Month: August 2014

Sticks and stones may break my bones; trampolines may also do the trick

Several weeks ago, I forgot how old I was, and went jumping at the new trampoline park in Hong Kong. As it turns out, once you pass 30, trampolines are no longer recommended pieces of exercise and/or entertainment equipment, and may cause you to do things like double corkscrew flips into a foam pit or break your foot. Guess which impressive feat I accomplished?

So I found myself, one month prior to departure for Kabul, with two fractures and a floating bone fragment. Immediate reactions from my friends and family ranged from “You should postpone your move,” to “This is a sign from God that you shouldn’t go.” I will admit, I may have wavered a bit, but then I realised what a GIFT the broken foot was:

1. Finally, a week off from work after back-to-back conferences and a semester of stressful life decisions, grand scale concerts, and finding replacements for myself.

2. The constant stream of amazing friends ensured that not only did I have meals in my fridge every day, but I also got to spend good quality time prior to the craziness that is my impending departure. And, most importantly,

3. A much-needed lesson in humility and accepting help. Although I still have a fair amount of trepidation at the thought of maneuvering my way through Kabul International Airport with two giant suitcases filled with 6 months of contact lenses, long tunic shirts, and 150 metronomes, all while hobbling around on crutches with a violin strapped to my back,  I am grateful for the fact that I will be coming into the country humbly and in need of help.  Any delusions of gweilo superiority and hero complex were crushed on the trampoline floor with my 1st cuneiform and 2nd metatarsal. I am entirely at the mercy of a kind (or enterprising) local dude with a trolly to help me take my first few tentative steps into my new country of residence. Pride, be gone! So thank you, Ryze Trampoline Gym, for providing the means for a necessary attitude adjustment. I will ride into Kabul not on a white horse, but rather….. a white plaster cast.   10570467_672431312851134_3988628454580313219_n


The cost of changing the world

For HK$2800 (US$360) a person can:

– Fly economy from Hong Kong to Seoul

– Purchase a “Saffiano Accordion Zip” wallet from Coach

– Drink a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal

– Consume 101 tall black coffees from Starbucks

– Play Call of Duty on a new XBox One

– Ride the tram in Hong Kong 1,217 times

– Exercise for four months at Fitness First (or, wastefully pay Fitness First for four months of non-exercise)

– Pay for one month out-of-pocket for health insurance in the States

– Break your foot at a trampoline park, take a taxi, see an orthopedic surgeon, and get one set of X-Rays at Hong Kong Sanatorium Hospital


– Receive education, lunch, and family stipend for a year in Afghanistan.


Let that sink in for a moment.  US$360 buys an education for a child, and a salary for a family in Kabul for an entire year.  Many of the students who attend the school at which I will be teaching are street kids or orphans.  Many of these kids peddle goods or beg on the streets to earn US$0.50 a day, which supports their families.  Many  parents are reluctant to allow their children to go to school, because it means a significant loss of income for the family.  Therefore, the families of ANIM’s most disadvantaged students receive a stipend so that they are not forced to return to the streets to support themselves and their families.

So with just a bit of money , it is actually incredibly easy to contribute to the *dramatic transformation* of a child’s life.  [In fact, it is so easy, it  makes me downright ashamed of my several four-month-blocks of non-exercise at Fitness First .  OK full disclosure: the only time I actually interacted with Fitness First in the last two years was to cancel my membership.  And in fact, I did that over the phone, so…. Fitness Last is more like it. But I digress….]  

When a child’s life changes dramatically, the impact is not simply on the child.  Her family has hope for a future that is no longer steeped in poverty and subsistence.  Her friends notice her change, and want to join in on it.  Improving one child’s life creates a snowball effect; changing several children’s lives creates a blizzard.  What the Afghanistan National Institute of Music is doing, and what you can join in doing, is changing a GENERATION of lives; a generation that will become the future leaders, educators, policy framers, and peace makers of the country.   Imagine these kids, instead of growing up disaffected, marginalised, and hopeless, are growing up empowered, educated, talented, with a sense of responsibility and ownership.  They are learning to create harmony not just with their musical instruments, but also with each other.  Imagine what a dramatic impact this will have on the future of Afghanistan!!

So, internet, can you just sit there and do nothing, when you know that it would be so easy to contribute to the *dramatic transformation* of not just a child, but a whole country?  I hope you cannot!  I hope you think twice about your handbag or XBox, and instead consider changing a life.  Contact the Sponsorship Program at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (  Do it!  Do it now!!


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