Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Obama Time means to me

I have been struggling with the appropriate means to express what I feel about Obama’s ascension to the presidency. It’s something that has been on my mind since November, more so in the last few days. And I think that after extensive reflection my malaise is a result of two factors:

First, I’m brought back to the days after 9/11. Like many Americans I felt both helpless and motivated by the tragedy. I wanted to do something, I wanted to serve my country, probably for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, short of joining up with the Army, there just wasn’t that much that I could do. And, with the Bush administration, that feeling of service got drained away with each subsequent misstep and the eventual prosecution of his radical neo-con agenda.

But it is important to note that my post 9/11 reaction was a strong motivation if not deciding factor in my decision to get an MA in International Relations instead of going to law school. (For the record, prior to 9/11, I had a general feeling that I would go to law school, I took the LSAT, and considered my options.) Frustrated by what I saw as extremely high entry barriers in DC (gotta know the right people to get anywhere, and it simply isn´t possible to take a pay nothing job or internship when you have student loans) I concluded that higher education would serve me better than continued toil. Plus, studying in London was something I had always wanted to do and sounded like a pretty good idea (which it undoubtedly was).

So I packed up and shipped out and reestablished myself abroad, got a master’s degree, mixed with the world, met someone special, and eventually decided to move to Colombia. That also seemed like a good move for a variety of reasons both professional and personal. But I can’t say I was ever excited about the prospect of working in Colombia. Really, I was never particularly interested in Latin America and although that has changed to some extent, I still feel somewhat blocked by language and culture and, to be totally honest, disinterest in the microcosm of the developing world.

The second conclusion is directly related to the first. Now that Obama is running things I feel an intense desire to return to the US and get to work at maturing our nation. I really got what Obama said yesterday when he mentioned that we were a young nation. It resonated with me. As a young nation we responded to challenge like an adolescent would, with overreaction, frustration, and violence and, importantly, we can do better.

I now find myself living in a wonderful country, a country I truly enjoy in my leisure time, but also a country which simply can not offer me what I need professionally. I need to go back. I need to find my way to contribute to the development of my nation. And as much as I respect those that dedicate themselves to the development of poorer, needier nations, that’s not the path for me. I can see that now, more clearly than ever.

This, of course, complicates things. We are not ready to leave and I have nothing to go to. I have ideas, hopes, and dreams of things that I want to do. But I can’t very well pay the bills on hopes and dreams alone and soon, I’m guessing, the bills will get bigger as two will become three. Nor can I very well justify sitting around the house writing, reading, or whatever without specific direction.

I should add that this is a particularly more relevant and pressing concern as my job situation has gone from bad to worse. An explanation will have to follow in a separate post but it’s sufficient to say for now that not only am I not getting paid with any frequency, I’m also not really doing anything that would help further my professional development.

So, here I sit, on Day 1 of Obama’s presidency, inspired by his example, encouraged by possibility, overflowing with ideas. I am doing my best to access these emotions appropriately while I slog through the day-to-day of part time work and job searching. And I am hopeful that my efforts will not be in vain. If there is a final message that I take from Obama it’s this: with hard work, all things are possible.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Proud again

I'm more proud of my country today than at any time in the last 8 years if not my entire life. Now, to work.

A new dawn

I'm not alone in thinking that this election mattered more than any other in my lifetime. It's not just that Barack Obama more closely represents my personal politics than any other previous president, it's not just that he's a thoughtful, rational, and pragmatic person who will make an excellent govenor no matter your politics, it's not just what he represents to minorities and immigrants, it's that he's replacing the worst president in the history of the United States.

Think about that for a second. We've had some bad ones. Most of the bad ones pre-20th century are hardly remembered. And for the last 30 years or so the standard for defining a bad president was Richard Nixon. To be so bad as to vastly exceed Nixon's failures is to truly achieve to great badness. And to Bush's credit, he pulled off the task with as much excellence as any proud father could hope for.

(Note to self: When telling my kids they can be anything they want to be as long as they are excellent at what they choose, be sure to tell them the story of George Bush II and the ruin of the American empire.)

So today, as TV reporters both local and (inter)national struggle to find poignant words, needlessly point out that Michele and Barack Obama are walking into a church, and desperately try to maintain objectivity, I'll be doing something else. Yes, I'll be watching. I'm not going to work, I'm not going to do anything else. But I won't be looking for steroids infused poignance or smart, snappy words that put the turnover into context. No, I'll just be sighing in relief. Relief that it's over. Relief that we have a new president that will work his hide off trying to right the ship and redirect our country toward the future. And relief that that son of a bitch Bush didn't suspend the constitution and appoint himself President for Life like some Hugo Chavez wanna be.

I'll also be hoping. I'll be hoping that Obama makes it out of there today alive (seriously). I'll be hoping that Obama is just as savvy as I think he is. I'll be hoping that America will be converted into a place where I want to live again and where I would want to raise my children. And I'll be hoping that I can find my way back and a place where I can contribute in my own way to a more progressive, Euro-style America that reflects our values of kindness, charity, good will to others both at home and abroad, all of which would help restore America as a shining example to the world of how democracy, freedom, and humanity can manifest in something truly good.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Picks

I was going to write a much longer post with my picks for Championship weekend but somehow I'm out of time. So this will have to do. As an aside, I really should have done this from the start of the playoffs as I've been fairly accurate (I was utterly convinced that Carolina -10 was absurd last week). At any rate, the picks.

