The People of Kolleru Lake

Give Well, India 5 Comments »

Kolleru Lake, Andrha Pradesh, India [Google Map]

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

There is a lake in India, which at one time was the largest and cleanest lake in all of Asia. It is surrounded by over 120 villages and 40 years ago the people of these villages had an easy life. They would drink the lakes pristine water straight from their hands. The men would paddle small wooden boats, out into the lake and catch fresh fish. Families would also grow rice and vegetables and together they would eat 3 healthy meals a day. It was a livelihood handed down through the generations.

In the 1970’s, the Kolleru Lake lifestyle began to change. The Indian government determined that because of it’s massive size and the wealth of life within it, Kolleru Lake would support an industry large enough to feed fish and rice to the entire planet. And so over the next few decades, that is exactly what happened.

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

Kolleru Lake was divided up into cross-sections of raised land, creating rectangular ponds of stagnant water in which the rice and fish farming flourished. The people of the villages surrounding Kolleru Lake had a change in livelihood from one of self-sustenance to one of dependency on international industry. Kolleru Lake the sweat labor of it’s inhabitants provided inexpensive fish and rice to people around the world.

Life was different then, but it was still good. The villagers were making wages and with it, they were able to buy food and other things.

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

© Copyright Jeremy Chu - www.jeremychu.com

However, by the turn of the millennium, things were not looking good. The industry was taking it’s toll on Kolleru Lake. The chemical filled, stagnant water used in farming was repeatedly drained into the main body of the lake, which literally poisoned all of the life within it. Before the 1970’s there were over 100 species of fish in the lake and today that number has been reduced to a small handful.

India had an environmental disaster on it’s hands and the world had taken notice. Finally, under international pressure, the Indian government agreed to reverse the decision they had made in the 1970’s.

In 2005, in a swift, ill-forewarned and seemingly random way, an attempt was begun to return the lake to it’s natural state by demolishing many of the rice and fish farming ponds.

But it was too late.

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#33 – Build a Kids Library in Cambodia

Cambodia, Give Well, Top 100 Things I've Done No Comments »

It took me a couple of years of travelling in countries with massive poverty and dealing with the infinite moral conondrum faced when staring beggars in the eyes before I found a way of helping that I was genuinely comfortable with. At a loss for not knowing where cash handouts would end up and realizing the quick expiry of impact resulting from most types of ongoing support or aid, I found empowerment through education to make the most sense to me.

I was also incrdeibly moved by the tragic stories of genocide and systematic destruction of educated role models I heard while I was in Phnom Phen.

That’s why I choose to fund the construction of a library for kids in Cambodia.

The experience and success was, for obvious reasons, incredibly rewarding. In addition to the undeniable satisfaction from helping people, I also cherish the learning and self development that came from adopting what was then such a lofty goal – raising US$14,000 for something simply because I believed in it.

I learned people you thought would join you and help, wouldn’t. And people who you wouldn’t have expected to care, to care and help a whole lot.

I learned inspiration is the most powerful way to affect change. Some teachers were inspired to inspire thier students to inspire their friends and family to help. The change there was a lot bigger than just the donations. It was the space between the dollars that I was also very excited about. The learning, curiosity and emotions experienced by those who took the time to listen and consider…and maybe even inspire others.

Learning first hand how to move people to move others, even without the unmatched rewarding feeling, easily makes raising funds to build a kids library in Cambodia one of the top 100 things I’ve done.

Bicycle Touring from San Diego to Las Vegas via Death Valley

Bicycle Touring, USA 8 Comments »

Lived and written by Luis Omar Lopez & John P Morgan Jr

 —

DAY 1 – San Diego to just south of Temecula (71 miles)

Written by Omar:

We didn’t start on our bikes until late around 10 or 11 our first day and soon as the noon heat began to hit we began the hundred turns and out of the way miles of straight-up straight-down hills it takes to get out of the city and towards the desert while avoiding major freeways. I saw a homeless man carrying his sleeping bag 10 miles into the ride and realized I’d forgot to pack mine. I decided not to turn back and instead hoped some cheap solution would pop up. We felt our first pains early and stretched ass-to-ass like turtles on our backs on the sidewalk for the benefit of everyone else stuck in traffic. We got a few happy honks and then kept going, stopping at every McDonald’s on the way to steal free Powerade, we moved inland then backtracked towards the coast across Del Mar, then back inland again for good, climbing a long uphill through Escondido to Old Highway 395 that runs along the side of the 15 North. John began breathing hard and soon couldn’t swallow any water so we stopped at a 7-11 for a break and using webMD via his iPhone John self-diagnosed himself with EIA (exercise induced asthma). In the parking lot two girls ran into a car backwards pulling out of their spot. The stout troll in the hit car got out in a rage, cursing the world first for his bad haircut, his shitty flat-top that made him shorter and fatter, and then for the 3 inch smear on his maroon 1995 Saturn. It was good theater and we rode off again until after dark trying to reach Temecula but ended setting up camp in a burnt out patch of dirt between the freeway and some golf course and all night the semis croaked their Jake brakes over our tent and down the hill to Temecula. I wore all of my clothes and borrowed John’s silk liner bag and was warm enough.

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The Cozy Kitchen

Bicycle Touring, USA 5 Comments »

My Bike on the California Coast

On an Oregon State Park beach after watching the Pacific sun dim to a bearable brightness and then slide behind dark gray clouds coating the horizon a Canadian kid came over to me and said hello. Comeau was too touring by bike. He’d been on the road over a month cycling from Edmonton, Canada to Vancouver and then down the coast. He carried a fraction of the gear I had and barely enough cash to buy a bus ticket home.

Comeau showed me some of his low-budget travel maneuvers. We walked into Best Western’s along the coast, filled our stomachs with eggs, waffles and pastries and our pockets with fruits and granola bars for the questionable price of a confident posture and coy smile.

Most of the Oregon coast was a beautifully scenic ride along ocean cliffs and through forests as we traveled from small surf town to small industry town.

In a particularly unaccommodating community characterized by the logging industry and dune buggy rental shops, my Canadian friend and I visited a small diner called the “Cozy Kitchen”.

Comeau asked our waitress Lisa for some hot water with which to mix his oatmeal. Despite my concern with asking a business to supply hot water so he could eat for free at their table, she kindly brought a steaming kettle along with honey and brown sugar on a glimmering silver platter.

Considering the sun was setting and the ugly little town didn’t have much to offer for a place to setup our tents, I wondered how far Lisa’s kindness might go.

“Maybe she’ll let us camp in her yard?” I posed to Comeau.

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The First Day of Pedaling – Talk to Strangers

Bicycle Touring, USA 5 Comments »

I envisioned an exit from downtown Portland with a slight breeze at my back as I pedaled down a long, straight and flat road with wide shoulders. Less than a quarter mile into my first self-supported bike tour the white line hit the edge of the pavement, the head winds started and the road turned almost directly upward. It stayed that way for most of the day.

I’d been running pretty regularly and I didn’t believe the mid 50’s woman cyclist I’d chatted with outside the ACE Hardware store who told me that running 30-40 miles per week didn’t mean anything when it came to cycling hills. Climbing mountains on that first day put a blazing fire in my legs I hadn’t felt since my years of self discipline conditioning in martial arts classes.

Thought it felt as if hot knives were being driven into my thighs with each down stroke, the cognitive battle was even worse. The first day was truly a test of spirit.

Should I have started extended bicycle travel without any training? I can’t do this. Maybe I should take a break? Am I really fit for this? Do I really want to be riding my bike across countries? Cycling isn’t necessarily for everyone. I’m probably better off backpacking. People make mistakes; maybe I just made a mistake. This isn’t just my mind; I’m actually reaching the limits of my physical ability!

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Traveling Again…

Bicycle Touring, Plans & Itineraries, USA 6 Comments »

In a few weeks time I’ll embark on a new adventure. This one will be somewhat of a different flavor. Instead of travelling by motored transport as usual, I’ll be pedaling a bicycle!

Surly Long Haul Trucker

Start Date: Early August
End Date: Unknown
Departure: Portland, Oregon
Direction: South
Destination: Unknown

For the past two weeks I’ve been daydreaming about pedaling through Central and South America. Daydreaming about travel is normal, but to daydream about the same place and specific travel idea…thats very unusual for me. So I decided to do it.

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Southbound

USA 6 Comments »

The first stop was DC where we stayed with a friend of mine named Dale, who helped Desiree’s soar throat and headache with an energy healing. The next day we ate tamales at the Native American History Museum, rubbed leaves between our fingers at the Botanic Gardens and climbed the stairs to Lincoln’s Memorial for a breezy sunset.

From there was a drive through the Shenandoah mountains and down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rolling far from both sides of the winding road were huge hills bursting with fresh green. As the night neared, thick fog rolled in. It became difficult to drive and Desiree’s throat was getting worse.

In Southern Virginia, late at night, we stopped at a local gas station. There was grey bearded man wearing a camouflage hat and a one piece camo jumper, which was unbuttoned halfway allowing a mesh of white netting to spill out from his chest.

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Don’t Forget My Postcard

USA 7 Comments »

“Have fun. Don’t forget my postcard. Drive safe. Buckle up. Stay awake. Pass on the left. Green means go. Full throttle. Open road. Live. Love. Learn.”

That’s the SMS I received from my friend Eric this morning. I read it aloud to Desiree as we pulled away from our temporary home in Providence. Since mid February we’d been staying in a spare room at my friend’s place. Today when we moved out of that room and into a Thrifty rental car, we were departing on a loosely planned zig zag road trip across America.

The winter in RI was cold and grey and it took a toll on my spirits. I have vowed never again to return to the northeast during winter months. However, it wasn’t all bad.

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Red Lights in Amsterdam

Netherlands 1 Comment »

After finding a sweet deal due to off season prices, we checked into a hotel in the center of Amsterdam. We ate stir fry and then popped in and out of “coffee shops” (marijuana bars) and “café’s” (pubs). The smell of weed hangs pours from “coffee shops”. The clang of glasses filled with dark Dutch and German beer sounds from the doors of “café’s”. Even in the frigid winter air, there is a steady stream of locals on bicycles.

I walked into a couple of tourist shops selling neck ties and wooden clogs, hoping to find some last minute Christmas gifts, but was quickly bewildered by the monotony of junk and gave up. Then for the first time, I ventured into the red light district.

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Almost the Last Leg

Germany 1 Comment »

From Switzerland, we drove through Germany, making a stop in Munich to walk the silent grounds of Dachau. After the Killing Fields in Cambodia, I had little interest in visiting a concentration camp, but Mike was anxious to see some WWII history. Although emotionally strained and left disillusioned with my existence, I am glad to have gone.

There’s not much to say about the Holocaust that hasn’t been said already and honestly, I don’t have much to say about it. Thinking about genocide leaves me feeling lost. All I manage to do is let the idea sit helplessly inside of me.

From Munich, we drove to Bochum before our departure in Amsterdam. It was a long drive. The stick seemed to be getting harder to shift and suddenly the overheat warning light came on. Putting the van in neutral and coasting through the cold air got it to turn off. I played that game with the light for an hour of so and then at a gas station, I poured half a bottle of coolant into the radiator. It didn’t help, but we made it to Bochum without any smoke.

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