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Aug 8th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Last Day / Returning Home (Day 10)

Baggage call time:  8am.  I woke up this morning to a list of to-dos from my business partner/team manager for the 50th.  Stuff they needed me to do before I went incommunicado.  Good thing I packed last night!  Before I knew it, the butler was at my door to collect my luggage (I am so loving this butler thing!)  and I was completely not ready.  Fortunately, he was patient — I’m sure he’d seen my kind before — so he stood there while I threw the last few items in the suitcase.

Took a long look around my lovely suite.  And you know I collected all the little soaps and toiletries and threw those in my bag.  I didn’t take the big bottles of lotion and soap — I thought that would be more than slightly tacky.  But you know I wanted to!  This is defintely a place I want to come back to …

Last delegation breakfast … what a spread … everything you think you could want for breakfast.  Well, except for waffles.  And bacon.  Good conversation with my table mates about the trip, politics, and Africa.  I’m still processing my own thoughts about the trip so I didn’t make too many comments on that subject.  Plus I love and respect Bill Clinton and the work he is doing around the world, so be it far from me to have anything negative to say about any aspect of this trip.  Plus — I was a guest of the foundation (they paid for everything), so best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  Any comments I have I will share directly and privately with the staff.  But in public, this is THE VERY BEST TRIP I have even been on, and it absolutely could not have been better, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  She said with a smile, holding her cheerleader pompoms in her hands.  Cue cartwheels and marching band.

IMG_0390I am so ready to go home.  I don’t want to see another project.  but yep, there are two more to see.  First up, a visit to a Clinton Global Initiative project sponsored by Coca-Cola Company.  Coke made a CGI commitment to launch and lead a program called Five by Twenty (5×20).  The goal:  to support the creation of five million new women entrepreneurs by the year 2020.  Their support includes leadership training, business practices, marketing assistance, and discounted pricing on everything in the Coke supply chain (which includes, surprisingly, fruits and vegetables).  So far, they’ve enrolled 300,000 women in this program, with 230,000 of them being in Africa.

Some of the program participants were on hand to share their stories and tell us about their business.  All of them were older black African women, who’d begun their businesses later in life, but were determined to be successful.  It was very inspiring.

Then to stop 2:  A City Year project in Johannesburg.  I would love to tell you what the project was about, but I was on information overload and was simply couldn’t process anything else.  The highlight for me was chatting with a 10 year old named Diego.  He’s a soccer player and a big movie fan.  Well, one of my tripmates is married to Hugh Jackman (whom you may know as Wolverine from the X-Men movies), so she dialed her husband and put him on the phone with Diego.  It was a priceless moment.

IMG_0404Then as Dawn and I stood talking to Diego, we asked him if he’d ever met President Clinton.  He said no.  We said, that’s him over there.  Diego:  where?  Us:  Over there, the guy with the white hair.  Diego:  The white man?  Us:  yes.  Diego:  A white man is president?  Us:  yes, he was president.  Diego (with look of confusion):  A white man can be president?  Another priceless moment.  It occurred to me that in his lifetime, Diego had only ever known black South African presidents;  he’d never lived under apartheid.  And the only US president he knows is Barack Obama.  So in his ten-year-old experience, asking whether a white man could be president was a very legitimate question.

Next and final stop:  SHOPPING!  Oh yes, Bill Clinton was not leaving without doing some shopping.  And I was completely on that program.  He took us to his favorite store:  Amatuli in Johnannesburg.  It was a shoppers delight.  Normally a wholesale place, they opened their doors  — three floors of stuff — to Clinton and his guests.  They made serious money today.  I did some damage myself, and bought more than I normally would — after all, somebody else was going to be handling the luggage.  More than a few of us walked away with big boxes, all of which would eventually be loaded into the belly of our plane.

We left Amatuli and headed for the airport.  The first indication that our trip was coming to an end:  no police escort.  The traffic was terrible and it took nearly an hour to get to our destination.  But it’s not over yet … no customs, no bag check.  We were led right onto the tarmac, where our carry-on bags were waiting planeside.  Boarded the plane, found a seat — there are only twenty of us on this 737, so we actually have whole rows to ourselves.  Coming over, I was assigned a first class seat, but I skipped that for the return, opting for the whole row so I could lay out flat.

