Showing posts from 2009

A sharable Holiday Gift for the people in my wwworld

We finally decorated at home in Brussels yesterday!

I received a very special gift from someone about 10 days ago.
Though I have seen her many times, I do not actually know her name. She was hosting a "social enterprise bazaar" stall next to mine. We were both features at the grand opening of The Hub Brussels - a social enterprise incubator where I rent 25 desk hours in a really cool group office space each month. I spend time there in the context of establishing my new social profit company and developing the Internet4Change project. The woman who gave me this gift also works on her project there. Her work has something to do with compassion building.
I remembered to take this gift out of my handbag and looked at it for a couple of days. I considered it, thought about it, showed it to my kids. Finally, I used it ~ and enjoyed it. I used it again... and kind of fell in love with it.
As I thought about it for a few days more, I became more and more intrigued by it's …

Thinking back... to my back

My youngest was ill this week - unable to keep anything down (including his own gastric juices), until I finally took him to the hospital for fear he was becoming dehydrated. At bedtime that night, I found myself telling him an abridged story about a time I was hospitalized as a child. The full version of that story perhaps answers a question my friend Michael Maranda asked this week: "What story would you Share, to help others live a proper way?"
I was almost 14 when my scoliosis was diagnosed. At that time, the curve in my spine measured in at around 40 degrees. My parents noticed it one day while I was bent over doing yard work in a bathing suit top. A chiropractor tried to help, but 1 year later the curve had progressed to over 60 degrees. My ribcage was severely twisted, and my lungs were beginning to feel cramped when I tried to breathe deeply. The orthopedic surgeon we visited predicted that I was likely to suffer heart failure by the time I was 19 if they didn't…

Because we can

Five years ago, I met photographer Tony Deifell in Chicago at a face to face gathering of an online community we both belonged to. Tony challenged participants with a simple question: Why Do You Do What You Do? Today the amazing WDYDWYD project continues to provoke thoughtful responses through artistic expression from around the world, and my own answer continues to be the same: I see that I can, so I must.
At that same conference, I also met a dynamic young woman named Theresa Williamson, who works in Brazil to help local communities in Rio identify and share solutions that work, to improve lives in that city's infamous Flavelas (squatter communities). I don't claim to know the deeper personal reasons why Theresa does what she does, but she does it tirelessly, and with obvious passion. Right now she and her friends at Catalytic Communities need just a tiny bit of help to do something really important. I see that I can ask you to help, so I must...
In the lead up to the 2016…

My Money Madness

I've had a really odd relationship with money since a pivotal moment that occurred when I was 13 years years old. After watching The Money Fix yesterday (highly recommended!), I found myself sharing that story with my 13 year old son, and thought it also worth sharing here.
I had just graduated Valedictorian of my junior high school, when a neighbor - who was also a close family "friend" - took it upon herself to let me know that I would probably never go to college. Yes, of course she knew that I'd always been very smart and done well in school, but it was important for me to face facts: I would not be able to go to college because my parents just wouldn't be able to afford it. I shouldn't get my hopes up to high.
I remember the smallest details of that moment: where we were standing, what she was wearing, and how her face tried to show me a gentle smile. More than anything, though, I remember the personal decision that I made at the time, in unforgettable…

10 simple ways my family fights climate change

Since moving back to Brussels earlier this year, I've been intrigued by local attitudes toward climate change, and our responsibilities as human beings to change our behaviors where we can. The Belgian government does a lot to make it possible for everyone to play a role. Belgians love their luxuries, however, and many ordinary folk I've talked to feel content to let the government be the only one who makes an effort.
Some friends have even told me they believe that "going green" is just another excuse to get people to consume more industrial goods - ie, that we are now told to replace every appliance we have with greener versions is just another push for increased consumerism. But there are also many, like me, who take their own responsibility to fight climate change pretty seriously. In fact, moving to a new country and creating a new life has provided opportunities for my family to develop some new habits (and continue some old ones) that I feel pretty good abou…

The lost tribes of my wwworld

In spite of reconnecting with so very many old friends and family through social media of late, there are gaps in this virtual re-creation of my life's journey. Whole countries of people I lived with have failed to resurface in my facebook stream. How do I find those who've been lost from my tribes?

I've never been great with names, and the older I get the more I realize what a sad handicap that is... especially when you travel as much as I have. When I lived in Switzerland (both times) I was young and "fun" and honestly didn't pay much attention to peoples' last names. Today there are people I'd love to look up, whom I'd love to see again, but "Marco in Switzerland" just doesn't work well in an online people search.

