Tag Archives: missions trip

“Help Me Howard” profiles Me!

In the midst of promoting my missions trip to the Himalayas like crazy, I contacted a reporter I knew, Howard Thompson, of Help Me Howard, in a long-shot attempt to gain him as a celebrity guest at our fund-raiser.  He declined my invitation.  And counter-invited me to do an interview with him to be featured on WPIX11!  Here it is!

the Nepal Diaries: Day 1 (of 30)

JULY 22, 2011 [transcribed from my travel journal] My journey to Kathmandu: Newark  > fly 8 hours to Zurich > layover for 4 hours > fly 7 hours to New Delhi > layover for 8 hours > fly 1 hour to Kathmandu! I’m going to be laying over for almost as long as I will be flying for!  What a crap deal!  But what can I do?  I pushed purchasing the tickets until I had raised the money and even then, my busy schedule forced me to have Danielle purchase my tickets for me! But onward.  Today was such a crazy day, even leading up til takeoff.  I can’t believe I didn’t even get a chance to breathe until I sat down.  I know that I couldn’t have done it without Mom…she totally pulled through for me.  She didn’t get critical of me, but just jumped in and started helping.  I watched Limitless, Lincoln Lawyer, Just Go With It, and Hall Pass…all pretty good!  I’ve really enjoyed my flight.  Zurich airport was pretty scenic and so is Delhi; very clean and modern!  I think I slept for 2 hours in Zurich, a few hours on the flight to Zurich, and most of the flight to Delhi.  I probably got a full night’s sleep and it’s been about 22 hours by now since I first took off.  Th e Swiss Air food was impressive.  “Snack” was pizza and ice cream and chocolate!  And dinner was Indian rice and veggies and potatoes; not shabby at all and piping hot! So, Tish said that I’m going to touch these people and I’m going to grow so much.  Josh said I’m in for the adventure of my life.  Kal said I’m making a difference in this world.  Pastor George has been praying for me.  Pastor Adam says this is going to be a great trip for me.  Auntie Sandy came out of the blue and supported me, as did Mari and so many others.  I’m riding on the wings of all my supporters right now.  It’s by God’s grace that I’m even here right now, not having forgotten any crucial items, not having over packed, having slept, eaten, and traveled well.  Thank you.  Almost there!  

30 days in Nepal: the nutshell

panoramic of our campsite @ Yakaka

BAAACK: A month away in Nepal, trekking and volunteering, has taught me about another corner of the world and given me some cornerstones which I want to fuse into my life back here in America. So, the first question that I’ll receive from people upon seeing them is the understandably cliche, “How was your trip!?” And how to describe 30 days packed with activity, discoveries, first-time’s, and new sights, sounds, and people every day? I’ll sum it up in one succinct blog entry: the most poignant aspects of my trip, and then I will break it down, day by day, over a series of entries. I feel that this is the only way to do this trip justice and document it in a way that I can look back on anytime and feel everything rushing back!

a day trek in Manang

TREKKING: Make no mistake, for a sport that looks like glorified hiking, trekking can be brutal!  Let me first simply define trekking.  You are walking up a mountain.  This means that the terrain on which you are traveling can range from a man-made road to a dirt path to heaps of rocks to bridges to rivers to waterfalls.  Our point A was at 800 meters and our point B was at 5,400 meters. Whatever existed between these two points, we had to walk over, period.  Firstly, we were in the throes of monsoon season, making the already strenuous activity just downright annoying!  Secondly, it’s a marathon sport.  We trekked for 10 hours on one day and 4 hours on our shortest day!  It’s not like most sports where you’re engaged at every moment, where there’s an adrenaline rush, where things happen quickly.  You look up when you are trekking and realize that you have to walk your way through all. these. mountains.  Sometimes, you see a tiny cluster of structures in the distance and calculate that you’ll be at the next village in about an hour.

MONSOON SEASON: takes place during the summer months and we were right smack in the middle of it. This means that there are a lot of pretty waterfalls, but also means that we are drenched all the time. Armed with rain jackets, backpack covers, umbrellas, and waterproof boots, we still had to struggle with water pouring into our shoes as we crossed rivers, attempting to carry umbrellas and trekking poles simultaneously, simply seeing through the steady downpours, and many of our overnight items getting wet through our duffel bags. The sun didn’t come out for the first week and so I remember putting wet shoes on for several days. My feet were consistently wrinkled and white and blisters thrived in these ideal conditions. Our clothes would be put out to dry and taken down in the same state, if not worse, from the morning dew. For days, I packed and unpacked wet clothes. Monsoon Season. ;/

not my leech, but exactly how it looked!

LEECHES: I have never even seen a leech, let alone hosted one! On the first day of trekking, I was the lucky recipient of 4 leech bites! eeek!  I was innocently trekking when suddenly my guide looked at my leg and said “leechie.”  As he reached down to pull it off, I looked down to see the horrifying sight of a repulsive brown worm on my leg, stubbornly staying put until it was forced off, but not before leaving behind a bloody mess.  I squealed and did a scared girl dance and pouted as I was assured that it’s normal and harmless.  I moved on.  And then it happened 3 more times.  They joked that I had sweet blood.  I cried at one point, feeling helpless against and violated by these blood-sucking vermin.  I was ready to go home.  Our team leader had made us write letters of encouragement to ourselves that she would distribute if we were to ever falter in our commitment to the trip and that day, I was ready to ask for my letter.  I never did.  And I completed the trek.  But I still hate leeches.

the squat toilets at LLES where we taught

ROUGHING IT: No heat, no air-con, no plumbing, no running water, no hot water, no shelves, no hooks, no mirrors, no electricity…this was how we lived.  For a virtual city girl, I squirmed and braced myself and sometimes had to fight back breakdowns as I struggled to maintain my civility in what I couldn’t help but feel were primitive living conditions.  I stood outside the squat toilet our first night at Bhulbhule, dreading going inside the dark chamber that I knew held the waste of the multitudes who had gone before me.  I whimpered in the bathroom at Lower Pisang as I struggled to shower in the dark, not touch anything, and fight off mosquitoes.  I cursed out loud when the drawstrings of my bag touched the floor of one of the squat toilets which was brown and wet with what I’m sure was not simply water and mud.  I thanked God for my hiking soap which I was able to carry around with me everywhere, offering me a fleeting, but wondrous feeling of cleanliness whenever I washed my hands.  During one surreal moment, I found myself squatting outside of my room, pouring a pitcher of water over my face before turning in for the night.  I learned to pee behind bushes and rocks, using my umbrella for additional coverage.  I bucket showered.  Without hot water.  Or heat.  I washed my clothes by hand.  In a basin.  And then line-dried them.  I ate everything on my plate.  Even pizza.  Even fries.  Even chips.  I saved every ziploc bag, plastic bag, and napkin.  I lived in a mentality of survival and discomfort during these days.  And I’m more grateful than ever for my porcelain western toilet and the stream of warm water from my shower head.

NATURE’S CLOCK: The one welcome change of living in nature was that early to bed and early to rise was really, the only option.  We slept earlier than babies.  Earlier than grannies.  Earlier than morning news anchors.  We were sleeping at about 8pm.  Insane, right?  We were rising at about 6am, sometimes 5am, and once, 1am.  This is because at night, when the sun set and darkness settled over the village, there wasn’t enough light to really do much except wind down.  No tv, no computers, just your headlamp, which would attract mosquitoes when you tried to read with it on.  And so you would turn in and surprisingly fall asleep that early!  Then, in the morning, the roosters would crow incessantly at 6am and for me, that was the end of my slumber.  I began to wake up naturally at this time and this is one habit that I hope to carry on, using the wee hours for daily quiet time!

Nepalese lady w/ her wares

NEPALESE LIFE: We have one-bedroom houses.  They have one-room houses.  Most families live in one room with an additional kitchen.  Bathrooms were usually community ones outdoors.  The “kitchens” don’t come with any fixtures.  Burners are purchased and placed on top of tables for a “stove.”  Propane tanks the same height as the tables are connected to the burners as a gas source.  Water is brought in from outside and poured into basins for a “sink.”  Upright shelves are used to store dishes and kitchen stuff.  The other room is where the family does everything else: sleep, watch tv, entertain, and change.  The belongings of a family somehow fit into a 100 square foot room.  Incredible.  In the mountains, the easiest way to travel is on foot.  And if you want to transport items, they would be carried on your back with a strap that would fit over your forehead to center the load.  And villages are usually hours apart from each other.  People eat with their hands.  They eat rice, noodles, soup…everything, with their hands.  Tax for vehicles is 200%.  The government is unstable and to most people, perceptively nonexistent.  Rent in the city is about 10,000 rupees and rent in the mountains is about 1,00 rupees.  The average income is about 40,000 rupees in the city.  It’s normal for a family to be separated for years because fathers resort to traveling to different countries to find work.  The lifestyle is very humble in Nepal.

our guide, Buddhi, & his family

NEPALI HOSPITALITY: Despite the inability for a lot of families to regale their guests with fancy decor and toys, they open their homes readily to guests.  It’s common for neighbors to drop in and there is always time for conversation.  This differs vastly from the pretentious American mentality of needing to impress guests.  In Nepal, we were invited to sit in our friends’ one-room houses and 8 people were sitting on a combination of beds, seats, and laps, simply chit chatting.  This too, is very different from the American mentality of always needing to rush somewhere more important then a casual conversation.  This, too, is a mentality that I wish to incorporate into my life here. 

at KC & Chi-Mou's Praise & Worship

GREATNESS FOR COMPANY: One of my main motivations for joining this adventure/service trip was to join forces with Professor Chi-Mou, an impressive man who I met last year.  He founded these efforts and his story so entranced me that I just wanted to spend some time beside this man.  Well, I got more than I bargained for, as I was also greeted by Pastor KC on the trip as well, who I had also met last year.  This pastor of Every Nation Church in Taipei was a wonderful pastor when I met him and proved to be an incredible person once I got to know him.  To be eating, trekking, and praying with these two men for 21 days was incredible.  I learned how they are shameless promoters of God.  I learned how they turn to God in the morning for quiet time and anytime they need His help.  I learned about their business sense and their approach to their projects that are clearly successful!  I experienced their talents and gifts and humor and can now say with confidence that I genuinely admire them. 

Danielle & I singing "the english song" at closing party

UNIVERSAL YOU: Being away from your work, your hobbies, your projects, your environment, your element…you really get stripped down to “who you really are.”  At this stark state, the things that really matter are your personality, your sense of humor, your ability to relate to people, your approachability, your boldness, your musical talents, your dancing skills, your knowledge, your conversation…the things that travel with you.  No one really cares about your status, your organizations, your awards.  And so I’ve decided that I want to focus on those things.  I want to learn guitar.  I want to speak more languages.  I want to focus on the person that Jeanette is. 

Inspired to Climb the Himalayas “for good”

Last year, on a missions trip to Taiwan, I had the pleasure of learning from “the Rascal Professor,” more formally known as Chih-Mou Hseih.  He preached to us that “The bigger your world is, the bigger your dreams are” and true to form, has lived a life of exposure to different people and cultures, traveling and climbing mountains buoyed by the motivation to do God’s work.  He has been a mountaineer all of his life.  But he hasn’t always been a do-er of good.  In explanation of his nickname, “rascal,” Professor Hseih painted a picture of a lost childhood riddled with violence, crime, and academic failure.  Even then, however, he was influential and clever.  He said that as a street kid in Taiwan, he was able to rally gangs to take care of business for him and he somehow lied and cheated his way through much of his academic career before it caught up with him in high school.
wise words from Professor Hseih, translated by Pastor KC
Miraculously, Hseih managed to make his way to America where he put together a life that seemingly had the markings of success: college, a girlfriend, and work at a restaurant.  He still had some growing to do, however.  In December of 1993, on the heels of struggles with finances, his relationship, and other sorts, Hseih found himself alone in his room with a knife to his wrist ready to take his life.  And then he asked Jesus, “save me.”  Since then, the former gangster has not uttered one foul word.
just another climb for Professor Hseih
Another challenge for Professor Hseih came in the form of a physical trial.  As he was speaking to us in July of 2010, he told us that 4 years ago, he suffered a heart attack that left his heart pumping only 42% of the oxygen that it had formerly pumped.  This was the kiss of death for this passionate mountaineer since 1982.  The doctor said “don’t even think about” climbing ever again.  Over this, Hseih vividly recalls mourning and crying for 3 days.  On the 3rd day, he read his Bible.  Hseih reminded us that in weakness, there is grace.  The following summer, he set a new record for altitude among people with his heart condition as he climbed the 6,189m Island Peak. The constant possibility that his next day could be his last has spurred Hseih to take on and lead adventures with purpose.  He teaches at Taiwan Sport University and each summer, his students organize an overseas adventure trip that somehow meets people’s needs.
  • 2006: An Alaskan adventure trip raised money for an at-risk youth program in Taiwan.
  • In 2007 & 2009: after climbing in the Himalayas, Hsieh’s students completed several projects for a Sherpa community school.
  • 2008: after conquering the 5,895-m Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, his class built restrooms for a nearby school and initiated a community-wide soccer program.
the Rascal Professor Chih-Mou Hseih
Hsieh showed slides of individuals from Africa to Tibet that have broadened his horizons, exposed him to different cultures, and given him his perspective on life.  He stressed pointedly at the students in our classroom to broaden their worlds rather than staying on their computers all day.  In a humorously memorable analogy, he likened children’s environments today to “strawberry gardens,” as they are told by overprotective “strawberry” parents to stay indoors for fear of getting hurt.  He encourages, instead, for young people to grow up in a “cactus environment,” stepping outside of their comfortable comfort zones in order to see different situations and different worlds.  With optimism, the once-rascal professor said that it is possible to become a cactus from a strawberry. As soon as Professor Hseih uttered the invitation to any of us to join in on one of his students’ annual summer adventure missions trips, I knew it was in my agenda for next year.  It had my name written all over it and my heart quickened just with the thought of completing such a once-in-a-lifetime feat.  And the mission to do good for the people indigenous to that area was even more icing on the cake.  I was more than sold which is why I reached out to him a few months ago and am on track to join them in Taipei at the end of July.  The expedition is a component of the Association for Experiential Education. I would be lying if I claimed that I am not nervous about this at all.  I have never done anything this physically trying.  I have nowhere near the amount of funds that this trip asks.  I have no idea who the students on this trip are.  I am making this decision based on a tried and true method: a combination of my gut, my faith, and my desire to be a cactus!