Saturday, February 14, 2015

I'm baaaack!

Hey there family and friends,

I considered using a different blog venue, but then thought...why?  All my previous posts are here. I can't guarantee I'll use it often, but I'll try to send updates from time to time.

I arrived in Monrovia, Liberia yesterday (Friday the 13th) on Feb 13 and have had a great night's rest. I'll start my new position at UNDP on Monday and I'm excited. The hotel they have me in is across the street from the beach and it's a beautiful sunny day today.

For now, I'm just settling in and hoping to get caught up with everything that is going on. I do think I'll get to meet a colleague that I worked with in DC who started as Country Director for Mercy Corps in December, which I'm pretty excited about.

This week, I have a whole bunch of stuff to get done, like finding an apartment, getting a UN email and business cards, figuring out how to get my salary, health insurance, etc. We'll also be doing another round of payments to Ebola response workers this month, so I'll be working with my colleagues at the UN and Government of Liberia partners to attend the payment events. I'm hoping to travel to a county I haven't been to before.

Then the first week in March, I'm headed to Dakar, Senegal for a workshop, which will be very exciting because that is a new country for me (#53, I think?). Hope I can remember enough French to get around for a couple of days. :)

I'll keep you updated when there is something more exciting to report.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy New Year!!!

Happy 2012 everyone!!! I have some very exciting news, which you may already know by now. Just before Christmas, I packed up a moving van and moved the few boxes that I have from DC to Des Moines, IA. I’m an official resident of Iowa again! It was great. I was able to spend the night in Ohio with my cousin, Brandy, her husband and their two boys. We had a great time, except that time was too short! Then I settled in for another day of fun-filled driving and made it to Des Moines just before Christmas. I was able to buy a cute little car from my uncle and see a lot of my family over Christmas. Got my new driver's license, got my car registered and got myself registered to vote. Woo hoo!

For New Year’s, I headed over to the west coast to visit my friend, Michele, from grad school in between her assignments in Afghanistan and Haiti. It was great! I got to see Michele and her family and another friend of ours from grad school, Nancy. We ate delicious food and watched movies on New Year’s, and then we got up and had more delicious food for breakfast. I got a driving tour of the city on New Year’s day, which was awesome! Lots of pictures below. We even went up to Sonoma County, went to the visitor’s center and did some wine tasting as well. I didn’t get to taste too many though, as it was mostly reds. So…Michele took me to a local brewery and between the three of us, we finished a flight of all 18 beers they keep on tap. They had some “sour” beers which I’d never tasted before and didn't really care for, but most of the beers were really, really good. It was awesome!

Come back soon because I have at least two blogs coming up from South Sudan (the world's newest country)!

Monday, September 26, 2011

From Kenya to Somalia

After two weeks in northeastern Kenya, I was getting more used to seeing emaciated animals and carcasses on the side of the road. The goats were skinny the donkeys' ribs were showing. The people were tall and very thin. The children were tall and thin, but smiling. As we finished up doing verification of the beneficiaries in a town called Qoqar (to ensure we were targeting the most vulnerable people in the village), I snapped some pictures of the children there. They always ran from the camera at first, until I showed them their pictures. Then they loved them and they wanted me to take more.

Mercy Corps is doing cash programming in these villages to ensure that families are able to access food immediately and support the local economy at the same time. I explained a little more about this is one of the blogs on the Mercy Corps website. After two weeks in the northeastern county of Wajir, I flew to our program in northern Somalia to work with our staff from two different field offices on cash programming there.

It was a totally different scene. The UN flight I was on touched down on a gravel airstrip a few kilometers outside of town. As we got closer to town and the car rolled down the paved streets, past the concrete houses, I noticed how fat and healthy the goats looked. Goats wander the streets in this town like stray dogs in other parts of the world looking for food among the discarded items on the side of the road. Their udders seem to be full and producing milk, something I didn’t see much in northeastern Kenya. My third day in northern Somalia it rained. It wasn’t a downpour or anything, but still. In Wajir, the sky got all gray and stormy looking and then….nothing. Here, the sky got dark and gray and rain wet down the dusty side streets and provided puddles for children to play in and goats to drink from. It watered the pretty trees and flowering bushes outside our office. It was a welcome site for the people here, but I couldn’t help thinking about how nice it would be for Wajir to get a little rain, even just a smattering like this. The good thing is that the meteorologist is predicting that the shorts rains will actually come in October, so…fingers crossed.

