Category Archives: Jane Stillwater

Vacation at the Dumps

Jane at the dumpYou remember my super-cool friend, Jane? She’s the 60-something lady from Berkeley who has been to Iraq twice in the past year to see how things are going there, who also made a stop in Africa to check out how AIDS workers are fighting to make a difference, and who is always fighting the power in the White House. She’s a busy woman.

Well Jane recently decided she could use a little vacation, so she grabbed a cheap flight to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico to visit friends for a couple of weeks. This is Jane though, so there was no tanning on the beach, sipping fruity drinks, or spending lavishly on fancy jewellry and clothes. There was pie though. It sounds like she ate lots of pie.

No no, our Jane, consciencious citizen that she is, spent her days meeting ex-pats, giving talks at local cafes about her time in Iraq, finding out how the locals there manage to get by on so little (They have a Wal-Mart, but we’re they really saving more and living better on the outskirts of the tourist industry?), and making me feel truly useless, sitting here at my desk like a good little corporate girl.

Before returngin home, Jane wanted to do one big, last research mission, so an American she met directed her to the city dump where people make their living scrounging through other people’s discarded crap. Jane met a group of people who started the group Children of the Dump ten years ago. They now provide food, daycare and education to kids who would have otherwise been sent to work in the dump by the age of five.

Jane says:
“We drove up the side of the approximately 2,000-foot-high mountain of garbage and on top were acres and acres of the detritus and waste and no-longer-wanted refuge of the tourists of Puerto Vallarta. And at the very top of the pile, a child, two women and a man stood sorting various plastic bottles into various piles. “May I take your photo?” I asked in my newly-acquired Spanish.

“Si, como no.”  Yes, of course.  The Mexicans of Puerto Vallarta are really nice. Even the dump workers are nice. If I had to do what they did all day, day in and day out, I’d be chewing nails. But they simply smiled. How courageous is that!

Then we went to the School of Champions — so-named because the students there weren’t too keen on going to a school called “Children of the Dump”. And if anyone reading this wants to volunteer at the school, that might be a possibility if you can pay your own way and want to teach in a school. Even being able to teach English would be a help. “But we don’t get all that many volunteers. Most volunteers want to save starving orphans. However, these kids aren’t starving.” And why aren’t they starving? Because the program feeds them!  Catch 22.”

Read about Jane’s adventures at, or learn more about the people she met at They’re always looking for volunteers, so what are you doing for Spring Break?

(Photo by Jane’s friend, Sara.)


Jane Stillwater’s Wild, Mraztastic Ride

Jane StillwaterBack in April, I wrote about my friend and former copywriting co-worker who went to Iraq. She wasn’t deployed there, she chose to go, footing the bill for her own ticket and expenses. Crazy? A little, but determined, inquisitive, and seriously pissed off at Bush and Friends as well.

Ms. Jane Stillwater is 65, a mother and grandmother, and one tough old broad. A syndicated advice columnist recently asked whether women found that term offensive, and heaps of people wrote in talking about the women in their families who wore the title with pride, who earned it through years of struggle and standing up for others.

Jane is no exception. You can call her a hippie, an activist, or just a woman full of the kind of common sense I wish more politicians had; no matter what title you give her, she’s an inspiration.

As I sit at my desk each day thinking that someone really should do something about global warming and public education and rude people on cell phones and health care and traffic and war and stuff, Jane is doing it. Given the chance to take off to Iraq right now and send home stories about what’s really going on, I don’t know if I would. It sounds a little scary, even though at 30 I should feel invincible. To be doing it at more than twice my age, without complaining about uncomfortable living quarters or extreme heat or cold or bugs or having to bathe out of a bucket, I think Jane is remarkable. I hope to have a little of her moxie someday.

If I could give Jane just one Jason Mraz song to carry around with her, it would have to be 10,000 Motherfuckers. It’s always sounded like a political song to me, a call to action, whether or not our Curbside Prophet meant for it to be. And I think that Jane’s doing exactly what it asks for, to stand up and sing out loud, and maybe a few of us will listen.

Read her entry from Sunday, September 30, 2007, “Farewell to Africa, good morning Iraq!” where she got a prophecy of her own (in a church in Africa that was not, as far as I can tell, anywhere near a curb).

Go make your life, not a living,

Jane Online: – Jane’s Blog – The Times Online’s feature on Jane’s first trip to Iraq (That’s their photo of Jane, up above.) – Our local paper reports on Jane’s preparations for her Oct. 6, 2007 departure to Iraq

Welcome Back, Jane!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my friend, Jane Stillwater, who ran off to Iraq to do some reporting for the real people. No one was paying her to do it. She spent a year saving up to cover all the expenses, but she felt it was important for a citizen journalist to go have a look around and write about it, unfiltered by the mainstream media.

Jane never got out of the Green Zone, but considering the bombing that took place in the cafeteria there last week, she still saw more action than most of us ever will. Read all about her adventures at her site: 

Also this week, another friend of mine finished her training with the diplomatic corps and received her first assignment. She’ll be spending the next year in Nigeria, and after that, who knows where life will take her? I’m very lucky to know some really incredible people. Just thinking about these two adventurous ladies, my passport is starting to itch for new stamps. 

What is it Jason Mraz says about traveling?

“I love surprises and coincidences. I love them even more when I don’t pass them off as luck, but rather recognize them as a sign that my life’s course is right on track.”

Um, wrong quote, but still a good one, don’t ya think?

Safe and Sound… in Kuwait

Continuing on my post from yesterday, my friend, Jane, made it to Kuwait today. She’s posted her first report, and in true Jane fashion found plenty to say, just from her hours on the airplane and a trip to the army dining hall:

Whether or not you agree with her, I hope you admire her moxie. We need more chicks with moxie.

In lighter news, our Prophet Mraz has changed up his myspace photo again. He’s wearing a hat in this one, which makes me wonder if it’s because he’s afraid more people will start writing about his hair.