Staff handed us back our passports, which we hadn’t seen since Malawi;  they were full of the stamps from all the countries we’d visited.  Lovely!  I settle into my row, and get ready for the long flight home.  I reflect briefly  and give thanks to my God for allowing me this unexpected and indescribable opportunity, for the new friends I’ve met, for all that I’ve seen and learned, and for traveling mercies as I head home.


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Aug 7th 2013

Africa with Clinton: South Africa (Day 9)

Thank God for a late start this morning.  Call time is 12:30pm.  Thank you Jesus!  We had the option of visiting the Apartheid Museum this morning, but since I’d already done that on a previous trip, I elected to stay in and enjoy my lovely room.  Slept late and enjoyed a leisurely morning, listening to my meditations, responding to email, and sitting on all the furniture in the living room.  LOL.

IMG_0380Met the group for lunch and then we headed out.  First stop:  a CHAI Clinic visit in Pretoria, about a 90 minute drive from our hotel.  This particular clinic focused on work with HIV/AIDS clients, though they treat other health issues as well.  The South African government has only recently allowed the international medical community to assist them with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that roils the country.

In the post-apartheid era, as HIV/AIDS was gaining a foothold in the community, the government refused to offer any treatment or assistance to people with HIV/AIDS.  They believed that the HIV virus had been manufactured by oppressive regimes to annihilate black people, and that the treatment drugs being promoted were not actually intended to help patients, but, in fact, would make patients worse and speed their deaths.  It has only been very recently — just in the last couple of years — that the government has been receptive to even entertaining treatment, care, and prevention assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The CHAI clinic in Pretoria is one of the facilities that the South African government has allowed to operate to address the HIV issue.  (CHAI stands for Clinton Health Access Initiative.)  At this site visit, the Minister of Health announced that the government was committing funds to expand the clinic’s facilities so that it would accommodate more clients.  It was a major coup!

After this visit, we headed to the Pretoria Campgrounds for a Conversation with Changemakers, sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.  Six African businesspersons, entrepreneurs, and non-profit leaders shared the stage with Bill and Chelsea Clinton to discuss various community development initiatives.  The audience was filled with South Africans, many of whom lined up to ask a variety of questions.  The event was live-streamed and several questions came from on-line viewers.  Nice event.

Back to the hotel … got there just in time for my 10pm (south african time) conference call with Elder Bernice King to discuss the 50th Anniversary events.  That call lasted for an hour and some changed.  By the time we were done, it was near 1130pm, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten since lunch.  Because of my call, I’d missed the last delegation dinner with Clinton, but, as the saying goes,  I had to make the doughnuts (i.e, service my clients).  Thank goodness for 24 hour room service!  I called my butler — yes, I had a butler!!!!! — and a club sandwich arrived in no time at all.

Was up til 3am (south african time), packing for the last time and responding to email about the 50th.  Gotta get my team answers and give them direction on some things since I’ll be flying back to the States most of tomorrow and may not be able to respond to them at all.  330am, I finally crashed out.

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Aug 6th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Rwanda / South Africa (Day 8)

Kigali CentreEarly call time:  luggage in the lobby by 7am.  Departure from hotel at 7:45am.  These early mornings are killing me.  But thanks to some medication, the back pain subsided enough that I was able to sleep through the night.

Had breakfast with Dawn today.  We agreed that we are both ready to go home.  I’ve only been on the road since last week, but Dawn’s been on the road since July 21 — she joined this trip straight from a basketball recruiting trip to Lithuania.  My new friend, Linda Johnson Rice (publisher of Ebony Magazine), has been on the road since July 25 — she was in Greece before this trip.  We’re agreed — it’s been nice, but it’s time to wrap this up …

Kigali Genocide Museum

First stop this morning:  the Kigali Genocide Museum.  This museum tells the story of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda (pronounced Rhonda) in the early 1990s.  More than one million people were killed in the ethnic violence that raged in the country.  It was Hutus versus Tutsis, with the Tutsis being the underdogs.  While the world watched, a million people were killed, even though the international community had much advance notice that massacres were being planned.

