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August 28, 2006

Contacting Me In Africa

A recent conversation reminded me about having a way to contact me in Africa. So, I did a little asking around about it.

Jess and I will both have GSM phones, for which we will buy SIM cards in Kenya. At that point, I'll post a number at which anyone can call. Of course, it is also possible to text me as well.

To buy a calling card, I would visit the Caribone.com website. There, you can buy a $10 card that will give you about an hour of calling time to a mobile phone, and longer to a landline. I've used the Caribone service, it works like a charm. They provide a number directly to you online, so there's no waiting around for any card to arrive. They actually have cards specific to Kenya.

Other than that, the best way of contacting me would be to email, or to fill out my Contact Form. That form goes straight to my email.

Anyhow, that should simplify the contact business. Looking forward to calls from the US!

The List Grows

I was working on accomplishing everything on the List of Things to Do. Apparently, working on the list is equivalent to planting a seed in the garden, then fertilizing and watering it religiously, because my list grew exponentially. I started out with a little list that I could put on a Post-It, and the next thing I know, I'm up to a 8x11 sheet, all filled out. In fact, the simple act of doing something on the list invariably brings to mind another three or five things I need to do. On the same token, time seems to be accelerating, as though the laws of physics were a moot point.  And to make it all the more stressful, I'm still forced to go to my job, and then stay there for full shifts (how dare they?). Then, I'm tired, and I must sleep, and the next thing I know, three more days are gone.

On that note, I did do some pre-packing. I am looking to having a backpack with about 20-30 lbs to take. I also will have a little duffel bag with medical stuff in it. So, I packed up all the clothes that I bought, the "light-weight" clothes, and all the little things I thought I'd need. It wasn't quite full, so I was fairly proud of myself. Then I tried to lift it, and could barely get it off the ground. I'm not sure yet what the weight limit for luggage is for the flight, but I'm pretty sure I've surpassed it. So now I'm going to have to go digging through it, and take out some of the clothes and things.  I guess I don't need seven pairs of pants (four are zip-offs: you can never have enough of those!), and maybe eight shirts are a little excessive. I might leave the sleeping bag at home, I'll have to trust that there will be a bed to sleep in, or at least prepare myself for the possibility of sleeping on a cold hard floor. The bag only weighs two pounds, so it still has a chance for going. I can't imagine how much my bag would weigh if I were going somewhere cold. No, I take that back; when I went to Finland to study in the winter, I had to take boxes, and they were crazy heavy. Since then, I've only traveled with what I could put on my back, not what I could stack on a slick floor and push.

Things are getting done, though, slowly but surely. Honestly, the stress level isn't bad. I just had lunch with my doctor friend and her husband, and Jess and I were so excited to go after talking about what awaits us, we could have left right after the lunch.  It's true anticipation that I'm feeling, I really can't wait.

August 25, 2006

What To Bring To Africa

Here is a list of things that I feel is necessary to have on a trip to Africa:

  • Lightweight, quick-drying clothes, including a couple pairs of pants (ideally that zip-off into shorts) and long-sleeved shirts
  • Hiking shoes and probably a pair of running shoes, plus flip-flops
  • 1 week's worth of shirts and underwear (plan on washing your clothes, so bring a bar of laundry soap)
  • Basic cosmetic stuff (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, comb, maybe some other stuff, but most stuff can be bought)
  • Flashlight / Headlamp + batteries
  • First Aid kit (make sure it is good and thorough, this can be important - the CDC Med Kit)
  • Antidiarrheals, Rehydration Salts, other med stuff
  • Rain gear (jacket, bag cover)
  • Clock/watch
  • Camera
  • Mosquito net
  • Lightweight sleeping bag + 1 sheet for liner
  • GSM phone (buy SIM card in Africa, they're common)
  • Malaria Pills, like Mefloquine
  • Bug Deterrent, preferably cream
  • Towel, swimming gear
  • Travel Insurance
  • Sewing Kit
  • Water treatment pills, such as MicroPur
  • Power adaptors

Some stuff that is nice to have, but not a necessity:

  • Gifts for kids, like gum and stuff
  • Pocket knife
  • Storage unit for digital pictures
  • Bag full of extra medical stuff, like gauze and syringes (take in an extra bag, and use that empty bag to bring back goodies in)

If anyone has any other ideas on what to bring, please post.  I'm open to any suggestions!

