Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm alive!

And I'm back in the US. And not living in San Francisco anymore! And we have so much to catch up on. But for now I need a little electrical shock or a blocker on all non-work related internet usage that reminds me "You're not on vacation anymore!"
P.S. They should really warn you at the coffee shop if you order a vegan cookie. I also ordered a latte, obviously I'm not vegan. I want a refund on the cookie and the calories.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The thing about dating in the US is...

no matter how awkward it gets, it's unlikely anyone's going to try to feed you. Gursha or feeding someone out of your hand is an Ethiopian custom. And one that I'm still trying to get used to. Injera is filling stuff and when I'm full and stop eating, it's not generally a sign that I want you to try to feed me. And I generally consider myself open to most cultural customs, as long as you can convince me that they're cultural and customs and not overly affectionate African men trying to fatten me up. But this, this is too much. That's not to say I don't find it utterly charming when the little kids at the orphanage I work with come and bring me bites of their food.

Ethiopian greetings and displays of affection are fascinating. A customary greeting is three kisses on alternate cheeks. When shaking someone else's hand or passing them something, it's respectful to hold your arm near the elbow to show the weight of the honor. If you want to shake someone's hand and their hand is dirty you might just grab the wrist. If both of your hands are dirty you just cross each others wrists, laying your forearms on each other. Couples rarely kiss, hug or hold hands in public. In general, the only people who hold hands while they walk down the street are straight men. Yep.

This is all to say that the Ethiopian people I have encountered here are incredibly open and warm and welcoming. The kind of people that would feed you off their plate, or what is the communal plate. This week I was looking for an office and popped my head into a small dimly lit shack. Inside were a group of women sitting around a table eating lunch. Without knowing who I was or what I was doing there, they first invited me to have lunch with them. This is the kind of hospitality I encounter on an hourly basis in Ethiopia. It's hard not to fall in love, even if I want to feed myself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

If photo upload was working right now, I'd put in a picture of the lovely fruit basket, or fruit and avocado basket- depending on your definition of these things, that arrived in my room this afternoon. The freaky thing was that I was in my teeny tiny room for about two hours before I noticed it. It just appeared out of nowhere.

And the stranger thing was that I then had to wrack my brain to figure out which one of my suitors might have sent me a fruit basket--- "George firenge" or "George foreigner" my expat pursuer? The night manager at the hotel who asks whenever I'm not at breakfast or in the bar in the evenings? Maybe the lab manager from work who keeps trying to feed me during lunch? Perhaps the nurse from the local health center who made eyes at me over the support group for HIV positive mothers? Ummm.... this NEVER happens at home. Never, never, never.

This weekend is full of data analysis, orphanage visits, spa appointments, and a coffee date with one of the mysterious African suitors. Me in a nutshell.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An update!

I'm still here (in Addis), still alive, still well, and still Giardia-free. Work continues to be interesting. Great, even. My Ethiopian social life is picking up steam to the point where I only spent like two nights in the hotel bar this week. The others were spent out on dates with boys I'm not interested in, fancy dinners with the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, and going away parties for people I've met twice (but like a lot). Well, one of each of those things anyway.

Last Sunday was Easter and many a lamb was slaughtered. I grew up in a religious environment and was familiar enough with all those stories in the bible about various holidays and celebrations requiring the slaughtering of an animal. I have to say that I didn't give much thought to it until I came face-to-face with the half million or so sheep and goats brought into Addis to be killed for Easter festivities. That's a lot of sheep. Especially in a city without traffic signals and a city the size of New York. A lot of livestock wandering the streets. And this week? A lot of skulls and limbs left out to rot/be eaten by dogs/who knows. TMI?

Yesterday Ephrem and I hiked to a spot where people go to have their HIV cured with holy water. It turns out that we weren't supposed to be there. And we definitely weren't supposed to be taking pictures. I was pretty sure we were going to get our asses kicked. I'm going to intend on expanding on this experience in the near future- In the meantime, I'm so glad that blogger is working, but really wish that the internets would be spending their energy downloading the statistical software rather than permitting me to illegally post my thoughts. Thoughts like- now that I've finished Season Two of Mad Men, I'm going to have to re-learn how to read in my spare time.

