Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things I am going to miss about Amsterdam

Am feeling so overwhelmed by packing, sorting through my stuff, and trying to move so this isn't a very coherent post but I wanted to start listing some of the things I'll miss about dear old Amsterdam

* Biking home at night over the canals in this gorgeous old city
* The fantastic healthcare system at the OLVG hospital. I had to get a chest xray and I was in and out in 20 minutes without an appointment - they also have an espresso cafe in there!
* Raw herring with onions and pickles on the street corner
* Inexpensive flowers and some beautifully composed bouquets for less than 25 euros!
* The Grocery store in the airport - what a great idea!
* Gezellig cafes  all over the city where you can linger at your table for hours without being rushed.
* Good looking Dutch men all over the city! The ladies are nice to look at too but the men are gorgeous! I can see my friend Susanne saying "Greasy Hair, Shiny Shoes" right now but I find them hot!
* The efficient trams zipping past my apartment all day.
* Rainbows - yes it rains a lot here, but the upside is that I've seen  more rainbows in this city than any other time in my life.
* Green parakeets that used to sit outside my office window in the tree.

What I won't miss... well, in the spirit of positivity, I'll leave that for another post. Today it's all about the love. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Read this book!

black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identityblack and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity by Carolyn Vines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: I know Carolyn Vines personally

Carolyn's voice is one that is missing from much of the travel literature that I love to read. She's African-American, came out of a challenging childhood from a racially tense country, and is well-educated, funny, and fearless. Carolyn chronicles the story of her fascinating life from Indiana in the American midwest to Voorschotten, Netherlands. You'll learn alot about how black women think and what struggles they must overcome as Carolyn evolves from the "good daughter" or  "sell-out" black woman (depending on who you talk to) who makes good grades, loves her Spanish classes, and grows up in the 70s and the 80s in the United States. As Carolyn tries to find her own path through racial and gender stereotypes, expectations of the family, community and her own fears, and survives heart-breaking personal tragedies, she evolves personally into her own woman who defines herself as a writer, a loving wife, and happy mother of two beautiful biracial girls living in a bizarre little white country in Northern Europe. Her take on everything from cycling through the rain while trying to keep up standards of having "good black hair" to the intricacies of dealing with Crohn's disease in Dutch toilets will make you laugh, make you sigh, and keep you wondering what is next for her.  Personally, I hope she has a second book in her - I'd like to read more about how her academic research about the role of African women in the Caribbean has shaped her own thoughts on racial identity as an African-American woman living outside of the US. This book touches on that topic many times but I kept wanting more.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Changes in 2011

As you may have noticed - 2010 was not a great year for me as far as writing and being creative... I was on sick leave for five months due to a combination of stress from work (non stop travel, Haitian earthquakes, and human resource problems at my org) and from personal grief over the illness and death of my father in 2009 and it definitely impacted my ability to put my thoughts down on paper (or the computer!).

Although I had adventures and traveled a lot in 2010, I couldn't find it in me to write as much as I used to... for the record, I did manage to hit several new countries this year and most of them were for pleasure and fun, not work*.  It was odd not to visit Africa this year - although my time in Haiti and India were certainly memorable.  2011 should bring some big changes... I've accepted a job with the Norwegian Refugee Council and will be seconded to the United Nations as a Gender-based Violence Regional Training Manager for Asia. I'll be working on building capacity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal to fight gender-based violence and I'll be moving to Bangkok, Thailand!

Its a big change - but I think I needed something. Although I have learned a lot in the big humanitarian agency where I currently work, its never really been a good fit for me - the lack of prioritization on women's issues, the reluctance to do advocacy, and the byzantine office politics and proud refusal to professionalize has undermined my own belief in my abilities and I feel stagnant.  I'm not sure that this new job will be perfect - are there any "perfect" jobs out there? And I will miss Amsterdam and Europe and my lovely colleagues from my current job but I am ready to try something new. Thai cooking classes, meeting Afghan women's organizations, and working for the Scandinavians... lets see how it goes! Wish me luck and pack your bags and come to visit in 2011!!!

*Here's my travel itinerary from 2010:
January: Kerala, Delhi, and Manipur India
February: Istanbul and Selcuk Turkey
March: Port-au-Prince, Haiti and London and Liverpool, UK
April: Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina
May: Edinburgh, Scotland, Paris, France and Texel and Verschelling in the Frisian Islands of Holland
June: Berlin, Germany and Gdansk, Poland
July: Paris, France
August: Copenhagen, Denmark
September: Tuscany, Italy and Bologna, Italy
October: Berlin, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic
November: Ghent, Belgium, Maastricht, Netherlands and Berlin, Germany
December: London and Swindon, UK

Pubs I visited in London

Check out some of the pubs I visited in London on my food blog....