It was our second week in Vietnam and we hadn’t been out partying yet. We kept meaning to go out, but would just fall asleep because we were so exhausted from running workshops through translators. So we decided on a Wednesday that the following Monday would be our party night.
When that Monday came around, it was pouring down rain. It was 8pm and we were tucked under the sheets in our mildewy hotel room with our computers in our laps. “Are we going to do this?” Julian asked. “We said we would,” I droned. He closed his computer and said with assurance, “We’re doing this. Let’s wear headbands.” Our friend, Courtney, runs a headband company called Stay in Light, and she talks … Read more »
[Group photo after the closing of our final workshop in Uganda]
It is funny that you can be living in one reality, but there's a completely different reality that people see you in. My relationship with Julian is sometimes like that. People say to me, “It must be so refreshing to be in a relationship with such a talker, with someone that can really express his feelings.” It doesn’t just happen once a month, or every two months, somebody says something like that to me almost everyday.
But the talker boyfriend who expresses himself is not my day-to-day experience. I actually feel like I spend a lot of time in a very different reality. A reality where I am tortured … Read more »
We were covered in red dust. It was 90 degrees. My fingernails were caked with dirt. We had our sleeping bags and a pillow. We were ready to set up on a floor in a mud hut for the next three nights. We had two days of workshops planned with vanilla farmers in Western Uganda. I was exhausted. My eyes were puffy. It was the same day I had broken down crying on the bus about the impossibleness of the issues facing Uganda and the man who was reading the burned book.
I was in overdrive. I felt like if I took a deep breath and acknowledged how I really felt I would have wanted to go home. Everything was just … Read more »
Julian, Geoffrey and I stood around a table in a small shop drinking sodas in a town outside of Kampala, Uganda. Geoffrey was reading the newspaper. He pointed to an article that featured a man’s mug shot. “Do you have this in your country?” he asked. “What is it?” Julian asked. “Do you have people who do child sacrifice? Some people who kill kids in order to get money from the gods?” He asked casually.
“No, Geoffrey, no we don’t,” Julian said, sounding really annoyed at the possibility that child sacrifice could be a real thing. “What did that guy do?”
Geoffrey explained that the man in the mug shot had kidnapped a kid and murdered him, obeying a witchcraft ritual … Read more »
The music paused; Julian told the people in the group to find a new partner. I was a little nervous because this was our first workshop abroad. I monitored the room to make sure everyone had a partner. I tapped the person closest to me to be my partner. He was a forty-five year old man who grew up in Northern Vietnam. Julian announced the next instruction: “Please tell your partner about a musical memory - a band, a song, a concert or type of music that is close to your heart. Something that makes you nostalgic. You have a minute or so each.”
“You can go first,” I said.
“Well, honestly the music that I feel most nostalgic for is Russian … Read more »
In Vietnam, Julian and I were about 20 times bigger than most people. It was common to have people say, “Wow - you guys are very FAT!” People would run up to Julian and pat his belly and throw their heads back in laughter.
It annoyed me, but I tried not to take it personally. However, one night in Da Nang I had to use every ounce of my energy not to start yelling profanities at an innocent ten-year-old girl.
Julian and I had just finished a training and we were wandering along the tiny, dark sidewalks, reflecting on the day. We had stopped at one of the many food carts lining the streets and bought one veggie bun and one pork bun. … Read more »
When I think back to the first day I was in Uganda, I cringe because there are so many things I did that day that, after spending two months there, I would never dream of doing.
To name two:
1 - Walk out in the street in my bathing suit.
2 - Invite a stranger off the street to come swimming with me.
I had just arrived in Uganda the night before. I was staying at my friend Melissa’s house, where there was a pool. Julian, Melissa, and our new friend Roland from Kampala were swimming. It was hot out.
I saw a some heads peeking over the wall. There were four or five of them. I could hear giggles as the … Read more »
So Julian and I have this dynamic in our relationship where I am in charge most of the time when it comes to things like making travel arrangements, scheduling appointments, and initiating conversations. I don't like to always be in charge of that stuff though. Julian and I talk a lot about how we both would like to change it but it is really hard to actually make that change. Sometimes I cry and say, “I just want be the first mate and you to be the captain. Pleassse.” I know this is what I ultimately want; yet when it comes to actually giving up control, staying quiet, and taking a back seat, I have a really difficult time.
So, yes, I … Read more »
I'd been telling Julian that we'd cracked the code with the Million Person Project because we were able to have an incredible experience abroad, do the work closest to our hearts and not have to deal with any of the negative parts of traveling. He'd never been traveling backpacker style before, so I had been telling and prepping him how it can sometimes be miserable. You're out in the world trying to have fun but a lot of times it is just hard; you can't find a place to stay, you get stuck with some downer travel mates, you get lost, you don't have enough money, you have really high expectations, you don't know if you are getting ripped off, people you meet complain or … Read more »
Okay, Julian was eating absolutely everything on our trip. It was scary sometimes, because he was eating stuff like raw pork and random things he couldn’t identify. Once he ordered this bowl of food that looked like noodles and pig nostrils. We think, upon reflection, that it was intestine, not nostrils, but either way it was super hardcore to try and eat. I just watched in awe and try not to think negative thoughts, like that he was going to die.
One of the worst times was one night when we were walking down the street in Hue and he was on a mission to try Bun Bo Hue. A Vietnamese friend of his back home, Jenny Ton, had told him he absolutely … Read more »
Before mydad passed away in October of 2010, he was my best friend and my confidant. he and i did everything together from playing sports to watching them and everything in between. the one thing i will always pull away from our time together is when he taught me how to cook. because of my dad i can cook the most amazing things and i will always feel grateful to him for that. my dad was an amazing man. he was full blooded Apache and if he ever got mad you could tell because he would go from calm to angry in like five seconds flat. On May 24, 2010 my dad was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer and i was a complete wreck. … Read more »
I guess we were using some variation of “The Secret” method when it came to fundraising for the Million Person Project. Neither of us had ever read “The Secret,” but from what we gathered, we both seemed to understand that if you want something to appear in your life, you start acting as though you already have it. The famous example is if you really want a Corvette and you put a photo of it on your mirror and start acting like you have a Corvette, while not thinking a single negative thought, the Corvette will be yours!
Certainly there are tons of flaws in the logic, but I do believe in the power of positive thinking and, honestly, we just needed to believe … Read more »
I try really hard not to spend a lot of time stressing about how I look. Actually, I made a commitment one Saturday, 12 years ago, to spend as little of time as possible thinking mean thoughts about myself and my body. It was Saturday afternoon and I was sitting around with my friends in college and we were all pointing out the things we didn’t like about our bodies -- someone hated their thighs, another pointed out that her butt was flat, one girl grabbed the side of her stomach and said, “At least you don’t have these love handles.” I added that I thought I was sort of burly and hated my small chin. When I walked away from that conversation I … Read more »
Julian and I are very different people, we both know that, but when people first meet us they often say we are exactly the same. I think it is because Julian and I are plagued by the same social disease, which is the reason we get along so well and the reason we both love to party.
Here are the main symptoms: we love people, we love watching people be bold, we love being around people expressing themselves, and we’re always willing to take it up a notch with someone in terms of partying or self expression. We hate seeing people being repressed, even if the repression is just a bouncer not letting a friend in a club, and if there is something we … Read more »
You know when you just get a creepy feeling from something and you can't put your finger on why? That is how Julian and I both felt about our $15-a-night hotel room in a small town in central Vietnam.
When we arrived, the lady at the front desk acted as though she hadn't encountered a soul in weeks. She talked and talked and talked, sort of looking right past us, telling us all kinds of facts and figures about the hotel. We didn’t care at all. After ten minutes of painful listening I just dramatized our situation to get us our key. I interrupted her and said, “We don’t mean to be short, but we have to prepare for a big workday tomorrow … Read more »
I go to church more than he does and I definitely talk about god more than him. I guess he says things like “God Bless” more than I do, though he barely ever says it. But it wasn't until one dusty day in Uganda that I realized that we had never explicitly talked about whether or not we were Christians.
We were in Western Uganda sitting outside a café. We were both drinking Krest, a delicious bitter lemon soda. We had just endured a six hour bus ride and I was exhausted. Plus I had finally pulled myself together after a thirty-minute bawl session, crying about how unsolvable the problems in Uganda seemed.
I had started crying on the bus because there was … Read more »
Julian ran around town getting shoes, suits and shirts made. It was really fun. We had originally planned to stay in Hoi An for one night and then go to Da Nang, the town where we were holding our workshops, but the fashion horse was too into getting clothes made, so we stayed in Hoi An.
When we showed up in Da Nang, Julian was dressed to the nines. The host suggested we start the workshop at 7am on Saturday so people could make the most out of their day. The room we had rented had white-tiled counters; it was a science classroom at a university. There were tiny muffins and instant tea and coffee on the counters. There were 20 young people … Read more »
When I was in the fifth grade, I was one of two students representing my school in a city-wide spelling bee. My mother, who was a teacher at another school, prepped me for weeks beforehand. I could spell up a storm.
On the night of the competition I was nervous but confident, feeling fully prepared. I made it through the first round. Then I went up to spell my second word. The announcer said: "worthy." I drew a blank. He didn't use it in a sentence. He just repeated the word: "worthy." Still nothing.
Hesitantly I croaked "w-o-u-r-t-h-y," spelling my doom. Incorrect. As I left the stage and slinked to a seat … Read more »
There were wooden shacks with kerosene lanterns. The lanterns were dangling carefully from strings in the doorways or were sat upon stools in front of the shacks. Some shacks were selling bags of roasted nuts or bananas, one had a skinned goat for sale, a few were just there to sell cell phone airtime. There was no electricity. Every road but the main road from the airport was red dirt. Kids were running around, rolling tires and drawing shapes in the dirt. It looked like most of them were not wearing shoes.
We both sat in the back of the taxi. Julian looked over at me and I looked back. I knew we must have been asking ourselves the same thing. Are … Read more »
Julian and I had been traveling side by side almost 24 hours a day. So it wasn't until two weeks into the trip that I started to notice this awkward thing about Vietnam. The first time it happened it was dusk. Julian was at a tiny copy shop on the side of a busy road in Hanoi; he was making 30 copies of our workshop packet and it was taking forever.
I had to pee, and I was bored so I went for a walk in search of a bathroom. I stood at the edge of the road watching the cars weave and whiz by me. I couldn't find the courage to cross the street. The week before, a Vietnamese friend had told me … Read more »
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