This Sunday morning as I sunk into the comfy Panera Bread chairs with my hot cup of coffee and breakfast nibbles, I realized that two weeks have literally flown by. In two weeks I’ve started a new position as Program Manager at Antelope Valley Partners for Health which I’ve come to love!
I work with an incredible staff who truly appreciate the skills I bring to the table and value my drive to perfect and take things to the next level. I’m learning so much and never bored, always on my toes, which is a feeling I adore. I get to oversee really fun and interesting program like our youth garden which encourages children in high-risks communities to get their hands dirty, learn the process of gardening and be exposed to from-garden-to-table nutritional cooking classes. This process also gives the children a chance to learn life skills and self efficacy. I will soon be continuing our youth development efforts by working with a local middle school on positive discipline and creating a club that explores social, emotional and health issues through writing, photography and media advocacy (to name a few!). These are only only a few of the programs I’m working on, but I’m really excited about where this work is going and the potential for it to develop in the future. I signed the lease on my first US apartment in over 5 years and realized i literally owned NO household items. My apartment initially consisted of a blowup mattress on the living room floor…which means lots and lots of weekend visits to the IKEA store! (Woot! One perk to having lived overseas for so long that you failed to accumulate all those handy and necessary items for your house, e.g a fridge!) More updates to come I swear! I promise to not take as long for the next post as I did for this one! xx
(Left) Susie, Whitesburg Ky. (Right) “Mamma Mo” Northern Thailand.
3 months, 3 countries, 8 different Rustic Pathways programs, shooting over 138 gigs of photos, taking care of high school kiddies 7 days a week, 24 hours a day…fixing sniffily noses, sore throats, cuts, bruises, broken ankles, pulled muscles, group puking sessions, allergic reactions, bee stings,UTI’s, bug bites, constipation, diarrhea, baby tiger bites, boy troubles, home sickness, getting told “I’m going to miss you sooooo much, you’re like my mommy!” (Eesh, talk about making a girl feel old!)
What a crazy wild awesome summer. It’s hard to believe it’s over! After a couple thousand hugs and goodbyes, we shipped off our last group of kiddos and went running and skipping out of the BKK airport (A place i now call my second home). After some Chang beer and chocolate milk (not sure how that combination was chosen) and some Thai street food, i slept for a solid 10hrs and woke up missing the crazy munchkins. Go figure!
So now I sit in a small coffee shop in Bangkok, two hours away from hightailing it to the airport and two plane rides away from home!
Goodbye SE Asia + SE Asia Rustic Pathways crew! Thanks for the memories!
Cambodia called again and this girl answered! It felt a bit like deja vu visiting old haunt and friends.
We took a Khmer boat across the Tonle Sap, one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the world, to a floating village on the other side. Children waves from houses built from wood and crates or anything they could get their hands on and afloat on bamboo or barrels. Our homestay family had two small curly headed children and a crop of baby crocodiles they were raising to sell. One day as we were putting up the river for a swim we were waved over by a family who warned us not to get in the water because a bunch of crocodiles had gotten loose in the river. *Shiver* In the evenings we were lolled (sometimes jarred) to sleep by the sound of boat motors and the flow of the river and for a short time we lived the nomadic life of a floating village Rustic Pathways family.
I sit perched in the front of a small Cambodian fishing vessel bobbing to the beat of the Mekong River, my camera and lens resting against my knee, my ear trained for the sound of the elusive and nearly extinct Irrawaddy river dolphin coming up for air. The morning is quiet with only the giggles of Rustic Pathways students in the boat behind me and the distant growl of boat motors. The dolphins are understandably shy and keep a good distance from us, yet I still feel the magic of their existence. On this overcast morning, with the dank smell of the Mekong in my nose, I am honored to share this moment with them. And like them, I’m coming up for air. Today has been the first chance I’ve gotten to post photos in a good while. In under a week I’ve flown from Cambodia to Bangkok and now I’m in Luang Prabang, Laos. Tomorrow? Who knows where! This summer has been one adventure after another, hectic, wild and both energizing and exhausting. And yes I’m about a month behind on posting photos…So below are a few photos from my Island Hopping trip in Southern Thailand. More to come very very soon!
