Top 30 Things To Do… In 30 Days!

Today marks 30 days until I will be home for special home leave for a month! I will get to spend quality time with friends and family before I return to complete a 3rd year with Peace Corps in Moldova. In honor of this occasion, I have made a list of the top 30 things I want to do while I am home for 30 days.

Naturally, the #1 thing I want to do while I am home is to spend time with loved ones. That goes without listing it in this list. However, if you’re not from the State College, PA area, a lot of these things may not make much sense to you.

So here goes, the top 30 things (in no particular order) that I want to do while I am back home in Central PA for a month… who wants to join me!?

  1. Attend a Calvary service (preferably more than once)
  2. Visit Harvest Fields during sunset or sunrise
  3. Make waffles and eat them with friends!
  4. Eat at all the local restaurants I miss (yes, there is a list)
  5. Visit the crew at the Central PA Visitors Center (where I used to work)
  6. Get my drivers license renewed
  7. Go to the Arboretum at Penn State and play in the new children’s garden
  8. Visit one of the many local farmer’s markets
  9. Eat ice cream from the PSU Creamery
  10. Walk around downtown State College and drink bubble tea
  11. Start running again
  12. Game night at a friends house
  13. Go for a hike at Mt. Nittany or Shingletown
  14. Get a haircut (Recommendations? My favorite hair stylist is booked already)
  15. Have a cookout/BBQ with friends and/or family
  16. Roadtrip!
  17. Share Moldovan wine with local cheese with friends and/or family
  18. Journal and do some writing while at a local coffee shop
  19. Listen to live music
  20. Sit around a campfire with friends and/or family
  21. Attend a local community event
  22. Do some shopping
  23. Read while enjoying the outdoors (even better if in a porch swing or in a hammock)
  24. Go on a picnic at the University duck pond
  25. Surprise someone (or multiple people)
  26. Eat ice cream from Meyer Dairy
  27. Take a lot of photos
  28. Run errands with a friend or two
  29. Play outside in the rain
  30. Prepare Moldovan food and share the culture with friends and family

I’m anxious to see how many of these things can be accomplished while visiting with family and friends. Until then, I have a bit of a whirlwind month of July ahead. More to come on that soon!

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Go to Romania, and face a fear in the New Year

I don’t know where this particular fear comes from… but I know it’s been around for a long time for me. When I would think about the possibility of it I would get knots in my stomach and then think about all the other things I would rather do.

I’ve come face-to-face to fears similar to this one and instead of running from them, I have learned to face them and at least give it a try – to not allow that fear to get the best of me. The least I can do is say I tried it, even if I didn’t like it. Why not give it a try, maybe it’s something I would enjoy? How would I know if I never tried it before? I have found that the more I am willing to face these fears, I grow a little bit each time and in the long run the fears aren’t as scary and it becomes more of an adventure.

For example…

  • Skydiving… is now a random, interesting story.
  • Caving… brought a friend and I closer together because of it.
  • Mountain biking… brings back the laughter shared in the woods with friends.
  • A long overseas flight alone… was just part of the process of a changed heart.

….among many more stories similar to the ones above. Even the one I am currently living out now (being in Moldova).

And so, as a friend brought up the opportunity to go to Brasov, Romania for a few days for a winter ski trip, I felt my stomach do it’s familiar knot tying. Skiing?!

Immediately my mind went to the negative and annoying “I can’t do it” thoughts.

Then, I recognized it as another long-time fear and asked myself “Why not?” and realized how silly I was being.

After some thinking and a little bit of research, I decided to go… and the day after New Year’s I found myself on a tour bus with my friend and many Moldovans heading to Romania.

After what seemed a very long drive (plus a 4+ hour wait at the border) and little sleep we made our way to Brasov for the afternoon where we did a little bit of touring around the city and did some sightseeing.

Walking through the streets of Brasov, Romania.
Walking through the streets of Brasov, Romania.

It was pretty cold and snowy during our time there. We even took a quick, little visit to Bran where we visited Dracula’s castle as well.

Beautiful, snowy view of Bran from Dracula's castle.
Beautiful, snowy view of Bran from Dracula’s castle.
The central/interior part of Dracula's castle as we tried to figure our way out (it's easy to get lost in there!).
The central/interior part of Dracula’s castle as we tried to figure our way out (it’s easy to get lost in there).

The first day at the ski place, the bus dropped us off as we spent a few hours doing some snow tubing and trying to stay warm. The temps were below freezing and in the negatives (F) at times!

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Snowtubing with Miki on a double snow tube. Who knew tubing for 2 hours would be so tiring!?
Drinking hot chocolate and eating kurtos, which is this amazing tube of delicious bread you can only find there in that region of Romania.
Drinking hot chocolate and eating kurtos, which is this amazing tube of delicious bread you can only find there in that region of Romania.

