Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cockroach Guts and Other Gifts

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I am so disappointing.

Sometimes I am a safe harbor for negative thoughts. Sometimes these cute kids drive me crazy and I raise my voice. (I think you call it yelling.) Sometimes people here, who I’m working on projects with, don’t feel like working and I get bitter. Sometimes I am email and “skyped” out and want face to face conversations. Sometimes when I’m in the kitchen trying to kill every cockroach, I want to be home, at my parents’ house, where things don’t creep and crawl. Sometimes I just want predictable electricity.

But something happens when you don’t get to predict the little details of your day. Something happens when the façade of control is even more exposed. You become more grateful.

Sometimes the limited capacity of my mind starts to wrap itself around these abundant blessings. Sometimes after a night’s sleep I wake up to angelic little voices laughing and singing. Sometimes, when I’m not worried about building my resume, I work on building relationships. Sometimes when I’m on skype it means I’m listening and not looking at my phone.  Sometimes when I can’t see out, I look up. At His sky and His stars. And how often do we forget to just “look up”.  In these moments, realizing how big the world is and how small I am, I am thankful.

Thankful for the timing in my life that allows me to be flexible enough to take this opportunity, His hand over my health, His persistence and patience with me.  I’m not entitled to any of it. And something happens when you realize you’re not entitled to everything, anything can become a gift. The endless knocking on my door. The cockroach crunch under my nice sandals. The predictable fried chicken dinner.  An unexpected gift from a childhood friend. Electricity.

It means He is using me. I have food to eat. I have clothes to wear. I am loved. There is Light.

It’s going to take a lifetime of practice. Too many times it takes too long for me to know I’ve received a gift.  But if I could give more gratitude, more love and think a little less about myself, I wouldn’t worry so much about myself.
I get wrapped up in details of my life. What I want. I want a lot. But I am beginning to really grasp how much I have.

Returning home for my Christmas visit is just a few days away. I know I will have gifts to unwrap. I know I will have cherished times with loved ones. I also know I need to remember to be a grateful as I receive the present of His Presence.

Last Friday

The events of last Friday began to unfold as I got on my computer around 10 a.m. to check my email. Like America and most of the world, my heart was broken and I couldn’t believe something like this had happened. I don’t know what to say and I’m not going to continue typing and prove it.

Here are two posts that I appreciated reading:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grown-Up Christmas List + Updates

Kids are entertaining. They do and say the funniest things. Because of this, most of my posts have been about daily kid related amusements. I certainly don’t want to overlook the other important projects happening…so here is an update!

This is EXCITING! Peterson Brun, our first entrepreneur to receive a loan through Zafen, has successfully completed his loan repayments. Peterson has a drink stand and received funding for expansion last October. He worked hard and was responsible with his personal finances allowing him to repay his loan in full before the deadline. Anyone can appreciate the discipline and perseverance it takes to pay off a loan. Way to go Peterson! Peterson will also be getting married in December so it’s an exciting time in his life! Please pray that God continues to bless this amazing leader in the community.

Our block making business is also charging full steam ahead. Reformation Hope, the non-profit in Georgia that supports Souls Winning Ministries, will be purchasing blocks from the business to begin constructing a medical clinic. We’re excited to get things started and there will be many more updates to follow.

The first 6 weeks I have been observing the dynamics of the school. The model is very different from the United States. For next steps, I will be having a meeting with the staff and teachers at the school. Together we will have a brainstorming session and do a SWOT analysis. The meeting will be a crucial time to put agreed upon expectations in place as well as create a collaborative, supportive environment. In the coming months, I hope to have the teachers share lesson plans, progress reports and best practices.


Other stuff:
Growing up, I was a sucker for Amy Grant’s “Grown Up Christmas List” song. I sang it at the top of my lungs in the living room…on repeat (sorry family). Now that I’m a bit older, the song’s lyrics have even more meaning. Here’s a taste;

 “No more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. Everyone would have a friend, and right would always win and love would never end. This is my grown up Christmas List.”

Maybe it’s a bit sappy and Miss America-esque but it’s true. I think they’re beautiful lyrics. Some of you have asked if I want anything for the children or myself and since you asked…yes J. I have put together a list of “needs and wants.”  I entered the list into a google document so that we don’t receive too much of any single item. I will collect the items when I am in Indiana and Los Angeles before returning to Haiti. I can only have one additional suitcase for donations so please keep this in mind! If you purchase a donation item, please indicate it on the google document. If you require any explanation for an item you see on the list feel free to email me.

Click here for the link to my Grown Up Christmas List! **LINK FIXED SO YOU CAN EDIT**
Email me if you have items to drop off. I will be packing ZIonsville donations on Dec. 28th and L.A. donations on Jan. 6th. 

Thank you again for your giving hearts!

Friday, December 7, 2012

'Tis the Season!

I love Christmas.A LOT.

I love snow, givinggifts, hot chocolate, baking, watching Christmas movies, smiling (smiling is myfavorite), decorating and the feeling I still get on Christmas morning. I havebeen trying to keep that Christmas momentum going in 93 degree heat, with noHallmark Christmas channel and no oven to bake cookies. It has beenchallenging.

