Sunday, May 31, 2009


What is summer? This one in particular has involved such a focus on professional development, networking, and gaining knowledge on serious environmental policy issues. My thirst for knowledge leads me to daily experiences concerning areas of knowledge from food distribution to sustainable business theory. Whether I am socializing with colleagues, in the office reading an article, or planning to attend (and attending) events on Climate Change (with Todd Stern on Wendesday), poverty, Fair Trade (round table on Thursday), etc... I feel like a lot of the joy of summer can easily be overlooked. It is not as if one must separate "work" from "play", but that the "work" can often make us jaded, cold, and lonely. 

What I have realized, after a relaxing weekend with Dana, is that summer is about calming the mind and enjoying a peaceful time of the year. It is not necessarily the hustle and bustle of a DC professional internship that is making this summer so enjoyable for me. It is rather the time taken to enjoy beautiful weather with beautiful people, talk at length on the phone for no particular reason, and simply play outside. What I am trying to say is best surmized by an excerpt from today's Washingtonian:

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" is an essay permanently etched in our minds. Perhaps the color of the cottage was blue, not gray, and it was Uncle Frank, not Al, who wore the lobster-patterned trunks, but the recollections that matter are as fresh as a blackberry picked straight off the bush.
As we excitedly welcome June, and all of its anticipated pleasures and joys, we can't help but think of the past. When we were small and free, enjoying the warmest weeks of the year with our beloved yet nutty families, all four or 10 of us crammed into a mountainside cabin, beachfront bungalow or VW camper. When the biggest decision was vanilla or strawberry ice cream, swim or build sand castles, Mom or Dad's lap. When the smallest experiences led to such bliss that, decades later, we still pause to relive that moment, then return to reality with a secret smile on our lips.
-- Andrea Sachs

Friday, May 29, 2009

First Full Week of Work

Hey everybody,

Some important things: a) It is raining... it has been raining for a while now, and b) I have completed my first full week of work (because counting today's little bit of work, it has been six days of work).

       So I really really really enjoy my job. I now realize I will be working mostly on my own, with assigned projects (fair trade profile updating for the website, fair trade pavilion programming for the Green Festival in October, a full contact list for Fair Trade Alliance members, etc.) but also the expectation that I can go and find work for myself. I am confident, capable, and have already earned the trust of my colleagues (my boss's boss, Todd Larsen, the Director of Corporate Responsibility Programs, really liked this media summary I did for the recent Fair Trade Tour, and he said they might use it for donors... I smiled). 

       Oh and I had this wonderful conversation today, because it was Friday, with Denise, who is one of the founders of Green America. I had some wild ideas for fundraising strategies, and wanted to learn more about how non-profits were dealing with the recession, and she had lots to tell me (she also has a picture of her holding hands with the Dali Lama, she is that cool...). Anyways she is like this super-intelligent old hippie, and just freely talked to me about all of these green businesses that grow up and get bought out by large corporations, but the large corporations don't want to tarnish the brand or image of the product, so they try to hide the fact that they own it (like the fact that Coke owns Honest Tea, or that Clorox owns Burt's and Bee's). It was a very fun conversation, and I think I may have impressed her.
        Anyways my boss left today, and I will miss him. Him and I seem to be a lot alike and I am sure we would have gotten along great. It is also great to have this independance, but I do definitely look forward to working with my new boss, Sam, on Monday. It will probably be a different relationship than the one Yochi and I had, but we will just have to wait and see.

 I am off tonight to celebrate Yochi's farewell at a party with my colleagues. It will be interesting to see them all drunk and happy, instead of just happy and tired. 

Also, I get to go to a yardsale tomorrow morning, benefiting a dog rescue organization (one of my colleagues volunteers with them), and then I will see that adorable cousin, Dana, play soccer (some competitive soccer tryout-thing). I will then babysit her for the weekend, so her mom, Aunt Marla, can have a peaceful one-year anniversary with her new husband Steve. It will be a fun and relaxing weekend. 

I will leave you with a wonderful quote from my roommate Laura:

         We are the flute, our music is all Thine;
         We are the mountains echoing only Thee;
         And movest to defeat or victory;
         Lions emblazoned high on flags unfurled-
         The wind invisible sweeps us through the world.

                                                                               - Rumi

Monday, May 25, 2009

Re-Cap: A Week to Remember

So I guess I have had quite an eventful week.

You have heard some of it already. Here is what has not been posted :) *note: not in order...

