for doing what she did and getting free

Friday, August 13th, 2010

If I had a legitimate excuse for my prolonged hiatus from this blog, it would be these two women: Lanoy (basketball star/surrogate Lao sister/PoP MVP) and Phet (architect/duck blood soup lover/PoP Rookie of the Year).

For the last month I’ve spent hours on end with these two ever-inspiring, always-entertaining, seriously kickass women. We’ve tediously translated budgets, interviewed contractors, braved the monsooned roads, hosted village wide meetings, and, of course, drank beerlao.

Our goal was very simple: build a school. Build a school and show every single villager, government worker, unconvinced observer, and ourselves that we could. Build a school and provide the kids in Houy Thong with a place to learn.

So we did. With the empowerment and help from an amazing visiting co-worker (and every person in our organization) we built a school.

And a few days ago this little school opened to some very happy people and very big party.

There were speeches (mine nervously in Lao), there was dancing (think square dancing take Lao), there was massive amounts of food (and beerlao), and there was me, with a ridiculous cotton-flower smile on my face all afternoon.

And I can say now with complete confidence that I have never been so honored, so humbled in my life as I was that day with those two great women at my side.

may your feet always be swift.

Monday, June 28th, 2010

With our friend from the states visiting, we undertook a (what we didn’t know would be so) major project to build soccer goals for the talented and fierce kids of rural Bo He village.

The men folk, B and friend, put in laborious days of metalworking in the heavy Lao humidity.

Our Lao friends and PoP supports stopped by daily to help cleanup, paint, and serve the boys beerlao.

Once in Bo He, the epicness of the project was far from complete. Villagers had to carry the goals down the hill, across the bridge, up through the village and to the school.

But then, the rowdiest, far-better-than-any-world-cup-game, commenced.

And when we left Bo He, sufficiently exhausted and Beerlaoed, a group of primary school girls, their skirts knotted up around their waists, were tied up in a raucous game, mimicking their new Lao city friends, determined to be serious ass-kicking females.

And see the lights surrounding you.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

I’m magical.

No really, I am. Just ask the kids of Phayong village.

Last week, AB, who was here with PoP, made the challenging, epic, and down right ballsy trek up the mountain to Phayong with me.

Our mission: Pure, youthful joy.

Joy in the form of glowsticks. When the sun falls, the fires dwindle and the clouds roll in, Phayong is cloaked in a thick, rich blackness. So with a group of our small and curious friends, AB and I broke out the magic.

And as each unassuming stick broke into a crack of neon, pure joy. Glowsticks made into bracelets. Glowsticks tumbling down the hills and flying through the air. Glowstick sword fights. Glowsticks tucked into shirts, coveted, snuck home to huts.

In the end it’s hard to say who had the most fun. The small worn out tots who chased flashes of neon through the village for hours, or us. Us who got to witness this discovery, this magical, youthful moment in their lives. It was, hands down, the most amazing childhood exploration I’ve ever seen.

Glowsticks. Now that’s one way to stay forever young.

now your dancing child.

Friday, April 9th, 2010

IMG_0849Confession: I’m a killer jump roper.

No really, in my more agile days, I had mad skills. Not playground skills. Borderline obsessive practice-three-hours-a-day-for-ten-years, skills. Competition skills, perform in Disney World skills.

Jump rope defined my childhood. It sent me on my first international travels, taught me how to work my ass off for something, and possibly ruined my ankles for life. (All was worth it, by the way.)

That said, getting to jump rope with some awesome kids at the children’s center the other day was, hands down, one of my top five Lao moments.

They put me to shame. My skills, nurtured by a coach, in an air-conditioned gym, wearing expensively supportive sneakers, have got nothing on theirs.

Pu, who’s ten, picked up a rope, kicked off his sandals, and busted a move on the gravel in the oppressive midday heat. He was shocked at his own abilities and, drenched in sweat, spent the next hour perfecting them.

So, confession: When I was 8-years-old my lifelong goal was to be a jump rope coach.

Confession: That may just still be my dream.

And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen.

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

DSC_0447Noy and I excuse ourselves from dinner; it’s just after eight and people are heading to bed. The generator has been turned off, the moon is out and the fires are smoldering.

Here in Phayong Village, several hours from any main town, we live by the sun, the stars, the roosters.

This village of about 600 people sits in the middle of the mountains. An adventurous motorbike ride up a windy, uneven, and often flooded dirt road to get here. During the summer months, Phayong is cut off from any other village or town; rain falls and rivers rise, leaving them here, in this lush green pocket, alone.

As Noy and I walk the main path of the village, we hear sweet, low voices singing children to sleep, the crack and sizzle of water on flame, and the few lone roosters already starting to crow

Noy, who grew up in the city, in fascinated by life in the village. She is a part of Pencils of Promise because she deeply believes that everyone, regardless of status or location, deserves access to knowledge and opportunity. She says she can’t imagine being a woman out here, having a predetermined future of pregnancy, birth, work, repeat. Says she’s lucky for her wealth and choice.

At the top of the hill, we hear what is undeniably a teenage girl giggle. We shine our light ahead and see two girls, huddled together over a cellphone. This point, at the very peak of the village, is the only spot with phone reception.

I whisper to them, ‘saibaidee,’ and we share a quick understanding that nobody should know they are out here.

By all appearances, we share nothing, these girls and I.

But on top of this hill, huddled together, we smile, blush, and call our boyfriends to say goodnight.

lovely and amazing.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A look at Miss. Kua on the PoP blog, by yours truly.

you say you want a revolution

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Kao says he would buy color crayons.

Tuoc, a book.

With all the money in the world, Ket would buy everything he needs to go to school.

Boa, a place to learn.

Si Sumat wants a pen.

These kids of Pha Theung village want, more than anything, to be educated.

An education, a basic human right, should be accessible to us all, regardless of borders and status.

To the most under-served children in the world, a pencil, a teacher, a classroom, brings the promise of a future with choice.

A future with opportunity.

To know more about empowering education, check out some things PoP. And welcome to the movement.


when the rooster crows at the break of dawn.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Growing up in my house there was a lot of Grateful Dead. A lot of John, Janis, Joni. I deeply understood from this early age that I missed something; that a movement had happened that I was meant to be a part of it.

Every piece of Dylan resonated in my blood and I was sure I’d overshot my generation.

In my adult life, I’ve spent a lot of time coming to terms with this, in a way that was, at first, angsty and apathetic. I had friends who felt the same way, so we recreated in our smallest ways possible and talked. Talked and read and listened to music. And did nothing.

Until now.

People asked all the time why we were coming here. I cycled through several answers about writing, about this being our chance, about all things Lao, but all felt like half-truths.

I now know my answer in the purest form possible—the revolution.

I came here because I knew, in that bone shaking part me, that the revolution is out here. And I knew that with Bryce, I could finally correct what had felt like a huge generational oversight.

It’s an overwhelming testament of collective consciousness that this movement brings me here, to this part of the world that so deeply shaped the revolution I longed for.

So, here I am, with my amazing partner, in this country of profound beauty and grace, able to think clearly and let the momentum take me.

Here: truly happy and sure that I’ve found my revolution.

Imagine what will happen, the forces we will fight, when we educated the children and empower the women worldwide.

This is the revolution of my generation and I couldn’t feel more at home in it; like the home of my childhood, filled with Dylan, it feels right.

education vs safety

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Check out a blog post, by yours truly, on the PoP blog about the Champet girls’ dormitory.

visit the PoP blog here.

brush them teeth.

Friday, December 11th, 2009

While out looking at different school sites yesterday, we met these girls who had just been given new toothbrushes.

Click here to see the video…