Archive for May, 2009

Get Inspired

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2009 by racheltobias

Stylelikeujpg

My friend Lily has started this website that rejoices the beauty of individual self-expression. I will have my own StyleLikeU video to be posted at a later date..but for now, watch this awesome trailer Lily put together for a glimpse of the site.

TRAILER : http://vimeo.com/4864164

Interested in looking at more videos, go to www.stylelikeu.com and find some inspiration.

Report back via getting dressed tomorrow morning…

Watch Ludwig and Beatrix and you will know how I feel

The Boulder Problem and Veggie Chip Cure-all

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2009 by racheltobias

 

Painted for me!! :)

Painted for me!

 

 

 

Problem: I felt an anxiety attack coming on today. 

Solution: Rock climbing and a trip to Whole Foods. 

Let me apologize, first and foremost to my darling home:

 

LOS ANGELES

It has taken me 20 years to find genuine and true appreciation for the city that raised me. Right now, I could even cuddle with Vermont and Jefferson, and let’s just say, that’s not the cutest of intersections. But honestly, there is no place like home when it is el ciudad de los angeles. 

People here in Washington D.C. are scary and mean and rude. I was 20 minutes late for a job interview yesterday after asking more than 10 people for directions who flat out refused to speak to me. I am learning to tone down my outward cheerfulness just a tad because people here don’t really know how to respond to it. One thing I will say is that when I do get a smile or greeting from someone/anyone I feel it rush through my blood and literally warm my soul. So L.A., home-sweet-home, thank you for being so wonderful. Thank you for being a place where people hold doors open, where they smile as they walk past each other on the street, where they offer to give directions or help guide cars into parking spots or pick up something someone has dropped on the ground. Thank you for housing people who laugh and rejoice and love and live and feel the sunlight and make conversation just because they can. I miss you Mom Dad Bro Sis but I miss all of that even more. 

I was in New York last weekend. What a fabulously horrible city. Great shopping.food.sights.theatre.walking.museums.fashionstyles. What people. I’m sure some of you reading are from New York, so I will not offend. I will just say. What. People. (See above paragraph and let your mind wander.)

 
 

 

 

One thing I did love about NYC (aside from my wonderful/beautiful/talented/fabulous bestie Lily…see STYLELIKEU.COM for proof of her absolute superbness) was the fact that I felt like I was living Rent. The fire escapes were to. die. for. I made Lily’s brother let me stand on his and pretend I was Mimi at the Cat Scratch Club.

Waiting for the metro

Take me ooouut tonight

Take me ooouut tonight

Best soy chai latte ever

Best soy chai latte ever

 

 

So update –> just side-stepped the panic attack, almost brought on by above madness plus some unfortunate relationships and experiences, but who cares about these things. Not me. Not when I have a V3 to send and some organic avocados to peruse. 

I used to get very anxious. One year ago I had horrific stomach problems and could barely eat, simply because I had such a nervous stomach.                                     Silly me.                                I would get sick constantly because I would let myself get stressed out to the point of no return. All of this went away as soon as I started rock climbing.

I started bouldering [boulder: the act of climbing smaller rocks and/or boulders without a harness and with macho strength/a lot of heart and soul] about 6 months ago. Bouldering is a little different than normal top rope climbing. Instead of scaling a rock one time, you have to more strategically plan in advance and during the climb how you are going to send [finish] the problem [climb]. So, half of bouldering, at least for me, is sitting back and looking at the rock, pondering the multitude of possible ways to reach the top. It’s a great physical exercise, yes, but an even better mental one. 

 

A quick boulder problem in Joshua Tree

A quick boulder problem in Joshua Tree

 

 

Since I started climbing, I have found myself unconsciously applying this mentality to regular problems in everyday life. When I have an issue/fear/stress/problem I almost automatically begin to think strategically and thoughtful through it before pursuing a solution or a freak-out. I’m a much calmer person, much happier, and much healthier most importantly. 

 

So today, post-rock climbig ——— panic attack averted. 

But no de-stress is complete without a trip to Whole Foods Market.     Of Course.     I really didn’t need to buy anything, just being inside carries its own sense of comfort and joy. I’m not going to lie, going to Whole Foods is slightly on par with going to Disneyland. So I bought 365 Veggie Chips and yummy summer cherries, and got myself home.

And here I am with you.

I’m sorry this post wasn’t as eccentric and creative as the last two. But my mind is too tired and relaxed to be fun. With that, I bid you adieu until otro dia, inshallah. (got a few languages in there for you..just to cover my ethnic bases.)

