Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm sorry... so sorry!

I've been bad.....real bad..... I haven't posted much of anything since I've been in D.C. But in an effort to change this, I figured I'd re-post my ProInspire interview (This may be the most famous I'll ever be...) which gives a small snippet of what I do at FHI 360. I promise there will be more to come! 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Will definitely be posting more about what I'm doing in Washington DC this year but thought I'd set some context first on one of the major challenges we face now in funding for International Development (click here). It's an interesting read and really paints the picture on why it's a really exciting and challenging time to be within this sector. With big challenges, comes big opportunities (and breeding grounds for innovative ways to work)! More to come... stay tuned!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alas, I am in DC! So far, so good!   As I was taking off on my flight from Houston, it finally hit me  - I'm leaving my beloved Htown and community for a year. I also realized how richly blessed I am to have such loving friends and family who'd:
  • Make me the most amazing scrap book ever
  • Organize an epic night of karaoke filled with dancing, singing and, of course, Asians taking  pictures 
  • Participate and plan a full out, Olympic style field day with food, (again) more dancing, and water balloons (duh)
  • House me when I'm homeless without electricity
  • Allow me more PT on the field :)
  • Drown in sweat with me moving furniture with no AC
  • Drive me everywhere or let me (an Asian female!!) drive their car 
  • Travel afar to visit or road trip with me
  • Visit roller derbies and sleep in attics with me while exploring hipster living 
  • Borrow their laundry machines and fridges
  • Buy me food (<3), witty shirts and thoughtful books/journals 
  • Talk to me for endless hours (even if long distance or at odd hours)
  • Fly with me to DC to move me in
  • Most importantly, LOVE, support, and encourage me to no end
Sorry to be gushy, but yall make my heart beat. After shedding a few tears on the plane, I ordered a bloody mary... STAT. (PS. Southwest don't mess around with their drinks). And I thought about how freaking lucky I am to be surrounded by such love. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I knew nothing in the beginning....

Ah yes, another long, long break from my blog. And now I'm back. Dear blog, I don't think anyone even reads you anymore, but nonetheless, I will blog just for my sanity sake. Blog page, I've given you a makeover since new looks help kick start new beginnings.

I've started volunteering again at the refugee after-school program which is now located in two different Alief Schools (as opposed to their apartment complex). I recognize a few kids from before but most are new faces! I work with K-3rd graders on Thursdays, where we read stories and do homework, and 3rd-4th graders on Fridays, where we do specials projects and crafts. The majority of the children are Southeast Asian (i.e. Thai, Karen, Burmese, etc.), and the rest dabble from Iraq to Congo to Burundi.

On my first day helping the K-3rd graders with homework, I realized I forgot something.... apparently I forgot it a long time ago... it’s called simple math. The chubby and ruddy 3rd grader pleaded me to help him with his math. "Sure," I thought, "No problem. Should be a cinch!" FALSE. How did he know my Achilles heel, word problems? I panicked. I couldn't tell if he could see the color drain from my face as I quivered to pick up his pencil. "Ok, ok..just think.., " as my mind raced to figure out what to do. I'm a very visual person so quickly I drew out the word problem. "Ok, Nick is making 3 bracelets which require 8 beads each [scribble]. If he already has 2 bracelets done and needs to make 3 more [scribble], how many boxes of beads does he need if each box contains 10 beads [sccriiiiibbble, scriiibbble, scribble]." (Note: this problem is not verbatim.) I talked through my drawing to the kid as he blankly stared at me. "Hmmm," I thought, "he must not be a visual learner." After more sad attempts to draw and explain, I think he vaguely understood my rationale but saw right through my faked confidence. "Smart kid", I thought.

The little boy continues to work on other problems and begins to complain, quite loudly, to his fellow compadres around him and me. "This is sooo hard. I don't know how to do any of this. Ms.? Ms.? Can you do this? I don't know any of this. I really don't. " Finally the eldest student and 'leader' of the pack (whom I'll call John) had enough of the whining. "Look! I knew NOTHING in the beginning. I don't even now English. I had to learn everything in Kindergarten by myself. I knew nothing but I tried. Then I started to learn everything. Look, I can do it by myself now." he said. Now, I stood there staring blankly in awe at John. "Amen" I thought and wondered if he had had read Plato or something. At the end, the little boy picked up his pencil and began to work again.

