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Update: Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Today was a much lower-key day for us. First we traveled out to the church that many of the farm workers and their families go to. When we got there, we were able to sit right up front.But very quickly, the building filled as people walked in to the service. A nice, heavy Ugandan rain fell as we worshiped with an unknown number of Ugandans. But I would guess over 150. It was standing room only, basically. It was a very neat experience, and I was just in love with the singing. In fact,today was a special day where the service was presented to the congregation and run by the women. So we got an extra special treat!

After the service, we gathered outside and played with the children and talked for a while.Then we got back in the trucks and went back to the food farm for those who hadn’t seen it yesterday.

After that we went back home to the hotel. I went out with Les Gutzwiller and a new friend, Herbert, and bought a few more clothes. $4 for a pair of jeans and $4 for a nice button down shirt. I’m sure I would have paid 2x that if I hadn’t had Herbert with me.

After a quick stop to the market, I went back and struggled to get onto the Internet so I could start making these posts. Another new friend, Joseph, has loaned me his USB hotspot, and it ended up being my laptop that was conflicting with the Ugandan service provider’s application. But I figured out what application was causing the problem and deleted it. So… Here we are!

Here are the pics for the day:

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Update: Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yesterday we visited the Coffee Farm and presented the workers with a special new stove that promises to help the workers use about 1/2 the firewood and cook in half the time. We started with a demonstration where we cooked a large pot of rice for everyone, and it only took 45 minutes. That might seem like a long time for us in the United States, but for them, it’s about 1/4 the time spent at a fire. Usually, to feed a family, it takes about 3 hours to heat up enough food. This is actually causing serious problem because it is causing the locals to devastate their local forests. Now they are having trouble even finding good firewood, and there aren’t many re-forestation programs that are active at the time. This is a really great new project that is connected with Ugandan Gold Coffee, through it’s parent organization, CEED.

After this, we were able to take a tour of the coffee farm. We looked at the different beans that they have, and talked about the ecology of the region. The beans are not really in season right now, so we weren’t able to see the workers picking, washing, or drying any of the beans, but we were given a great overview of the farm and how it works.

After that we went over to the food farm, a new experiment for CEED, in which they are trying to educate local farmers by showing them how simple farming methods, such as proper fertilization and crop rotation, can help them get better yield and encourage their soil to stay rich and fertile for far longer. At this time, they have soybeans, peanuts, and maize corn growing on their property. It also has an absolutely spectacular view of the valley and hills around it!

Here are some pictures from the day: Enjoy!

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Well, it’s been a VERY eventful last few days! My luggage never arrived at Entebbe before I needed to head out to Hoima, which is about 4 hours away. So Friday I left Entebbe with just the clothes on my back and all my camera gear. Despite the difficulties, it has been awesome here, though.

On the way to Hoima, we stopped in Kampala and bought a waste water pump for the drilling operation. The motor on the one they were using had died (smoking terribly, they tell me), so we stopped by one of the coolest stores. It had tools and power equipment galore! I was in heaven…

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I’ve Arrived!

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Well, it has been a very eventful last few days! I left Rochester on July 8th, 1 day before my 15th wedding anniversary, and then sat in the airport because of weather delays. Some of you might remember the weather we had that afternoon. But that delay meant that I missed my flight from Washington D.C. to Brussels. Which meant I had to get a whole new itinerary. So I ended up flying from D.C. to Frankfurt. Frankfurt to Ethiopia, and Ethopia to Uganda. It was a horribly long process, and it also means that I haven’t slept more than about 5-6 hours in the past three days. Because I cannot sleep on airplanes very well at all. So I’m actually falling asleep as I type this, and am debating whether I even go to dinner or just eat some granola bars and go to bed… Not sure which is more powerful right now – my need to eat or my need to sleep!

But I got to see the sun rise over the Horn of Africa from 30,000 feet, and I got to experience African bathrooms. I also got to have lots of conversations with different people from all over the world. I even sat next to a sweet little Japanese girl this morning, whose unabashed awe at the sight of the little trees and houses an clouds far far below us was very contagious.

