Friday, 31 July 2015

My American Adventure: Learning from my American friends

I was thinking about all the amazing and very nice people I've met so far in New York, especially those who I have had the privilege to work with and befriend and I realized that hardly any of them have complained or moaned about life or it's misfortunes. They just get on with things.

 In England, I'm used to people complaining about everything, from the weather, to the government to the fact that there still single or they don't have enough money or opportunities, but here it's been different. The complaints I've heard are from the clients (that's why they come to us in the first place) but from my colleagues, those I've ate and sat with, they haven't uttered a word of complaint. If anything, they've all had positive things to pass on, sharing their life experiences, aspirations for the future and so forth.

 We've had some pretty cool conversations and even though we have spoken about controversial topics it's been constructive comments. In fact, I realized through them just how much of a complainer I really was and even in past and recent blog posts, I complained through my writing, something that makes me feel uncomfortable just thinking about it now. I don't know if it's because of their maturity, professionalism or part of their character but the people I'm around are very cautious and careful about what they say and comment on. If they don't have anything to say they don't open their mouth. They'd rather keep quiet than speak random things.

 I really respect them and it has helped me to change and I noticed that I can ramble on about something for ages and by that time it's lost its meaning or structure (if that's even the right words describe lol). Through refusing to talk about the current issues that have been highlighted in the media in relation to Sandra Bland and others, my fellow black people have taught me that there's no point commenting on these things because 1) this has been going on for many years and nothing has changed, its just that the media is only now deciding to broadcast it and 2) unless what we discuss is going to actually change things why open our mouth and speak? It only causes heartache, anger, frustration and hate. We are adding more fuel to the fire. The best thing is to pray and and educate ourselves and our children on the best way to behave, handle such situations if they were to ever happen to us and live our lives honestly and carefully.

 I wrote a controversial status on my Facebook page a few weeks ago about homicide among the black community and a friend of mine advised me to remove it because of the unwanted attention I would get. I did get a few comments before I removed it and I saw that the status did cause a bit of an argument among those who are my friends, not agreeing with comments made etc. The truth is, I had no business putting my opinion about such a topic on Facebook because that was not the correct platform to express my views. It didn't even concern 80% of the people on my facebook and what would I achieve? If I were at a conference or event where these issues were being addressed and raised then yes, that would be appropriate because it was the right place and time. I

I'm learning sooo much from my wise American friends and colleagues and I'm gutted that soon this adventure will come to an end. I want August to go as slow as

Thursday, 30 July 2015

My American Adventure: Busy days.

I've been so busy lately it's been hard to keep up with the blog posts. I'm writing this while on the train to Brooklyn because I know it's the only time I will have.

New York City is very much like London, busy and fast paced. Deli's and mini marts and some coffee bars are open 24 hours and supermarkets, shopping centers and diners open early and close late at night. You're never stranded because you'll find something that is open. I like that because its very convenient, however I can't help but think about all the workers who have to wake up early in the morning before dawn and arrive home very late at night to keep these places running. We no longer live in a 9-5 working world.

 I love how my hours vary. When we work out in the community, I am only required to work from 9.45am until 3pm. Then a day in the office is 10.30am to 5.30pm or 11am to 6pm and sometimes until 7pm. It allows me to be flexible in attending the different church services I attend during the week as well as doing things in the morning before I leave out or doing things after work.

 I work in the City during the week but in the evenings and at the weekends I've had the luxury of chilling in the suburb, going to the beach or lake and experiencing the quieter life in Long Island. I would definitely prefer to live in the suburbs and just commute to work in the City. it's not that bad, it's only a 40 minute train journey.

 I've been working in different areas in Brooklyn for the past few weeks and it's been great. Brooklyn is so diverse and ridiculously big. I love Brooklyn. There are so many different communities. I particularly like to observe the Jewish community. Yesterday, while I was walking down Franklin Avenue, I noticed that the area was quite hippy and vintage. As soon as I crossed the the road, still on Franklin Avenue, I entered the hood lol. I was like "wow"!

You see nice big beautiful townhouses and brownstone buildings and a few blocks down your in the projects! One extreme to the other, on the same avenue. The people in the area equally nice. As long as you keep yourself to yourself you're generally fine.

If you have a good job and source of income, you live comfortably but if you don't, you really struggle. Working on the legal clinics has given me an insight into this and for those who depend solely on government benefits or who earn what we would class as the minimum wage, you barely make ends meet. It makes me understand why people sell on the streets and do certain things. It also helps me understand why in certain areas like the projects, people appear cold and angry. They are in despair, dissatisfied with their situation and don't know what to do.

