September 2, 2016

It was probably a combination of a lot of things. Exhaustion, a full day of travel and airport delays, and certainly some reverse culture shock. But the night I came home from Haiti, after opening up my fully stocked kitchen cabinet in search of some cereal, I couldn’t stop crying. I was being slightly dramatic, but we had every type imaginable. In Haiti, most people are lucky to eat once a day. Whether my tears were of sadness or gratitude, I’m still not sure.

It had only been two or three days earlier in Minoterie that I had experienced one of the most overwhelming, emotional days of my life.

We were visiting a Tent City, a plot of land that, after the devastating 2010 earthquake, was converted into rows of tin-sided, blue tarp-roofed shelters meant to provide temporary relief, only to be still fully occupied by families six years later due to the extreme poverty and lack of resources in the area.

The day started in typical fashion for me, I fell. I am probably one of the clumsiest people I know—just ask any of my friends. So it was no surprise to Grace, one of my best friends who came to Haiti with me, when I wiped out in a giant mud puddle, coating my shoes and skirt with sludge, along with ruining one of the several water purifiers we had just assembled and were preparing to distribute in the village.

Embarrassed at my inelegance, I was ready to be judged as a dumb American girl by the onlooking Haitians, whose village I was a guest in and had managed to make somewhat of a scene. Instead, I was met with the complete opposite reaction. Two Haitians rushed over to me, and, not speaking English, guided me to a
water pump in the ground where they literally washed my feet for me until the mud had rinsed off.

For perspective, water in Haiti must be rationed and is by no means readily available. In villages where they do not have a water pump in the ground, people often send their children to walk miles in the heat carrying buckets of water back to their families. My self-centered insecurity was instantly replaced with gratitude and awe at the purest form of selflessness these people possessed. This was one of the many instances throughout the trip that I witnessed firsthand how strong the presence of God is in Haiti and in the Haitian people.

The day in Minoterie was long. We spent the majority of it interacting with families and children as we dropped off water filters for them to use. We prayed with them, played with the children and took it all in. The poverty was kind of like what we see in the movies and charity commercials, but experiencing it on the ground instead of through a TV screen only intensified everything more than I can describe.

This young girl's Dora shirt struck a cord with me. In stark contrast
with the typical Dora-obsessed child in the US, it was apparent she was
simply wearing a shirt for its functionality-- her concern was not Dora,
but her hunger (she hadn't eaten all day). 
As I got back in the van to return to where we were staying, and the door shut behind me, my eyes began to fill with tears. I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed. People in the Tent City had nothing and everything all at once.

While my eyes were full of tears, the eyes of the people staring back at me, occupants of the Tent City, were not. Granted, when you met people’s gaze, the desperation was there. Small children who had gone days without food. Mothers who seemed helpless and unsure of what their families’ futures may hold. Kids with distended stomachs from malnutrition or sickness. You saw fear and angst in their eyes.
But even more prevalent than the desperation was hope. (It was no coincidence that the organization leading our mission in Haiti is called “Mission of Hope.”) These people had more faith and hope than anyone I've ever encountered. They were living, breathing proof that happiness and a strong sense of spirituality trump material possessions every single time. Despite their circumstances, they were optimistic and enviably joyful. They forged ahead, determined to live- in every sense of the word. In their eyes, especially the children's, I saw the purest happiness, playfulness, and endless hopes and dreams.

If you think about it, human eyes are one of our most generic features. While some of us may be thin, overweight, short, tall, black, white, Asian, or otherwise, our eyes are generally the same. So while my Creole skills may have been lacking (okay, nonexistent), there was a universal communication that came from just looking into people’s eyes.
Widlove's only outfit, a donated girls' dress-up
 skirt made for the perfect dancing get-up.

The eyes of Widlove were bright, beautiful and optimistic. About 12 years old, she was captivated by my phone, camera and the hairs on my forearms. I introduced her to Taylor Swift and she showed off her best dance moves. Her sass and spunk will never escape me.

Another young girl, Roseline, was so young. Her eyes had a tinge of sadness. You could tell she was hungry and she seemed a little uneasy. But at the sight of herself, appearing in the form of a selfie on my phone screen, her eyes lit up and became full of fascination and eagerness. In Haiti, mirrors are a commodity item and many people have never even seen what they look like. You can imagine her excitement when she saw herself for the first time. It was as if her world had just begun in that exact moment.
Roseline's first selfie! She was a little confused by the whole thing but her face
lit up as soon as she realized she was looking at herself.
I saw so many stories in people's eyes in Minoterie. Too many to recount now, but too valuable to ever forget.

