Holiday letter 2009

Eid Sa’eed (Arabic) – Christmas aur Nav Varsh ki hardik shubkamnay (Hindi) – Trevlig Helg (Swedish) – Melkin Yelidet Beaal (Amharic) – Krismasi Njema (Kiswahili) – Buone Feste (Italian) – Frohe Weinachten (German) – Christmas Mattrum Inia Puthaandu Nal Valthukkal (Tamil)

Warm, Happy Holiday Greetings to All!

We hope this finds you well and enjoying the holiday season in peace and among loved ones.  What an extraordinary year it has been, once again full of changes (mostly wonderful, alongside a few hiccups), international travels, fulfilling work, friends and gratitude for each day and one another.  We’ve also both found our Twitter-strides, so if you’re looking for even more details about what we’ve seen you might want to check out our Twitter streams too (Jerry and April).

Last we checked in (at least for those of you not checking our website or April’s blog more often), we had just returned from east Africa and were gearing up for “a year of being open” to the world.  It’s probably safe to say: mission accomplished!  Wow.  So let’s take a deep dive into this year (you’ll understand the water analogy soon) and what we’ve been up to.

January seems like a very long time ago.  We spent a lovely week in Atlanta with April’s Italian family.  April decided to leave her job at Unitus (come March) because it wasn’t a good match for her longer-term professional goals (in particular, not wanting to be pigeon-holed into “lawyerly” responsibilities). Later that same week, on April’s birthday, Jerry proposed! The setting: Crissy Field in view of the Golden Gate Bridge, on a glorious sunny day, under a stand of maritime pine trees. April was caught completely off guard – and very happy.

Spring was spent hiking, interviewing, attending conferences and exploring next steps by April.  Jerry emceed several conferences for the Institute for the Future and began framing a new platform for his work.  We took some local getaways, like Cavallo Point and home-swapping in Point Reyes.  April took further trips to Cambridge, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and NYC; Jerry went to Fontainebleau (outside Paris), Palo Alto (lots), San Diego and Washington DC.  In May, April’s “adopted godparents” hosted a wonderful engagement party with close friends.  “Family of choice” was the overarching theme, and we are eternally grateful for all of you!  These months of meaningful and lower-key events were a complementary preface for the busy-ness, intensity and (exciting but sometimes exhausting) travels of the rest of the year…

Come June, things both personal and professional seriously picked up steam.  April began her new role as Director of WaterCredit at  WaterCredit is an innovative initiative that links the microfinance and water/sanitation (“watsan”) sectors throughout the developing world.  With 2.5 billion people without access to finance, and 2.6 billion people without access to safe watsan (that number is slated to rise to 4 billion by 2025), there’s plenty to do!  As director, April is responsible for developing global strategy and partnerships with microfinance institutions and watsan organizations.  She loves it; Jerry says she’s a “fish in water.”  (She hasn’t met co-founder Matt Damon yet, however – but that could happen in 2010…)

No sooner did April’s deep dive into WaterCredit begin, it was time to take another trip for IDLO and teach the penultimate law-and-microfinance course together – this time in Jordan.  We spent 2 weeks in June in Europe and the Middle East.  Our first stop was the English countryside, where dear friends got married near Malvern and we took long rambles on verdant hillsides.  From there we flew to Amman and on to the Dead Sea, where the IDLO course was held.  We could see the West Bank directly across, and the lights of Jerusalem twinkling on the horizon at night.  It was a fantastic gathering of participants from Egypt, Palestine, Yemen and beyond.  We are truly blessed by our increasingly global communities, and bobbing in the salty sea after class was a lot of fun too.

With work done, it was time to see the rest of the country.  We took a local bus down the Desert Highway to Wadi Musa, where we explored the magic of Petra at day and night, standing up and upside-down (see photo).  Then we picked up our rental car and hit the road!  We drove the entire King’s Highway from south to north, taking in Wadi Rum (where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed), castles at Karak and Shobek, cliff-hanging gorges at Dana and Wadi Mudib Nature Reserves, mosaics in Madaba and a loop around Mount Nebo (where Moses apparently saw the Promised Land).  Favorite memories include eating entire watermelons from roadside stalls, capturing a thermometer reading of 117 degrees F, and the looks April got when driving – women really don’t drive in Jordan at all, much less a blond woman with no head scarf!

We spent a few days in NYC en route back to San Francisco in early July.  No sooner than we returned, we learned that April’s grandmother Dorothy had passed away.  We went to Arizona for her funeral and what became an impromptu family reunion.  We miss her – and her spunky spirit – lots.

What came next on the WaterCredit travel front even makes April’s head spin.  Between July and October, she went to 4 continents, 9 countries, took some ~40 flights, held more meetings with MFIs and watsan organizations than she can count, and was home for only 3 weeks during that time.   Jerry was a terrific supporter, and we both appreciate the impact of this work though don’t want to make this kind of schedule the norm.  (Thankfully we got to take the Italy, Berlin and Point Reyes trips together.)  Perhaps a brief recap is best:

  • August: Washington DC – Uganda – Kenya – Ethiopia – Sweden (for World Water Week) – Pictures
  • September: India – 8 cities in < 3 weeks! Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Tiruchirapalli (such a fun city name to say…) – Pictures
  • October:  London, England; Frankfurt, Germany; Los Angeles, Kansas City and Point Reyes
  • November:  Italy (Rome, Bergamo and the Cinque Terre) – Pictures; Berlin, Germany – Pictures

(Are you tired yet?  We are!)

There are too many highlights, extraordinary experiences and memories to list them all here.  A few include Stockholm’s Gamla Stan in midsummer; the SoCap conference in which we both participated; the amazing hospitality of April’s colleagues in India and Africa; learning first-hand about watsan issues in the developing world; sunrise jogs around Rome’s Villa Borghese; hiking the Cinque Terre surrounded by lemon trees, olive groves and autumn colors; Berlin’s Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets with glühwein) and exploring funky post-socialist neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg; and of course, spending time with dear friends and “family of choice.”

Us before Pres a ViWe have concluded that Italy is becoming prohibitively expensive (9 euros for an espresso doppio?!?) and tumbling down a precipitous socio-economic-political hill, Berlin is an absolutely charming and fascinating city, and it’s immensely enjoyable to travel in Europe off-season (if you don’t mind drizzle).

Come the holidays, we’re happy to spend them low-key at home in San Francisco.  After such an intense spate, it feels great to stay put for a while.  We’ll celebrate with old and new traditions and look eagerly towards 2010.  April is probably going to Indonesia and west Africa, along with return trips to India and Africa and a host of domestic trips.  Jerry began a project with the Environmental Defense Fund, and is focused like a laser on “getting things done” with his business platform starting two businesses: one with colleagues to help organizations learn the social media dance; the other solo, convening a think-and-do tank.  We often dream about trips to Cuba, Brazil, New Zealand and Nepal but it’s anyone’s guess as to when those might happen (April votes for soon).  Meanwhile we intend to enjoy each other, life’s blessings, our communities and environs and just being alive every day.

Here’s to a peaceful and joyous new decade, celebrating the amazing world we live in and discovering new and more ways to make it a better place for all!

April and Jerry

8 thoughts on “Holiday letter 2009”

  1. Merry Christmas April and Jerry! And yes, 9 euros for a doppio espresso? Something’s wrong if it’s more expensive than Starbucks…

    Hope to see you soon, and someday someday we will visit in SF. Not for lack of wanting, that’s for sure!

  2. Happy Holidays! Thanks for the big write-up, very interesting.

    We’re getting as prepared as we can for our new family member, who should join us right around the new year.

    Take care and be easy,
    Luke and Jen

  3. Really love how the work life flowered this year. It was great to see you two on the trips through. Looking forward to the next ones.

    Matt & Christy

  4. April/Jerry,
    Of the pictures of Berlin, the only one I recognized from my 1962 visit was the one of the Kaiser Wilhelm Kirche. Other than that, Berlin is entirely new. Someday Ann and I will go there. The rest of your itinerary is as exciting as usual.

  5. Dear April and Jerry!
    The two of you seemed to have had an amazing 2009 year with the special highlight of the engagement too. Your amazing stories clearly shows that you two are living life to the fullest. I was great to meet the two of you in Rome this year.
    Have a lovely 2010, filled with health, wealth and happiness.

  6. Happy New Year! It was wonderful to see you this summer, despite the circumstances. I love to read your updates and am so impressed that you both have such meaningful and exciting work that allows you to see the world. Blessings to you both!


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