This is not my first time to Barcelona. I was here a few years ago, when Conversation Corps was young. And I was here 48 hours, maybe. This time I'm here exactly a week, and there are many meetings planned for the week and you can read about them in these posts the next week. If you are a GeoVisions returnee, or if you are thinking of becoming a GeoVisions volunteer, teacher or Au Pair…the outcome of these meetings are important and I think you'll want to read about how you will be impacted.
Before I departed the U.S., I just had to get one more TaeKwon-Do class in. I'm passionate about that martial art. I'm a 2nd Degree Black Belt, and I train a minimum of four times a week. So the night before I left for Barcelona, I went to class to get one more training in before missing a week. And of course the outcome was a black eye. I just dropped my hands briefly and as you can see, this is what can happen when you do that in a sparring match.
I'm toying with the idea of wearing my contacts and sunglasses the entire time I'm here.
There are five tenets of TaeKwon-Do and I use them when I train or I'm competing in a tournament. I also use them everyday at GeoVisions.
5. Indomitable Spirit
I write another Blog
and have been writing about these tenets and how I use them outside my training. When you train you not only stretch, practice your basic techniques and spar with others…you also train yourself in the Five Tenets of TaeKwon-Do. These same tenets are the foundation of our Global Work and Service Projects team.
So these series of Blog posts during this trip are also journal entries over on our Community Pages. I'm doing double duty.
As I write this piece, I'm looking at surfers as I walk along the beach. They probably look like seals in the photo. It rained earlier. The wind was up, the air was cool and I was in shorts. So I detoured into some small, neighborhood streets and that got me out of the wind. I try to do that every chance I get when I travel, to get a sense of what it's like to live in that area.
What we want to do with the second generation of Conversation Corps is provide even more opportunities to connect with the locals and to get involved in the community or neighborhood. Watch this Blog this week as we tell you about the ideas we are discussing here with our overseas partners and offices. You really don't get a sense of community without being in these out of the way areas to enjoy the sounds, smells and sights.
What should we name the Conversation Corps, 2nd generation? Conversation Corps 2.0? What do you think?
On August 30, Katie embarked on a year long journey through all 15 countries of the former Soviet Union. She got the idea by attending a Meet, Plan, Go event last fall.
In one of her Blog posts, Katie wrote that "The next nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! event will take place October 18, 2011 in 17 cities throughout North America (up from 10 last year!): Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Washington DC and Toronto, Canada. If you have given even the slightest bit of thought to stepping back from your career to travel, I highly recommend you try to attend."
We hope you will follow Katie because for 2 months of her journey, she will be on the Conversation Corps Russia program. One month she will live with a family in Moscow and tutor them in English, then she moves outside St. Petersburg for a month and does the same thing.
Katie Going Global, wandering along a road less traveled is a great read. Enjoy!
In the early morning hours on Sunday, August 28, Hurricane Irene came ashore in Guilford, CT. Guilford is home to GeoVisions' Global Work and Service Program office. It is also home to most of our staff.
Old timers to this Blog probably remember photos I have taken of Guilford. I'm so proud of this small coastal town with it's Town Green built in 1639 and our office, built in 1750. We look over this Green from our office and do you know what? I never, ever take that view for granted.
When we have visitors from out of town we always take them to the Guilford Harbor. It's an actual working harbor with restaurants, pleasure boats, lobster boats, the Guilford Lobster Pound and other spots that just make walking down there very peaceful.
On Sunday morning, a lot of that changed. And to keep things in perspective, I'm not whining. We had a Category 1 hurricane. I cannot even imagine a Category 2, never mind a 5. I'm thankful, and all of us are taking this in stride.
How did Irene impact our staff? Well, for starters, we have no electricity, no cable TV, no Internet, cell phone service is spotty, our yards are a mess, some of us lost beautiful trees, hundreds of dollars in food is spoiling, we can't flush toilets without pouring water in the back because in Guilford, 100% of the homes are on water wells and septic systems. So basically, we're camping! And many of us don't have running water and had to buy bottled water. Neighbors were buying hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of ice to keep food spoilage to a minimum.
How did this impact GeoVisions? No electricity. No Internet to stay in touch with volunteers and no email to communicate with people hoping to go on our programs. No phones, so when people call us they assume we're closed…or worse. Can you imagine being in business and locking up your doors for 5 days (and counting)? That's what we have had to do because of a natural disaster. And disasters don't care.
So what have we done? How area we providing 24/7 service to our volunteers and teachers abroad right now? Because that is key.
We quickly bought a generator and 25 gallons of gas before the stations ran out…which they did on Monday. This generator would end up powering 3 computers at a time, and a refrigerator with fresh water for 5 days. Our backup Verizon 3G/4G hot spot powered computers on a damaged cellular network so we could get plain text emails out, receive emails and update our volunteers and teachers abroad.
Next, we were able to get Comcast to forward the main phone line to our emergency telephone service. That service has 2 power generators and 7 days of diesel fuel each. By taking these 2 quick steps, we were able to protect our volunteers and teachers 24/7, and stand ready for any emergency abroad.
Our staff has been nothing short of amazing. They drove to New Haven for WiFi, and to family homes outside of Guilford with power and Internet. Some drove around to McDonalds, Starbucks and Subway to stay in touch with our participants and even those who plan to participate this month and need pre-departure materials. We have found that dedication to the service of others is contagious, and our staff just got in cars and found WiFi to stay in touch with everyone who touches them via GeoVisions.
As of this writing, we now have electricity in our office. We still have no phones and we have no Internet. We will no longer have to power computers with generators. But we will continue to use the Verizon hot spot. Verizon was very helpful and doubled our usage because of what has happened. And our staff will continue to call you via their personal cell phones.
Emergency? There has been another 7 days of fuel added and we can go another week providing emergency phone service 24/7. All staff on those lines are reporting to work as usual.
Using a metaphor, our doors remain shut and the windows covered. But there is life inside, thanks to technology, fuel and dedicated staff.
Disasters don't care. Our volunteers who have worked in disaster areas know that first-hand. Disasters kill indiscriminantly and destroy at will. We have experienced the fact that disasters don't care. People do care, however. We have had so many people encourage us through these difficult days, and our staff certainly care. And that is what makes the difference. It's the people we surround ourselves with…staff, volunteers and teachers alike that make the difference in letting the disaster get the best of us, of letting the disaster bring out the best in us.
How will you know us on the Internet? Everything is working and we are providing updates to you via our Home Page.
How will you know us if you see us? We're the ones with a roll of toilet paper in our hands madly searching for a toilet that flushes!
Enjoy your Labor Day weekend, here in the U.S.