What I’ve been up to

During the last two weeks I’ve been pretty busy. I worked for a week at International Medical Corps in Santa Monica. During that time I spent a lot of time with a new mentor, Jon Thompson. He and his wife have worked in Liberia, and it was partly them that gave me the confidence to accept the posting with MSF.

At the end of the week I visited old college friends in Los Angeles, then I drove back up to Redwood City (6 hours). I spent the afternoon and evening doing errands. The next day I drove to Roseburg (9 hours). I visited with family there. Mom made a great combination congratulations and bon voyage meal. The next morning I drove to Portland and commenced work on the Humaninet Simulation Day event.

That came off as well as I expected. Things didn’t work perfectly, but we showed, in addition to the technical capabilities we were demonstrating, that we can overcome problems and make the show go on. The biggest challenge for Humaninet right now is finding a Jeff replacement; I did all of my work for them knowing I’d be leaving, so it’s all documented. But it does take a certain set of skills to manage the technology side of a show like that. I’ve recommended a friend to them, and they are going to follow up with him this week about maybe volunteering. (Sorry Brent!)

It was also a chance to get back into management mode, as I knew from experience that it takes a very strong leader with a clear vision to make a network come together in a hurry. I’d like to think I was a benevolent dictator, but I do remember dropping the axe on at least one guy during the day: I pointedly rearranged his priorities when I found him arranging marketing materials for a technical demonstration which he hadn’t proved worked yet. I told him, “go make it work, then we’ll talk about how you will show it off”. Sigh.

I’d sent my mom a flyer that MSF-USA made which is called, “I never leave without packing…” which is returned American volunteers talking about what stuff they take with them. It was factually very useful to me, and my mom found it very comforting to see that real people go off on (and come back from) MSF missions and have enough fun to write about it in a fun personal way when they get back. I gave her a 1 pound (500 gram) budget in my bag for her to send stuff. When I arrived she had a huge basket full of about 5 pounds of stuff, but actually it wasn’t that much when we edited out duplicate things (she wasn’t sure on what type I wanted) and took things out of packages.

I went on a shopping spree today to get some more stuff I wanted. I’ve been taking Jon’s advice pretty literally, since I can tell he and I think about things the same way. He’d sold me on a North Face duffel bag he uses as a suitcase, but I’d talked myself out of it, opting instead for my Gregory backpack which I’ve used on several trips and which I know intimately. Jon also gave me some useful pointers on pants (cotton + equator = mildew). Well, as it happens the pants I ended up wanting were at North Face, so I got to go see Jon’s duffel bag up close and I instantly fell in love. It’s super well made, water resistant, and has backpack straps. I wouldn’t use it for other types of traveling, but for wet, muddy Liberia where I’ll be traveling mostly in MSF’s Land Cruisers, it makes all the sense in the world.

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