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.
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Our Lao friends and PoP supports stopped by daily to help cleanup, paint, and serve the boys beerlao.
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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.
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But then, the rowdiest, far-better-than-any-world-cup-game, commenced.
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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.

mama, you been on my mind.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

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Here, many things may be lacking: Enough schools. Access to clean water. Sound medical care. Good coffee.

But, there’s an abundance of many others: Ridiculously happy children. Compassionate people. Sticky rice.

And loving mothers. Mothers who, against all forces, care for, raise and appreciate their children.

Teenage mothers. Elderly mothers. Surrogate village mothers. Mothers who spend their hours nursing, singing, dancing and playing with their children. Mothers who come home from the fields to cook and care for their children, to hold them and sing them to sleep. Mothers who pick their kids up when they fall, brush off their naked bottoms, and send them on their way.

And it’s inspiring. I know I’ll never be a Lao mother; I come from a much more privileged place in life and my children will have far more innate opportunities. But I hope that someday I, too, can be like them.

These mothers that care not just with gifts and expensive music classes. Not just with private schools and trips to the museum; with expensive foods and organic clothes. Undereducated, underpaid and underserved mothers who care just with what they have: their maternalness.

Their natural motherness to love their children, to nurture them and watch them grow. To appreciate their challenges, their triumphs and their growths.

To brush off their bottoms, to hold them close, to sing in their ears at night.

And see the lights surrounding you.

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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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.

we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

DSC_0984Here’s what I love about Phayong village: Everything.

I love the food: Sweet potato soup, boiled chicken fresh off the butchering block, sardines with pumpkin, and, of course, Beer Lao. Each dish served in extreme excess by a lovely, toothless granny sporting a traditional Hmong skirt and a Billabong hoodie. Each bite savory, spicy and thick with fat.

I love the boys who, up till the age of five, habitually go pantless. Pantless and fearless. Slide down a poorly sanded wooden stick, naked? Of course. Hop on your makeshift skateboard and barrel down a hill, naked? Obviously.

I love the girls. The young Hmong women who already look and feel more mature then I’ll ever be. By age twelve, they’re cooking the meals, going to school, and raising their siblings. Their faces are rich with experience and understanding, their humanity and compassion for strangers indescribable.

Here’s how much I want to live in Phayong village: not at all.

I love my life. I chose my partner. I’m 24 and am happily childless. I travel. I live where I want. I have a job that, given all the choice in the world, I would choose 100 percent of the time.

When I do manual labor, it’s for fun (ie: four poster bed building with my very handy man).

I am educated, and there was never any question that I would be.

I have absolute and complete freedom in my future.

I’ll go back to Phayong again and again. This afternoon in fact. I’ll eat the food, play with kids, and be humbled by their kindness each time.

But each time, I will come home, thankful for my partner, my education, my life.

Thankful for my choices.

our international language.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Playing with the kids of Pha Theung.

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.

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on the pavement.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Major development: I can ride a motorbike. A manual motorbike at that.

In the backpacker culture, I was awkwardly behind the game; I was starting to feel a little middle school in my lack of experience.

Today, just outside the city, Noy pulled over and told me to scoot up. (My only previous experience was two days ago doing two laps around a dirt track before I killed it and couldn’t restart.) Bryce blew past us on the back of Nu Si’s bike, with a look that I tried to interpret as confidence but was, most realistically, ‘what the…’.

Noy called each gear in my ear as we drove down the road, through the hillside and greenery on our way to Ban Kia Luang. We butted right up against a cattle truck: “Dhak Vhai, slow and slower. Three, two, nothing.” Nothing, it turns out, translates as neutral.


By the time we arrived at Ban Kia Luang to scout out some playground equipment, for B to replicate and improve on, Noy and I had only had one or two full-body muscle clenching moments. She informed me she would be driving home. “You are very fast learner. But enough for one day.” She wanted to let me rest, I’m sure.

On the way back, oddly running on schedule, B and Nu Si’s bike got a flat. Lao time. The number one Lao lesson: never expect anything to happen in a timely way.

Stuck on the side of the road in a small village, it didn’t take long before a pack of local kids were following B and I, the two falang. I had some pencils in my bag so sat down in the dirt with them and started handing them out.

Unsharpened and without paper. Perfect for drumsticks and swords. Kids came balling down the street to play with us; to have a good look at the two random falang.

We spent a while there, Lao time, waiting for the tire to get fixed. The first mechanic said he couldn’t help because he hurt his arm. The second directed Noy through each step and she did it alone.
On the way home I sat behind Noy. We shared my headphones, danced the whole way back. Johnnys in the basement mixing up the medicine, I’m on the pavement thinking about the government.

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…