Haitian Diaries

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Day 1: We were greeted in the airport with the delightful sounds of Caribbean music. I was inspired immediately by the joy the Haitians feel towards life and their ability to celebrate it. We then proceeded to retrieve the dozen or so suitcases we checked. The crowdedness of the baggage claim reminded me of the crowded streets of Delhi at rush hour. In the middle of all the chaos I couldn’t help but notice the eclectic art hanging on the wall us. It was of a harvest festival. The people in the painting looked happy and pleased at what a season of toiling had brought them. A reminder to me to stop and smell the roses every once in a while. We then proceeded down narrow streets that could barely fit a mule, let a lone the 14 seat van we were driving. Boom! We just hit our tenth pot hole. The markets on Saturday are alive with people. I wish I could have photographed it, but the locals have grown weary of the spotlight. We finally arrived at Hope House. An oasis. Our home away from home. This place will protect us as we embark on our journey with our Haitian counter parts, to better help them mold young minds in the coming year. As twilight came we sang songs of worship and broke bread together. Another reminder to me to be thankful each day for the breath of life God has given us. Before laying our heads to rest we prepared 40 teacher gift bags. A true testament to the way humanity can band together when needed. Tomorrow we will attend a Haitian worship service. I am excited to get to worship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Day 2: The breakfast bell rang at 6 am. We arose early to see the school where we ill be teaching for the next few days. Upon getting up I was reminded that I was not in Kansas anymore. I shared a frigid shower with a lizard, two mosquitos, and a spider. I say this all in good humor because my hosts have been nothing but gracious. They have made sure that we have everything we want and need. We then went to worship with our Haitian brothers and sisters. Their sense of faith is remarkable. You should see what the earthquake did to a few of the homes across the street. But, by faith and the grace of God this church still stands. Tomorrow we begin our work at the school with out Haitian colleagues.

 

Day 3: We began our first day with out Haitian colleagues. One thing that continues to strike me about this country is their hospitality. Though the earthquake may have physically destroyed this country, it did not destroy its heart and soul. They, a people of very little means, graciously prepared our staff a hot lunch. They are truly a vibrant gracious people. I look forward to coming back tomorrow!

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Day 4: We began our day at the clinic adjacent to the school. When we arrived there were over 75 people lined up to get food and vaccinations for their children. The little girls dressed pink bows and dresses just warms your heart. They dress impeccably here no matter what the occasion. Puts all of us who run out to the grocery store in a bun and sweatpants to shame. They may have very little, but what they do have they care for. We then headed over to the school. I was honored to get to run our small group discussion for the day. At one point I had the teacher role play being in their classroom. It was the finest comedy I have ever seen. Everyone played their part beautifully. Some played the diligent studious type, while other played the class clown. It was great to see the comradery between the staff. I look forward to another day tomorrow. I just wish they all didn’t start at 6 am:)

 

Day 5: Today we had to say goodbye to some of the teachers and translators. I have begun to connect with these people after only a few short days. I will miss them greatly when I return home. All the teachers here have such a wonderful spirit. They believe in a better tomorrow for Haiti. Before they departed we asked the teachers why they went into to teaching. The overwhelming response was because I want to serve my country by shaping tomorrow’s citizens. Think of how greatly we could improve the US education system if we all took this attitude. It is this spirit that I hope to bring back to my colleagues in the US.

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Day 6: We had one last hurray at the school. We called in a small group of elementary teacher to do a small Q&A session. As we had brought no translators with us, I became translator for the day. I think I fell into the role quite nicely, if I do say so myselfJ After eating our picnic lunch in the school’s chapel we took a incredibly scenic drive through the mountains. I could try to describe to you what I saw but a picture is worth a thousand words. “The whole day through, just an old sweet song keeps Haiti on my mind.”

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Hawaiian Diaries

Hello readers!! I’m sorry it took me so long to get this up. Better late than never right??!! Anyway, here is the rest of my adventures on the beautiful island of Maui.

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My departure– The flight out to Maui was one of the most pleasant I have taken. I guess it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re heading to a paradise on Earth.  I met a couple from the Midwest who were celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary on Maui. Best of luck!! May we all be so lucky.

