Brick

While going through old files on my computer today, I stumbled across something I wrote back in 2007 as a 21 year old while living in Holland, MI and attending Hope College. It was also written shortly before I dropped out of school, moved to Southern Illinois and pursued my life long dream of being a rock star (which inevitably didn’t work out in the end).  Even though this was 7 years ago, much of what I wrote is still very prevalent to my life today, and reading these words again provided a great reminder of a bigger picture.

Brick

“I have spent my entire life seeking to be extraordinary. I was always the kid that would think in the back of my mind how I could make an impact on any given situation that would be remembered forever and that I would stand out for it. I’ve chased many dreams and watched many of them fall. I’ve left and returned to lifestyles I thought I would never see again. I’ve let go of many things that I shouldn’t have and have held on to things I should have let go of. I’ve never wanted to settle of ordinary, always thinking and scheming ways that I could be “famous” or “recognized.”

Studying the history of jazz music lately has made me envy some of the players as the revolutionized jazz and music all over the place. All I could think about was that I wanted to have the same effect and wanted people to say things about me like they said about Count Basie, Duke, Brubeck, Miles Davis, Bird, Monk and so on. This sort of way of thinking has gotten me in trouble before and I have found myself continuously trying to live up to this standard that I am setting up for myself. My relationships with people around me are affected by this and I have found myself feeling alone.

Today, I was walking down the road back to my house. Some construction workers were laying bricks and my mind began to race. It was if I had reached some sort of realization in life. I am a brick.

When you look at brick building it is made up of hundreds of bricks. On a standard square brick building there are 4 cornerstones which are considered the most important as they supply the foundation and structure for the building…without them the building would collapse. There is also the capstone, the magnificent piece, the part of the building that people ooh and ahh over because time and effort was put into molding this stone to add flare to the building. But the building couldn’t be complete without all the other bricks and mortar in between producing walls and structure to the rest of the building. These bricks aren’t all that fancy. They were made in a brick press or fired together in groups of 100′s maybe and they hold no real aesthetic value. Each brick has their own color, texture and feel, but next to other individual bricks, it looks just like every other brick and does the exact same thing as the others…it works together to build a wall.

With the way that I have been thinking lately I have lived my life always striving to be the cornerstone or the capstone. What if God created me to be a brick? I have my own color, texture and feel, but my purpose is not to stand out but to blend in and provide structure. I have lived my life wanting the extraordinary so bad that I didn’t take the time to look and see what ordinary looks like, and maybe that’s what I am meant to be. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them, and continue to learn from them. I want to be what I was made to be. Whether that’s a brick, a cornerstone, or a flashy capstone, I want to be ok with it. No more chasing after fleeting dreams, but accepting my role and responsibility in life and pursuing that whole-heartedly. Dreams are great to pursue. God gives us dreams. It’s the ones that aren’t meant for us that get us in trouble”

I Wasn’t Prepared for This

In the weeks prior to heading to Choma, Zambia with Poetice International I created a massive list of things that I would need to bring; from camera gear, to special clothing and hygienic items. As I packed my bag, I checked and double checked to make sure that I had what I needed for the trip and that I was fully prepared.

Truth is, if you’re heading to a place like Choma, Zambia — you’re never prepared.

After landing in Johannesburg, South Africa after a 14h17m flight from Atlanta, I was a little spoiled for my first experience of Africa to be at a fancy airport hotel, sitting by the pool and getting to know the team a little better.  After a slightly refreshing night of sleep, we awoke, helped ourselves to a wonderful spread for breakfast in the hotel restaurant and made our way to the terminal.

The flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia was a little choppy, not catering well to my slight fear of flying due to my overwhelming fear of falling.

After landing in Livingstone, only moments after passing over Victoria Falls, which took my breath away, we made our way through the Visa line, picked up our luggage and were greeted by Petronellah, an employee for Fortress Vision Zambia (Poetice’s parter organization in country).

