Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Board... Has Arrived

A big thank you to,

The trip seems even more real now, and I'm super excited to go! This week, my board arrived. THE board that I am going to take with me for 650 miles!

Kenton and I thought for a long time about what we wanted to bring with us. We both have Sector 9's, but they just didn't seem right. I love mine, but its too high off the ground and a little too squirrely for a long stable ride. The wheels and trucks are huge, along with riser pads to make it even higher. This makes pushing hard because I have to go so far down to reach the ground. The quest for the perfect board continued.

Kenton with his new board. He decided to go
 Black Wave with the clear coat finish. Looks great.
In our searching for how we should do our trip we found distance boarding legend Rob Thompson. He holds many a record for distance skating. His first board he used was low to the ground, stable and solid. Just the right thing for long distance pushing. However it was a Rolls Rolls carbon fiber board and Rob learned his lesson with that. It was too stiff and just not the right material. He teamed up with Longboard Larry and the developed the Pusher 2.0. With this board Rob traveled the length of China! This seemed right for Kenton and I.

That was until Kahuna Creations came out with their masterpiece, the Black Wave. I really love Kahuna and their stuff, but beforehand their boards didn't match what I was looking for. They have great boards for cruising or carving. I was just missing the drop down, low-ride, stable board I needed. The Black Wave was that and more. Besides being a high-performance board, it just looks amazing. Not only will we be rolling along easier, but we will look good while doing it. I talked with Kenton, we compared our options, and in the end, the sheer beauty of the board, and our existing relationship with our friends Kahuna Creations, convinced us we needed the Black Wave. The quest.....was complete.

We contacted Kahuna and they gave us a great deal on the boards. Kenton's arrived first....and I was jealous. A few days later mine arrived up and my parents house. I had to wait all the way until the weekend to go visit and get the board, and it was beautiful. Wonderful board, with black Bear trucks, and clear orange Kahuna wheels. Behold my excitement as I opened up the board.

The box is here! I'm so
excited to open it

What could it be?


This was a good and happy moment. Look at the joy on my face.

Thanks Kahuna

Sadly I haven't been able to ride it yet because it has been snowing almost non-stop, all I could do was stand on it and imagine. I am super stoked to though. Kenton and I are really excited to take these boards on their first long-distance trip!

Thanks once again Kahuna.

Monday, January 28, 2013

With Your One Wild and Precious Life?

Jamie and I, and you can see the book right there.
I love poetry quite a lot. When I asked my fiancee, Jamie, to marry me I used a book of poetry to propose. I got an old copy of Poems by Robert Frost and I wrote her a note and a page number. When she turned to the page I had written the question, "Will you marry me?" there.

I have favorite poems like "If" by Rudyard Kipling, or Edmund Vance Cooke's "The Eternal Everyday", and I love Edgar Allen Poe, or anything Shakespeare. I just love poems. One that I've liked for a long time now is by Mary Oliver.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

It's a poem about the beauties of life. All of the paradoxes that exist in the graceful swan and the lumbering bear. What a beautiful world that allows such diversity! The precious metaphor of the grasshopper who stays a moment and flies away. It gives the imagery of a lazy summer day, and then ends with a reminder how life will end, even these summer days. We are left with a question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

This is a question I ask myself a lot, especially in this time where I am trying to discover just what I want to do. This is one reason why I'm doing this trip, because it is something I desire to do with my one wild and precious life. I want to help people. I want to do something I love doing, like longboarding. 

We live in a culture where we love to tell each other to "go for your dreams", "reach for the stars". It is nice to pat each other on the back and say, "Yeah...go for it man." Its fun to say, but our culture only likes to say it, not to live it. It tells you to live for your dreams, but then tells you to wake up to reality.  Eventually we need to "grow up" right? 

We live in a culture that doesn't let people feel good about themselves. We're never skinny enough, never pretty enough, never wearing the right clothes, never eating the right food. One of the worst is that we have dreams about doing great things, like a good marriage or happy family, or helping other people. "That is not success or fulfillment," the world tells us, "What you need is money, this new car, or a nicer phone. A high paying job or promotion would make you happy. Marriage is a failed institution, not to mention constraining. Children whine and slobber. You can't make a living helping other people." 

Its hard to say with all of these influences shouting otherwise, but I don't believe those things. I really think that we can all go for our dreams and we'll be happier doing so. We have this time here on earth to be joyful.    However we don't have much time here in this life because, "Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?" So why not go for what we love.

