Tag Archives: Steve Nash

Ethiopia – A delayed gift

I stumbled upon a message recently, as I was flipping through one of the reporters’ notebooks I took with me to Ethiopia. It was written on a blank page buried in the middle of my notebook, as though intended to provide a surprise — a delayed gift from a charming 10-year-old boy who lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“I love you,” it said. It’s been a long time since a little boy has written those words to me.

As I realized what I was seeing, I was overcome. It’s been weeks since my visit to Ethiopia. Sometimes, in the overwhelming rush of minutia that consumes my days, I almost forget I was there. Then something takes me back. And I realize this experience will never leave me. It continues to change me. I have many remaining lessons to learn from it.

The child’s name is Nathnael. His father, Zerihun, works with Christian World Adoption, the agency through which Paradise Valley couple Brian and Keri deGuzman adopted their four children.  I traveled with the deGuzmans to Ethiopia in July, when they welcomed their two youngest children, Tesfanesh and Solomon, into their family.

Keri, Zerihun and Brian.

Zerihun had invited us to dinner at the end of a long, exhausting day of meetings and tours. As his wife and several other family members finished preparations for a traditional Ethiopian meal, the rest of us relaxed in the family’s cozy living room.

Zerihun’s two youngest sons — Nathnael and 7-year-old Bereket — were particularly excited by the occasion and openly curious about their guests.

I had brought a copy of the May 2009 issue of Raising Arizona Kids to give to Zerihun’s family. Our cover that month featured Keri and her two older children, Jesmina and Musse. My chance meeting of her at a photo shoot was the genesis for this entire experience.

Nathnael started flipping through the pages of the magazine.

“What is your favorite subject at school?” Keri asked.

“My favorite subject is English,” he said, his words clipped and British-proper.

Nathnael’s eyes, still focused on the magazine, rested on an APS advertisement featuring Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash.

“Do you know who that is?” Keri asked.

“Steve Nash?”

We all laughed, marveling at the power and reach of the NBA‘s marketing prowess.

“He’s a basketball player, as you can see,” Nathnael said.

“He can fly…” Bereket whispered softly, his tone full of awe.

When Nathnael saw me pull out my audio recorder and reporter’s notebook, he started hovering over my shoulder. As I often found myself doing during this trip, I made a conscious decision to be less of a journalist and more of a human being.

Yet another gift from Zerihun's family.

I explained why I was traveling with the deGuzmans and that I hoped to write a book about their family’s adoption experience. I told him that I was taking notes and recording the conversation to help me remember this special evening at his home. I asked if he wanted to help.

Nathnael took my reporter’s notebook and pen and proceeded to write down the names and ages of his brothers and sister. Then he decided to do the same for everyone else in the room. He seemed so interested in the process that I told him I was taking the night off.

“You’re going to write my story for me,” I said. “I’m just going to enjoy my dinner.”

This is what he wrote:

Hello. My name is Nathnael Zerihun. Tonight we have new people to the house. So we are enjoying what we have for Monday night!

The Food

Now everybody is introduced to the Ethiopian food. Now we are ready to eat. Now we have started eating. And everybody is enjoying the food. Brian loves kitfo [minced raw beef, heated and marinated in a spicy chili powder-based spice]. Everybody loves the baby. That’s new for us.

WOW!

Karen loves most of the food as we do. I am giving the night off for Karen because I am writing what she writes for today. Kiry has a coca or coke. Karen has pure, lovely water. Brian had a Coca-Cola or coke in American. It’s good they say.

    Huray Happy new food

For some reason, he skipped four blank pages before adding:

My only regret is that I got so absorbed in Nathnael’s journalistic efforts I forgot my own responsibilities in that area and failed to get a photo of him. Here is a group shot that I snapped with Brian’s camera. Nathnael is in the middle in the striped shirt.