Needless to say we made our way to Choma, and looking out the window of the vehicle, I saw a lot of what I expected to see based on what I knew of Africa, what I knew of Zambia and from what I knew of Choma. But I wasn’t prepared.

The first few days being in Choma were filled with capturing footage of many of the activities that go on at Fortress Vision Zambia, such as; the community garden, people sewing and making garments, and meeting some of the caregivers. We went to the home of one of these caregivers to capture an interview, and this was a moment that I was not ready for.

David, the caregiver, is a man watching over 11 children. His house is more of a hut, with brick half walls, reed fences and a makeshift canopy outside to keep his family shaded due to the fact that his house could not really hold them all.

I set up the camera in what would probably be considered his living room and listened to him speak in his native tongue, Tonga, about his life, his situation and the admiration he has for Poetice and Fortress Vision for teaching him a skill so that he can do something with his life. David is part of the sewing program and after he was taught how to sew, he began mending his own clothes. When his neighbors and friends came to realize that he was doing this, they then asked him to mend their clothes, which David would then charge them a fair price and make a little money with his new skill. With such a beautiful story, and to see him smile and tear up while telling us all this in his absolutely run down home, I simply didn’t know how to respond.

Today, a majority of the children that are part of the 365 Campaign came to visit and we spent the late morning filming them playing, singing and interacting. They passed out dresses, that were made by some generous donors, to the girls and to see them light up and become excited about such an amazing gift was priceless. No matter where you are in the world, girls are girls, and they began modeling the dresses on themselves, commenting to each other how much they liked the dress on them and were very eager to pose for pictures in their new digs.

But among the smiles and laughter, one girl in particular, pulled one of the staff members aside and began to tell her heartbreaking story. I will not share the details here, but once the news got back to me, my heart sank in my chest.

I wasn’t prepared for this.

I’ve edited footage shot here, I’ve looked at pictures and heard countless stories that come out of Zambia. But being here, interacting with the children I’ve heard so much about and to be face to face with the poverty and the reality of some of the situations has really brought things to a new level for me. Of course it all makes you reevaluate your own situation – to think about how good of a life you have – but me returning to the States with my head on a little straighter because I was able to gain a little perspective just won’t cut it. My reality shift should not just stop at a change in mindset, but also a change in action.  These children and these people’s situations will not improve by me being more appreciative of my situation — no — their lives improve when people take action, get involved, and do something.

I don’t really know what’s next, but I know that there are people working tirelessly to see that justice is brought the country of Zambia and that no child, regardless of their situation, is denied the opportunity to be educated, to be inspired and to be empowered. These are the people that I truly admire.

More soon.

Funded.

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A giant thank you to everyone that gave to help support me on this trip.  We are 4 days away from leaving, and I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such generous people.

In preparation for this trip, aside from the fundraising, the vaccinations and purchasing additional gear; I could feel God preparing my heart as well.  Through sermons at church, conversations with friends and my own reflections, I’ve begun to realign myself with things greater than myself.  I must admit, that in the years past my life has been focused on my own glorification, my own successes and my own reputation.  Over the last few months, it became more and more apparent to me that a life lived for ones own self, is an empty life.

I continued to think to myself, “what is the point of doing something, if you cannot share it with someone?” This trip is so much more for me than just a trip to Africa with a non-profit organization to capture stories; this trip is an opportunity for me to immerse myself with others around the world who strive to do good. There is nothing more inspiring than to be surrounded by a group of people whose cumulative goal is not one of self recognition, but of empowerment, of positivity and to spread good deeds throughout the world.

I am excited for what the next few weeks will bring and what it will mean for my life beyond that. I’m not sure how I feel about being on a plane for 15.5 hours, but alas, it comes with the territory.

A verse that has struck me recently that I wish to share is from Colossians 3:2-3.  Think about the things of Heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in GOD.” 

I value your prayers, your good thoughts and positivity. I’ll continue to document my journey here and hope to update as often as possible.

next time – Grace and Peace.