So, anyway, I’m here. A day late. Oh, and my checked bag didn’t come either, so I don’t have any new clothes. But it should be here tomorrow. I hope.

Anyway, without boring you with too many details, here are some photos I took in the last three days. They’re all with my cell phone, because I didn’t want to get out my big cameras since they were both packed so well, and that would mean going through that process again.


Lessons Learned

Only a bit more than a week to go!!!  I’ve been running a whole gamut of emotions these past few weeks – I’ve been so excited I could barely contain myself. I’ve felt stressed. I’ve been honestly panicked.  But what’s been my biggest lesson is that I just can’t do it all myself. I’ve had – and still am having – to learn to let go of some things. Learning that I can’t control everything.

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Adventures in Fabrication

So last night I was working on my shoulder rig – making the design too fancy as usual. I wanted to make it have a section I could swap out to put the camera closer or further away from my face. I decided to use small thumb screws to lock the sections together. So I was drilling them with my drill press, but reached a place on it where I just couldn’t use the press, so I went to drill it “by hand”. On the second hole, the drill broke through and went into my hand! Ouch!

I immediately went in a washed it out with cold water, then rubbing alcohol, and then betadine, and the wound only looked about 1/16″-1/8″ deep. But when I went back out and looked at the drill bit, there was tissue on the bit around 1/4″ – 3/8″ away from the tip. So I sat down, had Father’s Day dinner with my wife and kids, and then drove myself to the emergency room. The doctor wanted to do an X-ray to make sure I didn’t hit the bone, which, it turns out, I didn’t. But she also said I was very lucky – I missed one of my tendons by the barest fraction of an inch on one side, and missed a rather large vein on the other side by a little less! So there was a lot of grace in this… I should have full use of my hand within the next couple of days (I’m typing with it right now), and as long as there is no infection, this will end up being a very minor deal.

The funniest thing about the whole process is that I have ended up in the ER every 5 years in the summer/fall… And this is 5 years since the last one! The funniest part though was the inevitable question, “When did you have you last Tetanus shot?” To which I answered, “Last Wednesday!” I got this crazy look, and I could see that the nurse was thinking that this was my second ER visit in a week! I let the silence play out for a second – just for the drama, and then told her I was heading out of the country.

All in all, it was a very eventful Father’s Day. I’m not ready to share pics of the finished video rig yet, but here’s a couple from “the incident.”

Never thought I'd be here on Father's Day...

Never thought I’d be here on Father’s Day…

Big bandage for a little hole

Big bandage for a little hole!

New Adventure!

I’ve started a new blog on, which is focusing on my trip to Africa this summer! I’m going over to Africa to film and photograph water well drilling as well as all sorts of other things. If you’d like to see what I’m doing, as well as get updates from time to time, you can click the link below, or go to the “africa” link in the main menu bar up above!

I’m so excited I can hardly type!

Last summer I dropped one of my favorite old lenses: My trust 50mm f1.8 EF lens. Now, it was a cheap lens when I bought it (sub-$100!), and I bought it as a senior in high school. So I’ve gotten my money’s worth. But I certainly didn’t want to buy a new one, since I’m doing this trip on the cheap. Or, at least, trying not to spend more money than absolutely necessary. So, after several months on my desk in a couple of pieces, I decided to fix it! In actuality, it wasn’t too bad! Took me a while to understand a couple of tricks about how to get the lens elements out of the casing, but with a little help from the Internet, it’s working like new! Now on to my old 20-35mm lens… Maybe I can fix that one too! (I’ll update you this weekend if I get it back together again – it’s in progress)

In Pieces... Back Together!

Go Fund Me Site

Time is running short! In just a bit more than a month, I’ll be boarding a plane for Africa! It’s incredibly exciting, but also a little daunting. I’m finalizing all my preparations, including get stuck multiple times by all sorts of needles in an attempt to get all my vaccinations finished. I’m gathering equipment and trying to figure out what bags I need to take. And I’m also doing the finances and trying to figure out if I really have enough money to go. Some things have changed recently (gotten mroe expensive), and the problem is that I don’t.

