This is what I'm sending to Amylin to explain all you guys to her!
In my next email I will send to you a copy of a request that I’ve made on
your behalf to a community of amateur radio operators that I’m a member of.
I will soon forward the responses I’ve received so far after I give them
more background about you.
But first, so that you may understand it all, I need to explain some things.
For a long time, I’ve been struggling to define the word “community” and
this is what I’ve come up with:
- Family are the people you would help *even if you don’t like* them.
- Friends are the people you help *because* you like them
- Community are the people you help *even though you don’t know* them.
I know it is circular, but it works and it explains a lot; why it is
sometimes easy to resent helping family, why friends sometimes back off when
you are under terrible stress (and at your least likable), and why all of us
who have lived long and fully owe so much to the kindness of strangers who
materialize out of the ether during our darker hours.
You and I first met six days after my mother died when I drove down from
Seattle to Portland to spend a weekend with the widow of a good friend who I
met back when we both lived in Japan where we shared our love of amateur
radio. While my mother had been sick for a while, and I had ample time to
prepare, my friend died suddenly and his widow and son were still in shock
more than two years later. He died with his radio on and she had not yet
turned it off.
I knew we would three would need cheering up that weekend so I began asking
people to lunch from the community I’d just joined at CouchSurfing.org. We
Couch Surfers were then about 100,000 strangers, brought together by two
things: A love of travel, and a method by which we can trust other members,
even people we don’t know. (BTW: We are 2.6 million strong now.)
That Sunday in October of 2006 you and sixteen others, all previously
unknown to us, joined us in the banquet room of a Chinese restaurant and
swapped stories for nearly four hours. It was impossible to feel blue, and
weeks later my friend wrote and said the effect on her and her son were
remarkable and lasting, as I can attest it was for me too.
Couch Surfing was envisioned by one man, and it could only be implemented
because of the internet. I learned of your plight this morning because of a
comment on your Facebook wall.
Yet, in 1966 at the age of 14, way before computer nets of any kind, I
joined a similarly amazing technology-driven community. After school I would
talk to people all over the world and had exchanged postcards with thousands
by the time I’d graduated high school. Mostly we talked about ourselves, or
worse yet, our equipment, but every so often something important happened
and we needed to help each other, like when the Soviets invaded
Czechoslovakia or Nicaragua had an earthquake.
We were about a million strong then and we could look each other up in a
book that listed our address and government issued call signs. We were a
community – and we trusted each other. And we still do, only we’re much
When I was a hitch-hiker in the 1970’s there were no cell phones or internet
and 911 was just beginning. But I carried a small ham radio with me and if I
ever really got in trouble, I’d put out a call to the ether, and a complete
stranger would come and help me – someone I could trust and who trusted me.
Later I got a job with an airline and was able to meet hams and operate from
more than 30 countries. All these years, ham radio has been amazingly good
to me. Why just yesterday I returned from 10 days in Costa Rica where I
stayed with Keko Diez, someone I’ve talked to many times about nothing of
importance, but who welcomed me into his home as a brother. (see:
So, when I read of your need on Facebook, and found that the Couch Surfing
community in the Canaries wasn’t functional, I thought I’d try my fellow
My plea to them ends with these words that need explanation:
She’s an excellent cook and can crew for you during the upcoming contests.
And, while you’re at it, would you please teach her the code and some theory
so she can get her ticket and then we’ll point her in the direction of
Bouvet, Yemen and South Sandwich. Danny Weil and the Colvins are gone and we
need a replacement, and I nominate Amylin.
First, let me explain “contests.” On certain weekends, tens of thousands of
us hams participate on in some massively multi-player on-air games (and have
been for the greater part of a century). We talk to each other by bouncing
our signals off the ionosphere (and sometimes satellites, meteor tails, and
even the moon). Last week, from Keko’s house, I talked to about 2,400 of my
fellow hams in about 20 hours. We call this activity “contesting.”
