Integration of global and local

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Yesterday, I met a friend of a friend that is visiting Kinshasa – a somewhat rare happening that Kinshasa is visited by a bona fide tourist! However, this post is not about who visits Kinshasa and who doesn’t.

Rather, it is about shifting priorities.

Meeting him in this environment, I’m surrounded by people that have foreign service careers, which is truly admirable, because to be an FSO, one gains a lot but also sacrifices a lot in terms of maintaining a relationship with one community long term. Instead, it can be very disrupting to hop around every two to five years, make new friends, and get reinstalled.

This person is only visiting, taking a jaunt to South Africa and Congo before returning to his life in the greater Chicago area. In Chicago, he has worked with a company that delivered fresh produce to local consumers. Now he is working part time with a small farmer to market some very specific goods, such as giardiniera.

The reason his story was interesting to me – in addition to receiving a very brief introduction to anaerobic composting to efficiently break down and produce methane gas that can be fed into rudimentary greenhouses to extend the growing season, to which I said, That must be like Compost +1, a term he didn’t realize I made up – is that he seemed to be in transition, shifting from previous priorities to a more local connection.

This need for connections is a notion I touched on in my last post on community, because I feel it acutely. Growing up in the first generation that began communicating via email, leading to numerous amazing means of staying linked in online, I’ve developed the skills to network internationally, find products I need and have them shipped from anywhere on the planet, work in other languages and cultures to mobilize public health resources to save lives, and keep myself employed.

But I miss certain experiences, like handwritten letters. I want that feeling of stepping into a new store in town because I noticed the changing facade of the block, or because my colleague or neighbor knows the owner. I want it to be personal, not sanitized or forced by Facebook.

This is not news, that many of us have decided to grow ourselves or buy as much of our food goods as possible from people that live down the road. I’m simply underlining its importance, the importance of knowing whether or not the process lived up to organic standards and being able to talk to the farmer about it, the importance of sometimes meeting the chicken that produced the eggs, seeing the hives that yielded the honey.

Yesterday, we also talked about community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery companies. I discovered that in 2009, just such a company (and probably now more than one) was established in the Triangle area, the perfect solution to my inability to participate in CSAs when I only had a bicycle and couldn’t always make it to the pickup point and negotiate veggie transport.

So now the question is how does that process happen? What does the path look like transitioning from a life of global virtual networking to bringing it back to the local, and what does the integration of these two worlds look like?

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