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Cats, Alberta, Pedalpalooza, and Mortified!

6/6/23

Another week and a half has gone by! It’s feeling very summery here in Portland  (high of 90F/32C today). I am loving the sunshine, and things are getting busy here in the summer! I’m even planning to take a mini-vacation to a small town southwest of here next weekend; I’ll report on that next time.

For now, I’ve been spending my time building my bones at the OsteoStrong gym; talking to people all over the world via Cambly; watching the Japanese Netflix show Terrace House; having magical meetings with friends near and far, in person and via video chats; and sitting with more cats!

I said goodbye to the fluffy and high-spirited Laszlo on the 31st, and made my way up to NE Alberta Street to care for a mellow and incredibly affectionate fellow named Zu. I hope you’ll excuse all the photos; when I get to stay with a snugglebug like that, I soak it in! (His shy-but-adorable white-mittened neighbor, Naya, would sometimes come over around feeding time, hoping to find a stray morsel. But then she would catch a glimpse of me, and scurry out again.)

During those five days, I got to go out for several strolls along the iconic Alberta Street.

And, my next–and current–sit is actually just about a mile and a half west on Alberta as well. This kitty, named Cat, is not snuggly, unfortunately. In fact, she reminds me a lot of Libby, in both appearance and demeanor. Cat is 16 years old, but spry enough to meow, hiss, swipe, and even attempt to hold me hostage in my own (guest) bedroom! Fortunately, as with Libby, the house is plenty large and comfortable for both of us, and her people have let me know that the best way to handle her surliness is to simply avoid her as much as possible, just quietly providing food when needed.

Fair enough.

Meanwhile, Pedalpalooza—Portland’s annual 3-month summer bike festival with dozens of themed rides—happened to hold its kickoff ride in Alberta Park this year, less than ten blocks from where I was staying. I took this as a sign that I should definitely attend this year. In years past, I have tended to participate only in the World Naked Bike Ride, while intending to partake of the other rides but never following through, and then feeling slightly disappointed in myself.

This clearly was to be the year to change all of that. I had been gone—on a bike adventure, no less!—during last year’s Pedalpalooza, but now I was back, and summer was here, and the kickoff ride was practically in my backyard.

At the appointed time, I pedaled over to the park, which was teeming with cyclists arriving from all directions.

I recognized a half-dozen people I knew, all in different areas. But I felt strangely shy, and didn’t engage with any of them.

After standing around for about five minutes, it slowly dawned on me: I don’t actually enjoy group bike rides! That was why I had never been motivated to do them in years past!

I had to chuckle at how long it had taken me to realize this fact so clearly… but there it was. And my path was clear: I needed to get out of there before the ride started!

So I did. I went back to the house and sat on the porch, enjoying the warm evening.

And everyone else had an awesome time on the ride. Win-win.

Then today, a cool opportunity fell into my lap: I’m going to perform at Mortified! again.

This is a hilarious (and sometimes heartwarming) live show that has been taking place around the country—and even overseas—for more than 15 years. It is a show where adults get up on stage and read from their teenaged journals. I first performed in 2009, and had a blast. I reprised the material several years later. And now I’m going to do it for a third time! (The theater is right on Alberta as well!) I’m assuming this will be a new audience, of folks who haven’t seen me before. But even if some of them have seen me, I hope they will still enjoy it. I have attended dozens of Mortified shows over the years as an audience member, and sometimes I would get excited to see a repeat performer on the docket, if I remembered having enjoyed their reading the first time.

So… that’s my life right now! It’s awesome!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Cats, more cats, and the promise of summer

5/27/23

Wow, where has the time gone? It’s been three weeks!

I haven’t had too much to report, honestly. Life has been lovely, but mostly unremarkable. I haven’t gotten back out to do the What Is Your Dream Event… we’ll see if I pick that back up in the next few weeks. I’d need to get chairs for it again, if I were to do it in the same spot.

I’ve been attending to various medical appointments (nothing serious, but checking all systems, as it were, while I’m in Oregon and covered by my Oregon-specific health insurance.) I’ve also started rebuilding my osteoporotic bones at a bone-specific gym near here that I just discovered. Cool!

But, as always, I have taken some photos I’d like to share, so here they are. First, all the cats!

You may recall Libby, the kitty who hissed and swiped at me and had no interest in being friends. I’m sorry to report that this dynamic changed very little during the week I spent at her house. She never once let me touch her. The best she offered was—once, four or five days in—to make sure she was in my line of sight, and then flop down happily on the floor and roll on her back, about 15 feet away from me. On another occasion, on Day 6 or 7, I believe, she allowed me to get close enough to capture this photographic evidence of her dour countenance.

Such is life, eh? But the house was absolutely beautiful, and the location was wonderful.

From there I stayed with friends for a few days, one of whom lives with this chess grandmaster kitty, Cora. She was nice and snuggly, a balm for my ego after the cold war with Libby.

Then I sat for my friend Celine’s sweet and cuddly cat Moxie for a couple of days, which also was lovely (and the back yard was a garden wonderland!)

And now… I’m spending a week just off Hawthorne (perfect location!) sitting for this character, Laszlo. He is a force to be reckoned with, and often quite photogenic.

This is my favorite season. Late spring/early summer… everything is lush, bright, and full of unsullied promise. Just walking the neighborhoods feels magical.

One of my favorite recent outings was to the incredible Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. It was at its peak, and in fact I took advantage of two free-admission Mondays in a row. The first day was sunnier, the second cloudier, so I was able to get good light for the photos.

I hope you enjoy.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reveling in the richness of my life, having some magical meetings, connecting with friends, dreaming up possible future local travel for the summer, tutoring English on Cambly, and loving this weather!

I hope things are unfolding beautifully in your worlds.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Beautiful trip to Corvallis and surrounds

5/8/23

What a full week! It’s actually been more like a week and a half, I think, so there is a decent amount to report, and also more photos than usual to share. Spring is so lush and beautiful here!

I noticed a cat sit in Corvallis a week or two ago, and thought it might be the perfect opportunity for a low-cost local “vacation.” I’m so glad I did it!

I had several friends in Corvallis, and was especially looking forward to connecting with Judy and Jeff (who, as you may recall, hosted me not once but twice, starting almost two years ago.) Sadly, after I confirmed the cat sit, I learned they would be in California celebrating Judy’s birthday, so I missed them this time around.

I did meet up with two other Corvallis-connected friends, though, and also met some great new folks.

I stayed with a lovely Servas couple, Hector and Carole, who hosted me in their comfortable “garage suite” behind their house. We shared several wonderful meals, and talked about life, travel, dreams, writing, and many more topics. These are the sort of people I love to meet wherever I go!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the way down, I had a wonderful train journey of about an hour and a half on the Amtrak Coast Starlight.

I had an engaging seat partner, a young man named Dylan on his first-ever train trip. Then later, in the lounge, I met a really cool young German man named Sven, who was just finishing up several cross-country train trips via his Amtrak USA Rail pass. He was heading to San Francisco for the last part of his US travels, looking for inspiration from locals to help him decide how he may next want to proceed in his life of Effective Altruism (EA). This was a new term for me, but it seems to mirror almost exactly my own life’s goal!

He really impressed me when he told me that he had arrived in the US—after having traveled around Europe for some months—via a sailing ship! I had no idea that was a thing one could do, unless one happened to be Greta Thunberg. He said the Atlantic crossing had taken about a month and a half, and he was hoping to be able to return in the same way, albeit via a different route.

I introduced him to my wonderful East Bay friends (and hosts from my year’s loop of travels) Mimi (and her partner Steven) and Thomas, who also happens to be German. The four of them ended up meeting up for a dinner to talk about EA, living car free in the US, and similar topics.

I love connecting people like that!

I disembarked the train in Albany, Oregon, and hopped on my rig for a bike ride of about an hour to Hector and Carole’s place on the east edge of Corvallis.

During my time with them, I also found a few hours to set up my What Is Your Dream/Free Listening stand downtown, along the lushly beautiful riverfront bike path.

As usual, I found that I didn’t have many people stopping, and in this case that was partly because there wasn’t much foot traffic on the path, compared to Portland’s relatively busy Eastbank Esplanade.

However, toward the end I did get two “takers.” One was a young man who skateboarded by to let me know he had an “ecological dream” of people collaborating globally—similarly to how computer programmers collaborate globally—to solve various ecological problems.

The next person was an older man who shared a variety of stories from his life, as well as some information I hadn’t known about local Oregon flora and fauna. Specifically, he told me that he kept local snakes and lizards as pets. I didn’t even know that there were lizards in western Oregon, but he said there are alligator lizards here(!) I had only known of those from the America song Ventura Highway, and assumed they only lived in southern California’s desert climate. Not so.

He also told me about a snake called a rubber boa (a boa! A boa constrictor! In Oregon!) It is a small/short snake. I had never heard of it, and was shocked to learn that it also makes its home here.

