Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Halloween!


Occupy Halloween


I come from a time when a kid had to work hard to come up with a good Halloween costume! We didn't buy them from corporations- we made them!
Sexy witches and nurses didn't exist. Princesses, clowns, and Jedi paraded through neighborhoods for hours. There were no easy, equal distribution, church trunk-or-treats. We went door-to-door and EARNED our candy!
I AM THE 99%!!
And I will not share my candy!!
#OCCUPY HALLOWEEN

Happy Dance Returns!

Yes, folks, it is the return of the happy dance! Another vague, slightly informative, and yet full of questions, because I can't tell the interwebs what is really going on, but it makes me happy whatever it is happy dance!
But just a little happy dance, because I think things might get even happier!



Fun fact for you-
Nearly every morning at 7 am Eastern time "Boy Meets World" trends on Twitter (at the same time "Goodnight Twitter" trends too). Apparently somewhere in the world "Boy Meets World" is on TV at that time, and enough children on the 90s see it and liked that they tweet about it.
Me? I was a child of the 80s. "Boy Meets World" was a little after my time. But I did have a roommate (yeah, you know who you are) who loved it and had every episode on VHS. So maybe I've seen a few dozen or so episodes with her...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pinterest pleases me

One of my favorite DIY finds on Pinterest so far!

Are you on Pinterest yet? I love it. I'm not even the crafty, recipe making type, and I love it. I have a lot of free time these days and I've found several small projects for the home to keep me busy on there. I made an amazing pumpkin cake mix this week that was super easy. And I've made a t-shirt tote bag. I have dozens of old t-shirts I'm unlikely to wear again, so I may make a dozen more of these bags. And I had fun making the t-shirt circle scarf. Today I'm going to attempt to make this paper wreath as well, if I can find just the right Christmas book to destroy. And I might sacrifice a few old shirts to the DIY bleach pen shirts as well.
But like I said, I'm not a crafty, recipe person! I actually prefer Pinterest for the fashion and hair ideas. Which reminds me, how did I not know about Polyvore before? I love it! I can't believe how many pins there are from that one site!
I do wish more of my friends posted about books. It seems like a great way to share books, I think. Maybe I'll kill sometime today encouraging that!
So if you're on there, let's be friends! (I am really seeing the benefit of having a diverse group of unrelated friends on there. Otherwise the feed gets filled up with the same things getting repinned over and over by a circle of friends.) If you're not on there, what's holding you back? Come share with us!

Follow Me on Pinterest

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peace Corps Update (I almost know where I might be going)


I haven't updated y'all on the Peace Corps situation in a while. And I'm too lazy to look up what I said last about what's going on. Meh. You don't remember either, so I'll just jump in. And since I know I'm going to get new people over here from PC journals, I'll recap my situation.
I've been in the application process for about 16 months now.
First online app was filled out in July/August.
First recruiter interview was in September.
Nominated at interview for NGO Development/Business Development. At that time I was told it would be for North Africa, March 2011.
A legal issue (family member in the military) was cleared up by Thanksgiving.
Got medical paperwork just after Thanksgiving.
In January I found out March 2011 was impossible (and probably always was). Told to expect Sept 2011 instead, still North Africa (Morocco).
Finished medical in February. Was told to expect clearance in 3-6 weeks.
Medical clearance finally came through in late May/early June. (3 months!)
Didn't hear anything for 8 weeks.
Called to check in in July. Was told September wouldn't be happening because my program was cut. Wasn't given anything to really go on other than they would be calling me at any point to set up my final interview.
End of August- contacted them to let them know I was leaving the country for a month. They said again that I would be getting a call any day.
Late September- got the call! Supposedly final interview! Found out that there have been so many cutbacks and budget cuts, and more applicants than usual, that they are just delaying all sorts of people, and not to take it personally. Placement Officer tells me my profile is finally going out to 14 countries. It supposedly will take 2 weeks to find out which countries have accepted me. Essentially at this point it is explained that it isn't really a matter of being qualified. All of the candidates/nominees are qualified at this stage. There's just so many of them and so few positions that is more like a lottery, with preference to the longest waiting to get picked. I'm one of the longest waiting now.
2 weeks later I am told 12 countries did not pick me, but 1 country did. And we are waiting on the 14th country. I am not told what the 1 selecting country is, just the region. I'm a little surprised because it is in a region that has never been discussed before. Over that it is a region I have never even thought of or considered. And even more surprising is that there is one point early in the process where you can rank the regions by preference. This was my lowest ranked region. I was nominated for 2 programs (at least, that's what I thought, turns out my recruiter probably told me wrong) and this is for the program I was less interested in. I have some thinking to do.
2 weeks later again (today) my placement officer calls again. I knew there was a good chance I'd get my official invite or just get delayed again. And I was delayed one more week again. We're still waiting on that mysterious 14th country. There's no telling if that country will say yes or no.
So there you have it. In theory we'll know everything next week. But how many times have I said that this year??
Speaking with the PO today did make me feel much better about things. And I have had time to wrap my mind around the very unexpected idea of going to the one region and that program. I'm fine with it now. If that ends up being the official invitation, I'll be happy! Its definitely not what I pictured this whole time, but I'm coming around on it now. Oh, and if it does come through, it won't happen till May-June of 2012. (Which means from first application to actual departure will be just shy of 2 years.)
In the meantime, I'm still applying for full-time jobs. It is the smart and logical thing to do at this point. I've now seen and learned enough to realize that even once I get the official invitation that things could still fall apart. At my age and point in my career, the smarter move would be to get a job. And I'm not saying that I wouldn't drop the PC at this point for the right job. It all depends on the job and how things progress with the PC. Sure that's going to bring on some haterz. Go ahead, say what you will. This is my life and I have to do what I feel is best for me. And I just won't know what is best until I have more solid options and offers in front of me!
So all in all, this post gets the happy face picture because I'm actually happy with the developments today. I've been feeling really unsettled and uncomfortable with all things PC for the past month, and today I feel good again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a new TV season is upon us


A new TV season is upon us! So let's get talking! What shows are you watching and what won't you be watching?

