Sunday, October 17, 2010


For those of you traveling in the near future to Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia and even the Americas, please be advised about a very serious threat to human life: Human Trafficking! It is a form of modern day slavery and it exists all over the world, as young women are sold into slavery everyday. The A21 Campaign seen below, details some of the injustices that are happening right now in the beautiful country of Greece. I know that Greece is on the top of my list of places that I haven't seen yet, and while the beauty of Santorini is something to be marveled at,  it cannot mask the ugly truth of human trafficking. We should continue to travel and see the world around us, but we have to see it with open hearts and minds. No longer can we travel to exotic places and pretend we don't see those suffering or in pain. You have been warned, once you see the truth, there is no looking back....

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's in the water??

In honor of Blog Action Day 2010, this post is dedicated to water, the highs and the lows of it.  From the cystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea to the cold arctic glaciers that form around Alaska. We can't live without it, we swim in it, we ski on it but most of all we drink it. Anyone who's ever endured a hot steamy summer in the New York City, knows what it feels like to be dehydrated. That's when we burst open the fire hydrants and bask in the refreshing waters that flow from it. When water pours down our tongue quenching every thirst, its the sweetest taste known to man. Water was made for times like these and anyone who lives in a fairly developed country knows the joys of water.

Yet there are those who only know the anguish that comes water. Their water is different, it is filled with bacteria, debris, and feces. They bath, defecate and drink in the same water and never complain, because they don't have any other choice. I remember traveling to Haiti in 2008 for missions and working with the children from the ravines of Port-Au-Prince. Their water was murky brown and children played in it as if it was priceless gold they ran back and forth barefoot, bringing its brown stains into their homes. When we held the feeding program each day, the highlight of it was when it came time to pour the clean water from a donated well, into the cups the children were holding. Their smiles said it all; the water was good and they wanted more and more. Unfortunately it was more than we could give out and we had to turn some of the kids away. There was only so much water for each day's meal. Clean water as it turned out was a rare commodity.

The same was true a couple of months ago when I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines on another missions trip. The sad part of it was that those of us who were from America couldn't drink the water that the locals drank. Their water was filled with bacteria and all kinds of toxins. I remember when one of my teammates accidentally drank a cup of fruit punch after it was made with the water, he was sick for two days. Not only did he run a fever and throw up constantly, but his body felt the "aftershocks" of the diseased water for days long after. Yet the people of this small town, drank it, cooked with it, and bathed in this same diseased water. The effects of it were seen on their rotted teeth and sallow skin. This was their water.

When I think back to these times and the people that I've met around the world who only know the kind of water that destroys the body, it makes my heart sad. I thank God every day that I live in a country where clean water flows from the pipe. As I drink it, I think about those who will never have this kind of water and although I can't physically go to every country and hand each person a bottle of clean water, there are many organizations out there that can. Through organizations such as Charity:Water and many others, millions of people around the world can experience the joys of clean water. Clean water no longer needs to be a rare commodity that only certain people can enjoy. It's a basic human right that needs to be shared, running over, filled to the brim from every village in Africa, Asia and region of this world. So to answer the question, what's in the water? We are in the water.  Our love for humanity that will compel us to donate, serve or do anything we can to make water a joy for everyone.

To find out more about how you can help, please visit Blog Action Day 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bloggers Unite!

Tomorrow October 15th is Blog Action Day 2010 and the issue at hand is WATER! I will be blogging about it and you should too!

BLOG ACTION DAY 2010|Start Petition

Sunday, October 10, 2010


MOVE THAT BUS!!!!! Yes, its Sunday night and I am making the most of it by catching up with my favorite shows. I recently got a TV after a couple of months without one. Right now, my brain is on overload, because I am literally watching three shows at the same time. One of the shows, is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This week, its the Johnson family, two parents with five daughters, who live in a rotted out old house which leans when they are all in the same room.  The house was purchased for $3200 in the 1940s and the foundation has slowly eroded over the years, due to termite damage. After the family was sent to Paris for a week, (Oh-la-la), they returned home shouting "MOVE THAT BUS" and prepared to see their new home. 

When the bus moved, right in front of them stood a beautiful three story stucco house, complete with a runway for their five fashionista girls. I am in tears just thinking about what the family has had to endure over the years as they lived together in this house. Yet this is a family that has never stopped laughing or living their lives despite the circumstances that faced them.   This reminds me of the message today at church which was taken from Philippians  4:11-13. "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do all things through Christ, who give me strength." 

Seeing the joy on the faces of the Johnsons is a reminder that we can be content no matter what happens in life. This family was joyful before the makeover because they had each other, after the makeover, their joy was multiplied because of the blessings they were able to share together. I know that I am guilty of looking around and seeing other people and all their "stuff" whether its material possessions or relationships and feeling discontent. But after seeing this show, its a reminder that no matter how little we think we have, there is always someone with much less than we have. There's that old saying about the man who was sad that he had no shoes, until he met the man with no feet.  Well the perfect antidote for discontentment is taking action and giving back. When you serve others who are disadvantaged, homeless, hungry, or sick, you have the opportunity to let them show you true contentment. Below is a link to ABC's A Better Community, which lists different organizations that you can volunteer with. So if you are truly feeling down or discontent, here's the opportunity to experience the joy of giving back. xo
A Better Community

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Born In September? Win A Free Trip To Africa....

This has been a busy week on Facebook for birthdays and events. Thank God for Facebook in helping me remember all of my friends' birthdays. As I mentioned in the last post, every September, Charity Water rolls out the September Campaign, giving everyone born during this month a chance to help a developing nation get access to clean water. Well, it was announced this week that Will and Jada Smith have decided to partner with Charity Water this year and donate their birthdays to digging wells and providing clean water to a developing country in Africa. You can participate in two ways, either by donating specifically to their fundraising efforts, or setting up your own birthday campaign and getting your friends and family to donate. The top three fundraisers win a free trip to AFRICA in 2011 with Will and Jada.  Let the celebration begin!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Will and Jada's Birthday Celebration from charity: water on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Campaign...

One of my favorite things to do is to celebrate the birthdays of my family members and friends.  I had the opportunity to celebrate my good friend Amy's birthday last night. Amy is someone who has such a heart for people and ministry especially children. She tirelessly serves others at every opportunity she gets and so it was such a great thing to turn the tables for once and surprise her. It was a great night of laughs and good food. A few years ago, Amy participated in the September Birthday Campaign held by Charity:Water, in which she asked loved ones to donate clean water to an village instead of buying her gifts. Even through we are halfway through September, its not too late to be a part of the September Campaign. If you know of someone born in September or would just like to donate to a worthy cause, check out Charity Water for more information.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Walk By.....

           There's so much to see in the NYC that it can be hard to squeeze it all in. Regardless of where you visit on your trip, you can't escape the homeless population.  There is estimated to be over 39,000 homeless people living in NYC, 16,500 of which are children. Its not something to cringe at, but rather an opportunity to give back. There are hundreds of charity organizations that make up the NYC Rescue Alliance, but one charity that has been a pillar in NY since 1879 is the Bowery Mission. The Bowery Mission is located at 227 Bowery in Lower Manhattan. Its serves the homeless men, women and children of NYC by providing compassionate care and life transformation. To learn more about the Bowery Mission, visit and watch the video below. Also take a look at a special outreach held annually called  Don't Walk By that brings attention and aid to the homeless of NYC.


New York's Homeless Crisis Just Got Worse...
Don't Walk By
Bowery Mission


Friday, August 6, 2010

Party in a Pot Pics...

             I had to post pics from my Party In A Pot Experience....YUM!

The Menu

The Ingredients

In the kitchen COOKING!!

Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil

NYC is the place to be...

                This week flew by so quickly, starting with my sister's arrival from Atlanta on Monday and my mom's return from her Mediterranean cruise on Tuesday. But true to what I said last week, New York City is the place to be for the month of August. So starting with my sister Lori, we left JFK Airport on Monday afternoon and toured from the Brooklyn Bridge to Rockefeller Center. We made a short stop at South Street Seaport to check out the ships and then went to the heart of the city.
                Even though I have lived in NY for over 20 years, I have never taken the time to really enjoy it, so we made a point of having lunch at the Cafe at Rockefeller Center and strolling down Broadway down to Times Square. When you really stop to look around, Times Square is absolutely breathtaking. I stood by and watched as Lori took it all in and saw my city through her eyes. My eyes circled from the huge electric billboards that light up the square to MTV studios, and then back around at the theater style seats built in the middle of the street, then down to the Good Morning America Studios. To stand at the crossroads of where news, music and theater and other forms of entertainment meet is amazing. Especially as someone who is interested in communications and the arts. So many people move here to live the dream of starring in a Broadway show, or breaking in the music or news industry and we have it at our fingertips everyday. I stress this to nudge anyone who lives in NY and has a dream to pursue the arts and has given in to fear. As Nike says, JUST DO IT! Live your dream and let these lights inspire you ;-)

                  Lori and I spent the next few days wondering around Brooklyn and Harlem. Wednesday was dedicated to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and Pier and then we went to Soho to do a little shopping. No trip to Soho is complete without a trip to the Apple Store on Prince St where we drooled over the new iPhones and Mac computers. Next was Greenwich Village with its cozy bars and boutiques and finally Washington Square Park to chill and people watch. We spent Thursday uptown on 125th St cruising by the world famous Apollo Theater and other landmarks before ending the night at Columbia University on 116th St. If you've never walked through the Columbia University campus, its definitely a sight worth seeing. As New York City's only Ivy League, the campus grounds are grand and transports you back to the 18th century with its large statues and well crafted architecture.
                Today was by far the most exciting day of the week though, its the day that I finally picked up the keys to my new apt. (YAY!!!!!) As the previous resident, Bryan handed over the keys, he also gave me his card to reach out to him regarding my new neighborhood, Bay Ridge. It wasn't until I reached home that I looked at the card, and I couldn't help but smile. Bryan works for none other than NYC & Company, which is the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York. It is dedicated to maximizing travel and tourism opportunities throughout the five boroughs, building economic prosperity and spreading the positive image of New York City worldwide. I wonder if they're hiring....
For more information on NYC and places to visit, check out 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Party in a Pot...

           The hardest thing about taking your vacations early in the year, is that you run out of vacation days mid year. August begins tomorrow and I for the first time in a long time have no trips planned this month. Rather than getting depressed about it,  I've decided to make the most of my hometown, NEW YORK NEW YORK! I started my New York staycation this morning by taking a short trip to Queens to the home of a friend, Angie Hunter who started a catering company called "Party In A Pot".  Angie is one of those cooks who can really "throw down", "put her foot in it" or any other term you would use to describe someone whose cooking is way beyond ordinary. Starting this summer Angie has been offering a five course cooking class that is custom made for each student and limited to two students per session.

        Today I was the only student and based on my custom menu, the first course of the day was Cold Avocado Corn Soup with Cilantro Oil. Now, for those of you wondering about my capabilities, lets set the record straight, I know how to cook! However, there are so many benefits to taking a class like the one offered by Party In A Pot. For example, Angie goes over not only food preparation, but also produce selection, place settings, wine pairing, various food interactions, cleaning tips and even the correct way to sharpen a knife. I picked up so many tips and lessons that I plan to put into practice as I venture out and cook different cultural foods. For every trip that I have taken in recent memory, I have started a cookbook collection from all the different countries.  I have yet to cook anything from the cookbooks, but its definitely a goal of mine for the upcoming months.

     For those of you wondering how the soup turned out, all I will say is that there wasn't even a drop left in the bowl! It was AMAZING! With the mix of avocado, cilantro and corn, plus a side dish of crema, I felt like I was back in Mexico at a five star restaurant I ate at on my 2006 vacation. I will post pics as soon as I can so you can savor my culinary creations. In the meantime, if you are interested in taking advantage of Party In A Pot's Five Course Summer Cooking Classes, email Classes are $150 each and include groceries, personal apron, personalized menu, in-depth instruction, and tupperware to take home the finished product.

 I left Angie's home today proud of myself for trying something that I would never have attempted to make on my own plus my own 'excess baggage' of goodies to eat. Have you cooked any international dishes lately? I want to hear all about it. Leave you comments below...

Mahal Kita!

Here is the Trailer for my latest Philippines trip. All of the footage was shot by Robert Poole, a fellow team member and film student at Columbia University. To see more of his work, check out

A Mission in the Philippines (First Look) from Robert Poole on Vimeo.

Why Excess Baggage?

Why Excess Baggage?

      The biggest hassle to traveling anywhere is packing and going to the airport. I recently took my best friend to the airport because she was moving to Australia to attend school. She had five large suitcases and three carry-ons, needless to say, she packed last minute and never bothered to weigh the suitcases. At the airport when she put them on the belt at the check-in counter, every single suitcase was overweight. If you've ever had that experience, you know how embarrassing it is to have to open up your suitcases and take stuff out, while the long line of people behind you mutter curses under their breath. I ended up being the friend literally left holding the bags of clothes she had to leave behind.

I couldn't even get mad at my friend for all the bags because she was moving thousands of miles away and  all the excess baggage was necessary. Plus, I'm one of those people who packs multiple changes of clothes for every day that I'm on vacation. And lets not even talk about the shoes because each outfit requires multiple shoe choices. The only time when I try to pack lightly is when I'm on a missions trip and its mandated that I take at least one suitcase for supplies. I've gotten into the habit of also taking clothes and toiletries to give away to the people we encounter. But why only limit donations to missions trip, why not do that every time that I travel. As easy as it is to check the weather at our destination, its just as easy to check out local charities to give donations to. The 'excess' can be turned into a blessing for the locals!  If we dig deep, we can find clothes that we will never wear again to pack, inexpensive toys for kids at an orphanage, etc. Think of a businessman who logs thousands of frequent flier miles traveling around the world on business. He can increase his corporate responsibility by donating supplies to a local village thousands of miles away. A couple on their honeymoon can spread the love to a family on a tropical island by donating household items they no longer need. They also free up closet space for all the items acquired through their gift registry. Its a global footprint of generosity that lingers long after the vacation has ended.

Even if you don't travel very often, you can still participate in the global giving, through organizations such as Samaritan's Purse, which sponsors Operation Christmas Child every year. Below is a video of children all over the world receiving their shoe boxes of toys and school supplies.

Excess Baggage is an idea, its a dialogue between myself and you, my fellow travelers. I want to share the stories of the people that I've met in the places that I've traveled to. I want you to share your stories, comments, and questions about the world and how we can make it a better place...

I Heart Travel....

I Heart Travel....

It's been 17 days since I've been back from the Philippines and I'm already planning my next trip. I love traveling and out of the many places that I've been to around the world, the Philippines holds a special place in my heart. This was my third trip to the Philippines and specifically to the town of Pila, Laguna. It wasn't a vacation, it was a missions trip taken with 22 other like-minded Christian young adults from the Brooklyn Tabernacle's Transitions Ministry.

To sum up the work that we did there is simple, we loved people. Young, old, sick, poor, hungry, we loved them all and tried to meet their needs as best we could. We fed, clothed, nursed, hugged and kissed as many people as we could. We sat with them, prayed for them, and at times when we couldn't do anything, cried with them and tried to understand their pain. Hurting people are everywhere, they are in every ravine, barrio, slum, favela all over the world, next to the hotels and resorts that we travel to. You can't escape them even if you tried.  I remember talking to a friend a couple of years ago who had returned from an island vacation. I asked her how the trip went, she replied "It was great, but every time we stepped outside of our hotel, there were beggars everywhere, and we were right next to the poor areas, it was so annoying." Now I'm not judging her for wanting to enjoy her vacation without being hassled, but we're the ones going to THEIR countries and invading their space! All that to say, that as much as I love traveling and visiting new and exciting places, lately every time I visit a new country, I've gotten a burden for the natives.  It started in Egypt, this past May and continued into the Philippines. Nestled among the ruins of ancient Egypt were women and children veiled by poverty and injustice. Among the ricefields of the Philippines are makeshift one-room huts that house families of ten and more. I can't hide from it, I want to do something for the people of the countries that I visit.

There's a song by Brooke Fraser called "Albertine" that sums up everything that I've been feeling. The words are haunting, it says "Now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead" So now everywhere that I travel, every person that I meet, I feel that responsibility. It can be something as simple as a hug, a prayer, an item of clothing, or monetary donation. It's an acknowledgement of that person, that they are God's creation and that they matter, faces and stories that will never be forgotten...