I want to take a break from flowers and weddings and kittens this week, and introduce you to a guy who kicks unbelievable amounts of ass.
I had met John Geddes a few times over the years at parties for community theatre projects. I knew him well enough to say 'hi'- he was that doctor with the deep voice who sometimes did Shakespeare, but that was about it.
I really got to know John last summer when I was costuming a fake Shakespeare Coarse Acting Show. I'll never forget our first non-small-talk conversation: in the back room of the rehearsal space, with lasagne-pan armour and feather hats and fake boobs everywhere, John regaled me with tales of a trip to Amsterdam, including a visit to a fairly raunchy cabaret and spotting some of the performers at breakfast the next morning.
He was wearing tights and trying out various flouncy handkerchiefs and fake goatees at the time. The first rule of wardrobe, especially when dealing with tights and undergarments, is to behave as professionally as possible...but honestly, I wasn't sure how serious I could be. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
[caption id="attachment_683" align="aligncenter" width="500"] photo by DLSLack Photography
When he isn't travelling the western world, exploring and photographing our own city, writing articles for the local paper, or playing a role onstage, John can often be found travelling in East Africa.
He is on the board of directors for CanAssist African Relief, a charitable organisation to build and improve infrastructure in East Africa. These guys don't just raise funds. They take the funds and supplies over there and help build things. One of their donors has actually covered all admin costs for the year as well- so they take ALL of the funds and go over there to build things. No overhead costs.
[caption id="attachment_682" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Pupils at the Kyabazaala Primary School in rural Uganda. Photo by John Geddes[/caption]
Those of us lucky enough to be on the good ol' facebooks with John get to see his gorgeous photos of African wildlife, landscapes, flowers, and the people he meets on his travels. On his facebook feed and blog, we see how the people he visits are working to improve sanitation and education in their communities.
You need someone to come to your rural school and help build a latrine, building, or water catchment system? You need help building the actual school first? Need someone to get $250 together and help fix your well? Better call John. I think there's a family outside Harare who named their baby after him!
When I heard about the Westgate attack and murders, my first thoughts were of John, who is travelling in East Africa this fall. As it turns out, he was in Uganda at the time and nowhere near Nairobi. I shot a few dollars over to the International Red Cross, went back to my day-to-day life of flowers/weddings/kittens... and didn't feel quite right.
Obviously when you are so far away from a disaster, there isn't much you can do, but I've found myself falling into a real trap of complacency this year. I thought I should at least try to learn more about what would be helpful.
I messaged John to get his opinion.
"If Westerners want to help Kenya, one way would be to continue to support the tourism industry here rather than give in to what terrorists want which is to invoke fear and panic and economic repercussions. Come on safari. Africans, in general, are beautiful, gentle, respectful and welcoming people. Karibu Kenya...
It is only horrible in Nairobi for a square kilometer around the Westgate mall. The rest of the city is in shock but not unsafe. Unfortunately cities or countries get branded as unsafe. Even the Boston Marathon had an attack but people still go to Boston to vacation. I hope they continue to come to Kenya."
You can read about John's adventures- in Africa and closer to home- at his blog.
And you can learn more about CanAssist's projects and donate at
Safe travels, John!
And a happy weekend to all!