Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Beginning of Reflection

As I begin to write this I am sitting in the Calgary airport. I have made it through security with no issues (unlike the trip TO SFO) and am anxiously awaiting returning home and surprising my amazing husband with an arrival two days before he thinks I am supposed to come home.*

I'm sitting here being beyond excited to see JP and also excited that, while sitting at a Gate 19, with barely anyone else around, the delightful folks at Starbucks brought around samples of Caramel Brule Lattes and Brownies. I also see snow when I look out the giant airport windows to the right. We know that the cold, and the snow, aren't necessarily my favourite. But we also know that I enjoy snow when viewing it from a place indoors that is warm and cosy. And although the airport wouldn't really classify as "cosy" to me, the warmth of the Caramel Brule Latte is enough to make it feel like I really am coming home.

Five months and one day ago I was heading to San Francisco to volunteer alongside the Not For Sale staff as part of their Fellowship Program. I remember the day I left so well (If you don't, I posted a blog about it, check it out!)-- So well it feels just like yesterday. Not For Sale kind of swallows you up into this strange place in time. It feels like no time has passed at all, yet the proof is there when I turn my head to the right and see the ground covered in a sparkly while blanket composed of millions of snowflakes.  When Jackson was driving me to the airport this morning we discussed this abnormal feeling with time. Part of it definitely has to do with the weather-- in Half Moon Bay, the weather basically stays the same. It was warmer than normal in early November and has been raining the week before last making everything bright green and spring-like. The other part has to do with the Not For Sale bubble we have been living in. The bubble consists of the same people, day in, day out. The work topic may vary but the tasks are the same. The house conversations may vary but the lead back to Not For Sale often happens and the people are always the same. While this was a delightful constant that really is part of the experience, it is strange to be headed back.

Upon arriving home I'm sure to be asked the at least two of the same things:
1- How was your trip?
2- What are you going to do now?

Yes, the classic two questions. These are questions I have known people will ask but hadn't put much thought into the answer. These same questions coming from my peers at Not For Sale are easier to answer. They've seen me grow. I've been living out a passion with them. We've been connected by a common thread-- justice for those who can't help themselves. Coming home makes answering those same questions so much harder. They weren't there, they didn't live the experience, they aren't pursuing their passions the same way I have just done. It's bold to say but needs to be said-- They just won't get it.

I was discussing this "how was your trip/what will you do next?" question experience we are all guaranteed to experience upon arriving home with a housemate not too long ago. I made reference to my time spent with Live Different where we prepare the 30 second and 3 minute stories. The stories about your time condensed into small segments for you to use after assessing the amount the individual doing the questioning really wants to hear. It's funny to be condensing 5 months into 30 seconds but it is 100% necessary-- unfortunately or fortunately, depending who is asking.

To be thinking of these stories right now is interesting. A select few know I am arriving home in a mater of hours, most have no idea when I return. There is definitely something so wonderful about being "under the radar". I feel mysterious. I like that, right now, a very select awesome few know my whereabouts. It's nice to be able to reflect with no pressure of people asking those two questions.

What are my answers? What are my 30 second and 3 minute story?
My trip was great. I accomplished the goals I set and for that, I feel grateful and blessed. On top of accomplishing those goals, which wasn't a guarantee when they are large life and future questions, I feel truly blessed that I have been able to remove myself from the life I was living with friends, the most amazing husband a lady could ask for, a job, and all those generic standards we so easily judge our lives by, and serve others for five months. Going where needed, volunteering and doing work that helped not only the greater movement of ending human trafficking and modern day slavery, but helping the staff at Not For Sale. To know you have been able to live a life of helping others is possibly the most amazing blessing of all. Just knowing I had served others with my time, one of the most precious things we have, makes me smile from ear to ear.  There is something exciting, yet calming at the same time, about knowing that. A sense of peace. It's delightful.

What am I going to do now? Go home, surprise my husband, see my wonderful friends I have missed, keep in touch with the new ones & enjoy Christmas. I have some long term goals I am working on sorting out. Ideas that I am formulating into short term and long goals to attain that will pursue passions and living a life with love at the centre of it. I love serving others, helping people and baking, being crafty. Let's say, the ideas are running around my head and I am so very excited for the next chapter of life and new adventures to begin. And what makes it all even better is doing this all with JP by my side.

Note: As this is only my first blog doing some reflecting, I'm sure there will be a lot I stumble across to discuss in the future. I'm sure there will be many things I have to say, many discoveries waiting to be found, many insights wishing to be shared. I will do all of these things.

*Blog posted AFTER arriving home. No surprise ruined by social media. ;)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Personal Applause

Ever walk into a room with someone, and suddenly people start to applaud? It's a pretty fun feeling. What happens with a day later, you find out that applause was solely for the person you were with and not intended for you? You give yourself some personal applause and move on to the next adventure.

Global Forum just passed and was an enjoyable experience. When my peers ask me how my experience was, the word I use to describe it is "enjoyable". Not exciting, awesome, the best thing EVER!... but also not lame, stressful, challenging, or dramatic. It was enjoyable.

I know, such a big event, so many things going on, and enjoyable is all I give you? What is this? Well, the perception of "indifferent aelea" aside, I'd say it's the most accurate description that I can think of factoring in the lead up to, the event itself, and the current aftermath.

The lead up to Global Forum was no where near as stressful as people said it would be. Granted, I didn't play a large part in any of it. Other than coming up with ideas for booth engagement, getting items for those booths printed, and meeting about my task in the event which really required no really preparation, my role was pretty small.

At Global Forum I was titled the "Assistant Producer". While that sounds really fancy, it wasn't as intense as I feel people thought it would be. My job was ensuring those speaking at the event were in the "speakers lounge" 30 minutes before their session began, were being mic'd up 15 minutes before their session began, and ensuring they received their thank-you gift once they finished their session. Being in charge of the speakers lounge was actually quite fun. I set up the room how I wanted it, there were flowers out on the tables, snacks on every table set up the way I like-- I know, it sounds ridiculous that would be a highlight but it definitely was! It was fun meeting the speakers but I didn't really make too many conversations. Time in the lounge was meant for prep and I didn't feel like taking up people's time because I felt like chatting. There were also a total of 6 of us that had headsets to chat with which was really fun. You automatically feel special once you have a headset. ;)

Break Out Session #1 with MP Joy Smith
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview MP Joy Smith twice at the forum during the break-out sessions. The first session touched on her story, background and the bills she has been able to pass. The second focused more so on the issues of brothels being legalized in Ontario and how prostitution is legal in Canada. Mrs. Smith also touched on the adult film industry and a few other initiatives she is currently leading. Joy is such a marvellous woman-- she loves to chat, is passionate, full of expression when she speaks, and genuinely believes every person has a role to play when it comes to ending human trafficking.

Kru Nam and I after Global Forum
It was also absolutely wonderful to see JK and Kru Nam again. And by absolutely wonderful, I mean the highlight of Global Forum. As you may know from previous blog posts about my adventures in Thailand, Kru Nam is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met. Her compassion has no limits, her passion is rooted in seeing children being able to flourish into accomplished, dignified adults, and how she is able to pursue her own personal dreams while being such an abolitionist is nothing short of amazing. She is kind, hilarious, and is better at English than she leads on. Her talent at designing jewellery is just amazing and how she takes time to make things and pick out each piece specifically for each person just leaves me in awe. I helped her pick out jewellery for the various staff at Not For Sale at the after party, and was so blessed to have her pass along a gift to give to JP when I return home. She was asking me about "my husband" often amongst other things she wanted to learn about me and my life. I enjoyed chatting with JK and learning more about him. Our time in Thailand was more about him teaching us about Thailand so it was a nice turn of events to be able to ask him questions about himself.  Learning about why people are passionate about the cause is one of my favourite things to learn about people-- especially while here.

Overall the days of Global Forum went well. People were where they needed to be, no one was late for their session, and people were excited to receive their thank-you gift upon exiting the stage and being de-mic'd.  I wasn't stressed and it seemed like, while a necessary job, it was just an average, enjoyable experience. While some people found their job to be rewarding and exciting, and others found it be a less than ideal experience, I found myself somewhere in the middle.

Oh the middle. It's almost not worth a blog post-- but also it kind of is. I feel like enjoyable, average experiences are important to learning about yourself. Your preferences, what you like to do, what you don't like to do, and what you feel like you should be doing. I've learnt that when people tell you your job is important, if you don't feel it is, a little personal applause for a job well done feels better than a crowd of people applauding when you feel it wasn't appropriate-- only to find out it really wasn't for you anyways.

All in all, an enjoyable Global Forum experience will be truly felt complete once I am able to watch the video's of the sessions online. I didn't get to see any of them, and while I heard the crowd response, the messages the speakers had for the audience of abolitionists was missed.

Christmas at the Johnston House
The days after Global Forum have been nice. A couple days off is so wonderful. Yesterday I enjoyed spending time at the Johnston House-- a historic house with the halls completely decked out to be Christmas. It's their biggest fundraiser and everything they use to decorate is for sale! Amazing! Today was spent receiving a surprising email from Starbucks saying a gift card from years ago still has an amount left on it. It was hot out (wearing shorts on November 5th is so strange), and walking to the post office to receive a package containing tea and a skirt from my wonderful amazing husband. I also did grocery shopping and went for an adventure in World Market-- SO GOOD!

With a month left of the fellowship things are seeming less epic and more reflective. Reflecting on the time that has gone by and sorting through ideas of what to do next. In the moments where "what am I going to do next?" seem more nagging and less exciting and day-dream like, I remember that having it all figured out isn't necessary-- and a little personal applause for a job well done so far is needed to inspire the dreaming, and seek out what God has in store next.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Make A Stand

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
-Helen Keller

Today was a fun day.
It's been a good weekend...
but today was an especially fun day.

Many people have heard of Vivienne Harr and her lemonade stand, Make A Stand Lemonade. If you haven't, here is a quick introduction taken from her website (linked above):

To make that even more brief: She is an eight year old girl who, after hearing there are slaves in the world, decided to do something about it with what she had available to her; selling delicious, fair trade, organic lemonade to thirsty people in California. 

This is what Not For Sale likes to call "Open Source Activism". It is when you take your skills and talents and put it into use to further the movement to end modern day slavery in our time. It's that whole "bloom where you're planted", or "do what you can, with what you have, where you are" idea....and I love it.

Let's take a moment to think about this, shall we....
I am a person.  (And so are you...)
Not just any person, I am an awesome person. 
God has created me. 
He loves me (which is an absolutely mind-blowing, leave-me-speechless, I'm-in-awe idea). 
He wants me to do amazing things. 
He has given me a set of gifts and talents. 
These talents He wants me to use.
He has a plan that directly involves me using those skills and talents.
He wants me to be His hands and feet on this earth.
What does that entail?
So many things.
One thing that comes to my mind: 
“Learn to do good.
Seek Justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows”
 - Isaiah 1:17

We put that all together and we a perfect recipe for creating unstoppable world change. We can empower ourselves and each other to pull a Gandhi and "be the change we wish to see in the world. " And not only be the change, but to see a radical change in the entire world that puts an end to injustice.

Can you imagine a world with no injustice? People living freely, able to fully provide for themselves and their family with dignity in their work, giving to others in a beautiful sense of community, loving each other and recognizing differences as strengths. These are lives of joy, these are lives of hope. 

Make A Stand Lemonade and countless others are doing exactly what we should all be doing; doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. They are blooming where they are planted and the more they bloom, the more beautiful they, and the world around them, becomes. 

I encourage each and every person to take a moment and reflect on who you are. What skills do you possess? What talents, what gifts? What can you do with those to help make the world a better place, to be the part of Christ's body that you have been appointed to be? (1 Corinthians 12) It would be so wonderful for you to reflect on what you can do, and then make a stand, and do it. You might feel inadequate, you might feel like it won't make a difference but it will, it really will. In the words of Mother Teresa, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
- Mother Teresa

OH - PS- One of the main reasons of this blog post, the reason today was so fun, 
was that we got to meet Vivienne....

...she's a sweetheart.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Feeling Professional.

Sometimes in your day to day life, you end up doing things that make you feel very professional. These things make you feel grown up, like you're someone of importance, and that life is giving you opportunities to show people who you are and what you stand for....and that those people are going to listen and take you seriously.

I find that feeling professional is something I haven't felt too often. Or that during those times when I was feeling professional, there were people around that would stomp that out of me. As someone who started my career in Broadcasting at only 19 years old, it is often I wouldn't be taken seriously. Not only was I a young adult at that time, I was also a girl which posed its own problems. I was also in positions of status at times, heading departments, being in charge. When all those factors combined it created a lot of heart ache along the way and moments of triumph which were greatly relished.

Here we are today. Five years of radio under my belt, completely breaking free from the dream job I've had in the past, and volunteering for six months to pursue a new passion in hopes of finding my next attainable dream job.

It's amazing how, while still being at what might seem an apparent disadvantage to those I may have been associated with in the past, I've managed to be more accepted, have more skills recognized and been pushed more to give all I have in these past few weeks than ever before. I've felt more professional. I've felt more challenged.

Things that make one feel professional:
Doing work at the EBay/Pay Pal office.
Having breakfast meetings.
Being flown somewhere on a Friday, to host workshops on Saturday, then flying back to your current residence on Sunday.
PayPal Visitor.

I've been part of all those things over the past couple of weeks.

It was quite amazing to be going to the EBay/Pay Pal office to sell ethically made products to the staff and talk to them about making smart consumer choices. How often do people do that? Not very often. It's wonderful to be able to take skills I've been growing what seems like all my life, and be applying them in such a surreal manner.

