ONE braceletsI can’t stop thinking about that scene in the Ten Commandments when Charlton Heston emerges from his little chat with a burning bush on Mount Sinai, all white-haired, glassy-eyed and God-struck. It’s probably the worst, most easily misinterpreted metaphor ever (zomg Liz thinks she’s Moses), but I felt a bit like that stepping off the Air Ethiopia plane onto American soil–or airport regulation linoleum–yesterday.

It’s part jet lag (oy, the jet lag) and part culture shock (how weird–everyone on the street is wearing shoes) but I think it’s mostly this feeling that everything is different now.

It’s hard to explain it. But it’s as if all these loose ends in my life came together this week: family dynamics. Old friendships. New friendships. Work in Sarajevo. Branding expertise. Political interests. A commitment to other mothers. Two children to raise. An open heart. A need to do something more. I don’t know where it’s going, just that it’s going.

Don’t worry, my hair hasn’t turned white. It’s just really dirty.

This morning I can’t seem to manage to take off my ONE bracelets for work. They look so incongruous in an executive office of a New York ad agency. But they feel like a piece of me.


I just returned from Ethiopia courtesy of ONE, a nonpartisan advocacy organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, especially in Africa. They never ask for your money, only your voice. Please sign up at the ONEMoms blog. You don’t even have to be a mom!

Related Posts: What Mothers Want for Their Children * The Unbelievable Strength of Women * Ethiopia Day 1

While I gather my thoughts for final posts about Ethiopia, any questions about our trip?


42 thoughts on “Re-entry”

  1. We aren’t so different from trees, with the bits of bark we lose, exposing vulnerable layers and with undeniable rings within marking the different times in our life.

    This trip being anything other than transformative just wasn’t possible.

    Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. I remember how strange it was for Kyle each time he’d return stateside while stationed in Panama. I expect your re-entry has been a million times stranger.

  3. One question: how do we blog-less folks can make Ethiopia (and whole idea of ONE) NOT incongruous in privileged society we live our everyday lives?

    1. Everyone has a voice. That’s why signing up for One Moms is the best thing you can do so you can find out how to use it to help influence leaders and exert pressure so they keep their commitments to aid those in need. There’s nothing incongruous about us all helping one another.

      1. I have been part of for some time, well, I don’t remeber – when was U2 still popular? I wore my white bracelet for year and a half, and nobody even asked me what it was. Or even worse, they assumed it is breast cancer/armstrong bracelet without mentioning anything. So my comments just whizzed through their ears, not leaving a trace.
        I guess it is overachiever in me, constantly nibbling, saying: “It is not enough, it is not enough, it is not changing fast enough”. I should calm down and realize that recycling took some 10-15 years to fully establish in big cities, so this is no different – moving a mountain takes time and perseverance.
        And one of these days, my verbal comments are going to hang around in someone’s mind long enough to illicit personal change and action.

        1. I hope I’m at liberty to share this story…but ONE recently mobilized enough people to tweet about budget cuts to foreign aid that the White House literally changed their budget significantly. Because of TWEETS.

          Sign up and you’ll get action alerts. And those actions translate to good. Strength in numbers!

  4. I totally remember that feeling of shock — culture and otherwise — upon returning home from Ghana after my work there. And the feeling that my life was irrevocably changed. It was.

    ps – how on earth do you have time to do everything you do and hold down a full-time job? I am in awe.

      1. Okay, read it. Fair enough. Note, I didn’t ask how you do it ALL, just how you do as much as you do. But point taken — there are always choices.

        I still think you are pretty cool, at least from what I’ve read. You can’t stop me. 😉

  5. It can sometimes be overwhelming but I love that feeling of motion…going in the right direction. Since I was a little kid those are the exact moments where I have experienced Deja Vu. I always take that feeling (and the Deja Vu!) to mean that I am following my heart and therefore going in the right direction.

    Good luck with your motion, I have no doubt that you will use it wisely!!

  6. My question: Are there things you learned there that can be translated into helping mothers and children in the US who are struggling? I am all for helping everywhere we can, but often when I hear of these programs, I’m struck by how similar the issues are for women/mothers/children at the edges of society even in first world countries, where things should be better but aren’t.

    1. It’s true, it should be better everywhere. Absolutely. But I see the issues as somewhat different. While poor is poor and hungry is hungry, at least in this country there’s infrastructure. Sick people have ways to get to hospitals without walking 10k and missing a day of working the fields which means their families don’t eat for a day. Even if you’re poor you have access to clean water so your children aren’t going to die of diarrhea at 18 months old. Your kids have access to public education, which is not yet law in Ethiopia.

