26 July 2012

Back East

First leg of the journey accomplished. Flew back east, a general term that is used in the Western United States to refer to anywhere really east of the Mississippi. Back east for me means the Northeast - a combination of the greater New York metropolitan area and New England. I love this place. The people, the smells, the chaos, the beauty, the ugly. There's no place like home.

My plane landed in New York and my sister Elizabeth and her man Ramiro collected me, my cat, and my luggage. It is hot and humid here, but not unpleasantly so. Once settled and expressed, we all had a slice in Elmhurst, Queens. My sister just moved to a new place last week. The neighborhood is vibrant, full of little kids and puppies and restaurants, and safer than her previous place in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. We waited until after rush hour then drove erratically at 100 miles an hour north on I-95 in Ramiro's supped up Jetta. I fell asleep in the backseat curled around FC, my cat, in response to stress avoidance and total travel weariness. Eventually I woke up in Connecticut and we arrived in New Haven and enthusiastically breathed in the east harbor's smell, opening the windows to inhale the mix of ocean and petroleum.

I unloaded and tucked into a bowl of homemade corn chowder, caught up with my friend Paul and his daughter Sasha, and introduced FC, the cat, to his new world. From his initial reactions, I have hope that this will work out well. I am also reminded again that I have become remiss on the important things in my friend's worlds - birthdays, funerals, weddings, life. I must do something about this.

After the house settled into sleep, I started to take stock of my gear. This is it for the next year - two bags and a backpack. Tomorrow morning, I head back into New York to the Ethiopian Consulate to submit all forms and paperwork for a visa. I hope this will be ready before my flight on Tuesday.

17 July 2012

Ethiopia arrangements materializing last minute...

Update as of this morning is that I received an offer to be hosted at the International Watershed Management Institute (IWMI) offices in Addis Ababa. I have been in loose communication with their offices since fall 2011. This is very good news as up until now I had no affiliation with any agency or office in Ethiopia and was not sure how gaining access to officials or identifying appropriate communities was going to pan out. Aside from a very nice Peace Corps volunteer who lives some hours south of Addis and an Ethiopian Parliamentary member I met in Oregon, I have not had consistent communication with anyone in Ethiopia. My research in the Lake Ohrid watershed (in 2003 & 2004) would not have happened had I not met wonderful local staff at the World Bank and UNDP lake project offices.

I've also been put in touch with another PhD student out of McGill University in Montreal. She's been working in Addis this year and has offered to look into housing situations for me with her friends. We have a Skype date on Monday to discuss logistics and to get acquainted. We will both be working out of the IWMI offices in the fall.

Tuesdays are good days for good news.

13 July 2012

Critique from International Rivers Network on large dams

My advisor sent on this report from the International Rivers Network. Critique of the efficacy of large infrastructure for the community at large, big dams are the focus. Note the portion on Inga dams - a project touted as a solution for pan-African energy issues. The siting on this dam is at super high potential section of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The dams in the plans could generate enough energy for almost the entire continent...


Water grabs

Along with the recent articles about land grabs, an issue of Water Alternatives was released focused on water grabs. I haven't read through all of these, but seems that there are plenty of case studies on the topic!


12 July 2012

Article on Africa dam development

The following two articles consider dam development in Africa. One highlights the positives of Chinese dam development investment, while the other speaks to the destructive forces of dam development. It is interesting to read the two contrasted views:


11 July 2012

Water Wired blog

Got a mention on Dr. Michael Campana's water blog:


Anything happening in the news or comics about water and Michael has got it covered on this site. Michael is a brilliant guy who hails from NY and still carries the accent that makes me feel less homesick. He one of my committee members and I work as his teaching assistant. I appreciate his interest and support of my work!

09 July 2012

Article and reports on land grabs

Land grabs are a phenomena happening globally, but primarily in Africa. This is a process when one country, or a corporation lease or buy land in another country for the purposes of agricultural development. Some suspect that this is actually an effort to secure global freshwater resources. Check out the below articles that tell you more about what land grabs are, why they are important for freshwater, and who is involved:


From the Earth Security Initiative out of London
From the IMF/World Bank
From SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute)

Interactive water site

Check out this UN water map site - it is a bit clunky, but it displays a variety of data layers, statistical information, and nice maps of countries around the world.



By way of introduction: I am a PhD student of geography at Oregon State University (OSU) and have a background in environmental hydrogeology. I have conducted field research in the USA, Bahamas, and Southeastern Europe, and have traveled to Australia, South America, and Central America. I have worked many jobs from bus driving and bartending to alternative energy consultant and water security analyst. In two weeks I will leave for one year of research in Africa and Asia.

My current research is a look into whether dam development is a mechanism for human security on global, national, and local-level scales. I have designed two case studies, one in the Blue Nile basin in Ethiopia, the other in the Amu Darya basin in Uzbekistan. I am able to do this through the generous support of the Gray Family Travel Fund and my teaching and research assistanceships for Dr. Aaron Wolf on his Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database.

I arrive in Ethiopia in early August and will conduct interviews until December. I will be in Addis Ababa initially, the capital city, and intend to travel to Asosa in the Nile basin. In January I will travel to Uzbekistan for 6 months of field interviews in Tashkent and the Aral Sea basin. This will be my travel log, to share both the experience of working abroad, my impressions of various cultures, and the story of the rivers and the communities dependent upon the water. Hopefully this will be less my story, but rather more the story of the people I meet; their communities, lives, and the changes they are experiencing as the world moves toward something called progress and modernity. 

In preparation I have been running around for two months getting shots, paperwork, and equipment. I attempted Amharic language lessons and have done no study of Russian language. I will have to rely on translators. I have no solid landing point in Addis and my travel plan is loose. I hope things will work out alright...