The next day we got dropped off again at the ski  place and we decided to rent some skis and give it a try. With the help of some others and encouragement from one another, we spent the next couple of hours trying not to hit random people while learning how to stop with these thin boards attached to our feet.

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I learned the art of gracefully falling, even sometimes while still moving… and the secrets on how to get back up.

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It was a great way to kick-off the New Year… and face an old fear. I’m glad I gave it a try and got to see beautiful, Romania in the snow.

Later that evening, we went out for some late-night fun in the snow. We did some sledriding on an old sled, made snow angels and built a snowman. Remember what I said a few weeks ago about what I was looking forward to in this new year… little did I know I would be building a snowman so soon. 😉

We made a snowman...snowdude...snowbear... with a mowhawk.
We made a snowman…snowdude…snowbear… with a mowhawk. So much fun!

Here’s to facing more fears in this New Year…life is too short not to. Hai! Let’s Go!

A dressember update

Earlier this December, I shared some information about dressember and since then a lot has happened.

Our Nationala Moldovei group grew to 20+ individuals from Moldova and various states throughout the US. Plus there were many others near and far who joined in on the challenge by wearing dresses throughout the month in support of the team and cause.

The $5,000 goal has been surpassed by raising a total of $5,800 (as of 1/8/2015) for International Justice Mission. As a group, together we fully funded a rescue operation ($4,500), access to medical care for FIVE survivors of violence ($222 ea), one freedom training ($111), and about 2-3 aftercare packages ($30).

The whole dressember campaign has raised over $450,000 to go toward International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. The campaign is hoping to reach their goal of $500,000 by the end of January. You can get more information here.

A teaser video was created by a group of ladies here in Moldova to support a group of amazing men who joined us in the challenge and agreed to wear dresses if the goal was reached by the end of December.

Then on December 30th, the $5,000 goal was reached and the video of these brave men wearing dresses in the center of Chisinau on a cold December day was released. I cannot say enough how much respect I have for these gentlemen.

Even a local newspaper picked up the video and translated it into Romanian. Check it out!

But, most of all… people’s lives will be changed. We may never know the positive impact this will have on the lives of people we may never meet. In addition to this, awareness of the issue of human trafficking has been raised, especially in Moldova… and a group of people stood together in dresses, near and far, hoping to make a difference.

Many thanks to so many of you who donated to this cause and for all who also sported dresses throughout the month of dressember. You all are amazing — this is so much bigger than a dress!

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Dressember in December

December is here and that means… the weather is frigid. Ice puddles are forming. Snow is falling. Daylight hours are shorter. The holiday season is near.  …and women all around the world are joining hands across borders and oceans by wearing dresses every day in December. But why?

Did you know that “there are nearly 30 million slaves in the world today—men, women and children forced to work and living in fear”? (according to IJM Website). That’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around and makes one think “but, what can I do?” That’s where Dressember comes in – as women join together as they wear a dress each day of December to celebrate women and defend their dignity worldwide. Together we can do more together than what one can do our their own — each one raising awareness and support for International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to bring rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and violent oppression.

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Dressember is a collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women.

Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who’ve been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women.

Dressember exists to inspire and empower a global community of like-minded women who are locking arms to face one of the greatest injustices of our time.

The heart of Dressember is freedom– that every woman has the right to live a vibrant and autonomous life.

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As some of who know me, know that I participated in this last year along with a group of friends as it was the first year that Dressember partnered with International Justice Mission and surpassed their first goal of $25,000 and reached $165,000 by December 31, 2014. Since last year, I have moved overseas to Moldova. I have learned a lot about this beautiful place I now call home and some shocking statistics. For example, “Moldova ranks number 6 in the world of countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery.” (The Global Slavery Index 2013, Walk Free Foundation)

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And so, a team was created of local friends & faraway friends to join us in spreading awareness of Moldova and the issue of human trafficking for so many men, women, and children here and beyond.

You can support the work that International Justice Mission is doing and support our team, Nationala Moldovei through the dressember campaign as we all wear dresses during the frigid cold month of December.

Learn more! >> https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise/team?ftid=40684

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This is bigger than wearing a dress every day in December. This is bigger than about how many dresses one has or what they are wearing. This is bigger than who gets to their team goal first or who raised the most money — it’s all a part of a bigger picture, where people come together to raise their voices and stand up and do what they can to make a difference for someone or many people they have never met – it’s about restoring dignity and advocating on behalf of those who are unable to. Dressember in December.  Will you join us?

Make a difference

*Disclaimer: although we know that IJM doesn’t work in Moldova at this time, we still feel it is important to raise awareness and support on behalf of victims of human trafficking all over the world.