May 11, 2013
Zomba Botanical Gardens.

Zomba Botanical Gardens.

May 11, 2013
We do it 17,280 times a day.

Breathe in, breathe out. 

Nearly 8% of Malawi’s population suffers from asthma or epilepsy; and about 20% of deaths among children under five are due to asthma.

My breathing here is labor intensive. Prior to arriving in Malawi, I read an article that I only clicked open because it pertained to me – asthma is a respiratory illness I’ve had to live with since I was in middle school, and an illness that is decidedly getting worse for me as I grow older. As I’m writing this, I’m covering my nose and mouth with my hair (trying to create a filter between my breaths and the dusty air) and marveling at the amount of information I didn’t know under the Google search for “asthma” (like, I’ve probably had more than 5 categorically mild asthma attacks since I’ve arrived a week ago).

The story goes about how a doctor, who by chance had asthma, was brought to a patient under extremely terrible weather conditions in Africa. No one in the village understood why the man was turning blue, convulsing on the ground and frantically attempting to breathe. But the doctor did, because he too had once been on the floor like that, and luckily,he had his Albuterol inhaler with him. He forced the inhaler to the patient’s mouth and was able to, after a few minutes, get him to take a free breath.

At Govala Village, where we visit an orphan care, quite a few of the children were coughing erratically. One had a particularly strong hacking cough, that sounded so terrible I wanted to just take him far away to a less dusty and smoky area. I was nervous he had something worse than just a cold.

In Malawi, there is actually a problem of an UNAVAILABILITY of asthma-related drugs available in private and public pharmacies. Chronic respiratory diseases are becoming a public health problem for adults 18 years and older in Malawi. 

We visited a few residences in our time here and noticed that there commonly are ventilation issues in a household’s cooking or kitchen area. Typically, the kitchen is a small, dark, brick laid 4x4, with very tiny windows on the upper part of the walls. Most of the smoke is trapped within.

Additionally, much of the country is constantly burning. It’s one particular reason why Bamboo Lota is here – we want to alleviate the deforestation issue in Malawi but also want to better people’s daily health here. As it goes, some of the ways to help asthma or respiratory illness is to remove oneself from exposure to harmful triggers – such as smoke, dust, allergens. It is hard to remove oneself from it when the average person lives on <$1 / day (therefore disabling mobility), when first world countries sell their junk vehicles to Africa (aka, car exhaust is potent here), roads hardly exist (rather, most of it is red cakey dirt) and one can literally light a fire practically anywhere (be it in the city center, along a street, in the marketplace or in a backyard).

I’m terrified of sleeping, I wake up wheezing and coughing. Luckily I have a way to reduce my attacks and get back to sleep, but what of the population who live in Malawi everyday and have no way to peacefully recover?

I truly hope that one day we can find a way to help Malawi and her children find a way to breathe on her own.

(One last note: My Cheri Huber app tells me, “Today, each time you find yourself rushing to save time, stop, take a long deep breath, notice where you are, and say ‘thank you.’” She just knows me.)

12:34pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZfhtUyklT98j
  
Filed under: malawi africa asthma health 
May 10, 2013
Poop.

Everybody does it. The giraffes do it, elephants do it, humans do it, too.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking past a group of small children who were building a fire in the dry brush in the Zomba mountains. One small Malawian boy saw me as I walked on the street below him, and with a bemused look on his face, he stared straight into my eyes… and dropped trou. Popped a squat. Number two’d. In other words, he pooped. While I curiously and incredulously asked Joanna, “Is that kid doing what I think he is doing??”

He wasn’t a bit shy.

Poop, I learned from a book by Taro Gomi when I was being potty trained, is natural. I’ve done it in the wild before (Big Sur Camping Trip 2012, the horror). Poop, is what my ex-boyfriend sent me pictures of every time he laid a fat one. Poop is a favorite joking topic between me and several friends, upon which I received (more) books of for my 24th birthday.

Poop is nature’s waste, it is natural. 

