Monday, May 31, 2010

29 + 3 - what a month!

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  still kicking anxiety's arse.  mostly through a lot of self talk, taming the crazy, and talking it out with good friends when i feel anxiety rearing its ugly head.  and no more meds, yippee.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special events, days, occasions. a found out a friend who was recently married was just broken into and they lost most of what they received at their wedding.  i didn't know what to do, so i sent her some flowers.  i realise this is as much about me as it was about her, but it made her day and it made me smile.  i also sent a friend a book that i think he'd enjoy and to ease the sting of having to miss mama's day, i put a card in the post before i left.  i'd say for one month, that was pretty good.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  imagine me, sitting on a boat, alone, in the middle of halong bay in vietnam, sorting out my priorities and my 6 month plan.  imagine me thinking to myself, 'no more international travel for 6 months because you must save money.'  then imagine me getting home to an invitation to attend my friend's wedding in south africa in october!!  i obviously had to say yes and then i had to follow that up with an affirmative answer when she asked me to be a bridesmaid!  i am rather looking forward to it and although this is not exactly what i planned during my vietnamese goal setting session, it does allow me another chance to meet my goals for the year!

and i am heading to vancouver island this weekend for some sea kayaking, some wine drinking, and some family visiting, yay!

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  see #3 on the goal setting.  part of why i wanted to stop travelling so much for the next 6 months is so that i could save my pennies in preparation to pursue international work in 2011.  as i am keen to work on short term contracts on emergency response as a protection officer, i can't very well predict the next haiti or when darfur needs additional support in the protection department.  i also don't know if anyone will want me (although they did want me in haiti last week... until they realised i don't speak french) so i need to built a nest egg to cover my regular expenses in case i do not find something as soon as i start looking.

my trip to south africa might change my timeline or i might just keep it the same and make a bigger crunch in my spending, we shall see.

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  still failing.  trips to vietnam and south africa are mostly getting in the way of this.  and the fact that we are just coming out of tax season and corporate taxes are a pain in my behind and are denting my bank account.

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  still not doing so well, but it is tough to stock your fridge with groceries when you are not in your nest for more than two weeks at a time!  i am making healthier choices (except for that night last week where i had chocolate cake for dinner and that other night when i was still so hungover from the night before that i ordered pizza and was mildly ashamed that they now have my address on file).

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  napping is sort of my new hobby.  it started with the jet lag, was prolonged with copious wine drinking, and is maintained with early, productive mornings.  so it is not so bad and i am feeling rather rested when i am awake, it is just that my sleeping hours are a bit of a hot mess.

8 - maintain my priorities.  as mentioned, my alone time in vietnam was great and so was the training i was on in thailand because it allowed me to step back from the life i am currently leading and evaluate a few things.  namely, whether or not i am happy and content where i am, whether or not my jobs are fulfilling, and what i have to do now to set me up for success in my future endeavours. 

the outcome of all this thinking was that i need to save money in the coming months and i need to continue plugging away in my current jobs to build a good foundation for future employment and my nest egg.  i was also feeling as though i had lost my life/work balance in the weeks leading up to my trip to vietnam and it was a reminder that it is not the work itself that was creeping into my personal life, but the worries and frustrations.  and these were mostly coming from my trafficking-related work.  and volunteers.  and managing the crazy people who want to start their own ngos.  and the crazies who take the opportunity to yell at me during events.  you can imagine that it became rather taxing on my patience.

i returned to calgary feeling refreshed and ready to jump into spring and summer with the intention of taking full advantage of my current location and spending time at the cabin, running, and getting out more.  but the instant i turned on my work blackberry, i realised this would not be as easy as i imagined.  and it hasn't been.  i am largely back to juggling competing demands on my time and scheduling fun.  it had better not all been for naught though and i will keep working to find that elusive balance between my friends, my family, my corporate job, my non-profit job, my health, my running, my neglected nest, etc.

