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#MilitaryPrincess Pt2. If You Want Happiness


“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.

If you want happiness for a month, get married.

If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.”

-Chinese Proverb

 

This past Christmas was a very special one.

Firstly, my lovely cousin came back from New York City (oh, I could just smell the air of freedom from her) to celebrate her status as a newly wed with all the family members in Taiwan. It was an amazing week as we ate and travelled all around Taiwan.

Also, it was my first Christmas in a long time spent in Taiwan.

I’m currently serving my substitute military service in a small public primary school called Chang Hsing Elementary School, located in Qidu, Keelung, Taiwan. Qidu is actually where both my parents are from, and where my grandparents still live. Maybe it was destiny or maybe it was luck that I get to see my grandparents almost everyday now, but either way, it’s nice.

I’m working as part English Teaching Assistant and part Administrative Assistant to the school, so my daily tasks range from English speech competition training camps to delivering paperwork to the city council. I also get to play with the kids from time to time. It’s never boring here.

It’s always been kind of a tradition for the substitute military guys to deliver a Christmas presentation to the entire school for cultural awareness purposes, and to be honest, you can only talk so much about Christmas without it being boring, right?

I wanted to bring Secret Santa to the school, but considering the family backgrounds of some of the students here, making them buy presents for other students just wasn’t ideal. Also, the real meaning of Christmas isn’t about receiving but actually giving the presents, right? Happiness is the greatest when you give, not receive, and we wanted to show that to the kids.

So we came up with ‘Secret Angel,’ and it is the following:

A week before Christmas Day, we distributed small Christmas cards to every student and assigned them to write down one thing they remember being helped or being inspired by someone else. The teachers would also give a couple of examples for them to brainstorm and grasp an idea of what’s expected. This is for them to identify a positive influence in their life.

The following Monday, the teachers would ask the students to share their stories with their peers. This is to celebrate other people’s involvement and help in our lives.

Then, the students would draw from a already-prepared box filled with names of the students in the class. They are to be this person’s ‘Secret Angel.’ Their mission during this week before Christmas Day is to help and/or inspire this person with the exact positive act written in their own cards that they’ve just shared with their peers. This is to teach them to pay forward the positive outputs.

On Christmas Day, each class would come around the school Christmas Tree and have the students take turn revealing their ‘Secret Angel’ to celebrate the good deeds they’ve done. After they share their stories with their peers, they’re given praise and confirmation by both the teachers and the students. Then, they hang their cards onto the tree for everyone in the school to read.

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Students sharing their stories with their peers

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His name is Eric, and he’s talking about how he reminded a girl in his class of their math homework all this week

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Look at that smile!

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Then, they get to hang their own hand-written hards onto the Christmas Tree

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The tree looks much better with the cards, don’t you think?

Seeing the kids get very excited to share, listen, and to hang their cards is such a warm feeling. They’re smiling when they’re sharing their stories with everyone, and the smiles get even bigger when their Secret Angel responds “I knew it was you! Thank you!” because their actions are recognized and even celebrated.

I hope they’ve learned a thing or two during this week, but most importantly I hope I can keep paying forward all the good deeds in my life myself.

 

xoxo,

#PrincessDiaries

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#MilitaryPrincess Pt.1 – Military Basic Training

Dear Diary,

I know it’s been ages since I last posted. Note that I used ‘posted’ and not ‘wrote’ – I’ve actually tried to start countless blog posts but haven’t found the courage and enough comprehensive thoughts to finish any of them. The past year and half and I was on hiatus from this blog was very eventful and challenging, and I’m ultimately glad that I’m able to spend some time to type this blog post up.

I’ve moved back to Taiwan after having spent a year in Dubai. I’m now here for Substitute Military, a type of military serve that you can either choose or get picked to do as a Taiwanese young man facing compulsory services. Since I was educated abroad, I applied for Substitute Military, Ministry of Education branch with my foreign diploma and I will be teaching English to disadvantaged children for the next year. The location is yet disclosed since we need to go through two parts of training: first the Basic Military Training for 16 days and then the Professional Training for 14. This blog post is my written diary entry while I was in base for the first part of the training. It’s a bit embarrassing to read through again, especially at the beginning, but I want to keep the material as raw as possible in order to capture the truest emotions and experiences. Well, without further adieu, here it is. Try not to judge too hard though 😛

xoxo,

#PrincessDiaries

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October 9th, Friday, Day 3

[09:00] Today’s the third day in base and last night was the second night in a row that I cried myself to sleep. Wasn’t expecting that really.

I’ve always thought of myself as a strong and independent fella, at least mentally. Oh boy, we’re currently watching a PSA about depression. The mom is relentlessly caring for her daughter who is the main protagonist. She’s been acting weird, and it’s obvious that she has depression.

Anything about ‘mom’ just drives me bonkers right now; it doesn’t matter how difficult she can be sometimes or how much she butts into my life, I know I can always count on her to be there for me. I miss her lots, and it hasn’t even been three full days in base yet.

Ok, I can’t keep watching this video anymore. I thought I had cried everything out last night. I couldn’t even call my parents in the short five minutes I had my phone because I was so afraid I’d have lost it on the spot. I miss home; I miss my family; I miss the people I love.

It’s quite ironic that everyone else around me thought this was such a big deal except me. I had thought: it’s just 16 days! I had lived abroad for nine years by myself before, this is absolutely nothing. But this is everything I’m afraid of – a bunch of dudes. Taking orders. Being yelled at no matter what you do. Unreasonable requests with no questions asked. No freedom. Freedom. Being unable to eat when hungry or go to the restroom when needed is a horrific thing. It makes you feel so small and helpless.

October 10th, Saturday, Day 4

[08:40] Today’s October 10th, aka Taiwan’s 4th of July. Just realized that everyone else I know here (in Taiwan) is enjoying their long weekend since they had yesterday off too.

Did I mention that I tried to faint yesterday morning to get out of this military service? I am anemic, but I exaggerated the symptoms a bit to try to freak the staff out. They’re a bit more experienced than I had expected though. We ran another 3K this morning, but I think my body’s doing better than yesterday.

I called my loved ones last night, but I couldn’t tell my mom that I miss her. I wanted to, but a sudden wave of sadness overwhelmed me right before the words came out of my mouth. Afraid that my tears would break free from my eyes like Arianna Grande, I kept my mouth shut. Maybe in a couple of more days I’ll be able to tell her that I miss her.

After the brief calls last night, I didn’t have enough time to take a shower anymore because I had to re-sew my name tag onto the running shorts. There I was, at 10pm, laying there filthy as ever, thinking how much of a failure I was to be able to do nothing right. I am trying so hard, but I’m failing even harder. Now I’m just wondering will I ever get used to this lifestyle or will I give up before I do?

[16:13] We’re now sitting in the cafeteria for our forth and last class of the day. Today actually went by surprisingly fast, but I fear the nights the most. As soon as it hits 9pm, the chaos starts because everyone is running around to take a shower and to call their loved ones within 40 minutes. They tell us 40 minutes but we actually only have about 25 before we get yelled at to go to sleep.

Part of me is thinking maybe the reason why I’m having such a tough time is that I have absolutely no control in anything. Yes, I miss my family, I miss Instagram, and I miss FaceTiming at 2am but maybe what I cannot stand losing is my freedom. Freedom, didn’t I write about freedom yesterday too?

I’m also making some friends here. Well, I know their assigned numbers only, not their names, does this still make us ‘friends’? Mine is 123 – it’ll be a good story to tell my kids one day.

October 11th, Sunday, Day 5

[08:41] Oops, I forgot to keep writing yesterday. Honestly, one doesn’t really have a lot of leisure time here to write or do anything personal. I’m supposed to be in class right now haha!

I think I sound better than just two days ago. I’m definitely doing better now: called my grandma again last night and told her that I might not be able to call her every night. Over here, we have from 21:00 to 21:40 to organize our beds, make phone calls, log our phone activities, and take a shower. And this is not taking into account of the queues to do everything! I think being able to tell my grandma my intense schedule was a relief of pressure for me. Without exterior expectations, I hope I’ll be able to focus on what I need to do in base better.

Yesterday was definitely a good day – I was able to make a couple of calls, say a couple of ‘I love you’s, take a nice, long shower to make up for the day before (even though some idiot took my shorts like literally WTF?), find a lost bag that would have lost me eight points, and most importantly not one single teardrop! Go me!

Now I have myself more or less sorted, I’ll be focusing my energy on running the 3K exam (I had previously thought it was 18 minutes but someone’s telling me now it’s 20. Although neither should be a problem, I definitely prefer the latter!) and the written exam. I’ll be spending these lecture times to write here and to study; hope my Chinese doesn’t fail me!

