Thursday, November 29, 2012

Compost Cab: Would you do it?

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Do you compost?  A majority of Cassie's and my trash (soon to be Abdoulaye's, too!) is food scraps.  It's a shame to throw away banana peels and coffee grounds that could go toward making rich soil but without a garden - and with the potential for rodents in our apartment's green area - we don't have a choice.  Or do we?

Riding the subway home yesterday, I picked up a section of the Washington Post and saw an article about Compost Cab, a local (to Washington, DC) company that does curbside pick-up of food scraps/compostable materials.  For $32 a month they pick up your compost in front of your home from buckets they issue with liners they replace each week.  I sublet a room in a row-house the first month I lived in DC with 6 other people who had a Compost Cab bucket in their kitchen.  With seven people, the cost comes down to just a dollar and 1/2 a week per person - not bad!  With just three people, the price seems a little luxurious.

But are there alternatives for folks in the city?  I bet if we wanted we could create our own compost bin but what would we do with the compost?  There are community gardens in our neighborhood but without a car, it does get a little tricky getting the compost there.  (Although, my bike could haul a load!).  I suppose it does come down to how intentional of a consumer I am choosing to be and the effort I want to put forth to do better for my environment.  Maybe reading this article and learning a little more about composting is just the kick-in-the-pants I need....

Read more about Capitol Hill composting here and challenges in urban composting (with mention of Compost Cab).

Check out Compost Cab's blog, follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

no day that won't arrive!

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Yesterday was a rough day.  But it's now passed and it means that I'm one day closer to seeing Abdoulaye (I'm headed to Senegal on Saturday to join him for his K-1 fiancé visa interview!).

As I look back on posts throughout this process, I can remember the specific days and how I felt - I'm so thankful for that even though at the time it was almost painful to write about missing Abdoulaye.  Writing about something that seemed such a long time away and now here I am less than a few days from seeing my love.  It is a great feeling.

Since I didn't do a things I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving, I'll do one for today.  Keep me grateful and present!
  1. I am in love with the tumblr What Should Peace Corps Volunteers Call Me.  It makes me laugh out loud every time I visit.  
  2. It doesn't get much better than dried lavender.  Yum!  Now I want to visit a lavender farm like this one in Virginia!
  3. Don't you love this awesome head piece (for the wedding!)?  
  4. Letters from friends (especially ones that are so timely :)
  5. Yunalis Zarai - her music makes me feel calm every time. 
  6. Nashville!  Cassie and I are enjoying this as a wind-down to the day :) 
Any treasures in your life you're especially thankful for these days?



Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Adventures: North Korea Freedom Coalition & Union Market




On Friday my friend (and cohort mate), Debie, invited me to Ebenezers Coffee House to attend a North Korea Freedom Coalition viewing of the film Crossing (2008), which details the story of a North Korean coal miner who escapes to China and eventually South Korea - leaving his pregnant wife (for whom  he escaped to find money for her medicine) and son.  It is a heart-wrenching, beautifully crafted piece that gave a glimpse of what life is like for some North Koreans.  I learned about the Free North Korea Radio, which broadcasts into North Korea from South Korea about the lies being perpetrated by the Kim family and their government and ways groups are trying to connect with North Koreans (namely, balloon launches).  It's an intense film but definitely worth viewing if you want to know more about North Korea and what is happening in the region.
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On a lighter note, on Sunday I headed to Union Market with Cassie - somewhere she's been wanting to check out - for lunch.  I had never heard of it before she suggested we go - it was a neat Sunday break and I look forward to heading back when it gets warmer and they open the garage door windows!

What did you do this weekend?  Can you believe I'm going to see Abdoulaye in less than two weeks???  

Friday, November 16, 2012

World Resources Institute Week in Review

World Resources Institute
In an effort to develop a richer understanding of the environmental work going on around me (and in front of me!) at the World Resources Institute, I'm going to write a weekly post about the talks and brown-bags I've attended and the articles I've been reading on the intersection of the environment and human needs.  My work focuses on the forests in Central Africa but the Institute's work spans sectors, regions and focus so it will be quite the mix here.  

Last week, Robin Chase - founder and former CEO of ZipCar - delivered a talk on leveraging excess capacity and this week saw even more activity.  At the beginning of the week, WRI and the Climate and Knowledge Development Network (CDKN) hosted a panel discussion entitled "Aid Effectiveness for Climate Compatible Development" and invited a number of experts to discuss their own experiences in the field and suggestions for improvement (including Ari Huhtala, Director of Policy and Programmes, CDKN, Frances Seymour, former Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Clifford Polycarp, Senior Associate, International Financial Flows and Environment at WRI and Sarah Mason-Case, Legal Officer).  

