29 November 2007

I Miss China...

So this was forwarded to me by a friend currently living in China and it was written by another friend (my China "dad") who rocks. Too funny. Enjoy!

The Way Vs. "A" Way

The Travel Gods Still Hate Me…

These past few weeks have put me back on the road again, only this time I haven’t needed my passport. Sadly though, it seems that my luck has remained the same – NOT GOOD. I’m in New Hampshire now at the Democratic College Congress, and heading to Connecticut from here for Youth Venture’s annual global team meeting (do you like how I talk about entire states as if they were cities? When they’re that tiny it feels like they’re cities, because you can zip through one in a car with great ease). It was the getting to New Hampshire that was a real pain in the rear.

I was supposed to take the bus from New York City (that’s big enough to get the city subtitle) to Boston then catch a short 1-hour car ride to New Hampshire. My shoulder surgery, however, was given the green light (I’m needing to get it done before the New Year so as to avoid having my insurance deductible reset) which meant I had to get back to DC for a Monday morning intake then board a plane to Boston Monday evening (I decided to fly over taking the train or bus to save time. Hahaha).

I did all the bookings, so forth and so on and put it in the hands of the travel gods, who are apparently irritated with me. My bus back to DC from NYC took a whopping SEVEN HOURS, which is three hours more than usual. Why, might you ask? Lets ask the State of New Jersey, who thought it would be a marvelous idea to split their “expressway” into two sections, one inevitably traffic-laden and the other open as the South Africa sky.

Fast-forward 16 hours later, post-intake (everything went well and I’m going to be on lots of drugs that are going to make me really loopy and very “huh? Whuh?”). I began my trek to Boston at 2:30pm by boarding the subway at Tenleytown station. I took the subway to the Marc commuter rail to the airport shuttle to Terminal 4, checked my bag, did the security dance, and plopped down in a chair at 5:10pm, perfect timing for my 5:30pm flight. DELAYED. We were now supposed to depart at 6:51pm. At 6:56pm they announced this flight was cancelled and we were all put on other flights leaving throughout the evening. My new departure time was 7:20pm. At 7:23pm I was still sitting in the terminal, fairly certain something was wrong. Indeed, something was wrong. At 7:40pm they CANCELLED that flight too – complete hydraulics failure which controls, you know, the entire plane.

At this point people were getting very agitated and crowding the gate area, ready to claim justice. I listened as people told loved ones their plight via cell phone. “I mean (sobbing), this is just like, the worst day of my life Mom,” and “Its just always something and this is just…just (gets choked up) why me?” and “The world hates me.” Dramatic? I think yes. For whatever reason – maybe the traveling all over and then living through the Dengue – I remained largely unaffected and found the whole ordeal rather humorous. I just bought a salad, read a book, and chilled out.

We eventually left from another gate on the other side of the airport, having to go through security all over again. Our 9:30pm departure put us in Boston at 11pm, which had me at my aunt Nancy’s place by 11:45pm, a full 7 hours and 15 minutes after leaving for the airport…Now, how long does the bus take again?

28 November 2007

New Video - Random Collection From World Tour

I put this together for another organization who wants me to potentially "host" something for them. It's bits and bobs of me "hosting" while traveling. I only left one clip out - the morning of doom in India, when I had slept for 45 minutes. Maybe in a bout of insanity you'll get lucky and I'll accidentally post it...

23 November 2007

Getting Crushed By A Christmas Tree

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving Louis, Kira and Jenna head to Connecticut to pick out the Parks Family Christmas Tree. When I'm on town, they let me tag along, which is wonderful for a kid from California who either picked out his tree in the Home Depot parking lot while wearing flip flops or helped his Dad take it out of the box and "assemble" the pieces.

The journey begins at 7:30am with delicious Dunkin' Donuts (which, alone, is worth the trip).

From there, it's a solid hour by car, during which Kira and Jenna enjoy playing "let me show you how much I love you."

We then pick up Terry and his gang, who never buy fewer than three trees. They're big-time tree people.

Cut to more sisterly love...

Next, it's all about selecting the "perfect tree," which you then chop down (ironic, no?). Fraser Fur only, obviously. This was Erin's first time chopping.

I, on the other hand, have a lot of experience, which doesn't explain how I allowed this one to fall on top of me.

Now nearing the end of the event, we all load them on the tractor, where they are whisked away to be cleaned up and loaded.

Then it's back through beautiful Connecticut, pretty leaves, pristine sky and all...

I'm still coated with sap, which feels great! Gotta love those holiday traditions!