Sweet. Dreams.

Your NetWork is Your NetWorth

Posted in Uncategorized on May 23, 2009 by racheltobias

This post is dedicated to a dear dear dear friend. You know  who.    you.    are. 

This particular friend and I used to constantly have a debate about the purpose of “networking.” Coming from a family who sings hallelujah to business practices, networking is not something I am willing to sweep under the rug. This friend however was not as convinced as me or my dear Professor Stromboli (name modified for the purpose of anonymity) who always said 

 

“your NETWORK is your NET WORTH”

 

So my love. Here is my rant to convince you that networking really is worth the egotistical, self-indulging, self-glorifying, just plain selfish trouble: 

I present three specimens as evidence: (**Cautionary Note – each example will turn in to a tangent, so be brace yourself)

SPECIMEN A

Here I will refer back to Post #1 of Musings of a Globe Jaunt in which I introduced Mr. Chibuzo Ekwekwo from Nigeria who came to speak at the Ashoka office. Immediately after his speech, I spoke with him at length about corruption across the African continent and youth involvement in politics as an avenue for widespread and generational change. When I finished speaking with him, I returned to my desk and sent him a quick email, thanking him for speaking and letting him know that he had made my first day at work extra-awesome. The next day he emailed me back, telling me that he would be happy to give me advice and help whenever or wherever I needed it, here or in Africa. Not only was it 

intellectually stimulating

for the both he and I, but I also created a relationship with someone I can call if/when I travel to West Africa, or perhaps someone who might have advice for me on African culture and government regulations that could be beneficial to me in my own business pursuits. Putting my selfish needs aside, he also had the opportunity to talk about himself, his organization of which he was understandably proud, and his country. He was able to pass on knowledge and opinions to me, someone who cares and is prepared to dedicate her future to helping improve situations that he, too is trying to fix. **You see, it’s in his best interests to make the contact as well. Let me tell you:

letting people talk about themselves

is one of the best gifts you can give someone. So yes, while I may have established a beneficial and potential business contact, I was genuinely excited to hear what he had to say and why he thought the things he did.

 

Plus I made a friend.

 

SPECIMEN B

I was researching for my business idea the other night, looking for information on social enterprises and microlending. I was bouncing from page to page and I just so happened to land on a blog discussion. I was interested in one blogger’s comment and so I looked up her and her organization, which turned out to be going in a similar direction as the business I want to start. And…get set -à go…she used to work for Ashoka.

 

SMALL tiny itsy bitsy world.

 

I checked out her org and emailed her asking her questions about her company                         Ayllu                        check it out, she’s working on microfranchising in poor communities as a way to stimulate economic growth, focusing now on Brazil. We ended up talking over the phone for an hour yesterday; she gave me tons of advice on starting my own organization, on social enterprise in general. We discussed the possibility of me going to work with her in Brazil at some point next year, and when she comes to D.C. this summer we are going to meet. I gave her some opinions about her website and blog and its efficiency in relation to her mission. It was a great opportunity for me to hear about the challenges of starting something new, to hear someone tell me not to get discouraged, to never give up. And it was a great opportunity for her to spread awareness of her startup.

Plus I made a friend.

 

SPECIMEN C

Let me preface.

The vibe in D.C. sucks. It’s nothing compared to California. In Cali people smile and say hi to each other and smile as the walk past people on the streets. I talk to everyone in LA. I talk to nobody in D.C. On the subway people sit in their corner and live in their newspapers/iPods/books/own worlds, with this shivery icky grimace. It’s so sad because all I want to do is know all their stories and their thoughts, but of course, they are scary so I am scared.

But finally, on the subway, I got to talk to somebody. He was wearing a Peace Corps shirt and stood right next to me, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to just ask if he had been in the Peace Corps. Sure enough, he told me his story and his experience in the Peace Corps, the advantages and disadvantages, his experiences after coming home. He worked for the Peace Corps after coming home and told me that if I had more questions I could always feel free to contact him.

**Peace Corps volunteers are contacts that I can’t make enough of; I really want to hear all the different experiences both good and bad, so I can make the right decision as to whether or not it is something I want to pursue after school.

 

Plus I made a friend.

 

SUB-SPECIMEN

I have not met this person yet, but I will later on in the summer, hence, expanding my network. The discussion relating to this person is interesting. So I thought I would write about it. It has nothing to do with networking really. But who cares.

