Today is Intentional

This all started from signing up for and completing the 2011 Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont. During the 48 hour race I encountered 3 mountains, 1 river 120 some odd logs to split, 5 gallon pales of water, 100lb back packs and way more mud and freezing water than any human should ever be exposed to.

Today I am preparing for the next big adventure. Come join me on this incredible journey!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ghana Part 5: The Beginning

The driver jockeyed for the smoothest part of the road for 14 hours straight.  Our overnight bus back to Accra was sleepless.  We swerved across a swiss-cheese dirt highway with dozens of other trucks, buses and cars.

The smooth part of the road

Just before dawn we emerged from the excessively air conditioned bus to a thick humid darkness.  Back in Accra safely we found our hostel, slept three hours and rose to find food.  

Fed, rested and ready to explore I made the request I had been waiting the whole trip to make.  I wanted to visit Agbogbloshiealso fondly referred to by locals as Sodom and Gomorrah.  I learned about the Accra suburb through the PBS Frontline Report on Digital Dumping Grounds.  Watching that video whet my appetite to explore this 'factory' of sorts.

The ash under our feet warmed the air around us even more than the usual thick blanket of heat.  We walked amongst young men burning the plastic off electronics to extract the precious metals and sell them for paltry amounts.  My eyes and lungs burned from the black smoke that rolled over the dump.

Ash and tar river
Burning plastics

From what we saw, the vast majority of the waste in Agbogbloshie came from the western world.  During our short 30 minute visit, I found monitors, keyboards and CPUs with stamps from Canada, US, and the UK. 

I remember using these
Korea -> Canada -> Ghana

I met a young man about my same age. He asked me where I was from:
"America" I said.
"Oh! I love America; I would like to go there one day!"
"What would you want to do if you went to America?"
His American Dream is to sort through American trash.  This totally blew me away. 

$4.20GHC = $2.24CAD

One computer monitor and CPU has less than 1lb of copper.  Depending on how many people are jockeying for each computer's metals it could take dozens of burning computers for one person to accumulate 1lb of copper. 


I've taken a long time to digest my time in Ghana and the only conclusion I can draw is that I am so happy that I followed through with my promise to visit Lindsey.  This trip was a huge commitment for me and I had a difficult time keeping my word.  I had to take time from work, save money, get shots and visas, book a hostel from thousands of miles away and then fly 1/2 way around the world.  

And THEN the adventure started.  

It feels so incredible to have accomplished this goal and I am looking forward to revisiting my goals this weekend and seeing what is next!  

I came across the video below recently, and the unique pairing of a favorite childhood story and the fanciful world of Burning Man got me really excited to see what I could accomplish with my head full of brains and feet full of shoes.  

 Where will your feet and brains take YOU next?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ghana Part 4: The Green Family Heritage Tour

The trip to our final destination, Bolgatanga, kicked off with a fizzle...  A 9am departure time was delayed because our bus driver was asleep after just completing the trip FROM Bolga the night before.  Apparently there was only one driver.  10am came and went... 11... 12... 1... and then finally around 2:30pm the bus started north!
The stationary bus...

We bumped and swayed upcountry well into the night.  Around 11:30pm I woke and we were unceremoniously dropped in a dark parking lot.  A taxi took us to the Christian Social House where we were assigned a room with questionable looking beds.  Too tired to really care, we draped whatever we had down under us and passed out until morning.

We woke and shared a massive bowl of what can best be described as a delicious Mexican jambalaya and embarked on the 


Comparing our Lonely Planet map to a map that Lindsey's father, David, drew based on 30 year-old memories, we walked in the general direction toward the 'Green Compound.'  David had made a note to look for the road that had a 'school or hospital or church' on the corner.  Riiiiiiight.  After walking for some time we turned off the 4 lane highway (which apparently was a dirt road when the Greens were there) and kept a vigilant eye peeled for anything that might give us a clue where Peggy and David once lived.

Hospital this way!

The dusty roads and dry brush gave no clues.  We were armed only with hand drawn map and a half dozen photocopied Polaroids.  With no clues, we enlisted local help.  We asked an old woman if she knew where the huts were.  She was half def and had cataracts we soon discovered.  She called her friend over.  Her friend called her brother over and so on until we had attracted a crowd of 20+ people all discussing what these crazy 'obrunis' were doing.  Finally a man in his early-forties (making him around 12 when Lindsey's parents lived there) recognized the buildings! 

Following our leader

He led us through the Bolgatanga suburb, up dirt paths, through backyards and finally through some trees where we broke into a clearing to the GREEN COMPOUND!!! We found it!  The distinctive round concrete huts with corrugated metal roofs stood abandoned, but they stood nonetheless! 

The Green Compound
David and Peggy lived in the hut on the left.

We shot a couple of pictures and made our way back towards town for a celebratory beer and lunch!  For Lindsey this was a sweet little glimpse into her parent's life.  They would have been about her age when they lived in Bolga and while the city has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, there was a surreal feeling that we broke through that tree line and stepped into 1982.

