Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aegypt Changes while our Family Moves, too

last night, we were watching egypt continue to change before us. whoosh! we have al-jeezera news (when we have electricity...) which has been capturing this remarkable, historic transforation moment by moment over the past week+. amazing!

i haven't observed a people's movement quite like this slnce iran in 1978-79, when i was travelling from turkey to pakistan across the 'islamic republic of iran' in the spring of that year en route to nepal.

altho the people on the streets also reminds me of the first people's 'andolan' (movement) in our petite nepal during the spring of 1990 when king birendra's government ('His Majesty's Government') lined machine guns across durbar marg in front of the annapurna hotel with small baby tanks facing the tens of thousands of protesters heading north to the palace from tundikhel. that, in itself, is a different story worth telling another time -- but, as i said to shaku last night, "egypt is a 'real' country, key to the whole middle east."

no doubt the israelis are nervous, as the last thing they want is another hamas/hezbollah on their southern border -- but egypt, as we know, is quite different and this people's movement seems almost uniquely secular, professional, unrevengeful and patient, as the story unfolds this week. their branch of the muslim brotherhood seems to be more egyptian than radical islamic, if that makes sense, and that deep, rich egyptian cultural pride less religiously-defined than uniquely social and historic.

one hopes that, rather than a new, unneeded threat to the stabiity and maturity of the always mercurial and uncertain middle east, this unfolding transformation of one of the true pillars of the arab world and, alas, tarnished lamp of the non-aligned independence movement may once again provide a balanced, nuanced and progressive secular leadership for an unsettled, ambiguous and too-often dialectical political world...

when reflecting on the lasting conflicts and deep history of that rich nile civilization, i think of amitav ghosh's brilliant book on egypt, 'in an ancient land'...

nonetheless, it's still always absorbing to see history move in front of one's eyes in the modern interconnected world... so much of social change occurs in modest, immutable, unseen steps, then -- whoosh! -- there is there is this sudden outpouring of mass human emotion and deep unfulfilled needs capturing a particular moment in the ceaseless current of life.

mercurial, elusive, restless, eager, frothing, dangerous, ineluctable... such are the rapids and then eddies of human history. we have been fortunate to witness many in our few decades here with each other, but the story remains restless and resilient, the current flows...

as for our own little novella in the sweep of a world of biblical proportions, shakun, leah, the boyz, me... we are busy and well.

josh had a great relaxing visit in nepal over his new year holiday from the pressures of georgetown, studies and cultural adjustment in america. he's been posting his wonderful, insightful january chitwan trip photos on FB. it's impressive to see his creativity and joy through those varied images. josh is getting a lot of deserved respect from his friends (and dad...) for the remarkable photos. as we know, it's good to have an artistic, creative outlet in one's life with our other professional and emotional bonds.

josh landed on his feet back in dc a couple weeks ago with aunt bagie picking him up at rainy the dulles airport after another, long, wearying etihad trip via k'du-delhi-abu dhabi-nyc-dc. he seems excited by his courses this term on politics, hinduis and economics. he's definitely decided to apply to SOAS (the school of oriental and african studies in london) for his junior year. the other day on a skype call he was telling me about the courses he could take next year. an amazing array of courses specifically on south asia and global politics. seems all is good after last term's turmoil. great!

ezi, as usual, seems copacetic on his ranch, accepting the physical limitations of his intellectual commune. he's still the sr. milk boy but, hopefully, that 4 am work job should change after his late-february spring break. it's a very demanding job combined with the heavy reading load that he's had for his courses. he's taking three classes this term, politics post-mao, islands and sonnets: a great diverse collection. must be fun reading!

ez has his spring break later in februray and plans to go to visit NMH and Lincoln School friends in LA, the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle. i'm sure ez is a bit restless after such a long hibernation at DSC since he first went to the desert last june and since october when we went east together, since he stayed on 'campus' over the winter break. he's now saying that he'll be home in may or june for a month+, which delights us to no end, as you can imagine!

fortunately, the kathmandu weather is definitely turning. sarswati puja is this week, another herald of spring time. maybe not as quick as i'd wish, as i still have shaku's pashmina topi on my head and pashmina scarf around my neck, but the evenings haven't been as brutal as they were in january. kathmandu nights without central heating is near-arctic inside our homes. we live by our danish stove and the fireplace (unless we retreat to a gas heater in leah's room upstairs.) fortunately, there's a mildness in the air that will continue to get even better as we move deeper into february.

soon we won't be wearing jackets inside at night and we'll even spot some youthful, innocent, petite bamboo shoots in the garden!!

as for my work, the un resident coordinator sent out an email (the modern telegram...) the other day to all the kathmandu embassies yesterday announcing that rohan edrisingha has come as the new int'l program manager of our UNDP constitution support project, with me as the deputy IPM. so i guess i have a (nearly) new job that will be extended after april. we'll see. it's good to have rohan join us. he's an experienced sri lankan constitutional lawyer (berkeley-educated), human rights activist, compassionate, intelligent and thoughtful. i'm sure i can learn a lot from him, his knowledge of politics, constitutional change and his south asian dignity. like nepal, it's not been an easy few decades for sri lanka, as you know.

ok, we've got five girls running around in the backyard. leah invited four of her fourth grade'best friends' over for a sleep-over, moa, esther, priya and anna. they are such lovely and good kids. a global community in their own regard, swedish-austrian, danish, indian-american and icelandic. such is the nature of our lives here...

let me make sure that all is ok back there as they deserve some b'fast at some time.

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