Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We've moved

Physically, we have returned to North Carolina, although this is, probably, not news to most all of you. But my words have a new home too. Here, at my new blog. I'd like to call it my "new and improved blog, version 2.0" but I'm not sure that any of those descriptions are true. Except for "new".

I don't know if Blog 2.0 is going to be anywhere near as interesting (I flatter myself) or anywhere near as closely followed (I really flatter myself) as this one was, but I am not deterred. Come over and say hello; I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Amsterdam is awesome

[disclosure: I wrote this a while ago, but I forgot to post it and am having trouble getting a video to load so I'm going to share this with you until I get that bug figured out.]

Amsterdam is awesome; not just because of its airport, which has a baby care room complete with little bath tubs and changing stations and curtain enclosures with cribs and soft music, or because the airport has a library complete with everything from art folios to childrens' books in various languages; not just because there is an amazingly organized, clean and functioning transit system; not just because the guy who serves you breakfast and a delicious cup of coffee and gives your daughter a plate with sliced cucumbers and butter croissant because it's the only thing she seems to want to eat also spends 10 minutes directing you on the best walking path of the city complete with historical commentary; and not just because there are separate roads, alongside and parallel to the "regular" roads just for bikes. No, not just for those reasons.

Amsterdam is awesome because people queue. And when it's your turn, it's your turn. And the guy standing behind you in line does try to (or get to) cut in front of you just because all he has to buy is one kilo of sugar.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"How does it feel to be back?"

Understandably, when people find out about what I've been doing for the last 10 months I inevitably get one of two questions: (1) "How was that?" or (2) "How does it feel to be back?" Perhaps one day I'll have an answer for the former (for now it eludes me), but I do have some thoughts on the later. 

When I was getting ready to come back to the states a friend (who has spent a significant amount of time living abroad) told me that the adjustment to "home" is often harder than the adjustment to "away." This made sense to me; coming home could be like returning as a stranger to a familiar place without the sense of belonging that I once had. So, when I set foot off the plane I was prepared for a weird transition period, a time of longing for Africa- for the grit and life of it- and of distrust or disgust or uneasiness about America.

I thought that I would stand aghast at the size of our cars and our waistlines, be stupified by all the choices for everything from toothpaste to apples, and be disgusted by all the big box-stores and our waste. But this hasn't happened. Land Cruisers are the norm in Arusha, so big cars in America just look nicer, not necessarily bigger and there are large African Mamas and skinny people in America. Rather than having to choose between two equally unappealing (in my opinion) brands of toothpaste in Arusha, I know that I can get my Tom's of Maine in any grocery store, so no choice is even necessary. And just yesterday I walked into Babies 'R Us, went straight to the "feeding" section, selected a set of toddler forks and spoons, paid, and, when I got home, recycled the plastic packaging. Ahhhh, recycling.

This is not to say that I don't miss aspects of my life in Arusha. Mostly, though, the longing is for the people I left behind. I miss Tim. I miss Tanzania Trio and The Browns. I miss lunch dates at Picasso and the feeling that I've really accomplished something just by making it through the day. I do miss that. Things are easy here- very easy- and for most people that means that they freak out about the smallest (insignificant?) things and I find that hard to deal with.

I do feel like my experience in Tanzania is somehow going to slip away from me; I'm not completely sure (yet) how I've changed as a result of my time there, and that leaves the experience feeling illusory, fleeting, surreal. With that said, the short answer to the question "How does it feel to be back?" is "Comfortable. Right. Natural." And that's a pretty good feeling.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's nice to be home

Let me first apologize for my absence as of late. Between traveling, the wedding, and getting settled back into work I have not even had time to download photos from the camera, let alone compose a post. But it's about time that I did.

Our week in Western MA was spectacular; there is really nothing better than a week spent in the company of your best friends (except a week spent in the company of your best friends with your husband). The weather and wedding were beautiful, and I will be forever grateful that I was there to see Liz and Nate exchange their vows- and to share a shot with them at the reception!

On the way home we stopped at my brother's place where he and his girlfriend treated us to a delicious welcome home dinner and we watched a (sort of) spontaneous Halloween parade in Portland's West End. Our first morning in Standish (where my parent's live) Eleanor got right down to the business of playing, which she has been comfortably doing ever since. It rained all day today (sorry readers in Arusha)- a marvelous, cold, gray rain. It's nice to be home.

 Playroom in the Nairobi airport. Kept Eleanor busy for nearly 6 hours.

 Kean takes a break from pushing Eleanor in the little plastic car.

 Breakfast in Amsterdam.





Familiarizing herself with MA native plants...

 and with grandpa.

Apples and Brooklyn Lager for guests welcome bags

 Trying to get a photo of Eleanor's outfit,

 is much,



 much harder than you can imagine (this was the best we could do).

 This might just be my favorite photo of the whole wedding, and I didn't even take it.

This is the glass of scotch I was given- no joke. 
Good thing for everyone I didn't even come close to finishing it.

 Cutting the cake.

 I love how calm Nate is; this photo is so exemplary of the two of them.

 They welcome Kathrine to their cake cutting. Beautiful.

Time to leave for Maine.

 Swinging with uncle Aaron,

and sliding with mom.

Making breakfast.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

home sweet home

After nearly 34 hours of travel, Eleanor, Kean (my brother) and I arrived safely in Boston. It was a remarkably easy series of flights and thanks to the playrooms in both the Nairobi and Amsterdam airports I had a relatively happy child the whole way.

We are now in Western MA, in the Berkshires. I am reminded of why I love New England, especially in the fall. The leaves have shed their uniform green and are displaying the full spectrum of colors that make them who they are. The weather is remarkably warm, and there is no shortage of rocks, plants, seed pods, and blades of grass to entertain Eleanor's imagination. We are staying in a lovely old home with dear friends from college, taking long walks and bike rides, and drinking wine in front of the fire. Today's mission: buy 200 apples for welcome bags. Look out local apple orchards!

If it weren't for Tim's absence, it would be pretty much perfect. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Have I mentioned that it's dusty here? I have talked, yet, about the dirt? Have I described how it boils under the tires of moving vehicles, and can be so thick at times as to completely block your vision as you drive behind another car? Have I told you how, when the dogs come running to greet us in the morning, the dirt from the driveway billows behind them in clouds that come to settle on you as they jump and lick, which in turn creates more dust clouds which come to settle on you too? Have I told you that despite my love of the morning shower I have for the past 10 months been showering in the evening because I would SO MUCH rather get into bed with clean feet than go out in public with them?

Well, in case I haven't, it's all true. And I offer the following as proof:

 Tire tracks in the driveway.

Layers of dirt on coffee leaves, in the middle of the yard.

 My foot, 3 hours outside: 2 spent shopping (!), 1 in the yard.

Less than 24 hours since it's last cleaning, the floor in front of an open window.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

lies, damn lies, and statistics

What does it take to run a research project in the Simanjiro district in Tanzania? Let's see.

To date, 9.5 months in:
$23,000 spent on project-related expenses
10,000+ photos taken
1000+ meals, purchased and prepared
450 bottles of soda purchased and distributed
126 ground-truth points recorded
112 surveys completed, 144 outstanding
20 trips, 67 nights and 87 days spent in the field
58 group interviews
13 meetings with professionals
11 employees, plus a few other one-time hires for camp projects, etc.
5 Maasai ceremonies attended
1 man

Who is this man, you ask. Is he a superhero? Seems like he would have to be, doesn't it. Perhaps. Even if only in his own mind and ours.