I still can't believe we found their home.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are WorkFamilyHealthFriends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - Family, Health, Friends and Spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.
Work efficiently during office hours and leave on time. Give the required time to your family, friends and have proper rest.
Value has a value only if its value is valued!”
Bryan Dyson
Former CEO Coca Cola

Ghana Part 3 - Eden

We said goodbye to the humid coastline and ventured north.  After only a few short days with my travel companions it became evident that the world appeared differently through my eyes than it did through theirs.  We were greeted by a hand-me-down fleet at the public bus station in Cape Coast.  We road in pools of our own sweat and our butts were numb within the first hour of the five hour ride up Swiss-cheese roads to Kumasi.
Kevin, Lindsey and Julia were blown away that there was a public bus station where buses left on time!  The numbness and sweating is to be expected.  I strive to have patience like this when life is not perfect.

Kumasi is a fascinating city filled with rich Ashanti culture, art and delicious street foods, which if Lindsey’s mom asks we didn’t eat!  In Kumasi the place to see is the market - we had heard it was intense.  When we arrived we discovered the market itself had long ago graduated beyond the market confines and ballooned into the surrounding streets!  The market and radiating streets all blurred together in a mosaic of yams the size of a baby, every African country’s soccer jersey, dismembered animal parts and leather sandals.

The leather sandal making was the coolest!  As we walked through the narrow market alleys the landscape evolved from market to factory.  Young men carved away at hunks of rubber.  The rubber was then hammered on to wood and the soles took shape.  The straps were fashioned and attached.  The assembly line ended and sandal vendors took over. We walked 100 yards and witnessed firsthand the creation of Ghanaian sandals from creation to sale.  This blew my mind and I love how simple, local and resourceful it is.

The next morning we pieced together a series of cab and tro tro rides until we eventually arrived at Abono, the closest town to Lake Bosumtwi.  Our cabbie tried to rip us off so on principle we hiked the last 5km to the Rainbow Garden Village.  We were the only ones there.  Sweaty and tired we showered and ordered food and lots of beer.

When the sun rose, I was wide-awake.  I drank two Nescafes and reflected on our journey thus far.  It was so peaceful.  It may have been the ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ labels on the outdoor latrines but the Rainbow Garden Village was felt like a little slice of Eden.  I felt so safe and at home at this place.  Runt kittens chased strange bugs, a goat bleated and a donkey brayed.  Young men fished with nets off boats made of driftwood and the rest of the world disappeared.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ghana Part 2 - Castles

Kevin, Julia and Lindsey arrived on the 3rd of January and our adventures together had begun!  

We spent a few days in and around Cape Coast visiting colonial slave castles and forts, swimming in the massive surf and sharing the last two years of our lives over a few rounds of Club beer.  For me the castles beautifully balanced striking architecture and a horribly haunting history.  These structures are gorgeous; the real estate boasts dramatic views over the Atlantic and the white washed walls create a stark contrast to the brightly colored fishing boats beached on the shores below.

Cape Coast Castle
Elmina Castle

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that from the 15th-19th centuries millions of Africans were funneled through these walls and shipped to South America, Europe and the Caribbean. When Europeans introduced textiles, horses and other western goods, the coastal African tribes bought the prized possessions on credit.  Indebted, these Africans started capturing other Africans from inland tribes and repaid the Europeans using humans as a currency.

Trade Routes

On one of our last nights a group of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) from Liberia showed up at the same beachside hostel we were staying at.  With great amusement Kevin, Lindsey and Julia taught me how to be a PCV.  I got the high-level lingo, and typical highs and lows PCVs used and experienced and I was IN.

"Hi my name is Andrew - I'm a Returned PCV from China."
"Yeah, after I graduated I went to Chengdu to help rebuild schools and teach children after the earthquake in 2008."

"It was very rewarding but disheartening dealing with all the Chinese bureaucracy."
Poor Kevin and Julia, having just meeting me for the first time, had NO clue who the hell I was.  This experience was kind of fun and incredibly challenging.  I realized two things:
1) I'm really good at lying.  I did have two years of actual experience living in China to draw on and I was able to sew it all together surprisingly seamlessly.
2) I really don't like lying.  Even though we expected this ruse to last one night we ran into one or more of the Liberians in almost every city we visited!  Suddenly I had to fall back into character or admit my lie. I kept all of these guys at an arm's length so they didn't get to know who I really was.  And in turn, I never got to know who they were.  Sorry if you read this, guys!  Hope we cross paths again one day - I'll tell you the whole truth... and the first round is on me!

Ghana Part 1 - Jesus

Take a chance on "yes."

In the summer of 2009 I found out that my wonderful friend, Lindsey, was moving to The Gambia as a Peace Corps volunteer.  The Gambia is a tiny country enveloped by Senegal in Western Africa.  Around that same time I was hired at UBC, a university enveloped by Vancouver, in Western Canada.

For two years I had promised Lindsey that I would visit her.

How? I'll figure it out. 
When? Someday.