It started theweek of Thanksgiving. I gathered a few of the kids to make a classic chain linkpaper count down. We quickly learned that glue sticks and construction paperaren’t friends in the humidity. We enforced the chain link with some kind ofwhite tape. It doesn’t look flawless. Martha Stewart would be horrified. But itlooks like it was a labor of love.

Next, Idiscovered a new found passion for making paper snowflakes. I quickly sharedwith the kids the complicated art of paper folding. With a little imaginationand some stellar scissor skills, the kids started mastering this great art(they really are pretty). Without my supervision and during school, theystarted making more of them, out of ANYpaper. Pretty soon I was receiving school assignment snowflakes, bonbon wrappersnowflakes and trash snowflakes. I thanked them genuinely, letting them knowthat future flakes could be kept to decorate their own space. I decided it was time for a new craft. I started“collecting” toilet paper rolls pending a pinterest craft I would undoubtedlyfind. Three toilet paper rolls later and I am still looking.

I diverted myattention to party planning. The children receive a lot. They constantly haveteams coming down that shower them with candy, gifts and games. I decided itwas important to focus on the greatest gift ever given. I wanted to provide the kids with the opportunity to give this season. The idea hasculminated into a “Giving Gala” where each child gets to give a gift to anotherchild. The second party will be a surprise Christmas Celebration for the staff.The kids will be serving the staff for a change in a mock restaurant setting. Eachkid has volunteered for a role at the party. With details swirling in my head Irealized I had to think about my Christmas plans for my visit home too!

I startedmentally scheduling all the extended family and friends I want to see. Ibrainstormed ideas to make sure that Greg, who I will see in for the 1sttime in 112 days (but who’s counting), has the best time ever in my hometown. I started Christmasshopping via amazon for my family. Not to mention I still had to figure out howto make sure it snows.  With all theseplans pending, I realized I was getting a little stressed.

Oh Irony!

Far away fromBlack Friday, Christmas sales and ELF re-runs, with no Douglas Fir or EvergreenWreath in sight. No Christmas e-vites crowding my inbox. No elf on my shelf. Nocookie exchanges, secret Santa or Ugly Christmas Sweater parties to attend. Iwas still feeling overwhelmed. My Christmas was already becoming too much. Iwasn’t thinking about the “reason for the season,” I was wrapping myself up insome abstract form of people pleasing.

I would love tomaster every Christmas craft, become an expert gift giver and dominate everydelicious Christmas dessert. I think all of these things are great but they canquickly take the focus off of why Christmas is such an incredible holiday.

The First Noelgot off to a spectacularly simple start. Mary, Joseph and a manger that heldthe greatest gift ever given, Jesus. I think it’s important toremember that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Tell it on the Mountains

With Christmas season in full swing, I have been teaching the kids a few classic Christmas songs. I incorporate the lyrics into an English lesson, encouraging them to read the words, not just mimic me. Slowly they are recognizing each of the words and the repetition of specific ones. It helps that they love to sing.

With a schedule in place and enforced, the kids go to bed around 9 p.m. This also means they wake up at about 5 a.m. I often hear them first thing in the morning, wearily singing their own songs. But, with a little bread in their stomachs, they come out in full force around 6 a.m. singing loudly. Their little voices, which I find far more endearing in the evening, permeate through my earplugs. One kid sings “Holy, Holy” another “Jingle Bells” and one of the teenage girls, with attitude in tow, belts out “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” I’m annoyed. I want just one more hour of sweet sleep. She seems to raise her voice as she passes my door. “Go tell it on the mountain,” vibrates through the walls. It’s as if she single handedly feels responsible for getting the song, “over the hills and everywhere.” I toss. I turn. I surrender. I’m up. I unzip my net and think, “what have I done to myself?” Next time I sound just give them a drum set and a loud speaker. Again, I’m NOT a morning person.

I slowly make my way to the bathroom. The already bright sun stings my half opened eyes. One of the boys belts out, “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” although his mouth can’t quite form “bells” and it comes out as ball. (We’ll have to work on that)

I make my way back to my room. Oblivious to my stoic stare, the youngest gives me a big hug with a running start. I nearly fall over. She starts singing “Go Tell in on the Mountain.” As I reach my door I hear that most of the girls have settled for the same song. At least now the noise is in unison. I’m surprised they’ve remembered the notes and the words. Their voices are starting to sound a bit sweeter. I peek into their room. Some of them have their eyes shut, some of them are swaying. They aren’t just singing, they’re praising. They are singing from their hearts. I realize that although I taught them the words, I can certainly learn a thing or two from their song.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Ask and you shall receive"

