Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Our Toes Once Again

As I was wandering through security today - it being a Sunday afternoon, with barely anyone in the airport. I got in line behind some kind of TSA inspector who was flying somewhere, so the process took much longer than normal. I was early, as usual, so no need to rush. I hadn't had any of the new invasive pat-downs, the news stories of people stripping at security have all but ceased and I've been feeling like air travel has slowly been returning to normal. Then they said they needed to scan my empty water bottle, okay, fine - strange but fine. Then he said he needed to swab both of my hands and run that swab through. As you know from reading along, I am all for safety but sometimes things just seem a little silly. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Freak Out Therapy

I realized last night that I am leaving for Liberia in about two weeks and I started freaking out. I know two weeks sounds like a long time, but between then and now I will be in Colorado all next week for work, I have two baby showers to attend and wrap gifts for (yeah! for shopping online when the invite shows up), two events at church, the film festival, a hockey game and getting ready for Liberia. Yikes!

So, in typical Jenn-fashion, I am going to calm myself with lists. One of the things I have managed to accomplish so far and one of things that need to be done before I go. If I do this, even if only I read it, I think I will feel better about the possibility of progress being made by February 13th. Here goes:

Things completed so far:
  • Renewed my passport
  • Got a two-year visa for Liberia in preparation for going back again next year
  • Got new shots and a clean bill of health
  • Acquired malarial meds and a replenished personal first aid arsenol
  • Made and purchased my reading list
  • Bought giant duffel - with wheels this time
  • Picked out the clothes I am bringing
  • Ordered bug spray and sunscreen to keep me malaria-free hopefully
Yet to do:
  • Figure out how to use UV water purifier
  • Treat clothes with insecticide - I've only gotten to thinking about how I will do it
  • Pack pile in guest room into bags
  • Forward all our bills/accounts to Brian's e-mail address
  • Unsubscribe from all the e-mail junk I started getting after going through it all last year
  • Research long distance rates for my cell and local SIM card stuff (good job for Brian Beard)
  • Buy snacks - preferably as much in the way of protein so as to avoid all meat presented to me - or at least as much as I can get away with while remaining culturally sensitive and polite
  • Decide whether or not to buy solar charger or at least figure out which charging attachment to bring for when the generators are working
 Hmm, that feels like all the major things. I am surely forgetting something but I'm feeling a little better...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reading List II

(Since I published my reading list for Madagascar, I thought I would continue the trend and share my second reading list for Africa.) Now that I have a Kindle, I can bring as many books to Liberia as I want in a tiny package, how cool! That said I can't afford all the books in the world so I'm going with these:
Saw a TED Talk with the author and she talked about how the economy will progress to the point where we'll all be sharing our stuff. A great concept I think.
This was a recommendation from my boss, don't mind if I do work a week like this DB*, thank you!
*These are my boss' initials, not an insult.
Because I do love to know where we are headed in this crazy world of ours and I am a huge econ geek.
Women speak out from the ruins of war - talking candidly with a perspective not often shared - about things like how during peace time after war, violence against women often escalates. Should be an appropriate read as we interact with women in Liberia who are just starting to rebuild after their war ended only seven years ago.
Because the movie is coming out and I am sure the book is much better I am going to take this along as my entertainment read. Plus it was only $5, bonus!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Cat's Out of the Bag

This weekend my dad's side of the family all trekked in the snow to Maine to be with my Bumpa for his 80th birthday. My grandmother had been planning this party weekend for months and arranged for us to arrive as surprises for my grandpa. My aunts and my cousin and his family arrived on their doorstep on Friday night and Brian and I slipped into seats at a restaurant on Saturday when my grandfather left for the bathroom. It was a success! He was totally shocked and surprised with each new addition of family member and agenda item. Tons of other friends and family turned out on Sunday for a big bash complete with band, magician and catering. We had a wonderful time visiting, catching up and celebrating 80 years of a full and healthy life. Salut!

