Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Live to Fight Another Day: A roundup of what I've been up to.

So I had quite an intensive June work-wise. I traveled from Bangkok to New York City for 10 days to attend an annual global retreat for GBV professionals, then I headed to London to attend the star-studded Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit hosted by Angelina Jolie and William Hague, the Foreign Minister for the UK, and then I sat around Qatar for 10 days writing a manual while waiting for a visa from Saudi Arabia. Finally, I went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for 3 whole days to lead a training. Then I was back to Qatar to hang out with my college roommate Ann-Michelle on her birthday and finally, home in Bangkok 32 days later.

That was quite an airplane ride... 


The jet lag never seemed to end. I had no idea what time it was. I couldn't find my "deep vein thrombosis" stockings for one leg of my journey and any leg cramp sent me cowering in fear that I was going to die from "economy class syndrome". Jet Lag is why black out curtains were invented and god bless the person who did that. On the way to NYC, I worked maniacally on a paper that was only read by one person but on the other legs, I watched movies, tv shows, and played endless addictive rounds of tetris. Playing tetris is maddeningly addictive on long flights. I find myself in a zone where the little part of my mouse brain just wants to hit that bar and to receive a pellet. Very good for turning off the incessantly negative critic. Although I am pretty sure my therapist would say that its just numbing it out.  I DO NOT talk to my seatmates. Except for when I get trapped. My Bose noise-cancelling headphones are my savior. I've worn them so hard that the stuffing is falling out of the pads. 

This trip seemed to be a maddening whirlwind of happiness, exhaustion, and irritation. I got to see old friends, I connected with colleagues from work, and saw family. I saw people I hadn't seen in years. My emotions were heightened due to the jet lag and I had to keep reminding myself that the desire to slap the ambassador from South Sudan was just the jet lag talking. I had to remember that the feeling of being on the verge of tears was also just the jet lag talking. But the combination of jet lag, mindless meetings and disillusioning conference ennui made me wonder what happened to June? It's all a blur. Here's some snapshots as they whirled by...


Meeting up with my sister in NYC and spending some quality time with her. Being in Asia makes me feel so far away...but when I'm with her she never judges if I'm feeling lame and just want to lie on the hotel bed for another hour. Thanks for that, Alyson! 

Meeting up with my colleagues Lina and Devanna who I co-authored a presentation with... they were tired and exhausted from their work but the camaraderie, laughing, and quick creative thought never gets old. They inspire me and help me get through dull meetings. I also got to catch up with other favorite people like Beth, Sophie, Joan, Nicole, Jeanne, and Lauren. And meet new people as well. The GBV AoR meeting might have been dull but the after hours  (or bar module as we called them in MSF) were great. 

Fancy NYC restaurant with smart crazy Alec and Susanne in a funky haze of report writing and jet lag which culminated in sparkling Sake! Delicious! Then Brunch with the Esser-O'Leary boys and Alec's sister in Park Slope. 

Mexican food in NYC! And mixed drinks in the early summer sunshine. And walking through Manhattan in the warm summer night without sweating. I've been in Bangkok so long, I had forgotten what it felt like not to sweat. 

My tuberculosis/ smallpox/ mental asylumwriter's barhigh line tour of Roosevelt Island with my sister and friend Eoghan. It was hard to imagine Charles Dickens' words about Roosevelt Island that "everything had a lounging, listless, madhouse air, which was very painful" as we sat drinking beers in the sunshine and being marched in a quickstep by the intrepid Eoghan around NYC. I think we walked 15 miles that day according to my pedometer. But it was wonderful.  

Meeting Angelina Jolie in person and getting quoted in US Weekly about my "Brad Pitt" spotting! That's right- others aim for the New York Times, Huffington Post, or even the Guardian. But I know that all aid workers read US Weekly and this will bring me more recognition than those publications ever will... ;)

The positive benefit of being an unwanted visa applicant to Saudi Arabia - spending a week with my college roomie, Ann-Michelle and her family. Doha is not really the most exciting place in the world but their house is like an oasis of family in the middle of the desert. Always warm and welcoming and home made Dosas from Reema for breakfast! I also got a highly exciting tour of the underbelly of immigrant Doha as my Indian driver and I went on a mission to find travel agents, iPhone repair men, and other services provided by the mostly Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi men of Doha. I didn't see a woman that whole day. 

An unexpected dinner at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, the Narrows, in London with my favorite person at MSF, Meggy. We met for dinner on the banks of the river Thames on a lovely warm summer evening and she gave me her lovely warmth to help me cope with remaining bad memories from those difficult 2008-2010 years. She was always the best hug to help me during those dark days.

Finally dropping off my documents to pursue my British citizenship. Let's hope I didn't leave it too long! I understand there is a huge queue at the UK passport authority! 


The Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit - while it was good to be in the presence of many activists, it ended up feeling like a huge waste of time and energy. Now that William Hague has resigned his position, I wonder even more what that was all about. There was an international protocol for documenting sexual violence in emergencies that to me, looks like it will never be used by service providers in emergencies as it doesn't allow any confidentiality. Check out the link above for my thoughts about the summit.

Running into former colleagues from those aforementioned unpleasant 2008-2010 years. While time has passed, I hadn't confronted my feelings about that time face-to-face and I needed to. As my therapist says "a growth opportunity". But I guess a positive too. 

Eating in restaurants for 25 of those 32 days. No wonder I can't lose weight or stay on a diet.  No exercise aside from the quickstep around Manhattan. But delicious food... lovely delicious food.. :)

Non-stop jet lag. It gets harder and harder and harder to recover. I feel like I"m taking 15 years off of my life everytime I step onto an airplane. That there is no plus side too. 

Yet to be seen: 
My 3 days in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia...