What a Long Strange Trip It's Been…

Amy & Jazzy
(Amy & Jazzy)

After eight long years of paying tuition and slogging away at my dissertation, I’m proud to announce that I am finally done! Dr. Gottlieb is in the house! I can’t begin to describe the elation I feel now that this monster is off my back.

(My dissertation defense)

And I must say, leaving Malawi – as difficult as it was – was the best decision I could’ve made. There is no way I ever could have completed my PhD while living and working in Lilongwe!

My Advisor
(Dr. Gottliebs)

Speaking of which, I’ve been incredibly worried about my friends in Malawi who are in the midst of the worst fuel crisis in its history. From what I’ve gathered, there is no petrol, no diesel, no electricity, and no foreign exchange in the country! The International Schools have shut down, businesses are closing, and people’s morale is at an all-time low.

(Greg, Megan, Amy & Eric)

Ultimately, the fuel shortages are due to the country running out of foreign currency, partly because the Malawian government lent Zimbabwe $100 million dollars, which has yet to be repaid. Meanwhile, the President has just purchased a private jet for $15.9 million dollars as well as a fleet of 22 Mercedes Benz cars for a further $3 million. This flagrant abuse of funds is shameful!

(Jan, Amy & Sami)

I just hope an end to this fuel crisis is in sight! Facebook has been riddled with updates from all my Malawian friends about nightmare queues for fuel…with persons often waiting in line anywhere from 4 to 10 hours for their 20-liter ration – to no avail. I am grateful that I left when I did…

(Marcy and Patty)

Meanwhile, back in the states, life is so easy by comparison! What a contradiction in lifestyles – I felt ridiculous the other day when I tried to fill up my tank at the gas station, only to discover that the credit card machine at the pump didn’t work. I actually felt indignation, as I had to walk INSIDE to pay! My god, I’ve become so spoiled…how quickly we forget the life we’ve just left! I laughed when I actually thought about the absurdity of it all…the transition from Africa to the states is full of juxtapositions…from one extreme to the other…

(Serra-Lesa and Gina’s children in St. Louis)

Ah, but when in Rome…

(Brian, Bradley and Patty)

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time in Austin – gorging on Tex-Mex cuisine, watching movies at an actual theater (an impossible task in Malawi), and spending quality time with friends and family.

(Amy and Tina at ACL Music Festival)

I’ve even experienced quintessential Austin moments, such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival, a Hula Hut reunion, and the beauty of a simple jog around Town Lake.

Opening Crew
(Hula Hut Reunion – Opening Crew)

And, a few weeks ago I had my big going away/graduation party! I must say, I felt so honored by the beautiful turn out of friends and family. I feel so loved and supported by many, for which I am grateful!

(Marcy, Paul, Josh and Jake)

I took a trip down memory lane as friends from different facets of my life reappeared to help me celebrate! Friends from the Texas Department of Health to the University of Texas to Motorola to Apple Computers to the Hula Hut to family members from all over came to the party to say “Congratulations and Good-bye, Good-luck”.

(Ron, Barbie, Megan & Adam)

As a result, I was even more thankful this year at Thanksgiving! I flew to St. Louis to spend the holiday with my grandmother, who is 95 years old, as well as all my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.! The down side of working overseas is the extended period away from family. Saying good-bye to my grandmother was devastating – as I am not certain when or if I will ever see her again.


The Gottliebs
(The Gottliebs)

I’m now focusing my energy towards my move to Vietnam! It’s been incredibly challenging to finish my PhD and to prepare for this move at the same time – but I think I finally have everything under control.


I only have two weeks left in Austin, and then I’m heading to Colorado to ski with my family, then to Jamaica for Christmas and New Years. I’ll return from Treasure Beach on January 3rd and will leave for Hanoi on January 5th.

(My mom)

I’m just now able to relax and to take advantage of my days in the states, yet I don’t have enough time to see everyone that I’d like! Perhaps one more going away happy hour is in order 🙂

(More Dr. Gottliebs)

I do hope people will come to Vietnam to visit. As always, my door is open to anyone who would like to come!


Happy Holidays!

Much love,

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