Recently, I introduced after school activities for the kids.To be honest, this was done in a somewhat selfish manner. I found it verydifficult to get anything done with the kids around. Every day, at 1 p.m. whenschool is out, I would receive dozens of little knocks at my door. They knew Ihad work but just wanted to say hi. Next I tried leaving my door open.This just perpetuated the problem. The children would stand in my door waywatching me. I’d ask them how they were, how school was and let them know I hadmore work to which they’d reply “I know” in Creole.  Trying to exercise was just as bad. I’d tryto jump rope but the kids wanted to jump with me and I ended up accidentallywhipping some of them as I jumped. I realized if you can’t beat them….jointhem! So now, three times a week, I gather any willing participants to fakejump rope with me followed by in a cardio circuit.
Mondayafter “class” FranFran, our on site security, came over in his karate suit. Withpermission, the kids started punching him in the stomach. One of the youngerboys, who is a character in his own right, was eager to get his turn but keptgetting pushed back by the older kids. Being 6 years old and weighing about thesame as my left thigh, I asked him if he wanted to punch me instead. He lookedat me, smiled and said “oui”. His tiny little legs got in the karate stance andhis wiry little arm wound back before looking at me for one more nod ofapproval. I nodded and… BAM! He punched me. HARD. I mean I don’t know if he hada brass knuckle hidden but I was shocked at his strength. He looked atme. I looked at him. He looked at my stomach. I held my stomach. He looked athis hand. I looked at his hand. He shook it out a little, said “mesi” andskipped away. I laughed breathlessly, shocked at how strong the little guy wasand surprised that he didn’t hold back just a little. 
I “ask” and pray for a lot of things. I knowJesus doesn’t want to hold back but sometimes I’m just not quite ready toreceive His “gift” or blessing. I’m glad He knows when I can handle His greatgifts. My time in Haiti is definitely one of them!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Saying I am lonely at times is an ironic statement because Iam never actually alone. I constantly have 40+ kids in my company. I have madedeepening friendships with the staff on campus (although my Creole still has aways to go).  There are living thingseverywhere. I have found myself negotiating out loud with Haiti’s circle oflife. I kindly ask the spiders to eat the mosquitoes and in exchange I willspare their eight legged lives. I shower daily with a surprisingly cute baby lizardthat lives next to, and sometimes under, my bleach bottle. So, I’m not exactlyalone.

 Nonetheless my weeklyskype sessions with loved ones are times I cherish. About a week ago, I was gettingready for my long distance skype date. I was so excited that I managed to brushmy hair out and splash on some mascara. The kids were in my room watching my preparations.I was actually “early” for my date something he’ll tell you rarely happens inperson. With some time to kill I exited my room for the 10 minute break. After,I headed back to my room and reached for my door knob. LOCKED. The key was inmy room. I was only gone for a few minutes and didn’t lock it. Realizing thatone of the kids was probably helping me out and locked it for me, I decided Iwouldn’t panic just yet. I’ve watched as some of the boys, with their impromptutools, have popped a lock in 30 seconds flat. I called them over and watched asthey took their various “tools” and tried to get my door unlocked to no avail.AWESOME.

Slowly the inevitable happened. I realized I was hot,frustrated and disappointed. I watched the sun creep behind the mountainscalculating the 5 hour time difference in my head. It would be past hisbedtime. I went to get some air in the darkness outside. Enjoying the emotionalrelease of my own little pity party, one of the youngest girls came and satnext to me. We had a short exchange in Creole after which she commanded I closemy eyes. What happened next was one of the sweetest things I’ve witnessed. Outof her 6 year old mouth came one of the most sympathetic prayers I’ve heard ina while. “Jezi, Jezi, souple Jezi, Jaclynn bezwen l’ kle.” I squinted my eyesopen to see her head waving back and forth, hands gripped tightly, eyessqueezed shut. She was praying for me. In my frustration I forgot that I couldpray. As a young child, I often thought that I could only pray about the bigstuff. I figured there was some type of prayer quota I was allotted at birth. Icouldn’t waste prayers on little things. After all, God has bigger fish to fry namelyworld peace, poverty and hunger. My little mind couldn’t wrap itself around theidea that I could bring anything and everything to Him. Often, it still can’t.  I’m learning that it’s about being in constantcommunication with Him. The good, bad, and ugly. Sometimes it takes a 6 sixyear with her “little” mind and BIG heart to remind me of that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