More soon!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Censorship and Study Abroad

Last night I went out with the expat crowd. We went to some French pub and I had the best meal since I’ve arrived in Addis- leek tart and salad. I think I dreamed about it all night. It was interesting chatting with the expats and I’m pretty sure I learned more about Ethiopian policies in one night of drinking than in months of research. One of the things I learned that it’s not just my computer that gets access to blogs intermittently- they are actually blocked in Ethiopia. And Skype is illegal because it takes business away from Ethiopian companies. News you can use.

I’m pretty sure I’ll keep talking in this space when the webernet gods allow for it, but because both my employer and the government frown on it- I’ll be keeping most of my thoughts on the status quo here to myself.

Last night reminded me that working in international development can be a bit like an overgrown study abroad experience. Complete with late night clubbing- only the 3am pizza replaced with 3am shiro and injera. This morning I'm remembering that I'm no longer 21 and trying to keep the pace that I did in my early twenties doesn't feel so hot on my late twenties body.

There's an article in the New York Times today about how the differences between the have and have not's in Haiti is even more apparent after the earthquake. I agree that the differences between foreign aide workers and the intended recipients of this aide can be disquieting, but I think the starkness between economic classes is always more noticeable when we are outside our own homeland. I wonder if the author of that article had been in Haiti before the earthquake. Part of the article pointed to the influx of development and aide workers pouring money into the casinos, hotels and fancy restaurants in Haiti and wondering whether this money ways flowing down to those in tent cities. I think the same questions could be asked of any country with a large population of development practitioners, Cape Town comes to mind immediately as well as Addis- but I'm not talking about Ethiopia on here...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running is dangerous these days

I’ve been in Ethiopia for four days now. Or a lifetime. Something like that.

Addis is a special subtle kind of overwhelming. At first glace it might seem obvious: poverty, dust, pollution, and spicy food. In the four days or four years I’ve been here I’ve only begun to recently notice other layers and implications and beauty. It also took me four days to notice that there are no traffic signals in the city. Hate waiting at red lights? Come to Addis.

While I work out of an AIDS clinic, a disease that has ravaged the population I’m working with- it seems that everything is coming to life rather than dying. There is construction everywhere- big cinderblock frames with bamboo scaffolding. Dusty paths being turned into paved roads. Most employed men I've met work in construction as day laborers.

I’m interviewing people about their employment and income, housing and other factors. The depths of the poverty we’re learning about are frightening. The survey had been modified before I arrived to include other variables that might not actually be useful to the study- but I’m discovering that these questions that ask people about their hopes for their careers and their families are an optimistic way to end our conversations.

I say “our conversations” but mostly it’s a lab tech that is proficient in English who does the interviewing in Amharic and me who interjects with follow-up questions. On the first day he was insistent that I learn how to say “thank you” so that I could personally thank each interviewee. Easier said than done. “Ameseghinalehu” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but I’m working on it- and five new words a day. Today was the much easier “ishi” or “okay”. The language here is more than just words and phrases. People talk with their eyes as much as their voices and their gasps. As far as I can figure gasp means both “yeah” and “okay” and “understand?” Amharic is a beautiful language and I find it incredibly soothing, so much so that I have trouble staying awake at times…

In the afternoons we go to the kindergarten to try to interview parents of the children. The vast majority of the children who attend these schools are orphans who live in orphanages and many of the rest walk home on their own- so I’ve been spending a part of each afternoon playing with the pre-school class who comes over from the orphanage for the school day. They are energetic, playful and sweet. Yesterday afternoon I was treated to a duet (complete with fancy footwork) by two pre-schoolers. Most was in Amharic but I could pick out “merengue!” and “cha-cha-cha!” with appropriate dance steps inserted. The younger girls called out requests for other songs and the boys were happy to play to their audience.

