Heifer International

China Re-mix.

man w pig2 Having dutifully swallowed all the negative publicity we’ve been served up in this country about China (and added some of my own piquant paranoia) — it began to seem like a place I would never want to go. Solemn Little Beauty

But once I got to China, on my fourth month of traveling for Heifer International, I found it was much like any other place on the planet: filled with beautiful people working hard to make their lives and the lives of their children a little bit easier, sweeter, and more secure.

little princess I spent my time in Sichuan province, in the western part of China. It is a place of big, impersonal cities and lovely contemplative country-sides– but no, I didn’t stop to see any pandas (sigh).landscape

However, I did experience the incredible ethnic groups of the Yi people (the women are intensely fabulous, with headdresses right out of the Witches of Eastwick)…Yi hat

… And I met the kindest, most gentle AIDS mother making a living with her Heifer pigs for her three young children …

Waqi Wunin, my personal heroine

Waqi Wunin, my personal heroine

…and I visited a small village making a big comeback from the terrible earthquake of 2010, despite it being populated almost solely by women my age (probably a good bit younger).

The women of Fuxing & me.

The intrepid women of Fuxing Village & me.

And of course, I was served some totally amazing food – and ate my wimpy vegetarian share of it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn China, I had the unique opportunity to sit down and talk to ordinary rural Chinese people who were struggling to cope with life outside the megalopolis–and whose stories turned out to be riveting.

A circle of trust (and roasted potatoes)

A circle of trust (and roasted potatoes)

I also realized that I wasn’t the only one who was perhaps a little skeptical of the foreigner. skepticalBut more than anything, I had the same epiphany I had in every Heifer country I visited last year — Leader

… that the poverty we don’t see around us is still there … Grand-daughter

… that animals are beautiful and full of potent power to change the trajectory of a family’s life .. that pig

… and there is literally nothing more universally beautiful than a smile.daughterTo follow me through the pages of yesteryear (in China) click on a story:

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/30/first-impressions-of-china/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/05/02/high-but-not-dry-in-yi-country-china/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/05/04/not-exactly-a-tiger-mom/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/05/07/a-scaredy-cat-taste-of-china/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/05/09/a-beautiful-life/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/05/14/farewell-my-lovely/

Categories: Animals, Children, China, Farming, Heifer International, Hunger, Photography, Poverty, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Deep Thoughts About Peru…

thinker

Fourteen years ago, I went to Peru, visited Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, and figured I’d seen the country.

Machu Pichu

Machu Picchu… check!

Last year, going back to Peru with Heifer, I realized what a boneheaded assumption that was. For one thing, the country has changed radically since 1999. Lima’s population is now approaching 9 million and the city is far more glamorous and glittery than it was back then, although the slums on the outskirts of Lima stretch for miles and are truly grim.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

Despite the country’s huge economic advances (no Latin American or Caribbean economy grew faster than Peru’s from 2001 to 2011) over 30% of Peruvians are still poor — and the struggle to survive is concentrated in the sierra (highlands) and the selva (Amazonian jungle) where Heifer works.Coming up to Chillcapata

While Peru is beautiful in almost every conceivable way…

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

…this country twice the size of Texas is packed with copper, gold and zinc, ripe for mining. And its climate poses a bit of an agricultural challenge, to say the least.andres

In the sierra, it’s difficult to raise much of anything except potatoes…

A million hours of work to create an arable plot of land.

A million hours of work went into building terraces to create arable land at 10,000 feet.

….and just about the only animals that can survive the altitude and cold are sturdy llama and alpaca.On the road to Chillcapata

The people who live in the highlands, where I spent most of my time wheezing for breath at 8-12,000 feet, are mostly indigenous and are now embroiled in an epic battle to save their beloved mountains from rapacious mining interests (that also threaten to destroy the jungles).

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

They are hard-working, proud, creative and fiercely independent people. chillcapata mama

…and I have so much respect for Heifer working with those communities to help them make a living on the land.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for the family's alpaca herd.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for her family’s alpaca herd.

