What a year.
From Seattle to Kathmandu, from sunrise over snow-covered alpine peaks to sunset on tropical palm tree-lined beaches, from being homeless to owning the keys of my own home, from climate rallies to gratitude circles, and from earning just above minimal wage per hour to receiving infinite gratitude per second from fellow humans… twenty fifteen gave me the full spectrum of emotions, challenges, and from that, much growth.
I am grateful for all the people who came through in life, their gifts of patience and generosity, their lessons for and with me, and the opportunities to learn and do what I love, at home in the Pacific Northwest as well as overseas. Numerous new connections made, old connections strengthened, and more and more I feel connected to a global network of like-minded, forward-thinking, consciously-aware beings doing good in the world. I’ve come to realize this is such a solid and necessary state of mind to be in, especially as the internet exposes truths and sheds light onto more of the injustice and greed that has plagued our world and hidden in the dark for far too long. It is easy to become inundated by the wrongs and pockets of darkness. I speak directly to systemic racism, cruelty to wildlife and fellow humans, disregard for our soils and water, the never-ending pursuit of wealth and illusion of superficial happiness, the blatant disparity, and other ego-driven acts of selfishness. In this day and age, unless you are unplugged from the outside world (or only watch Fox news), to not be aware of these things is a personal choice, plain and simple. On the same side of the coin, to know AND not act is, in my opinion, a crime as severe as actions out of apathy and ignorance.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest for flowing water, for abundance of wild places, to discover like-minded community(ies), to continue refining what a low-impact, low-carbon lifestyle looks like for me, to (once again) uproot myself to establish a potential homebase in a region that I have been deeply fond of since my first visit as an adult in 2007. I feel pretty strongly about the progress I have made on all of those fronts and more. I owe it to many friends (you guys know who you are!), to working at REI, to the incredible community-driven project that is the Beacon Food Forest, and certainly to my family who have embraced my unconventional life path. Thank you.
It’s about time for that next leap. That next set of life challenges I am happily willing and ready to face for my own growth and positive impact on a larger scale. Working alongside the Conscious Impact crew and the community of Takure in Nepal in autumn reignited my love for international development projects and in serving others. The experience gave me the opportunity to not only visit a region of the world I had been dreaming of for years, it also provided me the perfect way to combine photography and videography to raise awareness, inspire action, and promote the desire for cross-culture interactions and need for collaborations beyond political boundaries. What a powerful combination. My time in Central America reaffirmed my desire as well as ability to combine travel, work, art, and play into a beautiful package, and what a fruitful few weeks those were. I got to trace back some of the steps I had taken when I lived and worked in Panama, and more specifically, in the indigenous Emberá village of Piriati Emberá, where I returned and spent valuable time with the family that essentially has taken me in as their own.
I wish to be clear and deliberate in what I intend to attract for 2016 and beyond. I can proudly and confidently say I have everything I need, to live, to travel, to recreate, to co-create, and be well. In this year I intend to see, feel, hear, and learn more of the world that we must touch and feel to truly know, to live minimally yet bring in abundance, to be more thankful for wellness and promote wellness, to continue standing and acting in solidarity with my brothers and sisters across the world who dedicate their hearts and bodies to the same fundamental moral values to one another and to mother gaia, and be an asset to humanity, whether through direct service or in leveraging the power of photography and storytelling, to raise awareness, to inspire action, and to critically question the norms that have been imposed to us subliminally and/or blatantly. I intend to tread lightly yet powerfully through all of these realms alongside people who uplift me as I uplift them. I desire to share the gift of life with humans who see the problems in the world not too large to fix but too obvious not to, who heal one another, and be in the presence of fellow beings also awestruck and marveled by the magic of nature, who will march in social and environmental rallies and sleep under the stars, and never forget that underneath all of us is the desire to be loved, acknowledged, and be good.
Let’s live the life we imagine.
Are you in?
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Merry Christmas all! I’ve got some exciting news and updates to share.
Since the last update on Indiegogo, the volunteer team and community members have been churning out compressed stabilized earth blocks with the freshly-arrived brick press with all local materials and labor. They are producing up to ~75 bricks a day now, with the eventual goal of reaching 100/day.