Thanksgiving Recap

My oh my, what a day! After waking up at 10am and lounging about/working/napping, we (The Parks Family, Great Aunt Nancy and their Thanksgiving surrogate child - me) welcomed Fox and Jean for dinner. Originally from Beijing, we had a great time chattering on in Mandarin and talking about how China has changed over the last twenty years. Then it was dessert time, which meant a solid 24 people arrived, including a wild brood of 10 kids. It was just like holidays at home - chaotic, crowded and wonderful!

Aunt Ann, Looking Divine Beating Something

Me, Creating A Brilliant Shrimp Cocktail

Kira & Jenna - Sibling LOVE

The "Kids" Pull A China Pose (I Love A Good Group Photo)

The Adults Smile (Again, I Love A Good Group Photo)

Today we went to pick out the Parks Family Christmas Tree. More on that tomorrow!


Kyle Taylor

22 November 2007

Thoughts On The New Look?

Let me know if you hate it! I wanted to "mix it up!"


Kyle Taylor

Happy Turkey Day!

Just a quick happy thanksgiving to all those US readers, and a special shoutout to all those Americans living abroad. I was in China last year at this time and I have to say, it's definitely strange to be in a foreign land on a big US holiday (though the giant American party at the Brit's house (Lianne, I love you!) definitely helped. A few pics from that festivities follow:

Me With Our "Turkey"

Lig "Loving This Whole Food Thing"

Sara and Kelly Presenting Their Papier Mache Creation

Fran Approves

Magical Food Appears!

Cultural Exchange

Cake Thief!

Click Here For The Whole Album

20 November 2007

Um, The Leaves Are TOO Beautiful!

So I wanted desperately to get to New Hampshire and watch the leaves change as an official “peeper,” but I missed peak and resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to wait several years until the time was right. Not so! I’m in Bronxville to celebrate Thanksgiving (you know, when the Pilgrims came and rocked out with the Native Americans. Or did they throw rocks at the Native Americans?) and the trees here are just INCREDIBLE. Check out these yellows, reds and oranges. This is definitely something you won’t find in California (but it’s still the best place ever).

19 November 2007

On The Road Again…

After two months of being unemployed and without a home I am now settling into both. Well, trying to settle, at least. I left Saturday for what will be a 20-day trip to New York, Boston, New Hampshire and Connecticut. Some of it is family time for the holidays, some of it is work time for Youth Venture.

You might be thinking, “my oh my, he must be jumping for joy, finally traveling again!” A friend even said to me, “hopefully this trip will satiate your desire for something different.” That really got me thinking. It’s utterly bazaar, but what I want is to just sit. In my new apartment. With my awesome roommate. And type. And think. And sit. Did I mention sitting? Don’t get me wrong, I cannot WAIT to get back out there and explore the planet again, but after so many months of so many bumps, the “same” (so long as it’s calming) sounds rather appealing.

Plus, now that I’m “settled” (ok, that word still freaks me out), I’ve created my own “different.” That is, fighting with insurance companies, getting my shoulders fixed, relearning to ride a bike, obsessing over the upcoming election and helping young people change the world.

It seems that at least something has to be the same and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that for the next few months, that something is my location. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing just fine jumping around New England, but a little “home sweet home” don’t feel so bad after all. Dear god, did I just type that? I wonder how long this will last…


-Kyle Taylor

16 November 2007

You Want TWO MRIs? Blasphemy!

So apart from the Dengue fever I also have chronic shoulder pain which, after four years of sidelining because of life, I’ve decided to take care of. Cut to my doctor’s visit, where the first words out of my mouth have to be “how much is this going to cost?” The doctor understands my strife and allows me to forgo x-rays, as I’ve had them done, we know what’s wrong, etc. etc. He spends a solid 30 minutes with me talking about life, work, school and eventually, my shoulders. I feel like he actually cares about my health, and I still believe he does.

Of course, you can’t continue on with surgery without first getting an MRI to see “what’s going on” in there. He refers me to an MRI clinic and once again, we’re back to money. Each shoulder costs $549 and I need pre-authorization. It turns out the woman at the MRI clinic got all the way to the Chief Medical Officer before getting pre-authorization for both shoulders, based on the fact that “two working shoulders are not necessary to sustain life.”

Cut to the next crisis. My $5000 deductible resets January 1st, despite the fact that my policy didn’t start until July 1st. That means I actually had a $5000 deductible for 6 months. Yeah, that seems fair. Needless to say, now it’s a time game. Now that I have the MRI I need to try and have both shoulder’s repaired before January 1st, or else everything resets and I’ll have to pay that deductible again. Fortunately, Blue Cross through out that silly non-emergency (Dengue fever), so I don’t have to worry about that pesky bill going towards that shockingly low $5000 deductible which I have – as I said – never met. EVER.