9 - keep asking for what i want.  there hasn't been anything i have asked for recently, perhaps i should change this!

unless, asking for help to do my trafficking job better by finding a dedicated volunteer to take on a portion of what i have been trying to stay on top of, but have let slip.  doesn't sound like much, but it is for someone who isn't in the habit of asking for help in that type of stuff!

do gooding as gospel

when i was 18, i dated a fellow who was five years my senior and who i thought knew a thing or two about life.  i recall vividly one conversation we had where he told me that of all the people he meets, he only really 'liked' 20% of them enough to want to be friends or see again.  in my youthful naivety, i recall feeling as though that was a very callous statement to make.

and now, at the ripe old age of 29, i feel that 20% was a truly conservative estimate and the proportion of the people i meet who i genuinely want to see again socially is somewhere near 10%. 

i brought this up at a brunch i was with four other ladies this weekend and in our discussions, we agreed that as we become more certain of what we believe and our own values, it makes it easier to make decisions about people and this is completely natural .  and sometimes, you meet people whose activities or comments tip you off to the fact that you likely will not get along.

my friend, an animal lover and vegetarian, said that she couldn't be friends with someone who hunted.  there was a general mmm-hmmm-ing about this.  i followed up with the statement, 'i don't think i could be friends with someone who told me they wanted to volunteer in an orphanage in africa.'

the response?

blink.  blink.  blink, blink.

and then i had to defend my comment and give a brief explanation of why volunteering in orphanages in africa is more often than not, a bad idea. 

the blog world that i am haphazardly a part of has done a great job recently, and perhaps due to the overwhelming response and criticism of aid to haiti, of describing why voluntourism and orphanages as industry is not a terribly great idea and i won't go into the details here.*  but what was really apparent through this exchange was how i felt i needed to justify my statement and opinion to people who had relatively low levels of knowledge on international development and aid because i felt as though i sounded so cold hearted and heartless.

i spent the better part of the rest of the brunch trying to convince them that a) i knew what i was talking about and b) that i am not a horrible, awful person who thinks that the poor, black babies of africa do not deserve our good intentions.  and to be honest, i am really not sure that i was that effective.

it was one of those situations where worlds collide and i was going through the rolodex of posts i have read over the past months in shaping my argument about why holding the value against volunteering at orphanages in africa is not so different that holding a value that includes believing that hunting is wrong.

i like what Tales From the Hood has to say about why we believe that we have the 'right' to help others and the intentions behind doing it.  and Good Intentions Are Not Enough often has posts that support the name of the blog.  and these are written by professionals in the aid and development community so i know i am not alone in my judgements and opinions.  and this also doesn't mean they are necessarily the gospel for all to live by, but it was a tough situation to be in and i wish i had a better arsenal of metaphorical weapons to use when confronted to defend why i believe what i do.

* if you are really interested in my thoughts on this, leave me a comment and i will try and string them together into something articulate in the future.

Monday, May 24, 2010

dear john. the movie, not my life

let me give you the synopsis of the movie.

girl meets soldier.  soldier has a past.  girl falls in love with soldier.  soldier is on his way out of the army.  girl waits 12 months.  soldier is posted to somewhere in africa.  soldier is offered a professional opportunity of a military career.  soldier takes it and doesn't tell the girl.  eventually, as you can expect, they break up.

sound familiar?  it should.

i don't know what it means to be 'over' someone or something, but i do know that if i was given the same information and the options, i would likely make the same decision that i did.

and that could potentially get me in the same situation that i initially found myself in 18 months ago.  and it would  mean i would have to go through the same hell that i did to get to where i am now.

but i would still do it.  i haven't given up.  and if the least that came of it is simply one of the best stories you can ever tell your grandkids, well i certainly have that!

you might want to see the movie.  or maybe one day i will write my own.  you'll probably want to see that one too!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

is it premature to declare The End of the Vest?!

for years i have been harping on about our prime minister's lacklustre physical appearance and his penchant for wearing ill fitting vests (in fact, i have an entire tag on this blog dedicated to it).  and have even been known to state that i am completed content with the use of public funds to hire a stylist tasked with sprucing up his appearance so that he looks less like a corpse and more like someone who i feel comfortable representing canada. 

and lo and behold, he has hired a stylist!  and people are concerned with where her salary comes from.  but i don't care!  i love that he realises that he needed help in the appearance department and is taking appropriate action.

but i am still not convinced that she can change this:
into this:

poor bkk

my triumphant return to the workplace was not nearly as bad as i had anticipated (it never is when you have great supervisors) and although my plate will be full, i am a linchpin in the workings of our department now and it feels good to be valued and appreciated.  but not so good to be needed when you are gone...

