Gratitude is the attitude, the language is love

Last night I arrived to the airport in Entebbe a day early hoping to get home sooner. So tired and drained, traveling the dry dusty bumpy (to ay the least) in a Land Rover with broken air conditioning filled my respiratory system with so much dust and exhaust my lower back is in so much pain and my nose is full of brownish gray gooky stuff that one only feels in developing country traffic jams. IT was nearly 6 hours back to Kampala, then a 2:30 meeting Margo, the Uganda Chief of Education, a very lovely person, then the Office of Prime Minister at 3, the Directorate of Education Services working on Disaster Risk Reduction at 4 and back into the car, this time with Gerald, an independent driver who’d taken me up north for the weekend, to the airport in Entebbe. I am exhausted just writing about it.

The fire in Nairobi airport that day ruined any chance I might have had to make my way onto the earlier flight. Feeling defeated and without anymore Uganda shillings, I went to the nearest hotel, Protea which is a bit out of my price range. They so kindly gave me the UN rate which was the lowest possible and I asked if a bathtub might be possible, which they said only comes in a suite so that was out. So, I set out with the porter to my room… #26, which is not my number and miraculously the door wouldn’t open… so off we went back to reception and the girls looked at one another and said okay, we are going to upgrade you to Room 115 which is a suite… and also one of my best numbers, a 7. Can you believe it! There I am in a sumptuous suite looking out on Lake Victoria with tufted leather flooring! Here’s a picture of my veranda…


Here’s a picture I took of myself in the room!


Something strange about taking a picture of yourself, it is a good thing, but always gives me a twang on being alone in the world… my big issue for healing in this lifetime. I took more pictures of the room, but am not able to access them now, will share more from home during the weekend. Suffice it to say, I took a bubble bath and allowed my body to unwind, if only just a bit and slept all night. This morning I caught up with my trip report and submitted to UNICEF with a great deal of appreciation and also made some Facebook postings. The flight tonight is at 11:30pm and I am now in the airport lounge. Economy class can be a bit more bearable with a lounge pass and upgrade to Economy (plus or comfort) as they say… except that my back is so damaged already from too much bumpy car travel and air mileage as I embark on nearly a 24 hour journey to home, I wonder why no one responded to my email? This is how it is with UNICEF… I work incredibly smart and vigilant and feel quite satisfied and I know that I did my best, but somehow either nobody notices or nobody agrees or nobody cares… whichever way it is, I am too tired to further try… now I am on my time for the weekend and have so much to process.

Anyway, truly I learned so very much and many of my assumptions (inner knowing) were proven on this trip. I will share more from home, they are starting the boarding call now for my KLM flight. I am grateful. Often I hear the chiming in my head, gratitude is the attitude the language is love. All I can do is to appreciate my own contribution, nothing I can do can bring appreciation from others… that is their choice. Like the smiling children in my earlier post… the gift of a smile when nobody else cares what you do feels like the ultimate empowerment… does this make sense??? Thanks to all of the universal forces that conspired with my higher self toward my good night of sleep last night…. miracles happen all the time and I am grateful.



Living in love in Uganda

My work here in this lifetime is about hope and finding love… sometimes in the face of severe hardship this is less easy to do… but without being cliché, it never ceases to amaze me how some people who are living in most adversity have he most beautiful smiles, as if they know it is all a story that is ever changing. These are the faces of some of the inspirational smiles I’ve found among the hunger, thirst and severity of northern Uganda, I hope that they speak for themselves…


Some people are here to tell stories of adversity… and to raise funds and awareness through pulling on the heartstrings of potential donors. My job is to do opposite. I am here to reveal potential… the potential of myself to continue to persevere and to be strong in the face of my own personal challenges and to demonstrate the most sincere gratitude for the most amazing blessings of my life… children, parents, family, friends… and soon even a grandchild… and the opportunity to show the smiles of the unseen and unheard. It may seem crazy, but I know how it feels to be invisible and I know how it feels to feel in love with the beauty of just being here… maybe we can help to clear some of the fog with the smiles.


All my love,

Proving the theory in extreme conditions

Northern Uganda is one of the most remote downtrodden places I’ve been to… comparable places where I’ve worked include northernmost Togo and the Rio Prinzpolka region of Nicaragua. These are places that have seen the ravages of war, environmental degradation and poverty to the most extreme degree and are incredibly difficult to reach by car or even boat in the Nicaragua case.

