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Entries in Volunteerism (6)


A very sincere form letter from the heart

World Book Night US is next week! Which means that volunteer givers have been receiving boxes of books and assorted goodies.

One of these givers, Kalpana of New Orleans, asked if I would write a special note that she could add to the books she'll be passing out. I said "yes" of course, but why let Bourbon Street givers have all the fun?

So here's a letter that you can include as well, if you're so inclined. Either way--thank you for volunteering, thank you for giving, and stay safe!



Hi there,

If you’re reading this note, that means that (giver name) has given you a copy of my book, Hotel on the Corner of You Know What, and for that I’m as happy as a 2nd grade girl with a truck-load of Hello Kitty pencil toppers.

Seriously, I’m that happy.

Because not only did someone publish my book (that someone being Random House), and not only has it been translated into 34 languages (c’mon Estonia, the pressure’s on), but best of all, my novel has been chosen to be given away for FREE on World Book Night—to YOU! And for that, I'm thrilled.

So, where do you fit in to all of this? Well, I hope you read it. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope it’s a literary gateway drug to other interesting, entertaining, and enlightening books. And I hope you share it with others.

And if you really, really, REALLY enjoy it, I hope you’ll hit me up on the usual social mediums, like Twitter. I’d love to hear from you when the glitter settles.

Happy reading and happy World Book Night!

Your pal,



P.S. The best way to thank your giver is to become one yourself (next year!)


And for those of you reading this in the Seattle area, I'll be at the Elliott Bay Book Company next Tuesday for a World Book Night kick-off event with Maria Semple (Where'd You Go, Bernadette?) See you there!


Tanzania Mission, soundtrack

We're back, but still in jetlag-la-la-land. I'll post a longer report tomorrow (about poverty) but in the meantime here's a clip of a village choir in Pommern. I attended three different church services, different denominations, and all had amazing choirs. We heard them practicing all week, much to our delight.

Also, musically-speaking, Britt, Madi, and Karissa managed to make the "Cup Song" from Pitch Perfect part of an English lesson. Here's the final result.


Tanzania Mission, Day 1: Leaving the tourist behind

A gorgeous afternoon in Dar. Haley tried the shellfish, Kassie tried the goat. Lucas tried...everything.We're been in Dar es Salaam for 24 hours, practicing Swahili, buying elephant-print kangas in the market, eating cones of tiramisu-flavored gelato, and watching fishermen tend their nets along the pier. But haunting us all day has been the reality that we are currently dwelling in a sanitized, monetized, seaside villa version of Africa and that the real trip begins tomorrow.

Actually it began tonight when we had dinner with Edward Mgeni, the amazing Country Manager for Global Volunteers who is also our team leader. Dinner was everything from curried vegetables and banana soup, to french fries and pizza. And conversation ranged from the number of students enrolled in the three Pomerini schools (Edward knew the exact count, by day), the role of women in the village (they do a LOT, traveling many kilometers for firewood) to the number of cars (two in a community of 4,000).

We talked about how we'd be put to use in the village, but more importantly, Edward encouraged us to spread out in all directions after our orientation—to get to know people, to feel the community.

If the pleasure of Edward's company is any indication, we feel it already.

Okay, time for bed. We hit the road at 6:30 AM for a ten-hour journey that will include a fifty-mile short-cut across Mikumi National Park. We're not allowed to stop without a permit, though if there are safari animals roaming about we're allowed to drive really slow to snap a few photos. Or really fast if a bull elephant is charging.


Does anyone know how to say, "Turn off your freakin' iPhone!" in Swahili?

9,400 miles later, we made it. To Dar es Salaam at least. The plane rides (all four) were actually quite manageable. The TSA staff even complimented us on how well-behaved our teenagers were when we went through security at which point Leesha and me looked at each other and exclaimed, "YES, the Benadryl worked!"

18 bags, including 10 packed with donated medical supplies.

 The SeaTac tribe, gathered round the "fire".

The plane to Amsterdam was like a tunnel of bad moviesWell, it's night, we're weary, and I can't find my UK power-plug adaptor so time to turn in. Now if I can just figure out this whole mosquito netting thing around my bed.