Friday, March 29, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Nomad

Yesterday was pretty representative of a day in the life of a this nomad.

5:50 - Wake up to new kitty, Jasmine, jumping up onto the headboard, then onto the shelf of our bedside mirror, knocking down one of my chakra stones collected in Zimbabwe.

6:00 - Alarm goes off.  Put on workout clothes. Listen to coffee start and glad that I prepped last night. Hunt for keys to get housesitter.  We are headed to Hawaii tomorrow and I've just secured the cat sitter before going to bed last night.  Can't find keys.  Continue to throw stuff in a pile to prep for packing.

6:50 - Opt to walk hubbie to the metro since I don't have the keys to bring to the house sitter.  Halfway to the metro I realize that I can take James' keys and copy them before the end of the day.  We part ways and I run up to Mt. Pleasant.  It is one of the steepest hills in Washington.  It was on our regular route when James and I ran years ago together with more regularity than today.  I pass our stopping point with speed and charge along into the heart of Mt. Pleasant.  I drop keys on in a candle holder of a beautiful Victoria group house of a former colleague and friend.  The run is one of my best.  Weather is finally beautiful and I'm rocking it.

7:30 - Back at home, continue to pack, get dressed, etc.

8:37 - Head to the office.  Late.  As usual.  Power walk to the office.

9:03 - Meeting about contingency planning for Zimbabwe.

9:37 - Catch up on emails from overnight.  See that Ethiopia bid needs some help.  Due today.

10:01 - Easter egg hunt.  Happen to find one of the eggs with a note for a prize in it.  Wonder what I'll do with a peanut butter filled rabbit that I would have eyed as a kid.

10:02 - Planning meeting for a proposal in Kenya.  Discussion of opportunity in South Africa.

10:30 - Start to focus again on Ethiopia proposal due.  In short, I worked for 4 hours on it the day before and then had debate with team developing it about changes made to improve likelihood of winning.  Work on further clarification and honing with several folks.

1:00 - Skip regional meeting in lieu of deadline.

1:16 - Meeting called by partner about bid for Zimbabwe.

1:30 - Skip call with potential partner about South Africa bid, due to time crunch.

1:32 - Do a final rework of concept note to ensure technical integrity.  This adds a quarter of a page that I then have to edit down at lightening speed.

1:45 - Normal hiccups with online submission that typically happen when you least want them to.

1:57 - Submit proposal with three minutes to spare.

2:01 - Meeting to discuss proposal workshop from last week, discuss how to improve systems.

3:00 - Out of meeting, thankfully on time.  Realize that lunch has happened.  Run downstairs and grab a Pepe "Unwich" with peppers, essentially a lettuce wrap with ham.  Run into old boss as he exits the parking garage.  He'll call me.

3:11 - Half of lunch finished.  Call from previous boss to work on evaluation of previous country director.

3:26 - Call with LA office about how to set up a survey to improve systems.  Walk through basics, mostly realizing it will take more time/effort than I have.

3:40 - Out on time to head to partners meeting about Zimbabwe.

3:56 - There early.  Discuss changes to proposal.  Our bid won against the incumbent and great odds. Discuss details and deadlines to turn a response back to the donor in the next two weeks.

5:02 - Leave and call potential partner for South Africa opportunity.  Walk through Dupont Circle considering if this is something we should go after.  Doing so would mean not going to Hawaii. Huge opportunity in trade for a great deal of work and giving up Hawaii.

5:26 - Safeway stop for cat litter, cereal, creamer and frozen lunches for hubbie.  We've been eating everything out of our fridge in anticipation of going to Hawaii.

5:46 - Home.  Sweep. Change laundry. Clean out fridge. Clean counters.  Continue to pile/pack. Make smoothie and slurp while running around.  Grab aloha dress and consider whether I'll be headed to Hawaii or South Africa.

6:46 - Talk with James, he is on his way home.  I'll leave new keys under the flower pot before I go to yoga.  We discuss South Africa.  He encourages me to talk with my boss and consider it. 

6:51 - Head to advance inversion yoga class.  Call boss and leave a message.  Stand on my head with ease and marvel.  Can't help but consider travel options when in shavasana.

8:32 - Text boss back while walking home.  Continue to pack/clean/discuss options with James.

9:17 - Have nearly an hour call with my boss about Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa.  It seems like South Africa is a go if I'm wiling to go after it.

10:26 - Sit down to draft up action emails on Zimbabwe, South Africa, and a few others.  Talk with sis for 4 minutes; let her know I may not be in Portland tomorrow night (en route to Hawaii).

12:22 - Hit send.  Brush teeth.  Go to bed. can't sleep.

6:00 - Alarm tolls.  Start again.  Consider list of to-dos, depending on if I go to South Africa or Hawaii tonight. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dupont Circle Rotary

I couldn't be more delighted than to find the incredible Dupont Circle Rotary Club. It is a fabulous group of dedicated and inspiring folks that I enjoy getting together with every Tuesday evening. It is one of the highlights of my week.

Traditionally Rotary clubs might often be dubbed as an "old white guys" club. Our club does just about everything feasible to step away from that tradition. We are known as the "young club" but could easily add diverse to that description as well. We hail from all over the globe and would cover the globe in all the places we have collectively traveled.

As we celebrate our first year anniversary this evening, we still have a lot to learn. Both from the thousands of clubs that have come before us, as well as from ourselves, as we continue to challenge ourselves as a Club. I am certainly looking forward to the journey.

In Peace,


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rotary Intro

One of the most exciting and rewarding changes in my life has been becoming a Rotary International member.  I was first an a Rotary Exchange Student twenty years ago, when I was bit by the travel bug and launched my nomadic tendencies.

You may have seen Rotary signs around town, on various service projects, or heard of Rotary in general. Like many people I talk with though, you may wonder, what is Rotary?