That day was a lovely reminder of going back to "step 1" and that "step 1" isn't easy, and it shouldn't be. And no one can make you take or tell you what that first step is. We can learn from figuring out that first step, taking the first step and also looking back at our first step. From that first step, helps build or formulate the next step and so on; and as you continue to journey through this crazy thing called life, you will look back and see how each step taken, whether painful, wonderful, challenging and/or joyful, grooms and builds you. John reminded me that there should be no shame in not knowing, but not knowing should not be the barrier to trying.

Who would have thought I'd go back to elementary school and learn more by doing so..

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Burma in Houston

Well, I did go back to the refugee camp and cook up a Burmese Tomato and Peanut dish which the kids loved! We recited ingredient vocab in both English and Burmese. (Correction: I recited in English and the kids recited in both languages). Looks like I will be going back soon with two friends who want to help out too! Next culinary/vocab highlight?? I think we're going to cook up a Burundi dish! PLUS - check out this awesome article about the Burmese and the refugee camp in the Houston Chronicles:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome to Thailand

Went back to the refugee children program yesterday. This time we highlighted the glorious country of Thailand. So last time I went, we had about 60-70% children from Thailand. This time....I had like 20% from Thailand. They spoke Burmese instead of Thai though. The turn over rate here is quite high (families are moving often from complex to complex plus school is out so many more kids were present). The project we did was creating a Thai fruit salad together using fruits from Thailand. Mixed exotic fruits covered in coconut milk and raw sugar....awwww yeah. What kid wouldn't like that?! Try 4 kids. The first group was great since 2 of them were from Thailand. We went over how to say the fruit names in English and in Burmese. They helped me cut the fruit with plastic knives as I tried my best to convey facts about the country. Too bad words like "million," "ocean" and "weather" haven't been introduced to their vocab just yet. So basically it was multi tasking at its best with me using a very animated face, talking with that ever-so-unique accent I use with non- American English speaking people (read previous post), and cutting fruit with a knife. I felt like Giada. ....OK I felt like a version of Giada who cooks for children and basically saying things that no one really understands :). You won't believe how hard I wanted to say (in my Itialian accent) "prosciutto" or "mozerrella" during this time. Anyways, the first group of kids were really attentive as we kept practicing the words in English and in Burmese. They seemed reallye excited to learn their new fruit vocab! At the end, we finished with smiling faces and happy tummies. Next, group 2. Now this group had one very rowdy kid who spoke great English and the others who were really really shy or not comfortable with speaking just yet. None were from Thailand so there was some difficulty in gaining interest here. We proceeded to "cook" though it was less interactive. At the end, 4 kids dumped their fruit bowls in the trash with one exclaiming "this is not good!" Failure. Argh. But its ok, I think at the end, it will just take some time and persistence in figuring out (at least with this group) how to engage them a bit more. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to talk to the kids in much detail but I will be back this coming week. In any case, these kiddos are lovely - so full of life, so thirsty for knowledge.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kids...... I like.

So I failed to mention in my previous post WHAT I am doing with the refugee kids.....trying to do. Essentially the few times I've been, I noticed that most of these kids are still struggling to fully grasp the English language and American culture much less the 7-8 other different cultures represented in that tiny classroom. I thought it would be really neat if they started sharing with each other about their own cultures. I mean they are in a cultural jackpot, if you will. I'm sure they all have amazing stories to share. Hence, I want to initiate a regular 'program' where we would highlight one country where some of these kids are from. The first one we did was Malaysia. I had traveled there before so I brought some pics and props from my travel. I tried to make it as fun as possible.... I think it was received ok but I can't really tell. I just know at the end of the class one of the girls came up to me and shared with me her treasured family photos from Malaysia. This moment was.. well priceless. These pics may have been the only pics she had of her home and some family members (her immediate family fled here with her). I asked her why she came here. She began to tell me about how her father worked for the police, something politically bad happened (possibly a shift in power or something) and her father and family were in danger so they had to flee. Now, please excuse the completely terrible retelling of her story but this was done in broken English between us (for those of you who don't know me, I tend to....'adapt' to my environments. In that I mean, if someone speaks a certain way, I try to speak the same way too, thinking that I sound just like them and it makes them feel more comfortable. However, Haley and Jamila will be the first to tell you....I can't sound Irish, Kenyan, British or Aussie no matter how hard I try. In fact, I sound like a confused idiot). Anyways, point being that in this little run down apartment complex in Chinatown, Houston, TX held a completely different world where a group of kids from all over the world have these stories that need be shared and heard. Even if thats among themselves, its powerful. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to go back yet but I plan to highlight Thailand next (where the majority of the kids are from). If you're in Houston and interested in joining.... lemme know!