Let 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!Read More
I am delighted to share that Adam and I will be getting married in Eugene, Oregon on July 16th. We are over the moon and very thrilled about this. After some hinting, Adam proposed to me by somehow slipping an origami folded letter into a time capsule that he buried in his old backyard, in Paradise, California, back in 2000. (I still haven’t figured out how he pulled it off, but I’ll give him points for creativity and delivery both.) We are both delighted with the new life and family that we have created together. We look forward to celebrating this with friends and family this summer.
I also wanted to take a moment to share about our relationship. We are so fortunate to have found each other. We are so well suited for each other that it feels uncanny at some points. We complement each other and are truly incredible friends and lovers to boot. It is an excellent combination. And he says I have a “great sense of Catan.”
To take things to the next level, we got to know each other over clean cookstoves at the Oregon Country Fair. It was flirting over D’Frisco and thoughts of The Ritz. We fell in love over sharing the impact of InStove and exploring opportunities for the organization. Adam is looking forward to his first fair as Fair Family this summer, just before our wedding. It will be wonderful to share the experience with him, as we grow our family.
We are excited to share our union with those people that inspire us, love us, and are part of our lives. It will be a beautiful InStove wedding. We will be sharing more details about our menu and other wedding plans as we finalize our website. Stay tuned for that.
Storytelling is one of the most basic essentials of humanity. It is both for the storyteller and the listener. We both learn. We both grow.
Last night I attended a sold out show for The Moth Radio Hour at The Schnitzer. This is such a great venue and reminds me of my father Wally Jones.
The show as incredible. It was such a basic format for a performance, simply storytelling, but so powerful. The themes were both predictably diverse in their breadth of human experience and highly representative of the times we live in. Five stories had the theme of a twist of fate in common, but included stories about our own role in justice, the fragility of life, the experience of transgendered transformations, living an authentic life, and realizing the power of our own voice. Though within each story, they are more complex and rich than any summary would suffice.
Tonight there is a great event that I wish we could attend tonight. StorySLAM is an opportunity to share your story locally. You have the opportunity to share your story, in up to five minutes, about a particular topic. Tonight the theme is Joy, and an upcoming theme is Commitment. If you are looking for something to do tonight in Portland, I would recommend it.
I also love that The Moth has a hotline where you can call to share your story at any time. It is making me think more of the need and desire to share my story further.
Thanks to Literary Arts for bringing us this great show. Thanks to Sequoia for organizing!
Last night, I had a special guest stay at my house: an international guest. I didn’t find her on Airbnb or couch surfing. She was an asylum seeker from Central America, and she had come to Portland with a friend of mine who is working with asylum seekers in the Latino Community in Oregon.
I can’t give her name or country for safety reasons, but she was young, kind, and offered to pay for everything from the dinner she we gave her when she arrived, to her breakfast this morning. She’s here because Portland is the regional seat for the so-called, “Immigration Court” where she will have her preliminary hearing to set a court date with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to allow her case to be heard. Without a car, and without fluency in English, nonetheless, if she misses this first date, she can be subject to immediate deportation.
My friend began this work with her first “case”, a woman who she met through volunteering. The woman’s husband was threatened and extorted by local gangs until one day he was knifed, shot, and left in a gutter to die. He lied there for 36 hours before he was able to get to safety, and eventually, recover. Later, to protect his family, he escaped to the US, saved money, and brought her up. My friend helped her get asylum, and later, they were able to get her husband papers on her successful petition.
Word got out to the community that my friend helped her, and soon, she started hearing all kinds of stories. It’s important here to distinguish between “illegal immigrant” and “asylum seeker.” Illegal immigrants typically come for economic opportunity. But, these asylum seekers are not looking for jobs: they had jobs back home. They are fleeing for their lives, or to protect the lives of their children or families.
Violent drug gangs have turned many parts of Latin America into a War Zone that rivals ISIS-occupied Syria for savagery and lawlessness. Failed anti-drug policy, the deportation of violent drug offenders en masse from high-security prisons in the 80’s and 90’s (which were like training camps for viciousness), and a deterioration of social order and the strength of institutions generally in these countries has left families and women (in particular) vulnerable.
My friend says, “If the gangs find out there is a family member in the US, they will target the families left behind. They break in, and steal what they want. And the women are there by themselves with children. That’s when rapes happen. There’s impunity, the prosecution rate against the perpetrators is basically zero.”
Additionally, this insecurity in the culture has led to an increase in domestic violence. Fortunately, Asylum law changed a few years ago and now, my friend tells me, “Women who are victims of domestic violence and who cannot otherwise be safe, are recognized asylum seekers.”
This case, however, is a classic case: with nowhere to seek shelter or safety from the gangs, and as a risk to any family member or friend who would take her, this woman had no choice but to seek asylum for her survival.
