02 May 2012

ONE SMILE: A moment in Yaroslavl, Russia

Backtrack to March 2008:
I'm sitting inside a women's hospital, in between two patients, doing arts and crafts. This is the kind of hospital where once you're inside, you're locked in. When you want to leave, you are escorted out, the chains on the the heavy metal doors unlocked... and only then can you go through. This is the kind of hospital where women who may not have even been sick, were checked in. They were women who longed for interaction and companionship... women who were likely abandoned, left to experience the rest of their lives within hospital walls.

When I first heard that I was going to be placed here, I freaked out. Our program advisor mentioned it being along the lines of psychiatric hospital. There was a lot of built up apprehension and unease on my end...   But as soon as I walked through those doors, it was a different story. 

I sat in between two women named Ora. We were gluing lace hearts onto pieces of foam paper and decorating them. They told me to make a wish because apparently in Russian tradition, its good luck to sit in between two people with the same name. There was another woman who asked me to make her heart for her because she wasn't able to do it on her own. Once it was finished, I handed it over to her and her face lit up with a smile. She gave it to her doctor and kept telling our translator to tell me how much she loved it. She even gave me a kiss on the cheek. I'll never forget this moment. I'll never forget her smile.

During orientation, one of the first things our program advisor told our group was to not be offended if no one smiled at you. She said it's really normal for Russian people to not smile when you're first introduced. She said, "It's not that they don't like you, it's just that you haven't given them a reason to smile." (Profound thought, given American/Californian culture, where we smile at strangers when we pass them by. Courtesy? Maybe.) 

It turns out, our program was the only one that visited the women at this hospital. And these visits were seldom. So it shouldn't have been surprising to see the women bringing out older crafts that were done by former volunteers, and "fixing" them to look good again. But, it was. Maybe the surprising thing was that these visits meant so much to the women... Women who were full of love of people, and probably just wanted to feel that back. I realized that even if we were there temporarily, that moment meant the world to them. Seeing a smile on their faces assured me that even for that brief time, we made helped make their day a little brighter. People may believe otherwise, but this particular experience helped me see that even if it's just one single smile on one person's face, it counts. The little things speak volumes when it comes to helping people.
AB Russia Team with our CCS Staff, March 2008

Monastary in Rostov

With love from home,

25 April 2012

Hello, Again!

This blog is making a comeback. 
Four years ago I had one of the most amazing life experiences. I was blessed to spend six months in Europe studying abroad. I left the comforts of the routine lifestyle that came with being a UCSD student... I left what was home to me at the time (which was San Diego)... Away from family, friends... Without ever thinking twice about my decision to go, I threw myself into a world of unknown. New people, new places, and most definitely -- new experiences. Little did I know that those six months abroad would enstill this irrepressible passion for the world around me. A passion to not just see incredible, historic, and beautiful places -- but also for people. It's a passion to learn their stories, despite our differences in culture, language, and mindsets. It's a passion to take what I've learned and share it with the people at home. Travel for me is not so much a place, but the experience we have while going... For me, travel is allowing that experience to grow us as individuals and citizens of this world.

To quote one of my Henry Miller favorites,  "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."

This blog's purpose it three-fold. First, it's an outlet to document my travel experiences since 2008. Second, it's writing practice (I work in media, I always need writing practice). And lastly, it's to share stories that will hopefully inspire others in their own travel journeys.

With love from home,

24 December 2008

So Long London - Farewell Europe.

I understand that this is a bit late, but, after 6 months time, I have made my way over to mother soil in the US of A. I've been home since the 13th, and can honestly say that I'm still having to adjust. It's not a hard adjustment, just a weird one. A weird that I can't so much explain- it's something you feel. Nonetheless, it feels good to be back. I miss London, but being home isn't bad either. I know I'll be back in Europe again, so for now, I'm not too sad about it.

With love from home,

04 December 2008

London Christmas

Here's how the streets are looking in dear old London Town. Christmas spirit in the air, cold chills, and festive decor! It's so lavish, and I'll miss this.

With love from London,

01 December 2008

Premier into the "real world"!

For my internship at the Travel Channel, part of my job is to write the supporting articles for the Travel Today section. I wrote the one's for December, so here they are for your enjoyment!


Geneva is Beautiful!

