Geocaching – my new hobby

I recently discovered a new way to spice up every day life with adventure – geocaching. A brief explanation would be this: people hide containers all around the world and plot them using a GPS. The coordinates are uploaded to the main website and then other people use their GPS device to find these containers. It’s like a modern day treasure hunt. Some containers only have a log to record your name while others have trinkets inside that you can take, but you have to leave something in return. You can check out www.geocaching.com to get more details.

Using my iPhone and the geocaching app I’ve been able to start finding these caches all over Ventura County and I’ve started hiding my own as well. Here are some pictures of some of the ones I found:

They’re hidden everywhere! Inside of fake rocks, behind reflectors on street signs, inside of fake sprinkler heads, under lamppost skirts, inside of signpoles, it’s amazing, as if my eyes have been open to a new world. The coolest thing is they’re everywhere so wherever you are, I’m sure there are some nearby. You can make an account on the website and link the iPhone app to it and then log all your finds! Some are harder to find than others and I’ve had to go back to some places more than once just to find them. Also, some are hidden in pretty public places so you have to be sneaky to find them without looking awkward or giving away where it’s hidden! You should try finding a few caches yourself and you’ll quickly get hooked, I did!

Can you spare some change?

written by Samantha Hamil (www.samanthahamil.wordpress.com)

Do you ever leave the mall or a fast food restaurant and see the person standing outside or on the corner asking for some change? How many times have you walked by this person knowing there is a dollar in your pocket? All too often.

Have you ever taken the time to talk to one of these people? To find out their story? I think a lot of people have it ingrained in their heads that homeless people are mentally ill drug abusers. The mental illness rate among homeless people is high, however with the economy changing people who may have been your neighbors are now living on the streets.

About 15 years ago I was in New York. There was a woman sitting along the street asking for food and money. I went into the closest deli and bought her a meal. I went back to where she was sitting, excited that I was able to do this for her, and gave her the food and drinks. In return, she threw it at me. The whole thing! From that moment on I was discouraged by homeless people. It wasn’t until a really close friend of mine became homeless that I changed my mind. She was homeless and going from shelter to shelter and living out of her car for a year and a half. She was too proud to ask for help. There came a time when her friends knew but she wouldn’t admit to them because it was degrading to her. She would sneak meals where ever she could get them and shower at a local college. Staying in shelters she was able to talk to people and find out that the majority of homeless people have a normal life one day and the next they are living on the streets. The only way my friend succeeded is because someone took a chance with her. An owner of a company realized she was living in her car and offered her a job and gave her meals. He never asked her if she was homeless, he just gave to her because he knew she needed help.

I guess my point to this blog is that it takes a lot for people to stand on corners and ask for money. It takes a lot more to be aware of people who may need a lending hand and won’t ask for it. Last week I was coming back from Vegas with some friends. We stopped at a gas station and I walked inside I saw a young boy sitting on the curb. I looked at him smiled and said hello and continued on inside. He looked as if he were homeless and being about 15ish I was concerned. When I walked outside I went over to him and asked him how he was doing. He looked up at me out of the corner of his eye and said in a whimpering voice I have been better. I went on to ask him if he had a place to live or if he was hungry and he said “no ma’am, I could use 35 cents to make a phone call though” I asked if he had someone to call and he said yes, that he had been left there. I smiled and said I will be right back. I went to my car and got a 5 dollar bill I had in case of emergencies and I went back over to him. I handed him the 5 and said get yourself something to eat and good luck getting home. I am sure there are local agencies that can help you if you need it. He said “Thank you, this means a lot” I smiled and went back to the car to finish the road trip.

I think good people find themselves in bad situations a lot and if anyone is like me, they often have too much pride to ask for help when they really need it.

Do you know there are over 2,600 homeless people in Ventura County? Those are only the confirmed ones. So, next time you decide go in a drive thru get an extra burger or a drink or give the guy in the street a dollar. Take the extra 10 minutes to stop and listen to their story. That one good deed may change that persons life forever.

Money

A short story by Mark McKnight

It’s a funny old thing, is money. The less you have, the more you learn about it’s value and how much it’s really worth.

