Craig's Travels
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2011 Holiday Letter

Dear Friends & Family,
2011 has come and gone with the proverbial blink of an eye.  The more often I write these holiday recaps, the more I think, “Didn’t I just write one of these last week?”  And another year has slipped passed us where we didn’t talk as often as we should have, we missed being with family for important events, and we’ve all changed just a little bit, hopefully for the better.

Ronit continues to plug along at USAID Cambodia, and after three and a half years, has become the institutional knowledge for her growing office.  She is the lead environment agriculture and environmental compliance officer, and also heads USAID’s flagship program, HARVEST, which helps Cambodians in the area of Food Security (secure in having food, not protecting the food they have) and Climate Change.  This year Ronit picked up her long-neglected flute, taking lessons once a week, culminating in her being asked to play as our good friends Dan and Angela walked down the aisle during their wedding in July.  Both Ronit and Craig ended the year with a strong physical feat when, on the first weekend in December, they participated in both the Angkor Wat 100km bike ride (Saturday) and the Angkor Wat Half Marathon (Sunday).  

Aside from running and biking copious distances, Craig was busy working at the Embassy this year.  In April he switched from the Community Liaison Office to a job in the Public Affairs Office.  In this capacity, he is writing and editing content for the embassy’s webpage, writing speeches, managing the embassy’s Twitter page and assisting with cultural programming around Cambodia.  The highlight came in November, when Los Angeles-based band Dengue Fever toured five different cities in Cambodia, a tour Craig wrote the grant proposal for and helped organize while the band was here.  Craig continues to coordinate and play on Phnom Penh’s Ultimate Frisbee team once a week, a hobby that took  him to Manila for a tournament in November.  The group is planning its annual Phnom Penh hat tournament, so any disc players on this email list have a free place to stay if you join us the 2nd weekend in March.

Shai is in his last year at Gecko & Garden Preschool, where he and his friends rule the playground with (we’re told) a very organized bike sharing scheme.  Playgroups, swimming lessons, and terrorizing his little brother take up most of his afternoon time.  Occasionally he’ll come up with a brilliant gem of a phrase, which we try to capture to read at his wedding.

Micah, now 17 months old, is toddling around, asserting his personality and getting into every drawer we don’t want him to.  He shows an extreme tolerance for his brother’s aggressive displays of affection and smiles at most everything.  His favorite words thus far are “hiiiiiiii,” “byyyyyyyyeeee,” and “diiiiiiiiiiis,”all of which he pronounces with a multi-pitched sing-songy delivery. You can see some outdated videos here.

In October, Ronit’s father Gene passed away.  We think of him often, wishing he was still here chat with on the phone or for him to send us emails on the latest news from the Humane Society.  He went too quickly, first learning of his cancer after complaining of heart burn, and then just weeks later he passed after complications arising from an unsuccessful surgery to remove the cancer.  It hurt to lose him. It still does.

Fortunately, we had a trip home planned already, and we were able to spend time with the whole family at the end of October and beginning of November.  Many of you joined us for a very moving memorial service for Gene.  It was the right time to be home in the U.S. with family. 

While our trip home was filled with some sad times and healing, we also were able to share some very fun times as well.  A highlight was our first sans-kids weekend getaway, where Ronit and Craig whisked off to San Francisco to attend the wonderful wedding of David Sikes and Lindsey Moses.  We also got to experience an American Halloween in Ladera Ranch, where Shai cleaned up with delicious candy (which we are still working through).  Best of all was just relaxing with family and friends, catching up and hanging out.

We, the Gerards (at least the Craig part of the Gerards), has deemed 2012 “The Year of Learning French,” as we get ready for our next post in Senegal.  Rosetta Stone is purchased.  French speaking friends have been queried.  Index cards are poised to become flash cards.  Now we just need to gather the gumption.  That will be the tricky part.

In 2012, we are looking forward to seeing more of you as we spend a month in California for home leave and another 6 months or so in Washington DC for language training.  We hope this time back in the US can reinvigorate our friendships, bring us closer and help us keep in touch more often.  Have a very happy new year.

Love, Craig, Ronit, Shai & Micah

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