- Practiced Frisbee with Robin at a Drum Circle (and taught a few local kids the mechanics...)
- Went to Harper's Ferry (the Appalachian trail!) and hiked on an absolutely beautiful day
- Went to the Zoo (WAY too many kids there...) but saw a gorrilla fight and almost got peed on by an orangutan
- Cooked an enjoyable meal for Robin and Jerry (apparently they weren't poisoned, but it was also followed by an incredible rhubarb pie thanks to Robin)
- Finished planting the Garden (it looks gorgeous, pictures soon to follow)
- Went to the AWESOME farmer's market at U and 14th (Goose Eggs, homemade brie, apple butter, and amazing produce)
- Did some preparation for BSC fall environmental activities...
- Went to the Sculpture Garden, heard Jazz and met a bunch of new  and IMPORTANT people
- Meditated with new friends
- Walked/played with two very adorable dogs (belonging to Robin's roommate, thanks Michelle)
- Meditated some more
- Had some interesting phone conversations
- watched some basketball
- laundry (now)

Basically, this week has been so eventful that it will put the next 10 weeks to shame--not really. I understand that being so active and out-and-about isn't exactly physically or economically practical, so I must tone it down a bit and live within my means (thanks Jerry and Robin). 
I am, however, extremely grateful for the people that I have met. People, between the ages of 22 and 30, easy to talk to and open-minded, working in my dream jobs. I could not imagine a better scenario (I seem to be repeating myself). It is so fascinating to hear their perspectives in conversations about climate change, co2 trading, carbon sequestration, etc. because THEY are the people producing these important reports! It's them! Anyways, I am excited for my 3rd day of work tomorrow, and look forward to a much less eventful week :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A First Day and An Inspiring Event

So I am not sure if I had any real concrete expectations for how today was supposed to go, but it certainly trumped anything I could have imagined. As the title of the post reads, I will summarize my first day in bullet points with a brief reflection, then on to the inspiring event of the evening.

- Yochi sits me down and after having met a wonderfully friendly and relaxed staff, tells me he will be leaving in two weeks (it was not his intention to keep this from me). He will be going to law school in Oregon. Good for him... wait what??
- Sammi, who also heads all the interns, and 1/2 of the time serves on the board for executive strategy-stuff, will be taking over his position and working with me for the rest of the summer. Sammi is a very nice woman, with whom I had lunch today along with Yochi. 
- Aside from the conventional orientation of how the company works (its organizational structure is fascinating, 6 out of its 12 members on the board are staff members!), what I will be doing (planning Fair Trade programming for the Green Festival in October, researching and writing on fair trade producer profiles, data entry from Fair Trade Tour contacts), I began to see how important my work is going to be
- Green America distribution database for its fair trade publications and events reaches out to more people than any other non-profit agency in the country.
- For this summer, I am bearing the brunt of the work in planning, writing about, and organizing this division of Green America. 

= WOW. I am not surprised that most non-profits are cutting back (Yochi had expressed disappointment that another staff member was not hired, but the fact that Green America had to cut 20% of its annual budget this year serves as a valid explanation), but to give the responsiblity to a 20-year old college kid? I really do not get surprised very often but this definitely caught me offguard. I am excited to know that among the other interns (about six other, none of whom have arrived yet) I pretty much have the coolest job. I am proud to know that non-profits with the prestige and reputation, such as Green America, can still empower youth to take on challenges even with the possibilty of failure. It will be a very fun summer.

