Sunday, September 22, 2013

puttin' on your big girl and boy pants: an open letter to Congress

Dear Congress,

Instead of acting like 5-yr olds pitching a hissy fit (whoa, is that Southern.) and saying you're not going to work (which you should be so thankful you even have a job!) if a reasonable (and it is reasonable) health care reform happens, why don't you just grow the hell up! Put on your big girl and boy pants and act like an adult! We have bigger fish to fry (what? I’m from the South.) in this world than to satisfy your ginormous partisan egos!!

How about deciding and acting on another reasonable issue, like um… gun control? Before you get your little princess and superhero undies in a wod, NO ONE wants to take your guns away (why are you so paranoid in the first place?) we just want to prevent the people who shouldn't have access to them, from getting them. Plain and simple. For I don’t know what reason… maybe to prevent the ongoing tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting? But if you're okay with innocent people dying, then by all means... YOU get a gun, and YOU get a gun and EVEEEERRRRYONNNNE gets a gun. 

While you are sitting all high and mighty in your ivory (pun intended) tower, deciding whether you are going to work or not (and when I saw work… for you, I mean sitting with your thumbs up your pretentious asses); people are starving because they can’t afford food, people are dying because they can’t afford medicine, people are working their asses off to provide for their family, and yes, they might be on government assistance while doing so.

Here’s a thought, (in an alternate universe) if we (the taxpayers) could decide exactly where our tax dollars went, do you realize you would not get paid!? You wouldn't. You would have to rely on the government assistance you took away from the moochers, so surprise! There isn't anyone or anything to help you because you took it away! Congratulations! You now have nothing and will die penniless and alone because your family left you 'cause you were stupid.

I don’t know how in the hell the bunch of you got elected and re-elected in the first place. Oh, yeah. You’re politicians. You lie to our faces and make selfish promises behind our backs. If the tables were turned, you all would be barking up another tree… and the thing is, you know this. You know you are just looking out for yourself. How do you sleep at night? How? Drugs? Alcohol? Mind alternating hypnosis treatments?  

I have one final question for you (which actually will likely turn into more)… can you even comprehend the extraordinary and amazing good in this world we all could do, if we stood united? If all the good came together to fight the evil (the real evils, not Obamacare) and the terror that plagues our soil and that soil of every country around the world? Can you even imagine…? [insert John Lennon’s Imagine here]  I’m finding it very hard to believe that you can. It makes me terribly sad and disappointed… and even ashamed and embarrassed of our great country… from the amber waves of grain to sea to shining sea… that I even feel the need to be writing this.

You want to know what our forefathers think about the country these days, what they were thinking when they wrote the Constitution? Well… you can’t. They are all dead. They can’t explain themselves… unless you use a Ouija board and contact their spirits. In that case, spill the beans! Inquiring minds want to know!

So everyone that says they “know” what they would think or what they thought, are just using them as a tool to express their opinion, not that of Thomas Jefferson and crew. So you want to know what I think? (I’m going to tell you regardless, you know.) I think they’d say, “Those bloody wankers still believe everything we wrote 237 years ago and take it literally! Don’t they know to be progressive with their thinking, like we were, and not stick to the same ole tired and out dated beliefs of yesteryear?! Hi-ho! Pass the mead! A jolly good time we shall have laughing our arses off at their tomfoolery.”

Sincerely (and get it together, already),

Monday, September 2, 2013

remember me.

sometimes movies are just movies. they are entertaining for 2 hours, then they are over and you get up and walk out of the theater... but every once in awhile one comes along that you just can't walk away from. upon my recent (although it's getting less and less recent everyday, i might need to start using a different descriptive word and that saddens me - but that's another blog) return from Uganda, a dear friend had just watched War/Dance and suggested i watch it. the movie, filmed in 2005 follows 3 kids from the town of Patongo, a displacement camp in Northern Uganda to the National Music Competition in Kampala. the town was/is under 24/7 military protection from the rebels of the LRA. (if you are unfamiliar with the LRA - you should familiarize yourself right now... it's ok. i'll wait.) now that you know what we're dealing with here. you thought the stuff you read on Wikipedia was terrifying, just watch this movie. it will tear your heart to pieces... not because of the sadness and heartache these kids and so many kids like them dealt/deal with everyday, but their hope and promise of a brighter future. when i wrote about Hotel Rwanda, i had never been to Africa. now that i have, i don't just see these faces of kids on the screen... i've looked into their eyes, i've felt their embrace and spoken with them, which made this movie be all too real for me. they were so inspiring with their dreams of becoming more than what was expected of them. not even living in a war torn camp crushed their hope. if we all could be so strong and brave. did the kids i met (who were equally strong and brave) have these same conflicts as the kids in Northern Uganda, no... but they each have their own story with struggles too.

we all do. we all have a story. we aren't just nameless faces... and kids from around the world sure as hell aren't nameless either. that's what we all have to remember... just like each of us, fighting our own demons, they are too - except one major difference... we have the resources to deal with and eradicate them. if you look in the mirror and think about your "problems" compared to the problems of less fortunate people (here in the US and the world), you might begin to realize your demons, aren't so scary after all. 

"this country [world] will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for ALL of us to live in." Theodore Roosevelt 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

hugs and hope.

Well I've taken my last malaria pill; washed my clothes in hot water and dried them… in a dryer; had a beer and got hit on by a creepy old white dude downtown Friday night… so I guess that means, I’m officially home.

I've gotten a lot of questions about Uganda since I've been home, mainly did I ever not feel safe and how was the food… the answers are no, I never felt unsafe (it was the exact opposite actually, I always felt welcome) and the food was delicious. People had definitely told me some stories about getting sick when traveling to such destinations, but my body welcomed the matooke, rice and chapatti’s with open arms. Oh, chapatti’s, where have you been all my life? (They are basically big, thick, chewy crepes and are oh so delicious!) Think about the NYC street food vendors and multiple that by a 1,000, that’s Uganda… except without all the sanitation rules and regulations. Most were only lit by a candle at night. But I loved it and it wasn't until I started eating Western food again, that my body was not a happy camper. (I’m not considering this TMI (Too Much Information) since so many people asked about it and wanted to know if I would have a horror story about food, sorry folks, I do not have one.)

I’m having a hard time adjusting back, not just with the food, but with everything. Even going out to dinner with the Fruitcakes and having a glass of wine. Or being downtown and drinking a beer, listening to crappy music or even going to see a movie. Seems like normal things to do because I used to do it all the time and I enjoyed it, those are some of my favorite things to do (minus the crappy music part) but now it’s just… different. Everything here is so easy, so comfortable… so clean. Partly because this is my home, it should be easy and comfortable. I know where I’m going, I know how things work. So I guess the biggest part of me that has changed (and a lot of me has forever been changed) is perspective. I always knew of the abundance of the Western world, but now, it’s like I look at every single thing and think what a luxury this is or what a waste that is. I've found myself people watching (sorry, if you catch me staring at you, I’m not creepy, I’m just observing.) So I might be going blind from all the eye rolling I've been doing and decided rather than yell at people and slap them in the face for being selfish and taking things for granted (for many reasons, mostly lawsuits) that I will just kill them with kindness and show them how to be a decent human being.
With that said, I already had a low tolerance but now I have exactly NO tolerance for laziness; whining for superficial things you don’t have; and selfish abundance. Do you have to walk down the street to fetch water and carry jerry can’s full of water back to your house every day? No? Then I don’t want to hear you complain about how it’s “super inconvenient” that your water is off for a few hours while repairs on being done to be sure this doesn't happen in the future. (You can tell I work in Property Management, people complain about everything… Every. Little. Thing.) “Deep breath, Allison. Kill them with kindness, kill them with kindness. Don’t get yourself fired.”

Although, there are more differences in the two countries, Uganda has a lot of similarities to the States. There are a lot of small businesses; they have extremely talented musicians; they have shopping malls (albeit not as grand and unnecessary as the ones here); banks and ATM's (spent a lot of time there); and everyone has a cell phone. But the differences are way different, not everyone has electricity and  the aforementioned running water, much less hot water; there are few paved roads and virtually no street signs (which kept me constantly lost the entire time); time is of no importance there (which was somewhat refreshing compared to the rat race that is this country operates on.) Another huge difference, was one of the most impressive things about the people of Uganda is that they know and speak so many languages. English, Luganda, Swahili, Arabic, German, other local African dialects… even the kids, especially the kids! I don’t think I met anyone that didn't at least speak 3 languages. I was amazed! Because here in the States, we speak English and tell everyone else they must too. People bitch about having to hear a Spanish option when calling a company. Duh! We are a nation of immigrants; we should know more than one language. When I was talking a friend about how many languages everyone speaks, he told me that they have to speak them, so they can communicate not only with other African, but the world. Wow! What a concept America… having communication with the outside world because *News Flash*, the world doesn't revolve around us.

