(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lots of Travel and a Famous Visitor

“Absence diminishes commonplace passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and kindles fire.”
 -Francois, duc de La Rochefoucauld, moralist (1613-1680)

I’m in Amman, Jordan. Clearly absence is something I’m familiar with. Trips to visit projects. Rwanda. New York. Jordan. Then it will be back to Rwanda, then back to the US (multi-city) – all of this within an 8-week period. Then it all starts again in January. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the upcoming holidays, even though it means loads more travel. As far as my family goes, it’s travel without the absence.
Dubai rising above the mist on my flight to Amman
Whether or not you’ve noticed, I seldom use last names or sometimes I’ll avoid names altogether. The desire is to limit the google search presence of people’s information. I don’t password protect the blog because I don’t think it’s necessary but I do want to limit to some extent the blogs web footprint. It’s not that I say anything secretive in nature, it’s just that I would rather that most of the visitors be family and friends. I don’t mind other people reading and it sort of fascinates me that people I don’t know read this thing. Last month I had 483 hits just to give you an idea. Maybe it’s a sign that winter is setting in up in the northern hemisphere and people have nothing better to do. 

As I mentioned previously, we had a visit by a British actress. In this case I’ll go ahead and name her since publicity is a good thing for actor. Moreover, I’m going to say nice things. Her name is Romola. She’s a Golden Globe nominee and I was familiar with her having seen Amazing Grace (which I highly recommend). She’s also done a lot of critically acclaimed stuff that I haven’t seen. Now that I know her I want to see more of her work.
Romola (seated center) watching the Burundian drummers
Most of the visit to our program in Burundi came while I was still in NY. Fortunately, at my request, she was able extend long enough for me to overlap with her by a day and a half or so. I have to say, these types of visits can go either way. There have been some nightmare celebrity visits to international organization projects around the world. I have had few such interactions since I tend to work in obscure places but my Country Director counterparts have some stories that make my stomach tighten up just hearing. In our case, Romola is intelligent and came well informed. She asked good questions, honing in mostly on women’s issues though we visited others youth projects as well. We had lunch a couple of times and she came to our house for a reception. I have to say, she does seem to escape the stereotypical self-absorbed, ill-informed actor out to ease his/her conscience and boost the career by photos with starving babies. It will be interesting to see where this goes but I do know that she has a good handle on what this work is about. She’s clear on the fact that the developing world doesn’t need or want a quick fix, particularly since it doesn’t exist, and that the work is often arduous, long-term and the solutions are complex.
Anyway, go see her movies. She was a great visitor and I hope, if we get more celebs interested in coming, that they measure up.

For now, however, I’m in the Middle East. It’s raining and chilly this Sunday night. Had a skype video call with my wife and baby a bit ago.  Sad to be away so much but it does seem to diminish “commonplace passions and increases great ones” – the great ones being my family. In case you didn’t know.
the great ones
cutest baby ever

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Quick Week in NY

I’m sitting in JFK Airport after a busy week in NY. It’s been good to be in the US but I’m very happy to return to Burundi.
visiting our friend Liya (in front of Madison Sq. Garden)
One thing that always amazes me is how American media fixates on stories and they just go on and on. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. The Wall Street protests (which I visited) have been replaced by the Penn State football scandal which was momentarily replaced by Rick Perry’s gaffe and now we’re back to endless commentary about Penn State’s scandal. It’s not that these are not news stories; it’s that they beat the story into the ground. CNN, which I presume would have access to lots of other interesting stories, is at this moment interviewing a former Penn State cheerleader. Sorry. That’s not news.
the Wall Street protestors
My week in NY was fortunately not filled with time in front of the TV watching recycled news stories. Loads of meetings filled my days and work dinners filled my evenings. One exception was our gala event on Wednesday which included David Gregory (60 Minutes) as MC and David Letterman doing a bit of comedy.
apparently some recycled jokes from the night before, but still funny
He was followed by Colin Powell who gave a rather impressive speech about the work our organization does and encouraging some of NY’s wealthiest to cough up some funds for our work around the world. Powell was followed by Tom Brokaw and family who received our award this year. As I did two years ago, I was able to chat with him a bit afterwards. He’s particularly attached to our program in Rwanda to I have a connection with him. Very cool guy and a wonderful family.
Tom flanked by family and Colin
The evening was wrapped up by a couple of songs from John Legend. He’s become a big supporter of our work and has even visited some of our projects. I’d like to get him to Burundi or Rwanda. Be good for our programs and probably for him as well.
It’s nearly time to board. Anxious to travel halfway around the globe to see my wife and baby. I arrive at around midnight tomorrow and by 10am I need to meet our British actress visitor to Burundi. Going to be some fatigue and jet lag.
So I wasn’t successful in getting this posted before the flight. I’m not on the other side of the Atlantic getting ready to head south. That’s one thing that is on my Christmas list: direct flights to the US. Speaking of flights, after we boarded our Air France flight in NY, they started playing the James Bond theme. Caught my attention but I didn’t think too much about it until the pilot came on and said, “Welcome aboard Air France flight 007 destination Paris Charles de Gaulle.” Mais oui, the French do have a sense of humor.