The two organizations that I’m going with don’t have the money to pay me to go, or to take care of my travel expenses. But I consider it a great blessing and opportunity to help!  And both mission organizations are full of people who are volunteering their time to make sure that they succeed in Africa.  So I’m humbled that they would want me to help them in this area.

I have had a lot of people supporting me these past few months. A lot of my family members have donated money for this trip. The problem is that I still have some more to go. There are pieces of equipment that I’ve needed to buy that have set me back. Immunizations that are very expensive and not covered by insurance. All those things are adding up, and I’m a bit short. So I’ve started a GoFundMe site, where I can hopefully make up the difference.  It’s the 11th hour, but I’ve got to have faith that it will all work out.

So please consider giving a gift. A small amount, added up with many others, can make a huge difference. If several people give $20, or even $50, I’ll be able to make my goal and go on this trip and do my best to help these organizations make a difference in Africa.

What Am I Doing There?

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So, you might be asking yourself why I am going to Africa, and what I am doing there. The answer is pretty simple: I’m going to help!

The continent of Africa accounts for roughly 1/3 of the world’s impoverished people.  There are over 48 million orphans in Africa, and barely 50% of the people in Africa have access to clean water, while the rest find what water they can. If they are very lucky, they might have a water well nearby.  If they’re not, then they may have to walk to a parasite and disease-ridden watering holes, if they can even find one. The average walk to get water in Africa is over 3 miles, and in order to survive, they must carry an average of 44 pounds of water back to their homes.  Add on to that the AIDS epidemic, civil war and terrorism, and you are faced with the reality that the people of Africa need a lot of help from the rest of the world in order to have hope for a better future.

There are a lot of great, well-known organizations working hard in Africa.  Organizations like Unicef, World Vision, the Christian Children’s Fund, and others do a great deal of good.  But they can’t do everything.  And there are a lot of smaller organizations that are sharing the load and doing great work in Africa, often times in a smaller geographic area, with a more local focus.  Two such organizations that are near and dear to my heart are Ugandan Gold Coffee, and Rehema Home Orphanage.

Ugandan Gold logo

Ugandan Gold Coffee is a non-profit that was started many years ago to create a self-sustaining coffee plantation by the CEED (Christian East-African Equatorial Development) Trust. The farm is managed and worked on by local people, who prepare the coffee for sale in the U.S. The profits from the sales go back to the farm and village for water wells, health care, and all sorts of other needs that the people in that area have. I am going with a team who will be drilling water wells, repairing wells that have broken down, working on other repairs on buildings in the area, working with a local orphan ministry, and doing other various jobs around the coffee farm.

Rehema Home logo

Rehema Home Orphanage is an home in Nairobi, Kenya that takes care of over 100 orphans. A friend of mine’s parents started it many years ago (he basically grew up in Kenya), and it is an incredible place of hope and dignity for children who have been orphaned or otherwise abandoned. I will be documenting the children and the difference that Rehema Home is making in their lives.  It’s a fantastic organization, and a great cause.  (In fact, my high school held a benefit concert called “Goatstock” last year, and the money raised went to Rehema Home.)

Both of these two organizations are doing amazing things in Africa! But they also have the desire to do more. There is a lot of need, and the bigger organizations like World Vision, etc., can’t do it all. Africa needs these types of smaller missions organizations just as much. And these smaller missions need to have more people getting involved in what they are doing so that they can help as many people in Africa as possible.  And that’s where an artist and photographer like me can help the most. So my job is to capture the stories of the people these organizations are helping, and show the people here in America why they should give their time and money to causes like these.

So that’s why I’m going. I’m a do-er. I hate just sitting back and watching a problem when I know I can help out. So even if I’m not an engineer who knows how to drill water wells, or a corporate businessman who can help create a model for a self-sustaining farm, I can still do something to help these missions do the great work that they do. And that’s exactly what I hope to do.