Monday, April 23, 2012

Nepal

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I last posted but I have a lot to share. The past month and a half have been crazy busy. We had a team of people come out for a week. They helped us do a TON of painting, we put on a women's event called Reflections of a Queen, which required lots of preparation and then two jam pact days of go go go work. It was for women teachers here in Bangladesh as well as some girls from The Home of Hope orphanage and we basically got to go through the story of Esther with them. We had a feast, did nails, make-up, while learning about Esther and what she went through. This event turned out very well and I can't wait to do it again! We also, got to spend two weeks in Nepal, which were awesome! Daniel and I made a video to capture some of our favorite elements of the trip... just follow the link and enjoy :)

Nepal Video

Hope you enjoyed the video! You got to see some of the various things we got to experience in Nepal. We had a great time and got lots of adventure. We trekked for about fours days, stayed in multiple mountain villages, ate lots of dahl and rice, went paragliding, hours of bus rides, a couple kids programs and site seeing, but eventually we made it back to home sweet Dhaka city where we will remain for at least a few more weeks before our next venture out to do a kids camp.

Living on the wild side and paragliding in Pokhara. YIKES!

Kids in the first village Plack... they loved  it when I copied them!
Kids program in Doduwa, the whole village showed up...
This is Didi cooking us dinner, Donyabod (thanks) Didi!


My first day "trekking"

She was just adorable...


There was a huge football tournament going on in Doduwa

Walking down the mountain to get water

Here we are at one of the biggest buddhist temples in Nepal


Friday, March 9, 2012

Bengali Jones!



 For the past couple of months,  the Engage team and I have spent lots of time preparingfor a kid's camp called "Bengali Jones and the Quest for the Ultimate Treasure" based off of the "Indiana Jones" series. We had 130 children attend the camp and it was a huge hit! It's amazing to realize how much time and preparation went into this three day camp and then how quickly it's over! but no worries . . . we have three more camps to go!


Yes - that's me in the tiger suit dancing my heart out!  I must say it was quite hot in that suit and very hard to see, however it was so much fun and the kids had a blast singing and dancing. We had some action songs prepared and the kids were quite the performers. Their favorite action was acting like a roaring lion... and I think it was mine as well. The actions will be into my mind forever!  haha. 


Gotta love Bengali food! The nice thing about eating a traditional Bengali food is that it is completely acceptable to eat with your hands. In the states, eating with your hands is considered bad manners, but not in Bangladesh! I wasn't sure how three days of eating only Bengali food was going to over but surprisingly it went well.  I stayed healthy and it tasted great too! We ate rice with dahl, chicken with potatoes, and vegetables for almost every meal. Sometimes they added a hard boil egg with curry which sounds a bit sketchy but proved to be good:)  I can't say the same about the chicken liver though. Everything was fine, I thought I was eating beef with a very odd texture but then Daniel informed me that I was eating liver, The thought kinda killed it for me . . .  haha . . .but other than that it was good and I enjoyed it :)
Have you ever played the board game Battleship? Well, I suggest you play the human version! It's a lot of fun when two teams, one on either side of the tarp (which blocks the view) launch the soaking wet sponge over the wall to blow-up the other teams ships... also known as the kids. This game was the all-time favorite of our campers.

Minute to Win It! You have one minute to complete each task. This game required two people to move soda scans using only their mouths and a spaghetti noodle across the room without losing the can or breaking the spaghetti. It's a lot harder than it looks but it is so fun to play and watch!


Our incredible campers & staff! We had so much fun with games, songs, free time, a HUGE water fight all while making new friends.  The times together were awesome and there is no doubt that  many children's lives were changed :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Old Dhaka

About to get on the ferry!
Would you like a whole goat, or just the head?

Rickshawing through Old Dhaka!
At home you would never see the animal alive outside of the butchers about to be killed. No one would buy it because they felt bad for the poor little animal. But here it’s a whole different mentality. It’s like buying the freshest meat… oh how things change!

Rickshawing again... traffic was great!


Want to go to the beach?
I wish we had rickshaws in the States! They are so convenient and fun. If you want to go somewhere close but don’t want to walk rickshawing is the way to go. They are bright and colorful and will get you where your going. Just make sure you have something to old on to incase they slam on the break which will probably happen every five seconds :)

Don't touch the water! Not that you would want to anyways being that it is caked with green and who knows what other colored sludge and garbage. Don't forget the pleasant aroma that is left lingering in you nostrils! It makes me want to go to the beach!