I recall on the Thursday before being flown to Ohio for an Academy World Tour stop that I said out loud in the office, "I feel so professional. Breakfast meeting then flying to an event." A staff member agreed with me, especially about the breakfast meeting. There's no reason why a breakfast meeting should make you feel professional. A meeting at any other time of day is just the same. But a lunch meeting just doesn't have the same emphasis of importance as a breakfast meeting. Perhaps it's because we know that "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day", so the meetings we have during that time must also share that same importance. Perhaps it's because breakfast hosts some of the most envious foods. Aren't we all excited when we see a restaurant serves "All Day Breakfast"? Regardless of the reason behind it, a breakfast meeting made me feel important. Like I had something to offer and we were going to chat about it over granola with yogurt and fruit, and a chai tea latte.

While EBay, Pay Pal, and breakfast meetings all hold a level of professionalism I was pumped to experience, nothing holds that level as being flown somewhere to present workshops and then fly home the next day.

I was a last resort. Truth. No one else could go to the event, so I went.
Now, this could make someone feel a few different things...You could feel insignificant; *sigh* no one else could go so they are sending me. You could feel empowered; *excitement* no one else could go so they are sending me! You could feel nervous; *yikes* no one else could go so they are sending me.
I'd say I felt a healthy combination of the last two; healthy meaning slightly empowered but more so nervous. It was a wonderful experience to have people believe in you. People you have known for really, not a long time, feel you are 100% capable of presenting workshops you had a week or less to learn to a crowd of unknown size in Troy, Ohio.

After my breakfast meeting I received a ride to the airport from a fellow Fellow and flew on over to Ohio. I met wonderful people on my flights and arrived to meet the host of the event who was gracious, friendly and just as nice in person as he was in emails and on twitter. I spent the night at a hotel nicer than I ever expected and attempted to prepare myself for the next day...hosting three workshops and the main event. I'll be honest, my preparation included a whole lot of prayer.

SIDE NOTE on PRAYER: I don't get why people leave praying to the last resort. Prayer is a first step. What happens next is up to God who reveals to you your next steps. Whether you chose to act on His next steps or not is completely your thing.

The next day came sooner that it should have (a three hour time difference throws you off a little bit) and I was doing it, I was going to present. We all went to breakfast ("all" being the host, the performer, and myself) and enjoyed a restaurant that originated in Ohio. Next was on to the venue to set up the NFS merch I brought along, set up my laptop and get the presentations rolling! Like I said before, my preparation was a whole lot of prayer. Honestly, in my opinion, the best form of prayer in a time like that, where you are nervous and afraid to forget something of importance, is to pray that God uses you to get His message across. That He speaks through you. That you are a vessel for Him.

I am sure I missed points I had on my notes to get across. I'm sure things didn't go exactly the way my notes on the music stand in front of me guided. I am sure that the things I said that weren't part of my notes were extra things that God wanted me to say to that crowd. Things don't always go according to your plan. The best is when things go according to God's plan.

While setting up that day I met a wonderful lady the is the Love 146 rep for the Dayton, Ohio area. She is fun, spunky, full of life, loves vintage and tattoos and has a heart for ending modern day slavery in our time. Let's just say from the moment I saw her with her half sleeve and fun hair I knew we would chat and get along. I confided in her that I had never done public speaking before and there were moments I'd look at her while presenting and she would smile. She was my encourager at that event. After the first presentation she assured me I did well and those in attendance even asked me questions and complimented me. Praise the Lord! I knew from that moment on that the rest would be OK.

NomiS and I, boarding pass, attendees
with certificates and the
lovely Love 146 rep
The Faith Based Activism Workshop was probably my favourite. Telling personal stories is wonderful. It's easy to be passionate about the verses I was referencing because they are the same verses I have bookmarked in my Bible App. This was definitely the workshop where I can guarantee I spoke things that weren't on my notes, where I really let God guide me and I loved it. It was a wonderful feeling to have God lead and I follow.

The rest of the evening went well. We presented, we discussed, we went out after and enjoyed the company of new friends brought together by one purpose; to end human trafficking. While packing up the wonderful Love 146 rep gave me the Love 146 badge she had on display at her booth. It meant a lot to me to receive that. I feel her friendship will always mean a lot to me as she was someone that helped me through a whole new experience in my life. An experience I will look back on and be forever grateful that I was able to be a part of and actually exceed both my expectations and the expectations of the host of the event.

I feel professional here. It is something that I don't always feel while here, but it is wonderful to be in a space where I am both challenged and respected. Where you aren't trying to make people realize you are here for a reason (you are smart, educated, have a skill set) but where they know you are here for a reason, and those reasons are why they challenge you and expect great things from you.

It is such a different dynamic than what my last five years have been like. And while yes, there have been many rewarding  moments in the past five years in my career, where people have believed in me, I have believed in myself, and I've ended up becoming an asset and a loved and valued team member; it is definitely nice when the beginning isn't full of proving yourself, where those you are surrounded with unknowingly push you to be the best you can be. I know, come the last day of the Fellowship on December 14th, I will be more than I ever thought I could be thanks to those who continually encouraged my growth both at work, personally and spiritually.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunshine in Half Moon Bay

As I am typing this a few of us fellows are sitting in the living room, windows open, and are all busy on our laptops. While all doing various different things, one thing we all have in common is the fact that we are enjoying what is referred to as a "BSD". BSD, if you didn't know, stands for Blue Sky Day. It is something that doesn't happen very often here in Half Moon Bay and when it does, you need to take a few moments out of your day and enjoy it.

Enjoying the day and enjoying what we are doing here are two things that we do, however we don't do with enough intent and realization behind it...

The weeks are busy and I find myself doing so many things in one day that when it's time to submit my dashboard on a Sunday afternoon, I find myself surprised at all the things I did. The thought "I did all that this week?" often comes into my mind, thinking whatever the task was, I did it weeks ago. Things are fast paced and always changing and it's an environment I am adjusting to and beginning to love.

Laughter. As we all sit at our laptops, the random sheep in an unknown yard nearby yard starts to bleat. And not just a regular one, but a long, awkward sound.  We all look at each other and burst out laughing. Wonderful.
Back to being busy. When working with NFS, there's never a moment where you feel like you are done. I am all too familar with the "I've done all my work for the day and I still have a couple hours/all afternoon left to work!" feeling. This is simply incredible for me. My last job left me feeling quite bored and like I had so much left to offer at the end of the day. With the Fellowship, the end of the day comes and I am beat! I feel accomplished in the tasks I completed, excited about the work yet to be done, and satisfied knowing that there is always  more work to be done. We are ending modern-day slavery. Your work never ends at 5pm.

