Thursday, June 15, 2017

Travel to Thailand (Part 1)....Flight and Arrival

Packing for our trip to Thailand was fun. We researched surviving long-haul flights, tourism in Bangkok, things to see, things to know, things to do, etc...and came up with a list of must have items for our trip.

For the planes, things we found useful:
-healthy snacks
-eye mask
-sleep aid
-face wipes
-ear plugs (very handy to block out the crying baby about 6 rows away)
-head rest pillow
-tooth brush and tooth paste
-books on iPad (Kindle app)
-lip moisturizer
-eye drops
-compression socks
-dry shampoo

In Thailand, things we've found useful
-anti-mosquito spray and bracelets
-water purification water bottles (we are using Grayl...pricey but using to drink and brush teeth)
-clothes freshening spray/wrinkle remover (Downey travel size)
-portable phone charger
-iPhone (purchased a SIM card here at 7-11 in Bangkok with data)
-easy to remove shoes (we take our shoes off to enter every home)
-electric converter/power source (we have one by Bestek that has 4 USB plugs and 3 regular outlet plugs)
-wipes (to clean feet before getting into bed at night)

We packed lightly as far as clothing goes.Thai people dress modestly so skirts, capris, and pants for bottom and t-shirts or dressier shirts (no tanks unless covered with a thin sweater or scarf) on top, a sweater that covers our elbows for the temples, and a nice or two dress for any occasion that calls for it.

We flew EVA airlines...the nicest planes and flight attendants ever. Bathrooms were equipped with face spray, hand lotion, eye masks, and ear plugs. Food was excellent (they pass out a little menu before the food comes around)...Haley and I had ordered vegetarian meals when we made our seat selections a week before flying so were served first. On the long leg of our flight (just over 15 hours), snack was served once we hit full altitude and a meal about 2.5-3 hours into the flight and then another snack and meal about 3 hours before landing.  Luckily the other seat in our row on the longest flight was empty as well so the two of us could stretch out and sleep most of the flight. Our short leg (3.45 hours) after a 3 hour layover in Taipei, had one meal and snack and we watched a movie through that flight.

We landed in Thailand at 12am. One thing I noticed as our plane descended was the lack of red and green lights from the sky. Only white and yellow lights could be seen from the air as we landed. It took us over an hour to get through customs due to the long lines then we quickly found our luggage in baggage claim. We had a little difficulty figuring out where to go to find Ratana, our hostess who came to pick us up, but followed signs for "Meeting Point 1" and saw the sign she was holding with our names. The heat and humidity hit us the minute we stepped out of the airport to walk to the waiting van. I wondered how hot day must be if the middle of the night was that hot but Ratana said it was so humid because it had rained about an hour before we landed.

Our thirty minute drive through the city to the Mercy Centre was in the dark so not much to see but the outlines of buildings and other cars on the road. We arrived quickly at the Mercy Centre, bowed to the guard as he opened the gate, and Ratana showed us to our apartment. Walking up the three stories of ramps, we heard strange sounds of foreign frogs? (maybe). The air con was welcoming, the room clean and neat with everything we might need for our visit. Haley showered then we got into bed and tried to sleep.

The view from our apartment balcony.

We awoke to the sounds of happy children laughing and talking outside our door, the booming voice of what we learned a few days later was the egg seller as his truck passed by on the street, and motorcycles zooming past. We showered, dressed, then headed across the campus to Father Joe's house for breakfast, bowing and being bowed to by everyone we passed...sawadee ka. They bowed to us and each other in greeting. It was Sunday so quiet at the school children in the classrooms and many of the older children who live at the Mercy Centre with families were away visiting.

Breakfast consisted of croissants and a plate piled full of different kinds of fruit; blueberries, raspberries, apple, grapes, blackberries, pomelo, papaya, plum, and nectarines. Mick Moloney and Roy (a photographer/videographer who does various documentaries) came by and we all walked up to watch and listen as students took traditional Thai dance and music lessons. We learned the money raised by Mick Moloney and Donie Carroll's Mercy Centre fundraisers in NYC goes to purchase instruments and pay instructors to teach music and dance to the children. When Mick and Roy left we walked around the centre, taking in the sights of unfamiliar plant life, birds, and lizards. Haley practiced her violin a bit then, suffering the effects of jet lag, we took an afternoon nap

In the evening, we went back to Father Joe's home where they were celebrating the graduation from one of their students from the International high school program. We introduced ourselves to Father Joe, who had been away in the morning giving mass. There was so much delicious Thai food to try, new people to meet and speak with, and stories to hear. We talked quite a bit with the recent graduate, his friends, and with Ploy, a very nice 17 year old who lives at the Mercy Centre English house through the summer and studies at an International School in Norway during the school term. She was keen to practice her English by speaking with us. It was great fun!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Catching Up...

Haley and I spent most of the month of April on a mini-tour of sorts. We had our first train travel experience with a trip to Charleston, SC where we stayed with our friend, Jim, who had worked to book Haley a few gigs. She enjoyed playing for a lovely crowd at Awendaw Green, a beautiful rustic outdoor "listening room," entertaining the members of the local Rotary club, and performing a fabulous house concert at Folly Beach.

In between performances, we took in as much of the city as possible including the market, a Magnolia Plantation, the Battery, the old neighborhoods and beautiful homes, the beach, and Angel Oak. We also had a nice morning kayak trip (our first) where Haley and I learned how to work together and go fast.

It was a whirlwind visit!

From Charleston, we rented a car and drove to Orlando. We spent a couple days with friends, more like family, who have watched Haley grow up year by year at Swannanoa Gathering. They have a lovely home and we enjoyed their beautiful day lily gardens and art throughout their home, an Irish session with more friends, a trip to the farmer's market where Haley picked up two fabulous dresses for $1 each, and hours and hours sitting around talking and getting to know each other better. It was a fun, relaxing few days.

That weekend we drove out to Ormond Beach for the Ormond Beach Celtic Festival. Our friend, Don, backed Haley for her sets and Haley joined Don and his partner Megan for their sets so they played most of the two festival days.

Daddy flew down the first night of the festival so he could be around to see the second day's performances and then we drove into Orlando to spend a fun four days at Universal Studios, the real reason for all our travel...Haley had said she'd like to see Harry Potter World so we looked for a festival nearby and luckily the festival organizers were keen to have her down to perform. Haley and I rode every roller coaster and fast ride 4-5 times and all the other rides as well. No crowds and beautiful weather! So much fun!

We spent the month of May enjoying life at home with a local gig here and there.

We also spent the last couple weeks preparing for our next adventure which begins tomorrow....THAILAND!! (I cannot believe we are going to Thailand!)  This trip is an unexpected byproduct of the CD Haley produced, Music for Mercy, with the proceeds going to support the Mercy Centre, an orphanage in Bangkok. Mick, one of the musicians who introduced Haley to the Mercy Centre, suggested Haley should visit the orphanage and meet the children. He worked some magic with Father Joe at the Mercy Centre and plans were here we go!
(I will try to not take months to tell that story.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Life Lately...

We have been so busy I have neglected to blog. 

After Christmas, we had about six weeks off. We organized the house, Haley studied a lot for school, and we enjoyed some relaxing weekends. We eased back into our crazy life with six days in Kansas City, MO where Haley and Dylan had an official showcase at The Folk Alliance International Conference.

Haley and Dylan doing a private showcase in the wee hours of the morning.
The conference was definitely an experience. I got sick on Day 1, so it wasn't as fun for me as it might have been but the kids had a blast! They performed a great official showcase and four private showcases, saw old friends and met new friends, watched/listened to lots of music, played lots of music session-style, and barely slept...some private showcases were at 2am. The entire hotel was taken up by music. There were three floors with private showcases in each room and walls covered in poster advertisements of where people were performing. There were so many conference rooms for official showcases of every type of folk music available to listen to. 

March Madness began with the yearly gig at Cumberland County College where Haley, Dylan, and Corey performed. The following weekend Haley and I headed to NYC for a show on Broadway at Symphony Space with Mick Moloney and friends for A Celtic Appalachian Celebration. Haley spent the entire day working with the other musicians to put the show together then they performed that evening, receiving two standing ovations! The show received wonderful reviews and was fabulous! The next day we were back at Sacred Heart Church in Camden with Mick, Athena, Liz, and Billy for a fundraising concert.

Haley with 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellow, Billy McComisky

Here's what putting a show together looks like...

The view from backstage at Symphony Space.
 Last weekend, Haley had two at the Philadelphia Art Museum on St. Patrick's Day and the other at Cathedral Basilica in Newark, NJ. 

St. Patrick's Day at the Philadelphia Art Museum (*photo credit to Ray Banas)
This weekend we are slowing down a bit for a performance at a nursing home on Saturday and a packing event for Feed My Starving Children on Sunday.

Besides the many gigs of March, we have been busy...

-We are firming up plans for a three week "tour" in South Carolina and Florida next month. 
-The charity CD for the Mercy Centre Music for Mercy was released two weeks ago and Haley finished getting it up on CDBaby this week... check it out here. The CD is wonderful and I am so proud of all the work Haley and her friend, Patrick Finley, did on the project.
-Haley and I (as her chaperone) were invited by Mick and Father Joe to visit the Mercy Centre in June. Mick has performances planned with Haley at the Irish Embassy and university in Bangkok and she and I will be able to get to know the children who live at the Mercy Centre. We are very excited!!
-We have our summer camp schedule set and registrations are all finished.
-Haley has been working hard on her school courses and learning new classical pieces, happily practicing hours each day.
-I have been fighting a cough since the conference in February.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Making the World a Better Place...

Over two years ago while in Boston for a gig, we stayed with Brian and Lindsay O'Donovan. Brian had invited Haley and Dylan to perform an opener for a weekly live music show he hosts.

As I readied her breakfast that first morning, Haley read a newspaper clipping on the refrigerator about Lindsay and a music CD she had produced called Lullabies of Love. Lindsay had visited an orphanage in Africa, invited various Irish musicians to record a lullaby, then sold the CD and sent the proceeds to that orphanage. Haley immediately told me she'd like to do something like that but with young musicians.

The idea was tabled for a while as Haley, at the time, was working on recording her first solo CD but every once in awhile the next year or so, she'd write down ideas of who she'd like to approach about her idea and we talked about how to go about it. Last March, we were in Boston again and Haley and I talked to Lindsay about her idea and about how Lindsay had produced her own charity CD. After that talk, Haley started planning more seriously. She wrote out a list of young musicians (under 21 years old) from all over the United States, Canada, and Ireland who she has met through Irish music.

Then Haley had to decide on a charity to support with the CD. She wanted to make sure the project would appeal to young musicians from around the world so a more global than local charity and that the money she raised would go toward the children rather than covering high salaries for people in charge. Her first and final choice was The Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. For the past four years, Haley has been invited to participate in a fundraising concert in New York City for the Mercy Centre. Mick Moloney and Donie Carroll are two wonderful, generous Irish musicians who have supported and visited The Mercy Centre for years. Last year, Haley wanted to do a little more than perform in the concert so she sold her hand decorated mutes and donated the proceeds to the orphanage. The Mercy Center is a home for abused and neglected street kids many of whom have been born with the HIV virus. The Mercy Centre is everything for those who have nothing.

Once she had her list of musicians and charity chosen, Haley composed an introductory letter telling them about her idea and asking if they would be willing to donate a track.

The positive response was overwhelming!

