have “dry cabins”, this being cabins that do not have running water. The reason they don’t have running water is because its too expensive. With the permafrost up here the ground is often too frozen for pipes to be cost efficient. With the ground always being so cold and frozen the pipes would burst or water freeze in them, and thus if you don’t live immediately in the cities, there is no guarantee that you will have running water. So I thought it weird at first that people were asking if water was drinkable while in houses with running water, but up here its a very common question to ask and also essential because a lot of houses don’t have running water, and if they do, doesn’t mean it can be drunk.
It seems like an awesome and crazy way to live right now. I love the cabin style! I love going to the NHOC cabins and could definitely live in a cabin, but not having running water all the time must get rough. Sure they stop caring about showering or baths pretty soon, or just go to the university to shower, but I can’t imagine living all the time without running water. Going to a cabin for a weekend or even a week is quite doable, but once you start getting past that I don’t know if I would still love it.

Heroes denied money

9/11 Health Care Bill

In another brilliant display of their work the government shoots down another quality bill. A $7.4 billion bill that provides health care for first responders at the World Trade Centers on September 11th, 2001.

And mostly Republicans, who love their country, soldiers, and heroes more than anything, decided to shoot down this bill because the bill provided health care to 9/11 responders who are illegal immigrants. So they can get injured, or die to save people and be heroes to this country but they can’t get money for it? The other part they were against was how the bill was going to get paid for. Taxing US operations of foreign-firms, aka big companies hiding money safely away from taxes to make a bigger profit. This is apparently more important than the heroes of 9/11.

Jon Stewart does an amazing  job with this story on the Daily Show

can’t get it to post, so follow the link

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-august-4-2010/i-give-up—9-11-responders-bill

The secret Bike Agenda

Warning everyone, the U.N. plans on taking over the US! And the way they plan on doing this is disguising it with a bicycle agenda. The U.N. and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives is trying to take control away from the US and hand it the UN. According to Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes voters in Denver need to oppose the democratic candidate because he is looking into turning Denver over to the UN

Bicycle Agenda

Three Cups of Tea

This here post is about the greatest book in all of the world! I think while I am writing this post I may just have to read this book again (something I have never done). Luckily I took some notes and highlighted while I was reading, so that is a good place to start out at first. To really have any great input I will have to read it again though! Once again, took me forever to blog this and thus I have not only read the book a second time, but also read the sequel Stones Into Schools and went and saw Greg Mortenson talk at Keene State college in NH. I found out he was speaking there and got some friends to go and see him with me. We went to the kids lecture and then hung around for the adult lecture afterward.

Anyways, spoiler alert.

k2

K2 South Face from Concordia

Three Cups of Tea is a book with an absolutely wonderful message that is desperately needed at this time in the world. Being someone who both loves the outdoors and helping others, I can relate so well with Greg Mortenson and his quest, I only hope I can be as successful as him at it. The story goes like this: Greg Mortenson begins his real purpose in life when he starts his climb attempt at K2. K2 is the second highest mountain on the planet, at an amazing 28,251 feet. K2 is one of many mountains in the Himalayan Mountain Range and is located on the border of Pakistan and China. Like any mountain of this magnitude, it is obviously a very dangerous hike. The statistics show numbers around 1 person dying for every 4 people who do in fact summit. While these numbers may not seem too astonishing to some, you must remember that the only people that will even dream of attempting K2 are the very best of the best. Even with these people being the best of the best, most of them do it with a whole heck of a lot of support. Sherpas, or pack carriers, carry the brunt of the work for a lot of these hikers and without the gear being carried by these hired hands, most wouldn’t even make it past the first base camp. These sherpas will come into the story later, but now you must understand the environment we are facing here. So as Greg Mortenson makes the trek up K2 in memory of his sister everything is looking good, until it all goes wrong which is so typical of hiking. The mountain gets the best of him and the crew he is with, having to turn around and save his friends life Greg is unable to reach the summit. His troubles do not end here though, as he stumbles down the mountain, exhuasted and cold he gets separated and lost. He manages to stumble into a Pakistani village off of the mountain. To weak to continue from there the people of the village offer their usual hospitality to nurse Greg back to health. Once Greg has enough strength to get out of bed he wishes to explore the village some. This is where Greg discovers his purpose and everything changes for him. During his exploration of the village he asks to go and see the school, upon arriving at the school he is appalled. The “school” is no more than kids drawing in dirt, with little organization or education to it. This just does not sit well with Greg Mortenson and he vows to return to build a school. While he makes this promise, Greg has literally nothing left of his bank account, enough to get him back to the U.S. and that’s about it. After all of the hospitality that these people gave him, he can’t turn his back on them though and sticks to his promise and gets to planning how this will happen and how in the hell he is going to raise the money necessary. This is no easy task though and Greg spends a good amount of time trying to raise money through donations, hard work, and not spending money on anything. He eventually scrounges up enough money to build the school and returns to the village only to be faced with another dilemma. To build the school they need to get the supplies there first, which requires a bridge. So Greg is faced with more money raising in the necessity to build a bridge to build the school. Greg does finally get this school built but his mission is far from over. From his journey in building this school and all of the people he has met Greg decides to set up the Central Asia Institute, an organization dedicated to aiding these areas in the building of schools, education, and especially education for young girls. There is a lot I have left out of this synopsis, and this is two fold. Me telling you the whole story would be wrong and I would not tell it nearly as well and the parts that I have left out really make the story interesting and show the courage and amazing work that Greg has done!