First bottles of REBBL

Over the past couple of weeks we've had a chance to do some amazing things! REBBL has been launching and we've been working at launch parties. The most recent being at the Causes head office in San Francisco. The view from their 21st floor space is the best view I've seen in San Francisco and the event left us all pumped about NFS, REBBL and Causes!  The Causes staff are friendly and into the work that NFS and REBBL are doing.

The View from the Causes Office

A Fashion Movement for Change

This past week us lady-fellows went up to San Francisco to a Sustainable Fashion show.  We got all dressed up and headed into the big city. It was a fun experience and I definitely feel at home in San Francisco. The sustainable fashion show featured {r}evolution Apparel who are the makers of the Versalette, and Sew Love Style showing their top and new Tulip Skirt. I felt so trendy being there and seeing a fashion show that is so forward thinking. A couple of the girls really got their networking on and told everyone they could about NFS and exchanged business cards. Myself and another girl just took it all in; the environment, the different people, the venue. We wanted to relish the experience. At the end of the fashion show part of the evening they had the Versalette present for people to try on. I jumped at the chance of trying it on since I want to get one when they are on sale. It was a blast and I will for sure remember it.

Posing with the Versalette

Moments like the fashion show, laughing at the house and enjoying the BSD make it easy to take moments to realize what you are doing, I mean REALLY doing, and appreciate it. It's easy to take a few steps back and enjoy the atmosphere.

My goal for  this week is to take moments in the middle of the day and while taking a sip of water, waiting for an email to load, or walking to or from work, is to take that brief moment, that moment that could be as easily fleeting as a quick ocean breeze while going for a jog, and acknowledge where I am, what I am doing, and really enjoy it.

When you think about it, we really are working to end modern-day slavery. We've been selected from over 30 applicants to come to Half Moon Bay and work with those who are already devoting their life to seeing justice prevail and, for me, to see Love overcome. We are small but are part of the bigger picture. The first part of my day, aside from checking my personal @nfs email account is checking the general email account. While at times, it can seem annoying to be the person that needs to respond to all these random emails, and when you're tired and it's been cloudy and cold for a week it can be exhaustive.  However, looking through those emails is one of the biggest sources of inspiration in my day. The emails from people that read along the lines of 'How can I get involved?', 'What can I do to help?", 'How can I join the movement to end slavery in our time?' get me SO pumped! People are encouraged by the work we do. People care.  People want to be involved. People are feeling called to be involved. If moments like that can't make me enjoy what I am doing  here, nothing will. That one of the many reasons I am so happy to be here.

The more people that know slavery exist today, the more people will a stand against it. The more people who gain knowledge of slavery in supply chains and how they are part of it due to their consumerism, the easier it will be for them to make smart choices. The more people out there making informed decisions, the more businesses and companies will change their ways.  The less demand, the less slavery. All of this results in more people like you and me working to change the cycle and lives of those at risk and provide them them with sustainable new future options!

Those moments sipping my water, waiting for an email to load, walking to or from work, those moments will be spent this week full of gratitude to be here, thankfulness for the opportunity, encouragement from the blessings in my life allowing me to be here, and enjoyment, soaking in every moment.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2 Weeks Feel Like 2 Months

It's been two weeks but it feels like two months....at times anyway....and we all feel like it.

I have started my Fellowship with Not For Sale and, as you can tell from the title and opening sentence, I am two weeks in. It has been an interesting, fun, and tiring two weeks. And it leaves me excited for the next however many weeks we have left.

Let's just say, finally arriving in El Granada was  a relief. Saying goodbye to JP at the airport was hard (I obviously cried like a baby...a really unhappy baby) but once I was on the plane to Vancouver I was good to go. I sat next to this wonderful lady and we chatted about our lives. It was a treat to speak with someone who was actually genuinely interested on the journey I was about to embark on. We swapped book recommendations and she told me about her family and growing up in San Francisco. She recommended a few places to visit and we parted ways at the airport wishing each other the best life has to offer.

I thought all would be well going through immigration to the US (which you do in Vancouver) but it wasn't. They wanted to ask me a few more questions about what I was doing in the US, which was fine and dandy, until that caused me to miss my flight. I was crying...again....sad I was leaving JP, frustrated that at first they told me I wouldn't miss my flight and then I did, and feeling bad that they wouldn't let me use my cell phone at that moment to text my ride saying NOT to show up at the airport yet. Knowing that someone you've never met before is going out of their way to pick you up at the airport, and not being able to let them know you won't be arriving on time, is just plain ridiculous to me. However, once the gentleman asked me the two questions he needed to, I was on my way. That, of course, came after he mentioned to me "You are  leaving your husband for 6 months AND you missed your flight... There's no need to cry"....for real?

The airport adventure continued from there....all the flights to San Francisco were oversold and everyone was showing up for their flights. Since It was "my fault" I missed my flight, I was the last in line on stand-by. Although waiting wasn't fun, I did meet a handful of wonderful people also flying on stand-by that were so encouraging and sympathetic. I was so blessed to finally get on a flight 6.5 hours after my original flight was supposed to be leave. As I got on the plane and saw the others I had made friends with who were already on, we all smiled and felt excited that I was finally able to get where I needed to be. I arrived in San Francisco but my checked bag did not.

At times like these, the realization of how blessed I am to have a husband who is incredible is, well, incredible. He took time to call Air Canada and figure out all the shenanigans with my baggage. It arrived the next day in the afternoon and I could finally be warm with slippers and a blanket....In El Granada at this time of year it's cloudy, windy and cold, averaging around 14-15 degrees a day.

The two Fellows at the house when I arrived were Jackson (who picked me up from the airport) and Alicia. Both of them are rad Christian folks who I get along well with.  Alicia and I get along very well as we are both super chill tea drinkers who like to chat about God and watch cute movies. Jackson is upbeat, full of energy and spunk, and is Manly (Inside Joke)!

The first day of the Fellowship was spent learning about our tasks, meeting the staff, having meetings, and doing some intense Boot Camp with Jill, our Fellowship Director. Jill is super intense, full of life, and 110% passionate about what she does. She has quite the resume and so much knowledge that she could talk for hours. She often starts explaining something, then gets REALLY into it and starts drawing graphs and charts, and us fellows frantically try to write it down or take pictures of it all because it's so informative and we want to make sure we catch everything before she erases it. Let's just say, within the past 2 weeks, the knowledge we have gained from Jill alone is absolutely incredible!

Over the past 2 weeks we have had time to "settle" into our roles here. By "settle" I really mean start to figure out what we are here for. Each fellow has been assigned to a different area. Each of those areas are specific to what we can "bring to the table" and is what we  are best suited to. Within that, with Jill as our overseer, we also have supervisors who are our main "go-to" staff member. They are the ones teaching us our day-to-day and we are  going to be helping them out with their work. I am helping out Ethan with the tour. Ethan had been away until today which made my first 2 weeks kind of "up in the air". I spent time doing random odd jobs and checking and responding to general emails that hadn't really been checked since the last fellowship left.

