Sorry for taking so long to update you all. I got a bit overwhelmed by the
shock of the transition (and the weather!) to California.
That, of course, answers your first question, though! I arrived safely in
Aptos (near Santa Cruz for those of you not from the area) after flying from
Buala to Honiara and spending a week there meeting with the other UN
Volunteers and closing out things like my bank accounts, etc. Then I flew to
Nadi, Fiji where I spent two days because of a change in flight schedules.
(Oh, poor me, I know you're thinking ). One day I took a boat tour that
took us to a lovely little island for several hours and then toured around a
bunch of the other islands right off the coast of Nadi. I got an awesome
massage – picture a lovely (and well-trained) Fijian woman digging into my
travel-tightened muscles while I lay on a table on the beach looking down at
a lovely arrangement of frangipani flowers. . . Then I went snorkeling (with
rented equipment because I sold mine to the SolAir agent in Buala, which I
was reconsidering the wisdom of as water kept getting into my mask) and got
some great shots, which you can see on my Flickr page:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tlongacre hopefully tomorrow or the next day
when I get a chance to post them. On the boat tour, I scored the prime spot
on the open top deck and spent most of the time talking with an interesting
marine biologist from Melbourne.
I managed to get through customs and get myself and my bags on my final,
Southwest flight without too much trouble or expense and was met at the San
Jose airport by my friend Linda and her housemate Chris on a nice, sunny but
(to my thinned blood at least) horrifically cold day.
So, I've been back for a week. I've been to two concerts (my friends Zoe
Keating (cello) and Charles Rus (organ) at Old First Church in San Francisco
and then Vienna Teng, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, at the Rio in
Santa Cruz), went to the new California Academy of Sciences (awesome!),
joined a local gym, got my haircut (yeah!) and even managed to see a
podiatrist who specializes in runners about my feet. Her diagnosis?
Tendonitis. So now my ankle is taped and I am wearing a brace. She made some
adjustments to my orthotics and told me I was running in the wrong kinds of
shoes (I don't need stability shoes because I have high arches). But she
didn't tell me not to run (smart, smart doctor).
I've had Mexican food, Chinese, excellent Middle Eastern (twice!), a bit of
sushi, a bunch of salads, and a couple of bottles of wine! In addition, I've
done some commando shopping, both brick and mortar and online. It's been a
busy week! Overall, it's been nice to be back for awhile, except for the
fact that it has been painfully cold, even for the area. It has been in the
upper-40s F when I go out to run in the mornings. Thank God I have gloves
So what's happening with my life, you are wondering. Those of you who
follow me on Facebook or Twitter may have some idea.
In my last weeks in Buala, I had a couple of interviews for a job I applied
for with the International Rescue Committee. I had also explored the
possibility of returning to Africa with VSO and I was looking seriously at
what it would take to raise the funding to go spend a year or two working
with a group of LGBT folks in Uganda. In the fourth interview with IRC, the
Regional Director of Programs let me know of a different position (than the
one I originally applied for) which he thought was a better fit for my
skills and experience. They sent me the job description and I could see
clearly why he thought this, but the job was not yet posted. So I waited.
Finally, the night before I left the Solomons, I had yet another interview,
this time for this other position. That interview went very well, with the
Program Manager telling me she wanted to work with me. Then again, I waited.
When I woke up last Monday morning, I had an e-mail from the HR person in
New York offering me the job. Woo hoo!
I have accepted the offer to become the Partnership Coordinator, based in
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I've made a minimum 2 year
commitment, though I can easily imagine a long and fruitful career with this
organization. The job is essentially to head up a department whose role is
to build the capacities of IRC's partner organizations. In the health
program, that means the local health departments, in the Community
Reconstruction program that means local communities and their leaders, etc.
And by build their capacities, we mean to assess, train and monitor them to
be stronger, more transparent, competent and well-governed organizations.
There is so much about this job that I love already and I am not even there
yet. I love that it is (or should be) a *service* department. I love that it
is in Africa and that the organization has a great reputation. I like the
way they operate (straightforward and efficient) and that they have a 403b
program. Of course, I love that they want me . But most of all—a couple
of years ago I sat down and articulated for myself what my life goals are.
These are sort of goals and sort of ways of being I'd like to grow into. One
person said it was a kind of rule of life. At any rate, one of my life goals
(and one which I had considerable doubts about whether it could or would be
fulfilled) is: “have a fulfilling career building the capacities of African
NGOs.” Now, standing here, this seems so obviously what I want to do, what I
am meant to do, what my skills and experience have prepared me to do, but
even a month ago, it seemed so remote as a possibility that I wasn't
focusing any energy or intention on it. In fact, it is only in writing to
you that I even recalled that I had/have this goal. Amazing.
I start 1 June which either means I leave the US at that time or I arrive
in Bukavu at that time, I'm not sure which. Right now they are running a
background check on me and I'm waiting to get my orientation packet. Then
I'm sure there'll be forms to fill, papers to read, doctors to see,
arrangements to make.
I am staying down in Aptos, but I have a car and am happy to drive up to
the city, Peninsula or East Bay to visit with any of you who are in the
greater Bay Area. You can e-mail me or find me on Facebook. I'm happy to
come preach and/or serve as Deacon on the 10th, 17th or 24th. It would give
me a reason to iron my alb which was shoved in a box and is now in a
horrific state! Basically I'd love to see as many of you as possible over
the next four weeks as I'm not sure when I'll be back this way again.
BTW, on a somewhat related note, I have a couple of things for sale, in case
any of you are interested:
– a Garmin 205 GPS watch — works perfectly, maps your runs or rides.
Comes with charger, dock, instructions, bike mount. $100
– a Canon 20D digital SLR with a 28-105mm USM lens (full frame). Comes
with some filters, battery & charger, strap and cover, 2GB memory card. $600
– a Western Digital 1TB external hard drive (USB). About the size of a
James Clavell novel. $150
– a Nintendo DS Lite, powder blue, with a bunch of games (brain trainer,
myst, yoga, etc.). $200
And now, on to the next adventure!