Monday, January 31, 2011

Mosaico: magical arrival

the place of renewal

Once again, I find myself in Amsterdam, at Schiphol Airport. I re-organized the contents of my external hard drive on the flight from Washington - a task I've been meaning to get to for some time. Strange that such a technical-sounding activity could end up being so reflective. With Beirut cooing in my ears, I browsed my folders and happened across some writing simply titled "MOSAICO." In the typical holiday craziness and all of my ensuing travels, I'd forgotten how much time I spent writing about the process of experiencing Lisa Sonora Beam's workshop in Mexico. Since I'm helping Lisa put together a workshop in Kampala in early March, I thought it would be a good time to share.

one of Hacienda Mosaico's many breathing spots

Last New Year's Eve, as Danny and I were embarking on our circumnavigation of Lake Victoria, we stopped off at our friends' Wim and Monique's place in Jinja for the night. It was my last night of internet, and I came across a blog post by Lisa Sonora Beam. I was drawn in by her art - the visual journal technique that she teaches. I saw that she was teaching a workshop in 2010 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I simultaneously thought "I could never create something like that!" and "I must go!"

Almost a full year later, the stars aligned and magically, I'm here.

Hacienda Mosaico is absolutely beautiful. It is a living, breathing manifestation of art – from the winding pathways and strategic little breathing spots, to the frenzy of color and artwork on every surface. It didn’t take much cold weather in Ohio for me to re-appreciate warmth, palm fronds and the living, breathing green of the tropics. Even just feeling the sun and warmth on my skin opened up my heart a bit about moving to Ecuador. It reawakened my desire to stay with the journey. The creation of place is really strong here – there’s a hammock strung up in a little grotto, with hand-blown blue-glass hearts hanging from the tree branches. It’s truly magical, and it woke up the tiny creator inside of me. I have a feeling she’s going to roar tomorrow morning.

looking down the stairs from the studio

It’s also a magical thing to be here with so many energetic women – all searching for something and here to connect with their art. We’re all devouring the thought “what’s next?”…as if instead of creating art in our journals, we’re actually just chipping away - revealing what’s already there on the page.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2010 bookshelf

* * from bookshelf porn * *

Reviewing my bookshelf is another way of reflecting on the year. My reading selections mirror my travels, exploring new parts of the world through literature - both fiction and non-fiction. I spent most of 2010 traveling, mostly between Africa (a place I've come to call home) and South Asia (a region I knew next-to-nothing about). An exploration of corruption and democracy in October was prompted by a trip to Kenya to work on a proposal for preventing election violence.

Aside from my work, my reading delves into my psyche, and those things that are always bubbling up, distracting me. I started to examine the possibility of a serious, long-term relationship, one that would make me into a "trailing spouse."

And as always, there are the books I read for guidance, looking for literary mentors as I shape my life as an entrepreneur. How can I improve One Mango Tree?

This reading reflection is a journey through the year - a satisfying one at that - traveling anew through places and emotions (bathtubs, earthquakes, identity, pool floating, unknown airports, turbulence, anticipation).

Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You & the World by Ed & Deb Shapiro - a collection of perspectives on meditation - recommended by Britt Bravo of Have Fun, Do Good Blog. Motivated me to really commit to a meditation practices in the new year.
Location: on the couch in front of the woodstove at the Old Rag Mountain Cabin in Syria, Virginia

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor - a beautiful look at the mother-daughter relationship, filled with observations as each woman passes through very different stages of her life.
Location: cuddled up in front of the woodstove with Henry at Old Rag Mountain Cabin

The Art of Non-Conformity
by Chris Guillebeau - saw his Empire Building kit on Lisa Sonora Beam's blog and decided to check out the book - lots of good ideas, but mostly focused on helping to push the almost-there non-conformist into totally unconventional. I'm already there, so it felt like preaching to the choir. If you need some pushing, here's a good place to start. Although, Chris's frenetic travel patterns make even me a little uncomfortable...
Location: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in between glue-ing shit down in Lisa's Creative Entrepreneur retreat.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave - it's rare for me to really hate something I read, but I really hated this book. While the writing itself was great, I just don't think white men should try to create a voice for African women. I could not stand the selfish British characters. It all just made me feel very ugh for days on end. Carrie warned me, I should have listened.
Location: at home in DC

Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places by Paul Collier - wanted to learn more about this after traveling to Kenya and learning more about ethnic conflict and elections... good read.

The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam - I went to Lisa's retreat in Mexico after Thanksgiving, and was SO excited to get her book - it's all about strategic planning for creative businesses, but involves a lot of writing, drawing, painting, etc. Right up my alley, as I think about what's next for One Mango Tree.