I had a chance to go for coffee with Ethan today and it got me really pumped for the time I will be spending on the fellowship. We chatted about the upcoming fall tour, the upcoming 2013 tour and about other general  exciting future endeavours involving tour and Not For Sale. It was so exciting to see his energy. We also reminisced about Warped Tour and old school bands that we used to love. What I originally thought was going to be a half hour chat easily turned into 2 hours. I got back to the house and was SO PUMPED about all the fun shenanigans that is going to transpire this fall. It was encouraging and energizing... exactly what I needed.

A few random notes about where I am and how I am doing:
-It's cloudy, cold, foggy and windy most of the time. However, the past few days have been gorgeous out...gorgeous meaning the sun has been shining, which makes a world of a difference.
-There is nothing really going on during the week but the weekend here is pretty lively with free live music (Just got back from listening to a blues band!) and farmers markets. This is nice because during the week when you work you don't feel  like  you are missing out on anything.
-I have started to run (well, more like jog). I went 4 times this past week and have really enjoyed it. I like to go in the mornings and run by the ocean. Listening to the ocean in the morning is one of my favourite things.
-Everyone in the house gets along really well. Everyone has completely different  personalities but it works well together. It's nice. I look forward to bonding more and more as time goes on.
-I have named myself the "grandma" of the house.  I go to bed earlier then everyone else, get up earlier than everyone else, and even have my own room and bathroom. I'm the cheap one who doesn't go out and is content to sit at home. Basically, I'm an old person.
-I love cats. This I knew already but when boredom strikes in the evenings I can frequently be caught browsing cats_of_instagram on instagram. Awesome.
-I like making floral arrangements. There are fun and different flowers here and I am the person of the house who goes out to the yard and picks flowers to have on the table. It's fun.
-Birthday Oreos. Enough said.

-Skype is the best invention ever. To be able to talk with JP AND see him while we chat is the biggest blessing I can think of. I miss him more than anything and am so pumped that he is proud  of me for doing this. It is encouraging and encouragement from him means more than from anyone else. I like him and love him. He's the best.
-PC FOR THE WIN!! My Dell, while old and rather "moody", has been beating the MACs of the fellows. It is working better than ever and I couldn't be more ecstatic about it. Minus the duck tape I needed to use on it today...but we won't talk about that.

I know people have been wanting to read about my time here. I've been very busy and appologize for a fairly lengthy yet still vague blog post. As I start to post more consistently, I can go more in depth yet keep the overall length shorter.

As the Fellowship continues I know that, although these two weeks have felt like two months with all the work we have been doing, it will soon enough fly by and I'll be on to the next adventure. I am pumped that my next adventure will involve JP by my side and am excited about all the wonderful plans God has for us. Until that next adventure, I will enjoy all that this one has to offer.

Until next time!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thailand 2012 - Post 7 (The Final Blog)

Our last night in Chaing Mai we went to a restaurant on a boat!
Oh did I love it. It was a perfect time to relax on the water, enjoy the fantastic food, and pick each others brains about how the experience has been so far, and what our plans will be upon our return. We swapped book titles, documentary recommendations, shared many laughs and reminisced about the time we spent together. 
It was our last night with JK and we said goodbye to our translator that had served us very well during the trip. We all gave him hugs which we know made him feel awkward, but we didn't care. We went to another night market (not a touristy one - one the residents go to) and then headed back to the hotel and packed up. Heading from the restaurant to the market and then back to the hotel I rode with JP on a motorbike which was a super fun time!The next day we flew back to Bangkok, hit up a market (where I got a wonderful dress!!), went to restaurant, then it was time for some of our team to head back to Canada.
I'm not really good with good byes....but I guess that depends what you classify as "good". For example, I'm not really emotional so I don't get all "Oh, I'm so sad, I'm going to miss you!" In fact, when people cry at goodbyes, it makes me feel really awkward... what am I supposed to do? On the other hand, I act pretty calm and collected about the whole thing. We had fun, we made memories, It would be nice to continue on in this country together, however it is time to go home. Let's just keep in touch and be pumped about the next time we see each other.
As people were leaving and saying their good byes, it was hard to acknowledge this journey coming to an end. I love Thailand. I want to stay.

We had an extra day so we took advantage of being somewhere we never thought we would be and adventured about Bangkok! We went to the Grand Palace and visited all the temples, saw the giant golden Buddha, and went to a mall with over 2,000 shops. It was a great, relaxing day before we started our 24 hours of travelling home.

As we arrived at the airport and started loading one of our planes, I was sitting down and noticed the gentleman in front of me looking through his camera at pictures. You know those moments when you don't mean to be looking but you are because it's in the only direction you can look? That's what happened. On his camera he was looking at pictures of himself (this older white dude), with young Asian girls. After what we had done on our trip it was so hard to see! Pictures become an endless way to relive an experience after you come home from the adventure. We take hundreds of pictures so we can show people what we did and the places we went to. We take pictures of any memorable moment in hopes we can share the pictures with friends and family, and explain with the same excitement what the experience was like. When I look through my camera, I see the bright faces of the children we worked with, the people we call Heroes, the ones who are making a difference. I see pictures of food, the friends I made, the places we went and pictures of things I never thought I would ever see. When that guy is looking at pictures, he is reliving the experience he had....who will he show those pictures to? His buddies that think he's  "The Man"? Would he show his family if he has one? His wife? Kids? Would he share them with his co-workers? 
It is hard to swallow that people come to such a beautiful place and do the ugliest things. No pictures, no matter how beautiful of a place you were in, can turn a trip for an ugly reason into something worthy of sharing.
This has been such an amazing experience. I feel so blessed to have opportunities to become involved in things that are life changing for the people we help as well as well as us, the volunteers. I feel this is a perfect set up to the internship I will embark on with Not For Sale. Taking part in their Fellowship Program is going to be an amazing stepping stone to a life fully devoted to helping others.  Seeing how Not For Sale helps Kru Nam and to see the organization in action was inspiring and makes me so pumped!

While the trip to Thailand has come to an end, the life full of passion for those whose lives are effected by human trafficking and modern day slavery is just beginning and I am going to live it out the best I can. God is going to use me for great things and I believe this is one of those things.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thailand 2012 - Part 6

Myanmar, Markets and Motion Sickness

It's pretty much the end of the trip and I'm only having time to write now because we've been so busy!

Let's start with Myanmar.
We went to Myanmar to see the drop in centre. However, going to Myanmar is a sketchy thing.....

Myanmar Entry Permit.
First, they take your passport away when you enter. You get a temporary card that has your picture and some information on it and that you keep with you. This document will get your passport back when you want to leave. Next, they have specific tourist zones that you are allowed to be in. Myanmar has a really sketchy past and is full of things better left unsaid. We had heard about a tourist group who had gone in to see the garbage dump and help the families that live there. One of the drivers of the tuk-tuk had been a spy from the government... Needless to say, we did a few "touristy" things before heading to our intended destination.

