Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chronicle Article

Hey Guys, this is done provisionally now. Check it for style, grammar, spelling, etc, and content most of all. Where is it missing things? Are you convinced? I am going to send it to the Chronicle and perhaps other local papers. And of course to the Rotarians. Enjoy. ?

Dear reader,

I have recently returned from an 11 month exchange in Mexico through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. This experience is typically described as "the best year of your life." Though this may not be strictly true in my case, it is nonetheless not an exaggeration in the strength of feeling it conveys. You don't really realize what is going on on the other side when you see an Exchange Student in Cass City. It is something you really must experience for yourself. You see everything from a completely different angle, and in general, appreciate most things more.

Mexico is a beautiful country with delicious food and gracious people. I could write about the general differences I have observed between Americans and Mexicans, but this would be purely anecdotal, prejudicial, and wouldn’t necessarily do good in any sense. Instead, I would like to make a case for you and your children to go on exchange programs and to travel in general.

After being accepted into the Rotary Youth Exchange Program (don't worry, it is not difficult to get in), you go through several meetings during the course of the year prior to your exchange. These meetings put you together with the Inbounds (students here from other countries) here in your District, the Rebounds (students who have come back from exchange), and the Outbounds (students who will be on exchange all over the world when you are). The meetings are run by the excellent Rotary volunteer staff, who keep in contact with the Outbounds all year when they are on exchange and help with any problems that come up. The meetings offer training for both students and their parents, providing information and exercises that try to emulate the challenges you may face during your exchange. At one of these meetings, you have to rank the 40-some available host countries from first to last. Some time later, you will be assigned a host country and a host Rotary Club, where you will live and attend high school.

During your exchange year, you will live with three different host families, meet and befriend all the other exchange students from all over the world in your district, and go on Rotary trips, an extremely economical way to see the most beautiful parts of the world, with friends. Almost every district or region offers a trip; some are more elaborate than others (Brazil's trip is nearly a month long) but all of them are extremely worthwhile, and they are quite affordable. It would be a shame to go on exchange and not take the trip, and the Host Rotary Club can and will almost always help kids with raising the money if they need it. Rotary Youth Exchange is run entirely by volunteers, and the Rotarians are very gracious and enthusiastic people who can do incredible things. They take excellent care of their exchange students and do what they do for the most altruistic reasons. They want to share their lives and culture with the students from the bottom of their hearts.

The reasons why you should go on exchange are plentiful and convincing. The unexpected benefits, the surprises (a good friend you keep in contact with the rest of your life, a love of salsa music, or even the discovery of a sense of purpose; one girl, seeing the conditions of refugees from Burma in Thailand, has dedicated herself to working for the UN Refugee Agency and improving conditions for these people), are after all the best part of the exchange. Testimonials are the most direct evidence of the worth of the exchange year, but they depend on a trust, and an established relationship I unfortunately do not and couldn't really have with you, my unknown reader. So, I will try to articulate, as best I can, the value of travel and youth exchange in particular.

The first and simplest of these is merely that exchange, through Rotary in particular, is a great opportunity. It is one of the cheapest ways to travel (as little as $1,500 during the entire year; food and school are paid for by the host families and Rotary Clubs), it provides an indispensable immersion and intimacy with the culture that is impossible to find as a tourist, and is a fantastic educational deal; the traditional schooling you receive in your host country may not be worth anything at all (it wasn't in my case) but there are things you gain on exchange that can't be taught in a classroom. I believe that exchange is an essential component of a truly broad, modern, international education.

An exchange shows you directly that there really is a huge, wide world out there, something that is easy to forget in the complacent nose-to-the-ground routine of daily life. It shows you that other people do really view things in fundamentally different ways, and that, in most cases, there is no "right" or "wrong" to this. It teaches you not to reject or discredit things because they are foreign or seem "backwards." You come back from exchange seeing your culture and the world in a more objective light: you have no depth perception seeing with only one eye.

Exchange was an experience that helped me to mature and grow as a person. I am more comfortable talking to people and more outgoing and forward with them. Since I have been back, I have performed a marimba solo in front of 1200 people at the Rotary Central States Youth Exchange Conference, and given a presentation to the local Rotary club, saying most of the same things I am saying here. These are things I would have been nervous and uncomfortable doing before, but felt completely relaxed and normal now. On exchange, no one knows you. You have the chance to rebuild your character from scratch in a way that is not possible among people who have established preconceptions of you. You constantly have to explain who you are to curious people in your host country, and in answering them, you learn more about yourself. It is wonderful to have strangers genuinely interested in who you are and where you are from, and what things are like there. Finding people baffled by things you always took for granted in your own culture shows the significance of cultural differences as well as the potential for disparate behaviors and beliefs in human nature.

Now that you know why you should go on exchange, let me preempt your doubts and excuses. First of all, logistical concerns, regarding college admissions, regarding high school credits, regarding missing a year of anything, etc, should be dismissed out of hand. These things are not difficult to work out and are easily worth the trouble. The only other real objection that comes up is something we all feel, some more than others, and is essentially something we each need to overcome individually: laziness and fear of the unknown. I am pretty bad about this and was much worse as a child. My father made an implacable, titanic effort to destroy this in me, and it is because of him I went to Mexico. This lethargy - the impulse to stay at home where it is familiar and easy - is what keeps us from completing our dreams, from being ambitious, and from seeing the beauty of the world and the people in it.

Most of you, of course, will never have the opportunity to go on exchange. However, there are plenty of other ways to get involved and to become a part of the wonder that it is. Youth Exchange Officers (YEO) is always looking for host families to host Inbounds. Hosting an exchange student brings a new member into your family, and illustrates vividly the existence of the world outside. It provides a unique opportunity to look into another person's life and history, a history that is typically drastically different from those of the people around you. Each of the exchange students my family has hosted has given as much to us as we have to them. The same principle holds true for high school students: make a point of seeking out the exchange students in your school and talking to them. They are some of the most interesting people in school with you, if only because of their unique perspective and background (though typically not only for those reasons).

If I have piqued your interest about exchange, all you need to do to get started is get in touch with your local Rotary YEO. I would also love to talk to you and give you more information from my experience, and you should feel free to contact me. My email address is In Cass City, my mom, Debra Kranz, is the YEO, and you can reach her either by email at or by calling us at home at 872-4215. Rotary Clubs typically have phone numbers listed in the beginning of the phone book, and if not, asking a few local businesspeople should find someone who can put you in touch with a Rotarian. More information is also available at the Central States Youth Exchange Website: If you are interested, the journal I kept of my personal experience on exchange in Mexico is available at



Monday, July 27, 2009

A longstanding disposition, an art project, and a list

1. Since at least the fifth grade, but possibly 3rd-4th, I have felt weighted by my own uselessness. Never before have I tried to explain it, its particulars, or its general mentality, as it has always seemed so very base to me and thus only its extensions were fully fleshed in thoughts. This uselessness goes beyond my triviality and right into the function of things without me. I describe it now as an extended evaluation of relationships.

2. It came up, finally, in my attempt to name an art piece. The piece is much in the same vein of this thought-- a comparison of the personal and the public mentalities as a tool for exploring the nature of the human and its relationship with history, fragility, and what we deem as 'the world'.

3. The piece in question:
Two suitcases, clearly used and aged, but not antique by any means. They lay on their broad sides, top open, and they are filled with water. They sit like this in the solitude of a white, four-walled installation room. A microphone covered by plastic baggies lies hidden in each, amplifying every disturbance an approach might cause in a soft sort of whale-call of technology.
The suitcases sit on top of a very thin layer of sand and dirt. A fairly even mix. It tapers off at the room's edges.
It is silent for the most part, as it takes real approach, real vibration, real movement to stir the water. On light, low levels, the sound is subtle and almost seems false. The lighting is dim enough to avoid the whiteness of the walls and echos of light proving distraction.

4. Now that you have some sort of inherent visual, I will supply the meaning, thereby bridging another gap between my opening and the cause: art.
It is about the concept of homebound and belonging, and therefor about reason of being. Beyond that, and also related to that, it is about the Persona. There is everything/there is you. It is the push-and-pull, the tug between the Personal and the Whole.
This is, essentially, a Scale Shift alongside a Refocus.

The weight of water and its location in a suitcase suggests baggage and the wight of personal history and experience. Weight for our histories and for everything that is deemed 'personal'. The weight of the suitcases, filled as they are with water, indeed would be much for a person to carry. But just looking at it, the suitcase is also a simple container and water is a fluid representational of life and continuity and the Masses, the Greater Whole. Humans, after all, are composed largely of H2O, and in that sense, histories are almost erased. They are meaningless. Water looks clear, empty. It is largely tasteless, which ironically also makes it a prime candidate for the tint of personality. It is basic. It is a common compound. Going beyond people, it is also one of the key aspects of Earth and out world.

Water is fit, because of this, to represent a spirit of the world, of the times, and also right, when made personal by association of memories and the single existence mentality, to represent just that- the individual and the particulars that come with him/her. This latter here mocks the former, rendering it useless in the overall.

The sand allows for imprinting. A single visitor will leave solid footprints. However, upon multiple visits or a number of people, the footprints become shapeless, formless... shadows of histories. They mash each other up into oblivion, again erasing anything personal and copying the waves of the ocean in their various peaks and dips. Another sea.

It is a swift denial of the concept of the Spirit of the People and a questioning of the weight and importance of the individual, the personal. It is an admittance of defeat alongside a cheer, alongside an earnest attempt at creating a self-definition despite this. It is continuation in the face of utter fact, utter science, and the sheer simplicity of being. Something so unimportant, and yet to us, it is everything. We are our own everything and without us, we all have nothing, even if without us, the world creaks on.

A part of the world was born with you. Even though it doesn't leave when you're gone.

5. Now comes the thing that birthed this post.
It started as a list to draw a title from, but after two, it became a list for the sake of listing.

"A list based on a sudden urge to tag and isolate something ingrained in my beliefs but never considered beyond its more complicated extensions in my thoughts and mentality"

The world without you would be different, but it really couldn't care
The world without you would be different, but everything else would be the same
The world without you would be different, but it probably wouldn't matter to the world
The world without you would be different, but so what?
The world without you would be different, but it's changing anyway
The world without you would be different, but it wouldn't know to care
The world without you would be different, but that's as far as it goes
The world without you would be different, but it would be indifferent to this
The world without you would be different, but it would probably feel the same
The world without you would be different, but it's different with you, too
The world without you would be different, but only as different as anything else
The world without you would be different, maybe.

The point is summed up in a continued list as follows:

Your life is only vital to you and you aren't a necessary factor to anything else.
-You aren't a necessary factor to being. Things exist with or without you.
We are the only ones who know how much we matter.
(To us, without us, everything changes. Everything dies.)
We can stand out to ourselves, but we are just standing to the world.
I take comfort in the fact that, just as I don't matter, I matter just as much as anyone and anything. We Live as Factors, all of us.

6. A side note: Upon further examination in regards to this post, what is of interest to me is the natural inclination to express these things which I have skimmed over in favor of the things they relate to. This is the joy of art: not only expression, but expression that causes enlightenment. Art is not born from enlightenment always, but some vague idea of it. Some swirling of identification and Truth. What comes from the art, instead, is the Enlightenment. Things known become Known and then around them, tiny connections spread. Roots. All your seedlings were siblings, after all, and whether or not you want to water them outright, your mind urges you to spill some drops. You had it there all along and whether or not you planned to cultivate, whatever you do, whatever you're passionate about doing, whatever you express is a spill. Whatever you think is a Sprout and it has Roots and everything about you, it turns out, is just one Thing. Which is funny because it exudes an air of importance and dignity and Future and yes, I was speaking earlier of how none of us in particular are Future, but I have to admit once more that, at the same time, you are Future, and I am Future, and even though we might not have been, we are, and that is something.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

yesterday pt. one

Walking through a hometown to get my pedal bike, the wind pushing at my back, I felt the pull of friendship. New and old with the middle meeting my at her greeting place, an unsteady deck half in a glass door. Wide eyed hugs say hello as I am asked in, for at least a little while. As we wait for the brewing coffee to pass through calcium lined pipes I play rock band with her cousin, synthetic instruments almost connecting the beat between us. Ringing cell phone reminds me that this was not a visit but only a passing moment and so we shared a half brewed pot overly creamed and minimally sugared. This gentle joy of conversation in sunlit rooms over steaming cups reminds me that even a passing moment can last a lifetime. And then with empty cups we say goodbye with a promise of return delivered through hug.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Camp Post 2009

So, camp information:

I am thinking the best of all possible camping can only be done in the heart of the Porcupine Mountains State Park. The place is so beautiful, Adam you have not been there, Shane have you? Once we get to Ontonagan, we secure for 14USD a group backcountry camping permit. From that point we can camp wherever we want within the wilderness area without charge. We can pitch tents wherever, so long as we are away from the trails, or other campsites or cabins - must be roughly 1200 feet away I guess. If we wish - and what would be best - is to secure for ourselves a campsite, as fire building is only allowed in the metal rings at each campsite. There are no reservations for the basic "backcountry campsites", they are free and "first come first serve", and there are 63 of them within the park. But apparently they are not sharable, I have no idea why, but the max capacity is 4 individuals per site or "one family". That's us.

We have to comply with "no impact" and "pack in pack out" policies, where everything we take in we have to take out, with no exceptions, except for human waste itself - apparently we are expected to take out and properly dispose of used toilet tissue? And we are expected to retrieve any litter we come accross and properly dispose of it outside the park. (Do they hate freedom?)

At the campsites, there are basically no anemeties besides the fire rings and a bear pole, for securing food bags above and away from the camp. So we would have to take along filters and a pot for boiling nonfiltered water. Is this what we want? I am certainly in higher favor of being Thrust into the Breast of Nature Hisself, but I don't know about anyone else, as this means Shitting in Nature and Drinking from Stream. What are preferences?

Anyway, read these, anyone who wants to go; they outline the various park policies and include equipment recommendations and tips (Here is a camping packing list of things to list on packing for camping):

General Camping Tips:

Here is the Michigan DNR page on the Porcupine Mountains State Park:

Is this the plan here, Adam?:

A map of the campsites within the park. If it were up to me I'd say we should maybe switch sites halfway or so through the trip for a Change of Scenery? For instance, two nights High In the Hills and two on the shore of Lake Superior? How many nights are we staying?:

The park's manual on Leaving No Traces:


So: is there a plan? Who make it, I write it?

I'm thinking that on the 20th we ought to leave as oily as possible (early), either from Interlochen if we go there or from Saginaw if Adam and Shane stay here the 19th why not is that possible? We get to the town of Ontonagan as oily as possible on the 20th, which could be anytime depending on where we leave that morning (although the trip from Interlochen should be roughly a 7.5 hour drive and the drive from Saginaw there without Interlochen would be 8.25 hours, so there isn't a big difference either way.) So, we get to Ontonagan, head west to Silver City about 14 miles, where we Stock Up on food, and anything we need that we may have forgotten to bring. Then it's approximentally 2 miles to the park, where we go to the visitor's center and get camping permits (it may be a $14 flat rate or $14 per night, I have read conflicting thinguses), then we park and Hike Into God's Country, and hopefully find an open campsite before dark. We have a good time and go camping.

Is this a good or a bad plan?

Shane you have a Billion Years experience more than I do at this, suggest something you square.