This is the 3rd in a series of meeting someone new in our community. Everyone, this is Mehment who is a real outdoors man, a humanitarian activist and an intriguing person to get to know.
1) If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I would be right where I am in the mountains of CA’s Sierra Nevada. I have positioned myself exactly where I want to be…in a place of absolute natural beauty. Of course Burma is close on my list of places I want to be at this moment, working with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the Karen National Union for the struggle for freedom and rights in Burma.
2) Visalia is about 107,000+ in population and is considered a small city with a lot of country attitudes. Tell us about where you live and what life is like in a small country town?
I live in a small mountain community of about 180, having migrated here from LA (population 9 million and before from that New Orleans). Although I have roots in larger cities and having traveled to many major world cities, I find my life in the mountains of CA to be fulfilling in respect to the absolute connection with nature…the absolute perfection of her ways. I am certainly becoming an "A" student with nature as my teacher. The people here, although conservative and sometimes a bit providential, are good natured and community oriented. I find that my life as an activist and a queer amongst a mostly straight community is not as challengening as one might expect. The people here respect hard work and desire the same common rights as anyone in the world…it is just sometimes a little harder to build those bridges. After 4 years here, I feel I am building relations that will create bridges between cultures and lifestyles that otherwise might not happen.
3) What are you favorite outdoor activities?
I am an avid mountain biker, rock climber, cross country skier, hiker, and horsemen. All things outdoors are of interest to me. I live in a log cabin on the end of a dirt road, was raised in the swamps of Louisiana, and know how to teach others the ways of outdoor recreation.
4) We met on one occasion at a fundraiser you were doing for Wildplaces. Describe what Wildplaces is and your involvement in it?
WildPlaces is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and restoration of the wild and rural places of the southern Sierra Nevada and her peoples. We organize volunteer-driven habitat restoration and community education projects that enhance and restore CA’s wild and rural places, connecting people to the environment in ways that inspire personal stewardship of land, water and air. I am the founder and director and work with a small staff and volunteer to tirelessly to promote a vision of nature ethic and direct action to protect our treasured natural resources.
5) Pick one experience that you have had in your life in your travels outside of the USA that has had an effect on your life and describe its impact in your life.
That would have to be the time I was in the jungles of Burma transporting medicines to villages where the military junta regularly patrolled and often prevented the transport and delivery of health care to its own people. We had just been fired upon by soldiers of the SPDC Government and were hiding in the jungle. I was (and still am) profoundly impacted by the resilience and hopefulness of a people who are in ultimate states of oppression and neglect. In them, I saw the power of a community organized to say "no, I will not bend. I will not stand down to the needs of my people." The medics and freedom fighter who accompanied us stood close to me as I witnessed their ultimate fight for freedom. That I will never forget. It is transformative.
6) What would you want someone to know about you that don’t know you at all?
It would be the advice I would give anyone who may not know a particular audience: Keep an open mind and do not, under any circumstances, be influenced by hearsay…in other words, check your facts and let compassion rule your judgment.
7) I understand you recently did a fundraiser for Burma Humanitarian Mission. Tell us about that.
Please visit www.burmamission.org and learn about a small group of volunteers doing great work.