Here’s the irony:  prior to the arrival of the colonial powers in the early 1900s, the Rwandan people has been all one ethnic group.  But the colonialists, in an effort to divide and conquer, created artificial divisions among the people based on economic stratification.  All Rwandans had to obtain an identity card, and Rwandans who owned more than ten cows were labeled Tutsi, and those with less than ten cows were Hutus.  Because of this, it was very possible to have a Hutu and a Tutsi in the same family.  Tutsis, because of their economic status, were considered superior to Hutus, and were given better jobs and more opportunities for advancement.  Over time, Hutu resentment grew against Tutsis, and soon after the colonial powers were finally forced out of the country, a Hutu took power and began to plan the genocide of Tutsis.

Weapons were stockpiled and on a planned, specific date, the massacres began.  Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis — men, women, and children, were beaten, maimed, tortured, and killed.  Women were raped in front of their husbands and/or children.  Entire families were wiped out.  Parents were made to kill their children, and children were made to kill their parents.  Brutal.

Outside the museum, there are fourteen mass gravesites, each one holding the remains of thousands of the dead.  Inside there are exhibits explaining the history of the conflict, how the massacre was planned, the role of the international community, and how they are now rebuilding their nation.  Two exhibits were particularly moving:  one was the “Childrens’ Room” which contains photographs of the children killed, along with comments from their parents about their favorite foods, their personalities.  Each child’s picture tells how the child was killed.

Kigali Ctr Skulls1

In another darkened room, there were three cases filled with the skulls of victims.  And three cases of empty clothing hanging from wires — complete outfits missing their wearers.  In this darkened room, some of our delegation wept aloud.  The Pastor in me was called to duty, and I sat with one woman whose name I didn’t know, put my arms around her, and held her as she wept aloud.  When she could talk, she said to me:  how could people do this to other people?

What’s the answer to that question?  I don’t know.  But I said:  this is what happens when we refuse to see each other and acknowledge each other’s humanity.  This is what happens when we deny that the God that lives in us, lives in others too.  That makes it possible for us to hurt each other, to harm each other, to kill each other — because we don’t see that we are all the same … and that when we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves.

And I said, this, what we have seen today, is genocide in a highly visible and palpable way.  Same as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the African slave trade.  But you know, we cannot distance ourselves from this and point at the atrocities committed by other people.  The fact is, many of us hurt, harm, and kill others every day with our words, with our detachment, with our callousness.  It is a different kind of homicide, but just as deadly.  “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.”

We sat long minutes in the dark, with me holding her in my arms.  It was a moment.

We all left the museum subdued … (well most of us were subdued).  It was an emotionally draining and disturbing day and I’m glad the next stop was the airport.  The four hour flight to South Africa was definitely going to give me the time I needed to recoup.

Farewell Rwanda.  I’ll be back, I promise.

Next up:  South Africa.

Our plane was back in working order, so we boarded, got comfortable, and settled in for the four-and-a-half hour flight.  I plugged in my daily meditation podcasts, and I listened to a whole week’s worth of daily meditations.  (Here’s the podcast I use:  The Word of God calmed my spirit and soothed my soul enough for me to go to sleep.  When I awakened we were landing.

Headed to the Saxon hotel in Johannesburg.  The Saxon.  There are no words.  CLICK HERE TO SEE MY VIDEO

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Africa with President Clinton

Aug 5th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Rwanda (Day 7)

Not much to report today.  All the bad road finally caught up to me and I had some challenges with my back.  The President’s doctor came see me (the President always travels with a doctor) and he advised me to skip the day’s activities.  So I took the meds, spent some time in the steam room, and lay still for most of the day.

I was feeling well enough to join the group at President Paul Kigame’s home for cocktails and dinner.   President Kigame is quite impressive, and he has done a masterful job of rebuilding the country after the horror of the 1990s genocide that killed 1 million people.  The country is simply beautiful, the people are working hard at rebuilding their community and their nation.

During the horror of the genocide, many women were raped by soldiers and vigilantes who infected many women with HIV.  Because of the devastation in the country following the massacres, the country had little resources to assist the burgeoning HIV+ population with healthcare and medication.  As a result, the disease ravaged a whole generation of Rwandans.

Under Kigame’s leadership, this has all changed as his pragmatic and firm approach to governing has attracted ongoing interest and investment  in his country.  Folks with HIV are now able to get the medication that they need to live full and healthy lives.