When I mentioned this new herpetological information to my friend Karen over dinner that night, she further surprised me by sharing that when she and her siblings were growing up in Corvallis in the 1970s, they also kept both rubber boas and alligator lizards as pets!

Mind. Blown.

The next day, I bicycled three easy miles over to the apartment where I would be doing my cat sit for the next three nights. The host, Courtney, met me ahead of time to show me the ropes and give me the key, so I was familiar with the cats when I arrived.

Those two cats—a tortie named Piper and one of the most beautiful, sleek black cats I’ve ever met, named LeeRoy—were two of the sweetest, most affectionate cats I have cared for. They were an absolute delight, and I felt so sad when I had to leave three days later.

But pack up and leave I did… and the journey back to Portland couldn’t have been more beautiful.

I retraced my bicycling route back to Albany, but the northbound train—which originates in Los Angeles—was running two to three hours late. So, I had plenty of time to stash the trailer at the station and take off on my bike to explore several nearby hiking and biking trails. The weather was incredible, and all the lush green of the foliage filled my senses with bliss.

With spring having arrived, I feel like my life can begin again!

(I haven’t even mentioned my Corvallis jaunts to Central and Avery Parks, which were also filled with beautiful spring trees and flowers, as these photos illustrate.)

The train ride back from Albany to Portland was pretty uneventful, but I made sure to once again enjoy my traditional Amtrak cocktail of sweet tea and vodka—paired with the café car’s vegan blue corn tamale—while taking in the Willamette Valley scenery from the observation car.

We pulled into Portland while it was still light, and I pedaled about three miles to my current cat sit, with a kitty who unfortunately is not happy with my presence. It was a bit of a rude awakening—after Piper and LeeRoy’s affections—to be met at the door with hissing and a swipe, but I’m giving her a wide berth, and crossing my fingers that at some point this coming week she will warm up to me.

Meanwhile, I began an exciting online symposium today about animal communication—perfect timing, it would seem! I’m hoping to learn from animal communicators all around the globe who are also attending.

I hope that the spring—or autumn, if you’re reading this from south of the equator—is treating you well!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Spring profusion, and amazing people

4/29/23

You all… my dreams are coming true. I am living the life I love!!

Challenges and obstacles are present. They always will be.

But things are flowing. And I love how I’m living. And this spring weather, OMG!!! It just makes everything look and feel right.

And, I keep meeting amazing people—including via my What Is Your Dream events—whom I’ll write more about below. This is such a big part of my dream life!

But first, some fun photos of what’s been going on around here this past week.

I moved out from Coconut the cat’s peaceful Milwaukie abode yesterday, after a pleasant and restful two weeks there. I moved in for a short stay—just two nights—with this SE Portland supermodel, Toshe. He is regal, and he owns it!

While I was still in Milwaukie, I had a doctor’s appointment in Gresham. Although the early hour wasn’t my cup of tea, it gave me the opportunity to bicycle the whole way—more than an hour—almost entirely on car-free bike paths. And in the morning light with the dazzling dew, too. I loved it.

After the appointment, I took the opportunity to go back to Gresham’s Tsuru Island Japanese Garden and nearby Japanese plaza. The light was beautiful in those places, too.

In the plaza, I sat on a shady bench on a warm sunny day (one of my favorite things to do, as I identified in my past year’s travels) while pale pink cherry petals swirled gently down around me.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

But then on my way back to Milwaukie on the bike path, I decided to visit the Leach Botanical Garden. I hadn’t been since before the pandemic, and during that time they did quite a bit of construction, adding a beautiful tree walk.

The camellias were out in full force, and the light through the trees remained beautiful for my visit there.

Having slogged through yet one more Portland winter, it is such a balm for my soul to reap the rewards of a springtime and summer season here again.

My last evening in Milwaukie, I took an evening bike ride out to the grocery store, and stopped on the way back for a snack in a new-to-me park, to savor the warmth and late pre-sunset hour. Getting back to the house afterward took me through a beautiful short, steep unpaved path. Everything was glowing.

Meanwhile, I have continued my What Is Your Dream/Free Listening events. After my first one last Saturday, I did one on Tuesday, and another today—Saturday—both back in the same spot on the Eastbank Esplanade, alongside the river.

In all cases, I have had one “taker” per two-hour stint… and I’m finding that that suits me just fine. Today I found myself beaming, as I realized that once again I was sitting in a shady seat on a beautiful warm sunny day, with a blossoming magnolia tree right by me. I was physically comfortable, and doing something that feels like contributing my best gifts to the world. I don’t need a lot of takers; the signs speak for themselves, and hopefully spark something within anyone who sees them. And the few conversations I do have feel meaningful.