 

Day 1– On my first day I took a gorgeous morning swim in Kihei, right near Kamaole state park. Weather and water could not have been more beautiful. After a few hours of baking in the sun I grew faint and weary for nourishment. The locals recommended Eskimo Candy, so of course that’s where I went. I. Refueled and replenished, I headed back out into the sun and surf. I then went over to Lahaina and watched the sunset. What gorgeous town! It’s a stereotypical Hawaiian town with all the quaint charm. I met a guy named Dan who made me three fish out of a coconut leaves. I then ate dinner at Mick Fleetwood’s restaurant Fleetwood’s. Think the name’s ironic? My Dad would be so proud of my life choices:) The only disappointment was that I wasn’t able to get a picture with Mick. Oh well next time. You can run but you can’t hide Mick!! 🙂

P.S. Meet Dan!

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Day 2– We thought we needed to prepare for Iselle. State parks and schools closed, and the island turned into one big end of the world party. Music, laughter, and “Happy Huricane!” resounded from the beaches. I took a coastal ride early in the morning. I attempted to make it to Honolua Bay, but on the dark wooded trail down to the bay I was met by the landowners dogs, who were the exact opposite temperament of my mongrels at home. I decided to visit some blowholes on the north side of the island instead. Here’s the link if you wanna check out a video of the blowhole blowing.

Day 3– How I spent the day waiting out Iselle. I had breakfast at a wonderful place called Freds. I fell in love with our waiter. He was an incredibly funny and helpful local. He steered me towards a Hawaiian delicacy called moco loco. It was delicious!! I then went into Lahaina to go shopping. To be fair it was raining a bit, but nothing like the hurricane like conditions we were expecting. On my way back I stopped at a local fruit stand and bought some banana bread, Mango bread, and a local favorite…pineapple juice mixed with cane sugar. There is a huge sugar industry here on Maui. Then I went to walk on the Kealia boardwalk, where I promptly dropped my key through the boardwalk. I don’t want to talk about it…

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Day 4- I woke up this morning to the smell of sugar cane being burned. Not as pleasant as you might think. Smelled more like rotting fish than sugar. Apparently it is a very effective retrieval method, though. Then after finishing the whole key ordeal…seriously I don’t want to talk about it… we ate breakfast at Freds…again. I had the most delicious panacakes I think I’ve ever eaten…Don’t tell IHOP. After carbo loading I went on a hike through lava fields with a friend of mine. This hike had some of the most beautiful scenery of Maui’s coast line. For dinner I had the most incredible sushi I have yet to experience. The sushi was fresh and expertly made by the chefs. If your ever in Maui Sunsei is a must.

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 Day 5– We once again ate breakfast at Freds. 3rd day in a row. The waiter is now completely judging me. I had a traditional breakfast of eggs and potatoes before out hike on the Hana highway. The hike was one of the most gorgeous, challenging, but rewarding hikes I have been on. We climbed up a rock, up a ladder, through boulder filled rivers, jumped down and climbed over a waterfall (that was the most fun part) and saw 4 gorgeous and incredible waterfalls. At our fourth waterfall my friend was brave enough to climb up the waterfall and jump off. In her comedic like sense of humor, she began to sing the theme song to lion king from atop the waterfall. We then ate some weird local fruit that grows back in the woods. It was pink a sweet like a grapefruit. The views you have of the waterfalls here could not compete with doing this hike. It was an incredibly rewarding experience at the end of it all. We then went to a black sand beach. It was again another beautiful coastal drive through Maui.

 Day 6– Spent the day at Mckena State Park. I got to lie in the shade under beautiful rainbow tropical trees and read for the day. It was like I died and went to heaven. I then went into Wailea to go shopping. Then I went star gazing. It was an incredible experience. I chased the sunset up the mountain and then watched it set over the clouds. At 10,000 feet up the skies were so clear. The stars shown brighter then I have ever seen them before. The moon was full, and allowed us to peer through the clouds and a beautiful night view of Kahlui. It was an experience I will never forget.