and it seems that i left bangkok at just the right time.  after leaving hanoi, i had a day to kill in bangkok and i was initally really excited about visiting some of my favourite shopping districts and wandering the crowded streets of one of my favourite cities.

instead, i had to avoid some of the best spots in bangkok and headed to the area where my favourite silver bracelets are sold (more than a few to me or my friends on my behalf!), but even in the areas further away from the red shirt protests, about every fourth shop was closed and the people i spoke to said that with the closure of public transit systems and the drop in movements of all kinds of people, businesses were suffering and the economy had gradually slowed down over the past two months.

i was tempted to check out the main red shirt protest site outside of siam paragon, but read the english daily and found out that foreigners had been shot in the chaos that had emerged this past week.  often, no one knew who was shooting and what their targets were, so it was easy to get caught in crossfire.  in fact, a former calgarian was shot yesterday.  i decided i liked all my bits too much to risk them for a voyeuristic impulse and instead went for a manicure and pedicure and then met a friend for a delicious dinner in a suburban neighbourhood.

it makes me sad to see such a vibrant city so quiet and to hear the concerns of the taxis drivers and shop owners that i chatted with during my one day in bangkok.  i still don't fully understand the ins and outs of the political situation, but i don't believe that this protest has been in the interests of thai people and it will have done more harm than good when the government regains control of the city.

i just hope that that is soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

buckling up

i am back from a wonderful trip where i had a lot of learning, a lot of solo adventuring, and a hell of a lot of thinking.

and i came back to emails saying that i had better get my cape on as i have to hit the ground running at my day job.  blech, this was not what i had in mind after all of my preparing and goal setting.

my day job hasn't really required much of me since i started there a year and a half ago, but i suspect that this is all about to change and i am not sure that i am ready for it.

i guess it does mean that i have worked myself out of any concerns that i would get the lay off or be the one called upon last due to lack of experience in the private sector.

a few days in hanoi

it is tough to compare saigon and hanoi as two vietnamese cities because they are quite different.  i am glad that i was able to see them both and i think that in terms of a place to live, i would prefer saigon, but as a place to visit, i prefer hanoi.

and why is that?  the streets of the old quarter in hanoi are just a wonder to wander around, watching and listening and shopping.  really, the shopping is pretty fantastic.  but if you insist on a little culture (and you well should in such a great city!), there are some other things that will keep your attention.

i checked out ho chi minh's mausoleum and wasn't terribly disappointed when it was closed at 10:30am and i didn't have to stand in the winding queue of mostly vietnamese people waiting to see their national hero and former leader's body.  seeing the complex where the mausoleum is was pretty interesting though and for some reason, the canadian embassy is right across the street from it, strange.

it appears as though all the government buildings are painted yellow and the presidential palace is no exception.  all french colonial in architecture, they are quite stunning, but not open to the public.

the best way to get around the city is by moto, if you are not squeamish about riding around on the back of a motorbike/scooter (the drivers always insist you wear a helmet as they want to avoid the fine) and they rarely go very fast and the drivers also tend to be a wealth of information about the city and its sights (as information is pretty sparse on the ground).  it is also a great way to cool off in the middle of a hot, humid day, which is exactly what i did when i headed out to the temple of literature, which is a complex of tradition vietnamese buildings and pagodas that are set up for tourists and to preserve the tortise sculptures that are rubbed for luck by students when they have exams.

in the middle of one of the lakes in the centre of hanoi is the ngac son temple, a picturesque island where i watched men play chess surrounded by the smell of incense (which i don't particularly like, but it does add a certain ambiance!).

i spent a lot of my time getting lost and then unlost in the streets of hanoi and happened upon a number of photo opportunities (coming on facebook, i promise), ice coffees, and things that i thought it best if i bought.  one of my favourite shops was nagu and lucky for me, was right outside the doors of my hotel.

and if you stay in hanoi, i must insist that you also stay at the same hotel that i did.  i cannot recommend cinnamon hotel enough.  wonderful service, decent coffee, wine racks in the rooms, free wifi, fantastic location right across from st joseph's cathedral, and complimentary foot massages for their guests!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

cruise halong

things i did in halong bay
  • ate squid, shrimp, crab, scallops, and fish caught fresh fromt he waters on which i sailed.  it doesn't get any tastier than that.
  • on the topic of food, i ate all my meals with a chinese family who were wonderfully pleasant.  my western manners had to take a back seat amongst all the slurping, chewing, and burping though.
  • more with the food (it really was very memorable!), our chef created table decorations out of food each night that we were encouraged to take photos of.
  • i sipped countless iced coffees and halida and tiger beers on the top deck of our boat, the lagoon explorer.
  • visited a photogenic fishing village of 40 families and 150 people who live, work, go to school, and play on the water.
  • when i asked why there were so many dogs in the floating village and if they were for protection, the guide told me that they were pets and 'sometimes for eating.'  well, of course, thinks the silly white girl.
  • had a great guide (clad in his Ramani shirt) who wasn't pushy, wasn't trying to be my friend, and who studied tourism at the uni in hanoi.  very professional.
  • kayaked amongst the karsts and had a few thoughts of being all absolutely alone in the bay and how rare you get to have that experience.  i wasn't panicked or worried, just calm.
  • took a tonne of photos.  even took my camera off the green idiot box setting and played around with what i learned in my photography course.
  • thought and thought and thought and managed to set some goals for my future.  i've already set some pretty concrete goals for my 29th year, but i really didn't know where i wanted to be in the future.  i am still not 100% sure, but i have a better idea.
  • got a titch of a sunburn on my shoulders and legs.  i broke the cardinal skin care rule - put sunscreen on even if it is overcast!
  • slept soundly for 2 nights in my cabin as the gentle rocking kept me asleep and i woke up to the birdsong outside my open cabin window.
  • i learned and observed how squid are caught and touched them when they were still alive to watch them release their ink.
  • did i mention the food?!  my favs were the shrimp, tomato, and mushroom soup, the egg fried rice, the fish, the BBQed shrimp, and the pumpkin soup.  oh, and the crab, which the waitor needed to help me with as he expertly ripped the shell off it in one fluid motion.  i'm not sure if this is typical vietnamese cuisin, but my suspicion is that it is luxury vietnamese food because i can't imagine anyone eating that amount of protein unless you've signed up to the atkins philosophy of weight loss (and heart disease).
  • collected fabulous shells, much larger than i've seen elsewhere.  i rinsed them in my bathroom sink to make sure i'm not bringing any critters back with me.
  • crawled around a cave where 'foreigners' had broken off stalagtites (or mites?) to make into decorations to sell before the area was declared a UNESCO world heritage site, but the cave was still pretty neat and outside there were wild orchids growing and friendly dogs that i couldn't imagine eating!

read it!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

this book felt dark from the outset, which i don't normally fancy, btu i kept with it as there were so many mysteries to unfold through the pages and my interest was peaked.

as the story reveals itself slowly, the book speaks to the beauty of stories, how everyone has a story, and how the telling of stories is utterly important to how they are understood.

this particular story involves a british best-selling author, the moors of yorkshire, and a booksellers' daughter.

but as the book says, the characters and the setting are not what make a story compelling.  it is how they come together and how the storyteller reveals the connections, which are, of course, closer than first thought.

the history of a family is the centre of the book and it is fascinating with its abnormalities, oddities, and uncommon composition.  moreover, it is the relationship between two twins that is examined and what happens when pieces of a family are missing or details are unknown.

my one criticism of this particular story is that a few times it was so clearly obvious what was coming or what a connection was, but the author assumed the reader wasn't aware, which became a bit tiresome.

but it is a good story and certainly worth reading.  especially if you do it on the top deck of a chinese junk on halong bay in vietnam!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

happy mama's day!

what to do in ho chi minh city

this should really be called 'what i did in ho chi minh city' because all i can comment on is what i saw and did in my short time in the city.

but here goes nothing.

i visited reunification palace, where i joined an hour long tour that provided little more information than you could read on the placards, but it did give some context to the giant building and why it is important.  it used to be the presidential palace before the south lost the war and now it is a big, rather empty building showing the president's old stuff.  i am not quite sure if the communist guidebook outlines how to make museums really empty and less interesting than they could be, but cuba and vietnam seem to have been forming the same interpretation.

more interesting, as museums go, but not any more coherent and a hell of a lot more biased, is the war remnants museum.  where you can learn that all the atrocities committed during the vietnam war (or american war, as it called in these parts) were the americans' fault.  you can also learn that much of the world supported the north's struggle against the americans and that the north was innocent of war crimes.  i cannot imagine what it would be like to be an american in that museum.  but bill clinton visited hanoi a few years back so all is well between the two former enemies, i guess.

