Saturday, September 29, 2007

All Packed.

I have a backpack, my camera, a change of clothes and a toothbrush.

I'm all set to head out tomorrow morning and get some rest outside of the country! I'm so looking forward to this. I'm gonna stock up on nutri-grain bars and try to make the most of these two weeks while spending as little as possible. I'm looking forward to finding some place with internet so that I can keep you posted and let you know what's going on!

I thought I'd leave you with an amazing comic strip one of our supporters drew up for Buy Shoes. Save Lives.!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Inspired by Monks.

I've told you before but I absolutely love being inspired.

These past few days I've loved following the story of these Monks in Burma. Maybe it's all over the news or maybe you haven't heard anything, I don't know. But Burma's being ruled by the military after they took over the country by force...putting the rightful leader of Burma under house arrest for the past 11 years.

Now the country's starting to wake up. And it all started with these monks. They've been marching the streets protesting peacefully and letting their voice be heard. The government has no clue what to do with this boldness so they've started to handle it the only way they know, with violence. They're being beaten, kidnapped during the night, and hauled away by the truck loads. But they keep coming. These monks have finally gotten the attention of other world leaders and so now they're rallying support from all over the world.

I'm so inspired by these monks though. I love to see people stand up for others...willing to take action, through peace...and be willing to lay down their lives for it. The world needs more people like this.

If anybody wants to buy me a robe and a plane ticket to Burma...I'd be more than thrilled. (seriously.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Mosque.

(Sorry for the incomplete post earlier. We lost electricity half-way through. They just switched to the winter time schedule for electricity so we get just a few hours a day. Hence...multiple posts in one day.)

I wanted to give you a little glimpse into the Mosques here. I've been trying to go to the Mosques more lately and understand more about them since this is obviously a huge part of their culture and their daily lives. This is just one of the dozens of Mosques where I live. There's probably a Mosque no more than two hundred yards from every person in this country. I don't think that's an exaggeration either.

Before you enter the Mosque you'll walk by dozens of people out front. Some of them selling prayer beads and others begging for money. The Koran says so many good things about helping the poor so there are beggars and cripples all around the mosque because they have a good chance of being taken care of there. For most Muslims, giving to the poor here is just a continuation of their worship and them living out what the Koran tells them to do.

This is where it all starts when you enter a mosque. You walk over to the fountains, roll up your sleeves and pant legs as high as they will go, and scrub as much as your body as you can. You scrub your feet, wash thoroughly behind your ears...and spend time in prayer after you're clean. I really appreciate this whole washing idea. You'd be surprised how much that changes your mentality when you spend time scrubbing yourself and praying before you enter the Mosque. It's amazing to see the amount of respect and reverence they place on these actions.

These platforms are laid out between you and the entrance of the Mosque. You carefully tread on each one so that you don't touch the ground and get your feet dirty. You enter the mosque and depending on what time of the day it is you can pray or you can just lay down and relax. It's up to you. The first "Call to Prayer" is at four in the morning and the last one is at seven. Between prayer times this room is littered with bodies just resting, spending time with each other, escaping the heat outside...or just praying on their own. Five times a day though there is prayer led by the Mullah. The "Call to Prayer" blasts from the speakers and reaches every field and alley in the city. People then make their way to the Mosques. The Mullah leads the prayers and hundreds of men behind him follow, facing East, reciting the Koran and listening to his teaching.

This is where you place your shoes before you walk into the Mosque. You would never walk in with your shoes on. Even if you're not doesn't change the amount of respect you have to give for the ground you're standing on.

During this month especially Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Koran. These men are pouring over every line of it and they do so for hours each day. I've been saying "men" this whole time and that's because only men are allowed in the main part of this Mosque. A lot of them have curtains or a separate room for the women. I would never be allowed in there so that's why I can only tell you how the men do it. They're completely separated from the time they wash to the time they pray. This is what the Koran tells them to do.

I feel like I just gave an informative speech I would have given in High School. But that's a small glimpse into a Mosque here. Hopefully it gives you a better picture into how they worship and what this looks like for them every day.

There really is so much the world can learn from Muslims though. Spending time in this mosque has opened my eyes to a lot of things and there are so many things I genuinely respect about places like these. So much of it says tradition and ritual but when I go in there and look at the face of the 80 year old man next to me who has done this every day of his life, he shows me that it's something he still deeply reveres and honors. I love how the poor and hungry know this is a place they can come to be taken care of. I love how you can't ignore the the "Call to Prayer" five times day and how scripture is read over the loud speakers to reach you no matter where you are or what you're doing.

I think the biggest mistake people make is judging other people and thinking they can't learn anything from them. I always seem to be humbled by Muslims here.


Some things I'm excited about right now.