That's one thing I hope to do with this trip. I really hope to be able to help the Romanian children, I hope to have an adventure, and I really hope that it can inspire others to go for their own dreams. 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Adoption, Foster Care, Orphanage

As a final installment on the situation of orphans in Romania I want to answer a few questions I've been getting. I've had a lot people ask me about Bridge of Love, the charity foundation I'm working with. What do they do? What is their purpose?

Courtesy of:
Well on the Bridge of Love website it says, "Bridge of Love’s mission is to provide comfort and hope to Romania’s abandoned children by assisting them on a path toward lifelong happiness and success. Since 2001, Bridge of Love has been instrumental in rescuing Romanian children abandoned in orphanages and hospitals and placing them with caring foster families in their own country.
          Bridge of Love has spent the past ten years saving these abandoned and orphaned children. The foundation began its mission by working to find loving homes for the children and helping to place them, one child at a time, in foster care with Romanian families.

         Currently, there are nearly 40 children in foster care who receive support from Bridge of Love, plus a group of six older teens and young adults who were abandoned as children." People then ask me why foster care? Why not adoption? Isn't foster care still hard and unstable for the children?

Well that may be true. Foster care is still difficult for kids, but it is the best we can do. Adoption in Romania is incredibly difficult. Domestic Adoption is allowed but is is prohibitively expensive. There really isn't much in the way of adoption there, only about 700 to 900 children are adopted each year; a very small percentage of the abandoned children overall. 

Another problem with Domestic Adoption is that there are lots of difficult laws making it very tricky. One article shares that, "In Romania, to be considered "adoptable," a child's biological parents must be deceased or indicate that they have no interest in having a relationship with the child. But beyond this, all relatives as distant as siblings of grandparents also must sign away rights to the child."

Denisa, Alin's little girl
I remember one man I knew. His name was Alin and he was of Roma decent. He and his wife, Anka, were very poor and lived in this little field in a small shack they had constructed. I went to visit them in their "home" one day and I met their children. There was Denisa, a darling toddler girl, and little Alin Jr., who was running around the dirty field barefoot and naked. Every so often Alin would confide in me one of his biggest fears; that he wasn't providing well enough for his children and couldn't provide for them any more. He wondered about giving them to an orphanage where their lives may be secure but it frightened him. He kept his children with him and did everything he could to provide, which often wasn't good enough. I don't know if what he was doing was the best thing or the right thing. I do know, however, that there are lots of people in very similar situations, who cannot provide for or support their children and have to give them up.

An article I read mentions infants who have been abandoned in the hospital and says, "These days babies abandoned at hospitals are likely to stay there until their second birthday. New laws banning the institutionalization of children under two have backfired for them. Only when they turn two will they be legally allowed to go to a children's home. Not that that would be much better." The babies just stay there and the hospitals have too many children to give them sufficient comfort or stimulation. The infants give up on crying because nothing happens and nobody listens when they do. They just lay there silently, and the ones who are big enough to sit up just sit there rocking back and forth, showing that they severely lack stimulation.*

Foreign adoption used to be very common in the 1990's. However in 2001 and 2002 Romania enacted legislation to ban international adoptions. The main reason they stated for doing so was to eliminate black market trade in children (another problem Bridge of Love is trying to address). Romania was heavily pressured by the European Union of ban international adoptions as a condition to enter the EU. One English representative in the EU in particular made it her personal cause to eliminate foreign adoptions for Romania. 

One of the boys who came to the yearly activity
day** I had the chance to help out at in 2011.
When I asked the Lundbergs, who founded Bridge of Love, about the adoption situation they said, "Laurie Lundberg started efforts to facilitate foster care because of her belief that children were better off in foster care (in a family) than in an institution - a feeling that we share along with a lot of others. It was a solution better than the alternative - even though we would have loved to have seen the children formally adopted."

This is why Longboard For Love is trying to help. We're doing all we can do personally for these kids. I really like the project of getting a tutor for all of these kids. Lots of them come from difficult situations and circumstances and they are a little disadvantaged. Myself, I'm a college student right now and I've really gained an appreciation for the importance and power of education. Helping them with their education will help them to better their lives and make something more for themselves.

What a wonderful work.