Fundraising for Zambia

 

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Dear Family and Friends,

For the past 2 years I have been blessed to be able to work producing film and video content for various organizations, businesses and non-profits; helping them tell their story through the art of film. I have been able to work with some truly amazing people that are doing amazing things, and have been able to help tell the stories of people who have put others before themselves in seeking to better the world around them.

It is because of this that I have been invited by a non-profit, Poetice International, to join them on a trip to Choma, Zambia, at the end of March, to document the work that they have been doing there as well as document stories of lives that have been affected by the organization.

Zambia

Poetice is an organization close to my heart, and one which I have been involved with in some capacity over the last couple of years. Their main focus, since inception, has been working alongside orphan children affected by HIV and AIDS.  To learn more about what they are doing you can visit: www.poetice.org.

This is an organization that I believe in, a cause that I feel strongly about and it is a story that I am very passionate about telling, which is why I am donating my services and investing my time to produce these stories. In addition I am hoping to raise $3,700 in just over a month to cover travel expenses, in country expenses and vaccinations.

The dates for the trip are March 25 – April 5 and while we are there we will be filming, taking photographs and interviewing individuals to capture as many stories as we can.

And so I appeal to you for your support to enable me to use the gifts that God has given me to help tell the story of compassion and justice that is flowing out of Zambia through the work that Poetice is doing. I ask that you search your hearts for what you would be willing to give, as there is no amount too small that would not go unappreciated.

If you wish to send a tax-deductible donation, please make the check out to Poetice International and write PIT-PAGE into the Memo line.

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Then, send it to:

Paul Genzink
ATTN: Poetice Trip
936 Wealthy SE Unit A
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Otherwise, if you are tech savvy and wish to give through PayPal, you can click the link below.

Support Using PayPal

Aside from financial support, the support of others through prayer and encouragement is always needed for myself, and for the team.

Thank you so much for considering to support me, the trip and this organization.  And if you have any further questions about the trip or what we’ll be doing there, please do not hesitate to contact me personally at: paulgenzink@gmail.com

Milwaukee, WI – Day Two

I drank a lot of coffee today.

The thing with Milwaukee public parking is that you can park on the street for free, but there is a 2 hour time limit.  So needless to say, ever 2 hours I would get up, drive to another location resulting in me visiting 4 different coffee shops, and more importantly, their restrooms.

It all started when I stopped in a joint called Comet Cafe for a late breakfast, or brunch if you prefer.  A friend of mine told me about this place, and after checking it out online and seeing that they were awarded the ‘Best Brunch in Milwaukee’ in 2010, I set out for them to prove it.

They proved it.

I sat at the U-shaped bar in classic diner fashion, sipped my cup of coffee and was responding to a few emails on my phone when the guy brought out my plate of food. I had ordered 2 eggs, bacon, hash browns and 1 pancake, and that’s exactly what I received.  But perhaps it is because I’m used to not being spoiled with breakfast, but when the guy brought out my food, it drew a “holy crap” from my mouth.  He set 2 very large plates in front of me.  One containing the eggs, bacon and hash browns and on the other, the pancake.  My fears of wondering if what I ordered was going to be enough food were squandered upon first sight.

The food was delicious, and I did not, in fact, finish all of it. After closing out my tab, I decided to take a little stroll around the area with my camera and see if I could grab any interesting shots.  I honestly wasn’t feeling very inspired and so I figured I should be responsible and actually be productive with my time by working on actual work that I had brought along.  So I made my way to destination number 2.

The second stop was to Alterra on the Lake.  The mutli-leveled coffee shop resided in a really sweet building just a stone’s throw away from Lake Michigan and was filled to the brim with interesting characters.  There was the barista who called out drinks like the Chicago Bull’s announcer with added flair, the woman who talked to her dog as if he were her boyfriend, and the little girl who kept asking so many questions.  Headphones help.

