Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 13: Passing on the Gift

It's almost a surreal feeling that I actually made it to the end of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving journey. This is my 13th and last post of this blog series. It has been, by far, the longest writing project in my life outside of school! After this, I think I have to take a hiatus and slip back into my usual anonymity self. Because, after all, that's who I am. I prefer to just do my work and go about helping making this world a better place ... quietly.

On this day that we are surrounded with loving family, friends and reflect about what we are thankful for, I would like each of us to move a step forward and start thinking about 'Passing on the Gift' ... to others.

This brings me to the last organization that's doing amazing work currently throughout the world. Heifer International is a non-profit organization working to bring an end to World Hunger through sustainable and long-term solutions. One of their programs is called 'Passing on the Gift' which is wonderfully illustrated from a short video by Alton Brown below.

'Sustainable' is the key word and a common theme here throughout my blogs and it is intentional. The act of giving is good but an act of sustainable giving through teaching, reusable and repeatable methods & behaviors will have the biggest impact to create a healthier, more peaceful and beautiful world for generations to come.

~ Thank you ~

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 12: Operation Homefront

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.
 ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

It's virtually impossible to responsibly completing my 13 Days to Thanksgiving without referencing at least one organization working to support our troops who sacrifice so much defending and allowing us the freedom we are enjoying each and everyday.

The mission of  Operation Homefront (OH) is to provide emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. I researched them through Charity Navigator and found out that they are rated Four Stars Charity with more than 90% of the money raised going toward the programs they currently support.

Some of the programs and services are as follow:
  • Food Assistance
  • Auto Repair
  • Financial Assistance
  • Holiday Programs
  • Wounded Warrior Wives

Aside from directly donating the your money to support or to volunteer your time to help, you may choose to join the 'Freedom Walk' being held annually in 22 chapters around the country.

No fancy videos or heart wrenching pictures this time. Freedom is not free but rather hard earned. Everybody knows someone who's connected or related to our service men and women in some way. At the very least, give them one second of your time each day to reflect and be thankful for what they afford us. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 11: 80%


... It is ... estimated that 1 billion people in the world right now do not have access to clean water. 80% is the number representing the deceases causing by unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation....

... To reference the most current event, the New York Times reported 917 death in Haiti as of November 14, 2010 from the start of the Cholera outbreak on October 21, 2010. That's only about a month ago....

... Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. However, it is only one of many deceases that comes directly as a result of consuming unsafe water.

Charity: Water is one of many organizations working toward providing clean and safe water to people in lesser fortunate areas.


...of your donation will go toward a water project. 'How do they do that?', you might wonder, as they are a non-profit organization with administrative expenses like all others. You can learn about how they do it here. That's what makes them standout among the crowd and it's the reason why I chose to write about them as my eleventh 13 Days to Thanksgiving blog.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 10: The Art of Elysium

Switching gears, I want to write about something a little lighter and happier. This is the tenth day of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving and the pressure is mounting to select my last four organizations to talk about.

So, I am taking all of us back to our childhood and think about how we were moved by art and music. I remembered those days when it was almost a ritual for my dad and I to go to a bookstore and/or a music store every weekend. Both places, we would go in and spend hours there. I think my interest in photography came from spending hours upon hours looking through the photography books and magazines. When we would go to the music stores, we would listen to totally different type musics and I would choose what I liked and he would, within reasons, purchase them for me. I remembered how happy I was and how much I looked forward to going there every weekend. Those days instilled the love of art and music in me to the present day...

The Art of Elysium is a non-profit organization aiming to help kids battling serious medical conditions through arts, music, comedy, fashion, radio, songwriting and creative writing workshops. Mainly, they encourage artists, musicians and actors to volunteer their time to spend with these children.

I just thought it's such a creative and happy way to brighten up the days for these children. If you are an artist, great but you don't have to be one to help. Please visit their website to see how you can support this wonderful program.

Three to goooo!!!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 9: "When I get to heaven, will I feel full?"

That was the question asked to her father by the then 7 years old girl. I have no idea there exists such a syndrome. I stumbled upon this while going through my research on Charity Navigator website. But when I did, it intrigued me so much that I spent hours researching it. This is, in essense, a reverse to my earlier post of obesity epidemic in our country and the world. We generally approach it from a standpoint that obesity is a self inflicted medical condition.

Every 1 in 15,000 newborn is affected with Prader-Willi syndrome. It's caused by the deleted or unexpressed chromosome 15. Behaviorally, it's associated with an extreme and insatiable appetite which often resulting in morbid obesity (source: Wikipedia).

