“I really tried hard to be the best person I could be. So that if I died it mattered.”
“Producing good work has many benefits, and it certainly contributes to a stronger sense of identity and purpose. But fullness of self is about more than that. It’s about those ancillary but more direct questions: What are our interests? What are our values? Where did we come from, and where are we now?”
He’s also a leading dad.
Such a gorgeous song, not just because Julian is my favorite* nephew.
*only; once his upcoming brother arrives, he will be my joint favorite.
Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, There is a man there in a state of distress on the runway. Maybe he fell off his Segway and I am going to have to use my newly-acquired first aid skills to help him.
Don’t you just hate it when you’re at a party and start making out with a cute guy or girl, only to later discover at a family picnic that they’re actually your cousin? As it turns out, accidentally hooking up with a relative happens so frequently in Iceland that there is an official database, called Íslendingabók or “The Book of Icelanders,” that traces the family lineage of 720,000 Icelandic citizens.
Three engineers have taken it upon themselves to digitize the book, creating an app that helps prevent Icelanders from accidentally sleeping with their extended family. If you meet a hottie out at a party, you can simply bump your phones together to find out whether or not you’re related. The tagline for this helpful app? “Bump the app before you bump in bed.””
Last night New Zealand passed a bill allowing legal same-sex marriage, which prompted jubilant spectators watching in the gallery to start singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana.”
I was in Herat, hosted by the Italian forces a couple of months ago. Faced with a dearth of stories sticking with the military, I “unembedded” myself. This is where you sign a bunch of papers saying you’re leaving the care and protection of whatever forces you’re with and heading out on your own. If misfortune should befall you, you or anyone cannot claim damages from the Italians or Americans or whoever you were originally accompanying.
Herat is known as a safe city. This is, of course, a relative term, but in general, the main threat here is kidnappings of wealthy Afghan businesspeople. Military institutions, such as the Provincial Reconstruction Team have been attacked and the Heratis also love a good protest, but it’s largely quiet and surprisingly well-developed and beautiful. A beautiful blue mosque is a popular attraction, as well as the recently repaired Herat citadel.
I met up with a local Afghan female journalist, named Massouma. Like many working Afghan women, she had a number of jobs: journalist for ISAF’s Dari-language radio station; women’s rights activist; blog circle webmaster and “homemaker” (as the Americans would call it). Of Hazara ethnicity, which by and large offers its women more freedoms in terms of working, she and her husband took me for pizza and one of the more upmarket restaurants and then to a school that they’d founded and built, purely from their own salaries.
The school was originally meant to be a profit-making business. But, in choosing the cheapest plot of land, they soon discovered that the reason the price was so good was that the surrounding area was prone to flooding and, therefore, had a large population of Hazara refugees from Iran. These were people, who had escaped the fighting before 2001 and had returned to no jobs, homes or were forced to eke out a living in the city, as there was little to no work in the countryside.
She told me how taking on 100 students from these refugee communities, as a free school, presented its own peculiar problems. Many of the children would bring knives to school, have bad hygiene or malnutrition. They had no social skills and would resort to violence or crying. The parents were not much better. Massouma and her small team of female teachers had to start at the beginning, with social behaviour classes for the children and handicraft classes for the mothers; giving them a chance to raise money in the bazaar with their wares and also keep them from gossiping in the schoolyard.
Registering the school with the Ministry of Education, she was told the students had to have a uniform. The cheapest option, on visiting the market, was to buy the kids imported Chinese sweatshirts of bodybuilders. Unable to afford to take on more than 100 children, she decided to make the school a permanent two grade institute, which would move up as the children grew older. They started at kindergarten and grade one, now the children are at grades two and three.
Thanks to some funding from the US, they hired an English teacher and now the majority of the children are beyond the level usually accorded to their age. However, the second floor of the building is yet to be completed and there’s no heating for the winter months.
Massouma tells me her ambition is to keep renewing the curriculum, year on year until the kids graduate and then found the first free university. However, with funding pulling out already, even prior to the complete 2014 withdrawal of foreign forces, it’ll be a tough job for Massouma and her husband to continue their pet project.
Anyhow, the footage I took from my coincidental meeting with Massouma made it into a wider piece by my colleague, @jaketupman, on female entrepreneurs.
When no one was looking, I punched the air
DOGS ON PLANES! Here’s @NotOurCat’s guide dog on a plane.
Arthur and I constantly listened and sang along to a couple of our grandpa’s Tom Lehrer LPs when we were kids, which meant that I knew all the words to most of his songs, including the really salty ones, and including this one, even though I still don’t really know who Wernher von Braun is. Gosh, that must have been cute. Today is Tom Lehrer’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr Lehrer!