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Day 7– I spent my final hours in Hawaii in the Iao Valley. It is an easy, but an incredibly scenic hike. The entire trail through  the valley is 3/4 of mile. Great to do if you have little ones who are not up to doing a long hike. 

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Aloha!!!

 

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Aloha blogosphere!! I am currently writing to you from Hawaii, as I wait for Iselle to hit the coast of Maui. I have been here 48 hours, and already I am a completely different person. Much more mellow than when I arrived. Sunny skies and clear blue waters will do that to you.

My first day was spectacular. I took a morning swim, ate lunch on the south side of Maui at a local hot spot called Eskimo Candy. This place is known for it’s seafood chowder and ono fish, both I highly recommend.  I then spent the evening over in Lihaina taking in the beautiful scenery that royal Hawaiian families of old used to marvel at.

Stay tuned for trip and hurricane updates!

Newport News, VA/ Nawab

Last week I had the opportunity to visit an old stomping ground. Where project Ashley began almost 5 years ago…Newport News. Yes folks, I spent sometime in Newport News at CNU. Being back was a wonderful walk down memory lane.

The tide water area of Virginia has a lot to offer in terms of nature and culture, and Newport News is no exception. I had no problems keeping busy in Newport News. While I was there I got to revisit the CNU campus, admire how much had changed since I left in 2010, and reconnect with some old friends. I had dinner at Nawab, which is a fabulous Indian restaurant that I highly recommend. Everything on the menu is fabulous and the atmosphere is very relaxing. Since I brought friends we shared the Chicken Tika Masala and the Mixed Grill.  Both were absolutely delicious especially when paired with their rice.  Catching up with old friends was great, and we had a fantastic night. Five years is a long time when you think about where we were five or six years ago, as college freshman, and now we have graduated.

The next day I visited the Mariners Museum and took a walk on the Noland trail. Afterwards, I made my way over the City Center where I grabbed a cup of coffee at a great local chain called Aromas. If you have the time City Center is also a great place to shop. Newport News took a little time to grow on me, but after my most recent trip I can say with certainty that I will be returning.

Richmond, VA

If you live in DC, but you’re looking to leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city for a day, think about heading down to Richmond.  Richmond is a town full of southern charm (Quite literally. They are home to the Confederate Museum) which offers a wide variety of culture.  I spent the day at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. The museum is home to several beautiful art pieces from all across the globe. Two exhibits really caught my attention during my visit: the Himalayan Art exhibit and the Art Deco exhibit.

As I was walking through the Himalayan art exhibit, I was struck by the art portraying many of the same issues which occur today.  Many of the issues that the people of India struggled with thousands of years ago, which they memorialized in their art, we continue to struggle with today. Several of the pieces I saw dealt with the emergence of Buddhism, and with it a new way of life in India. I also saw pieces that dealt with the changing role of women in a changing society. The issues of acceptance and the role of women in society are still issues that we face today. If you don’t believe me just listen to the debates that go on everyday on Capitol Hill such as immigration and Equal Pay for Equal Work.  I thought it was interesting that these issues have transcended time and space and these issues were important enough to be made into art.

You may ask: what is Art Deco?  It is a movement that started in France after World War I as a response to industrialism and the inhumanity of the First World War.  The idea behind Art Deco is that each piece of your home ware should be handcrafted and completely unique.  This movement strove to heal the wounds and shattered illusions brought about by World War I. This movement is a great reminder that art does not merely exist in an abstract bubble. It can be a response to the needs of society.

After my day at the museum, I headed over to the Strawberry Cafe where I indulged in a delicious wood fired pizza and some sweet tea.

And so ends my day in Richmond.  Remember there’s lots more to do than what I did, and it’s just an hour and a half drive down I-95 from Washington DC.

Explore and Enjoy!

Where everybody knows your name!

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So, time for another little confession. I am a total sitcom junkie. As such, it was incredible to get to experience the Cheers in Boston. This is the location that inspired the show by the Charles brothers. What can I say? The food was great and the service lived up to it’s reputation. I had a great time catching up with an old friend over drinks while over looking the beautiful Common. This is a landmark you must hit if you’re ever in the Boston area.