Well two years went by fast - 'someday' had not shown its face and I still had not 'figured it out.'  I said YES - that was the easy part. Following through - now that is the challenge for me. I am a big fan of having my cake and eating it too.  Ma and Pa Haas taught me nothing is impossible, so why not go all out?!  It was time to take action.

Through a series of email conversations with Lindsey we figured out the only time I could take enough time to make a 10 hour flight and 8 hours of jet-lag worthwhile was during the winter holidays.  Also, I wanted to see Ma and Pa for Christmas, of course.  So, I put it my perfect trip out to the Universe: One week in Vermont.  Two weeks with Lindsey in West Africa.  A few phone calls and optimized use of frequent flyer miles, and It worked!  By fall 2011 I had my ideal trip planned.

Vancouver > Vermont > Accra and back

We realized in our scheming that by the time I would arrive in Africa Lindsey would have moved out of her village, Kerr Jarga Jobe, and will have said goodbye to her host family and friends.  She did not want to go back and have do it all over again.  So we decided to meet in Ghana where her parents volunteered in the Peace Corps from 1982-1984 - 30 years prior to our arrival!  Our mission, should we choose to accept it, was find the Green Compound in Bolgatanga, 800+km north of Accra, the capital city where we planned to meet up...   

I spent Christmas in the always beautiful Vermont and then hopped on a flight just in time to celebrate the New Year in West Africa!  There was only one small hiccup…Lindsey, Kevin and Julia's Air Nigeria flight left two hours too early and without them.  I suddenly found myself alone in a city of 2 million people with three full days to do ... something.  This trip was my first to Africa and I merely knew a few historical facts and my geographical location.  I was supremely unprepared... and I loved it!

In Accra my mornings and evenings were spent wandering aimlessly through the city streets, and when the sun was highest in the sky, I took sheltered naps on my bunk.  The heat absolutely floored me.  On New Year’s Eve I literally had nothing to do and the only two other guests in my hostel ordered pop with dinner...  SERIOUSLY!?  It’s New Year’s Eve!  Where is the Champagne!?  I was feeling a bit down and extremely anxious to find anything to do.

During that morning’s exploration I found that Accra Sport Stadium was hosting something called "Crossover," a massive New Year’s Eve sermon, from what I could figure.  After finishing my beer I jumped in a cab and made my way to the World Cup stadium to see what it was all about.

I walked under the mammoth gates and through throngs of opportunistic vendors selling every food and trinket under the sun.  I zigged and zagged up the stairwell and joined my 30,000 new gospel-singing friends.  For 4 hours it seemed every single person in this stadium jumped up, danced, sang, and rang in 2012 praising Jesus!  Most. Unique. NYE. EVER!

Accra Sport Stadium

This was the most bizarre and haphazard start to my trip. I laid my head down on my pillow that night awestruck, a little perplexed and very present to the fact that I was in Africa.  I had said yes to this trip, taken action and flown across the world, but until that moment laying in my bunk I felt like I was drifting through a dream.  My African reality hit and it was going to stick around for the next two weeks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Next Adventure

First off I owe you an apology - I never followed up with a final post on how the Death Race ended up.  David and I kicked ass - we completed in 45 hours in tenth place and when we realized there were still tasks to be completed, we finished those too. We couldn't bare to say we completed the Death Race with out completing the Death Race.  That's just lying.  It was definitely the most challenging two days of my life and I know that I would not have wanted any other man next to me than David.  To read about my experience check out this article written up by UBC Trek Magazine.

None of this, of course, could have been possible without the unwavering support of my parents, Suzy and Brian, who spent endless restless hours wondering if their son was still alive somewhere in the storming mountains.  Coming back into camp and being greeted by a cup of hot tea, a pile of food and a warm hug helped me get through those tough moments.  "Just another hour and I'm back to food and family," I'd tell myself.

"Whats next?"  This is the question I've been asking myself every day for the past six months.  I've been searching for a new adventure and challenge.  This fall I restarted a regular yoga practice.  I recognize and value the peace that comes with this practice.  Calm, quite, bliss, happiness and a strong body.  I myself look at those adjectives and have to make an effort to check my ego at the door.  I am typically logical, practical and know whats best ALL THE TIME.  Or so I thought...

I will be traveling home to Burlington, Vermont for Christmas with my family and friends.  Just before the new year I'm headed off to Accra, Ghana.  My dear friend Lindsey Green has been living in The Gambia in West Africa for two years.  And for two years I have told her, "oh yeah, I'm going to come visit...soon."  Well her two years are nearly up and guess who hasn't been to Africa to see Lindsey?
Now I have a ticket, sore arms from a half dozen immunizations and a date with the local Ghanaian Consul to get a visa!  My procrastination has come at the cost of not seeing the village that she has made home and changed lives in.  We will however have the chance to visit Ghana, where her mother and father met and volunteered in the Peace Corps many moons ago.

I love to travel, and whats more I love having intention to my travel.  I don't know what to expect and want to go into this experience with an exceptionally open mind.  The intention for my trip is to do yoga with Lindsey everyday.  No matter where we are or how bloody hot it is, yoga will be done. I'll post next in 2012 on my adventure in Ghana.

~Love and Gratitude~