Wednesday, June 27, 2012

chad is rad.

Image source from the pumpkinbear shop on etsy :) 
Well, I don't know much about Chad (knew even less before sleuthing around for this blog post!) but it's somewhere I should know more about - especially with a former president, Hissene Habre, (soon?) to go on trial in Senegal for crimes against humanity.  (their current president, Idriss Deby, is one of Africa's enduring dictators...).

But look at the mountains below!  While it doesn't look like Chad is equipped with the infrastructure for  tourism, (and is suffering from food insecurity like many countries in the Sahel) I bet it gets some adventure travelers seeking a thrill.  Here are some neat sounding places to visit (I'd love to see a hippo though it seems their numbers are dwindling...).
Image source.  While I don't know if I could cut it out there - it would be cool to go to the actual source. Gorgeous!
Image source
Though the writing is a bit off, here's a happy article about a Nigerian student at Johns Hopkins University.  Relevance = Nigeria touches a tiny corner of Chad (Chad's mid-SW side).  Do you think Chad is Rad??

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ultimately yours.

Image source.
This will be me today as I get back on the frisbee field after a 4 year hiatus (eee!).  OK, so it's more likely that I'll be doing something a little less intense than what's pictured above but you get the idea :)  I'm joining a pick-up group that meets on the lawn by the Smithsonian and I'm excited! 

Any DC recommendations?  I'm on the lookout for a bike and a Community Supported Agriculture group to join if you have any tips!

Friday, June 22, 2012

have a sweet weekend.

Image Source
Today kicks off my first weekend living in Washington, DC (the Capitol is right around the corner from my office - really makes me feel like I'm living in the capital!).  At lunch today, Benevolent Media ("a celebration of storytelling and design for good") kicked off their 2nd annual festival with a panel of video/video related presenters working in the NGO/international development field right here in the WRI office.  I'm looking forward to more presentations like it, which seem to happen often around here.  It was neat to hear from a wide range of people involved in the process and get their insider scoop on video-making and NGO work. 

Tomorrow I'll sign a lease for an apartment (!) and will meet friends - both new and old - for some bon voyage gatherings.  School work at SIT continues so I'll do some readings and try and get ahead for the following week.   

I've been reading more now that I have a commute (and don't yet have a bike to my name).  In between stops on the metro I'm reading Isabel Allende's The Infinite Plan.  I love her work and this book is no exception, if not a bit more intense, than some of her other books I've read. 

How are you celebrating the first official week of summer?  Have any book recommendations?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A piece of Peace Corps

Sargent Shriver & Dr. Samuel Proctor at his Peace Corps Inauguration 12/28/61(source)
On my return trip from Washington, D.C. last week I got off the train in Newport News and rolled my carry-on-sized suitcase to the Norfolk/Virginia Beach transfer bus parked in front of the Amtrak station.  A new bus driver, a woman in place of the man who always drove on my trips before, barked at me to put my carry-on under the bus.  I protested.  "The other bus driver (the one who calls Norfolk 'Nor-fowlk') always lets me bring it on," I said.  She shrugged her shoulders and pointed to the holding area as she nodded towards my bag.  I stubbornly tried to plead my case again, heard myself sounding like a child and finally relinquished my hold on the piece of red rolling luggage before clambering onto the bus with a pout on my lips. 

Tired from travel and with blisters on my feet from walking around the city (with my treasured carry-on in tow), I mumbled 'May I sit here?' to a woman sitting with her hands on a bag in her lap.  She nodded her consent and I collapsed into the seat.

We pulled out of parking lot without speaking to one another and, 20 minutes later, made eye contact for the first time since Newport News as we approached the Norfolk stop to see if the other was getting off.  "Not me," I said.  "Me either," she replied.  I do not know how our conversation started from there but start it did.

Mamie Proctor, I soon learned to be her name, was on her way back from a visit to Maryland to attend her granddaughter's 6th grade graduation.  We talked about her other grandchildren and her two daughters and what her home in Virginia Beach was like.  I talked about my own grandmother and marveled at how incredible these women are - getting around better and more nimbly than some people my age!

