Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Japan...

It's been too difficult to write because of what has happened. It hurts to think of the people and history lost in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that have destroyed my beloved Minamisoma.

I've tried contacting my host family but cannot find them. I pray they're in a shelter somewhere.

It hurts when I think of all the nice people I met in Minamisoma. I wonder what their lives are like now. I often wonder, "what happened to ________?"  It breaks my heart.

The pictures are almost too much to bear......

My heart grew during the trip
I will not forget

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We are spiritual beings.......

I've been scouring the Internet lately for stories about what's really going on the world besides the celebrity crap we're fed on the news. I have to say I am stunned, shocked, saddened, and not just a little sick to my stomach. It is almost to much for me to be with. I had no idea of the horrors, violence, and want in so many parts of the world. The situations in Haiti, Chile, China, The Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are overwhelming--and that's just the pin-tip of the iceberg.

I am also getting very clear that I am among the very wealthy of the world since I don't have to walk for water, I'm educated, own a home, a car, and am safe within my own world. I married of my own choosing and had no children of my own choosing--which also sets me apart. I am simply at a loss as to how we got to this level of dehumanizing each other. Greg Mortenson says that lately, the Taliban has resorted to using mentally challenged individuals as suicide bombers and they sew the explosives to them so there is no escape. The degradation, debasement, and dehumanizing is stunning, to say the least. Where is the love? Where is the basic acknowledgment of someone else's humanity? of their spirituality? We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Where is that celebrated? How?

I pray for more love in this world. I ask that we begin to acknowledge the spirituality of one another and learn to live together in love, acceptance, and peace. I am going to look and each face today and think of the potential of each person and try to remind myself that they are spiritual beings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


So, I'm picking up this blog again because what it stands for is now again in the front of my mind. My trip to Japan got me thinking about the world and its citizens. For various reasons I quit thinking about that and got caught up in the unimportant details of everyday living.

Well, I'm not doing that anymore!!

Over Spring Break, I read Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools, both by Greg Mortenson. They are the story of his mission to promote peace by establishing over 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These schools offer a secular education--and they're open to girls. In fact, he has a heart for girls' education and says educating girls is the key to lasting peace and development in these countries. These books are amazing. They have opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart. His non-profit, the Central Asia Institute, is now my charity of choice. There is a way to help his mission and get kids involved--Pennies for Peace. It teaches every child that they can become philanthropists through collecting pennies. Even the most challenged kids can find and contribute a penny--one that will buy a pencil in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I'm so excited about teaching my kids about helping out and hope to have a P4P campaign when we return to school in September. But the ultimate was getting to meet Greg Mortenson Monday night. I went to UT Tyler to hear him lecture and I attended a small reception where he was gracious enough to sign TCoT and the children's version, Listen to the Wind. I had to concentrate on not being star-struck!! I don't think I did a very good job of that though... :)

Reading this story has awakened in me a desire to become aware of world issues and help when I can. I participated in "One Day Without Shoes" on April 8th to raise awareness of the dangers of living barefoot in developing countries. My kids again surprised me. After I had answered the obvious question of why I was barefoot, they kids wanted to know what they needed to do. I hope to co-ordinate a shoe donation with being barefoot next year. My kids rock!!! I also follow Mr. Mortenson and his son, Khyber, on Twitter. Khyber is leading a campaign to end the use of landmines. I sent an email to the president asking him to sign an accord that up to this point, the US hasn't signed. That doesn't make any sense since we spend the most money on getting rid of landmines and we haven't used or made or exported them in years and years. I also am looking for some student leaders to help with the P4P campaign.

I definitely feel re-energized by these activities. I know have a new desire to show my kids that they really can make a difference even if they think they're doing "small" things. Sometimes, my students are written off because of their low socio-economic status. I'm excited to show them they can help out and can change their world!!!

So, connecting the events over the last few years that brings me to this point--the peace workshop in Tokyo, reading Greg Mortenson's books, learning about world issues--I see that I have an opportunity to join in the global conversations of peace, education, and human rights. I'm very excited about what the months to come will bring.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Year Ago

A year ago this week I was in the beginning stages of my trip. I can hardly believe time has passed so quickly.

I have kept in touch with several of my travelling companions and I am glad we've developed our long distance relationships. I'm extra lucky that 2 of my friends live here in the D/FW area and we've gotten together several times over dinner to talk and laugh and catch up.

I've got a huge picture display up in my classroom and students ask questions and I love telling them about where I went and what I did.

I often think about
Tokyo lights, sounds, and smells
I long to be there again.
---by me

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Well, folks, it's been 96 days since my return and I must say I am shocked at how this trip has stayed in the forefront of my consciousness. At first I thought it might have to do with the fact that I have had a lot of work to do with my follow-on plan. I've organized over 500 pictures, created a couple of slide shows, given several presentations, and talked about the trip with almost all of my students. They loved the pictures and had many questions. But even in my free time I think of the trip. I think of the people I met and of the friends I made. I think of the temple at Asakusa and how I want to know more about how temples work.

I also desperately want to convey the message of how there is more than the American view of this world. Now, don't misunderstand me--I love the USA, I believe it's still the best place on Earth to live and I am grateful for the blessings I have here. We are the wealthiest nation in so many ways in my opinion. I'm not knocking anything about this country but the US isn't the only place on Earth. Sometimes I feel everyday folks forget that there are billions of others who have their stories to tell, their truths, their wisdom and culture to share, and I long for more exposure to that. This trip has created in me a hunger for seeing more of the world.

It has also created a longing to foster the conversation of acceptance and tolerance for people of other cultures and faiths. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I think that's a quote but I don't know who said it but it has come to have deep meaning and value to me as I met Japanese people and even other Americans and made connections and formed relationships. We are connected.

So this is just some of what rattles on in my head on a daily basis but I'm not complaining. They are great questions and interesting topics and I had hoped that some of this would happen as a result of the trip. I am open to possibilities........

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...........

Here I am in the wedding gazebo in the New Otani hotel, waiting for our bus to take us to the airport. I'm smiling here but I'll be honest, I didn't want to leave. Sure, I wanted to see Scooter and E and be with my family/friends again but it's hard to give up the rock-star lifestyle I had become accustomed to!!!

I think they took us on the scenic route to the airport. I saw the harbor, Tokyo Disney, and a gigantic incinerating plant. The flight from Tokyo was 9 hours and then I had a 4 hour lay over in Los Angeles. Of course, the rudeness I has loved missing in Japan reared its ugly head when we were in customs. 3 international flights deplaned at the same time and people were so rude in lines, cutting and cussing out airport personnel. The flight from LA to Dallas was on a 66-seat airplane and took 3 hours. So in total, I'd been travelling 20 hours when I laid eyes on Scooter at the airport. I threw myself into a big hug. It was good to be home! Another hour in the car and I hit the door.

I am so grateful that this came my way. I am honored to have been chosen. I will forever be grateful that the Japanese government foot the bill; I was their guest and I was treated royally! I am grateful that Scooter totally supported this trip and took care of things while I was gone and thanks to those who kept an eye on him and E. (TK--you know who you are)
To all of you who have read this blog and left comments, thank you. I hope you enjoyed reading about Japan. I often find it difficult to use the right words to describe what I got to see and do. It was a life-changing/affirming experience and I will never be the same--and I think that's pretty cool. I took deep breaths and reminded myself to "be" in the moment and soak it all up and I did!! I may post little things here now and then, but the trip is over. Now, it's on to living in the present here.......

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008--Goodbyes

We all gave our group presentations to each other today, summarizing our experiences in our cities. We went first and I like that. I was surprised at how varied our city experiences were yet our school ones were very similar. I guess it it due to the fact that curriculum, instruction, etc., are all set by the national government. The kids everywhere learn basically the same things at around the same time through the same methods and materials.

We had our Sayonara Buffet tonight and it was bittersweet. I have come to like so many people I've met and I can't believe how much has happened in the days I spent in Japan. We were led by one of the staff members in a closing ceremony. You clap a certain way to end something. It was a sweet, solemn moment.

So of course, we went out after the party!!! I wasn't about to spend most of the night in the hotel!! We played virtual golf, I tried a "Tsunami" beer (a reddish lager), and ended the night by singing at a karoke bar. I like how it's done here--you rent your own room for karaoke so you sing in front of a friendly crowd. I didn't sing out loud but the guys did a great job with Barry White, Snoop Dogg, and Guns and Roses.

My heart ached all through the night when I thought about leaving. I was treated so well everywhere I went and had such an incredible experience. I wanted very much to see Scooter and E and be with all my family/friends again, but I have to be honest; I didn't want this to end. Thursday morning came way too quickly.