Saturday, June 26, 2010


So, still getting caught up on the blog. This past Spring, only two and one-half months after arriving in Africa, I returned Stateside for two weeks. As part of my teleworking agreement, I promised to return twice per year. This time, I had two conferences to attend: the Internatinal Medical Workforce Collaborative (IMWC - held in New York City) and the Physician Workforce Research Conference (PWRC - held in Washington, D.C.). I presented at both, and moderated a session at the latter, as well.

The international paper was a cross-national examination of the relationship between the economy and the health workforce. Perspectives from Canada, the U.K., Australia and the U.S. were presented. The most salient points for me were that, despite our very different health care systems, we face very similar problems, and that policy, more than economy, affects health workforce supply and demand. At the PWRC, I simply gave an informational presentation on the basics of developing health professions supply projections. The session I moderated was also on projections and modeling.

As captivating as I found the topics of these meetings, I found the people more so. The international group was great, and very engaging. I got to make some new friends, and to get caught up with some old friends, with whom I worked in Albany, New York, years ago. I also got to see my sister, Beth, and my brother-in-law, Steve, which was fantastic. I never tire of their conversation and company. I see them too, too seldom. And, of course, I got to spend a few days in Manhattan. Loved it.

In D.C., I ostensibly spent a week in the office before the conferences, but it was more a week spent in meetings. I relished the opportunity to be in both spatial and temporal proximity with friends and colleagues, and I also stayed with my sister, Joanne, while I was there. It is just too bad I did not get more time simply to hang out with her, as she is one of my favorite people. We get along so well. She also has one of those homes, due in no small part to her menagerie of two dogs and two cats (the coolest on the planet), who magically prevent me from being bothered by the troubles of the world by means of devious strategies like constantly needing to be let out or in, or just leaning against me and giving me "the look".

During the D.C. conference, I stayed in Alexandria, Virginia, where I lived just prior to getting married. Old Town Alexandria should be on every D.C. area visitor's short list. I adore it. But more so than the location, the people I know in Alexandria are extraordinary. Joining us for that time was my father, who happened to be in the area at that time. This was remarkably good fortune, as he lives in Vancouver. I relished our time just sitting and talking, as well as one particular evening when my friends Cecilia, Stephanie, and Liza were able to join my father and me for dinner at a Moroccan restaurant in Old Town called Casablanca. My friends, who are part of a group I affectionately call the Old Town Book and Restaurant Club, wherein we read a book and visited a new restaurant every month (while I lived in the States and which I hope will resume upon my return), my father and I enjoyed an amazing meal, featuring more food than we could eat in two or three evenings... and live belly dancing.

And because life is nothing if not surreal, the dancer worked her way over toward our table, asked if anyone felt like "having some fun", and everyone else at the tables pointed at me! So next thing I know, I am out on the floor, trying my best to mirror the moves she was demonstratig for me. Here is a sample of what that looked like (be thankful it was dark on my section of the dance floor):

The following evening, my father and I had a more low-key but no less enjoyable meal at one of my favorite Old Town restaurants, Mai Thai, then returned to the hotel lounge where we simply sat and talked for a while. That was when Cecilia and Stephanie drove all the way back to the hotel to drop off the video presented in part above, as well as a CD by Elizabeth and the Catapult (to which I listened non-stop for a few days after returning to Lesotho). Cecilia and I have very similar tastes in music, and she definitely got that one right.

Finally, I do not think I can close out my trip back to the States without mentioning Starbucks and my friend, Sarah Rockstar. I have a Starbucks addiction. No doubt about it. No apologies, either. Cannot find one in Southern Africa, though. So I have been doing without. And I have been doing well, in part thanks to a handy little device I discovered on the shelf at Cash Crusaders in Ladybrand. It is a frother, and with it I can make my own lattes right in my own kitchen. (Our friend Charles was so impressed with it that I got one for him, too, and he uses it as much as I do.) Yet whilst back in the U.S., I returned all too easily to my former Starbucks habits. However, one of them - meeting up with Sarah Rockstar to get some SBs and talk about life, literature and the meaning of caffeine - was amongst my favorite parts of the two weeks I spent back on the other side of the Atlantic.

The most significant sensation of that two week period, though, was missing my wife. It is bad enough being that far away from her for that long, but the phone connections were terrible. Frustration piled atop frustration. As much as I relished the opportunity to visit my friends and family, and to reconnect with my colleagues at AAMC, I would rather not have to make that trip three more times during the two years that Kathy and I are in Lesotho.

Like stars and old dreams
Too damn far away...

Speaking of which, for those of you who may be wondering, the trip itself is long. Really, truly, looooooooong. And they always have the same movies on the plane. So bring a book.

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