From One Land Down Under To Another!

From One Land Down Under To Another!

Mar 13

Hey Guys! When we got to Sydney I knew it would be hard to leave.  When we arrived we met with The Royal Flying Doctors Service in their main office in Sydney.

The Royal Flying Doctors Service is an amazing organization that rescues people in remote areas of Australia in medical emergencies.  They also do regular clinics in towns in the outback.  The really great thing about their work is that it’s completely free for their patients and nobody in Australia is more than two hours away from help.

The first couple of days we helped out around the office, putting together letters for donors and things like that.  The RFDS also arranged for a pilot to take us up to fly around the Sydney Opera House and up the coast, which was so beautiful.

After a couple of days, we got on the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Broken Hill, the home to the RFDS base.  On the train we raised money for the Flying Doctors, carrying baggage and handing out information about what the Flying Doctors actually do.

We arrived in Broken Hill to the heat of the outback and went straight to the base to work.  We were welcomed at the front desk by Alex and Reta who were in charge of keeping us busy in Broken Hill.  We spent our first day getting a tour of the base and setting up our schedule.

The next few days we helped out wherever it was needed.  We helped a nurse get ready for a clinic flight, cleaned up the viewing deck of the hangar, cooked lunch one day and we spent two days cleaning out a storage room, so we could move files over from the old storage building.

We had a tour of the inside of one of the planes, which is just like a doctor’s office with wings.

One day, Reta’s husband, Ron, brought us out to a sheep station two hours outside Broken Hill, which was really cool.  We saw lots of Australian wildlife too.  Lizards, emus (kind of like ostriches) and kangaroos.


One day we visited School of  The Air.  It’s a remote learning school set up for kids in the outback.  They have a main office in Broken Hill where the teachers do their lessons on camera over the internet and the kids watch in their homes and follow along.  It’s pretty cool that they are able to do their school work from a computer in their homes in the most remote areas of Australia.

We also drove to a town called White Cliffs were we stayed in an underground motel.  It was so cool!  The place was literally dug inside the side of a hill.  Nearly all the houses in White Cliffs are like that because it is so hot above ground!  While we were there, we met a family who had an opal mine and they took us down for a tour.

We got down inside the mine by using a small elevator, one at a time.  The mine was just amazing.  There were tunnels everywhere, with bits of opal here and there in the wall, and everything had such a fresh, earthy smell.  Buck and I even got to mine a bit.

Another day, my dad went with some doctors on a clinic flight, and Buck and I got to stay in Broken Hill and attend the local schools.  I had a great time at the High School there, and I made a lot of friends.  We flew out of Broken Hill, wishing we had more time there.   Then back to Sydney.  We got to try another simulator, this one for a Boeing 747 that someone had set up in their house.   It was incredible.

After that we packed up our bags and got ready for a real plane…. for 14 hours to Dubai.

Dubai was a quick layover for 48 hours and was really fun.  It’s an interesting city.  It’s like an oasis city in the middle of the desert.  We visited the beach, and even got to go up the tallest building in the world.  We went up at sunset and the view was brilliant.

Now we are in Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America and it’s also the southern most city on the earth!  More to come……  Jackson.

Kenya is Awesome!

Kenya is Awesome!

Jan 28

Our plane touched down on the tarmac of the Dar Es Salaam airport right at noon, after the impossibly hard good-byes with our new family at Creative Solutions in Tanzania.  We took a car from the airport to the beautiful beach town of Bagamoyo, home to fisherman, artists, and the ruins of 13th century mosques.  We celebrated the holidays walking the small alleyways and markets that make up the town, the heat beating down on us, the smell of the ocean everywhere, and an overwhelming sense of sound:  cars, chickens, vendors, and the music blasting from all the shops.   I met an artist in Bagamoyo who did wood sculpting.  He gave me some lessons.  It was really cool.

After the holidays, and a cancelled flight that kept us at the airport for a full day, we made our way to Nairobi.  While there, we visited a boarding school for kids with HIV/Aids.  It’s run by Sister Mary who is a very cool woman.   After our tour, she sent us to a clinic in the Kibera slums.   There, the nurses invited us to go with them to check on some of the kids they help in the slums.

We agreed to go, not knowing how much of a shock we were in for.  The brick and tin huts were barely big enough for a family of 2, but somehow they make room for 7 or more to sleep at night.  The children, some who have malnutrition and are sick, run around through streams of sewage with barely any clothes on, the smell from the communal bathrooms not seeming to bother them.  The sun turns the tin roofed huts into ovens, and when it rains, water leaks in through holes in the metal sheets.

The slums are absolutely devastating and make up a large part of Nairobi.  The sight is sensory overload by itself, which only increases when you look up and see that it goes on for miles and miles.  Leaving Kibera in our rear-view mirror, we drove to Kisii in western Kenya with Don Howard of Rotary International and the founder of SCOPE (School Communities Offering Project that Empower)_.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a movie and sleep, after a day of checking out projects a SCOPE school had created.  The next day, we attended the first day of a three-day seminar run by my dad, for students from different schools around the area.  The seminar was to prepare these schools for a national theater arts competition.

The students arrived, quite withdrawn, and seemingly unable to look at anything besides the floor.  They were wearing sweaters that had holes in more places than not, and old shoes that were the wrong size.  Later we were told that some of the students had to borrow the oversized clothes for the honor of spending a couple of days at the seminar and to stay at the tiny hotel that SCOPE supplied for them.

Their shyness was slowly remedied by my dad’s crazy, loud acting games, and by writing and performing new plays and poems for the rest of the day.  The laughter was a welcome sound after them being so shy and quiet to begin with.  Everyone enjoyed the material they came up with over the three-day workshop.  They loved the performances at the end of the last day.  The kids had so much fun and you could see in their faces, and hear in their voices, how much braver they had become, compared to the first day.

The next week we spent visiting some of the schools the kids had come from. We met with the teachers and got a tour of their schools.

At each of the schools, the staff and students greeted us with songs and dances.  The visits usually started with a gathering in front of the school where the groups from Kisii performed their plays for the other students.  The performers stood out from the rest of the crowd because they weren’t afraid to be bold anymore.  After the applause quieted down, Don gave each school 5 soccer balls to replace the bottles and strings the students normally play with.  While the kids played with their new soccer balls, we joined Don as he met with the teachers and staff to make plans for the school; getting new books, planting gardens, new water harvesting systems, and new bathrooms.  When the meetings were over, we ran around with the kids in the sun, with everybody laughing and just having fun.

At one Masai school, the elders gave my dad, brother and I Masai robes called Shukas and presented us with our new Masai names.  Mine is “Olandoo” meaning tall.  Then more painful good-byes…

We spent three days on a safari with our friend Bo and Ed, who came to visit us from Charlotte. We went on a wild game drive. It was amazing.   We stayed in cool tents and drove through the Masai Mara seeing all kinds of animals:  Lions, hippos, gazelles, giraffes, jackals,

hyenas, wildebeests, elephants… etc.

Currently we are in South Africa and soon we will head to Australia to work with The Royal Flying Doctors.   They are a company that brings medical supplies and medical attention to people in the far reaches of Australia.

We were going to visit orphanages for children with HIV here in Cape Town but, both my dad and brother have horrible colds, so I think we are going to use our few days in Cape Town as down time.  We visited The Cape of Good Hope and saw tons of baboons. 

More to come…  Jackson