 I've been alarmed at how many adults are illiterate and as a result cannot get a job that will not pay them pitons. Homelessness is on the rise and it breaks my heart seeing elderly women and men on the street begging for money to eat. I commend the UK government and its efforts to protect its citizens. We really are "spoilt" compared to the help that is offered here to disadvantaged here. Yes they do receive assistance but it's not as much as we do in the UK. Sometimes while sat with a client, I find myself saying to myself "if you were in England that would be illegal, the authorities wouldn't be allowed to do that or you would be allowed to claim this."

My Wednesday look

Yesterday I saw just how limited my work wardrobe has become. I no longer have a lot of the clothes I originally bought for my trip to New York and those that I still have, a lot of them don't fit me properly due to weight loss (woohoo).

I really don't like to wear the same outfit over and over again so I had to put my creativity thinking cap on and see which items of clothing I haven't worn together which may match.

I rarely wear this top so I decided to wear it with my favourite blue trousers. I think they matched quite well and I created a smart casual look for work.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

My American Adventure: Second day in the Bronx pt 2

The people I worked with today were all friendly and down to earth. I have been really blessed and I always look forward to seeing them. Sometimes we rotate and don't always work with the same team. I had worked with three of them before but the other two women I met for the first time. I got on very well with them and we spent a lot of time talking about our experiences, what made us decide to become lawyers etc.

 Twinkle is from the Philippines and has been living in the US for about 4 years. She worked as corporate accountant and auditor for many years before deciding to become a lawyer a few years ago. She is a hard worker and so open. We had interesting conversations.

Shayshana is a mother of two who is currently working as a teacher and has done so for over 10 years. She inspired me a lot. She failed the bar exam 3 times and went into teaching. She always had a dream to become a lawyer and last year decided to do the New Bar Exam again and this time she passed. She didn't give up in her dream.

 I have learned so much from my colleagues and it's been interesting to see that most of the time, I am the youngest person at the clinics. Life experience and transferrable skills that you acquire working in different jobs and sectors helps a lot, especially when dealing with people and managing case load.

 After we finished the legal clinic at 3pm, I decided to attend the 4pm service at the Universal Church in the Bronx as it wasn't far from where I had been working. I walked around the neighbourhood for a bit and I was amazed at the sizes of The Projects.

 The buildings were huge and they were a lot of them. I saw projects across the road from each other, on one corner, then another one on the corner. I've worked in Brooklyn, Queens and Harlem, but was to see projects just like the ones I was seeing in the Bronx. The church is across the road from one and I took this picture as I was leaving the service.

 I find people in the area to be generally nice. Even if they do have a lot of attitude, a lot of it is down to lack of education and frustration at life and their situation. When I say education, I am not merely referring to academic education from school but education with manners, communicating with people, politeness, showing common courtesy. I have noticed that a lot of people didn't have this and it's probably the way they were raised.

Most people are a product of their childhood and you can clearly see. Six weeks ago I would have been annoyed with people like this but my attitude and outlook has changed. when I asked one of the staff at the Children's Center who were hosting us for directions to Webster Avenue, she replied "don't you have a phone? Look on google." She had been very nice to us earlier and was even talking to me and Twinkle but later her mood changed. I remembered her saying something about having a health condition so I assumed that maybe she was in pain at that time or she was tired because it was drawing towards the end of the day. She did look fed up so maybe something happened which annoyed her and took it out of whoever was there.

 The more I am around different people with different w and upbringings, the more I am understanding them and not taking offence or reading much into their responses when they appear rude or inconsiderate. I am maturing.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

My American Adventure: Second day in the Bronx

I was back in the Bronx last Friday for another legal clinic. This time we served the South Bronx area. It wasn't that far from Manhattan, only a 20 minute train journey. As soon as I left the train station I thought, "yes, this is the Bronx I've been hearing about!" It wasn't even 9 o clock in the morning yet, but the streets were so busy, loud with a lot of people around.

  They were a lot of people shouting and speaking so loud. I could tell that most of them were either drunk or high on drugs! My colleague who is from the area, later confirmed what I saw when he was describing things I will see in the area. That didn't bother me to be honest and I was still looking forward to spending the day in the Borough.