“In developed countries, dysentery is a mild illness.” In third world countries, dysentery is one of the top killers of children. Dysentery can be easily prevented. Hand-washing with soap and water can reduce secondary tract infections amongst household members and neighbors. Effective strategies to control transmission of the epidemic include distributing soap, providing clean water, promoting hand-washing before eating or preparing food and after defecation, and installing/maintaining proper sewage systems or treatment facilities. 

Latrines, I’ve learned, are usually connected directly to a household’s showering area. If there is a latrine area, there is typically no sink area next to it to prevent consequences like dysentery. Rather, sanitation is rather limited. In WALA (Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement) projects, many areas have learned how to use Tippy Taps, as a makeshift sink, to wash their hands after use of the latrines. 

Friends, you notice when a “proper” bathroom (with a flushable power toilet and sink) isn’t available. My OCD (seriously, it’s gotten bad) doesn’t allow me to let loose in a dug out hole. Pooping in the wild, in a hole, even in places without toilet paper, make me very uncomfortable.

Sometimes, I banter in my head whether or not it is good for people like me, people from the first world, to come to countries like Malawi and uproot things that have been done here since Malawi was formed. Then, I am reminded that everyone DESERVES the RIGHT to have basic needs properly fulfilled. People regardless of where they live or what traditions they are familiar with should all have access to healthy food, clean water and proper sanitation. News articles shouldn’t read, “6 million children die within their first month of birth,” or “Since 1991, dysentery epidemics have occurred in eight southern African countries.” 

May 5, 2013
"Character is a choice."

She said, her strong voice carrying over the rustle of papers and small murmurs of confirmation.

The young woman clothed in a formal black dress is the head of her community group, one of many joined together today to celebrate Sunday at UCC – the University of Malawi Chancellor College’s Christian Congregation. The young college members seated around us ranged from their late teens to early twenties, dressed in fashionable garb and bright jewelry.

Character, is attitude. Right before the service, I read a passage from Viktor Frankl who described the attitude of some who lived in concentration camps – they comforted others and gave away their last piece of bread. These few “offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a person but one thing: the last of the human’s freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“God will close many of those doors you are walking towards,” the pastor said, slowly, working through his sermon. “Maybe you learned your parents have HIV. Maybe you are failing school. God might break you, and you will be broken. But it is through your brokenness that God’s light shines through.”

Their voices wove together in stanzas familiar to me, now a Catholic stuck in the in-between with religion and non-religion. The young man with a guitar’s voice sounded light but strong, the soprano voice of a female rose and harmonized with the rest of the congregation.

My skin rose with goosebumps. The sameness I faintly felt, of passion towards a deity, that word “unrequited” the pastor kept using to describe his past, the prayers I heard cried between singing voices – it blended into a skin-tingling sensation that I only feel now right before I weep.

The choice of words were different, but the message was the same – we will face hardships. We will experience closed doors. But it depends on your attitude, how you choose to survive your broken parts, that will determine your character.

March 14, 2013
"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." - George Bernard Shaw

Something thoughtful: How do you dare? Are you ever afraid of starting something new because it’s too uncomfortable to be… well, uncomfortable? Being vulnerable can help you live a more fulfilling life - be genuine and honest to yourself and look for a new challenge to start on today.

Something pretty: Context helps make designing easy for designers. Founded (covertly at first) by Joshua Distler, a former lead packaging designer at Apple, Context is an application to solve workflow issues while believing that “flat is history.”

Something useful: Have you or your friends ever had difficulty coming up with gift ideas or funding? Aggregift is a start-up that focuses on helping you crowdfund gifts for your friends. Combined with the power of Amazon, the Aggregift team has come up with an innovative way to raise money to buy gifts (for birthdays, weddings, etc) for that special person, and to use your social network to benefit. (Rating: 5/5 for UI, 4/5 for Usefulness, 3/5 for Innovation).

March 13, 2013
You should write about what you don’t know.

