Dressember

 

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This year, alongside other Peace Corps Volunteers and other men and women around the world, I am participating in Dressember. Dressember is a month-long challenge to wear a dress (or tie/bow-tie for men) every single day during the month of December while raising awareness about human trafficking.  The idea is that we can use what we wear to start a conversation about the global issue of human trafficking.

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To be honest, I didn’t know much about human trafficking before coming to Moldova and starting my Peace Corps journey.  Here’s what I’ve learned about human trafficking, and in particular, human trafficking in relation to Moldova:

  • Moldova has a population of approximately 3.5 million; 10,400 are currently estimated to be in modern slavery.

  • In the U.S., approximately 60,000 people are estimated to be enslaved globally → This comes to 0.02% of the population.

  • Moldova is currently ranking #37 on the Global Slavery Index for countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery (down from #6 in 2013).

  • Moldova is primarily an origin country for victims of human trafficking.

  • Around the world today, there are an estimated 45.8 million men, women and children trapped in modern slavery.

As you may have noticed, Moldova has made improvements in terms of the ranking of countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery.  This is largely thanks to an increase in education about trafficking and how to prevent it.

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In addition to wearing a dress every day and starting conversations around the topic of human trafficking, I am posting information on social media in both Romanian and English.  And I’ve also started a fundraising page where people (hi friends and family back home!) can donate to Dressember.  Donations to the Dressember 2016 campaign will support the work of International Justice Mission and A21, two human rights organizations that are bringing rescue and freedom to victims of slavery, sex trafficking and other forms of violent oppression.  My team, the Moldova ATIP team has a goal of $10,000 to raise and I hope you’ll consider helping out!  You can donate by clicking here.

And if anyone would like to participate in Dressember but doesn’t want to wear a dress every day, we will be having solidarity days each Friday, and I encourage you to wear a dress or tie/bowtie on those days, while also spreading information about human trafficking.

Once Upon a Time…

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Once upon a time, my parents saved up for the trip that would inspire my love of travelling and kick-start my goal of travelling the world.

In 2008, my family flew across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in order to visit the beautiful country of Switzerland.  I fell in love with the country, with the food, with the mountains.  It was the first time we had traveled as a family to another country (other than Canada).  It was two blissful weeks, spent hiking the Alps, visiting small, idyllic cities, and spending time with my family.

Many people have asked me (and my parents) about how my parents feel about my decision to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.  In addition, my sister will be leaving in February to study abroad in South Africa.  She won’t return until July, so for a short amount of time, my parents will have their two daughters in opposite corners of the world, very far from the United States.  Many parents have expressed that they’re not sure they would be very excited for their daughters to travel to opposite corners of the world at the same time.  My parents, however, have been nothing but supportive.  Yes, they will miss both of us, but they are very excited for us as we embark on these journeys.  In fact, they are very proud of us for taking this chance.

Both of my parents love to travel.  It’s a love that started early, and it’s a love that they have shared with us our entire lives.  They both grew up in the same small town that they raised us in.  My mom understands the need to get away, even if only temporarily, as does my dad.  My mom went to Montana for college.  My dad lived in Japan for six months shortly after his college graduation, a trip he took on a whim without a ton of planning.  They have encouraged all of us to travel, to get out and see the world while we’re young and able.

My mother recently sent me a picture that had the words “You may feel all grown up and ready to face the world…but this is how your parents see you…and we always will” accompanied by a photo of a little girl.  My mom said this about the picture: “I’m okay with you going around the world – just wish I could follow and still be a part of all of it. Love to you!”  This is the kind of support that has encouraged me to enter the Peace Corps, that has encouraged me to follow my dreams.  So thank you, Mom and Dad, for your unwavering support, encouragement, and belief in my dreams!  I love you both!

Some Link Love

I have a pretty cool brother that often sends me links that he thinks I’d enjoy- and usually, I do.  So I thought I would pass on some of those links (and some that I’ve come across on my own) with you.  Enjoy!

#1: A single mom arrested for letting her 9-year old daughter play outside- this one really made me think.  Where I live it is very common for kids even younger than this to be on their own for the day, especially in summer.  I work at our local pool, so I see this a lot, and I guess I’ve never really thought much of it- it’s good for kids to be outside and play (I also feel that 9 really isn’t that young), and at least they aren’t inside playing video games/watching tv all day.

#2: Two couples sharing one mortgage- again, a really interesting concept.  These two couples (one with a baby on the way) bought a place together and plan to live there together for the long run, including future kids.  Although I definitely find it a bit odd, I also can see how this could potentially work and be a (possibly better) way to raise kids in a loving environment.

#3: About the 19th-century health scare (bicycle-face) that discouraged women from riding their bikes.  Although widely believed to be a real condition, it was actually made up by doctors who didn’t like the freedom the new invention of the bicycle gave females.  In fact, the bicycle is largely credited with empowering women and leading the change in women’s rights.

#4: Little girls are better at designing superheroes than you- shows the imagination and spunk of little girls that could inspire new superheroes.