Once upon a time, I was dirt poor. Not dirt poor like the little kids who run around shouting ‘Mzungu, Mzungu’ but poor enough. We used to buy a 25¢ bottle of soda between two of us because we couldn’t afford to buy one each. We took rich missions teams to expensive restaurants and prayed that they would buy us lunch. On the whole, this policy paid off. Once or twice it didn’t and we had to buy our own meal! We had to bargain hard with the street traders because although they assumed we were rich because we were white, the truth was that we could just about to afford what they were selling and needed to buy at African prices just to survive.

There were 15 people living in my house at one time and it was only by God’s grace that we all survived. I used to buy a 50kg sack of rice and another of beans and they’d be gone in 2 weeks. We quickly learned that there were different grades of rice and the cheapest was full of rocks and grit. The second from cheapest was therefore the appropriate one to buy.

But it taught what was important to us. We learned that proper Heinz ketchup was something we were willing to invest in. That bottled mineral water was not. Especially after the discovery of water for 100/= (aka vanilla water) and water for 50/= (now discredited as a false economy!). We learned there are some people who can be trusted and there are many more who cannot. There are some that will lie about the death of their own child in order to rip you off.

These are things I learned five years ago. Nowadays, I’m neither rich nor poor. My bank accounts are neither awash with unspent cash nor biting at the heels of overdraft limits. For the first time in my life (except for my student days, and that was only thanks to student loans – another false economy), I have disposable income.

What I learned back then was that I am no island. Others have invested their time and money in me and now I bear that same responsibility. I’ve made a few anonymous donations. I’ve invested in an African poultry business more because I have the money to do so rather than because I think I’ll make any significant profits. I’m putting a kid through university here.

But in comparison, I spend a whole lot on myself. There’s a bass guitar that I have my eye on that would keep Dorah at uni for well over a year. My car cost more than her entire course will. The human condition is a constant struggle between altruism and selfishness. And at the end of the day, it’s mostly selfishness that wins.
It’s a funny old thing, is money!

Guest bloggers

Next week is a special week. I’ve asked a few of my friends to write guest posts for the site. I told them they could write about anything they wanted to in any style they wanted to use and they could make it as long or as short as they wanted. So I don’t even know what will be posted! Each day will be a different person’s post so I encourage you to check back every day next week from Monday to Friday to read something from someone’s perspective besides mine!

It’s always good to have a goal

Every year it seems I try to set goals that never quite get met. This year I am determined to make my goals a reality, so I thought that if I write about them here, everyone will know about it and then I’ll have to make sure I complete my goal!

My goal this year involves running. I have made it my goal to run 5 5k’s, 2 10k’s, and then either the Camarillo 1/2 marathon or the LA Rock & Roll 1/2 marathon in October to round out the year. If I’m feeling good in September, I may do the mini-triathalon in Carpinteria, but that would just be a bonus. I’m already scheduled to run The Great Race of Agoura in March, which is a 5k, but I may run one before that in the end of February. I’ll write a post about each one so we can all keep track together and when December 31, 2011 rolls around, I am convinced I’ll be able to say, “I met my goal this year!”

Toilet Seat Covers

I must admit, that for the majority of my life I didn’t use toilet seat covers. I didn’t see a need for them so I did what I assumed most people did when they walked into a toilet stall, I ignored them and went about my business. A few years ago though, my eyes were opened to the reality that most people actually do use toilet seat covers for their hygenic benefit. In all my life I had never gotten sick from not using a cover but then again, I had never really thought about it before. So, in order to be healthy, I decided to try one out. It took me a few seconds to figure out exactly how they worked and what needed to be ripped out and how it fit on the toilet seat but I eventually had it in place. I sat down and lo and behold, the biggest benefit of all was one I hadn’t even thought about, toilet seat covers put a layer of protection between your bottom and that cold toilet seat! Like a little seat warmer! I was hooked and I’ve been using them ever since. How about you? Do you use toilet seat covers?

Qui for dinner

I recently became the owner of 3 guinea pigs – Benjamin, Theodore, and Francesca. They are cute and adorable but I forgot that not too long ago, 2007 to be exact, in Ecuador I ate Qui for dinner.

Qui is what they call guinea pigs in Ecuador. They BBQ them and then use scissors to cut them up. I was a bit hesitant but hey, you have to try new things so I bit into the piece I was given and it was super tough and not tasty at all. Not to mention, the guinea pigs who were still alive were watching from the cage nearby, I was eating their friend.

So now everytime I look at my squeaking, cute guinea pigs, I see them BBQ’d on a stick. Maybe I should stick with dogs.