Rotary is an international service organization, with the primary motto of Service above Self.

With 1.2 million members worldwide, comprised of 34,000 clubs around the globe, clubs meet weekly and engage in service oriented project both in their local communities and in partnership with clubs internationally to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.
The Rotary way is illustrated in its four way test:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Does it build goodwill and better friendship?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
More to come on Rotary.  I will be focusing on Rotary topics each Tuesday, when my club meets weekly.

In Peace & Goodwill,


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pirates, Bird of Paradise & Meerkats, oh my!

Last weekend we enjoyed the incredible weather by exploring Roosevelt Island with a couple of friends.  Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Island, a small pedestrian island in the Potomac, has been on my to see list since I moved to Washington over nine years ago.  So close and yet so far away.

As we walked along, my friend asked, as usual about upcoming travels.  I noted several planned trips to Oregon, and the possibility of Hawaii or Africa.  I added that James and I had been talking about finding somewhere nearby to explore some place in the region, but that since we'd been talking about that possibility for years, I didn't know how likely it was that it would happen.  She laughed, noting that I talk about exploring Virgina in about the same way as one talks about the remote possibility of traveling to Africa.  Yet, based on past behaviors, I'd be more likely to end up in Africa or elsewhere than to make it past Dulles in Virgina.
Photo: Real Pirates Book
This weekend my husband James and I continued on the theme of exploring the local, with a walk down to the National Geographic exhibit on Real Pirates, Birds of Paradise, and a Meerkat movie.

Birds of Paradise have quite the moves and have adapted to be beautiful because, in an environment with plentiful food and few predators, they have nothing to worry about but procreation.

Take away on meerkats: It's all about team work and family, but don't forget whose in charge.

What have you explored locally lately?



Thursday, March 14, 2013

End Polio Now - Rotary & Gates

Today I had the fun opportunity to join in a photo op of Rotary International Members and Bill Gates, I'm just about dead center in the photo, just to the left of Gates!

I first learned of Rotary International's efforts to eradicate polio in 1993, as I was preparing to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student to Finland.  I vividly remember watching a video that spring that left me inspired.  While I had already made up my mind to be a Peace Corps Volunteer around age 8, I'm most certain that my early experience with Rotary led very much to the career that I have today.

Not only did my exchange get me on a plane for the first time and allow me to live abroad and get the travel bug, it also instilled in me wanting to do more and to give back.

Rotary has now contributed more than $1 BILLION over the past two decades to eradicate polio.  In 2009 Gates decided it was a cause worth contributing to, and pitched in $350M, challenging Rotary to raise another $200M.  Recently Bloomberg has pledged another $100M to add to the End Polio Now campaign.

While there is something to be said about giving millions of your own money to a very worthy cause, I love thinking about all that Rotary did over the years to contribute to that $1B.  With 1.2 million members worldwide, I am certain that nearly all of them have contributed something, in either money, time or both.

Beyond the money itself, it took a dream. A vision that likely seemed improbably to achieve when they first started on this journey.  The last steps to eradicate polio are taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and we won't quit until we are done.

We are "this close" now!

This close!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Call Traveler

Over the last seven years I've become accustomed to frequent and last minute travel.  I've had more than several month long trips come up with 48-72 hours notice.  In fact I keep my passport at the office, as you never know when you'll need to apply for a visa.

With the new year I was promoted to take on the role of Development Innovations Specialists, working on developing new programs globally rather than managing one region within Africa.  While my overall travel time may likely not significantly increase, the uncertainty of my travel plans feels much higher.

I've averaged traveling for about a third of the year for the past several, after a big travel year when I was on the road for three quarters of the year.  Just as I'm becoming accustomed to a slightly more settled lifestyle, the uncertainty takes on an increase.

While only enjoying two weeks in Oregon for vacation since the new year, I've been on stand by for possible  travel to various locations in Africa, the Middle East and the South Pacific.  It is both exciting and a bit unnerving.  I love the travel, but I also know the disruption it often causes on my home life and the responsibilities that continue to grow.

Folks are often asking where I'm headed to next, and the answer most of the time is uncertainty.  If I could have a crystal ball to look back from the end of the year and see where I will travel that would be divine.  Last year I traveled to Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, and Turkey, plus five trips to the west coast.  Though a somewhat heavy schedule for some, this could have been predicted pretty easily from the onset.  We'll see where the year takes me!

Safe travels,


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Grandmother Jones

Today would have been my Grandma Jones' 97th Birthday. When she passed away at age 94 she was a lucid example of aging with grace. My last conversation with her was via Skype from eastern Congo. We discussed the news and politics.

It always struck me when we spoke while I was abroad how much things have changed over a lifetime. When she was my age travel was a whole different experience. My grandmother got such pleasure from following along vicariously with my adventures that I felt I was doing her a service to continue on my travels.

I loved it when I announced I was headed to Afghanistan, only a year after getting married, she didn't bat an eye. In fact, she surprised me when she pulled out a copy of Kite Runner, which she had put on hold at the library to get upon its release in large print. I hadn't heard of the book myself at that point, but I recall thinking that it was likely that I might not want her to know all the gritty details of the war zone I was headed to.

In her 80s my grandmother was suddenly interested in going to Portugal. With no real connection to the place, she was curious to travel there. I ended up there myself after college, and only wish that she could have traveled there herself.

In the end, she never had a passport, but she had her own kind of adventures for her time. She grew up in Indiana and was a secretary in Chicago as a young woman. She waited until 25 to get married and had her first child at 30 and her third at 40. She always encouraged me to follow my own path.

Here is a picture of Grandmother Barbara Jones with my twin sis and I when I was on leave from Afghanistan; I'm on the right.  I only wish I had pictures of her when she was young to share as well.