Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It takes a Village

It has been wonderful to feel the tremendous support extended to me by so many people as I head off on this Ethiopian adventure!  It truly takes a village (my friends, work colleagues, neighbors, family) to send me to a village (Ethiopia, my daughter's village of origin).

Here are some of the amazingly thoughtful contributions from my Cambridge/Somerville village:
- My daughter Aregash who introduced me to Ethiopia, and established for us this permanent connection between here and there, and who is eager to know more about where she came from.
- Self Help Africa giving me another chance to travel with them to Ethiopia.
- My husband who agreed to keep the house standing, and keep Aregash safe, healthy, and happy in my absence.
- My son who helped me make the final decision to go.  He's been remarkably mature and thoughtful in helping me make major life decisions, from the decision to bring Aregash home, to job and career related decisions, to this decision to run in Ethiopia.
- Chris and Oliver who agreed to keep things running at work while I'm running in Africa.
- Barbara J who gave me the carefully packaged-to-TSA-specifications collection of toiletries and necessities.
- Joanne who gave me trail mix, downloadable movies and a ride before dawn to the airport, while fighting a miserable cold.
- Maureen, the nurse at my daughter's school, making a surprise, and surprisingly generous, donation to my cause.
- All those others who made donations, both last year and this, to sponsor me.  A special shout out to my friend Carol, who not only donated money, but listened to all of my desire and anxiety surrounding this adventure, and thought to collect some easy reading material for me.
- Scott, father of an Aregash schoolmate, offering lots of support via facebook, in person, through others.
- My friend Bob Boes for thinking that it's "cool" that I'm doing this and pointing me at some really amazing Ethiopian Jazz in Addis.
- My "Benetton" group of Nimco and Tam.  Always there for me.  Never judgmental.  Loving, caring, beautiful women.
- My L2L friends who first got to know me 5 years ago as the fellow ditching L2L for a month to bring home a 2-year-old from Ethiopia and who now support me on my return trip.  Even those initially trying to convince me to remain on safe American soil (Dick) offered warm and sweet support of my decision to go.
- Karen from Ethiopian adoption Group 88, who was there with me 5 years ago to meet our children, and who has been sending her support via Facebook.
- My friend Betsy with whom I reconnected after more than 40 years, and who entertained the idea for a time of accompanying me on this trip.
- A friend of a friend, Diane, who also considered accompanying me, and through that process has been promoted to a friend.
- My neighbor and friend Izzy who came by tonight, the night before I fly with a beautiful and funny card about traveling so far to get good coffee, and a donation of funds to subsidize my adventure.
- My newest sister, Amy, and her husband Doug, parents to Aregash's birth siblings who have been encouraging and watching as they prepare for their own return to Ethiopia in February.

And the list goes on.  I am sure I am missing some of the people and gestures that have made me feel loved and valued, so expect edits and additions to this post over time.

See y'all on the return..

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Final Days Before the Trip

Yesterday I did my last long run before traveling.  I probably did about 6 miles - I don't use a fitbit or any distance tracking technology.  I prefer to just run and lose myself in the moment.  But it felt like about 6 miles, and it felt pretty good.  At sea level.  Alone.  All will be different at 8,000 feet with 35,000 runners as company.  I've been describing my state of mind lately as one in which the level of my excitement about the trip almost matches the level of my anxieties.  Almost, not quite.

A dear colleague and friend stopped by my office on Friday with an incredibly thoughtful and perfect gift.  A ziplock bag that meets TSA requirements for size, filled with all the stuff that will come in really handy on my ridiculously long flight - inflatable neck pillow, eye shades, face wipes, hand sanitizer, reading glasses, small notebook, pen.  Really sweet.  Almost made me cry.

And today I pulled out my new suitcase and started trying to figure out what to pack.  It is really odd to think that this Thursday I head off on this really long journey without my kids, without my husband, and without any traveling companion.  I guess people do these kinds of trips all the time. People do, not me.

As Marcus chanted to himself on his way to Guatemala to manage his anxieties, just one step at a time, keep putting one foot in front of the other...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Barbara Jane?

Friday as I began gathering and reviewing all of my travel paperwork, I noticed that the air ticket purchased for me by Self Help Africa through Expedia on Emirates has my name as "Barbara Jane" rather than "Barbara Joan".  Sigh.  Other than the fact that both my mother and her sister Joan Barbara, my godmother and reverse namesake, were rolling over in their graves at this mess up, I am worried that I may run into trouble with security.  When Marcus was leaving on his trip to Guatemala, he and 3 other kids, all of whose tickets had been purchased by a school administrator, got stopped at the security checkin due to the names on their tickets not matching perfectly those on their passports.  I was far enough away watching, but aware that something was not right as they went from the security checkin back to the airline checkin, back to the security checkin, back to the airline checkin.  I think it was on the third try that they got through, but I believe only after one of the teacher chaperones paid the airline to adjust the tickets.  And then they were late enough that they apparently had to jog to the gate.

So I called Expedia.  I spoke to Jamie in Manilla who put me on hold while she spoke to someone at Emirates in Dubai to see what could be done.  After 20 minutes on hold, Jamie came back and politely explained that Emirates would adjust the ticket for the $200 change fee and that the person who actually made the reservations would need to be the person requesting the change.  Sigh.

So I emailed Martha at Self Help Africa.  She plans to tackle the problem on Monday.  As she pointed out, even if I get out of NYC, it would be a real pain to get stuck in either Dubai or Addis accused of not being the same person as my passport identifies me to be.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amazing Ethiopia Itinerary

November 20, 2014
- leave home by 4:30 to catch JetBlue flight 917 leaving Logan at 5:48am, arriving in JFK New York at 7am
- board Emirates flight 204 at 10:40am bound for Addis Ababa Ethiopia by way of Dubai.