Ravens (+6) over Steelers

I was really leaning towards the Ravens winning outright, if for no other reason than because it's extremely difficult to beat a good team 3 times in the NFL and the Steelers were exceedingly lucky to beat the Ravens twice. But then I started to hear a bit about Baltimore's injury situation and that, combined with a relatively healthy Steelers teams suggests that Baltimore just doesn't have the horses to get to the Super Bowl.

That being said, the Steelers won the first two games 23-20 and 13-9, that's to say, by an average of 3.5 points. So I don't see how they're covering this one. Final score: 16-13 Steelers.

Cardinals (+4) over Eagles

Arizona has had the perfect storm in these playoffs and it continues today. At home versus Arizona, on the road against a Carolina team that they should have beaten in September and with weather more resembling September than January, and now at home versus the Eagles. It would not have been possible for the Cards to advance this far had they started on the road or had they had to play in NY last week for the simple reason that this team does not play well in bad weather.

Now, however, they're playing in a dome, with friskiness and confidence on both sides of the ball, against an Eagles team that is fundamentally the exact same team that lost to the Redskins 10-3 back in week 16. The Eagles too, have had the perfect storm. On the road against Tavaris Jackson (a gift that they almost didn't capitalize on - had it not been for a 70 screen pass TD...) and then on the road against a very pedestrian Eli Manning (who, I might add, has been extremely pedestrian for the majority of his career, except that after last season's Super Bowl run, most people decided to forget that fact and just ignore that he's a terribly inaccurate QB who just wilts when there is any hint of wind).

So I'm not buying that this Eagles team is any good. In fact, I think the NFC Championship teams are probably the weakest two potential Super Bowl teams in recent memory and the winner will surely be dismantled in two weeks by their betters.

At any rate, I think the Cards shut down the run and force the Eagles to pass like 70% of the time (which is kind of like forcing a glutton to the dinner table) and McNabb throws at least one critical INT. On the other side of the ball, I don't see the Iggles stopping Fitzgerald/Boldin.

Bottom line, if the Eagles want to win, they got to put up more than 20 and I don't see that happening. Not with an anemic, one-dimensional offense. Of course, I would have said the same thing last week and looking at their 3-game run makes me wonder what kind of deal Andy Reid struck with the devil after the Redskins game. But no matter, I'll stick with God and Puppies over deals with the Devil.

Cardinals 27-Eagles 20

(And yes, it's utterly galling that the Redskins are 3-0 against the NFC finalists and don't have the opportunity to be come the NFC's sacrificial lamb.)


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back from Santa Marta

We returned to Bogota late Saturday night after a delightful little week in Santa Marta. It's a bit off the beaten path in terms of tourism, but Santa Marta is definitely worth a trip. While it lacks the glorious historical achitecture of Cartagena, the city makes up for with its calm, its tranquility, and its ease. For us, it was exactly what we needed.

We traveled with the Grandparents, in fact, we paid their way. It was a nice thing to do, a sort of thank you for the many things they have done for the wifecita over the years. But, traveling with the Grandparents isn't always the easiest thing to do. I may not have mentioned it in this space before, but Grandfather has Alzheimers. He is in an intermediate stage, not terribly grave, but significant that one notices. Grandmother was paranoid that he was going to be uncomfortable traveling to a new environment since he tends to forget where he is at times. Fortunately, it was a fear that needn't have concerned anyone. Grandfather was quite comfortable, although, over the course of the week he probably asked where we were ten times a day.

Of course, Grandfather was doing so well that Grandmother stubbornly decided to not give him his night medicine, a clear liquid that helps with memory. So, one night we were sitting in their hotel room having a chat and Grandfather stood up and just left the room without a word. This was disconcerting. We quickly chased him down and this was when I saw the truth of Alzheimer's on his face. He had no idea where he was. He only knew that he was hungry. And that must have been terrifying. It was a brief vision into the future, a future that is not terribly far away. Fortunately, after administrating the medicine he seemed to calm down. And he was great the rest of the week.

Santa Marta is not the typical caribbean city. Due to its unique geographic position, wedged between the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, there is a near constant breeze that manages the heat, making the climate delightful. The water is much the same. Snow from the Sierra Nevada melts, forming rivers and underground streams that flow to the sea. Thus, the ocean is much colder than one would expect. When we went scuba diving we had to use wetsuits for otherwise we would have frozen and been quite uncomfortable. Of course, scuba diving in Santa Marta is a bit more challenging than in Cartagena. Not only is the water a good bit colder but the current is a good bit stronger so much so than an inexperienced diver will spend more time fighting to maintain position or follow the leader than seeing the wildlife of flora and fauna that populate the ocean floor.

We didn't want to return, truth be told. Coming back to the cold, dreary climate in Bogota was depressing. Of course, this is where the life is, so this is where we are. But we have Santa Marta in mind. It is the kind of place one goes to relax and as such would be perfect for retirement. Maybe someday we shall find ourselves there more permanently.


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