1. The birthday boy, Bumpa. And no, those are not his real lips.
2. The cousins - me, Jason and my brother.
3. Beardy and me.
4. Renee, always shy from the camera. Photo by Althea, age 5.
5. Portland Head, and yes it was extremely cold out there.
6. My Aunt Diane and me with our wax lips. Do other families have odd props that turn up in pictures too?
7. Althea watching the trout at L.L. Bean.
8. My 9 week old cousin Gabriel, so cute. I wonder if we all smile when we sleep.
Mom, Althea and Granny waiting on breakfast before our family photo shoot.
Althea wasn't sure what to think of me at first - but by the end of the weekend I had won her over.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Throwback Spraying

As I prepare for Liberia, I had a thought about my "original" grad school experience. (I am going to start calling it that as I get ready for my second attempt.) For those of you who didn't know me 10 years ago, I suffered through about four months of grad school in Riverside, California as an Environmental Toxicology M.S./PhD candidate. My main thesis project involved insecticide research which entailed a lot of spraying carpet samples and urinalysis. I won't bore you with all the details here, but I did have an enlightened thought about how to bring my old research techniques back to life as I made my own applicator for applying insecticide* to my clothing. (I love it when things you thought were useless come in handy once again!)

When I got ready for Madagascar it was nice enough outside to spray clothes as they were lying on my porch. Seeing as this is my current view of my back yard...
...I need to find an alternative. Unfortunately I lack access to the conveyor belt sprayer we used for applications at school, so I am going to have to make my own. It's probably not going to be that exciting, but I do have an idea for making sure nothing gets wasted and that the area is properly ventilated. Once dry, the stuff is relatively harmless but prior to then you're not supposed to be breathing it. I am going to be away this weekend so I will have to tackle my drawings into action when I return next week. (Plus, I have yet to pick out all the clothes I am bringing that will be sprayed.) Have a great weekend!

*For those of you who missed past posts about why I am doing this - in countries where malaria is a threat (or other diseases carried by mosquitoes) the World Health Organization suggests that in addition to medicine and topical bug spray, you should also spray clothing as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Countdown & A Film Fest

We leave for Liberia a month from today! Hard to believe. I wanted to share a link from the U.N. about the work that is currently being done in Liberia for women suffering with fistulas.

Also, I got a cool e-mail today from the Jewish Vocational Services about their upcoming, four month long, international film festival called "The Crossroads of Culture Film Festival". Their aim is to raise money and awareness about their clients' situations, primarily refugees that are living in Kansas City. So, each month they will show a film at the Screenland Theater in the Crossroads district on a Thursday night at 7pm. After the showing they will have an interactive panel discussion.
 The four topics being highlighted are Burma, Immigration/Language/Culture, living with a disability and Somalia. (Click on the topic for the link to the film being shown.) The dates are 2/10, 3/10, 4/14 and 5/12 - and are in order of topics listed. The suggested donation is $10 and I think there are raffle tickets for prizes as well. I am definitely going to the first one. Let me know if you are interested! (For more info visit here.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pinch Me, It's A Small World

I was talking to a very nice woman in the admissions department of the Executive MBA program at UMKC this morning. We were talking about the program there and how it would be a good fit for me and my future career goals, etc. She then asked me if I had ever heard of an organization that she knew would interest me (based on our conversation) and I said that I had heard of it and had been trying to reach them as I had been reading a lot about their work and wanted to know more. This international non-profit is amazing and it's headquartered here in Kansas City.

I had talked to someone else recently who advised me that if I ever wanted to get serious about working internationally that I needed to move to NYC, D.C. or San Francisco. As a military brat, I have always wanted to live in the same house for a long time - or forever and leave in a body bag, as I told one Realtor who inquired how soon we might like to sell, maybe a little extreme, but you get the idea. Not easily discouraged, I continue to look for ways to pursue this dream.

Back to this morning, the woman from UMKC not only talked to me about this organization but offered to set up a lunch with a woman that she knows that works there and e-mailed me some dates later in the day. So great! I was feeling very fortunate to have had the conversation and I feel very blessed to have opportunities like this in my life. Maybe I am getting old and sentimental, but as I reflect on all the things to come this year I am really, really excited.

For me 2011 includes the following:
  1. Celebrating 10 years of marriage to my best friend in July. (And going to a place I've wanted to take him for the past 10 years!)
  2. Going back to Africa in February.
  3. Attending SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX in March.
  4. Spending a week in Grand Lake Stream, Maine with my parents, Brian's parents and assorted other friends and family in July.
  5. (tentative) Starting grad school in August, details of what and where located in this post.
  6. Embracing my new role as Vice President of Affiliate Operations at work, which happened January 1st.
  7. Attending a week of intense, strategic leadership fun at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado in Jan/Feb.
  8. Putting on a special fundraiser for Liberia with some great friends/artists from Rochester in the fall. Details to come and volunteers needed!
  9. My second blog reader contest - lots of possible ideas in my head at the moment - so keep following along.
  10. And much more!
P.S. I didn't name the organization discussed above by name, as to avoid having this post appear on their RSS feed and have them think I am some kind of crazy stalker.