Here's my 2 cents thus far-

Once Upon a Time - So far there has only been a pilot episode, but I'm hooked. I read somewhere that the writers for this show came from "LOST" and I'm not surprised. It definitely has that LOST feeling to it. It also kind of reminds me of "Eureka" in that "small town no one notices where really strange things happen" sort of way. It stars Jennifer Morrison (Cameron from "House") and Ginnifer Goodwin ("Big Love" and "He's Just Not That Into You") who I've always enjoyed before. Also, Josh Dallas looks just the way you want your Prince Charming to look. I'm looking forward to seeing if this show will keep me hooked. So far it looks like a good family friendly and yet intriguing show.


Pan Am- I can't decide if I love or hate this show yet. But I've watched every episode, so I must like it a little bit. The premise is fun and quirky, and their portrayal of the sexist 60s is amusing. Its an ensemble cast, with the biggest name being Christina Ricci. However, her character isn't my favorite. So far Michael Mosley is stealing the show for me. He plays the guy who doesn't get why nobody likes him. But of all the characters I think his storyline has the most potential.

New Girl - Honestly, I will be surprised if this show is a hit. Zooey Deschanel is cute and quirky, but if they can't get the writing and dialogue out of slapstick mode, its not going to go anywhere. I don't think their multiple week hiatus is going to help them either. I like the show, but I won't be surprised if it is canceled mid-season.

I'm still watching my other returning favorites- NCIS, Parenthood, Castle, House, the Good Wife, Modern Family, and Grey's Anatomy. I till sthink the Good Wife is one of the best shows out there. It has moved to the 10pm hour on Sunday nights, which I think is a great place for it. Its definitely not family friendly fare, and very adult. And with the twists they have thrown in this season it is even more adult. But I LOVE it. All of my returning favorites are amazing shows. I can't understand why anyone wouldn't be watching all of them! NCIS is in its 8th season and yet hasn't lost steam or interesting plots. Parenthood is actually believable and lovable at the same time. Castle is my Tuesday morning vice. I watch it almost immediately on Hulu first thing on Tuesday mornings. (Last night's "I'm not afraid of no ghosts" line was hysterical! And I love their pop culture references, especially last night's "Poltergeist" joke.) "House" didn't jump the shark surprisingly with the whole jail scenario. Nothing is funnier than Modern Family- nothing! And Grey's, which almost lost me last year, is suddenly awesome again. ("Bones" is another favorite of mine, but considering they are about to write in a new baby plus a pregnancy, plus lose a cast member, I'm really wondering how well this season will go.)

And yes, I'm really, really late to the party on this one, but I've just started watching Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother in syndicated reruns. (I'm really not much of a sitcom fan.) Everyone else already knows these are fun shows, so there's not much for me to say.

For the first time ever I'm watching reality shows. Mostly because I'm home all day long with nothing better to do. I'm watching "Millionaire Matchmaker," "Hoarders," "19 Kids and Counting," "Sister Wives," and stupid wedding shows. Nothing really to recommend or talk about.

What shows are you watching? And what shows will you not be watching?

Check out my previous TV season reviews and predictions here!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A connection to the outside world


Something interesting happened this week. My mobile phone died. Just gave up the ghost and died. And you know what? I didn't care. I survived 4 whole days without a mobile phone. Apparently 4 weeks in Cambodia without a mobile phone has left its mark on me. I don't need to be tethered to a mobile phone in order to live! Who knew?!
Sadly, today I took the phone in to Sprint and they fixed it. It will inevitable die again in a few weeks, but that's fine by me. With everything in my life completely up in the air again, I don't need the hassle of being tied down to a mobile phone plan. (I'm incredibly jealous of the entire rest of the world with their non-plan phones. Why do Americans allow ourselves to get ripped off this way?! Do you know how much more we spend on cell phone plans (that don't even have SIM cards) than the rest of the world pays? Seriously, we get ripped off!! Its ridiculous!)
It has been both nice and lonely not having that connection to the outside world. I really only got it fixed because I have so many resumes out there with that phone number on it. Otherwise, I think I could have kept on going for a while without my mobile.
Speaking of resumes and job hunting... It's true. I'm actively looking for a job again after a many months break. I am continuing to do recruiting, and I would love for nothing more than for that to actually full-time support me. But alas, it just doesn't. And now that the Peace Corps looks like it won't materialize for 1 more year, its time for me to "get back to work," so to speak. I've sent out dozens and dozens of resumes for jobs from San Diego to Springfield. And I did interview for an absolute gem of a job this past week. It has everything I could possibly want- great benefits, great salary, perfect location, travel, etc. Not too long ago I jokingly told a friend that what I really want is a job that requires me to live in DC but would let me work from home. Would you believe this job even includes that? One of the benefits is adoption assistance and they don't discriminate against single women!! This job would be a dream come true. But then, so would dozens of the other jobs I've applied for. Really, I'm not that picky.
I've learned not to get my hopes up too much in the interview process. I've been down this road before and it never gets any easier to get passed over. But think some happy thoughts and remember me in your prayers, would ya? I need all the help I can get.
I've loved living in Roanoke. I've had the chance to get to know my extended family in all new ways, and I wouldn't change that for anything. I've learned a lot about asking for help and a lot about self-reliance as well. I've loved working with the youth at church, and making unexpected friendships too. But the one thing I have not had here is anything close to a social life. It gets very depressing at times to have no one to just go be friends with. When things get too desperate I invite myself up to visit friends in DC (4 hours away), but that tends to cost me a small fortune. (And remember, I have little to no income!) I can't do it very often. I need to get out of Roanoke and move to someplace- anyplace - where I can socialize and have a little more fun. All it takes is a job first... right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poverty, Not Getting What You Want, Real Problems, and Whiners


In Cambodia it was fairly common to see women wearing gloves, long sleeves, large hats, and jackets in spite of the heat. I would personally be trying everything I could to wear lighter clothing and cool off, while they were pulling on long gloves to drive through traffic. In Cambodia, like most of the non-Western world, lighter skin is desirable. If you have sun-darkened skin it implies that you are of the lower, working class, forced to do manual labor out in the sun. Lighter skin implies riches and the ability to stay indoors. In the Western world it is the opposite, a dichotomy that is never lost on me. We prefer tanned skin to show that we have been out in the sun. Being out in the sun sends the message that we've had time to relax by a pool or beach, and haven't been inside working. In Cambodian stores it was common to see skin lightning creams, a complete opposite of the dark tanning oils you see in American drug stores.
Our opposite views on skin colors and what they imply is just the beginning of our differences. Americans and Cambodians see poverty and wealth very differently. Americans think having to pay interest on student loans makes you poor. Cambodians think not having a place to live makes you poor. I can't help but think about the true poverty I witnessed in Cambodia as I read the news and listen to people complain and/or support Occupy Wall Street.
At first I thought I might find myself supporting Occupy Wall Street. After all, I have a lot of anger built up inside of me right now towards the US financial situation. I lost three jobs in a row due to the bad economy. (Laid off due to budget cuts, or the company went out of business.) I have struggled over nearly 2 years to find decent employment that pays almost as much as I used to be making. I've come to accept that I won't "move up" or possibly even find equal work to what I used to do. My unemployment benefits ran out months ago, and when I did receive them, trust me, they weren't remotely close to enough to get by on. I have student loans that have to be repaid for a college degree that isn't doing me any good.
In other words, I'm the perfect example of what Occupy Wall Street is complaining about.
And yet, I haven't joined their ranks.
And I don't intend to either. I've seen real poverty and I have seen what a truly corrupt government can do. I 100% endorse the OWS right to assemble and right to free speech. Jump on your bandwagon and complain away! You have that right, and I won't stop you!
But I don't support their cause. I'm a big believer in letting people make mistakes and letting them fail. Personally, I am on the fence about the corporate bailouts. I think we needed the bailouts because the rest of the country (namely regular every day citizens) were not prepared to handle the fall out. However, that isn't the same as saying I approve of how the directors of such companies handled the funds. If anything, I think we've all learned that we can't trust certain CEOs. So what should we do about it?
Well, personally, instead of boycotting Wall St, I'm going to go buy stock in different companies. Why? Because it makes me a shareholder with voting power. I'm going to vote out the boards of directors and CEOs when I get my chance. Also, I'm going to invest my own money in the companies I want to see succeed, rather than let the government bail them out.
And I am going to keep working and finding ways to make money. I don't expect a hand out. I've had to accept more charity over the past 2 years than I am comfortable with. And I'm not demanding more. Instead, I'm going to keep finding small odd jobs, and I'm going to do side work, and I'm going to keep working my butt off to pay my own bills. I'm going to keep contributing to the American economy, and I'm going to say my prayers every night and thank God that I'm an American.
I'm going to be grateful that I'm not unemployed in Cambodia and living in a flooded out shack. I'm going to be grateful for the police officers who protect us. I'm going to be grateful to live in a country where complaining about the police won't land me in jail. I'm going to be grateful to live in a country that has money in the ATM. I'm going to be grateful that even though I may not agree with the bias of the newspapers, that I know the papers will continue to be printed tomorrow and that no one will disappear for writing a letter to the editor. I'm going to be grateful that I have the right to drive. And I'm going to be grateful that my government loaned me the money to attend a state college, and that even though I'm slow to pay that government back, that they haven't whipped me, punished me, or thrown me in jail.
No, Occupy Wall Street, I won't be joining your ranks. I'm proud to be an American. And I'm proud to live in a country where you and I can be the same but different. 

Stuff Somebody (YOU) Might Want for Christmas


Apparently there are some people who really do their Christmas shopping before December. Personally, I've never understood that concept! Going out in December in the cold, moving in the crowds, and seeing the decorations is all a part of the Christmas experience for me! But I have to admit now that most of my family lives in far flung places I do most of my shopping online and have it shipped directly to them.
As you probably have noticed by now, I have a few advertisers on this here website. If it wasn't for these lovely little ads I wouldn't get to travel to crazy places or keep my dog entertained with squeaky toys. Oh, who are we kidding? I make just enough off of ads to treat myself out to a burger and fries once a month. Except I've sworn off eating out for the rest of the year. Instead my cheeseburger fund has been rerouted and will be donated to the Riverkids Foundation. And now you can add to that fund by buying these awesome items that Barnes and Noble tells me are going to be big Christmas sellers!