Of the changes that I have undergone while being abroad, one of them is my ability to appreciate nature more. Thank God this happened before I got to Switzerland - because words cannot even describe the utter beauty of this country's landscape. Before the plane even hit the ground, my eyes were glued to looking out the window. We were flying over the ice-capped Swiss Alps, and it was absolutely gorgeous! We landed, and still the mountain range was still in sight... And then, we got to Geneva's city center - and anyone who didn't appreciate nature before would have changed that in an instant. Geneva is cradled between two mountain ranges, the Jura and the Alps. In this cradle lies the absolutely clear waters of Lake Geneva, of which a bit of the Rhone River feeds into. I was stunned when I saw the water. I could not get over the pristine, almost crystal like quality to it. It reminded me of Greece- tempting to just want to jump into... But only then I'd freeze. The weather wasn't to bad either. Our first day was cloudy, but at least in wasn't raining, as what Accuweather had forcasted. There were bits of sun throughout the day, so that was nice. The next day was so much better. It reminded me of Monterey in the Winter. It was cold, but bearable, and the sun was still out enough to where you could feel its heat radiating against the cold.

While in Geneva, of course we had chocolate! I'll admit, the chocolate was one of the driving reasons of going. I felt so much more like a fatty as I walked into a local store to buy about 10 bars of chocolate to bring home as souvenirs... Yeah, at least its worth it! Other sites were Old Town, which had St. Pierre's Cathedral. Beautiful architecture in this part of the city- very Venetian looking, with cobblestone paths, cute little alleys. Down by the harbor we saw the Flower Clock, and of course the Jet. We made a stop by the United Nations European headquarters, which was really exciting actually! People spoke French there, so it was good that I had someone with who could remotely get us by with me. Aside from that, everything is SO EXPENSIVE! And sadly, I gave into Starbucks... It was by the far the MOST expensive Caramel Macchiato I have ever had in my life! Overall, Geneva was a great destination to end my traveling journeys while abroad. HOME IN 2 WEEKS!

With love from London,

23 November 2008

Winter weather, and how do you say it, ED-IN-BUR-OH (Edinburgh)?

It's about that time here in London when you're lucky if the weather is in the upper forties. Or when you walk outside around 4 PM and swear its at least 8 because it's so dark. Is this how it is in this northern part of the world? Rain has come to be a customary norm... And as much as I loved it before, I have truly learned to appreciate the San Diego sun. Nonetheless, it really feels like Fall/Winter. I absolutely love the chilling air as I walk down the Christmas lit alleys of Oxford St. after work. With a good coat, boots, and scarf - it's manageable. One thing however, that I have grown to not have so much patience for is the constant crowd that never seems to fade - no matter what time. London is full of people. And maybe now, that I'm not so much of a tourist here... I notice, and care. OPEN SPACE people, please! It's a little weird, to be so Christmas festive this early in November. I used to Thanksgiving... And then AFTER that having all the Christmas stuff come out. But then again, who cares. I love this time of year... I just wished that with all the festive things coming out, that it FELT more like it. It's weird to be so far away this time of year. Thanksgiving is this week and it's my first one in 20 years away from family. It's a little odd... But as I get older, it was bound to happen at least one year right? Being away, while the entirty of my large family gets together... Hmm... I'm not going to lie, I love it here in London. But in 3 weeks time, when I have to leave, it will definitely be due season. I'll be ready. 6 months is a LONG time. It's been absolutely fantastic! But as the holiday season sneaks up to take me by surprise... As I become more and more eager to see my family and friends... I will be ready to go home on that December morning.

Aside from that, I want to add that I've been plugging into one Hillsong's young adults connect groups. It has been such a blessing, and without a doubt, much needed!

Okay, so Edinburgh. And seriously, even if I did spend a weekend there, I still have issues saying it. I have also come to the conclusion that British accents are overrated, and I absolutely LOVE the way Scottish people talk. Their accent has such a musical ring to it! This trip has been by far my favorite! I liked the city so much more than the others I've been to. There's just something about the feel to it. We were in weather that was in the low 30's... windchills and everything! But even with the fact that we were undoubtedly FREEZING- it was such a great time! We explored Edinburgh Castle for the first part of the morning and then roamed around the streets on the Royal Mile and Princess Street. Had some coffee, of course, and walked through the shops full of plaid scarves, kilts, and an assortment of different souvies. I treated myself to some Scottish cashemere, which is absolutely amazing! Although we did see a little bit of the stereotypical Scottishmen in kilts with bagpipes, I was disappointed that we didn't see more. I guess it goes to show how modernization of a city can cause it to lose it essence. That, or make one completely mre appreicative of its growing absence. But maybe you get more of the traditional when you step outside of the big city. All in all, Scotland, in all of its cold and chill, was a great trip and my favorite by far!

With love from London,