On a Mission – 2 of 12

Comparative Positioning

(This is my travel journal that I kept during a medical mission to Paraguay; part one can be found here)

September 22, 07:30

Train, commute to work

It is difficult to avoid making comparisons. The inevitability of rationalizing the unfamiliar with the comfortable, or that which we often take for granted. Though not knowing what to expect, I anticipate such a motion on my part to construct comparison.

In travel, comparison starts from the beginning, from, “Where can I go?” to “Where have I not yet been?” as a desire for comparable or contrasting experiences. It continues with comparing costs to get there and equating currencies. One Swiss Franc (currently) is approximately 5,679 Guarani, 5 CHF approximately 25k GUR, and so on. The comparison, certainly, will continue throughout my journey. Preemptively, I envision comparisons to what is familiar to me; water, clothes, buildings, culture, food, kids, technology, and despite not knowing the side of Paraguay, I have already begun to question the familiar side in Switzerland. Water is very much taken for granted.

My children have access to technology beyond their years, as though preemptively robbed from self-exploration. Vids and apps have become a contentious foster companion. What do the children of Paraguay have to occupy themselves? I hope they have more than imagined, hopefully a lot more, but I hope they have not been corrupted by technology. I’m not sure what to find on the other side except for some of the images I saw on a program from Anthony Bourdain: decrepit buildings – weathered and un-kept, a large brown river, and various foods which could remain unfamiliar.


Pre-flections of Economy

September 24, 16:00

Train to Zürich Flughafen

So it is, my day long, over 24 hour trip to Paraguay! I am sitting on the train, trying not to be sad about leaving my family behind while not worrying about traveling nearly half way around the world. I’m listening to the “Paraguay” mix that Melinda made for me.

This train is immaculate. Smoke-grey floors and seats with yellow, blue and red spots, people with perfect luggage, MacBook airs, iPhone 6’s and colorful scarfs. I’m almost depressed envisioning the world where I am heading; mostly because I don’t know. I feel depressed not so much about where I am headed, but for those around me with such excess which I have never noticed; this being accentuated by my sadness of parting from family for more than a week.

I am worried about others who may contribute to the disappearance of my small black duffle bag, mostly full of gifts for the children (pencils, notepads, stickers, and tooth brushes) that may be missing on the other end of the required three flights and four airports. I put some tape on it to cover the Calvin Klein label so that it looks, well, more discreet. I hope I have everything. We will see.

My thoughts of an immaculate train has just been altered by a small black piece of paper, torn off of some kind of meal package, a large spec of white paper and a swizzle stick near a lady’s white shoe. Is that really what it is called? A swizzle stick? I think I heard this in a movie one time and that is all that comes to mind when I see it, that sad, flat and dirty coffee stirrer on the ground. There are those who disrespect their environment and leave trash behind, even in Switzerland.

General Disclaimer:

The views expressed on this website/blog post are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or Operation Smile. The author encourages your help and support by donating to support medical missions by Operation Smile via this link: http://support.operationsmile.org/goto/schoutens

#JNJ #MyCompany

This blogpost-series are pages of my personal journal leading up to and during my first medical mission to Asunción, Paraguay. I hope this series encourages you to serve global communities and/or donate to a wonderful organization that improves the lives of children and families around the world!

Kindermusik Basel

Are you new to Basel and not sure what to do to shake off the winter blues? Don’t worry; I have the perfect solution that promises to engage children of all ages through music, movement, and expression.  All of the courses are taught in English.


Kindermusik, located in Dreispitz offers several classes per week for children up to age 7. With experienced, and energetic instructors, your children will be engaged from the moment they enter the door.

Both of our children spent several years in the Kindermusik program and we all still reflect fondly on our special time dancing, signing, and playing instruments each week.

kindermusik-2 To learn more about Kindermusik or to enroll in the spring semester, please contact:   Susan Pompo – Ball at: kidsmusic.ch@hotmail.com and be sure to tell Susan we sent you!

Kindermusik at Dreispitz

Leimgrubenweg 9

4053 Basel

Kindermusik Basel

On a Mission – 1 of 12

The Call

September 16, 07:30

Train, Commute to work

I received a call the other day which I did not anticipate; an offer to travel with a group of volunteers to Asunción, Paraguay. I had been involved with Operation Smile for the past three years, helping with various activities from leading a donation effort to South Africa to participating in charitable events (i.e bake sales, auctions, and a 5k run). Unexpectedly, this call was to join a global team of Johnson & Johnson employees, eight in total, for the first ever Operation Smile / J&J global mission. A commitment had to be given in less than 24 hours, and I wasn’t even sure where Asunción was located.

Photo_Week_20130111_Basel_April_2012 Read more

In the Alps #3

The “Into the Alps” photo series are snapshots from various trips we have taken in the Alps. Although the photos are primarily in black and white, they aim to show the natural beauty of the Alps in areas which may be of interest to others. We hope you enjoy this series and that you follow us to be a part of the updates.

This photo was taken from Berghaus Schäfler with Säntis in the background (with the spire).  In the foreground is Altenalptürm, an  outcropping menace of limestone looming over an equally impressive trail (not for those with vertigo) which leads to Säntis.