August 24, 2006

Two Weeks And Counting...

So, it's crunch time. There are only two weeks left, and they are passing in a hurry.

It's a little like being on a roller coaster, heading up towards a high drop-off. You know it's coming, you can see it, and it's so slow, but yet such a progressive movement, there's no chance of slowing it down. Everything that happens between then and now is like a bump, a gear in the track: work, going out for dinner, trying to get everything done. All of these things happen and pass by, and each just represents one more event completed before the big drop-off.

Heading off for seven weeks actually requires quite a planning process, more than I expected. I got the big things out of the road early, like getting a visa from the Kenyan embassy, buying a mosquito net, those sorts of things. Suddenly, yesterday, I realized all the little things I was putting off. I had to cancel some accounts, I had to set up my online banking to operate without me, I have to write a schedule through the 22nd of JANUARY. I haven't even done a preemptive packing job yet to see if it's all going to fit in my bag.

I have a bit of a bad habit: I like to get a bunch of stuff done, then sit around bored as though there's nothing else to do, just waiting for time to pass. Really, there's always something else to do. For example, I need to get a prescription for my malaria prophylaxis. I just got around to asking for it last night. That doesn't mean I have it yet; no, I need to feel a lot more stressed about it before I actually get it and take it to the pharmacy. All this time, surrounded at work by numerous doctors with prescription pads in their pockets, and I still haven't gotten one yet. But that has been the way it has gone for nearly everything this month. I have a terrible procrastination problem right now. On the other hand, crossing the two-week border today, my stress levels had a real decent jump. Maybe I'll actually get things done now.

Probably not. After all, I still have two weeks.

August 21, 2006

A Cleansing In Africa

So, less than three weeks to go. I feel a little anxiety coming on. But anticipation is greater in this case.

 When Jess and I talked about our reasons in wanting to go to Africa, we both agreed that a large part of why we wanted to go was to become refreshed in our idealism about our jobs. As nurses, we don't necessarily always agree with what happens in the hospital. We don't always agree with the decisions about care that are made, the decisions about patients and treatments. I have to remind myself sometimes that it isn't me that makes these decisions, and of course it's always different looking at the situation from a professional perspective in comparison to a personal one. It's always different as a health care worker, in the inside, seeing what happens, seeing what drugs and treatments and machines do to patients, thinking to myself that I would do it differently if I were making the decisions. It would be different if I were looking at a family member. It's a continuous dilemma for healthcare workers, at least those who still want to think about it.

Having said that, I feel that it is important that I have a clear mind about what I do. I want to look at each patient in a fresh sense, not havng a collective of feelings about issues that don't pertain to that patient, that have built up from several situations where I had clashing feelings. It's essential to be open-minded, nonjudgmental, and I feel that my year and a half in nursing has really brought this criteria to my attention, being around some folks who are a little bitter, and seeing the temptation myself.

Probably more so for Jess (as a PICU nurse) than myself, there is this continuous spector of lawsuits that hangs around like a foul pallor. All it takes is an angry family and an emotionally difficult situation, throw in some helplessness and sickness, and the next thing a nurse knows, they're being sued. It's a situation that can haunt a nurse the rest of their careers, because being named in a lawsuit, especially one that the family wins, is never erased from a nurse's record. There are few jobs in the world where you can work so hard, try so hard, have so much to know and be proficient at, do everything possible to help and comfort and heal, and still have somebody looking for a scapegoat ruin your career.

Hence, a cleansing in Africa. Jess and I want to obtain a fresh perspective on our professions in general. I think that I have this idea in my head, this picture of a crowd of people, so thankful for any kind of care they might get, to have real gratitude expressed. I imagine these people, needing so much but having so little available, having such desparation for the smallest parts of medical care, and for the first time, I might have some skills that could help someone. As a friend who just returned from a trip to Ghana told me, rather than having too much being done for each person, there is so little that can be done for the masses. There's such a sadness in that, but then the satisfaction in knowing that perhaps you can help one person, or a few. That would be enough.