I also have a new BFF, the youngest pre-schooler from an orphanage run by the organization I work for. Neither of us can pronounce each other’s names so we call each other “Mary.” She started this cause she knows another white lady named Mary- so I think it’s her substitute for “firenje” or “foreigner” – the term people yell at me on my walk to work.

The view from my room

Most of my evenings have been spent in my hotel room trying to get websites to load and fighting jetlag. Last night I met up with some fellow expats for dinner. After just a few days here I’ve come to think of having a security guard and a housekeeper as a social responsibility and income-generating activity rather than a status symbol for expats.

Like most African cities, Addis has rolling blackouts and only the wealthy have generators. One of the expats was telling me about the power flickers at her gym and how the staff keep telling her “it’s too dangerous to run these days”, because she goes flying off the treadmill each time it stops.

For my own exercise needs, I made hiking plans with the new ex-pat friends today. I tried to tell someone at work today, only to have to explain what hiking was. “Walking. In the woods. For fun." More than just a foreign word, truly foreign concept here where only the poorest of the urban poor live in the woods.

In summary: I’m learning a lot, mostly about life and poverty but also about the stuff I was appointed to study while here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Three continents in 24 hours

After seven or so years of studying, dreaming about and working on programs in Ethiopia- I never thought I’d dread going. But, guys? Istanbul (or ‘stanbul according to the locals), I could seriously get used to that place.

Turkey is the first Muslim country I’ve ever visited and the religion and the culture are fascinating to me. The call to prayer every few hours sets a regular and audible reminder of the dominant religion. Women in full burkas shuffle through the streets alongside their counterparts in fashionable boots and designer coats.

Turkey is also incredibly fast changing, there is abundant free wi-fi, but people my age lament the loss of milkmen.

As a tourist you are incredibly visible and it is impossible to walk anywhere without hordes of men (beautiful dark, tall, blue eyed men) beg for your attention and your business. Their questions come at a rapid fire,“Excuse me? Can I ask you one question? Where are you from? What did you think of the mosque? How are you today? Would you like to come in and have tea?” It was a big success the day I counted more questioning in Spanish than English.

My first real experience of the Turkish charm was on the flight to Istanbul. I sat next to a Turkish man who owns several gourmet food shops in NYC. Throughout the flight he kept getting up and coming back from first class with an array dried fruits for me to try, cups of tea and suggestions on what to see in Istanbul. Thoughtful but he came on a bit strong. Such is the case with all the Turkish men I encountered.

Tea, or cai (pronounced “chai”) is everywhere. Each shop you go in, every social interaction, every meal starts and ends with tea. Men with carry trays from shop to shop delivering little glass cups of tea with two sugar cubes to each saucer. There are two main flavors: “Turkish tea” a black tea, and “apple tea” which is more of a hot sour apple flavored kool-aide of sorts.

They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, and Istanbul is the city that never stops eating. But in my experience, Istanbul is the city that never stops drinking. In addition to the tea in shops and the men selling tea from carts on the street, there are also big carts that freshly squeeze orange and pomegranate juice on demand.

Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice several times a day- I told you I could get used to that place. Abundant bathhouses with cheap massages. Hookahs and backgammon. Finally figuring out just how good Baklava is supposed to taste. Ethiopia has a lot to compete with.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First World Problems in the Third World

::Things that don't work outside the US::
1. Netflix streaming
2. Pandora
3. Youtube
4. Hulu

Guess I'll have to make friends in Ethiopia instead of hanging out with my BFF, the internet?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dad, your rug guy is totally stalking me.

Just kidding, my dad doesn't read my blog. But his rug guy is stalking me. Or courting me. Or trying to sell me a rug. Or all three. I like attention and textiles, so it's a workable relationship.

My parents came to Turkey last summer on a cooking tour. My mom came home with several new kebab recipes and my father with more rugs than floor space in his house. When I decided to stop in Istanbul on my way to Ethiopia my father offered to send some emails to acquaitances he had made in Turkey. After much online research I had selected what I thought would be the best hotel for me- only to learn that of the hundreds of hotels in Istanbul, this was the same one my parents had stayed in over the summer. It turns out that my dad's rug guy also happens to be the owner of the hotel. A few emails later and I had secured a room at the hotel for a reduced rate and was assured they were awaiting my arrival.