So twelve staff have come together from two different offices to sit with me to learn about cash programming and discuss the challenges they are having in the programming they are already doing. We talked about the schedule/agenda for the training on Friday and Saturday…boom…I was giving the training. Normally, I like to make them a little more lively and interesting, but I’m afraid this was a lot of info to get across in a short period of time, so they’re stuck listening to me drone on all day long. J Luckily, they seem interested. See! I can be interesting!! They look to get a little bored now and then, so I make them play Simon Says, sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and make them do other games I’ve collected from trainings over the years. They’re pretty good sports.

The situation in south central Somalia is not so rosy. That is the agricultural center of the country and the drought has had a severe effect on the food production. People are literally starving and are migrating hundreds of kilometers on foot to try to get to some place where help is available. To compound it, there is now an outbreak of cholera in the camps and hospital in Mogadishu. The situation in the southern part of the country is dire and tragic. Mercy Corps is working in Mogadishu in the camps, which are 70% women and children to try to provide some relief. It is difficult because of the security situation, but the staff are amazing and seemingly fearless. I'm holding out hope.

I had to go to the market in Kenya and get appropriate dresses for Somalia (because I don’t really do skirts, so I didn’t have any with me). I got three made, which was fun. Basically, they had reams and reams of material and I just picked the ones I liked and they folded them in half and sewed up the sides (and cut out a hole for my head, of course). Then I bought the shawl to go over my head and cover up my arms. This is my favorite of the three I had made. The other two have lavender, but I like the blue. And…it’s super comfy!! Well, I had a hard time wearing the shawl correctly and keeping it on my head, but the dress is way, way comfy. Kind of like what I got to wear in Pakistan. Feels like jammies….best work clothes ever. Did I mention it’s super hot here? So the breeze through the thin fabric was great. I turned into Sweaty McSweaterson here. Whew!

So we’ll finish up the training tomorrow and I’ll leave the materials and their certificates for them Wednesday, then I’m heading home. I’ll be in DC a whole 22 hours before heading out again. Portland….here I come (first time ever), then on to Phoenix to visit family for three weeks! Can’t wait! Everybody…cross your fingers that there are no disasters and I have to miss my Phoenix trip. :)

Till next time…..

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Blog on MC website

Check it out...two of my work blogs are featured on the Mercy Corps website., just scroll down to where it says "What's new in the Mercy Corps World" or go to

Sunday, September 11, 2011

FYI - I'm also writing blogs for the Mercy Corps website. The most recent is at Here are some photos of our work and response out here. Right now we're providing water trucking and before I leave, we'll have a plan for rolling out cash grants so that people can access food and also support the local economy. It rained several of the days I was in Nairobi. Here, in the northeast, big, gray clouds, but no rain.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Road Again....

After one week in DC, I flew to Nairobi, Kenya via Zurich. It was my first time in Zurich and I didn't get to leave the airport...well, maybe on the way home. I arrived in Kenya the evening of Aug 23 and was surprised to find the air fairly cool. Apparently, Nairobi is a little elevated (I haven't looked up the exact height), so it keeps the weather very beautiful. You can find more information about Kenya at ( and more about Mercy Corps programs and our emergency response there at I headed to the hotel and then spent Wednesday in meetings. Not much getting out and checking out Nairobi. : ( But, I have another training there from Sept 5-9, so I hope to be able to get around and see more then. Aug 25, I packed up and checked out of the hotel. After a super brief visit to the MC office, I headed out with one of our drivers, Peter, to drive east towards Garissa (map is on the first page of the CIA World Factbook website). I was a little shocked to see how green and beautiful Kenya and the surrounding areas were. I got a little hungry as we drove by a pineapple plantation (yummmmmy!). But I paid attention as it slowly turned more into a scene like the US southwest. The difference in the landscape between central Kenya and northeastern Kenya were clear! After spending the night in Garissa, one of our drivers from Wajir (reference the map) picked me up to drive the rest of the way to northeastern Kenya. I felt a little guilty as I enjoyed a mini-safari on the way to our office where we are responding to the Horn of Africa drought. I saw probably a dozen giraffe, but didn't think to pull out my camera until afterward...figures. : ) But I made sure to catch the dik dik (, gazelle, ostrich and warthog on camera! I even got the maribu stork. Hope you enjoy the pictures! When my deployment is over, I'm hoping to have a few extra days in Nairobi to enjoy the wildlife opportunities nearby there. If I do, I'll be sure to post more pictures later.

I'll be in Kenya until mid/late Sept supporting our office in setting up our cash programming in order to support people in eastern Kenya to purchase food for their families. Currently, in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya there are about 12.5 million people affected by the drought and animals that are dying everyday, which is devastating for the people as many of them are pastoralists raising goats, sheep, cattle and camels for income, meat and milk. Our staff have talked to many families who's situations have been getting worse and worse over the last two years. Some have lost children, most have lost someone. Mercy Corps is currently trucking water to vulnerable villages both for families and for the livestock (to try to make sure there is still a livelihoods asset if the rains come). But we are about to start some cash programming. The really frustrating part is that there is food in the stores and markets and available for purchase. But because of the decline in livestock and the rising food prices globally, people can no longer afford to purchase food and they're having to walk farther and farther to find water for the animals. Hopefully, we can help relieve some of the current suffering, but also help find longer-term sustainable programs to reduce vulnerability to disasters like this in the future. I'm looking forward to getting into the field! More to come...

From Libya to Scotland

Ok, well, I haven't updated my blog since April, but as most of you know that's because I was in Libya from April to July to support the start up of our emergency programs there. I posted some blogs to the Mercy Corps website from there, so I didn't post them here. But if you missed them, you can find them at So after Libya, I was in DC for about a week and a half before leaving for Scotland. In Scotland, I got to stay in Glasgow and attend a two week training entitled Making Markets Work for the Poor and it is about a sustainable way of effecting change to make markets function more effectively for our beneficiaries, either through advocacy, access to credit or whatever is needed. Our European HQ office is based in Ediburgh, so the first week of August I worked from there and got to meet a bunch of colleagues there, which was great! Edinburgh is amazing. So beautiful! Then I took a long-coming vacation the second week of August to trek around Scotland. It was really fun. I was able to go to a Scotch distillery called Glengoyne. Wasn't really a fan before I went, but now I can appreciate a good scotch. I also went to a bunch of castles...let's see....Dumbarton (on the river Clyde), Sterling, Holyrood House (palace, not castle), and Edinburgh...not to mention the other palaces and castles that we saw from the lake and the road. Supposedly, during the month I was there, there was one of the best weather days since they started recording the weather and one of the wettest. The Thursday before I left Scotland, they received more rain in that day than they usually get in the entire month of August. I, of course, visited the Scottish highlands and Loch Ness as well. No sight of Nessie. We stopped by mountains called the Three Sisters where the British Army was called to carry out the massacre of the MacDonald clan. They were really beautiful and one car had a message to make sure that people are motivated to Save the Earth. I think if this isn't the best reason to become an environmentalist, I don't know what is. ; ) Ok. There was also a Scottish bagpiper there which our tourist guide says was terrible, but I couldn't tell. I liked it anyway. Ok, the last thing I have to say about Scotland (which is awesome, by the way, even with all the rain), is that they have the cutest cows I've ever seen. The Highland Cow used to be black and they are starting to breed more of the black ones now, but when the Queen said that she wanted to see Highland Cows that were a golden browny color, they made sure to breed the cows to her liking. Personally, I just love their shaggy hair! Sooo cute!! After week in DC and then off to northeastern Kenya for famine response and another training....stay tuned....