As a twenty-something year old, I am constantly bombarded by what I don’t know, and what decisions I will have to make in the next few short years.

Today, I am throwing it all up to the wind - no decisions need to be made yet, but here is a start to my thought journey:

Something thoughtful - what I’m thinking about today: How to have a year that matters - a Harvard Business Review blog post asks a series of questions to stimulate thinking on how you want to spend this year. I want to break, change and find my passion - what do you? (My favorite sections are the “What breaks your heart” and “What’s it Worth” - questions I ask on the daily).

Something useful - which app is my favorite today (I live in the Silicon Valley - this is a must!): Today, I love Everest. This mobile app helps you focus your dreams and take small steps to achieve them. My Focus Dreams today are “Meditate for 10 minutes” and “Learn how to code”. My long term dreams are to “Set foot on every continent” and “Start a business”. What are your dreams today?

March 12, 2013
It’s been awhile, world.

Since I’ve last written towards the end of 2011, I’ve had quite a few things on my mind:
- This past December, I finished 1.5 years at Box, Inc, during which I shared an amazing experience with over 600 people - we learned, we laughed, we cried, we shared drinks, life stories, successes, and challenges.
- About three months ago, I started at a new job at Tesla Motors. I came to work at Tesla with my heart on my sleeve - excited to finally work for a company where all the subjects I loved and studied in college were realized in one unified vision: renewable energies, renewable energy infrastructure, business development were all culminated and grown in this Silicon Valley startup. 
Don’t worry, I haven’t stopped traveling!:
- Back in April 2011, I traveled through to Taiwan; Singapore, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Thailand.
- Between Christmas 2011, New Years 2012 and my 24th birthday, I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin, Germany; and Istanbul, Turkey. There, we experienced everything from Grand Bazaars and being “kidnapped” to Asia, to New Years (#blackedout) at Brandenburg Gate with 1+ million people. We raved at an underground warehouse, saw mosques and architecture with our own eyes what we had only learned in history books, and lived Copenhagen through my best friend Surya’s past.
- In July 2012, I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with the significant other to celebrate my longest (normal) relationship yet - our one year was July 9, 2012. There, we rode horses, visited rural villages, ziplined for the first time, and drove an ATV through the PV countryside.
And even some personal dreams were brought to life:
- I bought my dream car in March 2012, a white BMW Z4 Coupe in perfect condition!
- In July 2012, I moved to San Francisco - to a lovely apartment off Embarcadero (my dream since I was in high school) - with my college friend, Dana.
Today, I am writing to begin again. I am rusty with my verbiage, but I look forward to meeting my pen to paper.  

August 22, 2012
On the road to the Jack Daniels&#8217; Distillery, Nashville, Tennesse.

On the road to the Jack Daniels’ Distillery, Nashville, Tennesse.

2:07pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZfhtUyRxKM3T
Filed under: nashville landscape 
August 22, 2012
Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

1:18pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZfhtUyRx8d8p
  
Filed under: traveling wanderlust 
October 11, 2011
"No path is straight."

The leather-bound pages of my black Moleskine are covered in crowded scribbles, neon highlighter drawings, and post-its. Notes from the last day of Athens, waiting in the airport, remind me of how to just “let days go.” My European and South East Asian backpacking adventures taught me how to venture off the beaten path— to take obstacles and adventures day by day as they come, and to accept and appreciate the beauty brought along. Along the way, I met lifelong friends, changed my own mindset about life, learned new perspectives, made mistakes, but, all over again, just let it go.

Let me wander, let me breathe. My semi-corporate job is so flexible, and inflexible and straight and unbending as any, and I am itching, craving, dying to breathe. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be, and at a moment in time, totally not where I am aching to be at.

So. I’m planning my next few trips for the end of 2011 + middle + end of 2012, and thus I’m re-starting my tumblr and sharing with the world again; hope you’re ready!

“There isn’t a should about this or a right or wrong to any of it. You do what you do because that’s what the harmony of the universe requires.”
—Ram Dass

December 18, 2010
It is, truly, about the circle of life.