Purple Cow
by Seth Godin - great, quick little read about how to change your business by being remarkable. Lots of inspirational bits - picked it up off Catherine's shelf.
Location: on our thrift store arm chair

It's Our Turn to Eat
by Michela Wrong - picked this up to get up to speed for the consultancy I'm doing right now, related to Kenya's election violence in 2007 and continuing ethnic conflict. Great book; well-written - seems to have the same message (though more subtle) as Moyo in Dead Aid.
Location: en route to NBO

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson - this one took me FOREVER to finish, but the fast-paced courtroom drama at the end was well worth all the boring parts in the beginning - tying up loose ends, just like the 3rd of a trilogy should do.
Location: home in DC in the armchair that eats you, and in Nairobi

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo - an honest viewpoint I can't help but share - that foreign aid may just be the source of Africa's suffering. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Location: train to and fro Boston

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - just like the rest of the world, the train wreck of a first book got me hooked, and I couldn't put this one down. Grateful that it was less violent than the first.
Location: Schiphol KLM Biz Class Lounge

The Lost City of Z by David Grann - another loaner from Lauranne. All about nasty insects in the Amazon, but also about a fascinating time when places awaited discovery.
Location: Under the mossie net in Gulu, and on the couch in an otherwise empty house in Muyenga.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller - a recommendation from Lauranne, I devoured this book in one night. Absolutely fantastic read - Miller is asked to write a screenplay about his life and uncovers the importance of "story." Read, love, read again.
Location: Under t
he mossie net in Gulu

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson - my turn to jump on the bandwagon. Great writing and character development, just unsure and unsettled about the EXTREME VIOLENCE and EXTREME POPULARITY of this trilogy. Yes, I will now read the next two.
Location: Under the mossie net in Gulu

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - a recommendation from Julie, great little book that excuses us for being human and explores why and how simple checklists can make a huge difference in many disciplines.
Location: hammock at The Haven in Jinja

Start with Why by Simon Sinek - borrowed this one from Lauranne up in Gulu. Inspiring, though at times loses its thread - a good pep talk for all the OMT-speak I'll be doing this fall and winter.
Location: Istanbul and Uganda

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - read this on the way back to Uganda at the suggestion of my new friend and Pakistani jewelry-maker-extraordinaire - Amna Shariff. Well-written - short but powerful.
Location: bounding through the Middle East airspace

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown - I really needed a fast-paced distraction from the work in Pakistan. This was a perfect, ridiculously-written, guilty pleasure. And it made me long for DC.
Location: various terminals waiting for PIA flights

The Great Partition
: the making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan - a historical account of partition, certainly an eye opener for me, and it added so much context to my trip (when I had a few moments to ponder historical references).
Location: straddling Uganda and Pakistan

Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid - a total eye opener about South and Central Asia since 9/11. When Clinton briefed Bush at the White House in 2000, he enumerated three major threats: Al Qaeda, nuclear tensions between Pakistan and India, and Pakistan's links to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Oops.
Location: My very first Kindle book, read on the patio, in the pool and on the porch at Gorilla Forest Camp.

Diplomatic Baggage by Brigid Keenan - about life as a "trailing spouse" - for women who fall in love with a man in diplomatic service (CRAP) and then find themselves traipsing around the world on his coattails. This was a gift from one such woman in Kampala, with whom I happened to get into a discussion about my relationship with an FSO... Unsettling and entertaining at the same time.

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert - the author of Eat, Pray, Love writes the highly-anticipated follow up, about her skeptical venture into second marriage. She artfully picks apart the institution of marriage, but somehow companionship still wins.
Location: on the back patio in Kampala

by Seth Godin - I've been getting Seth's Blog updates delivered to my inbox for some time now, and they're always insightful and relevant to my business. Linchpin seemed a bit repetitive, but really should be read by college students everywhere - message: there is another path.
Location: plane ride LHR - Doha - Dubai - Addis - EBB

by Gregory David Roberts - a brick of a book that I just could not put down. Adventurous and totally worth it. Maybe get the Kindle version because it's actually heavy to lug around.
Location: PIA flights and departure lounges of IBD, KHI, LHR, etc.

Enough: Breaking Free from the World of Excess by John Naish - picked this up at the Dubai Airport, on adopting the art of "enoughness" - we already have everything we need; it's all just a state of mind.
Location: various hotel rooms across Pakistan.

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman - I already drank the Friedman Kool-Aid ages ago, and even though his books are all too long and repetitive, it feels like hanging out with an old friend (you know, the kind who always gets worked up about the same thing and talks incessantly, but you still love them?)

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
by John Wood - excellent quick read. for anyone who's ever wanted to do something "radically" different with their life but didn't have the courage to walk away from the normal path. Feel like I found a kindred spirit in John Wood, founder of Room to Read.
Location: PIA flight from Lahore to Multan, Pakistan

The Piano Teacher
by Janice Y.K. Lee - this one was another gift - riveting and a bit creepy - I kept reading before bed and would wake up thinking the Japanese were invading Kampala... kind of a sad look at expat life.
Location: bath tub and in bed - mostly passing out and waking up all bewildered with the light on

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson - I loved Three Cups of Tea, so was happy to see this on the shelves in the US at Christmas - and now that I'm reading it, there's lots hitting home, from descriptions of the earthquake, to working with women in Pakistan.
bathtub at home, under the net at night in Gulu, thinking of Danny in Haiti

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - we're a product of our upbringing after all - thanks, Mom, for the learning kit! It made me who I am :)
Location: bow of the African Queen in Mwanza, Tanzania

War Dances
by Sherman Alexie - a Christmas gift from a friend, excellent short stories
Location: petrol station in Serengeti while we got the bushings repaired on the Defender

Out of Poverty by Paul Polak - a gift from OSU Prof. Blaine Lilly when I stopped by for a visit over the holidays. Excellent book on product design for less than $1-a-day families around the world - focusing mostly on irrigation and growing off-season vegetables
Location: the big trip - picked up at Uganda/Kenya and Kenya/Tanzania border crossings while paperwork was being done

For a look at my 2009 reads, check out last year's reflection.
For a summary flavor of my reading {past, present, future} check out my Goodreads profile.