The Festival of Beer and Flavors Inspires.

Fort ChamblyLuck landed me in Canada during the yearly La Fête Bières & Saveurs at Fort Chambly. What a beautiful location!

While several locals were surprised to know that I was there all the way from the United states they quickly shifted into teacher mode sharing with my their favorite beer and stories about what they loved about their home, the french-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. Continue reading “The Festival of Beer and Flavors Inspires.”

Dude, Where’s My Luggage?

A multitude of frustrations with my flight into Port au Prince.  I was arriving to help out and instead I was the one asking for help on my first five days.

This all started because on my way to Port au Prince my luggage was not put on the plane with me. While normally this might be understandable, since it was the third leg of my trip, I had picked up my luggage the night before in the Dominican Republic and dropped it off in the morning so it was more like a single flight.

Now, as I’ve understood it law requires luggage to fly with a person, otherwise it is take off. Why was mine not put on my plane? And why was it not there the next day.  And why on subsequent days did I have no luck with anyone answering my phone calls to check to see if it came in? Five calls and none of them answered…

Ultimately, I got my luggage back.  I’ve never been so thankful for having a travel toiletries in my carry on before in my life. And I’ll never fly again without at least one outfit in my carry on.

I guess no matter how frustrating this was at the time it was also ok.  It was ok because I got to experience the generosity of the volunteers around me.  Every day someone handed me a clean set of clothing.  I literally felt like I was living in bounty during a time where I physically had nothing.  So in the end I was able to be shown that no matter what I always have what I need.  That’s pretty amazing and something for which I’m profoundly grateful.

SVN Spring Conference: Haiti Onward

Clothing drying on the line at a Haitian CampThe most emotionally charged session that I attended during the Spring SVN member gathering at Skamania Lodge was Haiti Onward.  In part, this was because the rawness of the earthquake and its aftermath, and in part because of my experience volunteering for several weeks with AMURTEL had me feeling connected deeply to the stories that were shared.  The session touched upon several organizations that are working on revitialization and the rebuilding effort and offered the SVN community the opportunity to be inspired to participate in that effort.  Following are a few brief pictures of what was heard during the session. Continue reading “SVN Spring Conference: Haiti Onward”


While catching up on one of the episodes of House, MD that occurred while I was away in Haiti, I noticed a theme that flowed quite well with my experience. So much so that I paused the video and began to write.

The theme was ‘privacy.’ While House and his team had a short debate on the topic and whether it was a modern innovation, totally unnecessary or socially irrelevant, I began to think of my visit to the town of Cabaret just outside of Port-au-Prince. Continue reading “Privacy”

Heading to Haiti

I’m leaving for Haiti early Monday morning and I am so excited that I am bouncing off the walls!  OK, so, I am not literally bouncing off the walls, I’m just giddy with anticipation.

Well, yes.  I’m heading down to volunteer in any way that I can, and while at it I hope to bring stories of what its like back for people to understand a little better what is going on there, how a country can be made a little more sustainable, and how to restore peace post-disaster.  I expect that while I have a lot of practical knowledge and an MA in Socially Responsible Business and Sustainable Communities from Goddard College I’ll be learning much myself on this trip.

I’m packing right now and the interior of my room is an explosion of outdoor gear, clothing, and donation items.  My conversation with Amurtel further helped me to realize that this is not a typical trip, and my packing list will be drastically different: for instance, I need to bring my own accommodations (a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag.)  I guess it’s a good thing that I’m an outdoorsy person and have some of what I need.  But I will need to pick up some fun things like a super lightweight sleeping bag (its in the upper 90’s), (lots of) mosquito repellent, and a small solar charger.  Darn it! <– sarcasm

Some of what I’m bringing for donation:

  • some barely worn t-shirts with me that I had been trying to decide how to re-cycle
  • four freecycled tents and some rope *there are still families living under sheets and the rainy season is about to begin*

I’ve registered with the US Embassy in Haiti, wrapped up (most of) the loose ends with work, set up bill payments (thank God for online banking) and put everyone on notice that I’ll be leaving.

Any support to the success of this trip is welcomed, whether it is financial, prayers, compassionate thoughts, information, connections, equipment, et cetera.  I’ve already managed to engage the interest in a serious investor; the Jersey City-based fourth grade class of Ms. Litman is sending along $350 for the children of Haiti.

I need to go now because I should stop vibrating with excitement and get to everything that needs to be done before I leave.

Oh and on a final note I won’t post here until I return so please check the blog specific to my volunteer time in Haiti if you are interested in more.

Sustainable Village Life

A two hour drive from Wote in the Makueni district of Kenya lies the village of Ngomano.  The last 9 miles of the trip to the village center takes a four-wheel drive vehicle and nerves of steel.  Not only are you sharing the single lane road with goats, sheep, cattle and people heading to get water, but what is used as a road is often deeply rutted and washed out.  Hold on to your stomach for this bumpy ride.

Just before you arrive at the village center of Ngomano a small side road to the left takes you a hundred yards to The Clay International School.  This school was developed by PEI Kenya as an innovative way to teach, and in order to create a sustainable community. Continue reading “Sustainable Village Life”

Ghosttowns in the Hills of Italy and Tourism

I’m referring not to the haunting of the hills but the abandonment of villages.

Empty buildings.  Why?  They have the food they need.  The homes are beautiful.  Why would they leave?  I expect that these typically family-centric communities of 5+ houses become nonviable as the younger generation moves away and the older one dies.  Driving around, we passed two of these housing clusters that were  empty and another that was at half its potential occupancy.

Another challenge evident exists in housing prices.  According to one local, after the release of the book Under the Tuscan Sun and then the movie, prices of Tuscan villas shot sky high.  It makes me wonder if those detritus filled decaying homes might be bought and inhabited if the locals weren’t priced out.  I wonder if this same effect happened after the release of the book Eat, Pray, Love in the countries it referred to.

Italian Food Part 2: Tuscany

The market at Monterci in Tuscany introduced me to a new gastronomic passion, porchetta.  Porchetta is a whole sucking pig, de-boned and stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel and liver.  This juicy and delicious meat is a regional favorite which makes for a delicious and inexpensive lunch at the market when topped with a crunchy piece of skin and stuffed in a crispy roll, its exact flavors varying based on the chef.

It was here in Tuscany that I was made aware that not only were the restaurant menu items, and market items locally grown, but that they are also seasonally available.  What this means is that should I go back to Tuscany in July the foods available would be what is ripe at that time.  Fortunately for me ‘in season’ during December is cingale (wild boar), black truffles, chestnuts, porchini mushrooms and persimmon.

In the Caprese Michelangelo area, locals who harvest the mushrooms, truffles, and chestnuts from the forest are able to bring the fruits of their labor to market with the assistance of a local Co-op.  Sounds like an easy and exotic way to get those truffles that you love?  It isn’t.  Each of the trees in the forest is ‘owned’ by someone and you would very literally be taking their livelihood.

Overall I have really enjoyed the regional flavors and the lessons that are evident when a locale seems to have  a more sustainable food system.

Learn more about the foods of Tuscany from our hostess.