Be grateful for clean air in America. Be grateful for a visible blue sky in America. Be grateful for the freedom to be whoever you want to be in America.
My friend Merj, who is known as Dr. Merjjena B. Hemp to the world, is working on a YouTube project called Complicated Conversations Post 9/11 and her latest concentration is our veterans here in the U.S. She is launching Jump 4 the Vets, a fundraiser in support of those who have done so much for our country and need a little extra help to ask for help. She will be skydiving in as many states as she can to do something bold, courageous, and unstoppable for our veterans who were once bold, courageous, and unstoppable.
Oh, and one more thing. You can find me about 4.5 minutes in talking about how you can help. Be sure to check out the link at the very end of the video description:
I am in a video! Someone else’s this time and it’s a trailer. Well, good because I bet you guys are sick of me attempting to make videos that sound coherent and have music and all that jazz. I think I will continue my attempts because I gave my word, but for now, you might recognize the person behind this trailer as Dr. Merjjena B. Hemp. If you watch closely you will see me awkwardly trying to wish her luck on her launch.
Since this video she has launched her Complicated Conversations videos on topics dealing with our lives in the post-9/11 era. But first, can we talk about how she decided to launch this series?! Skydiving from 13,000 feet!! Props to her for coming up with not only a creative way to launch, but a daredevil way to go! Seriously.
Check out Merj’s channel for more on what people were doing during 9/11, how education plays a role on how we are to view the world, gun control issues, and more fun flying/gliding videos. We all need to have more adventure in our spirits like Merj.
I wanted to share this video with you guys so you can see one of the events I attended recently as part of my journey as a crazy writer. Merj was the keynote speaker at the 2nd Annual Filipino American History Month Celebration. The theme was “Bridging Cultures–Making History for 427 Years.” She took me and a friend of ours, Nadege Uwase, to experience this cultural event in Jefferson City.
With her two dogs, Paris and Curly (so precious), we stayed at this hotel:
It was a really nice hotel. We stayed overnight and were able to enjoy a breakfast buffet the following morning. (I love American breakfasts.)
At the cultural event I had this for dinner:
It’s authentic Filipino food! I had chicken adobo, pansit bihon, lumpia, banana toron, rice and a drink. (I have no idea how to pronounce all of those, but everything tasted good!)
In the video clip you’ll see the singing and dancing we got to enjoy while we ate our dinner. You’ll see some traditional Filipino dances and costumes.
And of course no trip to Jefferson City is complete without a little Central Dairy. We visited the ice cream shop the next day. It was Merj’s first time and there was no way Nadege and I were going to let her miss out on one of the best places in Missouri to get ice cream.
I think sometimes people underestimate the greatness of a small city. I have been fortunate enough to meet someone lately who just moved to Columbia, MO who is ready to make a huge ripple in this small college town’s pond.
Dr. Merjjena B. Hemp, lovingly called Merj by friends and family wrote a memoir called Beyond the Shadow of 3000 Pairs of Shoes: A Story of Hopelessness, Persistence, and Survival. I recently put it down and I read it cover to cover within three hours, including taking notes as a writer, etc. You can finish it in less time if you’re not a writer.
Where do I begin? Page 1 is probably best. From the first page to the last, this memoir is filled with struggle, survival, love, abuse, waiting, growing up and most of all, education. Each chapter is a story on its own that documents Merj’s growth process and transformation from a runaway girl on the streets of Manila to the Ph.D. speaker and military wife she is today. Merj’s life so far is truly astounding. How does one go from having nothing more than a plastic bag of clothes sleeping on a bench outside of a church building to completing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Minor in Educational Learning Technologies? Merj is able to take whatever resources she is given, even if all she has are newspaper clippings used as a bed and covers, and figure out a way to better her situation. One step leads to another, leads to another, leads to another until she finds something worth fighting for.
Most times education is what Merj fights for, but many times, it’s love. Love is the glue that sticks two people together, but the closeness can become the one thing to break two people apart. Young people will be able to relate to her love stories and older people will be able to relate to her passion for education. Love is what carried her away from her home in the Philippines to her new home in the U.S. After 9/11, Merj knew that it was time to finish her college degree and focus her studies on Communication. Today she enjoys learning about different cultures and speaking about topics close to her heart for the betterment of the community. With her background, especially her experience living under the Marcos regime, she is sure to reach people of different backgrounds and ages and experiences.
Soon Merj’s memoir will be part of Columbia Public Library’s collection. I am honored to know her!