Unfortunately, there's no cure for this currently. Prader-Willi Syndrome Association USA is an organization aiming to:
  • Promote & fund research
  • Provide education
  • Support to enhance the quality of life of those affected by PWS
PWSA is a small but well run organization worthy of your support. Nothing much I can add here as there's so much to be learned and discovered about this condition. This concludes the 9th installment of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 8: Coffee Me Home

I am spoiled, I admit. I currently have three bicycles at home. They all do different things but not one of them is used as much as a tool to live.

As I struggle to balance and justify my current way of life, I find it a humbling experience for me to sit down and write my 13 Days to Thanksgiving blogs. I have to keep reminding myself that we are born to be different, to do different things and to accomplish different goals. Collectively, because we are different, we create this 'World'. So, again, to all my readers, strangers or friends, please continue to do the great things that you do and enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Shall you have time left from your responsibilities, then let's go out there and make a difference for deserving others.

Project Rwanda is one the smaller bicycle related projects aiming at helping the Rwandan people through the utilitarian of a Coffee Bike. The project was created by Tom Ritchey after his visit to the country in 2005. I chose to write about this because there are stories within stories that could easily be made into a few movies. Some people in this project found redemption through it and many discovered it a life changing experience. I can ... write on and on about Tom and how he incorporated experiences of this project into how he runs his successful company but I won't. I will just leave you with this short documentary that touched me deeply after I watched it. It's created by Jacob Seigel-Boettner. You are more than welcome to contact me and we can talk about this at length. Until next time ...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 7: The Next Joe

"The United States consumes one-fifth of all the world's coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world. But few Americans realize that agriculture workers in the coffee industry often toil in what can be described as "sweatshops in the fields." Many small coffee farmers receive prices for their coffee that are less than the costs of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt." - Global Exchange

Since the seems-to-be-simple start of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving project, the task itself is starting to weigh on me. There are so many organizations out there worthy of our support. The task of sifting through and picking the '13' is a bit harder than I thought. But, I am trying my best to look for causes that take the least amount of effort to make the biggest difference possible.

I drink coffee. I enjoy coffee ... in its varieties and uniqueness of beans from each origin. More often than not, these delicious beans are farmed and harvested in lesser developed areas. One of the ways we coffee drinkers can make an impact and create a more loving and less conflicting world is by supporting 'Fair Trade Coffee'. I really believe that a more balanced, less oppressed world will lead to a more peaceful world.

Last night, I stopped by Folklore Coffee & Company and bought two 12oz bags of coffee from them.  By doing so, I successfully supported 'Fair Trade Coffee' (spot the logo on the bag) and two local small businesses at the same time because these are roasted locally by Square One Coffee! This is so easy to do. Will you join me?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 6: Tariku

To some of you, what you will be seeing below might be unheard of. For me, I have seen this person.

My friends know that I am struck with 'happy feet' syndrome in that I seem to be traveling all over the world in weird places. Only a few were shared of the reasons why I travel. I am blessed to be surrounded by many doctors, nurses and kindhearted people who are always looking for ways to give back. Being able to travel and volunteer my time with the World Surgical Foundation is definitely something that I hold very close to my heart. From just one mission I was with the team, I witnessed the heartbreaks, fears, the blank stares of dry hope, the tears of joy and the instant gratification of being a part of saving one's life. Experiences I gained from the mission play a large role in shaping the course of my life, my conviction and the person that I want to be.

I am not suggesting that you have to follow my path exactly. I am just asking you to watch two short videos below about Tariku and reflect upon it a little bit. For me, this is one of the reasons why I decided ... out of the blue, of course ... to write my 13 Days to Thanksgiving series.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 5: Power Up Gambia

I struggled for words...... For about two minutes, my mind was full of sadness and negative thoughts. The thoughts that babies are not given a fair chance to survive and come to this world because the hospital does not have electricity to operate horrified me.

Then, I am reminded again by the hard work and forever optimistic of one of my uncles who has been all over the world in different conditions surgically saving lives one child at a time. I am uplifted again.

It's true that doctors and nurses can still operate many procedures on patients without equipments requiring electricity. But, the chances for those patients and babies are very limited. What if you have to have an emergency procedure to deliver your baby at 2AM and there's no electricity?

This is a story about what 'one' person can do to make a different. Kathryn Cunningham Hall saw it and made it her mission to make a difference. So, please join me on my fifth day of 13 Days to Thanksgiving to be thankful for the wealth of basic amenities we have in this amazing country. Check out the quick video below and her Power Up Gambia project.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 4: Vicktory


11/16/10 - That's the number of Pit bulls 'saved, being rehabilitated or adopted' from the 51 dogs retrieved from Bad Newz Kennel. The key here is to focus on the positives and show you how many organizations are out there working to help these beautiful dogs. Because as many of us were all wondered when this news broke "What are they going to do to those dogs?". The video below is your answer.

