Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
I left Mexico City on New Years Eve to head to the Yucatan Peninsula for Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and Tulum. Remember when flying in Mexico to keep all of your valuable possessions on you always! For example, if you want to see it again, do not check it in!
I checked in my waterproof camera and after seeing it go into the conveyor belt labyrinth of thieves… I thought to myself, “hmm.. man I should have kept that on me. Oh well, I packed in WAY in the middle they won’t find it.” Ha. Haha! Upon arriving in Cancun and picking up my bag in the carousel, I checked and my camera was gone.
Dude, I wanted to fight everybody at the airport!
But we also had a bus to catch so…!@#$!^!!%^!!%$#%@$^&T&I*!!!!!
We spent the night at a crappy hostel/hotel thing… they blasted techno music until 4am and ear plugs could not keep out the constant bass.
Oh, and aside from the camera thievery, the lack of sleep on a horrible mattress, I had major food poisoning and did not eat for the rest of the trip. Yup… I did not eat for the next four days and spent every single day looking at beautiful views… and occasionally hustling myself carefully to create pico de gallo bowls if you know what I mean. Disgusting.
Anyway, it was a painful adventure that kept me on my toes…and the toilet bowl.
Here are some pictures:
I know what you’re thinking (or probably not).
How can I go to such a beautiful place and not have many pictures right? Well, must I remind you of the stolen camera and massive dysentery issues. Yup.
The best part of this trip was swimming in a cenote cave and diving down to check out the areas and seeing little turtles all around. Also, swimming in the Caribbean was a major highlight for me because henever I was swimming or floating, my stomach behaved itself really well and I did not have urges to pollute the ocean (don’t worry).
This was a great trip overall.
The updates will keep coming soon!
I went to Mexico City last year around Christmas time…and yes I have been slow to post this past year!
Here are some of the better pictures I took:
Aside from seeing things like the Zocalo and Museo de Antropologia, I took a day trip out to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids. I learned real quick at night that all of masses go down to the Zocalo and historic district at night and cause the worst human traffic jam in history. Imagine if you will driving through the 10 freeway in Los Angeles…while the Lakers are playing…and a USC football game is going on… and a Dodgers game going on all at once. That is Mexico City traffic while walking at night.
The Museum was pretty sick, you can spend an entire day there looking at old stuff and going, “wow… this stuff is really old and interesting.” That’s pretty much what I did.
Warning: The following pictures may be too cute for some people to handle.
These pictures were actually extremely easy to take due to the fact that they would run up right next to me, yell “photo! photo!” and then give a big smile.
Even funnier was their reactions when I would scroll through and show them the pictures afterwards.
The last couple of days were relaxing yet very eventful. Our first day was spent just taking a break from an entire week of time spent with the kids and we drove to the south side of the island near Jacmel to have lunch. The second day was spent at church and going to a graduation for a friend who got their elementary school teaching credential.
The drive south took a couple of hours and we went through some small village markets. We saw different lifestyles on the long drive as well as brainstormed many ideas of how to kill the rooster that was keeping our entire team up at night.
Bringing home the bacon… literally
Boy and his pup
It was at this moment that I started missing all of the kids. I know it was only halfway through the morning, but I secretly would have rather spent this day with them still.
Our view during lunchtime
We went for a nice warm swim
Made it to the other side
This is how they roll in Haiti
Side Story of Almost Death
Here is a side story of how I almost lost my life in Haiti. On our two hour drive back to Léogâne, I had the urge to take a piss while we were still driving through the middle of the mountains. I leaned towards our team leader and told her, “hey, when we have a chance to stop in the next ten minutes, I need to use the bathroom.” Our guide heard, “…I need to use the bathroom,” and yelled at the driver to stop immediately. So he stopped abruptly on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, near a cliff.