In most aspects of my life, I would not consider myself to be a patient person but life here demands it. In preparing for this trip, my loved one told me to be patient with Haiti, its people and myself. I found the first week to be full of indicators of my impatience causing melodramatic ups and downs.
A day in the life of my first week looks a little something like this…
I wake up at 7:30 a.m. unless of course my ear plugs have fallen out, then I wake up at 6ish depending on the neighborhood roosters whose wake up calls I constantly underestimate. I’m excited to start a new day.  I settle myself, make a trip to the bathroom, call out my round of “Bonjours” and then return. I hear Luna ring the school bell at 8 a.m. and know that soon Michele will arrive with my breakfast; a banana, bread and coffee. I eat then head to the shower. I grab my trusty blue bucket and head to the faucet outside to fill it. The clear cold water fills to the brim and I make my way back.  I have a whole ingenious process for getting myself ready for the cold water. I’ll spare you the details but jumping jacks are involved. I shower. I feel great.  Clean and awake, I return to my room. My mom gave me a 5x magnification mirror and I take a quick glance. Yikes, definitely not a necessity on your packing list. I obediently put broad spectrum sunscreen on my face even though I’m already sweating.  I’m ready for work and hop online.  In my race against my natcom credit (my Internet system) I hurriedly copy /paste all the emails I’ve received into a word document without reading them. I don’t like feeling rushed. I’m annoyed. I Disconnect.  Click “safetly remove hardware”. Unplug. Yes! Take that natcom credit.
 At about 1 p.m., when I know school is about to finish, I step outside to flip the sign I made in Haitian Creole to, “Silans Souple” (Silence Please) from, “Pran ak de bra” (Welcome with open arms). My eyes try to readjust. My room is dark. Electricity here is off and on…literally. I wanted to read but will need to wait until I have more light. Instead, I write my email responses in word. My computer battery is almost out and I can’t recharge it. I change tasks again. I practice self-assigned words of the week in Creole. I’m frustrated. Why am I not absorbing the language faster? I can’t remember certain words. The electricity comes on. I read some of the citizen sector literature I brought. I write down daily notes and ideas.  I’m happy. I have some ideas that could work and am excited about the possibilities.  I notice it’s already 5 p.m. so I emerge to see the gang. 
I’m smiling. Each kid has such a unique personality. They are all such characters. I’m laughing with the kids as we play impromptu games. I feel so blessed.  But then night falls, I return to my room to find that ants have infiltrated my heavy duty Ziploc bag, they’ve outsmarted me again and I get frustrated.  In that moment I notice it’s hot and I’m sweating… still. I feel gross. How is it that ants can undo me? That makes me feel even more discouraged.  I glance at my to-do list. I haven’t changed anything today. In fact I’m just more aware of what I need to change in myself. I miss my family, my boyfriend, my friends. Grrrr. There’s a knock on my door even though my “silans souple” sign is up.  I reluctantly open it to find one of the girl’s with my towel that had been drying in the sun. “Mesi,” I force a smile. She stands there staring at me. This has become commonplace. What does she want!? She sways from side to side with a half smile. “Oui?” I ask. “Mwen renmen ou,” (I love you) she replies. My frustration melts away. I am humbled.

That’s all I need to remind me that on some days I won’t be able to impress anyone with my to-do list check marks or accomplishments. The kids just ask for my love, patience and a lot of play time. For some reason (ok reason being my ego) I struggle at times with how little is required of me on any given day.  The irony is that I find even the little requirements challenging on some days. So, as will probably be the case for life, I continue to learn to practice patience…patiently.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Welcome to Haiti!

Haitiextended its usual welcome, this time in the form of a tropical storm turnedHurricane Sandy. When I say usual I mean that it’s always an adventure;  good, bad or rainy. I landed on Wednesdaymorning after a short overnight layover in Miami. Although the morning wassurrendered to jet lag, I was excited to accompany 3 of my team members to ameeting in Petionville with Build Change, about an hour away (Haiti time). WithJean Paul as our driver and Nawens as our security, we hopped into the van.Upon arrival I was surprised to see the meeting was at a fancy hotel andexcited to see that light appetizers were being served. Although my socialskills were sub-par from the day’s travels, I was ready to learn more aboutsafe building practices and see if/how we could get involved.  We met several other individuals in thecitizen sector and then watched a brief presentation. After our meeting, as therain was getting heavier and night had fully fallen, we headed back to LePlaine. Our van had other plans. We had traveled all of 15 minutes when weheard a loud “pop”. Flat tires are standard here but our rebellious van, withno selection for safety, had a broken accelerator on a steep hill in a lessthan ideal part of town.  We waited withquiet whispers for an alternative ride to arrive. Peterson, whose date night wehad just ruined, came with his pickup truck. We piled in, 6 total, as it poureddown rain.  We left the hilly area andthe closer we got to ground level, the more impressive the rain’s influencewas. The road next to the U.S. Embassy and UN had become a river with waterover Peterson’s tires. An always bustling city was sitting soaked in eeriesilence. As we crossed the bridge over the river, it was easy to see how flashflooding could easily claim lives.  Theoften dry riverbed was now just feet away from reaching the bridge. Luckily,although there was flooding around the gate, we were able to stay safe anddry.  It’s disheartening to think thatmany Haitians living near the river lost what little they had…again.  More updates to follow!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


My ticket is booked! On Tuesday, October 23rd I will be heading to Haiti. Had you asked me last month if I would be able to raise 75% of the support in time, I would have provided an underwhelming "yes" not convinced. But I think that's the point, "I" did not raise the support. Giving hearts and passionate people raised the support. It was never really up to me.

The support raising process has been humbling. I much prefer giving. I am slowly learning to receive with gratitude and humility. Sometimes it's my sneaky, ugly pride that likes to hide behind the mask of humility. Often me not being a gracious receiver is haughtiness not humility. I discovered that each time I hit "send" on a support letter I cringed just a little, worrying way too much about what the person on the receiving end would think about the project and me and my new endeavor. I am learning to get over myself. I am continuing to learn and too often forget, this isn't about me. This is about Haiti, and the kids we've come to love and the community we care so much about. This is about loving our neighbors whether they are in the next cubicle, the larger community or in a different country.