It's been a few months since I got home. The exhaustion and culture shock have dissipated. I've thrown myself headfirst into a fast-paced internship at an advertising agency in Midtown Manhattan and I often observe the stark differences between Haiti and New York. Most of the time it feels as though they could be on entirely different planets, but other times, during my unexpected run-ins with benevolence in a city often consumed by greed and selfishness, Haiti feels like it could be blocks away.

Some aspects of what I experienced in Haiti have certainly faded.  And thankfully for everyone around me, I no longer cry up upon opening the kitchen cabinet. But I do think about gratitude a whole lot more. As far as kindness, all it takes is the memory of the two locals who washed the mud from my feet to realize that there are no excuses not try to be more selfless and spread love everyday.

And until the next time I get the privilege of being back in Haiti, I'll vividly remember the eyes of the people I met. In their eyes, I saw their souls; their heartbreak, hardship and struggles, but most importantly, their unmatched joy. And that is a sight my eyes will never forget.

If you feel inclined to help change the life of a Haitian child, please click here.



May 15, 2016

You know those things in life that you've always wanted to do but just didn't know where to begin? Going to Haiti has always been one of those things for me. So I was so excited that the opportunity to go on a short "Vision Trip" to Haiti recently fell into my lap, and I'll be going along with my one of my best friends in early June. We'll be working with Mission of Hope, a Christian-based organization that serves adults and children throughout the most under-resourced parts of Haiti. While in Haiti we are visiting an orphanage and school and hopefully will be spending some time getting to know the local children and their families.  While my trip will be a quick one (just four days), I am certain that it'll be a powerful one.

Guadalupe getting silly!
In high school, I fell in love with mission work and discovered my passion for service after traveling to an extremely impoverished area of Costa Rica. The most notable thing I took out of my 3-week experience in Costa Rica was the pure happiness of the people we were working with despite their living circumstances. While I was in there, I befriended a girl named Guadalupe who was truly the sweetest seven year old on the planet. Her toothy smile and giggle could literally light up the room. I was shocked when I visited her home towards the end of my trip to find a tin shack with bed sheet walls which housed her family of six.  Despite their lack of material possessions or even a normal working "house," Guadalupe's family was one of the most positive and happy I have ever encountered. Meeting and interacting with them was an experience that was so incredibly humbling.

I am confident that working in Haiti will provide an abundance of other humbling experiences like the ones in Costa Rica and I can't wait to share more about my trip on the blog when I get back to the US!


May 13, 2016

Well, I am officially in my TWENTIES! Wow. This past year has been a year of big changes for me and as cliche as it may sound, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the person I want to be and the life I want to live. I have recognized the importance of an intentionality after making the New Year's resolution to live with more purpose -- along with a resolution to be less klutzy (the latter has proved to be more difficult for me, oops!).

After making an effort to live a little more "unplugged," I have reinvented the way I plan to approach blogging in order to better align the way I blog with my other goals. I hope y'all will follow along as I share my travels (I am gearing up to study abroad in London beginning in September), my go-to recipes, the words I find most inspiring, and a little bit of my creative side (I am officially a declared Communication major with Studio Art and Entrepreneurship minors woot woot)!

I hope you'll find these posts interesting, but if not, no worries! This blog is all about life. Life doesn't fit into perfect little boxes and doesn't always include the picture-perfect outfit (that's not to say a girl can't try!). Life is about living and learning and while it may not always be everything we had mapped out and expected, life has proven time and time again that there SO much hope and inspiration in this world. Despite the fact there will be disappointing times, like this one (read: still working on my clumsiness issues)...

So here goes nothing! I hope you'll follow along with me as I share the bits and pieces of my crazy, awesome, confusing, perfectly imperfect life.

Pumpkin Paintin'

October 23, 2015

I got my Picasso on this past weekend with some pumpkin painting. It was too easy and the end result was super fun! I picked a palate that matched my room (blues, pinks, and a little gold) and got to work! All it takes is a pumpkin (I actually found mine in the produce section of Target) some acrylic paints and paintbrushes. I added a little glitter for some extra flair, because who are we kidding?! I am basically still a kindergartener with the mindset that glitter makes any art project ten times better.

