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Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Adventures with All Hands

I have been working with All Hands Volunteers since the last week of January, when I met my awesome coworkers; my amazing yet quirky boss Andrew, my groovy development soul sister Kat, the tech genius who does not use any social media site J. Hatter, beer loving guru of disaster recovery J. Horan, communications extraordinaire and wizard of life Aaron, finical master with a huge heart Dominique, and the man who brought us all together with his will to make the world better David. 

I arrived in New Orleans, proudly wearing my Project Tohoku t-shirt not knowing what to expect.  As I sat in the backseat chatting with my new co-workers I was quickly put at ease when they called me out after in the middle of sentence, pausing then saying shoot instead of shit.  They laughed, and said did you really just pause and not curse.  You know working at All Hands is just like being on project, we are a bit rough around the edges, can handle communal living, and working hard if it means empowering volunteers to help communities following a natural disaster.  From that moment on I knew my job would be like none other I ever neither had nor could imagine ever having.   

Three months flew by and I received the word I would going to Cagayan de Oro, Philippines the "City of Golden Friendship" for my first international project. I was excited and nervous, I would be now be on the staff side and not the volunteer side, plus I would be meeting coworkers I had only emailed for the first time. 

When I walked out of the tiny airport I was flagged with requests to be my taxi driver, I nodded to one and was relieved he knew exactly where my home for the next three weeks was and sat back in the comfort of air condition which I would now only feel when I went to into town.   I had arrived at 5am so the house we still quiet, I put my things down and curled up on the couch until people started stirring.  The first hello was from Mike, as he walked from his room to the bathroom in his boxers, next was Loc a familiar face from Japan, a few new people, and then I felt something land in my lap it was Toby-san my frienemy from Japan as well. 

It was familiar yet completely new, bunk beds but only 15 of them instead of 40, bucket showers but this time cold instead of hot, breakfast, lunch and dinner but no dishes, a free box and a laundry box since we paid someone to do our washing.  It felt good to be adult summer camp again. 

My first day in the field, was a half day and so was my second, and boy was body thankful for it.  90 degree heat and not much shade you are dripping in sweat in a matter of moments even before you start working.  I felt inspired and amazed at the fact that my job was helping volunteers to donate their time, blood, sweat, labor to help people who lost so much.  I joined their sides painting and framing the lid for a septic tank.  Little did I know that my first full day in the field would be “helping” to dig one?  They are about 6 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, and I probably dug and cleared only about ½ a foot of dirt, because I had to do more watching then acting since I felt like I was going to die.  People were to kind and kept saying I would do better because it was my first full day, I was and still am not to certain because I have yet to work another full day. I am going to try to do at least one and do half days for the rest of this whole week, so I can say I did more than make friends and work on my computer all day even though that is what my job description requires me to do. 

I will let you know how it goes and other interesting things about my trip soon.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Back in the States and Employed!!!

Kon'nichiwa, Namaste, Tashi Delek, Sawadee-kah, Khmai, Apa Khabar, and finally a big hello since I’m back in the States!

Yes, I am back in the states sooner than planned, and wanted to say hello in all the new languages I learned (I only learned hello and thank you J).  I also wanted to take this this opportunity to inform you of positive changes in my life now that I am back “home”.  As of January 28, 2012, I embarked on the next phase of my “helping the world” career as a development associate for All Hands Volunteers.  All Hands is the amazing organization I did tsunami relief with in Ofunato, Japan. It was one of the most inspirational and amazing times of my life.  I loved it so much that extended my time there until the end of project; I probably would still be there if winter and lack funding did not push us out.  I dug ditches in the blistering sun, gutted houses in pouring rain, hand cleaned photos in freezing water in a freezing room, and had the best time ever because I was alongside 100 of people, like me, who just wanted to help where they could. 

So, now I am working for them because of what they do best, giving anyone and I mean anyone …grandmas, drop-outs, Peter-pans… a place to go when they want to help.  Plus, they pay for volunteers room, 60 bunks beds in one room, board, an old electronics shop, and food, Bento boxes, so they can focus on working as hard as possible, 6 days of week regardless of weather, when they are on project

All Hands also allows those that cannot be on project, because of other life commitments, babies, new houses, 50 hour work weeks, away to help.  These people make donations, have fundraisers, spread the word from the comfort of home and hot water. 

A volunteer funded by donors creates one of the most passionate workforces, the world has ever seen.

It is my duty as a volunteer and even more so now as employee to continue thought.  So, I donated $100 in addition to all the sweat equity I put in, and am now asking you to donate what you deem significant.  This maybe a dollar maybe $1,000 it does not matter, what matter is that you believe in me and empowering volunteers to work their asses off.

I thank you for all the time and attention you have provided me over the past year and during this long post.  I look forward to updating you on my new job and how much money I have raised.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Big Winners in Malaysia

In 2002 the Royal Langkawi Regatta was formed, now ten years latter this regatta kicks off the Asian calendar by providing competitive and enjoyable racing for all crews, irrespective of the design or vintage of their yacht. This year thirty six boats from all over the world were divided into five classes, and I was lucky enough to be on IRC 2’s defending champion Niels Degenkolw's IOR 3/4 Ton X yacht Phoenix.  Joining Captain Niels (Nederland) and me on this magnificent boat was Niels’ wife Tim (Thailand), her brother Toon (Thailand), Kevin Ashby (South Africa), Liz Schoak (Australia), Mark Minzer (Australia). 

The first race day an overcast morning with about 8 Knots of wind greeted us as we headed out on the waters of Bass Harbor. As we learned our individual jobs and the synergy of working together we held steady and took 2nd place in our class behind Stuart Williamson's Beneteau 34.7 Skandia Endeavour of Whitby.  That night we enjoyed the kick off dinner, traditional Malaysian dancers and fire breathers, and getting to know each other off the water.

For the second day of racing the skies were clear; winds were approximately 9 knots and staying steady as we left are berth super early to make the 5 mile passage outside the group of islands that form Bass Harbor to police boat that marks each start and finish. We were greeted with 10 to 12 knots of wind but the winded faded around the third buoy and the way race was shortened for our class, but we fought hard and claimed first place.   As we sailed back to port, we all enjoyed our celebration Cokes, which Niels promised to me after each first place finish. 

The middle of the week brought a traditional Royal Langkawi Regatta race tradition the around the island race.  Sadly, Skandia Endeavour of Whitby returned to form by taking out the daily double and regained top spot on the IRC 2 point score. Whereas we missed out on the favorable gust in the Dayang Bunting Strait that left us trailing a few minutes behind and down in second place.

Still the beautiful environment with eagles soaring overhead could not dampen our spirits.  We were keen on improving our standings even if there was heavy overcast sky and drizzling rain as we started day four.  The first race we were perfect and smoothly sailed into 1st place.  The second race of the day we were not so lucky and were recalled for being over the start line as the horn sounded, but we quickly made amends and won again.  This coupled with second and fifth finishes by Skandia Endeavour of Whitby allowed us to take back the overall lead in our class.  With such a great day of racing I was ready to dance, and that night after the awards dinner Liz and I joined a few hot shot team members of Marcus Blackmore's chartered TP52 Hooligan for a night out on the town.

A bright sunshine and blue sky bought color back into the scenery greeted us on day five, but we could not be cocky because the pressure was still on with us only be 1 point over Skandia Endeavour Of Whitby for overall class winner.  All week our boat chased Skandia Endeavour of Whity around the course because of our handicap and had to wait until reach shore to find out our standings.  This time we clocked there finished and silently prayed as the wind slowly took us toward the finish line.  It seriously came down to the wire as we counted down the seconds.  With two seconds to spare we crossed the finish line with a loud cry of victory, Niels Degenkolw's crew on Phoenix had managed to defend his five time IRC 2 title. 
On the momentous sail back in we merrily drank our Cokes and sang "We Are the Champions." 

To top it off that night, Kevin and Neil's bought the crew champagne with the cork happily soaring into the night followed by fireworks, all of us happily going on stage to accept our rewards, and hanging out with Estonia Pro Basketball player and hottie Denno Drell. 

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