Fling Poop and Skydive with @GoPetFriendly and @ThisOneWildLife!

Fling Poop and Skydive with @GoPetFriendly and @ThisOneWildLife!

Rod Burkert of GoPetFriendly Skydives

It’s been a year since the GoPetFriendly RV was parked in our driveway and, boy, do Tim and I miss it. Taking a break from traveling the country reviewing the best pet-friendly places to visit, Amy and Rod Burkert and their dogs Buster and Ty spent a full month with us, although not by choice. Here’s how that happened.

We Blew Up the RV

GoPetFriendly RV

To make our week-long guests more comfortable, Tim had an outlet installed to run the RVs air conditioner. Our attempt at being good hosts went bust. Once connected, flames shot from the fusebox. The microwave went Ffffft. Well, the whole RV went Fffft, really.

And so we made the best of a month of repairs, but not before Amy, navigator extraordinaire, got us lost for 2 hours in my own home town. And we killed my car battery. And we jammed my hood shut on said battery – with two freshly altered rescue dogs in the back seat on a 90 degree day. After all that, we were still nowhere near even. But we were still laughing. Should I mention that all this happened on the same day?

Can I Get a Fffft for Friendship?

Our husbands, who had never met before, fast tracked a friendship that Amy and I already enjoyed. They talked RVs and lifestyle while Amy and I resized our wedding bands. As a foursome, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, Tim’s birthday, and Rod’s birthday, all within 2 weeks. Amy and Rod dog and house sat during my grandmother’s memorial service and crashed our nephew’s graduation party. Everything we did was fun. Even flinging dog poop was a game, which was the only way to survive our clan of four big dogs in a single dog yard. But the best was the 4th of July…

Can I get a Fffft for Fire-free Fireworks?

Happy Birthday CupcakesStumped on Rod’s birthday present, Amy suggested an iPad, and other fun thoughts. Rod, a pretty content guy, had no pressing wants. But he did have a bucket list, and on that bucket list was skydiving.

On the Fourth of July, Rod was about to fall from the sky like a firework. He just didn’t know it. But his good friend Tim wouldn’t let him go it alone. Why make Amy the only widow when we could do that in pairs too?

With the RV in for repairs, the Burkerts moved a few things into our man cave for their extended stay. Solid footwear was not one of those things. So we told Rod we were going on a hike in Saratoga and that he ought to wear something more stable than sandals. At the shoe store, we stifled our snickering as we watched Rob prepare himself for what could be his last birthday wish – given our luck with vehicles and fire.

Can I get a Fffft for a 200+ MPH Freefall?

As we pulled into the the small airstrip and passed the skydiving sign, Rod thought we were on our way to a trail head. Amy dropped the bomb. Rod said “Nooooo” with wholehearted conviction, as if it would change the plan. Threatening rains prolonged dreadful anticipation, but then the skies cleared and the plane took off…

Tim Clune and Rod Burkert

Amy and I weren’t the ones in need of new shorts, but Saratoga Skydiving Adventures provided us with complementary thongs all the same – which we promptly modeled for our brave fellas. We may not be crazy enough to jump from a perfectly good airplane, but we rock all the same.

Saratoga Skydiving

Arrival in Ghana: I Made It

Tim, I tried to Skype but you aren’t connected. Web service here is touch and go at best. I’m pasting this from the memory stick… Glad we planned for that. I don’t now when I’ll next be in touch. Cell phone is acquired and I will buy minutes today. I’ll be in touch ASAP and I love you.

I Made It!

ArrivalAs I write, I am in Accra at the home of Gunadiish, the In-Country Coordinator (an all around jovial and hospitable guy). Since he guarantees that I’ll pass out shortly, as most early morning arrivals tend to do, I won’t fight the moment when exhaustion trumps excitement. For now, that hasn’t happened.