So, with lots of enthusiasm and a little trepidation (whoa! big word) I am excited to finally get to Haiti to see what "we" can do!

Thank you all for your support, prayers and encouragement!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Heading to Haiti!!!

Where to begin...at the beginning(ish)

Haiti and its amazing people have managed to take me from life in L.A. to life in La Plaine. It all started with my August 2010 trip to Haiti with a team from my church in Los Angeles, Pacific Crossroads (PCC). The initial goal of my first trip was admittedly selfish; prove to my past employer that I had work-life balance and post as many “altruistic” photos as possible on Facebook. Thankfully God has changed my life, motives and career goals since my initial trip.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, I would always find myself thinking more about malaria and less about marketing. Free time and admittedly a few work hours were spent learning more about how our geographic neighbor, Haiti, could seem so many worlds away. In May 2012, I decided it was time to leave my job to pursue a different career path. After spending the month of May with my friends at Souls Winning Ministries (SWM) in Haiti, I continued backpacking for a few months. During this time I did my best to practice patience as I prayed that God would continue to guide my next steps. Just a few days after returning home, a compelling partnership opportunity was presented to me…

On Wednesday, October 24, pending a few doctor’s appointments and details,  I will be heading to Haiti for 8 months to work on several projects with partners from Souls Winning Ministries and Pacific Crossroads Church. Aside from having 40+ constant playmates, my 9 to 5 time in Haiti will be spent focusing on the progression of three separate projects; micro-finance, education reform and young-adult mentorship. I have been asked by the different partners to address these three areas to not only train future leaders, but to continue to propel the community towards self-sustainability. I feel extremely blessed and very excited to be part of such a unique partnership opportunity. I have seen firsthand the need for there to be collaborative community communication to ensure that SWM will become more sustainable and continue to lift up local leaders. It will be life-changing to use my gifts and abilities to serve the people of Haiti, and to experience God’s grace in this environment.

I will be writing about project progress, my own updates and life in Haiti on this blog which may, at times, reflect my flawed self, not PCC or SWM J. Thank you for your support!





Monday, September 17, 2012

Thai Massage and Singo Scrub

Stateside, I rarely splurge on any beauty treatment that I don't have a group-on for. Luckily while traveling I've been able to experience a spa-splurge in each country. My insights on each below;

Thai Massage: Before arriving in Thailand my friend warned me that massages of any and every kind were extremely accessible and to pace myself. But let's be honest, who can pass up a $10 massage? Not I! Just two days after arriving in Thailand I experienced my first Thai Foot Massage. Greg and I were passing a clean and nicely decorated spa when I suggested we get a foot massage. Greg is a man's man. He doesn't use face creams, has never heard of the word "serum" and takes 8 minutes to get ready, shower included. I thought he would pass quickly but two months apart can make compromise easy so he agreed. We changed into ridiculous sumo wrestler like spa pants and let the two masseuses go to town. WOW! They clearly had some training. They poked, pushed and stretched our tired feet for an entire hour...for approx. 5 USD. We were so happy with the spa and service, I returned the next day for a real, full body Thai Massage. I had the same masseuse as the day before, who was skilled and professional while giving me the most painful massage of my life. I'm still not sure what exactly she was doing or what undiscovered muscle group she was massaging but it felt...effective. Mid-massage, although my eyes were closed, I am fairly certain that she was standing on my back. Pain aside, it was worth the 10 USD because she definitely put her all into it, I smelt like a Pina Colada and it felt like I had worked out for hours without lifting a finger.

Singo Scrub: On Zanzibar Island in Stone Town I had an amazing treatment at Lemon Spa known as the Singo Scrub. Traditionally reserved for women who are about to get married, the Singo Scrub is guaranteed to leave your skin silky smooth. Our friend 'Felicity' worked her magic to get me the locals rate. Lemon Spa, while small, was clean and tranquil. I changed into a kanga and was led to a private room for the scrub to start. The scrub is a soothing, sultry mix of spices indigenous to the island. I closed my eyes as clove, sandalwood and cinnamon exfoliated off all the dust from the day. My masseuse was slow and intentional as she scrubbed away. The smell of the herbs and spices colliding was amazing. I may or may not have tried to taste the scrub that was on my face! After the initial scrub I was instructed to rinse off (in HOT water...another highlight) and return. The scrub finished with a light oil mix. I thought I had throughly rinsed off but I met with Greg and our friends for sundowners at Africa House and found myself picking out cinnamon and clove from my hair. Having silky smooth skin and smelling like a Christmas cookie isn't so bad so the Singo Scrub gets two thumbs up!

