“A Semi-Open Letter to My Boss,” or, “What Haters Will Call a Feminist Rant”

Dear Mr. Boss,

Let me open my letter by asserting that I have appreciated your reliable support and kindhearted mentorship over the last few months. I thank you for challenging the boundaries of my comfort zone, and trusting in my decision making in a field that is, in most ways, very new to me. Navigating the turbulent tides of a social enterprise start up in Kenya can be tricky; thoughtful management is a principal key to success for our staff and our business.

Disappointingly, Mr. Boss, your actions as a manager are not always thoughtful, which is why I am writing. I fear that by maintaining the sunny disposition that I am prone to as an eager-to-please young professional, I serve to perpetuate a system that values men above women by the virtue that they are men. I’m not down with that.

I am inspired to write because of an offhand comment that you made during one of our twice-weekly phone chats last week. You mentioned that you’d be happy to visit the coast – my geographic domain as Regional Sales Manager – to see how our efforts are faring and participate in one of our sales events. You then added, evidently to seem supportive and encouraging, that if I am to encounter any deals “too hard to close” on my own, that I should feel welcome to call upon you, “a mzungu1 man,” to help me get the job done.

I do not seek to delve into the racial implications of your offer in this letter. The racial context in which you and I work is relatively unique, and I don’t have a good enough grasp on the complicated racial hierarchy of urban Kenya to speak confidently or articulately of our (inarguably privileged) place as white people.

Since “mzungu” is an attribute that we share – we are both white outsiders from the tri-state area working in East Africa – let’s focus on the “man” element of the business expertise that you so valiantly offered to lend to me in the face of a tough sale.

I feel comfortable admitting that there are factors beyond our control that I believe to be at play:

  • Sexism in sales, as in almost every profession under the sun, is prevalent, and comes in many forms. You wish to combat this unfortunate trend by helping out a female colleague.
  • Your offers are well intended, and you hope that I thrive at work, both for my own professional development as well as the success of the company.
  • Being born a man in modern America, you’ve been granted a special brand of self-esteem akin to a superpower, which you believe able to make the impossible possible.

But, I fear that you are overlooking a number of less obvious, but equally important factors concurrently at play:

  • I work tirelessly and consciously, each and every day, to overcome systemic sexism in the workplace, whether that means “keeping up with the boys” in the office and in sales meetings, or dealing with endless bullshit like this:


  • You won’t help me or the company succeed if you run to my aid at the first sign of adversity. Instead, you will stifle my capacity to solve problems and think on my feet, and limit your time for important work beyond my pay grade because you’ll be spending too much time professionally-Supermanning your professional-Lois Lane.
  • Being born a woman in modern America, I’ve been granted a special brand of determination, akin to stubbornness, to succeed by my own merit in a world that tells me that I shouldn’t be able or allowed to do so.

Mr. Boss, I know you are only trying to be helpful, but you are a cog in a destructive machine. I will not fuel your machine.


Ms. Anna Hess

Regional Sales Manager; Bullshit Refuter

  1. mzungu: foreigner; usually used to describe white people in Kenya

So the Oscars Just Happened

Remember when I said I would review all the Oscar-nominated films for you? I forgot, I apologize. But that’s not to say I didn’t watch them, so I won’t do you the disservice of failing to complete my mission even though the Oscars have already happened. So today I present to you a piece I like to call: An Honest Review of the Oscars and One Film to Watch and One You Should Probably Avoid.

An Honest Review of the Oscars and One Film to Watch and One You Should Probably Avoid

Here’s what happened. Stop me if I start to sound like the Skimm, because if that happens I’ve officially turned into a biddy, instead of being the normal human lady that I am who pretends she doesn’t read the Skimm.

For the first time ever I was not a fan of the Oscars. I watched the entirety of the red carpet dress-analysis, about which Chris Rock made a pretty good funny in his too loud, too racy (pun completely intended)  monologue that you can go without watching. Not that I expect TV personalities to have perfect grammar, but at least have your facts straight and don’t: mistake film director/writer Nick Hornby for Saoirse Ronan’s dad, call the Oscar-nominated film The Room instead of just Room, ask questions without listening to the answers, and finally show every single black person who attended the event to pretend that there is indeed #diversity.

