New Year’s Resolutions for 2017

I normally set up goals for the new year rather than make resolutions. Resolutions sound like something that are bound to be broken. Or something that we are trying to force ourselves to do. Goals are more about development and things that move us forward and make us grow. However, given last year’s ugly environment in the U.S. and around the world, and the realization that business as usual is not an option if we don’t want to end up in Voldemort’s utopia, I actually set up a few resolutions for 2017:

  • To be a lot nicer to people in my surrounding
  • To volunteer for our natural environment
  • To mentor a kid or a teen
  • To be more considerate of our limited natural resources, especially as it concerns food and disposables
  • To finish my book, about which a pre-editor said that possibly the best part of the story was that my protagonist Tora was unusually likable –  I think teens could use a heroine like here in times like this! (A sample to be posted soon.)
  • To work on another small book project that I have had in mind for over years and that seems more relevant than ever. More to come…

Other than that – and more like the goals I usually set – I hope to contribute to positive development in this world through my work, and maybe to give a more nuanced image of the countries that I visit through this blog and Instagram, than what is often portrayed in the media. You can follow me on IG and Twitter on @asagiertz

Did the current climate inspire any of your new year’s resolutions for 2017?

Heart Painted

Thinking of New Year’s Resolutions…

Since I’m a goal oriented person, I always make a list of things I want to do or accomplish over the year. I am still thinking about what I’d like to do this year, so I won’t reveal my New Year’s resolutions yet. I have a ton of things that I dream of doing but it is also important yet set somewhat realistic goals, and as I know that my spring will be quite hectic in terms of work, I thought I’d think a little more about what my focus should be. So that my resolutions don’t end up in this museum

My own trick is to just to have goals that I really want to achieve and not things that I think I should do. My motto is also that it is better to do a little than nothing at all, which often results in more than I expect because I start things without any pressure. But there are lots of advice out there, like this article on the topic, which claims that only 8 percent of all resolutions are kept. So if I fail, with this year’s resolutions, at least I am not alone!

National Park

Two of my goals for 2017 will relate to this spectacular view!  

A Year in the Life: Snapshots from 2016

A Year in the Life! Not that of the Gilmore Girls, but that of mine. Another year has passed and I think many of us are happy to see 2016 come to an end. Being the news junkie that I am, it’s been a heavy year with all the evils going on, real and rhetorical. Perhaps because of the country in which I grew up, I am not used to the harsh rhetoric that was thrown back and forth during the U.S. election campaign. Everyone talks about energy vampires and one things that sucks out all my energy is when people speak ill of others and spread meanness around; it completely drains me! So the past year’s new cycle has been quite heavy for me. Fortunately (and speaking of the Gilmore Girls), I found the perfect antidote earlier this year: the Gilmore Guys podcast! The lovely duo Kevin and Demi have, while discussing every episode and character of the show for some 400+ hours, convinced me that the sometimes horrifying words that have come out from certain politicians are not the norm, but that for normal people the barre is set higher for what is acceptable behavior and not. I love Gilmore Girls – some describe the series like a warm blanket that helps through difficult and uncertain times – and so what better in times like these than to listen to a kind and cool community that shares my love for the show? (While writing this, I realize that I may have to write a separate post on this topic…)

As for my own life, nothing life altering happened for me in 2016, but I still did quite a lot. Here is a photo collage of what happened in my life in 2016. In the order of seasons, of course, in line with the title series!


Los Angeles: essentially my first time in Southern California since I lived there after high-school, and I still love it! Spent a few very nice days with my friend Anthony in Venice Beach, doing everything LA, from yoga and hiking, to tacos, acai bowls, and coconut water, and walking for hours along the beach every day. We also barbecued one evening with two of Anthony’s friends – an Italian-American couple whose wedding I attended in Venice my last summer in Italy. So from Venice to Venice Beach – closing the circle, or is the world just weirdly connected? // A visit at NASA: a childhood dream came true when I got to visit one of NASA’s Goddard’s Space Flight Centers in February (hence a rare picture of me here!) Behind me is the James Webb Space Telescope that will be launched in 2018 to replace Hubble. It will be rather compact when it is launched and then unfold itself in space over a period of six months (if I remember correctly) and it will be able to capture events billions of lightyears away. The most exciting part is probably that they expect that, just like Hubble, the James Webb Telescope will capture a lot of things that the developers have not planned for and that we are still not aware of. So fascinating – I can’t wait to see what it picks up once launched! The actual purpose of my visit? To learn more about NASA’s emissions and climate change observations. Almost as fascinating as the telescope and the space conditions testing facilities, and it made me dreaming of one day get to work for the space agency…


Paris tout seul: on my way to La Rochelle for a week’s holiday with friends, I was reached by the message that my dad had passed away. Not unexpectedly, but still a time for reflection. I stayed in Paris for a few days while rearranging my travel plans to go back to Stockholm. // New York: my only visit to the city this year, but with bella Camilla whom I know from my time in Rome! And lots of jazz clubs as her partner, Morten Ankarfeldt is a jazz musician (base player). // Learning: I spent a few evenings and weekends this spring taking a course in Urban Agriculture at the University of the District of Columbia (one of the U.S.’s Land-Grant Universities and with a cross disciplinary College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences, CAUSES). It was a fantastic break from my usual office life! I learned a lot of very practical, non-academic skills, was out in the fields digging and planting, and met people with very different backgrounds from me. My only complaint is that it was too short! // A marathon trip with four countries in less than two weeks: Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi – inspiring meetings with regional organizations and a presentation on agricultural risks in Malawi.


