Out of Trinidad & Tobago and into the New World of Venezuela

Posted on Monday September 28, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 This is a photo is from my missions trip to Africa. We went for a speak at a church in  Goma . It was kind of intense, there apparently was fighting going on within 100 miles of where we were. You can check out  Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 1 Facebook Album  and  Africa Mission Trip 2002 -- pt 2 Facebook Album . This is a photo is from my missions trip to Africa. We went for a speak at a church in Goma . It was kind of intense, there apparently was fighting going on within 100 miles of where we were. You can check out Africa Mission Trip 2002 – pt 1 Facebook Album and Africa Mission Trip 2002 – pt 2 Facebook Album .

What is Our Relationship to the Poor and Needy

Traveling through South America there are a lot of opportunities to see different governments, social service institutions, churches, and poverty. But what is the churches/government’s responsibility to these people. Psalm 82 seems to address just this and share some of God’s heart to the poor and needy.

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.” Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations. – Psalm 82:1-8

I find this Psalm particularly interesting. I was reading it while I was in Trinidad at the Hotel. I think it was really interesting to read before we made it to Venezuela, a mostly socialist nation. While it seems to have corruption, and a lot of it’s own issues… it is interesting to see how they care for their people.

Particularly with this Psalm, I find it interesting that it describes God both judging the church and the rulers (v. 1). It talks about about God judging them based on three tasks (vs. 3-4).

  1. How they vindicate the weak and fatherless
  2. Do justice to the afflicted and destitute
  3. Rescue the weak and needy and deliver them out of the hand of the wicked

In the Christian circles I travel in, it seems well known that it is the churches/individuals responsibility to take care of those in need. Within those circles, I don’t hear very much about that same responsibility being on the government/officials. If I was to describe my political viewpoint, it can sometimes be difficult to describe.

I would describe myself as pragmatically very liberal, but idealistically conservative. This means that in an ideal world all of the poor, needy, destitute, fatherless would be cared for in the private sector. I believe the private sector is much efficient and people friendly. Having worked within some of the bureaucracy in Washington State (DSHS, and JRA) I have found the pubic agencies to be difficult to find services for people, sometimes have more burnt-out people working there, and they are not efficient. It seems very different in the private sector. This is especially true in regards to if it’s a church/individual. The problem I see, and the reason that I would say pragmatically I’m very liberal is that I don’t see the private sector as having the funds, and the churches/individuals are not stepping up enough. In my introduction to Social Work Class, my professor described that the yearly budget for United Way (a giant international agency) is the same as the daily budget for DSHS. It seems that while the private sector is a more idealistic way to go, that the finances are not there.

When Ps 82 describes that the government officials are responsible for how they have done justice to the people, I think that we ought to listen. While there are many needs and problems in a country like Venezuela, at least they have a health care system that looks after all of their people. Something that I hope happens soon in the United States. I just pray that our politicians will get a measure of the fear of God and understand that they will be judged according to how they work for the people they govern.

The last little bit of Trinidad & Tobago

 A Tomb in Lapeyrouse Cemetery that was obviously lived in by the homeless A Tomb in Lapeyrouse Cemetery that was obviously lived in by the homeless

Again, you can see all the photo’s from Trinidad & Tobago on their album on Facebook (Miami Heat in the Evening and Trinidad CoExisting Island Style Facebook Album). We ended up spending a total of five days in both Trinidad & Tobago. It was really interesting to go and walk around Lapeyrouse Cemetery in Port of Spain. We saw a couple of homeless people. One of which was a bit scary because he was walking around with a lead pipe. We met a father and son (at least that was our guess) who were staying in a tomb in in the cemetery. The father talked to us for a while, and it was really interesting to hear his perspective. We ended up giving him some TT (the money used in Trinidad & Tobago). I was struck thinking that I couldn’t imagine living inside of a tomb. By the third day in Port of Spain, we were ready to head out and find a beach somewhere. The only problem is that they are not easy to get to in Trinidad (at least there were non in Port of Spain, you have to go to another part of the country). We had heard really great things about Tobago, so we decided to adventure out to there.

