Craig's Travels
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Holiday Letter 2014

We’re faced with once again scratching out the previous year on our checks, so it must be holiday letter season.  The Gerards had a wonderfully busy 2014 as we settled into our lives here in Dakar. In March, Grammy Joan & Grandpa Neil came for a two week visit to see our lives and meet our friends. And in April Grandma Ruth came for a three week visit. It was wonderful to show them our lives and introduce them around to our community.  In May, we escaped to Belgium to visit some dear friends, Craig & Tara and learn all about Belgian beer and waffles. During August, we made a pilgrimage to California, Colorado and Portland to visit friends and family.  In the fall, Craig & Ronit joined one of the embassy softball teams, the Sand Sharks, which fills their Saturdays with dreams of grandeur mostly left unfilled, but they are enjoying the season despite the below-500 season.

Ronit continues to thrive as an Agricultural Officer at USAID Senegal.  She was officially tagged as the Deputy Office Director, giving her a stronger leadership role amongst her 16-person team.  Ronit has also strengthened her ties to Fougoulou, her Peace Corps village in the Tambacounda region of Senegal, making the eight-hour drive once a quarter to monitor progress on the current projects.  Currently, the village is working on building a community garden as well as toilets for every compound in the village.  Her passion for triathlons drove her to compete in the Steamboat Springs Olympic distance tri, where she logged a personal best, despite the altitude.  To keep in tri shape, she continues to run, bike and swim (though less so with the swimming in December), but also has a growing enthusiasm (and talent) for Ultimate, much to Craig’s merriment.

For his part, Craig continues to organize Dakar’s Ultimate scene, including organizing Dakar’s first Hat Tournament in April.  Craig started 2014 as the Residential Security Coordinator at the embassy, but in April he moved to the familiar Community Liaison Office, a position he held in both Cairo and Phnom Penh.  As the embassy “Cruise Director,” he programs events he is interested in (including a Homebrewing class, a home bartending class, and a bourbon appreciation night… seems there is a theme emerging).  He was able to take a week-long training in the beginning of May in Johannesburg and got to visit Eric & Nicki, friends who are posted to South Africa.  Craig recently accepted a position in the Public Affairs office, which starts in January, and will encompass social media outreach, reporting, and some cultural programming.  While he’s slightly bummed not to get paid to pour bourbon for his colleagues, it is a long sought-after opportunity to hold a professional level public diplomacy position.

Shai started off 2014 by losing his first tooth.  He still believes in the wonders and magic of the tooth fairy.  He is still attending the French school, and his linguistic abilities have far outpaced both parents.  He is learning to read and write in both languages, a challenge that presents plenty of bumps, but he is genuinely thrilled when he figures out things on his own.  Shai plays soccer a couple times a week at the international school and has a passion for dance music (and the moves to go with it!).

Micah started his second year at Ecole en Couleur, a French preschool here in Dakar. He has his group of friends from school and enjoys playdates with them.  He is playful and goofy; he loves to ham it up.  He recently received a bike for Chanukah, hoping to keep up with the big kids in the neighborhood.

As we glide along the ever-comfortable rut which is our life in Senegal, we’re always thinking about our friends and family back home in the US and around the world.  We wish we would pick up the phone to call you more often. We wish we could hop in the car to come over for dinner. We wish you would hop on a plane and come visit us. But most of all, we wish you a happy, healthy and safe 2015.

With Love,
Craig, Ronit, Shai, Micah & Rocket

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