[10:20] It’s in-between classes right now, and I’m looking around. Everyone’s making friends quite easily, but sometimes I’m really struggling to find common topics with them: girls, college experiences in Taiwan, and cultural references. Oh well, I’ll try harder.

[16:24] Just checked the score sheet… I’m at negative six points right now!? WTF?! I’ve heard that they take points off like crazy in the first week to scare you and then they add them back during the second week, but I’m still quite pissed that I’m trying so freaking hard to fold my sheets nicely and they’re still not up to par. WHYYYYYY?! Ugh, the pressure is real.

[20:00] I’ve already taken a shower?! I hope all remaining days have such chill evenings please! After dinner, my team was appointed to clean up the cutlery for 163(?) people again tonight even though we’d done them last night. Some idiot complained that the dishes were ‘a bit too dirty,’ so they’re being extra tough on checking these now. We spent about an hour scrubbing these metal plates, I’m writing here with the final strength from my fingers.

October 13th, Tuesday, Day 7

[13:57] Today is the seventh day, which means tomorrow marks the one week anniversary. To be honest, I kind of wish time was going by a little faster. This morning I went to check in at the Ministry of Education, the branch I’ll be serving for the next year. Shit gotta go.

[15:55] Oh God, what a day. Anyways, so I went to check in , and then there I was, sitting under the knife-life sun for two straight hours. My arms are now two boiling lobsters attached to a otherwise rather pale body. I don’t even have the courage to check my ears. While sitting there, being yelled at because I think everyone just loves yelling at substitute services guys, I was listing to a brief explanation of what “Professional Training” life would be like. To explain a bit: I’m currently in “Basic Military Training,” and then I’ll have a weekend to go home, see my grand parents and drink some boba tea. After that, I’ll come back here to base for another night before heading to the professional training location for the Ministry of Education. It’ll be another 14 days before I get distributed based on how well I do in the countless tests that are coming our way. At first I was hoping for an easier time, but judging by how the guys were talking to us earlier this morning, chances of that are pretty thin. I’ve gotta do some research.

To be honest, I’m a bit down actually because I cannot stand being yelled at anymore. They yell at you no matter what, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. It makes absolutely no sense, but whatever I’ll have to power through. My lobster arms hurt.

[16:43] So I’m sitting here wondering how they managed to get 160-something Taipei City boys to listen to only around 6 officers. Now this is very interesting because I kind of have a theory, but let me kind of get all the details out of the way first. They start yelling at you as soon as you get off the bus from the train station at base, which did come off as a surprise to me. Now, you have to understand that Taipei City boys, myself included, are known to be very ignorant and very well protected by our parents who would do anything to go against to government in order to protect their kids. This being said, I’m quite surprised that everyone just submitted to authority, especially since these officers are only about the same age as all of us. They yell at you for no reason and for absolutely everything, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling like this, so much agony.

So why did/do we all submit? The entire military system is designed for you, especially the rookies, to follow and follow only. If you dare to question anything, even if with the right reason, the punishment is beyond severe and more often than not unjustifiable, not that they’d need to justify anything to anyone. It’s so sever that it makes being right in one argument or disagreement with your supervisor worth nothing. But is this an admirable ideal we should be preaching to all (compulsory military) young men of Taiwan?

I see the benefits of it – easier control, faster decision making, more effective team management to name a few, but aren’t two brains better than one ultimately? Four hands can definitely do more things than two, but wouldn’t two brains be able to come up with even more effective management methods and more sound solutions than one? This is a question I’m still pondering on, and I hope to find my answer before I leave base.

[20:55] We just had a quite pleasant and small trip wit the officers. We went all the way to the computer lab to take psychiatric exams, testing how healthy we’re all doing mentally. At first, I had to ask an officer to type my name for me cause I have forgotten how to type Chinese completely… how embarrassing. The exam went by quickly, and when they showed us the results individually, I wasn’t all that surprised to see that I have “mild to severe OCD.” I mean, ok fine I can be kind of high maintenance sometimes but I can also agree with others quite easily right? I DON’T WANT TO BE MONICA BING! I’M ALWAYS RACHEL!

October 15th, Thursday, Day 9

[08:28] Maybe the reason why I’m suffering from thinking that time’s going by so slowly is because I had a mental milestone of “gotta at least make it half way though” and now I don’t have any anymore. A day for you, a decade for me (cough cough *RENT*). The exam is on Monday. Gotta study now, xoxo.

