Friday, August 30, 2013

Calling for an Ambulance

San Ramon, Nicaragua is the central hub for a collection of 89 smaller coffee growing communities in the central mountains. About 40,000 people live in the area, where harvesting coffee beans and subsistence farming are the primary occupations. It is the definition of what we, in the first world, refer to as a developing nation.

As such, the residents of the San Ramon region want for some basic services that we take for granted in the U.S. Specifically, the region has no dedicated emergency response system.

A group of volunteer firefighters, Los Bomberos, has been meeting the basic emergency medical needs of the region since 2008. The group has worked with Teach for Health in the past, and has received Basic Life Support and First Aid training. In an ambulance on loan from a nearby fire department, Los Bomberos has been providing community emergency response to the entire region. This involves travel over unmaintained mountain roads to communities that are sometimes hours away from San Ramon, which is in turn another 15 kilometers from the closest hospital. Along with their training, Los Bomberos has an automatic external defibulator to provide BLS for cardiac emergencies.

Last year, Los Bomberos lost the use of the ambulance, and saw their impact on community health drop dramatically. The training and equipment they have to provide fundamental life saving injunctions is nullified by immobility.

To illustrate, Los Bomberos was responding to between 10 and 30 medical emergencies a month with an ambulance, depending on the season. Since then, they have been lucky to respond to 5 in a month, and are only serving the closest communities.

Before moving on, take a second to imagine that you live in a loosely scattered community of 40,000 people without emergency medical response. In the U.S., such conditions are considered intolerable. In San Ramon, it is business as usual.

Los Bomberos are not content with business as usual. They have raised half the funds to purchase the ideal ambulance for the area: this Land Cruiser.

This vintage sport utility vehicle has the clearance and durability to handle the unforgiving conditions of Nicaraguan roads. Also, you can see that it has some amazing graphics on the side panels. That’s not crucial to saving lives, but it is classy.

Los Bomberos raised $3,000 for the down payment on their new wheels. As of now, the rig sits in the fire station in San Ramon. The dealer holds the keys until the balance is paid.

Plans for funding the remaining $3,000 have not materialized according to plan, and now Los Bomberos must find the cash within the next month. We want to do it in a week. After reviewing available funds, we need $2,000 to make the dream of emergency health response for rural Nicaraguans.

To make that happen, we are reaching out to you. You know the drill: every little bit helps. By a bit, we are talking about $5, $10 or more. Consider that the folks in these communities pick the coffee that you might be drinking tomorrow morning. How much do you spend on coffee? Would you like to know the coffee is not only Fair Trade, but the people who pick it have the bare minimum in emergency health care?

You should also know that this is not a Teach For Health project. As much as we want to take on every problem we come across, it’s just not feasible. We are an organization of humble means, and funding on this level is a significant part of our yearly budget. We see an opportunity here to make a tangible and profound effect on the health of the region. We see an opportunity to help our friends do their best to help people in need. In short, we see a situation we can’t turn away from. Know that we are invested in this, and we are leading the charge with making up the difference. With our words and our wallets. Los Bomberos has demonstrated true commitment and partnership to TFH, and we firmly believe in their potential. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.

To make a donation, head to the TFH website and click Donate. On the next screen there are several options for donating. The lowest one directs your funding straight to the ambulance project.

Thanks for all the help you give to this project. Your contribution is felt by thousands. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Album Review: The Weatherman by Gregory Alan Isakov

I usually fall asleep quickly, rarely lingering in my passage to sleep. Sometimes, I slowly drift and enter a realm between dreams and waking. In that state, I follow the mundane activities of people I’ve never met. They are tying shoes, washing dishes, buying groceries, mowing the lawn, sipping coffee. I rarely see them do anything noteworthy. Instead, I see the nuances of their character revealed in ordinary activities. When I wake from this state, I recount a strong identification with these people, but I remember no details. In surreal surveillance, I peer into the heart of their struggles, while the specifics wash away, leaving only a glowing recognition of their unique nature.

On The Weatherman, Gregory Alan Isakov consistently evokes a similar perspective. Each song is populated with characters that cling to the boundary between daily struggles and the promise of magic and myth that permeates every moment as they grapple with love and loss. They are just like us, but through the lense of Isakov’s songs, we see the passing beauty in the snapshots of their lives.

Throughout his career, this is what he has done best. Revealing the beauty in small acts is a classic trick of artists and authors, and one that Isakov nails every time. In that regard, this album is just business as usual. Look a little closer, and you’ll see an artist that has journeyed deeper into his craft.

While his previous efforts were by no means exercises in extravagance, we find him slicing much closer to the bone on this album. If he ever allowed for any fat or excess in his songs, it has been trimmed away. Only essence remains. Each song is a story or scene, and there is no gloss to hide the truth behind. This is as honest as songwriting gets, without sacrificing sonic depth, a familiar gambit in the singer-songwriter realm.

An album ago, on This Empty Northern Hemisphere, songs exist in a Technicolor world where arrangements spill outward from the spare framework of guitar and voice, eventually sweeping the listener away in a wave of emotion. This time around, that same expansive vision has been turned inward. All the familiar players, banjos, guitars, strings, saws, and background choirs ripped straight from 1940’s AM radio are here, but rather than transport you out into the world, the pieces of each song grow down and in, sucking the listener in to the yearning and heartbreak of each protagonist, delicate as a fading picture. Across and above it all, is the unmistakable croon of Isakov, who deserves a place among the greatest voices in music.

This record could have come out 30 years ago. It could be released in 10 years. It’s not often that a record strikes me as timeless on first listen. This one does, and it’s no mistake. The album was entirely recorded to analog tape, giving it a sound alien to modern ears. There is a warmth and dynamic range here that is a defense against the relentless binary march of the “superiority” of digital media and a reminder that we all have ability to find beauty in the fleeting moments that add up to create the sum total of our lives. I hope I live a life composed entirely of moments as beautiful as these songs. To that I aspire, at least.

This is an album for open places, dust colored sunsets, a heart wandering free in a world of unbearable emotion. It is for the lonely, the newly single, the habitually wayward, the unabashed romantic. It is for anyone on a journey, moving away from or toward the next unforgettable faded photograph of their lives.

Monday, June 24, 2013


As a freelance writer, I cover a lot of ground on the Internet. It's a hazard of the job, putting yourself in the line of fire of so much content. There really is an overwhelming amount of content out there. I've been reluctant to add to that chorus of voices in the past. I have a hard time stomaching a lot of confessional and personality based art and media. How many people are seeking a piece of your time, only to use it talk about themselves? The idea that we are just vessels for our creations, a channel for energy, is much more appealing than the cult of personality. I'd rather not know what kind of socks Justin Bieber wears because it cheapens the mystery to me. Alas, I am part of the minority. Soon the whole world will know the color of his foot ware.

As a writer and fledgling music producer, there is an urge to connect with and cultivate a relationship with an audience that brings me  to blogging. I want to reach out to as many connections as possible to work on projects. As a freelancer, getting paid is like sweet music to me, but it pales in comparison to getting to work with other people on projects I never would have dreamed of. That's what get's me up in the morning. That's what keeps me looking down this uncertain path, where the next paycheck could come from any direction. Also, I get to work in my slippers.

On "The Robots....Are Coming!" I'll be sharing my professional writings, some personal musings, updates on my music projects, and try to keep you up to date on traveling and wilderness excursions. You might even get to see pictures of my dinner! If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I'll try to keep things interesting.

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