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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!

How good to migrate anew everyday. And how beautiful to settle anew everyday.
– Rumi, via Dream and Reality at Istanbul Modern

November in Arba Mich, Ethiopia

November in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

It is sunrise here in Istanbul, and I find myself awake and listening to the sounds of a distant mosque’s call to morning prayer.  Lying in bed and scrolling through my photos, I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am to be able to travel around the world and do what I love for a living.

I am truly grateful for the experiences I have had…

Turkish coffee with a friend in the Tophane District of Istanbul, Turkey

Coffee with a friend in the Tophane District of Istanbul, Turkey

Evenings in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

Evenings in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

the people I have met…

the people I have met…

Market Day in Jinka, Ethiopia

Market Day in Jinka, Ethiopia

Outside a family home in Ethiopia's Omo Valley

Outside a family home in Ethiopia's Omo Valley

Ethiopia's Hammer Tribe

Ethiopia's Hammer Tribe

the beautiful things I have seen…

the beautiful things I have seen…

"Bridge of God" in southern Ethiopia

"Bridge of God" in southern Ethiopia

Baboons outside of the Ethiopian Crocodile Market

Baboons outside of the Ethiopian Crocodile Market

Donkeys on the road to Konso, Ethiopia

Donkeys on the road to Konso, Ethiopia

Sand sculptures on the beach in Durban, South Africa

Sand sculptures on the beach in Durban, South Africa

and all of the wonderful work I am privileged to do.

and all of the wonderful work I am privileged to do.

Gathering for an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony & teaching women how to use a Female Condom

Gathering for an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony & educating women about the Female Condom

Taking questions on stage in my CONDOMIZE Zone at ICASA 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Taking questions on stage in my CONDOMIZE Zone at ICASA 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

And with gratitude for your loving support and kind attention…

With gratitude for your loving support and kind attention –

More from me soon.  xojl

More from me soon. xojl

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Welcome to Durban

Welcome to Durban!

I was honored to join a select group of female condom experts from around the world at the Female Condom Parallel Programming Meeting in Durban, South Africa this past week.  The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the development of international initiatives that would prepare the global market for the World Health Organization approval of multiple female condoms, not just those created by a single company.  These female condoms will be made from different materials, all with varying modes of insertion and separate sets of instructions for proper use.  Our task:  Create a plan for global female condom parallel programming with policy, marketing and training recommendations to be implemented by national governments as they decide which female condom(s) to procure.

Female condomologists at the table

Female condomologists at the table

Presentation by Bidia from The United Nations Population Fund

Presentation by Bidia from The United Nations Population Fund

I arrived in Durban last Tuesday and joined colleagues from UNFPA, MatCH and Universal Access to Female Condoms at the Riverview for dinner.  We had the pleasure of enjoying delicious South African wine and cuisine, accompanied by an exhilarating conversation about the work to be done over the next few days…

The giant elephant in the room… at the airport, that is.

The giant elephant in the room… at the airport, that is.

In the conference room at MatCH

In the conference room at MatCH

We were joined the following morning by a fantastic group of female condom experts from PSI Mozambique, the South Africa National Department of Health, Association Camerounaise pour le Marketing Social, Support Worldwide and PATH.  Our time together was made up of sessions, group work and presentations on female condom technology, programming, training, education and marketing from around the world.

Reports from the Female Condom Technical Review Committee

Reports from the Female Condom Technical Review Committee

Mags leads the brainstorming on female condom policy recommendations to national governments

Mags leads the brainstorming on female condom policy recommendations to national governments

Device used to insert a new latex female condom (FYI, the strawberry is just for decoration - the device is not flavored)

Device used to insert a new latex female condom (FYI, the strawberry is just for decoration - the device is not flavored)

Support Worldwide's presentation on the transition from FC1 to FC2

Maya's presentation on the Support Worldwide transition from FC1 to FC2

Support Worldwide and TCP

Support Worldwide & TCP

With my colleague from The Condom Project, I presented our global initiatives in condom destigmatization, peer driven condom distribution and our culturally specific educational materials.  I also presented our work with the United Nations Population Fund’s All About Condoms initiative and The CONDOMIZE Campaign.

Doreen & Raquiana from PSI Mozambique

PSI Mozambique

Female Condom champions from MatCH, Support Worldwide, The Condom Project (me) & ACMS

Female Condom champions from MatCH, Support Worldwide, The Condom Project (me) & ACMS

It was such a pleasure to attend this meeting, and I am truly looking forward to the implementation of our recommendations in the near future.  I cannot think of a more interesting way to have spent my Thanksgiving holiday!

On the beach in Durban… I'd say yes ;-)

On the beach in Durban… I'd say yes 😉

My toes in the Indian Ocean

My toes in the Indian Ocean

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Working in Khayelitsha

Working in Khayelitsha

While in South Africa, I conducted a focus group on our new female condom animations with women in Khayelitsha.  Prior to my visit, I was warned about going to this neighborhood – it is one of Cape Town’s most impoverished townships, and I was not able to find a metered taxi service to take me there from my guest house.  I was finally able to negotiate a day rate with a driver from Excite Taxi – he drove me there and, for my safety, insisted on waiting for me during my focus group, then drove me home to Kingslyn afterward.

Khayelitsha from the car

Khayelitsha from the car

One of the first things that struck me about Khayelitsha is that many of the stores (hair salons, pawn shops, stores to buy credit for your mobile phone) were housed in discarded shipping containers.

When I arrived at my destination, the Masakhane Public Library, I was greeted with nothing short of warmth and kindness – I am always touched by the ways that underserved communities truly make the most of what they are given, and how they are so generous in sharing their resources with visitors.

Khayelitsha hair salon

Khayelitsha hair salon

Shops in Khayelitsha

Shops in Khayelitsha

Stacked shipping containers

Stacked shipping containers

Katy from the Female Health Company kindly put me in contact with her dear friend and colleague, Eleanor, who works for the Health Department in South Africa.  Eleanor meets once a month with a group of women who are community leaders and peer educators, connecting them to each other and to governmental resources that can help them in their efforts of HIV/AIDS awareness in Khayelitsha.  It was these women who participated in my focus group 🙂

Focus group at the Masakhane Public Library

Focus group at the Masakhane Public Library

I cannot thank these women enough for welcoming me into their lives for this one afternoon. The information they shared about themselves, their work and the gender dynamics within their culture was invaluable.  They showed me that they, the women of South Africa, are the movers and shakers – they are committed to CHANGE and to greater education and awareness about HIV in their communities.

During our focus group, I was told that many South African men are against any type of sexual “barrier” that one can see and verify, and this cultural sentiment is the biggest challenge to encouraging consistent condom use.  I also learned that, although English is very widely spoken, there is a great need for educational tools in their own local languages.  South Africa has 11 official languages:  Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele (Ndebele), IsiXhosa (Xhosa), IsiZulu (Zulu), Northern, Sotho (Sepedi), Sesotho (Southern Sotho), Setswana (Tswana), SiSwati (Swati), Tshivenda (Venda) and Xitsonga (Tsonga).  The non-official languages include Fanagalo, IsiCamtho (Tsotsitaal), Khoe, Nama and San, Lobedu, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi and Sign Language.

Children running after my taxi

Children running after my taxi

I truly look forward to keeping in touch with this community and to receiving their second round of feedback on the final FC animations they are helping us to develop 🙂  Stay tuned for more on my trip to South Africa in the coming days… xojl

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