When I did arrive I was surprised to find that the guy at the front desk already knew my name. I didn't think too much of it, or think anything at all after my red eye flight. I was shown to my room and immediately crashed for several hours. When I woke up the guy at the front desk told me that Hamit, the rug guy/hotel owner had stopped by to see me. It wasn't until the next morning that I was able to piece together that I was the only guest at the hotel and that's why they were so sure of my name. It seemed a little strange until they walked me to breakfast at their neighboring hotel, then it seemed really strange. The sister hotel was entirely booked, and my hotel really was just that "my hotel". As in, I come and go as I please and there are full-time doormen and housekeepers. At the sister hotel I met Hamit, who showed me to breakfast on the terrace. I thought he was just showing me where to go, but it turns out he had been waiting to have breakfast with me. After breakfast I mentioned I wanted to go to the Topaki Palace, and he walked me there, told me where to have lunch and suggested I come to his shop for tea afterwards. After the Palace (which was awesome!), I blew off his suggestion to come back to his shop and went on a quest for shoes that wouldn't get me stopped on the street and asked what was wrong with my feet (apparently the Turkish don't understand my Spanish Ace bandage shoes either). This quest ended up with me in a mall in the suburbs, only to later observe that Converse are sold on every street corner in Istanbul. After an adventure on public transportation, I made my way back to the city and wandered through the Spice Bazaar and a few other tourist attractions. I spent the night in a tea lounge, drinking beers, smoking a hookah (or nargliegh as the locals call it) and losing backgammon games to the guy who works at the front desk.

This morning brought a mild hangover and the ill-effects of only three hours of sleep. After a lovely solo breakfast on the terrace, I came back and crashed for a few more hours. I woke up to an email from my mom, "Watch out for Hamit; he can be a very persuasive man, just ask your Dad! " I was beginning to get the feeling that my dad had really done something to win his favor. When I really think about it he is the most soft-spoken and least aggressive of all the Turkish men I have met thus far. In a classic "blowing off my mothers advice" move and feeling bad about blowing off Hamit yesterday afternoon, I decided to stop by his store. After tea and chatting I pulled out the photo I had of an inspiration rug. He the began pulling dozens of rugs from piles that almost reached the ceiling in his tiny (maybe 6' *12') shop and laying them out for my inspection. Having no real home to envision a rug in, I was shooting from my hip. What I did and did not like is really subject to my current whim. I picked a few favorites from the ones that did strike a chord with me. It wasn't until we started talking prices that I realized all the ones I really loved were at least twice what I'd budgeted for my homeless carpet. It wasn't til I was safely out of my price range that I got to feeling really lavish and picked out two rug that were much bigger and more expensive than I'd initially envisioned and even re-envisioned. Not wanting to make a rash decision and pick between the two, I decided to try to work my way out of the situation and come back tomorrow.

It kind of worked. Somehow me leaving turned into me leaving to go to the German Hospital on the other side of town with Hamit. He suggested that I could go with him and check out the neighborhood near the hospital- known for being the hip center of town. As we got closer to the hospital he convinced me to come with him while he dropped off paperwork and he would show me around. Being a public policy/health geek, I decided it would be interesting to come see the hospital. The hospital rivaled some of the nicest hotels I've ever been in. After waiting for half an hour or so for his paperwork to be completed, we walked through Beyoglu, a neighborhood that winds down the hillside. We stopped for coffee and I inquired about something on the menu called "chicken breast pudding." Big mistake. After a quick exchange with the waiter in Turkish, it was delivered to me for a special treat. Kind of like an especially glue-like gelatin tasting of cinnamon and chicken. We wound up our afternoon wandering through the spice market, walking across the Bosphorus on bridges crowded with old men fishing for sport and profit and Hamit telling me about his childhood as a nomadic tribe member. A priceless afternoon. Or maybe an afternoon worth the price of a rug?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fitting It All In

One of my favorite things about traveling is packing. Not just packing for like a long weekend away, but packing for multi-country, multi-climate extravaganzas. And I'm totally vain and prefer that it isn't immediately obvious from my appearance that I dressed out of my backpack.