i shopped at a few great little spots in the dong khoi area, stopped for a pedicure and a foot massage (that miraculously included a head, back, and shoulder massage) after a long day's walking around the streets,  and i browsed the crammed rows of stalls at the ben thanh market, where there are knock-offs, t shirts, food stuffs, and knick knacks galore.

i popped into the notre dame cathedral during sunday morning mass and marvelled at the old post office next door and smiled at the hundreds of moto drivers hanging out outside of the church, waiting for their clients.

after hiring a cyclo driver, i risked my life on wild roundabouts with motorised vehicles to get to the jade emperor pagoda, where apparently it must be lucky to buy and then release baby turtles into the pond outside because there are thousands of turtles living in rather cramped conditions.

a few times a day, i enjoyed an iced coffee, sometimes black and sometimes with milk.  these things are truly amazing.

most of my time was spent wandering the streets with my camera and trying not to stare at the women selling anything and everything on the streets, wearing pointy straw hats, and facemasks or the motorbikes driving by me with trees, huge televisions, or entire families on them.

although i am really enjoying moving at my own pace and making all the decisions on what to see, do, eat, and drink, there have been so many times where i have wanted to turn to someone beside and make a comment about something i had seen in the city.  i suppose that is the trade off for travelling alone.  or planning a trip in two weeks and not being able to coerce anyone into joining me!

saigon, if you prefer

i have been in vietnam for two days and already i have seen more motorbikes in those two days than i have seen in all my 29 years put together.  and somehow, i have managed not to get hit by one, even when crossing eight lanes of traffic.  and how do i remember that there were eight lanes of traffic?  i thought to myself, 'pay attention to how many lanes you are in the middle of right now, because i have no other idea how to describe the craziness of crossing this street but by describing the number of lanes for perspective.'  or something like that.

my first thoughts on ho chi minh city?  why did they decide to rename the city hcmc and then continue to call everything in it saigon?!  my second thoughts were that the vietnamese people i met seemed really considerate and helpful.  apart from the taxi driver that ripped me off at the airport...  i am not sure that i wasn't expecting this, but it was just nice that people smiled back when you smiled at them.

an aside, i am really thirsty right now so i am having a coke out of the mini bar in my hotel and how on earth do people drink this stuff regularly when your teeth get so damn fuzzy and sticky??

back to my thoughts on ho chi minh city (or saigon, if you prefer).  this place is a shoppers dream.  if you are a shopper who loves clothes, like me.  and a shopper who loves knock offs, not so like me, but i can be tempted.  i was contemplating a pair of pink shorts (because who needs a pair of pink shorts?) when i did the calculation on my iphone and realised that they were $15 so instead of wondering about the pink pair, i picked up a purple pair too.  you just never know when you are going to need a pair of purple shorts.

and speaking of money, i am constantly bewildered with the denomination of the currency, the dong.  today i spent 1 million dong in one store and that came to about $50.  i have almost overpaid people after bargaining them down, had to whip out my phone during the bargaining process to figure out what 450,000 dong is worth in dollars, and have given someone a bill equalling $.25 for payment of something much more expensive.

now if you find yourself in ho chi minh city (or saigon, if you prefer), i must wholeheartedly recommend staying at the indochine hotel.  the room was pretty plain, the lighting was awful, and i had a view of a dillapitated building, but the service was so fantastic that i would stay there again in a heartbeat.  the best part was that it was entirely central and after two days, i felt as though i had the chance to see everything that i wanted to see and they had free and fast wifi.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

fading on day 4

4 days down, 2 more to go.  including a full day simulation.  full day.  simulation.  and to prepare for this we have to have an additional session this evening for more group work.  group work!

part of why i feel as though my energy is fading is not because i spent last night in the sex tourism capital of the world (the walking street of pattaya shocked me and it would take more to shock me than the average person strolling through a sex tourism district in thailand), but because i am still not terribly convinced about this whole un thing and my role and future in it.

i have a new friend (who, incidentally, is considered throwing in the human rights towel and taking up floristry as a career path) so that is keeping me going at the moment. 

don't get me wrong, i think this training is going to be invaluable.  but 4 solid days of humanitarian reform, cluster systems, ohchr/unhcr/rc/hc/wfp/icrc/irc/amc/ocha/wash/gbv/iom/nrc/iasc/idp/drc/icouldgoonandonwiththeacronyms, strategic planning, programming, advocacy, interviewing, etc (etc again, if you are kenyan) is numbing my brain's capacity to fire on command.

and there's no way around it but through it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

the Do Something conundrum

sometimes, world's collide.

lately, i have really been struggling with people who want to get involved in addressing human trafficking and want to volunteer with my organisation.  often, it starts off with an unsolicited email requesting more information from me or an offer to take me for lunch or coffee to discuss how they can get involved.

let me offer a full disclosure here and say that volunteer management is not my strong suit. 

if i spent time responded to each email (which i do) and sitting down with each person (which i don't), i would be spending all of my time, which is already suffering from competing priorities, explaining the same things to people and convincing them not to start another ngo, not to screen the same film that has been shown in this city 4 times in the last 6 months, and not to go busting down doors and conducting their own investigations.

i believe that i have sorted this dilemma by asking volunteers to organisation a volunteer information session where i will cover all of these things in a group setting and figure out what people can offer our organisation and how we can best use their skills and passion.  but what is interesting is that i feel as i am struggling with an issue that is being felt across the development sector board.

case in point:

i recently commented on a development-focused blog, Tales From the Hood, about why someone who calls themself an Aid Worker must defend and define that to other people and yet we all accept someone's answer of Doctor when asked, what do you do?  and i know that the whole concept of Aid Worker is a misunderstood and misrepresented one, but the jist of the original post seems to link well to what i have been struggling with lately.  in a nutshell, some american dude had an idea to collect 1 million t shirts in the states and distribute them to africans.  this is a bad idea.  i won't go into the details of why this is a bad idea here, but you can browse through the blogs i have listed on this page for a lot more information on why this is a Bad Idea.

the linkage is this: why is it that simply because someone wants to do a good thing do they seem to feel as they have a right to?  i am the first to admit, i don't know the answer to this question.

but the people who want to Do Something sometimes feel that just wanting to do that something is enough to justify their actions.  and sometimes, wonderful and innovative ideas can come from this, but often, bad ideas are pushed forwarded and supported simply because isn't it great that so-and-so is doing something!

what i find interesting about all of this is that people who come to me wanting to get involved locally (which i sincerely think is great) on trafficking-related issues and how do you harness that enthusiasm and energy to make their doing something into doing something meaningful and worthwhile?

i am still working through this and luckily, i have some experienced people around me to bounce ideas off and to support me to think of creative solutions to this dilemma, but i think at its root, it is the same challenge felt when bad development ideas are supported and implemented simply because someone feels they have the right to Do Something.

and maybe they do?

1 day down, 5 to go

i arrived in thailand to be reminded of how much fun i had here last summer and how wonderful the city of bangkok is, even if its airport is fortified with military and police to prevent another shut down as they had a few years ago during similar city-wide protests.

i checked into my little hotel after travelling for 21 hours and promptly requested a foot massage because it just seemed like the right thing to do.  and it turned out that it was as i fell right back to sleep after having slept soundly (and not drooling or leaning on the japanese man sitting next to me) on my flight from tokyo to bangkok. 

i met the group that i will be training with at another hotel and we were ferried here, to pattaya, where we banded together to start a contest that whoever can identify the most sex tourists by the end of the week gets a prize.  no one knows what the prize will be just yet, however, but i am taking suggestions. 

and who says people who work in human rights have no fun?!

it seems that my recent experience in the private sector is of great interest to many of the people here who have never left the ngo/un/government world.  and it cracks me up to think what they think industry should and should not do and the types of stereotypes they have about life in the business world.  i have got to admit that i was likely touting the same opinions a few years ago, but i hope that i have a more level head now and am realistic about how the world really works.

for the most part, the other people i have met are not arrogant, not pompous, and not all woe-is-me while at the same time bragging about how hard they have roughed it.  is this really a un sanctioned event?! 

it seems that the week will be jammed with a lot of thinking, working, and group work (yippee!), but i will be very well fed and meet a lot of great people who will surely be great contacts to have.

all of this is not without the typical social anxiety that comes from meeting a whole group of people who are sizing every one up and down, but it just so happened that on the way here i sat with two lovely, young women who seem to have knowledge and experience of human trafficking and great attitudes and senses of humour to boot.

here's hoping my first day is a testament to the rest.