The World Cup

“Do you support Chelsea or Man U?” The question was framed as though it was inevitable that I must be a fan of one of the two best football teams in the English Premier League. I had watched a documentary on the Manchester United during a recent flight so I told my new Kenyan friend that I was a Man U fan.

This encounter during one of my first evenings in Nairobi initiated a series of discoveries about football, or soccer as we call it in the US, that have culminated in the following observations about the 2014 World Cup. Many have written about the cultural and sociological reasons behind why Americans are so much less interested in the most popular sport throughout most of the world. I would like to discuss some of the reasons I think that we are becoming more interested in international football than ever.

Choosing Courage Over Clarity

Choosing Courage Over Clarity

While preparing for my last trip to East Africa, I reached out for advice from a man who cares for orphaned children living with AIDS in Uganda. Taking advantage of the time that he was living in San Diego while pursuing a Ph.D., we met up to discuss the water project that I was embarking upon in Kenya. After talking through a variety of approaches to the project, I will never forget the advice that he left me with. "Just do something."

Taking the Time to Remember

Taking the Time to Remember

Someone once told me that the older you get the faster time goes by. Every passing year seems to make this statement truer than ever. We often try to figure out how long ago something occurred and realizing that it was longer ago than we thought, we say, "Wow! Time flies, huh?"

The speed of time can often make us feel that our lives are out of our own control. Life doesn't seem to slow down long enough to let us exert intention and control over how we spend our time. This makes the future come so quick that we don't formulate a plan in time to handle it. It also makes the past seem so distant that we fail to reflect upon what has happened to us. Both planning and reflecting require intentional effort.

A Bizarre New Year's Tradition: A Lasting Memory

A Bizarre New Year's Tradition: A Lasting Memory

A few years ago my family came up with a bizarre idea for a New Years tradition. Each year one of us chooses a subject, we all build it out of Popsicle sticks and then burn it to the ground at midnight. The first few years we built the Eiffel Tower, a hot air balloon and a Trojan horse large enough for a child to sit on its back. 

This year it was my turn to decide what we would build so I chose an old ship modeled after the Santa Maria. At first I worried that it would be too complicated but I shouldn't have doubted my family's creative talent. With my wife leading the charge we started to build the ship at around 10 AM on New Year's Eve. Using nothing but Popsicle sticks, hot glue guns and the occasional cutter to shape some of the sticks, we spent all the way up to midnight finishing our ship.

Live Like We're Leaving

Live Like We're Leaving

Back in the mid-90s, there was a band called East to West that sang a song that said, “I want to live like I'm leaving.” The idea in these lyrics has never left me. How different would our lives be if we lived as though we were leaving? Although the song referenced leaving this life for eternity, I have been thinking about living like I'm leaving the places that I take for granted now.

The reality is that we are leaving. We're leaving jobs, cities, friends, family and eventually this life. Wherever we are in our lives, it is only a matter of time before we will leave. We often act as though we have all the time in the world to enjoy places, try new adventures and express our love for the people in our lives. Living like we're leaving means making the most of the time that we have wherever we are at in life.

Moving Away

Moving Away

How does a person leave the closest place to paradise that they've ever experienced? This is the question I have been pondering. One of my most useful discoveries has been that if you want to find a great place to live, listen to how the people who live there talk about it. There's a reason why people love to live in certain areas of the country. Sure, there are contented people everywhere who appreciate their community because it is home. When an area gains a widespread reputation as an exceptional place to live, it is the acclaim of the locals, not their contentment, that spreads the word. 

I heard about how wonderful San Diego was long before I had traveled west of Colorado. In the Summer of 2004, I packed up my red Toyota Celica convertible and told my sister, who I brought along for the journey, that I was looking for a place out west near the mountains and the ocean. I had grown restless in Minneapolis and realized that there was no reason for me to limit my possibilities to the midwest. 

Discoveries

It has been nine long months since I last posted to my blog. Pondering this duration, I'm not sure if I should be more embarrassed by my own consistency or excited about how life has progressed. The gestation and birth of so much love in my life over the past nine months has been almost too beautiful to describe. 

My last post was on January 22nd, right around the time I was building the photo book that I would present to the love of my life while asking her to marry me. This creative project consumed my attention because I wanted the proposal to speak love as a lasting memory to the most creative person I'd ever met. Scheduling challenges with family and work forced our wedding into the last week of June and it took every bit of effort that we had available to make a beautiful wedding happen with so little time. After traveling to Santorini and Rhodes for a lovely honeymoon, we settled into a home in San Diego's South Park neighborhood.

Since our return in early July I've struggled to resume blogging. While considering why it has been hard to begin writing again as well as why I tend to start and stop with blogging, I've made a few discoveries. I'll share them here in case you can relate to them in your own creative efforts and also for my own processing.

A Life Changing Question

It was a simple enough question. Under ordinary circumstances this interaction between strangers might have produced a simple "no" and a polite but brief discussion. These were not ordinary circumstances. I had arrived in Kenya only a few days earlier as part of a team attempting to do documentary work on good causes in East Africa. Learning that the World Social Forum was taking place in Nairobi, I stayed behind to network while most of my team went on to Uganda.

With my camera draped over my shoulder, I wandered around the stadium looking for interesting people and causes to engage. This is when I received a life changing question.

Playing a Game Called Dababa

You can learn much about a society by watching children play. The games and activities that they embrace can be instructive about the society in which they are raised. The children at Cornerstone Children's Home in South Sudan played a that game that seemed impossible for us visitors to figure out. Aside from football (what we call soccer) it seemed to be their favorite game to play.

After trying in vain to figure out how the game worked I decided one evening to join in. Ohwilo, one of the boys from the children's home, saw that I didn't know what I was doing and grabbed my hand to try to walk me through it. I found that they had created a grid by using their feet to make faint marks in the dirt. One team had to stay on the grid lines and try to touch any member of the other team which aimed to make it across the grid and back without getting tapped. If any of the players made it across before their teammates were touched, their team received a point. If somebody on their team got touched first by the children on the grid, the teams switched roles so that the other team got a chance to score points.

Two things stood out to me about this game. First, when I was watching them play I thought everybody was on their own. In the developing world people seem to more heartily embrace games like soccer where the mutual efforts of the community are central to the game. This was certainly true of this game and I chuckled when I figured out how far my individualistic perceptions were from reality.

Second, when I asked the children what the game was called it sounded like they said "Dababa." For a minute I thought it was a poor pronunciation of "The Robber." When I asked one of the staff members about the game I learned that it actually was called "Dababa." The reason for the name is that during three decades of civil war in South Sudan, people referred to tanks as "dababa."

This made so much sense because that team that was dababa could only run on the lines and the rest of the children could run anywhere within the grid to get past them. A popular children's game based on the reality of war within their society demonstrates just how important is the peace that has finally come to South Sudan. I pray that the themes of war will fade into history as these precious children experience a new era of peace.

I Want to See the Photos

Children everywhere love to see photos. On my first day in Southern Sudan I met a little girl named Dorothy at the Cornerstone Children's Home. Most of those who know her call her by her nickname, Nyonyo. I was carrying my camera at the time so she pleaded, "I want to see the photos."

After showing her some of the pictures she approached me later on asking to see the photos on my phone. Every time I saw her for the first couple days I was there she repeated in the same begging voice, "I want to see the photos."

One evening I saw her and jokingly said the same thing to her using her tone of voice. She promptly disappeared and then returned with a small photo album. I sat down on the concrete with her as she told me about the people in her photos. This was a moving moment for me. Here's a girl who has lost her parents but because there are people loving on her, she has pictures of a past that she can look back on with joy. I understood better than ever why she wanted to see my pictures.

Looking through Dorothy's pictures helped me to appreciate the power of photos to connect people with their past. I have captured many images over the past few years but few of them are printed or in a format that can help others remember their experiences unless they are in front of my computer. I think I need to do something about this.