*For more insights on why children need stimulation or care in orphanages click here

**To see more pictures from the Yearly activity days Bridge of Love does click here or here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Final Route Plan! is finished. We have mapped out the entire route. The total milage for the trip is roughly about 658.8 miles. This was hard to map because of all the different information. Some sources said that Highway One was about 655 miles going from Eureka, California to San Diego. Since this is what we were told we planned on starting there. When I mapped out the trip we discovered that we have been misinformed. It was a little over 900 miles. Sadly we don't have time to do that much.

I tried to map it out again starting from Leggett, but this was just under 800 miles. After much frustration with GoogleMaps (user error I'm sure) I finally worked it out to be about 650 miles, our original plan. We will start in Santa Rosa and head down the State until we reach San Diego. A lot of our miles comes from having to use the smaller back roads since it is illegal and dangerous to board on the side of the major freeways.

Our Mileage is as follows:
Week One: 126.3 miles
Week Two: 163.4
Week Three: 153.8
Week Four (plus two days): 215.3
Total Mileage: 658.8
Daily Average Mileage: 26.35 Miles

We will be starting on Tuesday April 30 and going till Tuesday May 29. This gives us about 28 total days, minus Sunday as a day of rest, leaving 25 days to be pushing along. It will be a hectic time for my own personal schedule. I believe my school semester ends on the 26th of April. Four days later I will be in California. Board till May 29, and two days later on May 31 I will be back in Utah getting married!

This summer is going to be so much fun.

Week One
Week Two

Week Three
Week Four

The whole trip

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Highway 1

From Kenton:

Highway 1

Now this little bit of road is what I’m going to be calling home for the next few months. I've driven parts of it, usually with my family on some adventure in California. But most of the time is spent it reading a book, talking or thinking about the fish and chips I had eaten for dinner. This last summer I drove down Highway 1 and found the road for conditions to be moderate or less than ideal. I'm not too worried about 

An ideal longboarding trail would be a cement or asphalt path that is free from rocks or other debris.

Notice the painted lines designating where to ride, pass and where oncoming traffic is coming. These conditions are safer and ideal for most longboarders. However highway 1 is void of paths like this. Most of the time we will be traveling in the  3-5 foot space from the white line to the edge of the road.

Our longboarders are experienced and will do fine with less then ideal road conditions. We are still going to have to be smart and keep our eyes focused on the road. Part of our safety will be in keeping our bodies physical strain down. their is nothing more dangerous to a longboarder then slow reflexes while riding. Other road conditions on Highway 1 such as construction or a lack of edge to the side of the road are something that we will have to deal with while on the road.    

An actual picture of part of the
trail we will be longboarding on.
What a wonderful view!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Commenting Open and Captchas Now Killed

This blog has been going for a while now, and I noticed one day how few comments there are. At first I thought maybe the blog was boring, but the stats are really good. Quite a few people read the blog. In the past week we've had about 250 people visit the site. Last month on one stellar day alone over 300 people visited the blog.

Examples of captcha 
I wondered then, why don't people say anything back? When I asked I got some complaints about how difficult it is to post a comment. A lot of people told me that they try but then they are asked to fill out a "captcha" or a difficult to read word, in order to prove they are real and not spamming the website. Most people try four or five times and then give up.

I am happy to inform all of you that I have figured out how to remove that and it is now easy as pie to comment. So please, feel free. With this amendment to the site it also makes it easier for us to be spammed by people. I apologize now if it happens and I'll try to stay on top of it and clean it up when it happens.

Feel free to comment now. We love to hear what you are thinking and we'll do our best to reply. If you want to contact us beyond just a comment, take a look at our Contact Us page.

We've also heard that it is difficult to become a follower on the blog. We're trying to figure that one out now. We hope to have it remedied soon.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Be Satisfied. Be Grateful. Be Giving

I've noticed that recently I have really had a thing for Jewish Authors. I loved Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and Will to Meaning, as well as his Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning. I recently read Harold Kushner's How Good Do We Have to Be? I'll read most anything by Martin Buber. I just really like these books. I realized how many of them I have been reading when I finished another book by a Jewish writer. Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith.

I loved the book. It was a Christmas present to me from my future in-laws who enjoyed it and know I love to read. I own a copy of Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie but I've never read it. I intend to do that soon because I really like his writing. In Have a Little Faith Mitch is gives chronicles meetings with his rabbi, Albert Lewis. Mitch is preparing a eulogy for the eventual death of the rabbi and meets with him frequently to prepare.

