The Beat of the World: Meixi Circumnavigates the Globe

A Social Policy and International Studies major at Northwestern, Meixi began working and volunteering in the slums of India at 11 and then continued to work in Myanmar, Thailand, India and Cambodia on education in various slum communities and educational settings for children living in the red light district areas. She also worked with Evanston Township High School to create a service-learning curriculum for the teachers at the high school. She also co-founded The Amber Initiative, an organization dedicated to building a movement for youth in Southeast Asia. Meixi has been at the forefront of leading youths in various movements and conferences in the region. Meixi worked with the UN Interagency Project on Human Trafficking in Thailand and was selected to be a delegate at the Global Engagement Summit for social entrepreneurs and the 5th UN Youth Assembly for the Millennium Development Goals. On campus, Meixi co-founded the Northwestern Engagement Coalition and initiated the Northwestern World Cup to celebrate the diversity on campus. She was also elected to officer positions in the Undergraduate Priorities Committee and the Ballroom Latin American Swing Thing (BLAST) dance group. She is a Senior Community Assistant in the Freshmen Quad and tutors frequently at the Jonquil Hotel and Centro Romero in Chicago. Meixi was also selected to be Goldman Sachs Global Leader in 2009. She is excited to look at schools as tools that can transform educational spaces into catalysts for change in individuals and communities. Meixi is from the sunny island of Singapore and cannot wait to into the world, to countries and continents she has only read in books. It has been such a huge honor to receive this grant from the Circumnavigators Club of Chicago- it’s a dream come true. Itinerary:
  • Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Miguel Angel Asturias Academy (Monday, June 21- Sunday, July 11)
  • Lima, Perú, Fe Y Alegria (Sunday, July 11- Tuesday, July 27)
  • Singapore, Northlight School (Thursday, July 29- Saturday, August 7)
  • Chiang Rai, Thailand, Institute for Women (Saturday, August 7- Monday, August 16)
  • Tema, Ghana, SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College (Monday, August 16 – Wednesday, August 25)
  • Grenoble, France, (Wednesday, August 25- Sunday, September 5)
GRANT: Meixi is travelling as the 2010 Circumnavigator’s Club Foundation Around-the-World Travel-Study Grant recipient.  Each year one rising senior is chosen jointly by Northwestern University and the Circumnavigator’s Club Foundation to travel the world exploring a topic of her/his choosing.  The $9,000 award requires that the student travel to at least six countries on at least three continents.  For more information about the grant, please go to: http://www.northwestern.edu/provost/students/circum.html

African Sun

my fav kid!

There were some problems with my computer and it’s been wonderful to finally have internet access. Oh I am so excited to finally be in the continent of AFRICA. I had heard so much about it, and had wanted to come since I was 12 and I am finally here. 🙂

It’s been SUCH a treat to be under the African sun- the sun seems to be always shining, as the smiles and the welcome of the people brighten up any day and everyday. I was sitting next to a guy from Nigeria and he was saying that the common thing about a lot of Africans is that they always want you to feel welcome. And that is exactly I have been feeling in my short 2 days here already. Each person is ready to smile and greet you with a handshake and a snap, a simple “good morning” and a “you are welcome”

There’s a certain pride too that comes with the sunshine here and it’s been nothing but a joy. The school too i wonderful and again and again I have been impressed and inspired by the stories told here. I’m learning so much about many countries and the change the young people here want to see in their own families and communities and countries. The passion glows within them.

Also- Suraj is HERE! and we went to the market today and it was so much fun 🙂

Sunset Welcome

Beautiful sunset welcome

houses along the river So Sangkhlaburi is BEAUTIFUL and today i’ve done about 10 interviews with all the teachers at this schools and about 4 students.

However, I can’t post photos of the kids for protection but interviewing them today was special. They were filled with hopes and dreams for their village, and their own lives. They hoped for peace and at 12 years of age, already wanted to make changes to their community- like bringing electricity to the village and being a teacher so that the next generation too, can learn.

And thing i really love is watching the sunset and watching the sun go down by the river. it’s a great welcome and enough to make your heart melt.

I also had the opportunity to go to the border of Myanmar and Thailand. The checkpoint, now closed is called Jedi Sam Ong. And talking with some of the guesthouse people, the long-drawn conflict between Thailand and Myanmar is still rooted in the hearts of many.

