Thursday, April 28, 2011

At the airport

I'm waiting at the London airport and it's gonna be a long wait since my flight has been delayed.

No, not that London. I never received my royal invitation in the mail so I will be viewing the nuptials of Wills and Kate just like the common people.

I'm in London, Canada and you can tell by the type of warm beverage that I'm enjoying.

Tim Hortons is to Ontario like Starbucks is to California. They are everywhere. And they have great donuts but I also like their fruit explosion muffins. Or maybe I just like the name.

So here I sit. Nice new airport by the way. I'm looking around and no one looks suspicious. There aren't a lot of people. They need some music playing. Or maybe some buskers.


This is gonna be a long wait.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Location:Commissioners Rd W,London,Canada

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The spilled cups of tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

If you’ve been paying attention to the headlines lately, there is a scandal once again in the publishing industry.  This time, it surrounds the accuracy of the best selling book “Three Cups of Tea” co-written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

This book was passed on to me by my mother who knew that I would find the story about building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan inspiring.  She was right. Like so many others, I loved the book which detailed Mortenson’s struggles to raise money for his Central Asian Institute (CAI) and educate children most of whom are girls.  Three Cups of Tea made Mortenson look like a hero and it raised millions for his projects in the most remote regions of the earth. 

But word has recently come out that the book may not be entirely truthful.  With a report on 60 minutes and an essay by author Jon Krakauer, a dark shadow has been cast over Three Cups of Tea and the entire Central Asian Institute.  The allegations include embellishment  of the adventures of Mortenson in Afghanistan,  mismanagement of funds and exaggeration of the number of schools built.  Krakauer, an early supporter, obviously felt like he had been slapped in the face and called the book “a beautiful story and it’s a lie”.   I’m sure that other supporters have since felt the same way. 

It’s very unfortunate that all the good that Mortenson has done (and I’m sure there has been considerable good) will be overshadowed by these allegations, whether true or not.  We haven’t yet heard from the complete story from the person at the center of the controversy; he is scheduled for  surgery which may or may not be a convenient excuse to escape the glare of publicity.  The details will unfold with time but whatever happens, there are some important lessons to be learned for for all non-profits who operate in faraway lands.

Transparency.  It is absolutely essential that a non-profit be very open about the flow of money; where it comes from and where it is going.  Annual statements should be posted which clearly state how every donor dollar is spent.    
Treat donors with utmost respect.  Thanks to their money, the organization can grow and make changes in the world.  Supporters will find out sooner or later if management is being irresponsible with their donations.
Don’t spread the organization too thin.  It’s important to complete projects but it’s even more important to make sure completed projects are still functional six months, a year and ten years down the line.  In this sense, a project is never truly completed and time as well as resources must be allocated to maintain it.
Learn from other’s mistakes.  Organizations have found out the hard way that building beautiful schools in remote areas is not enough.  Schools need great teachers and motivated students or else these are just empty buildings full of good intentions. 

Remain humble.  The people we are trying to help don’t need to be “saved”.  We  need to work together to improve their lives and they can help us as much as we can help them. 

It is possible to make big differences with a small number of people.  I think it is safe to say that Mortenson built the Institute from scratch and changed the lives of thousands of people.  That is incredibly inspirational.  For that reason alone, we shouldn’t bury him under a pile of bad press.      

I started The Savong Foundation whose mission is to support two orphanages and an English Language School in northern Cambodia.  Please check out our facebook page or the websites and  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sifton Bog

This week I'm back in Canada to reconnect with my roots.

And speaking of roots, I spent some time at the Sifton Bog located in the great metropolis of London, Ontario, Canada.  This is a great place to bury mob hits if they don't cough up the required dough.

Nah, only kidding.  There are way better places to bury people.

But it is a good place to shoot some cool pics and in fact, this is where I took my first camera back when I went to the school right around the corner.

It's springtime here so the blog was flooded and the green plants have just started to appear.

And if you ever visit London, there are plenty of other exciting things to see ...

  • The University of Western Ontario (Home of the Mustangs)
  • Storybook Gardens (Canada's answer to Disneyland)
  • Riverside Park (lots of big trees)
  • Fanshaw College (where you can learn stuff)
  • um, well, there are other things but you just have to see them for yourself.  
Come visit!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm an old fat smoker

They call Disneyland the happiest place on earth ...