The adventure I'm about to embark on will include:
-winter in NYC
-winter in Istanbul
-the beginning of the rainy season in Ethiopia
-the end of the rainy season and resumption of the heat in Tanzania
-end of spring in NYC
-beginning of summer in DC

I also refuse to bring more than one bag with me; must have room for plenty of textiles on the way back; and on the way there I need to make room for the $35 worth of granola bars, fruit snacks and trail mix I bought last weekend (yes, the Trader Joe's checker did give me that look that silently expressed concern/disgust with my nutritional habits and/or cooking skills). I will be living in a hotel in Ethiopia and don't want to rely on hotel food meals three times a day.

In order to minimize the space that some essentials are taking, I went to Lush to load up on beauty products in bar form. I'm now on day three of a shampoo bar/blow dryer free hair style test run. Results are not pretty.

Other newly-acquired essentials include two pairs of Action Slacks and a black fleece. In my opinion a black fleece jacket is a dangerous clothing item. It's so practical! It works in a variety of weather situations. It's the kind of thing I will wear constantly, but it's never fashionable, flattering or exciting. Others feel similarly about my new black flats with a wide ACE Bandage strap across the arch of the foot, though I maintain that they're a Spanish brand and my loved ones just don't understand such sophisticated style.

I was second-guessing my new shoes and contemplating switching them out for something more neutrally appealing until I read an article on the ethics of collecting data with orphans and vulnerable children internationally. The article talks about how what seems like simple data collection can bring up sensitive subjects for children and one example they gave was collecting data on whether or not children have shoes. It suggested silently noting whether the interviewee was wearing shoes or not rather than directly asking them. This guideline helped bring it all home for me- why I'm going to Ethiopia and how very unimportant it is what my shoes look like and how very fortunate I am to have a choice of shoes to bring with me. Though I'm struggling to make the best clothing choices and make everything fit in one bag, it's a luxury that my wardrobe is bigger than my backpack. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of privilege that I'm about to confront. Watch out.

(Even so, I promise that there will be still be some of the regularly scheduled First World naval gazing on this blog.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Called A Garage

This place is advertised on Craigslist apartment listings as a "two-level space with a roll-up door". For $1,650.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Alternate Forms of Discipline

You know that school of discipline that thinks you should let your kid eat as much candy as they want, until they get sick? Then they won't be as interested in jujubees or whatever the offending substance is.

I feel like I'm being put through one of these exercises right now. Except with crafts. Woven textiles. Lots and lots of textiles. My current room has more handwoven goods than the average Central American craft market. And I'm not exaggerating.

What's new with me you ask? Well, I moved into a dead woman's apartment. And/or am living with a dead woman (or at least her spirit), depending on your outlook on these things.

My particular hostess owned a weaving cooperative in Guatemala. She would regularly bring back goods to sell in the United States to benefit the civil war widows who wove them. When she passed on a few months ago, she left behind a few thousand yards of woven huiples, cortas and other traditional Mayan wares.

I've always been a sucker for this stuff. I'm the girl that has to bring an extra bag for all the baskets/tablecloths/vases and crafts she accumulates abroad. I'm also wondering if the fact that I had to carve an emergency exit path through the crafts will break me of this compulsion by the time I leave for Ethiopia?

Oh, BTW, I'm going to Ethiopia! ETHIOPIA! This is a really good thing. I've gotten a few raised eyebrows and questions of my sanity. But if you know me well, or at all, you probably: A) Already know I'm going (because I haven't been able to shut up about it.) B) Know that this is something I've wanted for a really, really long time. And C) Question my sanity on a regular basis, anyway.