As it was early and we weren't due to start until 9.45 I decided to get something to drink. I had breakfast before I left for work but I was extremely tired as I only slept for 3 and a half hours. I went to a comedy night in Brooklyn with some friends and didn't arrive home until after 1.45am, due to the train times! I slept around 2.30am and woke up at 6am. I'm an early bird and like to be in bed by 11pm so this was way out of my routine and I felt it. I needed a large strong coffee.

 They have these food trucks, which I like, so bought a coffee and a donut from here. It did the trick because I survived the working day without wanting to fall asleep or feeling exhausted. I think being busy helped too. The majority of the people in the area seemed nice and friendly. They smiled at me and said "good morning" while I walked to the venue.

  I was one of the first ones there so I just had my coffee and donut and spoke to Elliot, my Puerto Rican colleague who I really like to talk to. From where we were, I could see a lot of large blocks of apartments, similar to high rise council flats in England. Elliott explained to me that they are called The Projects. He said its a very hot area, meaning a lot of criminal activity such as drug dealing, goes on there and that's why there are police patrolling the area all the time.
I've been to different areas in Brooklyn, Jamaica Queens and Harlem, but am yet to see projects like the ones I saw in the Bronx. They were so many! I started to think about the people who live in the area and how many problems they must be facing. Many are probably misjudged because of where they live. Some end up living a life of crime because its all they've seen and known growing up. It was heart breaking seeing young girls and boys walking round acting so thuggish and with tattoos all over their bodies that looked like gang affiliated tattoos.

I guessed that we were going to get a lot of clients with serious legal issues and I wasn't wrong. All of the cases I dealt with were really heartbreaking. We do consultations for 45 minutes each but spent nearly an hour and half with the first client because of the severity and complexity of her issues. She cried a lot but I had to be tough not to show emotions because two people crying will not get us anyway. I've really learned to keep emotions under control because they can cloud my judgement when making decisions or being focused on how best my help the person. All I can say is that it's really only God who has kept her alive up until this point from all that she's been through.

Other clients had issues that I've only ever watched in films about life in the ghetto and the hood. Having someone in front of you going through it shows that these problems never went away and they very much still exist today and even on a worse scale. They're people living in grave conditions and not by choice, in the country known as "the land of a free".

The highlight of the day was with one of clients who had a consumer protection issue. Beforehand we were told to be careful and call for back up if needed because he supposedly had a mental health problem and was "acting strange". Well he was one of the most organised and well prepared clients having all documents relating to his issue for years. He said "momma didn't raise no fool!" That made me laugh.
During the consultation he stopped and asked me, "how do you control your speech?" He had a speech impediment which is why people thought he was acting strange because of hand gestures and ways he forces the words out. I know because I used to stamp my foot and bang my hand on the table when trying to get words out. My eyes and mouth would twitch or I'd move my head in a certain way to try and get the words out. So to others you look strange, but you're not. You're just trying to find ways to speak fluently. It takes one to know one!

None of my other colleagues knew I had a speech impediment up until this point because of the control, some assumed I was just nervous or limited in my vocabulary LOL! Anyway, I gave him tips that work for me and it was nice to be able to share and give some sort of help to someone about something which I always held as a disgrace and shame for me!
To be continued..

Thursday, 16 July 2015

My American Adventure: My first day in the Bronx, pt 2

I worked with Polly during our time in the Bronx. I enjoyed working with her and she taught me so much. She was admitted to the New Jersey bar in the 1980s and worked as an attorney in New Jersey for several years  before she got married and had children in her 30s. She mainly worked on Bankruptcy and personal injury cases.

When she fell pregnant with her first son, a year after he was born, she fell pregnant with her second child. She made the decision to be a housewife and raise her children. Her husband is a successful restaurant business owner and her brother is a partner in a corporate law firm that has offices in New York and other States so money was no problem for them. She was a housewife until her eldest son turned 17. She then decided, at the age of 50 to go back to practicing law on a part time basis. By then her licence had expired and she had to renew it again, as well as take the New York State Bar exam to be admitted to practice law in New York.

 I respect and admire her for the sacrifice she made, to put my career on hold for over a decade. I also admired her decision to go back to practicing law at the age she did and study again to ensure she was up to date with the law.

She told me some bizarre stories of how it was like practicing law in the 80s and 90s and she advised me to make sure that I practice an area of law I will really love, one  that will suit my personality and that will bring our the best in me.