Another amazing thing, the country is full of Christians and Muslims and you know what, they get along just fine. They are friends and I hung around both of them, together.  Everyone was respectful of their differences. There’s another one for you America… respecting others despite your differences. We should try it sometime. It actually makes life enjoyable. Just imagine liking (and disliking) people for who they are, for their personality or moral compass, not for who or what they choose to believe in. Now, I know a lot of people in this country have “issues” with Muslims (even the guy at US Customs when he asked if I was training at a terrorist camp while in Uganda) because of 9/11 and no matter what I say, I will not change their minds because they are so closed, but Muslims are not responsible for 9/11… terrorist extremists are.  And (this is probably going to upset a lot of people) but extremists of all kinds (yes, conservatives and liberals) are just as detrimental to this country as those terrorist extremists.

Anyone that knows anything about me, knows how I would feel about not only the Ugandan government, but all government’s, especially regarding women’s rights and gay rights, so I will not step on my soapbox (I hear your sighs of relief!) …except the next time you are bitching about the US government and what they do and mainly don’t do these days… just remember at least you have the freedom to. We have rules and regulations to protect us and keep us safe so that we may live long and prosper. They are there for a reason, but don’t think for one minute that we would be better off without them, we wouldn't be. That’s what makes this country, this country and not any other. That’s what made this country successful. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, but it’s a whole helluva lot better than most. You should wake up every day thankful. We have government programs that support our poor and underprivileged and so that we don’t have hundreds of kids sleeping on the streets at night, hustling during the day, getting beat by the police and then imprisoned in a children’s jail. Because that is the reality in Kisenyi, Uganda.

I didn't mean for this to be a US bitch-fest, this is a great country, no doubt about that, I just wish we were as great as others except us to be. I wish it was as great as the kids in Uganda imagine it to be.  My life has been changed and my outlook on life is forever altered. I’m not going to pretend I’m not trying to change the world, but the world just changed me first.

And I’m also not going to lie that I had the hardest day in my whole life while I was there, being in such a different environment completely out of my comfort zone and around anything or anyone familiar, is a very humbling experience… and I recommend everyone doing it. The kids and the people welcomed me with open arms and trust, and I did the same. I met some amazing kids, and it breaks my heart that the world will not know of them or their talents and dreams due to their circumstances. It’s not like the Sally Struthers commercials to help the sad, sad children. These children were happy, happy with so little and so appreciative of every single thing I had brought for them. These kids don’t take anything for granted. I tried to hug them as much as possible, hugs go a long way. Especially to those who don’t get them every day. They taught me more than I taught them. I often felt like I need their hugs more than they needed mine. And as I was crying like a baby (as Umaru kept saying) as him, Dagalous, Big Cathy and Aisha were hugging  me and holding my hand as I was saying goodbye to them after the wedding, I think it was pretty obvious what the kids mean to me. In fact, that is one of the best times I had there, dancing and laughing with kids at the wedding. We had a great time!

The kids are in good hands, Patrick, who founded Raising Up Hope (, a street kid himself, along with his sister, Allen were to be adopted by an American lady after she had met him on the street… the very streets of Kisenyi.  So with passports in hand, ready to whisk them away to the glorious United States of America, Patrick decided to stay and help the other street kids. He said he just couldn't leave the other kids, they needed help. He was 12 when he made that decision. 12! He is an amazing man, always with a great attitude; his laughter and excitement are contagious. And spending just one minute with him, you can’t help but be inspired. He’s the hardest working man I have ever met… and all of that hard work is directly for these children (and for William and Esther’s wedding.) He gave up his dreams and a cushy American life; to be sure kids like him would have a chance too. If that doesn't tell you what kind of strength, courage and hope Uganda has, I don’t know what will.

