Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Adminstrator & me!

The USAID Administrator held a townhall meeting today where First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by. Can you say I LOVE MY JOB?!?!?!?

P.S. Dr. Shah is a Wolverine-GO BLUE!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I started my new job!

I am having a great first week on the job-granted it's only training/orientation, but the folks I am meeting are really fabulous! I mean they are all superstars professionally and everyone is super friendly. A great group.

For more info on my new employer, check out:

See you soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

National Marathon

Saturday, March 20th, I ran the National Marathon-my 4th National and 20th marathon! It was a beautiful day, albeit a little warm by runner's standards. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a running tour of the city after being away for the past almost 3 years. I even got to run right past my old office at the World Bank! I saw 8 people I knew on and off the course which makes coming back here even better!

My time was not as great as I had hoped for, but I really didn't mind. I haven't been on the track in 3 years and hopefully this summer I can regain some lost ground-in addition to Foreign Service Officer training, chasing a toddler around and triathlon training, etc.....

Great to be back in DC...although it would be even better if Dave and Catherine were here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

50km Charity Run from Thimphu-Paro

March 8, 2010 International Women’s Day

In late January, I won 30,000 Nu ($600) in a 13km ‘marathon’ held in southern Bhutan. Ever since, the unopened envelope sat in my top drawer as I debated which local charity to give the money to. Through my work with Save the Children here in Bhutan, I learned about a local NGO that supports women who are the victims of Domestic Violence (DV). The organization is RENEW, which stands for Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women. Unfortunately and ironically, the two wonderful helpers (nanny/housekeeper) we hired to care for Catherine and Caroline in Bhutan have both been victims of Domestic Violence. This fact enabled me to easily decide to donate the proceeds of the 13km race to RENEW. I only wished there was more that I could do to help RENEW raise awareness of the problem of DV in Bhutan and highlight the great work that they do.
Fast forward to the Wednesday before International Women’s Day, Monday, March 8. I decided to take on Dave’s suggestion of running from Thimphu to Paro and agreed that the run would be the mechanism by which to help RENEW raise awareness and money for their work. On Thursday, I met with RENEW’s Executive Director and explained my idea to donate the proceeds from the 13km race and the idea to run to Paro to help RENEW gain some media coverage. I told her I would be willing to do the run on International Women’s Day-even though that day was only four days away! She was not only open to the idea but excited about it and organized her staff to help me achieve this lofty goal. I drafted a press release later that day that was posted on their website the next day and shared with all of the local newspapers. They contacted BBS-the local TV broadcaster in Bhutan and asked for coverage at the start and finish of my run. They organized volunteers to send me off/receive me at the finish. I got multiple calls over the week-end asking for interviews and/or people organizing the International Women’s Day (IWD) festivities, of which I would officially take part. The local school hosted the IWD programme-where there were representatives from RENEW, UN and even Miss Bhutan! I made some very brief remarks to the entire school, just after Miss Bhutan spoke. At 10AM sharp, I left with my Camelpak on and headed out to the highway and to Paro for my nearly day long journey.

I started running and felt good (who could be tired 1km into it?) I realized that my goal of 12 minute miles could be unrealistic as I was running 9:45 pace! I immediately slowed way down and started running 10:35 and couldn’t run any slower! I found that 10AM turned to 11AM and then to noon quickly. The first half was nearly all rolling down hill, which was nice. About 11:30AM, the BBS camera crew came along side and wanted to interview me…couldn’t they see I was busy?! Anyway, the reporter got out and holding his microphone ran alongside me. He said he would run with me for ‘awhile’. He lasted 2km before he jumped back in their vehicle and they sped off. I ran through wind tunnels every so often that nearly stopped me in my tracks! At one point, I turned a corner and the road climbed and the wind hit me square in the face, as I was furiously pumping my arms, my GPS registered 14 min mile pace! At only 12km into this thing, I started to have serious doubts about whether I could finish. Just at that moment, a small yellow butterfly came out of nowhere and fluttered in front of my face, then flew away. I was amazed because it reminded me of the RENEW pin that is small and yellow and symbolizes peace rather than violence. Just as this comparison hit me fully, I turned another corner and the road evened out and the wind stopped as quickly as it had started. I felt it was a sign that I could finish this thing!

