Sunday, December 05, 2010

USA to Switzerland

Let’s step back a moment to a day in October 2009 when an email popped into my mailbox. The message invited me to consider a position with UNICEF in Geneva, Switzerland. Apparently, the resume I had submitted six months earlier finally grabbed someone’s attention.

I read the job description attached to the email in disbelief. The qualifications described my career skills – a 100% match! Ed and my son Chris also read the job description. Ed shouted, “SOLD!” And, Chris warned me, “Mom, if you apply, you are going to be going to Switzerland. You match this job perfectly. Go for it!”

Three days before the November application deadline, I hit send. A current resume and updated cover letter launched into cyberspace. And then, I waited and waited. No, news came for four months.

The next email hit my box in February, 2010. Could I participate in a teleconference interview? Yes. Two weeks later, another email arrived. Can you come to Geneva? I countered with the idea of a teleconference. After all, I had commitments in the USA.

“Teleconference?” HR hesitated. “Ok, agreed!” No trip to Geneva, a teleconference would suffice. There’d be no jaunt to Europe. Technology served me well with visual clarity and minimal vocal delay. The interview discussion convinced me this was a good fit. Only one “opps” occurred. As I gestured my hand with enthusiasm, I bumped my pearl earring. The earring went skidding across the conference table like a puck on an air hockey table. The interviewers didn’t notice and I just kept on talking. Days later, a third phone call covered a few more points for clarity. And then, I waited and waited.

The official offer to join the UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnership team in Geneva happened the day before my sorority reunion in April 2010. I was home in Greensburg for the reunion so I broke the news in person to my family. Mixed reactions of pride, hesitancy, and the reality that I’d be leaving the USA hit my family. By contrast, my sorority sisters squealed with happiness for me. Just as in our years at PITT, my Alpha Delta Pi sisters celebrated my joy with hugs, encouragement, and a celebratory toast! A day later, Ed met me at the Kansas City Airport with a bouquet of balloons! We were on our way to a new life experience.

When this excitement happened, we were in Independence, Missouri, a place with historic connections to the United Nations, my new global employer. Ceremoniously, I visited the UN Peace Plaza. The statuette mimicked my joy. Ed took photos of me standing where is estimated Switzerland to be located on the world mosaic in the plaza of the Temple of the Community of Christ. This was meant to happen to me as if the story was being written with a transitional beginning and end. Ed and I started our RV road trip on Independence Day 2007; now our road trip would end in Independence, Missouri. What a perfect beginning and perfect ending.

“We’d like to in Geneva before the end of the summer,” I heard my new boss say over the phone. In June, I signed the UNICEF contract agreeing to serve two years with UNICEF as a Global Fundraising Specialist focused on Major Donors. I took two months to whittle down my already sparse possessions to even less than when we compressed things from our Texas home to six trunks stacked in Mom’s basement. With three suitcases each, Ed and I boarded an August Continental flight which brought us to Switzerland.

Bold Moves Make for Long Goodbyes...

This is the boldest move I ever made in my 55 years! Bolder than skiing a black diamond slope, bolder than auctioning dates with bachelors to raise money for fighting cancer, bolder than tasting squid. Perhaps this move is as bold as taking a two-year career break to travel in an RV across the US and Canada. Bold!

Bold is accepting a career opportunity to work for UNICEF. Bold is launching a global fundraising initiative to increase individual giving through major gifts. Bold is compressing my stuff into three suitcases to move to Switzerland. Bold is immersing myself in the Swiss culture where people speak French and buy with cash. Bold is giving up travel by car, shopping at Wal-Mart, and unlimited cell phone minutes evenings and weekends. Bold is saying “Goodbye.”

My husband Ed called our last three months in the USA the longest goodbye ever. He was right in tagging the lunches, parties, and visits that way but somehow, I needed these interactions with people important in my life. And so it was that I said my goodbyes, each one full of meaning, building confidence that I made the right choice, and connecting to people important to me who have contributed to my successes, held meaning in my life.

The following are photos of these precious moments spent before a Continental flight landed me in Geneva, Switzerland where a bold new life experience would begin.

Portrait of Mom & Me

My family: Mom, Chris, Me, Brady, Jason, Brianna & Suzie

At Indian Lake with Ed, Val & Greg

Chris & I at Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania

A winning hand at Canasta with Brianna

Mini golfing at Statler's with me, Suzie, Matt, Chris, & Brianna

Lifelong friends Craig & Robin with me

My ACS team: Beth, Joann, me, & Anna

Ed & I on the steps of the church where we were married -
October 3, 1997

The old Sanford barn at "The Farm"

New flowers for Grandma & Grandpa's grave

Looking at family heirlooms with Becky

Celebrating with Suzie & Matt in Kansas City

The Mlinarich cousins at a family party

My 2010 reunion with ADP sorority sisters from PITT

Suzie jumping with Allie

One last hug from baby Anthony at Sheffield Place

Me & Kim - Best friends from college at the ADP Reunion

Me & Sherry at the UN Peace Plaza, Independence, MO

A luminary for Dad at the Relay for Life, an event I launched over 14 years ago.


December 5, 2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

No Longer an RV Road Trip!

Just as the sunset photo represents the end to my RV road trip through the USA and Canada, the sunrise illuminates a new beginning, a new day, a new adventure. This sunrise photo taken on Saturday, November 1, 2010 captures Mount Blanc against a horizon of “sky blue pink” - as my Dad would describe such colors. Neither he nor I would have ever imagined that my life would bring me to Switzerland. I arrived on August 2, 2010, a day that marks the official end of my RV road trip. I have come to this country to work as the Major Donor Global Fundraising Specialist for UNICEF in Geneva. Ed and I have stored the Prevost coach which we affectionately called “Dolly’s Pride” so I could accept this extraordinary opportunity. Our new life in Europe is another one of my bold moves ranking along with the decisions in 2007 to sell our Texas home, leave a career with the prestigious fundraising firm of Ketchum, and take a 24 month 20 day, 28,022 mile road trip. So now, I am on a journey of a new kind – living in a modern apartment in the Swiss village of Mies, working for the United Nations agency UNICEF, and experiencing culture shock while adapting to the Swiss way of life. Follow me on this new journey…building an international major donor program for UNICEF and exploring Switzerland, then eventually Europe.

November 4, 2010

Sunday, December 06, 2009

2009 U Go! Awards: I Won Best Nature Photo!!!

All my life I have won things. When banks wanted to encourage customers to us ATM banking, Pittsburgh National Bank randomly awarded cash prizes for withdrawals. I won $20. My essay on citizenship submitted to the American Legion took top prize. The veterans awarded me a trail bike and my high school English teacher received a $25 U.S. Savings Bond. As a frequent flier, the photo I submitted of my grand-daughter Brianna sitting in my suitcase won an American Airlines “road warrior” recognition. Now, this week, I have learned that one of the many photos that I posted on is winner of the 2009 U Go! Awards. This photo won the Best of Nature Photo in the Frames of Flora Awards. How cool is that?