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In the gift shop at O. R. Tambo International Airport: Johannesburg, South Africa

Many thanks to all of you for your patience with this post, which I am publishing a smidge late (hence the title).  And tremendous gratitude especially to Lara of The Lara Touch for inviting me to join in on the My Writing Process Blog Tour!  To answer the Tour’s four questions:

What am I working on?
I have a few things currently in process:

  • Compiling anecdotal observations made during my travels to Malawi and Zambia
  • Creating a piece about how circus can be utilized as a tool for dynamic social change
  • Amplifying the work of Huru International, an incredible organization – who is up next on this blog tour!
  • Updating text and images on my blog, which will be transferring to a new online home

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My writing is actually mixture of travelogue, photo story, academic writing and tips for safer, more enjoyable sex… So that in itself is different, I suppose!

Why do I write what I do?
I started writing in this style in 2004, when I began traveling internationally for my work with The Condom Project.  My friends and family were interested in seeing the people, places and cultures that I was seeing; so I would compile a few photos each day and write a little blurb about them, which I sent out via email.  My writing process literally began as a way to share my unique life experiences with others, all while encouraging dialogue around the topic of human sexuality in an unexpected way.

How does your writing process work?
For those of you who watch 30 Rock, my process usually looks a lot like The Shower Principle.  The seeds of ideas get planted while walking around the city, riding the subway or doing my dishes; I talk with friends and colleagues to clarify and synthesize my thoughts, and then I put manicured fingers to keyboard!  I am addicted to thesauruses.  And the silliest part of my writing process is the amount of editing I do after I publish…  I am a huge fan of both the Undo button (post-sending) in Gmail, as well as the Edit button available post publication in WordPress.  For some reason, I am impatient to get the words out there… after which I finally take the time to read the piece with fresh eyes, and proceed to make final formatting and editorial changes.  Bizarre.  But that’s my process ;-)

Just for fun, I am tallying how many times I hit the Edit button after publishing this blog post.  I will update this counter each time I edit and re-publish: 10

 

I am now passing the Tour along to these incredible bloggers:

Ana Santos

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Ana Santos, Founder and Editorial Director of
Sex and Sensibilities
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Sex and Sensibilities, as its name implies, is a balance of sex and responsible choice. It is a site that hopes to be your trusted haven to get practical information about sex; a private place where your questions about sexuality will be answered with compassion, intelligence, and most importantly, always with honesty and respect for your choice.  At Sex and Sensibilities (which has been aptly nicknamed “SAS”), you can get information on safe and sensible sex, HIV and STI testing, global HIV news, and women’s allies, including SASsy men and SASsy governments.

 

 

TORCH Alumni

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TORCH Alumni Network, administrated by TORCH Program/Alumni Relations Coordinator Francis Carrero
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The TORCH Alumni Network is a blog that brings The TORCH Program alumni community together and continues to offer them support after high school. The TORCH Program is a non – profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of underserved New York City public high school students by providing them with intensive hands on exposure to career training in communications and the arts, all while facilitating a meaningful way of increasing the diversity of the workforce in those industries. As The TORCH Program alumni transition into college and their professional careers this blog offers them advice on college life and professionalism, internship and job opportunities, career enhancement events and workshops as well as updates on current TORCH participants, projects and events.

 

Huru International Blog, with contributors in Kenya and the United States
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In Swahili, Huru means Freedom.  Founded in Kenya in 2008, the mission of Huru International is to assist and empower adolescent girls by providing them with the resources and knowledge they need to complete their education and safeguard their health. In many parts of the world, poverty makes the cost of sanitary pads prohibitive for countless girls and young women, leading many to resort to unsafe substitutions, or to skip school for the duration of their periods. In response to this need, Huru has developed a high-quality reusable sanitary pad, produced locally and packaged into kits with other necessary products and HIV/AIDS prevention information.

I hope that you savor and enjoy these wonderful blogs as much as I do!
And please remember to stay in touch here.  It has truly been a privilege.

Much love,
Joy Lynn

 

Yoga in Times Square

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Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind. - M. R.

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At home with friends in NYC

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Working with Huru International in Nairobi, Kenya

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Le quotidien: Le 4ème Sommet Panafricain des jeunes leaders, à Dakar au Senegal

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With my host family at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho

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On stage with The CONDOMIZE! Campaign in Mzuzu, Malawi

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Working with Zip Zap Circus in South Africa, via Washington DC

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An afternoon with cheetahs in Victoria Falls, Zambia

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Honoring the life and work of Nelson Mandela in Cape Town, South Africa

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At Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts

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On the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France

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My 3-legged cat, helping me pack

 

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*Stay tuned for my post on the My Writing Process Blog Tour!

Though outside my area of expertise, a friend asked last year that I contribute a piece to his compilation on the subject of addiction.  Due to a variety of environmental-structural observations, I had recently become interested in the concept of workaholism… And here are the thoughts that I passed on to my friend:

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Rubber band ball

The term “addiction” is used to classify any obsessive or compulsive behavior in spite of all negative consequences, characterized in particular by the acute lack of ability to stop and completely discontinue the activity.  Work addiction is a form of process addiction, dependency upon certain behaviors that alter brain chemistry and mood.  Not dissimilar to other types of addiction, an individual must typically reach a bottom before recognizing that a problem exists; this is especially true of workaholism, as our society customarily rewards people who exhibit what may be considered a strong work ethic – much more so than a person addicted to a drug such as heroin.  To that effect, workaholism has been described as our nation’s “best dressed addiction.”

For some, it may be challenging to distinguish a hard worker from a workaholic.  A hard worker has the ability to handle tasks effectively and efficiently; a workaholic exhibits the inability to prevent perfectionism from overriding efficiency, spending unnecessary amounts of time on minor details.  Over time, employers do not reap benefits from employing workaholics; hard workers actually have better attendance and better working relationships with their peers and subordinates than workaholics do.

Symptoms of work addiction include approval-seeking, as the addict’s identity is their work, which completely justifies their existence; issues of control, with attempts to gain control over even the wildly unpredictable; escapism, using work as an excuse to avoid handling real-world feelings and emotions; preoccupation and obsession with work, exemplified by a lack of balance and boundaries; and lying, minimizing past failures and exaggerating past successes.

Workaholism manifests in physical signs, as is the case with most forms of addiction.  These signs include chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness; behavioral signs can include outbursts, insomnia and mood swings ranging from elation to desolation.  Workaholism also has devastating effect on personal relationships, as workaholics believe that the world revolves around them; they have been described as absent parents and spouses.

The Workaholics Anonymous World Service Organization recommends handling work addiction through Twelve Steps, which are identical to those utilized by alcoholics to handle their dependency.  As with any public health issue, prevention is preferable to treatment therefore the public health community must develop targeted interventions to raise awareness about and address the underlying causes of workaholism in our society.  In your opinion, what are the root causes of work addiction – and how can we effectively address it?  Please feel free to share your thoughts here.

Me + suitcase

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In May of 2013, I began working with an incredible organization called Huru International.  In Swahili, Huru means Freedom.  Founded in Kenya in 2008, the mission of Huru International is to assist and empower adolescent girls by providing them with the resources and knowledge they need to complete their education and safeguard their health. In many parts of the world, poverty makes the cost of sanitary pads prohibitive for countless girls and young women, leading many to resort to unsafe substitutions, or to skip school for the duration of their periods. In response to this need, Huru has developed a high-quality reusable sanitary pad, produced locally and packaged into kits with other necessary products and HIV/AIDS prevention information.

As of October 2013, Huru has distributed free Huru Kits to more than 80,000 girls across Kenya. Having developed and piloted a proven model in Kenya, Huru is presently working to build upon its initial successes, and provide kits to underprivileged young women in urban slums and rural communities elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In October, I had the tremendous privilege of visiting Huru’s offices in Nairobi, between two of my trips to Malawi and Zabmia working with the United Nations Population Fund’s CONDOMIZE! Campaign.  I departed Kenya on International Day of the Girl Child and wrote the following post, which was published on the Huru International Blog that same day:

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In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11th International Day of the Girl Child, recognizing girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls face around the world.  Today, this year, the focus is on Innovating for Girls’ Education; and as many of you know, this is a subject at the heart of all we do at Huru International.

All week long, the Huru community in Kenya has been buzzing with conversation leading up to International Day of the Girl Child.  Whether assembling Huru Kits in Mukuru Kwa Njenga or riding the Matatu to a Huru Kit distribution in Gatundo North, we have been asking ourselves the same question:  How can we reach more girls with our message of Huru, to let them know that they are not alone?  In Swahili, Huru means Freedom.  How can we give wings to our messages of hope and encouragement, letting them fly to into the hands and hearts of girls around the world who need them most?

Through our conversations with each other and with those in the community around us, we have put together a list of inspirational messages for girls around the world.  From our hearts in Kenya to yours: read these messages and know that every single one of your dreams is possible.  We believe in you!

