Sunday, April 29, 2012

Home sweet home

After many, many days out in Vietnam, Cambodia, the Unite for Sight Conference and the Painted Turtle, I am so so SO ready to have a couple of days of R&R in the first place I ever called home - Burley, Idaho!  I'm currently in the air headed home for a couple of days to see my mom, dad grandma, aunts and uncles and cousins and spend a little time thinking about planning my upcoming 10 year high school reunion.  I can't wait to get my arms around everyone, especially this one!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Headed to The Painted Turtle!

Today I'm headed to this wonderful place:
(check out their site: THE PAINTED TURTLE)

With these wonderful folks from Paraguay:
Gloria and Nilton are coming alllll the way from Paraguay to learn about how Painted Turtle does its family weekend programs, so that they can learn how to implement them this fall! 
I get to tag along to translate for them, learn, and enjoy the beautiful families at PT.  
California, here we come!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I am a little more than obsessed with this cover right now.  The crescendo at 2:50 gives me goosebumps!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unite for Sight

Global Health
Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship
International Development

This conference pretty much rocked my world.
I feel like they made it especially for me.
I love it so much that I spent my first two days back in the country there.  I rolled in Friday evening, went out with some friends that night, and then first thing Saturday morning, I was registering for my first workshop!

Jet lagged?  Yes.
Exhausted?  Yes.
Inspired?  Incredibly.
My mind is spinning.
I think its from being excited, but maybe its the jet lag....

These are just some of the organizations and projects I got to hear about:

And it goes on and on... so many ideas... so many incredible people... so much amazing stuff is going on out there!  Its so hopeful, so energizing, so fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homeward Bound!


I just had the most wonderful conversation with a woman I met today.

She is a television producer who two years ago took a year off of her job to explore other options in her life, love, career.  She found her way here, to Cambodia, and it changed her forever.  Though she's now back in a hot shot job in London, this place has stayed close to her heart and she came back to visit the village.  We rode in to the village today together, which is how we met.

After a hot and sweaty (but joyful) day at the village with chickens and children, we found ourselves back at a lovely little juice shop in Phnom Penh.  Though we just met, we quickly fell deep in to conversation - talking about giving, humanitarianism, living, choosing, working overseas, family, love, hopes, heartache and break, journeys... We just talked for a couple of hours, but I have a feeling I will see her again sometime along life's journey.  Maybe in New York or London.. or maybe back here in Phnom Penh.

Traveling can sometimes be lonely, sometimes be quiet, sometimes be overwhelming, but it can sometimes open up little moments of heaven like that - where you are able to connect and reflect.

Sometimes it takes a moment far far away from wherever home is for me to best be able to look back on my life and see it how someone else would see it.  And somehow in my travels I have found a lot of people in the same process who are willing to share so quickly.  Maybe it is easier when you find yourselves both outsiders that suddenly you realize how much you have in common.  Or maybe it is knowing that your paths are only crossing for a moment in time.

Whatever it is, I like it, and I am leaving here tonight with a fuller heart thanks to my new friend who let me pour it all earlier out over a coconut shake and a fresh baguette.  

Remember all of those eggs from yesterday?

I met their makers today.
I went with Vuthy to the NHCC village.
As always, I left inspired.

A couple of the ladies responsible for those 3000 eggs that feed the Intercontinental Hotel.  Well done.

Whoa.  That is a lot of chickens.

I was a little overwhelmed by all of the chickens, but amazed at the income generator at the same time.  Very cool for the children's village!

Drying clothes

The mama pigs.  These ladies are HUGE.  I don't know if this picture gives them justice.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such big pigs in my life.

Lunch time!

The kiddos playing on their day off of school.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Work day in Phnom Penh

My commute to the office.. via tuk tuk!

Quick diversion from our meeting... Unloading a car full of 3000 eggs!  Our partner organization sells the eggs for a source of income.  They bring them into town from the children's village every day to the Intercontinental Hotel.  If you ever find yourself there... be sure to order some scrambled eggs!

Unloading.  Only one egg broke in the process... amazing!
The new Camp Lotus leadership team, gearing up to ride our motos to lunch!
More meetings... these guys make my heart happy.  They are showing me their best 'glamour photo' pose here.

:)  Already looking forward to working with them in July and August!

And on the way back to the hotel....night view of the Independence Monument

Monday, April 16, 2012


From Saigon... to Phnom Penh!  I'm on my way!

Reflections on my last night in Saigon

Last night was my last in Saigon for this trip.  Today I'm meeting with the lovely Worldwide Orphans Foundation team for some last minute debriefing of our training and planning for the upcoming camp programs, and then I'm off to Cambodia for the next few days.  Last night before I left I went for a 'treatment' with Quyen and her sister... that consisted of a steam bath, full body exfoliation (they said I had too much dead skin and had to call in reinforcements), thai massage and ginger lotion treatment... all for 10 dollars.  MUCH better than the fish massage, FYI.

When I got home, I stood at the window in my hotel room for a long time and watched the city below.

This trip has been a really interesting one.  I am traveling alone, so I've had a lot of reflection time.  While there has been a lot going on with my friends and family back home that has made it difficult to be far away and alone for a lot of the time, being alone has allowed me to explore a bit more than I usually do and to watch what is going on around me more carefully.   The majority of the time the people are speaking in Vietnamese, of which I understand nearly nothing.  So its been quiet, but at the same time, I am in such a noisy and chaotic city with voices speaking all around me.. and so busy every day trying to figure out what is going on with our team here.. a very interesting combination of silence and noise.

The time here has also allowed me a lot of time to listen.  Both to the sounds of the city, but also to the stories of the people on my team here in Vietnam.  I fell like I've gotten to know each of them so much better, and I've learned so much history of the program and individuals as part of the program.

