29 March 2011

media mention: here under the rainbow

Ta da! The Global Citizen Project is doing exactly what I set out to do -- inspiring others to give back. This sweet gal from Arizona mentioned The Global Citizen Project on her blog, "Here Under the Rainbow" here.  Here's wishing her all the luck in the world as she follows her do good endeavors.

26 March 2011

april project preview: pueblo ingles in the jaen region of spain

I make no secret of my love for Spain. It’s a country I’ve visited repeatedly, most recently for my 35th birthday and a long sought after reservation at El Bulli. I hadn’t planned on including Spain in The Global Citizen Project itinerary, but several friends recommended the Pueblo Ingles program, including Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Life & Sex in an Open Marriage, and Dylan Lowe, Editor-In-Chief at The Travelling Editor. Timing-wise, it seemed oh so symbolic to return to a country I hold near and dear to my heart around my birthday. April 22nd (Earth Day, baby!) marks my 38th birthday, the same age my mother was when she passed away from a way too short bout with lung cancer. Among her final words were, “I never went to Europe,” and well, I’ve spent the better part of the past two decades traveling and living a life with purpose and intention and, equally importantly, living a life without regret. I’m pretty sure if my mother were still alive, she’d want me to be in Europe to celebrate mark this landmark birthday.

So, my project at Pueblo Ingles (“English Village”) in the heart of Cazorla National Park in the Jaen region of Spain is timing-wise and culturally, of great personal significance. At Pueblo Ingles, I’ve committed to never utter a word of English. My only obligation is to talk, talk, talk like I would in a natural setting to help Spanish participants learn my native language. I’m going to Spain with patience, an open mind and an abundance of creativity. I’ve heard nothing but glowing feedback about this intense immersion program and hope I can be a positive influence and teacher in the English learning process. I cannot wait to report back. Sit tight and stay tuned. Although my laptop was stolen on my last project in Panama, my BlackBerry has been replaced after the corrupt SIM card incident in Guatemala, so I *should* be able to update throughout the project (such first world problems, I know). Please follow me on Twitter at @charynpfeuffer for the play-by-play.

To learn more about Pueblo Ingles, follow @puebloingles on Twitter or learn more at www.morethanenglish.com

23 March 2011

if you live in los angeles...

Check out Do Good Bus. Hop on the bus, get wined and dined and they do the rest. Each trip is different and you never know where or how you'll help out until you arrive at the final do good destination. It's a great way to get involved within the Los Angeles community, make new friends and walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling. I would love, love, love to see something like this in Seattle (hint, hint if Do Good Bus ever wants to head north).

22 March 2011

new blog post on women on their way - voluntourism isn't all about the volunteer

Ten months into The Global Citizen Project, I'm still having "ah hah" moments at every turn.  My recent voluntourism project with Globe Aware in Costa Rica was no exception. Read more about it here in this month's blog post for Wyndham Worldwide's Women on Their Way Jane Air Crew.

20 March 2011

united way of king county day of hope & help – community resource exchange

On April 22 – my 38th birthday! – United Way of King County’s Community Resource Exchange will connect homeless individuals and families with the services they need all in one place, on one day. Participants will have access to free health services, haircuts, voicemail accounts, legal assistance and many other vital services.
Join me for an inspiring day of volunteering where you’ll have the opportunity to work directly with people experiencing homelessness in our community. (I signed up to work on the Social Media Team!)

There are a variety of volunteer roles available including hospitality, participant support, service provider supporter, interpreter services and much, much more. You can choose from two volunteer shifts: 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. or 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Click here now to sign up to volunteer! For more information, visit www.uwkc.org/cre or cre@uwkc.org

17 March 2011

great quote

"When we see others suffer like this, the worst thing to do is to listen to public officials who tell us, 'Don't worry, it couldn't happen here.'  Of course it could. To be human is to be vulnerable, and there is no way to take this away. A shared sense of vulnerability is what could change us all for the better."
-- Jim Wallis, on the crisis in Japan

16 March 2011


Dumbass is the only word that sums up how I felt after I had my laptop stolen during my recent volunteer travels in Costa Rica and Panama. In my many years and hundreds of thousands of miles of travel, I have never had anything stolen. Call me lucky or call me cautious, but all things considered, I’ve managed to survive all sorts of high risk travel unscathed. (Knock on all surrounding hard surfaces, please.)

I checked into The Purple House (La Casa Morada) in David, Panama after enduring the 10 hour bus trip from San Jose, Costa Rica and tedious border crossing via Tracopa. Hot, sweaty and hungry, I high-tailed it to the nearby grocery store for snacks and a few .45 cent Balboa beers. All well was well in my world once again, as I sat outside on the patio at The Purple House, sipping an ice cold beer and Skyping my boyfriend to let him know of my safe (although not exactly swift) arrival in Panama.

When I returned to my shared dorm room (6 people, 3 bunks) around 11:30 p.m., lights were out and everyone appeared to be asleep. Not wanting to disturb other weary travelers, I opted to not lock up my laptop in the locker where my other belongings had been safely stored. Instead, I wrapped my laptop in my Hold Steady sweatshirt and placed it on the floor below my bottom bunk – mere inches below my head.

