Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Three Sons (and Mohammad, too...)

the boys are upstairs asleep in bruce and buff's quiet newton home, while i'm down a flight of stairs on monica's computer, as usual when i'm here.

it's about 8 am here on sunday morning. i've been up for two hours already. a bit of jet lag, but also i went to bed before 11
pm, so a reasonable night's sleep, as well. the boys, however, may sleep for a few more hours as they are cumulatively exhausted by school, soccer and the intensity of their lives. if they are homsick, at times, they don't have much time to think
about it...

as i noted the other day, my trip here was also exhausting. i gave the eithad folks my mind a few times, mixing humor, anger and irony, to the delight of the international crowd around me, when the airlines were simply so incompetent in rearranging our travel once they cancelled the direct flight to nyc from abu dhabi after the flight was postponed for hours.. the eithad staff, of course, were trying the best, but they were either poorly trained or badly managed for dealing with such a situation (where 70++ folks are all trying to make new plans without any good guidance from the airlines).

thus, i had one night in abu dhabi (in the hotel lounge that turned out to be a steal at $23 for 16 hours...), then in london on thursday night when we missed our american airlines connection due to more delays in abu dhabi on the runway.

even now, on sunday, i still haven't seen my bag yet. hopefully it'll show up today at bruce's, but i can't be certain, of course. in the end, i finally flew to nyc on british airways (which was quite nice, thank-you), so they are responsible now for finding the bag and sending it to me here. en challah!

then, no surprise, nyc traffic was a bear leaving jfk and getting across the whitestone bridge in the early afternoon. it took 3 hours to drive to new haven with too many cars for the road space -- not to mention all the folks escaping the city for the w/end on a friday afternoon. after getting on 91 north, it only took 2 hours through increasingly open, tranquil and autumnal landscape.

i finally arrived at nmh at 7:30 pm on friday, sixty hours after leaving k'du, long after the classes i'd hoped to attend had ended, but in time to take the boys (joshua, ezra and suraj) w/ mohammad, their close egytian friend, out to dinner for what they affectionately call 'fake thai food' in greenfield.

as any parent will immediately understand, it's so great to be near our sons and their friends again. strange, in some ways, that it feels so natural when we were breathless for weeks in kathmandu w/o them nearby. one good steady hug and reality bites back. in truth, they all look and sound quite good.

no matter our fretting, their kvetching and our fears, all three of them (josh, ezi & suraj) seem in excellent spirits and minds. of course, it doesn't take too long to hear the complaining, which is the human condition for all of us, but i heard almost universal praise about them from their teachers, administrators and the like. not to mention, they seem in good health, physically, emotionally & mentally -- even though they are overworked, over-exercised and all the natural stuff that young students and boys feel when they have to be in the constraints and demands of formal school.

there's much at nmh to admire. not the least the massive construction boom of the past year. the new $10 m arts center is stunning and has begun to define the new mount hermon campus quad. although it is truly a cow pasture on a hill overlooing the connecticut river, what a cow pasture! the views are stunning, esp. in the autumn colors and refreshing liight. there's a joyfulness and studiousness that endows a new england campus setting, as well.

i also really liked all the teachers i met. they seem a wise, stimulating and caring community. a healthy mix of old and new, americans and internationals. i met with josh & sura's ap env science teacher, ezi's french teacher, josh's classics teacher and suraj's math teacher (a vietnamese immigrant who sees himself in suraj's odyssey to the states). although the boys may have started the term a bit slowly w/ not their desired grades, they all seem to have picked up their games in october and are moving toward high Bs in all subjects w/ the possibility of even an A- if they work super hard and concentrate, concentrate, concentrate.

in the afternoon, with a bit of a pre-winter wind coming off the hills, i watched the first half of the jv and second half of the varsity soccer games. unfortunately, neither team won against andover and the varsity season, after such great hopes, is falling apart at 2-6. sad for joshua, especially, but he so loves playing at the varsity level, that no matter what he says about the frustration with this season, there's a deep pride of accomplishment personally in what he has achieved, even if the team is tanking this year.

