Holiday letter 2010

Dear Friends, Families of Choice and All-Other-Wonderful-People-In-Our-Lives,

Happy, festive holiday greetings!  We hope this finds you thriving and having enjoyed a fulfilling year.  We’re not quite sure where the time went, except quickly and full of neat and meaningful experiences.  And before you wonder (or lest we leave you in suspense), we’re still engaged but not married, still haven’t set a date, still overwhelmingly grateful for each other, and still appreciate life’s myriad blessings every day.

On the beach in San DiegoAlso before you ask about our globetrotting this year, let’s just say that April started writing this letter in the Himalaya… but that’s getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the decade’s beginning first.

2010 got off to a great start, with a happily laid-back schedule compared to last fall’s whirlwind travels.  April took work trips to Toronto, New York City (where she met Natalie Portman at a SoHo gym!) and Kansas City.  She continues to enjoy leading WaterCredit at Water.org, which is expanding in exciting ways (keep reading) and gives her ample opportunity to learn and grow professionally.  In February, Jerry hosted the latest of the agenda-less Retreats he’s run since 1996, this time at the Marconi Center near Point Reyes. At 90 people, this one was the largest ever, and full of good people + good ideas + good intent as always.  We took many a weekend cycling diversion, especially as April got a new bicycle (christened Silke) – happy to be two-together-on-two-wheels again!

In March April took her first of two trips (this year) to India.  She got to experience World Water Day first-hand at one of the largest such gatherings in the world in Tamil Nadu (watch this video, with nifty time-lapse starting at :52). She also got pretty horribly ill, prompting her first trip to an India doctor, which turned out to be a memorable lesson in the kindness of colleagues and strangers.  On the way back she swung through Cambridge, Massachusetts for more meetings and a bonus Beantown happy hour with some of you.

From April (the month) through June, we were both hard at work.  There were a few updates on the home front – a rebuilt deck, a stolen motorcycle (RIP Thumper, we miss you) – though rather miraculously neither an iPhone 4 nor an iPad showed up on our doorstep. (That will change in 2011 for sure!)  We ran the Bay to Breakers together; it was Jerry’s first time experiencing the only-in-SF-costume-party-you-call-this-a-run? extravaganza.  We took some independent work-related travels, April to Washington DC, NYC and KC (again) and Jerry to Paris.  And perhaps most memorably, we enjoyed several local getaways together:  Cavallo Point (part of Jerry’s IFTF advisory work during the year); Carmel for seaside and sunshine (on a different gig of Jerry’s); and a gorgeous, hiking-and-wildflowers Point Reyes home-swap.

Play at the DouglasesDespite the fact of having traveled halfway around the world a half-dozen times in the past three years together, we still hadn’t made the 2.5-hour flight to Colorado.  In July we finally changed that and took a trip down memory lane there.  We spent a week around July 4 enjoying time with April’s sister Allison, brother-in-law Stefan and best-ever nieces Ella and Amelia in Denver, and managed day trips to Colorado Springs and Boulder.  Jerry finally got to “meet” Mom and Dad at the cemetery, and we reconnected with old friends and family (even high school teachers!) at their favorite haunt Jose Muldoons.  In addition, our timing corresponded perfectly with a reunion in Denver of April’s law school friends, the “Wonderful Women,” who met for Tuesday night margaritas for three years straight while at Harvard and have stayed in touch ever since.  That group has now expanded to include husbands, significant others and a few wonderful kiddos. It was such great fun to spend relaxed, agenda-less time together.

This summer in San Francisco was particularly cold and foggy, so April was all too happy to return to warm India again at the end of July.  Despite doing her best to stay healthy, however, this time she ended up in the hospital.  (She’d heard many stories about Indian hospitals and must admit had wanted to visit one, but preferably not as a patient.)  Turns out she was allergic to an antibiotic that she’d taken before the trip even started, but which took 3 weeks to make itself known.  Thankfully the diagnosis was straightforward and the itchy, blotchy rash went away just in time to come home.  On a brighter note, she also had some great meetings and site visits in Kanchipuram (a town near Chennai), Ahmedabad and Delhi, and a bonus visit with a dear Indian friend from Oxford days who now lives in Gurgaon.

Post-India, we were both happy to have more quality time together closer to home.  In August we finally took a much-anticipated bicycling trip near Napa.  We stayed near Healdsburg and took lovely rides through vineyards, drinking 15 wines in one day and still managing to walk straight at the end!  September was a fabulous month, which kicked off with Jerry going to Bighook (one of his favorite annual geek gatherings) in Woods Hole near Cape Cod.  The following week we went to Paradise Valley, Arizona for Zeitgeist, Google’s partner forum.  Jerry participated and April tagged along with her WaterCredit work, though was able to attend sessions – and fit in a sunrise handstand on Camelback Mountain too.  We had a fantastic time.

At the end of September, April and Jerry combined a variety of fun activities in the Midwest.  April took advantage of another work trip to Kansas City to fly into Minneapolis instead, visiting a dear law school friend in St. Paul (with fun side trips for hiking, Stillwater and quirky outdoor sculpture at Franconia) and then taking a road trip through Des Moines (visiting other friends and taking a 12-mile “city tour run”) before ending up in Missouri.  Jerry met her there and was finally able to meet her Water.org colleagues and see the HQ office.  We also had a fun time exploring the city, including KCMO’s renowned fountains, barbeque and jazz. (That’s KC, MO, to you non-locals.)

We made it back to San Francisco just in time for an awesome conference, SoCap (social capital and social enterprise, “where meaning meets money”), where we both presented as we’ve done in years past.

Right after SoCap, Jerry launched REX, the most important venture of his decade (we occasionally indulge in hyperbole, but we mean this). REX stands for the Relationship Economy eXpedition., and is a lifestyle business that brings together Jerry’s talents and passions atop a nifty business model.  Here he explains it himself:

Put a different way, a small group of peers pay a membership fee to be part of a private REXpedition that Jerry guides.  That group has calls twice a month and meetings twice a year, taking the ideas deeper and spawning experiments together. The general public can engage with the Relationship Economy thesis on the public website and related media.

As if that wasn’t enough for the month, mid-October April returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts to formally join the U.S. Board of Directors of the World Wide Web Foundation.  She’s thrilled by this honor to get more involved on issues related to technology and development, and to work with some of the world’s premier internet experts.

The last week of October, we went to San Diego for TEDMED.  Jerry participated in the conference and ran a workshop afterward for 50 RWJF grantees, and April took her own work along and had a beach-front view to do it.

April's beachy handstandWe loved the Hotel del Coronado, and – most memorable of all – were lucky to have a photographer-friend generously offer to do a photo shoot.  He mostly took pics of April doing handstands and cartwheels until she was wobbly (urp!), but he also took some fun ones of us together.  Now if only we can both still do cartwheels 50 years from now…

November marked the time when April’s travels really heated up, and Jerry dove even deeper into REX on the home front.  Just to put things in perspective, April’s November-December whereabouts looked something like this:  San Francisco – Washington DC – San Francisco – Los Angeles – Bangkok – Kathmandu – Pokhara – Annapurna – Mumbai – Nairobi – Cairo – New York City – San Francisco – Colorado – San Francisco.  Basically an around-the-world odyssey in five weeks.

(Anyone need a sleeping pill yet, or a time zone converter?  Needless to say, she made her 1K gold frequent flyer status this year…)

She kicked things off in DC, where she attended the SEEP Network conference for microfinance practitioners and hosted a happy hour with friends from almost all chapters of life.  We then hosted a pre-holiday party at home with so many dear friends – we love you all!  A few days later she began her Nepali adventures (and first vacation since joining Water.org).  After arriving in Kathmandu and spending a few days checking out the capital and visiting local friends, she headed to the airport for her flight to the Himalaya.  However that was not to be; after waiting for six hours, her Buddha Air flight was cancelled at sunset. (Hardly a Zen moment.)  So in a bit of a pinch, and with her trek starting the next morning, she opted to hitchhike.  Nine dusty, spine-rattling hours later, having experienced a few white-knuckle moments in the car with sheer drop-offs, no highway lighting, and a couple roadblocks, she and her new Nepali friend Niraj arrived in Pokhara.

Old-fashioned tweeting
Tweeting without Twitter!

The effort was beyond worth it, for the next two weeks April spent trekking in the Annapurna region, completing the Annapurna Sanctuary route plus various add-ons like Poon Hill.  She joined a group of seven other women, with three women guides and six women porters, and had an amazing, unforgettable time.  Stunning scenery, challenging hikes, rustic “teahouses” for accommodation (no heat or hot water; electricity if you’re lucky), daily ginger-lemon tea and dhal bhat tarkari, and such happy friendly Nepali people that she quickly became smitten with the country and reminded of just how much she loves to trek.  (Everest next time, anyone?)  She reached Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) on Thanksgiving Day, which was a perfect opportunity for gratitude.  Plenty of pictures resulted; the album is here – favorites include a Poon Hill handstand, fiery Tadapani sunrise, and breathtaking ABC panoramas.  After the trek April spent several more days hiking in the hills around Bandipur, a beautiful area of rich Newari culture and architecture, before returning to Kathmandu and catching her onward flight to Nairobi, with a stop in Mumbai.

After checking out Juhu Beach and Bollywood’s finest en route, April arrived in Kenya.  Jambo! She was excited to be back and start implementing a WaterCredit expansion program in East Africa.  With her terrific colleagues, she’s busy forging partnerships with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and helping them develop credit and savings products to meet the water and sanitation (WASH) needs of their clients.  It’s tremendously rewarding work, and she’s humbled to be at the intersection of financial and WASH innovation.  She was based in Nairobi for two weeks, mostly filled with long days of (interesting but exhausting) meetings.  She did have a chance to take a lovely hike in the nearby Ngong Hills (where Out of Africa took place) and of course did a handstand there too!

Finally, finally we reunited at home in San Francisco in mid-December, just in time for the holidays.  April unpacked yak shawls, stashed her hiking boots, and got ready to go to Colorado for Christmas.  We’re heading there in a couple of days, to enjoy the snowy Rockies, playtime with nieces, a festive spirit and knowing just how fortunate we are.

We’re excited looking towards 2011.  We’ve got some fun trips and activities already lined up, like Switzerland, Brazil and a family reunion, and lots more TBD.  Jerry will be recruiting more people into the REXpedition and deepening the Relationship Economy thesis. We might go to that long island off the coast of Miami, schedule gods willing, and April will almost certainly be back in Africa and India (and maybe Latin America too).  Definitely more parties at home with friends, and more connecting good people and good ideas.  As for what else, well, you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Love, peace and joy to all,

April & Jerry

PS: for the visually and geekily adventuresome, 2010 in context (in Jerry’s Brain).

3 thoughts on “Holiday letter 2010”

  1. I think my holiday wishes got back dated to the year 2007; please note they are intended for 2010/2011 as well :)

  2. My head is spinning just reading this!! I really don’t know how you both keep these schedules up. I saw on TripIt you guys were in Denver. I’m sure you mental ‘felt’ my wave to you.

    Thank you for sharing, I love these things!! One day (maybe this summer), I’ll do a long overdue one.

    Meanwhile, Jerry, I know my contact at Disney never came through. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for Rex.

    Hugs and Happy New Year to you both!!

    Monique

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