The Unofficial Help Exchange: Win Win Win

We have essentially started our month-long road trip, and we’re off to a great start in the state of Washington!

Back in January, we announced to family and friends that we’d be continuing our “mid-life sabbatical” for the year. We actually created a SoKind Registry with some of the creative ways people could help us out (like lending us camping gear or recommending us for house-sitting gigs).

We were really excited when our friends, Stephanie and Jon, proposed an “unofficial help exchange.” Help Exchange is a network of hosts around the world who accept traveling helpers at their farms, B&B’s, or households for various periods of time in exchange for room and board and the chance to explore a new place. Our friends’ suggestion involved hosting us for a week and letting us borrow their camping gear in exchange for some help in their backyard. It’s an unofficial help exchange! And, since we also get to spend quality time with our friends, it’s a win-win-win!

Here's some of the work we accomplished in just a few days

Here’s some of the work we accomplished in just a few days

Simply Intentional: Home Edition

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Stephanie and Jon are great examples of intentional living. Continue reading

World Domination Summit 2014

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This past weekend, Michelle and I volunteered as Ambassadors at the 2014 World Domination Summit (an event that brought together 3000+ participants and over 80+ volunteers and staff together in Portland, OR). Before you ask yourself “What is that?” (too late) let me provide you with some context and history as to how we got there.

How We Got Here

4 years ago, life was going well. Michelle and I both had awesome jobs at 2 different universities in Portland. We were in the process of buying a house, setting down roots… But we decided, it wasn’t the life that what we wanted. Continue reading

Updates Galore

Greetings from Portland!

We have finally had the opportunity to start reconnecting with friends in the Portland area these past few weeks. It has been wonderful to see everyone again, especially to meet the new little members of our friends’ families who arrived on scene after we left for Jamaica.

DSC01883In the process of seeing everyone for the first time, we’re realizing that we still struggle to explain our plans and what we’re doing with our lives. We don’t really fit into a category right now. We’re not moving in anywhere. We’re not getting back into careers. It can be a bit confusing to not be able to categorize us.

So I thought it would be good to spell out the plan as it stands right now.

The Plan: Another Sabbatical

Housing
We’re planning to be very mobile but we will most often be staying with Michelle’s parents in Salem, our brother and sister-in-law in Portland, and also doing house-sitting gigs. We try to contribute a little free labor to make it more of a win-win for our hosts. Continue reading

You May Never Know: Touching Lives in Unexpected Ways

The following story/letter originally appeared on the blog From Africa to the Caribbean. It was written by Kate W, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica who worked in the schools, like me. It is such a touching example of the unexpected impact a PCV has, so I had to share!
-M

You May Never Know

Sweet Rianna,

       Your quiet disposition, small frame, and hugely curious eyes caught my attention first. You would walk timidly through the door into my corner of a classroom, almost holding your finger to your lips as if whispering sshhhhhh while your brown eyes searched for unspoken permission to enter. You came with the curious masses in the beginning, stepping aside as the bigger, more outgoing students won the prize of participating in Miss Wright’s puzzles, books, coloring, or games. When another student came in, you scooted over on your already small chair, making room for another person to sit and participate in whatever was going on at the small table for that moment.

       Then my novelty wore off. The masses stopped coming, learning quickly that I am a firm and strict (albeit equally kind and silly) teacher. Some were offended that I would not grant them permission for certain activities on certain days. Others bored easily of the same books over and over or lost interest when the bracelet thread ran out. But you stayed. You continued to walk quietly and respectfully into that corner, touching things gently and practically whispering permission, taking care of and respecting that which was not yours. Your toma, Rhianna McCarty, and you enjoyed solving the cardboard puzzles together, personalities begging for praise at a collaborative job well done. Your tiny hands eagerly reached for the fallen Uno or Old Maid card without hesitation, even if you were not the culprit who dropped it. You never left my sacredly organized space without making sure things were back in order and put neatly away. The way you treated your friends, peers, and surroundings caught my attention next, proving the age-old mantra that actions speak louder than words.  

       I did not work directly with you, pulling you out of class to improve your reading skills or because your teacher simply needed a break from behavior. You are a smart girl, as the Jamaicans say. You came to me on your own merit and on your own time, leaving play time outside to the birds. I cannot recall a single time that you complained or shrugged your shoulders when I said no to a certain activity, unlike many other students, perfectly content to simply be and enjoy. Your naturally agreeable, trusting nature had a calming effect in the midst of an unpredictably noisy and chaotic environment. 

       And then you stole my heart. You, Miss Rianna, made every suffering through Jamaica and Peace Corps worth enduring through. You may never know, but you certainly let me know. Tears brim my eyes as I write and remember this, a story that I shared with one or two Jamaicans while still on island, and a story that has become the answer to What was Peace Corps/Jamaica like?.

       I was weeks away from departing Jamaica as the local Peace Corps Volunteer. Apathy had set in as I worked to complete paperwork, wrap up projects, and prepare my house and classroom for the volunteer following me. My head was full of and focused on the boy and potential relationship I had recently started investing in. A teacher’s yelling broke me out of a said trance one morning before school started, and I eventually rose from my table to see what the commotion was about. There you stood, quiet and wide-eyed as the teacher scolded and kissed her teeth at the boy who tore your uniform clear across the back. Having taken on more than my assigned role of Literacy Intervention Specialist (what PCV ever doesn’t?), I offered to sew your uniform back together.

      I placed my tin of sprinkle (sparkle) crayons and haphazardly torn pieces of scrap paper on the table in front of you as you sat in your blouse and shorts. After a few quiet moments I looked across the table at you, creatively coloring away.

“You know you’re a pretty girl, Rianna?” I inquired, attempting to redeem the moment for what I grew to care about most in the students’ lives: character.

“Yes,”

you replied, barely glancing up from your paper that now contained 2nd-grade sketches of two girls and the words I love you on it.

After another set of quiet moments  I asked, 

 
“What makes a girl pretty, Rianna?”


And without a second of hesitation, you replied,

 
her soul.”


I was speechless. Thoughts ran through my head faster than I could process them to exit my mouth. 
               

She is thinking critically! 
Who are her parents? 
I want to go meet them and praise them and learn what they are doing differently and right. 
What a wise, wise girl at such a young age. 
She is more beautiful than I ever imagined.


Eventually, I managed to mutter out,

 
“That’s exactly right! Who taught you that, Rianna?”


And, again, without skipping a beat, you looked up through your long lashes and said with the most confidence I ever witnessed in your being:

You did.

Want to Appreciate Home More? Leave it.

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“I am born and raised from Hawaii” and I know I am lucky to be able to say that. But for many of the years that I lived in Hawaii, I don’t think I fully grasped how blessed I was or appreciated home the way I should have. I remember watching “Wheel of Fortune” episodes and contestants would cry or go crazy when they won a trip to Hawaii. What’s the big deal I thought. It’s an island. I’ve seen it all.

I haven’t seen it all.

The truth is I never left Hawaii to appreciate it more. I left because I felt that I wanted to experience other things in the world, to cry or go crazy for other places the way the Wheel of Fortune winners did. That’s why I left and that’s why I love traveling today. But when you return to the place where you grew up, it’s suppose to feel like home and at first it didn’t. I felt like an outsider. A visitor. A tourist (it stings to even write that). Things seemed familiar to me, but yet, very foreign.

As the days went by, I started to remember what it meant to be from Hawaii.  It started with the food. The diverse, rich blend of cultures and flavors unique to this place. The land of sweet and savory.

Skippy's Coffee Shop - Pho

Then it was the beautiful landscapes that I’ve driven past hundreds of times, but never truly appreciated the backdrop they provided.
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On site with Kapono Photoworks

Bellows AFB Fishing

But most of all, what brought me back full circle, was spending time with my family. Doing the things we love doing together like fishing, surfing, playing games, eating, and hanging out. All of the things that I had missed these past couple of years.
Family Mahjong
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If you want to appreciate home more….leave it.

But don’t forget to go back and rediscover everything all over again, and new things.