In the end, this has become less about me getting healthy and having two functioning arms that allow me to do things like lift a bag, sleep comfortably and someday, pick up my child and more about the stress of attempting to get authorizations from doctors working in offices who have never treated me or met me then rushing to take action so that it can all be covered under the ridiculously expensive insurance policy that pays for next to nothing.

Thankfully, I have therapy today, so hopefully she can talk me down! Oh wait…they don’t cover that either since I’m not suicidal. Oh no…more stress…Tell me again, why is Universal Health Care a bad idea? Oh yeah, because care would just get SO BAD…as if it hasn’t already.

13 November 2007

The Day Blue Cross Decided To Get Their Ass Kicked

Health Care in America is absolutely broken. We’ve heard the stories before. My favorite (not in a good way, but in a “oh my gosh, are you kidding?” way) was of a young girl who could not hear in either of her ears. Her parents tried to get pre-approval for tube surgery, which would most likely completely fix the problem. Her insurance only approved the surgery for one ear, citing that it was not a necessity for life to hear in both.

By no means is my situation nearly as traumatic in the sense that I can hear, I can see and I’m still alive, though according to Blue Cross, that last bit is reason enough to deny me any kind of “insurance.”

I’m sure we all remember when I contracted Dengue Fever. I was in India working on no salary meeting with young people creating social change. By then I had been through three continents and was nearing the end of my whirlwind tour. On that same day a little mosquito decided to make me dinner, I acquired an acute intestinal infection from bacteria-infested water. Not knowing I had Dengue (it’s difficult to detect) the doctor treated my infection and I felt good enough to fly to Thailand. Of course, upon arrival there we all know what happened – I got hospitalized for 5 days.

Upon arrival the billing department called my insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield), which said I was supposed to pay the bill and then submit it upon return to the US. This was their “standard procedure.” So that’s what my family and I did. We paid up front ($3500) and submitted the bill when I got back.

Yesterday (92 days later) they responded to our payment request. CLAIM DENIED. Why, might you ask? Well, they don’t deem it an “emergency” because my chance of living was greater than my chance of dying. Apparently treating a disease currently experiencing it’s greatest outbreak in history that kills more than 20,000 people a year and is particularly dangerous to non-acclimated westerners that made me lose 10 pounds in 5 days, gave me a fever of 106.8 degrees and caused long-term fatigue, depression and an inability to think isn’t an emergency. Moreover, some doctor sitting in a plushy office who has probably never treated Dengue fever and who earns incentives for denying claims is definitely qualified to make that determination.

The doctor in the hospital all but forced me to admit myself. He checked on me all weekend because he was concerned about my progress. The nurses spent one 12-hour period changing cold packs because my body was burning through them. I was hallucinating. I couldn’t stand up. I felt like someone was pounding on my entire body with a giant hammer. Nope, no emergency.

WHAT THEN, DEAR “HEALTH PROFESSIONALS,” IS AN EMERGENCY? Apparently, had I died, everything would have been covered. To make matters worse, they won’t even count this toward my astronomical $5000 deductible, which my family has a) never met in our lives and b) pays a small fortune for to begin with. The claim has been “thrown out completely,” and again, it took them THREE MONTHS to tell us this.

I ask you, how can one not believe this system is broken? Lets start at the most basic level. Health Care should –at it’s core – have health as it’s primary interest. In our current system, that’s not the case. It is a business, and any business has profit as it’s number one priority. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a business! In fact, last year, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s parent company – Wellpoint, Inc. (how ironic is that?) posted a $3.2 billion dollar profit. Health Care costs are up – on average – 70% for consumers and they’re making billions and billions of dollars? What is wrong with this picture? Moreover, America is ranked 17th globally for quality of services in a system that cost billions of dollars more per capita to run. So we’re not making people better and we’re spending more money. Is that even good business?

Bottom line, if our health as individuals (and in turn, a nation; after all, nations are only as strong as their people) are in the hands of people trying to maximize profits, how can they possibly be maximizing our well-being? Healthy people aren’t profitable, and when you can write off every sick claim as a “non-emergency,” ill people aren’t expensive. It’s a win-win for them and a lose-lose for us.

What, then, can we do about it? Demand that your health be left in the hands of people whose primary interest is your well-being. No one should be capitalizing on my ability to live, that young girl’s ability to hear, or my grandfather’s ability to buy medicine. Your first question at the doctor’s office or in a hospital should never be, “how am I going to pay for this?” Health care is at the root of existence, and every human being deserves that right, regardless of age, gender, race or sexual orientation. We’re the wealthiest nation on earth, which leads me to believe we can do it.

As for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wellpoint, Inc. and their billions of dollars? You have NO IDEA who you’re messing with. I’ve survived Dengue fever. This is going to be like taking candy from a baby. Bring it.

