Tag Archives: Elizabeth Atalay

An Exciting Announcement!

An Exciting Announcement!

More details to follow soon!

Party With A Purpose; Alex & Ani for Water.org

Party With A Purpose; Alex & Ani for Water.org

 

Bloggers from The Mission LIst; Carla Molina of Petit Rhody, Laura Rossi of Mysocalledsensorylife & Elizabeth Atalay of Documama host the Alex & Ani Party with a Purpose for Water.org

A few of my own favorite charms

While working on the Water.org campaign for The Mission List  fellow bloggers Laura Rossi, Carla Molina and I realized we all lived in the same area.  We decided to get together and try to augment our social media fundraising efforts with an Alex & Ani Party With A Purpose.  Alex & Ani is a fabulous local company that we love to support not only for their amazing jewelry line, but their positive energy philosophy as well.  An entire division of the company is devoted to Charity By Design which supports various charities through the sales of specifically designed charm bangles for each group.

Their Parties With A Purpose are another way the company gives back.  Parties are hosted in the stores and provide a unique shopping experience that enables the Charity By Design department of Alex and Ani to raise funds and awareness for various charities.  Events are generally two hours long (6-8 p.m. or 7-9 p.m.), and the company donates 15% of event sales to the designated charity.  Co-branded evites are created by Alex and Ani for event promotion, and lite bites and positive energy punch are provided by the store.

 

 

We are thrilled with the results of our Party With A Purpose held at the Alex & Ani Chapel View Store at the company’s headquarters.  In just two hours of shopping and fun we were able raise over $500.00 to be donated directly to Water.org.

Every $25.00 donated provides clean water for life to someone.  That means we just provided 22 people clean water for life!

We are so grateful to all of those who turned out to support Water.org at our Party With A Purpose, and to those of you who have donated  on-line or helped to spread the word by re-tweeting and re-posting our social media efforts.  We have three days left to reach our goal of bringing 100 people clean water for life, and we are so close to being able to do just that.  If you missed our Party With A Purpose but would still like to help us reach that goal, you can still do so on The Mission List fundraising page.

 

Earthquake in Istanbul (1999)

Earthquake in Istanbul (1999)

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

It was around 3:00am in Istanbul when the earth shook beneath us. My 6-month old baby slept in her pack-n-play at the foot of our bed, and my husband and I woke to a thunderous roar. My first thought was of terrorists’ bombs going off. When we had told friends we were going to Turkey to introduce our baby to the Turkish side of my husband’s family, everyone mentioned the terrorists. Growing up on the East Coast of America, I knew nothing of bathtubs and doorjambs, and the deafening cacophony associated with an earthquake. Instinctively I grabbed our baby and clutched her to my chest – a pose I held as I watched the chandelier above our bed swing wildly. My body folded around hers as she slept on. Furniture tumbled, as I swear I felt undulating waves of movement beneath me in such a way that a bed or a floor of an apartment building just DO NOT move. When the roar was continuous,20 seconds, 30 seconds, I knew it could not be bombs hitting the building next door . The 40 seconds felt like an hour.  MY BABY, MY BABY! Was the plea that circled through my mind.  In the days following, and thinking back still, I can not get over the feeling of terror that washed through me, but that is not it.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

It is the knowledge that countless other mothers had sat clutching their children that night the same was as me, only to have their buildings crumble on top of them.  The official death count is listed as 18,000, but Turkish authorities estimated it closer to 35,000 people who died that night in Turkey. Most of whom lived less than an hour outside of Istanbul in and around the city of Izmit, the epicenter of the earthquake.  Corrupt builders there had not followed building codes, and had put too much sand in the cement, so when that night stuck buildings literally crumbled.   The earthquake registered 7.6 on the Richter scale.  With the hundreds of continual aftershocks that shook Istanbul a couple of  Turkish scientists announced that everyone should sleep outside.  In 1999 the city of Istanbul had a population of over 9 million people, and they formed a carpet of humanity filling parks and lining highways to sleep outside that following night.  My father-in-law and my husband are both scientists and thought the suggestion was ridiculous.  I am not a scientist, and as the mother of a six month old baby, demanded that if the rest of Istanbul was sleeping outside, so would we.  My father-in-law called a close family friend, Ali, who had a yard, and asked if we could camp out there for the night.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Ali, gracious as always, immediately agreed. So it was that we caravanned to Ali’s house with my husband’s aunt and uncle, his grandfather, his grandfather’s two body guards, their household staff of three, my father-in-Law, my husband, our infant and myself.  Our entourage sprawled around Ali’s yard, and once we were settled, he left for Izmit with his grown son to try to help dig people out.  It was a surreal trip, and a lesson in humility.   To feel the earth move like that under me was a reminder of how tiny we each are in the scheme of things.  How great and powerful the nature of the earth truly is over us all.

 

Have any of you experienced an earthquake? Did you know what was happening?

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

The Butterfly Effect: My Guest Post on ONE.org!

The Butterfly Effect: My Guest Post on ONE.org!

I am so excited, and honored to be posted as a Guest Blogger on ONE.org!    Click here to READ MY POST ON ONE.ORG.

The butterfly effect: The story of two humanitarian stay-at-home moms

 (‘we’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice.’   Click HERE to become a member of ONE.org, and add your voice.)

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

ONE.org is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers. Backed by a movement of more than 2.5 million ONE members, ONE achieves change through advocacy. We hold world leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to fight extreme poverty, and we campaign for better development policies, more effective aid and trade reform. We also support greater democracy, accountability and transparency to ensure policies to beat poverty are implemented effectively. ONE is not a grant-making organization and we do not solicit funding from the general public. As we have always said, at ONE, ‘we’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice.’   Click HERE to become a member of ONE.org, and add your voice.

The Moment of My Mortality

The Moment of My Mortality

Once upon a time I may have been an adventuress, but that was a very long time ago.

The Okavango Delta

It was a time when I was young, carefree,and as far as I ever thought of it, immortal.   As a mother now, the stakes are extremely high.  My teenage desire for risk taking has been satiated, and now comes the payback.  I have to guide my own children through that sense of indestructibility.  Although they are still a ways off….we are creeping closer.  My husband and I call the teenage and young adult years The Gauntlet.  We realize all parents need to get through the gauntlet, to reach the holy grail of happy, healthy adult children.  I remember the moment that switch flipped for me as a young adult, and hope that realization comes to my own children in a much less dramatic way.

Homemade brew at a local market.

The moment of my mortality struck as I sat alone atop a boulder in Central African Republic.  I was lost in the jungle, and sunset was fast approaching.  We were two months into our overland trip across the continent.  There were fourteen of us, from five different countries, in an old English Bedford army truck.  We slept in tents or out under the stars, shopped for our food at local markets, and cooked over the open flame fire we would build each night.  That afternoon as we set up our camp, my friend and fellow traveler, Ross, had fallen over a waterfall, into the raging river below, and disappeared.

Our truck stuck in the muddy main road through the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group immediately dispersed down the riverbank, and fanned out to search, hoping he would be caught in a fishing net, at best.   I started off with two others, but wading through the river’s edge was slow going, so we agreed to split up.  They would go up into the jungle, to cut back down to the river further ahead.  The current was fierce, and as the bank grew steep I had to grasp from vine to vine to wade forward, up to my thighs, then waist.  The current had seemed to pick up in one spot, and nearly dragged me under; I caught onto a branch and had to fight to pull myself out.  Soaked, I realized that I would be swept up and drowned if I preceded along the river’s edge any further.  I thought of the local legend we had heard, about the spirits in the river who would catch you by the feet, and drag you under if they could.

A different, calmer, river edge on the trip

Now I too had to cut up into the jungle to try to make some ground.  Time was of essence.   I broke my path in the underbrush by barreling through, head down, arms out front, climbing the steep bank.  Finally I reached a plateau, where the forest met a field of grass that rose above my head.  Now I could neither see the river, nor get my bearings, I knew I had to find some height to see where I was.  In the distance was a large boulder protruding from the high grass of the plain.  Aware that I was in central Africa, with snakes, and wild animals, and lord knows what else hiding in the tall grass, I bee-lined to that rock. I climbed atop, and when I looked about I saw that the river had now snaked far from where I had somehow ended up.