BAD RAP (Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit bulls) and Best Friends Animal Society were largely responsible in saving these dogs and did an amazing job. There is also, Lang Foundation that is committed to saving homeless & abandoned pets and preparing them to be adopted into a loving home. Lang Foundation is also rated number 1 on the Top 10 Charities Worth Watching by Charity Navigator.

My challenge to you on day 4 of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving is to look at these charities along with ASPCA and all other smaller adopt-a-pet organizations first before you rush to find your new loving companion at a for-profit kennel. Because, not counting respectable kennels, this is the best way to stop those 'Puppy Mills' from their existence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 3: Leave No Trace

11/15/10 - Leave No Trace. "What a cool name?!?!" I thought to myself when I discovered their website. The third installment of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving covers our social responsibility to our environment. Love the world we are living in. Let's all be responsible and take care of our mother earth. Leave No Trace is a great organization aiming to educate us how to live and enjoy the outdoors with the least amount or no impact at all.

The website is well designed with abundant of educational articles and programs that we can all learn from. Hey kids! How about a Bigfoot Challenge?

We could all use outdoor activities at some point or another. Overnight trip in the Grand Canyon? We week long adventure in Yellowstone? Or how about a stroll along the beach watching the sunset with that someone? Did you ever wonder what kind of impact you left behind? Challenge yourself to be 'untraceable' and leave the beautiful world ... as is.

Day 2: Run for Something Better

11/14/10 - So, I was inspired by my sister who recently ran Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco with Team in Training in honer of her friend Heather. Additionally, somehow, I still do not know exactly how it happened, I agreed to my TNT runner friends to ..... eh ..... run a marathon in 2011.

Ok, enough about 'me'. The second 13 Days to Thanksgiving brought me to this wonderful organization, ING Run For Something Better. It's a known fact that obesity is a huge problem not only here in America but the whole world. Here in the US, 2007-2008 NHANES report stated that obesity affects 17% of our children and adolescents. It's important to encourage our kids to spend more time outdoor with sports that they can enjoy well into their adulthood.

Though I am a cyclist, I have to admit that nothing could be simpler than a sport of running. Plus, there are several studies similar to this one suggesting that we are 'born to run'. So, let's get our kids running (with joy)!

Day 1: Raise Hope For Congo

How would you feel if someone you love were raped ... and raped repeatedly?

11/13/10 - First day of my 13 Days to Thanksgiving series. I fully understand that this is a very heavy subject. But, that's what happening right now, today, in Congo. To some, it's unimaginable for some of you might have heard this before in past conflicts throughout the world. It's being used as a tool by the militias to destroy communities and control the uprising of people. You can read one of many news articles reporting about the crisis here.

Short of picking up firearms to go fight or staging a violence protest, there are peaceful avenue you 'can' do something about it. So, today, I would like to talk about Raise Hope For Congo project. Can you help and make a direct impact? Absolutely!!! It can be as simple as you taking a hard look at your 'cell phone'. Interested? Play the video below to learn more.

Then, we can help ending the war in Congo by committing to buy only conflict-free electronic products. That's it! You don't need to donate anything. No elaborate call-to-action plan. Just a few clicks to let electronic makers know what you stand for and you have already done your part to help!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

13 Days to Thanksgiving

Thirteen days to Thanksgiving is a blog inspired by my casual research this past Friday night into different non-profit organizations out there (all the while I am watching SAW VI on Netflix). What I discovered is that there are so many worthy organizations out there fighting and supporting great causes in and around the world aside from those already well known ones. My goal is not to advocate for one particular organization or group. Mainly, it is to introduce thirteen different organizations / advocacy groups out there and touch briefly on what they do. This, by no mean suggest that they are the only worthy ones. I just thought that in days leading to the day we celebrate and express gratitude to God, family, friends and our loved ones, it would be nice to recognize how lucky we are compare to many others out there.

Ultimately, it's my desire and hope that one or more of these will touch and inspire your volunteerism. Dive deeper inside and find out what it is that you stand for. What's worth fighting for? What are the things that really matter in life ... for you? At the very least, I hope that this blog will help you gain the appreciation of your family, friends, loved ones and people who really care about you, a lot more.

Obviously, this will be a rolling blog with a daily update until Thanksgiving day. So, stay tuned and check back to see my updates.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Do You See?