She asked about my visit to Washington, D.C. and I told her about WRI and apartment hunting in the city.  Then, I talked (of course!) about my Peace Corps experience in Mali and the coup d'etat that brought me back home and left millions of others in a state of uncertainty (on so many levels).  She nodded throughout my story and asked questions about my host family, what I ate, where I lived and the work I did.  It is conversations like these that are truly humbling and make me feel so proud to have lived in Mali and to have the chance to share a piece of the country I love so much.

After exhausting my Mali-centric talking points, Mamie began talking about her brother-in-law, Dr. Samuel Proctor, who she remembered as working with the Peace Corps in the 60s.  "He worked in Niger," she said.  "No, Burkina Faso!  Well - I can't remember where he worked but he was a Country Director of sorts in Africa at the beginning of the Peace Corps."  Turns out it was Nigeria and he was the associate director of Peace Corps Africa in the early stages of PC's development.  To think a piece of Peace Corps history was sitting with Mamie the whole time from Newport News to Norfolk and if we hadn't started talking - I would have never learned about her brother-in-law (and her captivating family!)

Dr. Proctor led a fascinating career as a minister and civil servant - you can read more about him and his varied career here (he passed away in 1997).  As I talked with Mamie I was not only interested to learn of another link to the Peace Corps but also so thrilled at the sweet way lives of loved ones can be remembered and their memories carried on.  

An hour and a half after leaving Newport News (it was a traffic-y Saturday night in Hampton Roads!), our bus pulled up to the stop on 19th Street and Pacific Avenue in Virginia Beach.  Flashy cars with loud music pouring out of open windows, barely containing the scantily clad tourists inside, inched by in the thick traffic as we stretched our legs and waited for our luggage to be retrieved from the holding area.  Mamie's friend, and fellow retirement home resident, Jack was waiting outside the bus stop with his trunk open, smiling and waving at Mamie.  I looked at Mamie and then looked at the bus driver.  I smiled - tickled to have met such a delightful woman who I would not have sat next to had I had a clunky carry-on with me.  The formerly surly bus driver plopped my suitcase on the sidewalk in front of me.    "Thank you," I smiled and then, with my red carry-on in tow, rolled away.  

Have you ever had a time when you thought - wow, what if I had missed this chance?  When was it?  Why was it so special?

Monday, June 18, 2012

to be and to have

Image source.
On Sunday Mom and I watched To Be and To Have - a documentary on the single-teacher school system in France, which focuses on a class in Auvergne.  Before the coup d'etat in Mali changed a lot of people's life plans, I was hoping to stay in the country and conduct research under a Fulbright grant on the single-teacher school system recently implemented, and expanded, by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with a couple of USAID-education contracts.  Sometimes life has other plans in store.  

Nonetheless, this movie was a great afternoon wind-down - made me want to cry more than a few times though at how tender children (and adults!) can be.  It is in French with an option for English subtitles if you're into that kind of thing (and even if you aren't!).

I wonder what the title is asking us to think.  Etre et Avoir.  To be and to have.  If I could be anything and have anything - what would it be?  Is that what it's asking?  To be a teacher and to have an education?  To be French and to have a farm?  Lots of cutie patooties in this movie with really cute French accents :)

You can buy the movie on Amazon here or rent it from your local library like I did for $free.99. 

Do you have any good documentary recommendations?  I'm hoping to watch more this summer - especially ones in French to keep in practice for when Abdoulaye gets here and OAA is complete!

Happy Anniversary Monica and Samer!

A year ago today I had the chance to be a part of Monica and Samer's wedding.  It was such a treat not only because Lebanon is pretty freakin' beautiful but also because I got to witness such a special union.

For better or for worse has been running through my mind a lot lately - and not only relating to marriage - and I feel thankful to know a couple who's willing, and able, to weather the storms that life throws our way.  Funnily enough, I chose nearly the same photos as my favorites to re-post here as I did a year ago.  Timeless beauty right here, folks.  Now it's just time to plan a reunion so we can all go back :)

Do you have a favorite wedding you've been to?  What made it so special?  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Joe Biden conjures Taylor Swift at Tallwood graduation

Image source.
Just in case you were wondering where you had heard the name Tallwood before - maybe it was here on the blog!  Vice President Biden flew into Oceana yesterday to come and speak to the 463 students who graduated from Tallwood High School - home of the Global Studies and World Languages Academy.  Look at the bottom of this post for some clips of his speech.  Here's my favorite quote (from the Virginian Pilot article in today's paper):

"One of the things you all learned here is that in order for this nation to lead the world and for you to be leaders in this world you have to understand the world, you have to participate in the world," Biden said.