Friday, August 10, 2012


We have met some amazing people from all over the world. Here are the countries that have been represented so far;
  • England
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Republic of Iraq
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Costa Rica
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Argentina
  • South Africa
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • India
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Netherlands

Monday, August 6, 2012

My new camera...second time "wound"

This is a post in the works. As mentioned, my digital camera is hanging out with lost shoes, hats, watches and fellow cameras on a cliff hillside in Olduenız. Fear not, I have just purchased a brand new, top of the line, KODAK Ultra 27...wıth flash! (after 8 seconds of course). I already filled up one and have decided that with this new dısposable camera I will attempt to take just 1 or 2 photos a day. When you can clıck away and edit on digital cameras you dont have to be selective. I no longer have that luxury and will try to make the most of it by pretending that this was my genius, take the scenery in, plan and you will painlessly only have 27 photos to view!

Butterfly Valley Bliss

Our next stop after Fethiye was Butterfly Valley, a much less developed more pristine stop on the Lycian Way. Our dolmus slowly drove up and up until out of the overpacked windows, drop dead (literally) gorgeous views of the ocean were revealed. I want to say that I was cool, calm and collective as we wound our way up the narrow, guard rail free cliff side but my overly sweaty palms said otherwise...ew! The ride all together took less than 30 minutes but I was thankful to be in control of my own steps as we got off the bus. Our friends had suggested that we stay at Montenegro Motel and we were not disappointed! The laid back hotel manager Bayram showed us to the charming air conditioned bungalows equipped with their own furnished patıo. The best part of Montenegro was still to come, a traditional Turkish breakfast and dinner was included in the price. We weren't sure what to expect but obediently went to the restaurant balcony at 8 p.m. Just in time for sunset, we watched in awe at the seemingly fake sun as it slowly hid behind the mountains ahead. We were surrounded by cliffs on 3 sides and the ocean. Then came dinner...all 5 mouth-watering, carb-loaded courses. First the soup, then salad, then some fancy French word that starts with an "a" that I can´t spell, next the main course and fınally dessert. The food was amazing and the homemade bread was worth every calorie.
The next day we decided to make the trek down to Butterfly Valley (i guess we were technically on the valley´s cliff side). We had heard that the hike could be potentially dangerous. We decided to consult a local and asked Bayram. He was not convincing either way but asked to examine our shoes. Showing him our dusty,trusty, tread free TOMS, he gave us a kiss of approval and we were on our way. "Just follow the red," he yelled after us. As we approached the cliff side I realized that this was not going to be an easy hike. Greg, fearless as always, led the way. Easy enough at first, just a few steep steps and lose dirt. Then came the ropes. Greg and I had been rock climbing on a cliff wall in Santa Barbara. I felt confident that I could fınd some good features and sturdy rocks to cling to in a general "rock climbing" kind of way. But the catch was...there was no catch...no belay or harness. Just cliff, a rope tied to a tree branch and my seemıngly always sweaty palms. Greg volunteered to go first. I followed trying hard not to look down or up for that matter. Yikes! There were a few more sections of the trail like that but the hike really was amazing. We even stopped to enjoy our own echhhooo...echo...echo.
When we fınally reach the ground the water was gorgeous and the beach was almost empty. It was worth the work. We swam, enjoyed a bag of overpriced chips and looked for cool rocks (ok so mainly me on the last one..thanks mom). Although I dıdn´t see a single butterfly the adrenaline of the hike mıxed wıth the ıncredible scenery made me feel that we had stumbled on a secret piece of paradise. Of course we still had to go back up which proved scarıer at times than on the way down. Later we got a hold of someone´s Lonely Planet and flipped to Butterfly Valley. Turns out numerous tourist have met their end on the hike down to Butterfly Valley. Ignorance can be bliss.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Flying and Crying

I have not kept up with updates so now I’ll have to hop around a bit (and out of order!)

We were lucky enough to spend a lot of time on the Lycian Way although thankfully not hiking it as originally planned. First we went to Fethiye and spent time exploring the city, marina and making friends. Many of the friends we made were met on the bus ride from Pamukkale (more on that later!) Fethiye is home to spectacular rock tombs built into the side of the mountain. It’s unreal to think that thousands of years ago without today's tools, people were able to create building inside of cliff sides. The following day, and thanks to Greg's expert negotiating skills, we opted to take a 12 Island Tour (for 1/2 the cost) with our new friends from the bus and hostel, 3 Korean girls and 1 South African bra. Although I think we saw more like 6 islands it was an ideal day. We swam in the cool blue waters, hiked on uninhabited islands and took turns jumping off the top of the boat when docked. One of the girls, who admittedly didn't know how to swim, bravely climbed to the top of the boat where the platform was and sweaty hands holding, we jumped into the water below that seemed much farther away when looking down. Once back on shore the girls and I contemplated visiting neighboring Oludeniz famous for their Paragliding. With nervous smiles we agreed to give it a try. The guys, no nerves at all, agreed.