In the beginning, Kyson and I were struck by stark similarities between our project expectations and the humble realities of Malawi. Our project focuses on cutting back on deforestation, but we didn’t expect to see charcoal to be so engrained in everybody’s lives. We sure didn’t expect charcoal traders pushing bicycles toppling with maize bags full of charcoal to be the first thing we see; neither did we expect to be again and again engulfed in smoke from burning trees and forests on the streets by storefronts, by our house in the mountains.

Through our talks with district commissioners, a professor and head of the Department of Forestry, bamboo enthusiasts, charcoal producers, traders and consumers, anti-charcoal law enforcers, farmers, USAID/Emmanuel International employees, small business owners, church congregations, consultants, chiefs of villages, agroforestry groups, and, most importantly, communities, Bamboo Lota has received an overwhelming welcome in Malawi. We are everlastingly thankful for Helen and Paul of Emmanuel International, who has not only let us stay in their home, but allowed us access to their most important resources—to be able to see village projects and to have EI’s credibility of promoting good work behind us.

Our journey to Malawi has brought new insights and further desire to instigate change. You have seen through my camera’s lens, my typed words, a significantly small percentage of what is actually going on in this country. There are many, many more pressing needs than I have presented. Food is scarce—oftentimes, our leftovers are collected, cooked again and fed to those who are less fortunate; some children eat an average of two meals a week; and droughts and flooding ruin many agricultural harvests. Daily nutritional necessities are even categorized as six food groups—things cooked with oil being one. Main agricultural exports include tobacco and tea; neither of which are particularly booming. Other agricultural staples are maize and wheat—not any of these productions are sufficient to feed the 14 million people living in Malawi.

The need for a recycling program is duly noted for plastics and compost—but much of what people buy is reused over, and over and over and over, in a way that would put Americans to utter shame. A child once came up to me and asked, “Can I have your plastic?” and smiled delightedly when I handed my bottle to him. Where a bottle would otherwise be tossed, helping create that awful Texas-sized plastic island in the Pacific Ocean, here it is used for Tippy Taps or refilled over again. Plastic is not waste to the impoverished. Even our food at home was wrapped in their bowls by reusable shower caps that were probably tens of years old.

Helaine, Pezo and the Govala community taught us about the importance of education, which has always been the first priority in my life, my family’s, my friends and neighbors. It is through education that poverty can be alleviated, yet the programs in Malawi are so unorganized and unenforced that the future of Malawi is further compromised.  It is not necessary for children to go to school—some children have never stepped in school at ages 9 or 10, because there is no pressure insisting the importance of education in the big picture. There is a shortage of teachers—classes of 4-year-olds in public primary schools have sizes up to 200 students. Just imagine the outrage if this occurred in ANY other country!

I’ve talked about the state of water sanitation in the country for Blog Action Day, and facts about how the predicted spike in population growth combined with declining resources will lead to increased strife. @font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }@font-face { font-family: “Georgia”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 10pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }Kyson and I are sure to return back to the States with changed perceptions of waste and consumption. Americans are about 4% of the entire world’s population, but consume about 40% of the earth’s resources. If you can personally decrease your water and carbon footprints, be conscious of what you consume, encourage others to do the same, you can move the Earth.

Electricity is rare, most nights are spent in complete darkness as blackouts are more common than not. Blackouts during the day are much like when there is poop in the kiddie pool where I worked as a lifeguard—you cheer and get to take the day off; how unproductive is that? Inefficiency is frustrating even to patient individuals like Kyson and myself—we are used to America’s pressure to multitask efficiently. Here, one cooks one pot at a time, spends eight hours on a project that could be done in an hour. It is entirely different, but slow is the way of life out here.

As we watched Aunt Mary’s wedding video from the 90s, she pointed out at various moments family members or friends who have passed; what struck me the most was that it seemed like most of her relatives and friends (who were all so young, even children who would have been my age at that time) were gone. Malaria and sexually transmitted diseases plague the lives of many, and many do not even see the ripe age of 20.