Greg Mortenson has recently written another book titled Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I will certainly have a post on this later.

Why is Three Cups of Tea so good?

There are a lot of reasons why I absolutely loved this book and could not cover every piece of it ever. Unless you live under a rock you know of the constant fighting that has been going on in the Middle East forever. More recently you know how we as a country have invaded two countries in order to promote and stabilize democracy as well as provide national security for us and the world. While we may have done some great things by going into these countries we are just setting ourselves up for failure and participating in an endless war. The history and memory of people in those countries are too strong and this makes the U.S. efforts a losing one. Whenever civilians are killed by a bomb they will remember this and hold this against us forever. For all of the good we can accomplish we are just building more enemies on a daily basis. The only true way to solve the problem is to eliminate it. This can not be done by any amounts of weapons in the world. Taking from V for Vendetta ideas are bulletproof. The ideas held in this country, as right or wrong as they may be, still exist and won’t go away. The ideas have been around forever and will continue to be for a long time unless a change in policy is made. Greg Mortenson’s tactic has real changing ability. If he goes in and builds a school he builds opportunity. Even if one child at that school takes to education, enjoys reading and education this could be a huge change. That kid is now educated and instead of turning to the Taliban or drug cartels may opt instead to try and get educated, to better his community, or get out of this situation and try his luck elsewhere. If those schools weren’t there then what do the kids do? They do nothing and get recruited by the Taliban, or the Taliban offers to educate them at their “schools” which are basically brain washing and zombifying centers to get more warriors.

Information from the Three Cups of Tea website:

  • Three Cups of Tea is required reading for U.S. senior military commanders, for officers in the Norwegian War College, Forsvarsnett, for U.S. Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan, Pentagon officers in counter-insurgency training, and Canadian Defense Ministry members.
  • The book has been read by General David Petraeus – CENTCOM Commander, Admiral Mike Mullen – Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, and Admiral Eric Olson – SOCOM Special Forces commander, and several other U.S. military commanders who advocate for building relationships as a part of an overall strategic plan for peace. Mortenson has addressed the National Defense Senior Leadership Conference at the Pentagon, visited over two dozen military bases, NORAD, and been to the Air Force, Naval and West Point Academies.
  • As of 2009, Mortenson has established or significantly supports 131 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.
  • His work has not been without difficulty. In 1996, he survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.

If only we were listening to Mortenson’s plan of dropping books instead of bombs. I am certain this would be a more effective technique than we are using now, bombing people only creates more enemies.

Quotes

A picture is worth a thousand words. I feel like a good quote is worth even more, so here are my favorites from the book:

  • Isn’t it better to live in ignorance of everything-asphalt and macadam, vehicles, telephones, television-to live in bliss without knowing it? Pg 30
  • Slowly and painfully, we are seeing worldwide acceptance of the fact that the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries have a responsibility to help the undeveloped ones. Not only through a sense of charity, but also because only in this way can we ever hope to see any permanent peace and security for ourselves. Pg 53 from Schoolhouse in the Clouds by Sir Edmund Hillary
  • Bhutan, who says the true measure of a nation’s success is not gross national product, but “gross national happiness”…. Despite all that they lacked, the Balti still held the key to a kind of uncomplicated happiness that was disappearing in the developing world as fast as old-growth forests.  Pg 120
  • Barry Bishop about hiking, was a photographer for first American expedition of Everest with Edmund Hillary:  In the quiet of the hospital, I [pondered] the lessons we have learned. Everest is a harsh and hostile immensity. Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation. And when the battle ends, the mountain remains unvanquished. There are no true victors, only survivors. Pg 130
  • It may seem absurd to believe that a “primitive” culture in the Himalaya has anything to teach our industrialized society. But our search for a future that works keeps spiraling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the Earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have never abandoned. –Helena Norberg-Hodge Pg 136
  • The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die…. You must make time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated. But we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time. –Haji Ali, Korphe village nurmadhar Pg 150
  • We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We’re the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their “shock and awe” campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them. Pg 150
  • “I request America to look into our hearts”, Abbas continued, his voice straining with emotion “and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education” Pg 257 Syed Abbas speaking at school opening shortly after 9/11
  • This guy Greg quietly, doggedly heading back into a war zone to do battle with the real causes of terror is every bit as heroic as those firemen running up the stairs of the burning towers while everyone else was frantically trying to get out.-Charlie Shimanski about Greg deserving a Nobel Peace Prize, Pg 273
  • I’ve learned that terror doesn’t happen because some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death.-Greg Mortenson addressing congress members in DC about his work on the terror threat in the Middle East. His answer was fueled by a question from a Republican Congressman who asked why building schools mattered when only national security mattered. Pg 292
  • Bashir was struck silent by the images of wailing Iraqi women carrying children’s bodies out of the rubble of a bombed building. As he studied the screen, Bashir’s bullish shoulders slumped. “People like me are America’s best friends in the region. I’m a moderate Muslim, an educated man. But watching this, even I could become a Jihadi. How can Americans say they are making themselves safer?” Bashir asked, struggling not to direct his anger towards the large American target on the other side of his desk. “Your President Bush has done a wonderful job of uniting one billion Muslims against America for the next two hundred years.”

“Osama had something to do with it, too,” Mortenson said.

“Osama, baah!” Bashir roared. “Osama is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America.    Thanks to America, Osama is in every home. As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off to hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy’s strength. In America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever.”-Mortenson’s helicopter pilot Bashir in Pakistan. A former military man and personal pilot for a previous Pakistan president, Bashir gave Mortenson the true reason for the terror threat. Pg 310

  • What motivates me to do this? The answer is simple: when I look into the eyes of the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan, I see the eyes of my own children full of wonder- and hope that we each do our part to leave them a legacy of peace instead of the perpetual cycle of violence, war, terrorism, racism, exploitation, and bigotry that we have yet to conquer. –Greg Mortenson Pg 335

To listen to Greg Mortenson discuss the book on NPR, like I heard at Keene:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101780727

For the Three Cups of Tea website and information:

http://www.threecupsoftea.com/

Mountains Beyond Mountains

I just finished reading this book and immediately set to work on writing this post. I know this will take a long time to fully write and will take many edits and editions, but this is just another one of those books that really makes you question your life. I took a lot of quotes from the book and will be throwing them into this post and discussing them. I am also going to continue on this subject by reading Dr. Paul Farmer’s book “The Uses of Haiti” which is a book that describes the abuses that Haiti has suffered. From being used in the slave trade to the U.S. destroying the countryside and impoverishing thousands of people in order to create massive farms to help not the Haitians but Americans. I read this book after reading Three Cups of Tea and really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed Three Cups of Tea more but this is still a must read!

“The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.” Pg 8

Everyone sees the commercials on TV, the starving children, the begging for money to alleviate the pain. You see it in the news everyday, how some environmental disaster is making thousands of people suffer. Never mind environmental disasters, look at what other humans have been and are doing to each other. The never ending struggles in Africa, revolts over mock elections, you name it. While most people are able to acknowledge the fact that there are a lot of horrible things in the world, most won’t do anything about it. Here in the good ol’ U.S. you get what you want and never have to see this suffering. Maybe once in a while you will feel bad about it and send a few bucks off “to help others” and once you do this your conscience is clear for the next few years of any wrongdoing. Is this really what the world has come to?

“The veins stand out on Farmer’s thin neck as he eases the needle in. Wild cries erupt from the child: “Li fe-m mal, mwen grangou!” Farmer looks up, and for a moment he’s narrating Haiti again. “She’s crying, “It hurts, I’m hungry.” Can you believe it? Only in Haiti would a child cry out that she’s hungry during a spinal tap.” Pg 32

So I have never had a spinal tap, but I know that in no way is it a fun procedure. A huge needle being plunged into your spine, it is definitely up there as being one of the most painful procedures. How is it then that a child is crying out in hunger rather than in pain of the procedure? There is something seriously wrong with the world when this is going on. I have erased the word starving from my personal vocabulary for reasons like this. I have never felt overwhelming hunger, but I have seen it and I know it exists. Being in the U.S. and being fortunate enough to be from the family I am, I have never experienced hunger even to the slightest amount. I have seen hunger. When I was in the Dominican Republic for the first time we were taking our lunch break inside the church. PB & J sandwiches, some fruit and a bag of chips.  Nothing special for a lunch, but this whole time sitting in the church all we could see was the Dominican kids starring at us through the windows. With huge sad longing eyes just starring in. Those faces are burnt into my mind, something you can’t forget about, how hungry those kids were and how much they starved for a PB & J sandwich. I felt disgusting sitting there eating the sandwich, those kids were the ones that needed the food, not me. I was only going to be down there for a week, they were stuck down there forever. We were told to eat our sandwiches because we needed the energy in order to continue working on the church and help them, which is true, if we don’t have the strength to help we are useless for them. Any leftover sandwiches would go to the kids, and this did happen. We had leftover sandwiches and we started handing them out to the kids who greedily grabbed them up and scarfed them down. I have never seen anyone fight over such a small thing in my life before. The way the kids were struggling to get a piece of sandwich, you would think they were fighting over a million dollars. We didn’t have enough for everyone and had to control the situation. All of this over PB & J sandwiches. Here in the U.S. most people take having food for granted, the truth of the matter is that this is not the case in the majority of the world, everyday is a struggle for existence.

“One health worker recited a Haitian saying: “Giving people medicine for TB and not giving them food is like washing your hands and drying them in dirt”. Pg 34

Poor health of the Haitians is not the cause it’s an effect. The poor health is an effect of poor living conditions, poverty, no food, horrid living conditions, no education, repression, and so much more. How can a problem be resolved if you are going at it the wrong way. Dr. Paul Farmer is doing an absolutely phenomenal job in Haiti, but the problem will always remain as long as the conditions remain the same in Haiti. He can cure the entire island, but the diseases and problems will arise again due to the living conditions there. To combat the problem takes a multi-faceted approach. Greg Mortenson realized this in his journey, that education is the only way to pull people out of their unfortunate situations in the mountains in Pakistan.

“He felt drawn back towards catholicism now, not by his own belief but in sympathy with theirs, as an act of what he’d call “solidarity”. He told me, “It was really the experience of seeing people up there in Cange, or in some awful hospital, or at a funeral, or knowing that people were awaking in their huts to two rooms full of hungry kids still going on. Religion was the one thing they still had.” How could a just god permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb, in literal translation, “God gives but doesn’t share.” Farmer explains as “God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he’s not the one who’s supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us.” Pg 78

I have felt feelings so similar to this, I am happy it can now be put to words. I have always struggled with religion for one reason or another. Being down in the Dominican Republic(DR) I understand it. Religion is that sense of hope that so many people hold onto. The Dominicans I was with had so little, yet with us they praised us for the help and praised god for providing them what they had. That with the power of god they would continue to live. It took me a while to figure this out too. How can building a church in rural DR help these people. The last thing these people need is a church, they could use schools, water, houses, energy, etc, etc, etc. When we interacted with them I saw it differently. In the community if someone was suffering their first step was to go to the church and see if they couldn’t get help, the church provided schooling options, the church provided hope! Religion isn’t about how much you pray, how often you go to church it is about divvying the loot where it is needed, it is about being the change you want to see in the world, it is about having hope!

“He murmured something about how much could be done in Haiti of only he could get his hands on the money that the first world spent on pet grooming.” Pg 211

This statement doesn’t even need an explanation. Such a true statement, and even I am especially guilty of this. I don’t take my dogs to a pet grooming place, but my family has spent a large sum of money on dogs and I absolutely love my dogs, but is it right? People are dying and we spend money on a bunch of unnecessary things.

“I think whenever a people has enormous resources, it is easy for them to call themselves democratic. I think of myself more as a physician than as an American. Ludmilla and I, we belong to the nation of those who care for the sick. Americans are lazy democrats, and it is my belief, as someone who shares the same nationality as Ludmilla, I think that the rich can always call themselves democratic, but the sick people are not among the rich. Look I’m very proud to be American. I have many opportunities because I’m American. I can travel freely throughout the world, I can start projects, but that’s called privilege, not democracy. ” Pg 229 This quote came in response to a Russian Colonel pulling out a pack of cigarettes and asking Dr. Farmer if America was a democracy ( he was just asking if it was okay to smoke).

“…and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” Pg 294

Here is one thing I will live by in life forever. Just because I live in a richer and better off nation does not make me any more important in life. I hope to be one of the people able to stick up for those that are shunned, held down, and considered to matter less.

Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.” Margaret Mead

A great piece of hope taken from the book. It doesn’t take the world to make a difference, and you shouldn’t count on the world to make a difference, because more than likely it won’t. This doesn’t mean you should give up, YOU can make a difference!

So what is Haiti like? That is a post that I will be putting up later. Since when I finished reading this book and putting together this post a lot of time has passed. Enough time for a devastating Earthquake (7.3 magnitude) to hit Haiti in January. The quake killed an estimated 300,000 people and plunged the country into even deeper poverty, which is unbelievable considering the level of poverty they were already in. So I finished reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, read The Uses of Haiti by Dr. Paul Farmer, and now have also visited Haiti. There is so much that needs to be done in Haiti. I will have another post coming later about my experiences in Haiti itself.

haitimapHaiti is the poorer of two countries on the island of Hispaniola, and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere