Craig's Travels
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Gerard Holiday Letter 2016

I believe the statute of limitations for sending out holiday letters has now been extended until April 15, so as long as I get this letter to you before I submit my taxes, I feel like I’m ahead of the game (but really… I’m late as usual).
2016 was filled with the typical ups and downs, but looking back, as a family we had more ups than downs (though I’m not sure I can say the same for our country). We’ve tried to keep up with a fresh home-made soup each week during Our Year of Soup… we didn’t quite get to 52, so hashtag OurYearOfSoup continues in 2017!  We started the year with a lovely trip to Djoudj, a national park in Northern Senegal which is home to thousands and thousands of birds. In February, we took advantage of the kids’ “ski week” vacation to actually go skiing in Chamonix. Our dear friends the Carkeys visited us in March, and in May I had a fabulous work trip to southern Senegal with two former players from the US National Women’s Soccer team. Over the summer, we took a long vacation to California, made a quick stop in Portland, and were also thrilled to make it to Chicago for Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah. We also made a couple of trips out to Fougoulou (Ro’s Peace Corps village), and continued our projects there. For this work, and some other volunteering we do around Dakar, this fall we were honored with the Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad. This was definitely a highlight for us… not necessarily for getting the award (though it was nice to be recognized), but more because of the family and friends who we got to see with our free trip (sans kids) to Washington DC. Finally, we finished up the year in style with a trip to Namibia and South Africa. I actually meant to write this letter during our week staying in Stellenbosch, but copious amounts of wine got in the way.

This year Shai started 4th grade, but made a change to the international school (last year he was at the French school). He is doing well there, and seems to have made the adjustment quite easily. He loves that his teacher uses humor in the class, and his teacher told us that he appreciates Shai’s quick laughter to most of his jokes.  He is still very much into soccer (both playing and watching… his fav team is Barcelona), but has also developed a strong admiration for football and basketball. 

Micah continues to be our little goofball, who loves most of the things that his big brother loves.  He too started at the international school, and thanks to a lesson on insects in his class, he seems to be quite the entomologist. He also loves playing soccer, and spends much of the game on the ground, and like his older brother, loves watching football.  His reading skills are picking up and despite what he says, he really does love his school work.

Ronit had a strong year, and despite some nagging injuries, had a successful triathlon in Goleta this summer. She has really taken to ultimate, and is now one of the dominant female players in Dakar. Unfortunately, she was sidelined in the 2nd inning of the first game of the softball season when a player ran into her glove as she was making the tag and tore the ligament in her thumb (she made the out). After surgery and many weeks in a cast, she is now just getting back into the groove, and will soon start her regular cycle of spinning, running, and swimming. Ronit also recently found out her next assignment, which is working for the Bureau of Food Security based in Washington. She is negotiating where she’ll spend the majority of her time, and we’ll keep you informed.

Craig also had a busy year, continuing his leadership role in Dakar Ultimate and coaching the softball team, the Sand Sharks. On the work front, he continued his work in the Public Affairs, focusing on local-language podcasts and video editing. He is also in the midst of a Portland job search which will start to pick up in intensity as the July departure looms.

As our time in Dakar winds down, we are trying to stuff in all of the trips and family visits we can manage.  We’ll top all that off with a move back to the U.S., transitions in schools, and major changes in jobs. This means 2017 will keep us on our toes, to say the least. We look forward to seeing more of you more often, staying in closer touch, and being at least in a closer time zone.

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