  • I'm leaving on Sunday for a couple weeks! A friend and I are going to leave the country to just get a break from everything. I'm loving being here but I'm honestly looking forward to just being able to relax outside of the country and regroup and get ready for another few months here. (I'm taking my computer and plan on blogging...I wouldn't let you off the hook that easy!)
  • Save The Children. This is the name of an NGO here that I've been getting to know this week. I've been meeting with their board and trying to form some sort of partnership between them and Buy Shoes. Save Lives. Nothing is for sure yet...but one of the guys told me that he'd like to give 3,000 dollars towards each surgery! They have to discuss it all but I'm thrilled about this possibility. This would basically mean we could fund twice as many surgeries! Keep this in your thoughts. I'll keep you posted.
  • I'm in the process right now of getting a Kurdish Photo Journalist ID here so that basically means I can go places and take pictures without having to passionately defend myself in my poor Kurdish. My pictures have started to be published in papers here and next month they're supposed to be published in a photography magazine! I think that's pretty hilarious considering I have no clue what I'm doing. It's something I've been pursuing though and it's a good way to make a few extra bucks on the side.
  • There's a new David Crowder CD out!
  • Right now I'm trying to book a flight to go out to Tejas for a week in December! I'm already counting down the days!
  • USC is still undefeated!
  • Relationships here are deepening every day and I can honestly say that some of my Kurdish friends here are my closest friends.
  • ...there's so many more things I'm excited about right now but these are just a few! I'm loving life right now. Each day is so ridiculous and every night I lay out under the stars and it just seems to be the perfect way to sum up my days...realizing the big picture and who this is all for.

"Ones Who Surrender To God"

This month is Ramadan. It's the holiest month of the year for Muslims everywhere. Every day they fast from seven in the morning to seven at night, seeking God during their hunger.

The fast means something different for everybody. On one extreme you have Muslims carrying around a can to spit in all day so they don't swallow any of their saliva....thereby breaking the fast. And then there's others who sneak in Restaurants that have covered their windows with newspapers. There's many that truly seek God during this month....and others are just trying to get past their nicotine withdrawals from not being able to smoke. really is a spiritual month no matter what way you look at it.

So be thinking of Muslims all over the world this month.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Buy Shirts. Save Lives.

Alright Y'all! (That was for my new Texas friends) The Buy Shoes. Save Lives. shirts are in!

Go check them out at our store!

Seriously....give me one good reason why you shouldn't go buy one right now.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's begun...

...I'm becoming Kurdish.

The little table next to my desk that holds my plant and my drinks was dirty so I just took it outside, got a bucket of water and hurled it at my dusty table.

I put the bucket down.

Then carried the table back inside.

It didn't even hit me how Kurdish that was until I noticed the puddle on the floor next to me from my dripping table.


Meet Aras.

He's a boy on the front page of the Brother's Together website and he's been waiting a really long time for heart surgery. He's approved...ready to go, his family just needs 7,000 dollars. I went to his house with Jamal and another friend and met him and his family. They live in a humble little home behind a concrete wall and above the entrance is a large picture of a heart. His Dad's a farmer and works tirelessly just to provide for his family while his mom takes care of the home and his older brother works to help provide also.

We fell in love with Aras. He's 12 years old and is loved so much by his family. His older brother is attached to him and does everything he can do look out for him. His parents were so proud and sat us down and showed us pictures of him when he was a baby. We talked with Aras, played soccer with him, and just got to know him and have fun. He was so humble yet at the same time so excited that some people came to see him and get to know him. He started beaming when we talked about his future and what he wants to do.

He immediately told us that he wants to be a doctor.

It made me think of how many people would be saved and blessed by having Aras as their doctor. But that's only if he's saved first and is blessed by having someone else as his doctor. That's what's so exciting about investing in lives. Because when you invest in someone you do so much more than just invest in them. In a way, you're investing in hundreds of other lives at the same time....and then thousands more because of the hundred that invested in them.

See the pattern?

So we're putting together a short documentary on Aras right now in English and Kurdish so we can reach the maximum amount of people. You're a part of those people. We really want to be able to go back to Aras' home with the news that he's able to have his heart surgery. So be in'll hopefully be hearing a lot more about Aras.

Keep him in your thoughts.

Keep investing in the lives of people around you, wherever you are.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Your First Child.

Meet Dyarko. He's 2 and a half years old and he has a bad heart. A heart that is failing and will give him an early death if he doesn't have immediate heart surgery.

Just a few days ago I met with his family and they told me there was no way they could afford to send Dyarko for medical screening, a huge step he has to take before he can get surgery. A chance that only comes around once a year so if they missed this screening then they would have to wait a year. They weren't sure he had a year to wait.

So Buy Shoes. Save Lives. decided to give away your money for the first time and make sure Dyarko made it to this screening! I met with his family again a couple days ago and gave them the money and they went immediately to the Airline company and bought their ticket!

I can't even begin to tell you how excited this makes me! This little boy can go to screening in the beginning of October and they said there's a good chance he'll go straight into surgery right after that!