I am someone who is always jumping from thing to thing, looking for ways to improve and push and move and shake.  This trip has been such a good reminder to pause to watch, listen, ask and process.  I know I will support this team better because of my quiet times on this trip.  And I think maybe my mind and heart needed this time too.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rosa + Jon

the big day!  photo credits to eleanor from facebook
 Sending an extra heap of love today to one of the people very closest to my heart in the whole world - my dear friend Rosa - and her beloved Jon.  Today is the first of their wedding days (I get to celebrate with them in person at the second one!)  I am so happy that two such wonderful people happened to bump into one another and that one of my dearest friends found the love of her life.  Cheers to Jon and Rosa!  And cheers to being so blessed to know and love this wonderful woman.

Bucket List: Fish Massage

Well, tonight I checked an item off of my bucket list.
Let's just say that some things you only have to do once.
This is one of those things for me.
First you stick you feet in the water.  It isn't warm.

Then you try not to jump out of your skin as a bunch of little fish come and nibble the dead skin off of your feet.  It feels like about a hundred little fingers tickling you at the same time.  I kept trying to close my eyes and pretend like it wasn't fish.  It didn't work.

Then you REALLY try to not freak out as a bunch of little fish turns into a TON of little fish that not only nibble your feet but also start moving up your leg.  This is about when it stopped being fun for me.
At this point my heart was pounding, I was sweating and I am lucky I didn't drop my camera in the water.  I am frantically looking around while at the same time clicking as many pictures as I could, hoping I got a clear one so that I can check this one off and get the %^&! out of there.

My '70 minutes with the fish' lasted about 10.  Ok, maybe 5.  Needless to say, I think this was a once in a lifetime for me.

My Saturday morning - back in Saigon

A little mango smoothie to go makes a Saturday morning meeting much much easier to handle!  I love the 'take away' holder!
Peeking out from behind my computer.  Since I'm traveling alone on this trip, I've had some quality time with my camera.  This is one of about 700 self portraits I've managed to take.  I will spare you the rest. Probably.

Khanh taking me back to my hotel after our meeting!


On the way to the training site - we risked our lives crossed the street to get some snacks for the 4 hour bus ride.

Rain the day before the participants arrived.  I love it when it rains here.  I just want to stop and watch it.  The whole world seems to change and the sky opens up.  Usually the power goes out so it is nearly silent except for the pounding of the rain.  It is warm and humid and sleepy.  

The training was amazing - child care workers from all sorts of sectors.  Their enthusiasm for working with children is inspiring.
Our training team on the last night. :)

And last but not least - How NOT to make me feel great about going to the bathroom.

Lotus flower made from a napkin

We had the most beautiful closing ceremony at our training in Vietnam this week.  
It looked something like this:

The lights you see are lotus flowers made from paper napkins with a tea light in the center (on a plate).

Lighting the tea lights before the ceremony.

I am slightly obsessed with these - the image and ambiance it created was almost magical.

At the end of the ceremony, all of the participants said one word to represent their feelings, and added their lotuses to the center of the circle.
How to make them - it is SOOO easy!

  1. Lay a paper napkin out flat on a table.
  2. Fold each of the corners in to the center of the napkin and press down.
  3. Fold each of the new corners in to the center of the napkin and press down
  4. Flip the napkin over.
  5. Fold each of the new corners in to the center of the napkin and press down.
  6. (the only tricky part) Reach underneath one corner of the napkin and pull up the flap.  Pull it up over the corner of napkin, pressing down slightly about an inch away from the corner at the same time.  You don't want to pull it completely over the corner, just enough to create a 'petal'.  Kind of hard to explain but the idea is to create one of the petals of the lotus.
  7. Repeat this for each corner.  
  8. Repeat this for each corner.
  9. Repeat this for each corner.
  10. Once you have four petals, reach under again and pull up one of the remaining flaps to create petals in between the corners.
  11. Repeat for all of the remaining flaps.
  12. You can fill with candy, or add a tea light to make them glow! (Just make sure to put a plate underneath in case the napkin lights on fire.  None of ours did even though the participants were waving them around, but I admit I was a little sweaty about it the whole time.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter from Saigon!

All decked out for Easter Sunday!
The market brimming with people.  Most people here don't celebrate Easter, so its a normal weekend day at the market.
Our afternoon was spent getting everything ready for a training that starts tomorrow!

Evening moto ride

We had to pick up a guitar for our training.  How does one carry a guitar on a moto?  Put it on the foreigner's back!  

My Easter dinner = Bun Thit Nuong, my mom's favorite Vietnamese dish!  Just for you mommma!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday morning and afternoon - Saigon

Breakfast time!  Pho!  Aka chicken noodle soup... yum!
Right after breakfast, my friend Quyen picked me up for a personalized tour of Saigon.
First stop (at my request), the War Remnants Museum - as in the American Agression War - as in what we call the Vietnam War.  Holy heavy.
Unwinding and catching up over a cup of filtered coffee.  The filter is right on top of the cup!  It filters itself right on top of a generous scoop of sweetened condensed milk.  Then of course you pour it over ice (drinking something hot sounds like torture).  Plus a little carrot cake? Oh my goodness... DELICOUS.
Fortunately Quyen has been riding her scooter since she was 13, so she knows how to navigate the traffic... I just held on for dear life.

Lunch time!  We went to a Central Vietnamese restaurant and got a sampler platter so I could try all sorts of things.  Notice the little green package on the far left - its rice wrapped in a lotus leaf!  Also notice the FRESH passion fruit juice, seeds and all.

Quyen didn't want me to miss getting a picture of the 'Disneyland church'!  I'm contemplating going to Easter mass here tomorrow.  Certainly the pinkest church I have ever seen!