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A Bittersweet Homecoming

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-ImamwithGKA joint reflection by Gretchen and Kerr [Ed. note: this post was written in the days immediately following the bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 17.]

The past 72 hours have been a whirlwind. Thursday lunchtime had us delivering our final presentation to the IRD and SERASI staff; this thirty-minute PowerPoint had people laughing at Kerr’s dancing skills, and listening to not only our adventures over the last 8 weeks but also our contributions and confidence in these development and peace building programs. By 4pm we were leaving the office, kissing and hugging our colleagues and our friends, and by ten o’clock that evening we were on the plane headed back to the United States. We were feeling excited about our return but also a little sad to leave Indonesia since our internship had been such a great experience. READ MORE

Good Intentions. . .

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-community meetingBefore I left IRD Headquarters weeks ago for my journey to Indonesia, I was given the plans for latrines to be constructed through the IRD Watsan project in Yogyakarta. The project is part of a larger regional effort for which IRD is serving as a subcontractor responsible for several sub-villages south of Yogya. Each sub-village was to work with IRD to construct their four mandi (traditional Indonesian squat toilet) latrines and exterior water supply valves to serve the sub-village’s water needs. READ MORE

Gender Roles: Differences between the US and Indonesia

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-Gretchen'sIndoKiWith my time in Indonesia coming to a close, I’ve been thinking about my return to the United States and all of the things I will and will not miss about Indonesia. When I arrive back in the US, I’m not sure how I will respond to lunches that cost more than $3; I have grown quite accustomed to the rice, noodles, fish, and fried chicken all with so much flavor at such a small cost. I will also miss the Muslim call to prayer that is blasted through the still hours of the morning and evening. Though I do not understand a word of this call to prayer, and it occasionally wakes me at 4 a.m., it has been a faithful reminder for me to thank the creator for all of the wonderful gifts and graces I have in my life. And of course, I will miss all of the people I have come to know and love; in offices and cities all over Indonesia I can confidently say I not only have colleagues but also friends. READ MORE

Misha and Me

posted in: 2009, Republic of Georgia - No Comments

[Ed. note: This entry was originally posted to International Relief and Development's blog at]

GA-BatumiStreetJason and I finally got a chance to visit the Black Sea last week—we still had to work, but we had the weekend off to enjoy the beachside resort of Batumi. We have been really working like crazy people to help get a plan ready; for the uninitiated, this helps NGOs (and private businesses as well) prepare for the Request for Applications that is published by USAID. Very large sums of money are at stake, and the competition can be fierce. Often a proposal writer has an advantage if she can get agreement that her ideas will be supported by the government in question. READ MORE

Some Parting Thoughts

posted in: 2009, Mozambique - 1 Comment

There are some places so wonderful—so absolutely magical—that everyone should venture there at least once in their life. I assure you, however, that going to the beauty salon in Quelimane, Mozambique is not one of them. All in all, the experience is more worrisome than wonderful, more madness than magical. In a sense, it’s like walking into the barber shop and having Edward Scissor-Hands on speed as your stylist. I found this out the hard way after my firsthand experience this morning. My hair now makes my body look like one side is shorter than the other—the cut is diagonal from left to right. READ MORE

Confusion: A Cycle Underneath the Surface

posted in: 2009, Mozambique - No Comments

I’m currently reading Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun. Kapuscinski was the first African correspondent for Poland’s state newspaper, and this 1998 collection of short stories details a series of acute observations Kapuscinski made during his 40 years of exploration. His stories range from firsthand encounters with Ugandan madman Idi Amin to life-threatening battles with cerebral malaria and the 12-foot-long pythons of the Sudan. From his descriptions, the guy seems to be more of an Indiana Jones-type figure come to life than a Polish journalist (only the Indiana Jones of The Temple of Doom days rather than 2008′s disappointing Harrison Ford disaster). He escapes near death in the Sahara with only a canteen of water, figures out how to use black magic to his advantage in Ghana, and walks side-by-side with Hutu militiamen in the Rwandan mountains. Amidst all these tales worthy of cinematic frenzy, though, are also encounters with ordinary people that he’s met over the years, descriptions providing a connect-the-dots game of who’s who among the easily forgotten of this continent. And thus far, the story that’s stuck with me the most is one set during dinnertime in Ethiopia. Kapuscinski describes the event, saying, “More beggars crowded on the other side of the dirty window, staring at our plates. Men in tatters, women on crutches, children whose legs or arms had been blown off by land mines. Here, at this table, over this plate, one didn’t know how to behave, what to do with oneself.” READ MORE

Picture-less, Political, and Priceless

posted in: 2009, Washington DC - No Comments

*Editor’s note: As part of this Candler-IRD partnership, Rollins School of Public Health student Jane Li is interning at IRD headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In many ways, my internship in DC has been like archiving MasterCard commercials. My assignment to create a database on all IRD water, sanitation, and hygiene programs led to a quest of garnering countless reports with amazing outputs at streamlined budgets.

Currently, over 60 separate IRD programs in 23 different countries have:

X dollars spent,
Y quantity of water sources rehabilitated or created,
Z number of people with potable water,
And an end outcome of “priceless.” READ MORE

Gender and Peace Workshop, Another Forum for Communication

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-GVESuccess Story2Last week, I was amazed and inspired by the effectiveness of reporting centers and safe spaces for communication between families, and this week is no different. I continue to be impressed with the discussion and problem solving around community issues, in this case gender inequality and injustices.

I was fortunate to attend a “Gender and Peace Training” facilitated by three organizations from the Palu area, YAMMI (Indonesia Civil Society Foundation), SHK (Community Forestry System) and Yayasan Bone Bula (White Sand Foundation). These three groups set out to map the District of Donggala for causes of potential conflict. A few of their findings include competition for access to and control of natural resources, inadequate data about ethnic groups in this area, and policies that are not gender inclusive. From the participatory community mapping, YAMMI, SHK and Bone Bula realized that community members’ understanding and knowledge of gender was less sophisticated than they assumed, so the “Gender and Peace” training was adjusted to address the community members’ specific needs. READ MORE

The B Factor

posted in: 2009, Indonesia - No Comments

IND-Palu Program StaffWhen I first arrived in Indonesia, I was warned that in certain places I would feel like a rock-star. Children would call out to me, “Hey Mister!” and others would ask to take my picture. I was told that I would generally be the center of attention most places I went. I listened to the warning and thanked the messenger, but then I quickly dismissed it. Why would anyone want to take my picture? What could possibly make me interesting to strangers on the street? At that time, I could not have imagined being on stage at a televised dangdut concert three weeks later. (Dangdut is a type of Indonesian music heavily inspired by music from India.) I had no idea how real the warning of rock-star treatment was actually going to be! READ MORE

Hallelujah: Here in Mozambique

posted in: 2009, Mozambique - No Comments

MOZ-2BoysSmile_horz4x6Thus far, the song of the summer has been Brandi Carlile’s Janis-Joplin-style-bellow of “Hallelujah.” Considering that Aquarius is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard, I play it repeatedly in the truck in hopes that he will get the message and sing along. A few weeks ago, my plan started showing results: Aquarius told me he liked the tune. [Insert conniving laugh here.] Now, I’m proud to say that I’ve played the song so many times that it’s come close to hypnotizing my traveling buddy, making it so he only requests one song when we are on our way to the field: Hallelujah. READ MORE