We drove past the garbage dump so we could at least see the conditions some of the families kids at the home came from. For me, since I had worked at the garbage dump in Dominican Republic last summer, it wasn't as hard hitting as it was for those who hadn't seen it before. Natasha, who rode in the same tuk-tuk as I, really found it hard to swallow. It's a tough thing to drive past hills of garbage, some of it even burning, and then see houses in the background with kids playing. It seems like two things that should not go together.

Outside of the Chinese Temple.
After that we visited the Chinese temple then heading off to the BIG market. This market had everything knock-off you could think of! You could see where these kids at the home were coming from and it was so sad to see. After time of shopping we had lunch and then went to the drop in centre.

Kru Nam Speaking at the Centre.
At the drop in centre we chatted with 2 employees who told us all about the programs at the centre and about how their journey's led them there. Kru Nam also came and answered any questions we had. It was so awesome to hear that the goal isn't to send kids to the children's home, the goal is to help the kids where they are, with the situations they are in, and to offer them alternatives. Other things I was pumped to hear about include hearing about the drug rehabilitation program. They help the moms get off of drugs and then teach them skills they can use to make money instead of selling drugs and other means that aren't the best.

One thing that did make me a little sad was the fact that there is no counsellor that comes in to the children's home and drop-in centre to speak with the kids about what they are going through and how they are coping. Kru Nam said that the staff do a lot of counselling with the kids but that there is no actual counsellor/psychiatrist that comes in and helps the kids mentally with things. In my opinion, I feel that is something necessary and would love to see either through donations for funding, or even someone who is skilled and would want to volunteer.

The staff at the drop in centre provided us with delicious snacks (deep fried banana, mango sticky rice, tea,etc) and allowed us to browse the centre. They also showed us the reading materials they make up for the kids. Since there are no reading materials aimed at slavery, sexual exploitation, safe sex, etc the drop in centre makes their own! It was so cool to see that they are committed to educating the kids so that they can make smart choices in life. They also let us buy some of the bracelets, change purses and other knick-knacks made by the moms and kids to raise income. I'm pretty sure we all bought something! It's way better than anything you could find at the market and the sentimental value makes it more valuable than anything else you could ever find.

That evening Kru Nam joined us for dinner. We had the chance to ask her questions and learn more about her. She mentioned quite a few things that I will always remember. One thing that really stuck out in my mind was how people like us help keep her going! Talk about something you never thought possible! She mentioned some days, it's hard to get out of bed and face the day. But that it's people like us, people that come and help and care for the kids, that get her out of bed on those days she is feeling defeated. It's truly amazing to know that, even with the small role we felt we played, we are even an inspiration to Kru Nam herself!

The next day we travelled to Chiang Mai. We travelled by van which..well...isn't always the best. Needless to say, especially from the title of the blog, you can tell this is where the motion sickness came in. It was a downer to not feel very well but we stopped a few nifty places on the way to the awesome hotel we stayed at. We stopped a butterfly and orchid place, a random hot spring and visited a temple where, after climbing to the top, it overlooks all of Chiang Mai. That's the part I skipped. I slept in the van to get over the motion sickness as the ride up was full of twists and turns. JK kept telling me about how I was missing out on something so gorgeous but that's OK. I plan on going back :)

The hotel we stayed at was awesome. We all loved it. A JK recommendation, it was called the Imm Hotel and was all white and orange. The soap also smells amazing...if you ever go, use the soap ;)

Bianca and I on the Dance Floor.
One night in Chiang Mai we went to a super touristy yet awesome restaurant and saw some authentic Thai dancing! Think Folklorama for Thailand but on a grander scale! Bianca and I even went out onto the stage in the middle of the restaurant and learnt to dance! It was such a fun experience! At the end of the food and dance, Milk had snagged some of the giant paper lanterns for us to release. Some of the group didn't want to participate, not wanting to take away from the magical time we had at the children's home releasing them. I however, got right in there and helped send them off! For me, it was all part of the cultural experience.

Upon returning back to the hotel, a group of us went to one of the big night markets. Most of us were pumped to do MORE shopping, since we are a majority girl group. On the way to the market, we walked through a red light district.

This was my first experience actually being in a red light district. I have seen these areas on movies and documentaries but actually being there and walking through it makes your heart ache. At the beginning of the night when were on the way to the market, there weren't a lot of people in the area yet. It was so sad to see the girls waiting there, sitting on stools at the very edge of the bars. Some of them would be yelling at you "Hey Sexy Ladies!" Some would just sit...not smiling...just sitting. As the night went on and we browsed the market, the bars and massage parlours down the street started to fill up. Our walk back to the hotel left most of us feeling sick. As we walked back the bars and massage parlours were pretty full. We would see white, adult men with their arms around the Asian girls laughing, chatting, flirting, and more. They were doing these things with girls who could have been the same age as their daughters. As we would walk and look inside all these places, the guys would look out at us, not even care that our faces were plastered with disgust, and go back to their treat for the night.

I had such a hard time with this. What those men are doing makes me mad, sick to my stomach, makes my heart race and makes me feel an uncomfortable anger for what is happening. To know, although we didn't know for sure how many, some of those girls are there against their own will or have been trafficked there is heart breaking in every imaginable way. I felt a fight inside of me; I want to stereotype these men. There's a part of me that wants to go right up to them and tell them what they are doing is disgusting, horrible and any other word I could think of to say that would make them feel bad because of what they are doing and take them off their high horse. But...who am I to judge? Who am I to go up to these men that wouldn't care what I had to say anyways, and tell them what I think of them? Like I said, they wouldn't care what I had to say anyways. Knowing I have no place to judge, while wrestling with it in the moment, turned out to be a comforting thought later on. To know that God is Just, to know that God will always Love, to know that God is Good means, that while I feel my heart aching in the moment I see those events in the red light district unfold, I can ensure my heart ache turns to compassion for those there against their will and God will take care of the rest. I can focus on reaching out, helping, shining and being a light.

Focusing the energy in positive ways will always be more productive than focusing on the negative.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thailand 2012 - Part 5

Goodbye Party....There were so many amazing moments that made up the wonderful evening that we all shared together. Here are just a few of the highlights of the evening...

Group shot: Our team with the staff and kids.
Last night was the Goodbye Party! We left the hotel decked out in jeans since the bugs come out in full force in the evening and our See The Change t-shirts which feature a story involving JK and Kru Nam on it. On the way to the home we were a van packed with mixed emotions: Excited about all the fun we were going to have and sad about the last goodbyes we will have to be saying.

Upon arriving to the party we all started playing! The completed playground was in full use, the basketball court was full of people playing basketball and soccer, and the kids were running around with all of us trying to make the best last memories they could. A few of the girls that had become fond of me during our time there wanted to just sit with me and look at pictures on my camera of our time in Thailand. It was a great bonding moment as they pointed to the faces on the display screen and then pointed to the person in real life. It's cute to watch their faces light up as you say "yes!" to them as they identify the right person. We all know I'm not really a kid person but I definitely grew fond of those little girls too!

