Off to Africa, once more.

kids in Madagascar

People ask me "So how is the sabbatical going, having a nice rest?". Well, that's not exactly how it went. While shuttling between the family in Belgium and my base in Rome, it seems destiny carved out a specific path for me.

I always wanted to expand my experience with social media: blogging, Twitter, social bookmarking... And without really chasing projects, I have been fortunate to get several projects I could sink my teeth in.

I did a review for CGIAR's ICT-KM blog, designed a new blog for a CIAT project (See the draft design here) and made several YouTube videos for AgCommons. I was asked to coordinate the social media team for the upcoming AgKnowledge Share Fair in Addis, Ethiopia (see the initial shoutout for volunteers, and our Wiki page).

I am leaving for Addis tomorrow, combining the trip with another project I am really enthusiastic about: interviewing farmers on the impact of climate change in different countries in Africa and Asia. The goal is to gather material and generate short video and audio recordings, blogposts and pictures of the on-the-ground effects of climate change, the ways the communities adapt and mitigate the changes.

This is something I always wanted to do: travel around, take input using different means and outputting it via social media. I will be in Kenya for the first series of interviews next week, followed by a week in Addis for the Share Fair.

This will be my first trip to Africa since a while. While I lived in Angola, Malawi, DRC and Uganda for five years back in the nineties, and travelled around the continent extensively, I honestly can not remember the year of my last trip to Africa. Was it the onset of the Darfur crisis back in 2004? No, it can't be. It must have been the trips I did to Kinshasa back in 2005 and 2006.

Still, it has been four or five years since I set foot in Africa again (apart from a short trip to Cairo). I am excited to go back, to see the changes first hand, and to embark on a new series of projects.

It is strange how life goes. This is not exactly how I intended this sabbatical to go, but following the path destiny sets out, I seem to discover new things, new opportunities, new passions.

I turned 50 this week. 50! When I was younger, I always said I would never reach the blessed age of 50. "I'd fall out of tree, crash off a mountain top, or freeze to death in the Antarctic first", I used to say. But yet, I turned 50, three days ago. And still, life puts its challenges ahead of me. Still, I am wandering around, finding new things, exploring ways to make a difference while enjoying what I do.

I guess I will never settle. Maybe when I do, it will be the end of me. "Home is where I lay my head", says the song. And meanwhile, I put my future in the hands of destiny. She knows best.

Picture courtesy Michael Higgins (WFP)


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