I'm going to work for that woman I mentioned as one of my personal superheros a few posts back. I also recently signed a stack of formal looking documents (some of which I made up myself). One of said documents stated that I couldn't publish info about my (new) dream job on the internet.

So, in summary: I leave for Ethiopia on March 21st. And, because I'm such a brilliant contract writer, I will be in NYC for a week beforehand meeting with all kinds of important people. But also, mostly, hopefully, meeting with you fine people. In a bar.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Things that should taste like mint:
-Some chocolate covered candies (Junior Mints, Andes Mints, etc...)
-Ice cream with chocolate chips
-Girl Scout cookies

Things that shouldn't taste like mint:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Anti-Love Love Poem

This is another post where I brag about how awesome and talented my friends are.

Joanna and I went to grad school together. And we went Ghana together. And then Guatemala. And then we got bumped off a flight and ended up in Panama together. On the flight down to Panama, Joanna and I (well, almost entirely Joanna) wrote a rap about the midwives we met in Guatemala. Joanna also kept me in supply of Dramamine for long chicken bus rides, covered me when I lost my ATM card midway through our trip, hiked to the top of an active volcano, didn't object when I slept 12 hours a night on average, and performed any of her poems that I wanted to hear on demand.

In addition to being an amazing travel partner, Joanna is also an uber-talented, award-winning slam poet. While I'm still struggling to wrap my mind around an experience, Joanna has already put it into words and turned it into a piece of art.

As an antidote to my internet boyfriend's poems, I thought I'd share one of my favorite poems written by Joanna. You can find more of her work here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Undercover Internet Lover

It was only a matter of time before I resorted to online dating. I think I'm finally at an age where it might be semi-socially acceptable.
I haven't had any luck yet, or really any dates that end in anything more than a handshake. (Seriously guys, a handshake?) That aside, I've started a collection of poems I've received from creepy old guys on the internet. This is the first installment in that collection.

There is No Way We'd Get Along (his title, not mine)

After all, your young, I'm old (like late 40s), your a navigator, I'm a driver, you can find chocolate butterflies, I can only find flies, you've lived in big cities, I live in small towns, you bake pies, I eat pies, you like the Band, I am a huge Basement Tapes freak, David Byrne makes you happy, David Byrne flips me over backwards, your socks are organized (huh?), mine are crawling all over my drawer. I guess there is nothing else to do but write you this poem and let it fly.


blue is the color
of the sky today
clear, cold,
the sun on the way

winter appears
snow on the ground
spinning through flakes
hanging around

our eyes lock
on each others soul
our fingers press
together and won't let go

our lips shine
they touch and then
the spark emerges
our feelings spin

out of control
out of the way
pressing ourselves
we know what to say

talkings no good
whispers in the ears
sweetness abounds
only we can hear

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some things that happened this weekend

-I made some of the most delicious blueberry muffins I've ever tasted. Usually I'm modest about baking, but there's no reason to be modest about these. Half of the blueberries made into a syrup and half put in whole. The perfect combination of berry flavor throughout and tangy berry bites. Also, lemon sugar on top = deliciousness. I might have to start sprinkling all my food with lemon sugar. These were for a friend's surprise birthday brunch, which is a brilliant party concept. There was also peanut butter cheddar omelets, roasted asparagus, some deadly Parmesan artichoke dip and 2/3 of a birthday cake.

-My only family member who knows about this blog is now on the search for it. (I thought it would be more fun to make her find it on her own.) In case she finds it, "Hi Kristina!"

-Last night my older brother came over and we ordered Indian Pizza. I'm not sure if this a San Francisco-specific food concept, but it's delicious. Not as good as the combined goodness of Indian food and pizza, but almost as good. For those not familiar Indian pizza is a nan crust with eggplant, chives, cauliflower, curry and all kinds of other stuff topped with cheese.

Indian pizza < Indian food + pizza
Indian pizza > (most) Indian food
Indian pizza > (most) pizza

-I'm watching a horrible show called Platinum Weddings. It's all about over-the-top weddings. It's awful, but I can't look away. Maybe like my version of Real Housewives or similar? I don't think this is the kind of wedding show you watch for planning tips. Anyway, there was just a commercial for a vibrator?!

