Day 12 &13, last days with the GAF 2013

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Day 12, we visited Pearson South Africa office in Cape Town. I was so impressed by the way they used all illustrations to showcase Pearson branding around the office, every single corner, clean and neat, very “Pearson”. We were split into groups of 3 (one Pearson fellow, one True North staff and one Pearson SA staff) and then our Pearson SA colleague to us around the office for “greet and meet”. We were welcomed by a very warm hospitality of everyone here.

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Day 13, our very last day, was very hard for every single of us. It was a day of tears and smiles. I actually didn’t want to come to the crèche this morning sine I knew it would be our last day with the kids and I completely didn’t want it at all. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my kids, to our teachers and the principal.

Like other fellows, Rachel and I brought some biscuits and juice to the crèche for our farewell with everyone. Nicole asked the kids to sing some songs for us, say “Thank you teacher Anna, teacher Rachel and teacher Ronel. We will miss you so much.” And then, they ran to us for hugs and kisses. Gosh, that moment took my heart away. R.J, one of the naughty boys in the class, hugged my thigh tightly, looked up on my face with sadness in his eyes and then kissed me. I burst into tears and cried and couldn’t stop it. I tried my best not to cry in front of the kids, but couldn’t make it. Shame!

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Chantal surprised me with a gift made of all fingerprints of the kids of her class and a lovely Thank-You card. How beautiful it is. It reminded me of another gift that I received many years ago from a little girl at an orphanage in HCMC. My classmates and I visited an orphanage and all the kids there were unfortunately disabled. When we left, there was a little girl came to me and give me a small old notebook and said “Sister, this is for you and please always remember me.” It broke my heart.

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It was then even harder to say goodbye to our dearest principal, Mary. She is an amazing woman with so much love and care to all the kids in her crèche. I saw it and felt it. I would never ever forget her tight and warm hug for me. I am sure she is always blessed by God for her passion and love.

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What we have done probably couldn’t give the kids better lives, couldn’t change the current situations they are living, but at least we have tried our best to do something for them. As Aslam said to us the other night “You couldn’t educate a poor and hungry person, but you could teach them how to overcome it.”

We were back to the True North for lunch, feedback and goodbye everyone. Again, tears kept falling on our faces. It was such a big pleasure for me to meet and work with Vicky, Theresa and all lovely people of True North. They are all amazing people with so much love dedicated to all people in the community and development of children in Vrygrond. What they have done was so much inspiring and admirable.

After coming back home, we said our first goodbye to Barb, then Alison, Rachel, Jenna and finally my dear Lauren. We didn’t want to say farewell to each other. We were like now sisters and brothers in a big family, so it’s really tough to leave.

Two weeks was passing so fast. I still remember the very first day meeting we came to Faye’s house, getting to know each other from different countries and cultures, working and playing together, sharing laughs and joys, and now we have to say goodbye. How bad!

Although it was a short time, what I have experienced in the Global Assist Fellowship together with other fellows was extremely meaningful and valuable to my life. It played an important part of my journey of life and every one I met during this two-week trip has become an amazing part of it. I treasure every seconds I have spent here.

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Huge thanks John Warner and Pearson Foundation for selecting me and giving me an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join in this incredible trip. It has changed my life and inspired me to do something for my community back home.

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Thanks all the fellows, my dear Pearson colleagues all over the world, I couldn’t say how grateful it is for me to meet and work with them. I don’t know how they look like at work, but here in Cape Town, living in a same house, working in a same project, they are all amazing people with love, passion, enthusiasm and kindness. I learn from each of you a lot. Thanks for everything.

Many thanks and appreciate to our host parents Faye and Aslam for every single thing they have done for us: all delicious food, their gentle care, their hugs and kisses every morning and evening. Without them, we couldn’t make it happen. Words couldn’t describe how wonderful they are. After exhausted days, we were all looking forward to coming back home and enjoying meals. We were all happy to stay here.

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We wouldn’t stop from here. Each of us has taken many meaningful and beautiful things back home and we would keep continuing our spirits and do some “give-back-to-the-community”.

Aslam said to us “You shouldn’t be sad that much, but be happy. It’s not a forever end, but it’s just a closing for another opening. Something has to stop for another new thing happens”.

I would strongly suggest all Pearson colleagues to join us in this incredible journey Global Assist Fellowship. Let get out of our comfort zones, go out there, see how people are living and your heart would tell you what you need to do.

And last but not least, thanks everyone for reading and following my blogs during the past two weeks.