October 19th, Monday, T-3 Days

[10:01] I didn’t get to write again till now. I think they’re trying to cram everything before we leave, which is why we’re so damn busy. Later today we have the remains two of three exams with the 3K out of the way yesterday morning. One of them is a paper test, which is what I’m most stressed about. After that, we have a “Basics” exam where we will get tested on how to turn left, right, and backwards correctly – trust me, it’s a lot tougher than it sounds. Let’s just hope I don’t make any mistakes then I should be fine! Alright, I’ve gotta go study now. Write you later!

October 20th, Tuesday, T-2 Days

[09:24] Heyyy. The past couple of days were a bit stressful, and I wasn’t able to make any phone calls either. Anyways, after some intense cramming and a brief nap since I wrote yesterday, it was exam time. One of the staff was nice enough to apply for ‘intense care’ for Chinese reading for me because, well, sometimes I’ll be reading things and I won’t be understanding anything. The exam was easier than I had expected because the exam questions were the same as the past exams, which I had been studying. There were a couple of questions I wasn’t too sure on, but when I checked after the exam, I was still able to get them right 🙂

Because of the location where we (this other Aussie from the team and I) took the exam, we were unable to join the rest of the team for the “Basics” part. We were exam individually as opposed to with your assigned row. That threw me off my game and made me incredibly nervous. Even right before the exam when we were practicing, the officer said that my postures were really good, but during the exam, right when I was about to finish the last leg movement of turning backwards, I stepped forward to close the turn rather than backwards.

“Shit!” I instantly said and at the same time I could hear the exam officer going “Welp.”

I immediately raised my right hand and asked if I could do the turn again, but the office just responded saying that it wouldn’t change the result. By this time, tears were about to burst out of my eyes. The pressure of getting good grades in order to be able to select a good location is immense, and I couldn’t believe that one stupid turn was going to mess everything up. I finished the turn anyways, and thanked the exam office while he was walking out.

Stressed out of my mind, I was unable to focus for the rest of the day until around 20:00 when they gathered all of us to the classroom and started passing down our grades to us. Turns out I didn’t do half bad and that my Basics grade was actually higher than most people in the class! Maybe it’s the almost crying part or that the exam office pitied me, but either way I got a nice score 🙂 I won’t bore you with the grade details, but just take my word for it haha!

October 21st, Wednesday, T-1 Day

[09:28] One more day. By this time tomorrow. I’ll be preparing to leave this hell for 2.5 days. I cannot wait to leave, but I hope I don’t countdown the time that I have during this weekend. It’s nice to have met some friends here, but will we keep in touch? We have 16 days of our lives in common, and our topics are all about how annoying the officers are… haha!

[17:12] About to have my last supper here at base. I absolutely cannot wait. Earlier this afternoon I was sent to downtown Taichung for a hospital trip because my toes were swelling up. It was meaningless because the doc barely saw me for 2 minutes and just gave me more antibiotics, but I was able to waste five hours going there and coming back. We went on a bus and I sat at the window seat, seeing life outside of this base for the first time in 15 days. Fifteen days and I have already forgotten what freedom is and how it feels. I miss it. I want to be able to make decisions for myself again and be able to manage my own schedule. After three days off, I’m then off to two weeks of Professional Training. I hope it’s not as strict as base, but I’ll have to do some research.

October 22nd, Thursday, T-5 Hours

[11:15] Just sitting around the dorm waiting for lunch now. Time is creeping very slowly, but I’m eager to just pack up and leave. Some people are staying a bit later and there’s even some that will need to stay for another night because of their grades. I feel bad for them, but am actually a bit glad that I don’t need to spend another night here until Sunday. I’m really going to enjoy this weekend; haven’t decided if I want to do everything or do absolutely nothing. Maybe the latter since I really need some time off from doing things. I think I’ll need some time to regroup myself and to gather my scattered thoughts together; hope this diary will help when the time comes. I’ll also need to mentally prepare myself for the Professional Training part, but definitely not tonight! Alright, write you late xx

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If you are trying to find me, just find the only one smiling like an idiot

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APA Heritage Month: Bryan Chou

Check out my post for the #SUAPAMonth. I hope you enjoy it!! 🙂

ALINE Magazine

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“Where are you from?”
“Chicago.”
“No,” he said as he shook his head. “You can’t be. Where are you actually from?”

He specifically slowed down when he said “actually,” making sure that I understood what he meant. The thing is, I already knew what he meant; I just did not want to feed into his ignorance. “China?” he asked aggressively seeing that I hesitated to answer his question. “Japan? Korea? Vietnam?” “Taiwan,” I said softly but firmly. “Ah, Taiwan,” he said as he sat back into his seat with a smile on his face like he had won the battle. As a matter of fact, he did; in this battle of ignorance and stereotypes, he won against me.

My name is Bryan Chou, and I was born and raised in Taiwan. I sometimes tell people I’m from Chicago because, well I went to high school in the suburbs of Chicago…

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#Qatar2022 Adventures

January 17th, 2014
Flight from Doha -> Washington D.C. -> Syracuse

Next Stop: Doha, Qatar!! #FrankieDiaries #EdventuresInQatar

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I am still struggling to accept what happened in the past three weeks, having been in a coma on this plane for the past 10 hours definitely does not help. I guess I will try to clear things up as I talk & verbalize my feelings:

As you might or might have not known, I was volunteering in South Africa over winter break. It was definitely the most life-changing 2 weeks of my life. After saying bye to the volunteers and the kids, I headed to Doha, Qatar for the 2022 Women’s Soccer Challenge competition.

Just to give you some background information, Qatar is hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and they sent out a brief, through EdVentures Partners to 33 selected US and Canadian universities, to encourage Qatari girls between the ages of 6 and 17, to play football (soccer). At the same time, the research and strategy need to take the Qatari cultural sensitivities into consideration, as well as the Qatar 2030 National Vision, which ranges from human to economic development for Qatar.

When I received this brief back in September 2013, I really considered requesting for another brief. Really, though, where was I gonna start to do any kind of research? How can I possibly assemble the right information for this “Impossible Brief,” as I called it throughout the semester?

Time flew by, and the team had a lot of bumps along the road. As a 5-person team consisting all seniors with no faculty supervision and minimum resources, I couldn’t even imagine being in Qatar. Even though I was impressed by our first round of submission, I had no faith in placing as one of the top 3 finalists at the time…until December 22nd, the day before we were supposed to find out about the top 3 finalists, when I received an email from the EdVentures Partners Account Manager asking me to confirm the team’s availability to travel to Qatar IF we were in the top 3. This email was such a surprise as I was on the couch and drinking wine. I immediately called my teammates, telling them that we had been placed in the top 5 and the final notification would come in the next day.

The next 27 hours were torture! While the email, sent at 9pm, said that the decision would be made in the next 24 hours, it wasn’t till 11pm the next day that I received the only email (so far) that had made me scream so loud in public. I could not get off of my phone because I was too busy calling my teammates, my parents, and posting on every social media outlet possible.

When I was flying to Doha on Qatar Airways, I guess I did not really take the time to fully accept this opportunity I was fortunate enough to have to go explore yet another country. It was not until when I landed and was transported from the airport to the W Hotel in a BMW that I had fully realized how amazing this was. All paid for hotel, meals, transportation, and most importantly an opportunity to see such a fascinating country before the world sees it in 2022.

With about 90% of the nation’s population living in its capital, Doha, you can clearly see how rapid the country is evolving. While the central business district area is filled with skyscrapers, areas around the central business area are all under construction with amazing future plans such as the Qatar National Museum.

The Doha skyline view from dinner tonight. I'm spoiled. #PrincessDiaries #EdventuresInQatar #Qatar2022

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Eating lunch at 360 on top of The Torch, Doha at the Aspire Academy, having dinner on a boat on the Persian Gulf, and going on a desert safari, Doha was nothing but a paradise to me. Everyday was so planned out with three-meal courses for lunch & dinner, three hours apart starting after a breakfast buffet. Q22 stands for gaining 22 pounds in Qatar!

Carrie Bradshaw may take Abu Dhabi, but real princesses take #Doha. #PrincessDiaries #EdventuresInQatar #Qatar2022

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While the fun parts are very fun, we went to Doha for the Q22 Women’s Soccer Challenge advertising competition. During the week, we would get home from all the fun activities at 10pm and would start working on perfecting the presentation until 1 or 2am while we would have to wake up at 7 for another day of activities.

Lunch at The Torch, the tallest building in Doha, Qatar. #EdventuresInQatar #PrincessDiaries

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The @aspirezoneqa Dome seen from The Torch Doha. #EdventuresInQatar #PrincessDiaries

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No sleep + stress + trying to have fun = recipe for the most memorable week I’ve ever had in my life. By the time presentation day came, the team and I had already passed the point of being nervous. Between ironing my shirt and pants, having lunch with the judges and some professors who will be sitting in the audience, and having last run-throughs, I couldn’t find time to be nervous about standing on a stage and giving a pitch to an audience of supposedly 100 people.

The overall experience is indescribable. I can’t seem to find the appropriate vocab in my brain to properly describe the scenery I saw while I was there… I truly had one of the most amazing weeks of my life. Many people have asked me if I personally believe that Qatar is ready to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup…the amount of resources and energy the Qatari government puts into investing the growth of the country as well as its citizens is truly astonishing. One does not simply envision where Qatar will be in 2022, so my answer is yes; if Qatar can’t do it, I don’t believe any other country can.

The Museum of Islamic Art, same designer of @NewhouseSU I. #EdventuresInQatar #PrincessDiaries

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Even sunsets are better here in Doha. #EdventuresInQatar #Qatar2022

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Doha, I will come back. Watch me. #Qatar2022 #EdventuresInQatar

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Thanks to these lovely people for taking @syracuseu team all the way to FIRST PLACE HERE AT #Qatar2022!!!!

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school starts today…blah

#PrincessDiaries

ps. I tweeted out that last picture the second we found out that we had won the competition…little did I know that it became the “official” picture that was included in all of the press releases. If I had known, I would have photoshopped my face a little. ugh.

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Volunteering Finale – Positive Influence

As tears run down my face on the drive away from Ikhayalethemba, I began to wonder about my life and my purpose here in South Africa. When I first signed up for this opportunity, I was determined to expand my horizon and my perspective; little did I know that my entire life’s been changed forever.

There’s this one kid whom I grew extremely close to in the past 2 weeks. We will call him Nick. He was not behaving well this morning when we were doing “circle time” where we sit around in a circle and sing songs together, so I refused to read books to him. Oh, the things I’d give up for another chance to read Franklin stories or have him sit in my lap and sing Tiny Tim the Turtle.

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How do I just move on to the rest of my life without seeing these angels who’ve been my entire life for these past two weeks? How do I persuade myself to not drop everything I have and just stay here with these kids forever because I’ve grown to love them so much? How do I continue to go on with my days without hearing their innocent laughters throughout Ikhayalethemba?

I know I shouldn’t focus on the things that I will lose, but accepting the fact that I literally will not be able to see these kids’ angelic smiles again is a knife to my heart.

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I looked back as they waved goodbye. Because we are not allowed to take pictures of the children, I want to try as hard as I can to remember their faces forever.

However, I can’t begin to hope for the same for them. At the end of the day, it’s not my face or my name that I want them to remember. It’s the colors that we’ve learned, the alphabets and the numbers, and how to write their names that will really advance them with their lives. I just hope that I have made a positive influence on their lives; that would be the most rewarding thing in the world.

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xoxo,

#PrincessDiaries

ps. I had butterfly face paint on while I was crying on the ride home. I looked so ridiculous. 

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Volunteering Pt. 3 – Weekend in Cape Town

January 5th, 2013

Cape Town, South Africa

Oh My God. Just got home from such an amazing weekend in Cape Town. I’m going to try to break down this huge journal into three parts: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday:

January 3rd

The ride to Cape Town was only about 45 minutes long, but I still managed to fall asleep, haha! We stayed at a hostel called Ashanti, which is basically a hipster/youngnians’ dream hotel. It has high ceilings, fun décor, and an amazing bar. Even though my friends and I did not get to stay in the same room (because it is THAT popular!), I still enjoyed my stay very, very much.

We walked down by the Companies Garden to downtown Cape Town, and stopped by a really nice bar called Twenky’s Bar. Our afternoon plans of exploring Cape Town were stopped by liquor drinks, food, and free wi-fi.

Downtown Cape Town isn’t that big, but there are tons of places to explore and to walk. Time flew by when we were there, so we headed back to the hostel to freshen up for fancy dinner plans.

Mama Africa was super amazingly delicious!

I tried the lamb curry, which was actually the very first thing I saw on the menu, and I definitely would get it again and again if I ever go back! Live music, great décor, and friendly staff, Mama Africa was an amazing restaurant located right on Long Street. With a big, big dinner and a few liquor drinks after having played with the kids in the morning, Bry went back to the hostel to chill out at the bar before passing out.

January 4th

We walked around downtown Cape Town some more before meeting up with other volunteers who are staying at another hostel. We went to the Greenmarket where there’s a lot of bracelets and other souvenirs to choose from. As first time tourists here, we did not know how to bargain with the people on the price. I bought a bracelet that was 40 Rand, but later I saw another market selling it for 20. 40 Rand is about 4 dollars in the U.S., so I am not super bummed, but I wish I had fought harder haha! I hope he enjoyed the extra 20 Rand…

At noon, the paragliding company called and said that the mist had gone and we’re going to fly!! We took a cab to Signal Hill, and the entire ride there, my heart was pounding like crazy. I hate heights, and I hate losing control of where I am, so I honestly don’t even know why I signed up for paragliding. When the first out of four volunteers went up, my heart was pounding even faster (I’m surprised I didn’t get a heart attack!!)!! However, once we went up into the air, I felt like nothing else mattered. The world was so small compared to the ocean and the mountains, and I felt so free for once. However, the wind was so strong that I could not keep my eyes open. I couldn’t stop crying either, so in all of the pictures that were taken while we were up there, I looked like a mess – that’s why they will only be in my iPhoto and not shared anywhere else.

In the afternoon, we took a cab to Waterfront, a recently developed area (from what I saw) close to city center. The craft market and the food market were absolutely amazing! I can’t believe I thought I would survive with only $100 here in Cape Town for 2 weeks. I bought another bracelet there and some souvenir for friends and family. South African art and craft absolutely amaze me – while I think what I saw was really stereotypical and touristy, it was definitely one of the best parts of my weekend. The art is just breathe-taking as the color use is so different yet so fascinating.

January 5th

Sunday fun-day, we went on a tour with Bazbus, and we toured Seal Island, Cape Point, and Cape of Good Hope with them (along with a 5K bike ride but we will not talk about how that one time Bryan carried his bike uphill and fell on his a*s right when he was finishing up).

If you want to look at the amazingly beautiful pictures, which we both know that you do, go check out my Instagram: @bchou1234!!!

Okay free wi-fi is up now. Bye.

xoxo

(OMG Qatar in 5 days)

#PrincessDiaries 

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Volunteering Pt. 2 – I’m in love with South Africa

December 31st, 2013

Ikhayalethemba

 

Second day at the orphanage is also the very last day of 2013!!

 

Every morning, we always start with Circle Time, where we bring all the kids into a classroom and sing for about an hour. Some children could barely speak English but could sing all the songs perfectly. All of the songs involve some sort of dancing, and the faces on these kids when they did all the moves correctly were just pure joy and pride.

 

The “teachas” decided that we would go with the “flying” theme this week, so we made paper kites with the children today. I have about three kids in my class, and they are always so energetic. “Teacha! Teacha! Me! Me!” They couldn’t sit down and draw on their papers because they were so excited about absolutely everything, so I took the Disney princess stickers out, and oh my God did they love them. They all went crazy for the princesses! We decorated their papers with some more coloring and some stickers (even though they mostly put the stickers on their faces… it was soooo cute!), and I started making the kites for them. They were so confused at first then the kites were just laying on the ground, but when the breeze came and the kites went up, their faced turned into bright happiness as if nothing else in the world mattered to them at the moment. They stared at the kites as they kept on going up, and all of a sudden they started screaming “TEACHA! TEACHA! LOOK AT ME!” as they ran down the field showing off their kites to all of the other volunteers.

 

They appreciated such a simple and small thing in life to an extent that I could have never imagined, so why m I here craving for free wifi right now?

 

Traveling on a backpack and a small suitcase, I started to realize that my perspective has been changed… I wonder what life would have been like if I had been brought up at this orphanage, and one of the children was brought up by my parents? I haven’t done anything else but simply staying alive for the past 22 years to deserve an iPad Air for my birthday, so why am I living in such a different world than these kids? Why do I get to eat a hamburger whenever I want to yet these kids are surviving off of people’s donations?

 

I will never be able to answer these questions.

 

*breaths deeply*

#PrincessDiaries

 

Ps. went absolutely #WhiteGirlWasted for New Year’s Eve & kissed a 70-year-old lady at the bar last night. Wha?