Since he made such a sudden stop, I did not want to be like, “Oh keep going, I don’t need to pee right now,” so I got out of the car and realized there was nowhere to pee. I pretty much had to pee just outside of the van in front of everybody off the side of the cliff or find somewhere nearby. The problem was that there wasn’t any area near us except for the steep cliff next to us. Screw it. I decided to walk in front of the van 15 feet and try to take a small trail down just out of sight of the van.
As I was going down the small trail (not really a trail), the entire side caved and started slipping down the mountain! The soil there is this deep dark reddish brown clay-like material that smears and feels like walking on snot. As I started to slide, I luckily reached out and grabbed the only nearby tree which prevented me from falling to my pain and misery. So here I was stuck next to this tree, just barely out of sight of the van and had no idea how I was going to get back up. First things first. I peed. It felt extremely liberating to be standing on the edge of mother nature relieving myself into a vast wide open space below.
When I was complete with my mission I still had to manage my safe return. I had no idea how to get back up since the trail I took down had completely slid away and I could not go back up that way. I saw that the cliff close to me had some vegetation that I may be able to use so I decided to use my climbing skills and started digging my hands into soil and vegetation to grab hold of the roots of plants. This worked! I worked my way up this cliff slowly on hands and knees making sure to get a good hold every time or else I’d be slipping down to a big fall which was made worse by the fact that just I urinated all over the drop area.
I made it up to the top finally! As I stood up in plain view of everybody in the van I had a sudden embarrassing thought. They probably think I just crapped all over myself. Sure enough, my hands, shirt, legs were covered in this dark reddish brown clay-like material. It was smeared all over.
Instead of rejoicing in the continuation of my life for another day, I found myself explaining to the team, “okay so I know what this looks like but this is not poop.” They all started laughing and made comments like, “I though you said you only had to pee.”
Anyway, end of story. I’m just happy to be alive and not dead in the Haitian mountains laying in soil that was saturated by my own urine.
The next day we went to church.
The worship band sounded like carnival music
Our team leader and guide thanking everybody
At the end of service, a Haitian translator came up to me and asked me what church service was like back home. I said it was very similar, we had songs, the sermon and a song afterwards as well. He said, “no no, I mean back home where you are from.”
Not wanting to give in to racism just yet, I replied, “Yea back in California it is very similar”
He said, “no no, I mean back home where you are from…China”
Finally giving in to racism I replied, “Yea it’s the same back home too.”
He replied, “ah, that’s very good.”
In the afternoon we went to the graduation that was hosted at a very nice hotel in the area.
Very nice hotel complete with pimp swimming pool and gingerbread house
As our entourage of white people +1 Asian walked through the crowd, I realized that the white people had a hard time getting through the crowd. They had to push and squeeze their way between people and make awkward steps. Wherever I went, the people seemed to part like Moses through the Red Sea.
Later towards the end of the ceremony, one of the pastors turned towards me and said, “a lot of people here move out of your way. Do you know why?”
I replied, “yeah! You saw that too? Why do they move?”
He replied, “well, it’s because you know karate.”
“Yes, all of us Haitians have watched movies of Chinese people doing karate and they think you are a very dangerous man hahaha”
“Well did you tell them that I knew karate?”
“Oh. You know karate?”
“…Um heck yea I know karate. I’m so good at karate you won’t believe it”
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and talking to each other and our translators and guides. They shared their vision with how they wanted to grow the kids in the community to be future leaders of Haiti. All in all, it was great to provide feedback for each other, offer encouragement and insight on what we observed how they could improve their program or community involvement.
We went to sleep that night very happy knowing that it was the last night we would be hearing the rooster ever. But it was sad to know we would be flying home in the morning.
Haiti was an amazing trip for me. There was a lot of heartbreak to see the living situation of these people but at the same time there is a lot to be encouraged about and look forward to. It reminded me of my 100 Thing Challenge of embracing a simple lifestyle and being content with what I had. I also decided to sponsor a little boy named Judens who I hope to visit within the next couple of years to see how he is doing.
