Opportunity Knocks

There are just two months left in this year abroad, and the end seems to be coming at a fast pace.  Sorry to my friends and family, but I’m not at all desperate to get home.  I feel like I need more time – to discover new places and people and to revisit old ones.  I will be home in two months, but I will start planning my next adventure right away.

For the remaining two months, I will be doing two things that I never expected to be doing.  Read on to find out more.

Kids still run to say hello everywhere we go.

Give Peace A Chance

I have been invited to attend an amazing seminar in Portland titled “Education for All: Inclusion and Access as Pathways to Peace.”  As an alumnus of an exchange program funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (to Kyrgyzstan in 2008), I was eligible to apply for this seminar.  It is also funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (as was my Fulbright program in Vietnam), so thank you to all the U.S. taxpayers who are making this possible!  The seminar will be administered by World Learning in Portland.

There will be 30 professionals and graduate students from around the U.S. attending the conference representing a wide range of interests and experience.  During the four-day seminar, we will be learning about how to design a project in our community that promotes peace and reduces barriers to education.  Then we will be able to compete for significant grant funds to implement our projects.

My first thought, after reading the email about the seminar, was that I could not attend since I am still abroad.  Yet, the topic of the seminar seemed to fit perfectly with my current interests, and the chance to learn and network with others would be a great opportunity.  I also realized I could fly to San Francisco and visit my son who moved there recently.  So, I will be in San Francisco and Portland from May 8-18.  It will be a quick and exhausting trip, but will surely lead to even more opportunities that I have not yet imagined.

You never know what you’ll encounter on the road ahead.

I do want to live like a refugee

Well, not permanently, but I do want to experience a refugee camp, and that’s what I will do for three weeks on the Thai/Burmese border at a Karen refugee camp.  I also understand that, no matter how long I spend there, I have the freedom to come and go, and will not really experience the life that the refugees live.  I know that my time at the camp will, among other things, help me to better teach my future students about refugees.  

Sara and Melissa, from my current location in Cambodia, recently taught there and said it was among their favorite places of the dozens where they have volunteered.  This meant that I would have to give up seeing Laos and a few other plans, but there’s always time for that during my next trip.

Who are the Karen people and why has this camp been in existence since 1995?  Those are all questions I am just beginning to find the answers to and will have a lot more to write about as I learn more.  What I do know now is that I will be working with high school and college students, hopefully teaching them poems for my poetry project that I started in Vietnam.  I think it would be great to hear these students tell about their lives through poetry.

When I arrive in Thailand after a long flight from San Francisco, I will be buying much-needed school supplies and other items to bring to the refugee camp.  It is in such a remote location, that getting even basic things like paper and pencils can be difficult.  If you would like to contribute to this effort, just send me an email with the amount you would like me to spend.  I will purchase items for you and deliver them to the camp.  You can reimburse me by sending a check to an address that I will provide.  I appreciate any contributions you can make.  If you are able to contribute, please email me the desired amount by May 19 (otimo1995@gmail.com).  

If you would like more information about the project, please visit the Karen Alliance for Refugee Education website:  http://projectkare.org/   

Stay tuned for lots of information about these two opportunities.  In the meantime, here are some more photos (taken by the kids and me) from Cambodia.

There was a wedding across the street on Friday.
Weddings take place in the street under tents, even on main roads.
The music started around 5:00 AM and the festivities went on and off until after midnight.
I was taking some pictures and, of course, was invited to sit down and eat.
He took his job very seriously.
The umbrella man is checking his messages.
Add bricklayer to my list of accomplishments.
Carole smoothing the surface
Father and son laying bricks
All the kids helped.
Somebody had to supervise Ralik.
A new classroom floor
Enjoying the new space
We also spread all these stones around the area – it took hours!
Carole and I have noticed many people, adults and children, wearing these bandages. Google tells us it is to hold medicinal herbs on the skin when sick. Now we’re trying to find out why all the dogs’ and cats’ tails are curled.

Comments (12):

  1. Cindy Cassidy

    May 1, 2017 at 09:16

    I know that you’ve thought these decisions through thoroughly – no matter where the future brings you, you will continue to be doing amazing things!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:45


  2. Paula Agins

    May 1, 2017 at 09:17

    I am trying to think of a new way to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts! Today I did turn a bit green at your opportunity to attend this conference! I am going to send out a PMSALL to gather amounts and names of people who wish to give towards your needed supplies.

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:46

      Thanks for your help, Paula!

  3. Lori

    May 1, 2017 at 10:22

    Oh, Tim! You continue to amaze me! What an wonderful opportunity in Portland as well as your stay at the refugee camp……We are so very proud of you and can’t wait for you to come home and educate us all!

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:47

      Cannot believe how much I’m learning this year.

  4. Bruce Yarnall

    May 1, 2017 at 11:11

    In regards to you “not being desperate to get how”, remember what Matthew Arnold’s poem? The Scholar Gypsy?
    One stanza reads:
    Come, let me read the oft-read tale again!
    The story of the Oxford scholar poor,
    Of pregnant parts and quick inventive brain,
    Who, tired of knocking at preferment’s door,
    One summer-morn forsook
    His friends, and went to learn the gipsy-lore,
    And roam’d the world with that wild brotherhood,
    And came, as most men deem’d, to little good,
    But came to Oxford and his friends no more.
    Just change Oxford to Westerly and you are good to go.
    Hope to see you in a few months

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:49

      Yes, I feel this way at times, except when I have infections in both eyes and just want to curl up in my bed at home. But then I remember I don’t have a home or a bed anymore! Oh, well.

      • Betsy Zarella Flanagan

        May 7, 2017 at 08:21

        Yes you do and you don’t even have to share a bathroom with Erin

        • Tim Flanagan

          May 8, 2017 at 00:47

          I’ve stayed in a lot of questionable places, but that would be pushing it. Thanks!

  5. Vicky Ann Deledda

    May 1, 2017 at 12:09

    Enjoy Portland and SanFrancisco and keep the new ideas flowing- you are good at that!
    The refugee camp is going to be interesting, I’m sure- can’t imagine too many luxuries.
    Count me in on a donation

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:50

      I’m trying to prepare myself for the basic accommodations there. Thanks for your support!


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