All in all, Malawians are tied together through their united faith in God. There are differences between churches, yes, there are Catholics, Muslims, Presbytarians, Baptists, etc. But diversity ends there—the smiling faces clearly dictate that life, to them, is by their standards manageable. Albeit living in tattered rags, unemployed and sitting on dirt streets picking through trash, there is chitter-chatter and laughter to be heard everywhere. No where else in the world have I ever encountered such bright smiles from people biking, the “Muli bwanje”s and “Zikomo”s are abundant, their praises for the little they have humble me to my knees. So there is hope, faith that God provides well for the poor in Heaven. And there is, at least, the reassurance that Malawi is, for now, still the “Warm Heart of Africa.” But what can we do to prevent it from a future heart attack, a failure in existing systems, the complete deterioration of a country?

Kyson, Joanna and I have been working hard to process all of our information regarding Malawian culture to best see where we should lead Bamboo Lota in the near future. There are extreme needs that need to be attacked, and we want to face this head on. Westernization is spinning into Malawi slowly, with an increase of cars and pop culture, yet no aid to jump the price gap. The circle of life is such—deforestation leads to drying rivers, soil erosion, increased pollution, climate change, and the consumption of wood charcoal leads also to respiratory illnesses, decreased participation in schooling for children, thus spiraling Malawians further into the poverty trap, increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.

Bamboo Lota is continuing on this project. If you are in any way moved by what we are doing, please help us spread the word on what you have learned about Malawi from our project. You can add us on Facebook, donate to us, connect us to grant donors or any other compassionate friends.

Thank you for coming along with us for our adventure :) We thoroughly enjoyed talking to all of you about our experience in Malawi, and we welcome any more questions!

December 12, 2010

karmahasutra:
Yes. Those babies are lying on concrete.
Yes. That bottle is empty.
Yes. Those are mosquitos swarming their little bodies.
Yes. This is the condition of Pakistan, at the moment.
A couple of weeks have gone by since the floods in Pakistan have flowed and the number of people effected by this are staggering &amp; record breaking.
Over 20 MILLION PEOPLE.
That is MORE THAN THE COMBINED TOTAL of the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the American Katrina disaster. 
How many of you knew about this? It’s a shame at the extreme lack of coverage on this horrific disaster. Pakistan is getting MINIMAL help.
Ignorance never ends, a recent poll was taken in America on whether if they would donate or have donated to Pakistan or not. 67% DO NOT wish or want to help Pakistan. 67%. 
And as for the donations that are being sent… 60% of aid needed now, has not been delivered. Who has them &amp; why haven’t they reached the public?
I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. My city is located in the south region of Pakistan (Sindh province). I can not fathom the words….The amount of hurt I am feeling.
No one is helping. 
I try to blog about it daily…only getting a few notes or so..I post a picture of myself and income the notes and comments. What I’m trying to say is, Please…take note of this. These people are innocent and now they are homeless and sick. Children are dying quickly due to the lack of care. People have drowned, crops are ruined..animals are dead, &amp; homes are gone. It is being speculated that my city will eventually drown since it’s already low. The floods haven’t hurt my region yet but they have affected my friends &amp; families home and so many other innocent people.
This picture breaks my heart..I want you all to look at this picture. What do you see?
Do you see terrorists? Do you see future killers? Do you see another plot against America? Do you see that in those mosquitoes that can possibly and most likely have left diseases such as malaria? Do you see harm in that empty bottle? 
Extremists are the ones to blame, not Muslims. Why should we be left hopeless? We didn’t do anything.
And as for the Qu’ran burning this weekend in Florida, I believe….
The thought of that night makes me cry. Do you all understand the severity and ignorance of that act? Why isn’t anyone stopping them? My religion, my faith didn’t hurt you. EXTREMISTS DID. They are NOT religious. My faith is NOT a cult. 
I don’t know what to do. I honestly don’t know. I’ve never felt this helpless. No one is helping, no one cares. Fuck neither do my own best friends know much about this. 
Just look at this picture and think about what you’ve just read. 
Help. Please. 
If you can…I’m not asking for a shitload of cash. But please, try to donate. Donating to UNICEF will send aid to children. Donate to the Red Cross &amp; the UN Foundation. I trust the most in these three foundations, they’ve actually managed to send and successfully help the victims. 
One-fifth of the country is under water; 20 million+ people are homeless. All I ask if for you to help a little and spread awareness.