I saw nothing but a vast African plain yawning to the far off river that slithered away from me.   It was then that I realized the sun was lowering in the sky, and Ross was most likely gone, and I would be too if left here in the night.  I wanted to just curl up to cry, and tears began streaming down my face.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

When I was thirteen, my father died, and ever since, I have childishly believed that he watches over me.  So in this moment of desperation I prayed to my father, and begged him to save Ross, and help me find my way back to camp.  It struck me that there was no 911 here at our beck and call, we were in the middle of Africa.  The signs we had all laughed about on our way to where we would set up camp, that read, “Danger du Mort” were real warnings, and no one was going to come and rescue me now.  Certainly not my dead father.  I scolded myself, I did not have time to sit and cry, the sun was setting, and I had now gotten myself into a situation that I had to figure my way out of.  Back in sixth grade I had gone on a field trip with school to a New England mountain range. I remember being taught if we were lost and separated from the group to listen for the river. If you could find the river, you could find your way back to camp.  You never think you will ever have to use those little survival tips they teach you on team building school field trips, but then again, I guess you never know when they could come in handy.  So I stood atop that rock, mortal for the first time in my 24 years, and looked for a way to the river.  I could see its serpentine path far off in the distance, and then I noticed two African figures along the bank.  I was sure they were fisherman, who may have found Ross, and could help me find my way back to camp.  I scrambled off that rock and went in what I thought may be a straight path through the tall grass until I met the jungle that sloped down to the banks.   Keeping the figures in sight as best I could, I now crashed through the underbrush again, heading down with all my body force, calling out to them the whole time.  I waded through a waterway, and back over a small island to reach the fishermen.  Pushing through another wall of tangled vines and scrub, I came crashing out of the bushes.  Branches stuck now in my mane of curly blonde hair, dripping water from the waist down, my bare arms and legs were scraped and bleeding.

Washing clothes with the locals, by the a different river, at another time during the trip

I burst upon the flat riverbank where the African’s I had seen stood.  Two young boys, maybe eight and ten, stood agog at the apparition that had just burst out hollering before them.  They jumped back.  Hoping they knew French, I tried to ask for help in some of the only French I knew (based on how to ask for where the bathroom was located). The older looking boy was practically naked and had been bathing in the river…. I pleaded to him ”ou et le homme comme un poissan”?!, “ Vu et le homme comme un poissan”?!  Which I think roughly translates to “Where is the man like a fish?! Have you seen a man like a fish?!”  When the boy shook his head no, eyes wide, I realized what I must have looked like, and then truly seemed mad as I laughed at the absurdity of what these poor children must have been seeing.  In these small boys I instantly rested all my hopes of being rescued, and finding Ross.   When I could tell they had not seen Ross in the River, I formulated my next question, using an old rock song.   I tried to break down the lyrics (“voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir”), and asked “voulez-vous avec moi a le grand truck rouge ce soir”? Cryptically asking something like “do you want with me to the big red truck?”  The older boy motioned for me to wait.  They bathed in the river as they had come to do, my urgency clearly not theirs.  Then the older brother sent his young protesting brother home, and hiked with me back to where we had camped with our big orange truck, at the top of the waterfall.  I was bitten by tsetse flies the whole way back,  and the boy pointed to his long pants, and nodded, in the hot setting sun.

It was dark when we got back to camp, not everyone had returned from the search for Ross, but no one had found him yet.  I thanked the young boy who had escorted me, and gave him some money for the two-hour walk, that he would now have to take back in the dark to his home.   When I looked up into that African night sky, as Ross and I had done many nights with our star charts, it blazed with stars blurred by my tears.  You cannot imagine how many stars can be seen without all our light pollution.   I thought I could feel that Ross was gone then.  He died on the Fourth of July.

A Village Market. Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

As one of the few Americans in our group he had helped to negotiate the purchase of a pig to be delivered by a village farmer, and roasted that night in celebration.  Days later some fishermen did find Ross’s body; waterlogged and bloated it had popped to the surface. The men on our trip fished him out of the river, and we all dug a grave in the village graveyard where we buried him with a hand made wooden cross.

We were in the middle of Central African Republic; five days drive from the nearest town.   At the first missionary station we came to, we radioed the American Embassy to let them know.  And then we went on.  I think that was the hardest thing to do, to drive away from that village without him and just keep going. We just lost one along the way, simple as that.  I spent another four months, as a mortal, as I have been ever since, traveling through Africa.  After C.A.R. we went through Congo, and what was then Zaire, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.  To this day I drink a silent toast to Ross every Fourth of July.  That day was the day that I became aware that not all places in this world have the bumpers and safety nets around its citizens as we do here.  I became highly aware of the fragility of life, and that I am fragile too.  As a mother now, I can only imagine the torturous worries I put my own mother through with all of my adventure travel.  She never once asked me not to go.   She never tried to reason that my money would be better spent like most other responsible young adults, paying rent or buying a car, or saving for my future.  I am so grateful to her for letting me be a dreamer, as a mother I don’t know how I will ever let my children go.

Do you remember that moment that you realized your mortality?