FLYING: Although I was excited and eager to take the leap and paraglide nerves were mounting as we waited over 4 hours safely on the ground in Oludeniz. Finally our bus to take us to the top of the mountain arrived. Unfortunately, it didn't help. Our driver, who either had too much Raki or was sensitive to high altitude and lacked sufficient oxygen to the brain, drove like a complete maniac. Driving entirely too fast with no guard rails on a gravel one-lane road, I tried to ignore the feeling of the back tires loosing all grip. As a whole we asked him to slow down...apparently a challenge to go faster. I was ironically so thankful to reach the top I could hardly wait to jump off the cliff. I met my "pilot" Atilla who gave me the instructions to walk when he says walk and run when he says run. The whole harness process taking less than 5 minutes, it wasn't long until he said it...RUN! At that we were gliding through the air with breathtaking scenery below us. It was INCREDIBLE! The beaches, the oceans, the mountains, all from a bird's eye view. It was picture perfect.
CRYING: In fact it was so picture perfect that I quickly grabbed for my camera to take a picture...it was not there. The rush of adrenaline mixed with the disappointment of losing all my pictures from the last 2 months (I tried to back my camera up in Zanzibar but it didn't work) was a polar opposite mix of emotions. I laughed, I held back tears (at least until we landed) and I did my best to enjoy the rest of the descent. Atilla made this quite easy as we did air acrobatics and spun until the skin on my cheeks shook and my head couldn't move from the force.

Despite our reckless driver and losing my camera, Paragliding was well worth it! The scenery of soft blue, white and green is an image I won't forget. The feeling of floating through the air and then later spinning through it is something I will always remember!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sugar and Spice

I thoroughly enjoy cooking so taking a spice tour on Spice Island (Zanzibar) seemed like a no brainer but, after mixed reviews, I waited until my last full day in Zanzibar to book the tour. For about $20 I hopped on a private taxi to some of the neighboring spice farms. We drove past a town called Bububu named phonetically for the sound the old passing train would make as it rumbled through the small town. We started to drive through more rural towns, the real, less touristy Zanzibar , until we arrived at a nondescript spice farm. We wandered through the forest on dirt paths as Sabri, our jolly guide, pointed out different herbs and spices. We weaved in and out of trees, bushes and brush learning loads of information as we went along. Although I have not cross checked any of his facts, I feel that overall it was a fun and informative tour. For example, did you know that cinnamon comes from the bark off a type of evergreen tree or that nutmeg clears up congestion and is used in many cough syrups?
As I was busy absorbing all these new facts the tour crescendo happened as a local shimmied up a coconut tree while singing "Jambo Bwana". Four ripe coconuts fell to the ground for us to enjoy. The perfect refresher after a great tour!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Beach Bliss in Kendwa

After a few days in Stone Town we decided to head north to check out a beach town called Nungwi. On the bus ride over we were advised by two travelers from Holland to stay in Kendwa, a more backpack friendly beach. Being the flexible traveling trio that we were, we quickly changed our plans and stayed in Kendwa at a lovely place called Kendwa Rocks. Kendwa Rocks was backpackers paradise with like minded travelers comparing notes on the softest white sand I've ever felt. I always struggle a bit with enjoying such comforts in a place where very real poverty exist but I think seeing the beauty in another's home can be beneficial to all. In Kendwa this is unavoidable. The fire pink sun setting over the cool blue waters of the Indian Ocean all contrasting against bright white sands could take anyone's breath away. The days to come would give us even more appreciation for Zanzibar

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stone Town Rocks!

Jambo from Zanzibar, Tanzania!
Zanzibar is unlike anywhere I have ever been. Crystal blue waters, white soft sand and alluring labyrinths of side streets pull you in. For three days we have just wandered around Stone Town finding it nearly impossible to get lost. It's amazing how so many cultures collide on one small island. Our hostel is close to St. Joseph Cathedral whose spires just barely overlap the mosque just behind it. Friendly faces greet you and moments later a set of eyes search you through a niqab. Overall we have found everyone to be kind as they greet us with a warm "karibu" but I still feel a sense of mystery. Modesty is key as underneath the warm welcomes, Zanzibar at heart is a conservative island. One of the highlights thus far has been a coffee at Zanzibar Coffee House, definitely worth the hype. You can sit for hours sipping one cup of cappuccino as you people watch through the window. We are headed to Kendwa Beach next to give the soft sand a try....until then!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is this real life?...

My time in Thailand is winding down. For over 2 weeks we've been island hopping here. You can imagine how painful this is... The hostels are cheap, the food is cheaper, the massages are cheapest and the beaches are beautiful.  The whole experience is just spectacular. We started out in Phuket, which is particularly raining this time of year (something about a monsoon season...) From Phuket we hopped on a ferry to Koh Samui. Koh Samui has a little bit of everything; resorts, backpacking havens, etc. I spent most of the time relaxing on the sand, getting $1.00 coconut water IN the coconut if the heat got to be too much. The highlight was their "Walking Street Festival" with street food worth the stomach ache.

Next, we headed to Koh Phangan...the sleepy side. (The island is know for the epic Full Moon Parties celebrated each..you guessed it...full moon) After a very hilly tuk-tuk ride we arrived at our "resort". You feel like a castaway there on the quiet beach and sometimes I found comfort in seeing that someone else was staying there!  Greg and I took a hike to the top of hillside that steeply offered spectacular views of the island and the connecting deserted island. I felt very survivor-esque. As luck would have it, it was a bit cloudy on our climb up but once we reached the top, God conveniently opened up one large intrusive cloud so that rays of sunshine could get through. The way the light hit the island begged the question..."is this real life?"