For dinner, we sat out on the President’s lawn, which had been set with tables of 8.  Many of the Rwandan cabinet were there and we got to talk with them directly.

The food was very good … I think we saw the last of the Indian influences in Zanzibar (at least until we get to South Africa).  I picked up a couple of bottles of the native hot sauce, piri-piri, to bring home.  Right on cue, just as we were finishing dinner, it began to rain and the staff whisked us inside.  We sat in the President’s living room … until one of our number dropped a glass of red wine on the white marble floor.  You could hear the sharp intake of breath from the Clinton staff  who quickly left the room.  The next thing we knew, the staff came back and announced that the first bus was ready to roll for those who were ready to leave.  I can take a hint, so I got my butt on that bus.

Had to repack the suitcase yet again for an early morning luggage call — 7am.  Thank God for suitcases that expand — and have wheels!

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Africa with President Clinton

Aug 4th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Tanzania / Zanzibar / Rwanda (Day 6)

Soccer, Ramadan, bad curry, broken airplane, and Ethiopia … What do these things have in common?  They were the highlights of my day.

I no longer have any idea what day it is.  Or what time it is, for that matter.  I live by a schedule and I do what the staff tells me to do.  And everything will be alright.


Left the hotel at a decent hour (930am) to head to the airport, bound for Zanzibar via a short, 30 minute flight.  Zanzibar is an island just off the coast of Tanzania;  beautiful country and lovely beaches.  We head for a soccer match and malaria awareness event.  Through the work of the Clinton Foundation, the incidence of Malaria in Zanzibar has decreased from 25% of the population being infected in 2005, to less than 1% being infected today.  Those are amazing statistics.  At this particular event, the Clinton Health Associates performed Malaria tests and also distributed mosquito netting.

IMG_0297It was very warm in Zanzibar, and especially down on that soccer field.  (We watched the game from the sidelines).  Because the predominantly Muslim population is celebrating Ramadan this month, we were asked to respect their observance by not eating or drinking in front of them.  (During the month of the Ramadan fast, observant Muslims refrain from eating or drinking anything from sun-up to sun=down.)  Given how warm it was today (85 degrees), I marveled at the soccer players who played a full game without taking a sip of water.  The President of Zanzibar joined Clinton at the event, and both made remarks to the crowd.  Folks were excited to see Clinton;  his last visit was in 2005.

Next we visited ZAPHA, an organization supported by the Foundation, which support women and children who are HIV-infected and affected.  Lovely visit.

IMG_0329Then we went to lunch at a restaurant in Stone Town, the only ancient African city still in operation today.  The view of the city from the restaurant was breathtaking … or maybe I lost my breath because of those SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS that led to the roof.  As I climbed the stairs I couldn’t help but wonder why we weren’t taking the elevator we kept passing by at each floor.  Curry for lunch – the Indian influence is very prevalent here.  And then, yep, shopping!


Dawn Staley struck out together to find good stuff.  Had to get away from the more affluent delegation members who were likely not to want to/ or know how to haggle for good deals.  A local brother latched onto us and took us through the labyrinth of shops.  I gotta tell you, that Dawn is mercenary!  She and my sister, Sharon, or my mother, could shop together anytime.  I hate bargaining – the prices seem low already and I know they are poor people so I always feel bad cutting into their money … But like I said, Dawn Staley is a mercenary and she would not let me pay full price for anything.  We didn’t have nearly enough time for shopping – just an hour, and I really hate being rushed … there are so many vendors and so much stuff … I wound up getting confused so I didn’t buy as much as I’d intended.  I did make sure to buy some spices – Zanzibar was part of the ancient Spice Trade Route.

We finished up our shopping and headed back to meet the group.  And guess who wasn’t finished shopping?  Clinton.  So we latched on to him as he walked through the marketplace, chatting with the local people and stopping here and there along the way.  And that’s when we got the bad news.

After conferring in the middle of the marketplace with the President, the staff informed us that our airplane was having mechanical difficulties.  We would need to remain in Zanzibar another 90 minutes.  So they took us to a beachfront bar to wait it out.  Well, 90 minutes turned into 3 hours.   Time for another update.  The plane would not be able to take up to Rwanda that night.  Staff was researching other options.  Oh boy.  Anybody could see that Zanzibar was not going to have enough overnight accommodations to handle our entire entourage, now swelled with staff and media.  This was gonna be a problem.  We returned to the lunch restaurant for dinner which was the same menu as lunch – except the curry was thinned out and the pieces of meat were few and far between.   Then exciting and hopeful news:

The staff had called around to neighboring countries asking their Presidents for airplanes to transport our group to Rwanda.  I’m not sure of all the countries that sent planes, but I know that Tanzania lent two aircraft and I overheard that Rwanda also sent a plane – small gulfstreams that seat 12-16 passengers. To transport everyone, we needed five planes plus another for luggage.  The planes were coming from all over East Africa so they arrived at the airport at different times.  The staff created small groups and loaded folks onto the airport buses one plane at a time.  I soon realized that I was going to be in the last group with three other people.  Not happy – way too tired.  And then, as I was about to get my full attitude on, President Clinton walks out and says “Are we ready?”   My attitude disappeared completely.  grin

Finally: Rwanda

And we headed for the airport.  The President of Ethiopia sent his own plane for Clinton.  My three colleagues and I boarded the plane with Clinton, his Secret Service detail, his doctor, and his chief of staff, and we headed to Rwanda.  About 90 minutes later, we land in Kigali, Rwanda.  We deplane right onto the tarmac, jump into the waiting cars (also on the tarmac), and speed off to the hotel, The Serena.

My luggage hasn’t arrived yet;  no telling what time it’s coming.  But I’m tired so I’m going to bed if I have any prayer of attending the tomorrow’s  events.

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Aug 3rd 2013

Africa with Clinton: Zambia / Tanzania (Day 5)

We had a very early call time – bags in the lobby by 6am, departure at 7:30am.  It’s important that your bags are down on time because the staff takes them to the airport ahead of your arrival so that they can be cleared and loaded onto the plane before we get there.  Once the staff takes your bags, you don’t see them again until you get to your room in the next city.  I didn’t want to get up so early, so I took my bags down the night before.

Made it to breakfast and was calmly sipping my way through my tea when the Trip Director came into the dining room and said, Everyone, we’re leaving now.  Head to the bus immediately.  It was 15 minutes earlier than we’d planned, but it turns out that President Clinton was on time – early even.  THAT is a minor miracle.  And once the President is in his car, the motorcade rolls;  there is no such thing as waiting for anyone.  Anybody not on the bus will be left behind.  Fortunately for us, the hotel staff all want pictures with Clinton as he’s leaving the property, so that bought the stragglers a few extra minutes to get on the bus.

We pull out and head to the airport, about a 15 minute drive.  Advantage of traveling with a President – the bus drives right onto the tarmac.  You get off the bus and walk right up the back stairs into the aircraft.  At the front of the aircraft, a Zambian delegation lines the walkway to say farewell to the President.  Only the President, Chelsea and his immediate staff walk up the front staircase.   Thank God for a long flight – 3 hours – and I sleep the whole way.

Dar Es Salaam

We land in Tanzanian early .. the President being on time this morning caused us to arrive earlier than planned … and we head straight to the first event:  A Barclays Commitment event.  (During the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in New York, corporations and businesses make formal “Commitments”  to devote resources/time/energy/investment in some sort of initiative that will support community development efforts in countries where the Clinton Foundation works.  Barclays committed to support micro-lending efforts in developing countries, which will allow small businesses to get loans easier and more quickly.  This first event showcases the work that Barclays has been doing since they made their Commitment.

IMG_0247The event is in a local market downtown Dar Es Salaam.  We have a police escort for the motorcade so we whip through town pretty quickly, as all traffic is stopped to let us pass.  People line the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Clinton.  We get off the buses and head right into the event.  We hear a presentation from the local “bank”  members, who tell us how their bank works.  It is sort of like a sous-sous, in that everyone contributes (deposits) a certain amount of money into the “bank” which is a metal box that has three separate locks;  three different people have keys to the locks.  Each month, the members meet to make deposits, make loan decisions, receive loan payments, and hear other reports.  The only difference is that loan takers must pay interest on their loans, and that interest is divided among the members.   My colleagues and I have no idea what this has to do with Barclays – since the money is all coming from depositors and it’s kept in a metal box – but the entire meeting was conducted in KiSwahili, and the translation was spotty.