It’s been incredible to have friends and family support me on this trip as well. I have been telling tons of stories ever since I have returned and still do not get sick of it because of the great memories it allows me to reminisce upon.
Until the next adventure, Cheers!
Here we go with the lengthy Part II…
The next few days we spent updating the profiles of each child, taking pictures, and worked with the translators to read letters written to the kids and tried to come up with a letter to send back to the sponsors.
It sounds easy, but it was tons of work and it took forever.
We did have a little bit of time here and there to do crafts to keep the kids busy (we could only update 4-6 profiles at a time), play games, and organized a beach trip on the last day.
And instead of typing up what we did each day, I’ll just post a bunch of pictures and talk about them otherwise you’d be bored out of your brain.
We would work with the translators to help update their profiles
The kids were usually accompanied by one of their parents if they were not an orphan
We also worked on reading sponsor letters to the kids and having them write letters back. We would ask them questions and based on their answer, with the help of the translator, we would generate a letter to mail back to the sponsor.
They got some cool stuff too! Pictures, stickers, baseball cards, postcards…
The parents and kids had a great time
While they weren’t updating their profiles or responding to sponsors. The kids loved to color and stick the foam stickies onto their artwork. A few of them even loved to eat the foam stickies. And when they ran out of paper, they started coloring on themselves.
We played some field games too
This is the game called “run to the ball and start furiously kicking it and sometimes each other”
This game is called “listening to her incredible voice that makes up for his horrible strumming”
And here is a video that I shot of the horrible game called “running for your life” complete with inspirational soundtrack.
That was the worst game ever.
Tell me about it. Especially with all of their smiles and teeth and laughing and their little arms hugging me. Terrible.
The kids got meals the next few days as well instead of snacks. They were fed a rice and beans combination and the last day they had chicken mixed in. They were so happy to eat chicken!
Wash your hands before eating!
We also went to the surrounding neighborhood and villages to where these kids lived to take pictures of their houses, some specific items and visit their families. They were all very welcoming and accepting to us visiting their homes.
My favorite part of the trip was when we took the kids to the beach. Even though they lived only a few miles away, it was the first time for many of them.
If you have ever traveled in a third world bus, you will know that this bus is only about a quarter of the way filled right now…
Their first time in the water!
I love the ocean. This moment was so special for me to be able to spend a couple of hours with the kids in the Caribbean and for the many of them their first time trying to swim. The kids swarmed me in the ocean because they wanted someone to carry them around in the water. Being Captain Carried-Away, I got a little too excited and started launching them over my head over and over again as you would do at a pool party. I did not realize until after all of them had scattered out of fear that it was probably not the best idea to throw them all over the ocean. One little girl did keep running after me though. Here is a picture of Daphacar running after me.
She chased me for about five minutes. I love her little Chun Li hair buns
I think… if this post seems overwhelming it is because every single day was overwhelming. We were doing so much work every day that when we went home for dinner, all we could do was just and talk about what we did that day.
I wish I could post all of the pictures I had. I took well over 1,500 pictures to document the trip for COTN. Part of me was dreading the fact that at some point in the future I had to sit down and edit them.
Anyway, Part II complete. Stay tuned for Part III…
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to partner with the organization Children of the Nations and travel to Haiti to work with kids in the city of Bellevue just outside Port-Au-Prince. We stayed in the next village over Léogâne which was the epicenter of the nasty 2010 January earthquake that devastated Haiti.
If you did not know, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. They were not too well off already before the earthquake and you can imagine how bad things are there right now.
Day One involved us arriving and getting to know the culture, the church, and the neighborhood next to the church that we would be involved with. I had a lot more questions that I realized partly due to the fact that I had no idea what to expect prior to our arrival. The UN definitely still has a huge presence in Haiti to the dislike of many Haitians but at the same time, there are many that support the help that they are providing.