The girl who finally smiled :)
I was sitting by myself for a brief moment and one girl who barely cracked a smile during the time we were there ran up to me and gave me an adorable bracelet. The first time I saw her in the home she was playing "stella stella ol-ah" and she was SO serious the ENTIRE time! She was the referee, making sure everyone was playing correctly and would correct you if you were doing something wrong. I remember seeing her stern face ALMOST break into a smile when she slid her hand away JUST before the person next to her slapped her hand at the count of the number 10. You could see her excitement bubbling up inside but she didn't let it out! When she won the entire game she smiled and then the game was back on for another round and another go at her ensuring all was fair with the game. The fact she came up to me with a bracelet, slid it onto my wrist and tightened it and then smiled at me just melted my heart. I smiled at her and she smiled and giggled back.  It was a moment I won't forget.

I continued to show pictures and little Oranuh came and attached herself to me for the evening. We held hands pretty much all night and she never left my side. During the time before dinner while we all played a little girl I had only played with a couple times came up to me saying my name and handed me this adorable, handmade change purse. She showed me how it opens up and revealed inside a bracelet. She took it out and put it on my wrist. Another precious, melt-your-heart moment. 

Dinner was eaten outside and consisted of some sticky rice, Pad Thai, french fries and the request of the kids, fried chicken and a variety of other meat! We had hotdogs, crab sticks, and more meat I ate without really knowing what it was. Oranuh put my plate together for me and showed me how she likes to eat her meals: Make the rice into balls and then the balls are easy to roll in the other food and pop into your mouth. The way she showed me how it was done and how she coached me on my other eating skills during dinner (how to best eat a Mango when you only have a spoon) really showed me she cared. During dinner the home showed us this awesome slide show they put together of our time with the kids. Throughout our time together they had been randomly snapping pictures and they put it all together with music for us. It was so touching and VERY unexpected. 
JP and I with some friends.
After the dinner and the slide show came...the baby powder game. I had never played this game before but I already knew I was about to get covered with the baby powder. We all sat in a circle and, hot potato style, passed around 2 giant sized bottles of baby powder. When the music stopped you went up to the front and Pee Pot and JK would tell you what you had to do with the baby powder! It could be anything from put it in the face of the person to your left, the person across from you, the most beautiful girl, a friend from Canada, someone with glasses, etc. Eventually it just turned into a full on Baby Powder fest!! The kids were filling their hands and just throwing it on everyone! We were COVERED and, of course, also helped do some of the covering. 

Bianca about to hand out gifts.

After the baby powder fest we each took turns saying a few special words to the kids about how they have impacted us, how amazing they and the staff are and how they will all hold a special place in our hearts. Then we had the HUGE pleasure and awesome opportunity to present them with their gift bags!!! Oh how they were so excited and how we were so excited too!!!! It was a special moment to be able to hand each kid a gift of their very own. They held onto those backpacks and purses for the rest of the night and we know they will cherish them for years to come. 

During this time the girls kept coming up to me and giving me bracelets! I received a total of 7 of them and was just blown away by the love the kids were expressing. It helped me realize that, until someone lets you know how big of an impact you have had on their life, you will never know. I never knew I impacted each individual girls life but I did and they expressed that to me by giving me the bracelets. 

Chinese Lanterns!
The staff of the home surprised us with something that pumped me up like I couldn't believe. They had CHINESE LANTERNS!!!!!!!! I have wanted to release Chinese Lanterns for SO LONG!!!! They are so incredible and magical and marvellous! I was able to release it with the girls I grew the closest with and it was such an inspiring moment.... To see those giant lanterns float up into the sky, lighting it up and seeing them fade away into the distance, knowing the bright gorgeous light they have were shedding that light on places we couldn't see was almost an amazing metaphor for our time spent in Thailand. We see our impact right away with how the kids have grown to show love to each one of us and even when we leave Thailand, the light of our time spent there will be seen by others. So amazing. 

The kids then presented us with amazing handmade gifts. Scarves that they had made and dyed with tea leaves that we all oohed and awed over the first day we met Yeem, stuffed Elephants, stuffed Birds, change pursues, key chains and more. Normally I am not the person to get things from the kids... The other fun people on the Hero Holidays get amazing gifts but I never did...I just didn't have that connection others did with the kids. I don't really get too into playing with them. I am more of the 'play on the first day then work the rest of the days' kind of person. I'd often feel my impact was better made while working. This year, the kids liked me and I liked them and it was so encouraging. This in itself inpires me and I know I have more work to do in Thailand.

Then it was dance party time! We danced and danced and danced. It was fun to see EVERYONE at the home get in on the dancing! From staff to the youngest of kids. The group of gals I had been hanging out with and I would all hold hands, then move around in a cirle one direction, then change it up and go the other direction. Then we would all step into the circle and lift our hands up, then move back out and repeat the process. It was so fun! Oranuh and I had some dance time together too full of spins and jumping and...of course...more baby powder...

Then Kru Nam came and we did a big group photo then it was time to leave. The kids walked us to the van and Oranuh held my hand (and my water bottle) and walked me to the van. She made the other kids make room for me to walk to the van and then hugged and waved goodbye. It was a sad moment but, inspirational. 

The impact left, while in different ways, has been huge and mutual. Time spent will not be forgotten, experiences will be told over and over in story form, and the faces will stay with us forever.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thailand 2012 - Part 4

Yesterday, the day before and the day before that...and the beginning of today...

We had a couple very rainy days here in Thailand. On the first rainy day we decided to put the day off from the home to good use and went to Tesco. Tesco is kind of like a superstore/walmart kind of idea...except with waaaay less selection of all the things we were looking for.  We went to do all the shopping for the gift bags for the kids at the home. We had so many great ideas for what would be awesome for the kids! Unfortunately, the selection at Tesco had other ideas. We set out in teams of two to find our desired items. It was a really fun "supermarket sweep" moment. After we found our items we got together and showed each other what we found. From there we divided up the shopping by boys and girls and then age ranges. Each team then had the task of putting together enough gift bags for their set group of kids. In total we put together 80 gift bags!!! And these aren't just any bags... The bag itself is either a backpack or a purse, inside are toiletry items like toothpaste and toothbrushes, and there are also toys; perfumes and hair clips for the girls, bubbles and stamps for the boys, pencil cases filled with the goods for school, note books, colouring books, water bottles, candy, and MORE! It was fun taking the time to put it all together. Taking into consideration the kids, what they like (and don't like) and how we want them to cherish the gifts they receive. After ringing through the LARGEST bill I'm sure the Tesco has ever seen, we ate lunch then headed back to the hotel. We packed the bags, labelled them and have them sitting, ready to go, just waiting to get into the hands of the awesome children that are going to be receiving them. I am SO PUMPED to see what their reactions are going to be like!

