Thursday, November 28, 2013

Why I'm Thankful

It's turkey day again! This will be my fourth Thanksgiving overseas, celebrating with the family and friends I've met along the journey. This year, dinner will be with our team of volunteers who come from all over the world-so I was doing some explaining last night on what Thanksgiving is for those who didn't grow up with it...and what happened after the First Thanksgiving. There's a story with some dark history! It's best just to focus on the meaning behind the holiday-a time to give thanks for what we have-and to eat ourselves into a food coma.

My life is full to the brim with blessings. Here are are some things I am especially thankful to the Lord for this year: 

1. My health. I can't really say I risk my life doing dangerous things on a daily basis, but I have done a lot of sports and travel without any injuries. Especially living in Central America, I'm so grateful for not contracting Dengue or yellow fever, for how many insects feast on me daily. I'm thankful for a strong, healthy body because it's the only one I'll have for the rest of my life! 

2. My friends. They light up my world, and remind me who I am when I'm lost. I thank God for bringing all sorts of amazing characters into my life, and I'm thankful for the internet for keeping us connected despite the constant changing distances between us.

3. My passports and citizenships. Many people don't realize how hard it is to travel for people living in countries with complicated visa applications/procedures. In Honduras (and many, many other countries), it is extremely difficult to even visit the United States because the government needs to make sure they will eventually return, and not become illegal residents. Only a tiny percentage of the population can pass the background check in order to apply for a visa. Think about how easy it is for us (US citizens). We just buy a plane ticket online, show up at the airport, and take off. I'm pretty positive I can go anywhere in the world-because for countries where US citizens aren't allowed, BOOM I've got my HK passport ready baby! With the traveling I've done and still want to do, it's something I've grown to really appreciate.

4. My family. Sure, they're not really around, but they're the ones who raised me to be independent enough to figure things out on my own and I am thankful for that. They are the ones that encourage me into going anywhere and doing anything, really-well maybe not encourage, but they've never held me back. They know what I'm made of, cause they're made of it too. The strong-willed Wongs. 

5. My man. My favorite person in the world, and the one I want to share everything with. Words can't explain how thankful I am to have him in my life. To be loved is nothing, to love someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything. <3 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week Eleven in Honduras

Working as a volunteer with the Honduras Child Alliance in El Porvenir has been a roller coaster, physically, mentally and emotionally. To be fair, this experience was almost exactly what I had expected, and looked forward to! Check out out what I wrote on June 16th:

"I'm going to volunteer teach beautiful little children, and play at the beaches after school, and sleep in a bunk bed with a fan and eat lots of fruit, learn Spanish, and fall in love with a new place. I am going to backpack around Central America and build bathrooms on weekends, and I will be happy. I've always wanted to do this, ever since university days it has been a dream of mine."

The only things different was that there were no bathrooms being built, and I can't say I've exactly

fallen in love with the place. Love is a very strong word-maybe 'adapted to my best of ability' would be more suitable. But I did it, I came with an open mind and offered all I had and worked hard to make my stay worthwhile. But was it worthwhile? Can volunteering anywhere for a few months be worthwhile?

To be honest, I am leaving soon with a note of disappointment. The reason why I had chosen to help power an organization dedicated to empowering others in extreme poverty was because it was my passion. I thought that's what I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to, so I graduated with a degree in Public Health, worked at the Red Cross, and moved overseas for international experience. I had hoped to one day work for the WHO, Unicef, etc. do crazy stuff, like educating children at refuge camps, write articles to promote awareness of needed aid, you know. Now that I've gotten first-hand experience I'm thinking...maybe it's not what I want to pursue after all. It's been a slow, crushing realization. WHY do I feel this way? Many factors go into it, but the bottom line is that this work may not be for me-and that's okay. I'll reflect and revisit this. Perhaps I just need a break from this sector-I am definitely looking forward to moving back to state side. I've tentatively begun my job search knowing I have much to offer, my challenge is where to start looking. Oh, the adventures that await.

On the bright side, I've learned more than I expected to about how a non-profit runs. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of what it takes to change a community for the better. I've met incredibly inspirational people who have worked alongside us. I've lived together with some strong characters from all over the world and managed. I've witnessed how the cycle of poverty works, and I've loved the children who hope to break out of it. I've learned to be grateful for the simple things, like hot showers, mosquito nets, and clean air. I'm excited to be reunited with the one I love and to see where life will take us next.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week Ten in Honduras

Yesterday was my last day at kindergarten class. It wasn't too hard to say goodbye since I'll still be in town and I can drop by whenever. But still. If I could have done anything differently, I would have taken Spanish classes for a year beforehand so I could have taught them things that really matter. For instance; how to share, take turns, how to respect themselves and each other. Also WHY it's important to brush their teeth. I still can't tell if they're telling me they'll miss me, or if they want toilet paper for the restroom. I wish I could have understood them when they tried to share their feelings and opinions-I just wish I could have gotten to know them on a deeper level! I'll always remember their precious faces and big eyes! We drew self-portraits for a memory book and then had a dance party! Oh my, some of these kids have moves. You can tell which ones have TV in their homes for sure!

My time had to end at Kinder because this week we started our Vacation Activities Program. Lots of kids from our normal English classes showed up, plus lots of new faces. Most of the games, crafts and activities we do are in Spanish since it's not an English-focused camp. My Spanish is getting put to the test-I had to read "If You Give a Mouse A Cookie" in's going to be quite an interesting few weeks. On Friday we all went down to the beach and made a Slip N Slide-it was fun despite having to use baby oil and shampoo instead of dishwashing soap!

The firemen took their exams this week for the lessons we've been doing. They did an excellent job-an average of A-! They were so excited we took pictures afterwards and had a little fiesta! I really admire all that they do for their community. On Monday they were carving wooden airplanes for the children in the community. On Tuesday they were supervising the repainting of the local high school to cover up graffiti. On Wednesday and Thursday they were constructing new desks for schools in need (100 new desks) !!

I also take back what I said about loving the rainy season here. Because with the rain, came the mosquitos, and now I'm counting the days til I can escape. Isn't that awful? All these kids running up to hug us every day, the devoted bomberos, chill roommates-and I'm itching to leave. But seriously, I'm literally ITCHING TO DEATH. My body is covered in welts and splotches like you wouldn't believe-the insects love me more than any of the other volunteers. Sigh. Being Asian has become exotic again.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week Nine in Honduras

The rainy season has begun, and I love it. To my surprise and delight, the rain doesn't bring in humidity-it just cools the temperature down and spoils us with comfortable breezes. I'm sitting next to the balcony screen door now so I can type with ocean waves as my background noise, oh yeah and the bachata music bumpin' from the pulperia next door.

More new volunteers arrived this week and last week, diversifying our ever-changing little familia. The director of HCA came this Monday, and all our classes ended as we trained and prepared for the vacation program (VAP) all week. It's like throwing on a summer camp-we're the counselors and together, after the kids are released for their winter break, we play. This week was registration so we made posters and set up tables at each of our locations. My team set out candy and stickers to lure children into signing up. It's a free program, and although we're not focused on teaching English during VAP, kids come to learn songs, do crafts, play games, and receive love and mentorship from people who care. Our group is the Wolves, we're gonna have a howling chant and face our faces every morning. Having been practically raised in summer camps, being in girl scouts and counseling for outdoor school camps, I can't wait to have fun with these kids!!

The bomberos (firefighters) class continues on. I love those guys, even though we almost never start class on time. They'll be taking their first exam next week-they looked so scared when I announced it!

This morning I went to help out at a local soup kitchen-I had no idea it would exist here. Rosa, the kindergarten teacher, runs it and invited us to come. I didn't know if I should bring a camera or not, so I didn't. It's at this building made of tin shedding and wooden planks, with a dirt floor and almost no furniture except for steel folding chairs and a few tables. Turns out it's used as a church! Only little children were there to be served food-some of the kids attend the kindergarten we volunteer at and others I've never met before. The ones I knew ran up to hug me, big smiles n all. Children are always just so happy to have people to play with and tasty food-just like me!

I've impressed myself with how quickly I adjusted back to the flow of life here after taking a short break, worlds away. It's entered a nervous excitement in me for the future, which is only a month away now. One more month, no more biking around flooded dirt roads, no more baleadas, no more espanol. One more month, and I'll be with the boyfriend, finding my place in the job market, starting life from scratch again in a new big city. I need to find a church there, wherever it'll be. "Worry fades away when we know for sure our future is secure in God's hands."

 At our little friend's 4th grade graduation at her bilingual school
Making signs for VAP registration!