A lot of the lawyers that I have been privileged to meet and work with since I've been in New York, either started practicing law when they were in their 30s and 40s or took a long break from their career and went back into law in their late 40s and early 50s. It's very inspiring for me and once again shows that you really can start again and make it at any age! Who says you have to be young, fresh out of college or university?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My American Adventure: My first day in the Bronx, pt 1

Today I visited the Bronx for the first time. The Bronx reminds me of  music artists like Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe because they come from there. I caught the 6 train from Manhattan and all I could think about was Jennifer Lopez's first album which was called "on the 6" lol. I used to be a big music fan of hers back in the day.

I've heard different opinions about the borough so I was interested to find out for myself what it's really like. I had always heard that the Bronx has a strong Puerto Rican presence, and is quite dangerous with different gangs and people had bad attitude.

We had legal clinics scheduled in the Schuylerville area.  I researched the area before I left the apartment and I found out that Schuylerville was a middle / working class area. It took me 2 hours to get there because I was coming from Long Island which is a 40 minute commute to Manhattan. From Manhattan it takes about 1 hour to get to the Bronx, but with the waiting times and walking to the venue, it took 2 hours in total from Long Island. According to google maps, it's only 30 minutes by car from Long Island!

The distance didn't bother me at all and the journey didn't seem long. When you love what you do and you are passionate about it, you don't even care about the distance and other factors. But when you dread what you do or it doesn't fulfill you, even a 30 minute journey seems so long and tiresome.

The area was very quiet.  They were a lot of houses and cars around. As I walked closer to the venue, I could see shops, offices and a diner. There was a mixture of people; black, white and Hispanic.

I arrived earlier than everyone else so waited around for a bit. The council member who organized the legal clinic in the area wanted to take a picture with us before he went to a meeting. He was a very nice and hospitable and so was his staff.

The first client arrived early so she waited around for a while. She was an 83 year old woman and looked sooo good for her age. I thought she was in her 60s at first. She was telling me about her hobbies and she seems to have more of a social life than I do lol. She plays tennis a lot and is really enjoying her life. After assessing her income and assets we realized that she earned way above the threshold to receive legal assistance from us.

The law firm only provides free legal assistance to people on low income. She wasn't happy about this and I felt bad for her. However, she had more than enough to pay a lawyer for advice, but of course she wanted it for free.

It was the same situation with the second client. He was ever so nice and after we told him that we couldn't assist him, he still stayed around for a bit to talk to us about his life. He is originally from Sweden and moved to the US in his 30's. His now retired.

I was worried that we would get more client's who had a comfortable financial life and we would have to keep turning them away. After all it was a middle / working class area. However the other clients we saw were eligible for consultation.

The cases I dealt with today were complex but interesting. In terms of development and productivity, I think today was the best day I've had on my placement to far. I led the consultations which boosted my confidence and I learned so much. The clients were so down to earth and friendly which made is so much easier.

They all had a story to tell and previously had great careers and earned a lot of money. But due to  sickness in the family, the effects of hurricane Sandy and having to resign from their jobs, their finances deteriorated and legal issues arose as a result.

I felt like I had made a positive impact in regards to their situation because they will get the help they need to resolve the issues which will go in their favour. It is rewarding when you help relieve a person fromdespair, stress and hardship.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My American Adventure: Dealing with unfriendliness

This was supposed to be a video post but I haven't had chance to sit down and record it. I am very busy this week, leaving early in the morning and arriving back at night, so I am writing this for you all instead. I hope I can express myself as well as I'd like to. 

I am a friendly person. I like to talk to people, get to know and learn from them. My city and where I work is quite friendly, with  exceptions of course! It's not difficult for me to make new friends  and interact with people because I am an open and approachable person person.

The first two weeks here in New York weren't easy because I noticed that in certain areas that I was sent to work and some of the people I met were not friendly at all. It's one thing if it's a cashier at the shop or a passer by on the street who ignores you when you ask for directions, because the likely hood of you seeing them again is minimal, but when it's someone you're expected to work with or you see day in, day out, it's very uncomfortable and even hurtful.

 I didn't understand it until two friends of mine helped me to see that unfortunately there are people who just don't see us worth getting to know. They do not notice us, we are insignificant to them and therefore they don't make any effort to talk to or befriend us, no matter how much we try. Some people are set in their ways and happy with the circle of friends they are used to.

However, this should not stop us from being ourselves and continue to be friendly and kind to others, regardless of how they respond to us. Later on, the same people that rejected our friendliness may need it (and they will remember us). Better still, we will find people out there who will appreciate us for who we are, people who will embrace our friendliness and accept a friendship with us. They may even turn out to be the best friends we ever had.

