Tuesday, October 15, 2013


The world continues to be our teacher even while we are back in the United States.  Yesterday, the Philippines were struck with a destructive and devastating 7.2 earthquake.  The epicenter was on a small island we visited last June.  Bohol Island is a place well known for its cute Yoda like tarsier primates and “Chocolate Hills” landscapes.  While we appreciated the natural diversity and the landscapes, it was the people who moved our hearts and won our affection.  We stayed for almost a week at the family owned, small Loboc River Resort.  Some of our favorite experiences with locals emerged from that time.  Rather than adhere to all of the normal tourist trails, we spent time walking through small villages along the gorgeous green river and attending the local band and choir practices.  As we walked, locals would come out of houses to wave at us, greet us, and laugh with us, not at us, at the sight of two tourists walking the back roads rarely traveled.

The people there were generous beyond our greatest hopes, welcoming us into their lives.  We learned how prominent community members mortgaged their businesses to send the choir kids to international competitions and buy instruments for the now internationally recognized youth band.  Filipinos like Zynn and her family believed in investing in the youth of their community as well as opening an ecotourist resort and providing jobs for local villagers.  They were thoughtful about sustainability as they carefully negotiated the challenges and benefits of tourism.  The place was so special we suggested it to our favorite Canadian traveling family, and they arrived there yesterday……just in time for the earthquake.

The resort was heavily damaged.  The heart of the small town was ripped out as their incredible 400 year old Catholic church constructed of local fossilized coral blocks came tumbling down.  People died as structures, including hospitals, crumbled.  The roads buckled and bridges shattered.  The island is so isolated that ferries and planes could not initially reach those in need due to the catastrophic damage.  Fortunately, our Canadian friends and the people we met survived.  But everything is forever changed.  The very businesses put up for collateral to fund the opportunities for their local youth are those no longer standing.  We have no idea what happens next.  The entire island was “shutdown.”

Disasters are always more personal when we are familiar with a place and the people who are in the middle of the event.  For us, not only is that true, but we are abashed as we consider critical needs in the world while observing the current political insanity of our own countrymen and women.  We watch our political leaders reenact the high school game of “chicken” on a global scale.  They are oblivious, or so it seems, to the danger and devastation of “shutdown.”    In a world trying to stabilize its economic future, where individuals such as those on the IslSand of Bohol are trying to realize small gains in the quality of life for their children, our political immaturity is frightening.  Travel is enriching, but it is also sobering.   If one message was driven home every day, it was the reality of how disparate opportunities for advancement and an improved life are based on the one simple fact of where a person is born.  We have so much individual and collective potential in this nation, yet we cannot help wonder how historians will view the fall 2013.  We suspect that historians will recognize that the humility, resilience, and generosity of the Filipino people helped them recover from a tragic and unavoidable natural disaster as they sought to “re-open” their community and economy.  We cannot help but wonder what historians will say about what the people of the United States wrought upon themselves despite our enormous privilege and potential. 
Images are of a talented young man playing for us from the Loboc Youth Band, the now destroyed Loboc River Resort, and the 17 Century Loboc church before and after the quake.  Posted in Gunnison, Colorado.

For those wanting to assist the Filipinos as they recover from this tragedy, we encourage three things.  First, consider  donation to the Red Cross in the Philippines.  Second, consider going to the  Visayas Islands, including a visit to Bohol Island, on a future vacation.  Tourism is their life blood and they will need your resources to recover.  Finally, when they rebuild the Loboc River Resort, and they will, consider staying with the special family described in the post.  You can read about their progress at http://www.lobocriverresort.com/

Sunday, October 13, 2013


As we traveled the world for the past 16 months, we have found ourselves immersed in a variety of new and interesting communities.  If one describes community as a group of individuals with shared interests, values, and goals, then the geographic boundaries of place become less important than time.    The community of long term travelers is very different than the community of vacationers.  Those who choose to couchsurf or stay in hostels and homestays are unlike people who stay primarily in resorts.   Each country and region within countries had communities of people to teach us lessons about their lives and dreams, aspirations and fears.  While we were often engaging with individuals who supported tourism, we ventured into other elements of distant societies.  We attended church with people, sat down and shared food with natives willing to tell us about their lives, celebrated holidays with families and new friends.  We also, tentatively at first, entered into the global social media community of blogs, Facebook, Pinterest , Thorntree and Tripadvisor. 

So imagine our surprise to find that the most profound lessons we were to learn about community would be back where we started, in Gunnison, Colorado.  In our previous blog posting, “Push Pause”, we mentioned how humbled we were by the offers of assistance that emerged when people learned that we were going to stay while Sally had surgery.  The degree to which individuals opened not only their homes, but their hearts to us, provided the elixir of healing we needed for both Sally’s recovery from surgery and for the weariness that emerges from living from a backpack for a year.  

We realize that coming back to Gunnison reminds us of the first decade of our 23 year relationship.  During much of that decade, we faced the challenge of distance.  It was not uncommon for more than 1,500 miles to separate us for weeks or months at a time.  For us, the distance aspect of our emerging partnership strengthened our bonds.  We experienced the intense joy reunification brought every month or so.  We reveled in the excitement of being present with the person we loved. We had stories of growth, painful and adventurous, to share with each other. And we were keenly aware of the significance of each precious second of time together, knowing that our trajectories would again separate us in the next few days or weeks. 
 Our past few weeks in Gunnison have taken us back to the pleasure and challenge of those distant relationship years.  We are keenly present with friends with whom we often had insufficient time when we worked within our community.  There is a hunger to learn about their growth, painful or adventurous, as well as their hopes, dreams and aspirations.  We have come to recognize the enormous number of individuals living in one place for almost 20 years brings into lives.  We knew, in some abstract way, that we loved this place and people; however, returning from a long journey with the intent of leaving again, has demonstrated the bonds that we share with this community now and forever.  Much like our reunification with each other during our first decade, we know with increasing certainty the community of this special high mountain valley has our hearts.   It is the type of place that comes together in challenging times, as we witnessed when a group of special teens put on a benefit concert raising funds for families requiring assistance from our local hospital’s oncology department.  While we have seen markets in every corner of the globe, none are as sweet as the dozen or so booths of our Saturday farmers’ market where we have been greeted like long lost friends.   We will enjoy exploring new communities and places during the next months of our lives, but it will be Gunnison that we look toward as the place to become rejuvenated as we continue to learn with humility and to give with grace.

Images are of two of our favorite Gunnison community members, Kathleen Kinkema and Rogene McKiernan, Raphael Tomany playing at a benefit for Gunnison's Oncology Department, and Matt from Thistle Whistle Farm at the Gunnison Farmers' Market.  Posted in Gunnison, CO.