November 21, 2014
- arrive in Addis Ababa at 1:30pm.
- meet Self Help Africa representative who will take me to my hotel
- check into Sidra Hotel
- meet Niamh Brannigan, the only other runner not travelling from Dublin.  She is coming in from Kenya and arrives in the evening, 7:40.  We'll have dinner or drinks in the hotel.

November 22, 2014
- 8am-2pm go watch some children's races and have lunch with the whole group.  The Irish contingent will have arrived in the middle of the night
- 4pm pick up our race packs at the Hilton Hotel
- 5-9pm Pasta Party at the Hilton Hotel, followed by return to the Sidra

November 23, 2014
- 7am head off to the race
- 12pm group lunch
- 4pm shopping at the market in Addis
- 8pm group dinner either at the hotel or at the Irish Ambassador's residence

November 24, 2014
- 7am travel to Huruta in the Oromia Region for a SHA project visit
- after project visit travel to Hawassa and overnight at Ker-Awud hotel

November 25, 2014
- Project visit in Sidama
- another overnight at the Ker-Awud hotel in Hawassa

November 26, 2014
- others will all visit the Zeway Monastery, reputed to have held the Arc of the Covenant.  Not sure whether I will be able to go along as my flight leaves out of Addis much earlier than the others'.
- board Emirates flight 724, departing Addis at 4:15pm bound for New York's JFK by way of a long layover in Dubai

November 27, 2014
- arrive JFK at 7:45
- board JetBlue flight 518 bound for Boston at 10:25
- land in Boston at 11:26
- home by noon if all goes well...

Ethiopia or Bust

Two weeks from today I will start my long journey to Ethiopia.  If you count that I started on this adventure more than a year ago, it's more than just a long journey.  It's an epic adventure!

Lots of things are the same this time around.  Training still poses challenges both in carving out the time and in getting this old body not to ache so much after each run.  The State Department has issued warnings to Americans in or traveling to Ethiopia, warning us to avoid large gatherings (do 35,000 runners count as a large gathering?) and the Bole area of Addis Ababa (my hotel, the Sidra, appears to be Bole area's ground zero).  I'm once again recovering from the loss of a parent.  My mother passed away in September, following my father by 11 months.  What's different?  Self Help Africa seems not particularly concerned about the state department warnings.  This time around I am the only American traveling which means that the flights to and from will be really long and lonely, but also unencumbered. Solitude is sometimes just what I need.  I will be leaving my husband caring for only one child - the other being off at college and more or less pretending we don't exist.

For some reason, I need the trip this year even more than last. In addition to losing my mother, I am adjusting to having less time with my college student son, who also happens to be one of my best friends.  My workplace and my job seem to be in a significant amount of upheaval.  My Ethiopian daughter is one year older and that much more curious about where she comes from, geographically and culturally. My marriage is in a very strange place, no doubt influenced somewhat by all this other stuff going on, but certainly with it's own intrinsic issues.  I'm questioning how I want to navigate all of this, where I want to end up, how I want to invest my time and energy along the way.

So what better way to respond than to travel across the globe to an area I'm warned by my government to avoid to run among 35,000 runners at an altitude I'm not trained for?  Seems like a logical decision to me...

Monday, December 2, 2013

GER vs. Gobble Gobble Gobble

Ok, time to update after a long lapse.  I probably should have named this blog "Barbara's Non-Ethiopian fundraising running adventure".  Self Help Africa decided at the last minute to cancel our group trip to run in the Great Ethiopian Run.  In some ways I'm glad they made the decision for me.  If after all the discussions about terrorist threats they had decided to go, I would have had to decide whether I was still comfortable with the risk, and would have been uncomfortable with either decision I could have made.  When SHA decided to pull out of the run, they did offer us runners an alternate trip to a project site that they have in Malawi.  I opted instead to negotiate to be able to accompany them on a routine project trip they make to Ethiopia later this year.  Malawi would have been interesting. Ethiopia is where my heart is.  And a much smaller group trip will in many ways be more rewarding.

As the cancellation of the Great Ethiopian Run was becoming clear, I ran into a neighbor on my way back from dinner out.  He works for the Somerville Police and was in the news recently for receiving a check from Lyndell's Bakery for the Sean Collier Scholarship Fund.  (For those not in the know, Sean was the MIT Police officer killed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.)  He mentioned that the Thanksgiving Day Somerville road race was also going to contribute some of their proceeds to this scholarship fund.  Ahh, how everything in my life is connected...

So last Thursday morning, while most were either sleeping in or preparing feasts, I ran a 4-miler through the streets of Somerville in frigid cold temperatures, alongside lots of people dressed as turkeys. Roughly 3,000 runners.  I came in 662nd, doing miles averaging 8:24 each.  As I crossed the finish line and became fascinated with a man dressed in nothing but a full Native American headdress and loin cloth, my friend Oliver tapped me on the shoulder in congratulations and I felt good.

While waiting for the race to start, I noticed a familiar face in the crowd.  Kaleen had been my son Marcus' teacher in his combined 3-4 classroom.  Back then I remember her mentioning running in a race on Thanksgiving.  She's been doing these races every year since except last year when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  It was a wonderful, bittersweet reconnection.  So today I signed up for my next run - a 5K on January 4 in Lexington to raise money for cancer research.

Let the training resume!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Another interesting observation:

My husband texts me earlier today to tell me that my son is worried about the potential of my travel to Ethiopia at this dangerous time.

Last night my son tells me that my husband is worried and would prefer I not travel to Ethiopia right now.

Why is it that neither of them can take ownership of their own set of worries?

Ah, the men in my life...