volunteering in asia

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During our pre-service training, I somehow got the idea that my teaching experience would involve eager female students who craved friendship and meaningful connections.

When I was placed at a small vocational school for construction and engineering, my little bubble popped. My students were almost exclusively male, and really they couldn’t give two flying farts about English. Hanging out with their strange, gawky foreign teacher wasn’t really high on their list of priorities.

The one exception to this was the English majors–a group of 25 bright and quirky students taught by my husband. They became my surrogate students last year. There would be days when I felt like a complete failure, unable to connect with my students. I would pour all my energy into my lessons, only to receive dull responses from boys who’d been up all night in internet bars playing League of Legends. It was Jeff’s English majors who came to my parties, who attended our English corner. It was these kids who made me feel like I wasn’t the problem.

In May, the class will graduate. Many are moving on to other cities–Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, where they will translate or do HR work for construction companies. Many students have gotten positions in Africa, since Chinese companies are doing loads of construction work in places like Algeria and Tanzania.

Soon, their close group will scatter…but right now is a magical time when they are all filled with opportunity and dreams. Life is a gigantic possibility, and no limits have been set.

Last night we had a goodbye dinner for the class, since they will spend next semester interning at various locations away from campus. The students cooked up a storm, hammed it up for the camera and went crazy when I brought out my nail polish collection.

Youth is such a gorgeous, infectious thing. This beautiful group of girls have been an amazing part of my time in China, and I will always remember them.

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I’m really desperately trying to scrape up the funds to afford a flight to Bangkok this November to volunteer at SIGGRAPH Asia, but I’m basically penniless. Any and all sales and donations toward that end and beyond are super duper appreciated!

Voltron charm pre-orders end October 8th, posters are now available, and the Kickstarter campaign for my Japanese Treats pin set starts October 9th! More details on that to come next Sunday, 10/8.

Shop my store: leahmart.com
Visit my website: leahmartist.com
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Cambodian children fascinated with seeing themselves on camera after helping PCV Danielle Carrillo paint an outhouse with a sanitation message in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

There are 91 volunteers in Cambodia working with their communities on projects in education and health. More than 360 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Cambodia since the program was established in 2007

http://bit.ly/136J2oN

A small lake is photographed at the base of a beautiful snow-capped mountain range in the Kyrgyz Republic.

There are 83 volunteers in the Kyrgyz Republic working with their communities on projects in education, community economic development and health. More than 1,075 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Kyrgyz Republic since the program was established in 1993.

http://bit.ly/1uwkmDj

“This photo was taken on my last morning at my training site in Indonesia. Later this day, I would start my new life at my permanent site, which meant I had to say goodbye to six new friends I had spent the previous ten weeks with. Before that time though, I shared this magical sunrise with a friend from a nearby village. This photo serves as a reminder of the wonderful times I had there and of the possibilities that lie ahead.” -Joe Stewart

http://bit.ly/1AeqLUX

I took this photo at the opening ceremony of the Selenge Aimag Naadam. The photo depicts four children in traditional dress playing the morin khuur. I was only a trainee and learned so much about the culture during the two-day celebration.

There are 132 volunteers in Mongolia working with their communities on projects in English education, youth development and health. More than 1,145 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Mongolia since the program was established in 1991. 

http://bit.ly/1v9k8CW

Meet Warren “Wally” Crain, the oldest currently serving Volunteer. Wally helped start a drama club at one of the universities in the Kyrgyz Republic where the participants use acting and the stage to help strengthen their English skills.

More than 1,075 Peace Corps volunteers have served in the Kyrgyz Republic since the program was established in 1993. http://bit.ly/1AUutAJ