Sadly, no law firm in Oregon is big enough to absorb all of these cases pro bono, and so it is left to people like my friend, whose work at the food bank led her to help in her first asylum-seeking case. You don’t need to be a lawyer (though it helps): just someone with an open heart, some extra time, and a desire to see mothers, young women, and children refugees resettled and safe, and able to live in dignity.
Sometimes being a Vicarious Nomad is about sharing the stories of other travelers, and as in all journeys, finding our a common humanity. I am glad that my home is a safe stopover, with a warm bed and breakfast for travelers on journeys like these.
I find myself marveling at the wonder of my life. Adam and I started our work day (after a smoothie breakfast and a round of Catan), with a run to meet with a board member of InStove at a nearby coffeeshop and had a great strategy and update session. Now I’m enjoying the sound of…Read More
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.
I will be sharing a number of posts about our most recent adventures in Ghana, but it feels suiting to start by reflecting on traveling as a mom.
Road warriors like myself, willing to travel internationally with little ones, are a bit rare. Through our travels we encounter all sorts of moms and babes out there. Most seem to be traveling home for the first time, taking their babe back to their parents, whether it be Kenya, Ghana, New York or Portland. It seems as if most are doing it as a one time pilgrimage, though perhaps I just don’t notice older families in the same way.
I’ll say this about traveling as a mama, it is totally doable, but it does certainly come with a degree of self sacrifice. This could be said about motherhood as well. It also comes with significantly more luggage (car seat, baby jogger, diapers, and snacks all add up!).
I sit here somewhere above North Dakota, with my butt aching and wishing I had managed to go to the bathroom in JFK when I changed Clark’s diaper and put him into fresh jammies. I am glad that my arm is no longer asleep, having readjusted our positions numerous times. It is only a matter of time though, as I hold the weight of a sleeping babe in my arms. The ergonomics on my iPhone mean that even my pinky is cramped from typing. This too shall pass.
I hear the small infant in the seat in front of us and am reminded to be grateful that Clark never cried like that, whether on a plane or not. I am a blessed Mama, for sure.
It feels a bit like Groundhog Day around our place most of the time: a perpetual motion of packing and unpacking. This summer it occurred to me that I nearly always have “unpack” on the list, but in reality it is almost always “unpack/pack”. From one adventure to the next. We now find ourselves back…Read More
Introducing Alanna Miel. I have chosen to change back to my maiden first names after my recent divorce. My maiden name was Alanna Miel Davis, and I have been Miel Hendrickson for nearly a decade. It feels like a good time to shift my identity with such a life change.
The complexity of my name extends even further than that. I was originally born as Alanna Miel Simonson. At the time of our birth, Simonson was our mother’s married name, from her recently divorced husband. Her maiden name had been Williams, but I guess she didn’t consider to use this instead. Our father Wally’s last name was Jones, but we never used this name either. We started using Davis when we were infants and have all of our basic records in Miel Davis and sometimes, with my legal full name. Without records as they are today, it wasn’t really important as a kid. We didn’t legally change our names until high school. Somehow we were issued social security numbers in the 80s that didn’t match our birth certificates (it was an earlier era). I was always called Miel, even though this was initially my middle name. My mom liked the ring of Alanna Miel better than Miel Alanna, as I do. I wouldn’t change a thing–though if you’ve ever gone by a middle name, then you know very well about mistaken identity. I lived next to an Alanna Davis in Peace Corps and it caused some confusion and mixed mail (sadly a delay in receiving a new bathing suit).
When I switched to Miel Hendrickson, legally dropping Alanna as my first name, I did so for simplicity. I still adored Alanna Miel and continued to keep it in all my online presence. I took a new married name in part because I didn’t feel overly attached to what could have been one of several last names. The interesting thing is that I have remained consistently since going into college with using Alanna Miel (or some variation thereof) as all of my login and identity tags. My LinkedIn and Facebook were already alannamiel. I like to think of it as serendipitous.
Legally it took a bit more effort, but changing both first and last names has been a bit of an administrative nightmare. When I moved back last year my utilities kept pulling a different name in Oregon systems, and thus I had to reprove my identity after so many years. To this day, I have one place where I can’t get the system to get my name correct, and it still displays incorrectly. I imagine a number of such hiccups along the way, but it feels worth it.
Obviously changing your name is a big decision. If you could manage to follow along the above synopsis, then you can see that I’ve already spent considerable time managing name changes. That would be about the only hesitation in making this choice, but it feels like the right thing to do.
I submitted my paperwork to the court yesterday and I will having a hearing January 22nd to confirm my new identity. Then will begin the process of changing my name over. I can imagine the conversations with a number of representatives. Yes, Miel Hendrickson is now Alanna Miel. Yes, who was previously Alanna Davis. It all makes sense somehow.
I’m excited for this new phase of my life and am happy to start the new year fresh as well.
Alanna MielRead More
Clark has consistently been a fabulous travel trouper. He was three weeks for his first flight and he seems more accustomed to travel than most adults are. On our recent trip to Ghana, this was no different. The thing about kids and travel is adjusting to where they are and making the schedule to accommodate…Read More