John Grisham Litigators Barnes and Noble
I love John Grisham books and I can't wait to get to this one!
Christmas Deals on Nooks

Did you know the Nook Color has a fun feature called "Lend Me" where you can "borrow" books from friends who also have Nooks? So if you are thinking you wouldn't want a Nook because you wouldn't have anything to read on it, you are wrong! We can be friends on there (I have one and I LOVE it!!) and you can borrow all my books (and I have about 50!). 


And for all you people who think that e-readers don't feel like real books (trust me, you get over that in about 30 seconds of actually holding one in your hands) did you know you can get fun book covers for your Nook? (I have the Paterson quote cover and I love it.)


In my humble opinion, Barnes and Noble is one stop shopping for Christmas. There is something for everyone there! (And I'm not getting paid to say that. I really believe it. Just ask my family.) Your kid isn't a book reader but loves Angry Birds? No problem! (Did you know you can play Angry Birds on your Nook? True story. Also, its way better on a Nook than on a phone because it is so much bigger!)



Angry Birds toys

(hmm. the picture of the Angry Birds 16 Inch Plush is currently not showing. hopefully it will magically appear soon!)

I have to admit, I think this series looks totally cute. I may have to read it just to find out.
books for kids

And let's not forget the best gift of them all- the gift card!  The gift that says, "You are impossible to shop for, so go buy it yourself!"
christmas deals

Another fun and interesting fact- if you are concerned that someone may have a Nook, and therefore you wouldn't want to give them a book, you can always give them a gift card. Nook users can apply the gift cards to their accounts to buy eBooks.

Free Shipping on orders of $25 or more at BarnesandNoble.com!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Day Well Spent




The greatest compliment I can give these great youth that I've had the privilege of serving this past year is that after spending a day with them (a very long day where we left at 7 am and got home close to 11 pm, and drove 500 miles), is that being with them makes me want to have my own kids someday. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sock Season is Upon Us



After spending a month in tropical weather I have to admit it isn't summer anymore and put away the flip flops (thongs to you Australians). I love summer and long sunny days. I would love autumn just a little bit more if I didn't know a long, dull winter was right behind it. I love the falling leaves, beautiful colors, the changing of the seasons, the lighter temperatures, football games, fuzzy boots, and warm hoodies.

This year the changing seasons seems much more symbolic and poetic to me. There are so many changes going on in my life that they can be hard to grasp and accept. Just like every time I look out the window the trees have changed, it feels like the options in my life change just as fast. I hope the colors stay for a while this year, giving us plenty of time to enjoy this season before we move on.




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back in the hunt

The leaves beginning to change in the backyard

About a year ago when entering the Peace Corps was becoming a reality I made the decision to stop job hunting. At the time I had reason to believe I'd be living abroad within 6-9 months. It only seemed right and fair at that time to not seek full-time employment, knowing I'd just have to resign within a year. I chose instead to do a lot of commission-based contract work. That is a decision I haven't regretted.
Well, here we are one year later, and the PC is pushing me off (most likely) for another year. Which means I need a Plan B. Or is it a Plan E at this point? I have no idea. I am continuing to do the contract work, but it isn't really a full-time, long-term option. Neither is living on top of a mountain alone in Roanoke. I need steady income and a social life. The lack of these two things is a little too depressing. But I can and do count my blessings easily- a paid off car, a free place to live, few expenses, and options. For that I am truly grateful.
So here we are, one year later, and I'm right back where I began! I've started sending out resumes, networking, considering different options, and wondering which future will unfold. Being in job hunting mode is not easy, and I don't miss the roller coaster of emotions. But it has to be done, right?! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guilt Trip



My sister and I have an ongoing conversation about why "it is so hard for some countries to have hot water." The technology and water are available, so why are so many people suffering in cold showers? If you've traveled enough you know the answer is energy and limited access to it. Also, that in the poorer countries, they just have other problems to deal with before tackling levels of comfort.

After experiencing true poverty I have a hard time coming home and accepting all the blessings and conveniences around me. I've been through this guilt trip before (in great depth after going to Haiti). I find myself determined to not take advantage of all the simplicities and comforts around me, and to really be a minimalist, living a truly earthy existence. But I have a confession, having just spent 4 weeks in a country with no hot water, I'm really, really enjoying hot showers again. Of course, every time I take a hot shower I feel a little bit guilty about it for about 1 minute. I get over it quickly. Rain shower heads help. 

While I was gone we got a new refrigerator in the new house. I find myself staring at it and contemplating all of its ridiculous functions. And I have come to an important conclusion (only slightly said tongue-in-cheek)- technology hasn't been made easier or simpler or even more advanced so as to be adapted more effectively in poorer countries, because the major manufacturers who could be spending their time improving technologies for the developing world are too busy making ridiculous refrigerators. Seriously people, our new refrigerator has an internal alarm system. If the door is left open too long a buzzer goes off. You can even set controls so it remembers who you are and dispenses filtered water at just the temperature you like it. 

And just think, last week I was proud of myself for figuring out that if you take a shower in the evening, the water was warmer after having been heated by the sun all day. Also, I had finally mastered how to flush a "dry" toilet. (Note: use a bucket of water, NOT the hose.) 