Yet at one of the exhibits in Tomorrowland, you can find out what you would look like if you aged 30 years, gained 50 pounds and smoked a pack a day.

This is not a happy picture!

They should have this exhibit in all the high schools. If this isn't a good incentive for kids to lay off the smokes and the cheeseburgers, I don't know what is.

Of course we all get old and that's the part that really sucks.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Land's End Inn

The Land's End Inn in Provincetown, Massachusetts is a beautiful piece of property that is perched at the tip of Cape Cod.  I was there recently for a wedding and snapped a few photos.  

And if you're wondering, I didn't stay there.  I stayed further in town where prices were, um, a little more reasonable.  

The rooms are incredible but they were just beyond my budget.  Hopefully one day, I'll return in style.  

Check out their website at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Unfriendly Skies

Before I write anything else, I would like to start off with a rant.  

Domestic travel on an airplane pretty much sucks.  I won't say that it completely sucks because I haven't died yet during sky travel -- so I suppose the airlines have done the most important thing correctly which is get me safely to my destination.     

I know at least one person who agrees with my disgust.  Check out this link here:  

Last week, I returned from a trip to Cape Cod.  I took a flight from Boston to Los Angeles on United/Continental and it was without a doubt the most uncomfortable plane ride that I have ever taken.  And I've flown all over the world.  My last trip to Cambodia was a better experience and per miles flown, it was a helluva lot cheaper too.  

My biggest gripe has to do with the spaces between the seats in the economy class.  I'm not sure of the actual measurements but when the guy in front of me put back his seat, he was pretty much leaning into my lap.  I'm neither fat nor have long legs so for those poor buggers who are either vertically or horizontally gifted, my sympathies go out to you if you don't have the champagne budget for business or first class.  There was no freakin' room and it was literally driving me nuts.  I wondered if I had more psychotic tendencies what I would have done.  Jump up and down?  Lock myself in the bathroom?  Storm the cockpit?  The only thing that kept me sane was my lack of energy.  I was too tired to fight.  And it probably wouldn't have done much good anyway. 

Of course, the airline will tell you that you now have a choice of upgrading to Economy Plus!  I can't remember how much extra leg room you get but it just seems insulting that you have to pay extra to be treated humanely--because I can definitely say that plain ol' economy is cruel and unusual punishment.  For 2 hours, it might be bearable but for 6 and 1/2 hours cross country, I would rather eat airline food for the rest of my life.  

I won't even mention the grouchy flight attendants, the surcharge you pay for checked luggage, the chaotic boarding, the tv screens which haven't been upgraded since the 80s and the pay-if-you-want-it food.  The airline industry is forgetting about the people who pay them and it's about time they started putting the customers first.  

Alriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!  Now that I've gotten that off my chest, it's time to get back to the real reason for the post:  Pictures of Cape Cod.  Yahoo! 

I've never been to that part of the world before so it was all very exciting.  This was low season so the weather was on the brisk side but there were no crowds to speak of.  

For those people who don't know, Cape Cod is at the easterly tip of Massachusetts which is on the northeast coast of the United States.  The area is well known to tourists for its seafood and its postcard-perfect landscapes.  

I stayed in Provincetown or Ptown which is right at the tip of the peninsula.  During the day, there was some local activity but in the early morning hours or late at night, it was a virtual ghost town.  

Old dogs were laying out by the road.  Soaking up the spring sun.  

Not sure why there were stuffed animals hanging out by someone's fence but they were cute so I had to take a picture.  

During one afternoon, we hiked out on the peninsula to reach one of the lighthouses.  

During the spring season, the landscape was very desolate.  It reminded me of Scotland but without the heather or the haggis.  

I took a day trip over to Nantucket which is one of the islands just off the coast (the other one is Martha's Vineyard).  As legend has it, a giant awoke one morning to find that his moccasins were filled with sand.  He kicked one moccasin off and it became Martha's Vineyard and he kicked the other one off and it became Nantucket.  Nantucket is considerably smaller than the Vineyard so I'm guessing this giant was not blessed with same size feet.  

As I took the ferry back to the mainland, this was the incredible Atlantic sunset.  

I had a great adventure exploring this part of the country.  I hope to go back again soon.  Nantucket has an annual film festival so if that isn't a good excuse, I don't know what is.