I keep reminding myself to actually go on here and start writing. I remember to but I keep going back to my real, live journal that I carry around in my purse 24/7. I even recently converted over to an Android tablet, that I carry around in my purse 24/7, and downloaded the WordPress app hoping to increase WordPress activity. Nope, never worked. All that is useful for is Yelp and Google Maps. Unfortunately, and maybe fortunately, I still prefer traditional pen and paper. What can I say? Flipping through live pages of actual content and ideas and literary work written by yours truly gives me satisfaction. The idea of filling an empty 100-200 page hardcover notebook with my deepest thoughts and sketches that no one can enter is kind of alluring. But one too many times after I finish writing an ‘entry’ I think to myself, “I should share this. My blog will relaunch tomorrow!!”
Well, it’s been almost a year of tomorrows and I still haven’t gotten anywhere with this whole writing thing. I think my problem is commitment. And partially indecisiveness (if I do really start this blog, which [I promise] I plan to, it’s going to be a really big project for me). When I go online there’s just so many articles I want to read that are featured on Facebook from The Huffington Post, or some food blog, or “Twenty questions you should ask your twenty year-old self”, or anything on Buzzfeed. Oh geez, BUZZFEED, don’t even get me started on that addicting genius madness. And then I find myself on Flipboard on my phone, or twitter, or -here’s the biggest time consumer- NBA updates and plane ticket deal websites! I’d be embarrassed with my final number if you were to accumulate how many hours a day I spend on those two. You know how it is–one morning you’re reading about last night’s highlight and then all of a sudden you know the income of the whole Golden State Warriors’ bench. Or Southwest Airlines is advertising a deal for $73 one way to a semi-close city and I start rallying up all the PTOs I will have in 3 months, and suddenly I’m looking into booking a round-trip flight to Stockholm, Sweden for a week. What? (Again, the travel bug bites).
Am I the only person who has this issue? A technical attention span of a short code? There’s just too many brilliant things on the internet! I want/need to contribute. Writing has helped in during my darkest days and I could only imagine where it’ll take me during my happiest days.
Thanks WordPress for allowing me to clear the corners of my thoughts. Along with finding great deals and NBA, writing is my favorite distraction.
I returned from a mission of a lifetime this past Sunday with bug bites on my legs, sun-burned nose and cheekbones, dried mud on my shoes, a journal full of inside jokes, all-cried-out eyes, and a gassy stomach. ‘Amazing experience’ would be an understatement to describe this journey I shared with 16 other individuals who share the same passion as I do.
The Global Public Health Brigades at San Jose State University and I began our adventure to Honduras on May 24 to June 1, 2014. First, I’d like to thank our President and VP of our chapter, Angelina & Navdeep, for giving me the opportunity to join as a traveling member despite an early graduation in December 2013. Their only concern regarding graduation was my commitment during the following spring semester with all the fundraisers and meetings, which never became an issue at all. When I got accepted to the program, my travel itch began to soothe.
It was like all my passions sat down in a conference room, analyzed each other and created a massive program that fulfilled exactly what I want to do, hitting each opportunity I often looked for. Global Public Health Brigades was a sum of community involvement & development, service, public health, prevention, health education, traveling and tourism with endless adventures. It was definitely my calling. (Taken directly from my empowered account: http://www.empowered.org/isabella.ruiyantoro- ) Here’s basically what we accomplished during our 7-day stay in San Lorenzo, Honduras.
Volunteer Activity Description
Public Health volunteers spend 7 days in Honduras, improving basic home infrastructure and providing health education to help reduce the incidences of life-threatening, but preventable, diseases in a rural community. With an understanding of the holistic model that focuses on education, community health sustainability and infrastructural development, volunteers first receive a comprehensive introduction to the country’s public health challenges and the Public Health program’s ground-up solution. They will take a tour of the community Public Health is currently working in, introduce themselves to the beneficiary families, and meet with the Basic Sanitation Committee (CSB). Then, working side-by-side with community members and local masons, volunteers construct five infrastructure projects meant to improve the health of the home and surrounding environment: eco-stoves, latrines, pilas (water storage units), showers and concrete floors. Additionally, as a key component of the program, Public Health volunteers collaborate with the Basic Sanitation Committee and local teachers to help provide community-wide education workshops and training, proliferating sanitation and hygiene practices and empowering families with both the knowledge and tools to live healthier lives.