Last stop was the island Koh Tao. On the ferry ride over we were bombarded with compelling offers to get our PADI scuba certification. Absolutely not I thought. Too expensive, too much time , too many man eating aquatic animals and I often forget to breathe normal on dry land as it is. But then the offers got more compelling and I got more curious. First I learned that Koh Tao gives out the most scuba certifications in the world. Next I confirmed that sharks prefer cooler water. Finally a guy from BAN'S Diving Resort gave us an offer and we "baht" it. Scuba diving takes a little getting used to but when there's only one way to get oxygen, you take it! It becomes almost therapeutic listening to your inhales and exhales. Scuba diving itself is amazing. The coral, the fish, the colors!  I would highly recommend it and now that we are certified we can dive anywhere in the world!

We spent the last day on Koh Tao venturing over to an island connected by a thin sandbar. Again we decided to take the road or rather rocks less travelled and climbed up to a view I was just barely comfortable with. Again, unreal. It was the perfect ending to our island adventures.

More to come on Thailand...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Montre Mwen"

I just returned from my month(ish) long visit back to Haiti. It was amazing! I am so privileged to have gone from making acquaintances to having friends to feeling like I have a Haitian family who will welcome me anytime. I have truly met some of the most lovely people there. God did not use me for all of the "big,important" things I had hoped to tell my old co-workers. Instead, He used me in extraordinary ordinary ways. I was the official boo-boo bandager, disciplinary, spider killer, teacher and "big sister". For the first 3 weeks I slept in the girls room, surrounded by little bunks and curious faces. The girls are both sweet and smart, translating my broken Haitian Creole while helping me sweep around my tent. It was during those mostly quiet times that each of the girl's personalities showed through. One night, long after I had fallen asleep, I heard the voice of the youngest girl there whispering my name. I quickly turned on my flashlight to see her siting next to my tent speaking to me in Creole. I told her I didn't understand what she was saying and we sat staring at each other. Finally I remembered a very simple phrase from the last time I did pharmacy at the clinic, "Montre Mwen" or "show me". I repeated it twice and with that, her little hand took mine and we began to walk outside.I'd be lying if I said wasn't scared. I still had no idea where she was taking me and I'm not a fan of darkness. Finally,as we reached the property gate,she let go of my hand and went to a little faucet to grab a quick sip of water. That was it,she just wanted a little sip of water and she trusted me to go with her, so she wouldn't have to go alone. We walked back to the bunks and she hopped in her bed to fall asleep. As I get ready to depart for round two of my travels, that's what I want. I want God to show me. I'm so thankful to even have the luxury of travel. I'm thankful for the option of having no idea what option to take. And I'm thankful for the family and friends along the way who have encouraged me, supported me and been "in it" with me so I don't have to go alone.Thailand! Here I come!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cats out of the bag

Alright, now for specifics. The cat is out of the bag. I am leaving my job to travel for about 4 months and then pursuing work opportunities abroad.

First, I will be heading back to Haiti to do some monitoring and evaluation work with the organization I have been volunteering with through Pacific Crossroads Church. After that I'm heading to Thailand to meet up with Greg and our friend Parvis. Next...Tanzania...and beyond!

It's all very, very exciting and as you can imagine, there are lots of details to be sorted. Between moving out of LA and planning long term travel, the to-do lists are long. I'm going home for a friend's wedding this week and Malibu (my cat) will be joining. You have to obtain a certificate of health to give to the airlines. Here is Malibu getting ready to give his bag a try. He hated it by the way so advanced apologies to all Southwest customers on my flight this Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

H2O Free Beauty

After Haiti, I will be meeting up the guys who, thanks to genetics and gender, can get by with zero "up keep". I would love to say I'm leaving all beauty supplies behind but let's be honest, it's just the guys who should be growing out their facial hair (just joking, but seriously). Traveling with just a backpack can be challenging when it comes to all the liquid limiting rules. Thanks to google and all the great backpack blogs out there I've found a few great resources:
This little bar of shampoo lasts for about 50 washes, lathers well, and takes up little space!


By necessity, I am a "wash your hair everyday" kind of girl but this has been my go to on past trips to Haiti when somehow my day turns into 48 hours.


Last, I'd love to pretend I could leave my face alone for 4 months and not get the Frieda Kahlo look going but that's just not true. Enter Sally Hansen wax strips. They're quick, cheap and take up zero space!


Monday, April 9, 2012

Leaps of Faith

You know that moment when you have to, "go big or go home"? I'm there. I'm going "big". Technically i'm going big AND going home...then going big again.

For the last 3 1/2 years I have been working hard, learning a lot and growing an immense amount in a professional setting. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given at work. I'd imagine at times, it took a lot of patience to work with me.

Now, I have been given new opportunities that don't really fall in the professional realm. And although my choices deviate from conventional next steps, I am excited to take "leaps of faith" and see where I end up...