How It All Went Down

JFK’s Delta terminal was a madhouse yesterday, teeming with those who were stranded like me the day before. I found my way to the automated check-in kiosk but was told I had to see a ticket agent. That’s when I discovered that Accra has it’s own check-in area, with good reason. The number of bags people were transporting was astounding. One guy was charged nearly $500 with the new fees and he was less than prepared for the big surprise.

Once checked in, I met a family in security. Better stated, they met me. Two young boys going to Ghana had a million questions about where I was going and why. By the end of our conversation, I had been adopted. They were from Long Island so I scored points for having a husband from Brooklyn. When we got to the gate they were sure to tell their mom, “We need four seats, three for us and one for her.” I then heard stories about how their aunt and uncle owned a bank in Accra. “They don’t just work there, they own it. That means we’ll get FREE MONEY when we get there! FREE Money!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them anything different.

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Jamaica… It’s Not Ghana, but It’s Close.

Early Morn

Today felt like most other days. I woke to the whirr of the air conditioner, the 14 year old cat who still wants to suck on my shirt and kneed my fleece, the dog who (once he actually got out of bed) spun in circles to be fed, and my husband, Tim, whose eyes were still no more than slits but whose smile was running at full power.

“It’s Africa Day,” he said.

Then it clicked… and I cried (again) at the thought of not being able to share my amazing experiences with the person I cherish most in the witnessing of each other’s lives…

Up and Running

There was much to do by noon but nothing motivates me more than deadlines and lists. (Deadline dependence is a sickness. Truly it is.)

First up was to print a Dewey Decimal System summary to share with the newly renovated library in Have. Once on the OCLC web site I learned that printing the four volumes of instructions would require packing a tree. Another site said “You can’t learn this in a day.” Really? Holy crow, I would think not. As luck would have it, while saving some teaching documents from the Village Volunteers site, I read that Maia, another volunteer who will be in the village at the same time, currently works with the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland as a librarian. Check.

I moved on to collect additional lesson plans at readwritethink.org. (Thanks for the tip Elliot!), and printed copies of my passport, license, credit cards and contact info for Tim. He got the address for the American Embassy and punched holes in my preprinted pages about farming, health, teaching, etc. I ran off photos of him, the pets and our home while he repacked the duffels so I wouldn’t break my back.

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John Granville 1974-2008

I just learned about the murder of John Granville , a 33 year old USAID official gunned down in Sudan on January 1. His family is from Angola, NY, my own home town.

John Granville, killed by Sudan gunmen on January 1, 2008. Agency for International?DevelopmentAlthough we have never met, this sad news occupies a place in my heart, not only because we have ties to the same place or knew the same people, but because our love of Africa and our determination to make a difference has deemed us somewhat kindred spirits.

John is an inspiration, having chosen throughout his life and with personal risk to himself, to make the world a better place by working to empower East Africans. According to an interview on Buffalo’s WKBW,

“He was one of them. He may have stood out because he looked different, but he was one of them. There was no two ways about it.” said Karen Erickson, a friend of the Granville family. John Granville had a heart for Africa. The pictures only tell part of his story. He spent years there in the Peace Corps educating Africans about H.I.V. He helped to build a school, and handed out radios to Kenyans in an effort to spread democracy. His most recent work was for the U.S. Agency for International Development. “He was very big in working on a census for 2008 and then, once they got the census, then move to getting up a political election in 2009 and give their people an opportunity in 2009.” said Erickson.

John has lived the life I had always dreamed of living. As Karen said, “I think, for John, life was a mission and the mission was to find peace over there to help these people.”

As to why this happened, New York Times journalist Jeffrey Gettlement speculates in his January 2nd article “U.S. Diplomat and Driver Are Shot Dead in Sudan:”

The attack came just hours after President Bush signed a bill… aimed at Sudan’s oil and defense industries… part of the broader campaign to put pressure on the Sudanese government to end the bloodshed in Darfur, a troubled region in western Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died.

One could say “stop the madness” and walk away, and many do, but John’s choice was to always strive toward something better. It is only when we?break that forward momentum that all hope is lost.