Look what you did! It's nothing we did. We just put shoes in a box and sent them to you. Without you guys we wouldn't have had the funds to help save Dyarko! We can't tell you how thankful we are for all of your support and ultimately your money!

So Dyarko is a huge praise. But we genuinely hope this is just the beginning and that Dyarko's the first of many kids we'll be able to help.

So be encouraged. You're making a difference. This family and this little boy will never forget that. Hope you don't either.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Relevant Magazine.

Alright keep the drum roll going...there are so many crazy things that have been happening here so hold on.

Let me tell you a story.

We have a good friend back in the states who is an amazing supporter of Buy Shoes. Save Lives. She got this e-mail from a pretty large magazine company in America, called "Relevant" about how they're boosting their on-line store and need more products. She took 2 minutes to write them about us and the next day I was on the phone with a guy named Matt from Relevant.

One thing led to another and now Relevant is a proud partner and catalyst for Buy Shoes. Save Lives.! They've started selling these shoes on their on-line store and right now they're working on an article and feature on the company!

So go check it out for yourself!

Just visit the page, see for yourself, write a review...and let's see what happens.

This is a huge step for us as a business. We're so thankful for all your help and support! Seriously...telling a friend, putting links up on your blogs, wearing a bracelet or t-shirt. These are the things that are helping save lives.

It may just take 2 minutes of your time to save a life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Roll the Drums.

When I signed up to come to Iraq there were a lot of scenarios running through my head along with a lot of expectations and a lot of possibilities that I had to get over. In my head I thought through everything that could happen while I'm out here and added it all up. It seemed more than worth it so I started to pack my bags. I thought I was ready for anything this country had to throw at me whether it was a giant camel spider or a van of insurgents coming to kidnap me.

Bring it!

These past few weeks and months though I've been completely blindsided by an onslaught of feelings and emotions that I never thought I'd find in Iraq. OK I even had my doubts that these sort of things even existed anymore.

And as usual there was one thing I happened to overlook, one thing I wasn't necessarily looking for...but something I stumbled across.

A girl.

This girl has turned into so much more though these past few weeks. She's turned into a best friend, a refuge, an endless source of laughter, a ridiculous amount of encouragement, an example for me in so many areas, and...well my girlfriend.

She's been here for about 4 months longer than I've been here and is working for another office here in the city. Our offices work together on a lot of things so she quickly became an acquaintance. Her team leader and I hit it off and we started Buy Shoes. Save Lives. Later on down the road though she joined up with us and started to do finances for the business and then she quickly became a friend.

So these past couple months we've been spending a lot more time together going to the Bazaar to buy shoes, measuring soles, chalking Klash after Klash, running errands that we both admit now were pretty much worthless and made up by one of us so that we had an excuse to hang out!

These have been the best months ever.

It's been a crazy ride already. Having a girlfriend in this culture is.....well I can't even think of a good analogy but it's so hard, so impossible at times, and other times it's hilarious and so much fun. We can be laughing so hard behind a gate and right when we open it to walk outside she initiates "ice woman" and I activate the shun.

I'm the worlds worst at holding back my emotions and excitement inside so I usually just bite my lip to stop me from just laughing and having the biggest smile on my face all the time. But we've gotten pretty good at it....we've become pros at knowing exactly when to change when driving past a bus, through a checkpoint or under the bent shades of our neighbors.

It's been so worth it.

Then there are Kurds who, when they found out, shot imaginary guns in the air and danced and later on brought us a celebratory cake!

So now you know where I've been lately! I'm back and excited to catch you guys up on everything here. Right now she's on her way back to America for a few months but I'm counting down the days until we're back together running worthless errands and dodging the glares of patrolling guards.

I'd also like to welcome the slew of new visitors from Texas (did I mention she was from Texas?) and to the others scattered all over the world! I will apologize again for insulting Texas earlier...I know there's still an angry mob of you down there.

But humble pie has never tasted this good.

And now I'm thoroughly convinced that there is something good that can come from Texas!

But really....this girl is amazing and so beautiful in every way and I can't wait to see what happens with all of this. I know I don't deserve her and have no clue what she sees in me. But that excites me because I know it's not me.

I know this blog didn't even come close to describing her and how much she means to me, but it's hard to explain things you still can't put into words. I'm looking forward to the road ahead and we appreciate all of your thoughts and support.

Glad all of you are now a part of this journey!

(and a special shout out to all of "the ninnies!")

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Be Right Back.

Hey Everybody...

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. Don't worry, I don't have Cholera or anything like that. There's been so many things that have been happening here Kurdistan, in the office, in my life and pretty much every area you can think of. So much so that I've taken a few days off from blogging.

But don't worry...I've been writing it all down and you're about to get slammed with more stuff then you'll probably want to know.

Just wait for it.

So thanks for always checking up on the blog. You'll hear from me in a few days.

Love you all.