What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Naming the Nameless, Defining the Undefinable...

"Love" or "Ai" in Chinese
So I'm back at it with thinking about names..  I spent some good time with a friend on Monday trying to talk through the naming process and came to only more questions.  I am very fond of this name 'Mozi', but again it carries some connotations if looked into.  It is not just a word, but a man, thus its meaning goes beyond a simple definition and to an entire philosophical school in ancient China.  Much easier to bring about stigmas.  My concern is that people - particularly here in the US - will view this in polarizing terms as some sort of religious scenario.  Which is exactly what I do not want.  I want the organization to be as neutral as possible, and thus I think the name should also try to remain as such.

This is of course to my personal disheartenment given that his ideas of universal love and respect for all, including treating everyone equally and as you would your own family, truly resonate both with me and with the causes and methods this organization will be undertaking.  However, we had to move on.  We want it to be eclectic and catchy in name, rather than the standard acronym creating non-profit titles.  It needs to be something that can become a brand in itself as things grow.  What we came to was individual words, foreign words that mean things that speak to the organizations principles and purposes.

"Balance" or "Ping Heng" 
The words that we are playing with are words like, balance, harmony, symbiotic, cooperation, things that talk about finding a harmonious mutually beneficial balance amongst things and each entity.  We need one word, a word in any language that means such things.  I have always been particularly fond of Chinese philosophy, thus this is my first thought.  I would love to find a word that means similar ideals and can be 'romanized' in pin yin.  I will have to look through some of my books/online and see if passages or words come close to our meaning and then see what the translations are.  But more importantly I need to contact some Chinese/Chinese speaking friends as well.  However, I should say that we would take word and or meaning from anywhere, any language.  We just have to make sure it does not create stigmas where we plan on going.  That is why I like the chinese concepts - there is a lot of respect for ancient chinese philosophical thoughts, Confucius, Lao Zi, yin and yang, balance, quieting the mind and looking within.  These connotations carry a nice and somewhat more neutral feel for me.
"Harmony" or "He"

Anyway, I write this in asking if anyone has ideas, thoughts, and/or friends/family that could help in either translating these ideas into words or other concepts/ideas.  It may seem easy to search online and find things, but there are so many cultural nuances, meanings, and translations that it must be researched and done right.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I am beginning to understand why people spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to school, and so that they can then get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do nothing but incorporate companies/non-profits.  It would be great to have some cash to just get this done with.  I'm sure the NYCON people would help greatly and at not to costly of an endeavor.

The trick to our situation though is that we are trying to do something that is atypical.  We are not just trying to start a non-profit to operate locally in New York.  We are trying to set something up that, from what it seems in all my researching, is revolutionary in structure and requires a solid understanding of the specifics of New York, US, International, and other location's laws.  In trying to get my head around those laws/locales and planning the rest of the trip itself, it is a daunting task.  But then again!!  How does one get the difficult done easily?  They can't!!  ;)

Asked again, Why Sierra Leone...

I was asked again last night "why Sierra Leone when there are so many people here in the US that need help?".  Watch the video below...  I feel bad about my disgust with this question as the people that ask it are good intelligent people, but it really bothers me.  We, as a collective whole, have no concept here in the US of what "needing help" really is.  Our education and media systems gloss over the struggles beyond our borders (unless it directly effects our national security or economic goals), and our social focus looks directly past other people and to our own seemingly fragile selves, our own unstable plights in times of economic 'crisis'.  Yet "Crisis" here, still means a MUCH better life than most people in the world.  Has our success made us entitled?  Does it absolve us of our humanity?  Our responsibility and compassion for others?

Life becomes easier when we ignore and push down our physical emotions.  We are mostly taught that it is their fault, that 'we' rose above, and that it is not wholly our concern - despite that it is our 'democratically' run country, and thus its people, that leads a globalized world that benefits us tremendously.

We are human, we have hearts, we have souls, we are made of compassion.  And that compassion does not and should not have a boundary that extends only as far as our national borders, but should extend as far as our hearts will take them - infinitely - to all places and to all people...


Sunday, July 25, 2010


So been perusing a bit in regards to gear this evening (not finding much mental capacity for anything truly productive).  At the behest of another request I am taking this 'registry' thing a bit more seriously.  It seems that there are some nice people in my life that not only want to support my trip emotionally, but physically as well!!  Thanks..  ;)

In looking through the REI site I found some good information stuff though.  Things like how to fit a backpack, ultralight backpacking (and its checklist), a first aid checklist, and the ten essential "systems":

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing) 
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid supplies 
  6. Fire
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter
I'm gonna actually have to use this list and see what I can do with it!!  There is also a chart that compares the types of goods versus the how much weight one would be working with.

FootwearRunning shoesLight hikersHiking boots
Trekking polesCarbon fiber polesCarbon fiber polesStandard poles
Tent stakesNo stakes; rocksJust 4-6 stakesMost or all stakes
StoveFuel tabs, soda canTabs or canister stoveLightweight stove
CookpotTitanium mugTitanium mug or potLightweight cookset
UtensilSporkSporkPlastic utensils
Water filterHalogen tabletsTablets or filterFilter
Water bottleSoft bladdersBladders or bottlesBottles

I'm hoping I'll get into the minimalist category with some sprinkles from the ultralight stuff.  The Vibrams are certainly gonna help me out though!!  And their lists were for three days, not three months in Africa!!  But I'll make it happen. Also came a cross a site called backpackinglight.com that I will have to spend some time on.  Otherwise, good night...

New Page

So given that there is beginning to be some unsolicited and/or non 'family of the project' traffic to the website, I thought it was time to put up a decent introduction page.  I put it together fairly quickly and feel incomplete about it, so I would love to hear your feedback / editing advice on it.  It can be found along the tabs at the top of the web page as "The Project".  Thanks,

New York City

Spent some time in NYC yesterday, walked about four and a half miles in total in the Vibrams.  Feet definitely feel it on sidewalk and concrete more so than in the woods and on natural ground.  My feet were fatigued in the same spots as in the 16 mile hike of last week, but not nearly as bad.

I must admit that being in the city was something that could be very productive for me.  I probably talked to about six people in-depth about the project, and really wish I had cards to give out.  This is going to need to become a priority in here this week.  People were very receptive to the idea and following it.  How much of this is idle pleasantries remains to be seen, but they were nice people, so we'll see.  It certainly will be much more interesting to follow once I am in Sierra Leone.  One person I spoke to was an elementary school teacher in the South Bronx who teaches in a neighborhood that is predominantly West African.  I am hoping to maintain contact with her for sure.  But I could see spending time in the city just talking to people, handing out cards and/or flyers, and seeing if I could generate some interest.  I think it is certainly a place where I could find a whole lot more interested and sympathetic people than in suburbia.