On My Way

I am on my way today to my first duties as the next Executive Secretary for FWCC Section of the Americas. I don't really start until mid-June, but this week I will meet with the outgoing E.S. and then travel to the FWCC Europe & Middle East Section annual meeting followed by the world Central Executive Committee annual meeting and then the International Planning Committee for the World Conference of Friends that will be held next April in Kenya.

So on Wednesday night, I'm actually headed to Zurich for two weeks. Which still sounds unbelievable and little pretentious, to me anyway, every time I say it. I've never been to Switzerland before, although I have been to France, almost 20 years ago, as part of my work with the international anti-poverty group, ATD Quart Monde, known as the Fourth World Movement in the US.

I don't have a specific role at the international meetings. I'm just going as an observer and a chance to meet in person some of the people I'll be working with in the future. I'll probably come away with plenty of responsibilities for next year, but I don't know what they are yet.

Just in the last few days I've started to deal with the practical aspects of international travel. Like, I need to change some money, and my cell phone won't work in Europe, and I need a special plug adapter for my computer. The last time I went to Europe, the most advanced technology I took was a hairdryer that converted to 110 or 220 current. This time I don't need that but I do want to be able to communicate with my family. We'll use Skype some, but I'm taking recommendations for a global cell phone and an international calling plan that works great in Latin America. Leave me a comment or send me an email if you have suggestions or cautions.

This will be the longest time I've ever been away from my kids. And the longest I've been away from my husband since we got married 17 years ago. Fortunately, my kids are old enough now to be a lot easier to take care of. But there was still grocery shopping and scheduling playdates and team practices, etc.

I finished my work at my old job last week. It was a mixed experience, as so many jobs are, but I learned a lot. About myself, about organizational politics, about succession planning, about social media and the new technology of fundraising.

I'm still thinking about the possibility of starting a new blog for just my FWCC work, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea of not. Will I have time to post regularly in two places? That's a big question. Do I have enough to say to be worth two blogs? And is it really possible to separate my personal life from my public/professional life? Do I want to? I don't really think that people pay attention to the disclaimers like the one at the bottom of this page, that says I don't speak for any organization. I think this is one of the lessons of integrity in the post-Facebook world. I have one life and I have to conduct myself in all parts of it as if all the other parts are watching.

I started this blog for two reasons. First, I wanted to share with my friends what I was reading on other Quaker blogs and what I was thinking about all that. Second, I had all these essays composing themselves in my head and I needed an outlet for them. I used to picture them as lectures in a college classroom. But then I found that a blog was about the right length and frequency for my writing, and came with more feedback/instant gratification than writing magazine articles and made me less likely to harangue my personal friends with my soapbox speeches. Both of those reasons are still true, so don't think I won't keep at least one blog going. Have you had experience writing more than one blog? Does it ever work?

In any case, today is the first day of the rest of my life, as the saying goes. I'm doing the best I can. Deep breath. Everything is going to be all right. I am not in charge. I am not alone. It's not about me. Please, God. Thank you.

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Blogger Chris M. said...

We'll be fine. You are truly being called to this work. Just travel safely, my dear, on those silver wings!

4/18/2011 11:21 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks, sweetheart.

4/19/2011 7:12 AM  
Blogger Diana Skelton said...

Hi Robin,
This sounds so exciting!
For phone calls, if your internet will be good, just stick with Skype, free and infinitely international.
And what's your Europe itinerary like? Any chance you'd have time for a visit to ATD's center in France, or at least in Geneva?
Good luck!

4/19/2011 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Kenneth said...

I've not travelled to Switzerland in modern times, so I can't vouch for the banks there, but I haven't used traveller's checks nor exchanged money in years. I just use the ATM. You get a commercial rate that way, although you need to pay attention to what kind of fees your bank may charge.

4/19/2011 7:54 AM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

A few quick comments, given my own energy level:

1. Definitely learn about the fees that are triggered on credit cards for currency exchange rates. Some (many?) upper-end cards have reduced fees or even none at all!

2. I have more than one blog: what's been helpful has been to have very specific areas and/or audiences for each. I imagine accountability will be something to consider, in your case.

3. Related to #2, there may be an Opportunity for the Section to have a blog, wherein a staff person writes about some of what you're doing, you offer a paragraph or two, and you sign off on the draft before it's posted. In any event, my guess is that more will be revealed to you as you and the position grow together.

Oh, my dear fFriend! Safe travels during this new Journey!

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

4/19/2011 8:15 AM  
Blogger Martin Kelley said...

I maintain multiple blogs. That means some don't get updated regularly but I don't mind that. Even an infrequently-updated blog has useful back material for new people to read and in some ways that's the most interesting audience.

The balance that I think a lot of bloggers are going to have to negotiate in the next ten years is how to juggle individual identities with staff roles. I hope some of the fussiness and formal distance of the latter might give way.

I can think of organizations where the official public face is so much less interesting than the individuals who work there. We get so overwhelmed by being THE [job title] of THE [org name] that is THE group that does [some mission] that we self-censor and leech all communication of the salt that savors.

This isn't to say that tact and discretion don't hold a place. We're all wandering sheep in a broken world looking to find our home and love and gentleness go a long way. But I think the blogging world has shown us there is a hunger for human connection--connection to people, not just job titles.

4/19/2011 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Lisa H said...

Godspeed on this short-ish journey. I'm glad you'll be back for a while before the big move east. I hope to see you at Quarterly, and would be willing to help out with an East Bay goodbye celebration after that, if you want one.

I would also encourage you to keep up the personal blog, in your own voice (that being much of the point), at whatever frequency feels right. For FWCC, a blog could well be a collaborative endeavor with other staff. This is a good topic for you to discuss with other professional Quakers!

4/19/2011 11:43 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hi Diana, I'm sorry that I don't think I will get to any ATD centers. I am flying into and out of Zurich and then I am heading straight home. But maybe on another trip I can squeeze out some time.

Thanks, Kenneth & Liz, I did not look into the charges that my credit union will place on international transactions. Hmmm. I don't think there will be many since I'm staying at a small retreat center where my meals, etc. are included in the conference cost.

Martin, you highlight exactly my concerns.

Lisa, I think the idea of a shared staff blog for FWCC might be the best.

4/19/2011 12:53 PM  
Blogger Barbara B said...

Godspeed, Robin, both for the two-week trip to Zurich and the longer journey through the next life passages. I won't be at Quarterly Meeting, but it would be lovely to see you sometime before you all move away.

4/19/2011 4:01 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Barbara. I'll be at SF Meeting on May 7 & 21 and June 5. Those are probably the best dates to find us!

4/20/2011 6:49 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Writing from Switzerland: weather beautiful, food delicious, company wonderful. God is good, all the time.

4/22/2011 3:23 AM  

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