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Why I am going – Part 2

I had hoped to write a bit more about this yesterday, however packing took me a bit longer than I had planned (*shakes fist at allergies or cold or whatever is causing me to be stuffy and cough*)

Long story short – as many of you know I’m involved with People to People International.  Through this organization, my mom (who is in her local Chicago chapter) met the head of Children’s Library International.

This trip is the 38th mission for CLI, and during the trip we will be opening a learning center in My Lai.  We will also be visiting some of the other learning centers the group has opened, visiting orphanages, and doing a bit of typical tourist stuff too.

I am excited for this trip and looking forward to seeing a new part of the world.  Not excited to be on plane with stuffy sinuses, but I will be attempting to take meds to make it less painful.

Some background reading:

Now it’s time for me to start getting ready for a long day of travel ahead of me.  Wish me, and my sinus pressure, luck!


Why I am going – Part 1

As I approach my departure date (tomorrow!!!!), I keep getting asked variations on the following questions:

“Is this a vacation?”  Kinda.
“Are you going on a mission trip?”   Yes, but not that kind of mission.
“Why are you going there?” 
Why not?

Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have opportunities to travel – both domestically & abroad – which has allowed me to see some truly wonderful things, meet a wide variety of different people, push myself beyond my comfort zone and most importantly learn about myself and the world around me.

I am going on this trip for reasons that are both practical (to be covered in part 2 on this topic) and personal.  I’m looking forward to helping make people’s lives better (something that drives my career as well) and seeing a new part of the world.  As I’ve often said, when you look around and truly look at the lives of others – the struggles, triumphs, emotions, and dreams – you begin to realize that we aren’t all that different from each other.

Traveling also makes me thankful for all that I have in my life – the good and the not so good.  I take these opportunities to reflect on things going on in my life; the distance from the noise of everyday life helps provide some clarity and insights I otherwise may have missed.  I can recharge my batteries and gear up for the tasks ahead of me with a renewed energy and (hopefully) passion.

While I sit here freaking out about all I have to do before I embark on my journey to Cambodia, Laos, and Vitenam, I know that at the end, it will be worth it.  I just have to let myself be open to the experiences and take time be in the moment.

More to come on the more practical aspects of why I am going on this trip later. . .

Next up: Cambodia, Laos, & Vietnam!

That’s right folks, I’m headed back to Asia.  What’s on deck for this trip?

MSP–>Chicago –>Seoul –>Vietnam–>Cambodia–>Laos–>Vietnam–>Seoul–>Chicago–>MSP

I’ll be traveling for 23 days, which is the longest trip since my first international travel experience to England & Ireland.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more about the itinerary and share more about some of the things we will be doing while there.

Have you been to this part of the world?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Here kitty, kitty, kitty. . .or not.

The next day and a half spent at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge allowed me to indulge in a few of my favorite things – namely taking pictures, reading, and writing. 

It may surprise folks but I really enjoyed the time spent in the great outdoors.  Our rooms had minimal electricity and I had to walk on a path through the jungle by candle and/or flashligth in the dark.  All of our meals were by candlelight.  Hot water was only availabe at night as a result of solar heating.  It was all so simple and enjoyable and outside of what I consider my comfort zone – you know with the whole need to sleep with mosquito netting and being in the middle of the jungle thing. 

During the full day spent at Tiger Tops, we went on two jeep safaris and also one 1.5 hour trek in the jungle.  As with the first elephant safari, we saw some wild boars, rinos, a sloth bear, birds, spotted deer and lots and lots of vegitation.  The worst part, however, was that one of the jeeps carrying people not with my group spotted a tiger. However, the amatuers didn’t manage to get a picture, so I say it doesn’t count. 🙂  Especially since none of our group got to see a tiger during our visit.  If I ever go back to Tiger Tops, I’m totally bringing along a large glitter ball, a bit of cat nip, and laser pointer.  That would totally work to lure a tiger out of the woods for a photo session, right? 


Day 2: Pokhara (or the day I was finally upright) and beyond. . .

Whatever knocked me out for 36 hours passed as quickly as it set in so after one full day of missing things I was back in the saddle. Turns out I didn’t really miss much – just a bouncy bus trip and time in town. My first day rejoining the group started with a canoe trip on Lake Pehwa. It was a beautiful lake with the jungle starting pretty much right at the shorline. Of course, my boat also got a nice round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” going. We win 😉

We stopped at an island in the lake with a Hindu temple. Full of pigeons. A lot of worshippers were waiting at the shore to come make their offering. It was quite interesting to see their rituals on a much smaller scale than in Kathmandu. Next stop was Davi’s Falls followed by a stop at a Tibetan refugee camp. We got some background on the Tibetans that have re-settled in Nepal. It is quite amazing to see their houses with Free Tibet spray painted on the side. For these people, it is much more than a slogan – it is their past, their present, and possibly their future. I then partook in one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done – went paragliding. So. Much. Amazing. I ran off of a mountain, strapped to a guy, and a parachute of sorts. We had good wind so stayed up for awhile and got to see the beautiful lake and valley spread out below us. I have a DVD with some photos and videos (I didn’t trust myself to use my own camera on the flight) which I’ll upload at some point.

Next big adventure of the day was a shopping excursion into town with two of my travelling companions. I ended up wandering around the shops for about an hour by myself just taking things in. There were people from all over the world walking the streets – with the various languages mixing in with “Namaste”. I got some sweet gifts and also got to have some Baskin Robbins and hear some sweeeeeet karaoke. (Video to come).

I met back up with Kellie and Pam and we visited a few bars (they had local beer – I still nursed a sprite) and ended up staying out until midnight. It was totally amazing and odd to be walking through streets which hours earlier were full of cars and motorcycles and now completely empty. Plus, sitting halfway across the world, chatting, sharing stories, laughing and sharing a drink is something everyone should do at some point in their lives.

Pretty sure the boat guy that had to take us to the island where the hotel was wasn’t too happy to be woken up that late. . . . 😉

I am so happy that I bounced back after the illness. The paragliding was awesome as was the other things we got to do.

Yesterday we flew to the Chitwan National Forest area and landed on a grass runway. And the airport terminal was amazing. Again photos to come.

Once we made the trek to Tiger Tops we settled in and then went on an elephant safari. O. M. G. it was amazing. I took like 400 photos and we got to see a mama and baby rhino just hanging out. Absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to see the photos on a bigger screen. I can’t even describe the two hours we spent out there. I’ll let the photos do that. Today, we are off for a pretty full day in the jungle. I’m hoping to fill most of my remaining memory cards over the next day or so. I have hit over 4000 photos I think. I am shutter happy.

Time to head off for a boat ride now. Namaste.