The second time I moved to Switzerland was when I decided to start going by "Christina" - it's my name, but until then I'd been called "Tina" by everyone who knew me. As luck would have it, in G…

Dedicated to my tribes, whom I love

Sometimes I write about my personal experiences, beliefs and value systems knowing full well that I might challenge other people's value systems. I like to make people think. Sometimes there are stories I share that I think one of the "tribes" in my wwworld might get more than others - but there are so many diverse tribes I've been a part of in this life so far. Which one are you from?

On facebook I have recently pruned my community down to include almost exclusively people whom I have shared the same air with in some physical time and space along the course of my life's journey so far. (Oh yes, and I had to like you too, or you got cut.) What an amazing difference that has made in how much I enjoy facebook these days. I highly recommend it.

And what a gift. I have lived all over the world, and loved people all over the world. When I first started living abroad, the world didn't yet have email or mobile phones. Now there's facebook, and it's so easy…

Relationship Status: It's Complicated!

I guess Grandmothers have influenced me quite a bit in my life. While my own grandma taught me the value of hunting for wildflowers, a roommate I loved at UCLA passed on some "wisdom" from her grandma about LOVE that I never forgot: "We should fall in love as many times as we can in our lives, because whenever we allow ourselves to love, we learn something important about ourselves."

Well thanks, roommate's granny, and here's the rub 20 years down the line - Relationship Status: It's Complicated.

My complicated status is changing lately, however, and it's time I can and should say it outloud. After 8 years of separation, my Dutch husband and I are both aimed in the direction of a reconciliation. Yes, with each other. As of about a month now we are embracing this decision with baby steps, with the joint hope of eventually getting the whole family functionally under one roof again.

E will be moving from Ethiopia back to Brussels by early December - po…

Hunting for Wildflowers with Grandma Jordan

One of Aunt Mer's Gifts to me recently was my grandmother's collection of Tonala figurines. They too have had quite a global journey. From Mexico to San Pedro (L.A.) to Uganda to Ethiopia, they finally arrived in Belgium via suitcase about a month ago, with only one tiny glue-able injury among them. I love having them with me.... even though they are just one more bit of stuff that nobody really needs.

Grandma originally bought them on a trip that she and Grandpa took to go hunting for wildflowers, shortly after she retired. I always thought it was so cool that they went wildflower hunting together. They used to take us kids lots of places, but we were never invited on a wildflower trip (at least not that I know of).

In my memory it was their thing together, and I imagine it was probably very romantic. Grandpa just loved serving grandma like a queen. How gallant it must have made him feel to still take his beloved to such romantic destinations. How important, the reading of th…

My Aunt Meredith's Gifts

On Sunday morning while the kids were still busy with their art project, I rode the tram for an hour to another part of Brussels to pick up a package from Uganda. And then another hour back.

The only thing I knew I wanted in that package was an antique Jingle Bell, part of my eclectic collection of unique gifts from my Aunt Meredith. I had to get it.... the dried pineapple slices and banana chips that padded it were a welcome and treasured bonus treat for the whole family, but I traveled for two hours there and back to save the bell.

The bell's journey to reach me has been a noble one. The package was sent by a friend in Uganda, through a family friend who was returning from a visit in Kampala to her job with the ICC at The Hague in the Netherlands. She in turn gave it to a workmate who spends most of her weekends with her boyfriend in Brussels. This woman and I have been on the phone for 3 weekends trying to arrange a hand-off. 2 hours on the tram seemed like such a big chunk of…

Totems and gemstone energy art - made by my kids!

Artists and the artistic process have always inspired me.Now my childrens' art is inspiring me in surprising ways. Nice!

When Thomas and Lucas were younger, I used to have a special project box filled with kids-craft & art supplies that we would pull out on a regular basis. In Africa we didn't have a TV until year 4. Ben didn't get quite as much art at an early age It's actually been a while since we did much art or crafting together as a family. But yesterday we had an amazing and all absorbing art-creating time together.

Our weekend activity schedule started to take shape when Thomas got a social studies assignment to make a Native American totem pole. I remembered when I was a kid my mom would make dough out of flour, salt and water that we would shape into all sorts of stuff bake til it was hard & paintable. Maybe we could make a log-like looking something? So Thomas got on the internet and found several recipes for homemade clay.

This weekend we tried the sim…

Putting my online house in order: a special message to my peoples on Facebook

My Christinaswwworld blog feeds into my Facebook profile, and nobody else is paying attention to it right now... so as I think about starting to blog again, the dear family and old friends who I've found through Facebook over the past year or so are the audience I find myself wanting to write to.