Loise

Loise

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“Wherever you are:  Be positive in everything that you do, feeling encouraged in each and every day.  You will end up changing the situations that you are in and living better lives for yourselves and for those who are around you.  So you should not feel like, ‘Maybe it was not meant for me.  Maybe I’m just not so lucky…’  You should know that there is a reason for every person, everywhere that they are placed.  Especially those that are in the slums in Africa, you should know that you can do better.  You can become better people, you can provide, you can help yourselves and help your communities, and your families and everyone that is around you.  Just work hard and believe in yourself.”

Agnes

Agnes

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“I advise you to value your education first. Other things will come later. You know, when you are educated, there are so many opportunities – you need to go to school. That is the first thing that you need to. Go and work hard in school. Believe in the power of education. It is a road to everything that you want in life.”

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Margaret

Margaret

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“Girls, dream big and finish your school. Education first is very important. You work hard, and you will be protected.”

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Doreen

Doreen

“I know both the good side of life and the bad side of life – I’ve had both of them. Growing up was not easy for me; going to school was not easy either. But everything is possible, despite what you go through. As long as you know where you want to be, you will always make it to get there. But if you lose hope along the way, you will never get there. So you just need to focus, in spite of whatever barriers you get along the way – they are just supposed to be a stepping stone for you to go to the next level. Any challenges are supposed to encourage you.”

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Japhet

Japhet

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“You have the same opportunities that boys have. You should never lose hope or have low self esteem. You should feel proud of yourself.”
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Valentine

Valentine

“Appreciate who you are.  Just love yourself.  As you grow up, you should love yourself as a woman:  that is the message.  Because when a girl loves herself, she will protect herself.  She won’t be involved with peer pressure – because you love yourself.  And when you love yourself, you want the best for yourself.  Appreciate who you are, especially as you are growing up and especially at that age when we are staring our period.  Because that is the most important age in a girl’s life.  This is the age when you realize that you are growing up; and if you don’t love yourself, you might not achieve what you want.  This is the age when girls set their goals.  This is the age when we ask girls, ‘What do you want to be in the future?’  They really have a focus.  This is the message:  As you grow up, you should love yourself.  You should appreciate yourself.  Be bold and assertive about your dreams.”

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Today, we are asking for your help to give these messages wings.  Please Like HURU on Facebook, follow @HuruKits on Twitter, share our stories and ask your friends to do the same.  Celebrate International Day of the Girl Child by helping to spread the message of HURU:  Empower girls. Period.

For more information or to make a donation, please visit www.huruinternational.org

Originally published on Huru International, circa October 2013

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JLA – Micato Safaris

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Jean's grandmother, circa January 2014

Jean’s grandmother, circa January 2014

Jean woke up this morning to the news that his beloved grandmother in Dakar, Sènègal had passed away.  Jean’s grandmother, like my grandparents, played an instrumental role in his childhood and in forming the man that he is today.  I feel blessed to have had the privilege of meeting her when I visited ma belle famille in Dakar two months ago.  I send this message out with love in my heart, knowing that my incredible grandparents are happy to meet her now, too.

Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa in the Philippines, circa 1945

When someone you love becomes a memory,
the memory becomes a treasure.
– Author Unknown

Ma belle grand-mère et moi

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As many of you know, I had the pleasure of spending a few months in Paris to continue my study of the French language and work with Afrique Avenir, an amazing HIV/AIDS service organization that targets individuals from Western Africa and the Caribbean who are now living in the Paris metropolitan area.  For any of you who may be planning to spend some time in Paris in the near future, I have put together my top picks for what to do, where to eat and how to truly see la Ville Lumière.  The City of Light, the City of Enlightenment…

Franglish

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Franglish
No matter your current conversational level in French, I *highly* recommend attending at least one of these events!  They are held in unique bars in a variety of neighborhoods throughout Paris, and it is a wonderful opportunity to meet and practice speaking one-on-one with really interesting locals:  7 minutes in French, 7 minutes in English, then switch tables!  I am still very close friends with many of the people that I met there during my time in Paris.

Brulerie Saint Roch

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Brulerie Saint Roch
53 Rue Saint-Roch
This place is way under the radar, and it is some of the best coffee and light breakfast fare that you will find in this neighborhood – and it is wildly inexpensive!  The owner and the woman who work there do not speak English, but their friendliness and hospitality easily transcend that.  The clientele is almost exclusively local and there is no seating; only standing at high bar tables.  Their selection of teas is also insanely aromatic and delicious… I lived around the corner from this place and was there nearly every morning.

Patisserie Stohrer

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Patisserie Stohrer
51 Rue Montorgeuil
My dear friend Adèle CEO and Founder of Le Livre Art Publishing used to live on this street, and this little patisserie wins the award Best Eclair au Chocolate in France every year.  The brioche à la praline and the poire bourdaloue tarte are also wonderfully delicious…

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La Perle

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La Perle
78 Rue Vieille du Temple
Where Galliano lost everything!  Also frequented by hip and trendy locals.  It is a touch more expensive than your standard café, but the food is innovative and it is ideal for people watching over a cocktail…

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Le Rubis

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Le Rubis
10 Rue Marché Saint Honoré
This is one of my absolute favorite wine bars in Paris.  The clientele is almost exclusively local, and the owner always serves you himself.  If you stand at the tin counter, you can taste a variety of small and inexpensive glasses of beautiful wine that are not available to patrons who choose to sit at the tables.  I think that this is the best way to explore the wines offered here… The owner and his staff do not speak English, but they are very patient with friendly foreigners.

Le Progrès

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Le Progrès
1 Rue de Bretagne
Also known as The Bohemian’s Canteen, this super hip cafe is in a neighborhood frequented primarily by trendy locals.  Sit outside!  Rain or shine, this is one of the best places for people watching.

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Chacha Club

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Chacha Club
47 Rue Berger
Another gem recommended to me by my good friend Adèle!  A great place to get dolled up and socialize with the Parisian glitterati ;-)  The food and drinks are incredible, and there are all sorts of secret rooms and little hideaways only accessible to those with passwords…  Check out their website, and you’ll see what I mean!  I just looked at their menu and I don’t see my favorite item, which is foie gras rolled in the most incredibly tender chicken.  If you go, you can always ask if they are still serving it.  It is really incredible.

Discover Walks

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Discover Walks
It is unusual that I recommend a tour, but this particular company is very special.  These are tip-based walking tours with guides who are all native Parisians; because they were all born and raised in Paris, they have incredible stories and insights to share and their love of the city is infectious.  I recommend starting with the Left Bank tour; and, as you still have plenty of time left in Paris, you may actually want to do all six.  By the time you depart, you will truly feel like you have explored every corner of the city!

Mirror selfie, à Paris

Mirror selfie, à Paris

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It’s Lent and, for the first time in a long time, I actually visited a church on Ash Wednesday and am reverently observing the period by giving up coffee and chocolate.  Since my early objections at a young age to certain criteria required of the faithful, I have always considered myself to be spiritual rather than religious; but many recent life events have led me to re-examine religion and explore it on my own terms.  Rifling through my writing archives this evening, I stumbled upon this response to an email conversation with a colleague on this topic during Lent last year:

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, circa Easter 1911

Recent events in the realm of reproductive health as well as a thoughtful examination of the core values of many of the world’s organized religions are exhibitive of the powerful role that religious leaders can play in preventing the transmission of HIV.  The everyday lives of many individuals and communities around the world are informed by their religion’s teachings; and as religious leaders are guided unwaveringly by their sacred text, they themselves are viewed as trusted and unfailing sources of information and advisement.  For many people in developing countries, western medicine’s scientific evidence is associated with the “White regime” and considered to be highly suspect in comparison to the irrefutable, sacred text of their religion and the advice of their religious leaders.

I have the pleasure of working with a group of HIV-positive mothers in Dakar, Senegal; and at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, imams in Senegal officially declared their support for contraception, including condoms.  These islamic leaders are deeply respected as steadfast holy men who lead their communities throughout their lives, offering guidance and support through birth, marriage and death; and the imams explained their show of support by stating, “What’s good for a woman is good for her family, and for her society.  We want healthy societies.”

I was personally raised in the Catholic faith, and I was taught both in church and in my Catholic school that being a good Catholic means showing respect and care for those around us.  I firmly believe that condom use exemplifies the deep care and respect that one has for oneself, as well as one’s partner.  Using a condom demonstrates a belief in the right that every person has to live a full and healthy life, the right to plan a family and the right to choose what is best for ourselves and our own bodies.

When considering religious institutions such as Islam and Catholicism, using condoms is not against their core values – it supports them.  Pope Benedict XVI has even stated, “where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, [condom use] can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality.”