I'm glad that I will have someone to share this experience, because I can see that it could easily be overwhelming. On the other hand, that's what I'm looking for, to have this experience give me a good scrubbing.

August 19, 2006

Bill Gates - An Opinion On A Man Who Makes $173 Million A Day

I said I'd write an entry on Bill Gates, so here it is.

Really, the point of such an entry is to clear up my opinion about Bill, which has been called unreasonable by some. I should start from the beginning, because he and I have some history.

All that know me know that I am a Mac guy. I have always owned a Mac, never a PC. Currently I own two Macs, three if you count the iBook that doesn't work anymore. I'm not one of the ex-PC folks who turned to Macs just because they realized how cool Macs are, although I take credit for one conversion, and influence in about 3 others. As such a person, I have always taken personal offense to the continued success of Microsoft, have always bought into the (true) conspiracy that Gates stole Windows from the Mac farm one dark night, and have reveled in the decline of Microsoft products and stock prices matched by the blossoming of Mac in the computer world. Bill Gates has represented many things for me over the years--Satan, the Master Thief, the essence of what's wrong with Corporate America.

Perhaps the fact that he ranks as the world's richest man, and has so for years, burns my hide a little. When Warren Buffett announced he was giving all his money to the Gates Foundation, that ground a little into my side: the world's second wealthiest man giving the world's wealthiest man all his money. What sense is there in that? Not that I expected Buffett to give me his money, or do something for the poor with it. In a way, I suppose, he is going to, because the goal of the Gates Foundation seems to be to spread money to the poor. Still...

I've always liked the calculations that people made about Gates' money. Basically, they calculated that the four seconds that it would take for him to reach down and pick up a bill, he would actually be losing money in the deal. It has changed over the years. At it's peak (i.e. the peak of his wealth), he couldn't be bothered to pick up a $600 bill to make it worth his time. His wealth in 1997 represented $300 per second. Nowadays, it's more like $150 a second. I found a great page of calculations based on his wealth, assuming he's worth $24 billion this year.  It's crazy how much money he has; there are endless ways of seeing it.  For example, his net worth is about 800,000 times mine. On the other hand, it's not very satisfying to think about this long; it's actually a little depressing.

Still, one can't hold against him for being filthy rich; given the opportunity, I wouldn't turn down a giant wad of cash myself. And really, a true measurement of a man is how he spends his cash. Warren Buffett didn't do anything particularly good with his money, maybe set up trust funds for the next twenty generations of his family. But Bill has done a lot of good with his money. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced they were giving away $500 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, at the recent 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto. This foundation has really been on the forefront of the AIDS relief movement, something that I appreciate. (Of course, according to the Bill Gates Net Worth page, he makes $173 million a day...sorry, just digressing...)

Perhaps Bill isn't the corporate monster he once was (no, I'm not going to change my mind that he was that way at a time). Perhaps I can take him down a few notches from his current status of Satan. I've got my eye on him, though, my guard's still up.

Further Reading: Bill Gates Biography

August 17, 2006

What I Am To Do In Africa

Ok, I've received several emails about what I will be doing, so I guess I need to clear it up.

 As I noted before, I work with a great doctor at Duke Hospital, who is from Kenya. Her mom is still there, and has made an opportunity available for me. I will be working in a clinic, a very small rural clinic, outside of Mombasa, Kenya. This clinic is run by a PA alone. It apparently will be a short distance outside of Mombasa. Although this is hearsay, I believe that there will be all sorts of clinical issues walking through the door. It is a rural clinic, so anything from births to deaths to AIDS and malaria and all kinds of other interesting cases will be coming in the doors.