As usual, the damn thing dragged on till 12:30am, after hours and hours of hearing Mad Max win too many awards, when we finally got to see Leo look all smug and then pretend that he’s more excited about the environment and indigenous people than he is about the little gold trophy in his hand. And so now appropriately at this point in my rant I present you with:

The Movie You Should Probably Avoid

If you’re thinking, like I once did, that you have a duty to watch The Revenant because Leo won his first Oscar acting in it, you’re wrong. This is such a specific movie, created for such a specific viewer, so please do yourself the favor and don’t waste your time unless you find you are this viewer. This was one of the most horrific movies to watch. There is blood, gore, murder, rape, horrifically graphic scenes AND sounds, and it goes on for 3 hours. I think I watched the whole thing with my hands partially over my eyes.

Sure, Leo did a good job, but the whole movie is essentially watching him getting beaten up. First he gets mauled by a bear, then he gets abandoned, then he watches his son get killed in front of him—the list goes on and on. At one point he is so down on his luck that his horse dies, he slices it open, pulls out the guts and stomach, and then climbs inside to sleep to escape the cold. I feel like at this point, Aggie and I were just shouting JUST GIVE HIM THE DAMN OSCAR AND MAKE IT STOP at the screen. For the whole first chunk of the movie Leo can’t walk post the whole being-mauled-by-a-bear incident, so he drags himself along on his elbows while foaming at the mouth, which resembled all too closely Leo’s scene in Wolf of Wall Street, in which he also drags himself by his elbows and foams at the mouth, but because he has taken too many horse tranquilizers.

The only redeeming quality of this movie is the scenery and cinematography. It’s beautifully shot on a spectacular landscape and it really is a work of art when there’s no blood going on, but to me it wasn’t worth these few minutes of beauty. Skip it.

One Film to Watch

Room. I just watched it after witnessing Brie Larson win her first Oscar for her role as Joy, or “Ma” and falling in love with her. This story is heart-wrenching: it’s about a 17 year-old girl who is kidnapped and trapped in a garden shed, where she is kept for 7 years, during which she is continually raped, abused, and is finally impregnated by her captor. The film begins 5 years after her child is born and it’s the story of the world she has created for him in this little room and how they get out.

I know it doesn’t sound any more “fun” than The Revenant, but it is because Brie Larson is a goddess. It’s heart-wrenching and imaginative and emotional and complex in so many ways and I was so immersed in this story that even though it was tragic and also hard to watch, I became a part of it. I don’t want to say any more, because I don’t want to ruin the experience for you, but definitely worth the $5.99 I (Aggie) paid on iTunes.

The PVBs and Me: A Guide

It’s Tuesday morning, and I find myself staring directly in the ugly face of an emotional phenomenon that professionals of all creed and color are bound to face during the span of a career: the Post-Vacation Blues (PVBs).

Sitting under fluorescent office lights after a dreamlike Kenyan safari holiday with my dad, step mom, sister, and soon-to-be brother-in-law inspires a certain, very particular brand of self-pity. Ridiculous and entitled negative thoughts fight for room in my stream of consciousness. My real life sucks! Happiness is only real when shared, at a hotel pool, with gin and tonics in hand! Work is a prison, and I’m fit for a jailbreak!

As I try to drown out the external sounds of factory machinery and the internal sounds of my woes with my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, I wonder to myself: is there a better way? Can the collective we defeat the PVBs? Is misery inevitable? Will I ever be happy again?

In keeping with the Vacationland theme, I’ve created a beginners’ Guide to Overcoming the Post-Vacation Slump using collated research from relevant clinical studies and statistically significant psychological data. See below.

Step 1: Snapback to Reality

It’s important to remember that vacations are special, and shouldn’t be all-the-time-real-life. If they were, we would all be eternally fat, sunburnt, tipsy and poor. In order to maintain optimal fitness, dermal health, liver function and finances, ease gently back into your normal routine. Make achievable, realistic to-do lists for both work and personal items. Sample:

  • Log sales data
  • Approach grotesque pile of laundry in corner of room
  • Answer emails
  • Limit gazing longingly at vacation pictures to >60 minutes per day
  • 2pm meeting
  • Eat normal meals at normal times
  • Revise project proposal
  • Watch latest Broad City episode
  • Buy ice cream for unscheduled emotional eating
  • Etc.