A lot of the kids said it would be a dream come true to come to the States… and I wish I could have brought them all back with me. They would love it here, I know they would. But then again I think how in the land of abundance, that stuff doesn't make you happy; in fact, I think stuff makes us turn in a-holes. The more we have, the more we want because we see everyone else having it. That’s the stupidest thing I've ever heard. How does that make you happy? You know what makes you happy? The relationships you have with people, your family and friends. Laughing. Smiling. Hugs. Kisses. Unexpected warm, sunny days.  Thunderstorms. Those things make you happy and guess what; they don’t cost one cent… or shilling. Stuff only makes us think we are happy, because we are brain washed into thinking it does. If you believe in heaven and the pearly gates, when you get there, God is not going to ask you how much stuff you had… he’s going to ask (er, I guess he should already know) what kind of person were you? Were you kind? Were you generous? Were you selfless? Because it’s the type of person you are that matters… and all the stuff and all the money in all the world will not change you into a better person, only you can do that. I noticed a lot (okay, most everyone) getting by on so much less and being happier than most Americans and I’m convinced that it’s a better way of life… minus the whole running water, constant electricity thing. That does make everyday life much easier, but it can be lived without as I saw first hand.

Although, the kids are happy (or seemed happy to me – I don’t think they get depressed like American kids, because they don’t have much, never had much, so they don’t have much to miss – insert my comments about stuff again) it still takes a lot to take care of them. They get 2 meals a day for the most part, but there’s no variety; matooke (mashed green bananas), rice, poshe (which is just cornstarch and water) and occasionally some fish, meat or Irish potatoes. They loved candy! …I mean, who doesn't? Shoes had to be bought so that they all could attend the wedding… even shoes for them is a luxury.  They have a TV in the house, it’s fuzzy most of the time though. They are geniuses though. They make their own toys, well partly because if they want toys, they have to make them. My favorite was a little man out of tin foil (not sure if his name was Tim or related to Tina – sorry folks, only like 4 people are going to get that reference, but I had to say it) and attached a parachute (made from a plastic bag) to him with string and climbed up the tree and let them float to the ground. It was like something kids here would pay $20 bucks for and play with only once. But they had the best time, making it and playing with it… and I had the best time just being a small part of that enjoyment.

But Patrick is not the only one taking care of the kids, Thursday lunches, the purchase of the shoes, an entire house at the Village of Hope and thousands of other things (like paying for the kids to go swimming; a visit to the clinic for Mark who had malaria) was due to another amazing individual Kathy and her organization Desana ( and I’m actually shocked this is the first time I've brought her up because I owe her everything as my trip to Uganda would not have been possible, enjoyable or memorable without her. I could write another novella on just her and how we became fast friends and how strong and amazing she is for overcoming great obstacles in her own life to now be living in Uganda, giving every day to these kids and being a beckon of light and hope for them. They absolutely love Auntie Kathy and so do I. She showed me the ropes, helped and guided me so much, I’m forever grateful for her kindness, friendship and strength… and for introducing to me too some pretty amazing new friends too!

I could write all day about what’s in my head about Uganda and how it changed me and all the fascinating things I saw, people I met, and how I miss it all, but it’s really not about me. In the Village of Hope (land that was just purchased to build 4 houses for the kids; 8 in each house with one house mother so that they can get the attention they need) they are about $1,000 short of being able to complete just the first house. The cost of one house is $16,000… they are so close, so I made a promise that when I got back, I would try to help them. When Patrick first told me that it was just $16,000 to build a house, I thought, whoa, that’s it? Then he said to me, “That’s a lot of money, right?” And then, I thought… well yes.  Yes it is. A little goes a long way there! So if you ever want to do some good and pay it forward, (maybe instead of buying more stuff that you really don’t need) please know if you donate to Raising Up Hope and Desana, that truly 100% of the funds you donate go directly to the kids and to the projects to better their lives. I've seen it first hand, people. These are amazing people doing extraordinary work for some pretty awesome kids.