She created a private Facebook page for the musicians to share information. She found a friend, Patrick Finley, who is not only a wonderful young fiddler but also has a gift for graphic design. She and Patrick spent many evenings messaging back and forth to come up with a cover design. Eventually, the tracks started coming in from the amazing young musicians along with bios and photos. Gabriel Donahue, a multitalented musician and generous soul, agreed to mix and master Haley's project so we met with him one evening to go over tracks.

Once all the tracks were submitted, Haley ordered them, sent the order and bios/photos to Patrick to create a pamphlet to go along with the CD, and developed an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to print the CDs (along with a bit extra to help pay the shipping costs to mail finished CDs to the participating musicians in Ireland to sell). Please click on the link above if you are interested in learning a bit more about the project.

I am so proud of all the musicians who participated in this charity project. In an age when people often lament the next generation,  on the Music for Mercy CD are over twenty six young musicians who have studied their individual instruments and practiced to a high standard then happily and enthusiastically put those talents to use helping young people in Thailand who are less fortunate than themselves.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Snowballs...and a New Year!

Haley's life often tends to bring to my mind the image of a snowball rolling downhill picking up more and more snow and speed as it goes. Years ago I panicked a little inside during those times but I have mellowed a bit with age/experience.

There is no guidebook, path, or even others' lives to follow with what Haley has decided she wants to do. Without specific plans guiding her on this musical journey, it seems luck, fate, or God is a determining factor. Events, experiences, and performances yield other, sometimes seemingly unrelated, experiences and performances, leading to even more...the momentum sometimes seems to build exponentially.

She has had some amazing experiences that seem accidental or driven by fate/God...being invited by Mairead to perform on Irish TV with Altan when we happened to attend an Altan concert we learned about from a friend at the last minute while Haley was at camp a couple summers ago...winning All Ireland Championships in both her events the year we had originally planned not to go to Ireland...winning the Junior Fiddler of Dooney the year we chose not to do the All Ireland due to money issues but decided to go to Sligo in October because I happened to click on a random link about SligoLive and learned about the competition a couple months before and flights were half as much as in August....or her participation in Studio2Stage when the producers agreed to give her a chance even though she was three years younger than their age cut-off.

Other events and experiences are quieter/more personal but no less important in her life...playing with certain musicians in sessions, meeting people who later become very important in her life, spending time with friends, or helping out at fundraisers for charities.

People we have met through music have become wonderful friends and huge influences in Haley's. life. I can't even name them all without being afraid of leaving someone out. Some have taught her directly, mentored her, influenced her musically in other ways, had faith in her, given her a chance to perform, played music with her, encouraged her to compose, influenced her as a person, etc.... They come into her life at just the right time and/or interact with her in just the right way.  I will be forever grateful to them all!

Living life somewhat "on the fly" is uncomfortable for me, the consummate planner, but I am learning to accept it as part of our lives. It takes a certain day by day approach and is teaching me to make the most of each day and enjoy life as it comes. I should have known when my oldest made his surprise entrance into the world six weeks early that being a parent meant learning to go with the flow.

Sometimes we can plan especially in the short-term. Decisions are made to participate in certain events, take lessons with a particular teacher, buy equipment, learn certain pieces/tunes, attend a camp, etc…  Behind each decision is the parental (maybe mother's) worry about making the "right" choices. Sometimes I lie awake at night second guessing decisions and choices for all my kids.

I have found the older Haley gets, the less "all important" I view each individual decision and the more she guides those choices. She seems to have a vision in her head of what she wants to do even if she doesn't have all the answers on how to get there yet. She is an amazing young lady, beautiful in every way that matters. She constantly surprises me. I am so proud of her!

In the past few months, we have had some big decisions to make in Haley's life. Everything from high school planning to "music career" oriented decisions. I pray for wisdom in helping guide Haley on her journey. A few of these opportunities are up in the air and I have no idea how any of them will turn out or what other opportunities the future holds. I will certainly share details once plans are finalized.

2017 looks to be an amazing year for this young lady....