Before stopping into Coffee Shop number 3, I walked up and down Brady Street upon another recommendation from a friend, which is lined with boutiques, bars and of course, coffee shops.  As I passed the locals I realized that I had a really stupid look on my face.  You know that look where you walk into a really sweet room filled with the coolest toys you’ve ever seen and then your mouth opens up slightly, your eyes get a little big and you sigh more than usual? Yeah, it was something like that.  After I made myself look like a normal human being again, my thoughts jumped to the topic of perspective.

Here I was, never been to Milwaukee before and seeing everything I was seeing for the very first time.  For the people that I passed on the sidewalk, this was not the case for them.  They see these things each and every day, and to them, it’s just the norm.  At least that’s what I feel about things people gawk over in my hometown.  But as I sat in coffee shop number 4 (which also happened to be the same Alterra from the previous day) I couldn’t help but think more about the concept of perception and perspective.  I wondered if I were to look at my world through the eyes of someone seeing it for the very first time, would I appreciate my world a little more?

I think I would.

Sometimes I think it takes getting away from what you are surrounded by on a day to day basis and take in new sights that allows you to return to your everyday life with new pair of eyes.  Certainly this is not a new thought to the world, but it’s definitely a nice reminder.  I think far too often I become tired and bored with the things that are around me that I don’t fully appreciate them.  I’m sure as I walked through the streets of Milwaukee that people would think to themselves, “why’s that guy so astonished by that building? It’s not all the great.”  But it is sir, it really is.

My night concluded with saying farewell to the city of Milwaukee as I headed into Chicago.  I shared a nice dinner and a bottle of wine with a long lost friend, catching up and talking about things that truly matter in that world, and then topped it all off with us playing music together into the wee hours.  I realized that it was in that moment that nothing else mattered.

To revisit the perception topic once briefly once more, I feel that you can truly know yourself when you are in a situation where the concerns and weight of the world are not an issue for you because you are totally and completely immersed in that moment.  Those moments don’t come often for me, but to have experienced it once again, was certainly a wonderful way to cap off my first adventure.

More to come.

Milwaukee, WI – Day One

And so the adventures began.

I left Holland this afternoon around noon after finishing up a little work before I hit the road. I spent the morning at Mt. Pisquah out by Holland State park shooting some footage with my good friend Kylen Blom.  Fog lingered in the trees which made for some really beautiful shots, leaving me satisfied with what was accomplished.  After a quick shower, some scrambled eggs with toast topped off with coffee, I threw some clothes in a bag and hit the road.

The first few hours of the drive were pretty standard.  Driving to Milwaukee brings you through Chicago, which is a city I have driven to plenty of times over the years.  Familiar images passed by and I let my mind wander about life, my future and the many things that are waiting for me around the bend.

I was excited about this trip, about the potential of meeting new people and capturing videos and photos of the city.  On the highway, however, I remembered that I had forgotten the battery charger to my camera, and hadn’t charged the battery in the camera in a while.  So, that was slightly discouraging.  But, nothing I could do about it then, so I just kept on trucking.

On I-80/1-96W south of Chicago traffic began to slow, which didn’t take me by any surprise given the surroundings, but then I noticed a car pull over into the left shoulder, and ducking through the slow traffic, 3 young gentleman and a man in a reflective vest.  My curiosity began to rise and within an instant, I saw the cause of the delay.

The car was wedged underneath the tanker, and upon further inspection it appeared there was no one left in the car as I assumed the gentlemen standing on the shoulder of the highway were the passengers of the vehicle. They looked shocked, but stable, with no visible signs of massive injury.  When I first caught site of the accident, my heart sank. I was afraid for the drivers and began pondering if I should offer any aid to the situation.  After seeing the gentlemen safely on the side of the road, however, I felt there was nothing more that I could do for them that hadn’t already been done, and I continued on my way.  Needless to say, I was very relieved that this situation didn’t play out any worse.

I passed by the familiar city of Chicago, enduring the stop and go traffic for 20 minutes and finally accelerated back up to a normal cruising speed again.  When I reached about 10 miles north of Chicago, though, I realized that I was no longer surrounded by familiar images, and was, for the first time in a while, discovering new sights.  It was refreshing. It was downright inspiring.  I believe man has a natural desire to explore and to learn.  Even if I was just driving down a road for the first time, being guided by the GPS on my phone, I was, for lack of better terminology, exploring uncharted territory.

An hour and a half later I was met with the Milwaukee skyline.  And man, it was awesome.  As I drove along the highway peaking through the tall buildings, the city reminded me a little of Chicago, but cleaner.  Not to say Chicago is gross or anything, but Milwaukee looks like the after picture after Chicago was soaked in Oxyclean.  It also felt quite a bit like if Grand Rapids had a big brother.  A smart, responsible older brother who made smart decisions all through college.  Oh yeah, not to mention that Milwaukee is right on Lake Michigan with sweet rivers running through it.

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I checked into my hotel and began looking up addresses to different places I wanted to visit, the first being a coffee shop where I could get some work done.  Not 5 minutes into me being in my room, I hear the door open and a befuddled maintenance man staring at me and asking “uh, did you just check in?”  Avoiding the obvious sarcastic response, I simply replied with, “yup” and he ducked out apologizing.  Luckily I was just sitting at the desk on my computer and not, well, you get the point.

The drive back into the city was great, and the coffee shop I went to (Alterra) is located in a section of town called Historic Third Ward.  This place is swanky.  Brick buildings, newly renovated apartment complexes with a complete artistic feel; I was sucked into the surroundings and began thinking, “I could totally live here,” which is something I haven’t thought in a long time.  Anyways, moving on.  After sitting down with my latte at Alterra, I realized that I had not grabbed my headphones that were in a bag that I had left at the hotel.  Well, that was just perfect, so much for editing. But I wasn’t going to let that spoil my time. I used that time to organize some footage, labeling and placing it in folders and bobbing my head back and forth to Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ which was playing throughout the store. I hadn’t listened to that album in quite a while, but it brought back so many memories for me, one in particular being that I had forgotten how good that album really is.

I left the coffee shop and walked around the Third Ward with my camera snapping a few photos so that I didn’t have to use descriptors to portray how beautiful I found this area to be.  The sun was beginning to set, and was ducking behind the clouds ever so slightly, making for some pretty killer lighting.  (To preface, I’m a video guy and still trying to figure out how to use my camera in normal person picture mode.  So basically I just set it to auto and mess with it in photoshop later.)  And we’re walking…

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Dinner time came rolling around and so I set out to find somewhere to eat.  I drove around a little while and came across a sign that read, Coquette Cafe.  Oh, a cafe, that seems simple enough, I thought to myself.  Many of the restaurants I had walked by earlier in the evening looked a little too fancy for me wearing a plaid shirt, jeans, and zip up hoodie.  Google called Coquette Cafe a casual environment, which to me means, jeans and t-shirts are cool with us.  Well, when I walked in all I saw were fancy people.  Not like tuxedos or anything, but the men had collars and their shirts were tucked in, and the women were in business skirts and fancy tops.  I gave the hostess a strange look and asked “am I underdressed?” to which she replied, “no, we get people who come in here wearing hats, so its nice that you’re not wearing a hat.”  Oh I feel better now.

Coquette Cafe was dimly lit, with candles burning on the centers of the table.  I was shown to my seat and handed a menu.  The dish names were all in french. Awesome. Luckily the descriptions were not, but when it came to order my Rôti de Boeuf, I claimed defeat in not being able to pronounce it and just pointed to it on the menu.  Luckily I felt no judgement from the waitress as she set down my dinner roll and slab of butter. It was a quiet restaurant and made for a nice relaxing joint to enjoy a nice meal.