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Joy Lynn in Cape Town, South Africa: Circa December 2013

Me in Cape Town, South Africa:
Circa December 2013

I am so happy to have been invited by Lara Licharowicz of The Lara Touch to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour!  For the next two weeks, I will be posting a mixture of travelogue, photo story, academic writing and tips for safer, more enjoyable sex.

As many of you know, I have been in the process of migrating my blog to a new online home.  This move is still well underway, and I will keep you all posted on the progress on my new site – in the meantime, you can find me and my musings back here!

I also invite you to stay in touch with me on Facebook & Twitter – I’d love to hear from you!

More from me here, very soon… xojl ;-)

As some of you may know, my career in sexual health was born from my deep and vested interest in creative forms of communication – particularly around subjects that are considered taboo or difficult to discuss openly.  One of my most profound learning experiences occurred during two courses I took while in undergrad at NYU.  Through my studies in Radical Street Performance and Community Based Arts, my love of cultureart and honest communication were synthesized.  Nothing could have helped to prepare me more for the work that I do now…

So this blog post is an homage to my roots: some of my favorite street art and street scenes from our time in Istanbul earlier this year, littered with a few legendary quotes from Banksy.

Layers of spray paint

Layers of spray paint

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“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.
And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty, you can make someone smile while they’re having a p*ss.”

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Blank stare

Blank stare

Outside of an antique store in Taxim

Outside of an antique store in Taxim

Pink Cheetah

Pink Cheetah

La Nuit Passee

La Nuit Passee

BX

BX

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“There are four basic human needs; food, sleep, sex and revenge.”

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Little boy

Little boy

Bunny-eared couple

Bunny-eared couple

Dog in an armchair

Dog in an armchair

Little lambs

Little lambs

Cat on a pillow

Cat on a pillow

The Gossip Owl

The Gossip Owl

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“Some people become vandals because
they want to make the world a better looking place.

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The musician and the mural

The musician and the mural

Pomegranate drinks...

Pomegranate drinks…

... by the Pomegranate guy!

… by the Pomegranate guy!

Tram sandwich

Tram sandwich

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Up stairs in Taxim

Up stairs in Taxim

Critical Mass Istanbul

Critical Mass Istanbul

Everyone looking at Adrian, looking at the prop store

Everyone looking at Adrian, looking at the prop store

Pizza cat

Pizza cat

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In February 2007, the owners of a house with a Banksy mural on the side in Bristol decided to sell the house through Red Propeller art gallery after offers fell through because the prospective buyers wanted to remove the mural.  
It is listed as a mural that comes with a house attached.

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A beautiful view...

A beautiful view…

Map of our favorite neighborhood

Map of our favorite neighborhood

More from me soon… xojl

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My Macchiato

My Macchiato

Spending this first week of July in Washington DC, meeting people from the community as I await the arrival of the rest of my colleagues, has given me a renewed desire to once again state my heartfelt adoration for the Ethiopian people.  Ethiopians represent the largest African immigrant population in DC – surveys show that one in every five black African immigrants here is an Ethiopian – which explains why I have been stopped so many times and questioned with delight about the Amharic tattoo just above my right shoulder blade…

Zoma! Amharic for "Long, beautiful hair"

Zoma! Amharic for “Long, beautiful hair”

The following images are some of my favorite moments from my last two weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; both inside the ICASA conference and out and about in the city.  Enjoy!

Hanging our banner in my Education Zone

Hanging our banner in my Education Zone

Me, smiling

Me, loving my work

Me and Sissay, my Amharic & French interpreter

Me and Sissay, my Amharic & French interpreter

DKT condom fashion show!

DKT condom fashion show!

Jesus and Sara

Jesus and Sara

Cal and Ayele

Cal and Ayele

Tires

Tires in the neighborhood

Coffee Ceremony

Traditional Coffee Ceremony

Our banner outside the ICASA venue

Our banner outside the ICASA venue

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Tshirts…

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… tshirts…

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… and more tshirts!

What's YOUR Slogan?

What’s YOUR Slogan?

Youth at the Ghion

Youth at the Ghion

Condom Art Pin making

Condom Art Pin making

With our CONDOMIZE! manequins

With our CONDOMIZE! mannequins

Art in the Community Village

Art in the Community Village

Me and "Mama"

Me and “Mama”

Condom Art Pins at the African Union

Condom Art Pins at the African Union

Lunch!

Lunch!

Inside a chat house

An afternoon inside a chat house

Ambo and lime

Ambo and lime

Lovely Rosa

Lovely Rosa

Our neighborhood in Addis

Our neighborhood in Addis

More from me soon, circa Washington DC, on our Road to AIDS 2012

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