2 05 2012

nikkilerner

The way I see it, when it comes to race and conversations around reconciliation, “the white person’s burden” continues to be the fear of being labeled a racist.  The way I see it, many White people can feel as though there is no space to ask questions about race or explore the topic with non-white people without feeling judged right away.   The way I see it, many White people can even feel like they aren’t able to publicly disagree with non-white people regarding ideologies and philosophies about race without the fear of being called a racist or insensitive.  Therefore, lots of White people choose to stay out of the conversation altogether.

Don’t we all need a place to have safe conversations around race instead of heated arguments?  Is there a place for the perceived “oppressor” to be quick to listen and slow to speak and for the perceived “oppressed”…

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Nigeria

2 05 2012

It has been a while since I have posted. I’m currently in Abuja, Nigeria waiting to fly down to Lagos. This is my second time visiting, but the first time I am leaving Abuja.

Nigeria, the little I have seen of it so far is a very nice country. Abuja is a city under development. Everywhere you look there is construction work. There seems to be a lot of half started new roads, and it looks to my untrained eye that instead of finishing the job, the equipment is moved to another location to half start another road. Nigerians talk about the development of Abuja being done in phases. To me, it looks like someone starts somewhere to make the people living there feel like they are very important and they too are getting a road. Also, in my opinion like in any country, when one government leaves the new government cancels all the old projects and starts their own. So you end up with lots of barely started construction sites.

I must say I have seen a little bit of improvement since last year. The roads to the airport were not as clogged as before, but that is maybe just because of the time of day I was arriving and departing.

The airport is of course also under construction, but I didn’t get hassled on my arrival this time. The domestic departure terminal is closed so they moved it to a small area on the international terminal. I have seen worse, Monrovia airport in Liberia after the war was ridiculous. People everywhere and absolutely no system. It has since improved dramatically. Juba airport in South Sudan was small, but they managed to make the process as slow as molasses. Nigeria has so much potential, but the lack of systems and procedures, as evidenced at the airport, is clearly holding them back. Actually, let me correct myself, there are systems and procedures, they just don’t work. Air Nigeria (formerly Virgin Nigeria) make you queue in three different lines just to check in. That is before you queue for security. And of course queuing means something very to a British guy. Queuing, to me, requires standing a good distance directly behind the person on front of you in single file. Like most countries I visit, and to a large extent America too, queuing means standing wherever, often next to the person in front of you and if possible using your elbows to get in front. I am not very good at this sort of queuing so I inevitably get pushed further and further backwards. However, I finally made it through after directing some traffic and being an obnoxious foreigner!

I’m really looking forward to Lagos. I have heard a lot about how busy and crowded it is. I am sure I won’t get to see too much, I’ll be stuck in a hotel while we provide a training. But I hope I will get a bit of a feel for the place.

More to come.





Aluminum

6 12 2011

My mind was blown yesterday by a comment on an Engadget article about two new elements being added to the periodic table.
The elements have the prerequisite funny names ending in -ium. Which brought about many comments from Brits about the word ‘aluminum’.

Generally, we like to think that we are correct when it comes to the English language. We did invent it after all. So, I was shocked to read that Americans spell Aluminum correctly. Who knew?!

Apparently, the guy who discovered aluminum used this spelling. But later that year an anonymous person wrote in a scientific journal criticizing the discoverer. The anonymous writer said the element should be called ‘aluninium’ to be in keeping with all the other -ium elements.

The UK adopted the move conventional spelling while the US kept the original spelling as meant by the discoverer.

This has blown my mind and I no longer can assume that my English is the correct version. My World has been turned upside down!





Windhoek, Namibia

27 11 2011

I’ve just arrived in Namibia. This is my first time to this country, and I’m already impressed. It looks clean, it is quiet and feels amazing laid back. Mind you, I am travelling somewhat differently to what I am used to. We are staying at the Hilton. It is definitely a step above the places I usually stay. My last trip, to Spain, was in a pretty nice hotel, but the fit and finish in the rooms wasn’t quite there and the restaurant didn’t open until very late, leaving international travelers quite confused and hungry. My recent trip to Bangladesh was for Save the Children, so the places we stayed were very basic. That seems to be the difference between my travel for Save the Children implemented projects and with USAID travel. Both are really important and I hope have a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children.

On this trip, we are going to be supporting a conference on food security and livelihoods. The Namibian Prime Minister and US Ambassador to Namibia will be opening the conference. So, it’s actually going to be quite a big deal. I’ll be presenting on ideas for livelihoods opportunities for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Whatever gets discussed at this conference could set the agenda for future Government investments, such as continuing to invest in the basic income grant for vulnerable populations, and setting the enabling environment for mobilizing savings deposits.

