My beautiful friend Louise deSalvo, always brilliant, always inspiring.

Writingalife's Blog

I’ve noticed that if my writing isn’t going as well as I’d like it to, even though I know that it’s part of the process to have rough patches, I tend to work more rather than less, as if by “worrying” the work I’ll have that breakthrough that I need to move the work along.

And that’s the worst thing I can do. If, instead, I step back from the work, take some time to myself to do something enjoyable, I return to the work refreshed, and I’ve sometimes figured out what needs doing without working at all.

I’ve often had a conference with a student writer lamenting the fact that her/his work had hit a rough patch. I’d always suggest that they leave the college and take a walk in Central Park before their next class, no matter how much work they had to do, no matter how it…

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More beautiful words from Melissa — and gorgeous silk necklaces from Cambodia, too!

Girl Meets World

A few nights ago, I dreamt about Cambodia.  In the dream, it was my last day working at Green International School, and I was spending it with my kids and coworkers.  Then, I was struck with a sense of panic: I did not, could not, leave, I was not ready to move home.  Dream-me planned to immediately cancel my flight, apologize to my parents, and stay.  I woke up, feeling panicked and teary, only to realize a few moments later than I am home.  And I’m (mostly) happy about it.

But some days (today, my dream day, and many others,) I miss it like crazy.  I miss my students, and teaching in general.  I miss watching them learn and improve.  The little things, like a student writing “cat” on their own, or drawing a picture of a flower complete with seeds, roots and a bumblebee for pollination was incredibly fulfilling…

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Dear Friends & Fellow Walkers,

I’m on my way to Cambodia soon, where I’ll be walking &  cycling every day, visiting two shelters that are home to 114 formerly trafficked Khmer girls as well as the  orphanage and schools where the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable are living, learning and growing with help from our daughter and from everyone who’s supported our cause for liberty, justice and freedom for all.

Some of what we’ll see and share will be difficult to read about.  But as we know, even in the face of sadness and grief there’s always hope and joy in our world, and we owe it to ourselves and to the memory of those who are gone to look for that joy and celebrate it.  Ending suffering where and when we can is part of being human, and I believe it is an important reaction to the events in Connecticut last week.   For  years now I’ve found myself returning to the Prayer of St. Francis whenever I am challenged by life, and today it feels particularly relevant:

Outside Newtown High School

Outside Newtown High School

Where there is hatred let me sow love.  Where there is injury, pardon.  Where there is doubt, faith.  Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where  there is sadness, joy. 

My daughter Melissa tells me that the Khmer are beautiful people who are grateful for even the smallest acts of kindness and generosity.  When I visit their small country I’ll be posting photos, insights, and reflection on what we see, learn and do.  I hope you’ll join me on My Second Big Walk, and share your own stories of joy, learning, and adventuring.

See you in the New Year!

(P.S. This picture was taken on our last day in Austria, July 2012.  Yes, friends, I’ve been living, loving Image

adventuring and writing.  I hope you’ll welcome me back and share your own journeys in life!  In the photo are, from left: my nephew Jack Albanese, my mother-in-law Rosemarie Helm, my son John Albanese, my husband Frank, me, my daughter Melissa Albanese, and our fabulous host in Medraz, Austria — Peter Fischlechner.

Christmas in Cambodia is simple joys, books & toys. This year, more than ever, we owe it to ourselves to spread happiness to children in every corner of the world.

Girl Meets World

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… in a very weird way.  Bustling streets have lights on the palm trees, and shops play christmas tracks all day. Even my 6 year-old, ESL, predominantly Buddhist munchkins know the words to “Jingle Bells.”

I sort of got to play the role of Santa this past week (sans the beard and belly, fortunately.)  My grandmother, Roro, sent money for me to buy books and other supplies for the kids at SSD orphanage. Its incredible how much $50 was able to buy! Books, books, books, as well as crayons, coloring books and color-your-own animal masks, which were an instant hit. I sat with them and read them The Little Mermaid while they colored. Check out the pictures I posted below!

It was so heartwarming how thankful they were for these gifts – gifts that would be overshadowed by expensive, hi-tech gadgets back in…

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Friends, Family & Fellow Walkers
Friends & Family! I hope you will read and perhaps share our 23-year-old daughter’s efforts in Cambodia to fight trafficking. She is teaching English in Phnom Pen and volunteering for CCPRP and ECPAT: Cambodia. ECPAT Cambodia is a finalist in the “Save a Girl” funding competition, which Melissa spearheaded.
They are at 65% of their goal. The deadline is Dec. 24, but even more than money our daughter assures us that awareness and knowledge that somewhere across the world people care about their plight and want to help them means so much to these girls

Your compassionate awareness is enough, but even the smallest contribution goes a very long way.

Happy trail-blazing, from our family to yours!

Girl Meets World

Happy holidays from Cambodia!
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I’d imagine that people in the US and Canada are beginning to eagerly anticipate Christmas.  The festivities with friends and family, the holiday food, the snow, the gifts…

Personally, I’ll be working both December 24 and 25, and am as far from snow as physically possible.  But that’s just the way the gingerbread man crumbles…

As many of you may know, in addition to teaching in Phnom Penh, I have been volunteering at an orphanage, and interning with ECPAT Cambodia (End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking in Cambodia.)  Working with children, particularly orphans, in tangent with researching and writing about Cambodia’s child prostitution epidemic has made me really passionate about empowering children here, and making sure those children who have been exploited are given another chance at life. 
I’ve learned a lot about the child prostitution epidemic here, which…

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Is there anyplace in the world that is truly colorblind?

Girl Meets World

One of the first things I was warned about before coming to Cambodia was to bring plenty of skin moisturizer and cosmetics from home. Why? Because the majority of products sold here have whitening powder in them.  Below is an example of an advertisement for moisturizing cream:

Unlike in the US, where we strive to look tan and sun-kissed, in Cambodia people avoid browning their skin to be any darker than it is.  Here, dark skin is a sign of a labourer – someone at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale who has to slave away in the hot sun all day.  Having white skin is seen as beautiful, as well as a status symbol.  (Similarly, men having long nails in Phnom Penh is also very common: if you have a higher pay job in a city, you can afford to have long nails, whereas if you were working…

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Melissa Walks the Killing Fields

Girl Meets World

This is not going to be as cheerful a post as my last.  But the fact is, the memories of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide that killed roughly a third of Cambodia’s population three decades ago still greatly effect life here.  In the weeks I’ve been here, numerous Khmer people have readily brought up the genocide to me: from the street vendor I wrote about in my last post, to the tuk tuk driver whose first question to me was had I visited the killing fields yet, to the wasted, barefoot Khmer at the bar who referred to himself only as Mr. Bombastic.  Everyone here was touched by it.  It’s a part of Cambodia’s history and culture that cannot be ignored – and yet I don’t think we learn or talk about it nearly enough in the West.

The rebel Khmer Rouge won the civil war they were waging…

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