Unexpected Gifts

While I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia this week there was an enterprising young man painting Vans and Converse in a little room the hotel manager gave him to ply his craft. Given that a good job is $300 to 400 a month there, people try any work just to eat.  So I’m chattering with the boy, ironically named  Con, about what he can paint…”well…anything”, came the reply!

So I pulled up pictures of the cryptokitties Stacia bought this week (she’s exploring the site and usage to understand the crypto uses better) and VOILA!
OF COURSE HE CAN PAINT THEM…and anyone that sees them LOVES them…
At 40 bucks a pair, I bet people in the US would pay a lot more for these for little Sienna and little Sierra…and for a good cause?  Cambodian education and fighting human trafficking?
Cryptokitties…for the good of mankind…who knew?
Like mother, like Annika!

Rule of engagement

How does one recognize the place of humble abundance from which we come, but not ascribe to the world of pure charity donation which is simply wrong?

In our travels in rural Asia and Africa: whether taxi or vendor, negotiate like the devil, agree to the new price…then pay them their original asking price. Works every time…

The massive smiles are priceless.

The importance of followup

Kids, One must always take a moment to sincerely thank someone for their time and effort. Always. The 15 minutes it takes does wonders for your own self worth as well as the other persons view of you. Zedo instilled this in me, it takes little time, and SHOCKINGLY very few people of all ages do this!?! (It used to be standard operating procedure). Here are the rules of engagement:

1. If possible, hand write. It shows greater effort and care. This is less important than historically. Email is fine today.

2. GET THE SPELLING OF THE NAMES CORRECT. NOTHING BUGS PEOPLE MORE THAN SLOPPINESS. Next time, As you leave a meeting (assuming they didn’t give you a business card), ask for their details.

3. Be sincere and always reference something from the meeting that stood out AND WILL MAKE THEM REMEMBER THEIR CONVERSATION WITH YOU AND SHOW WHAT THEY SAID MATTERED.

4. Do these thank you notes right away. Each day further away makes it seem like they were less important than whatever else you had going on.

5. You will QUICKLY get so good at crafting these notes you will mentally write them in the elevator on the way out, reducing the pain of doing it.

6. No one likes doing them, but those that do shine extra light on themselves, show greater maturity and just generally are sharper and more considerate.



Here’s an example:

Dear ___:

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with (me,us) today. It was an (inspiring, thoughtful, sad) day that you vividly brought to life.

One of the more interesting insights you provided was about the kid who escaped…or the kid who was shunned…or the kid who cut his ears off…

Again, it was a wonderful meeting, very insightful and one we won’t soon forget. We will send you a copy of the (video, paper, smoke signals) we create for school about our day.

With gratitude and warm regards,

Nicholas and Alexander Balog

Now, in the amount of time it took me to write this character defining skill, (the time it took from ordering my eggs… to getting them), you could have completed the note and elevated yourself in the eyes of you audience. Few things have greater upside versus the effort required. Today, tomorrow, and in life. JUST DO IT.

P.S. Zedo got his first job out of college at Merck, in a very tough post war job market, by writing a spectacular thank you note for an interview, FOR WHICH HE DID NOT INITIALLY GET THE JOB! He wrote, in essence, “I really wanted the job I interviewed for and should they not accept, or you are unhappy with his performance, I will join that day.” BINGO!

Luck: When preparation meets opportunity

Amazing interesting people are one reason we do this honestly not so easy trip.  In school, in preparation for Africa that begins in a week (We will be very sad to leave Asia), we asked the English teacher to give reading selections on topics relevant to Africa. Since we are going to spend some time in Uganda, one book she offered as a choice was a book about kids stolen by Joseph Kony, the head of the LRA, the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, who kidnapped and brainwashed 13 and 14 year old boys into his rebel army. Heavy stuff. Both boys chose that book and have been writing short vignettes about hope and hopelessness.

Well as luck would have it, on Wednesday this week we were at the house of our Bangkok friend Erik, a doctor with whom I went to Penn. Other guests at a big circus dinner of kids and adults, were the Irish Ambassador to Thailand who was the first and current Irish Ambassador. Opened the office here, and was previously Irish Ambassador to Uganda during the peak of James Kony’s madness. His Ugandan wife Kevin, she a very tall, dark and typically outgoing Ugandan, as it turns out was living in Kampala during the Kony years. The madman having since disappeared into the Congo (DRC), or Central African Republic (CAR), which today are rebel leader breeding grounds, or hiding grounds, as the case may be.  Kony remains on every international criminal most hunted list.
In any case, Kevin is one of the only people to have ever met and interviewed Joseph Kony. What are the chances Nicky and Alex would have just read a book of an account of boys that had been captured into the LRA, their despair and their escape back into a society that wouldn’t accept them?
She has offered next week to allow our two dudes to interview her and film it, with an eye to growing up in Uganda during this madness. (Ok, So we couldn’t get the outlaw rebel leader, but close… one removed!)
As we begin our turn home to the last one-third of an amazing journey, few “assignments” for school on the entire trip are brimming with excitement and possibility as is this. The boys have been preparing interview questions, charging multiple cameras etc. for this crazy cool opportunity. We remain optimistic it happens as planned.
News to follow.  From The River Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Annika writing assignment: My Awful Day

My Awful Day in Bangkok

I went to the Grand Palace in Bangkok and I went to see the reclining Buddha. It was so hot that it felt as if I was going to melt. It was so crowded. It smelled so bad I was going to croak. You had to wear pants. Everyone stroked my hair. You had to take your shoes off. I was so thirsty and hungry. It wasn’t that interesting for me.