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    There are few things that can match the experience of getting lost in your first book.

    Faithful readers of this blog (hi Mom) may remember a while back, we spent some time with the non-profit in Laos called Big Brother Mouse.  This is an organization dedicated to improving literacy throughout the country. Their focus is on writing and printing books in Lao, getting them into the hands of kids, and giving them the gift of reading.

    If that wasn’t enough, they also encourage tourists to come to their offices to practice English with anyone who wants to learn. We had a great time volunteering here several times while in Luang Prubang, and helping school students, adults in the tourism field, and monks with their English.

    We were lucky enough to be a part of delivering books to a rural area outside of Phonsavan in central Laos as well, and seeing the excitement on the faces of kids receiving their first books left a big impression on us.

    After we returned to the US, we were fortunate enough to have our own gallery show and exhibit some of the photos from our trip. Incredibly, we sold quite a few, and decided to donate the profits to Big Brother Mouse.  

    True, we could have donated directly to the website but it just so happened that our awesome friends Ali and Ben were off on a 1 of 7 style volunteering trip of their own, and were passing through Laos. They were more than willing to help us remotely sponsor a book party. 

    A big thanks to Ali and Ben (seen above, front row) for trekking an hour outside of Luang Prabang to make the delivery. And there was literally trekking involved.. Ali carried a box of books for quite a long way down a dirt trail. in the sweaty heat, but it was worth it!


    We never really thought we'd spend a weekend bowling in Panama City, Panama. Never say never. 
    We were resting up after our daily afternoon stroll between the fish market and Casco Viejo, when we heard two people talking animatedly about an upcoming sporting event. We soon figured out they were discussing a bowling tournament, of all things.
    Interest piqued (Kip's a closet bowler, for real), we leaned in closer and soon learned that the Panama Special Olympics would soon be hosting its national bowling championships. 
    Yes, we introduced ourselves immediately. Then, of course, we asked if they could use some free help at the tourney. 
    Lucky for us, the two were helping organize the event, and soon enough, we were signed on as "voluntarios" for the big games. As volunteers, we would be doing everything from serving as guides for the participants to keeping order during the games, coordinating scores, and generally doing whatever anyone deemed necessary during the event. 
    Working at a bowling tournament may not seem like the funnest way to spend a weekend in Panama. 
    But think about it -- when would you ever get to sit front row at a national championship of anything, AND get to hang out, slap high fives and generally just have a good time? And do it in Central America with the amazing athletes from Special Olympics?  
    Yeah, we had the best time ever. That's us below in the center, hanging with 'our' team just behind us and getting a hug from Pedro. 
    Between frames we got to talk with the athletes. They told us about all the work they'd done to get where they were. They taught us how to say "strike" and "turkey" in Spanish. One girl told Liz she was going on a date with a guy from an opposing team, but that we couldn't tell anyone or her teammates would get really mad. 
    We learned a lot that day -- both about bowling and about life as a Special Olympian.
    As the bowlers rolled their final frames and the medal ceremonies ended, we realized we had been a part of something very special indeed. 
    And we owed it all to volunteering and to the amazing athletes and people we met with Special Olympics Panama

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