Thanks to many of you, I am proud and joyed to have taken part in the creation of the brick and training center, and now that production is underway, it makes me so, so happy to see that we have raised $5865* in just 15 days. *correction: $5965 by the time I am hitting the ‘Publish’ button!
Our goal of $8000 (~16,000 bricks) is getting closer and closer. That will be enough to rebuild the first school, which serves approximately 85 students. Consider gifting the community of Takure and our selfless volunteers there the ability to keep the production going.
Read more & pitch in at: https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/bricks-for-nepal
Photos by Michael Libis
At the bottom of this post are images from the upper school of Takure, where I spent much time with other volunteers and local kids as we were setting up an afterschool program to play, create art, sing, and learn English.
Also, if you are in the Seattle area or know somebody in the region who would be interested, I will be co-hosting a presentation with Allen Gula, one of the co-founders of Conscious Impact, at the Seattle REI on Tuesday December 29th at 7pm. We will have the latest updates from the project, new media, and perhaps most importantly, how folks can contribute and/or volunteer in the coming year. This presentation also serves as a follow-up to the event that I hosted at the Beacon Food Forest back in August.
More details and RSVP via: https://www.facebook.com/events/1517245291907059/
Greetings from Central America! I write this on a bus heading to Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where my high school friend Steven’s wedding is happening this weekend.
After my extended stay in Nepal, I caught a sore throat and fever that unfortunately made the journey home quite uncomfortable. Thankfully, I spent 4 days in between the 2 journeys in quality company of old friends and housemates. My body has been restored completely now. A strong dose of nature, rest, good food, even better company, and wanderlust have been perfect cures. Right before departing Kathmandu, I finished a 8-minute film showcasing our work as volunteers and the community of Takure. It is intended to be shown to upcoming and prospective volunteers of Conscious Impact & YUWA, and of course serve as a tribute to all the incredible experiences and progress made collectively in Sept and Oct. I am proud to show this to all the supporters and donors to my fundraiser. Definitely worth noting that all 3 songs were sung and recorded in Takure, and 2 of the songs are original pieces inspired by our time in the village. Turn the sound up!
Upon returning to the U.S. later in Nov, I will continue to organize, edit, and publish content captured in Takure & Nepal. Orion and Juliette have been posting many of my photographs on their personal Facebook profiles as well the Conscious Impact FB page. Luke + Sebastian from Redefined Films were great to work with, and they too will be producing content in the coming weeks/months. One of their videos will showcase Dheeraj, the co-founder of YUWA Unity Nepal and a resident of Takure. It’s looking to be really good. I will keep you all posted with links. I had some sincere, heartfelt conversations with Orion and Allen while in Nepal, and the current intention is for me to return Feb 2016 to pick things up once more. By that time the brick press(es) will be set and producing compressed stabilized earth blocks daily, and thus the reconstruction of the school(s) ought to be well under way. I am so looking forward to it! Attached are some favorites from my last 2 weeks in Nepal. For folks who have selected a print or photo book as perks, we shall be in touch later in November in regards to making all the happen. With much gratitude for your support, in whatever quantity and manner, to have made this journey and project, for myself and for so many others I have crossed paths with, not only possible but truly, deeply enriching.
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The volunteer camp in the village of Takure in the district of Sindhupalchok has been my home for nearly the past 6 weeks. I have lived out of a small tent, waking up early to the sun everyday to learn, work, and live alongside dozens of volunteers from across the globe. In some weeks there have been only about 15-25 of us. Others 40-55+. We eat a vegetarian, plant-based diet. We drink, shower, and clean with water from a spring further up the hill. Natural resources such as bamboo, wood, sand, clay, and stone are collected from around the community, and if needed, purchased from nearby stores to support local businesses. The diversity of the characters this camp and project has attracted here is truly immense. Equally immense is the hospitality and warmth of the Nepalis, specifically the community members of Takure. We’ve been welcomed into a number of families’ homes and served tea, milk, and sometimes even fresh harvests such as cucumbers with chili salt. Their stories, openness, and humility humble us each and everyday. Describing the essence thus far with any one or even combination of adjectives doesn’t even begin to articulate the full spectrum of humbling and enlightening human experiences I (we) have had.