The sooner you dive into your every day schedule, the sooner you’ll re-realize that your life, in fact, does not totally blow.

Step 2: Don’t be an Asshole

The PVB experience is a very distinct and singular one. It’s hard to sympathize with a PVBer* when you yourself have not been on vacation recently. Your coworkers, who presumably did not join you on your ~unreal~ getaway, won’t recognize that you’re only being a total doucher because uhhh helloooooo, you just had the best week of your life and now your job makes you want to pierce your eyeballs with a salad fork. They will simply think you are a bad person.

Be kind to others. Their reciprocity may help you out of your selfish pit of anguish.

*One suffering from PVBs

Step 3: Plan Fun 

Put something on the calendar that you can look forward to. All rote office life and no weekend plans makes Anna a glum gal.

While you’re up to planning fun shit, go ahead and think about your next trip too. Even if your schedule/budget doesn’t allow it to happen for a while, start thinking about what kind of trip would make you happy, excited, enlightened or relaxed.

It’s crucial to remember that you are, and will continue to be, an interesting person that does interesting things, even if at the current juncture you are just another cog in the in Kenyan clean cookstove industrial complex.

Step 4: Gratuitous Gratitude

Above all else, take a moment or five to remember how #blessed you are. You went on a dream vacation! That’s great. You spent time with people that you love and that love you! Even better. You have a job to return to, and plans to look forward to! What’s better than that? Your life rocks hard, take stock of the good stuff.

Step 5: Write a Cathartic Blog Post About Your Feelings

Couldn’t hurt…

Happy days and happy travels!

With love,

Lil’ Anna in the big savannah



Greetings from Byumba, Rwanda!

I hope this post finds you well in New York, DC, Portland and of course a special shout out to Nairobi (what up Anna Hess?)…

Anywhoo,  I’ve just finished week one of six in Byumba, Rwanda, a small town about an hour and a half outside of Kigali. It’s pretty sleepy here so I’ve been spending my time listening to the entire Harry Potter series on tape and laboring over an adult coloring book…see my beautiful rainbow hedgehog below.


I’m in Rwanda interviewing refugees for resettlement to the United States. This group of refugees fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have experienced some pretty dark stuff. I would like to take a moment to thank you all for never persecuting me, burning my house down or killing any of my family members. It’s a nice reminder that there are wonderful people out there in the world! On a positive note, Rwanda is a beautiful and unbelievably clean country. Kigame, the Rwandan President, mandates nation-wide days for cleaning up trash and litter. Sounds a little micromanage-y, but it’s not an all-together horrible idea (especially if you’ve seen the streets of Nairobi).

As I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands I thought I would share a couple of links that I have found interesting/ amusing over the last week. The first is an article written about including women in the workforce by the CEO of Safaricom (a Nairobi based telecommunications company). The second is a clip I’m sure you’ve all seen, but everyone should see again, of the republican presidential candidates botching their entrance to the last debate.



Cheers to the start of a new week, may it bring you all of the food mentioned in the posts below!


Rayland Baxter

Saw this singer at One Longfellow last night, and I LOVE him. At the concert, I also realized he has a slight Ryan Gosling look, which is never a bad thing…..if you can pardon the creepy ‘stash in these videos. You all must tune in🙂

S is for Saturday and for Salivating

Candide tells us “Il faut cultiver son jardin”.

I take that to mean that we should tend to the things that motivate us in life: food and friends.

To that end, I conducted some original research on how we have used food to brand our friendships via social media outlets over the past four years (and thus meant to post this as a #tbt, and then a #fbf, but both of those days passed me by…. so saturday, here we go)



Data presented in this paper comes from social media search engine, Facebook. Author’s friendship posts with each blog contributor (n=10) were examined from 2012-2016 to determine shared recipe count. Recipes were collected if the following were present a) hot cheese  b) chocolate  c) nutella d) chocolate again e) ice cream

Key Findings: 