      I suppose what I see as the lesson is that we all have an obligation to look out for one another. In Africa, the communities and villages seem tight-knit. If a mother has to move to another country to support herself, she can leave her children with someone else. The Mary Joy center, which I wrote about on day one, is a place where a community of mothers (some childless mothers) look out for orphans as if they were their own, to keep them in the community and insure their growth, health and development. It’s also a culture in which even the poorest woman in a mud hut will invite you in for coffee.

      So the question is, how do we get that attitude here? In the US, I think there’s a lot of that “every man for himself” sort of attitude, and many people don’t believe they have an obligation to take care of anyone else but themselves. I hate to drag politics into it, but the “47%” line comes to mind.

      Africa invests more of its budget towards health care than any other African country. And here, we’re debating about whether people are even entitled to health care. Man…that’s a lot of deep-seeded attitudes to change. But it has to trickle down.

      1. Thanks much for this response, Liz. I’m an epidemiologist and deal with health disparities issues in the US, and I appreciate your points about basic infrastructure that we take for granted that other countries don’t have. I’ve heard before about the community aspect in Africa but always third-hand. It’s great to have it reiterated from someone like you, and the point that that’s what may be the critical point missing here. I’m going to add the example of your experience with ONE to my teaching (no names, of course), especially when we talk about vaccinations and the impact one person’s decision has on others.

        1. How wonderful Lynette, thank you!

          You should also follow along @thejuliemarsh who is going to Uganda in a week with A Shot @ Life and 2 other bloggers specifically to see what’s happening on the ground with vaccinations. It will be fascinating, guaranteed.

  7. I am right there with you, Liz. I am wearing my bracelet and my new necklace while jotting down TO DOs with my Hilton pen. The stuff that once seemed so important no longer is. The new priorities that are emerging fill my heart and excite my mind. I am so very grateful to count you among my friends. With understanding and love, Rana

    1. Oh Rana, I’m missing you all so much today. I just want to hear beautiful words of wisdom out of someone’s mouth every four minutes.

  8. I know exactly how you feel. Ethiopia becomes part of you. I have traveled to many places in the world, but Ethiopia changed me the most. I have never encountered a people so generous, kind, proud and embracing as I did during my two trips to Ethiopia.

    I don’t have any questions, I just can’t wait to share in your retelling of your adventures.

    1. I couldn’t have described it better. Generous, proud, kind…yes yes and yes.

      I keep telling people “It’s a country I fell in love with.”

  9. Even driving feels weird today. I don’t know where it’s going either, but somewhere… some time… probably soon. Miss you!

  10. Is it selfish of me to read about your experiences and be awed and inspired, so much so that I want the folks at ONE to give me a holler so that I can round up some thoughtful dads to do something similar?

  11. I love that your bracelets are now a part of you because they represent so much. When I lived in Southern Africa a lifetime (literally) ago, my beads and bracelets became all that my words couldn’t express. The feelings and memories they evoke are still as vibrant as the bead colors.

  12. I’ve so enjoyed following your journey. You’ve been such an inspiration and I can only imagine the multitude of feelings pulsing through your veins as you return and reflect on your time there. You’ve articulated it all so beautifully. Welcome home!

  13. Like Bob Dylan prophecied so many years ago, “times, they are a changin’.” From the sound of your trip, these words are current and relevant to this day, and perhaps even more. Everything happens for a reason and it sounds like this is yet another link on your own journey. Go with it towards positivity and it will lead you in the right direction.

  14. This is so good.

    It’s been 11 years since I went to Kenya with my parents to work in a hospital and a school in Kikuyu, and these posts have stirred up a host of emotions and contradictions and visions that I haven’t had in a long time. So thank you.

    Welcome home and as always, thanks for sharing.

  15. Thanks for sharing. I imagine this was a life-changing event for everyone. It is amazing how something like this can touch so deeply that it reaches your soul. I am so proud of you and all the other one-moms who went to make a difference. The difference is you.

  16. You remind me that I need to try to do more, even if just within my own community.

    Your statement about everyone wearing shoes really struck me. Welcome home but oh gosh, I can only imagine how you felt coming back.

  17. I was in Ethiopia last Feb-Mar timeframe on a humanatarian trip and life since then has never been the same. The people and their daily struggles have left an imprint on my heart that I will never forget. Even the poorest of the poor here in the US still have so much more than many over there. It really helps you appreciate everything we have been blessed with.

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