(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

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