It would be great to get an opportunity to see the coastline but Windhoek is smack bang in the middle of the country, and I need to make sure I get home to my family. Otherwise, I would have liked to have gone to the ocean. From first impressions, if Windhoek was by the sea, it might be a place I’d highly recommend to my wife as potential place to live in the near future. Let’s see whether I say the same at the end of the trip.





Curry Blog

27 09 2011

I am a huge fan of curry. Leicester, my home city, has a lot of people of South Asian descent and is home to some of the best curries in England. As I write this blog I am in Bangladesh and I have been enjoying some fantastic food. Breakfast has been pretty basic, chapatti with daal and some potato with vegetables. It is nice, but I am longing some toast and jam. Lunch and dinner have been a bit more varied, depending on where I’ve been but every meal has to include rice! I have tried various types of daal, fish cooked countless ways, beef, chicken and one of my favorite items, ‘bhorta’.

Bhorta is green bananas, boiled and then mashed with green chilies, onions, coriander leaves and mustard oil all rolled in to a ball. The mustard oil is amazing; it adds a fantastic taste to the banana a bit of heat but not too spicy. To eat it you pinch a piece off and mix it with rice. You can make bhorta out of many different things; another type I tried was papaya. It is really tasty and I think it is probably pretty good for you too.

On this trip I have travelled south from Dhaka to Patuakhali, to get there we took a MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) flight. It was the first time that I have landed on water, I was surprised how smooth it was. I thought it would be bumpy because of waves, but it was just as smooth as landing on a runway, at least it was this time! From Patuakhali we went about an hour and a half further south to Golachipa where we were supposed to cross a river that was probably a couple of miles wide. I have never seen a river like it. It looked like there were two rivers combining to make one huge river. I am not surprised this area of Bangladesh is so prone to flooding. Water is a way of life, yet apparently so few people can swim. Unfortunately, when we arrived at this mega river, there was a storm brewing so we didn’t go across the river. I was quite disappointed, but instead we drove for another 45 minutes to an area on the same piece of land we were on. Meeting beneficiaries of programs makes traveling on the train each day to work very worthwhile. To see the difference organizations like Save the Children is making in people’s lives is very humbling. For example today, we visited a woman who has a fish farm thanks to a USAID funded project. The fish farm will provide a sustainable livelihood for her family and hopefully it will lead to better health and education outcomes for her children.

Tomorrow we head back to Dhaka, there is quite a bit of desk work to be done before I head back to the US. I cannot wait to get home and see my wife and daughter. Apparently Nyah has taken a number of steps, she will be running around in no time!





It’s been a while.

19 09 2011

It has been a long time since I updated this blog. I think in the time that I last wrote something, I have worked for the American Refugee committee and now I am with Save the Children.

In my last blog I mentioned that I have truly merged cultures now that I am a father of a beautiful British, Jamaican, American girl. It is amazing to think that my wife and I are responsible for another human being. The decisions we have to make on her behalf and the care and attention we have to provide is truly intimidating. So far things have gone well and she is standing up and apparently has taken a couple of tentative steps. She will soon be running all over the place!

At the moment I am in Bangladesh helping the Save the Children office put together an implementation plan for a village savings and loans (VSL) activity. VSLs provide the poor with a safe place to save cash, the opportunity to borrow from the pooled group savings and to earn a return on their investment. It is amazing how saving such small sums of cash can really change the lives of the poor.

It is great being able to help so many people around the world to improve their household economic situation. It is tough for everyone right now, and I pray especially for those who have lost jobs due to the economy that they will be able to find further employment.





Spanner

27 04 2011

The wife and I purchased a new car the other day. We are trying to assimilate to the culture we are living in, so we bought a Ford SUV. In fact, it is an all black Ford Escape XLT 3.0L V6.

With our new little one, we decide that it was time to trade up, and the VW Jetta was becoming quite unreliable and we’ve not fully assimilated yet as we only have one car.

Fords in Europe have a great reputation, they are solid, reliable and the designs are very nice. However, I understand in the US that Ford means Found On Road Dead. I am hoping this wont be the case for our new ride.

However, a few days after purchasing the vehicle a warning light flashed up on the dash. So, I immediately took it in to the dealership for them to fix. It turned out to be just a faulty switch that was easily and quickly replaced and we’ve not had any issues since, but it also turned out to be a lesson in language for me.

The mechanic sat in the vehicle and tried to replicate the problem, of course the light wouldnt come on, so I had to explain to him which light it was. Easy enough. It was the ‘spanner’ warning light I eagerly informed him. He returned my information with a blank stare. Which light sir? The spanner light, I repeated. Clearly frustrated with my lack of mechanical knowledge he turned the key so that the lights on the dash would light up, and I said there, the second from bottom light, the spanner light.

Unimpressed, he muttered something about it being a ‘wrench’ and scribbled on the pad.

I slunk off feeling an absolute spanner…