I got to Chuzom, the police checkpoint and halfway in 2 hours and 51 minutes. With my estimated finish time of 6 hours, I was a little ahead of schedule. I still felt good and hoped the second half was just as uneventful as the first. Dave was to meet me at this point and run the second half (25km) with me, but got caught at work, so I didn’t see him until about 15km to go.
I ran across a large metal bridge about mile 20 and heard some rustling. I looked up and saw dozens of huge white monkeys! If I had been of clear mind I probably wouldn’t have thought that I was on the Planet of the Apes. At about mile 16, I got a terrible side stitch and ran with it until I saw Dave at mile 21! Those were not a fun 5 miles. I realized (too late) that even though the temperature was quite nice, the sun was on me all day and stupidly I was only drinking water-Dave had my Gatorade. I took my first sip of Gatorade at mile 22 and it was, unfortunately, too late. I was not able to converse much with Dave at this point, and I worried with 8 more miles, I was at risk of dropping due to hypernatremia (too much water and not enough electrolytes). I asked Dave to try and find me some potato chips if he saw a little store. With 10km to go, there was a group of RENEW volunteers by the side of the road cheering. One of the volunteers was even there to run into town with us. What a wonderful sight, given this was a one person race! They had a white scarf (traditionally given to welcome someone) and because Dave had called our driver, who had called the RENEW focal point, who had called a RENEW volunteer, there were bags and bags of chips with the group! I started eating ‘Spicy Tomato’ potato crisps (yeah, they tasted as bad as they sound) and drinking mango juice. I was still having weird effects from whatever it was that hit me-GI problems, dehydration? (felt the same way at IronMan China last year) and could not talk at all to Dave and when I had to say something, I could only whisper?! I also had plugged ears (which would become much worse after I finished until I went to bed that night).

At this point, you will not be surprised that I was walking. I felt absolutely horrible. I was thankful that I could walk, but asked Dave to do the math as I still wanted to arrive about 4PM, my projected finish time. We walked for 2-3 miles probably. A bit further down the road was another store and Dave and the RENEW Volunteer (the only one of us with any money!) went in to buy me a Sprite and more chips as the spicy tomato chips and mango juice were NOT having the desired effect and I was still feeling pretty bad, uh, like AWFUL. These chips and Sprite helped. Thank goodness! At the airport gate I started to jog along the high barbwire fence all the while Dave was saying things like ‘Imagine a rope attached to your chest and someone is pulling you down this road’ and ‘Feel that wind at your back pushing you along’ and ‘Just put one foot in front of the other’. Thankfully, he is an experienced marathoner and endurance athlete himself and never once uttered any banal crap like ‘you’re almost there’. (my total pet peeve during marathons! FYI: mile 23, 24, or 25 is NOT almost there!). Walked a bit more and then started jogging when I saw the Zhong, national museum and buildings of downtown Paro. We crossed the bridge into town and the BBS camera crew were there filming us running by. At this point, I not only knew I was going to finish this damn thing, but that I was going to be able to run the rest of the way. As I ran towards the town square, with Dave and the volunteer, there was a group, including Police to offer us our white scarf-welcoming us into Paro.

I was so happy to stop running, but decided to walk a bit and stretch out. It was DONE! By now, my ears were totally plugged and talking was likely speaking underwater. Unfortunately, it was at that moment the BBS reporter wanted to interview me! Just after we finished our driver pulled up with both girls in the car. It was so great to see them, but I was too tired to pick them up.  After a few minutes, they ushered us to a local restaurant and gave us tea and sandwiches. The tea tasted like chai and was the best thing I had ever had-I think I had 3 cups! The head volunteer from Paro spoke and thanked me for my effort. They also asked me to speak about my experience and they all wanted to know did I have ‘fun’? Well, with plugged ears, upset stomach and shaky legs, how could I said that had been fun? But it was definitely an EXPERIENCE! With an article in the local paper that day and coverage on BBS, RENEW had gotten some media coverage and that was the ultimate goal.

I have received donations from friends in Thimphu as well as pledges online from friends in the US and Peru! Thanks to everyone that has agreed to donate to the RENEW center and thanks also for your well wishes and congratulations! They are much appreciated. Right now, I am resting up until National Marathon NEXT week-end!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coverage of my 50km charity run yesterday


Monday, March 1, 2010

The Martz family goes trekking in Bhutan!

Dave and Caroline enjoying the trek down to Paro.

With our guides near one of the chortens on our trek.

This was the view from the campsite on our first night.

Enjoying the dining tent.

Having our picnic lunch on Day 3 of our trek from Thimphu to Paro.

Our 3-person tent was cozy for our family of four. My water bottle lying INSIDE the tent was frozen the next morning. Thank goodness for -30 degree sleeping bags!

The two little monkeys in the dining tent having their afternoon tea and snacks!

Our first afternoon, we hiked to monastery 4KM above Thimphu. Dave carried Catherine and I carried Caroline. It was a beautiful, sunny clear day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Catherine and Caroline in Bhutan

At the playground

Checking their email

Catherine concentrates on her favorite site: 'poisson rouge'

Catherine and Caroline getting creative with the markers

Monday, February 1, 2010

Week-end trip to Phuntsoling

The plan was to go to Phuntsoling in southern Bhutan, which is a border town (with India) for ONE overnight and to run the 18K 'marathon' hosted by the Tashi group, a large group of companies that does everything from making Coca-Cola and beer to running hotels. Dave had to work Saturday, so the girls and I along with our nanny and driver were planning on leaving at 5AM. We drove for an hour and Catherine got sick mutliple times despite the motion sickness medicine. I made the decision to turn around and bring her back to the house. So, our departure was now 7AM (and after being in the car for 2 hours already!). We ended up staying another night so I could collect my prize money (30, 000 NU) at the award ceremony and banquet.

