Nearly three months later, I am back. A lot has happened that has prevented me from blogging as much as I would like to, and here I am to fill you in on the lessons from this absence, as well as what I’ve been up to!
First things first: December’s Zero Mission in Thailand didn’t happen.
- I lost a big chunk of funding from donors and sponsors who ended up not committing. The only solid commitment I got was $50 from a colleague. Without enough money, one can’t pay for the costs of equipment, travel (which includes airfare, housing, food, and emergency costs), on top of hidden costs such as paying for translators and bar fees (needed to pay for the time to pull out sex laborers from the bars to interview them), there is a compromise in quality of work that is unacceptable for issues this big.
- One of the organizations was closed for two weeks for December. This one in particular, Urban Light was crucial and needed in addition to the work I was planning with Warm Heart Foundation and Kaya. Additionally, the amount of planning it takes since this idea barely had time to develop (which I learned in hindsight), and subsequently, isn’t enough for the organizations and groups to organize on their end–especially with their own ongoing projects.
- Flooding in Thailand was still terrible. So not only would it have been a safety issue, it would have been a travel issue, such as how to get around when many roads are flooded and getting to remote villages would have been extremely difficult.
In the words of my friend Kent Truog, “Welcome to the world of nonprofits and NGOs: a lot of heartbreaks and broken promises, not a lot of money.” The sad part is, this applies to everyone involved, so nobody takes any “blame” per se.
Graduate school is the number one priority.
When taking five classes and trying to get this project off the ground, it’s easy to forget and lose focus when juggling priorities. I spent the rest of my absence working on catching up so I wouldn’t fail my classes, because ultimately, this program is the priority, and this project is meant to complement and reflect what I get out of this program on top of my own interests and passions. For that reason, graduate school costs money and is a one shot chance for me. Any longer than two years and I spend more money than I have to. Projects can wait if need be.
Journalism work ended up being my second priority.
One skill I have developed for the past fifteen years is my writing. This blog (and my personal one) both drew the attention of various publications, and the opportunities that arose got me to a number of events and writing articles on their behalf. Some of those publications include 8asians.com, Taiwan543.net, Denizenmag.com, and Prospect Journal. So while juggling school and a little work here and there to build up my reputation, skills, and network, sacrifices had to be made, and consequently, almost no time was allocated for this project, let alone blog.
Inevitably, burnout happened.
Graduate school is already tough. Add to the fact that I had journalism work related to the program and my future career, and you can see why I had to prioritize. Of course, that didn’t make it easier–if anything, it proved to me what my limits are as a person and a professional. On top of that, several friends died in the course of two months, including one colleague. Not too easy. So I spent a good month recovering after my final exams too.
Only four classes plus one now: internship applications!
I’m down to four classes now, and am doing no other work besides classwork. However, you could say that I have my internship applications count as a fifth class, or as work. For this summer, I am casting my net wide and looking at multiple regions and causes besides Southeast Asia. I pushed out a record three applications in three hours since the deadline was that day. Parkinson’s Law: the amount of time give to accomplish a task is the amount of time it will take to finish the task. This explains why even with a month of time to do an assignment, we get the same quality as we would if the assignment had only one day to complete: because most people do it last minute and pull an all-nighter.
So for those of you who have been wondering where I am, I’m still around. I am focused on the internship applications and schoolwork though, but instead of hitting refresh, try subscribing by e-mail so that you get your updates as they are posted–whether it’s weekly or once in a while. It’ll be this way at least until June when I find out where I’m going to be sent for my summer assignment. I could be in Cambodia, Lesotho, Namibia, Iceland–wherever I’m needed and is most appropriate is where I’ll go. One thing I can promise though: you’ll be following me and my adventures in pictures, words, and videos.
It’s going to be a great year. Thanks for your support folks!