Where I’d Rather Be…


New York City

… in New York City!

I haven’t been to New York all year and I really, really miss Manhattan.

I think I took this photo in September of last year! That’s a long time in traveling years and too long to be away from NYC!

There was a time when I was in New York every other week just a few years ago. I was that busy! But, now as I spend most of my time traveling abroad, I am feeling that I cannot forget to travel a little north to the greatest city on Earth.

September can’t get here fast enough! 

Fingers crossed that I can get to New York and I am not on a plane with passport in hand and a new time zone to adjust to.

My Morning Walk


Every morning, the first thing I do almost immediately after I wake up is check my email. That’s not a good thing I’ve determined, but I can’t seem to shake the habit. I’m not sure I ever will or even if I want to. For the most part I do enjoy email until it gets overwhelming which is more often than not.

One thing is certain, I am too tied to my devices. I need to back away from them from time to time. I do take some time (although limited) to just walk and think and get away from technology for a moment. Today was one of those days. Instead of making coffee at home this morning, I walked to Starbucks and appreciated all of the loveliness along the way.

It’s a rare moment when I stop long enough to notice the flowers and the trees. It’s definitely something I need to do more often especially before summer ends. This morning I felt a slight nip in the air. It was lovely. That signals to me that fall is really just around the corner even though it will be nearly 100 degrees for much of August.

I’m glad I chose this morning to take a walk and clear my mind for a bit. It was good for my soul.

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Dreaming of Africa – Again!


Africa Dreaming

It’s a little ridiculous to dream about going back to Africa especially when I just got back from the continent a little over a week ago. I understand that. But, as ludicrous as this sounds I am already thinking about traveling to Africa again. I think it’s because Africa is so expansive and there is still so much for me to see. Plus, I’m not getting any younger. I want to be able to climb mountains and walk in the rural areas whenever I want and not be hampered by my age. OK, I’m only 39, but still.

Another thing that is bothering me terribly is that I have only visited east African countries and South Africa. That’s it! I’m not sure how that happened, but I have never visited west Africa and I have traveled to the continent seven times. Now, I’m itching to see that side of the continent.

I really want to visit west Africa, but that’s out of the question now that ebola is running rampant throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Even though ideally I want go to Dakar, Senegal, I can’t take any chances. People travel extensively throughout the region and you just never know if someone is flying with ebola. When I go to Africa I am always worried about malaria and dengue fever. Ebola shouldn’t be on my list of disease worries, so for now, west Africa is out of the question.

Africa Dreaming - Again

I have heard from many people that Rwanda is a fantastic place to visit. And I know I can get really great stories there. Even after the genocide, great strides have been taken to make Rwanda whole again. Kigali is supposed to be extremely safe and clean, so yes, Rwanda is intriguing to me. I also really want to visit Namibia because of its deserts. And Botswana and Mozambique would also be interesting countries to visit. Above all, however, I really want to visit Mali (always have!), but because of the instability there I will have to wait until it’s safer (at least in my mind).

Africa Dreaming - Again!

I have no doubt that I will visit Africa again this year. It’s just a matter of where and when. I do need to stay put for awhile. That’s for certain, but there’s nothing wrong with a little “Africa Dreaming” from time to time.

Nearly a Month in Africa


Ethiopia
I spent nearly a month in Africa, again! I went through a period last year when I also spent a month in Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa. This time Ethiopia and South Africa were my temporary home throughout June and the early bit of July.

I’ve been home now for about a week and I have adjusted quite well, surprisingly. I haven’t had really weird jet lag problems. The only day when I was ridiculously tired was the day I came back (on July 4th) and I slept like a rock! No one could wake me up for anything. I missed FIFA soccer and Fourth of July fireworks, but I was with my family so that’s all that mattered.

There were a few days when I still desperately missed my family even though we were all in the same place – at home! That was really weird, but that feeling also passed. I am so glad to be in North Carolina without any pressing global jaunts in the pipeline. Although for those of you who know me well, it will probably be a few months before I am on another jet plane with passport in hand ready for another adventure to report on women and girls in unknown places.

Typically when I travel I post updates when I am away, but this trip was a little different. I was co-leading a group of stellar US journalists throughout Ethiopia to report on newborn health on an itinerary I put together in the spring with the International Reporting Project. If you recall, I went on two IRP trips last year as a fellow. This time the tables were flipped and I was the program manager for this Ethiopia reporting trip. It was intense, to be sure, with a lot of moving parts. To make a long story short I concentrated on ensuring the trip went smoothly instead of blogging here every day. I did post pictures along my journey that you can see on my Tumblr blog – short and sweet.

Guarang Women in Ethiopia's Southern Highliands

Guarang Women in Ethiopia’s Southern Highlands

Ethiopia is definitely one of my favorite countries to visit. In fact, I love it so much I will figure out a way to live there if only for a few months at a time. There are a lot of stories I would like to tell about women and girls. I want to push my reporting to visit those who I can’t easily get to and places where I might need two translators – one for English to Amharic and another who specializes in Amharic to some other lesser known Ethiopian language; they have several.

In the meantime, it’s back to life and back to reality. I’m thrilled to be back in my own time zone, sitting at my own desk right now, looking out of my own windows.

