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Archive for February, 2011

Amazing Friends..

I’ve have been truly blessed in my 21 years of life to have acquired so many genuine, caring friends. As a traveler, it is inevitable that I will lose contact with some..but they will always stay in my heart and continually have a positive effect on my life.

Here in Bangkok, I have made some really amazing friends. One of them, Rin, that I have talked about before in my posts, is one of the people I know I will stay in contact with for a very long time, if not forever.

She is the warmest, friendliest person and is always so willing to invite me into her home and daily activities. She really makes sure I feel welcome and loves to show me her culture, as it varies a bit from traditional Thai culture. Her sisters and mother have also become good friends and are equally as welcoming. I feel right at home when I’m with them, which is saying a lot since my home feels so far away sometimes. I’m so thankful for her friendship, kindness, and generosity! She is always buying me little things that she sees here and there, and she somehow knows my style and taste so well. Maybe because she is a fashion major, but I think more because she really is a true friend.

I also get the amazing opportunity to meet every week with a wonderful British woman, Alison. We are commute buddies/regular volunteers/volunteer coordinators for Camillian Home. We’ve become quite close over the past few months, volunteering together. We have lots of time for chit-chat on the way to and from Lat Krabang. We have similiar interests in volunteering, traveling, reading, yoga, cinema and basic ideals in life. She’s around my mom’s age, so she has lots of wisdom to share with me as a woman and fellow traveler. I really enjoy her company and productive, positive attitude. Again, yet another woman who is so generous and thoughtful. Just today she lent me an amazing book on a common interest and bought me my favorite candy, that I just happened to mention in passing last week.. =)

Another great friend I have made here is a sweet girl named Pinky. I met her at a Christmas party. She is from outside of Bangkok, so we bonded instantly on the fact that we are new to the area. Although she is quite busy with school and we only get together occasionally, she is also someone I really connect with. Each time we meet it is like we are old friends and just pick up where we left off the last time.

Without these women, I would only be spending my time with people under the age 10. So ladies, thank you for your continual friendship, hospitality, kindness, and simple adulthood & maturity, as I am often on child-overload! =)

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Not just another number.

30.8 million adults living with HIV ~ 2.5 million children living with HIV ~ 2.6 million people infected in 2009 ~ 370,000 babies infected in 2009 ~ 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths ~ 16.6 million AIDS orphans

We’re continually bombarded with meaningless, unfathomable numbers related to the ruthless AIDS virus..None of this means anything to us until we connect with it on some personal level. Unfortuantely, the mindset of most societies shuns people affected by the deadly virus, thus perpetuating the cycle of misunderstanding, lack of compassion, & unwillingness to help the cause.

Traveling to Rayong Home, I learned of a girl, New, who passed away on February 11th, 2011. This lovely girl was about 12 years old. She had a cancerous tumor (I think brain or lung?), HIV, and recently contracted TB. The doctors were treating her for all three, but the medications were counter-acting eachother, so they had to make a choice. Stop treating the cancer, the HIV, or the TB. Either way it was lose-lose situation. They chose to stop treating the TB and she died a week later.

This time it wasn’t just a number for me..This one really hit home. Although I never met this girl..it was really surreal that she died just 4 days before we arrived. Her being a Camillian girl, I felt that much more connected to her and just thought of all my lovely girls at the Lat Krabang home. I’m not sure how I would handle that happening to one I was actually close to.

I guess seeing this made that possibility all the more real for me. It also made me realize what kind of field I’m working in. Its hard to imagine one of my lovely kids could be gone in an instant, as they all seem so healthy, “normal,” and happy..but I guess they do have terminal, incurable diseases.

Although it is not clear whether this young girl’s life was taken by the AIDS virus or another one of her ailments, it still opened my eyes to the deadly affects of this disease.

Something must be done, as every single one of those “numbers” you see on the news or read about over your morning latte, is not just “another number” to someone.

Little girl who passed away ~ Feb. 11, 2011

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Day trip..

Today I got to venture outside of the city to a town called Rayong. This is near the beach, just about an hour 1/2 drive southeast from Bangkok. Usually I volunteer at Camillian Home – Lat Krabang every Tuesday, but this week I went to their home and independent living center in Rayong.

The director/full-time volunteer, Faisal, was nice enough to take another volunteer, Alison, and I to the two facilities and show us around. It was nice to see the entire Camillian project as a whole and really made me understand the integrated approach of it all. Allow me to explain.

The Lat Krabang Home, that I volunteer at near Bangkok, is a home for children who are HIV+ and disabled, either physically or mentally. They also allow the HIV+ mothers to stay there as well, if they are staying with their child who is disabled. Lat Krabang also has a day care/school service for children who are disabled in the Lat Krabang area.

The Rayong Home for people living with HIV/AIDS is specifically for children with HIV/AIDS that have no mental or physical disabilities. Most attend school on the premise, as they are either shunned by society or not strong enough to go. The home is also available for adults who are suffering from the HIV/AIDS virus, but on a critical level. They are allowed to stay there as long as necessary. Some end up living out their lives there, while others get much stronger and are able to leave. The medicine needed for both the children and adults is provided 100% free by the country of Thailand. They kept committing copyright infringement of generic meds until the drug companies just stopped fighting them…truely amazing! **THE AVERAGE COST OF HIV/AIDS MEDICINE IS APPROX. $1000/MONTH PER CHILD. THIS HOME ALONE HAS 35 CHILDREN AND NUMEROUS OTHER ADULTS!!

The second place we visited is called “The Garden of Eden.” This is a communal living place where the adults who have been made stronger by the meds and are able to live independent lives come to live. Camillian has set up gardens, fish ponds, and an organic fertilizer factory, for them to take part in. This helps them become more self-sufficient and also give back to society. They each have their own little houses (all connected), to ensure some privacy and independence. There are also children living at this home, but none are HIV+ or have any disabilities. These children have either been orphaned due to their parents dying of AIDS or have parents living in the communal HIV part. The adults do live separately from the children, even if they have parents there. They all attend normal Thai school, just as any other child.

It really was truly amazing to see the whole scope of the project. No single person is left out in the world after a certain progression or declination in their health. Camillian Home has done an excellent job to ensure productivity and proper care for all stages of this terrible disease, as well as create a loving environment for those typically shunned by society..either HIV+ or with any sort of disability.

It was even more amazing to see the smiling faces of each and every one of these people’s lives that Camillian has helped. They all just seemed so happy to be alive…yet another reality check courtesy of Camillian Home.

Namaste.

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New resident..

After visiting Camillian Home for the first time in 3 weeks, I found there was a new resident girl with us. Her name is Belle and she is the sweetest little thing.

Belle is in a wheelchair because of an unspecified “accident”, according to her files. Other than being paralyzed from the waist down, she has 100% mental ability and is completely aware of her surroundings, just as any other “normal” child.

She came to Camillian Home because her Mom, & sole care provider, recently got married. The new husband did not want Belle and made her mother choose him or her. Clearly, she chose her new husband.

I was floored when I was told this, especially since this little girl is completely aware of what’s going on around her. How could a mother just give up her child?

I guess the silver lining, is now Belle has a chance for an education, where as before she had never attended school, as Thai schools don’t readily take children who are disabled.

Belle seems to have adjusted well and is friends with all the other kids already. With her heart-melting smile, she proves yet again the astounding resilience of the human psyche to be able to be happy in any situation.

Welcome to your new home Belle!

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Chop it up!

Thailand has given me a whole new outlook on salad! Its not uncommon to enter a restaurant and have an entire personal pot of fresh herbs and lettuces placed before to nibble on throughout your meal. At home I did the common lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber deal..sometimes spicing up my salad life with raisins, spinach, dried cranberries, and crunchy pear pieces. Never did I think to put actual herbs into my salad. I always used herbs for cooking or seasoning.

The brilliant idea recently came to me when I was presented with one such pot, or rather bag-full of herbs, as we order everything in since the cook quit. I couldn’t even begin to eat a 1/4 of what was there, so I decided to chop it all up and put it into a glass lock-top container. This got me thinking I could:

  • Add a handful to some bread and make a veggie delight.
  • Add 1/2 of a small mango, throw on some plum sauce and have insta-salad.
  • Throw some into a pita.
  • Make some quick, on-the-go fajitas by just adding cheese to a whole wheat tortilla.

Needless to say, the options are endless. But the simple act of chopping it all up can save you precious time when you’re on the go and prevent you from grabbing that quick meal at the drive-thru or gas station! yuck!! So grab some of your favorite herbs, regardless of if you think they “go together” or not.. and you’ll have a zesty ready-made salad mixture good for just about anything.

Through this, I also realized you can do it with fruit also. I made a fruit salad and stored 1/2 in the freezer. It made a nice treat when I was craving something sweet. You can also store and bring it out later for:

  • A yummy cold, yogurt treat
  • A ready-made smoothie concoction (just blend and add soy milk or yogurt)
  • A delicious, honey-drizzled snack (add your favorite nut for crunch!)
  • A quick impromptu party h’orderves ( just add toothpicks)

Happy choppy eating everyone!

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I was supposed to go volunteer today

but I felt the urge to go ahead and stay.

The creative vibes were flowin’ & just couldn’t see goin’.

I’ve been writin’ almost everyday,

but in a whole new way.

The avenue is songs, you see.

Made with messages from deep within me.

The beautiful melodies, by Miss Kara.

We’re startin’ somethin’ new that may change our era.

More to come, we hope you like..

and if not..

Well, you can take a hike! 😉

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