 As a nurse, I will be stretched to my professional limits, because I will be required to be involved in much more than what I could be allowed to in the Duke MICU. I have a great imagination that plays with situations that I will come across, but nothing of course is certain. But I will see and do and be immersed in more that I can imagine, and that excites me greatly (as well as slightly terrifies me). Honestly, though, I can't say for sure what sort of work I will be performing. Savin' lives, I guess, which is nothing new around here Wink

I will be leaving the US on September 7, and arriving late in the evening on September 8th. I will leave Mombasa on October 24 and arrive on the 25. All told, I will be traveling for a total of seven weeks and a day. I managed this by taking 6 weeks personal leave and by scheduling magic that gave me another eight days to travel.

 This is all a little vague, sadly. Of course, more information will be available upon arrival. It's three weeks and counting from today. Three weeks! Wow...

By the way, folks, please post.  I really like getting posts here on the blog. Sending money is cool too.


Costs of Volunteering

Money is a big issue when you are planning to volunteer in Africa. No, it's an absolutely huge issue. There are so many little details to take into consideration. First of all, and most obvious, it costs a lot of money to travel these days, especially for a long trip such as to Kenya. For Africa, September is the beginning of the low season of travel; I'm not sure when the high season starts, probably April or May. At any rate, it is cheaper to buy tickets in September than in August. Still, it cost me $1460 after taxes for my ticket, which was considered a very good price. I saw tickets prices that spiraled into the high $2000s or even more than $3000. I purchased my ticket from AirfarePlanet.com, as was recommended by my doctor friend. Once that was out of the road, I figured there wouldn't be much else to spend money on. I was wrong.

A list of costs:

  • - Health/travel insurance: $150
  • - Putting together a REAL first aid kit: $180
  • - Immunizations: up to $500 ($60 for typhoid, $120 for Hep A, in addition to Yellow Fever, Hep B, tetnus, and plenty for malaria prophalaxis)
  • - GSM ("unlocked SIM" or world) phone: $80
  • - Water Treatment Pills, Mosquito sleeping nets, other various necessities: $180
  • - Lonely Planet for Kenya: $30
  • - Tropical Med books: $90
  • - Pimsleur Swahili CDs: $40
  • - Clothes: $100

Basically, it's expensive. Fortunately, I already had a big backpack, most of the clothes I need to travel with, and some of the other essentials. Of course, there was the loss of income as well. I had to take a leave of absence, which I originally planned to be unpaid, but HR required me to use 30 hours of my PTO in order to keep my health insurance at the hospital. While that income will be nice ($600 a week), it will completely drain my PTO bank. In fact, the only way it's possible is because I'll actually be accruing PTO hours while I'm gone, and will use some of those hours by the end of the six weeks. In conclusion, the financial stake in deciding to volunteer in Africa can be substantial, and being able to swallow that cost is absolutely necessary. If the money is more important, don't do it. On the other hand, I believe all that money is tax-rebatable, so keep your receipts for everything.

August 15, 2006

Clinton Praising Bush On AIDS?

I just read an article following the 16th International Conference On AIDS. Apparently, in addition to the other interesting events of the conference, Clinton stood up and defended Bush's President's Emergency Program For AIDS Relief, which gives $15 billion over 5 years. The catch is that countries participating in the program have to use 30 percent of the money on programs that push abstinence. This part of the program has a lot of critics, in part because it isn't particularly successful in Africa. After all, this is a continent where in some countries, female genital mutilation (FGM) is still common, where in some countries some men have the full-time job of going around deflowering virgins to prepare them for marriage. Africa is a continent where, as the article above states, girls are often forced into marriage or forced to have sex. This is a land of different cultures, different values than of those in the West, and I am not surprised when policies based on our own cultural values are unsuccessful. It's not that I am defending any of the forementioned practices, it is that this is a reality in Africa, and a program requiring emphasizing abstinence can only be successful in ideal circumstances, which is a rare find in Africa.