Living in Two Time Zones


It’s been great living in two time zones. I’m usually up extremely early (around 3 AM EST) making calls to Addis. I go back to sleep for a hot second and then I’m up early again getting ready for east coast time. And then I crash early in the evening and repeat it the next day. I love it!

Before I start getting sleepy each evening my family and I head out to a greenway to feel the spring air. Hearing all of the birds and smelling the grass, flowers, and trees is infectious. It’s something my senses will always remember. There is nothing like spring in the south.

White Flower White Flower White Flower White Flower White Flower

 

My Amazing Month in Africa


I spent a cumulative 22 days in Africa in October. I won’t lie – it was amazing!

Throughout October I traveled to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. I went to Tanzania to report on agriculture, health, food security, and poverty as an International Reporting Project fellow. I traveled to Zambia as a guest of Malaria No More to cover their brand-new Power of One campaign that is essentially a global movement where a small $1 donation goes to test a Zambian child for malaria and treat them. $1 literally keeps a child alive. And finally I traveled to South Africa on the final Social Good Moms’ insight trip for the year.

During my travels in Africa I have learned many things: the continent is gorgeous! Gorgeous! My photo collage does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

Gorgeous Africa

But there are places in Africa where a lot of work needs to be done. In some places infrastructure isn’t worth a damn. Pardon my French. It’s true. That is why I was happy to hear about the upcoming Building Africa conference that is taking place in February because something has to be done about the roads. Of course, I am not saying anything new here, but having spent time on many dirt roads in October to the detriment of my backside I thought I’d mention Africa’s massive roads problem. If Africa doesn’t fix its infrastructure problem, health and transport woes will continue to be a constant burden on African countries. To wit, you cannot transport medicines, food, and essential items to people who live in areas you cannot reach. That’s problematic. Last week the African Union’s economic development arm, NEPAD, convened a conference in Johannesburg that is looking at bringing on private partnerships to help fund roads in Africa. $500 billion dollars is needed to fund infrastructure improvements on the continent of which $100 billion is expected to come from private funders. That’s a start.

I also was reminded that the African people are amazing and beautiful, and warm and welcoming, but there is still corruption that prevents or severely stalls a lot of good projects from happening. Even Kenya has set up a name and shame anti-graft site to curb bribery and corruption. Who knows if it will work, though, or is significant in name only.

The United States government has a heavy presence in Africa through global health programs like PEPFAR, Feed the Future, and the President’s Malaria Initiative – not to mention the millions of dollars in funding that goes to NGOs on the ground. A lot of productive, life-saving work happens on the ground in Africa. I have seen it, reported on USAID-funded projects, and have read about countless programs that are helping those in need. You wouldn’t believe how many USAID logos I see throughout Africa. Seeing USAID’s African presence gives me a sense of pride to witness what the American people do for other countries even if they don’t realize where a minuscule fraction of their taxpayer money is going. This I know to be true: the people who work for USAID are fantastic stewards of US taxpayer money. It’s their duty to use the money in the ways in which they are intended. And although I haven’t seen every USAID budget allocation line for foreign aid programs, I have talked to enough USAID employees to know they take their work very seriously. I enjoy seeing where taxpayer money is going in Africa and have many times. Most Americans have no clue that as a nation we are keeping millions of people alive and healthy and that’s a shame. I wish more people knew.

USAID

Being in Africa for nearly a month teaches you that time flies! 22 days goes by extremely quickly even though at first it seems like the month will drag on forever. I also realized that I need to set my eyes on west Africa in the near future. I have only visited east and south Africa. That, my friends, has to change. I am sure I will go to west Africa for some reason in 2014. That is a promise to myself.

Africa

I also learned that if you set goals things will get done! I had goals of traveling internationally more in 2013 and that has happened time and again and I am grateful for it. My next international trip will be visting India next year. Many of you know I was supposed to go to India this month, but the kind folks at Water for People (the fantastic NGO I am going with) were so kind to move the dates to 2014 that my year of travel will start in February of next year. And as you can expect I am truly looking forward to going to India again.

Finally, I will leave you with this: whatever it is in your life that you want to do, do it! You probably don’t want to spend nearly a month in Africa like I did. But, whatever your goal – go after it. Time won’t wait for you!

sitting with mamas - Tanzania

My Walk to a Much-Needed Latte


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I love where I live. It’s not Manhattan or downtown Chicago, but it’s my little slice of the hustle and bustle in North Carolina.

I don’t need much to make me happy. A short morning walk to my favorite, local coffee shop is a great way for me to set my day. This morning I walked around the corner to get a latte and took photos along the way. If there is one thing I love, it’s a beautiful summer North Carolina day.

Wolfies - My Favorite Local Ice Cream Shop!

Wolfies – my favorite local ice cream shop – with a few words of wisdom.

It’s the subtle things I love noticing.

While it was only morning and not yet opened, Hutch and Harris’ patio was bustling by lunch.

Picking my lid.

SONY DSC

Don’t you love a coffee shop that’s also a wine shop/bar. Love!

Yes!

Les fleurs!

Les fleurs!

7 seconds....

7 seconds….hurry!


I hope you have a great Friday! By the way, I was interviewed about Social Good Moms today on Jennifer Barbour’s Philanthropy Friday series. I love it. Do give it a read.

- Jennifer