Leaving on a Jet Plane

Jordan and I are ready for a great adventure.  We are leaving today for a two-week working vacation in Vientiane, Laos where we will be building a school and playground for children who have never had a school and playground before.  Working vacations can be experienced by college students, young professionals, and empty-nesters with equal satisfaction.

This will be the tenth working vacation my husband and I have taken in the past ten years.  During that time, we have become trained leaders and now oversee the trip, with great assistance from Jordan who will be taking time off from her day job.

Here’s the rundown.  I stopped working ten years ago, and to celebrate, my husband and I went to New Zealand  for a skiing and adventure trip.   While we were there, we met up with a group from Habitat for Humanity and built houses for some needy families.

Mongolia - Leaving on a Jet Plane
This is one of the neighborhood shops in a Cambodian village.
The following year we were on the first American team to build houses in Mongolia, and while there, we lived in the wilderness with nomads for a few days.  It was very exotic. 
RomainaJordan - Leaving on a Jet Plane
Jordan working on a Habitat build in Romania
We followed that up with trips to South Africa and Mexico.  We then became trained leaders and organized builds in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Romania, which was Jordan’s first working vacation with us.
Donkeyinslums - Leaving on a Jet Plane
Donkey hanging out in the slums in Cairo.  Businessmen deliver their products this way.

Then we decided to find some organizations, other than Habitat for Humanity, who needed our help.  So, last year, with Jordan’s organized assistance, we went to Cairo, Egypt and remodeled the apartments of six widowed women who were raising their children in unclean conditions.  These families live in the city dump amid filth, rank odors, roaches, and debris, but they still want the same things for their famililes that we want for ours:  peace, education, and advancement.   Also in Cairo, Jordan, another lady, and I volunteered in an all-girls’ orphanage to teach them to improve their English.

Jordan, in Syracuse, and I, here in Lexington, spend some time each day reading blogs.    When I read about a blogger’s obsession with a certain paint color, I often think about the three families who were living under a tarp when we arrived in Cambodia.  Their only hope was this group of strangers who were coming to build their houses, which were simple block structures with concrete floors.  Those thoughts and experiences remind me of what is  important.

Don’t get me wrong.  I obsess over fabrics, furniture arrangments, and paint like everyone, but when it gets out of control, I center myself by remembering the friends we have made and the families we have helped.

Momwithkids - Leaving on a Jet Plane
Here I am with some little Cambodian friends who are happy with their new books.
Working vacations help us really experience what is important in life.  They also let us represent America and to let people in far-off lands know that we aren’t what they see on television.  We are real people, just like them, who want a home, food, and security for our families.  We know that when these people we have helped think about America, they won’t think about the bad propaganda, but rather, about the individuals who helped them build a home.  They will think of Americans with love. 

Between 15 and 18 friends go on these trips with us each year.  They are from all over the country, and have even come from England and Australia.  Since we have evolved into a well-tuned volunteer machine, we select a country we want to go to for the first time or return to, and we research to find an organization there that needs our help.  This year we will be helping Catholic Relief Services in Laos.

Jordanwithkids - Leaving on a Jet Plane
Jordan is doing arts and crafts with children in Romania.
These trips always help Jordan and me touch base with what is really important in life.  I have seen father’s weep as we handed them the keys to their new home.  And, I have sipped tea on a colorful mat that was the only furnishings in a proud mother’s new home.  We have seen the awe on a mother’s face as she accepts a potted plant for her new window sill. 

If a working vacation is something you have considered doing, it is easy to find information about agencies around the world who need help.  There are scientific projects, like preventing turtle eggs from washing out to sea or taking an animal census, if building is not your thing.

Jordan and I hope to write some blog entries while we are away.  It all depends on how updated the internet cafes are.  We won’t know till we get there.  Meanwhile, we have will post some entries we composed earlier.

So, as Jordan would say,