Did you know the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is currently hosting a competition of sorts to encourage inventors and scientists to reinvent the toilet? It may sound silly at first, but once you study this subject, you'll learn this is a pretty big deal. I'd love to be a part of this sort of cause. Granted, I'm no scientist or inventor, but I'd love to do my part from the marketing communications side of things. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is I want to be a part of something important. It is hard to sit here with all of the conveniences and comforts of a good life and feel like I'm not doing anything to make the world a better place. Sure, I'm going to enjoy another glass of perfectly cooled water from an over the top refrigerator tonight. But I'm also going to sit around wondering why the good folks at GE couldn't spend a little bit more time making hot water heaters more affordable and efficient. And then wonder why I deserve to live in a country with rain water shower heads...


Sunday, October 09, 2011



I'm looking for a Plan B. I

I am a Christian

Mormons are Christians

Prepare for a shocking announcement!

I am a Christian.

I am a Mormon.

The political news this week has had way too many stories about a Southern Baptist minister saying that Mitt Romney and other Mormons are not Christians.

To that all I have to say is if we are going to get nitpicky about what constitutes a Christian, and go all the way back to the Nicene Creed, then no, according to that document written in the year 325 AD, I am not a Christian. But who are we kidding? Most Protestant religions barely qualify as Christians under this creed they hold so dear when attacking other Christians.

But if we define a Christian as a follower of Christ, as someone who believes and has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as someone who each and every Sunday takes upon them the name of Christ as they partake of the Sacrament, then yes, I AM A CHRISTIAN.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A mighty wind of change



It is nearly 1am and I suffering from some serious jet lag. I've been awake since about 5am, I think. My body and my head are at war over the sleeping arrangements. And in the meantime, my brain is on overload contemplating everything and anything at a completely inappropriate hour for such thoughts. 
Mostly I'm contemplating a hair cut, or maybe a color change, which may seem superficial and vain at best. But really, once you understand me better, you realize its the inside looking for a symbolic outside change. Maybe it is time to go back to my original dark blond hair color? Or maybe I'll actually wear make up this year? Lose some weight? Maybe try jewelry? I don't know. I just want to look different on the outside to match how different I am on the inside. After all, everything on the inside of me has changed in the past month. 
I've gone through these motions before. I want my appearance to reflect the changes in my heart. It has happened with every major job change, service experience, move, etc. Its a reasonable wish, right? 
To be honest, I am also obsessing over the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. Are they demanding a forced redistribution of wealth? (ahem, communism?) Demanding more taxes? Less taxes? More taxes for only some of the people? Volunteering to donate to the national deficit? Offering to employ an unemployed person for a day? Or just complaining because it seems like the cool thing to do? Let me point out my own truths- I've been unemployed now for over 18 months. I no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. I lost 3 jobs in a row due to no fault of my own because the companies couldn't afford to pay me. In one case my employer (Tricia McGarry) fraudulently didn't pay the employees, kept what money she may or may not have had, and has continued to start (and lose) new businesses. She still owes me several thousand dollars, and yet there is little to no recourse for me to recoup my lost wages from her. Believe me, if anyone deserves to complain about how the economy and businesses have screwed them over, it is me. And yet, I still can't get on board with all of this complaining.
But back to the "big businesses" and taxes. I get that people think it is unfair that an elite few hold the largest wealth. But this being a capitalist republic and all, there is a lot they can do about that. They could start their own businesses for starters. Or vote for someone else. Or run for office themselves. Or just use different products and boycott the "evil empires." 

Its not like these college students and graduates were forced to take out student loans, starting out their lives in debt. No one tell these kids that real poverty means they don't even consider buying iPhones and iPads. Real poverty and no hope means you don't even have the option of living with parents. Real poverty is when your parents sell you into sex trafficking so your family can afford to eat. So yeah, I'm not all that sympathetic right now to spoiled Americans crying because they aren't getting what they think they deserve. 
But I feel the changes coming- inside and outside. A mighty wind of change is definitely upon us...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Riverkids


I'd like to post one more time about Riverkids, the wonderful organization I have had the blessing to work with while in Cambodia.


The Riverkids Foundation began informally in 2002 as an outreach to children in the Bassac slums of Phnom Penh with a small school room to serve children. Since then Riverkids has expanded services and offerings to support over 400 Cambodian and Vietnamese children living in Phnom Penh who have been identified as highly at-risk for child and sex trafficking.

Riverkids was developed upon discovering the Toul Sang Ke community located along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. There are approximately 230 families, including approximately 700 children, ages 4-23, at risk for human trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation, drug abuse and domestic violence living in this community. Having become aware of the suffering and vulnerability of these children, the Riverkids Foundation was formed in order to help prevent child trafficking and exploitation by providing education, life skills, food, healthcare, and vocational training to women, families, and children in the community.


I was personally taken on a tour of the slums that Riverkids serves. Seeing the conditions in which some of these people lived brought me to tears more than once. Riverkids chooses to operate within the neighborhoods and slums, rather than take the children away, or out of town to "orphanages." They believe in keeping families together, and giving the whole family the chance to succeed. 

I won't pretend that at first I was very intimidated to find out I would be working in an office with former sex workers. What could I, naive, innocent, blond girl from Virginia, possibly ever have in common or have to say to teenage prostitutes, drug addicts, etc? Working with orphans I was prepared for. Working with trafficked women? That took some adjusting. I spent my first week in Cambodia walking around in a daze, spouting off strange statistics to my housemates. 

But every day I went to work, crossing right through the classrooms to get to my office. And every day the same thing would happen. These women who intimidated me so much would bow to me, or get up the courage to say hello in English to me. I would smile as I passed by and not much more. But before long, they were no longer shy about saying hello- in Cambodian or English. And then they would smile and giggle at me. Or wave me over to show me what they were working on. 

