Letters

Letters 08-03-2015

Real Brownfields Deserve Dollars I read with interest the story on Brownfield development dollars in the July 20 issue. I applaud Dan Lathrop and other county commissioners who voted “No” on the Randolph Street project...

Hopping Mad Carlin Smith is hopping mad (“Will You Get Mad With Me?” 7-20-15). Somebody filed a fraudulent return using his identity, and he’s not alone. The AP estimates the government “pays more than $5 billion annually in fraudulent tax refunds.” Well, many of us have been hopping mad for years. This is because the number one tool Congress has used to fix this problem has been to cut the IRS budget –by $1.2 billion in the last 5 years...

Just Grumbling, No Solutions Mark Pontoni’s grumblings [recent Northern Express column] tell us much about him and virtually nothing about those he chooses to denigrate. We do learn that Pontoni may be the perfect political candidate. He’s arrogant, opinionated and obviously dimwitted...

A Racist Symbol I have to respond to Gordon Lee Dean’s letter claiming that the confederate battle flag is just a symbol of southern heritage and should not be banned from state displays. The heritage it represents was the treasonous effort to continue slavery by seceding from a democratic nation unwilling to maintain such a consummate evil...

Not So Thanks I would like to thank the individual who ran into and knocked over my Triumph motorcycle while it was parked at Lowe’s in TC on Friday the 24th. The $3,000 worth of damage was greatly appreciated. The big dent in the gas tank under the completely destroyed chrome badge was an especially nice touch...

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Four steps to Africa: The Journey of Sean and Camryn Handler

Kristi Kates - June 21st, 2010
Four Steps to Africa: The Journey of Sean and Camryn Handler
By Kristi Kates
Boyne Spas Director Sean Handler says that there were four significant events that led up to he and his wife’s recent life-changing trip to Kenya, Africa.
“One, my father gave me your editor’s book, ‘Planet Backpacker,’ by Robert Downes,” Handler says, “the travelogue of his journey got me thinking, ‘if he can do it, why can’t I?’ Two, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, ‘Excuses Begone,’ also became a reference point; Solace Spa (at Boyne) was sponsoring Dr. Dyer’s CMU Public TV special, and the timing was perfect as it allowed me to see the excuses of my past, which had been creating a roadblock from this trip becoming a reality.”
“Three, I placed a large map of the world on the wall with marker points,” he continues, “every day I would look at it and tell myself reasons why I would travel soon - and four, the inspirational moment when Camryn and I finally just decided ‘we are doing this, no more excuses, let the planning begin!’”
The Handlers will share their experience with the public in their “Kenyan Dreams” presentation this Tuesday, June 22 at the Crooked Tree Arts Center.

EXOTIC TRAVEL
Camryn Handler explains that she, too, has loved traveling since she was little, when she and her brother would accompany her parents on trips.
“Sean and I have dreamt of taking months off to roam different places in the world,” she says, “Kenya grabbed my attention because of the exoticness of the travel and the wild animals; and I like seeing things that are completely different from what I know. Stepping out of this comfort zone, for me, really allows time to take a personal inventory of what’s important in life.”
The Handlers, who both work at Boyne, took a two-month sabbatical from their jobs this past February and March, and booked three weeks in Kenya and five weeks in India.
“I am so grateful that Boyne also values experiences, and graciously allowed us to take the time off to explore,” Camryn Handler says, “this was a great opportunity.”
Using frequent flyer miles, consulting “Lonely Planet’s” Thorn Tree Forum (“I was surprised when I discovered how expensive a safari truly was,” Sean Handler says) and placing their trip in the hands of native Kenyan Peter Mburu, the sole operator and guide of High Peaks Safari Company, the couple planned their trip via email, wiring cash to Kenya.
“This was a tough decision for us to make, especially on our small budget,” Camryn Handler says, “trusting someone we have never met halfway around the world.”
The Handlers flew from Traverse City to Chicago to London to Nairobi, and their immersion into the new culture began the second they disembarked the plane.
“Traveling within the country of Kenya was a bumpy ride,” Sean chuckles. But he and his wife agree that their “leap of faith” with Mburu’s company was one of the best decisions they made going forward to Africa.

TRANSFORMATIONAL TRIP
While their time in India was also a unique experience, it was the first three weeks in Kenya that really impacted the Handlers, especially the visit that was set up for them by Peter Mburu to a small rural school.
“Our original goal was to go to the Furaha Primary School to hand out pencils and paper to the children as an act of confidence and support for their education,” Camryn explains, “we had no idea what to expect. It was in the middle of a barren plateau surrounded by Mt. Kenya; 250-300 children in six classrooms with five teachers. Once we learned about this community, we wanted to bring them more joy and happiness; our goal became to raise money to support the planting of trees and the building of play equipment.”
The Handlers will be hosting a community event in Petoskey, “Kenyan Dreams,” for this very purpose; donations for the evening will benefit the school. Another goal for the couple developed gradually over their trip, and took a more focused form when they returned to Michigan.
“So many people we visited had so little,” Sean Handler explains, “little to no material objects, little food; yet they possessed a heart and a passion to share what little they had in a big way.”
With that in mind, both Handlers have aimed at a “much deeper appreciation towards living in quality every day” since they have returned.
“We actually removed our television from our home, purchased a community-supported agriculture share from the local farm, and have brought a more dedicated yoga practice into our lives,” Sean says, “Returning has been transformational and inspirational, yet challenging. It is easy to slip right back into habits one had before traveling - from junk food to working too many hours to not making time for oneself.”
“Our values are different here at home,” Camryn agrees, “keeping the balance of work, play, home, family, and friends is challenging. On sabbatical I found a calm quiet place of strength and courage that surprised me. I hope to keep bringing this forward everyday.”

MEMORABLE MOMENTS
The trip wasn’t all serious contemplation, though. While the Handlers found a depth of renewal and purpose in their travels that they perhaps didn’t expect, they also simply had a lot of unforgettable experiences along the way.
There were the moments that one might expect from an African journey, based on what most of us have seen in documentaries or read in travel books, including the scary-yet-inspiring sounds heard while camping in tents surrounded by African animals; and there were some other moments that were impossible to prepare for.
“When we visited the school, many people had not seen a ‘Mzungu’ (white person) before,” Sean explains, “they kept rubbing Camryn’s arm to try to remove what they thought was white powder on her.”
An upset elephant who had been rejected by his family group also threw the couple a scare when he charged their safari vehicle... and the vehicle’s wheels got stuck.
“We weren’t moving,” Handler says. “Tensions got high, our wheels kept spinning, and the elephant got within 10 feet of us before our wheels found a connection to the ground and moved us to safety.”

FUN AND INSPIRATION
There was humor, too, in primate form.
“One day we stepped out of our van and locked the doors,” Sean Handler recollects, “and we realized only moments afterward that monkeys had hopped in the van’s open safari top and stolen the bags of pencils that we planned to give to the school - it was a comical sight watching us chase the monkeys to get the pencils back!”
But perhaps most inspirational was the fact that the couple were, as Sean puts it, “swept off of their feet” by the vast size and scope of the African lands.
“This element of space felt phenomenal,” he says, “tents without walls, houses with open doors and windows, sounds that fill the air and heart.”
He quotes African lodge owner Fiammetta Monicelli: “I never knew about space until I came to Africa... this feeling of freedom has reshaped my life.”
“Kenya was inspiring in so many ways,” Camryn agrees, “the sheer vastness of the beautiful landscape and feeling so small; the cycle of birth and death and survival of the fittest. The drastic differences in daily life and the pure joy and strength in the Kenyan smiles - no matter where we live, smiles speak volumes and happiness creates an infectious connection.”
“Robert Downes states on his book, ‘Warning: Reading this book could cause your feet to wander,’” Sean Handler points out, “Guess what - it really does! The stories will live inside us forever. And we hope that our experiences may inspire an internal reflection for everyone.”

The Handlers’ event, “Kenyan Dreams,” an evening of stories and photos from their trip, will take place on Tuesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey. Donations for admission are requested to benefit the Furaha Primary School in Kenya, Africa.



 
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