ez and suraj are playing w/ mo on the JV this year (as josh did last year). the jv team has a very good record this year and a real team spirit, so that's fun for them. because mo's the captain of the jv this year, he and ezi have become very tight which is a delight to see. the egyptian-nepal axis of joy and respect seems well watered by this young tribe for a long-term growth. it's a pleasure to see national and religious barriers so easily overcome far from home in the openness and generosity of youth...

i was also told that there's also a good chance josh wil go to the model un in hong kong in january, after he returns to campus from nepal. i met the woman in charge and she spoke very highly and affectionately about josh's leadership on the mun, as he's the student teacher for the mun students. it's been a great source of pride and interest for joshu, since global affairs and international studies comes so naturally to a son born in thaiand, raised in nepal, who's traveled the world with an american passport.

i also met ezi's new buddy, bill batty, the 70 year nmh english teacher who is ezra's partner in french 3 honors. bill's taing the french course for the pleasure of learning. he's an adorable humanist who absolutely loves movies, literature. life & ezi. he's a wonderfully inspiring man who is an excellent role model for ezi who says 'ezra's like the mayor of nmh; he knows and greets everyone!' not only that. he told me ezi sings songs in french class that he writes himself about nmh! now, can you imagine that?? ;-)

over lunch yesterday in the dining hall, when ezi ran off to watch the man utd game, suraj and i sat and talked. he's in good spirits, although says that the nmh academics are so much more demanding & rigorous than they experienced at lincoln. he described the nmh environment as 'taking some of the most talented people from all over the world and putting them here on one campus'. of course, there are all types of kids here, but it's an insightful perspective that explains the level of demand and achievement among many of the students.

clearly, suraj is very well-liked by the two of his teachers i met and is much more settled here than a month ago. suraj also told me (ezi hasn't...) that ezra has decided that he's definitely staying on next year. he said that ezi feels that it woul be hard to return to lincoln after the challenge and growth he's experienced nmh. he's afraid he'd be unhappy personally at lincoln after the stimulus and demands of nmh. he's doesn't think it would be wise to return after having begun, with so much struggle, his new path here. even if nmh is academically and athletically much tougher than the gentler and more supportive lincoln, it's a challenge that he now finds appealing and rewarding. in this i trust suraj's perspective & thoughts on ezi.

whereas suraj is less certain. he says that he and ezi discuss this all the time and he's more cautious than ezi. partially it's also b/c it's not certain that nmh will fund suraj for a second year, as well as his feeling, that he expressed to me, that once he starts college he won't be going back to nepal for a long time (forever?), so he thinks doing his senior year there, with his family and among old friends, even if the academics is less challenging, would be an important year for him. of course, that's also motivated by the fact that he doubts that he will be able to afford to go back this summer if he stays on, which makes
him more homesick since ezi & josh are even coming at the new year's break. although i told suraj that, if nmh offers him a second year, there may be a way for his family to bring him back in the summer or he could find work in nepal to help
subidize that cost...

while joshua is busy filling out college applications this weekend. for him, he can see the end of his two years at nmh almost in sight. he's ready to move on, he says. ready to be free of the strict rules and requirements that a boarding school impose. he's 18 years old now and wants to begin the next stage of his almot adult life. nmh has given him so much, but it's time to get himself closer to a city with all the opportunities and simuli that the modern urban universe offers. closer, as well, to himself and the image he is still creating of the young man he is busy becoming...

three sons. three young men. three lives. for the moment, all sharing their world in western massachusetts, stimulated, challenged, possibly even inspired. all a bit homesick and eager to escape for this long weekend with dad as their charioteer.

for me, the joys of fatherhood are endless, enriching and profound. i am so happy to be among them, again.

so, after a full day's journey, with mohammed with us to meet his sister in boston, we drove the increasingly familiar route 2 express to bruce's last night about 9 pm. once again, bruce and buff are great hosts for us from the 'far abroad'. it feels so good to be able to have an extended family home to come back to when the boys leave the campus and i come to america.

with the way the stock market has been dancing these past weeks, it's doubtful that we'll be purchasing our own here anytime soon....

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