After checking in, Caroline and I ventured out to explore the town and WALK across the border to India. We found a restaurant in India (Jaipour) and did some shopping. When I asked someone if they knew of a good restaurant, the woman said "Im sure I have no idea." I wanted to say 'are you SURE?' :)

This $12 backpack has sure come in handy! Its been up to the Tiger's Nest and now to India.

Me and Bollywood star, Kelly Dorji at the Golden Jubilee Awards post-race ceremony and dinner.

That's me in the white cap-ha ha, just kidding. That IS me at the finish line of the 13K 'marathon'. '

I'm the one with the white scarf on-the gentleman with the striped Gho and salt and pepper hair behind me is the Minister of Economic Affairs and he gave me the scarf when I finished. They ushered me away from the finish line into some building and into a small room where all these guys were laying around-it looked like a mash unit. They wanted me to lay down and rest! I said 'no, thanks', but can i have some water? they yelled 'water, water, she NEEDS water!' the woman literally tried to carry me to the water table! I said, im okay, i can walk. I mean i basically just ran an 8-mile tempo run!

The start was at the Coca-Cola factory outside of town.
The wanted me to wear the Large COTTON t-shirt during the race and I said, no thanks, but decided to compromise and wear the baseball cap during the race.

While Caroline and I were out walking the night before the race, I noticed this place which offers FOODING and lodging.

A great week-end and race. Caroline and I got to take some trips into India both days we were there-just walked right across the border! Everyone in town and affiliated with the race was so nice. At the awards ceremony and dinner, I sat next to the person that works for Tashi group (they were celebrating 50 years in business, which is why they hosted the race) and I found out it was his idea to have the marathon!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Week-end in Paro: Tiger's Nest, Uma & National museum

Enjoying a break at the halfway point up to Tiger's Nest
Tiger's Nest in the background.
Robin with Caroline on her back and Gyem, our driver.
At the half way Tahksang cafeteria. Catherine didn't want to be in the photo.
You can barely see Tiger's Nest in top right of photo.

Dave got to carry Catherine up the mountain, all 15 kg of her!

I don't know why Caroline was tired...she was being carried all the way up and down.
Notice her precious hands crossed.

On the way down: Catherine walked the whole way!

Nearing the half way mark, a quick pit-stop to turn the prayer wheel.
Notice Tiger's Nest in the background.

Posing at the National Museum-our budding photographer, Catherine, took this shot. The Paro valley is in the background.

Our room at the Uma Paro-absolutely fabulous accomodations and amazing food!

Catherine and Dad enjoying the large living room in our suite.

Dave, Caroline and Catherine pose in front of the largest book in the world!

Our wonderfully warm bathroom-everything was heated including the towel racks!

Catherine and Caroline enjoy a care package from Grandma Kathy and Jerry. Robin is talkin to Grandpa Coach on Skype.

Caroline is helping to clean up.
Notice the tiger slippers, a gift from good friend Henry, now back in Boston.

Catherine and Caroline play with the markers that were in Christmas care package from Valpo.

Caroline trying on mommy's running shoes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More photos from Bhutan

We visited the Takin preserve near our house in Thimphu today. The Takin is Bhutan's national animal. They are a goat-antelope found in the eastern Himalayas. They live at altitude and some say look like a bee-stung moose, because their faces look swollen.
Catherine with her very first snowball! Caroline with our new helper, Pasang.

On top a moutain peak near our house among the prayer flags.

We are still 'working' on the gingerbread house.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Some holiday fun in Bhutan!

Catherine and Caroline playing before bed one night. The both had had their tub-tub and were in their PJs. You can see the beautiful hard wood floors in our new house (but almost always requires slippers).
Here Caroline is on Boxing Day posing for the camera. We took a day trip to Punakha and visited the oldest Zhong (Buddhist monastery) in the country. I believe we traveled 80km to get there and it took us about 3 hours! We were on windy, windy roads up and then down the mountain. I felt a little queasy and Catherine lost her breakfast. :(

We woke up New Year's Eve morning to our first snowfall in YEARS! What a beautiful sight on the mountains. Unfortunately, it was ALL gone by mid day-but the town still took the day off. Yep, the first snowfall of the year is a national holiday!

We had a lovely Christmas day brunch at the Taj Tashi hotel in town. We enjoyed omelettes, waffles and roasted turkey! I think liked the chocolate muffin the best (it still be seen on her plate!) and the waitstaff chased after Caroline so Dave and I could eat together (what a concept!).

This little tub is the perfect size for our little monkeys! They love climbing in there and getting cleaned up together.

Another shot of us in Punakha. You can see the Zhong behind us. The backpack i bought from friends in Dhaka before they went back to the US has been awesome! (thanks Henry and Elizabeth!) I really like carrying Caroline around in it.

Christmas morning. We told Catherine to expect a 'lean Christmas' but she did not seem to care as she grinned opening her stocking and seeing lots of little goodies like this pen and candy cane.

We tried to make up the lean Christmas by splurging on this great Gingerbread house purchased at the Taj Tashi bakery shop.