The benefits of free labor

A sweet and incredibly bright young woman will be at my house for a couple of hours today, cheerfully doing anything I ask her to do. Yesterday, I had a talented college graduate and aspiring journalist here for five full hours, eagerly embracing any assignment I threw at her and then asking for more.

These women are unpaid interns. And I couldn’t manage without them.

Emma Zang-Schwartz took part in the "Locks of Love" program, allowing staff photographer Dan Friedman to document the before and after for one of his daily "DYK?" stories at raisingarizonakids.com.

Emma Zang-Schwartz is a senior at nearby Chaparral High School and will be the editor of the school’s glossy magazine during the upcoming school year. Since she started with us last spring, she has been my right hand with website tasks and something of an archiving wizard. I was delighted when she told me she plans to continue her internship throughout her senior year.

Brooke Mortensen is a graduate of Central Washington University, a recent transplant to Arizona who has taken over our RAK Community blog and helps me populate some of our other online features. She’s also written a story for our upcoming August issue.

Raising Arizona Kids has a long history of working with interns. Some have come to us through formal programs at ASU and various community colleges. Others have simply dropped into my lap through referrals from educators or friends. We got two great graphic arts interns through The Art Institute of Phoenix. (One of them, Michelle-Renee Adams, is now our Art Director.)

In some cases, our interns are the children of staff members. Vicki Louk Balint‘s son Robert has written for both the magazine and our Sports Roundtable blog. (This week he followed his mom’s footsteps and went multimedia. Watch his video essay on high school football’s “Big Man” competition.)

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist enlisted her daughters’ help at a very young age. Solvay, now 11, has spent part of several summers shredding documents and stuffing envelopes with her big sister. As Mylan entered high school, she moved into writing and website administration.

In most cases, internships are mutually beneficial. I get free labor; interns get experience in the workings of a monthly publication and daily online “eZine.”

Brooke Mortensen proofreads pages at my kitchen island. (We are still working out of my home because of a June 2 flooding incident at our Scottsdale office.)

I’m a huge fan of unpaid internships. When someone is willing to come to a job and be held accountable to a schedule and job description — even when they’re not being paid — it shows a lot about their character and drive.

It also gives them great real-world experience they carry with them into future careers. One of our interns, a college graduate, parlayed her experience with us into a paid internship at O magazine. Another is now working as a multimedia journalist for a TV station in Las Vegas. And I recently got an email from yet another former intern who is working for a PR firm in Los Angeles.

My own son Andy did a full-semester unpaid internship at a newspaper in Washington, D.C. when he was a junior in college. Shortly after graduating, he landed a full-time position there. (He is now a writer for POLITICO.) My son David did volunteer work for the John Kerry presidential campaign in the summer of 2004. A few years later, he ended up with a paid summer job with the Arizona Democratic Party. He now works as a researcher for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., where he shares an apartment with Andy.

I couldn’t have predicted what any of my former interns (or my sons, for that matter) would be doing now. But I certainly could have predicted that they’d be doing something productive and meaningful. For young people, internships are a good investment in the future.

And for the people who supervise them, interns are often a source of unexpected gifts and surprisingly rewarding relationships.

TOMORROW: How an intern helped me remember a turning point in my own career.

Sydney Lakin, who recently graduated from Chaparral High School, served as editor of the school magazine. She interned with us for a year and before she left (to devote her afternoons to the high school track team) she had the foresight (and class!) to recruit Emma to take her place. Sydney will be attending New York University this fall.

When she first started her intership with us, I doubt that current Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams (far right) expected she'd meet both a governor and a professional basketball player. From left: then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, me, Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash and Michelle (Fall 2008).

Sara Stroupe (left) interned with us before heading off to O magazine. Monica Lang (right), was another Art Institute of Phoenix intern who ended up assuming the role of Art Director and recruited Michelle. In the middle is former employee Desiree Patterson and her daughter, Olivia (June 2005).

One of my favorite photos of Solvay (left) and Mylan Blomquist (in a May 2005 photo) with their mom, Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist.