Category Archives: Travel

Gifts of Hope This Holiday Season

Gifts of Hope This Holiday Season

 

“Everytime that you buy a basket, know that there are about 10 people attached to your purchase.” – Janet Nkubana

My belief that we can create positive change through our purchase choices was further reinforced recently when I saw first hand the impact that “Trade not Aid” programs have on the communities in which they operate.  Many of the gifts that I am giving this holiday season are things that I brought home from my recent trip to Haiti where I could see how much our purchases meant to the artisans supporting their families through their craft.  In interviews with several of the artisans who create pieces for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti program each mentioned the pride in their work, and in being able to provide a sustainable income to support their families. They made it clear that even in tough times, they did not want charity, what they wanted was to continue to earn an income through their art.  Giving gifts that help generate economic empowerment in communities where the need is great is really like giving twice, it becomes a gift that gives back. A gift that gives hope.  In a way my trip to Haiti actually began in Rwanda with Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program. Read the rest of this entry

Searching the (he)ART of Haiti

Searching the (he)ART of Haiti
"Home Is Home"

“Lakay Se Lakay” / “Home Is Home”

When I travel to a country for the first time I usually try to do some homework in preparation for my visit. I love the way that travel brings history, geography, and humanity to life, and provides a deeper understanding of the world. Still, sometimes I visit a place like Haiti, that is so enigmatic and full of surprises, that I realize no amount of advance preparation could have fully primed my understanding of the place. I loved the way Haitian Fashion Designer of Rapadou, Marie Therese Hilaire who goes by “Tetes”, expressed it:

“We have a country that has a feeling, se la pu la, You have to be there to understand it“.

It took less than two hours to fly there from Miami, but could not have felt more worlds away.

Packets of fried plantain snacks for sale

Packets of fried plantain snacks for sale

The art of any country always provides insightful cultural cues. In a country like Haiti, which is deeply infused with a visual arts culture, it can be a primer into the ethos of the population. Read the rest of this entry

Heading to Haiti: Destruction and Creation

Heading to Haiti: Destruction and Creation

img_4219I grew up with several Haitian bark paintings and pieces of metalwork decorating our home. One was a concave bark painting that depicted a turtle fighting a fish. As a child I asked my father the meaning of that piece. I only wish I could remember his answer. Funny how the image of that fish and turtle remain crisp in my mind while details of conversations with my father, who died when I was thirteen, have mostly faded away. Maybe I’ll find my answer next week when I peek into the Haitian art world, still it strikes me that this is the power of art, of images that stay in our minds long after words fade away. Read the rest of this entry

Eucalyptus In Ethiopia: The Selfish Tree

Eucalyptus In Ethiopia: The Selfish Tree
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Eucalyptus Tree scaffolding

One could not help but notice all of the development as you drove through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While there on an International Reporting Project New Media Fellowship in 2014 evidence of the country’s rapid economic growth was displayed by the progress on the roads, buildings, railroads, and homes being built-in, and around the city.  What I noticed most about the “progress”, aside from the Chinese companies working on the roads, were the archaic wooden frames being used as scaffolding on the construction projects. Piles of timber were stacked by the roadside, and carts piled with the thin poles of trees were pulled amidst the traffic often by small boys barely taller than their load.

 

I was told that the scaffolding was Eucalyptus wood.   Compared to the safety standard steel beams that would typically be used for construction projects in Europe or the USA, the tall slim Eucalyptus trees framing construction projects seemed, well, flimsy, and downright unsafe. The amazing thing is that somehow it works! As cement buildings rise from the dusty streets of the city at a rapid pace, I can imagine this is the way construction has happened for many decades along the way.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Eucalyptus Scaffolding

Eucalyptus Scaffolding

The ubiquitous evergreen hardwood Eucalyptus trees used for scaffolding are not indigenous to Ethiopia. In the late 1890’s the ruling Emperor Menelik realized they needed quick-growing resources for construction of the “new city”, Addis Ababa. The Eucalyptus tree, or Gum Tree, which is native to Australia, was known to grow quickly and easily, so Emperor Menelik imported Eucalyptus from Australia to Ethiopia, where it has thrived (in its invasive and selfish way).

Boy transporting wood in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

The Eucalyptus tree, it turns out, demands huge amounts of water and tends to obscure other plants nearby. In Ethiopia it has come to be known as “the selfish tree”, taking for itself all the water and land around it. With Ethiopia facing the worst draught it has seen for the past 50 years, I wonder about the impact of this resource being used to help build the country, while at the same time robbing precious water from the ground.

SAMSUNG CSC

In travel one is constantly reminded that things we take for granted in one area of the world may not exist in others. “Safety precautions” are a big one, a reminder reinforced for me for example while watching a three-year old wield a machete in Borneo. While I stared in horror, mouth agape, the local adults went about their business unfazed. Or in New Zealand where they sent me abseiling down a 100 foot drop to “black water raft” the rapids through caves on an inner tube with a mere 1/2 hour tutorial under my belt.  Again and again in various scenarios around the world I have thought, this would never fly back in the litigious, and bubble wrapped USA.  In most areas in this world you operate at your own risk, and I find myself wondering about all the travel mishaps we’ve never heard about. In Ethiopia I worried for the construction workers working on the tethered timber scaffolding 10 stories off the ground. My hope being that the “selfish tree” will always come through to support them.

Highrise in Ethiopia with Eucalyptus scaffolding

Looking Back on 2015

Looking Back on 2015

myPicMonkey Collage

As the first week of 2016 comes to a close I wanted to take a quick look back to savor the fantastic year that was 2015 before moving on. Last year flew by, full of family, work, and travel, and as excited as I am for upcoming 2016 plans, I want to make sure to take the time to pause and savor the highlights, and small successes of the past year before forging ahead.

2015 was an exciting year of travel. Skiing in Aspen. The Nantucket Book Festival. Yoga in Bali.  It will be tough to top! On our family trip we explored a glacier lake in Iceland and climbed crumbling castles in Ireland.  2016 does have a few exciting destinations on the horizon so far, so we will see!

This past year work fulfilled me and helped me grow. I challenged myself by agreeing to do a “media day” of television and radio interviews at the National Press Club in Washington, DC for the United Nations Foundation. As a Shot@Life Champion advocating for global vaccines I was paired up with Dr. Mkope a Tanzanian Pediatrician to do 22 TV and radio interview with stations from across the USA to highlight World Pneumonia Day. In 2015 I continued to work with local non-profit Edesia, the world’s 2nd largest producer of Plumpy’Nut, an amazing product used to treat malnourished children around the globe, and save the lives of nearly a million kids a year. Some of my photography and writing was included in a book put together by ONE.org that went to the US Congressional representatives to support the Electrify Africa Act which was ultimately passed by congress. As a United Nations 2015 Social Good Fellow I attended the Social Good Summit in New York City for the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals. As Managing Editor of World Moms Blog I attended the United Nations Correspondents Association Award Gala at Cipriani with Founder Jennifer Burden to accept Senior Editor Purnima Ramakrishnan’s UNCA Award for journalism covering a UN topic on her behalf.

As wonderful as the travel and work accomplishments were this year, the moments with family and close friends are my most cherished every year, and there is nothing like being home, especially after an adventure away. I am so grateful to my husband and the supportive women in my life who cheered me on, and provided the incredible opportunities of the past year, and  I’m excited to see what the New Year brings!

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