Three Pagoda Pass Border of Myanmar and Thailand

But because this city borders the two countries, it’s filled with a rich rich heritage and culture and I got the chance to learn more Burmese, Karen and Mon there, as well as get a Karen traditional dress!

Friends at the guesthouse- karen wear Friends at the guesthouse Mon village My bedroom

Building the House

One of my inspirations in Singapore- Lydia and her 17th birthday

Students at NorthLight

Singapore was incredible and this time I managed to connect with many people who have hearts for the social justice work in Singapore and from two people I had deep conversations with, they encouraged me to look at my own country and see the needs here. Doing volunteer work is becoming increasingly “sexy” in Singapore- it’s a resume builder and it’s something to boast about. It made me ask myself- WHY I am doing this work, and why I wanted to work either in Thailand or Peru and how it’s so easy to fall in love with the people and places I’m so privilege to meet this summer. And truly being in so many places- or rather me wanting to go to so many places- how can I create sustainable and effective change?
As I continue to the next place – Sangkhlaburi and am yet exposed to another community, another lively school, another group of people who have given their all to the service of others, I too must figure out where I should work, while keeping in mind that I’m but a worker and ultimately it’s the Master builder that builds the house and I need to submit my plans to His hands.

More photos from my time in SINGAPORE here!

– Meixi

CEOs

The NorthLight

The NorthLight

Today’s been quite a hectic day of interviews but it’s been wonderful. The energy that exists in this school is wonderful and I am learning so much every single day. One of my favorite lines from Mrs Chua, the principal here, is I have got to be the CEO- the Chief Energy Officer- because this work is really tiring and we need to be the life givers, the encouragement and the enthusiasm. 🙂

School is a play ground here and speaking with so many teachers, and this place is oozing with purpose, enthusiasm, passion and love. It’s a powerful combination.

Run

International Delegates at NorthLight School,Singapore

International Delegates at NorthLight School,Singapore

It’s my third day at NorthLight and it has been absolutely wonderful. It’s a school for students labeled “academic failures” and this has been a place of hope and inspiration. The teachers’ dedication and love for their students were evident in the way they would spend time with them, sit with the students in the canteen and joke and laugh with the students. When I was talking to Mrs Chua, the Principal of NorthLight- the vision for 2010 was for students to be running to school and walking home. And I’ve seen that vision. Our school is like a large playground, one student said- what a beautiful picture.

When the world says give up, Hope whispers, Try one more time

When the world says give up, Hope whispers, Try one more time

I’ve done about 10 interviews so far in NorthLight and love is key here- and that is education.

at the National Vol and Phil Center

Meeting with Mr Lawrence Lien, CEO, National Vol and Philanthropy Center

Monday, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Mr Lawrence Lien in Singapore. He’s the CEO of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Center and he had met Jody Kretzmann in Chicago last May or June. What was the most exciting was learning about his experience as an Eisenhower fellow and his interest in bringing Asset-Based Community Development to Singapore. In a country where we are used to new buildings and roads popping up in the blink of an eye, this was so new and refreshing. We want to get people to own their neighborhood and community. Coming from Peru, where the sense of community was so great, I just had a whirlwind of thoughts. How do we create ownership in Singapore? Is that even possible? We had developed so quickly that we didn’t need each other- was that what was key? But at the same time, I have seen the spirit of passion and heart and pride in my own peers, in the many people that have come to Suraj and I in Amber wanting to right a wrong they saw. These thoughts will probably be on my mind for a while. How can we work with school and communities to get communities to own their school, feel proud of each neighborhood, the people, food and places?

Circumnavigators in Singapore!

Meeting with Circumnavigator Member in Singapore

Meeting with Circumnavigator Member in Singapore

Had the great experience of meeting Mr Liok, his wife and daughter, Amanda in Singapore! 🙂 The flag flies HIGH!

Difference

Jicarmarca, Perú

Singapore skyline

It’s almost hard to see the world with new eyes, especially when you are at home. But I guess that is the greatest challenge, and the most exciting one. Being in Guatemala and Peru has helped make that a little easier and I almost can’t believe I’m in a whole new world here.