On Tuesday, I met a Polish artist named Aleks. (Here is an article about some of her work.) She said she could see my event as a sort of performance-art piece: something to provoke a response in onlookers. I could see that perspective once she pointed it out, and it tickled me. We talked about her visions for helping people, especially children, to get connected to tending land, growing food, expressing themselves artistically, and connecting with each other in community.

We added each other on Instagram; I hope we can keep in touch.

Today, I spoke with a man who told me that he is just a few days away from embarking on his longest-ever solo bike tour, which will be for 90 days, and will cover much of the western United States, including a total of 55,000 feet of elevation gain(!!!) My hat is off to him, and I’m so excited for his adventures.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a cool Facebook connection with a woman who is blowing my mind right now, Liz Pomeroy. We had friended each other at some point during my year of travels, because we were both in some Facebook groups for bicycle traveing women.

She has an amazing story, and I won’t detail it all here, but I hope you will click through to her crowdfunding link to read the details. (And send a bit of money her way if you can, and/or consider sharing the link to your networks so that others may be inspired to do so.)

In a nutshell, she is an Irish-born musician based in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) living a zero-waste lifestyle. Despite (or maybe because of?) being in recovery from addiction, she has already once bicycled all the way across Canada, to promote her last album, and she is now is planning to go to Europe and tour by bicycle there! (That top photo is her, of course. Photo credit: Matty McKechnie.)

Like me, she prefers to keep her carbon footprint as low as possible by minimizing flying and auto travel, and she also—clearly—enjoys challenging herself in dramatic ways. I so admire her courage, and can’t wait to see her succeed. One excerpt from her bio:

“On Earth Day 2022, I embarked on an epic cycling tour across Canada to promote Freefall, the first mini album from Pendulum State. I carried all of my gear, including my guitar, tent and solar panel, on a rig that weighed 192 lbs and cycled 5,400 km over the course of 5.5 months.”

WOW.

These are the kinds of people I love connecting with. That—and traveling, and living in beautiful spaces in beautiful climates—is my dream. And I’m living it!!

Heartfelt thanks, again, to all of you for following along, and cheering me on!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

My “What Is Your Dream?” event

4/24/23

I am happy to report that my on-the-street (well, on-the-bike-path!) empathy and encouragement event went well!

I set up “camp” next to the Vera Katz statue on the Eastbank Esplanade, just north of the Hawthorne Bridge. I sat there for about two hours, from 3:00 to 5:00.

I’m mildly disappointed to share that I didn’t get many “takers,” in terms of people stopping to sit and talk. But I still consider the event to have been a success, and I’m looking forward to doing it again soon—possibly even tomorrow, since the forecast is looking lovely, with sunny skies and a high of 65F (18C).

Although I only had two people stop by to talk, a third guy walked by and looked wistful. He glanced at the “free listening” sign and said, “Where to start??” I smiled encouragingly, and the woman who was already sitting in the other chair talking with me got up to offer him her seat, since “this gentleman clearly needs to talk more than I do!” But he demurred, shaking his head and saying, “Ugh, no, I’d be here for three days! But thanks for doing this.”

He walked on.

There is a need for this.

I also saw a number of smiles when people saw the signs, and a few people commented to me that they thought it was a kind and valuable thing I was doing.

Although I had hoped for more interaction, I could really see and feel the value of simply having a sign publicly visible that says “What is your dream?” I could see people looking at it, perhaps thinking of their own dreams, or wondering what their dreams might be.

I’ve been talking with some Cambly students lately about their dreams, too, and several students have mentioned that they used to have dreams, but those fell by the wayside over time. I suspected that some of the people who walked or cycled by my sign may have felt the same. I hope the sign helped to inspire, or re-inspire, some people to connect with their own dreams.

Toward the end of my time there, my second visitor arrived: an awesome guy named Tim Davis, whom I had met via a mutual friend on Facebook just about a week ago. We had agreed that he would swing by (on his Brompton!) after participating in an Earth Day celebration at Kailash, a nearby ecovillage where we both know some people.

Sure enough, he came by, and we started talking about Bromptons, bicycling, traveling, how cool Portland (still!) is, and many other topics. His mind was encyclopedic; I’m always inspired and awed when I meet people like that.

He waxed rhapsodic about Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where he will be moving soon for a few years.

We finished up the talk at the downtown Veggie Grill, where we shared an Earth Day buy-one-get-one-free entrée special: Santa Fe chik’n wraps!

On the way home, I enjoyed all the industrial and natural sights of the Springwater-on-the-Willamette bike path.

I’m really proud of myself for following my own dream—and overcoming some jitters—to bring this event together. I’m happy with how it went, and I hope to do it again tomorrow or very soon!

p.s. Dear reader, what is your dream?

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Empathy, cats, and a magical rainbow!

4/21/23

Wow, it’s been quite a week! Thanks to those of you who sent supportive messages after my last post, in which I shared some of my recent struggles. I appreciated your witnessing and encouragement. This week, I feel more excitement, joy, and forward motion in my life.

For one thing, get a load of this forecast!

I should really know better, by now, than to trust it—and those three rainy days were showing as not rainy until about an hour ago, argh!—but it seems like a break from the rain and clouds is on its way. Those first three days reflect how the past few months have been, with very few breaks. But it appears some sun and warmth are on the horizon, and that makes a world of difference in my mood.

Next, look at this amazing collage that my new friend Zen Achilles made for me! It’s made from imagery I had recently posted on Facebook. That pic of me is ten years old—in Washington, DC on my East Coast Empathy Tour—but I love how the collage combines many of my recent cat-sitting pics with some recent flower photos… as well as me doing my on-the-street empathy!

Because…

Today I’ve made up a couple of new signs, and if the rain holds off tomorrow, I plan to tow them in my bike trailer to a public place with some folding chairs, and set up camp for a few hours in the afternoon, talking to people about their dreams and whatever else may be on their minds.

It’s been ten years since I’ve done this—and back then it was just empathy, without the dream focus that I’m especially excited about these days—and I think it’s time again. As I recently wrote about my dream for my life’s work, I think this is it. I love supporting people all over the world via video chats, but when the weather is pleasant, I like the idea of offering this support in person as well. If things go well tomorrow, I hope to continue these events throughout the summer here in Oregon, and then possibly “take the show on the road” as I travel elsewhere in the US and overseas, following the magic of beautiful weather.

Wish me luck!!

Speaking of life magic, the other day I was out bicycling to the store in the rain, when what should I suddenly spot but a brilliant rainbow seemingly springing directly from a set of train tracks.

How perfect is that for me?? I’ve been recently self-identifying as an “enchanted rainbow zillionaire” (maybe I’ll explain more of what I mean by that in a future post) and here was the perfect visual for it, railroad and all!

I’ll leave you with a few more cute pics of my latest feline charge, Coconut. And if you know of anyone who may need cat sitting—especially in Oregon for the coming months—please feel free to send them to my Rover profile, which contains my rates, availability, and references.

(Oh, and if you’d like a cool collage of yourself or someone else, Zen takes commissions—let me know if you’re interested, and I can put you in touch!)

Here’s to spring, cats, rainbows, empathy, and inspiration!

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

Want to be notified of future blog posts? Use the green “sign up” button to subscribe!

Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

Train, trails, Japanese garden, Cambly… and rain, and life

4/17/23

I feel like I’m getting a little later every week on these “Friday” blog posts, and I’m a bit chagrined about that. To be honest, life feels surreal and challenging these days. I am wholesale changing my way of life. I believe it’s right that I’m doing so, but it’s not easy. I don’t have a steady home space (though this is my choice, and has its benefits too); my finances are precarious; and this spring continues to be mostly cold and wet, feeling rather like an extended winter.

Where is my dream life of traveling through continuously sunny 70-degree weather??

I do believe it’s coming. I’m working toward it. I’m manifesting it. I’ve made lots of progress over the past few years.

But it can be hard, and lonely, and scary at times. And the weather doesn’t always cooperate.

Feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for “listening.” That said, though, I’d like to share a bit from the past week, mostly fun stuff!

I’ve started a new cat sit in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, for my friend Melora’s cat Coconut. What a character!

This location has also allowed me to visit my close friend Johnny again at the prison in Salem, including the opportunity to take an Amtrak train each way; experience a new-to-me Amtrak station (Oregon City); meet and talk with some really cool women there while we waited nearly an hour during the train’s delay; and bike a total of 27 miles to and from the station on each end.

This in turn allowed for some beautiful bike trails, and some sightseeing in Salem, including probably my favorite shot I’ve ever taken of the Oregon capitol building. (Look at those cherry blossoms!)

I also took the opportunity to visit Salem’s waterfront park, with its iconic acid-ball-turned-globe.

Then I meandered through the Willamette University campus on the way back to the train station, and stopped by the tiny Japanese Garden there. What a little hidden gem.

