Tag Archives: Work

Field Notes | Walking to Strand Campus

Time: (morning rush)

8:30am – 9:30am (typical London workday is 9-5 or 10-6);shops generally open between 10 and 11am; larger chain restaurants open between 7 and 9am, smaller cafes and restaurants may not open until 10 or later)

People and Activities: (varied by area)

St Katherine’s Docks – sparsely populated, mostly men and women on their way to the Tower Hill Tube Station (business professionals) wearing suits or business-appropriate attire, assumed middle class, many taking personal calls on mobile phones, most walking alone, occasional solo runners, little interaction with others, restaurant staff setting up chairs & table settings for the day, short queue at the pop-up coffee vendor’s stall

Tower of London – largely tourists standing at rails to photograph the tower and each other; some professionals entering/leaving Tower Hill subway to access tube/train stations; generally benign, but occasionally brusque, interactions between the two as tourists stroll or stop and professionals attempt to hurry; tourists are primarily individuals, couples, or small family groups (no large, guided tours, no students); conversation primarily around the poppies for the WWI display in the Tower moat

Financial District – almost entirely business professionals streaming out of the tube station and toward their offices on the streets opposite; 2 charity canvassers attempt (rather unsuccessfully) to stop and chat with passers-by (myself included, though I too ignore them). Two men stand amidst the crowd handing out newspapers and another distributes fliers, presumably for a special taking place at the restaurant in which he works (he’s wearing a white apron); mostly white, middle class, English-speakers (those who speak at all) traveling alone or in pairs as they seem to have met up with a colleague along the way

St. Paul’s Cathedral – at this time in the morning, St. Paul’s is still rather quiet; business professionals walk by. Similar situation to St. Katherine’s Docks re:professionals and occasional runners; a few more family groups of tourists but again no large groups as it is still early

Fleet Street/Temple – greater number of young people around (whom I assume to be students) and more casually dressed business professionals; shops are beginning to open up, and tourists stand in small huddles on street corners consulting maps

General – Driving traffic is moderate, we are a bit past the morning rush by the time I enter the city; mainly cabs, buses, and personal vehicles but occasional construction trucks pass by; about two dozen cyclists pass along the way (from experience, this number would have been much greater earlier in the morning) and these seem to be young professionals, and predominantly white men (equal parts wearing jeans or cycling gear and suits; all carrying bags)

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Gargi Wable at TTL

IMG_8230Touching Tiny Lives tends to host a pretty international crowd, from a range of cross-border donors and visitors (Germany, Sweden, Gabon, etc.) to the rotating temporary staff, myself included. At present, the campus can boast of one restless American, one  chipper Canadian, and a pint-sized, industrious Indian. From India.

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Gargi Wable (pronounced wvah-blay, with that curious blend of V and W) is a Maharashtri by birth, a nutritionist by trade, and a perpetual student by choice. We’ve discovered a shared love of good cooking and of the same breed of reading material and hold likeminded opinions about those development operations we’ve discussed at length. Lofty and probing academic conversations had been absent from my life until the final minutes of May when Julie and Gargi arrived.

IMG_8638Her role at TTL for the two months of her stay involves tying up the many loose ends of the floundering UNICEF grant that Jenn began last year. With a strict timeline to follow, and no external duties of distraction, Gargi has made rapid progress. Her nutrition expertise has proven invaluable to grant implementation and to growing staff knowledge, and her unassuming presence has kept life on campus homelier than usual.

Rest assured, Julie and I have already made plans to visit Gargi in two years’ time when she has returned to Mumbai following her PhD studies in New York.
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Foodgasms

Maseru: the land of milk and honey.
Literally. I can only buy those items at the Maseru Pick’n’Pay or ShopRite.

Staples aside, Maseru has also become a source of treats including chocolate, leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and biscuits. Until recently, the list stopped there. But when ‘M’e and I traveled to the capital for end-of-month errands (and a surprise event), I discovered not one but two eateries that nearly made me cry of happiness.

1) Ouh La La

Briefly transported to a French café, complete with lemon crêpe.