Today students had the opportunity to learn Hill Tribe weaving from lovely little women. Even though they spoke different languages, they communicated with guiding hands, encouraging smiles and laughter.
Well hello July, fancy meeting you here on this sandy beach in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. How time flies! I know I say that a lot on this blog, but this summer has taken the cake on fitting in as much as possible in a short time. I’m hopping from Rustic Pathways program to program all over SE Asia this summer photographing activities, learning people’s stories and meeting some pretty inspiring students. On just such a trip up into the mountain in Mae Sariang, we came to a village that produced hill tribe coffee for Starbucks. Yum! This lovely Karen gentleman sat surrounded by our students and talked (with the translation help of Newah) about the history of his religion and the Karen people in Burma. Even though I couldn’t understand his words, I found myself listening to the gestures of his hands.
I finished up my last week at the Hill Tribe Project and said goodbye to some incredible people/staff. I miss you guys! Here are a few images from the last week, our trip to Mae Ra Moe Burmese refugee camp and more! (I’m posting these from my office on the Koh Phi Phi beach!).
Just finishing up the first week at the Hill Tribe Children’s Home in Mae Sariang, Thailand and what a week it has been! We’ve been introducing 17 western teenagers to the joys of squaty potties, bucket showers, resident lizards and creepy bugs, menial labor, Karen weaving and dress, and two baby Thai bears. I started a running group which turned into 3 miles of them asking me a million questions and me gasping out answers. They’re such a wonderful age, so full of curiosity and questions about the world, particularly this one they’ve never seen before. It’s fun to see Thailand through their young, fresh eyes and to watch their world expand day by day. In the process I’ve managed to crispy critter my lovely macbook pro (my poor baby!) and obtain an impressive collection of bug bites, but if I’ve learned anything after years of continent hopping, you just have to go with it and say ‘sabai sabai.’
In 5 days I will be hopping on a plane bound for SE Asia and a new adventure.
After a month of sitting in an office consulting for a US non-profit, I’m no longer sure that I’m ready for the settled, boring, grown-up life just yet. And who said grown-ups can’t jet around the world anyways?? So I’ve taken a full-time gig with a gap year company, Rustic Pathways that has programs around the world, as photographer, guide, editor, and media coordinator (to name a few hats I’ll be wearing) and I’m stoked to put on my traveling shoes again!
Stay tuned for more updates from the road! xxxx
I’ve been a bad bad blogger. For nearly 4 months no less! Atrocious! Life took an interesting turn at the end of my stay in Cambodia, I finally put an end to working for international non-profits. Why you ask? Well, when no one is paying attention or holding people/organizations/agencies accountable, strange things happen in the name of “good,” many of which are not good at all. I had to take a moment and ask myself, “Am I apart of the disease or the cure?” and unfortunately I believe (based on the past 4 years of working with international NGOs) that for the vast majority of international non-profits, it is the first category that they fall under. I don’t want to be too doom and gloom, I might dedicate a different post to explaining the corruption that exists within the international non-profit world and how to ensure/avoid it yourself, but for this post I’d like to focus on the good things that have happened over the past few months!!
Por ejemplo, check out two of my favorite people (and the wiener dog!) in all the world! (How can you resist these faces?!)
The past few months in the US have been spent doing all sorts of things I haven’t done in awhile: hiking, fishing, hiking 13 miles (with 28 frigid river crossings!) to New Mexican hot springs, cuddling with puppy dogs (and Ty), shooting pellet guns and drinking red wine, riding horses and eating American foods I can’t get overseas…hummus, hamburgers, and pesto filled awesomeness…..
Enjoy the photies!
I’m sitting here on my Phnom Penh balcony beside a mop and an empty beer can fingerprinted with memories from the last hectic month. The rooftop pastoral is painted in sun bleached pastels, muted greens, aged pinks that were once reds, even the sky is in an agreeable mood today, adding the finishing touches of polluted blue. I’m leaving this place and moving on to a new adventure. During my time in Cambodge, I’ve met some amazing friends and become both older and wiser! Here are a selection of photos from the past few months.