He also urged students to "[not] give into the cynicism, the pettiness, the negativity that you see and hear all around you that pervades our public discourse...."  Then, rumor has it, he called Taylor Swift onto the stage and she performed 'Mean', before the over 4,700 parents, teachers and friends in attendance.  Wait.  That's just my dream.  

Isn't VBCPS cool?  Is Taylor Swift your favorite musician, too?  What do you think about politicians making such appearances during an election year?  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

andy warhol: portraits

Believe it or not, that feather boa is a photo-booth prop and not a part of Memaw's outfit!

Memaw and I headed to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) yesterday to check out the Andy Warhol: Portraits exhibit on loan to MOCA by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.  We were feeling pretty cosmopolitan after our venture to Steeler city for Elaine and Noah's wedding and enjoyed the journey through time via Warhol's portraits of famous people.  I can't wait to frame our pictures from the photobooth!

I saw this poem by e.e. cummings on this blog and it fills my heart.  Maybe it will fill yours, too?

be of love (a little)
more careful
than of everything.
guard her perhaps only
a trifle less
(merely beyond how very)
closely than nothing.
remember love by frequent anguish
(imagine her least never with most memory)
give entirely each forever its freedom
(dare until a flower,
understanding sizelessly sunlight
open what thousandth why and
discover laughing)

Loving this song seen below lately.  Thanks to Marija for introducing me to the Freelance Whales!
Have you seen any neat exhibits up in your town lately?  I'm always looking for new music - what are you listening to?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Central African Republic

Image source.
Image source.
I had a hard finding information on the Central African Republic that doesn't relate to the Lord's Resistance Army or its woeful history as a country plagued by coups and an unstable government.  No doubt we'll be hearing more about the CAR as the search for Kony wages on.

As I work with the Forest Landscape Initiative at WRI, I'll be learning more about the CAR.  Quick facts to place it: Bangui is the capital and the country and it is bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the DRC and the Congo.  Read this post to learn more about forest initiatives in the region to monitor mining and logging activity.
Image source
I will check out this reading list to get a better understanding of the Central Africa region and the wars and instability that have crippled it recently.  Also interesting (albeit a few years old) is this article on a Central African Republic(an?) doctor who returned to the CAR to work for the Ministry of Health.  What struck me was this quote about his work within Africa for international health organizations:
Jobs with such organizations provide opportunities for African professionals to earn Western salaries while still working in Africa, but they also generate a kind of internal, transcontinental brain drain.
Something to think about.

Here's a link to a folklore book with tales from the CAR and a story from a journalist visiting Bangui.

What do you think?  Any thoughts on the CAR - I'd love hear what you think!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Would you like that notarized?

I must be telling a great joke here, everyone looks like they are laughing so hard! (....)
While the first part of last week I was moving around and about, the latter half included a more longitudinal around and about-ing.  On Wednesday I was offered (and accepted!!) a Program Coordinator position with World Resources Institute with their Forest Landscape Initiative (the job search is off for now!).  I have so many people to thank for helping to get me where I am - this was not a road traveled alone and I am (thankfully) reminded of that everyday.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

On Thursday morning I hopped on the Amtrak train to Union Station to sign the dotted and meet my colleagues.  Friday morning I began looking at apartments!  That, too, was not a path traveled solo.  Cassie had a friend that used Apartment Detectives to find a place in DC that she loved and so we signed up, too.  So far it has been a fabulous experience.  Nancy Starrs, the real estate on our 'case', has been prompt and helpful and the places I saw on Friday and Saturday were gorgeous and reasonably within our budget.  You can even 'like' them on facebook!  I'll keep you posted once we have signed that dotted line, too.

Whitney, my college roommate and friend since the 6th grade (!), opened up her home to me, once again, for which I am also very thankful.  We met Ann, another college girlfriend, for dinner at Cava Mezze for dinner (delicious tapas-style place) and then got frozen yogurt at Pinkberry (you should check out their website just to listen to the song they play - it's pretty awesome).  
No, I did not ride my bike right into the church.  But that would have been awesome.
Sunday meant church - but not before giving a presentation on Mali to the middle schoolers.  I couldn't tell if they were really into it (I think that may just be because they're in middle school...) but good job to all their 3rd grade teachers because they remembered their facts about ancient Mali!