2) The Regal

'M'e Nthabileng treated me to Indian food. I cried.

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Indian food to die for. Naan and dhal made right.

Working Vacation

How often do we truly disconnect from the busyness of the world to enjoy our friends, family, and cozy surroundings while on holiday? This is not a lecture on the need to part from the mobile for longer than 30 minutes. It is, however, a comment on my first Christmas away from all three of those familiarities.

Given my far-flung locale and my indifference to the zealous religiosity of this time of year, I was more than amenable to the proposition of a working holiday. And what better way to kick it off than a re-visit to the quiet retreat of Living Life?

IMG_3545Living Life is tucked into the dumpy little town of Ladybrand, South Africa – as different from its own surroundings as can be. I took a tour of the old rail town one morning to discover the appeal. There wasn’t any, really.

Which makes Living Life that much better.

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Jenn Baker in profile

For the next few months, I share a job, a living space, and all my personal health details with a Ms. Jenn Baker, who is as lovely as they come.

IMG_2803Jenn is an east coaster by birth and a wanderer by choice. She has been introducing me to all the best places to experience southern Africa.

A registered nurse, Jenn is also a retired Peace Corps Volunteer, who served in Swaziland from 2011 to 2012 and worked to improve rural health initiatives. Though she finished early, her travel was nowhere near complete and off to India she went to live in community where she found balance, friends, and a personal motivation. She returned then to Lesotho to begin work with TTL in May 2013 and has been my guide from day one.

IMG_3305She is interested in international maternal and child health, which makes her an asset to the TTL Team and a phenomenal resource as I ease into the new job. In August she will return to graduate school, likely Boston University, for her MPH.

Jenn is a runner and a reader and a yogi and a hiker and a natural foodie all rolled into five-foot-nothing.

It is so fun to share time and space with a woman of kindred spirit and I count myself quite fortunate. Now, reader, carry on with an increased appreciation for this marvelous lady.

Staff Party: Lesotho Christmas edition

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There must be a template for staff parties:

  • Minimal decoration
  • A costume or dress code that mostly gets ignored
  • Enough food for twice as many people
  • Festive music of which one person inevitably takes control
  • And clusters of people desperately clutching alcoholic beverages

Don’t confuse this for complaint. It is simply fun to observe how culturally or geographically transcendent the ‘staff party’ can be.

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And a holiday message from TTL.

Big Block of Cheese Day

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My favorite nights in Washington, DC, were those when the clocks would tick well past closing time and the full team was still at the office. Eventually someone would run across the street to buy a six-pack of beer as the rest continued tapping furiously on our keyboards – drafting speeches, editing reports, filling in spreadsheets with mind-numbing repetition.

It was not glamorous. It only barely qualified as fun. But it was home. We were a small band of believers those nights.

As a friend of mine discovers The West Wing for the first time, I am compelled to re-watch some of my favorite episodes. Big Block of Cheese Day episodes are always a heartwarming fallback.

Once a season, Bartlet Administration Chief of Staff, the lovable Leo McGarry, commemorates the day President Andrew Jackson became the bewildered owner of a 2-ton wheel of New Yorker cheese, stored in the White House foyer. Big Block of Cheese Day is dedicated to hearing the issues of small interest groups – those that would not normally merit a meeting with senior-level White House staff*. Once upon a time, deep in the pre-KONY 2012 era, we may have qualified for just such a meeting.

At the end of Season 1, Episode 5, President Bartlet has made chili for the full senior staff to celebrate his youngest daughter’s visit. In a moment of emotional Sorkinese candor, Mr. President, Leo, and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman discuss their female colleagues with admiration as the camera pans over each woman in turn. The scene may be a touch overdone, but I have been craving those moments from my own life – the occasional break from a state of constant stress and determination despite our youth and naïveté.

Let me return to the days of too much to do and good people to share them with. Saint Louis has already lost its appeal.

* My inner geography nerd particularly likes the Season 2 Big Block of Cheese Day (Episode 16) when Press Secretary C.J.Cregg and Josh learn about mapping projection distortion.