(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisdom is Coming

Amsterdam has been one of my favorite blog writing locations. I'm here frequently and it's often a rare moment where I have time and internet access. I don't have much time but I have a few minutes here in the lounge to briefly mention the past week.

I've been in NY for our regional meetings. It was probably the most helpful of any of my trips to HQ. Very practical in nature and I definitely think that we are all the better for it. The days were full and quite tiring. Most mornings I was out running along the East River, to Central Park and back to the hotel. Evenings were normally spent catching up on things back in Burundi. And so was my routine.

The week began inauspiciously. Monday morning I headed down to the meeting room lobby to greet the many friends and colleagues. I poured my much-needed coffee and went in to the meeting room to have a seat. As I sifted through my folder reviewing our documentation, two colleagues behind me greeted each other with a handshake. How it happened I don't know but the handshake proceeded to also shake the coffee cup in the hand of one of them such that about half the cup went streaming onto my left shoulder and down my back. The scalding, dark brown liquid did a number on both my skin as well as my shirt. Everyone makes mistakes. Could have been me, particularly since I have a long-standing reputation for spilling things. Anyway, I quietly stood up and went up to my room to change. Fortunately the burn was minimal and the shirt cleaned up nicely.

Dinner with Liya
On Thursday night I went to dinner with our friend Liya who now lives in NYC. While I had intended on doing some walking to get to her place way up in Harlem, the cold evening and late start prevented me from doing so. As such I was able to partake of the NY subway. I rarely take the train while in NY since I much prefer to walk – as much as thirty blocks or so if I have the time. This time was different and, in addition to getting me to my destination sooner, the journey reminded me of that world that exists beneath the surface.

I find it interesting that the subway is generally such an emotion-less place in contrast to most other places that contain masses of people. Few people make eye contact and there is not a great deal of conversation. It's an immense collection of people flowing in and out of tunnels, most of whom, like me, wanted to be left alone.

On Friday we finished mid-afternoon. I mixed in a few last minute individual meetings and as darkness approached I caught my cab for the airport. My Sudanese driver was curious about my work in East Africa and I gave him the basics of what I do. Then I turned the conversation on him and asked him about the future of his country. He appeared to me to be from the north (which he was) and I was curious regarding his thoughts about the future of the region with the recent decision by the southern part of the country to secede. As we pulled up to a red light he looked at me as intently as you can through a rear view mirror in the dark and said that the secession was a good thing. He noticed my raised eyebrows and continued by saying that this was the only way that there would be peace. I asked him about the shared claims by the north and the south of the large oil reserves. He said that would be worked out. "There is enough for everyone and they will come to an agreement." "You know," he continued, "in Sudan they did the right thing. They put the decision in the hands of the people without waiting for the people to force the government to allow them to decide as in North Africa. The leaders showed more dignity."

I told him that he was wise and that maybe he should go back to Sudan and go into politics to help his country. He laughed and said, "In most of Africa politics has nothing to do with wisdom. Only power." I looked up at his eyes in the rear view mirror and smiled. "But," he said, "wisdom is coming."


Rich said...

Good story Rich.. Too bad people like him dont have a say in the government.. Have a safe trip back..

worldwatcher said...

I liked your Blog Rich and can't help feeling sad when I compare what we hear of Sudan with the impending carnage in Lybia. So glad you had a good trip.

worldwatcher said...

I like your story, Rich. It's particularly touching to think of such wisdom from your Sudanese friend in contrast, the impending carnage in
Lybia. So glad you had a good time away and are now safely home.