Tag Archives: FLO

FLO Graduation 2013

Jumping for Joy

FLO Graduation 2013

We were literally jumping with joy to see each other again. : )

FLO, Future Light Orphanage is located outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In the early 1990s, after having lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for over ten years, Madame Phaly founded FLO. When telling her story, she wrote, “By the time I left Site 11, I was responsible for 91 children. Some were orphans, but others were children of parents who could not take care of them. They were the nucleus of what would become the Future Light Orphanage, and some are still with me today.”

Unfortunately, Madame Phaly died in November 2012. She is greatly missed, but her legacy lives on.

Two years ago I happily stumbled upon this wonderful organization and taught English language classes during the children’s summer break. The following year I felt the pull to return. And now, on my third visit to FLO, I realize that our lives are forever connected.

You can visit past posts from when I was teaching at FLO to learn more about that experience.

You can visit eGlobal Family and sign-up to be a e-foster parent.

You can form a connection with a place like none other.

FLO is a global family. A community born from one woman’s generous and courageous spirit. There’s room in her and everyone’s heart for YOU too.

Susan and Dad at Daytona Beach, Florida 1960s


I just participated in a really inspiring writing workshop called Karma Free Writing.

For the closing, we were invited to post a video of us reading something we’d written (for the workshop or previously). What came to me instead, are the words to the five minute video shown below. The photos I selected from thousands of photos I’ve taken during my travels, as well as ones my husband and I have taken during our daily life.


Friends met and made along the way . . .

Aloha Thailand!

Aloha my friends,

Thanks for hitching a ride on this leg of my journey. I’ve enjoyed having your company.

Where am I writing this? I’m in Tokyo’s modern and amazing Narita airport at a lovely and free internet access “cafe.” (That’s in quotes because the only way I see to get coffee, or any other beverage, is via one of those automat machines–like you see at rest stops along France’s highways where I drank many of them with Dad back in our month-long trip, with Mom and sister Hannah, in the Fall of 1999. And I don’t have the local currency for making a purchase . . . but of course they’ve thought of a solution for that, I’m sure, but coffee’s not on my list of beverages right now. The next plan of action is to sleep and try and get in sync with Hawaii’s time and day zone . . . )

After about a 5 hour layover, I’ll hop on the next flight to Honolulu. When do I arrive there? 10:20 a.m. on Sunday. What time and day is it here now? 7 p.m. something on Sunday. Cool how that works. Due to my frugal and practical nature, I don’t arrive on Kaua‘i until Sunday evening (using HAL miles). So, I reckon I’ll take a bus to the beach in Honolulu for a dip and a shower. At least that’s the plan, I’m open to however it unfolds. This “live-in-the-moment-and-keep-my-eyes-and-ears-open-to-all-possibilities” (or litmakmeaeotap®) form of travel has served me really well the past many months.

In moments of daydreaming, I’d imagined that I’d write a “*SJ’s streaming consciousness thoughts and rambles about SE Asia” kind of something. But, at the moment, I’m not feeling it, so I’m not going to. (Okay, some of you are groaning that I already have with my long going on about coffee machines in France and the trip with my family ages ago . . . ) Granted, I may change my mind (or not : ). That’s part of the beauty of following my heart; when it comes, it just flows. If it doesn’t, then I do something else. There’s always something else.

Kay den, ’nuff of that.

Love and blessings to you all. May the light always shine on you; may you always be surrounded by friends (even when you’re “alone”); may you feel peace and happiness from the top of your head to the tip of your toes; may you enjoy each and every day on your journey of life, the best darn gift each and every one of us has been given.

***Sat Nam.


With my gal pal, Chela, who gave me a ride to the Kaua‘i airport early one morning at the end of May.
I had a long layover in Taipei. Prospective English lesson clients? Maybe.
Class #100 at the CELTA English language teaching school in Bangkok.
During the horrible third week (while passing through and/or over the CELTA wall), we couldn’t calculate how much to pay at lunch! And it was easy math!!!
A smart and friendly student from Japan on my right; Isky, the talented actor from Kuala Lumpur, on my left.
The winners of fellow CELTA student Suelin’s very original and unofficial awards (SJ, Alvin, and Isky, short for Iskander).
Moi with my Bangkok Kundalini yoga instructor, Sunderta.
The 12 trekkers from Denmark, France, Taiwan, Spain, and the United States, who first met in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My first pals at FLO: Rick, the cameraman; Emily, the troll; and Kate, the giant.
With one of my students while at the beach with FLO (Future Light Orphanage). Recognize him from the dinner out in Phnom Penh?
And with another wonderful FLO student (who recently graduated from high school and started her advanced education course this month).
The fun summer gang of FLO-fans one evening in Phnom Penh.
One of my favorite students . . . okay, who am I kidding, they were ALL my favs!
Dani and Andrew, fellow FLO volunteers, returning “home” after a fun “getaway” to Phnom Penh.
Some of my younger friends at FLO. (Enjoying an apple, thanks to many of YOU !!!)
She’s the most natural teacher . . . and she’s a talented artist; she gave me a cool going away card that she made.
My friend Dani stopped over in Phnom Penh for one night (after visiting Siem Reap and before heading to Ho Chi Minh). FLO’s wonderful chef, and my dear friend, Chancy, and I dropped everything to join Dani for dinner. That was how I found the perfect restaurant for when I would later accompany eight FLO students to dinner in the city. Look up the Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh for more info.
Remember when I wrote about that amazing last day at FLO when many of us went to the Pagoda? The little guy on the right is the boy who took my hand during our walk to and from the temple. : ) Aren’t ALL three boys vibrant!
Oh, what a special day that was!
And I love this shot too much to not include it in my “wrap-up.” It embodies so much of what FLO is about.
Did I tell you about the storybooks that my older students made? They were as varied and as fascinating as the Ss. “Were there recurring themes?” you ask. Yes.
Making friends (or the wanting of friends). Giants (fighting giants, killing giants, running away from giants). Poor people (who need help, who I want to help but can’t, who I hope to help someday, who I want to come to school with me, who have no food). And magical animals or people (who do all k i n d s of things!).
Yes, I think the storybook project was a success.
We ended up doing the second of two scavenger hunts early on the Saturday morning when I bid FLO adieu.  Why? There was a powerful monsoonal rain the previous afternoon. It worked out well; I was able to pass out all their learning materials (their notebooks, storybooks, tests, etc.) AND give them lots of prizes which I’d gathered. There were even enough lollipops for all the little kids who were hanging out with us. (Thanks Dani, Sean, and Kai!)
How very special it was to look these dear human beings in the eye and know that our bond is eternal. Just the right number gathered for a very personal, unhurried, and precious farewell.
And then I began my “travels” . . .

My new friends from Australia (by way of Ireland) and Canada (Laura, Nick, and Leta respectively). We biked together and shared a tuk tuk in Siem Reap (when visiting the many ancient temples).
Here I was with a beautiful young lady from Laos who was taking her visiting parents on an excursion.
The beautiful young couple from Israel (who found me in Hanoi somewhere and somehow early, early one morning) with our trek guide.
The lovely lady on the left made my delicious (and expensive by Vietnamese standards : ) coffee; she was the only “game” in the market (and she’ll do well)!
I had planned to meet Nat (and her friend, Gerry) the previous evening for dinner, but I went to the wrong restaurant (I initially met them on the boat trip to Ha Long Bay). “If I’m supposed to see them, I will, ” I thought to myself. And sure enough, I did! Yeah, I love those synchronistic moments too. : )
On the boat with the “cook” who made my dinner one evening in Hue (with her son).
Remember the “locals only” café in Hue I told you about? Here we are again.
I met these friendly childhood friends from London while touring Ha Long Bay; we ran into one another in both Hue and Hoi An. While in Hoi An, we decided to share both delightful conversation and a delicious dinner.
A few evenings ago in Bangkok, I met up with some of my fellow CELTA graduates; we ate at a place called Cabbages and Condoms. Yes, condoms. Look it up on-line; it’s a cool place with a good cause (and a tasty restaurant). Yes, it was great to see them again. They’ve all gotten good jobs (yes, teaching) in Bangkok!
Michele, my longtime friend who with her husband, graciously shared their Bangkok home.
I spent all day yesterday at a Kundalini yoga retreat doing white tantric yoga; it was amazing. The exercises are done with a partner. Meet my new friend, Japnan; she’s a beautiful young lady (my nephew Jo Ryan’s age) from Taiwan. Being a self-motivated person, she has her own business and is able to work from her home. Good for her! And she has the most beautiful dark brown eyes. It worked out perfectly that the retreat took place on my last day in Thailand (and SE Asia).

That’s me looking up at the ceiling of Bangkok’s Sunvarabhumi airport early this a.m.; or am I really looking down? What do you think? : )

Aloha Thailand!

*One entry was going to be: Vietnames Airlines, the Big Save of SE Asia, i.e. short line, long wait (thanks Tones for that tag line : ) ; it’s one of his classics.

Another? Cheapest place in SE Asia per my informal survey? Vietnam
(Also, didn’t see nary a McDonalds or Starbucks in **Vietnam, did see one KFC there though, in Hanoi, right in a major tourist area and intersection. There are a zillion KFC’s in Thailand and Cambodia btw; they L O V E KFC in those two countries!)

And another, it’s very L O U D in SE Asia, even in the countryside. Sometimes at FLO (in the middle of nowhere really), it would be SO loud as the neighboring communities blasted out their this’es and thats with the wind. (That was one reason I loved Luang Prabang so much; it was quiet there; it felt so much more restful than in other cities.) “Okay, what about LA?” I can hear you ask. “And NYC? And Detroit?” (Detroit? I’ve never been to Detroit. lol Always thought it’d be nice to visit Augie and Rose though.) Alright, got it; we Americans have very loud places too.

Things like that is was I had been imagining that I’d write . . . but not now, maybe another time (or not . . . I’m not making any promises one way or another).

**Didn’t see one KFC or chain restaurant in Laos, but I was only in Luang Prabang. Don’t know about Vientiane and other areas.

***Sat Nam is similar to namaste, which most of you know.
The following was copied from a website I found: http://www.kundaliniyogablog.com/-2006-11-12-sat-nam-definition/

“The Mantra Sat Nam

Sat Nam is a mantra commonly used in Kundalini Yoga and amongst its practicioners. It is frequently repeated three times at the end of a yoga session. But what is the importance of Sat Nam, what does it mean.
I’ve heard the following interpretations for Sat Nam via my Kundalini Yoga instructors:
  • Truth is my identity
  • My identiy is Truth
  • My True Self
  • Truth is our identity
It has been called the process of naming ones self Truth. It can be used similar to Namaste, (the divine in me aknowledges and pays tribute to the divine in you.) Where the “Truth” is the divine.
Being one who likes to get to “Source” info, I decided to do some further research into the nature of Sat Nam. I made an assumption that Sanskrit is a rather root dialect and that “Sat Nam” in Sanskrit would provide supplemental information on the nature of Sat Nam.
I found this Sanskrit Dictionary, and looked up the words, Sat and Nam.
  1. being
  2. real
  3. that which really exists
  4. the real existent truth
I’ve seen it written that Sat means Be, or more apprpriately Be-ness. Which would be the essence of being. (HPB’s Secret Doctorine) I suspect some careful analysis would find an interesting correlation between Be-ness and emptiness. (For those of Buddhist faith)
but onward to Nam.
  1. To bow
  2. To submit or subject oneself
And so one is bowing to Truth, to Be-ness the essence of being.
And the active interpretation of Sat Nam emerges.
Sat Nam
And for those of you who read this far, this just came in today’s “calendar” email from Julie Redstone:


To experience God one must live in the present, 
for it is in the present that new experience arises.
Let go of thinking and be in the moment.
It is in each moment that God may come to you.