On the way back to Milwaukie, I got to enjoy the falls in Oregon City from the train window. I have heard that this is the second-largest waterfall in the United States, surpassed only by Niagara Falls! I always enjoy seeing it from the train.

It’s back to rain today, but that one day of partly sunny weather was a balm for my soul. It got me to thinking about summer, which it’s looking like I will spend here in the Northwest. I’ll be seeking cat sits around the region, and enjoying the beautiful weather we are (I think??) pretty much guaranteed from July through September, with some beautiful peeks of it between April and June.

I’m thinking of possibly reprising a version of my 2013 East Coast Empathy Tour, going out on the street to ask people about their life dreams. We’ll see…!

I’d also like to share a video my documentary-filmmaker friend Aurelie recently made (you may recall Aurelie from the time she hosted me in Montreal last summer) about her Brompton bicycle travels in the Netherlands this past September. She even visited the headquarters of the small, 8-person company—Radical Design—that makes the trailers that she and I both use with our Bromptons. I invite you to watch the whole 30-minute video—it’s delightful—but if you want to skip ahead to the trailer factory part, it’s at about the 26:00 mark. (There is even a fun parrot tie-in!)

Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy my English tutoring on Cambly. I do it for a few hours each day, and talk to people all over the world. I’ve been trying to think of exactly how I can write about that here. I may write more later, but for now I’ll just include a few “factoids” that I have learned by video chatting with people from more than 15 countries.

First, the countries. I have talked with people from Saudi Arabia (probably about 40% of my students), Japan, South Korea, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Turkey, and Mexico. I would estimate that these countries—roughly in the order I listed them—make up about 85-90% of my students. But I have also spoken to at least one person each from Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, Peru, Belarus, India, Vietnam, and Venezuela (though he was in Colombia when he called). A number of these folks have been in the US when they called; they call Cambly tutors to practice their English once they have arrived here, either temporarily or long-term. Two were calling from military bases: a Saudi Arabian guy in San Antonio, and a Taiwanese guy in Biloxi, Mississippi.

A few things I have learned:

Korean music, drama, food, and culture is very popular with young people all around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

There is a city in Brazil called Gramado, with classical German-style architecture.

Overall, I have probably had the most interesting and philosophical conversations with Koreans. (Interestingly, two of them were living in Manhattan, including a fellow vegan woman around my age who is an artist, and a man just a bit older, who had done some backpack traveling around Asia and Europe for six months in his youth.)

In the city of Azumino, Japan, there is a place called Wasabi Park, which is a big tourist attraction, and you can get wasabi ice cream there! (I’m assuming no vegan options, but who knows?)

English is very important for international business, the tech field, and university education. (I have learned that in Saudi Arabia, university courses in many, if not most, subjects are taught in English, not Arabic. I’m really noticing my privilege to have been born into an English-speaking country. And, I’m enjoying teaching and helping people with their English. It’s fun!)

That’s my update for the week! I’ll leave you with a sleepy shot of Coconut.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Spring’s arrival in Portland

4/9/23

This has felt like the longest winter ever.

Last year I “opted out” of Portland’s winter, in what I hoped was the beginning of a new pattern. It felt so satisfying to be traveling through warm and sunny Arizona, Georgia, and Florida during Portland’s winter weather.

Alas, I’m back here this year, and this particular winter has stretched on seemingly forever, with temps still not ever having reached 60, I don’t think… and rain, rain, rain alongside the chill.

Fortunately, at least the blossoms have begun making their appearance, and that is always delightful.

I left Silverton a couple of weeks ago on an extremely rainy day. Fortunately, the homeowner whose cats I looked after was willing and able to drive me and my rig to the Salem train station; I would have been continuously drenched during the hour-and-a-half pedal if not.

Once I arrived at the train station, whom should I spy but a fellow Bromptoneer! Sadly, the volunteer photographer I hastily pressed into service as our bus pulled up was not the most skillful at framing, but I wanted to at least commemorate the occasion with a photo. This fellow cyclist lives in Portland and works in Salem, and he told me that his wife and daughters also each have Bromptons. It’s always fun for me to run into such others “in the wild.”

When our bus pulled into the Portland station, I happened to see my sister briefly; she was arriving in Portland on the train from Seattle! She got to meet my friend Greg, who picked me up at the station on our way to enjoy a delicious meal at the all-vegan (and queer- and Mexican-owned) taqueria Mis Tacones. Their tacos are amazing.