So this guy’s organization works to fight violence in urban cities using a BOTTOM-UP strategy. He gets ex-felons/ex-gang members to mediate violence and stop shootings before they happen by calming down potential suspects and dissuading them from pulling their gun. Think “Minority Report” but subtract Tom Cruise and add Crips and Bloods.

So the worthwhile discussion, I think, is about this strategy compared to a more stringent law enforcement strategy. In New York, they reduced crime by flooding the city with police officers and lengthening prison sentences. Perhaps this works. I’m not the expert. But the results my sub-specimen man has had in other cities are staggering enough to consider an alternative. Is violence behavioral? Can you address the “epidemic” of violence as you would a disease, and change the societal norms as a way to stop its spread, just like smoking or aids. You can’t cure lung cancer and you probably can’t eradicate cigarettes, but can you get people to stop smoking? You can’t cure AIDS, but can you get people to wear condoms?

I don’t want this to be a discussion about gun control, cause it’s not. It’s a question of how we address societal problems as a community. The ex-felons and ex-gang members are street-smart, they can identify with criminals and communicate with them on a level a police officer cannot. So the question is:

 

Is society composed of good guys and bad guys? Or is it composed of just people, some with healthy behavior and others with unhealthy behavior? Do we isolate people, or find a way to incorporate them into society.

 

Back to networking/networthing.

 

 

MY POINT?

My point is this.

Yes, networking is ultimately motivated by selfish desires. But let’s look at any good deed, any charity work. Why do you do it? Yes you want to help people but still

WHY??>>>>>

Because you want to feel good about yourself. You want to feel as though you made some kind of positive mark on the world. You want to give back because of all the things the world gave you. Maybe you want to go to Heaven or the afterlife or whatever that may be for you.

**Notice all instances of the word                               YOU.

*Write a paragraph on the psychological root of charity work without the word “I” or “You” and I’ll give you twenty bucks. And I’m basically broke. I digress.

I’m not saying these are the only reasons for being a good person. I believe that some people really do feel a genuine passion and love for others that drives the pursuit of good works, I know I feel that way. But I will also admit that a some of my drive comes from the guilt about how fortunate I am, and the need to feel as though I leave the world better than I came into it.

Then, maybe being selfish is not really all that bad if it makes you a good person. 

So Networking. Specimen A, B, and C each had their individual benefits, but they had one small string in common                         did you catch it?           

I made a friend.

I had human interaction. I challenged my mind and I opened myself up to somebody else’s thoughts, opinions, experiences. Whether selfish or not, we all want to be, or at least should want to be full of knowledge, full of experiences, full of life. People are life and the more people we know/interact with/love/argue with/sing with/dance with/exchange business cards with…the better people we are.

That’s my argument. It comes down to a sociological and psychological push for creating a community that can benefit from each other in many different ways. Would you rather live alone, depend on yourself for everything? No,

Obviously.

Let’s examine personal relationship for just a moment. We take advantage of the benefits of the people in our lives whether for business purposes or not: Why do we have romantic partners and friends? Is it a purely unselfish state of being with another person. Heck no. We use our friends/spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends for companionship, money, sex, advice, power, validation, attention, summer homes, jobs, whatever else. So you see:       I am selfish.         We are selfish.          You are selfish.

Deal with it.

 Having contacts, knowing people, being able to call friends in Nigeria, Brussels, and New Zealand, New York City, these aren’t bad things. Now we don’t’ want to use people and toss them on the back porch,

Obviously.

But it’s ok to have relationships that are mutually beneficial. Even if perhaps Chibuzo can’t get that much out of me now, who knows? Maybe in 5 years I’ll have an organization or have a contact he needs to help further his own organization.

WHO

 

KNOWS?

So I conclude ————  Your Network really is your NetWorth. Not just in the business sense, but also in the intellectual, stimulating, experiential, sociological, community, psychological, intelligence, life, person, everything sense. The people you know and the experiences you have with those people make you who you are.

 

They make life worth it.

Nigeria, Nollywood, and Peanut-Butter-Applesauce Toast

Posted in Uncategorized on May 19, 2009 by racheltobias

Today I ordered a hamburger in India. Well         not really.

But Thomas Friedman told me I could, which is just as strange. I’m about 100 pages into The World is Flat, which explains the depth of globalization and both the advantages and disadvantages of it in terms of the future economy. Can you imagine ordering your McDonald’s hamburger through a call center in India and then being handed that caloric sweaty bundle of meat 1 min 16 sec later in OhSoNowhere, Idaho? What a deliciously strange world…

Speaking of a flat world…read on and make pancakes –..–..–> 

Today I started at Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Go see for yourself:          ashoka.org.                I work in the Venture-Fellowship office, which means that I help research/write/organize/create thing in reference to people applying for grant funding around the world who are trying to start their own be-the-change-type organizations. It’s absolutely fabulous. What’s cool about the office is that everyone is a changemaker…..everyone has an idea, or 10 ideas, or endless ideas. My boss today told me to come up with my own ideas about what I wanted to do during my internship. He said it could be anything from pursuing my interest in photography in relation to Ashoka to painting the wall of the office. He literally threw me a crayon and told me to draw.

 

Well not literally, but almost. How many jobs have you had where you get to make your work…okay well maybe a lot of people have those kinds of jobs. But I never have. I get to pick the brains of people who are going to CHANGE THE WORLD; I get to read and write about people who are already doing it on a huge huge level; I get to try to make my own change my own way. 

Todays Recipe:

Toast with peanut butter and applesauce on top…DELISH

Not only is my boss a member of the Ashoka Africa Venture Team, which is awesome, but on my very first day, we had a Fellow presentation by Chibuzo Ekwekwo, a Nigerian lawyer who has started an organization and worked tirelessly to combat corruption in Nigeria’s public sector. His newest venture is to use Nollywood film as an venue to promote political FREEDOM and right practices. He is creating an awards program that rewards films who work to fight corruption in the government. Chibuzo also has a large focus on education and getting more people engaged through a grassroots, BOTTOM-UP SOLUTION.

Here is were the FLAT WORLD comes in. I walked into the conference room and there was all this technology set up…computers, a big screen, all kinds of things. Turns out, this presentation was a Live Feed online…so people could watch the presentation from the comfort of their swivelchaircouchbedpillowplaneofficebathtubiphone and then TWItttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttter their questions in which Chibuzo could answer again, on the LIVE feed. Before the talk, Chibuzo and I stood behind Will and marvelled at this technology. He said his wife in Cote d’Ivoire would be watching!

Simon then walked in, discouraged because many people in the Ashoka offices didn’t want to come into the conference room since they could watch the presentation from their desks. What’s funny is I’d just read Friedman’s account of a trade agreement between two countries that had been executed through video technology; the account related the “virtual handshake” that solidified the agreement, while the leader on one side of the screen in one country stuck his hand out, as the leader in another country on the other side of the screen did the same. Human Contact is officially dead. We’ve exchanged reality for convenience, laziness, and momentary intrigue. Why see someone in the flesh, shake their hand, make eye contact, have a personal conversation face-to-face, share a space and experience together when you can do

 

none of that.

 

? Whowhatwherewhenwhy

 

I’m all for technology and progress, but before we start making love to robots, let’s take a minute…

 

Back to my HEART OF DARKNESSSSS:

While I was listening to the talk, I was thinking about a paper I just wrote (91% so don’t be factually swayed by anything i have to say…when i get a 98% I’ll call you back)

on US foreign aid to Africa. Bush’s Millenium Challenge Corporation has collaborated with other organizations like Freedom House and others to create systems to rank the level of political liberty and freedom as well as the level of corruption within aid-seeking countries. Based on these ratings and data, funding is awarded. In my paper, I was quite nearly convinced it was a great thing; and perhaps it is the way the United States government must interact with Africa in order to maintain its committment to democracy promotion and national security interests. But aid will never fix Africa.

Nonononononononono

Like Chibuzo said today, it has to be bottom-up. Organizations like Ashoka and the rest of Western civil society needs to find ways to both politically and economically empower grassroots African organizations through education, microenterprising and microloans, women’s rights organizations. I asked Chibuzo after his talk how early he began educating and engaging children on political issues. I was disappointed to hear that the answer was not very early at all. But whyohwhy? You’re talking about a huge population of kids that eventually will be able to turn the continent around. If we build education enough in Africa to 

1) make kids aware of the political and economic plagues on Africa

2) give them the educational capacity within Africa to become educated enough to want to stay in Africa and help fix these problems

we might just be able to put some bandaids on this region. Who knows…eventually remove the stitches. 

oy I’ve been watching too much ER. 

 

 

I miss my boulder. I found a gym to try tomorrow. I need some love from the rock and the chalk. 

 

Speaking of Africa my Senegalese cab driver and I marvelled at the irony of non-Arabic speaking Muslim Senegal…he prayed in Arabic while I told him what he was praying for. Oh the

strange

ness