Evidence of the earthquake is still everywhere. Building ruins are near every corner, basic sanitation is not a reality for the majority of the population, and there are large areas of “slum”-like living near the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. If you have ever seen the movie District 9, you’ll know what kind of housing I am referring to. A lot of people ride in things called top-tops which is basically a pickup truck with a camper that acts as their taxi/bus service.
We stayed in a housing unit provided by COTN. It functioned as their office as well as just the basic needs for flown in volunteers…bed, shower, bathroom and kitchen area…but it was obviously way nicer than most of the people in the surrounding area.
Here are some shots from day one:
Here are some pictures driving through the city.
We arrived in the morning but waited around the airport for another group that was flying in that afternoon. Once we had everybody, we drove to where we were staying and had dinner.
For lunch and dinner we had rice, beans, chicken and fried plantains. So delicious! It made me think back to my Puerto Rico trip a couple years ago.
When we went to sleep that night, I realized my shower was only cold water, which was fine for me. Because of how hot it was the shower was refreshing…except for the fact that the guys shower was a dribble of water and the girls had a nice full on hose.
Mosquitoes were not really a problem for me but there was a rooster there that started his morning duties of waking up the world… at 10PM. And we heard this thing call out every five to ten minutes. The entire night. The entire friggin’ night! I usually travel with earplugs but there was no hope drowning out this stupid bird. Every single morning during breakfast time, our team had nice discussions of the lack of sleep we got on account of that retarded bird.
Day Two was to get to know the kids slowly, meeting our translators, and visiting their villages and homes to take pictures of their living situations. The purpose of our trip was to update the sponsorship profiles of all of the children in the program. Because they are so young, they change so much year to year so it is a good idea to keep the sponsors updated as well. We also had a long list of items that they needed pictures of including specific items that we needed to find. My role on the team was to take pictures of the kids and find as many items as I could on that list. Since I had a nice camera and loved taking pictures, I did not mind. Here are some of the shots from the second day.
The church in Bellevue. It was destroyed in the earthquake and they built a smaller church on the side. They are currently trying to take down the ruins and reusing the materials to build classrooms for children.
We followed Woodmy and his friend to their homes and village nearby
Woodmy with his goat
Woodmy and his family
The Haitian shire
Lucent shows us his kindergarten diploma and stands with my friend AK who was also our team leader. She works for COTN.
A destroyed home
This is how the children prayed:
And this is how the children played:
And I did not like the following game:
You don’t really see a game happening do you? But you do see an incredibly large amount of children massing all around me…which is never a good thing.
Those are the last two pictures I took before I got chased unknowingly by 50 Haitian kids up and down and all around the church property. They thought it was funny but I disagree. I was the photographer. Not the play-with-kids-er.
But because of my superior athletic abilities, I was able to maintain a safe distance for a while. And thank goodness for my shoes too as I was able to make ankle-breaking cuts and juke half of these little tireless pursuers over and over again. In the end, my conditioning caught up with me as my lungs were not accustomed to the 100 degree heat and 100% humidity.
Once caught, they do the worst things to you which includes the following:
– Dog pile the crap out of you
– Tickle the crap out of you (this was miserable!!)
– Steal your hat
– Pull your beard
– Attempt to braid your hair
– Clasp onto your limbs tightly with their arms and legs
Haitian kids are ruthless. This happened about five times. Maybe I had a little fun. Maybe not. But you will never know because I have no pictures to prove it.
After snack time, we went back to the house where another group of kids were going to meet us around lunch time. These were kids who lived closer to Port-au-Prince and were all significantly injured during the 2010 quake.
Mikerlyn lost her left arm during the quake
Louis-Maxon and the boys
Daniel and Marc Antoine with the kids. You can see Jordani on the left who lost his right arm
They were really good at soccer
Ghandi is a coke model…I think that’s a different kind of sponsorship
Working with a translator to update their profiles
This is how they got here driving for over an hour on dirt road
That was the end of the second day. It was completely exhausting yet very fun and exciting. It gave us a glimpse of the task ahead of us but we were all looking forward to the challenge. Updating the profiles took a very long time because we needed a translator and half of these kids were between three and seven years old so they were really shy in providing answers.
