Friday, October 31, 2008

Discovering Burlington...

Seems lots of people have discovered the charms of Burlington, Vermont as we have. Today's article in the Wall Street Journal, Small City, Big Charms, sums up much of my sentiment towards this charming, small city -- big on culture, restaurant scene and local flavor if one can withstand the brutal winter weather.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rwandan Inspiration

Last week in Washington, D.C. I attended a summit on international development, where Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf introduced the President. Together with the African Children's choir performance which lit up the stage, her presence was one of the highlights. Such women are an inspiration for a continent which has been continuously plagued by mismanagement and government corruption and where majorities in many nations continue to live in poverty despite tremendous natural resources.

Today's story in the Washington Post on the role of women in Rwandan politics, "Women Run the Show in a Recovering Rwanda," was another such inspiration. Given the atrocities these women suffered and unimaginable loss, it's an even more poignant example of the power of the human spirit. Amidst so much bad news out of Somalia, Sudan and other African nations, it's a sign of hope.

St. Louis Weekend

Just back from St. Louis -- not sure if that's a red state or blue state anymore. Had a lovely visit to the Botanical Gardens, which was the highlight of the visit. A special exhibit, Niki, featured color mosaic creatures and women in larger than life poses. The artist, Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2002), was a citizen of the world: born near Paris, raised in New York, traveled in Europe, and later worked in Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy, and finally California.
She was the only female member of Europe’s New Realist art movement, a contemporary of American Pop Art. Enough about the accolades. My daughter loved them!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Not to Love about Vermont?

Honestly, it's such a fair question. We spent a long, relaxing weekend in Burlington and the surrounding area, thoroughly enjoying and living in the moment of the fall colors, brrrr-ish mornings in the 30's and country life that we don't get here in D.C. First, I love the City Market -- the local grocery story/co-op, where pretty much every item is made or grown in Vermont. Milk that comes in old fashioned bottles. Love it. Second, we took our daughter to the Ben and Jerry's factory. Free ice cream after the corny tour. Love it. Third, we hung out with friends in a leisurely way, nothing important to do. Love it. Fourth, we ate great locally grown food. Love it. Finally, we took the ferry from Charlotte over to Essex, New York. Did I say fall foliage galore. Love it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glorious Fall Weekend in D.C.

It was another glorious fall weekend in D.C. as you can see from these photos of Eastern Market. Such great sunflowers.

And pumpkins.

And apples.

And tomatos.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foreign Aid and the latest crisis

The financial news couldn't be any more depressing or uncertain, with the latest today that some banks would be partially nationalized. Having lived in Eastern Europe and seen the perils of nationalism, I'm still struggling with this one.
The sad news for foreign aid is that it is likely to be on the chopping block, despite assurances earlier this year from both candidates that foreign aid would increase under their administrations. I'm currently sitting on an advisory committee to USAID to help improve its efforts to explain American foreign assistance to the domestic public. It's a very misunderstood topic, with majorities of Americans thinking we spend a major percentage of the budget on aid, when it is in fact less than 1/10th of one percent. When faced with spending money at home or sending it abroad, most Americans would rather see it spent here at home, unless they are truly convinced it is making an impact and helping to stabilize fragile states from further unrest and possible extremism directed toward us.

Keep reading Nicholas Kristoff, please -- he truly is a voice of authority on foreign aid. Sometimes I think he's a lone voice in the wilderness. But surely he thinks every day about these mothers and children in Ethiopia (taken on one of my trips) in ways that very few in the world do.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Right in my Backyard

It was a glorious weekend here in D.C. -- just a touch of chill in the air at night after two sunny days. Sometimes you don't have to go very far to experience something new. I ventured to Old Town Alexandria on Sunday morning to do a little shopping and grab breakfast/brunch with my daughter. We happened upon Le Pain Quotidien, a great little place serving crispy baguettes, rich yogurt with berries, frothy lattes and a wonderful French ham sandwich with my favorites -- cornnichons and tiny black olives. We also discovered The Red Barn Mercantile where we picked up a few Halloween decorations before venturing to Appleseed boutique, where I scored a great formal maternity dress for some upcoming black tie occasions!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Faces from my Travels




East Timor. Just thought I'd share some photos tonight of some memorable faces from my travels.