Come with us to Kilimanjaro

How long is your bucket list? Mine is fairly long. I am about to kick one item off of my bucket list :) and thought I would share my next adventure in case you are interested or know anyone who would like to start the new year in such a phenomenal way! My next trip is to Kilimanjaro. I am going with a group of adventurers to raise funds for the PCRF. We will be on the summit on 1.1.2015. We are so looking forward to this adventure! If you would like to join us or know anyone else who does, please check this  site that has the information about the climb, PCRF, a Q&A page and a link to the registration form

http://climb4pcrf.wordpress.com/.

The climb is going to be 26 Dec – 2 Jan 2015. The summit day is going to be on 1.1.2015 which is a great way to start the year! Check the site for information about the cause, the fundraising and the tour company.

So what do you say, start the new year on top of Africa and help heal children, who can say no to that? :)

kids

 

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Do good in the world!

In the wise words of Jon Stewart “The world has gone mad”. Let’s bring sanity back: help someone, stand for a cause, do something today !

In discovering what makes my heart dance with joy, I have found that I am most alive when I am helping people. I get a high out of solving a problem and helping someone achieve or open new doors. I often seek opportunities where I can help people, so I volunteer with organizations. One of those organizations is Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) which is based in Doha, Qatar. I went with them to Indonesia and to Nepal to help school children in rural areas. A friend of mine approached me to write a blog post where I share tips for volunteers. Here is a link to the post titled:

Five tips for volunteering abroad

have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit many countries from Europe to the Americas to the Middle East to Asia to little islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I have seen many different cultures and interacted with people of all backgrounds. However, out of all this travel, two of my dearest trips are volunteer trips. I have had the chance to volunteer in Nepal and in Indonesia. Both of these trips were done with Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), a not-for-profit organization based in Doha, Qatar where I currently live.

Namaste Nepal

My trips to Nepal and Indonesia were both to support schools in rural areas of these two countries. Each trip was ten days long where we worked every day for the full school day. We would teach classes on the topics requested by the school (English, Music, Computer Skills, Environment, Sports, Cultural Exchange). In Nepal, we also set up a computer lab of four computer donated by one of the ROTA sponsors. It was very gratifying to see the look of satisfaction and pride on their faces when they typed their names for the first time using a computer keyboard! The class congregated around the table where we opened up one computer case to show them the internal parts and explain the function of each part. Our approach was to include less theory and more interactive two-way learning. We would bring with us maps and globes and would show the students the countries of our nationalities, and the counties that we live in (could be different). Their cute little faces will light up in a smile of surprise when we tell them that we got on a plane for 9 or more hours to come see them. Our objective was to show these children/students a glimpse from the world beyond their little village, to demonstrate how we as human beings have more similarities than differences, and plant a seed in their minds that what they dream they can reach.

Indonesia students

While there isn’t a blue book or a red book to summarize the wisdom that one needs to know before embarking on such life changing activity, here I highlight five tips that will help you in your next volunteer trip.:

  1. Be Flexible: To enjoy the trip be flexible in your expectation. Do not expect that you will live the same quality of life that you are used to. Take this as an opportunity to discover and live a new experience. Take it all in and appreciate that there are people who live this type of life on daily basis. Equally true, appreciate that there are people who wish they could be in your place having the same experience and this would always be me!
  1. Make friends: Whether you are volunteering in a school,….to read more Click Here

This post was published in the Grow Hope blog. A blog for Raintees, a sustainable and eco-friendly business that plants trees and donates school supplies to children for every product sold! Read more about Raintees here.

Kindness

“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it” -George Elliston

We often underestimate the impact of our actions, big or small, in the eyes of the receiving person. And today I was the lucky receiver of a super sweet act of kindness. If you follow my blog you would know that I LOVE to travel. But you may not know that I have dedicated this year as my “travel year”. And the reason why you would not know, is simply because I have not yet blogged about it – but that is a whole other story. Anyway, back to kindness and travel. So I am now in Nassau, the islands of the Bahamas. And I should say that I am grateful to God and everything that has happened in my life (good and bad) that resulted in me visiting this beautiful place. Pristine waters, white sands, green all around you, kind people, beauty… it is just great. But what makes it even greater is that I was able to get there given that I hold a Syrian passport which does not exactly make travel all that easy.

