22 November 2011

I came back...

So I came back from India.  Problem being that my heart never left.  The hardest thing I did all year was get on the plane to come home (and by "home" I mean Seattle, because I've started calling India home).  As soon as I'm done writing this paper about Genghis Khan's DNA I'll tell you all about it.  For now I'll just say that I miss my mud hut and the world's smallest frog, Ferdinand, who kept me company while I drew illustrated instructions of how to plant sack gardens. 

Hundreds of people recieved medical attention
Hundreds of children received dental treatment
composting infrastructure was implemented
I read everything Jhumpa Lahri has published and I love her. 
Bodygaurd saved the woman he loves from bad men.

25 May 2011

I'm Off to India. Wanna Join Me?

I was greeted by humidity.  The baggage claim was filled with people from all over the world, some transient, some coming home, some leaving.  After waiting in line for what seemed like forever the immigration agent asked me why I had come to India.  “To do volunteer work,” I told him.  He nodded his head in true Indian fashion, stamped my passport and sent me on my way.  Stepping outside the airport my friends and I experienced something we had never encountered before.  India.
India isn’t always an easy place, but it is beautiful.  India is a rising power on the global stage.  The country is a leader in technology and cricket, among other things.  However, most of the country lives in densely populated, underdeveloped communities.  Sex trafficking and disease are on the rise.  Many lack access to the education and resources that you and I take for granted. 
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I jumped in a taxi and headed for the bus station.  We weren’t home yet.  During the five-hour bus trip from Delhi to Jaipur I tried to make reality set in.  I was in India.  India. 
When we arrived at our host’s home we were greeted by a young girl around the age 9, the same age as my little sister.  She had a leg brace on one leg and a smile that consumed most of her face.  She’s from a small slum in Jaipur.  Her community is known to some as the “puppet people.”  They make, sell and perform with puppets.  The families in this community live in dire poverty. They have no access to sanitation, very little access to (dirty) drinking water and almost no access to education or medical care.  The organization we were working with visited the community every week and brought food and vitamins for the children.  On one visit they found this little girl in the corner of her home. She had broken her leg and her family could not afford her medical treatment.  With no options they left her in the corner.  The group was able to bring her home and fund-raise for her surgery.  When I met her she was almost fully recovered, healthy, happy and alive. 
In the same community I met a woman with a newborn baby.  She explained through the translator that she and her child were sick but she could not afford medicine.  At the time I was naive to the illness of poverty, but now I believe it was TB.  Two months after my visit I learned that the baby died. 
Another family in the community lived in a single room.  The family consisted of a 12 year old girl and two younger boys.  I believe the youngest was around age 3.  They invited me to sit on their bed and immediately the youngest crawled into my lap.  He snuggled in and would not let go, his heart obviously longing for a mother.  The interpreter explained that their mother had died in a fire and the father was a truck driver.  The daughter had been living in slightly better conditions with her grandparents and attending school.  When her mother died she was forced to stay home and take care of her brothers while her father was away for weeks at a time. 
As I sat with the women and children of the community we shared laughter. Not even able to speak the same language we still managed to talk about life’s hardship and beauty. 
Before going to India I did not understand the concepts of global health, infrastructure or development.  Now I am obsessed with them.  Call it a calling if you will.   I am devoted to the development of the global community that I am a part of and I am striving toward a future where resources are better allocated and utilized, and education, health care, and women's rights become fundamental aspects of community development.  
I’ve been awarded a $500 scholarship to travel to India with a group of medical professionals, engineers, college faculty and fellow students.  We will be working two hours outside of Jaipur, Rajasthan in clinics and helping build sustainable infrastructure including composting toilets.
To cover the cost of the trip I need to raise an additional $2500. I will be able to save a large amount of this money and have already received some donations. 
My first trip to India was difficult.  I had never before experienced such poverty or diversity.  The longer I am away the more I want to go back. I'm excited to be apart of a program that is bringing medical care to those who usually cannot access it as well as implementing sustainable infrastructure that will have long-term effects on the well being of the community.   This trip will invest in the people of Rajasthan and fuel my education in International Development.   Please consider investing with me. 
Thank you,

To donate via pay pal either click the button on the top left of my blog or send donations to jennrp@gmail.com.  You can also send a check to Jennifer Pekol, 2615 NW 56th St, #204, Seattle, WA 98107. Anything you can give will be helpful and used with integrity.  

 Global Impact: Experience Rajasthan
Aug 20th-3rd

16 April 2011

Poetry Month: Tear It Down

by Jack Gilbert
We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

03 February 2011

2010 Roundup

Well, reassessment.  I'm supposed to be doing that.  It's February and usually I take time during February to set some new goals for myself for the year.  Before I do that I need to sit with my goals from last year and see what I accomplished.

Remember I made prayer flags last year depicting my goals for the year?  Here's a picture in case you forgot.

First, a map of Morocco.  The flag was to remind to be wise with money, pay off debt and save for a trip.  I give myself a B+ on this one.  I've paid some stuff off which is good and I've started saving toward what I hope is a trip to Haiti this summer to volunteer.

Second, "Any time you can tell your story in the form of a quest or pilgrimage, you'll be ahead of the game." --William Zinsser.  I set the goal to have my work published in three places last year.  I wrote a blog for Libuse Binder about Construction For Change, I published twelve recipes for Flock and three articles for Ocsplora, two of which were featured in the first ever print edition.  Success.

Third, the tree symbolizing the tattoo I want to get.  I didn't get that one but I did get this one...

Fourth, BOOKS!  I set the goal to read 25 books outside of school reading, I read 16.  Here's the list:  The Writing on Her Forehead, The Namesake, The End of Poverty, Dreaming of Baghdad, Arafat and the Dream of Palestine, Ecological Intelligence, Zen and the Art of Writing, The Fellowship of the Ring, Middlesex, Shanghai Girls, Savage Beauty: The Life Edna St. Vincent Millay, Half the Sky, The War of Art, A Poetry Handbook, Snow, Strength in What Remains.  For school I read: Brain Rules, Our Kind, The Government and Politics of the Middle East, Naked Lunch, On the Road, Veiled Threat and The Silenced Cry.  Total I read 24.  I win.

Fifth, the onion symbolizing cooking.  Did you read the part where I published 12 recipes? 

Sixth, the yoga person symbolizing self-care.  I got my migraines a bit more under control but I don't think I fulfilled the goal.  I didn't stick to a regular yoga practice which was the main part of the goal.  But there's always 2011.

An unexpected event this year was that I started painting.  See them here, here and here.  But here's one just in case you're lazy.

So, time for some new goals. Travel, reading, writing...and an old favorite is back.  Sit tight while I figure out 2011 and set your own goals while you're waiting.  If you need some help check out Chris or Jolie for inspiration.  They're the ones that inspired me to start this little yearly project.

Recently Added to My Bookshelf

1.  Descent into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid
2. Overtaken by Events, Ethan Casey
3. The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong
4. The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz
5. What is the What, Dave Eggers
6. The Paul Farmer Reader
7. The Secret History of the American Empire, John Perkins
8. Justice, Michael J. Sandel
9.  When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress Disease Connections, Gabor Mate
10. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
11. Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham
12. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
13. The Diary of Anias Nin, Volume 1
14. The Duel, Tariq Ali
15. The Crossing, Cormic McCarthy
16. Cities of the Plain, McCarthy
17. No Country For Old Men, McCarthy
18. The Road, McCarthy
19. Develpment as Freedom, Amartya Sen
20.  Failed States, Noam Chomsky
21. Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

02 February 2011


Dear Blog,

I've been away for a while.  I'm sorry about that.  I've just been so very busy with school and work and many more excuses that I will not name here.  Now it's safe to say that I am back.  I've lowered my Netflix subscription to the smallest possible plan keeping me from hours of online television watching, I've purchased myself subscriptions to the Economist and Live Station so I can watch Al Jezeera and I've recently added about 20 more books to my book shelves.  Woah.

I know that I must write.  I must write because if I cease to write I will cease to exist.

And that brings me to passion.  Passion for writing.  Passion for human rights and development.  I just finished reading Mountains Beyond Mountains for the third time. For those of you who don't know the book, it's the story of Dr. Paul Farmer. (Actually, it's the story of Tracey Kidder following Dr. Paul Farmer around.)  It is Farmer, not Kidder who inspires me so much.  A medical anthropologist, Farmer is to the medical world what I can only dream of being to the development world.  I've just started The Paul Farmer Reader, an anthology of his writings and lectures on structural violence and his anthropological observations in Haiti.  Farmers words are stunning.  He presents the ever growing suffering of the world by giving voices to those who live their lives behind the walls constructed to keep them out of the view of the rich and comfortable.

As a bright young student with dreams heavily rooted in both international development and anthropology, I take his words and actions as a challenge.  I'm challenged to continually assess the reasons I give for going to school, for engaging in various committees in Student Leadership and for writing.   This is what I do at the start of every year--I reassess.

To be continued...

08 November 2010

It Won't Be Like This Forever.

You know what will make me feel better?  Writing a blog. 
I have long been reciting to myself a mantra that sounds like this, “It won’t be like this forever.”  I say it because I know that it’s true.  I won’t always be pulled in a thousand directions, few of which I am passionate about, and being paid nada at a part-time retail job.  But for now I am…
School : 15 hrs/wk
Homework: 15 hrs/wk
Work : 25 hrs/wk
VA for Rachelle : 5 hrs/wk
Ride the bus : 15 hrs/wk
Self-Care: 2-4 hrs/wk
Students Leadership: (PTK, Panel discussion board, Art Auction committee, SPOT committee, Literary Magazine Committee) 2-4 hrs/wk
That equals 84-ish hours a week.
Friends, Sleep, food, bathing, laundry…If I have time I fit those in.  I also like to read magazines and watching 30 Rock. 
My head is spinning.  But this is how I fix it.
I write, do yoga, breathe, lay very still, eyes closed and breathe in and out. If I do these things everything in the first list is much easier and I am nicer and coherent and not having emotional breakdowns. 
It won’t always be like this, I just need to breathe.