Also, signature cocktails is a weird concept. But only because wedding shows call them "signature cocktails". Instead of saying "I only have vodka" next time I have people over, I'm going to switch it up to "The signature cocktail of the evening is a vodka tonic."

-I signed up for Google Blog Reader today. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my time now that I don't have to spend it looking for new posts on my favorite blogs.

-The commercial is now for the Pussycat Dolls Workout video.

-Today my friend J. and I went on a house tour fundraiser. There were four houseboats on the home tour. Today's lesson is: quirky people live in houseboats. The quirky houseboat people were no match for the cult(!) we went in later in the tour. Mary tried to convince us that it wasn't a cult, just a normal residential philosophical society. Then they offered us Kool-Aid.

J. in the cult with pictures of peoples spirit animals or something similar

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things I Love This Week

::This sweater/sweatshirt/hoodie thing::

You know when you buy something and you immediately know that you are going to wear it more than is socially acceptable? Like for instance, this thing. I've already tried to justify it as being business casual. Perfect for my grandfather's memorial! A job interview! A trip to the gym! It's the softest cotton on the inside and the outside is this wool that is as thin as gauze. And it's made my Saucony, the tennis shoe company! I bought it at the Sports Basement, one of my other new favorite things.

::The Sports Basement::
I'm not a very athletic person. I love hiking up mountains and try to go to yoga a few times a week. I have periods where I'm more consistent about going to the gym, but usually loath it. I recently received a bike, but am still too intimidated by the biking scene in SF to ride it most places. That being said, I love this sports store! (As mentioned before, I'll do anything as long as I have the right accessories.) It's like Marshalls or Filene's Basement but full of sporting equipment. It inspires me to buy athletic equipment which inspire me to workout. The whole place is full of funky old furniture and most nights they have some sort of event in front living room area where people hangout and drink beer. Ashley and I recently went and they were giving out free apple cider. They've exchanged clothing and equipment for me for totally subjective/finicky reasons without any hassle, such as when I thought my sticky mat was too slippery.

::Partners in Health::
Obvious but timely one. Paul Farmer, the founder, is one of my favorite social justice superheros. I'm also a big fan of Jim Kim, his slightly more unsung-hero cofounder who was later at the WHO and now the President of Dartmouth. How's that for a career path? When I was a student at NYU there was this program that brought social entrepreneurs to campus to talk about their work. Paul Farmer would come every year and argue that there wasn't anything particularly entrepreneurial about his model, he just believes that everyone including poor people deserves the best health care possible. Point heard and taken. Another favorite thing about Paul Farmer is that he personally is in charge of the gardening committee at his clinics. He calls this part of the "dignification" process associated with improving the health care system in Haiti and Rwanda. Don't we all want to go to a clinic that looks like a respectable health care institution?

::The New York Mormon Regional Singles Halloween Dance:::

Or rather, the book by this title, written by Elna Baker. A few years ago I heard a hilarious story on This American Life, and called my friend Sarah to tell her about it. She mentioned that her boyfriend had heard the same story and looked up the author. It turned out she lived in NYC and was speaking at a storytelling event a few weeks later. Sarah was busy that night so I went with her bf. Most of the stories were semi-forgettable, but Elna Baker was hilarious and charming. In her intro it was mentioned that she was writing a book. On MLK Day, I went out an bought it. Two days later, I'm almost done. It's rare for me to not be able to put a book down. The book is every bit as hilarious and charming as her spoken stories.

Monday, January 18, 2010


On my 30-before-30 list, that is. Over the holidays I managed to knock out a few quick things on my list of goals. Of course, neither was as I initially envisioned, but I'm learning to get over it. Learning to be flexible, even with my own goals. Hmm... life lessons, anyone?

First accomplishment: Ear Candling!

While Ashley was in SF for her winter break she developed an extreme cold. I took advantage of her sick and vulnerable state and convinced her that ear candling might have some mysterious sinus-clearing benefits and was worth a shot. So together we journeyed across town to the Sunset. It turns out that ear candling doesn't involve candles at all. And as far as I could tell it doesn't involve wax- ear wax, candle wax or otherwise.

I volunteered/was volunteered to go first. The ear candling lady, a middle-aged Chinese lady, instructed me to take off my shoes and lay down on the massage table in her tiny room at the back of a salon. After laying down I realized I still had my glasses and earrings on. I bolted off the table to put these things in my purse. She gaged on her disgust at my bare feet on the floor. Oops.

Back on the table, she stuck a tube of rolled up paper in my ear, lit the end on fire, and stroked my face as the paper burned closer to my head. The whole thing was pretty unremarkable. On the second side I felt some slight popping, like a loosening of pressure, but it could've easily been a placebo effect of sorts. When I stepped off the table, I again made the mistake of bare feet of the floor. This time the ear candling practitioner was too busy trying to make sure I didn't pass out to chide me for my filthy ways. I'm not sure if ear candling and passing out are actually associated, but neither Ashley or I could report any notable change or light headedness. All things considered, I view this as a success. I wasn't looking for any major health benefits, more interested in crossing something off my list.

Try ear candling- check!

Second mission: Take a ferry to Sausalito and go to Heath Ceramics and buy a coffee cup

After New Years two friends from Boston, Sarah and Carly, came to visit me. Sarah and Carly are great visitors because they're into the same stuff I'm into. Or at least they pretend to be. When I lived in New York they were the only visitors that would come to town and not insist on going to Manhattan. They were content to brunch in my neighborhood, read the paper in the park all day and booze in local watering holes at night. So, when they came to SF, we did a lot of things that I'd been wanting to do. More on that later.

On Sarah and Carly's second day in town we went to Heath Ceramics. I'd done some prior research and found out that the ferry didn't really go to Heath. It came within a few miles, and we certainly could've rented bikes. But, hindsight is 20:20. We did accomplish the trip to Heath though. And I took a Ferry to Larkspur in July, so I'm counting that for the ferry ride portion of this goal. (Interestingly enough, I noted last week that they're actually opening a Heath store in the Ferry Building next month.)

Heath was as awesome as expected. Carly realized when we were there that the dishes her family had used as a child were Health Ceramics. Awesome. All three of us purchased commemorative t-shirts. We also bought mugs, vases, dishtowels, and more stuff than we probably could've comfortably afforded (especially the underemployed in the group.) However, it's great stuff and I'm sure we'll keep it for a long, long time.

I bought the coffee cup of my dreams and it's inspired me to make more coffee. It's probably already paid for itself in the number of Blue Bottle lattes I've avoided buying. I'll do anything (even make my own coffee) with the right accessories.

Go to Health Ceramics- been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010: The Next Frontier

So much has happened this year already. So little seems noteworthy. But note it I will.

The job front:
I did not secure the dream job. I'm honored to have gotten as far as I did in the interview/application process, but still a little disappointed they decided to go with someone qualified for the position. But life goes on, and I'm still hoping to land a gig with that organization someday. But, as they say- if you don't get one dream job it's time to find another dream job. Or maybe that's just what everyone I whine to says. Duly noted. And so, the next dream job has come along in quick succession. Or as these things go, I went and found it. Nothing's signed or official yet, but I'll get back to you so that we can celebrate when it is. In the meantime, I've been busy with a handful of adoption cases and am reminded daily how very glad I am that I found a field I love so much.

In summary: I am not the next Associate Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

The social life:
December and January (so far) have been especially great in terms of my general feelings about living in SF and the associated social life here. I'm trying not to pay too much attention to the fact that 90% of the time was spent either: 1. visiting NYC or 2. with friends from NYC or Boston visiting me here. It's been fun touristing around for the past month. So, I'm feeling more like I want all of my friends to move here rather than me moving back there. That might just be the weather talking.

In summary: everyone from NYC should move to SF. The weather is great! (Only in comparison to December-March.)

More soon, including love poems from my internet lovers.