After the event we wandered through the market, and visited a business owned by one of the bank members — a hair salon.  It was a market where local people shop, not one made for visitors or tourists.  So unless you needed tires, pots, or Fanta, there was nothing for us to buy here.  People crowd around trying to get close to Clinton.  Secret Service has their work cut out for them here!

We head to the hotel, The Hyatt.  Since we’re early we have two whole hours before our next event, which is at Parliament.  We have to wear business attire for this next event (as opposed to the business casual we’ve been wearing) so we definitely need time to change clothes.  Turns out our luggage is stuck in traffic, so I head to lunch with my new sister-friend, Dawn Staley.  She is a three-time Olympic Gold medalist and is now Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at University of South Carolina.  A wonderful person and we’ve enjoyed spending time together.  So far, we are the only two black women on this trip (besides the staff), though Linda Johnson Rice (owner of Ebony Magazine) is scheduled to join the delegation this evening.

After lunch, I go to my room … the staff pre-checks you into every hotel, so all you have to do is go to your room … it’s always unlocked and latched open;  the keys are inside on the desk, along with your Country Memo from the ground staff (detailing schedule, weather, attire, info about the hotel, where to change money, how to connect to the wi-fi, etc.).  My suitcase has been delivered to my room, and I have 20 minutes to dress and get to the lobby.

At the State House

IMG_0252We go to the State House, for a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Clinton Foundation and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.  This MOU will allow the Clinton Foundation to begin working in the agricultural industry in Tanzania, supporting local, small farmers – much like the program they run in Malawi.  In fact, the folks in Tanzania heard about the program in Malawi (and Rwanda) and appealed to the Foundation to expand it to Tanzania.  In the lobby of the State House is a bust of Julius Nyerere, father of Tanzania.  The delegation heads to one of the ceremonial rooms and meet some of the farmers who will participate in the program – nearly half of them are women, which is wonderful to see.  President Clinton and his foreign policy staff go off to meet with the President of Tanzania.

Then we go outside to a tented courtyard where the MOU signing will take place.  This is one of those hurry-up-and-wait moments.  We sit and sit and sit and sit, waiting for the two Presidents to finish their bi-lat.  (A bi-lateral meeting is when representatives from two countries meet together.  A tri-lat is three countries.)  The meeting goes on forever and I am wilting in the humidity.  FINALLY, they come out, make remarks, and the MOU is signed.  We board the vans and head to an unannounced stop:  the US Embassy.

US Embassy : In Memoriam

IMG_0282You may recall that on August 7, 1998, terrorists exploded bombs at the US Embassies in  Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  We stop at the Embassy to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the attacks.  There is a lovely memorial built in the yard of the Embassy property – which, like all American Embassies, has been re-configured to be surrounded with concrete barricades and other precautionary measures to prevent another bomber from ever getting close enough again to take lives.  The US Ambassador to Tanzania is Alfonso Lenhardt, an African American retired US Army Major-General, who also served as Sergeant at Arms of the US Senate, the first African American to do so.

We had a moment of silence at the Memorial, followed by some very poignant remarks from President Clinton.  Then back to the vans and to the hotel.  Delegation dinner in the hotel restaurant. And then to my room – I am hitting a wall;  so tired.  But first, I have to re-pack my suitcase, and get it to the lobby tonight because I don’t want to have to get up early enough to make the 715am bag call.  I need to look at emails from by business partners but I just can’t solve or address any more problems today.  Bed is calling.

Fairly late start tomorrow.  First event is meeting the former president of Tanzania at 9:20, then depart for airport at 930am, heading to Zanzibar.

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Aug 2nd 2013

Africa with Clinton: Zambia (Day 4)

Greetings from Zambia:

IMG_0162Awakened by the sunlight streaming through my balcony windows.  It was too dark to see last night, but with the daylight I can see that I have a wonderful balcony that overlooks the Zambezi River.  I had to force myself to leave the room – I could have easily spent the day on the balcony.

Had a relatively late start:  8:15 breakfast, 9:15 departure for Event 1.  Today we traveled for 90 minutes over some VERY bad road to a rural village to visit with some Clinton Health Associates.  These native Zambians are trained by medical and social work professionals for one year, and then they are deployed to villages in Zambia, where they provide basic health care services and advice to a roster of clients.  They are supposed to have a catchment area of 3,500 people but personnel shortages have meant that their catchment areas really cover 12,000 people.  Initially funded entirely by the Clinton Foundation, the Zambian government has now, in the program’s third year, taken over the financing.   It was fascinating to hear them talk about their work, their successes, and some of the challenges they encounter, such as traditional beliefs about pregnancy and contraception, husbands who refuse to let male doctors attend their wives childbirth experience, etc.   Because of the lack of resources, the Health Associates get around to see their clients either on foot or by bicycle, carrying their paperwork and medical equipment by hand.  Some days, the CHAs spent HOURS just walking from village to village.  Their most needed item??  Not cars (road are too bad), but motorized scooters and more efficient carrying cases for their supplies.

TWO whole hours to get back to the hotel over VERY, VERY bad road.  I mean BAD ROAD.  I don’t think my back is ever going to forgive me.

IMG-20130802-00007Next event:  Starkey Hearing Fitting.  The Starkey Foundation helps deaf children hear.  They’ve figured out a low-cost solution to help thousands of young people hear.  Today we actually fitted young people with hearing aids and helped them to hear for the first time.  The expression on their faces when they could hear someone’s voice was absolutely priceless.  Something I’ll never forget.  That and President Clinton himself fitting kid after kid with hearing aids, working with each one to calibrate it just right.  And the look of joy on their faces and his as the mission was accomplished.  Simply amazing.

Next up:  we joined President Clinton as he walked over to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  It is spectacular.  There are no other words.  To view their majesty, you cannot help but know that there is a God and His Name is Glorious.

IMG_0222 IMG_0211 IMG_0195 IMG_0206

On the way back, we ran into a herd of zebras grazing on the grounds of the hotel.  I had already encountered some zebras earlier in the day ;  as I was leaving my room, they were right outside the door.  Also saw monkeys, but I missed the elephants and the giraffes, though other delegates did see them. (posted the picture on twitter, and sent it around earlier today.)

Nice dinner in the David Livingstone room, and then back to my room.  The bed had been turned down, bathrobe laid out, and slippers at the ready.  I love this place.  Will definitely come back some day.IMG_0231

We have an early calltime tomorrow – bags must be in the lobby by 6am, with departure for the airport at 7:30pm sharp.  Tanzania bound.

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Aug 1st 2013

Africa with Clinton: Malawi (Day 1/2/3)

On Tuesday morning, July 30, I boarded a plane with other delegation members headed for out first stop, Malawi.  15 hours and 2 fuel stops later and we arrive in Malawi, affectionately known as The Warm Heart of Africa. Transferred to the hotel for some down time before a delegation briefing and dinner at Mamma Mia, an Italian place in town.

But before dinner, a little shopping. (Was there any doubt?? I am my mother’s child!) The only person on this trip that’s a bigger shopper than me is the President! We were the last two in the store.

Wonderful dinner with Clinton and the delegation. Lots of interesting people. Should be a good trip.


Great day in Malawi yesterday. Spent the day at a Clinton Health Access Initiative clinic in Lilongwe, the capital. Great facility that helps clients know their HIV status, helps HIV positive mothers prevent virus transmission to their. Infants, and treats people with HIV/AIDS with proper medication.

Followed by press conference with President Clinton and Malawi President Joyce Banda, the first and only female president in southern Africa.

Then we headed to a rural farm where we interacted with local farmers and their families. And learned how Clinton initiatives are helping the farmers to grow their businesses with sustainable practices that protect the land.

Wheels up to Zambia. Flying with a former president is a different experience. Like, you don’t have to turn off your phone. Or fasten your seatbelt. Or keep your toiletries in those little bags. Customs? What customs? Someone takes your passport and returns it to you with all the stamps.

In Zambia, staying at The Royal Livingstone right on the Zambezi River and next to Victoria Falls. Dark when we landed so can’t see much. But we’ve been warned not to leave our patio doors open lest the monkeys wander in and steal our stuff. Looking forward to daylight to see my surroundings.

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Jul 30th 2013

Africa with President Clinton

IMG-20130730-00001Each year, President Clinton takes a small delegation to Africa to visit Clinton Foundation projects there.  I was so honored to have been invited to join this year’s trip to Africa.  This year’s itinerary includes Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Africa.  I’ll be making journal posts here so you can follow along.