I love the story and the fact that it's true. I really learned a lot and enjoyed Mitch's conversations with his spiritual leader. One story I liked in particular. Mitch asks the rabbi "What makes a man happy?" and his rabbi answers saying, "The thing's society tells us we must have to be happy- a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all these things, and I can tell you that they are not happy because of them.
         "The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they had all the stuff in the world. The families who fought and argued all the time, when they had money and health. Having more does not keep you from  wanting more. And if you always want more-to be richer, more beautiful, more well known-you are missing the bigger picture, and I can tell you from experience, happiness will never come."
          They are interrupted by a baby crying in the hospital and the rabbi says, "Now, that child reminds me of something our sages taught. When a baby comes into the world, its hands are clenched right? Why?  Because a baby, not knowing any better, wants to grab everything, to say, 'The whole world is mine'
          "But when an old person dies, how does he do so? With his hands open. Why? Because he has learned the lesson. We can take nothing with us." 

I think this story shows where we can find true happiness. We cannot become happy by amassing things. In fact, as Viktor Frankl says, perhaps our quest for happiness is the very thing keeping us from true joy. If we focus on receiving things and being happy ourselves we are missing the true point. I don't believe happiness is the end goal. I think it is the by product of a life well lived. It comes from thinking of others and helping. Not by taking and getting, but by letting go and giving.

Mitch Albom continues the conversation between him and Lewis.

So, have we solved the secret of happiness?
"I believe so," he [the rabbi] said.
Are you going to tell me?
"Yes. Ready?"
"Be satisfied."
That's it?
"Be grateful."
That's it?
"For what you have. For the love you receive. And what God has given you."
That's it?
He looked me in the eye. Then he sighed deeply.
"That's it."

Be satisfied, be grateful, and I would add, be giving.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hospital Horror

To preface this post I want to say that I don't like scare tactics. I try to make people aware, without trying to go for the shock factor. I try to say it how it is or how I see it and if people feel inclined to help it is much appreciated. This post I want to talk about hospitals in Romania and help people know why it is important to get the orphans out of institutions and into better situations. This is linking to my little series of posts on the situation for some people in Romania. My experiences are as follows:

Trivale Forest
Romania is a beautiful place and I was blessed to see most of it.  I spent some time living in Sibiu, a city in Romania that won the European Cultural Capital award in 2007 and it is gorgeous. I love Trivale Forest in Pitesti. Castles and churches are everywhere.  Casa Poporului in Bucharest is a large monumental architectural masterpiece. The most impressive place I got to visit was on a drive along the Transfăgărășan road up in the Carpathian Mountains connecting Transylvania and Wallachia. I described it to my family as the emerald, beating, beautiful heart of a wondrous land. Romania is a magnificent place full of lovely people. I look back to my memories and it seems celestial.

Casa Poporului 

But there is opposition in all things.

Daily was my life heaven on earth. However, there were places where it seemed that if there was a hell on earth I had found it. I found it in the Romanian hospitals. I remember my first visit to one. I had been living in the country for just a few months. The teenage boy of a family we knew got sick and had to spend three days in the hospital. We were asked to visit him and bring along some groceries. This confused me. After we bought some bread and fruit we walked to the hospital. Three nurses, dressed in scrubs and sneers, were seated on the steps outside smoking. We walked inside and it was chaos. The only light in the hallways came from the windows because all the electric lighting was turned off. People were milling around and we couldn't find our way to the boy. After walking around the musty dark maze of hallways we finally found his room.

I now understood the reason for groceries; if we didn't bring food to him he wouldn't get any. The hospital didn't provide food. All they seemed to have provided was a small dingy bed in a small room with seven other beds crammed in, and seven other kids. I wondered, what would happen if there was no one to bring him food, or what if one of those kids had an infectious sickness? It would be so easy to make the other kids ill as well. Conditions were surprising and sad. I learned that the family had to bring food and sometimes they had to visit other hospitals or pharmacies to bring medicine because if the hospital didn't have it they wouldn't do anything to get it. They would wait to do their work until someone else brought what was needed. Even if the pharmacy was just across the street!

We visited, bringing food from the family, for three days, and each day the boy wore the same dirty pajamas,  which I later found out he had to bring himself because the hospital didn't provide clothing either. I felt dark and sad in that place. I didn't see how anyone could get better. The nurses were rude. Doctors were corrupt and condescending. The building was a ruin, and this was one of the better hospitals in the city.

Similar situation of overcrowded hospital room
A few months later we were working with a man who suffered from severe alcoholism  I have never seen it so bad. Romania uses this blue 80% alcohol mixture for medical disinfectant purposes, but it isn't denatured like the USA version. It was basically cheap poison and this man drank up to four liters each day. His habit was so bad his wife and child had to live in another city to be safe. To make things worse he had a heart condition. This man should have been dead.

His life was a conundrum as well. As soon as he sober up he would just as quickly relapse and take a drink. With his first sip his life was a paradox. If he stopped drinking he would have withdrawals that would cause him to convulse so severely that it would overwork his weak heart and kill him. He would have to continue to drink to stave off the withdrawals and survive. The only way to get sober again was to get muscle relaxants in order to assuage the convulsions and keep his heart from working itself to death.

He lived right next door to a hospital. Sadly they wouldn't accept him into their doors. One night he was having problems and he called an ambulance to take him. The paramedics took him to the hospital where he was turned away. He had to walk, in his drunken condition, to anther hospital, where he was turned away once more. He was told to go to the mental institution so they could treat his alcoholism, because a normal hospital didn't do that kind of thing.

The next morning we got a call from him asking for us or one of his friends to bring him food and muscle relaxants (the hospital was running out and needed us to get more for him. Yes, there was a pharmacy right across the street again). We got some friends of his together and went to visit him and see how he was doing.

You know how in scary movies or video games they have hospitals will dark long corridors, flickering florescent lights, and patients in tattered hospital gowns wandering around with blank stares. That is what the mental institution was like. It felt like straight out of a horror movie and I hated it. I felt dark and frightened.

We entered the doors (above which a sign should have hung saying "Abandon all hope ye who enter in") and to our left was the nurses break room  It was full of doctors and nurses smoking and watching a soap opera on a little television. We interrupted their TV show and asked where our friend was. Once they finished killing us with their eyes for being so presumptuous and inconveniencing they told us to go find him ourselves and gave rough directions to where he was and turned back to their show. Thanking them we walked towards the back of the hospital.

A long corridor with locked doors lining it. A man in a contorted position sat in a wheelchair. A patient paced anxiously, scratching his head and talking angrily to himself as he smoked a cigarette  A lady shuffled past us, eyes staring straight ahead, oblivious to the drool running from her mouth down her neck and soaking her gown. It may have been my terrified imagination or reality but I swear I heard groans and moans coming from the locked doors.

We found our friend and asked how he was doing. Candidly the environment was great because he wanted to do anything he could to get out, even sober up for once. He was becoming depressed and just wanted to leave. The other patient in the room, a very old man, noticed my missionary name-tag I had on. He assumed I was a hospital worked and began to plead to be let out. "I don't belong here" he said, "I'm well, let me go, please. I'm better, I hate it here, please won't you let me go?" His begging started out pathetic, then became angry, and turned hysterical. It echoed loudly through the dingy hallways of the hospital. After 20 long minutes of it two orderlies burst through the door. The patient's supplications became screams as the orderlies roughly strapped him to his bed, pulled out a needle and poured a sedative into him. A few seconds later the man lay still and the orderlies left. We all looked at each other and decided we should leave too. We finished talking, set a time to meet the next day and left that awful place.

The next day we brought more food and some books for our friend to read. The other bed in his room was now empty. We asked where he was and our friend shuddered. The old man was dead. A mistake had been made and he was given too much sedative and it had killed him. I still don't know if the man had another outburst later on which required a second sedative or if he died when we were sitting three feet from him. I didn't ask, I didn't want to know. My friend was now even more anxious to leave.

I visited many more hospitals in my time in Romania, thankfully never as a patient. I saw better places, and I saw some just as bad or worse. The fact that these exist at all is tragic. The reason I share a few of my experiences is to illustrate how bad the institutions can be there. Orphanages can be just as bad as the hospitals. I hate to read articles about the conditions these children can be in. It is evident that these children need to be somewhere better. That's why Bridge of Love is there. That's why I'm happy to be helping. I hope I didn't frighten, but I want to show what its like, and that a change needs to be made.