But it was a good day and we went to sleep that night to the sound of a rooster that we all wanted to kill.
– At this point I knew how to say good morning, thank you, please, and toilet!??
– This place reminded me of the countryside in Taiwan near where my dad grew up near Nantou. Taiwan obviously is not as poor a country as Haiti, but there are areas where people literally do whatever they can to find something to eat or make something to live in.
– Half of the plane ride in was full of white people (obviously working with relief organizations). There is nothing wrong with it but I just thought it was a little funny that all the groups would wear the same bright colored shirts
Stay tuned for part II…
I wrote the following on our team blog to update friends back home. I copied and pasted it below:
Hello friends and family of the interweb!
Greetings from Haiti! The past few days have been extremely fun and tiring but very exciting altogether. It has been a nice change of pace from the life we live back home in the states where every day seems to operate on a schedule and rely so heavily upon the clock and keeping to a tight agenda. Life here in Haiti is very relaxed. When the coordinators tell us in the morning what our schedules will be like for that day, about 100% of the time it ends up being completely different from what was originally planned. I am perfectly okay with that. In fact, it has been a bit of a relief to get away from the internet, the phone and any type of media/news that we’re constantly surrounded by and hearing about every hour of the day. I have been using this time to read more and
journal write down notes about my day, my thoughts and my impressions about life here. That’s right. Real men don’t journal. We write notes.
Anyway, here is the update on what we have been doing.
We spent a good portion of today and yesterday registering the children, updating their pictures (the young ones grow so much within a year!), reading letters to them written by their sponsors and writing letters back to their sponsors. While it has been a very slow process at times (the children are very young and shy), the translators have been extremely helpful and it has been a great pleasure to work along side them. It has been rad to see that the translators also share the love and vision for serving our Lord and the children here in Haiti.
Every morning, the kids gather at the church and sing songs, hear stories and then do activities or crafts while we registering the children. At lunch time, we form lines to wash hands and everybody is provided a simple lunch. Almost every single child here loves rice and beans but I think that has to do with the fact that almost every single child here only has the option to eat rice and beans. In the afternoon we come back to the church and continue registering the kids or walk around the neighborhood to visit with some of the local families.
A fun little note… every time a Haitian says “Haitian” it sounds completely like the word “Asians.” So I’m sorry that I got a little overly excited on the first day when I found out that we would be visiting hundreds of little Asian children later on in the day only to be slightly disappointed and confused…
Okay. Enough of the words…here are some pictures:
Every morning the children are given a chance to come to the front to sing a song, recite their favorite bible verse, or share a story. This morning Francesca decided to recite the entire book of Psalm and give detailed historical background of what David was struggling with while he was writing them…
During crafts, the children created masterpiece after masterpiece with crayons and foam stickers. This one was called Red Church Rainbow Ark with Misc Animals
Food! They were so happy and well behaved during this time!
Aside from crafts, stealing my hat, trying to destroy my camera, and letting them chase me around in 100 degree weather…I have found that the most effective way to show Christ’s love is by playing a game where I slap the back of their hands over and over again until we are both happy
The Haitian girls also taught me how to braid their hair. This was my first attempt which I know is slightly messy, but I only had about eight minutes
On the side, I have also been schooling them in the ways of complex mathematics. We will be discussing simple principles of thermodynamics this Saturday if our team leader Amber feels they are ready for it.
All kidding aside, we are all having a great time down here. The entire team is doing well, the kids are super fun and the staff is really supportive and hospitable to not only us but the entire community around the church. COTN has a real positive impact in the community and God is definitely doing great things in the lives of these children and their families.
Thanks so much for your support so far but please continue to pray for us as we finish our trip! We still have much work to do and cannot wait to go home and share with you the 2039842 stories of what God has been doing through COTN in Haiti!