Tag Archives: travel

A Look Back on 2016

A Look Back on 2016

PicMonkey Collage-5Reviewing the past year always helps me to move on to the new one, and here we are already heading into the last week of January! I just now feel like I’m catching up to the start of 2017!  It doesn’t usually take me this long to re-group and find the quiet time that I need to reflect after the holidays end, the kids get back to school, and visits with family and friends slow down. The election results left me distracted this January, but the Women’s March in DC last weekend has helped me to get back on track. Now I feel I can really take a look back at what unfolded over the past year and start to set some new goals for the new one ahead.

With a busy work schedule in 2016 I posted less on my blog than I would have liked.  While it was great to be busy, it left me finding less time for my own projects. I hope that in 2017 I can set aside time to do more with video and the writing that I love. Among my social media clients for the past two years I had the pleasure to work in strategic partnerships and as the Digital and Social Media Specialist for a local non-profit that I greatly admire. I worked with Edesia through the transition into a newly built factory where they produce life saving Plumpy’Nut and other ready-to-use foods to treat and prevent malnutrition in the world’s most vulnerable populations. It was exciting to witness the progress from plans to the grand opening of this amazing facility that helps to save millions of children’s lives each year from right here in Rhode Island.

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Other work highlights included attending the RESULTS conference in Washington, DC for the first time. RESULTS is a grassroots organization that builds momentum to tackle the complex and layered issues contributing to poverty. As a member of the RESULTS Social Media Corps I shared moments from the conference over digital channels highlighting the power to end poverty both at home and abroad through grassroots efforts. The United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Conference was also held in Washington, DC, and in 2016 I spoke as a Champion Leader about shaping the narrative of global health. Both conferences are opportunities for constituents to meet with their representatives on Capitol Hill to advocate for these important issues. A number of World Moms Network editors and contributors met up to attend the Social Good Summit in New York City during United Nations General Assembly week. As Managing Editor of World Moms Network I work with regional editors on each continent to support our global community of mothers and writers, During the same week I was part of a  Twitter Takeover of the GAVI  account along with a team of fellow Shot@Life Champion Leaders, keeping global vaccines front and center in the development conversation.

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By far the most amazing opportunity for me this year was to travel to Haiti where we met Artisan Business Network artisans who create pieces for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line. This was a dream trip for me where I soaked in a glimpse of the thriving visual arts culture that is everywhere you look. The Heart of Haiti program was launched in response to the devastating 2010 earthquake as a way to help the many talented Haitian artists rebuild through economic recovery. I was deeply touched by the testament to spirit and creativity displayed in the Haitian Artisans whom we were able to meet. I still have so many great stories to write from this trip I can’t wait to share.

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Standing in the spot at the Ciragan Sarayi in Istanbul where we became engaged 20 years ago, Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy & old town Split in Croatia

50th birthday celebrations inspired my husband and I to travel to some incredible destinations in 2016.  Our travels took us to Scotland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Turkey. With a growing appreciate for the fact that as our kids get older, our opportunities to travel as a family are dwindling, has also inspired us to take family trips each summer while we can. Last summer the six of us had a fantastic trip to Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia.

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Coffee on the beach and meeting the author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James.

I have to include the 2016 Nantucket Book Festival  in my recap.  Aside from Nantucket being one of my favorite places, the book festival is a heavenly event for any reader and writer.

Yes, 2017 has gotten off to a slow start, but attending the Women’s March on Washington last weekend gave me hope. Being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who, despite our differences, all believe in human decency and basic human rights, made me feel that love will ultimately prevail. Bring it on 2017, I’m fired up!

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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

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.

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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

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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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Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

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My sixteen year old went to a three day concert festival earlier this month, and I imagine our girl’s weekend at the Nantucket Book Festival was to the six of us book lovers, what being in proximity to the rock stars were to my teen daughter. If it were socially acceptable I’m sure we too would have stood up and screamed as some of our idols took the stage, but in the subdued Nantucket Athaneum we surely would have been sternly escorted out out by a gentleman in a navy blazer.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have our wild moments of dancing to random bands in a dive bar…. or……ok, so maybe that was the one wild moment of the weekend….. but it was a thrilling weekend full of books and authors, great food, and friends, wild in the stories we got to explore .   The point is, if you are a book lover, a reader or a writer, or a lover of stories and those who tell them, then you should have been there too. The amazing storytellers who spoke had us in awe, throughout the weekend we were on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the close study of human nature as told through narrative.

It all started with our gracious host, an island homeowner who had attended every Nantucket Book Festival since it’s inception four years ago and been raving to us about it ever since. Her wonderful blog CreativeWhimzy highlights the type of creative, thoughtful and energetic person our gracious host Jo is. We arrived to welcome gifts, mugs she had designed for all of us, each with a handmade tag, to enjoy our morning coffee in!IMG_8946

We were up bright and early on Friday morning for breakfast with Anita Diamant, best selling author of The Red Tent, who gave a talk about her recently released novel The Boston Girl, and her craft. I have found that writers are often great speakers, as natural storytellers they often know how to keep their audience humored and enthralled.

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Anita Diamant

 

Following Anita Diamant, author of A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah spoke to us about his journey from child soldier in Sierra Leone to best selling author in New York City. He introduced his new novel The Radiance of Tomorrow and discussed his transition from memoir to fiction and his role in providing “the lost boys” of the war in  Sierra Leone a human face and insight to the rest of the world .

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posing with Ishmael Beah

 

Leaving the athenaeum with our emotions piqued by the amazing authors we had just heard, we discovered the Typewriter Rodeo in the courtyard outside. We each got a poem typed out for us by the rodeo based on a word we gave. By then we were all practically in tears of overwhelmed emotions and the festival had only just begun!

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Authors L to R: LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Bret Anthony Johnston, Belinda McKeon, Scott Turow, Azar Nafisi

 

What we have discovered is that authors are great story tellers, and each author captivated us with the behind the scenes of the stories they told. Breakfast with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman was up close and personal, it was such a treat to get a glimpse of each of them outside of their writing, and the view from the Dreamland theatre event space could not be beat.

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up close and personal with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman

 

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Our final morning of the Nantucket Book festival was magic despite the deluge. The White Elephant is impeccable, the event space, the brunch, and the service was amazing. Ishmael Beah was amazing as well. How he can infuse such heartbreak yet inspiration in one delivery is the true magic. His wisdom and insight into human nature are treasures, mined only as someone who has seen humanity at its worst and best could do.

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The weekend at The Nantucket Book Festival felt like a dream. One where fairy tales and nightmares haunt your consciousness and leaves you on the other side of something intangible. It felt like gift that can be held and turned over in my mind for a long time to come.

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