Just in case you didn't know this about me, my calling in this life has turned out to be organizing creative ways of bringing people together to make good things happen. Some of you will remember that since way back in High School I have loved throwing parties and designing fun events. For over a decade now, I've been making a quasi-career out of it. I've done a lot of pretty wacky community building and community event stuff in the online world, and in Africa, as well as at the intersection of the two.

Over the coming year I'll be developing yet another social experiment online, involving the use of several platforms for managing my connected life and making good things hap…

Adding another face 2 my facebook account: here's why I might be unfriending you soon

As I get myself ready to start working on another online project professionally in September, I've been thinking a lot lately about the need to restructure my online activities so that I can avoid letting work take over my personal relationships, and equally avoid letting the personal take over my work. To that end, I'm going to be adjusting a few things with regard to who I follow, where online, and what I am going to post there.

After 11 years of using online tools to stay connected professionally, my online world at facebook has become a very special favorite place lately, connecting a ton of people whom I have actually shared air with over the course of my perpetual expat life. The rekindling of these long-lost connections - with real people whom I have actually interacted with in real time and space - has become priceless to me. You make my life real and I love hanging out with you being myself and chatting about this and that.

So I've decided that Facebook , for me, is…

Does food drop from the sky?

Well intentioned aid can sometimes go awry in unintended ways. One story that really stopped me in my boots was told to me by my friend Moses Kariuki - a Kenyan who volunteered for several months in a remote village in Southern Sudan.

According to Moses, if you ask any child or young adult in the Sudanese village he stayed in where food comes from, they will not tell you that it comes from the ground, and that people have to work to grow it. Nor will they tell you that it comes from the supermarket. In their reality - and there is nothing you can say to make it untrue, for they have lived and experienced this all of their lives - food falls from the sky.

So the way to get food if you are hungry, is simply to wait for it to fall from the sky... pooped out by large white buzzing birds with funny markings on their sides.

Our western led institutions with the stated intention to help have created this false truth, and taught most Southern Sudanese to believe it through our own behavior. In …

Dysfunctional Aid

This week, there has been some hoopla about a new book called "Dead Aid," written by a female Zambian economist who argues that global development aid is bad for Africa. I can't wait to read it, but a critique of the book that I read yesterday rightly warns against the world turning it's back on Africa completely.

In just recent weeks I have personally been talking to friends about our global development aid system as "completely dysfunctional." While I still believe that we all have a responsibility to each other's well-being on this planet, I can also say without doubt that the charity-dependent systems we currently use to try and help the world's poorest countries simply are not helping in ways that lay stable foundations for sustainable development. On the contrary - our global development aid systems introduce so many conflicting distortions into what would be Africa's natural economic development process, that almost no healthy economic dev…

Relocation tasks

Tomorrow will be spent putting up the two flyers I've been preparing this week on notice boards around town.

Expat Moving Sale

Please visit on 4 April 2009 :: 10am to 5pm :: Luthuli Ave, Plot 86 (no. 2), Bugolobi

3-piece wicker sofa set shs30,0002 wicker end tables shs5,000 each3-piece local wooden sofa set shs80,0001 light wood medium sized simple table/desk shs20,0002-story bedframe from dark wood shs80,0002 dark wood bookshelves (1.5m x 1.5m) shs35,000 each1 wicker shelf unit (.75m x 1.25m) shs10,0001 light wood standing coat rack shs10,000

4.5 KW Generator shs750,000Clothes washing machine (<1> shs350,000Clothes dryer shs100,000Kitchen Blender shs15,000

Large European baby crib with mattress shs80,000Collapsible playpen shs40,000Large hard plastic kiddie’s swimming pool shs10,000Toddler size push stroller shs40,000Toddler size car seat shs25,000Car seat for 3-5 yr olds shs20,000

Also available on 4 April:Houseplantsplates & dishespots & panstoys & booksmisc househo…

Dr. Madre thinking outloud

My 11 year old Lucas has decided that when I get my Phd. he's going to start calling me Dr. Madre.

I Like it.

On my last day in Belgium I visited the University of Leuven to get a feel for what it takes to publish a dissertation there. Though I knew they had a strong reputation in International Cooperation policy research, I did not know that they also have a special program for foreign Phd students, with the intent of globalizing the University's research base and reputation. They encourage students to spend at least one part of their Phd period outside of Belgium. So it looks like the right place for me to be...

and oh yes, this is Belgium, so it's also FREE! (I had been sincerely worried that the tuition fees would keep me from being able to explore this possibility right now. ) AND I can work on it for as long or a short a period as it takes to finish it, as long as I submit it for review following the university's annual Phd review deadlines.

My mind has not been abl…