Last weekend, this weekend, and next there are three pretty big contests
going on, and I know there will be a few of my fellow contesters on the air
from the Canaries. So I posted my request to our contester’s mail reflector,
and suggested that, if they put you up, you might cook for them while they
are “on the air.”
Now I need to explain Weil and the Colvins.
Your and your boyfriend are pikers when it comes to traveling the world.
In 1954, inspired by the 1947 book Kon Tiki, a Brit named Danny Weil left
England in a boat he made himself to circumnavigate the world alone. He
learned the Morse code and radio theory and got a ham license. He set up his
radio on numerous tiny islands and talked with over 100,000 hams all over
the globe. We think of him as the first “DXpeditioner.” (DX is the Morse
code abbreviation for long distance.)
The Yasme Foundation (named after Danny’s boat) was set up to fund
expeditions that involved ham radio, and one couple, Lloyd (W6KG) and Iris
(W6QL) Colvin became their primary DXpeditioners, operating from over 100
countries and amassing over 1 million contacts. I talked to them many times
over the air, but only once in person when they tried to hitch a ride with
me from Dayton to New York (sadly I wasn’t going their way).
Lloyd and Iris died in the 1990s and ham radio hasn’t been the same since.
So, my suggestion in the last paragraph is that if a ham does host you, they
he/she teach you the Morse code (much easier than Mandarin – you’ll get it
in a week) and enough theory to get licensed. Then we can raise funds to
send you off on your own DXpeditions working your way through our 100 places
most in need of ham radio activity:
73 (ham radio for “best regards”)
On Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 4:48 PM, Brooke Allen <email@example.com>wrote:
> You can make a very strong case that this post is way-off-topic, and I’ll
> accept this criticism. My only justification is that sometimes, when you
> need a favor, the best place to look is among the communities you belong to,
> and in my case, contesters are the only people with whom I share community
> in the Canary Islands.
> First, let me tell you that between 1970 and 1977 I did hitch-hiking trips
> to every state in the lower 48, and even got rides on airplanes. I often
> slept on the side of the road, and did odd jobs in exchange for food. I
> wasn’t a bum, freeloader, or irresponsible hippie but a serious math student
> and later professional computer programmer – but unlike my more stuck
> friends, I was up for adventure, willing to confront my fears, and didn't
> consider lack of funds an impediment. Today I can attribute my business and
> personal success more to what I learned hitching than to my overly academic
> and ridiculously expensive MBA.
> By my adventures pale compared to Amylin’s, one of the most interesting,
> talented, brave and kind-hearted young people I know. We first met in
> Portland in 2006 when I was visiting the widow of my good SK friend, Sandy
> Lynch (W7BX/7J1ABV). Amylin was 20 years old then – a graphic artist and
> writer who was hitching from Montreal to Los Angeles with the intention to
> travel on to New Zealand. She did that, then hitched all over Australia, and
> SE Asia Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, China through to Hong Kong. And she kept
> going. She’s now been to 39 countries and resided in 9 of them, not only
> becoming a better writer and artist, but has been learning Spanish, French,
> Turkish, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Italian along the way. She doesn’t do
> this on expense account but rather on wits and a willingness to trade work
> for room and board.
> Right now, Amylin is camping in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria after having
> gotten there by crewing and cooking on a yacht from Europe. Normally, she
> loves camping but she is sick of it at the moment because someone has stolen
> a bunch of her artwork. (In 5 years on the road, I think this is the first
> time she’s been ripped off.)
> So, does anyone have a spare couch or even dry spot of floor she could use
> for a week or two?
> She’s an excellent cook and can crew for you during the upcoming contests.
> And, while you’re at it, would you please teach her the code and some
> theory so she can get her ticket and then we’ll point her in the direction
> of Bouvet, Yemen and South Sandwich. Danny Weil and the Colvins are gone and
> we need a replacement, and I nominate Amylin.
> Write to me if you are in EA8, or if you know someone I should write to.
> Brooke, N2BA (most recently operator of TI5KD in ARRL CW).
> Brooke Allen
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