09 November 2007

The Most Ridiculous LA Moment Ever

So I’m sitting down to lunch with Matt Miller, Youth Venture’s rockstar extraordinaire, at a little sidewalk cafĂ© in West Hollywood when – at the table next to us – a woman plops down with her dog. They’re clearly on a date. I’m perusing the menu, Matt is perusing the menu, the woman next to us is perusing the menu, the dog is panting. I order, Matt orders, the woman orders, the dog is yapping. I get my food, Matt gets his food, the woman gets her food and the dog…gets a bottle of Evian poured into a restaurant-supplied dog dish!

Homeless people are cruising the streets right in front of the restaurant, 25% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean water and this dog’s chugging down a bottle of France’s finest. This was my first post-trip experience when I couldn’t help but wonder, “why does the world make absolutely no sense?” I was born in the US inside arbitrary borders (lines) that were drawn by people hundreds of years ago and because of this randomness my life equates to sunshine, a college degree, patio restaurants and Evian-drinking canines. Person X was born in India inside arbitrary borders (lines) that were drawn by [western] people dozens of years ago and because of this randomness his or her life equates to monsoon rains, limited access to education, and quite possibly, extreme poverty. Does this arbitrary nature make sense to anyone? Why, because I was born in this “box,” should I be entitled to so much while someone else, in an entirely different box, has so little? I don’t get it.


Kyle Taylor

08 November 2007

He Lives! How Readjusting To American Life Is Overwhelmingly Difficult

It has been nearly 2 months since I wrote a significant, telling, insightful blog entry (assuming my previous entries were one or all of these things). The truth is that the last 2 months have been the most trying, complicated and draining of my life (besides that first week in Shanghai, which was REAL BAD). In fact, the last 60 days have felt strikingly similar to those first days in China. I’ve felt out of place. I’ve felt lost. I’ve felt like a foreigner. It’s absolutely true that you have no idea how much you’ve changed until you come back to a place that is familiar.

For the first few weeks I clung to being a nomad because it offered comfort. Calm. After all, I knew how to live out of a suitcase! I wandered aimlessly from friend to friend, crashing on couches, spending hours a day on conference calls with international organizations talking about their youth programs – something I knew about. A permanent position at Youth Venture wasn’t shoring up as fast as I had hoped but I continued working full-steam, denying some offers and not looking elsewhere for fear of closing that door.

Of course, there were still the after effects of the Dengue. I was lethargic. I needed LOTS of sleep. I woke up some days too depressed to do anything. Then there was the confusion. Is this the Dengue or is it my own life? I had no job, no home and the personal life wasn’t exactly moving as I had thought. Maybe it was a little of both. Maybe having my own place would fix it. Maybe a job would fix it. Maybe nothing would.

I was in a constant state of “I don’t fit in at all.” I felt like the only thing I was supposed to do here – in America – was shop and buy things. Like that was my purpose. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel comfortable. Instead, it made me really unhappy. Turning on a light, taking a long shower, simply being able to get water out of a faucet whenever I felt like it made me feel guilty. I had just spent four months with people who were happy to get three meals a day. Who was I to use – and in my mind abuse – the abundance of resources at my fingertips? Why should I get these things when they don’t? Why was my life so darn easy, and how was everyone around me taking it all for granted?

Needless to say, this mindset did not help, nor did the unfortunate string of events that reigned down on me over the course of several weeks. The passing of three close family friends (one of whom was only 23). Finding - then losing housing on multiple occasions. Constant mood swings from the Dengue fever. Floundering to find an income, and feeling controlled by money all the time. A constant and continual deterioration in my personal life. It was like that first week in Shanghai, only drawn out over 8 weeks in an environment that – unlike China - you expected to be easy and familiar. I got cynical. I got depressed. I got sad. I got angry. I went through the entire spectrum of emotions, and I’m still going through them.

Fortunately for me though, I’ve been reminded by close friends, family and one great therapist that I’m all but useless in doing good if I’m miserable and upset all the time. Wallowing in my own guilt and self-pity isn’t going to help youth in South Africa get out of poverty. So I’m learning to reaccept my world and see the positives in it, which has been a challenge.

I’m finally employed, my housing situation is shoring up and, above all, I’ve realized that I have some great people around me who have really helped to hold me up through this particularly rough patch.

So, where do I go from here? I’m going to keep writing about what I think, whether it relates to development, youth, my generation or my own life. Sometimes it will be funny. Sometimes it won’t. No matter what, it will be honest. There are still stories to tell. There are still youth who need a voice, and I’m no good at being that voice if I’m crying under my sheets listening to Joni Mitchell. It’s time to turn the page and begin a new chapter. Rock on.