And then I realized, I wasn't afraid of them. I felt bad for them. I was ashamed by how much I have and how little they have. And I wanted to make it better.

If I had a few thousand dollars to spare, I'd donate it all to Riverkids and never think twice about it. I've seen their budget. I know where their funds go. I know that their staff operates on a shoestring budget, using old classroom desks made for children, instead of nice big desks meant for computers and files. I know that they sit in small office spaces, 5 men in one room, sitting side by side, and shoulder to shoulder, not complaining, so that the children and students can be in the better rooms for classes. I've watched as the vocational students proudly bring up their sewing projects for approval. And oh have I listened as the little kindergarten students recite their letters in English and Khmer, and sing songs. And the best part of my day is every morning when I cut through the kindergarten and the little kids all get excited to bow to me and whisper their few words of English, just to show me they know some. 

When I saw them in the office it would become easy to forget that these are the same children and women who go home to the slums. That they live along railroad tracks, and eat food we wouldn't feed to our dogs. 

And so my friends, I am asking you for a favor. If anything I have said to you over the past month has touched you, or if you wish you could be the one out there doing humanitarian work but you just can't make it happen right now- make a donation to Riverkids. 

You can make a tax deductible donation to Riverkids via Paypal. Just $10 goes a long way in Cambodia. I'm not asking you to give much. And I'm not asking you to tell me if you do make a donation. But if there's a spark in you to make a difference, I can promise this is a worthy organization. 

If giving a few dollars isn't an option for you right now, then at least become a fan of Riverkids on Facebook. Help get the word out to others about trafficking and poverty with just a simple Facebook click. 

East, West, Home's Best


After more hours than I care to count of traveling, I am home!! It has been a long couple of days, but I am very happy to be back in Roanoke, reunited with one very excited dog.
My travels were completely uneventful for the most part, right up until I got to my own car. Through an odd series of events I can't even imagine or fathom, my car somehow had an inch of standing water in the bottom of it. There is mold EVERYWHERE inside my car. The seats, seat belts, doors, trunk, steering wheel, CDs, you name it, there's mold on it. My sister and I attempted to clean it up so I could make the 3 hr drive home (from her place). But within an hour of driving it I was getting sick from the nasty mold. I ended up calling the insurance company, just to see what my options are. For better or worse, insurance covers it, regardless of how it happened. Unfortunately, the "cure" for such problems is completely replacing everything in my car. By replacing everything, we're talking pulling the seats and carpeting out and getting new ones. Yeah for deductibles, right? (Boo for major car repairs!)
I got home so exhausted I couldn't decide if I wanted to eat, sleep, or bathe first. Never one to shy away from multi-tasking, I decided to eat while filling up the bathtub. I managed to fall asleep sitting on the edge of the tub while eating my sandwich. (Its a very big tub, and I was not yet in it, and was still fully dressed.) Does that qualify as doing all three things at the same time?
I have to admit, I took one really long, nice, overly indulgent hot bath. My sister Natalie always asks me why it is so hard for the rest of the world to have hot water in their homes. The truth is, I have no idea why that seems so insurmountable. Hot showers and big bathrooms is definitely one of the best parts about being an American.
There are still plenty of stories left to come about Cambodia. In the meantime, check out all of the changes I have made to the blog! There are new pages, wallpaper, layout, design, etc., including a Cambodia page and a Haiti page. I'd love your feedback. I've also updated my other two websites today as well- JobsByErin and Cutting Back and Going Green got some much needed refreshing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Goodbye Cambodia!


It is my last day in Cambodia, and I'm having one of those distinctly unique Cambodian experiences. I'm sitting in an internet cafe named, "Facebook Net," using my own laptop to download some iTunes TV shows to watch on my interminably long flight tonight. There is a 20-ish years old man in the stall next to me. He has surprisingly good English and has spoken to me a few times. If I had to venture a guess, I'd guess this man is possibly autistic judging by his social behaviors, which is why his excellent English is really throwing me off. He's sitting there freestyle rapping on the computer over top what sounds like Britney Spears. But I'm not up on my Southeast Asian pop stars, so I could be wrong about that. This is truly a peculiar moment.
What would have taken 5 minutes to download at home has taken over an hour to download here. Facebook Net is overrun with World of Warcraft players, and the bandwidth is not stellar in here. But a girl must have something to do on her 21 hour flight, right?
The real world is waiting at home, and I'm a little bit afraid of it. Bills, interviews, jobs, calls, housework, all that stuff you just don't have to deal with in the developing world. But at the same time, I'm done with my work here and ready to go. Is the real world ready to take me back though? I guess we'll find out in about 24 hours.


**Updated**

Just moments after I typed this original post, an even more uniquely Cambodian experience happened there in the Facebook Net. The dude was freestyle rapping, and then suddenly got quiet. For a moment it felt like business as usual in there. Then spontaneously, and out of the blue, the entire cafe started singing the "Smurfs" theme song together. (lalalalalalalalala- admit it, you're singing it now too) And just as strangely as it started, it just stopped. For a minute there I looked around the room absolutely convinced I was on candid camera. Things like that just don't happen. But I saw nothing. Totally bizarre moment. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Scenes from the daily Cambodian commute

 Yumm... dinner.


 The pipe store. You need a metal pipe? They've got them in all shapes and sizes. 


 A fairly common scene- something between a road and an alley, hiding a market, with someone making dinner on the ground.


The shirts around here sport some of the best English phrases and faked logos ever. You frequently see the Facebook and Apple logos mixed together. 

 We can't go anywhere (and by we, I mean white people) without little kids screaming "HELLO" forcefully and loudly at us. This little girl thinks she's giving us a thumbs up while yelling, "HELLO!!" We got a good laugh out of it.


Another of my favorite random roadside booths/stores. Behind the mother/daughter bike duo you will see the "whosiwhatsit" store. Yes, I named it obviously. They sell all manner of black, random, hose parts. You need black, rubber tubing? They got it. 

 I got a loverly bunch of coconuts, deedle-dee-dee. (True story, I nearly got bonked on the head yesterday by falling coconuts. That will teach me not to look up while crossing the road!)


Cute little girls in their traditional school uniforms, walking in front of the French Embassy. 


How many Cambodians can you fit in one tuk-tuk? They fit 9 plus 1 baby who waved and yelled, "HELLO!!" (I swear, they are born here, learn to eat, and before they learn mama or dada, they learn to yell, "HELLO" at passing white people.)


No sharks allowed in our tuk-tuk. I have no idea why. 

Can you spot the LDS missionaries in this picture?


 Can you spot the 2 elders in this picture?

Clue- look closer!!

There they go! (Can you see me in this picture??)


The Lord Knows Where You Are- Even When You are in Cambodia


Everyone kept telling me I looked tired today, so I took a self-portrait to figure out what they were seeing. Not tired. Just looking like a girl in need of a hot shower, blow dryer, and more time with a hair brush!


It is my next to last night in Cambodia, and as I expected I would be, I'm consumed by a million thoughts. One minute I'm contemplating a fresh turkey sandwich, a Jacuzzi tub, and my beloved dog, the next I am wondering if I have done enough work? Have I done enough good? Was a friend to all I met here? Did I serve the people enough? Is there really any such thing as enough?
As we drove home from “work” today, I thought about how my surroundings now feel so normal to me. (see forthcoming post with lots of pictures of our normal drive to and from work) I hate to leave. And yet I can't wait to get home! So many conflicting emotions in one person!
The truth is, if I hadn't gotten so sick last week (where the scale now tells me I lost 6 kilos in one week) I'd probably be more than happy to stay forever. But our little “Christmas break” and the gastronomic fireworks from hell, gave me a bad case of “get me out of here NOW.” And I depress myself with that same thought. I've made some great friends here, and I really will miss just hanging out with them. Its hard to believe we will all be scattering back to our own corners of the earth soon, each calling a different continent home. Thank goodness for Facebook, right?
I can't help but compare Cambodia to Haiti sometimes. In the first few days I was here I was really comparing them non-stop, and thought they were sadly, exactly the same time (in all the worst ways). But now I realize how very different they actually are. Sure there are some interesting similarities on occasion, but I think they are probably pretty common similarities across most developing countries- for instance, a complete and total disregard for traffic or vehicular safety, litter, slums, disregard for women, etc. But just when you think they are the same, you realize they are totally different. Even the mangoes taste better here (sorry, Haiti, but it is true! Mangoes here are far superior!), as are the pineapples and coconuts. I am really going to miss truly fresh juice!
I've wondered for a while now why I felt so strongly to come here. It was a very personal and spiritual moment for me. A major trip to a developing country was just about the furthest thing from my mind when it happened. But through a very personal and spiritual moment I knew I wasn't just going to go on a trip, but specifically that I would be going to Cambodia. We have a new volunteer here who likes to say “the Universe must want...” over and over. I've been known to use the expression “put it out in the Universe” a few times myself. I am now going to make a concerted effort to never use it again. Why? Because I firmly believe that I have free agency and a loving Father in Heaven, and that “the Universe” has nothing to do with it. Sure, I believe that if you “put it out in the Universe,” and by that I mean, you think and focus on one subject enough, that something will come back to you. But not because of the Universe. But because it isn't that hard to figure out that if you think about something enough you can make it happen, even if just subconsciously.
With such a significant spiritual experience leading me to come here, I somewhat expected to have a major spiritual, life-changing experience once I arrived. But I am not surprised that that has not happened. Sometimes the most significant changes do not come with lightning bolt effects. Sometimes they are the results of the tiny seeds that we plant when we aren't even looking. And I do believe that is what has happened with me here. Maybe I will never be able to say, “That was what it was all about. This is what it was all for!” And that is okay with me. In fact, it is great with me. I'm happy to know that I was here at the prompting of the Lord to do so.

"The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millenia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe, has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well."  - Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Peace Corps, Cambodia, and Moving on With My Life


Up on the Roof


I've just spent the better part of the past hour doing my laundry Cambodian-style. This involves buckets of soapy water, rinsing things out, moving them back and forth, squatting on the ground, killing your back, and then finally hanging them up on the line. The entire time I did this the sun was beating down on me, and the only happy thought I could come up with was that all that direct sun would help dry my clothes faster.
Naturally, now that I've pulled out my laptop, settled in on the rooftop terrace (also where the clothesline is) and started to relax, it is pouring rain. The kind of inexplicable rain where there are only 2 or 3 puffy clouds in the sky, the sun is still trying to burn me even though I'm sitting in the shade, and yet my clothes 10 feet away are getting drenched.
And yet, in spite of all this, right at this moment I'm living the dream. I'm sitting on a beautiful terrace in an exotic country, just me and my laptop. This is what we all dream about, isn't it? Blogging from foreign locales?
I'm both happy and sad to see my time in Cambodia come to an end so quickly. I've enjoyed the work I was given to do. And I am very grateful that Riverkids chose to work with my talents, rather than just stick me with the children. (There was a great deal of confusion when I first arrived. They thought I was here to teach English. When I had applied with Projects Abroad I made it abundantly clear I did NOT want to do that, hence the upsetting confusion those first few hours.) There would have been nothing wrong with caring for the children or teaching- and there are many volunteers here doing a great job of it. But there is something to be grateful and happy for knowing that you were able to use your best talents to help others. Did I imagine myself coming down here to write marketing plans for a shelter for sex workers? Nope. Pretty much the last thing I pictured! That wasn't what I had signed up for either, but I am very glad that is how things turned out.
I find that the real “trick” in traveling abroad, particularly when it comes to so-called intrepid travel, is to roll with the punches (deal with the traffic, roommates etc), accept things as they are (eat rice and then more rice), and make a difference when and where you can (and accept when you can't). But don't expect society and culture to change just for you.
It was good for me to get back into marketing again. For the few years all I have really known is that I wanted out of marketing as a career and into non-profit work via the Peace Corps. In other words, I wanted to make a difference, and stop marketing products I really didn't care about (ahem, cheap travel, dental x-ray machines, etc.) But being here has helped me see that I can use the talents I am the most familiar and best with to do the things I care the most about. And I think going forward that little lesson I have learned will be invaluable.
You see, I've been harboring a little secret for the past week. The Peace Corps and I may have be coming to an end in the next few weeks. This past week I was supposed to get the big final phone call telling me where I will be going. Instead, the phone call was a huge disappointment. More budget cuts, more program cuts, yada yada yada. I'm still accepted in the PC. But the program I was accepted for is shrinking rapidly. Optimistically, there is a small chance that within the next two weeks I will have that final placement, and have a departure date (which will happen no sooner than April). But? Realistically? Not going to happen. And if it doesn't happen by mid-October, they push me off again until February 2012, at which point ALL of my medical, dental, etc will have expired. I will have to re-do the entire freaking process, and then, in theory, they will not mess up my status again, and I will get a placement any time between June and Sept of next year. That is if they don't put a 3-6 month hold on my account again while re-clearing my medical.
So if it doesn't happen in the next 2 weeks, I'm dropping out. There, I've said it. And it feels good to just say it. I've been in this process for over a year. I never felt right about applying for other jobs, or accepting a full-time position somewhere knowing that I'd be leaving in just a few months. That wouldn't be fair to the company or other qualified job-seekers. But after a year without steady income, I just can't put my life on hold for the Peace Corps anymore. I'm a little too old for this. Way too old actually. I have to get back to a real job, real income, and a real future. I don't know what I will do to achieve my future goals without the Peace Corps, but I do think this is the right thing.
I do still want to join the Peace Corps, and maybe it will still happen in a few years from now. It is all I have thought about for the past 18 months. But I'm an adult with adult decisions and responsibilities to make. And while my career options seem limited to “paper or plastic” in this economy, it is time to get back to working on my future.
Until then, I have 4 days left in Cambodia. And I'm going to make the most of them. You never know how long it will be before another opportunity like this comes up. 

Extreme Makeover Home Edition - UTAH!!



Things I Love (in no particular order)-
1. Real Salt Lake soccer (I love them so much I have a whole blog called Footballer Fan Girl! (which needs serious updating))
2. Utah
3. People who do good things and ask for nothing in return
4. Little boys and girls with huge smiles and good manners
5. People who save lives by donating blood and/or bone marrow

Which is why when I got asked out of the blue this week via email from a total stranger if I would like to see a sneak peak of ABC-tv "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (EMHE) and I wrote back an email practically begging to see it.

It is also why I have spent the past hour in an non- air-conditioned internet cafe crying like a baby.

This Sunday, while I'll still be sick in Cambodia, you will have the awesome opportunity to turn on the one tv show my father ever allowed us to watch on Sunday nights. (TV was absolutely off-limits in our family as kids. But we eventually convinced him that EMHE was a good, wholesome, family activity.) This Sunday you will be privileged to learn the story of Jonah, an incredibly sweet and adorable boy who lives in Utah. If he had an easy life with two parents with good jobs, no major illnesses, and everything you and I have been blessed with, he wouldn't be on this tv show. Instead, he doesn't have just 1 rare illness, he has 2. And he needs a bone marrow donor.

A few months ago when this episode was actually filmed back in Utah I really enjoyed following the twitter feeds of several of my favorite RSL players as they shared their real emotions about being involved in building the house and meeting Jonah. I have been looking forward to seeing this show for months now. Thank goodness for online streaming when I do get back home!

Hey, and remember this time last year when I was inspired by the completely awesome Rylee Ewing and the wife of a Real Salt Lake player (hey, @hotwifeofbomma!) to register to become a bone marrow donor? Well, if I didn't convince you back then to become a donor, Jonah's story will convince you now!

I should warn you - I was crying at exactly 3 minutes into this episode. And not just because all 5 of my favorite things listed above were in this episode. I was crying because this time, I know the viewing audience really can help make a difference for Jonah (and for HotWifeofBomma and for my sweet little Rylee)!

Tune in this week, folks. You won't regret it.

Oh and if you are cold and calloused and only watch the show for the decorating and the new houses, you won't be disappointed. I LOVE what they did in the children's bedrooms. Absolutely freaking adorable and perfect for Jonah and his sweetheart sister!!




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