Boat ride :) Don't rock the boat... actually don't move at all!


If you are ever Dhaka the Old Dhaka tour is a must! The culture and experience is unforgettable and there is no way you will leave the same... no promises wether it is good or bad :) Between the rickshaw, boat rides, and walking you will leave with a story... but like I said before, no promises wether it is good or bad :) You never know what will happen in Old Dhaka so be ready for anything!












Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Khulna Time!


Just got back from Khulna! On Monday I hopped on a sea plane and took off for Khulna, a village outside of Dhaka. I was only there for three days but I can easily say that it was the most enjoyable and fun experience of my three weeks here and I would go back in a heartbeat.
The plane we took to Khulna!

The crowd waiting outside the plane!
I had never been on a seaplane before but I am glad to say that I have now! There is something incredibly exciting and adventurous  about getting on a small airplane and landing in a village with boats and locals greeting you because you are a foreigner... or in other words white. Once we landed we were picked up by a boat, unlike any I've seen before.  It was made of wood and the floor boards were rickety.  As we were on the boat we could see everyone on the shoreline waving and staring at us because it was obvious we were "the foreigners". We went by the ferry system and every boat was packed. They were the same kind of boats that we were in but they packed as many people as possible into one. . .  we were comfortable with 9 so it's hard to imagine more!
I had a lot of fun experiencing a culture not only different from my home, but also very different from the city I am living in. It 's amazing how much the environment changes from a city to a village. In Dhaka, the city where I live, people are everywhere and rushing around. In the village of Khulna, the roads aren't heavily trafficked and people are far more relaxed. It was strange to think that I was even in the same country, going from crowded chaos and smoggy air to a quieter, much slower paced village, where I could see much more clearly.  Now, please don't get me wrong,  I do enjoy Dhaka but there was something about Khulna that I loved!
One of the highlights for me was when Daniel and I dressed up in hot pink and bright green gorilla suits for a video  to promote a kid's camp coming up in March. I’m not sure if the people liked it or if they were scared, but either way we drew a huge crowd! It was pretty funny that we were able to fit seven Beshi’s (foreigners) and a driver into an auto. An auto is a car about the size and style of a golf cart, but it is more caged in, tipsy and cramped. It was quite the scene and I am honestly proud that we could all fit! Another highlight was being able to help out at a youth gathering, and interact with the local Bengali people who were my age. They are all so fun and welcoming. We played games, sang, and broke up into small groups and hung out. It was a ton of fun and I discovered that they are very much into dancing…which I desperately need to work on! I also got the opportunity to help get a center ready for street girls who are going to move in next week. It was an awesome thing to be able to help prepare for something that is going to have such an impact on lives. I also got to eat my first traditional Bengali meal. It was so much fun but I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out that they don’t use utensils, they just wash their hands before they eat and that is what they use. Here is the one rule that everyone must know before eating a traditional meal with Bengali’s. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT under any circumstance eat with you left hand! Aside from that you will be fine :) I think I might take this tradition home with me...

Just Monkeying Around!



Saturday, January 21, 2012

One Week Down!

Wow, I can’t believe I have been here for over a week already! It seems like just yesterday I was leaving for the airport. So far I have really enjoyed my time over here. I am finally adjusted to the time change and am learning so many new things about the culture and language... some easier to get used to than others!
View of the city from the roof of Uttams Place

Being that it is the first week I am just being introduced to the different programs I will be working with. I visited the center for street girls called Uttams Place where I will be helping out as a tutor for the street girls. This program is exciting because I know that it is something that will benefit the girls in the future. It is amazing how the basic education that we take for granted has the ability change the life of a young girl in Bangladesh

The second program that I was introduced to was a street kids program. I will help out with every other week. It was so much fun! I did not expect that many children to show up.  Because there were so many kids they split it up into two different times so they can fit everyone in the location. We sang songs, danced around and the kids had so much fun! After the short program we got to go outside and play games with the kids and just hang out with them. If there is one thing that I have noticed about children everywhere is that they all like to have fun. When in doubt turn up some music very loud and make up motions for the songs. It is a guaranteed hit that everyone understands no matter the language barrier!

Because I can’t sing songs and dance all day I am officially enrolled in a Bangla language course two hours a day, five days a week… lets just say it is not easy, at all! I have taken five classes so far and I can’t even remember the alphabet, but I’m working on it. Though the class is tough and I feel like I am making little progress I have learned so much, not necessarily about the language but about the Bengali people. I have a great teacher names Ishrat who I look forward to seeing when I go to class. She always has a smile on her face and is constantly laughing. I cant decide if she is laughing at Daniel and my jokes or how we repeat the sound “oowah” with the nasal sound over and over and over again and never get it right. I choose to believe that we just say funny jokes. Despite the slow progress I am making I am enjoying my time in Bangla school. I continue to try and remember how to say the basics but I know I am going to get it eventually, I just hope it is sooner rather than later. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Have Arrived!

Finally! I have arrived in Bangladesh after 37 hours of of travel and four different planes I am here. The travel was brutal but looking back, it went fast.  I stopped in San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore and finally, Bangladesh!  I am so happy to finally be here and am ready to get out and explore!
Exploring Singapore on our 7 hour layover!

I know I said I didn't really know what to expect,  but it is kind of  like what I pictured. There are people everywhere and lots of bright and beautiful colors. I haven't had the opportunity to get out  much, but I hope to this week.   Yesterday for the first time,  I got to walk into the city with my roommates and go through some of the local shops. I have discovered that as crazy as it may seem, there is a method to the madness.  For example the driving. Driving here is much more chaotic than where I come from, yet everyone seems to know what is happening... except me of course. And to believe that people willingly walk across a street here is scary to me.  I crossed a street yesterday and lets just say, it will take some time to get used to because it feels like you're risking your life!

I live in the Gulshan area of  Dhaka, which is the capital city.  It is nice because it is in walking distance to the grocery store and all the other city stores so I don't have to rent a rickshaw.  The sounds of the street are new to me as well . . .  I am constantly hearing car horns honking, and have learned that unlike home, where horns are only used is absolutely necessary, here, they are apparently essential to every part of driving.  Along with the horns, I'm getting used to the constant sounds of loud screaming, yelling, and construction and have found that the noise is actually kind of comforting.
Here's the road I live on!

While I'm here I will wear the traditional outfit of the Bengali women called a Shalwar Kameez. They are very bright and colorful and I actually really like alot.  Here's the problem though . . . the Bengali women are much more petite than I am, so I'm still working on getting some that are made for 5'8" women.

I start language school tomorrow and will be learning Bangla which is the local language. I am excited to get going with activities. From what I have heard the language is very hard to pick up but maybe I will have better luck... at least I hope so and I look forward to the challenge !  Wish me luck!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Here I go!

Ready, set, go! Here I am sitting in the Seatac airport getting ready to board my first of many flights heading to Bangladesh. It's amazing how fast time goes.  A year ago I never would have imagined that I would be traveling to the other side of the world...let alone to Bangladesh! In fact, I didn't even know that a country called Bangladesh existed. But here I go!

About two years ago I heard about a program  that lets you volunteer while taking college classes. I randomly requested info not taking it that seriously, but the more I looked into it the more I felt  that it was something that I should do. When I started to consider the possible locations I decided to get information on every site available, except for Bangladesh, so that I could keep my options open and experience new places . . . I don't know why,  but I had no real interest or Bangladesh . . .  Ironic, I know!

As time went on, I got really serious about going to Swaziland, Africa and I was ready to go in a heart beat! There was a possibility that the Swaziland site would not open and my backup option was going to be the Dominican Republic.  As it started getting down to the wire I found out that the Swaziland site would not be opening, and yet  I did not feel good about going to the Dominican Republic.  I requested information about Bangladesh and within two weeks of consideration, I knew that it was the right place for me! It's funny how time goes fast and changes things. A year ago I had no desire to be in Bangladesh and now I couldn't be more positive that it's the place for me!

During the time of preparing for this trip, I researched a little but about the history and learned that the country is only 40 years old... that could explain my lack of knowledge of the country! I am not so sure as to what to expect, but I find that creates more excitement! I have found that it's always best to expect the worst or just expect nothing at all,  that way you are never disappointed... we will see how this theory works for me this time around . . .  hahaha.  I have never been on a trip for this long however, I trust it is going to be a life changing experience and I can't wait for what is in store!

Only 37 hours until arrival, can't wait :)