Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Breathing

It is crunch time here at base camp. We are 9 days out from departure, and although alot of our stuff is dialed in and ready to go, we still have a ton of preparations that must be taken care of. Shoes and supplies must be boxed. Cameras need tapes and settings must be optimized. And between writing up sponsorships and emails, it's no surprise I've been a bit behind on my blogging! With all the frantic running around and hardcore packing, it's very easy to lose sight of things and...well, panic.

I know, I know. Panicking is the sign of someone who is underprepared. But this is a different kind of panic. It's more of an uncertainty than anything else. This world that we're in, the world I'm trying to find a place and stake in, is an uncertain world indeed. I watch the news, read the papers, and hear the stories from friends on how screwed up everything seems to be. Jobs are scarce, people can't be trusted, and the future that I'm trying to build for myself is 'dark and dismal'. It's no surprise that I found a couple grey hairs (yes, greying at 21...fantastic) the other day.

When I do find myself panicking, however, that's when I have to take myself aside and breathe deeply. I'm not talking about yoga, meditation breathing....no, I'm talking about deep, life giving breathing. Last time I checked, I am alive. I have clothes on my back. I have a family who loves me. I have an education. I have friends. I am breathing...

After I breathe, I can focus on the task at hand, and it is a truly life changing one indeed. I'm going to Kenya. To Kenya! I mean, I've lived a world away before. I know the feeling; the feeling of freedom. Of liberation and humility. It's a rush that no other thrill can provide. That's the excitement for me, because I know that feeling of when you step onto a plane bound for a far away place.

This isn't a pleasure cruise either....no, this is something special. I get to be a part of something truly remarkable: I literally have the job of delivering happiness. These children we're visiting, by American standards they have nothing. They lack new clothing. Many lack parents or family. Heck, most of them barely have a functional pair of shoes. Yet somehow, against all odds, they find happiness in the one thing that we Americans just can't seem to connect with: people.

Yes, we are a very ego-centric nation. Everything we do we often do for personal gain or wealth. The capitalistic workforce is based on competition and making your way to the top. On the streets we don't say hi in passing or even flash a smile. The art of conversation is dead, manners are long gone, and we fear our neighbors and even our closest friends. Somehow along the way we lost sight of what makes us human: that connection that we share with one another.

In 9 days I truly look forward to finding that unconditional love that we all possess in the smiles of orphans.

And, to leave on a truly inspiring note, I would like to share a story that has already surfaced and touched the hearts of everyone on the Think Kindness team.

Last month, I ran a story in our local newspaper. It called out to the community for donations and supplies to help aid these children in Kenya. Kingman is a small community, about 40,000, and it is very middle class. Yet in the course of a couple weeks, through various donors the community had raised $500 and donated much needed medical supplies to this wonderful cause. However, the truly inspirational part came 2 days ago in a letter addressed to myself.

The letter was from a 10-year old girl name Susie. Her mother had known me as a child, and recognized my name from the newspaper. Susie had a history of raising money for great causes, and all on her own decided to take up this challenge and raise money for this wonderful cause. She baked and sold cupcakes and rolls in my hometown, and over the course of a month raised $250 all on her own.

That check came in on Monday, and attached to the letter was a bundle of pictures with Susie cooking and flashing the "AOK" symbol. The money is great, but the fact that this little girl is spreading her unconditional love and kindness a whole world away is even more astounding.

That smile of hers is the true meaning of happiness, and I cannot wait to spread Susie's inspirational love with these kids a world away.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Booked

I remember summer vacation to be...well, a vacation. You had 3 months of freedom: the freedom to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted, with nothing to really plan for cept the beginning of school in August. No matter what happened, you knew that by the middle of August you had somewhere to go and something to do. And no matter how much I dreaded the up and coming semester, it was comforting that I was working towards something.

Now that 'something'....well, it's come and gone. The degree is done. I don't go to school this August, and for the first time in my life I have the freedom to do what I want with my life. Anything I want. Want to move somewhere? I can save some money, pack up and leave. It's that easy.

Thing is, I haven't found out yet if it's a comforting feeling or rather scary. Settling down for a bit as I work on these jobs up here has been a little tough. Don't get me wrong, I love my family. It's just very different, not having the friends and family in Arizona so nearby. It'll all work out though. It's all part of the transition process, and things always work out in the end.

Kenya is in full swing and approaching the home-stretch here. Our tickets are booked, and officially we have 24 days left. Between now and then, I have plenty of stuff to work on. I have a full new rig, which I have appropriately named "Dory". Here's Dory's rig:

Canon 7D
Rode VideoMic
RedRock Micro eyeSpy Shouldermount
28mm 1.8
50mm 1.4
70-300mm 1.8
3 16gb, 90mb/s CF cards (very sick cards)
Zacuto Viewfinder

It's enough to get basically any job done, and I'm just about dialed on everything. Shooting some b-roll on that rig was spectacular, especially in 1080, 24fps. DSLR's open up alot of options when approaching a project because you can easily switch glass for the appropriate setting and the camera is built for photography, so adjusting apertures and exposures is second nature. It's definitely a different look than a 3ccd recorder, and the learning curve on them is a bit tough. Keeping it steady is next-to-impossible as well, but like everything really all of it comes with time. I can't wait to shoot a short on it.

Still to work on, I need to get familiar with the Canon XH-A1s and that set up. It should be alot easier considering I've worked with the XH-A1's before and 3ccd recorders are already second nature to me. And honestly, who can be upset about playing with cameras? Seriously?

It's hard to really focus on it all though because I've travelled before, and I know how emotional of an experience it can be. I firmly believe that modern humans are meant to travel. We have the capability to go anywhere in this world, where money is the only obstacle standing in our way. And with a world that is full of many cultures and billions of different people, who wouldn't want to go and see it all?

This Kenya trip, however, is striking me a bit differently because of the significance of our visit. Everyone that went last time didn't leave Kenya without developing a bonding relationship with these kids. It's natural and cannot be avoided, and that's what I look forward to the most. I look forward to seeing Rori and Brian and my dad coming back and being re-united with some of these kids and seeing that purest form of love between two people.

And what's my job in all of this? It's my job to film that story: to capture it and bring it back to all of you. So if I do my job right, and I fully intend to do so with all my heart and soul, then you'll know what I'm talking about. And maybe, just maybe you'll feel what we all are going to feel in a month. You'll feel that love. It's a love that this world desperately needs right now, and it's truly an honor to be able to tell a story like this and share it.