Although I was dead tired, I was woken several times throughout the night by my Guatemalan roommate, with whom I exchanged pleasantries with earlier in the evening. Although she didn’t speak a word of English, I managed to convey that I’d volunteered in her country in January, had a wonderful experience (despite doom and gloom reports on the crime situation in Guatemala City), so much so that I adopted and brought home a puppy from the animal rescue I was working at. She seemed like a sweet, twenty-something gal, until she shot up straight in bed in the middle of the night, pointing out the window, saying “Look! Look!” Over and over again. Wait a sec. Didn’t this woman tell me that she didn’t speak any English? Mildly confused, I fell back asleep.

Around 7 a.m., I awoke to this woman standing over my head, faux swatting a “cucaracha” from my head. Had I not just come from the rainforest, where your average size insect makes a cockroach look like an ant, I may have mustered more of a reaction. Instead, I rolled over and fell back to sleep. At this point, three of my dormmates had already checked out. The Guatemalan gal proceeded to make several trips to the bathroom before disappearing for good.

Semi-rested, I woke up for good around 8:30 a.m., reached my hand under my bed, only to find my sweatshirt – my laptop was missing. Immediately, the pieces of what happened came together and I rushed into the hostel lobby to speak with the owner, Andrea. She alerted me that the Guatemalan woman, who now had a name, Lisbeth Mejia, had scooted out of the hostel shortly before, three days before her intended checkout.

I felt like a moron as I realized that I screwed up by not taking one simple precaution – using a lock – a lock I was already using to protect my other valuable belongings. Andrea was gracious and understanding as could be as she suggested several possible courses of action – everything from checking the bus station for Lisbeth to calling local hostels to see if she had checked in. I opted not to file a report with the Panamanian police, as I needed to make my way to Boquete to meet some friends from Canada who were meeting me to volunteer. Volunteering seemed like a far more fun option, plus I didn’t have full confidence in my Spanish skills to convey exactly how the situation went down.

Yes, it’s a sucky feeling to have something stolen from you. But, I was partially to blame for the laptop loss by not taking proper safety precautions. Reality is that I was wielding an expensive piece of technology in a developing country. My laptop was easily worth one month’s salary in Guatemala. I may as well have been walking through David with dollar bills stapled to my body. It’s disappointing that anyone, anywhere would steal from another human being, but that’s life. Different people have different challenges, needs and means of survival. My laptop may have meant some kind of opportunity for Lisbeth, or simply another meal. I don’t know. As much as I wanted to wish the karma gods to puke carpal tunnel or the blue screen of death on the woman, I know that she has to live with her actions, pending her existence of a moral compass. My laptop, and pretty much everything else I own, is just stuff. Stuff that can be replaced. As my friend Ryan McGovern pointed out, there are much bigger problems in the world to worry about – especially right now.

So dear, Lisbeth Mejia – I hope my laptop is everything you hoped it would be. As for me, I will always use a lock to protect my “stuff.” And if you still decide to steal from me, obviously you need my “stuff” more than I do. I'll deal with it.

P.S. I booked a room at The Purple House on my outbound trip from Panama back to Costa Rica. Despite my incident (which was no fault of the hostel), I cannot recommend The Purple House enough. Andrea truly is the hostess with the mostess. Muchas gracias.

media mentions: 944 magazine and the volunteer revolution

Hola! I’m back from nearly a month of volunteering in Costa Rica and Panama. Sadly, I had to cut my go good endeavors short in the latter destination, due to my boyfriend contracting something unexpected in Costa Rica – dengue fever. It’s been a hellish week for him and hard for me to be so far away while he was going through the thick of this nasty virus. Thankfully, I have rockstar friends in Seattle who took excellent care of him until I was able to get home (via planes, cars, taxis, a bus and 60 hours, oh my!).

As soon as I get back in the groove of things, I promise to report back on the volunteer work I did with Globe Aware in Costa Rica via the Travelocity Travel for Good grant I won, as well as in Panama with Global Humanitarian Adventures and Dead Wheat.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some lovely media mentions that made the cyber airwaves this past week:

Big thanks are in order for Isoul Harris and K. Diane Harrington of 944 magazine in Atlanta. I adore the “Around the World” profile/interview they did on me and The Global Citizen Project.
Click here (scroll to page 91).

TGCP also got props twice in Global Humanitarian Adventures’ blog, The Volunteer Revolution. Thank you Robb, Caroline and Lisa at GHA, as well as the beyond wonderful Bliss family at Finca Selah/Dead Wheat for putting  your humanitarian efforts -- and Panama -- at the tip top of  my “must return to volunteer” list.  Also, thanks Jen and Julie, my dear Canadian friends, for coming to volunteer and to Heidi and Graham for rounding out the fun.
Read about TGCP here and here.

While I have you here lovely readers, I also thought I’d share some eye candy from these volunteer trips. Check out some of my photos from Globe Aware here and photos from Panama here. Be warned - there were puppies at Finca Selah. Five 'em to be exact.