Gulu Road is also the only roadway that truckers can take to get to Sudan from the East Africa shipping port of Mumbasa… or even from Lake Victoria. The one lane road is so full of gaping potholes that it is more hole than road and the huge trucks… 18 wheelers and even double trailers by the dozen jam the roadways, remarkably few falling off the roadside when you think about it for hours and hours of driving to get to these places that no one knows about. Along the side of the road is either bush or abject poverty in action with shoeless starving children are often dressed in nothing more than a rag are wandering among vegetable vendors, strewn garbage and dusty grounds. The wealthy live in huts, more well to do have steel roofing, which are very, very few.


But more than 6 hours from almost nowhere I visited a school garden project that was empowering most downtrodden people in the most amazing way. From technical support to seeds for the garden to teaching materials, I learned that by creating a livelihood for a conflict-torn community miracles can and do happen. I was in a place where school enrolment was at an all time low and learning outcomes were even worse that is now seeing steady progress. Why? Because the garden is growing fruits and vegetables, providing food and nutrition and money to the community members who are mostly mothers tending the garden. And science testing scores are rising because of the applied knowledge among students working in the garden.


But the most incredible story was of a girl I met by the name of Jennifer who had been taken out of school at the age of 14 by her father to be given in marriage as settlement for a debt. The community garden members decided to take action to get Jennifer back into school by reimbursing the families for funds dispersed and she is now back in school at age 15. Jennifer told me that she is now determined to stay in school and wants to become a teacher herself. I was told that there was another girl in the group that I met with a similar story. Empowering women and community members for livelihoods is also proving to be an effective peacebuilding methodology as family fueds are turning into family teams for growing food and funds and supporting education. As I stood between this powerhouse of a woman, the incredibly thin vice-chair of the committee who’d saved the lives of at least two young girls, and Jennifer herself, I was in awe of their strength and courage and perseverance and the best I can do is to tell their story well enough to generate support for more and similar programmes.. this is why I am here, I am pretty sure of that.

All my love,


The African Queen is a tour boat from near to the Paraa river resort on the River Nile where I am staying for a weekend retreat. We are going to Murchison Falls and the boat is full of American students from the University of Tennessee, Chinese oil drillers and their families, one I noticed was wearing a pink baseball type hat of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, a large family of Israeli tourists, and a variety of other people on safari and missionary workers all hoping for an afternoon in nature which for me is just great. Our tour guide Sarah, is a neatly dressed Ugandan lady with a deep warmth and sincere smile with a wealth of information about the region and wildlife. Did you know that hippos are vegetarian and only get out of the water at night to graze? Also that they are territorial and are led by one dominant male. When another male challenges the leader, they will fight to death. Amazing isn’t it?


Sarah took interest in me and offered to take my picture and spent some time talking with me for which I was sincerely grateful. I like to be alone in nature, but sometimes traveling alone with others becomes a bit cumbersome.

Something about the day felt auspicious. The morning rain gave way to the clearest blue sky and the Angels took the opportunity to become visible in the most extraordinary way, check this out!

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The Falls are amazing. The water rushing over the cliffs, we were not able to get too close by boat because of the force of the churning waves, but for me it was close. When I got back from the boat, Gerald my driver from Friday approached and asked why I hadn’t asked him to drive me to the boat and if I’d gone on morning safari. We’d agreed that he’d take the day off and so I especially found this to be intrusive… more on the situation with Gerald in another post. Sarah on the other hand was completely unassuming and I really wanted to tip her which I did on my way off the boat and she accepted graciously and without a word beyond thanks and a warm embrace.

It’s a bit more touristic than usual, but my hope is that this post will get the juices flowing toward a bit more local color tomorrow once the UNICEF driver, Moses comes to get me from the hotel and we embark on a two day mission to visit schools in the northern region of the country.


Wata Mama


The Honorable Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism and Wildlife for the Republic of Uganda is a very old and dear friend. We met in 2004 when I was organizing a meeting for UNICEF on Water, Environment and Sanitation for Schools which brought leading ministers of both Education and Water together to talk about how to make schools more safe, healthy and participatory. Hon. Maria was Minister of Water at the time.

The deep bond has persevered bringing us together in places like Bali, Mexico City and New York, but until now we’d not met in her home land.

Having recently moved from Environment to Tourism, she shared with me her enduring commitment to provide water for every woman and child. She wants to start a Foundation called Wata Mama.. which is the name that she’s been honored by the African Ministers council. I REALLY WANT to help!!!!  Water is everything to everybody… our bodies are 70+ percent water as is our planet.

My eyes are closing, this story is to be continued.



For a season or for a reason


One of my most favorite things about working in the developing world, some countries more than others, are the soulful friendships that seem to emerge in  such a deep and meaningful way. I’ll never forget sitting in a bar in Tajikistan in 2005 roaring with laughter with amazingly brilliant and insightful people from many parts of the world, most of whom I would never see again… I still remember one guy who was consulting for the World Bank, post-retirement on an educational system assessment who told some of the most incredible stories.

Some countries just seem to bring out the best in me. People who one has the honor to meet for a reason or for a season… and sometimes even for a lifetime. One just doesn’t know. My time in Uganda has been like that. The women I am working with are just so smart and funny and sensitive… which is so refreshing, it just makes me want to do an even better job so that we can all work even more often together. Tonight was one of those unforgettable evenings. I enjoyed a deeply meaningful conversation and deep belly laughter with five women I’d never met before a few days ago and… from four different countries, Ireland, Albania, Pakistan and me from the USA… different cultures… different lifestyles, three single moms, three bachelorettes (so to speak), all brought together in Kampala… some for years, some for months and me for only a few days… at least for the moment.

My heart feels at peace. Whether these women have entered my life for a season or a longer, I am grateful for the kinship. Like the roses in the picture… each full of independent beauty, enhancing the collective beauty of the full bouquet. Yet, also growing out of a dry stone wall, breaking through the dark challenges to find the light and one another.







Lost or found?

Am I lost? I’ve rented a car in the Barcelona airport and am driving in Europe for the first time heading north into the Pyrennes to experience the Avalon Sustainability School. I’ll be staying at a bed and breakfast called Vallmajor… and had been told by email to take the highway to Girona and they’d be right there. It was not exactly a precise direction to Montague, feeling like a mixture between pioneer and extremely anxious ‘fraidy cat’ I miraculously I found my way to the 17th century stone house where I would be spend the coming days.


My suitcase was miss-placed in Amsterdam so I arrived at Vallmajor with only my carry-on bag. Well, I am here to learn about living simply in harmony with nature and so I found a place to buy some underpants and a toothbrush and continued on to my adventure. I was informed that my bag could not be delivered to such a distance (90+ minutes) because my ‘economy’ class ticket which was like salt in the wound of my UNICEF travel downgrade, helping me to find my personal value, even in the light of disappointing “less than” treatment from others which seems to be my mantra these days.

To get to Avalon Sustainability School on Sunday afternoon, I’d need to venture out yet again without familiar surroundings. Passing most amazing mountainous landscape,ImageI did make a few wrong turns on the single lane of winding road in search of Avalon… something familiar? The TV movie just asked ‘Is it possible to miss a place you’ve never been?’ this is really how I was feeling. Finally arriving to the campsite, I’d found a part of the place I’d lost and now found, this is the place inside of me that loves to learn about the inner motivations of kids who are changing the world and the external places that formed their personalities in some ways until now. This is it. For many years I was privileged through UNICEF to facilitate international children’s fora and to document what children are doing in places like Tajikistan, Lao PDR, Cameroon and so many other countries… today I am re-discovering that place in myself. In Maputo, I missed out on meeting Flavio, an amazing young man who’d been a child delegate in 2006 and has kept in contact with me through his university years. Flavio is now an accountant for Price Waterhouse in Maputo and is leading an Earth Child Institute Global Action Classroom team as a way of ‘giving back/forward’ to other children.


Arriving to the UNICEF office in Kampala on Thursday, I recognized the name of Edward who was also a child delegate to that same workshop… and walking out the door on Friday afternoon I was warmly embraced by Caroline another of these kids I’d mentored, now leading the change as a consultant for UNICEF on the U-Report project which empowers kids in most rural areas to participate by answering survey questions by SMS through cell phones.

Indeed, I was lost… I’d lost my essence of connection to the children themselves, immersed inImage other priorities… my own kids transforming before my eyes to extraordinary adults. Did I tell you that I am going to be a grandmother? It is all too emotional for me now. These kids who remember me and who’s lives I’ve had the honor to touch… now inspiring so many others… I am truly found.. this is why I am here. The impossible dream has been realized without me even knowing it was happening.

That is most truly Amazing Grace…

 With so much love,



Catching up with myself

It is my first day off in a while. I decided to take Walter’s Boda Boda tour of Kampala which was quite a departure for me. The Boda Boda is named for a motorcycle taxi system that originally took people across the ‘no man’s land’ between borders of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Similar to my horseback riding adventure last week, I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Protected by a helmet and my driver who’s name was Eddie, I explored the sites and history of Kampala from the bloody rein of Idi Amin, last King of Scotland, to more recent affiliations with Khadafi and the Government of Libya… here I am as an American woman alone, feeling at ease with myself for the first time in weeks, honestly I have no idea of why…

To visit the mosque, it was necessary for me to be wrapped in a burka which as incredibly hot and uncomfortable, especially for climbing to the top of the minoret. 

I didn’t want to visit the torture chambers, but they brought me there anyway, but the energy was too intense, so I didn’t go in. The guide took pictures with my camera which I did not refuse to be polite, but I cannot share them here because I immediately erased them from the memory… not for the people to forget their history but because I choose to live in another way and it just didn’t feel right.


Did you know that Israel originally helped Amin with weapon storage? But after 6-months found out that they’d been double crossed? At least that is the story the guides tell us… this world seems so complicated to me, and then I consider my own work and journey of the past few months. Am I rambling today? Not sure. I’ve been working really hard and am not sure if it matters to anyone. Is it incredible to feel so alone in the world when you are living on nearly every continent? Truly. In shortly more than one month I was with Tony in Connecticut, he is now in Brazil… and then to Africa, then to Europe… back to Africa and in a few weeks I’ll be in Asia, working in Nepal. For all of this geographic movement, my body and spirit seem to be an island. Maybe that is why I was so comfortable on the Boda Boda, because I live in “No man’s land” and feel most at home there. catching up with myself is remembering my own land is so unique.

I want to do a great job here in Uganda… am not sure about how other’s did perceive my work in Mozambique, I know that I did my best. It feels like all I can do these days is to be true to the values of my island and hope that somehow the principles of living in love will be of use to those for whom I am officially working. I think that the Avalon school helped me to embrace this essence. Having the freedom to share my honest dreams and aspirations with others seems to have touched my heart in a very deep place. It is not what I expected… it never really is… but maybe finding my special island will help pave the way to Ecomasters island… we’ll see…

All my love,


Courage to live in love

Facing my fears with the kindness of an amazing horse and trainer!

Facing my fears with the kindness of an amazing horse and trainer!

How hot is hot?

My glasses fogged up the moment I opened the front door to water my garden this morning. With temperatures climbing to 100+ degrees, emotions seem to be running high all over. Add to that a new computer with a bewildering new operating system (Windows 8) delaying my work… a car without air conditioning, a driver’s side window that doesn’t open, and a few financial challenges! My temper rose to a crescendo this afternoon that is increasingly rare for me these days. Honestly, I felt as close to a rage as I can remember in many, many moons. 

I arrived at the Microsoft store in the Danbury mall dripping with perspiration. My aquamarine tee shirt and khaki shorts sopping wet, I was armed with a ready for war attitude with the non-compliant new laptop when the absolutely unexpected kindness of a stranger restored my faith in humanity… honestly no less. The young man working for Microsoft was so nice to me. He told me that part of the trouble I was having was actually a system flaw that had now been fixed and he updated the laptop. It helps when someone acknowledges that you are not crazy or incompetent, which is sometimes the case with technological stuff. While the computer was updating he offered me a bottle of cold water to drink, which I so gratefully accepted. The back story is that when I’d called earlier in the day to make an appointment the woman on the phone told me that they would charge $99 to help me with technical support… and that they didn’t have any free classes till September! So this was extra specially unexpected and directed my warpath back into my yellow brick road!!!  He sat with me and showed me how to work the laptop for nearly an hour… each new bit of knowledge lowering my blood pressure. Then to top it off he showed me how to paint pictures on the screen!!! I love to paint and draw, here’s my first ever laptop picture… 



You just never know. Twice, actually three times today in different circumstances people tried to pay me less than the agreed upon and market rate… once for my travel allowance for Uganda; once for some consulting work I’ve been doing on good faith; and another invoice in dispute over a few dollars difference in exchange rate from Brazilian Reals to Dollars… So, when I walked into the mall, I was muttering to myself… “all I can do is know my own value… be kind to myself” one step in front of the other… some days are just like that. And then before my clothes even had a chance to dry the kindness was mirrored back in such a beautiful way. He even gave me the coolest Microsoft cloth shopping bag… yippee!!!

As I made my way back to the sweat box of a car, it didn’t seem quite as oppressive.. it felt like the heat lifted with my mood.. to a mere 94 degrees… low enough to put on the radio for some rock ‘n’ roll singing. I am so happy that I remembered to value myself. The right partners will come along with the right resources in the right time. I am incredibly blessed to be able to help others as I learn to help myself. What could possibly be better than that?

I haven’t even started to think about packing.. yesterday’s apartment building picnic was a big success in my opinion… even my kids had fun. It was really nice to meet some neighbors who are all interesting and nice people, especially Pam with whom I always have so much fun.

Tomorrow’s another day. Hopefully to accomplish a few goals and beat the heat!




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