Last, but certainly not least, the rumors are true.  We have a notary in the family.  Mom joined the National Notary Association last week, and the nearly 5 million notaries in the United States, and is ready to handle all your notary needs.  Come one, come all - she may even cut you a deal if you mention this blog post :)
She already has a waiting list of people who want her signature!  (or you could be first.. :)
Check out this video if you're interested in more of what I'll be working with/for/towards at WRI.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Around and about

   My brother, Michael, and his wife recently made a new addition to their household - a golden retriever puppy named Midas!  On Monday after returning from Pittsburgh, I walked to their place to meet Dad, Sheri & Lindsay for dinner (and forgot my camera!).  On Tuesday, Michael brought Midas over to Mom and John's for some quality time with our dogs Tyson and Karma (who, we have determined, are cousins).  It was fun watching John and Michael wrangle all the pups together for a photo :)
Mom thinks Tillamook is the best kind of cheese!
Cassie continues to make waves in the Lomax/Davis household.  Although we miss eating dinner with her while watching Wheel of Fortune, she sent us a package containing Tillamook cheese (and other Oregon treasures) that is keeping her spirit alive.

This morning I had the chance to give mock interviews to VBCPS students at Tallwood High School's Global Studies and World Languages Academy (the same ones I presented to last month).  In between interviews, I talked with another of the interviewers who works for CMA CGM - one of the largest shipping container groups in the world based here in Norfolk, VA.  It's a French shipping company with offices around the world (and they're hiring!).  Neat!

And Mali makes the headlines.  Three men were charged with the assault of interim president, Dioncounda Traore.  I also really hope locusts don't swarm Mali.  As though they (nor anyone!) need that right now.  It's wild how this potential disaster, like the current chaos happening in the north of Mali, is being linked to Gaddafi and how his name continues to dot headlines involving Mali.

On a lighter - and kickier - note, the first African taekwondo-er to win a world-championship - Daba Modibo Keita- will compete in the Olympics this summer in London.  Here's hoping he makes a splash and keeps Mali's name in the news - for good!       

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Africa from A-Z: Cape Verde

It's the start of a new semester (for me!) and I'm feeling inspired.  In order to meet some of my personal and academic goals, I'm going to try harder to post more often about topics relevant to my professional interests in order to expand my understanding of them and hopefully yours, too!

First up, bringing back the Africa from A-Z series...  I'm going to blame the slip-up on that one on the coup.  Next up, I'll post on an international education topic and also music I've been listening to.  Maybe I'll throw in a craft project every now and again, too.  And now, for some tidbits on Cape Verde!

Image Source
A former Portuguese colony and a teeny-tiny country (population 523,568) comprised of 10 islands off the coast of western Africa, Cape Verde looks like a little paradise to visit though I'm sure the day-to-day life isn't quite so (p)beachy.  Cidade Velha is a UNESCO heritage site and here's a cookbook if you'd like to make something Cape Verdian.  I want to get this children's book about a grandmother from Cape Verde who immigrated to the US and misses her family when I have my own little babies to read to.
I heard this song all the time in Mali (it's Malian musician with Cape Verdian singer Cesaria Evora).  Neat there's a connection to Mali! :)  And here's a children's romper from Etsy with a Cape Verdian (and apparently Cesaria Evora-ian flair!) that is too cute.

Have you ever visited Cape Verde?  Any ideas for topics you'd like me to cover in International Education?

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Wedding in Pittsburgh

A Church on 5th Avenue
 My cousin Elaine got hitched this past weekend!  Her sister, Martha, got married in May 2008 (right before I left for the Peace Corps).  It was a real treat to be a part of their celebration (my first Jewish wedding!) and visit Pittsburgh for the first time.

Elaine & Noah offered soaps from the Yodely Goat Soap Shoppe and I ate more salmon the past three days than I have in probably the past three years.  Their ceremony was heartfelt and the toasts following were tender.  There was lots of love and it was nice to get to spend some more quality time with Matt & Martha.

Enjoy some of my favorites from their big day!
Under the chuppah!

The newlyweds with my Aunt Jeanne and Memaw

With my dates :)
See more photos from the big day here!
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