reblog and spread the word.
reblog..
Reblog. Please.
Begging you all, please reblog &lt;/3 :’(
Please Reblog.
Reblog. seriously.
Here is FYFT good post for the year..
god bless all the effected….i just don’t even know what to say.
this is just heartbreaking
Reblog every time.
This deserves a lot more notes than it has.
Help them.
Please.

karmahasutra:

Yes. Those babies are lying on concrete.

Yes. That bottle is empty.

Yes. Those are mosquitos swarming their little bodies.

Yes. This is the condition of Pakistan, at the moment.

A couple of weeks have gone by since the floods in Pakistan have flowed and the number of people effected by this are staggering & record breaking.

Over 20 MILLION PEOPLE.

That is MORE THAN THE COMBINED TOTAL of the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the American Katrina disaster.

How many of you knew about this? It’s a shame at the extreme lack of coverage on this horrific disaster. Pakistan is getting MINIMAL help.

Ignorance never ends, a recent poll was taken in America on whether if they would donate or have donated to Pakistan or not. 67% DO NOT wish or want to help Pakistan. 67%.

And as for the donations that are being sent… 60% of aid needed now, has not been delivered. Who has them & why haven’t they reached the public?

I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. My city is located in the south region of Pakistan (Sindh province). I can not fathom the words….The amount of hurt I am feeling.

No one is helping.

I try to blog about it daily…only getting a few notes or so..I post a picture of myself and income the notes and comments. What I’m trying to say is, Please…take note of this. These people are innocent and now they are homeless and sick. Children are dying quickly due to the lack of care. People have drowned, crops are ruined..animals are dead, & homes are gone. It is being speculated that my city will eventually drown since it’s already low. The floods haven’t hurt my region yet but they have affected my friends & families home and so many other innocent people.

This picture breaks my heart..I want you all to look at this picture. What do you see?

Do you see terrorists? Do you see future killers? Do you see another plot against America? Do you see that in those mosquitoes that can possibly and most likely have left diseases such as malaria? Do you see harm in that empty bottle?

Extremists are the ones to blame, not Muslims. Why should we be left hopeless? We didn’t do anything.

And as for the Qu’ran burning this weekend in Florida, I believe….

The thought of that night makes me cry. Do you all understand the severity and ignorance of that act? Why isn’t anyone stopping them? My religion, my faith didn’t hurt you. EXTREMISTS DID. They are NOT religious. My faith is NOT a cult.

I don’t know what to do. I honestly don’t know. I’ve never felt this helpless. No one is helping, no one cares. Fuck neither do my own best friends know much about this.

Just look at this picture and think about what you’ve just read.

Help. Please.

If you can…I’m not asking for a shitload of cash. But please, try to donate. Donating to UNICEF will send aid to children. Donate to the Red Cross & the UN Foundation. I trust the most in these three foundations, they’ve actually managed to send and successfully help the victims. 

One-fifth of the country is under water; 20 million+ people are homeless. All I ask if for you to help a little and spread awareness.


reblog and spread the word.

reblog..

Reblog. Please.

Begging you all, please reblog </3 :’(

Please Reblog.

Reblog. seriously.

Here is FYFT good post for the year..

god bless all the effected….
i just don’t even know what to say.

this is just heartbreaking

Reblog every time.

This deserves a lot more notes than it has.

Help them.

Please.

(Source: ehmzee, via antarctica)