Before I met up with those two at the station, though, I briefly stole away on my bike—stashing the trailer in the first-class lounge, as is my perk as an Amtrak Select Plus member this year—to photograph the nearby cherry blossoms in the Japanese American Historical Plaza along the Willamette River waterfront. The blossoms were nearing peak bloom, so I was glad to be able to capture my (nearly) annual photos. Being in Portland does have its benefits.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been sitting a total of three adorable cats, including nearly identical littermates Dora and Acorn, as well as my old friend Simba, whose humans will sadly be moving away soon, so I may not see him again. (The last photo is of him, peeking out from under the leaves.)

I’ve also been out doing various errands and such, and have taken advantage of the opportunities to enjoy bicycle paths and spring blooms. The camellias are gorgeous this time of year.

I did get caught in a wicked downpour a few days ago. Wow! Reminded me of my ride from Niagara Falls to Buffalo last summer, when I could barely see through the driving rain. Thank goodness for Gore-Tex!

My other primary activity, for the past month, has been talking with people all over the world via Cambly. I’ll have to write more about those experiences in a future post, but I’ve spoken with people from about 20 countries, on multiple continents, and it has been very interesting and rewarding. I’m glad I’ve added this new activity to my life.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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The amazing Mimi Torres, and Okavango Community Aid

4/2/23

One of my biggest motivations, in my travels and human connections, has always been to meet amazing people doing wonderful work in the world.

As I had hoped, my year of travels around the US and Canada introduced me to a wealth of these folks, and I’m so grateful for that. I have always intended to profile certain people here on the blog, and highlight some of their great work. An important part of my own life’s mission is to amplify others’ good work, and to help to connect people with each other, building a sort of network around the globe.

One of the most amazing people I met during that year of travel was Mimi Torres. I had been looking for people to stay with in the East Bay, and I was introduced to Mimi, in Berkeley, by our mutual friend Dave Wheitner (an amazing person in his own right). Mimi not only hosted me for a couple of nights, but then continued to introduce me to many more wonderful people—in Berkeley and around the US—whom I also met up with and/or stayed with as I traveled.

Mimi—a fellow vegan and avid cyclist—loves to travel, and recently she traveled to Botswana for a vegan safari, during which she saw many amazing and beautiful animals and plant life. While on the safari, she got to know the tour guide, Eddie Monnaaphuthego, and now the two of them are collaborating on a wonderful nonprofit to help rural people in Botswana to gain access to solar electricity and clean drinking water.

I sent Mimi some interview questions to learn more about their venture and share it with you. Please enjoy reading about Okavango Community Aid:

Q: In a few words, can you describe the nonprofit?

Mimi: Okavango Communtiy Aid (OCA) works to connect very rural Batswana (the people to Botswana) to light and clean water through solar.

What is your background in solar energy and nonprofit work?

I’ve worked with nonprofits for pretty much all my adult life. For four and a half years I worked at GRID Alternatives Bay Area in fundraising and communications. GRID Alternatives is the nation’s largest solar installation nonprofit, working exclusively with economic and environmental justice communities. In the US, GRID operates across California, Colorado, the Maryland/Virginia/DC area, and on Tribal lands. GRID also has an international program that works in Nicaragua, Nepal, and Mexico.

How did Okavango Community Aid begin?

I met Eddie Monnaaphuthego while on vacation in Botswana.

Eddie shared with me that he was installing solar for very remote villagers on his own time and money when he had leave from his job in the safari industry. Over the course of a few days I went from “let me connect you to someone” (thinking of GRID International) to “let me crowdfund for you” to “let me help you be legit.” An expert CPA on my trip (shout out to World Vegan Travel—I can’t recommend them highly enough and the amazing experiences they curate) insisted that Eddie’s work needed to be official in both the US and Botswana before fundraising began. As I went to text Eddie to encourage him to register his work as a nonprofit, he shared with me that he had just submitted his paperwork for the same.

It was after this that Eddie asked me to be his co-founder. I feel so lucky that my combination of skills and experiences positioned me to really bring Eddie’s dream of doing only his charity work to life. To that end, Eddie is currently in the same village in the Okavango Delta that he grew up in, handing out solar powered lights to the extremely needy and working with a team of contractors to install a solar powered water well that will serve about half of the community. More funds are needed to dig a second well for the community and to pay Eddie’s salary. Once we raise another $25,000 Eddie can quit his day job and continue his work with Okavango Community Aid full time.

Who else is involved in OCA?

Right now the Batswana players are Eddie, contractors from Natural Bid Pty Ltd, the elders and chiefs in the village we are serving, and a government social worker. For the water well installation there is also a team of volunteers. After we have the funds to hire Eddie full time, we’d like to hire additional staff in Botswana such as an office manager, accountant, and right-hand person or persons to work with Eddie in the villages.