To get the look of my pumpkin, just follow these simple steps:
  1. Paint the pumpkin white (or some solid color).
  2. Add small, rectangular, spaced out strokes of your first color and allow to dry.
  3. Repeat small strokes with the rest of your colors, allowing time for the layers to dry.
  4. Finally add the gold layer and use a damp brush to pick up some glitter. Apply glitter to gold strokes and to the stem of your pumpkin, if desired.
  5. Voila! Pumpkin perfection!

Pro-tip: Lay down a garbage bag under the pumpkin to avoid a glittery, smudgy mess!

Falling for Fall OOTD

October 19, 2015

Hey y'all! Guess who's back in action!?! After a month-long hiatus spent adjusting to sophomore year of college, I am back to blogging (and hopefully back to stay)! First order of business? A very fall photoshoot with my friend Betsy of the Sweet and Chic Prep.  Without further adieu, I give you my first OOTD of autumn (AKA the most beautiful time  of year in North Carolina)!

What are your fave fall fashion trends?! I am currently loving all things suede and any sweater I set my eyes on!

My Dorm Featuring Southern Spring Co!

August 28, 2015

I am loving being all settled in back at college. Being reunited with my friends and rebuilding a routine has been awesome so far, but one of the best things about sophomore year has to be my dorm room. I am living with one of my best friends in a room that is brand new. My decor this year is streamlined and I tried to make it a little less over-the-top than last year, while still maintaining my preppy style.

My absolute favorite touch to my dorm this year would have to be my lumbar pillow from Southern Spring Co. on Etsy. Not only is it my favorite shade of hot pink, but I also love the diamond monogram and I like to think it adds some refinement to my otherwise very "college" dorm.

Lauren, the owner (yes, we have the same name) of Southern Spring Co. was so sweet to work with and offers lots of ways to customize her products. If you're looking for the perfect (affordable) pillow to spruce up your bed, whether at college or elsewhere, you have to check out her Etsy shop!

I'll be sharing more dorm photos soon! Hope college move-in is going well for y'all! Here's to a seamless transition and an awesome school year!

The Friday Five

August 14, 2015

Hey y'all!  I have to get used to saying (and hearing) y'all more because I am about to head back down South for school (cue the excitement)!  I have loved spending the summer with my family and I will definitely miss them but I am looking forward to being back at my favorite place with my friends!  Anyway, this week has been spent organizing and packing for school and catching up with all my friends from home before we all leave for college. Aside from all the craziness that comes along with going back to school, here are five things I found noteworthy this week!

ONE H, I, J, K, Elemeno, P 
I found it super interesting to read about Google announcing the start of a parent company, called Alphabet, which will oversee its ventures beyond the internet.  The company is already doing some amazing research in science, medicine and technology and this new announcement means it can zero in on some of this research, making developments that will have us feeling like we're living in the future, in the present. A more detailed explanation of the change with infographics helps break it down.

TWO Can't Let Frozen Go 
While a date for its release hasn't been released yet, people (including myself) are already getting hyped for the Frozen sequel, which was announced back in March. I read an interview with the directors which hinted at some of the themes they are planning on for the sequel and though they didn't reveal much, it seems like the sequel is going to be a huge success given the popularity of the first movie.

THREE I'm like "Hey, what's up, hello"
This isn't a video new to this week, but I had to share Ed Sheeran's cover of Trap Queen by Fetty Wap. I actually got to see Ed Sheeran perform live on Taylor Swift's Red tour and not only is he an excellent performer, but he is so full of creativity. I thought it was such a fun idea to cover a song like Trap Queen which is obviously not in his genre, and somehow transform it into a great song.

FOUR Oh, The Places You'll Go!
This year, I am a Campus Rep for Evelyn Henson. Her art is great and adds a pop of personality to college dorms (my room at school is filled with her items)! In addition to original artwork, along with adorable notebooks and mugs, she makes these awesome prints of cities featuring popular places within the cities and she just released a bunch of new cities available in her shop: Durham, Charlottesville, Fayetteville, Gainesville, Fort Worth, Montogomery & Dublin! I love the idea of bringing a print of your hometown city or the city where your college is located to your dorm. Receive 10% off your purchase in the month of August with my campus rep code: sparktrouble10! Happy shopping!

FIVE How to Live Wisely
My aunt sent me and all of my cousins in college this New York Times article entitled "How to Live Wisely."  While it is geared towards college students, it contains some great advice for everyone pertaining to goal setting and accomplishing what you set out to do over a long-term period. With a new school year and the end of summer upon us, it is great to refresh your mindset and reflect on the things you hope to achieve so you can make things happen!