My biggest takeaways from the panel?  Knowledge exchange is key (Huhtala) and a billion dollars gets people's attention (Seymour on a billion dollar deal between the Norwegian and Indonesian governments).  She also stressed that framing money as aid can undermine its' effectiveness and that it is critical that partners view one another as equals rather than in an imbalanced power struggle.       

The Access Initiative held a viewing of Hernando de Soto's film The Power of the Poor (made with the Institute for Liberty and Democracy).  Have you seen it?  I have qualms with one part of the film - when de Soto was talking about the poor living on the outskirts of Lima, Peru who see how the other half lives on television and want that.  Education, health, housing - I am 100% behind.  Intense consumerism?  Not so much.  I wonder what Uruguay's President, Jose Mujica, thinks about de Soto.

Today, I sat in on a presentation by Marco van de Kooij of the Canadian aerospace company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) where he talked about Radarsat 2, which can, among other things, track deforestation quickly, in high resolution and accurately.  Needless, perhaps, to say is that much of what he discussed was way over my head.  I am putting getting a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate on my horizon - it really is such an incredible tool no matter what sector you're working in.

Here are some of the articles I've checked out this week.  Big props to the Central Africa Forests Team for getting a blog post on the New York Times!!

Mapping Cameroon's Motley Canopy (check this out to see quotes from my boss, Matt Steil!).

Under Threat: Deforestation Pressure on Congo Basin Forests Increasing
This article raises the issue of land that has been in families for centuries and is now classified as a protected area.  How do you satisfy the need to protect forests while also respecting the fact that people are just living where they always have?

What caught my attention here was the statement that"fuelwood and charcoal represent 90% of all wood removal from forests in Africa and a third of the global wood fuel production."  That's a lot!  It's also encouraging that forestry organizations (like CIFOR) are making a more concerted effort to train local youth to become forestry experts.

Forest communities in Cameroon cannot adapt to climate change alone.  

Forest Conservation is Key to Food Security.
Important to note the difficulty in focus of forest work - do we have to decide when it comes to a focus if the choice is between conservation or people's livelihoods?

What do you think about Africa being behind on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?  This report claims that education is on a better track than other sectors with enrollment close to 90% - but what kind of education are those kids receiving?  Is it enough that roll is being counted and they're in a classroom if the teaching that is happening isn't of quality?  There's also a noted trend toward English in Francophone, African countries.  Do you think it's a good thing for countries to shift toward English as their official language?  

Yinka Shonibare at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

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Image Source Girl on Globe 2, 2011
Do you ever have that feeling when you go to a museum like 'how did I not know about this artist before?'  I have that feeling a lot, which can only mean I don't spend nearly enough time in museums.  Lalla Essaydi's exhibit made me feel that way and Yinka Shonibare's sole piece at the Corcoran Gallery of Art had the same effect.  Works by Taryn Simon (A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I - XVIII and Jane Hammond also held me captive.

Have you seen any cool shows lately?  I went on a tour at the Corcoran last night and now I'm feeling even more committed to getting more art in my life.  I can't help when I go to new places but think what it will be like to come back with Abdoulaye; it will be like I've never been before!
Image Source Jane Hammond - Hand Held, 1996
Image Source Taryn Simon

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

frank crane: if i were 21


My cousin Elaine and me during our Hurricane Sandy lockdown.  Love this shot of us and our braided hair!
I can't quite remember how I found this piece by Frank Crane but I certainly have enjoyed reading it.  Click on the link to read more about what Frank would do if he were 21.  (I just have a couple qualms about his marriage advice but am pretty into the rest of his suggestions!).  What would you do if you were twenty-one?  
  1. If I were twenty-one I would "do the next thing"
  2. If I were twenty-one I would adjust myself.  
    • More people I have known have suffered because they did not know how to adjust themselves than for any other reason. And the happiest-hearted people I have met have been those that have the knack of adapting themselves to whatever happens.
  3. If I were twenty-one I would take care of my body.  
    • To this end I would note the four X’s. They are Examination, Excretion, Exercise, Excess.  (hehe!)
  4. If I were twenty-one I would train my mind.
  5. If I were twenty-one I would be happy.  
    • By this I imply that any one can be happy if he will. Happiness does not depend on circumstances, but upon Me.
  6. If I were twenty-one I would get married.
  7. If I were twenty-one I would save money.
  8. If I were twenty-one I would  study the art of pleasing.
  9. If I were twenty-one I would determine, even if I could never be anything else in the world, that I would be a thoroughbred.
  10. If I were twenty-one I would make some permanent, amicable arrangement with my conscience.
"I would, therefore, if I were twenty-one, study the art of life. It is good to know arithmetic and geography and bookkeeping and all practical matters, but it is better to know how to live, how to spend your day so that at the end of it you shall be content, how to spend your life so that you feel it has been worth while."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kicking off International Education week!