Anna

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Day 10 & 11 with the GAF 2013, Pearson Foundation

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Yesterday and today, we took the kids to the Museum and Aquarium. I couldn’t describe how happy and excited they were when they went out of their town to the City and saw many interesting things out there. They all shouted out loud when the bus was driving them under the bridge, they were all excited to see the mountains, buildings in the city, the train, the beach, etc.

KIds at the museum

Kids at the museum

Those things that we see everyday seem to be normal to us,but to our kids those things are really big things, something amazing and incredible. It’s like their dreams have come true.

Excited to see the sharks

Excited to see the sharks

On the way back home, many of them were fall asleep after a playful day. It was a magical day for all the kids and I was so happy to see it. It was truly amazing!

Tonight (and also yesterday), we all had a yummy dinner as always thanks to our great woman Faye. The highlights were we shared our thoughts about what we have experienced up so far and how thankful we are to our amazing host Faye and Aslam for what they have done for us. The fact was many of us just burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. We were all like a family now, with our mommy Faye and daddy Aslam, brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t tell much about my feeling now as I want to save all my feeling until the last day of this amazing trip and write them down all.

Fellows were writing notes to each other before our goodbye which is coming very soon

Fellows were writing notes to each other before our goodbye which is coming very soon

So it’s just it for today. Tomorrow would be our last day at our crèche, with our great teachers, with our little kids. I couldn’t even imagine how it would be to say goodbye to all people I’ve met. It’s hard.

Day 5,6,7,8 & 9 with GAF 2013 – Pearson Foundation

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I’m so sorry for not updating anything in the past 4 days. I was too tired after long days with many activities but so much fun. So I’m going to write some summary of what happening in the past few days.

On day 5, we went to our crèche as our normal schedule. There were 2 little kids who I called “my favorite kids”, one 4-year-old boy and a little 3-year-old girl, they always hugged me every day I visited them. I was so in love with them, more and more.

In the afternoon, we took our kids to the True North Center for the literary session. Unfortunately, there were only 12 kids going for the story time. They were singing out loud and marching on the way to the community center. They were so excited for it.

Rachel did an extremely amazing job telling the story for the kids. They all loved it and enjoyed the time so much. She is simply incredible. After that, we took them to the playground at the center. You must be there to see the happiness in their eyes and smiles and laugh-out-loud.  The playground is far different and bigger than the little so-called playground at their crèche. They only played there for 20mins and were back to their crèche.

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We then went out for our first group dinner at Mama Africa in the City. We had the chance to tried different authentic African food and they were so delicious. I had a mixed grill which consisted of crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu and venison sausage. Later on, we had some fun time playing with the drums together with the music band. Such a fantastic experience.

On day 6, we hosted the ABC event at the True North. What we did was walking the kids through the little ABC booklet. Every single letter has some illustrations in there and some missing. And for those that missed out, we made some big illustrations for them, e.g. a flower for F, moon for M, or Zebra for Z. We took pictures of them holding those things in their hand and paste them in the booklet, and then they have their own ABC book.

 IMG_0559Before coming back home for dinner, we went to Plastic for African and Pay & Pick to buy all the stuff that we thought could be helpful our crèches that they couldn’t afford to buy them all.

Day 7, we did our first time outdoor activity. In the morning, together with Pearson South Africa staff, True North, local people in the community and teachers of the crèches, we all joined in an 8km-walk fundraising at a nearby beach which is more than beautiful I would say (thanks to the weather and a perfect sky). The teachers were so happy, they were dancing, singing, playing all the way long, seemed like that they didn’t feel tired at all. And it was really amazing to see how the True North team has been doing to raise funds to support Vrygrond community: teacher training, building crèches and schools, and health care, etc.

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We then headed off to one of the must-see in Cape Town: Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope. What I could I say? I would use all the best words to describe it: marvelous, incredible, or amazing, or any other words could describe it best. So I put my footprint at the most south-western point of the African Continent. Yayyyyy!

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Day 8 was a “drunk-day”. We went to 3 wineries and tasted all different sorts of wines in Stellenbosch. It was not only the wines were great, but also the scenery and landscape, it was extremely beautiful. I wished I could stay there at least for a night. I loved the town so much.

And it was everything we have done in last week. I couldn’t believe that we were here in Cape Town for a week already, time went fast.

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And today, day 9, we were back to our normal schedule. Rachel and I brought all the stuff we bought to our crèches and helped to organize and tidy up everything. Our principal and teachers were so happy with all the new things we bought for themselves as well for the kids. In the afternoon, we took other 11 kids to the True North for another literacy session. This time, Shariefa, one of the teachers played the role of a storyteller to her students. It was her first time and although she hated reading (it’s what she said by the way), she did it perfectly and the kids really enjoyed her story.

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After taking the kids back to the crèche, we made another trip to one of the 7 World Wonders: Table Mountain. Finally! Hoorayyyy!!!! When I was there, it was just a series of big WOW, WOW & WOW for me !!!!!! I don’t know how to describe how imposing it is. You could only its marvellousness and awesomeness by your own eyes, no words could explain it the best by seeing it in real.

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So, it’s all for my summary. More updates are coming. Stay tune! And thanks for reading!

Anna

Day 4 with the GAF 2013 – Playing and painting

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It kept raining for the whole day but it couldn’t stop our excitement to see our kids again today.

So as yesterday, the kids ran to us and gave us big hugs when they saw us. Today was their pajama party so each us them wore their own pajama. “Where is your pajama, teacher?.It’s the party today.” Oh, I almost forgot it and also, and the fact was I didn’t bring any pajama along to here, so I just told them I didn’t bring them with me, so next time I would join them.

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There were two other volunteers from another volunteer organization joined us this morning. Today, the kids had more stuff to play with. First they had the balloons and then the bubbles. They enjoyed playing with those stuff so much. They all looked happy and excited.

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We said goodbye to them while they were watching the movie. In the afternoon, we moved to our renovation site and supposed to do our 2nd coat on the wall. But sadly the wall was so wet due to a whole-day-and-night rain, so unfortunately we couldn’t keep continuing the painting. Alternatively, we painted the front door with 3 different colors we had: red, blue and green. It looks so cool! And hope the wall will get dryer tomorrow so that we could finish our 2nd coat soon.

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It was a fun day today but I’m quite exhausted now, so today’s blog is quite short but I hope you enjoy reading it.

Thanks and Good night.

Anna

Day 3 with the GAF 2013 – First day with the kids at the Daylight

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Hi everyone,

It was our second day but unfortunately it rained for the whole day.

Today our group met Mary, the principal of Daylight. She was so nice and friendly. We then moved to the crèche and started our first day with the kids.

The very first seconds when we stepped into the crèche, I almost burst into tears. “Teacher”, “Hello Teacher”, “How are you Teacher?”, “You look beautiful Teacher”, they were all what the kids said when they first saw first in the rooms. They jumped on us, hugged us, smiled at us, held our hands and took us into their classroom and the most touching thing I could see was their happy eyes. They looked so excited and extremely happy to see us when you looked at their eyes.

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Since it’s the first day so it was just about get-to-know your kids. Ronel, Rachel and me played with different groups of kids. First thing for me was I played with the two little boys who were playing at the “Educational toys” area with legos, letters, and numbers. Just for a few minutes, then other kids were running to me, sat on my tights, playing with my hair, glasses and even my coat.

Later on Nicole, one the three teachers there, asked the kids to clean up their toys to prepare for a group activity. They all sang out loud “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up” while putting their toys back to boxes, and they did it perfectly.

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There were two things that the kids impressed me the most today: first, it was their dancing. They did like pros. They could do hip hop, break dancing, and even Gangnam Style. It was like they were born to be dancers. Amazing!! The other thing was the prayer before the lunch. The little 3-year-old girl, the daughter of Shariefa, one the teachers, was speaking the prayers “Thanks God for our food today” while others were holding their hands together, putting in front of their breast, closing their eyes and together speaking the prayers. It was so touching and inspiring for me.

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We left the crèche after the kids had their lunch, listened to a story that Rachel told them (she did an amazing job by the way) and went to sleep. We came back to the True North and had a quick lunch. After that, we joined with another group (Jenna and Wendy) to go to Sunflower for our renovation job. So we would renovate Sunflower’s classroom to give them a new and fresh look. It was so much fun while playing with the painting. A bit exhausting by the end of the day though but we all enjoyed it really much. It was not finished yet and we’ll keep working on it tomorrow.

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It was a fantastic day and can’t wait to see the kids again tomorrow.

Thanks for reading and Good night from Cape Town.

Anna

Day 2 with the GAF 2013 – Orientation and Community visit

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It’s our second day of the program but the very first day to get out of the house and started to get to know with everyone at the True North and the Vrygrond community.

In the morning, we were picked up and driven to the True North center located in Vrygrond. We met Vicky and Theresa and other staff at the Center. They gave us some orientation about their center, their missions, what they are doing and how they are going to carry them out. I was really touched by what they are helping with the local community here, to improve early childhood education of the children in the area which is really poor and underdeveloped.

From the right: Vicky and Theresa from the True North

From the right: Vicky and Theresa from the True North

Later on, Liz from the Trust Center shared with her a broad but in-depth insight about the early childhood education in South Africa and the extreme significance of education for early age children towards the development of the society in a long term view.

