People in the DC area seem to travel more than those I’ve met in other places where I’ve lived. It’s probably due to a mixture of professions over-represented here — journalists, government workers and staff of national and international non-governmental organizations — and the fact that most people are from somewhere else and so are often visiting family and friends in far-flung places.
Ted and I have a friend who is of Cambodian heritage but who grew up in France. She and her American-born husband (a university professor with opportunities to do some of his research remotely) return to France for extended stays. Another friend worked at the French embassy here and returned a few times a year for home leave. She has now been posted to Monaco and I have a visit on my to-do list in the next couple of years.
Another, journalist friend has traveled over the past year to Cuba to cover the pope’s visit there and to Africa with Catholic Relief Services. Another friend, who works for U.S. AID (our development assistance agency), is traveling to Haiti in a couple of weeks to relieve a colleague returning for home leave. One of my co-workers travels at least once a year to Honduras and/or El Salvador to report on human rights abuses (in the former) or commemorate anniversaries of atrocities (in the latter).
I’m joining their ranks with much work travel and some personal travel thrown in.
Just since the beginning of August:
- I went to Nicaragua for a week with a church group to help build classrooms in a remote, impoverished hilly region. It was my first experience of a “developing” nation and it was eye-opening to see the lack of educational opportunities (a bare majority of children attend school and of 100 of those who do, only one graduates from high school), the grinding poverty, the sanitation challenges (I was among a handful of us who got giardia while there, and another handful got a bacteria) and the cynicism about government leaders who were often described as leaders of gangs who take care of their own with the main changes being who benefits depending on who is in power. But there were mostly experiences of warm hospitality, cultural riches, children and their families living with great hope, and young adults showing extraordinary community leadership. You can see here a video made by our pastor, which gives you a feeling for it all.
- I was invited to speak to the faculty and staff at Misericordia University, in Dallas, PA, about the Sisters of Mercy’s social and environmental justice concerns. The institution was founded by the Sisters, and my mom and two of my aunts are alums, so it was a special opportunity.
- From there, Ted and I went to Cape May, NJ, to visit with some of his family gathering at the place of many childhood memories. I finally met his oldest brother, Jim, who lives in California, and now have met all of his 5 siblings.
- We just returned from a few days in Oregon, visiting good friends of Ted’s. They were exceedingly gracious hosts, giving us a tour of Oregon, from a couple of days on the coast to another couple of days in the Cascades in the central part of the state. Also a stop at one of the most incredible bookstores ever — Powell’s in Portland.
I’m now home for a couple of weeks and then going to Omaha, Nebraska, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to give some lectures on issues that the sisters are involved with — healthcare, nonviolence (gun violence prevention and prevention of a war with Syria), climate change and the federal budget (preserving funding for programs that low-income Americans rely on). Then in mid-October to Savannah, GA, to staff a table at a Mercy secondary education conference. Then more personal travel: hiking Havasupai, the native American reservation area of the Grand Canyon, with Ted, my friend Tim and some of Ted’s family members.
Now to do some laundry from one trip and set aside the empty suitcase to be filled again in a couple of weeks.