Just across the aisle from me were a man and a woman, sitting across from each other, both leaning in intently.  I noticed immediately that this was a date, perhaps one of their first, so I did my best to casually eavesdrop on their conversation.  Upon first listenings, I perceived the woman to be French, and the man an American which brought the thought, “wow, dude, taking a french girl to a french restaurant in Milwaukee? That’s like me flying to Switzerland to meet a girl and her taking me to McDonald’s because it has great food.”

After a few minutes though, I noticed that her accent was not in fact French, but Russian, or at least hailing from that part of the world.  The two talked about the kinds of music and movies they were into, and other first date talking points, but then I overheard her telling a story that involved concentration camps and other various atrocities.  I sat contemplating whether it would be the decent thing to focus my attention elsewhere, but the story sounded so intriguing that I wanted to hear.  I couldn’t pick up much between her accent, my chewing and the fact that the couple weren’t speaking that loud, but I did catch one thing. After she finished her story, the man grabbed her hands on top of the table, smiled, and said, “well, I’m glad you’re here,” to which she smiled back and said, “me too.”

That moment made me remember a Moth podcast I listened to the other day about a Somalian immigrant in New York during the time of the worst part of the Somalian wars.  This woman had taken in her family as part of asylum, one of which being her rebellious younger sister.  At one point in the story an immigration worker told the rebellious sister that she did not deserve to be in this country. The older sister responded by saying something along the lines of, “you’ve screwed up a lot and taken this country for granted, and he’s right, you don’t deserve to be here.”  That hit me really hard.  People immigrate to the U.S. because they believe it is the best country on earth, while Americans spend their time bickering and complaining about trivial matters, all the while seemingly forgetting what makes this country great.

The fact that children have an opportunity to dream and to pursue those dreams, almost without resistance, and without fearing for their lives, is priceless.  I am truly blessed to be able to hop into my car, drive 400 miles to the opposite side of the great Lake Michigan and spend a few days in a city I’ve never been before, solely for the purpose of my own curiosity and enjoyment.  For many others in this world, this freedom and liberty is just unheard of.  Does not mean that we should not pursue or enjoy our dreams because others can’t?  I don’t think so. I think it just means that we should take advantage of the opportunities around us, and not take them for granted.

I look forward to exploring more of what Milwaukee has to offer, and look forward, even more, to exploring more of what the rest of this country has to offer.

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Foreword

About a month ago I got fed up with myself.

On the brink of turning 26, being a small business owner and living in the same town that I grew up in (which was something 18 year old me never would have stood for) I felt that I was not moving forward. I found myself engaged in conversations with friends about 5 or 10 year plans, goals they have for their careers, or what steps they were taking to achieve their ultimate dream.  The problem was, I did not have the same mentality towards these things.

It was a month ago that I caught myself staring out my window, for no apparent reason, but feeling sorry for myself. My life didn’t feel interesting or exciting to me. I had no 10 year plan, or career goals, I just wanted to do things that were fun and exciting. And then it dawned on me. I could work from anywhere. 70% of the work I do can technically be done from a coffee shop, my car and even a city 500 miles away.

So, in an effort to live a life with the mindset of doing things that excite me I have decided to go on more adventures.

Here are the rules:
At least once a month, I will spend as much time as I can in a city that I haven’t spent an extensive amount of time in before.  While there, I will talk to the locals, find out the spots that are a must see, and document the process through writing, photography or video.

The idea stems from one that I had in high school where I wanted to travel around the country, documenting regular human beings and capturing their stories. I am obsessed with stories. Whether they were concocted in the mind of a talented writer, or come from real life experience, stories are inspiring, informational, and meant to be told.

There is nothing specific that I am looking for, but I am more looking for the story to write itself.

Disclaimer: I am aware that people tell me that my life is exciting, and I am in no way trying to downplay what I have done or will continue to do.  I have been blessed with some really great opportunities and am grateful for them.  However, there are certainly times in life where I hit a rut and lose steam and don’t remain as proactive as I should. These adventures are a way to explore, learn, and observe life that’s happening other than what I’m used to.

*This stat has not actually been proven

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