Back to My Village

Today is a big day! We are headed back to my village, Dorfor Adidome. I lived there for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, from 1999-2001. Sometimes people chuckle at my reference to “my village.” This is the common terminology used by Ghanaians to refer to where they come from, and adopted by most volunteers. For me it has always felt like it is truly my village, though I say so more to convey my collective responsibility in being a part of the village rather than meaning it in a paternalistic way, or to imply any ownership.



Dorfor Adidome is a very small village in the Volta region of Ghana. It is settled on the beautiful Volta River, just downriver from the Akosombo Dam (which creates the Lake Volta, one of the largest man lakes in the world). Prior to the dam coming in during the 60’s, the village was a thriving market town and trading hub, with an economy based on fresh water oysters. Unfortunately the dam’s environmental damage destroyed the oysters and eventually the market moved to areas along the main road. My village is still lined with oyster shell pathways in areas closer to the river, where you can see shells ten feet down when you dig for a latrine.

Adidome comes from the massive baobab trees that are still sprinkled around the village. There are a handle of gorgeous trees remaining, when there used to be forests of them. I was told that they would protect the trees that remain, and I hope that is the case. I also hope that some of the the 600 acacia, 1000 flamboyant, and 100 mango trees that we planted still remain as well.

I’ve looked forward to this day for many years. It has been 14 years since I left my village. Even though I have tried to remain in contact, I have received very little in terms of actual updates from the village. I don’t know how or what has changed during that period. Looking at Accra, and seeing that even it has changed less than I thought it might have, makes me think that even with electricity coming to the village shortly after I left, that things are very likely to have changed little.

I try to hold my expectations in check. The village itself may not have changed much, but the children that I once knew are now adults. I don’t expect that the work I did as a Peace Corps Volunteer to have changed my village as much as it has changed me, but I feel honored to have been a part of it.

-Ama Woetsa (the name I went by in the village, meaning Saturday born, second female twin), Mama Dorfor Nenyo I (my title as Queenmother)

Clean Cooking Ambassador

rockyLet me introduce you to Rocky Duwani. He is Ghana’s Bob Marley. He is also the official UN Foundation Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Unlike many other celebrity “Ambassadors” that I have encountered, his passion and commitment  for clean cooking is evident and makes him a true ambassador.

We were surprised last night with an incredible performance by Rocky at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015. He has been attending the Forum and has been very accessible and down to earth. I’ve certainly never been to a conference that had the entire crowd dancing to reggae. It was a treat. Clark was a trouper and fell asleep as we danced.

One of Rocky’s songs is Extraordinary Woman. When the song came on, my partner Adam responded, “What does Extraordinary Woman have to do with cookstoves?” Of course, my passionate response was “EVERYTHING!” Though much to my surprise, Adam has taken over most of the cooking in our house, women are predominately the cooks around the world, and in Africa almost exclusively so.

Women suffer disproportionately from the health consequences of indoor air pollution that is caused by traditional methods of three-stone/open-fire cooking, which is used by one out of three people on earth. With 4.3 million people dying each year from the health related impacts of indoor air pollution, not to mention the time spent by women and girls collecting fire wood, we need to do more to protect our extraordinary women.

I am proud to be representing InStove at the Forum and am incredibly inspired by the potential for creating real positive change in this world.

Thanks Rocky! Keep up the great work and I hope to meet you again soon. You are welcome in Portland, Oregon!


Clean Cooking Form 2015

Ghana-Social-Media_Kofi_AnnanGoing back to Ghana feels like the stars have aligned to have me meet so many incredible Africans at once. Not only will I be going back to Ghana, but I will also be doing so in both professional and personal capacities. I will be attending the Clean Cooking Forum 2015 next week. I will be meeting many individuals who I have encountered remotely but have never met. I will share with you as I meet them, hopefully. I’ve never been as excited for an actual conference and who the attendees would be.

When the Black Stars played in the South Africa World Cup in 2010, I remember thinking that Ghana was a small enough place, that I was likely to meet Stephen Appiah. Low and behold, he will be attending the Forum.

We will also be meeting with Wanjira Mathai, Wangari Maathai’s daughter, and head of the Wangari Maathai Foundation. Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for the founding of the Greenbelt Movement and I heard her speak that year in DC. Wangari also wrote The Challenge for Africa, which I found to be one of my very favorites in a long line of African literature. Clark loves the children’s book written about her work as well. I’m glad to have the opportunity to have Clark meet such people.