I usually never like to go back anyplace (there are too many new places to see) but I reckon I’ll be going back to Peru soon. mom & baby

For one thing, I’ve got a new god-daughter there.

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

And I’ve got some other important people I need to check on, too.little oneTo read my previous blogs on Peru (including explicit alpaca lovemaking– and the story of my new god-daughter) check these links:

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/29/bienvenidos-a-peru/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/30/just-sitting-around-knitting-and-changing-the-world/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/02/showered-with-flowers/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/04/my-cinderella-story/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/09/edith-piaf-in-the-andes/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/12/what-i-ate-in-peru/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/15/feeling-the-love-in-yanacancha/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/18/a-fiber-primer-for-yarnheads-2/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/20/guinea-pigs-not-just-for-breakfast-anymore/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/23/ive-got-friends-in-high-places/

https://heifer12x12.com/2012/04/26/never-can-say-goodbye/crafts

Categories: Heifer International, Peru, Philanthropy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Haiti Re-Mix.

family (As a graduate of UMass and with two sisters still living there, my heart goes out to Boston and to ALL those whose family members were hurt.) Okay, I know it’s April– which means I’m a tiny bit behind in my Remix intention to go back and feature some of my favorite (never-seen-before!) photos from each of the countries I visited for Heifer International last year.old & new

But whenever I start going through my photos, I get completely lost in the glorious faces whose stories I remember so well.woman in red

I remember being scared to go to Haiti — afraid the poverty and desperation in the aftermath of the 2010 hurricane would still be overwhelming.PAP

Well, there were still tents up and houses in ruins (although most are gone now). But instead of buying the heartless line you hear so often: “Oh, Haiti is always recovering from one disaster or another,”  I found myself head-over-heels in love with the people of Haiti.Ivoire child

The way they walk with such pride and grace. carrying

The way they will do anything to get their children an education. schoolboys!

The way the children walk out of murky, dirt-caked slums looking as clean and tidy as little angels…sweet girl

… and people work & work & work, with a determination and optimism that is remarkable to behold. Commute

To say the people of Haiti embody resilience, dignity, strength and perseverance is an understatement.dapper

Even the land, which is admittedly largely deforested, is still beautiful.

On the road to Saint RaphaelI can’t wait to go back and see what Heifer has been doing there! Pierre Ferrari, Heifer’s CEO, just visited some projects with President Bill Clinton and he reports the big goat-breeding operations are really going strong (and god knows, Bill loves to talk about breeding). good goat

I miss Haiti. boyBut if you missed the whole shebang last February, you can still read all my blogs on Haiti by clicking on the links below.old man

I’ll leave you with a Haitian saying which, oddly, was one of my Mom’s favorites, too.firebrigade

Men anpil chay pa lou. (Many hands make the load lighter.) two boys

Let’s hope so!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The Paradox of Haiti”  https://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/23

“Staring at Goats”  https://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/27

“This is SO not a road” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/02/29

“What I Ate in Haiti” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/03

“Cows, Fudge & Women in Haiti” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/05

“The Price of a Chair” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/08

“A Mother in Haiti”  https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/09

“A Fish Full of Dollars” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/14

“A Rough Draft of My Last Day in Haiti” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/18

“My admittedly tardy International Women’s Day Post” https://heifer12x12.com/2012/03/18

Categories: Haiti, Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Guatemala Re-Mix.

Beautiful Lake Atitlan

Beautiful, mesmerizing Lake Atitlan

  I’ve been feeling really bad about leaving my Heifer blog behind and abandoning all my new followers –love you guys!! — who haven’t been getting any new posts from me.

I met these organic foodies in Quilinco, a lovely town north of Huehuetenago. What cuties!

I met these organic foodies in Quilinco, a little mountain town north of Huehuetenango.

So I’ve decided to go back and do a little remix of photos & stories from each of the countries I visited last year…. starting with lovely Guatemala.church

It's hard work picking cabbages, and takes a family to do it.

It’s hard work picking cabbages and takes the whole family to do it.

Juan, a cauliflower farmer and father of four, also raises pigs, chicken, sheep and cows.

Juan, a cauliflower farmer and father of four, worries that he won’t get more than 10 cents/pound for his crop.

Even driving by, you're greeted like somebody special. (I always wave back!)

Even driving by, Guatemalans greet you like you’re somebody special.

Planting corn in tandem, with pole-diggers and bags of corn seed.

Planting corn in tandem, with post hole-diggers and bags of seed. (Nobody’s retired here.)

Mountains, clouds & sky

Mountains, clouds & sky – fundamentals of a Guatemala road trip.

Sweet farm boy taking a break from planting & weeding.

Sweet farm boy taking a break from planting & weeding.

Everywhere I went, I saw people close to the animals that fed them -- remarkable how distant we've become from these animals that sustain us!

When was the last time you had this kind of relationship with a goat?

Juanito was shy and only peeked out this window when he thought I wasn't looking.

Juanito was shy and only peeked out this window when he thought I wasn’t looking.

All dressed up & ready for the Feast of Maria Candelaria in Cunen Valley!

All dressed up & ready for the Feast of Maria Candelaria. (Post-celebration aspirin close by.)

These piglets saw me from across the courtyard and stalked right towards me like a little rock band... such attitude!!

These piglets saw me from across the courtyard and stalked right towards me like a little rock band… such attitude!!

And of course, Guatemalan children are just off-the-charts adorable!

And always, the Guatemalan children will melt your heart.

Here are the links to my other posts from Guatemala from 2012. (Why did I write so many?? Boy, that overachieving thing sure faded quickly….)

Enjoy!

Welcome to Guatemala!

Hola Amigos

Head in the Clouds — Freshly Pressed!!

Vamos, Chicas!

Solid Gold Soul

Animal Magnetism in Happy Valley

Re-gifting, Heifer Style

Seeding the Future

Short Stories

And I’m leaving for Guatemala again tomorrow (on a non-Heifer trip) … stay tuned for more!

Categories: Guatemala, Heifer International, Philanthropy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

A bittersweet goodbye.

DAWN

My year as the volunteer Global Blogging Ambassador for Heifer International is officially over (that’s the sound of me sobbing).

schedule  A look back at the numbers makes me feel simultaneously exhilarated and a tiny bit exhausted. I traveled to 14 countries (15 if you count my test run to Uganda in October, 2011), and spent at least 280 hours on airplanes and another 390 hours (but who’s counting??) bouncing around in trucks.

It’s been an unbelievable year … and I’ve got more than 10,000 photos to prove it.listening pig

I’ve written 113 posts and my blog was viewed about 84,000 times by people from 164 countries. Thuli Maya Lama

Along the way I was also voted Volunteer of the Year from the South by the Classy Awards (thanks for voting for me, y’all!!). But my biggest joy was meeting people (and Heifer staffers!) in these developing countries and getting to see their homes, their children, and their farms & animals — and how incredibly hard they work every day.family Ecuador

oh mama

llama roundup

What I’ve learned along the way is that our Earth is a staggeringly beautiful place… landscape Ecuador

cactus

island

cosmos

That people everywhere have a lot more that unites us than separates us….

rwanda

Leidy

cambodia girlsThat when we reach out to help others, we gain more than we give…woman & cow

POG…and we invest in our own happiness.Laughing girl

Thanks a million to Heifer (and especially CEO Pierre Ferrari) for trusting me to convey these incredible stories of inspiration and vision.

Thanks to my husband and family for their unwavering support, and to Michelle B. for her stupendous travel counsel.

And thanks to YOU for coming along on the journey!NEPAL GIRL

Feel free to come back and troll through the archives anytime! (If you click on “The Countries” navigation button, you can pull down all posts from whichever country you’d like.)sunset

Happy 2013!!

(And if you miss me, please subscribe to my new/old blog What Gives 365 where I’ll be freshly posting!

Categories: Heifer International, Inspiration, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 89 Comments

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