Archive for August, 2010

Tropical Storms, Island Life

The fact that I am on a Caribbean island, easy to forget sometimes when you’ve been inside all day, was driven home this morning, the first hours of a hot, sunny Sunday that found me wandering down to the small shopping center to read the Sunday paper, when the air suddenly cracked with a violent thunder that set off hundreds of car alarms across the city and the sky opened to a torrent of rain and wind.

After standing outside of the market for half an hour, grocery bag in hand, I decided to break down and buy an umbrella from the scruffy fellow selling them – he had been watching me, tempting me, patiently waiting as my capacity to wait out the storm gave way to my boredom. In any case, by the time I made it back home I was soaked anyway, and, due to the inadequate drainage in Kingston that sees the streets turn to rivers at the slightest precipitation, my shoes gushed with water.

It was a good morning none the less, though. I found, to my great pleasure, a nearby cafe that not only had wifi, allowing me to read the Sunday NY Times, but served up the fabulous Blue Mountain coffee.

Deep breath of MN air, Before the dive

Oh yeah, I guess it is a weekday, isn’t it? One day in Minnesota, and time does funny things.
I am using the few days of leave that I have accumulated in the first few months at my job to take a timeout in my home state minnesota, to see the friends and family that I have not seen for too long and probably won’t see for a while – at least two years, anyway, the length of my tour in Kingston.

Arriving early Tuesday morning, it was a day of Minneapolis, of my favorite people, my old haunts. Even in those moments that I was simply alone, I was in physical locations that have left their images, smells, feels burned on my soul. Much has changed here in Uptown, of course, but two years is not enough to wash away the aesthetic, pace, and people that make this place more “home” than most places.

And today, after a far too short breakfast with sister Katie before she is off to her new job, it is North, to my REAL home, to the lakes and forests of Ottertail.

Musing on Being American

What kind of a Muslim would blow himself up in a crowd? A misguided one, many Muslims, including nearly every Muslim friend or acquaintance of mine from around he world. What kind of resident or citizen of the United States would protest the construction of a mosque? A majority of Americans, I sorely want to believe, would also answer, a misguided one.

The protesters do, and should, have the right to protest whatever they want – just as Muslims, Christians, or Jews have the right to practice religion in whatever way they choose. However, fear, even hatred, of the changing demographics of the United States, its flows of immigrants, its changing culture, is a betrayal of a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be an American. Our country’s relatively brief history is nothing if not a continuing string of dramatic inflows of people and ideas, and often irrational and violent reactions to them. However, the history of America is also the story of a nation’s ever growing understanding of its own diversity and the drive to not only accept but nurture it.

A true American knows his or her country’s true comparative advantage in a global world is its diversity and its nature as a place where people from every corner of the globe can arrive and know that they have access to the same rights and opportunities as every other person.

A recent taxi ride, the driver being a Somali immigrant, made me more proud to be an American than I have ever been before. “Here, I have rights. I know what my rights are, and there are consequences if people try to deny me my rights. In Africa, and many countries, you might be thrown in jail for no reason, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Musings inspired by a front page article in the Sunday NewYork Times,

Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition

DC Places

There are “Washingtonians” and there are DC residents.  The members of one group considers themselves “local” if they manage to stick around for more than two years, they go to cocktail happy hours in the rooftop bars of hotels, they discuss the political drama of the day. Members of the other group  vote in local elections, worry about the local drinking water and the local schools, get incensed about DC’s lack of Congressional representation. They are proud of the DC flag.

Unfortunate fashion statement at the National Gallery of Art. Japanese tourists get a pass, however, as their often unapologetic adventures in clothing result in as many “awesome’s” as it does “ugh’s.”

Sitting and Standing, American tourists enjoy the modern art in the Smithsonian.

DC even has good coffee, and pleasant places to drink it while reading a book.

Tunnel between art museums, National Gallery of Art.