Singapore, developed, clean, spick and span, super efficient, SAFE- your ideal city. Or not? I feel that the cover and the image of Singapore is so gleam that so many are forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life here. In contrast, the slow and comfortable pace of life in Xela and Montenegro/ Motupe in Peru left space for reflection, and challenges there were obvious and real.

Being here, it’s hard to detach myself from the reality that both worlds DO exist and that I can glide from one to the other. I guess that’s the challenge and joy of traveling. To understand and realize that you everyone has a different experience of the world and then reconciling that we ARE all part of the same world, same globe and that there is a human spirit that binds all 6 billion of us. Each experience is beautiful in its own way and it’s up to us to pick that beauty out.

Tops and TVs

As I’m in Costa Rica now waiting for the plane to Los Angeles and then Hong Kong and then Singapore, I kept thinking, man what made Perú so special and these are my thoughts so far. For some reason I couldn’t upload photos, but here’s a slideshow for now!

1. Celebration, Gratitude and Giving without an expectation of a return.
The people here are not afraid to give and they feel blessed that you would come spend sometime with them. They just keep giving and sharing. They give because they feel they have received so much and are so grateful for any and everything they have. They rejoice and have fun in this celebration of life and each other.

2. Strength in unity and love
I had dinner last night with Felix, Andrea, Julian, Jerry and Nathy. It was the most I guess wonderful reunions because each of us had our own story to tell. Jerry and Nathy from Montenegro/ Motupe (San Juan de Lurigancho), and Felix and Andrea from Lima itself and Julian and I from very different backgrounds as well. I was describing the community and how everyone knew who was sick and needed an extra hand. If anyone needed it the community would come together and a family couldn’t really afford to buy everything for the other but maybe one family would buy fruits and the other would get the rice and support the family in any way they can. They knew each other, celebrated with each other and fought for the other. As I was recalling my experience to Julian, Felix and Andrea, Jerry and Nathy were nodding and you could feel that sense of pride of being part of the new generation of this community of love.

Julian asked, why is this? why is the unity of the community so strong, how did it get like this?

And this was Jerry’s response: Well I think it happens coz not all of us have TVs, so what do we do? We run over to the neighbor’s house to watch. The kids here don’t really have that many toys so they gather in the road and play tops of football.

3. Sharp consciousness
Ask anyone in the community what bothers them and they have an answer and are determined to change it. They are not ignorant or unrealistic about change but know so much about that challenges their communities faces and want to give back.

It’s in the need of each other that I’ve been this beauty and have been so so blessed to be a part of it for about 2 weeks and 2 days.

The Last Day in Perú

My fav photo this week!

We had more celebrations in Peru for the Fiestas Patrias and I can hardly believe it’s my LAST DAY in Perú tomorrow. Here are some more photos from the celebrations!

I’ve honestly been swept away by the immense generosity and humility of the people here, the wisdom that exists in this country and the stories people have told. Leaving for Singapore TUESDAY!!!!

Dancing with the kids


Outfits from the department of Cuzco


With the Hermanas and Señora Elizabeth (VP for Primary school), with an Inca headdress!


More dresses!

Giving

Señora Daila has wonderful hands and made this HAT!

There’s something special about a community that gives. Many have asked, why do you love it here? And here’s my reply.

I love it because of the people and their spirit of love and generosity. When we talk about communities and their strength, I see it here. I see in in the life and the both informal and formal institutions, in the way everyone knows everyone, in the way they fight against this new supermarket that might be taking over their football field, in the way so many have invited me into their humble homes and been so so proud of being a part of this community.. in the way each neighbor brings something if they know the other is sick. Many don’t have enough to make a full meal for the other but one would bring the rice, the other the beans so together they would make a meal and visit those who were sick. It’s the youth that would give up a sunday to protest against drug use.

Anti-drug campaign


Mimes at the Cruz no Matarás festival

I have been honored this week, even in my short time here to be invited to lunches at Carlos’ house, at Señora Dalia’s house and each time I have been blown away at the immense willingness to give without expecting anything in return. See the white hat- that was handmade my DALIA 🙂 so warm and beautiful.

Also, one thing every peruvian has asked me is “Have you had cerviche or lomolsaltado” or any kind of peruvian dish so I thought I would also add the photos of delicious meals so far and of course, eating in the road. Yum.

Lunch with Carlos and Family!


Lunch at Señora Daila's


Lomosaltado


Las hermanas at the Cruz no matarás