The family I worked with in South Honduras welcomed us with nothing but open arms, authentic Honduran delicacies, and faith. This family of three (grandma, mother, and daughter – little Michelle) had the most captivating smiles and warmest hearts in their home. In our eyes, they may seem as if they don’t have much but after listening to their restless laughter and seeing their strong relationship with each other, they truly have it all. They cheered us on as we worked and took care of us during our breaks. Luckily there were 7 of us who worked in this house to complete the pila, latrine and eco-stove. The other ten were assigned to another house working with a family of 5 on the pila, latrine, eco-stove, and concrete floors.
We met these families of the Fray Lazaro community on our second day in somewhere near Choluteca, Honduras. To be completely honest, I was terrified! I kept asking myself, “How the hell are we suppose to ‘change’ and improve their homes in THREE days?” I mean, I had no doubts that we weren’t going to complete our tasks… but in the span of only three days seemed impossible. I was scared, tired, hot, hungry, sweating bullets, worried about having to use the restroom, got bit multiple times… and cement mixing was no joke! But our team proved me wrong and yes, in three days lives were improving. The stoves the families previously used was a health hazard. When cooking, the stoves would produce smoke and the smoke would rise to the ceiling, causing the interior of their roof to turn black. The smoke then would travel over to their bedrooms and leave black ashes on their ceilings, staining their walls. Inhaling the potent smoke was damaging their lungs. The eco-stove is an effective preventative care to respiratory diseases. We rebuilt a new stove with a chimney that stretches over the roof of these lovely homes. This way, all smoke from daily cooking will no longer remain floating around 24/7. After one use of the eco-stove (on our last day the family taught us how to make flour tortilla from scratch and we used the eco-stove for the first time! Exciting!), the whole house was already in better condition. There was no smoke ANYWHERE and it made breathing so much easier and cleaner. And as for the latrine, it was about 5 feet away from the entrance of their house. Easy, accessible, practical and most importantly, healthy. We also organized 375+ hygiene packets to distribute to the communities in South Honduras. Health is wealth!
During our last day in the community, our brigade split up into four teams and facilitated a health education lesson on waste management at the school. The school’s population was about 100 students (ages 5-13) with only 3 teachers. Each team had a fun little activity for the kids, with a little incentive given at the end for participation. Our team of four conducted a relay race! We incorporated the importance of recognizing inorganic vs. organic waste. We had printed images of inorganic and organic garbage and the kids had to run to the correct category/box of “inorganic” or “organic”, and then run back and take turns. The biggest challenge was definitely the language barrier. We had our scripts translated in Spanish but really, half the time I was kind of lost. The kids would ask me a question… only to get a puzzled stare with my big eyes, followed by a guilty smile, then me shouting across the field for our translator. They didn’t give up on us though and we really appreciated that.
The last three days of our stay were bittersweet. The crowded compound where we stayed became quiet as Mizzou, University of Michigan, Temple University, and ASU ended their brigade at the middle of ours. Towards the end of our brigade, Cal and Ohio State came to start their Public Health brigades. Our compound reminded me a lot like an Olympics campus. Except instead of athletes and world-record holders, I was surrounded by future doctors, dentists, pharmacists–you name it, they were all there! The future of the medical and health industry was right before my eyes, across the lobby, working at the other houses, mixing cement like I was! And for the first time in a really long time, I felt like I belonged.
And just like that, my whole life changed–once again! But this time I was more prepared for what’s to come after the brigade… versus coming back from studying abroad in Europe last summer (it was difficult adjusting back to reality). It’s funny how we went abroad in hopes of making a difference and changing the world, but really our world’s now changed and we’re completely different people than before. I knew I was going to come back as a changed woman with a new perspective, but I didn’t know that this accomplishment would rekindle my passion in the health professions. Although my two experiences are incomparable and different in every way, both uniquely inspired me to become a better individual. Traveling definitely helps me gain independence and confidence while allowing me to explore my likes and dislikes (this is only a minor glimpse of what traveling’s all about). Traveling with a purpose on the other hand, inspires my mind to its fullest capacity, helps me recognize why I’m here and what I’m doing this for, gives me great sense of achievement, relieves my travel itch, and allows me to revisit any pass or potential passions. Not only that, but there’s just so much out there to see in this world! So many flavors that you need to taste, so many cultures that you need to familiarize yourself with, so many stories that need to be heard. I can continue into an off tangent spiel about traveling but we won’t get into all that in this entry.
Honduras was green and beautiful filled with some of the most big-hearted people I have ever met. I’ll even admit that a chunk of my heart was left there with the families and kids. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make my way back one day to visit or even do another brigade in the future! ¡Muchas gracias Honduras!
Like Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, this WordPress is ALIVE. Yes, for good. Again, to reflect & cleanse my thoughts, showcase my favorite photographs, read ridiculously irrelevant brilliance, and ultimately grow as my own individual. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote on this blog. Many unfortunate events, many unforgettable moments. But above all, I am happy with all that’s going on in my life right now. Here’s a recap of what’s happened since “30 Days Ago…”
– Budding independence
– Traditional Vegas trip for NFL opening weekend & by far the most relaxing and luxurious vacation ever, surprisingly
– Last semester of my undergraduate career
– ….which led to a lot of blurry nights of random celebrations
– Got the opportunity to have lunch with President Obama’s assistant/ Cabinet secretary 2009-2013, Chris Lu, with other student leaders on campus
– (Much too short) adventure to New York city with my best friend on Halloween
– Got accepted to SJSU’s Global Public Health Brigades as a traveling member to Honduras
– A lot–and I sadly really do mean A LOT–of broken hearts in my circle of friends
– Proudly completed, by far, the best group project I have ever been a part of
– Graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Health Science with a minor in Public Relations
– Christmas/graduation party with the best cake ever saying, “CONGRATS time to find a job”
– Rang in 2014 with the friends I made in math camp 10 years ago
Despite the storm, last year was definitely my most memorable and best learning experience thus far. 2013 was full of plot twists but it was life changing in many respects — from my new-found travel itch to budding independence. Most importantly, I grew closer than ever with my parents and siblings. If it wasn’t for traveling, I would completely be lost right now. It’s funny how you go away from home in hopes of finding new things but end up finding yourself instead. So… in conclusion, may the adventures begin!
I’m pleased to announce that, after daydreaming of starting a personal blog for months now, my amusing life (that many people find boring) will now be recorded and shared with the world. How thrilling is that?! Believe me, it’s a pretty big -baby- step for me. This’ll either be entertaining or completely dry, but I’m pretty excited to embark on yet another popular social medium that’ll allow me to reflect & cleanse my mind, showcase my favorite pictures, read ridiculously irrelevant brilliance, and learn more about people, places, personalities & communications.
Now let’s discuss what happened 30 days ago. Thirty days ago I left my love. Well, my second love.
Thirty unforgettable days ago was my last day in Paris after having lived there for three weeks for a month-long study abroad program from San Jose State University. Thirty unforgettable days ago at this time, I was roaming the colorful Rue de la Huchette – where the street lights were bright, the corners were crowded and the fragrance of fresh crepes filled the narrow alleys. Paris is my second love. Although I spent the evening and ended my night with my favorite people from the program, knowing that it was our last night in Paris sank my heart, it was bittersweet… But it was also a pretty eventful evening. We bought ourselves bracelets for memories, ate jambon et fromage crepes, visited our favorite bar for the second to last time and simply had the time of our life at midnight in Paris, just in time to see the twinkling stars on the Eiffel Tower. The night was truly magical (and I learned that ‘magic’ is the most appropriate word to associate Paris with). We didn’t make it in time to catch the RER back to the Latin Quarter but we did use to Metro and ended our last few hours at once again, our favorite bar. Like I said, the night was bittersweet… and a little blurry. But I’ll just leave it at that.
Thirty days ago I left Paris… and headed to Italy the next morning – a whole other story to tell. I’m already itching to go back. I can’t wait until I do and experience the city in a whole new way as (probably) a whole new individual. I left my heart there, it’s only necessary to come back.
And just if you were wondering, California is my first love.