Is anyone reading a Sound of Music fan? If so, it is your lucky day! This week was packed with fun and adventure including a Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria, family style dinners at beer gardens in Germany, and a very special IBJ visitor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I really do believe this may have been one of my favorite weeks of the summer thus far.
Throughout the week at IBJ, I continued working on the Myanmar training program. The program and training manual are coming along nicely and we should be getting close to finishing everything up soon, just in time to be translated and sent to Mandalay for the trainings in mid and end of July. However, over the next few weeks we will be shifting focus slightly as we have about 6 different grant applications due. Grant funding is indispensable for IBJ. In order for the organization to continue to grow, open new offices, and strengthen the existing ones, we must have the proper resources, and grants are the primary means by which we obtain these resources. Therefore, it is all hands on deck for the summer of 2017 IBJ interns! I am certainly looking forward to working with everyone on these projects in the coming weeks and anticipate some late night work bonding to occur.
Speaking of bonding, one thing I have really enjoyed about working for IBJ is the team gatherings we have every other week or so. Typically, when we have a visitor, we will go out and buy a bunch of food, meet in the conference room, and listen to the stories or experiences the visitor shares with us. We also go around the room and share something about ourselves, often a personal reflection or answer a question the visitor has. I always enjoy these team breaks but the gathering we had this week was one I will never forget. Our guest this week was Charles, an incredible change agent who has been serving as IBJ’s DRC Country Director for the past few years. Charles will be starting a new chapter of his life with the United Nations soon so this particular meeting was a little bittersweet. Charles told us of his childhood. He has 30 brothers and sisters and knows everyone in his village by name. Charles had an exceptionally hard early life. He remembers watching his mother be sexually abused and he remembers feeling powerless and hopeless. The members of his village endured great financial, physically, and mental suffering over the years and Charles could have easily given up. But instead, he made the decision to devote his life to bettering the lives of those who need it most. Charles has helped hundreds of individuals obtain the legal representation and guidance they so desperately needed and has changed countless lives. Being in a room with this individual, listening to him recall the terrors of his past, you could literally see in his eyes the hope he has for the future and the determination he will never let go of. It was inspiring and powerful and beautiful. I wish him all the happiness and love this world has to offer and I hope we meet again someday.
In other news, Reeana and I went on a little adventure this weekend to Germany and Austria, and I officially want to move! We arrived in Munich around 3pm on Friday and went straight to Hofbrauhaus. I truly love everything about Germany: the people, the food, the beer! We had a blast meeting people from all over at our table (thanks to the family style seating) and we danced the night away to a surprising amount of early 2000s American music. The next day we hopped on a train to Salzburg and spent the morning singing “My Favorite Things” and “Do Re Mi” on the Sound of Music Tour. It was incredible to see all of the film locations including the beautiful Austrian countryside and the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. I could have stayed in Austria forever but we had to get back to Germany as we only had the weekend to see everything we could. Once we arrived back in Munich, we did some exploring and enjoyed the exquisite architecture, and then found our way to a less touristy beer garden where we ate the best schnitzel I’ve ever had, and made some really awesome German and American friends (shout out to Max). On the last day we wandered through the English gardens, watched people surf on the river, and took tons of pictures of the China Tower. It was the perfect end to a perfect week, and arriving back in Geneva I realized that it really felt like I was coming home.
I’m not entirely sure if I have any lows this week. Perhaps my only low is that time moves so quickly and I wish the week could have lasted forever. The entire week could count as my high but I think I will say that my highest of highs was my conversation with Charles. Speaking with him was the perfect reminder of the importance of IBJ’s work and that together we really can make this world a better place.
As I bring this blog post to a close, it only feels right to end with…
So long, farewell, alvederzane, goodbye.
Until next time,