There are ferries that run multiple times per day to Trinidad. We landed in The Port of Scarborough. We ended up staying at a guest house with a lady named Phyllis. It was beautiful to sit on the porch and talk with her about life/politics. The next day we went to the Beach at Store Bay. There is a beautiful beach there, and we got to meet some travelers from England there. We did not stay in Tobago for very long, and we had to catch a ferry to Venezuela early the next morning.

Venezuela: Guardia Nacional, Fellow Travelers, and Beaches/Yachts

 The Beach at Store Bay The Beach at Store Bay

We originally flew into Trinidad, because it had the cheapest flights. We figured that it would be really simple to get to the mainland and head to Venezuela. This was not the case. We found one ferry that travels to Guiria once a week. Trinidad is significantly more expensive and less friendly then Venezuela so we were really glad to finally make it to the mainland. On the Ferry we ended up meeting about 10 other European travelers (from England, Germany, and Austria). This was a very beautiful thing. It is really strange to get into a new country, be unsure of the money, not know where you are, have issues with the language… etc. Traveling in a group is a great thing. We had gotten to Guiria too late to catch a bus to Cumana. We had to exchange some US dollars on the “black market” and catch a taxi to Carupano. Venezuela’s exchange rate is about 2 Venezuelan bolivar fortes to 1 USD. But if you exchange on the “black market” it’s about 5-7. The best we’ve found has been 6.

Before leaving Guiria, our taxis were stopped by the Guardia Nacional (the national police… or these guy’s with large guns speaking to you in Spanish). We all had to empty our bags/pockets. They wanted to know how much money we had, and even made us count it out for them (I think due to black market). About an hour taxi ride later we were stopped again, and had to do the same. Every other Guardia Nacional stop after that, we clapped for the taxi driver because we didn’t have to stop. I was worried about some sort of “imposed tax” but there was nothing like that. An almost 3.5 hour taxi drive later we ended up in Carupano (it only cost the equivalent of $6 each person… amazingly cheap). We grabbed some empanadas, and caught a bus to Cumana. We arrived pretty late in Cumana and stayed at a place called the Hotel Astoria. The next morning we did some exploring, and six of us took a ferry to Margarita Island.

Ami and I having a Margarita on Isla de Margarita Ami and I having a Margarita on Isla de Margarita

The first night we stayed in a city in Polamar (Hotel Centro… basic accommodations but under $10 per night). The next morning we found out that the governor of Isla de Margarita had called an holiday the day before. We watched Hugo Chavez talk about Bush trying to assassinate him on Larry King Live only to find out that he (and other Latin/African national leaders) were having a summit on Isla de Margarita. With everything closed we made our way to Juan Griego to stay at Hotel Patrick. While we didn’t realize this, Chavez was to have the summit right outside of the city. We arrived disoriented with two other English travelers in Juan Griego to a crowd gathering to hopefully get to see the loved presidente (apparently not everybody is happy with him, but this city is a part of his political base). We’ve found Hotel Patrick to be the best we’ve stayed in (and for me better than anywhere in Europe). While we’ve been here, we have spent our days at the beach. Playa Caribe is a wonderful beach. We also chartered a 30 ft yacht ($50 per person) who took us to this beautiful little island and we snorkeled/scuba dived (amazing fish and a little bit of reef), got to learn to sail a little bit. It has been truly the vacation part of our trip. Tomorrow we are meeting up with our friends from Austria and celebrating Ami’s second birthday (she will get two parties… lucky).

Quick Update From Isla de Margarita

Posted on Sunday September 27, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

While traveling sometimes, it seems like I might spend too much time on my computer. Especially because I am a bit of a perfectionist, I take quite a bit of time to get any one thing finished. I was hoping to write about some of my experiences over the last week… but it’s just taken way too long to get everything done (so hopefully tomorrow). It’s already almost 11pm here in Venezuela, and I have a 6am boating excursion in the morning. I did figure that I would leave you with a couple of things. I’m making a list of all my posts, and other facts (including my Google Maps trip viewer) at a page on my blog (Jaunt Down South). I have uploaded my pictures so far from Venezuela, Entering a Whole New World Facebook Album. I have also updated places that we have been on my Google Maps:

View Jaunt Down to South America in a larger map

So happy viewing and I will write more soon.

From Surreal to Real

Posted on Monday September 21, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

Some background

 From surreal to real From surreal to real

The last days before heading out on this adventure of a lifetime (see post: Let The World Change You, and… You Can Change The World for more information on my trip) I had a lot of different feelings and thoughts. You can also see my photo’s I uploaded of my End of Summer Adventures Facebook Albums. It felt very surreal to know that i was leaving for a long period of time. Spending some last day’s hanging out with friends, it felt like I would be able to see them again anytime that I wanted… just like I always have been able to. When I gave back my apartment, I had a realization that I was then homeless. Hanging out with my mom before I left, I went on my way feeling like I haven’t spent enough time with her during the last couple of years.

The closer I got to the trip, getting inside the airplane… landing in Dallas then in Miami… then in Trinidad it all became very real.

The Miami Heat

You can view the album Miami Heat in the Evening and Trinidad CoExisting Island Style Facebok Album if you are interested in seeing the pictures.

So I guess that I ought to explain a little bit of what’s happened so far in the last couple of days, so that you can keep up. We had a 12 hour layover in Miami, which was planned to be that way. While it was supper hot outside, it didn’t start out so hot. We took forever to figure out the bus system, missed the last night bus (at 12:30… doesn’t make sense). We ended up paying for a taxi ($32.00) to go to Miami Beach. It was a lot of fun, and worth all of the hardship. We salsa danced at Mango’s Tropical Cafe for a couple of hours. We spent some time at The Clevelander, a pretty cool club. We ended up wondering down to the beach and just playing in the water and talking about life, love, and God for a couple of hours. It was really great, and made me so glad that I was going with Ami. I could tell it would be a great trip. Around about 6am, it was getting late enough that we could catch a bus back to the airport. We first caught the one going the wrong way, then we ended up missing the next one. While we were waiting for the one after that, we got the great idea into our heads that we should sneak onto a yacht and do some exploring. Well, we missed the next bus due to that. So when we finally got back to the airport around 8am, combining jet lag and lack of sleep we were both exhausted. After three and a half more hours we were in Trinidad.

Co-Existing Island Style – Trinidad & Tobago

 Live Crabs on Fredrick St. Live Crabs on Fredrick St.

We arrived in Trinidad and encountered a couple of problems right away. First they didn’t want to let us into the country because we didn’t have a specific place we were staying and we didn’t have a specific plan for leaving. In hindsight, I believe that this is important. We took a taxi to Port of Spain, the city we are staying at in Trinidad. It poured rain on and off the first night. Ami and I were so tired that we both went to sleep around 6 or 7pm. The next morning, we woke up early. We met a couple of different people. First was Chester, who wondered around with us trying to help us find a restaurant. We ended up buying him a soda. Later we met Marcus, who we ended up paying about $15.00 for his service as a “certified tour guide.” Although we probably got swindled a bit, it was worth it to get to see the sights. One place that was really interesting was the Reggae club he took us to. It was pretty eclectic, locked people inside of this bar, and everybody was smoking marijuana. That night we ended up going out to see what the night life was. We ended up meeting a guy named Steven. He was totally enamored with Ami, and had no problem telling her that, after he found out that we weren’t together. Today, I slept in much later than Ami did. We wondered out looking for a meal, and then spent hours agonizing over how to get off of this expensive island. When we decided to just follow the plan we had made the day before (wait till Wednesday and take a ferry to Venezuela) , we walked down to Independence Square. It’s was pretty amazing to see how many people were out. It was full of the eclectic groups of people that make up Trinidad. From business men, families, Rastafarians, homeless, and everything in between. It was awesome to see so many people outside, enjoying community, parks, and the early evening. All and all, even though it’s become very real. I’m very excited to see what happens during this trip.

Let The World Change You, and… You Can Change The World

Posted on Friday July 24, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

The Motorcycle Diaries Poster Art

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) is about two men from Buenos Aires who make plans to travel by motorcycle travel around the coast of South America. The story comes from journey and written memoir of the 23-year-old Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara. Che Guevara years later become internationally known as the iconic Marxist revolutionary. The film recounts the 1952 journey, initially by motorcycle, across South America by Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. As the adventure centered around youthful hedonism unfolds, Guevara discovers himself transformed by his observations of the life of the impoverished indigenous peasantry. The road presents Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado a genuine picture of the Latin American identity. Through the characters they encounter on the road, Guevara and Granado learn the injustices the impoverished face and are exposed to people they would have never encountered in their hometown. The trip serves to expose a Latin American identity as well as explore the identity of one of its most memorable revolutionaries. This description changed from Wikipedia entry

I watched this movie last night with my friend who I am going to be traveling around South America with. It was a powerful movie, and one that I highly recommend for anybody to watch. Watching it, made me think about my upcoming trip, and what some of my expectations/reasons for going are. The following is some of what these are

  • Learn Spanish: When I was in Barcelona Spain during my European Excursion, it was the place linguistically I felt the most comfortable. I want to be able to come back fluent, especially able to counsel and work with people I might other wise have had a language barrier.
  • Meet/See/Do: I’ve been very fortunate in my life to travel and see lots of the world. Already in my life I’ve been to four of the six continents I want to see (I have no desire to go to Antarctica). I love the feeling of being on the road. During my travels I’ve gotten to meet so many different people, that have improved and influenced my life. As I’ve gone places, the people have opened up my heart and encouraged me. I’ve also seen some of the most beautiful sights all around the world. I love seeing new places, and learning about the history and culture.
  • Sort of a Sabbatical: Sense graduating from High School, I have been working on preparing myself for my career for the last seven years. I spent two years involved in a leadership training/discipleship program called the Master’s Commission. After that I went to community college and earned my AA, transferred to Eastern Washington University and first earned my BA in Social Work and now most recently my master’s degree in social work. I think it is fitting to spend a year traveling and refocusing for my return and beginning of my career.
  • Finding Direction: I don’t feel like I’m running away scared from my future, but I don’t know really what the next step is for me. I think the traditional concept for after graduation is to start “real life.” I don’t like the idea of this. I feel like we should live/love the moments we are at in life. We don’t have any time other than the now. I don’t feel ready for things like getting a career job, buying a house, getting married, having a dog… etc. OK, dog thing sounds good, but I’m just not ready for the rest.
  • Letting The World Change Me: Just like in the movie the Motorcycle Diaries, I am hoping that the experience will change me and prepare me to go out and change the world.

I think that is quite a list of different hopes for my trip. If you want to see a preview of the move Motorcycle Diaries watch it from youtube below.

Both Good and Bad Can be Crazy

Posted on Friday June 19, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 Crazy Crazy

 South American Trip Confirmation South American Trip Confirmation

In my years working with at-risk youth, I’ve come to have some pretty crazy stories that I was either there for or heard about second hand. Yesterday, was no exception. What I can say is that a man with a machete attacked a teenager outside of my work yesterday. Apparently after the attack he walked calmly up to the Crisis Residential Center, and was attempting to get in. The Spokesman Review article describes the attacker as a possible mental patient.

While I wasn’t at work during this incident, It’s pretty crazy and tops any other stories I’ve head before. It has also made me think about violence that is taking part with our youth. While the attacker was 49 years old, it was still an attack on a teenager. Maybe it’s that I’ve been watching too much GangLand on the history channel (you used to be able to watch videos on NinjaVideo.net), but I think that all of the violence is crazy. In thinking about violence, I think that it is about building up our communities. Although Spokane is not a huge place, it is growing. There is a gang problem, I realized that while working at Spokane Juvenile Detention. There are some pretty bad neighborhoods, check out the Crimemap. I believe it is about staying in some of these more needy neighborhoods. It’s going to be the community to help change the violence. A good book about inner city violence is Fist Stick Knife Gun by Geoffrey Canada.

The other crazy thing that is happening right now, is that I just bought tickets to go to South America. We fly into Trinidad and Tobago into Port of Spain. Me and Ami are still attempting to lock down some ideas about exactly what we will be doing, but it is now a for sure thing (tickets purchased).

Five Years Each

Posted on Saturday June 13, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 Five Years. Five Years.

Transitions and ceremony are important aspects of all of our lives. I was talking with a good friend the other day, who was telling me that she is not that interested in a wedding. To me the marriage is not about either the certificate or the ceremony. I do believe that both are important. The certificate is like a legal deceleration stating to everybody that two people are married. The ceremony is also important in that it is a public display of of what is going on in two people’s hearts and a public showing of the certificate. While the most important component of the marriage is the two people and their lives lived together, the other parts are significant.

In the western culture, we don’t truly have a ceremony to depict a young person’s transition into adulthood. Many cultures used to have different ceremonies. Last year, I was hoping to attend one of Fr. Richard Rohr’s Men’s Rites of Passage I will be participating in my own right of passage today. Graduation from college is probably the closest ceremony that we have depicting somebodies transition into adulthood.

Today, I will graduate with my master’s degree in social work. It is a pretty amazing story that while it took five years to earn my high school diploma, I will have earned my master’s degree in the same amount of time. I have had a ton of different challenges, changes, and other stuff happen over the last many years and find myself lucky to be where I’m at.

While I am still not exactly sure what I will be doing next year this time… I do have have some ideas.

Weighing the Balance

Posted on Monday May 4, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 The needs of the many verses the one. I made it in Adobe Illustrator, but I'm attaching the Adobe Photoshop file, because I can't find the original Illustrator file. It's some of my first experiences playing with Illustrator The needs of the many verses the one. I made it in Adobe Illustrator, but I’m attaching the Adobe Photoshop file, because I can’t find the original Illustrator file. It’s some of my first experiences playing with Illustrator

At work recently, I have been thinking about some tough issues. Weighing the balance of the good for the many verses the good for the one is something that seems to come up over and over in residential work. Often at the CRC, our last effort to curb negative behavior of a youth is to “punish” the group. This often means taking away the T.V. or not being able to go on an outing, because one youth is acting out negatively. This is always a tough decision, because it is hard to punish the many because of the behavior of the one.

An even more difficult weight that sometimes must be balanced is in looking towards a youth that really needs a lot of help, support, and love. These youth that need more time spent working with them, sometimes take staff’s time away from the other youth. One particular youth often required one to one staffing (something that was unthinkable from my times at Jubilee). While it is great to pour that much attention into one youth, sometimes I feel like I haven’t had time to come and give to the other youth at the facility. This youth has also displayed behavior that could be harmful to the other clients (bullying and threatening).

It can be very tough to know that one person really has a lot of need, and wanting to help them as much as possible. But to at the same time, understand that there is a need to help as many as possible. Maybe even be able to focus more on youth who are receptive and willing to work on issue. I guess it can be broken down into two ethical fields of thoughts. That of utilitarianism and of Kantian ethics. I believe it is much too early in the morning to spend time getting into the specifics of the arguments.

What do you guy’s believe is the best way to judge if one ought to work with the one at the expense of the many or the many at the expense of the one?

Street Lights

Posted on Sunday April 19, 2009 by Jacob Campbell.

 Street Lights Street Lights

I spent this weekend seeing old friends in both Pulman and Moscow. It was a really good time, and a trip well spent. The trip really made me spend some time evaluating where I am in my life, especially as I sped home at 2 am on Sunday morning (wanted to be able to go to my home church).

I had two thoughts as I was speeding home. I started thinking about how fast paced my life (and really the majority of the industrialized world) is. First, I was thought about when the road is bumpy that one feels the bumps even more and they can be harder to handle then if somebody is going slowly. Have you ever taken a speed bump at 50 mph? Well, I haven’t, but I would imagine that it would be very hard to take. I think this is true in our lives too. As our life pace moves so quickly, the bumps in our life are harder to handle correctly. It is much more likely that one of the bumps in our life will take us out. Second, I started thinking about how I drive when I am going fast, especially at night. Race cars attempt to turn as little as possible. Sudden changes in direction can be detrimental for somebody going quickly. If there are no cars, I might freely change lanes back and forth to attempt to go as straight as possible. It’s like the lines in our life don’t matter as much. I believe in our fast paced life, it can be easier and easier to have the lines and boundaries blur. Things that did not appear cross-able are easily crossed to keep the speed up. Maybe it’s time to slow our lives down some, keep in our lane and courageously take on all the bumps that come our way.