Every so often, I would take a picture that I really like but do not know how to explain. A thousand words lost within the colors, curvatures, lights and shadows. Emotions buried ocean floor deep under a paper thin leaf. A picture I stared at ... for hours but failed to categorize or file into any albums taken from the trip.

I took this picture at Zion National Park at one of the bus stops during our hike day. The place was busy. A young boy next to me jumping up and down on that rock under a loving and watchful eyes of his dad. My teammates were busy refueling and taking care of business. Under all the commotions, here I was standing there looking at this one yellow leaf on a giant red rock that caught my eyes.

Afraid that the boy would jump his way and stomp on this leaf in the process, I quickly took two pictures and walked away. Never mind those curious eyes that were beaming at me. Ignoring the wondering faces silently questioning what I saw and why I took pictures of 'a' leaf on 'a' rock.

Exactly .... What did I see?

After the trip, I came back, worked on hundreds of pictures, adjusted, uploaded and shared them. All ... except this one. I tried to work on it. I made a few changes only to revert back and leaving it alone. I can't even bring myself to put the digital watermark on it.

Yes, the story of how the picture was taken is told. But, I am still unsure about what 'I' am trying to convey when I pressed the shutter. So.....

"What do you see?"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Couldn't sleep ... first morning on my hiking trip to Zion National Park. So, there's nothing else to do but to get up and walked outside searching ... for something to inspire me. It's still dark outside. Lightly breeze of clean and fresh mountain air. Sitting on a wooden chair out on the back porch gazing up. It's a beautiful night ... sliver moon surrounded by bright stars.

Inspired, but unequipped to properly portray the beauty seen and imagined ... I decided to wait for the sunrise, hoping for another moment to inspire me again. Sitting there ... feeling the wind gently brushing by. Watching the sky slowly painted with lighter shades of blue. I saw, the Pampas Grass nearby dancing and singing with the wind.

Perfect, I thought to myself. I finally found the texture that I could use to properly relay the beautiful elements currently surrounding me.

Focusing on the liveliness of the Pampas Grass, with the glowing and out-of-focus moon in the background ...

With every second passing by, the sky slowly changes colors and getting brighter ... and lighter.

Waited for this perfect moment to capture the 'wind breeze'. Can you hear it? Just listen ... carefully ...
Closing out with the simplistic beauty in the 'stillness' ... Morning finally arrived. Time to get moving and starts my adventures for the day. First order, breakfast ... here I come!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I still remember .... the day I picked you up. While your siblings were busy feeding from your mother, you were jumping around saying hi and wanting to play with me instead. You were the ugliest, smallest, skinniest one compared to your chubby and well fed siblings. You were energetic, independent and curious, that's why I picked you.

I still remember ... you were the size of my hand on that first day. You came home with me on a public, non air-conditioned bus. But, you couldn't careless and just snoozed off in my hands.

I still remember .... your first meal. As it was too late when we came home that night and we didn't have anything, we fed you a coffee flavored milk ... you drank it without complaining and .. had diarrhea the very next morning.

I still remember .... the first night in the apartment. You cried and refused to go to sleep until I gave in and went down to sleep next to you on the floor. You tucked in between my chest and my arms and went right to sleep as soon as I was there with you.

I still remember .... you stayed up with me in all odd hours while I was studying for my college exams and wouldn't go to sleep until I did.

I still remember .... you competed with me on weekends to see who could sleep in longer where you wouldn't wake up until I did so first.

I still remember .... that your favorite meal was a fried chicken when you would thoroughly eat all including the bones.

I still remember .... you, running down the steps to greet me when I came home. You were like a fur ball bouncing up and down where I could barely see your eyes.

I still remember .... that you are the only dog I know with a severe case of "Separation Anxiety" syndrome and how much you hated being alone.

I still remember .... the first day you set paws in America how curious you were with the sudden change of temperature from hot to cool and the changes in your surroundings. It's funny how you adjusted in no time and just ran with it.

I still remember .... the day you got hit by a car in Manhattan, how much I sheded my tears and what you looked like after a surgery to repair your broken leg.

I still remember .... how you didn't quite know how to play with other dogs at the so called "dog hill" in Central Park. You were always more comfortable among human than dogs...

I still remember .... how you had no fear hopping in and out of a Subway or strolling around any city sidewalks.

I still remember .... you, dreaming wildly in your sleep... the sounds you made and your reactions were so amusing.

I still remember .... the time you licked my face profusely trying to find out what's wrong with me when I was very sick and had to go to an emergency room.

