Hi, I’m James. I’m just a normal guy that likes to think and write. I completed a master’s program at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies. I’ve chose to focus on quantitative methods and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. I took a few graduate courses in statistics and programming and have a certificate in international development from the Evans School of Public Affairs. My thesis was on improving seed distribution in rural Tanzania.
I sometimes volunteer with Seattle Works, a nonprofit that connects working professionals with half-day projects working in Seattle gardens, homeless shelters, community centers, and other organizations that have simple, short-term projects.
Before beginning graduate school I worked with AmeriCorps Vista for a year at Children of the Nations (COTN). My placement was different from many AmeriCorps programs in that much of my work focused on helping overseas populations. I organized and ran “feeding events” where community members would come and package meals consisting of rice, lentils, vitamins, and flavoring. These were then boxed and shipped overseas. There are obvious problems with a model of overseas food shipment and COTN was–and is–in the process of building sustainable farms near their orphanages that employ local populations. One lesson I learned was that people are far more generous in donating their funds (and time) if there is a hands-on project involved. Local farms are a better solution than shipping food from the U.S., but the typical donor is far more willing to shell out cash when they feel a visceral sense that they’re making a difference. In my experience meal packaging fulfills that need while donating to a “faceless” overseas farm project does not. Sad but true.
In another life I taught English at a public elementary school in Seoul, South Korea for a year. Once I taught a lesson about Halloween dressed as a cow. After the class the teacher assigned each student to draw a picture of the lesson. Two weeks later I received a folder full of drawings of me in a cow suit.
I travelled quite a bit during breaks and holidays in Korea. I spent time in Tokyo, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. After I left Korea I flew to Hong Kong and traveled by train to Madrid. How? HK to Beijing, Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar to Moscow, Moscow to Berlin, Berlin to Paris, Paris to Madrid. You should try it sometime!!!
After I got to Madrid I walked around and saw the sights for a while. If you’re ever in Madrid go to the Prado Museum and Parque del Retiro. After that I taught English to Spanish businessmen and women for a week in a small village about 2 hours outside Madrid. Every morning I woke up to this:
This is where we stayed:
…just walking and talking. All in English so the Spaniards could get English immersion without leaving Spain. It was amazing of course to listen to everyone’s stories and learn about their lives.
After it was over I started walking the first 450 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago. Here are a few pictures:
…and then I came home. I hope – no, I will – go back and finish the last half sometime. In some respects I’m sad I didn’t finish in one go. On the other hand I think going back and finishing in a few years will also be very special. The last few years here in Seattle have been difficult, frustrating, amazing, rewarding, and hopeful all at the same time. It will be nice to bookend that experience with walking the Camino and having time to think about everything that’s happened.
By the way, you’re probably wondering if I’ve ever done a flashmob. The answer is “yes.”