#5: Catskill Made- a really cool shop, located in the Catskill Mountains (near my hometown, which is in the foot of the Catskills).  I really like a lot of the items they sell, and they also seem like pretty cool people.

#6: Brazil’s billion-dollar gym experiment- this one is really long, but very interesting.  It discusses how Brazil is addressing the need to make gyms and exercise more accessible in the country, particularly to people living in poor, dangerous communities.  One point I found particularly interesting is that the creation of these outdoor gym spaces has actually also helped make many communities safer and has decreased crimes.  I’m curious if this will continue to work and whether a similar plan could work in some communities in the US.

Travel Guide: The Heartland of Switzerland

I have to admit, I was having trouble coming up with something to write about today.  Although I think there are some negative aspects of Pinterest, it does sometimes serve as great inspiration.  I was looking at a board about European travel destinations and came across several images of Switzerland.  I decided this would be a great time to give some tips and share my experiences of traveling in Switzerland.

Because I have so many pictures, etc. to share, this will be a very long post.  Sorry in advance!

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My parents saved for years so that they could take the whole family (the two of them, my 2 siblings, and me) to Europe in 2008.  Although they have both traveled quite a bit, it was the first time either of them had been to Switzerland, and it was also the first time my siblings and I had traveled abroad (other than in Canada).  After looking into several options, they decided to take us to Switzerland for two weeks.  We traveled through Untours, which is an amazing tour company.  They essentially take care of all the basics, but other than a couple of optional trips and an orientation, you are left to your own devices, which my parents really liked.  My parents chose Switzerland because it was highly recommended, especially for families.  Switzerland is very kid- and teenager-friendly.  When we went, I was 14, my brother was 16, and my sister was 12.  We also really love hiking and mountains, so Switzerland just made the most sense (although my dad was also really interested in Austria).  Untours took care of our plane tickets (although you can find your own if you prefer) and set us up with an apartment to live in.  The apartment was really nice and we stayed there the entire time, using it as a base from which we could travel to different places.  Our apartment was in the tiny town of Reuti.  It was pretty far up in the mountains- the only public transportation to get there was by bus, and we were the last bus stop.  But it was gorgeous and the apartment was spacious, with its own kitchen.

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The view from our apartment living room

We would spend each night there planning the next day’s activities and didn’t really have a plan ahead of time.

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18640_100597656640133_2977767_nWe spent the first day exploring Reuti- it was a very lovely rural town.  The above pictures are from the first day there. We also visited the Aareschlucht Gorge one of the first days we were there.  It was gorgeous even though it was a rainy day.

aareschlucht gorgeWe also enjoyed the Ballenberg open-air museum.  There were some really cool houses, but we particularly liked the apothecary section- it was so life-like.

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18640_100597636640135_3068319_nA lot of people recommend visiting Bern, the capital of Switzerland, but we weren’t so impressed.  We really love history and the outdoors, but we’ve heard Bern is great if you like to shop.  If you go, be sure to catch the clock tower at 11:00 or 12:00, as it does much more the greater the number of hours.  We unfortunately hit it at 1:00, which is not so interesting.

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18640_100598103306755_6066301_nAlthough we didn’t love Bern, we all really liked Lucerne.  We stuck mostly to the historic section.  There were a lot of really cool buildings, some with paintings on the side of them.  The Chapel Bridge is gorgeous.  We recommend visiting the “Saddest Lion in the World” as it is a truly spectacular sculpture out of stone.  We also took a boat across Lake Lucerne.  It is so beautiful!

18640_100595216640377_8007536_n 18640_100595253307040_7828067_n 18640_100595289973703_5744927_nWe spent the majority of our vacation hiking the Alps.  There are a lot of great, easy trails that almost anyone can do.  Some good ones are the Grandfather’s Walk and the Grandmother’s Walk.  These are relatively flat and the trails are well-maintained.  We also did a couple of harder, longer hikes on more perilous trails.  Something we learned while there is that all water from fountains, etc. is drinkable in Switzerland.  When we went on our hikes, we would refill our water bottles from cow’s troughs.  There is a spout up above the trough that fills it, and it is safe to get water from these spouts (the cows don’t drink from the spouts).  Also, in the cities and smaller towns, there are often fountains and such- it is all safe to drink.  This was very helpful when we were outside all day and didn’t want the added weight of carrying water bottles around.

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On one of our hikes, the trail went right through a cow pasture.  There were two cows blocking the path.  My dad told my mom to walk right between them because he thought they would move.  She didn’t want to, but listened to my dad.  When she approached them, one of them snorted at her.  She was rather mad at my dad because it scared her, although the cows did move out of our way without a problem.

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We accidentally ended up in Mannlichen, a town way up in the mountains, where we came across this wood carving named Felix.  We also touched snow on the hike from here to another town.

18640_100598133306752_7317370_n 18640_100598153306750_2622250_nSome other things we enjoyed: a traditional Swiss parade in Wengen, the large chess board in the smaller town of Meiringen (this is where we got on the train each day), visiting a cheese farm, riding trotti bikes (they’re like scooters, but have bigger tires), visiting the Hergiswil Glass Museum (where we blew our own glass), enjoying small towns such as Sachseln and Sarnen, and visiting the Oberhofen Castle in Thun.

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18640_100597736640125_6189707_nOverall, it was the trip of a lifetime (although I really hope I can go back sometime!).  It was my first time overseas, and it certainly has greatly influenced my love of travel.  I can’t wait to explore the rest of Europe and the world, but I think Switzerland might always be one of my favorite places.  The people were super friendly, the food was excellent (although we mostly made our own meals), and there were so many different activities to partake in.  And, most importantly, it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

Note: All photographs above were either taken by me or my brother, Chris- most of them by Chris.

My Interests

About a week ago, my brother asked me about what topics I’m interested in.  I ended up coming up with a pretty extensive list.  Many of these things are things that I would love to explore more, and as such, they might end up on here, so I thought I’d share the list.

  • My hometown. You can read more about that here.
  • Renovations.  One of my greatest dreams is to renovate old homes to preserve their charm, but make them nicer.
  • NYC reservoirs and eminent domain. My hometown is nestled between two of New York City’s largest drinking-water reservoirs.  Because of this, our town has been greatly impacted.  I am very passionate about how this affects us.
  • Interior decorating and design. I even considered going to college for this.
  • Small town revivals.  This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my hometown.  So many small rural towns are struggling in today’s world, and I really love seeing towns that are revived.
  • Kitchen design. When I look at my Pinterest boards and such, I realize that the majority of images I pin are of kitchens.  Perhaps because I love baking and cooking, I really love kitchen designs.
  • Printmaking, screen printing, and related arts. I took a printmaking  class last year, and really loved it.
  • Hand lettering and typography. Of all of the arts, this is what I’m most interested in.  The majority of things in my sketchbook are hand-lettered sketches.
  • Human rights. I’m quite passionate about this, especially the freedoms that all humans should have and that we so often take for granted, but also the rights that even in America, are still being fought for.
  • Children living in poverty. As a future teacher, poverty will be one of the biggest hurdles many of my students will face.  I think I want to work in a high-needs district, mostly because these students are the ones who most need good teachers that care, and I think I can fill that role.
  • History.  Particularly how people lived in the past.  My favorite time period is between 1800 and about 1970.  It’s a big span, but I love all of the changes that took place throughout the 1800s and early to mid 1900s.  My favorite genre of books has always been historical fiction and memoirs, mostly because I find the way people have lived so interesting.
  • Back to basics living. I’m not quite willing to give up technology or such, but I really like that many people are returning to their roots and living off of the land and such.  I love that people are beginning to slow down and work hard with their hands and enjoy the little things.  Technology is wonderful, but it also can be dangerous.  It leads us to think that happiness can be found on the internet or in material things, when in reality, joy is found in simple acts.
  • Making artisan breads. I don’t think I’d want to live the life of a baker, but I would love to learn to make artisan breads.  Breads are something I love eating.  I could pretty easily live off of good bread and cheese and butter.  I know how to make my grandpa’s rolls, but would love to learn how to make more breads.
  • Furniture. Especially antique furniture and furniture making.
  • French living. The French are known for a much slower pace of life and so much of what they seem to live by seems like a better alternative to the fast-paced cut-throat American ways.
  • Other cultures.  And with that, travel.  I love learning about the values and customs of various cultures.  There is so much out there that I know so little about, some of which I hope to discover in my travels.
  • Carpentry. My former track coach once mentioned that he thinks that everyone should learn basic carpentry skills.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I am also interested in learning how to build things using wood.
  • Quilting.  I have thus far only made one quilt, but it is a hobby I would like to pursue more.  Quilts are a lot of work, and as such, they are so special.
  • Gardening. My family plants a garden every year, but we aren’t that good at taking care of it.  This is something I would like to change.
  • Berry farms, fruit orchards, and Christmas tree farms. Traditional farming interests me, but these three kinds of farms are the ones I would most like to get into.  I have gone berry picking with my mom and grandpa for as long as I can remember, and I absolutely love berries.  I also love going to apple orchards and would love to learn more about them and other fruit orchards.  And last, but not least, my mom’s dad has owned a Christmas tree farm for many decades.  I’ve helped plant trees, and I love getting our Christmas tree there every year.  My mom and I are looking into the possibility of taking over the farm, probably in the next couple of years.
  • Small stores in small towns. There is something so special about small, privately owned shops, particularly those found in smaller towns.
  • Community planning/design/landscaping. My sister is currently trying to figure out what she wants to go for in college, and this is one of the majors she is considering.  I really think that if I had known this major existed before I decided on teaching, this is what I would have gone for.  It combines everything I love.
  • Old houses and architecture. My dad owns the family real estate business.  Ever since I was little, I have loved driving around, looking at houses.  I am especially drawn to old homes, as they have so much character and history.  In the past year, the two of us have gone on a couple of historical house tours in our area, and I have loved every minute of them.
I know this is a really long list.  But theses are all things that I would like to explore in the near future.  I’d love to hear what you would be most interested in hearing more about.