This experience helped to thicken my skin with situations like this. I have never been exposed to so much coldness, rudeness and indifference as I have since being here, but I am thankful for the experience because I would have never realized it was something that I had to deal with. I value myself much more, the unique qualities I have been gifted with and I now have this mindset of giving without expecting anything in return.

 Kindness is like a boomerang. When you give it, it will come back to you. Maybe not in the same way or by the same people who we showed kindness to, but it will come back to  us.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

My American Adventure: Unique experience with a stranger

I discovered that there is a website called White Pages and also the 411 search directory that you can use to find someone. My friend Adriana helped me look for the lady who's purse I found at East River, based on the information on her driver's license.

We managed to get a telephone number for the address and her dad answered the phone. As her parents live upstate New York and the lady now lived in the city, he passed the message onto her and I was eventually given her number to contact her so we could arrange to meet.

I didn't carry the purse with me on Monday so we met today after work. We had originally planned to meet in the morning but because I overslept and missed the train, we had met around 6.30pm.

I was relieved for her and she was so grateful. She offered to buy me a drink at Starbucks as a "thank you". We had a nice chat before we departed ways. We have each other's numbers so I'm sure we'll meet again.

This was a unique experience for me.  I am so glad that I was the one that found her purse and not an opportunist with bad intentions.

Monday, 6 July 2015

My American Adventure: Weekend in Brooklyn part 2

The shop was nothing like what I had imagined. It was quite big and spacious with a lot of designer gear. I saw Dolce and Gabanna and Chloe items being sold for $395 then All Saints leather jackets being sold for $425. In my mind I honestly thought "are they really going to be interested in my H&M, New Look, River Island and even Primark clothes that I am selling?"

There is a sign in sheet and once you've signed it you wait for your name to be called. One of the sales assistants' will then go through all your stuff and price them individually. Whatever price they choose to sell the items for, we receive 50%.

I didn't carry any identification with me which I needed to sell the items, so they told me that I had to come back. By then it was only 2.30pm and the store closed at 7pm, so I decided to back to Long Island to get my passport plus additional items that came to my mind. I knew if I didn't do it today I wouldn't do it this week because I will be at the United Nations for two days and working the other days. This was really the only time I had free to sell the items.

I made the journey back to Long Island and returned to Williamsburg. By the time I arrived  so many people had been to sell their clothes. There were people in front of me with suitcases full of clothes and shoes that they wanted to sell. I had to wait a good 20-30 minutes before I was called.

I was impressed with the prices they gave me for my items and what I received as a total amount. Some of the items were priced at the same price that I actually paid for them.

I'm glad I found this place and didn't just flea them off at a market for a really low price.

I walked around the area and saw a lot of street art that my sister would be interested in. There were a lot of jewelry stands and people selling wooden carved items and personal items on the street.

The thing I didn't like about the area was the uncleanness of the streets. It was so untidy with garbage bags everywhere. I don't know if it's because they're a lot of bars and cafes around, but even on the residential side, it was was untidy. It reminded me of Hyson Green and I could only think how many rats infest this place lol.
The area is nice for those who like art, vintage clothes and want to try different bars and cafes, but I couldn't live in the area, no way!

I went to East River State Park and sat close to the rocks by the river. It was a beautiful atmosphere and as I looked across the river I could see Manhattan. I read my Bible, had a good moment to reflect and just chilled listening to music. I watched the sunset for a bit too.

I noticed a wallet had been left close to me. When I looked inside I noticed it belonged to the girl who had taken my photo for me earlier. I waited for 15 minutes in case she came back but she didn't so I took it home with me.

I searched on Facebook for her but couldn't find her......

My American Adventure: Weekend in Brooklyn part 1

Last year I came to the US during Thanksgiving which was cool. Now I got to see what it's like during the 4th of July, Independence Day. I had an awesome time in Brooklyn on Saturday, celebrating with good soul food which was delicious, beautiful weather, getting down to old school jams and dance routines. It was all good!

The people here really know how to dance! I really loved the company. I met some lovely people and we ended up sharing some of our personal battles and achievements with each other. I left inspired.

After church on Sunday, I went to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. I've always heard good things about the area so I wanted to pay a visit. I saw online that they have vintage and second hand shops that buy and sell clothes.