Shopping at Tesco
Loooong receipt.

5 of the 7 dwarfs. 
The next day gave more rain but we were determined to get to the children's home. We got all ready in the van with rain ponchos and we were going to get there and work! No matter what! The bridge to the children's home was getting pretty washed away...we were slipping and sliding trying to get across and, not going to lie, it was a little scary! Once safely on the other side it was time to work! TEAM PIG was in FULL FORCE!! We went to our work site, put on our rain ponchos and waited for instructions! We were told to dig up some of the hard, wet, clay and use it to pack the ground around giant cement posts. With our instructions and determination we went to work, laughing at our selves for how ridiculous we look. As we were working, our leaders just...walked...away...We wondered what was going on. They came back and told us they decided there was no point, the rain was just going to pack down any more work we did and we would just have to re-do it. After a wonderful photo shoot of us covered in mud, with our ponchos, hoes (and Bianca's pot) looking like the seven dwarfs (minus 2), we made our way inside where we played games with the kids.

We played quite a few really fun and funny games. We did a fun version of rock, paper, scissors, did the balloon stomp game, cowboy and horse, and this strange game where we all divided up and sat in 4 teams. Your team would sit back to back in a circle and link arms. All the teams had names and you would randomly yell a teams name then go and try to steal people from their team! It was hectic but the kids had A LOT of fun! When deciding teams... some of the kids actually knew my name and wanted me on their team! It was so cute and definitely caught me by surprise. I had barely spent any time with these kids but they knew me and wanted me as their fearless leader!...that, or my name is just easy to say...I'll go with the first option.

The day ended and it was time to venture home...more like have an ADventure TRYING to get home! Since it had been raining more, the bridge was basically impassable. The posts had started to all fall away and it was a mucky mess. Most of us walked across leaving us laughing as we attempted to make it across without getting too muddy (hello impossible!). We were SO BLESSED to have a nearby farmer attach himself with a cord to Milk's van and pull it across the bridge and down the path to the paved road. It was quite a comical situation to watch, but we were definitely glad the van made it across safe and we were able to head home.

This evening we went to a new restaurant to eat! A Milk recommendation. IT WAS AMAZING! The view of the Mekong river and the giant golden Buddha was awesome. And the food was incredible. I can honestly say though, my FAVOURITE food has been the food we have eaten at the children's home. It is just so good! It is made 100% with love and you can taste it. That evening we all came home and crashed and had an awesome time sleeping and praying for gorgeous weather.

Yesterday was such a fun day! Due to the rain, JK and the home suggested that we set up 4 stations for the kids to take part in: Yoga, Music, Art & Sports. We were all pumped on the idea as it kept the kids (and us) entertained while it was raining. Again, we walked across the bridge and Milk drove over after. I was at the yoga station and was pumped to be there! I had done my annual Hero Holiday yoga the previous afternoon which left me with ideas and leaders to turn to for direction (as Heather and Christal are both Yogi's). We did had half an hour of yoga which each set of kids and there were 4 sets of about 15 or so kids each. It was so cute to see how the kids followed along and payed such close attention to what we were doing. We were on the stage and the kids were on the main floor as they followed along. It was cute to see their smiling faces and hear them giggling as they tried out the random poses. A lot of them were really good at it! Anytime we would have our hands together they would say Sawadeka (hello) which was too adorable. We also taught them the word "Namaste" which was cute to hear them say.

After the yoga finished and we were waiting for all of the kids to come in for lunch a little girl name Tilapa came and hugged me! She just wanted a hug, that was all. It was actually nice that she didn't want to talk or do anything like run and jump around. Just a hug. I have a hug to give. I have love to give. It's so nice that the easiest most meaningful thing to give is love and that's what we all want and all need.

I met a few of her friends and watched them interact and play with a game together...a little plastic square with the numbers 1 - 15 on little sliders. You have to slide the numbers up and down and to the sides to arrange them in numerical order. It was interesting to see how thoughtful they were in each move they made....how you could tell they had a system worked out for getting it all done. When I tried they wanted to guide my moves to make sure I made it all happen in the correct amount of steps. After some playing we all ate lunch together then it was time for us to say goodbye...but just for a little while.

The sun came out which made for a warm afternoon and we headed out on the Thai long boats for a ride down the Mekong River to Laos to take in a market. I got myself some fRay Bans (Fake Ray Bans) which are definitely coming in handy and I also attempted to find some flip flops since I had busted mine walking down the long boat. It was so interesting to see the kids in the market act. It was a great comparison to how the new kids at the children's home act....hitting, pinching, etc. It was quite an eye opener to how far the kids at the children's home have come and we hear we will notice even more of a difference after we head to Myanmar.

In line for the Bubble Gum drink.
After the long boat adventure, prepped with sun glasses and new flip flops from the market on the Thailand side, we headed to a shallow, secluded area of the Mekong River to swim with the kids! They all showed up by the truck load (literally, a truck with them filled in like sardines in a can in the back) and RAN into the river! It was so cute to see them so free and pumped to be swimming while it was hot outside! We found out from JK that they generally go swimming every Sunday after doing some Community Service. It was a surprise to see them swim in their clothes and it was fun to see how great they all interact with each other :) We came out of the area where we were swimming and enjoyed a green drink that tasted like Bubble Gum (YUMMMM) and some BANGKOK BISCUITS!! They were kind of like an golden Oreo but in a half circle shape....they were SO GOOD! It was fun to see the kids let loose and completely enjoy every little bit of the afternoon.

After the swimming we ventured back to the hotel, exhausted from a full day! It was adorable how the few kids I hung out with that morning and over lunch wanted to also spend time with me at the river. They were  calling my name, holding my hand and then waving goodbye from the truck before they left. It was touching to have made a connection with the kids---even though kids aren't my thing. At the debrief I made mention that it's great how words aren't need to express what needs to be felt. I think that is something I will take with me more so this trip then any of the others. Mostly because of knowing the past these kids have had, or could have had.

TODAY! Ohh today! It's a wonderful yet sad day...It's the last day with the kids which makes it sad but it's also the PARTY DAY which makes it awesome! This morning we did more project work (Which was great because it was sunny outside!). I helped with the library and completed a whole flower, done with the proper technique, which made me excited. Bianca, Ashley and Gabrielle helped prepare lunch and a few others played with the kids. It was wonderful to spend more time with them. For lunch I sat with the same girls I sat with for lunch yesterday. It was a fun time to connect again but we had to leave early.

Now we wait for the party to start...we are heading there at 5.In the meantime, we are all preparing something to say to the kids. Something about them we will never forget, how they have changed us, etc. It has been challenging thinking of what to say as, for me anyways, a lot of the stuff we do doesn't really hit me until I return home.

Well, Christal asked me to write a blog so I am off! I am excited to share about the party!!