Tunisian Odyssey: A Sample of Ancient Flavors

TreeI find myself once again in Tunisia—the people are goodhearted—almost innocent—it feels safe here.

The people are so honest that the handmade ethnic baskets are left outside the hotel store at night—no one touches or lifts the precious items from their corner.

In this whitewashed, stucco, sun-splashed landscape, the dust of the Sahara nestles and rests in the nooks and crannies of almost everything.
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Earth Day in Tunisia and The Origins of Olive Oil

This year I’ll be spending Earth Day in Tunisia. Not planting trees nor marching for science but instead wallowing my way through delicious Tunisian olive oils. I go as a journalist to discover the nuanced flavors each producer’s earth, sun and care impart. I will visit centuries-old olive groves and commune with those who have husbanded these ancient arbors for generations out of mind. Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tunisia

Lets make peaceWhen I was in my twenties I had a Jack Russell Terrier that was the love and (sometimes) loathing of my life. He was rambunctiously filled with energy and vigor, wreaking havoc most of the way. Despite being rather small in stature, his presence was as big as a house. Besides digging holes, killing varmints and crashing through the woods after coyotes, the little hellion used to win awards. I would travel hundreds of miles, along with other humans similarly taxed with over exuberant Russells, to race our little beasts against each other.  His name was Dylan Ferguson and not only was he fast but also competitive and would come home with multiple ribbons, cups and other kitschy items I cherished at the time. Looking back I realize it wasn’t about the ribbons or the awards but seeing the amazing way that dog was in his zone, doing his very best and outperforming. He was realizing his true doggy essence. That was his true reward.

That is why when I received the email notifying me that I had won the Frank Pace 2013 award for my volunteer work in Tunisia it made me reflect on the true meaning of earning an award.

The email read, “We are pleased to announce you were selected as one of two volunteers to receive the Frank Pace Award for 2013. The Frank Pace Award was established in 1989 to honor IESC’s first President, Frank Pace, Jr.  The award is given to volunteers who, in the judgment of the selection committee, performed the most outstanding project during the year.  You were selected for your work supporting the IESC Tunisia SME Project, for which you facilitated an organics buyers’ mission to Tunisia.    You were noted to have gone above and beyond…”

The Frank Pace Award was established in 1989 to honor the first International Executive Service Corps (IESC) President, who envisioned a partnership that would provide expert business advice to companies in developing countries.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized organic agriculture as one of the pillars in enhancing food security, rural development and sustainable livelihoods.  I believe the international market for organic food exports is an example of an industry that can provide a unique opportunity. My work bringing knowledge and awareness to the organic businesses in Tunisia resulted in real economic benefits and was an excellent project within the IESC mission.

Not only was the work supporting the IESC Tunisia SME Project enjoyable, but I reaped many personal benefits facilitating the mission. This mission brought the wealth of history, culture and the flavor of Tunisia to me and to the prospect buyers from North America. I was so impacted by the rich culture and warm people that I was moved to pen several blogs entitled “Tunisian Diaries”.

Being able to share my business acumen with organic producers gave me a sense of purpose and helped me to realize I have something special to offer. In fact this volunteer mission allowed me to be my best self as a professional and as a human being. Even though I was not able to attend the award ceremony in Washington DC on May 14th 2014, I received the greatest gift of all.

Just as Dylan Fergusons’ award was being his true self, my true award is not material. Instead it is a gold nugget in my heart that says you are human, give so that others may thrive and in doing so you thrive as well.

Won’t you share your special gift, whatever it is because someone needs your expertise? Go for that award! Awards

Why Volunteer? Why go to Tunisia?

The world in our handsIn this world of tweets and pings, it feels like we are moving faster and faster, continuously desiring something new that will make us happy, be it an object or an experience. Volunteering is a real world way to get outside our desires, and ourselves, to experience something new and rewarding. It’s a way to truly give, just for the satisfaction of helping others achieve a better life. That is exactly why I am going to Tunisia this week! Continue reading