Another aspect that people criticize is the aspect of prostitution and that Bush's program seeks to have recipient countries oppose the sex trade. I'm certainly not in support of the sex trade, but again, it exists, particularly in the Third World, and who are we to judge people for being in it? Who are we to hold back aid that could save their lives, essentially condemning those in that trade to death for their actions? Consider a woman in India, born into the trade because she is on a low rung in their society: does she deserve to not receive information about condoms, or to receive medical care when she is sick? If you want to change things, if you want to see prostitution ended, then work on the society that allows it. Encourage India to end it's caste system that forces women into prostitution. Work to end the poverty and desperation that creates a need for prostitution. That's how you fight it, not denying women who sell themselves to feed their children the medical care they deserve. Again, pushing our cultural values on a different society is not going to change anything for good.

Still, it's pretty amazing to have Clinton defend Bush's program, being a little rusty on the basics of abstinence himself. People get so carried away at bashing Bush, as I'm sure they were at the conference, that they don't see the nine zeroes in his equation of money. They don't realize that 70 percent of $15 billion is still more money than most countries in the world give towards AIDS. I think that Bush has got an excellent program, and that he is passionate about helping people with AIDS, regardless of his numerous haters think. I watched a show recently that was highlighting what is happening in the fight against AIDS today, and they couldn't help but talk about Bush's program, because it's out there and it's helping people. Regardless how you feel about it, it is in the countries that need care desperately, and it shows how little the rest of the West is behind in providing relief (in other words, most other Western nations are hardly involved at all). At any rate, another person to praise Bush's program was Bill Gates. I have an opinion about Bill Gates, but I'll get to that soon in another posting.

 Further Reading: Health experts look to new weapons to battle AIDS - Reuters

August 14, 2006

Finding A Contact

I'm starting this entry from the last one. I mentioned my contact that I made in Africa, and this is the story of how it happened. I work in the MICU at Duke Hospital. There, I work with a doctor, a pulmonary fellow, who is from Kenya. Initially, I knew her as an acquaintance, but little else. I didn't really even know from which country that she was from. At the time, I was thinking mostly about visiting Ghana or South Africa mostly, and possibly Tanzania, although I felt it was too expensive to get around in Tanzania. From reading a Lonely Planet, I felt that Kenya was a little too crime-ridden, because it mentioned that in Nairobi, petty crimes liking having your bags stolen is fairly common. At the time of reading that, I assumed I would be spending my time in Nairobi, and didn't feel like dealing with that.

At any rate, I was telling a coworker one night that I was a little frustrated with the whole process of finding a right fit of an organization, and she told me that I should contact this certain doctor about it, as she might know of good organizations to work with. So I sent an email, and ended up speaking with her on the phone. As it turned out, her mom lived in Kenya still, and even better, worked with an organization called Choice Humanitarian, which as it turns out, was one of the more expensive "working holiday" organizations I complained about in my last entry. The exciting part was that her mom knew of a clinic that apparently is owned by Choice Humanitarian, but is run by a PA. She offered to contact her mom to see if there was an opportunity for me to come and work in the clinic, without having to pay any money to the organization. She also gave me her mom's email address. I went ahead and sent an email expressing my desire to come and work at the clinic. I didn't get a response, even though the doctor told me her mom had actually been excited about me coming. Eventually, I called this lady, whom I will call Mary for privacy sake. My first conversation with Mary essentially consisted of sorting out our communication issues, and then Mary informing me that she'd already worked out the details of coming to work at the clinic as well as where I'd be staying; basically, they were just waiting for me to buy my ticket and arrive. I was thrilled, to say the least. It was an opportunity that I couldn't have imagined and of course immediately seized.

Later, I was telling my girlfriend Jess about why I wanted to go. We were having a long conversation about work and life, and I was telling her about how I was starting to feel a little bitter and pessimistic about work, and why this trip was really allowing me to have something to look forward to. Apparently something clicked in her head, and it all made sense to her. Without any encouragement from me, she decided she wanted to go, and on her own initiative, spoke to her boss to get three weeks off. When I bought my ticket a few days later, she bought one as well. In the end, my friend at work, and through her, my contact Mary in Kenya, made all the difference to both Jess and I.