P.P.S. Check out what is going on in the Cote d’Ivoire and a little about Liberia through Charity: water's blog post here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pack 'Em In

Last year I posted about my travel quirk of hiding magazines on planes for the next passenger. I hadn't shared another one of my travel oddities with you for a while so I thought I would fill you in on another. I really hate flying with a partially empty suitcase and go to (maybe strange) lengths to avoid doing so.

The way I see it is that I take my time to pack neatly. Wrapping delicate items, rolling things that might wrinkle and placing shoes at the outsides to protect the contents on the insides. It is a science, I am sure. Then, you know how this goes, you zip up your bag, tilt it upright and everything shifts to the bottom and messes up all your hard work. Or you get to the airport and TSA has to rifle through everything - and they never re-secure those flimsy internal suitcase clothes belts, or whatever they are called. You can also cram in as much as possible to eliminate gaps but then your bag is over-weight. Really annoying process right?

Enter my secret weapon....bubble bags! These things featured below:
I just save all the ones I get free in the mail when I order things at work or at home and then I just pile them in a closet. You can stuff them in your bag, they weigh nothing and can be easily reused or tossed away. If you have O.C.D. tendencies like me, you'll love this! :) Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Moving Forward

Photo from the film.
 My vacation last week was very helpful in preparing for my trip to Liberia. I still have a long way to go and a very busy five weeks ahead of me. I worked on my Liberian research - read This Child Will Be Great which was so good and complete, watched "Pray The Devil Back to Hell" about the courageous women who staged peaceful demonstrations to end the war and checked out the news of Liberia and neighboring Cote d'Ivoire who is sending refugees into Liberia at the rate of 400-600 people a day as their prime minister refuses to back down under pressure from the rest of West Africa. I still need to watch the documentary "Liberia: An Uncivil War" which is next on my Netflix queue.
Photo from the film.
I also had more shots (flu and polio - which apparently is making a comeback, boo!), got a prescription for Malarone and started digging out my insecticide treated safari gear. I should probably figure out what else I am supposed to be bringing and need to order some more of the crazy good Avon insecticide that kept me malaria free in Madagascar. I did find out that I don't need to bring a tent, bonus! We have a dinner in a couple of weeks with the three of us who are going and our husbands, Kathi's parents (who were missionaries in Liberia), some other friends and some local Kansas Citians from Liberia. I am really looking forward to that.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolutional Sidebar

(From time to time in 2011 I am going to take a few detours from the normal topic of travel and write about something else, just so you know)

We have a friend who is a massage therapist. This morning she was asking Brian if he was looking forward to his first massage with her this week. She wanted him to be excited about his appointment and was clearly happy about sharing her gift of massage with someone new, in a not-full-of-herself way. She was beaming as she shared stories with him of satisfied clients. Do you light up when you talk about what you do?

How's your life lately? Are you excited about it? Do you wonder why people pay you to do your job because it's so fulfilling or makes you feel useful? Does your mind wander to endless ways to improve things around you, in a way that is not critical but genuine? Are you in a rut? Do you expect big changes for yourself or your family in 2011? Does the small, internal voice in your head tell you that you can't learn Spanish - like mine does? Are you making excuses about why your life can't be awesome? Is it all about money?

I guess the point of all this is that you won't know unless you give yourself two seconds to think. If you run around and never reflect on your thoughts, feelings, etc. you may miss something. Take work for example. This week, on vacation, I have found myself reading books, magazines and blogs about it. It's not that I don't understand work, I just know it can always be better. Since our jobs can become our lives, in a lot of ways, I think we should want to make sure that it's as good as it can be for us. And if it's not - how can we change it? (If you're interested, check out the book Switch: How To Change Things When Change is Hard. It might give you a place to start on that.)

In one of the blogs I follow, the blogger describes going home to visit his family and talks about how they all felt bad for him because he "had to" do work while there. He tells them that he sees it as "getting to" do it, but doubts they really understand. I guess a lot of it is attitude - can you imagine thinking along this blogger's lines when you are working on something at home on the weekend?

So this year, I plan on having a great year. I don't know all that is in store for me but I hope to make the most of it. For starters, I already have a couple of ideas of ways to make my work more fun, maybe a sidebar on that to follow in the future. I hope in 2011 you can find something this year that you "get to do" too, if you haven't found it already.