Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Human Trafficking Project

I recently became a contributing writer for The Human Trafficking Project, a blog that aims to offer education and awareness about human trafficking issues to readers on a daily basis. It's a really easy and quick way to stay connected to what is happening globally in regards to various aspects of the trafficking world. Some writers focus on labor trafficking, some on what US citizens can do to lessen our unintentional compliance with traffickers, while others like me will focus on sex slavery and prostitution.

Once I am in Ecuador, I will pick up my Prone to Wander blog again - but until then, take 5 minutes out of your Facebook time to get hooked on The Human Trafficking Project!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bagpipes, Nostalgia and Moving Onward

During my final week of college, I was asked to write an article for Jewell's newspaper, the Hilltop Monitor. Of course, I wanted to write a snazzy blog post about this momentous life change but instead have decided to be lazy and plagiarize myself. The reality of leaving Jewell forever and opening a new chapter has not sunk in even a little. When it does, I will attempt to collect my thoughts, but until then:

In eight days I will walk around the Quad for the last time. The bagpipes will play, the professors will nod their heads in approval, and I am not too proud to admit that I will get sad and nostalgic and possibly even weepy. Plus, if Dr. Sallee is giving the commencement speech, how can I keep those tears from flowing? The answer: I cannot.

As I begin my transition out of this little haven of mine, I find myself simultaneously thrilled and terrified - thrilled that I will not have to write any more papers or take any more tests, terrified that I will not know what to do without those papers and tests. In the real world, there will be no Kettle Corn Day and no CUA Formal. I won’t get to walk Dr. Reynolds’ puppy twice a week or skip class to eat lunch with a friend or practice yoga outside with Airam.

The past four years have taught me that, yes, Jewell can be annoying and frustrating, but it can also be a home. It can be a source of wisdom and encouragement. It can be a foundation and a launching pad for future endeavors. If you utilize its resources, build relationships with the professors, faculty and darling cafeteria ladies, and seize the abundance of opportunities that our tiny liberal arts college has to offer, it can become your sanctuary for a time.

Through my experiences at Jewell, I have discovered how to be an activist, a thinker, a questioner and a dreamer. I have grown and transformed into a full-fledged adult through unique and challenging experiences over the past four years thanks to the opportunities that Jewell has provided and the risks I have welcomed.

Jewell has taken me to four continents. I studied Liberation Theology in Central America. I drank coffee with guerrilla fighters in Guatemala. In El Salvador I drove an old beat up truck down a remote highway in the dark with a blind nun instructing me on how to drive a stick shift. In Venezuela, I may (or may not) have lied to immigration in order to get back to my study abroad program in Nicaragua. In Amsterdam, I painfully translated the stories of women who had been forced into sexual slavery. And I revisited the little African village in the mountains of Ghana that forever changed my life and shattered my worldview forever.

Through these travels, I have gained a deeper sense of who I am and who I want to be in the future. I have learned to embrace the uncomfortable and relish in the outlandish experiences that life so readily presents. And ultimately, I have gained a sense of belonging to an adventure greater than myself.

Where to now? Well, in the fall, I will embark on a new chapter of my life - one that will take me far away from my beloved Jewell but much closer to my dreams and passions. I will hop a plane to Ecuador with a lovely curly haired boy. We will live on the beach, eat our weight in avocados, correct an abundance of grammatical errors, hike to Machu Picchu, and maybe even raise some chickens. I will be ever so removed from my little sanctuary here on the Hill, but it is time. I am ready.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


In the year of our Lord, two thousand ten. Anno Domini. How is that possible? Y2K was ten years ago. An entire DECADE ago. Holy canole.

Last year I wrote an "end of the year" blog reminisicing about the past and dreaming about the future. I had high hopes about 2009. Turns out, those hopes were very, very valid. If I can be so bold to say it, 2009 was my favorite year. I usually prefer even numbered years (cerca 1986) but this odd one blew me away.

I apprehensively moved to Central America in January. I was stubbornly positive that I did not want to make friends or have enough room in my heart for any new relationships. Turns out, I had the time of my life. I made some of the best friends I could ever hope to have in my life. I was inspired day in and day out by the people of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. I drank the best coffee in the world. I ate huevos, gallo pinto, platanos and aguacates every single day. I learned how to be vulnerable and open to strangers. I forced myself to break outside of every comfort zone and barrier that I had placed around me, and found that life outside of those obstacles is exactly how I want to live, despite the constant struggle to slip back into the easy. I learned more about social justice, the fight against poverty, the oppression and pain and brokenness that humanity imposes upon each other, the ins and out of free trade agreements and neoliberal policies. And I played drinking games with a nun. Absolutely, hands down one of the most inspiring five months of my life.

And then I came back. Fell in love. Went to Amsterdam for a month. Spoke Spanish. Hung out with prostitutes. Drank wine with the three best friends. Rode a bike like a badass. Faked Dutch. Flew to Hungary. Tasted danger. And finished the Harry Potter series.

My sister and brother-in-law gave birth to the most precious human being I have ever layed eyes on. Noa Violet. She smiles now. And reaches for my nose. My mom bought her a pilot hat that stays on for days because it keeps her ears warm and makes her somehow even more adorable.

In 2009 I can honestly say that I am now most definitely in love. With a man that somehow gets me and my weird quirks and strange sentence structure. He likes my glasses that make my eyes look even larger. Plus, Noa approves. But I do not really want the blogosphere to know too much about this. It is rather sacred.

Also, my mom moved back to America. Tulsa, more specifically. Praise the Lord. I love having her around again. She is teaching at her dream school, a low-income public school that has a need for passionate, genuine and caring teachers like my dear Mama. And she swears that Noa says, "I love Grammy" to her all the time. Noa is 3 months old.

2009 really set the bar high. Bring it on 2010! In the true fashion of YWAM-Amsterdam and their inspiration glittered posters, I'm expecting a miracle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Noa Violet

We gasped. Our eyes welled with tears. My own eyes had been glistening with tears for at least an hour before the moment. I had suppressed them with all of the will I could find, attempting to muster enough strength to put my own excitement and joy aside in calm and collected support of my sister and brother in law.

2:04 am. The phone rang. My hand flew toward the nightstand before I had even woken up. As I opened my phone, my heart began to beat faster and faster. Could it be? Had the moment finally arrived?

Hi Molly, it's Bhadri.
Oh my gosh. Is it time?
We think Bethanie's water broke.
So... so I should come?
Yes. It's time.
Dammit. I knew I should have filled my tank with gas this evening. See you soon.

I clumsily moved my way about the dark Fairview house at 2 in the morning. I grabbed clothes without thinking, realizing two days later that I had only managed to take three gray colored shirts. Awesome. I made my way to the kitchen where I scribbled a note for my housemates that read, "Sister went into labor. I left at 2:15 am. Will be back Wed or Thurs. Whoa! Love you all." Then for some reason I believed it necessary to bring my turkey sandwich that I had made for the next day's lunch with me.

QuikTrip. 2:15 am. Gas. Coffee. And two large donuts? Why not. I have a long drive ahead of me and the man at the counter already thinks that I am high. Yes, two donuts please. My sister is giving birth right now. Not interested? Fine.

With the turkey sandwich, two large donuts and one terrible cup of coffee riding shot gun, I began the drive home. Wearily but with an excitement I had never known, I turned on the KC hip hop radio station that played music that I can only chalk up to divine inspiration. The smooth tunes of Kanye and Kelly and Avril roused me from my sleep as I drove to the midtown apartment that held my laboring sister.


The pain was gone, though pure and beautiful in its difficulty. The struggle had ended, though worthwhile and deep in its meaning.

My mom collapsed onto a chair burying her hands in her face, not out of embarrassment of any kind but out of a sheer joy. Bhadri smiled and cried and wept as he beamed at his new daughter.
And then there was Beth, somehow even more gorgeous in her post-labor hue. She looked at the little wriggling child that had been such a mystery for nine months. Her baby. And it was love.

