I turned 44 today. And while I write this I’m sitting on a toilet with my laptop in the lavatory of a dark hotel room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Don’t draw any salacious implications from my current predicament. I needed a quiet place to work so as not to wake my roommate, climber and writer Majka Burhardt. She’s asleep in the next room. And don’t get any funny ideas about that either. I’m on the roll away. For the next several days she’s my friend, guide and traveling companion through not only the wild outback of Ethiopia, but the convoluted path toward fulfilling my wayward dream of becoming a professional adventure journalist.
Majka’s just finishing her second book on Ethiopia. It should be coming out in the fall or early winter. When she mentioned at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride a few weeks ago that she was going back to Africa we hatched a plan. I’d follow along on her latest adventure and connect with three ongoing humanitarian projects being conducted here.
In a few days I’ll visit Dr. Rick Hodes and his practice treating spinal tuberculosis, the African clinic of Dr. Geoff Tabin who hopes to duplicate his success in Napal treating cataract blindness, and the organizers of Imagine One Day, a group that builds schools in remote parts of the country. Donors from Imagine One Day will be arriving next week to tour the schools they’ve helped to fund and join Majka in a few outings of climbing, mountain biking and exploring. My role in all of this will be to set routes and document these stories. My goal is to present them to as many media organizations as I can. The Public Radio International program To The Best of Our Knowledge has agreed in principle to air a story on Dr. Hodes. Blending my passions for outdoor recreation and philanthropic giving, this is the best assignment I could ever have.
I’m truly lucky to have someone like Majka to help make my way through this truly foreign environment. Despite my experience traveling abroad in the past, this is a journalism project. It has a different flavor to it than travel for the sake of adventure.
This journey began last week with a side trip to Yosemite in my native California. Sierra Designs, Kelty and the PR firm Pale Morning Media invited me to come out with several other journalists to try out their latest products. Having worked for SD in my previous career as a sales rep, I was truly impressed, by the advances that company has made. Their new line of backpacks will give industry competitors a run for their money and bring a great deal of new design innovation. See the photo array from this trip on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Joy-Trip-Project/45300774388?ref=mf#!/album.php?aid=215013&id=45300774388&page=2
We made two climbs over three days, a short scramble to the top of Lembert Dome and then after a long overnight hike we bagged North Peak. Both were good opportunities for me to train at altitude and learn just how out of shape I’ve become. But I can get over that with more training and dedication to craft of climbing. That’s adventure for adventure’s sake. It’s fun and exciting, but in the grand scheme of things a pretty selfish pursuit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We all need physical activity and fun in our lives. But where I must grow is in the art of journalism. Here is where I can take my experiences and turn them into compelling stories that will hopefully entertain and inspire.
I had no time between trips to post to this blog. Reliable wireless Internet has been difficult if not impossible to find but I’m making it happen. I have a treatment in the works for a piece from an experience this evening in Addis Ababa that may make it to the new National Public Radio program, Snap Judgment. I’ll lay out the details of that trip in an upcoming post. So please keep visiting the site and share your comments. I really want your feedback.
For now at this moment the roll away bed is empty and my wayward dreams unfold into reality as I write this. In the morning we fly to Mekelle, where we’ll set up climbing routes and anchors for Imagine One Day’s donors to enjoy. I’ll do whatever I can to help Majka prepare and learn what I can from the great example she has set in making adventure both a passionate lifestyle and an honorable profession.
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