Thursday, August 3, 2017


This summer has been very exciting so far. I started out by finishing year one of my MPH. This involved a lot of fun, a lot of late nights curled up on the couch with my guinea pig, and a lot of papers and presentations. Overall I think I learned at least a million things about the world and myself and people.

Once school let out, I went to Nigeria where I played with baby animals and made new friends. Oh, I also worked at a very large medical care effort with Loma Linda and a number of other organizations. I learned that sometimes you don't really need to do much or solve people's problems to make a difference; it might be enough to just be there friend.

From Nigeria I headed to the Philippines where I didn't wear sunscreen, did get a sunburn, and saw a lot of termites. The purpose of this trip was to do research for my MPH along with my classmates, looking at infant and child nutrition. We did that, along with a lot of other things. I learned that babies are adorable (wait, I already knew that), and that teamwork isn't always the easiest thing to do, but when a group of people try to combine their strengths a lot of work can get done.

After a few weeks in the Philippines I hopped over to Thailand with some classmates where we saw a lot of temples, ate a lot of Pad Thai, and rode a lot of buses and boats. I learned that temples are beautiful, peaceful places when they're not on the tourist circuit, and that village markets are so much better than the city.

Most recently I found myself in Japan, where I ate delicious sushi, saw beautiful parks, and rode the metro. I learned that everything is pretty in Japan, and that cities can be incredibly clean.

It's been an incredible summer so far. I've lost a lot of hair ties and pens, and gained a lot of memories and friends. Now I'm going to write a paper on the plane and then sleep for a week before I get back to real life. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In a Fishing Village

It's a beautiful evening. I'm standing on the balcony of our hotel, looking out over the town. It's mostly clear; I can see the Big Dipper, and the moon is almost full. It's dark, but it's still early. I can hear dogs barking, kids playing, and motorcycles on the streets. There is a radio tower close by, and a number of birds are landed there, chattering. To one side there are some small hills, with lightening beyond them in the distance. To the other side is the ocean. I'll never get enough of looking at the ocean. The town is sprinkled with palm trees, which make beautiful silhouettes against the sky.

This is peace and happiness and beauty. But there are problems here too. If there weren't, I wouldn't be here. Because I'm here to look at nutrition and feeding practices in the community with my classmates. Malnutrition is a problem, even in beautiful coastal towns on perfect evenings in the Philippines. But I like to think that somehow, by the time we leave we will have made some small difference.

The birds are quieting down now. The dogs are still barking. The water is still shimmering under the street lights. Soon people will go to sleep. Tomorrow they'll wake up to another beautiful day of doing what they can to support their families. Beauty and difficulty are so different, but so connected.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


On the last Sabbath we were in Nigeria, we had a celebration after church to recognize the volunteers who had helped us to make everything run smoothly. They were amazing, and there were a lot of them. If they hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have been able to do much at all. After the ceremony, we walked outside of the church, took some pictures, and milled around talking with people. 

At some point, the marching band started to play. A group of people started dancing, and one of our volunteers told me that I should go dance. I assured her that I can't dance, and that wouldn’t be a good idea. Wise lady that she is, she informed me that I didn't have to dance, it was just marching. Lies. But I went with her. I truly can’t dance, but we had so much fun. After working hard with these people all week long, it was special to connect with them in that expression of celebration. It was so hot and sunny, and we got so sweaty and tired. But it was absolutely worth it. 

Early Sunday morning I had to leave to head back to the city. My flight was on Monday, but everyone had to go a day early, because it was a long drive. The next morning, a driver picked me up again and took me to the airport. Every time I’m in an airport, I have just a little bit of anxiety that somehow my flight or my ID or something won’t be in order, and they won’t let me on the plane. It’s never happened to me before, but still; it seems like a valid possibility. Anyway, I managed to navigate my way through the airport, even when they announced boarding a full 2 hours before departure (so confused. Basically at that point they just let us back to our actual gate to wait). I had a short flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a few hours layover, and then a long flight to Manila, Philippines. 

In Addis I gave in an paid for WiFi, which turned out to be a good decision. I also found several pairs of shoes that I really liked, which seemed super random. There was a shop there that sold brands like Clarks and Adidas. I didn’t buy any. In addition to shoes, the shops had all sorts of candy and sweet snacks. All I wanted was some salt, but I couldn’t find a single salty snack. Oh well; clearly I survived (note to self: next time, only pack salty snacks).