Noa Violet Verduzco entered our lives. She flopped onto the bed, gave a little cry and within a second, everyone had fallen in love with her. She was life in the purest form. She was our family.

Welcome, little one, to a world that is not as scary as others might warn you. Welcome to a world that needs you and your life and your beauty. Welcome to a family that, despite all of our flaws and dysfunctionality, will dote on you and will encourage you and frustrate you and convince you that organic foods are better and soccer is the best sport next to frisbee and girls who don't wear make-up are cooler. Welcome to the Verduzco-Bryant clan. Welcome, Noa Violet, we are in love with you and your beauty.


Sunday, August 16, 2009


Amsterdam was lovely. Words don't really do my experience justice, as usual, but the five weeks that I spent in that diverse, bustling city full of canals and art and Turkish pizza were incredible, to say the least. I had no idea what to expect, leaving the country once again to embark on my return to Amsterdam, the city that irrevocably changed my life five years ago. I knew that the month had the potential to be life-altering, but it also had the opportunity to simply be a nice experience with some friends. Thankfully, it was the former.

On my final day in Amsterdam, I had two goals: Eat a pancake and make it to the airport on time. Both were accomplished, one with greater enthusiasm than the other. We went to the bike barn, unlocked the bikes and realized that we had a minor problem. We had three bikes for four people. What to do? Ride like the Dutch, that's what. Calley boarded my navy blue Sparta bicycle with a rack on the back, and I hopped upon that rack and held on for dear life. We shakily flew down the narrow and, unfortunately for me, bumpy streets of Amsterdam toward the best pancake house in the world. Calley was a pro, lugging my around on her back wheel, and we felt very local. No one even batted an eye at us, assuming that we were just normal Dutch girls on our way to a business meeting or an outing with friends.

Then came the pancake. A flat doughy cake approximately two times the size of my head. It was everything that I should not eat. Sugar. Ice cream. Chocolate syrup. Whipped Cream. And of course, the healthy ingredient that made it all worthwhile, fresh pears. An elderly American couple saw this massive breakfast of mine, said to me "That is ridiculous!" and then asked if they could take a picture of it. I enthusiastically said, "Of course!" and posed with my final breakfast in Amsterdam. A picture that I will never see but will be passed around that family from person to person, everyone in awe of the size of that massive sugary pastry from a foreign land.
Amsterdam, in a nutshell, was lovely. It was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging, heartwarming and heartbreaking, pleasant and awful, beautiful and dark. It was everything that I could have hoped it to be.

And now I am back in the States, living in a house with four other girls, learning how to homeopathically rid our residence of masses of gnats, feeding Liberty regulars and hyping them up with espresso and coffee at their beckon call. Although I can reminisce about Amsterdam with fond memories, I still haven't dealt with the magnitude of our research or the enormity of emotions that follow such work. Tonight I am going to attempt to lock myself in my room, although only in spirit because my door does not lock, and possibly start the process of dealing with what I have seen and heard in the beautiful city of Amsterdam and the small towns of Hungary.

Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pocahontas is Hungary

Disney songs. Overused. Oversung. Over it.

Except Pocahontas. She will forever be my heroine. Not only because I am positive that somewhere in my ancestry we are related, but also because she is a princess who can swan dive off of waterfalls, cradle bear cubs, talk to racoons and single-handedly unite two waring groups out of her very own love for one blond haired, egotistical soldier. But most importantly, she sings songs of wisdom that have inspired me since 1995. I used to sing the ballad "Just Around the Riverbend" with gusto, assuming that some day I would face the same problems that she had. Such as, "Should I marry Kocoum? Is all my dreaming at an end... ooooooor should I still wait for you, Dream Giver?"

Fastfoward to 2009. I am twenty-two years old. I do not listen to the Pocahontas soundtrack on a regular basis; however, I do have it on my iTunes. And when I'm in need of some inspiration, I readily whip out some Native American folklore. Pocahontas sings to me. She tells me that anything is possible, that we shouldn't always follow traditions or expectations. She reminds me that to be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing what's around the riverbend.