A few weeks ago I set aside new clothes that I had bought several months ago for my trip to New York which no longer fit me. I have lost weight on my waist and hips so unfortunately they're too loose now. Rather than just give them away, I decided to try and sell them, especially because some were brand new, never been worn and good quality. I didn't want to go to a flea market and get pitons for them, but I wanted decent price.

 It took an hour to get to Williamsburg from Long Island. I had to get off at East New York and cross over the road to wait for the L train to Bedford Avenue. I really didn't feel comfortable in East New York. It  looks so rough. They're a lot of homeless people outside the station and because the area has empty warehouses and large buildings, it doesn't look safe to  walk around, especially at night time. It's like those abandoned buildings and areas you see when you're on the train, with broken windows, burnt-out cars etc. I was literally counting the minutes for the train to arrive and pretending like I knew where I was going so I wouldn't call attention to myself.

 I finally arrived at Williamsburg and straight away I thought about my sister. It has a real arty, vintage, hippy, ska feeling to the area; right up her street lol. At first, could only see white and South East Asian people in the area. Very different from the predominantly black and Latino areas I had been too so far.

While on the subject of ethnicity and race, I have noticed that New York has  different interracial relationships to what I see in my city and parts of England. In England, interracial relationships are mainly between black and white people, with some white and Middle Eastern Asians (Indian and Pakistan) or black and Indian but here I have seen much more white and South East Asian (Thai, Singapore, Chinese, Japanese) couples then any other; and I mean A LOT. I find it beautiful to be honest and the diverse ethnicity of our society keeps evolving.

 Anyway, so when I was walking around trying to find the shop, the men reminded me of rock bands like The Killers, The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Some of them even reminded me of Pete Doherty, because of how they were dressed and walked. People are quite fashionable over here but in their own way. No two people were dressed the same. It's a mix between indie, bohemian, vintage classic, hippie, rock, reggae styles. I think i just made reggae style up but you know what I'm trying to say right? Well I hope so.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

My American Adventure: Week 5

Hello everyone. It's nice to be back writing again 😊. I've been quite busy this past week, but I have a lot of experiences to share with you all.

This is my fifth week here and I've grown a lot. I've become much more independent, I don't rely on people  like I used to, I'm more focused and becoming thick skinned. America is a tough country and you have to adapt to it otherwise you will break. If you're not prepared to role up your sleeves and work, forget it. However, the hard work opens doors and it's a place of many opportunities.

Being here by myself has shaped me into a new person. I'm grateful for both the good and bad experiences I've encountered so far.

Life here is really busy but enjoyable at the same time.  I spent a few days in Brooklyn last week. I really like Brooklyn. It's vibrant with an energy they attracts me to the place. On Sunday I was invited to attend the morning service at the Universal Church's New York headquarters and I'm glad I went because what was spoken in the service was for me. I needed to hear the messages.

During the service this little beauty (pictured with me below) Nakisha shared her moving testimony, which had me in tears. She was explaining her 7 year battle with a learning disabilities that affected her reading, writing and capacity to understand things, especially at school. Her grandmother spoke to the bishop about it and he advised them to use their faith in God and do a 7 week chain of prayer on Fridays. They followed the advise and today her mind is free. She can finally  spell her name, has started to do well at school  and is understanding things properly. She recently had a test at school and passed with flying colours, with the highest marks in the whole class! After the service I spoke to her for a while and she is such a bright girl. She impersonated my British accent quite well too lol.

Nothing is impossible to those who believe. With God there is a solution.

After the service I hung out with the Youth Power Group (YPG) in Fulton. I love how they welcome newbies into their group even if you're over 25. In fact I met quite a few helpers who are in their early 30s but are part of the youth group. Their maturity and life experience positively impacts and supports the youth.

They are a big group, very funny, lively and down to earth. We had a picnic  (which was so organised and nicely prepared) and I finally ate the famous American peanut butter and jelly sandwich - it's quite nice.

We all challenged ourselves to switch off our phones for 90 minutes. This was so that we could spend real time with real people, without the distractions of Facebook, Instragram, Whatsapp or someone calling us. I had fun. We played old school games like double-dutch, dominoes, uno and other card games.

We learned the importance of breaking away from technology for a while to connect with people face to face and audibly instead of just texting and messaging each other using emojis. It builds healthy relationships.

Many people's communication skills and intellectuality is deteriorating because they do not read books anymore. They don't use their spare time to educate themselves, learn a language or new skill. If we want to get far in life, we really need to invest ourselves and develop.