In the US, a number of people are or have been involved helping with logo and branding, marketing/language, website (under development) and more. I feel incredibly lucky that a former co-worker from GRID decided to join me in this venture. We are now OCA co-workers and will apply for grants and corporate funding together.

Do you have specific numeric goals in mind? For example, a target number of people you would like to help, or a target number of solar systems to install?

Our intentional focus area is Botswana’s Okavango Delta where Eddie estimates about 10,000 very remote individuals can use our help and services. He describes the villagers in the Delta as poor to the point that if you gave them a dollar they would think they were rich. There is no economy or economic opportunity in the villages. 

Eddie was lucky and was taken out of the village to the city by an aunt when he was 14. This is what allowed him to receive more education and eventually to begin work in the safari industry. 

The initial focus of our efforts in the Delta are the very needy. There are many elderly individuals that have been left behind by their families who went to the towns and cities for work. Some of these elderly people are also living with disabilities, such as the inability to walk or blindness. For some of these people there is a feeling of waiting to die. 

The homes in the villages are traditional and made out of reeds and grasses. They often lack doors. Without light their homes are transparent at night. With light they are safe from lions and other animals entering their homes while they sleep. Across many villages there is a need for water wells. Without wells, villagers end up drinking from the same watering holes as the elephants, which is unsanitary and can lead to disease.

Eddie’s vision is that once we have served all of the villagers scattered across the Okavango Delta region, we can move on to other areas of Botswana and eventually to neighboring country Namibia.

Botswana is one of the richest countries in Africa, but unfortunately the wealth and government assistance is concentrated in the towns and cities. We are working to change that.

How can people help your efforts?

Folks can help by making a donation to Okavango Community Aid, and/or by spreading the word to folks who may be interested in donating. This can be done by sharing our donation link or by setting up a peer-to-peer fundraiser. (For the latter, on our fundraising page, scroll down to the “I Want To Fundraise For This” button, set up an account, and create your fundraising page. I love chatting peer-to-peer fundraising strategy, and welcome interested folks to email me at mimi@okavangoaid.org. Beyond creating a page, there are so many ways to draw eyes and dollars to your campaign. I’m here to help whether you want someone to review your personalized copy [share with your donors why it’s important to YOU that they give] or to bounce ideas off of.)

In addition, we may also soon be a Climate Ride beneficiary! 100% of funds raised for their Green Fondo rides go to beneficiary organizations this year and there is also a 100% match this year. If you are a cyclist who wants to ride for Okavango Community Aid you could make a big difference this year. And of course, there are also corporate matching gifts. These have to be made via our fiscal sponsor Fiscal Sponsorship Allies with “Okavango Community Aid” in the memo.

Thanks, Mimi, for your wonderful work! I wish all the best to you and Eddie and OCA and all the villagers who will be helped by your efforts.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)

The Oregon Garden

3/25/23

Greetings again from Silverton! Feline companions Emma and Marty are continuing to be their cute selves, and I’m enjoying my break from the “big city.” (I’ll be returning to Portland in a few days.)

Spring is underway, and the weather here careens from warm sunshine, to light rain, to heavy rain, to hail (twice now) multiple times per day, it seems.

The crocuses are out, and I’m starting to see blossoms on the trees. It feels good.

This past Wednesday, when we had some sun, I decided to take a jaunt to the nearby Oregon Garden.

Although I skipped the pricey guided tour of the Gordon House—Oregon’s sole Frank Lloyd Wright house—I did get to bicycle past it on my way into the garden, so I could see the distinctive Wright lines from the outside, at least.

Shortly after I entered the garden, I was surprised to encounter one of the largest garter snakes I’ve ever seen! It was out enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the season as well.

This botanical garden is one of the less photogenic ones I’ve visited, if I’m honest, but there is a forested area where I spent some time sitting contemplatively on a bench, and that felt nice.

On the way back home from the garden, I decided to visit the main city park here in Silverton, Coolidge McClaine. It felt almost enchanted, in the late afternoon sun, with all the tree shadows falling on the lush green grass. Past the main area with picnic tables, I found a winding path along Silver Creek that felt like being in the wilderness.

I hope I will get more opportunities to travel within Oregon in the coming months. It is such a beautiful state.

Do you have your own dream or project, and would like some support or collaborative brainstorming about it? Use the green “contact” button above to schedule a free, no-strings one-hour phone or video call with me!

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Want to support my vision financially? You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a Fairy Godfunder! (Heartfelt thanks to all my patrons, contributors, and godfunders!)