After having a quick lunch with sandwich, snacks, and fruits we all then moved to another interesting session which was led by Mariam Elloker, the ECD specialist for the Pearson Foundation. She taught us how to do story-telling for the kids and how to perform it best, something that we all have to do over the next few days for the kids that we are working with.

Mariam taught us how to do a storytelling

Mariam taught us how to do a storytelling

Mariam and me

Mariam and me

For me, I did some sorts of storytelling before but just simply ‘tell the story”, not that exciting and inspiring and required so much skills for that, especially telling the story in English, never ever done that before. So it was so much fun and interesting this afternoon but also the most challenging part of the day. It’s not easy at all. It requires lots of works, sense of humor and skills. Oh, I also learnt how to use the puppets properly and the eyes-contact while playing with them. Playing with the kids is not that simple as I’ve imagined before. Mariam was so amazing. Just over two days, I have met so many incredible people here: Faye, our host, Vicky and Theresa, and then Mariam. I couldn’t tell you better how wonderful they are unless you meet them, talk with them and work with them.

Later on, the drivers took us around the community to see how people here are living in such a very poor condition. To be honest, I was not really shocked while seeing those bad living conditions of people here as it also happens in Vietnam and I already prepared for it. However to some extent, it was different and I was so badly overwhelmed while seeing people are living in small and old truck containers as their houses, and the old and poor-equipped crèches where the kids are educated, rubbishes are everywhere, no local security or police stations, no proper playgrounds for the kids, etc.

Vrygrond community

Vrygrond community

IMG_0467So, tomorrow we will start working directly with different crèches. I am in the same group with Rachel and Ronel and so we will work with the Daylight Educare. It has 39 kids aged up to 8, only 2 small classrooms and 3 teachers. I don’t know how it looks like but I’m ready for it, ready for the kids and ready for everything I could do to help the teachers there.

So, it’s all for today.  Thanks for reading and following my blog.More real things to come tomorrow.

Good night from Cape Town!

Dday 1 with the GAF 2013 – Welcome to the Faye’s house

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So after two flights with a total of 16 hours long, I’ve finally arrived safe and sound in Cape Town Int’l Airport at 12.30p.m. A little bit tired though. There was a man named Bakaer waited for me and drove me to the house where all the fellows are staying. We called it the Faye’s house.

It was really beautiful on the way he drove me to the house: blue sky, nice weather, a bit chilly which I truly loved, compared to the crazily hot weather in Vietnam at this time.

After 20mins or so, we arrived to the Faye’s house. Faye is the landlord of the house together with her husband, Aslam. They welcomed me with a tight hug and big smile. How warm it was. Oh before that, I was welcomed by 3 dogs, really big ones, but nice.

So Faye took me around the house which for me like a maze! Plenty of nice and cute rooms, fully furnished, a warm kitchen and neat dining table which she already made so much food and delicious cakes. She showed us her only daughter in her beautiful wedding gown, and the three grandchildren.

I picked a room with 2 single bedrooms which was then shared with Allison Jones. We then had dinner together with almost of the fellows (some didn’t come as scheduled due to flights delay) and John and Ronel from Pearson Foundation. Faye and Aslam joined two. I don’t think I would lose any weight at all during my two weeks in Faye’s house since she provided us with so many delicious dishes that I couldn’t eat them all. She is more than amazing.

We all had great time together, got to know each other and had lots of fun. John asked each of us the expectations we want to get as the outcomes of the fellowship. We shared our own thoughts and feeling, some shared with us their stories which were really touching and moving. However I thought after all, we all had the same expectation that we want to do something meaningful to give back to the community, both here in Cape Town and our own ones, and to show to the underprivileged children that they are all cared, loved and respected by everyone around them.

John and Ronel also shared with us some helpful advice how deal and work with the local children here and how we can make good use of our time with them. Faye told us some insights in the area so that all of us could have some better understanding of where and who we are working. They were all really useful for us.

So, it’s everything for me today and time for a good sleep. Our amazing journey will officially kick off tomorrow and I’m totally ready for it.

Have a good night from Cape Town.

Anna

 

 

 

The Global Assist Fellowship 2013 by Pearson Foundation

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It is a shame that I couldn’t make my words that I’ll blog at least one a week. But when reading my last blog in early January, I thought somewhat my words have come true, that more trips would be coming along the year. Yes, it has happened.

So just right after the holiday in Thailand with my loved ones in January, I had a company training in Singapore in February. Then in early March, a great chance came for me to attend a company event in Bali. It was a bit shame though that I didn’t have time to enjoy and explore Bali, to see how beautiful it was as everyone said. I think I’ll come back there again, not for work, but a real vacation.

Could you guess where I’m traveling to in April? It’s Cape Town, South Africa. Yes, I couldn’t even imagine that one day I would travel to Africa at all. I had to say thank you to my company, actually it’s Pearson Foundation, for bringing me an incredible opportunity to be here and do something meaningful to give back to the community.

It is the Global Assist Fellowship run by Pearson Foundation. The Pearson Foundation Global Assist Fellowship is an employee engagement program designed to connect Pearson people directly to the work of the Foundation. The project gives each employee the chance to work hand-in-hand with local community about their literacy, learning, teaching, children development. Together they will be able to make differences in local communities around the world. The first program launched last year and this is its second year.

This year, the committee has chosen 12 Pearson employees in different regions around the world to join and help them with the community development in small village outskirts of Cape Town called Vrygrond. And yes, I couldn’t say how lucky and honored I was to be selected for this meaningful program. The fellowship will take place from 14 – 26 April.

Vrygrond is a socially and economically deprived community of some 10,000 men, women and children, situated near Muizenberg in Cape Town. There are about 17 home-based crèches are required with immediate assistance. These crèches currently have approximately 900 children in their care, many of whom could be classed as “high risk” due to extreme poverty, disease and deprivation which threaten their academic, social, emotional and spiritual development.

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The team will work closely with a partner of Pearson Foundation called the True North, an South-African non profit with its mission to help the children in South Africa realize their potentials through education in their early age.

More information about the True North and its projects, please go to http://www.true-north.co.za/projects/little-to-much/
and http://pearsonfoundation.org/globalassistchallenge/#anchor2

During the two-week fellowship in Cape Town, all of us will be divided into different groups with assignments and work at various crèches. Most of the time, we will be working and playing with the children at these crèches, providing them with very basic literacy and life skills. Beside that, all fellows will be involved in renovation projects in the community.

There are also many side-activities during that two weeks:

– Pearson South Africa (PSA) Vrygrond community walk fundraising on 20 April. Its mission is to raise funds for the support of 24 preschools to make difference in the lives of the children in Vrygrond.

– Book Event and Field trips to Aquarium, Museum/Beach Day with the kids.

– Visit Pearson South Africa office for meet and greet all Pearson people there.

– Interestingly, we will have 1 day off to visit the most wonderful tourist spot in Cape Town – Table Mountain and also some wine-lands.

It’s the basic information I have for now. Definitely, there will be even more. Everything now is just my imagination and through what I have heard from last year fellows. I can’t wait to have a real experience on it, to see it, work on it and feel it so that I would have more things to share with you all.

I’ll try my best to keep blogging and updating my journey. More stories and photos will come.

Finally, thanks for reading.

The 1st escape gateway in 2013

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So, my very first gateway trip in 2013 is today. And the destination is Bangkok, Thailand.

Well, it’s not my first time in BKK actually, it’s the fourth. But it will be something totally different from the first 3 trips, I promise.

My first time in BKK (and also my first time to travel abroad) was in January 2005 with my mom on a tour. The 2nd trip was 7 years later, in May 2012 with my company. It was an extensive training week, so I didn’t have much time to explore. And the latest one was 2 months later. It was also another tour group, but what special was it was my honeymoon holiday with my husband. It was too busy for us to arrange a backpack trip, so the best way was to book a tour. We then promised to come back here again, and of course, it’s definitely a backpack one.

307643_10151353783405660_983151154_nAnd so, today we made it. We will spend 3 days there to explore BKK, to enjoy the shopping (yes, it’s our top goal), the food, the culture and the people there.

Lots of fun are waiting for us. Can’t wait!

So, I kicked of my new year by a trip. Hope more trips are coming throughout the year. Haha.

Songs for Jude_Josh Stewart

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I accidentally found Josh Stewart yesterday while I was trying to build a personal profile on about.me.

The first thing that really impressed me while looking at his profile is his background photo, himself and his son, Jude. It says lots of things. I can’t say exactly what they are, just my feeling. I can see love, a love from a young father to his little boy, “the coolest thing ever happened”. I can feel something very gentle, mind and sweet. I spent quite a few minutes to look at this photo and couldn’t almost take my eyes off it.AlbumCover

I then clicked on his page, named for his latest album: Songs for Jude. Listening to his song “A kiss for your head” while reading through the lyrics. That was so touching. I like the song so much, every single words of it and of course his super clean and clear guitar.

I do enjoy listening to his music a lot!

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So finally, I’m back! After so many delays, it’s time to clean up and have something new for my blog. Keep writing!