The gathering will feature more than 400 leaders from 28 countries who are working to build a global market for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is hosting the global Clean Cooking Forum 2015 in Accra, Ghana – the first time it has been held in West Africa. We will come together to share strategies for accelerating growth of the clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels markets around the world.

I look forward to representing InStove, as the cleanest, safest, most efficient stove on earth. I am enjoying thinking of the potential opportunities there might be for an InStove in my village. It would also be cool to get an InStove to be a part of a Peace Corps project in Ghana. We’ll keep you posted on progress. If you know of any opportunities for us to collaborate with anyone while we are in Ghana, please let us know.


Miel (& Adam)

Going Back to Ghana


Finally. After 14 years, I will be returning to Ghana for a visit. It feels pretty incredible. I definitely have visions of Ghana going through my mind. Negotiating in Twi and Ewe in my head while I shower, wondering how much I will remember. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana and in the Volta region, from 1999-2001, and spoke Ewe very well and Twi well enough to negotiate and get around by public transportation with ease.

I will be going with Adam, Clark, and my mother-in-law Carol. It is exciting to see Clark return to Africa, nearly a year after his first trip to the continent. Now he will be running instead of nursing. I have dreamt of this trip for years. Carol and I have talked of going to Ghana for many years. Adam and I will be attending the biennial Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Summit in Accra. We will also be celebrating our four month anniversary together. We spent our two month anniversary in Washington, DC.

The people are what Ghana is really all about. Ghanaians are known as being incredibly friendly, and they are. It has been nice already to be in better contact with folks from my village and start to hear updates. For instance, I now know that my counterpart, an old many named Akpabli, is still alive, and that the Queenmother asks after me.

I avidly journaled during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer and will be pulling out my journal to see what adventures I can share about from my time as a Volunteer. Here are a few links to several stories I’ve written over the years as well. Like how I was stung by a scorpion, or the first female king in Ghana, how to avoid hazards in Africa, enjoy bucket baths and entertain yourself with Africian movie theatres, or about our ten year Peace Corps reunion.

I look forward to sharing about our travels.

Enjoy the journey,


Man from Paradise

Adam & Miel at Olivia Beach for the first time together.

I manifested a man from Paradise. Paradise, CA, that is. Just as with all of the adventures of my life thus far, I have manifested my path forward. I have found the partner and love of my life, Adam. We both come from small towns, have traveled the world, devoted ourselves to service and international development work, and found ourselves crossing paths in Oregon. In fact, he has most recently been living in Cottage Grove, the town where Darcy and I were born. What a small and incredibly fabulous world we live in.

Adam first reached out to me on LinkedIn and we connected initially on a professional basis, but I knew instantly that I liked Adam and wanted to befriend him in some way. We shared a passion for doing good in the world and enjoyed volunteering over the course of the weekend at the Oregon Country Fair. By the end of the weekend I was twitter-pated and wondering if I was feeling giddy at the possibility of him just because of his passion and enthusiasm (or his curls and gorgeous blue eyes). After an extended date of a “pic-luck” picnic, a waterfall hike, an evening at Sam’s Bonds with Eugene family, and playing cards at Sweet Life, we confirmed that we were both truly interested in one an other.

We knew right away that we weren’t interested in just messing around. Adam’s divorce from a four-year marriage had been finalized in March, and mine was signed off last week (see below). With Clark in the picture and the complexity that my life already entails, I had no interest in messing around with relationships that didn’t last. I wanted nothing but the real deal.

About a month before connecting with Adam I was working ridiculous hours and focused entirely on work. I paused for a moment and told myself, and my twin sister Darcy, that I felt I was ready for a real partner to come into my life. As I was driving along the coast, I dictated a 22 point “Manifesting my Mate” list that Darcy wrote out on my behalf.

Adam hit that check list and beyond. I now find myself shifting from beaming with delight for the first weeks of our relationship, to settling into an incredible new pattern of life with love of a kind that I have never known. I now have a partner who adores me, appreciates me for who I am, and is a joy to be around. I’ve never wanted to spend so much time with anyone outside of my own twin (which also coincidentally, Adam has a twin sister, Emily). He writes love poems for me, makes delicious and nutritious breakfasts with heart-shaped food at every meal. We love exploring and learning more about each other. I could not be happier.

As with many things in life, as one window opens, another closes. My divorce with James was finalized last week. We were married for 9 years, lived together for a dozen, and first dated 23 years ago. It has been a long and interesting journey together, but it is for the best that we follow our own passions. We largely lived parallel lives and were apart for much of our relationship. We do have the loveliest of fruits of our marriage though, the fabulous Clark. Such a sweet and studious boy. A born flirt. We both love him dearly and will continue to co-parent him together.

I will be sharing more here about the adventures that I’ve been neglectful to share in the midst of such transitions in my life.


End of An Era

Today marks the end of an era. After nearly six year, I’ve completed my work with International Medical Corps. It’s been really a tremendous experience. I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed a career where I both truly enjoy what I do while helping to make a difference in people’s lives.


During my time with IMC I’ve grown a great deal and look back at many incredible times. I’ve worked with incredible people from more countries than I could possibly list out. Thanks go out to all of my outstanding colleagues.

I’ve also traveled to DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Turkey, and the Philippines. As people who know me well already know, some of my times in DRC were my fondest with IMC.

Below is a pic from two years ago while I was on a business trip to Turkey. I was sent it recently reminding me of a new era presenting itself. I’m looking forward to this next phase as much as I have enjoyed the last.

miel turkey 2012Be well,



Clark’s Birth Story – A Field Day

On my own Birthday I thought I would share the birth story of our first baby. I couldn’t ask for a better present on my 37th Birthday!


Clark was born on a beautiful Saturday morning in June. He had waited just long enough for the perfect time to arrive.

The day before his arrival I was preparing myself for his birth. I walked my husband, James, to the metro several blocks away and opted to take a pass on my normal add on of a walk, or previously a run, through Meridian Hill Park. Home was calling me. I took care of some work on email and prioritized my day. Top on the list was a nap and a swim. When invited to lunch with a friend I contemplated whether I wanted to make my way over to L’Enfant Plaza. Normally I would love to meet up for lunch, but it felt both too far and that it would cut into my nap and swim time.

After enjoying both the nap and the swim, I met James for a final date night as just a married couple. I opted for the spicy curry shrimp noodles to go with pregnancy induction traditions. I wouldn’t attribute the birth on it, but it was a tasty and a filling last meal. I then called it early from playing rummy with my mom and headed to bed about 9:30 to get sleep while I could.

When James came to bed at midnight I felt my first contractions just after that. At first I laid in bed and tried to sleep them off, knowing this is what all advice will tell you to do. After an hour I knew that they were coming often enough that I should start to time them and call my midwife. I laid there, going back and forth to the bathroom between contractions, while I timed the contractions. Over the course of an hour they were steady but a bit irregular, ranging from 10 to 4 minutes in between.

I called the midwife around 2 and was told to take a bath to try to slow the contractions and get some sleep, and to call back at 7 if various signs had not occurred. I knew at that point that there was little chance of getting sleep, but I would do what I could. I called my twin sister and let her know that things were getting started. She wanted to get on skype already and I said, sorry I love you, but I just can’t talk to you right now. I drew a bath and didn’t last long in it, flipping from side to side with each contraction.

I called on James and my mom to start setting up the tub, to have it ready when I needed it. By the time they were done setting up the tub and making up the bed I had given up on timing contractions because I couldn’t be bothered. I asked James to help me, telling him okay at the start and end of each contraction. James then called the midwife back and let her know my progress, it was about 5 in the morning and she would be there in an hour.

I had them start filling the tub. As any expectant mom who has done a home water birth knows, this feels like it takes forever. I eyed the tub as it slowly filled, contemplating slithering into the bottom of the filling tub just for the comfort of it. I convinced myself that I could wait until it filled or the midwife arrived. I managed, and it was worth the wait.

As it happened, my gym Mint was having one of their summer events that day. A field day with good old fashioned field games. Since Clark and I had had nearly perfect attendance at the gym 5-6 times a week throughout pregnancy, the joke had been that I’d either be there with a new born, be there nearly a week past due and kick some final but while pregnant (I had won the fitness competition in April while nearly nine months pregnant), or I’d be in labor. It turns out that it would be the final option, the fitness goal I was most preparing for. We were also invited to a pool party while I was in labor, but we were already having our own private pool party.

Over the course of early labor I was first surprised that I wanted nothing but to lie down and toss from side to side. I had done a great deal of prenatal yoga and practiced supported labor techniques in our birth class. At minimum I would have thought I would want to walk or stand, but neither had any appeal whatsoever. The closest I got was misguaging an arrival of a contraction and hugging the wall until it passed.

The second surprise was that the labor process rendered me mute. It started to some degree earlier on, but perpetuated as labor progressed. It literally took me significant effort to utter the word water or lip balm. If you could read my mind, all the better. The was no need for words. It wasn’t as if the pain was that bad, I just couldn’t go there myself. I heard and listened to others, even replying in my mind, but rarely said a word. While I realized this during labor, it really became apparent when the moment after his birth I was speaking in full sentences without any hesitation. It’s amazing what the body and mind can achieve.

I started to have the first urges to bare down just before I got in the tub. I also recall my midwife noting how differently my belly was shaped. We have a huge mirror right above where the tub was placed and I recall marveling at what it looked like to see my baby move down into position. As I slipped into the tub the morning sun was suddenly streaming in through the room and across the tub. It was gorgeous and peaceful.

James sat at the edge of the tub and let me lean back on him or lean over the edge of the tub and rest my head upon him. That felt great. Eventually James needed some rest and pulled in my mom for support while he took a nap.

Our midwives Jennifer and Marilyn were fabulous. A big thanks to Birth Care and all the work they do. They essentially did their thing will little bother to me. When Jennifer arrived and took my initial vitals she said that she didn’t think she’d have to take them again. I didn’t ask how long that would be, but trusted that things would progress as they should. In the end I would have Clark eight minutes after they should have done my vitals, four hours later.

At one point early on the midwives enjoyed croissants and coffee on our gorgeous tree lined front terrace and marveled at what a great birth experience it was all around. My twin sister was also present via web video, watching us from the middle of the night in Portland, as we heard the birds chirping from across the country. Her family joined as they got up for breakfast and her three kids watched the birth in between cartoons. They had been there, along with me, for the birth of their youngest child, Teagan, now nine months old.

Things continued to progress. After getting in the tub it was easier to simply relax into the labor process. At one point my midwife asked if things might be slowing down since I was so calm, which was not the case, it was just very relaxing and contractions came and went. I could feel my body literally contracting and pushing my baby down. I really wouldn’t categorize these a painful, in some ways it was akin to an abdominal workout where you are pushing it to your limits. When you are fit it doesn’t hurt, but feels strengthening.

Eventual things were moving along and my mom went to get James. She looked in all of the obvious spots and somehow couldn’t find him in our 950 sq ft apartment. At last she checked the bedroom again and found that he had actually fallen asleep on the floor, so as not to disturb the made up bed.

Not so long after James joined I knew that things were moving along. I could feel him getting closer and closer, letting each contraction work it’s magic. I shifted into a supported squat position, holding on to James’ arms, and let gravity help. I shifted back down onto my knees and with the next push the head was out.

One of the midwives came over to get a fetal heart rate with a Doppler and was surprised to realize there was a head. In my mind I was thinking, of course I know there is a head. She later commented that she’d never been at a birth where it wasn’t really obvious when that moment happened.

I shifted around onto my back and prepare to birth the rest of my baby, and then a last time onto my hip as I reached down and pulled our son up onto my chest. My water broke in the final moments of birth as well. Clark was slightly occiput, or with his head askew a bit from the ideal positioning, meaning he came out at a wider angle.

Our son Clark Pierce Hendrickson was born at 10:38 am. He had a reassuring first breath and had good color, looking around at the world. We knew right away that he was a big guy, later weighing in at 8lbs 14oz and 21in tall.

birth1While my expectations for the pain of child birth was that it would be less painful than most people make it out to be, the actual experience was even far less painful than I had prepared myself for. I guess I’ll thank nature’s drugs at work and count myself fortunate for having had the pleasure to birth in the comfort and privacy of our home.

We hung out in the tub for about ten minutes and then got out to birth the placenta. I squatted a bit and was told to give a big push, which was so big that the splash of blood was huge and even hit the midwife in the forehead. The placenta was one of the biggest that they had seen, at about ten pounds and with a very thick and healthy cord. Everything came out quick and easily and James cut the cord. When I started to stand to go back to the bedroom I became woozy and was very close to entirely passing out. Luckily I had already given Clark to James and was able to quickly come around.

We settled into bed and Clark began to nurse within the first bit. After us both being checked out we were recommended to take a four hour nap and then have a real meal. We napped and then my mom made dinner and we sat outside together on the front terrace with the sun setting through the trees and the perfect temperature. It was anything but quiet, with sirens, a presidential motorcade, and Saturday evening revelers, but it couldn’t have been more peaceful and relaxing. The weather was idyllic and we stayed there until dark was upon us. A beautiful way to spend our first day with Clark as part of our family.

Our big guy, with beautiful rosy cheeks, stole his mama’s heart from the start! If you are interested at all in home birth or a fabulous read, then I highly recommend Baby Catcher, by Peggy Vincent.

clark pierce 6.9One day old! So yummy and sweet!