- Evening Event - 

      So William, my brother's fiancée's roommate, invited me to this Local Food Sustainable System book presentation thing, hosted by DC Central Kitchen, at Busboys and Poets, a cool hip place where they have poets come and great coffee and a bookshop that helps the community (basically the coolest place ever). Anyways, the people up there represent the book that has been written about this local food movement - socially, economically, and environmentally responsible. We have all heard the local food ideal, the dream of 'knowing your farmers' and being able to purchase locally bought food from your farmers' market or grocery store. 
     What I saw tonight, hearing the collective story of a food chef, a non-profit social entrepreneur, a food distributor, and a country agricultural agent, was REAL. It really did get to me. Knowing that DC Central Kitchen, which already has the logistical resource and infrastructure to feed millions each year with reclaimed food, has partnered and coordinated with restaurants, big food distributors and packagers, grocery stores, health agencies to create this beautiful bridge between local growers and the DC populus - it makes me smile inside. Now there is an understatement. 
       Michael Curtin, from DC Central Kitchen, said that "We can create great change and engender empowering forces using only the resources in our community". This dream, however hard and impractical it may seem, makes perfect sense, and it works. 
       We'll call it a 'Cost-Effective Cooperative Distributorship' using non-profits, coalitions, farmers' markets, and businesses to create a beautiful relationship. It almost seems unreal, but what really intrigues me is a complete lack of policy. Where are the tax breaks for these restaurants or the local farmers, where is the funding to really get this across the city (some neighborhoods in DC still can be referred to as 'food deserts')? I thought quite at length about this, and concluded that in DC, these people did not have time to wait for policy or local government.
         So let us travel 2,800 miles south (a little West) to wonderfully gentrified and segregated Birmingham. Not only can the local government not take care of its water system, but the food system is nowhere near what is happening here in DC. But the potential is there. The interest is certainly there. And perhaps the financial and organizational backing may be there as well (from the non-profit sector, of course). We just have to find it, build it, and push it. Push it in to the minds of chefs and restauranteurs to go and talk to their growers and meet their farmers (now there's a novel idea). Create a supply chain of middle-man distributors, connecting 'food deserts' to reduced cost locally grown produce that does not sell. And MAYBE the local government will chip in, but I certainly do not plan on waiting for them. 
          As Michael Curtin and Robert Egger (founder of DC Central Kitchen) clearly put it, after I expressed my frustration with this dysfunction here in Birmingham, 'We aren't inventing something new, we aren't creating something from nothing, we are just taking the system we have now, applying a much more sensical and ethical community-based, environmentally friendly, healthier, and more economical approach, and learning a new way to fish'. So who is with me?

- P.S. - Garden planted by the end of the week! I promise!

A Brief Story of Two Tillers and an Adorable Ten Year-Old

Quick recap of Tuesday (Wednesday's's reflection will be MUCH longer)

I have gotten some goals achieved, and it has made me quite happy:

1. Cooked a meal on Monday - With Jerry's aid, of course, we prepared some delicious curry chicken and sauteed veggies, with some baked corn. Delicious and simple. Done.

2. Talked to my boss, Yochi - I'm starting tomorrow at 10:30! 

3. Got the backyard ready for planting - After walking for over an hour to the Rhode Island Home Depot, renting a tiller, finding a freelance cab driver (Rick Johnson, great man), figuring out that the tiller did not work, renting a second tiller, and finally returning that tiller back to Home Depot. Without you, Rick, there would be no garden.

4. Having to rent two tillers delayed the whole job tremendously, and by the time the tiller was dropped off it was 7:45, and I went from the Red Line Stop, fortunately right next to the Home Depot, all the way to the end - Rockville, Maryland. There, a wonderful aunt, Marla was there to greet me. My cousin Dana, an exuberant and adorable 10 year-old, was waiting for me with a delicious dinner awaiting. I had not eaten much all day, and it took seconds for me to devour the turkey meatballs and pasta. Great meal - and I hope to attend Dana's soccer games and swim meets!

All in all, an exhausting but very productive day.  Exhausted, I could barely fall asleep. I was too excited about work!

Monday, May 18, 2009

17 May - Arrival

Hey Guys, I'm here! I arrived at 12:15 PM on Sunday, May 17th in beautiful and awesomely cool Washington, D.C. After hopping on the Yellow Line, taking it North (for a good 25 minutes) to the Columbia Heights Station, my brother, Jerry, and his fiancée, Robin, were waiting to pick me up. Yesterday consisted of:
- meeting roommates (2 super cool vegetarian women, and Joan, a computer programmer, french, and the only other male)
- moving Jerry's stuff to Robin's House(literally 50 yards away!)
- settling all my things (desk, clothes, etc)
- getting groceries with Jerry and Robin (Harris Teeter is the choice here, with infrequent visits to Whole Foods, and possible smaller weekend purchases at the Farmers Market)
- exploring the neighborhood (Malcolm X, or Adams Morgan Park, Adams Morgan 'square' with great ethnic restaurants, packed coffee shops)
- eating Kyochi at Robin's (made by Robin's roommate, William, who works for DC Central Kitchen with Robert Egger! Coincidence!)
- reading, tea, some yoga
- out to eat dinner at The Diner (24 hour, better-than-waffle-house-type place)
- Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Social at Robin's (also now known as Sunday Sundaes)

All in all a very eventful day -- very fun, very welcoming. Thanks, DC roommies & company.

Plans for tomorrow and before starting work:
- Call Yochi to confirm time for work and any preparation I need to do
- Check out the local plant shop and see if the backyard can be planted SOON
- See a museum (maybe)
- Eat dinner at Aunt Marla's in Rockville
- Cook a meal!

DC is wonderful, guys! I know how lucky I am to be where I am, and I want to thank everyone in my life who has made it possible. 

Be well,