Phnom Penh photo highlights

Hi Everyone,
I never really told you much about Phnom Penh, and that’s not my intent now! Rather I’ve got a few shots from the time I spent there.
When I would go to Phnom Penh, it was mostly just to take a break from working at FLO, i.e. doing things like going out to dinner with my new friends (including other volunteers), hanging out in the groovy hotel room I found and getting some rest, and practical things like procuring supplies for teaching, and getting a visa for Vietnam.
There aren’t a lot of shots of the classic touristy attractions . . . I just wasn’t into those subjects on this trip. If you want to know more about the history, go to the library or wikipedia. : )
Kay den, here are the pixs:
This was from the first Saturday I was in Cambodia (end of July); it was a special day, and lots of people had gathered to pay their respects at the pagoda.

I enjoyed watching the “egg lady” as she crossed the busy street; when I was a kid, we used to have an “egg man” who delivered eggs to our house ! The tradition continues in Cambodia (and SE Asia, as far as I can tell).

The smaller building is the very same as the first picture on this page; recognize it?
It’s so fascinating how they use bamboo for scaffolding. (and very practical since there’s a lot of bamboo growing in Cambodia!)
The contrast between living abodes is quite extreme.
These kids were having so much fun waving at me!
You’ve seen this one before, but I just like it. I like how the lady in yellow was caught in her stride.
That’s the National Museum as seen from the balcony of “my” hotel room. Did I go to it? Nope, not even once.

That’s all on Phnom Penh folks!

Random tuk tuk day on video . . .

My last full day at FLO in picture form . . .

They’re bringing food . . . it’s a gift.
Some got a snack along the way.
These guys are buds!
I watched this building being built during my stay at FLO.
See the wat (pagoda) ?
Now in the complex . . .
That’s a lot of rice!
Then came clean up time . . . I didn’t take any photos during the ceremony.
Wanna help?
See the one about the big flood?
My turn next!
: )
Take our picture!
Now YOU!
No more rice . . . just kids!
Monks gotta do laundry too!
One more picture, Auntie???

My last full day at FLO . . .

On Wednesday, August 25, 2010 I posted the following (and more, this is an excerpt) on my glob: susansbackwardsglob.com:

What I came here to do . . .
written 8/24/2010
I came here
to be
to live
to learn
to grow
to expand
to have fun
to laugh
to play
to rest
to love.
And more and more I wrote.
So, before I left for this 5-month trip to SE Asia, I meditated and asked, “Where? How long? What do do?” And I listened. Yes, I listened to my Divine Soul, or my gut, or my intuition; plug in any word that feels best to you. And slowly, it came to me. The school. Some travel time and time to rest. Two months to volunteer somewhere. And the final month to travel, rest, and reflect on all that I knew would surely happen.
Okay, I had the basic framework, the outline, if you will. I trusted that the particulars would arise in their own time. And they did.
The very first day at school in Bangkok, a new friend told me of FLO (Future Light Orphanage) a little outside of Phnom Penh.
Another friend of a friend told me to be careful; do my research, that a lot of orphanages in Cambodia are a scam; are fake; they bring in kids for the hour or two when sympathetic westerners come to look and most surely give donations. After, the kids go home, and the crooked people pocket the money intended to help the unfortunate.
“Okay, be careful, Susan Jane,” I thought, “Be sure it’s a legitimate organization.”
And, I realized that it was best to stay at one place for the entire 2-month period. It’s better for the kids, the organization, everyone. So in the midst of the intensive program to earn my CELTA certificate, I glanced once again at FLO’s website; it seemed legit. Okay, it really was just a glance; I was busy and preoccupied. I was mostly trusting that it came from a real recommendation from someone whose son had volunteered and BEEN there. I contacted the school; we had a dialogue back and forth; I told them I didn’t have a police record to send but that I could ask friends to be references. They willingly obliged; nothing more came of it. : ) (I suppose just that you say that you have references was the point . . . ) I set the dates; we made an agreement. Okay, 8-weeks volunteer teaching at FLO . . . focusing on speaking and writing . . .
And that was that. I put it out of my mind, went back to focusing on CELTA, made it through those laborious 4-weeks, passed, and sigh, took a rest, and when the moment was right, looked at the FLO site again. This time I really looked at it; I went through page after page. That’s when I discovered the Hawaii connection.
“Of course,” I thought, “Of course.”
I really wasn’t surprised. Hadn’t I asked my Divine Soul (gut, intuition, higher self, God to those who feel more comfortable with the norm . . . ) to guide me? Hadn’t I listened to what felt right?
Yes, I had. So of course there’d be a connection to Hawaii at FLO.
That first night when I arrived, I was nervous. “Why am I so nervous?” I wondered to myself. But I was; I was nervous.
So to arrive and see *HVB’s placard with Kamehameha in the silk shop (where I first stayed), made me smile.
And then, to enter the canteen where I was dining alone and see an ALOHA sign, made me smile again.
Relax Susan Jane! Don’t you know that you’re well loved! Don’t you know that all is WELL.
“Yes,” I thought to myself, “I do know. Thank you.”
And as you know, the next 8-weeks were magical. The students at FLO are such smart, funny, lively, wonderful people.
So, here it was Friday the 16th of September, my last day at FLO, and what should happen? I was invited to join FLO students who don’t have **family as they traveled to the neighborhood pagoda (temple/wat) because of this very special 15-day holiday to honor ancestors.
I was absolutely surrounded by love. Yes, surrounded. In the form of precious, wonderful, charming, and caring human beings. One little boy took my hand for the start of the walk. Another appeared for the next part. And another and another. And then, the first one came back again to be with me as we approached the pagoda.
Then, one-by-one two older students (a boy and a girl from my two classes) appeared to thoughtfully guide me through the ceremony, “Auntie, like this . . . Auntie, now come here. . .” And it was done with such love, such concern that I be included, that I understand what was going on. That I really participate in a ceremony that was so very important and sacred to them. And then, it was time to sit and be quiet, and yes, I meditated.
And it came to me, “Of course, of course my last day at FLO would be so very, very perfect, so very, very sacred. Of course. My Divine Soul who knows all, loves all, and only wishes good things for me and everyone somehow knew that this was the right day to end my stay at FLO.”
And as I sat with these most wonderful children, I gave thanks. I gave thanks for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING: my life, all life, my health, my parents, my family, my husband, my friends, these children . . .”
What an absolutely perfect and wonderful way to end my 8-week stay at FLO. And it came to me, ask them to write their name in your analog iPhone (in both Khmer /kə maɪ/ and anglais). So I did. So when I see you next, ask me to show you my book. Ask me to show you their wonderful names and how they write. I’ll gladly share their gift to me with you. There’s plenty to go around for all.
Here’s another excerpt from that same entry to my glob susansbackwardsglob mentioned above:
And I thought of the people in my life who live in Light,
and I thought of the people I don’t yet know who received my text message back in April.
and I thought of how I’m going to meet them and others as one thing leads to another,
one heart leads to another.
Doors will be opened.
Introductions will be made.
And I will find my way around this planet
on the voyage
which will open up
to me.
Yes, of course it would all work out perfectly. Of course there would be bookends to mark this experience and that. Life is like that; it unfolds with the most amazing symmetry.
“What a coincidence,” we say to one another when some chance this or that happens. “What a coincidence that . . .” plug in the blank of your choice. A chance event? Or the beautiful orchestration of your soul and mine as they converse with one another in a plane that our human mind doesn’t see nor understand. Call it God’s hand, call it divine guidance, call it blind luck, call it what you will. Regardless of what you call it, I can guarantee that each and every one of you have had at least one something happen that you’re thinking of now. Admit it. You are! You’re human, and you’re having a human experience, so of course you have!!! It’s so very, very natural and common.
Alright, so there I was sitting on the floor of the pagoda surrounded by these most wonderful human beings.
“Stay and have lunch with us, Auntie!”
Of course I did.
It was soooo delicious.
“Who made this?” I asked.
“Many people, many, many people,” they replied.
“What did I eat?” you ask.
“***Fish. Curry with vegetables. Rice. Lots of rice. Noodles. Two different kinds of noodles. And bananas. Crisp, fresh bananas.”
Yes, I was stuffed. And they kept eating!!!!
“We eat a lot,” they giggled, as they continued to eat and eat.
“Are these children heavy?” you ask.
“No, they’re not.”
You’ve seen the pictures. They eat really healthily, hardly any processed foods. (The processed foods that they do have are candies or cakes that they buy with money given to them by their eFoster parents.)
“It’s time to clean up, Auntie. You sit; we clean up.”
“I can help,” I said. And I did. A little. Nothing in comparison to what they did.
“Are you ready to go outside, Auntie?”
“Are you?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“Kay, den, let’s go!”
And then they showed me some other things on the grounds of the wat  (pagoda, they said). We burned some more incense. We prayed, and then we just had good ‘ole plain fun looking at the beautiful murals inside another building. Then . . .
“Take photos of us, Auntie!”
I took photos.
“Now with YOU!!!!”
And more pictures were taken . . .
When it was time to walk back to FLO, that same little boy, who had first grabbed my hand when leaving FLO, magically appeared (he was in one of my Gogo Loves English 1 classes).
I smiled as I took his hand.