A new job: When I got back from my travels in early June, I saw an add for a very interesting job in Sidney, that would involve work on the Pacific Islands. Perhaps a long shot since it was for a quite highly qualified candidate, but the islands are interesting from a food systems perspective and Sidney is after all the no 1 city to live in according to international rankings, so I thought it would be worth trying. I drafted an application and was just about to submit it when I was offered another position in Washington with focus on the Africa region and more broadly on food and agriculture. It took another four months for the move to happen in practice, but if I would have gotten the offer a few weeks later, I might have celebrated the New Year in Sidney instead. Someone said that it seemed to be meant for me to stay in DC a little longer. I guess only time will tell! (The pic is from flying over Ethiopia’s agricultural landscape on one of my trips to Africa.) // Greece: 10 days of bliss on the gorgeous island Santorini! Perfect weather, fantastic food, and lovely people. I give it *****! // Break in Stockholm over the summer, enjoying the beautiful city, the company of friends, and Swedish fika (coffee, tea, or lemonade with snack). And of course my new kitchen in my little apartment that I mentioned in a post here (although I still need a kitchen table…) //  Copenhagen: quick stop on my way back to DC, visiting Camilla and Morten, and their little baby.


Uganda: possibly the country that gave me most awww this year! Buzzing, quickly adopting new technology, and with interesting art and culture here and there, Kampala definitely a cool place to visit. In my case, no less than twice in the fall. I haven’t been outside the capital yet, but I got to see Lake Victoria for the first time in my life and it is stunning! // Country no 50: The last new country that I went to this year was Sudan, which was also the 50th country that I’ve traveled to. I spent most of my time in the capital Khartoum but went into the rural areas for two days together with Government representatives, talking to farming and fishing communities. I also saw the Nile for the first time – incredibly impressive!  // Moves: I only moved 10 blocks and yet changed neighborhoods completely, from a beautiful but rather quiet area from which I could see the White House on a clear day, to a buzzing and quickly transforming part of North West DC that Washington Post named The District’s Best Dining Neighborhood of 2016.  I also moved into a new office in another building right across the street from where I used to sit. // Leisure: last but not least, I visited museums and and went performances (including St Petersburg’s incredible Mariinsky Ballet at DC’s Kennedy Center), and kept up with my art, with piano and singing lessons, ballet classes, and painting. Am I improving in any of these fields? Maybe a little, but I mostly do it just for fun and wellbeing!

In conclusion, I am ready to leave this year behind me! For those of you who wants to see more pics from this past year, check out my gallery on Instagram, @asagiertz

Summer Time in Washington DC

So my past posts have hopefully made it more obvious why I’ve fallen behind on blogging these past months. When I came back to DC after 3.5 weeks on three continents, it was already summer – my favorite season! In Washington, that means lots of ice coffee at outdoor cafés, Friday Jazz in the Sculpture Garden, Screen on the Green (outdoor cinema), people doing yoga in the parks, and of course peach and berry season at the farmers markets!

Farmers Market Dupont Circle

Farmers Market Dupont Circle

Farmers Market Dupont Circle

Peaches Farmers Market Dupont Circle

Apricots Farmers Market Dupont Circle

Farmers Market Silver Spring

I love apricot marmelade on toasts and for the first time ever, I made my own this year – a taste of summer for the winter season! The pics are from our farmers’ markets in Dupont Circle, DC (Sundays) and Silver Spring, MD (Saturdays),  but there are many more in the Washington area.  

Stop No 6: Stockholm

On my way back to DC, I did another quick stop in Stockholm. I still have my old apparent there, which I got right after university, and it’s so small so it has barely had a functional kitchen. And what room in a home is more important, especially for someone working in the food sector?? So I decided, long overdue, to put in a new kitchen and I passed by Stockholm to make the last arrangements. Admittedly, there will still not be a room for the kitchen as the apartment is a studio, but at least I will have a place with proper room for cooking and baking and somewhere to keep my pots and pans, which until now have been stored in my closet when not in use. Or the entire apartment will be transformed into a kitchen depending on how you see it…

Stockholm was lovely, as always, although I got sick before leaving Almaty on my way back from Dushanbe (probably the result of eight flights and five cities in less than a week), so I didn’t do much else than fixing with my apartment. But I still had time to see a dew friends and neighbors, which was nice!

Vikingagatan Stockholm Apartment

Vikingagatan Stockholm innegård

In my apartment (I got a rose on the flight from Almaty) and at our courtyard, with my neighbor on his new balcony. 

Coming Back to Tourist Season in Washington DC

Coming back to Washington, I barely had time to unpack before it was time to take out my suitcase again. This time, I had six countries on the itinerary. It could have been seven but I ended up spending my 12+ hour stop-over in Frankfurt sitting working in a lounge. So no stop at the lovely food market at Konstablerwache this time, which I did last time I had this connection. Instead, the same evening I was on a flight to my first stop, Johannesburg, were I was to organize a training in agricultural risk management.

The White House Washington DC

Lafayette Park Washington DC

When I arrived in Washington DC, the tourist season had started and on Pennsylvania Avenue, foreign travelers and American weekenders took turn with school classes to get selfies in front of the White House, while we Washingtonians tried to continue our daily routines. I pass here almost once a day when in DC, sometimes more, and on weekends I’m that runner that get in the way for the tourists’ pics of the monuments. I guess it’s part of the charm of living here…

Celebrating Spring in Stockholm

After my trip to stunning Scotland and the breathtaking Hebrides in early April (one of my most memorable trips ever), work started picking up. Several trips were coming up with preparation and presentations to go with. Little before my upcoming birthday in late April, I all of a sudden got extremely homesick and decided to go to Stockholm for a week. Fortunately, I could work from home, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go with everything that was going on. But this worked out perfectly and I celebrated my birthday with my childhood friend Jonas, and also got to celebrate Valborgsmässoafton five days later – one of my favorite holidays at which we celebrate springtime with communal bonfires and traditional songs. A lovely week with lots of work but also plenty of time to catch up with friends in the evenings!


Bellman Statue

Ulla Winbladh Restaurant

Hasselbacken Restaurant Stockholm

Hasselbacken Restaurant Stockholm

Hammarby Sjöstad Stockholm

For my birthday, Jonas and I had a drink at restaurant Ulla Winbladh and then dinner at Hasselbacken, both on the island Djurgården in central Stockholm. And I had my favorite dessert – crème brulée! And outside the restaurant sat on of my favorite composer, Swedish 18th century songwriter Carl Michael Bellman

Although it’s my hometown, I think I’m not alone in ranking Stockholm as one of the top travel destinations for a city weekend. Restaurants, cafes, and bars are frankly better than most places, and there is an immense diversity depending on what you’re up for. There is plenty of history, art, and culture (classic and contemporary), and the city itself is incredibly beautiful, situated perfectly on some 10 islands and fairly equally divided between water, parks, and neighborhoods. So I can truly recommend a visit, and also to see some of the areas outside the inner city borders. Like Hammarby Sjöstad above.

Happy Weekend! 

With Cherry Blossom Season peaking this weekend, my colleague and I went for a walk today down by the Jefferson memorial. It’s so beautiful with all the trees in full bloom! What else am I doing this weekend? Prepping a presentation on agribusiness that I will hold for class at GW on Wednesday, catching up on some other work, and planning my summer vacation with Jonas. AND enjoying the fact that spring is finally here, which hopefully means some new produce at the farmers’ market! Happy weekend!   


Travel Plans for 2015

When I wrote my 2014 recap, I was thinking of what I could expect from 2015. Admittedly, I don’t think 2015 will bring any life altering changes for me and I don’t have any major new projects that I plan to undertake. However, I already have several exciting trips planned that I look forward to very much.  As I wrote in my previous post, I am shortly taking off for two weeks of work in Rwanda. Since I work in agriculture and often go out in rural areas to talk to farmers, I tend to see more of a country and the people there during my business trips than most people do during their travels. (I need to point this out because I’ve realized that when some people hear the word business trip, they think I spend my time in stuffy airport hotels and windowless meeting rooms, which is almost the opposite of what my work-related travel looks like.) Immediately after my trip to Rwanda, I’m going to the Scottish Hebrides and Edinburgh with my friend Andreas for a week. It’s a trip that has been in the planning for almost five years, so it’s about time! Later this spring, I have work trips planned for South Africa, Malawi, and possibly Central Asia, and I’m hoping to make it to Stockholm at some point and also to go and visit my friend A in Los Angeles. Summer is still open but I have some ideas, including going up to New York at some point and maybe seeing Montreal. And then in September I will likely participate in a conference in London. So without any major events in the outlook for 2015, I will definitely get to see a lot of interesting places and meet many new people. 

  Map from 

Three days in Rwanda

I’m just on what might be my shortest work-related trip ever: I just spent three and a half day in Rwanda to present our work on agricultural risks for the launch of a joint report. It was a good event and there was a lot of interest in the topic of agriculture and risks, so I’m really glad I went (you can read some of the things the Rwanda New Times wrote about it here and here). It was fun also because two old acquaintances from Moldova (one of whom I worked with) saw my name on the invitation that went out for the launch event, and contacted me contacted me. The “development sector” (for the lack of a better word) is such a small world in a way, and it’s not the first time I cross paths with people on different continents and in different organizations. The visit was really short, though, and I barely had time to see anything other than the office and my hotel, but fortunately, I’m going back in a few weeks. Here is a photo that I snapped in the car on the way to the airport – streetlife in Kigali: