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Posts Tagged ‘ transcontinental humanitarian expedition ’

March 12th, 2011 - I hope someday you’ll join us

THC Logo transparent1 250x143 I hope someday youll join usI have written many words in the past two years. I have made my life a public pastime for your boredom, and in fact I have shared many personal moments in my life with you people; my relationships, my hardships, my laughter and my triumphs. So if you found it all so amusing, and awaited more of it, here’s a bit more. The problem is that most of you will not give a damn. Read the rest of the story…

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November 30th, 2010 - The Hunger Games

Cartagena, and in general the Caribbean coast region of Colombia, historically has the highest rate of malnutrition in the country. The problem lies rooted in the severely uneducated and rural life in this region which has many refugees of the internal war between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the federal government which has raged on for many years. The number of displaced refugees is not precisely clear but a short visit out of the touristy town of Cartagena to its surrounding neighborhoods changes anyone’s perception.

To get more acquainted with the problem, we visited a well known local institution, founded by a rich Colombian couple to battle malnutrition and focus on family control education. I can’t personally vouch for this organization as I have my doubts about its administration. It’s not their mission that troubles me; it’s their extravagant administrative expenditures which made me think twice. For example, the new building that they are constructing is a multi-million dollar project, which looks more like the “Mall of America” in Minnesota rather than a humble clinic. I might be overly paranoid, but the fact that tons of cocaine goes through the ports of Cartagena to be shipped to North America every week is enough to justify any profligate show to cover the drug movement. It’s a technique that many organized crimes utilize to smooth out their smuggling efforts. We stayed wary of giving any financial support to this particular foundation, but on the mission level it was eye-opening.

As I walked in one of the classrooms, I was shocked to see many girls in their early teens breast feeding babies. Many ranged from 12 to 15 years old, and their petrified innocent looks were telltale signs of abuse and abandonment by the society. These girls were barely old enough to hang up their nonexistence Barbie dolls, yet they had one or more kids already and were expecting more. They didn’t know any better. Nor had the luxury of finding out how.

To reach them in their “natural habitat,” a short 30 minutes ride out of the touristy Cartagena was enough to enter the heart of the slums that no tourist will ever see and even many locals would not dare to go. No paved roads, no running water, dirt floors, shacks with no roofs and the supermarkets in the area were guarded like jailhouses with bars to prevent the hungry population from raiding them.

These families lived on 40 cents a day a person, which itself was a fortune for them. A full day of work only provided them with handful of beans and some rice to feed five or six mouths, and many went hungry day and night. Catalina (not her real name) was a one of the many. Mother of one young one already and with another one in the oven, she was responsible for her seriously ill husband while taking care of her younger brother and sister at the same time. The dingy door-less shack they lived in was nothing more than a few metal sidings and a tarp overhead, with two beds separating the muddy floor from their bodies. Five people slept on two beds at night, cooked whatever they acquired outside, and the females in the constant fear of being raped bathed behind the shack in the open. The torrential rainwater seeped in from every corner and in the dim rays of sunlight sneaking in; it felt more like a ghost house rather than inhabitable living quarters.

It is hard to accept tea from people who have absolutely nothing, but not accepting is harder on their pride. Sometimes when I pack the bike, I stare at all the stuff I carry with me (which is extremely minimalistic by any American standards), and it troubles me to know that I have more things than many have in their entire house. It sickens me to think of all the money the European and American tourists spend in many countries without the slightest regard or even knowledge of the quality of life just a few miles away from their comfortable hotels.

The cost of one meal in a touristy restaurant in Cartagena could realistically feed an entire family in this village for over a week, but no one seems to notice or care.  We are too occupied with our own egos, our own comfort and well-beings that we forget that there are souls just a few miles away taking their last breath because they didn’t have what we take for granted day after day: food. We travel with our damn mosquito nets, malaria medication, our specialized money belts and safe wire-mesh backpacks to deter the hungry thieves, yet we’re ignorant of the cause of it.

Cynthia passed some money through the jail-like bars of the supermarket which yielded in two 50lb bags of rice, few bags of beans and other provisions to keep five people alive for a little longer. Catalina had tears in her eyes when she heard that she could feed her family that night as they hadn’t had a bite to eat that day because literally they had nothing to eat. Tears kept coming down her face. It was hard to say what feelings they relayed, but whatever feelings they were; it was very alien to me.

Catalina’s family wasn’t the only one we fed in that village. It was unbearable to be in the position of making the call of who gets to eat and who goes hungry, when you can’t feed everyone. We left Cartagena with heavy hearts.

Don’t forget these people. Help us so we can help them. I hope you were thankful for your blessings on this Thanksgiving Day. I am.

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July 13th, 2010 - Short Way Round

What I heard the most in past few weeks was the question: “Are you back already?!!!”

I never thought that I would see Montana again, at least not for a long, long time, but here we are, back to where I started a year ago. Since I started this journey on my motorcycle, I have covered Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alaska, British Colombia, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. It seems like forever ago but such a short distance, more like a shakedown ride to me.

I learned a lot about riding and more importantly living on the road. I met some amazing people, saw some beautiful places, and built a sophisticated touring machine out of a 1982 Suzuki. But my true discovery came in the form of a dawning comprehension of the struggles that go on every day on every corner of this planet: in particular, the travesty of extreme poverty and malnutrition.

Well actually that wasn’t it. I discovered that I’m not the only one, and there are hundreds if not thousands who share the passion to help bring relief to those suffering from hunger. This journey evolved beyond the scope of my one-man band, and eventually I founded and incorporated the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp., a non-profit 501(C)(3) organization to bring together those with a similar passion and desire to give a helping hand to ordinary people during times of extraordinary tribulation.

This is not an impressive resume for a so-called adventurer. From the minute I got back to Montana, I had the itch to get back on the bike again and head out for the unknown. But you know how it goes, when the bike is ready, I’m not, and when I’m ready the bike is not. Since I had a warm dry garage, I figured to fix everything I could possibly fix and with that in mind, I tore up the bike to pieces again.

I had some problem with the steering head bearings (which turned out to be far more gone that I thought), the rear brake needed new pads, the headlight wiring had to be redone to fix the voltage drop, wire the new fog lights, add some reflectors to the boxes for more visibility, add more lights to the back to mark the width of the bike, hardwire my GPS, Install the new camera mount, sand and clear-coat the side covers (cosmetic only but they had been bothering me for a long time), fix the oil leak form the cam-chain tensioner, head gasket and oil pressure switch, Install an alarm system,  change the gearbox and drive shaft oil and grease everything.

The bearing races were in awful shape; no wonder this bike wobbled a lot in low speed. I could run my fingernail across it and dig in deep in the grooves made by the roller bearings. The rear brake pads were almost to the metal, and they were so far down that I could barely see any brake fluid in the reservoir. After adding 5 relays, the electrical system is now in tiptop shape and the headlight is as bright as it can be. I also added a security system with a screaming siren to ward off bored and crazy kids in third world countries; it also gives me a peace of mind while sleeping as I know it will go off the second a bird lands on it.

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By the time I was done with all these chores, the bike looked and felt so good that I didn’t want to ride it anymore! In the meantime, Cynthia went back to California to give her two week notice and quit her job for the long run. She has come a long way. To be honest I didn’t think that she would make it more than 3 days, but she braved the road for 3000 miles and 40 days and she was eager for more. She quit her job of seven years as a social worker to join a crazy expedition on a motorcycle around the world. I did the same thing, but this was my dream. She wasn’t a rider, nor had she ever camped out more than a couple of nights at a time in her whole life without being close to her familiar surroundings. That’s adventurous in my book.

I picked her up at the airport in Missoula, and we are packing again, this time even smaller. We’ll be on the road before you know it, and this time no return for at least five years…

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April 26th, 2010 - WE DID IT!!!

I left Bakersfield for Monterey, CA on a beautiful sunny day. I was going up to Monterey to meet up with Andy Pogany, our CFO, to do some work on the books and get the bike tested in the process. I figured that since he has a garage, I might as well take the new Kenda tires with me and install them there. The ride was a great one. The bike handled very well fully loaded, and even with two odd shape tires strapped to the back, and the mighty winds of Kern County, I kept a steady 80mph pace easily. For those of you who have been following this blog religiously, you might remember that I first met Andy on my way down from Alaska. He is a fellow GSer (www.gsresources.com, a motorcycle forum focused on older Suzuki GS line) who invited me to stay at his house for a day or two. The first time I ended up staying for 4 days and this time I doubled that! Andy and Jollene are gracious hosts. Andy’s house is right on top of a giant hill with a view of the Pacific Ocean, and his property is as close as to any wilderness you can find in California. It’s got raccoons, deer, turkey, wild boars, hawks, frogs… you name it, it’s there.

For some odd reason, Andy and I get along like we’ve known each other for years, and he is one hell of a cool guy. With a BS in finance and MBA, it really was a no-brainer to elect him as our CFO/Treasurer on the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. board. This non-profit bookkeeping business is more than I can take, and I’m glad that Andy is pretty good at this stuff and volunteering to do it. Happily, Cynthia joined me in Monterey the next day and we pretty much got the whole corporation beast under control. We held another board meeting with all the directors and unanimously elected Jared Williams (another fellow GSer, I know! The list is growing.) as the 6th director and Public Relation Officer. Welcome aboard Jared. You will be hearing more from him and his upcoming hunger walk in Boston soon.

But the biggest news of all is that WE DID IT!!!! 4 months and 20 days of hard work finally paid off. Our application for tax-exemption got approved by the IRS, and Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. is officially a non-profit public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation, and that means that from now on, all contributions and donations are tax deductable. You don’t believe me? Try the donate button and see for yourself. No seriously do it! I dare you!

When I received the news, I was in shock for longest time. It feels good to see what I have started is becoming what I didn’t even imagine. I started this ride to make a difference and see the world in process, but I met so many people sharing the same passion and enthusiasm that I could not resist the temptation of jumping higher. We are divided as species, but we can unite on what we can believe in and make a bigger difference together. A 1982 Suzuki motorcycle became something bigger than life for me. Now I can say that I’m content with what I have done, and I see a very bright future for this budding organization.

Many thanks to beautiful Cynthia Quispe for her hard work on writing/editing and proof-reading the countless words I scribbled on the corporation documents. I couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks to Andy Pogany for crunching down all those alien numbers, thanks to Kyle Ford for looking over the steps like a hawk and pointing out legal misunderstandings. Thanks to Joe Deluca for running around and getting the signatures, thanks to Jared Williams for his share of knowledge and his great support, and many thanks to Don and Pam Chriske for scanning and sending all the correspondent letters, and thanks to myself for not killing myself in the process. Thanks to all of those who made this journey possible, from individuals to big corporations, all who provided road-side assistance, occasional beer and burger sponsors, thank you to all of you, I couldn’t have done it any other or better way.

Cheers,

Chris Sorbi

501c3 app1 WE DID IT!!!

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February 12th, 2010 - Iran, Tehran

At long last, the endless project of completing the IRS paperwork for 501(c)(3) status is completed which takes a huge load off of our shoulders. I wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars as the process was intense, complicated, meticulous and not fun at all. Just when I thought that I could rest for a few days, I ended up leaving the motorcycle in California with Cynthia and flying out of LAX to Tehran, Iran due to a family emergency.

I was born in Iran and lived there until I was 18 years old. Most of my family migrated to the United States starting from my oldest uncle three decades ago. My grandparents whom I dearly love are still living in Shiraz, my birthplace. My elderly grandfather is not doing very well, hence my excursion to the forbidden land.

I call it the forbidden land as everything is forbidden for one reason or another. From the heavily-filtered internet and disputed elections, to capital punishment for dog-walking in public (Dogs get executed by hanging, not the owners), there is always something to get a good kick out of. Despite all of this, Iran is a lovely country with an amazing history, mesmerizing scenery and the most welcoming people around.

You know you are in Iran the second you walk out of the airplane and stand in one of the never ending lines (even for killing yourself, you still have to stand in line in Iran) to the immigration and maze of suitcases full of western merchandise piled up at the customs waiting to be released. Tehran’s airport has been moved 60 miles out of the city and even though I arrived at 3:30 am, the whole city was alive with the preparation for the February 11th demonstration and the opposition protest of the recent election. The heavy presence of police was felt on every corner and frequent search stops brought me back to the reality I was away from for so long.

My aunt and her family live in Tehran so I have been visiting with them for a few days. It is great to see my cousins and hear their stories as they try to fill me in on the recent changes and of course, the inflation of prices. I had no interest in spending my short visit here in one of the notorious Iranian prisons, so I stayed away from all the political dramas of the revolution’s anniversary on February 11th.

Everything was shut down due to all the holidays, and I had to wait four days to buy a plane ticket to Shiraz, so I tried to make use of my time by checking out some of the museums and historical sites around Tehran. One of the places I visited was the Ancient Persia Museum in Southern Tehran. My visit was a bittersweet experience as it was hard for me to see billions of dollars worth of historical artifacts sitting so shamelessly in what I can only describe as the most careless and lackadaisical manner with florescent lamps lighting up the show floor like a ghost town. The materials are fascinating and range mostly from 2nd to 5th millennium BC, covering from the Stone Age to the magnificent Persian empire. Artifacts from 7000 years ago are on display in glass cases, and one can’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship of the early Persians. (If you believe that the world is only 6000 years old, Iran is probably not a country to visit as it might shed some serious light on your biblical beliefs.)

Just north of Tehran, starts a 200 kilometers two-lane road called the Chalous Highway which twists and turns all the way to the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran. There are tunnels after tunnels which have been dug out the heart of Alborz Mountain range, and it’s one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Iran. There are no camels contrary to popular belief, and snow-covered mountains cover the area. Much of the forests are memories of the past and have long given their places to cheap villas, shopping malls and ice cream parlors. You see more trash on and off the road than ever before. It makes me furious to see what my people have done to this once pristine landscape while still claiming to be glorious Persians.

I’m flying south to Shiraz in a day or two and will post more reports once I get there. I’m planning to visit a few orphanages and will cover the poverty of the rural life of Southwestern Iran so long as I can find an internet connection to get the news out. Till next time …



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January 4th, 2010 - Making it far

I hope 2010 is off to a great start for everyone. It has been almost 5 months since I left my home in Montana and it has been a blast riding through some of the most beautiful parts of the United States and Canada. I have met so many amazing people and experienced the ups and downs of the traveling life. I started this ride with a vision and hope of good deeds and I have tried to incorporate my passion for the cause with activities which would stir up the attention for the cause.

I am pleased to announce another exiting change. After a long and exhausting research and tweaking my financial resources, I decided to take the leap and make the 501 (c)(3) a reality.

On December 3, 2009, the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Montana Secretary of State office on behalf of the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. to form a non-profit corporation. The corporation was formed approved on December 7. Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. is now a legal entity formed and operated exclusively for charitable purposes under the section 501 (C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

On December 27, I received the Federal Employee Identification Number (EIN) for the corporation and with help from the directors, I am almost done with the federal paperwork for the tax exemption status.

To give you some idea on how extensive and exhausting this process is, I will name a few of the documents which I had to write and get approved by the board: Articles of Incorporation 6 pages, Bylaws 13 pages, Conflict of Interest 6 pages, 1023 Form 28 pages, additional information for the IRS 18 pages and so on…

The costs for forming the organization are significant and all the fees were funded from my own pocket. I invested my own resources into the corporation and while this is taking from me personally, the 501 (C)(3) status will open up many more fundraising channels and allow for us to write grants to virtually any foundation or corporation in the word.

I am in process of appointing and electing officers for the organization. I would like to invite and encourage the public to participate in this great and meaningful undertaking by filling the officer positions.

To be considered, you can apply for an officer position by sending your resume to Chris at motorcyclememoir dot com (Sorry spam robots) or by mail to:

ATTN: Board Selection

Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp.

P O Box 7603

Helena, MT 59604

The board members and officers are NOT employees of the Transcontinental Humanitarian Corp. but are the governing body and agents of the organization. There are no compensations of any sort and on solely volunteer basis. I as the founder and director still don’t receive any salary of any sort nor will any of the corporation directors. Lastly, not one penny of the public and private contributions will ever be used for recreation or personal gain.

I realize that lately I haven’t been posting any ride reports because in truth, there are no rides to report on. Despite the fact that  it may seem that I’ve lost my focus about continuing on the expedition or that I am being lazy, there is a lot taking place behind the scenes. I’m eating out of my own pocket as I always have been and everyday that I’m immobile and not making mile-measurable progress, I’m losing what little I have left but the reason for all these delays are due to extensive logistical changes and the aforementioned governmental paperwork.

Adding another person to the expedition is not as simple as doubling grandma’s favorite cinnamon roll recipe. The fact is that there are a myriad of details big and small which are being dealt with: from motorcycle training for Cynthia, packing all her stuff, getting her medical exams and shots and finding the right gear to further modifying the GS so it would be able to haul what’s almost impossible to fit in an SUV.  We are working on some fundraising events in Bakersfield, sending out sponsorship letters and setting up future lectures and slideshows down the road while counting days for departure time. The ride is not over and it has merely begun. It is expanding beyond the scope of what I envisioned for a long time and it’s getting done the right way.

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