Category Archives: Asia

Phuket, Thailand (October 2013)

When I returned from Kenya in August, I was happy and satisfied.  Traveling always gives me a feeling of adventure, but I was ready to “settle down” for a while!  However, that was not in the cards…

Shortly before I went to Africa, a good friend called with a request:  would I be willing to take over leadership of a team she was planning to lead to Thailand in October?  Wow.  A 14,000 mile journey in August followed by a 17,000 mile trip in October?  Could I survive?  Well, might as well try. 🙂

This was a great way to get me “out of Africa” and into volunteering in additional destinations!  I’m thankful that it turned out as it did.  We had a small but mighty team that spent 2 weeks in Phuket building, helping, touring and taking it all in.  It was also the first time I had  “repeat volunteer” on a trip – what a great experience!

Tavush Region, Armenia (Oct 2016)

Post Trip Write up in Habitat Armenia Newsletter:

Gurgen’s dream is coming true
In October this year Gurgen and Ofelya’s family got the biggest gift of their lifetime. Now they are one step closer to their dream of having their own home. Currently the family lives in Getahovit village of Tavush region in Ofelya’s ancestral home. The family started a new house last year but they were not able to complete it because of lack of resources. They were happy and excited to have been selected to partner with Habitat Armenia. Their happiness doubled as they hosted a Global Village team of international volunteers. The team of 14 from the U.S., Denmark and Poland worked in their house for 2 weeks and helped them complete the plastering of walls. Gurgen says, “I can’t believe this is true. Now we will have our own home where the kids will have a place to play and study and we will have privacy.” Gurgen and Ofelya are grateful for the support they got from Habitat Armenia and send their best wishes to the volunteers who came from far away to help them move closer to their dream of owning a house.

About Armenia
Armenia occupies 29,700,000 square meters and is situated in the northeast Armenian highlands. Armenia is a former Soviet Republic located in Central Asia. It has a population of 3.2 million. Yerevan is the largest city and capital of Armenia. Nestled on the Ararat Plain along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is a leading industrial, cultural and scientific centre in the Caucasus region.

Three events have shaped the current housing situation: economic and social transition, including housing privatization; a massive earthquake in 1988; and a large influx of refugees. Because of these factors, more than 50 percent of Armenia’s families in this area live in deteriorated housing with cramped quarters and limited water and heat. Almost every building in the country is considered to be below current safety requirements for earthquakes.

When families are forced to abandon the dream of completing their home due to financial hardship, they often live in the unfinished basement or cellar. This is basically a large hole in the ground with a dirt floor and makeshift roof. Others live in domiks, which are metal containers that were brought to Armenia as part of the relief effort following the devastating 1988 earthquake. Many families have been living in these containers for more than a decade. Domiks are unbearably hot in the summer and only makeshift stoves fight off the extreme cold in winter.

Ninety-six percent of the housing stock in Armenia is privately owned. The 4 percent of housing remaining in public rental is not targeted to low-income households. The work Habitat is doing in the country is essential to ensuring simple, decent, affordable housing for hundreds of Armenians.

About Habitat for Humanity in Armenia

Habitat for Humanity in Armenia tackles poverty housing through a variety of efforts, including the construction of affordable, efficient houses, the completion of half-built homes, implementation of water and sanitation facilities, advocacy of improved housing policies for low-income families, engagement of volunteers and other like-minded partners and more. As of 2008, Habitat for Humanity in Armenia had helped nearly 400 families in need in Armenia into safe and secure shelter. Learn more at www.habitat.am.

The Incident of the Raw Horse

One of the best parts of traveling (well, really, of life?) is eating. 🙂  When you travel around the world, you are suddenly exposed to so many new types of food – often some that surprise you, for better or for worse.

When I began to venture out of the US, this proposition was kind of scary…  The first time I remember leaving the country was when I was 13 and we crossed the border to Tijuana.  At the closest border town, my sister and I were commanded by our mom to “eat, drink and go to the bathroom now because you’re not doing it again until we return!”.  Needless to say, I did not sample any Mexican cuisine on that outing.

The next time I left the US was on a school trip to the Soviet Union.  Yes, it was still called “The Soviet Union” at that time.  I don’t remember much about the food, but I’m pretty sure I ate a lot of potatoes and bread (because beets taste like dirt [this article explains why and appeals to my scientific nature] and I wasn’t about to eat little slimy fish with their heads still attached…).  It’s a wonder I didn’t come home with scurvy…  What I do remember is my camera film being confiscated on our “commute home” at the East/West Berlin border crossing (yes…still in existence too…) by a very large German man with a gun.  But that’s a story for another day. 🙂

In my early travel years, I admit to being “one of those people” that sought out the most “American” looking food I could find because it seemed “safe”.  I drew the line at McDonalds, but if there was an American chain restaurant in sight or a recognizable packaged snack at the store, there’s a good chance I headed toward it.  Thankfully that phase didn’t last long – now I am excited to explore everything (everything?) that local cuisines have to offer.  And boy have I sampled it.

It’s hard to describe some of the surprises that have been placed before me.  Rabbit ears, duck tongues, and scorpions (China), mice on a stick (Malawi), termites (Kenya), and a lot of unidentifiable creatures from the sea (Japan) are just a few that are on the list.  Sometimes I can handle it – the rabbit ears were actually cold, pickled, and surprisingly tasty. 🙂  But sometimes there is absolutely zero chance.  Those mice still had FUR!!

This is, of course, balanced by the delicious dishes that make up 90%+ of what I actually eat overseas.  Who can argue with a delicious wine and pasta dinner in Italy?  Or fresh sushi and sake in Japan, ugali and kachumbari in Kenya, homemade bread and apricot jam in Kyrgyzstan??  If you keep your mind open, the possibilities are endless.  In fact, I’m starting to collect these gems on my very first Pinterest board.  Don’t judge – I’m just starting – but what a way to start. 🙂

This finally brings me around to the title of the post.  It’s true.  I reached a new level on my last trip to Japan.  The conversation went something like this:

Him: “we’re going to order this because we love it and you won’t eat it, so we will have it all!”.

Me:  “OK.  We’ll see….”

ONLY with the help of a generous sake selection did the Horse Sashimi have a chance.

IMG_2670IMG_2734

And when it happened…it really wasn’t too bad. 🙂  Kind of like beef tartare…

So the moral of the story is?  Don’t be afraid – just eat it! 🙂