Eating 101

You want really good nutrition advice?  In a world that creates a new book, a new fad diet (Paleo, Whole 30, HMR, the Military Diet, Green Smoothie Cleanse, oh the list is endless) and a new guru each month,  it can be hard to sift through the gimmicks, the promises and the “statistics” to find a healthy way of eating, or worse, the dangling promise of infinite weight loss. After studying nutrition in New York City (NYC) and learning from some of the industries greatest, I learned one simple truth.

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That truth is easy. We are not all the same – period. What works for one may never, ever work for another. We are not genetically, biologically, emotionally, physically identical and that is what makes us human and above all – unique. We each house our own blue prints, our own DNA and to prescribe one diet plan, one drug, one exercise regime that works for everyone is to fail most.


After spending countless weekends trekking back and forth to NYC, taking notes, studying, I walked away with this. There is no single diet that will work for everyone and therefore you must experiment with yourself. Did you get that? There is not a single diet that will lead you to the golden treasure of health. What?


Having that said, however, there are simple things we can do on a daily basis that will make us feel better, live healthier lives and avoid some diet related illnesses.  So, what we can do to restore our health or become healthier?  Honestly, it is really easy, despite the plethora of information that is thrown our way.

What you can do to get started:

Experiment with eliminating certain foods from your diet that may trigger health issues. Trigger foods include: caffeine, sugar, dairy, grains, salt, processed foods, alcohol and nicotine. Track your changes and eliminate one food at a time. For me, sugar keeps me up at night and too much caffeine causes anxiety.  My over caffeinated self is shaky, agitated, and wreaks havoc on my oral health through grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw while I sleep.  Ouch!

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Some individuals will be extreme with their experiment. Remember this is your experience, so if you want to try the vegan lifestyle, high protein or whatever plan it may be for a month or more go ahead.  Track your changes, and your experiences and if something doesn’t work, be willing to adjust.


For those of us that are not extreme when it comes to eating, there are simple things everyone can do to get started down a road to health and well – being. Those are listed below.


Eat real food, which simply means food that comes from the earth and that is not packaged in a facility. Base most meals around whole foods (unrefined &unprocessed – think earth, not package)  with healthy servings of vegetables and fruits. If you eat processed food, do so in small amounts.

Drink plenty of water.

Consume lots of vegetables and fruit (eat organic when possible) each and every day. Be creative with getting fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you make a smoothie, add a handful of fresh spinach, an avocado, a banana, berries and a splash of orange juice, or a milk of choice. If you make muffins, shred zucchini and/or a carrot for extra nutrients.

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If you enjoy grains, eat them, but eat the best varieties possible – whole grains, such as, dark flours, remembering the more processed the flour, the less nutrients that will be available to you.

Remember moderation in all aspects of life. This tiny bit of advice is very helpful.

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When faced with butter or margarine, always choose butter! Remember, eat real food!

Healthy fats are fabulous!  Avocados, nuts, olives, seeds, fish, olive oil, sesame oil, etc.

Enjoy your food and preferably dine with those you love. Research shows we enjoy our food much more when we are in good company.

Eat slowly and take the time to enjoy your food.

Take the time to prepare and cook your own meals whenever possible.

Throw in some exercise, which will boost your mood, clear your mind and get your blood pumping!  Get outside whenever possible.


Go back to the basics.


If you feel like eating chocolate, ice cream, or a piece of cake, by all means eat it! Life is short and meant to be enjoyed. Or as Michael Pollan says, “If you want to enjoy baked goods, great, just make sure you are the one doing the baking!”

Remember, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one had not dined well.”  – Virginia Woolf


Individuals must know that what works for us one day, one week, one month or perhaps even a decade, may not continue to work indefinitely, and that our once “golden” way of eating will inevitably change. That is due to a simple fact, that we as individuals are constantly changing and evolving.  Don’t worry, you know what you need, simply be still and listen.


Oh, and one more thing, we were never intended to be dogmatic about our eating. You will find individuals who profess that the only way to maintain our planet is by giving up our reliance on animal products, and others that claim there is nothing wrong with consuming some animal protein as long as animals are raised and treated humanely.  This is a hot, emotionally run topic, one that I don’t have time to cover in this post.

If you follow a single dietary plan that works for you, that is excellent, just remember that others may not benefit from eating a solely plant – based diet, Paleo, Military Diet, raw food diet, etc. That is alright, you may not be able to support one way of eating forever either.  Life changes, we change and that is part of being human.  Be kind to yourself and to each other.


If nutrition interests you and you would like further resources, I have provided a brief list below.


The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

Food Politics by Marion Nestle (not affiliated with the company)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver


Cooked, a documentary series by Michael Pollan is incredible and provides easy to follow and implement ideas everyone will benefit from.

Chef’s Table is an incredible series describing the human side behind the world’s top rated chefs. Emotionally charged, passionate and brilliantly filmed, this documentary series will captivate even the non- foodies among us.


Ted Radio Hour – The Food We Eat – November 18, 2016