What does this have to do with my current situation in Amsterdam? Honestly, not a whole lot. But if I can be so bold as to attempt to connect it, you really never know what's just around the riverbend. As Mother Willow so eloquently expresses in her solo, Listen with your heart. You will understand. And so we follow our hearts. To Hungary.

We have been given the amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity to work with an organization in Budapest, Hungary. And so we booked cheap flights and will cross the continent into the former Soviet bloc country that is still reeling from the devastation of a post-cold war culture and economy. It is a journey that may not immediately change our lives and we might not appreciate the significance of it this weekend... but it's big. 60% of the women trafficked into Amsterdam are from Hungary. It's a new phenomenon and no one has been able to figure out why so many Hungarians, over other Eastern European women, are ending up in the city. And so we pioneer. We pack our tiny bags and head to a country full of mystery.

Was the a roundabout way to inform you of the latest turn in our research? Yes. But was it interesting? Maybe. Embarassingly honest? Absolutely.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Korean Night

The aroma of soy sauce and excitement filled the air. Busy hands prepared a feast. Hearts thumped for joy. The nervous anticipation of the greatest night YWAM-Amsterdam has ever witnessed was evident in the demeanor of every individual that had signed up to participate. No one knew what to expect. No one could imagine just how incredible, and unfortunately for you, indescribable the night would turn out to be. We pitied those who signed up too late, and even more, those who had never even heard of tonight. Because tonight was…

Korean Night.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Korean Night. You think you know, but you have no idea…

First, I believe it is appropriate to give you some information to enhance this experience. I am living on a hall of Korean men. They are kind and polite and relatively quiet, save for the one Korean who sings Jason Mraz’s “Geek in Pink” at the top of his lungs on a semi-regular basis. On one of my first mornings as I was getting dressed, I noticed a large shadow appear on my window. Thankfully my curtains were closed but the window was, unfortunately, slightly open. My room is adjacent to the roof which can double as a pseudo-balcony when the mood strikes. And my dear neighbor, a Korean man aged approximately 20 years, had climbed onto the roof and began knocking on my window. I was taken aback. What is this Korean man doing on the roof trying to get into my room? As some of you know may know, I am not the best in situations that may lead to embarrassment of one or more parties, so I casually moved my hand toward the window, attempting to remain out of sight by flattening myself against the wall, and closed the window shut. I thought that this would be the end of our rooftop relationship, but the next day as I was taking a nap, he began knocking again, this time with more force. I pulled the blanket over my head and pretended not to be in the room. I promised after that day, if he knocked on my window again, I would answer it. I would attempt to not be awkward and I would say to him that either A) he has the wrong window or B) do you need to come inside? But he never came back, and so the mystery remains unsolved.

Other than those chance encounters, we say “Hello” and “Good morning!” as we walk past each others’ rooms. We chat about the internet and edit their English notes for them. Clearly, Floor 2 has bonded despite the language barrier, and thus, Calley, LT and I enthusiastically awaited Korean Night 2009.

As we entered the normally bland and undecorated dining room, we were astounded by the transformation that had taken place in honor of our Asian friends. Korean flags with something like origami birds and trees adorned the cloth laden tables in the dining room. Red and white balloons lined the entryway. Sushi, translucent noodles, rice balls filled with spice, and sautéed vegetables painted the blank canvases of our plastic plates. Music heavy with whistles and chimes serenaded our intimate dining experience. Those in charge, and those who got into the Asian sensation spirit, wore Korean flags as capes. The whole dining room was a tribute, an effigy, to the great country.

Immediately following dinner was the real program complete with traditional dancing, a band concert, some type of dance/fighting, and games eerily reminiscent of reality shows made famous by their neighbor to the south, Japan. One game even required all participants to wear aprons, kick a pompon three times in a row, throw a wooden stick into a bucket and then run and jump onto a mattress while blowing out four candles. A relay of relays.

At the end, they all sang a song in Korean and told us that they loved us.

It was and will forever be: Korean Night.