ENGINEERING FOR TOMORROW & RAISING KILIMANJARO
by: Eric Oberwise

Documenting three months on the continent of Africa engineering renewable and sustainable technologies in Lilongwe, Malawi followed by a trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with a young woman who was was once paralyzed and told she would never walk again.
One more time: a young woman was told she would never walk again - and now we're climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

All this to raise $20K for May We Help — a nonprofit that uses skilled volunteers to invent, modify or adapt devices to improve the quality of life for those who require them.

Well, the cat is out of the bag with this article… We made it to the top of Africa…so much for trying to hide that I had tears in my eyes at the top of the summit! We raised OVER $20,000 dollars (now at $25k). We made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. And, most importantly, we showed the world what resilience looks like.

To say that I am proud would be an enormous understatement of my sentiments towards the #RaisingKilimanjaro campaign. For seven months of my life, I trained hard to ensure I would make to the top and worked exponentially harder to make sure that individuals who are touched by the May We Help organization get even more help through this fundraising  for projects.

I can say with brute honesty that I knew absolutely nothing about fundraising going into this but as a recent favorite quote states, “Turns out that building an airplane and flying it at the same time isn’t that bad of a strategy.” 

Truthfully, I never thought my own personal fundraising endeavor could snowball into such a tremendous campaign, but it did. It has been  by far one of the most rewarding, enriching, and learning experiences I have had in my life. 

Guess who made it all possible? YOU… friends, family, and even random acquaintances donated to help better the lives of complete strangers. I think the support and generosity has been what I am the most humbled, astonished, and proud of… aside from Katie summiting a mountain of course! Truly,thank you to everyone who made this happen. We did it!

The fundraising still isn’t over so if you’re feeling an itch to give back please feel free to do so at www.crowdrise.com/Kili2EngineerABetterTomorrow/fundraiser

We will be releasing a documentary and media about the climb later this year so look forward to that as well.

Warm warm regards,

Eric

Many The Miles.

Now, romance can be a tough subject in and of itself… but romance from a distance is a whole different ballgame. It’s certainly not something for the pursuit of the faint of heart. It’s that light at the end of the tunnel that keeps you going. Truly, distance is not something that persons of all walks of life can pursue. It takes a couple of very strong-willed, level headed, and extremely passionate individuals to ignite and sustain the flame.

At times, long distance can be so incredibly tough. When words and worries are misconstrued with emotions from a distance being so hard to convey, that light at the end of the tunnel is nothing but a glimmer. Something that seems like a fleeting figment of imagination. It’s in those moments that it takes two individuals of a certain character to dig deep, circle back, and realize why they got themselves into the mess for: that person they adore and the way they bring happiness in their life. There is the realization that going through the distress caused by distance can only make the relationship more robust. What a horribly beautiful problem to have.

Those of Malawi are very familiar with this concept. Spouses, children, and family are far flung hundreds of miles away between the major cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre. Most circumstances are done out of the desperate need to work and make money, yet the people here understand what it means to have faith in reaching that end goal of being together. It seems that they count themselves to be lucky to have the opportunities and extremely appreciative to see loved ones again.

I’m one amongst bunches of the long distance romantics here. Truly, I feel exactly the same way as the majority of Malawians, blessed and beyond appreciative to have the opportunity to be here and, at the same time, with someone that brings so much happiness into my life, even if it has been from a distance; Someone who is, in every sense of the words compassionate, supportive, empathetic, intelligent, driven, spontaneous, selfless, and loving. It is the grit and grind between visits from both ends of the romance that has made us stronger and, without a doubt, closer; I say this despite being even further than ever before.

Without coincidence, I’m posting this on the day that marks seven months of being together yet almost constantly apart. And with even less coincidence than that, in those seven months I’ve had some of the happiest and most hopeful moments of my life due to the person willing to make the sacrifice of distance alongside me!

I’m of the firm belief that missing someone gets easier every day because, well, you may be one day further from the last time you saw the person but you’re exactly one day closer to seeing them again.

Caitlyn, I miss you tremendously but, more so, want to thank you for being my light at the end of the tunnel and bringing me the utmost happiness.

Without Matrix Service Company it wouldn’t be possible to give one person the chance to physically conquer a mountain to represent the mountains that hundreds of others conquer through the inventions of May We Help.

Without Matrix Service Company it wouldn’t be possible to give one person the chance to physically conquer a mountain to represent the mountains that hundreds of others conquer through the inventions of May We Help.

Curiosity.

I don’t think it always killed the cat… In fact, I think it helped more than it hurt him a good number of times.

I noted in my last personal post that the people of Malawi have shown a very curious nature about ME as a foreigner and azungu (ghost a.k.a white person). I still find their fascination with foreigners really fascinating but want to talk about a very different kind of curiosity that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing here. It’s not the type of curiosity surrounding things that are, at surface level, very foreign and strange. It’s deeper than that.  Not to get all philosophical but I think people here have the exact same curiosity for the bettering of our human existence and the success of human kind.

Now, I don’t mean this in a religious sense. When I say ‘curiosity’ it also entails some of the drive and motivation to figure out what it is that is lacking or misunderstood. The individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with and talk candidly to display this curiosity about life that, in an ironically upside-down way, makes me a bit envious. I say upside-down because there aren’t many thing here that I envy here in comparison to my life back home. I’m envious because, to me, it seems like a genuine curiosity. Yes, life here is much more simple and often traditional, but it doesn’t mean that these people don’t have dream, aspirations, and, most importantly, curiosity about the future.  

To give just one example, I’ll use education. I’ve noticed a profound difference here in the desire for education. Certainly, the drive to achieve higher education is on an individual basis, but the general sentiment I get in talking with my co-workers is that if you have the opportunity to learn at an institution it’s something that is sought after with excitement. Institutional learning is looked at from a “lifetime of learning” perspective as opposed to “get your college degree and go make some money”. It’s arguable that the discrepancy may be due to the broken education system in the U.S.  but I think an even bigger factor is the cultural curiosity about life. Maybe it’s just the American mentality of being spoiled by the education system and looking through the lens as learning being something that’s given and not earned?

I think it’s simply a matter of opportunity. A good pedestal to hold up would be India. They have been able to give educational opportunities and, despite coming from tough economic conditions and very rigid cultural traditions, they have individuals chomping at the bit to be educated.

A lifetime of curiosity and learning; Great mentality. 

Ever get the feeling like everyone is staring at you out in public?

Most everyone knows the feeling. Maybe it’s because you’re wearing something you think others will find strange or you have a stain from something you were eating earlier. Realistically, most people don’t even take notice and,for the most part, all the worry is in your head. As humans, we have the innate ability to amplify our worries when we feel insecure around others. For the most part, that’s what people overcome as they transition into adulthood.

But what if everyone WAS starring at you? All the time. Like an exhibit at the zoo!

It’s something that I had absolutely no idea how to prepare for or even begin to expect. To walk down any street or path and have a ninety-nine percent chance that every person you walk past stares. Every person.

Initially, it was incredibly difficult to wrap my mind around what exactly these people were thinking as they stared. Some almost seemed to have a look of resent, maybe due to unfamiliarity? It may have been simple curiosity but either way it gets uncomfortable if you dwell on it for too long. Those who look at me with initial curiosity followed by a smile or simple hello are typically warmly welcomed and the sentiment is reciprocated by me.

I think a great takeaway from this all is that a smile and simple greeting, even when things appear foreign, should be the standard response as human beings. Why take the initial emotional action to be defensive or aggressive? It’s something I’ve probably even done myself in the US and not thought twice about it. I’m incredibly appreciative to have the experience now from the other side and will work for the rest of my to be better at taking on unknown persons with a friendly nature. It’s something universal and doesn’t even have to be applied to foreign relations.

Your smile is a messenger of your good will. Your smile brightens lives of all those who see it. To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds

- Dale Carnegie

Alright everyone. I’ve been pretty bad at this whole blog thing, forgive me. It’s a first for me!

Things have been going really well. My main project is a VSBK which is essentially still in construction phase. We should be laying the foundation for the brick extrusion machinery this week and I can then begin on working with the heavy equipment to get it up and running. For some reason I feel like the amount of time working is about to go from 0-60 once we get everything lined up. Things move SLOW here. Construction is measured indefinitely and deadlines are intentionally not set. Getting used to that mentality is pretty tough coming from the deadline ridden American culture. 

This past weekend we took a trip to Lake Malawi… It quickly made sense to all of us why people live here. The lake and lodge are absolutely beautiful and essentially untouched by tourism.

More to come!