August 12, 2006

Volunteer Organizations

Volunteer organizations in Africa don't make it easy to get there and actually help, which is something that I figured out during the process of getting ready to go to Africa. Choosing an organization to go with was actually a long and arduous process. To begin with, there are very few organizations that are willing to take volunteers in Africa without charging an arm and a leg. There are lots and lots of organizations out there that take volunteers to Africa, don't get me wrong. Most of these organizations actually revolve around volunteers, and as such, it is a business proposition to them. My goal was to find an organization that at least would let me work without charging me a ton of money. After all, a ticket to Africa is $1500, and six weeks of represented $4500 that I was giving up. To have to pay $1000-2000 to an organization for whatever "services" they provide me was too much. I had a very hard time finding organizations that charged even less than $1000. Most organizations seemed to be really tourist companies in disguise. You paid a ton of money, some even $3000-4000, and the itinerary often included a day perhaps in a clinic, where you likely just observed some things. There usually was a village day, where you went to some village and they sang and danced for you. You might help build a latrine or something. The rest of the time was spent on safaris and such. I came to call these adventures "working holidays," because there was more vacationing than working, and it was designed to allow you the feeling of having accomplished something on your trip.

I am not saying these types of trips are bad, they just weren't what I was looking for. I wanted something where I made a tangible difference, where I was in the thick of it, where people came to see me at a clinic and I helped them. I wanted to work, not to take a holiday, and to really accomplish something, not just have that perception. I did find a few organizations, very few, that allowed this type of trip as well as charged less than $1000. A list that I put together is found here. Still, I couldn't find an organization that I felt was truly professional, and that I felt would really allow me to work in the type of clinic I was looking for. I felt the worst thing that could happen to me is that I would get to Africa, and spend six weeks sitting around, not accomplishing anything. I was truly frightened of this prospect, that it would be a big waste of my time.

To compound my fears, a few friends of mine took a trip to Ghana, and as it turned out, the organization that they went with was disorganized. They spent their trip facing the situation that I wanted to avoid: spending a lot of money and sacrificing their time only to get to Africa and not be allowed to function as health care workers. At best, they were observers. In reality, they were on vacation. In the end, I found a different type of contact: a real person, offering a real opportunity to work in a real clinic. And it took off from there.

Preparations For Africa

I'm going to be writing a lot about how to prepare for Africa, since it is definitely the most interesting thing going on in my life right now. I'm going to start from the beginning, to chronicle what has occurred to get me to this current point in the trip, which is -26 days and counting. So this first part is how I decided to go to Africa, and how I got a start on it all. I think the reason that I first wanted to go to volunteer in Africa had a couple of causes. I really feel that I am responsible as a person living in a priveleged place as the US to go to help people as much as I can. I have always wanted to be able to travel with the idea of helping people. As much as I love to travel, all of my experience in doing it was strictly to be in a different place and to see different cultures. I wasn't able to help people, to do good if you will. I was there for my own benefit only. While this isn't a bad thing, it wasn't satisfying my need to be a help to people, to do my part for the less fortunate of the world. Nursing was a great vehicle for me to help, and part of the reason that I became a nurse was to have the opportunity to have a good humanitarian reason to travel. Also, I love to travel. I love the opportunity it provides, the sights that it allows, and the interactions that are possible. I love being somewhere long enough to meet people, to have a feeling for life as it is in another place, under different circumstances, under different cultural norms. It's exciting and eye opening.

Last year (2005), I had so much on my plate, just starting in an ICU as a nurse, all that. My travel opportunities were sparce, and I barely succeeded on achieving my lifelong goal of leaving the US at least once a year. I managed a short trip to Canada, and at no other time was I able to leave the US borders. So, at the beginning of this year, I decided, 2006 was going to be an extraordinary year for me. It was going to be a fantastic year, and one filled with travel as well as other things. I was very determined to make this happen. So the idea of going to Africa, which was already slowly being mulled in my head, started to pick up momentum. By late January, I had just made the choice, it was already decided, mostly subconsciously, and I was as surprised as everyone when I announced that it was something I was planning. I was probably more surprised than anyone, really, but there was nothing to do about it but start planning. The balls had started rolling, and there was nothing to do to stop them.

There was some heavy duty convincing to do, for my friends and family both. First, no one really took the idea seriously at first. There was also some resistance. After all, it's not every day that someone you know announces that they are planning on heading off to Africa for six weeks (a length of time that was also subconsciously determined), probably on their own if they can't find an organization. It's enough to make people uncomfortable. But like I said, it wasn't something that I could change. I'd already settled on the idea. I wanted to help people, I wanted to get out of North Carolina and be doing something, and I was terribly restless for the road. I initially planned on going by April, and I even went as far as informing my boss of this departure date, which made her uncomfortable for a different reason (scheduling). Soon it became clear that this was not possible, however, for logistical reason, so I decided it was better to go in September, and from then on, it was a go. So, I talked to my boss, and her boss, and the boss above that boss, and eventually was cleared by the Director of Nursing at Duke. I made the first week in September my departure date, and eventually that part of the planning was cleared. That left the actual trip building part, of course, but the foundation was laid.

August 06, 2006

Introduction To Aaron's African Adventure

QuickPost | System Overview | Movable Type Publishing Platform Hello, this is my first entry about my trip to Africa starting on September 7, 2006. I'll be traveing to Kenya from the 7th of September through the 25th of October, and hopefully, I'll be keeping a close journal here on this blog. I'll also be posting photos on my Photo site: http://photo.worldtravelercreations.com At any rate, I'll be writing some entries through August to describe the process of preparing for my trip, so check back!

NBC Dateline Stages NASCAR Bigotry Act

QuickPost | System Overview | Movable Type Publishing Platform So, as the story goes, another situation from liberal media that really turns the stomach. Apparently, NBC's Dateline sent in some people disguised as Muslims, to a NASCAR race, where they proceeded to throw down their prayer blankets right in the center, in an effort to try to instigate a racist reaction. As it turned out, they had no reaction at all, except from the security, as the camera crew raised suspicions. Ahh, nothing like liberal journalism, looking for that sliver in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank of hypocrisy in their own. Nothing like making the blank statement that NASCAR fans, and while we're at it, the general population of those worthless sacks who live in "red" states, are a bunch of racist bigots. I guess that depends on your definition of bigotry. Check out these addresses for the story: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2006/04/inside_the_sausage_factory_how.html http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/wb/xp-59990 I actually found the whole situation pretty insulting, even though I wouldn't categorize myself as the type who would go to a Nascar race. What I really find interesting isn't so much that they were trying to find out how Muslims were treated, but rather to make a high school journalism jab at a group that they don't understand and hence make broad stereoptype about. As in, "Well, they're rednecks, so they must be racists. They probably all have Rebel flags hangin' on their walls at home." Typical arrogance. Typical hypocrisy as well, from "intellectuals" looking down on the "country folk." I also find it interesting that instead of looking for a what to positively impact the opinions that people have towards Muslims, they're just trying to show that these rednecks, those obviously lowerclass denizens, are racist bigots. The point is, that people see the beheadings and bombings and shootings, and they see how Islamic radicals are involved in nearly every single conflict across the globe, and yet the hypocritical PC police demand that they only view the Muslim faith positively. It is expected that we have no criticism of Muslims, and that we pretend that we see nothing hypocritical about their faith, about their mistreatment of women, of their desired (and stated) subjugation of all other faiths, and their suppression of all criticism of their religion (i.e. the murder of van Gogh in Amsterdam, the ridiculous outburst worldwide from the cartoons that American newspapers were too cowardly to print). There is this idea of supreme protection of all things Muslim...and yet I just read in USA Today about some guy deciding that Christ must have walked on ice, not water; after all, what kind of twit would believe that the central figure of their faith might be able to do a miracle or two? The pointed objective of this "study" (to show that the Bible, and hence the beliefs of millions of Americans, is wrong)would fit in the constant derision by liberals of a peaceful faith found right here in America, where Christians just take it because they understand freedom of speech and expression of opinion. I'd like to see those same "researchers" talk about the kind of person Mohammed was. The kind of guy who was a warlord, who owned slaves, who waged bloody wars. And that's just what the Koran says. Now if they talked about him, that would be the day.