Cheers! 🙂

Spirit Yoga

Ok so the secret is out…I’m a yogi. I starting doing yoga when I was 16 and have loved it ever since. One of the most fabulous yoga classes I have ever taken is a weekend yoga class on the beach in San Diego with Steve of Spirit Yoga.

Steve is a very talented yoga instructor who knows how to get the best out of his students. There is also no better way to start your Saturday or Sunday than with a yoga class on the beach:) Spirit Yoga is entirely donation based, so you can give according to what you can afford (which is great for a struggling young undergrad). If you are interested check out Steve’s website to learn more about him and Spirit Yoga.

http://www.namasteveyoga.com/

Namaste!

Kono’s/Cafe 976

If you ask me there is no more exciting city in the US than San Diego. Not only do have access to beautiful beaches, but located in San Diego are Sea World, Lego Land, and if your up for a little shopping Fashion Valley. What constantly brings me back to San Diego is the fond memories I have of vacationing in Pacific Beach as a child. I will always  be a San Diegoan at heart.

Two of my favorite places to grab food in PB are Kono’s and Cafe 976. Kono’s is an all day breakfast place located on the boardwalk. The eggs and french toast come highly recommended by yours truly:) You can sit outside and enjoy your breakfast while over looking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Cafe 976 is a very peaceful spot to have either breakfast or lunch. While the food is excellent (I personally recommend their burritos) their specialty is coffee. They have every variety of coffee imaginable from strong black coffee to cafe au lait to the con pana (my personal favorite). Enjoy your coffee while nestled in a beautifully kept garden.

Travel and enjoy friends!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacksonville, Florida

Now, being a Southern Californian I always looked down my nose at Florida a little bit. I always thought that Florida was too hot and for old people. Boy was I completely wrong. Jacksonville is green, lush, and gorgeous.

Jacksonville is the most spread out city in the US. When I travled there I mostly stayed on the coast, so I’ll most be recommending places on the coast.

My two biggest recommendations are these:

1. My first recommendation is going to be beaches. I hit Jax’s beach, Neptune Beach, Fernandina Beach, and Ponte Vedra while I was there. Jax’s beach is a lot of fun if you’re young and single. The entire board walk in Jax’s beach is nothing but fantastic (and cheap bars). Neptune beach is also fun for young people and it is a little more mellow. Fernandina Beach and Ponte Vedra are both more family oriented, but you can find food and great shell collecting in these areas. (if that’s your thing:))

2. Jacksonville is 30 minutes from St. Augustine, the oldest city in America. St. Augustine is a mix of the old and the new, because it is also  home to Flaggler College. The entire area is quaint and picturesque and very reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg. The street leading up to Castillo de San Marcos has been preserved. The street looks as it would have at the founding of St. Augustine in 1518. There are great eclectic shops along this street. The view from the Castillo is gorgeous and every afternoon you can hear the sound of cannon shots ringing from the roof of the Castillo. The actors dress in period costumes and speak in Spanish to honor St. Augustine’s Spanish tradition. The inside of the Castillo has also been preserved and it is definitely worth seeing. Warning though: You have to pay to get into the Castillo. You can also take a carriage ride through the town to learn about the history of St. Augustine and then enjoy some great seafood from the docks.

Travel and Enjoy!

Chappaqua, NY

The town of Chappaqua, New York, has always intrigued me. What about this small New York suburb would entice Bill Clinton to move there? Over the summer I finally got the opportunity to visit. It didn’t take me long to figure out the answer.

Chappaqua is small, quite, family oriented town with great shopping along the main drag of King Street and (of coarse!) great food. I had breakfast at a deli called Lange’s Little Store. Don’t let appearances fool you. Their egg sandwiches are some of the best egg sandwiches I’ve ever had. And rumor has it they’re Bill’s favorite as well:) Then I had dinner at Quaker’s Tavern. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. It’s a bar and restaurant so you can either enjoy a meal with your family or kick back and watch the Giants game. The choice is your.

Travel and Enjoy!