Today we bid farewell to the 10-day October rebuild volunteers. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you have worked, laughed, sang, cooked, sweated, learned, and shared experiences with around the clock day after day. We share the collective vision for global learning and understanding. We seek connections beyond geographical and political boundaries. We are drawn closer by our similarities rather than being divided by our differences in beliefs, genders, and interests. We celebrate the unique journeys and skill sets which we are all on and have. It makes for quite the special bonds. I have certainly made a number of friends for life.
In the following several days, we will be completing the main structure of the training center. The training center is going to be where community members of Takure and folks from all around the region can come and learn about an alternative building material which will be produced on-site. Compressed earth blocks, or CEB for short, is the main product. These blocks are to be made from nearly all local materials, are ecologically and financially sustainable, and very importantly, earthquake-proof. The CEB will first be utilized in rebuilding the 2 local schools, a project which both Conscious Impact and YUWA Unity Nepal are fully committed to and foresee starting later in November. The vision is to have this training center to be a knowledge-sharing space and marketplace run by villagers of Takure to offer lessons, discussions, and have the earth blocks for sale at a significantly lower cost (as well as ecological footprint) compared to conventional building materials and methods.
I am so proud of my friends’ work in this beautiful, special place. I am filled with awe at the progress we have made in the past month and a half. When you first walk around this village, you may only see physical devastation. Yet as all of us have discovered and experienced, the people living in the temporary structures rebuilt from scrap materials from their fallen homes are more often filled with resilience, joy, and hope. Amazingly, despite having had all but one structure collapse from the earthquakes in April and May, there is not one human casualty in Takure. Rupak, one of the local young men who has been working with us as well as serve as our interpreter, remarked that this is such a special place that Shiva himself has protected the village. This resonates well with the spirit we have felt through the visits to homes and schools. The community members are thankful for this life and are ready to rebuild better and stronger than before.
The dwindling internet access here at camp has made uploading content and staying connected limited and difficult at best. I apologize for the lack of updates especially these past couple weeks as our internet access went from limited to barely existent. As I (reluctantly) emerge out of the woods from this special place, I will undoubtedly be adding content to this fundraising campaign and on social media. There is so, so much to be shared.
Due to the complex and escalated political and social issues in Nepal these past few weeks, many resources including petro has been a rare commodity throughout the country. Many flights out of Kathmandu have been canceled, including my own. After several days of uncertainty (and some frustration), my departure date has been postponed to October 23 — 6 days later than originally scheduled. This delay allows much-welcomed downtime, further envisioning with Allen and Orion for what the next year holds for us, in addition to the films we will be able to produce with Luke and Sebastian, the good folks behind Redefined Films.
There is 2 and a half days left in the fundraiser. We are so close to the goal. I am overwhelmed by the incredible support from friends and family across over 5 different time zones. I hope you find or have found value in the work that not only I have been doing here in Takure, but we collectively as a conscious movement doing what we all feel is morally and socially the right thing to do. The impact we have made, will continue to here in Nepal and far beyond throughout our lives and those we touch shall spread like ripples on a tranquil pond. I have no doubt this is only the beginning of the greater good we are able to co-create within ourselves and those we touch.
With love and gratitude from Takure,
Teej festival in Takure, Sindupalchok district.
Photos and captions by Hannah Markoff.Share it via:
My second photo story in working with Conscious Impact and YUWA Unity Nepal in the village of Takure in Sindupalchok district. A few of us joined Dheeraj, one of the co-directors of YUWA Unity Nepal, for a walk around the village to see the edible crops grown here, how food is managed and harvested, and how we can work towards creating an ag site near the volunteer camp to provide local nutrition.
Photos by yours truly. Captions by Erin and I.
I am currently running a fundraiser for my work with these great organizations, and you would be able to support all of our work and get prints of my photographs in Nepal through it. Please check out https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rebuilding-learning-and-storytelling-in-nepal/ to find out.Share it via:
Learn more about the work that I, Conscious Impact, and YUWA Unity Nepal are doing:
Also on Facebook “Conscious Impact” and “YUWA Unity Nepal” and Instagram (@consciousimpact, @subtledream).
I am currently running a fundraiser for my work with these great organizations, and you would be able to support all of our work and get prints of my photographs in Nepal through it. Please check out https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rebuilding-learning-and-storytelling-in-nepal/ to find out.
Hello directly from the village of Takure! I’ve been here for 5 days. We are currently about 20 people from the US, Australia, Britain, Bulgaria, Italy, and New Zealand. We have architects, builders, botanists, logistics experts, educators, university students, and many more with various skills and passions in the group. Everyone is working together with YUWA Unity Nepal plus members from the community of Takure to create and improve our volunteer camp and the foundations of the future training center (and later, the school). The training center is going to serve as a hub for villagers as well as visitors to learn, co-create, and develop ideas to build and maintain structures with compressed earth blocks and other environmentally sustainable and economically viable methods.
In a couple days, 5-6 more volunteers will join us, while from September 16-25, there will be another 12 or so volunteers converging to really get the momentum going on the training center. It is a very exciting time to be here learning, collaborating, and regenerating the spirit of the people and the structures in the years to come.
One of my roles has been to help out with various physical tasks, such as leveling the ground to build a composting latrine and garden space, gathering stones from a collapsed roof of a nearby house to be reused for other projects. It’s noteworthy that 245 out of 245 houses in Takure sustained minor or major damage.
The other task has been to become familiarized with the local environment and culture while documenting the cross-cultural collaboration as we move forward. The physical damages are very apparent even nearly 5 months after the initial shake, but the spirit of the people here and all around Nepal appear to be strong and hopeful. Rice continues to thrive in the rice paddy fields, goats keep munching on foliage, while day to day business rolls on and kids play on the streets.
I am feeling extremely grateful to BE here surrounded by such eagerness, positivity, and diversity of folks to have this synergistic experience. With over a month left in the fundraiser and less than half way to the goal, I have no doubt that we will reach it and beyond. Thank YOU for every contribution and effort to bring this into reality for myself and so many others here in Takure, and more. I am (we are) so, so appreciative of your support in any form.
In the meantime, please enjoy the attached photos since landing in Nepal.
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In 26 days, I will land in Kathmandu, Nepal.
I will be greeted by the beautiful faces of 3 friends who have been there since the multiple earthquakes that completely changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Nepalis. I will be greeted by destruction on scales I will not be able to articulate with words. Many lost their lives and loved ones, and even more are still deeply affected by the natural disaster that has been off the radar of mainstream media as well as the minds of most people.
I feel so fortunate in this life. My day-to-day personal and first world problems do not even come close to the immense obstacles that my global family members in that region face. To be absolutely honest, I felt helpless and terrible in not being able to financially contribute to the urgent disaster relief. I felt guilty for the multiple pleasure-driven adventures in the woods, for that extra 6-pack I’d buy at the store, and those pieces of outdoor gear I’ve been wanting. It’s so easy to justify those instant gratifications that temporarily satisfy the self instead of truly, genuinely thinking and acting globally.
The check-in with my friends after the earthquake quickly transformed that guilt into boundless motivation. What I’ve lacked in financial contributions, I realized I am capable of contributing through my physically being there to listen, learn, and do. It is an honor to have this opportunity to partner with the magical dream team that makes up Conscious Impact plus the dozens of volunteers who will be converging from all over the map to rebuild not only the damaged structures but also the human spirit of a global community. My friends and I recently connected with a team of videographers and have begun brainstorming ideas on a series of impactful videos and media to be published across our networks.
I deeply encourage you to look deeper into the current state of happenings by following the work of Conscious Impact through their site/Facebook/Instagram, and that of yours truly in the months to follow.
I personally believe that monetary numbers usually have little to no bearing on the true value of something. I believe in social capital, such as time and knowledge exchange, that transcends beyond this artificial system we have become desperately dependent on. That said, this journey is entirely self-funded and will put me off my paying job. I would be foolish to say that this is going to be self-sustaining. Thus, in the coming week or so, I plan to launch a personal fundraiser and sincerely hope you will take part in. And yes, especially for those who partook in the funding of my bicycle and farm trek in 2013, this will look and feel very similar.
This Thursday, August 13, I will be presenting at the beloved Beacon Food Forest the latest updates from my friends working on the ground in Nepal and a vision for the collective conscious impact we can create together. Event link: http://www.facebook.com/events/371114873098695/
For those of you interested in volunteering, please take a look at the available projects and opportunities in the coming months on http://www.consciousimpact.org/#!volunteer/citr
As my brother comrade Ryan who will be joining the collective efforts in Nepal this September and October, “my life is radical.”
It truly is.
Stay tuned, my friends.Share it via: