Tuesday, October 4, 2011

As the world turns ...
12 September 2011, Minneapolis MN USA
Hurry up to wait ... that’s the standard in my industry, international development, when the US government is involved.  Remember that at the end of the last blog entry I mentioned a possible assignment in Armenia?  Well, we’re still working on it.  The company has to deploy the key staff, including the chief of party (my position), on a very tight timeframe.  So when we originally talked, they were pushing for my arrival on 15 September.  We finally agreed on 10 days after I accept a contract.  And last word I had was that the local Mission person in charge was “actively reviewing” my candidacy.
In other news, last night my friends Janet and Ed joined me at The Dakota jazz club to hear Basia, a Polish contemporary jazz singer that I found by accident.  I got a CD of hers in a thrift store years ago and liked it.  She reminded me of Astrid Gilberto of Brasil ‘66 fame, and last night she said that Gilberto is her role model.  My Basia CD is one of three in my “Clean the House” playlist (Sting and Eddie Higgins are the other two).  I should put them on and do just that.
13 September 2011
Have had contact from Women for Women about my application to be interim country director in South Sudan, something I responded to on a whim right after Armenia called.  Their project sounded like something I could do -- train a local country director, plus it’s a six to 12 month assignment.  And it’s something I’d love to do.  Have decided to continue the process with them although I have made an oral commitment to Armenia -- you never know.
19 September 2011
I’m not sure exactly how to express how I feel right now ... angry, frustrated, unhappy.  A few minutes ago I had a call from my contact at the Armenia project, and USAID has rejected their application to have me as chief of party.  He actually sounded as baffled as I am, said his organization had gotten excellent references on me but apparently USAID talked to one of their employees that I’ve worked with in the past who said enough negative things to nix the contract.  I can honestly only think of one, the CTO we had in Kosovo, who would do that.  We all had problems with her at one time or another although I thought everything was okay when I left.  This gives me pause for doing any more work that has to get USAID approval.  I’m glad I’ve been continuing the process with Women for Women, which has no USAID funding.  What a concept.  It would be so nice not to have to deal with their bureaucracy.
Later ... spent some time with friends Janet and Ed, watching Janet’s new robotic vacuum sweeper toodle around the front hallway and using Ed’s fax to send something to WfWI, and deconstructing the Armenia call with them.  Much of the rest of the day was spent in Northfield with Lois (my first friend in Minnesota) -- relaxing lunch, run a few errands with her, then work on her memoir.  You may recall that I am helping her with a memoir about her amazing life, a wonderful project that continues the writing relationship we developed when we were both at the PR agency in the ‘70s. I gave Lois the audiotape of everything we’ve done so far.  Since she can no longer read even extra large type, she can listen to the tapes and suggest changes, fill in gaps and such, as well as tape new stories when I’m not around.  And we started to fill a big hole, her post-college years.  Then a quick trip up the freeway and into the forested area where friends Sue and Nancy live, of course getting lost somehow even with directions on my iPhone. We had dinner at their favorite neighborhood hole-in-the-wall cafe -- my kind of place, totally comfortable and full of comfort food.  More Armenia and South Sudan discussions as well as theater and travel.  They are heading for Morocco, then Egypt in October.  Other friends called or emailed throughout the day in response to my message on the Armenia outcome. 
20 September, still in Minneapolis
Can’t believe I’m actually blogging two days in a row.  Has to be a record for the last few months.  The reason is that I just had a great -- and lengthy -- conversation with one of the leaders at WfWI.  So much of what they do and want is aligned with my strengths and where I am in life.  She suggested that I might come to DC next week for a day to meet them, and I agreed.  
Been a while since I took a timed test, let alone two of them.  But mid afternoon Dawn from WfWI emailed me a Word file and an Excel file.  I had 30 minutes to complete each.  The Word file was two project situations, I had to describe how I’d handle each,  and the Excel was a partial year budget that I had to comment on.  I think I did okay, other than going over the time.  I was just saving the Excel file in Excel format when Dawn called to ask if I’d sent that one.  I emailed it as soon as I got off the phone and got a confirming email back.  Now, as we said in Poland IV, ”Zobaczymy, wszystko jest mozliwe.”  And in the meantime, czekam, czekam, czekam.
22 September
Yes, that’s right ... I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. Though I have to say, the waiting has been far less than with Armenia, plus WfWI staff are very communicative. In the meantime, I keep busy.  Yesterday I drove my sister to the airport for her flight to Denver, where she went to college and lived before moving to Minnesota.  Hope she has good weather.  She really needs this vacation as work has gotten increasingly stressful; she’s the only one left in her unit!  So re-connecting with old friends will be the perfect tonic.
Last night I had a fun dinner with Peace Corps friends Sabrina and Mark and their four-year-old Christopher, my adopted grandson.  It’s been so much fun watching him grow up and mature.  He’s quite the little boy now, attending pre-school in the neighborhood as well as the University of Minnesota’s Lab. He reminds a little of my late son Peter at that age: full of curiosity and not really shy but not leaping into new things either.  He loves to read and loves to build things. I’m so delighted to have “little Christopher” in my life.
Today I had lunch with “big Christopher,” my two-meter tall nephew.  I ran into him as I was leaving Costco, where he works, and offered to take him to lunch.  He and his girlfriend Jen will come to dinner on Sunday night.
I’ve decided that Lily, my cat, is part dog ... or cosmically related to Carrie, the first cat that I got for Peter.  She actually seems to listen to what I say and to do it.  I don’t even have to be really firm or loud when I say, “No,” or “Down.”  And if I call her to come to me or pat the seat next to me, she will join me.  Carrie was the same way; she even followed me to my poker night in the neighborhood and waited until I finished to walk me home.  Not something Lily will get to do since her only outdoor experiences are two third-floor decks where she suns herself while I read the paper and have my coffee.

Lily napping on my bed
23 September
Hurray.  The waiting is over, at least the stressful part.  I just got a call from WfWI to come to DC for an interview on Wednesday.  It would be an in/out in one day thing except I agreed to pay the difference so I can return on Friday.  That way I can see at least a couple of people while I’m there.
Fall has fell in Minnesota
As I walked toward the restaurant where I was to meet my youngest niece Tomery for lunch today, I saw this gorgeous maple tree.  Fall is coming quickly to Minnesota ... and then comes winter.  Would be nice to avoid that by living/working in South Sudan.
24 September
Today after water exercise, a bunch of us went for breakfast to celebrate Roz’s 83rd birthday which was earlier in the week.  Roz is Polish so of course we have a few things in common, and she’s an inspiration to all of us in the class.  Despite her need for a walker or motorized wheelchair, she is a regular in the classes and lots of fun too.  Table conversation ranged far and wide, including some travel tales from Roz’s days as an international travel agent.  Something came up about earlier days in Minneapolis and Karen said she’d only moved here from Virginia Beach VA in the early ‘70s, being from Omaha originally.  Some Warren Buffett discussion (Karen’s sister went to high school with his current wife.)  They went to Omaha’s North High School, and I said that I had a friend who went there, and in fact my friend was back there for her 50th reunion last year.  To which Karen said she was at her 50th last year, and that’s when we discovered we both know Marilou.  Small world indeed!
Tonight Susan, Randy, PJ and I went to see August, Osage County, an excellent production at a theater in St. Paul.  Lots of think and talk about afterwards.  Two of the actors, Karen Landry and Chris Mulkey, are friends of Susan’s, faces you’d recognize from many television appearances.  And I recognized Chris as Collier Sims on Any Day Now, one of my favorite Lifetime series.  It was a treat to meet him.
30 September, Reagan National Airport, Washington, DC
In nine days I leave for South Sudan for a four-month (up to 12 months) assignment with Women for Women International!  I am ecstatic and nervous and happy and overwhelmed.  Lots of do when I return.  I am already making lists!
Needless to say, the interview went well.  They made a salary offer that was more than adequate and offered me the job pending reference checking.  This afternoon the HR director called to confirm she’s send a written contract on Monday.  In the meantime, I had found a travel clinic at home where I’ll have required and recommended shots and get a prescription for anti-malarials on Tuesday morning.  I’m going to Hennepin Faculty Associates, not my clinic. Not only did HFA have an opening, but the receptionist was a delight to work with.  The woman at Park Nicollet was terse and frigid when she said they had to openings until 11 October, which is after I have to leave.  I told the HFA receptionist that I am seriously thinking of changing clinics.  When I’m back from South Sudan, I’ll look into who their internists are, and if I can find one I like, I’ll move.  
While in DC, I took some time to visit with a few friends ... with big apologies to those I missed.  My Metro pass got a refill and a workout, as did my feet.  I stayed Wednesday night in Arlington with Aideen and her son Mickey.  Thursday morning I dropped my bags at Regina’s new office in Rosslyn, then went into the District to spend time with Elizabeth who Metro’d in from Bethesda.  I also did a bit of birthday shopping for Regina’s sons (they will celebrate on 16 Oct. and I can’t attend the fiesta) and picked up dessert for dinner that night with John, Lauri and Mimi in Vienna.  
Traffic was a mess as Regina drove us all to Vienna; there isn’t a freeway that doesn’t seem to have major construction, making finding off and on ramps difficult at best.  So the wine and beer Lauri had chilled for the adults was most welcome.  Liam was quite the young gentleman as he walked to the corner to meet Mimi, who had been with friends.  Roan who had fallen asleep in the car finally awoke, and the three all went off to play Wii games.  Lauri tried some new recipes that were excellent. I promised myself many years ago not to say “my how you’ve grown” to children, and I must confess it was hard.  They have all grown up so much since I last saw them.
Liam lent me his bed and bunked with his younger brother.  Despite their protests, they zonked almost as fast as I did.  And they were so quiet getting off to school this morning that I didn’t wake up.  When I did, Regina wasn’t in sight (she later said she’d fallen back to sleep).  So I made coffee to enjoy my morning routine in a new spot -- fresh air and sunshine with my coffee and a good book.  
Regina drove me to the Metro so I could meet Oren, who works at Treasury now, for lunch.  We went to her favorite restaurant, which is fast becoming mine.  It was great to see her ... she’s really lost weight despite a lot of stress with her mother’s illness.  We talked nonstop for an hour.  Then I went off to do a few errands, then to DCA for the long flight home.
A new adventure on the horizon -- what a fantastic way to end the month!  

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