One thing Kathy said she struggles with every day is not being able to help every child in need. And for every smiling face, there was a disappointed face… or two. But she and Patrick are making a huge difference in the kids’ lives that they can help.  And the more people that understand that the world doesn't begin and end in the US, the more kids that can be helped. There are enough resources in this world for poverty in Africa (and even here in the US) just not to be.  So upon my return, I’m back to hearing how we have a socialist society, where we want to “spread the wealth to people who don’t work for it,” I’m even more infuriated at the selfishness of some of the people in this country… and I’m reminded that I can’t change someone’s mind, whose mind doesn't want to be challenged. I'm reminded that people have to struggle in every country to provide for their families. But I’m also reminded of the good in this country and selfless people like Kathy who chose to live in a less comfortable place, so that she can help these kids. I’m reminded of the organizations like, whose efforts are leading to ending extreme poverty. I’m reminded of my friends and family who no matter how small gave me something to give the kids, which bought them much happiness both for them and the kids… and I’m reminded of a belief held by Anne Frank;  that despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. We all need to be the change we wish to see in the world... it’s the only hope we have.

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways and no meassge could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change." Man In The Mirror, MJ 

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, January 13, 2013

hotel america

i watched 2004's Hotel Rwanda last night and i would say that i don't know why it took me so long to watch it, but i do know...

the movie (a true story) chronicles the 1994 the genocide of the Tutsi people by the Hutu militia and a hotel manager (Paul Rusesabagina) that houses and saves over 1,000 Tutsi refugees. it was an amazing, inspirational movie and if you have not seen it, you should! it is not for the faint of heart, though.

the most overwhelmingly emotional scene for me was actually not the horrendous and merciless slaughtering of the Rwandan men, women and children by other Rwandans with cheap, Chinese made machetes or the poor and pitiful conditions the refugees had to incur. but instead, it is a conversation between Paul (amazingly played by Don Cheadle) and Jack, an American journalist (played by Joaquin Phoenix), staying at the hotel, covering the story of the refugees. against strict instruction, Jack goes outside the comforts and security of the hotel to shoot "the real footage" as he called it, of what was really going on in the country. 

Paul, although horrified at the footage he saw, was thankful to Jack that the world was going to be able to see what was happening... because when they see it, they will come to the aid of the refugees and the country. Jack then asks Paul, 'what happens if the world doesn't come to help?' seemingly stunned at his question, Paul replies with 'but they have too. how could they not?' Jack earnestly replies with 'they are going to see the footage, pause and say yes, it's horrible. then they are going to go back to eating their dinner.' a truer statement might never have been spoken. 

when the shit really starting to hit the fan, the rich, white families (both American and European) staying at the 4-star hotel were evacuated by the UN, leaving the native Rwandans behind. as Jack was walking out to the UN bus leaving the battered and torn country, in the midst of the chaos and incoming refugees, he simply said, 'i feel so ashamed.' ...and i was too. 

which brings me to why it took me 9 years to watch this movie... i was one of those people watching the television,  feeling sad for the people and then going back to eating my dinner... and i am not the person anymore and i never will be again. 

we live in a free country full of luxury and abundance! do we have our problems?  yes! yes, we do. unfortunately, some of the problems are just human and biological nature that needs to be tamed. but most of our problems, are unintentionally, intentionally created by us, the citizens of this great country. the current political news story is that the GOP (who has their share of testosterone filled pale faces) are saying that Obama's new cabinet is not diverse enough. seriously, that's a problem? because last time i checked, hiring a person for a job was a good thing, not a problem. and who the hell cares that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are having baby? i'm ashamed, i even know that actually. there are so many more things, a million times more important things, to fill your brain with.

like for instance, do you know what the biggest luxury we have in this country? we can lay our heads down at night without fear. it's that simple. we never have to fear that the atrocities that happened in Rwanda and continue to happen in other countries around the world, will happen here. there are millions of souls out there... that will never, never know that feeling. we are so lucky, in our part of the world, here in the States, to have a government and military (of all races, genders, religions and sexual orientation) protecting us and keeping us safe and secure.

it is so incredibly easy to take our freedoms and luxuries for granted, but you shouldn't, not even for one moment. your 'problems.' our 'problems,' relatively speaking, aren't problems at all... they're merely minor inconveniences and circumstances that should not carry a second thought. 

"happiest are the people who give most happiness to others."