He still holds a very special place in my heart . . .

So . . . now for the photos of this most wonderful closing to a most amazing 8-weeks . . .
I love you ALL and hold you too in my ****heart.
*Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau
**Some of them do have family; they’re at FLO because they’re family is very poor and can’t provide them with an education.
***My beautiful young lady friend pulled out prime pieces of fish for me and dropped them in my bowl. : )
****My heart is very, very BIG.

Mahalo for your generous donations!!!!

Dear Friends,

Some of you very thoughtfully sent funds my way in order to take a few FLO kids out to dinner in Phnom Penh.

Why did I want to treat them to a dinner out on the town?

First of all, I wanted to acknowledge the two student teachers for their hard work; they’re volunteer teaching the younger Ss at FLO, and I don’t know that many 17 and 20 year olds would would willingly add more work to their already full schedules.

Also, there were a few other Ss who continued to pour themselves completely into their school work; I wanted to let them know that I’d noticed their efforts and positive attitudes.

When I invited them to join me for dinner on Sunday, September 11th, I could tell that they were containing their excitement in order to give a thoughtful, quiet and, dignified, “Yes.” It was obvious that they were jumping up and down on the inside. : )

You all also gave so very generously that I was able to treat ALL the FLO students to apples twice! (using YOUR donations, of course)  They’ll be receiving the second apple in the coming week.

And lastly, the young boy who was one of the winners during the talent show in August (and who gave me his drawing) received some drawing supplies (paper, colored pencils, pencil holder, etc.) thanks to YOU!

All of this may seem small compared to others who have funded new buildings, scholarships, etc., but to these students, the gifts you gave them were HUGE!!!!

On behalf of them, I would like to thank you so very much for reaching into your pocketbook, sharing your hard earned dollars, and making their day a little brighter.

The following are some shots I took during our outing.

Enjoy and thanks again,


The gang! (LOVE the mural Dani!!!)
This was his first time in Phnom Penh; he was so excited. AND he devoured and LOVED his meal! : )
She got a hamburger with french fries!!! LOL And she ate it all! It was a gourmet one. Nice!
The two student teachers got the same thing . . . and the van driver whose hand you see; they all had clean plates at the end.
It just so happened that there was an art exhibition next door; we went and the kids couldn’t believe that they had pupus anyone could eat–for free! They ate more! This woman is displaying a special sweater she knitted before the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge era; she kept it safe and had it on display to represent a time gone by.

More random tuk tuk shots from around Phnom Penh, Cambodia . . .

Let’s see how fast the internet connection is in Sapa, Vietnam . . . it’s freakin’ fast!


Random tuk tuk shots from my time at FLO outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Aloha Everyone,

I literally just shot these “off my hip.”

They’re for those of you who haven’t visited SE Asia yet. And for those of you who have, well, it’ll surely bring back some memories.

And, just imagine lots of noise of all kinds: tuk tuk honks, moto honks, car honks, truck honks, loud speakers broadcasting this and that (music, talking, chanting, who knows what-ing) . . . and oh, turn the fan on and let some dust and exhaust fly in your face. Ahhh . . . do you feel it yet? Are you there with me?

Love to my many friends around the world,

p.s. more to come . . . this is all the time I have for uploading . . . off to Hanoi and then Sapa.