  1. Life is better (more sexually appealing, better tasting, more enjoyable, with a higher potential for dopamine release) if you have hot cheese, specifically fondue: 
    1. See Pesto Fondue and Garlic Herb Skillet Fondue.
    2. Grilled cheeses can also provide these benefits in your life. Specifically 31 different varieties of them.
    3. If you crave a more classy item, perhaps the butternut squash brie galette will excite your palette.
    4. If this wasn’t enough, prepare to be sexually amazed by hot cheese.
  2. Life is like a box of chocolates, except that you get to eat them all and you get to put them into delicious things like cookies, hot fudge and s’mores. 
    1. In particular, chocolate chip cookies really awaked our social imagination and we felt the need to share  recipes (Minimalist Baker), describe why they are the best, and also how to put chocolate chip cookies into our daily lives.
    2. Perhaps stemming from our twice-weekly dose of sundae bar to cure the Maine chill, hot fudge was also a hot ticket item: both how it could be incorporated into frosting and the intricate process of making hot fudge the centerpiece of a cupcake.
    3. In a similar vein, we expanded our views on brownie diversity. Not only did we expound on the good ole’ regular brownie and sundae brownie, we also ventured into the realm of the extravagant with oreo brownies and salted preztel fudge delights.
    4. We said more to s’mores. A whopping 39 different ways to make em.
  3. Is Nutella enough? Apparently not. 
    1. Evidently it does not suffice to simply lick Nutella from the jar, one must also make nutella pizza and nutella -stuffed churro muffins.
  4. It IS possible to think outside the chocolate cheese box when looking at recipes. 
    1. We did venture out of our chocolate and cheese comfort zones when trolling online! One savory venture (zuchinni cakes) and two sweet (heavenly hash donuts and brown-butter and sugar toasted almonds).

Cheers to eating with people you love. Have a glorious weekend and eat outrageously.


The Job Search

This is my confession: I’m not working so hard these days. I’m transitioning roles within my company, and no one is quite sure what they want to do with me, so I’ve been working a do-anything-and everything-but-also-there’s-not-that-much-for-you-to-do-at-the-current-juncture kind of job. Things have been  s   l   o   w.

Upon learning of my professional predicament, friends, family, coworkers and strangers alike prompt me to think long and hard about “my perfect job.”

“What would you do each day if you had your druthers?”

“What ways can you add value given your skill set?”

“If you could design a role for yourself, what would it look like?”

With my newfound free time, I’ve taken it upon myself to do just that: design my perfect job. Please see job description below.

Talking and Writing Coordinator, Global Issues Program

Here at the Center for Environmentalism, Women’s Empowerment, Public Health and Liberal Arts Buzzwords (CEWEPHLAB), we mobilize resources to solve important problems on community, national and global scales. With programs from New York to Nairobi, we focus on implementing climate friendly, female-centric poverty alleviation innovations that never fail, and attract extensive praise from various renowned industry experts and strategists, as well as political and celebrity personalities from around the world.

Overall Function:

CEWEPHLAB is seeking a young professional with 1-2 years of scattered work experience in intern and fellow positions within the non-profit and social enterprise sectors to support the Talking and Writing Team. Main goals include: maintaining good lively banter (both internal and external), writing and collecting newsletter fodder, and liaising with other department coordinators to encourage healthy and effective organization-wide communication. The TaW Coordinator will work with and answer to the Director of TaW, who at this time it a 28 year old woman who loves to mentor recent to mid-recent college grads, advocates heavily for work life balance, and gossips often about that latest trending Netflix shows (“Just WAIT til you get to episode 4 of Making a Murderer. It was UNREAL,” she can often be found saying throughout the office.).

Office Culture:

We are the kind of organization that has a foosball table and a fridge full of beer. We also have beanbag chairs, and encourage remote working when appropriate. We hire employees from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, so there will almost definitely be someone just like you already working here for you to bond with.

Key responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • Write pieces for the monthly CEWEPHLAB newsletter, which functions like a blog shared between friends, and benefits from creative works as well as purely factual ones.
  • Hold regular team meetings to talk about effecting significant change in the world.
  • Coordinate rotating projects. Since you’ll be working in different fields all the time, you will never get bored, and you will be constantly intellectually stimulated.
  • Write kind and personal letters to donors. Maintain relationships with them and take the cool ones out to dinner on the company’s dime.
  • Attend conferences and workshops designed to unite the sector and disseminate new ideas.
  • Get to know your coworkers. Become best friends that still have vibrant social lives outside the office.


  • Bachelor’s degree in environmental policy from a small liberal arts college in Maine
  • At least 1 year of work experience at 3 fellowships at 3 different organizations in both the US and abroad
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Demonstrated ability to take the full hour for lunch. Breaks are important to keep a nimble mind!
  • Proficiency with social media tools including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, but excluding Google+; basic, millennial understanding of Microsoft Office a plus
  • Great delegation skills
  • Interest in equality, conservation, and world peace preferred


This position will be located in New York City, with frequent extended travel to our offices in San Francisco, Paris, Nairobi, Cape Town, Bombay, Melbourne, Bangkok, Patagonia, and other relevant geographic locations.


More than commensurate with experience, because this job is based in New York, which is an expensive place. Complete health and savings package included, because we realize that these arenas of the adult world are confusing for you.

To apply:

Give us a call and tell us about yourself. Feel free to email your resume to jobs@cewephlab.com because we know you’ve worked hard on it.

If anyone should come across a position with the above parameters, please email me as soon as possible at annarhess@gmail.com.

Cheers, Vacationland,


wednesday haikus

Today’s theme: Office Etiquette


Elevator Doors In Motion

i’m doin’ well, new day

thanks for asking, angela

how is your divorce


A Bean Is A Bean Is A Bean

boss just called in sick

coffee machine is broken

pants are coming off


A Sense of Place

don’t shit where you eat

be smart, be professional

plus, jerry has AIDS


Narcissism Is Me

i’m taking your job

sorry, there I go again

let’s talk about you

Getting Ready for the Oscars

As a self-proclaimed film buff (which most definitely does not make me a real film buff) I have taken it upon myself to watch as many of the 2016 Oscar nominated films and review them right here for your enjoyment. I know, you’re welcome. Hopefully my reviews will save you the trouble of getting up off your ass and going to the actual movies or at least save you a couple of bucks. If this starts to get annoying please tell me before I continue reviewing all of them. Time is money folks!

-The Chic Working Woman


The Big Short

Nominated for:

Best Picture

Best Director

Best Supporting Actor

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Film Editing

This review probably won’t save you any money, because what I am going to tell you is this: WATCH THIS MOVIE. Maybe I’m totally late, but I know that I didn’t learn what a mortgage was until very recently. So a “subprime mortgage loan”? Forget about it. The Big Short tells the story behind the causes of the 2008 recession, which we all remember happening…which is what makes this film so interesting. Instead of telling this story through a boring documentary (though there probably is one) this movie is catered towards people who don’t know what a subprime mortgage loan is and so they tell you.

What makes the movie is its cast. In addition to its many other nominations, Christian Bale, who plays a socially awkward hedge fund manager who is the first to realize that doom is approaching the US housing market, was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I’ve loved Christian Bale ever since he played Laurie in Little Women and though he’s not as sexy in this role, he’s an amazing actor and so convincing that you forget he ever was sexy.

Ryan Gosling plays a very Ryan Gosling-y part, but his role is essential and precisely what makes this movie so much fun to watch. Just when you begin to tune out as the cast members use terms like “subprime mortgage” and “collaterized debt obligations”, Gosling turns and faces the camera, acknowledging that it’s starting to get a little confusing. He then introduces an entirely new scene, starring real celebrities playing themselves, who go on to explain these terms to us (the audience) in “real people speak,” such as through Selena Gomez who explains synthetic CDOs over a game of Black Jack and Margot Robbie who explains these pesky subprime mortgage loans while drinking champagne in a bubble bath.


These particular segments are just one of the many effects that make this movie so interesting to watch. The movie plays kind of like a highlight reel as it moves through the years leading up to 2008, flashing clips of music videos, photographs of pop culture icons, and paparazzi photos of the outfits celebrities were wearing at the time, completely submersing the audience into recent American history and to help us truly understand the shady business that was happening on Wall Street during these years.

More importantly it felt entirely relevant watching this movie just one day after hearing Obama say in his State of the Union, “Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis. Recklessness on Wall Street did,” a sentence that made me scream “AMEN” alone in my minivan.

While The Big Short is real and its truth is actually pretty frightening, I think I laughed  out loud the whole time, had fun all the way through, and learned a lot. What more can you ask for?