I keep going on a tangent – back to kindness! So I arrived yesterday in Nassau and today was my exploration day. I heard to Paradise island and I thought well, that an enough tempting name… I should go there. I hopped on the water taxi and enjoyed the waves, the breeze, the ships docked in the ports and less than twenty minutes later we arrived in Paradise. I walked to the famous Atlantis resort that has many many many facilities and adventures, could not participate in any as I was visiting in the latter part of the day and it would not have been a wise investment. I walked out and through the touristic town with beautiful colorful little shops. I stopped at one that caught my attention. It was a modern straw shop. You see the Bahamas is know for their straw artwork. And this was a shop that used an ancient craft to fulfill the modern lifestyle which would automatically attract the tourists and feed the economy. Building on the national and local tradition to revive a country’s economy and protect its identity has always interested me. I was intrigued.I went in an looked around. Everything was so thoughtfully done and unique although a bit pricy, which is kind of understandable given that the shop is located on an island called “Paradise” where you have houses for people like Opera Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and the like! They also had a toiletry section of colorful soap and Aloe Vera and Neem creams. Given my lifelong battle with acne, acne scars and problem skin, I started asking question about this cream to see if it could be the cure and end to my skin struggle. The lady managing the shop explained the plants so knowledgeably but I continued to hesitate and could not make the decision to buy fearing some kind of adverse reaction. The lady then went to the shelf, grabbed a bottle, put it in bag and said, here it is from me to you. And I said what do you mean. She said: “I’m buying it for you, try it and if you don’t like it, let us know”. I told her what if I do not come back, I need to pay you. She said: “No you don’t. Happy holidays!”. I was shocked and out of words. Why would you buy something for a complete stranger. She knows that this is a tourist place and I may never be back, so I am not going to be a returning customer. It was a simple and genuine act of kindness. And it made my day. And even may be my stay! And now I feel like I want to go and buy something from her. She probably did not know that her act of kindness is going to have this great an impact…. And that is what we need to keep reminding ourselves – simple act of kindness can go a long way!

Indonesia: Service, Beauty and Learning

Image

Last year I went on my first service trip. After volunteering with Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), I registered to go on a volunteer trip to Indonesia. On my first meeting with the group of volunteered I was amazed at the diversity of the group: gender, nationality, age, interest, religion, culture… all of it. Just the nationalities alone can give you an idea. We were a group of 25 people and we had members from Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, England, India, Fiji, Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Yemen, Syria, Greece and Qatar. That is 13 different nationalities in a group of 25 people! And they were a lovely group of people. Now, a year later after the trip, we still keep in contact and made some very good friendships.

We went through one month of weekly preparations for the trip. We were going to a school that was re-built in 2007 after the tsunami that hit Asia in 2005. The school was rebuilt and renovated by Qatar Foundation and ROTA. Our group was went to work with middle school kids on topics that were chosen by the school. The topics were: English, Computer Skills, Music, Sports, Environment, and Life Skills. Although I am a techie, I chose to be in the Music group as there was high interest in the Computer group, and I have interest in music myself. We flew from Doha, Qatar to Jakarta, Indonesia and then took a domestic flight to Jogjakarta where we stayed. Every morning we went on a one hour bus drive to the school. The school teachers, students and administrators treated us with big smiles and utmost generosity and politeness. It was easy to communicate not because we spoke the same language but because they are very smart and they can use sign language very efficiently :). Some of the students speak good English. One of them actually spoke very fluently. She was not in my class, she was a year younger. I asked her once, what do you want to be when you grow up, and she said a lecturer at the university. I have no doubt that this girl can achieve her dream because she has the stamina, the drive, and the . However, I wonder if life will get in the way and she will find that she needs to give up her dream to deal with life’s realities. On the last day of school, she was crying to see us leave. The kids think of us as super heroes who can change their lives. What they don’t know, is that they have changed ours. This was from the press release about the trip http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/211755-rota-volunteers-take-part-in-reflection-event.html:

“This was my first volunteer experience with Rota and I already look forward to more volunteer activities. The trip organisation was great and the team was amazing. The best part was getting to know the people and the culture of Indonesia and to work with the students. As much as we hope to have made an impact, they have certainly touched our lives and our hearts. I can still see their smiles, their tears and hear their little voices and big dreams. This was truly a memorable experience”

Memories from Syria

It’s been a long time since I visited… I went through pictures from my visits to Syria and made this video… Not too artistic, I know and probably seems like I am sticking my head in the sand but I wanted to see something different than what we’ve been seeing everyday over the past year and half.  The pictures are random pictures taken walking through Damascus and driving through Syria. The music is for the talented Malek Jandali – Piano Dream from Album Echos of Ugarit (Based on the oldest music notation in the world (Ugarit, Syria 3400 B.C.)

Hello World, Again

So it’s been over a year since my first Hello World post. I created the blog and then did not know what to do with it. I guess I have to do something first and then I will figure out what to with it. So… here I am posting something. So let’s start with the name…. why the name Boats, horses and Cars? One, it’s because after so many tries with WordPress, this was the only one that was not taken. Second, it is because I like traveling and going places and all of these three, boats, horses and cards can take you places. Of course, you can also get on a plane or a train, but somehow those jumped to my head first and they seemed more romantic :). Plus, people who know me know that I like horses and cars and I’m beginning to find that I have somethings for boats too. So where do I want to go? Everywhere!  I want to travel the world. I’ve been to a few places and in future posts, I will write about them. For now, this I would say, is a good start!