Picnic in the park led to emulation of park photographer (above) who had at least three families cycle through for Christmas portraits.
Here's a round-up of links I've been checking out - lots going on this week in Washington, DC on Mali/the Sahel.  In good news - there are more international students studying in Virginia (though less Virginia students studying abroad - boo!).  Also - I have confirmation that Abdoulaye's papers have moved to Senegal - things should be shaking up around here real soon!

Read this article to learn more about the work the project I'm with at WRI does - my boss and colleagues quoted here!

Corruption in Guinea leads to death of their Minister of the Treasury, Aissatou Boiro.


Tuesday, November 13 / 2:00pm - 4:30pm

Wednesday, November 14 / 2:00pm - 4:00pm 

Wednesday, November 14 / 4:00pm - 5:30pm 

Friday, November 16 / 6:30pm


Friday, November 9, 2012

Robin Chase and leveraging excess capacity: I'm still working on my niche

Before moving to Washington, DC I was nervous about a few things: namely, that I wouldn't fit in.  That there wouldn't be a place for someone like me (not exactly sure what I mean/t by that but I just didn't see myself here), that I wouldn't be able to carve a niche out in the community and feel like I belonged.  That I would get whip lash from the rat race to which DC is so often compared.  

And while some of all of those things are a little bit true, on the whole I am liking DC much more than I ever thought I would.  I will attribute most of that to the fact that I enjoy my work - especially the folks I work with and the culture of the place I work - and that I can bike most everywhere I need to go (I'm also a firm believer in blooming where you're planted - and DC is where my pot is sitting for now!).  I also already have a network of great college and Peace Corps friends (so lucky!) nearby and my own family is just a train ride away.

With my mind spinning in circles about all of the above, it's a welcome respite, and inspiration, to listen to folks like Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of ZipCar who is on the World Resources Institute's Board of Directors, speak about things like my role in the economy and the importance of community and strengthening our ties to it while also spreading our global reach.  In her speech, Robin took complex concepts (at least, they sounded that way to me!) and made them tangible and easy(ier) to understand.  She broke down what industrialized capitalism and collaborative economies are and did so in a way that made me want to learn more about my role in both.  She shared her passion for clean transportation in a way that made me want to, well, write about it on my blog!

With Abdoulaye's arrival to the US on the horizon (when???  We don't yet know!!), I have been thinking a lot about what I am doing here in Washington, DC.  And when I think about somewhere I want to live, this is it for now.  I am delighted about the number of things available to do and the electric nature of the city as evidenced by talks like the one Robin gave at work as well as the chance to live in the same city as the President of our nation.  As for leveraging my excess capacity?  I've got an extensive shoe collection, a lot of scarves, piles of Malian fabric and a green bike that I ride for about an hour and 1/2 a day.  Let's just say I'm still working on my niche :)

Listen to Robin's talk about industrialized capitalism and collaborative economies below - truly fascinating!!

Here's here Ted talk about transportation and fuel efficiency.  I wonder if she only wears red shoes?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reason 1,345 I'm glad I joined the Peace Corps

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During lunch on Tuesday I received a phone call from Maiga, the man who owns the grocery store where I shopped when I lived in Bamako, Mali.  We hadn't talked since May and since his family lives in Gao, I was immediately nervous something had happened in the north.

After answering the phone and sharing our greetings, Maiga asked me if I had voted.  "Of course!" I said.  "Who did you vote for?" he asked.  I told him I voted for Obama.  Who would you vote for if you were American? I replied.  He said he would have voted for Romney and then let out a peal of laughter, the distance between our phone lines becoming momentarily invisible as I pictured him sitting at the front of his shop, a line of ceiling fans whirring above and rows of dusty packaged goods sitting on shelves in the aisles before him.  Sometimes Mali can feel so close.

On Wednesday morning, after passing colleagues in the hallway with deep circles under their eyes, I sat down at my desk and saw the screen of my phone light up with a text message: "CONGRATULATIONS. MAIGA."

PS I'll never forget watching Obama's inauguration in 2009.  
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