I still remember .... how you always took control and commanded other dogs whether it's a 90 plus pounds Bernese Mountain Dog or a less-than-ten pounds Chihuahua every where we go befitting your given name "Bossy".


It didn't matter where we went together, Bangkok,
Trang, Narita, Portland, Phrae, Harrisburg, Manhattan, Queens, New Jersey, Rehoboth or Lewisburg. You were always a confident and self-assured dog, as long as we had each other. You were always by my side. You never complained except when you were left alone. It's amazing how we understood each other by just looking in each other's eyes.

That's how I knew...on Sunday that you told me you were ready to go.....I knew you were as sad to say goodbye as much I was. Thank you for all the good years we had together. I miss you... I miss you... But at least I know that you left in peace. And now, I am sure you are in dogs' heaven running around commanding other dogs there. Go Bossy go...

I'll see you again soon.....and..

I will ... always remember


12.19.1990 - 5.19.2008

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wedding Presents

I had three goals to accomplish on my trip down to Alabama aside from the main goal of visiting my extended family. One is to get as many training rides in as possible; which I did, three days in a row. Another is to rediscover my passion for Landscape photography and capture some interesting pictures. Third is to find two wedding presents for two of my best friends' weddings that already occurred. In fact, one has already been over a year ago...

The world is full of people that make sense, methodical and logical. It's okay, needed and necessary. I am just .... not one of those. For some, the act of tardiness in this regard might seem like I do not care. For me, it's quite the opposite. I care ... enough that I need to look for that 'thing' that I feel is just right. Wedding Registry? I haven't yet been to one in my life so I have no idea what it looks like.

For me, buying a wedding present is slightly harder than normal because I am not buying just for one person but for 'that' couple. It must represents who & what they are and what they do. I take into consideration of how the piece(s) will fit into their home, the color, material and also the usefulness of the item in general. The more I know about them, the easier it gets, I guess? Still, I need the time to look for it. Since the work I do is not conducive to allowing me to do that, I usually have to wait until I am on vacation to do so.

The whole time on this trip, I juggled those three goals along with spending quality time with the folks down here. I went to countless art galleries and gift shops. Searching through shopping outlets in two different towns and went through two different beaches in search of those items. Second to the last day before I had to leave, I gave up everything and dedicated the whole day searching for the presents. Funny enough, the search brought me back to the very store in the town that I stayed at that I kept skipping over thinking that it's a furniture store.

Did I buy them and what did I buy? It's not that important, really. What's more important for me here was the effort I took in finding them. I certainly do not think that my approach is the right approach for everyone. Rather, I would like to encourage you to just 'be' yourself. Define who you are and just be. The world goes 'round because we are the same but different. I am fine with who I am and I like who you are just the way it is. Well, for the most part, as long as your way is not to be outwardly vicious and harmful to others.

Anyway, Let's just say that I left there the following day with all my goals accomplished!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Po' Boy

I have always been intrigued with this name. Why are they calling it a Po' Boy. Usually, for something so delicious, people always name them with wonderful, delicate, colorful or sensational names. But a Po' Boy?

First of all, I wouldn't have cared if what I had eaten wasn't so good. My host family here who has been so kind to me and always makes sure that I get to experience everything this lovely southern town has to offer. I had it the last time I was here and I made sure to go back there for my first lunch on this visit. It's that good! The place is called Market By The Bay Seafood Cafe. Just a simple small little restaurant with at most ten table-for-twos inside and about another six larger tables outside. Come during lunch time and you most likely will not find an available table to sit. I think they do substantially more take-out business than dine in.

Like most things these days, when in doubt, Google it (or Bing it if you are a Microsoft fan or Yahoo it if you ... never mind..). I found the explanation of Po' Boy on Wikipedia here. I am not going to bore you with the details as you can read them yourself on Wikipedia. But, since there are several possible origins of the name Po' Boy, I just want to point out that my host family here believes that it came from the words "Poor Boy".

What you see in the picture I took above was an Oyster Po' Boy. Conventional believe is that it can be anything fried seafood related but I am told that it's not necessarily true. My host family is determined to show me a Roast Beef Po' Boy sometimes before I leave. So, we will see. Anyway, my tips for you guys seeking a good Po' Boy are:
  1. The bread must be thin and crusty outside but very soft and airy inside (Louisiana French Bread).
  2. Protein must be 'lightly' breaded and fried (for fried version that is).
This is a simple but deadly delicious food. For my cycling peeps reading this blog, I am not saying that it's good for athletes on training to eat this everyday. But c'mon, it's soooo good you have to try it at least once in a while.