Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Language of Mediation

I love the language and phrasing that Kofi Annan uses in this statement.

"To the leaders gathered here today, I say this: The people need you, they want you to take charge of the situation and do whatever possible to halt the downward spiral into chaos that is threatening this beautiful and prosperous country. You have to act with urgency."

It appeals to the leaders sense of power with the words "need" and "take charge". The phrasing "beautiful and prosperous country" shows respect for the region and is a reminder that Kenya was a viable economic area. Ending with the call to "act with urgency" leaves no doubt about the purpose for the mediation talks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

Images, pictures and descriptions of violence stay with me forever, so I try to avoid them. As a result, I don't watch the news and am basically ignorant about what is happening in the world. However, I have just started listening to NPR while driving to and from work.

One story that has my attention is the ongoing violence and unrest in Kenya. For those that don't know (as I didn't until recently), Raila Odinga was elected President in September 2007. He ran as leader of the Orange Democratic Movement party. In December 2007, the Kenyan election commission declared Mwai Kibaki the President. Odinga believes the ruling is fraudulent and Kibaki should step down or call another election. Of course, Kibaki does not agree. As a result, members of the Kikuyu tribe (who support Kibaki) and Luos and Kalenjins (who support Odinga) have been rioting and murdering.

Last week Kofi Annan (former U.N. chief) led the first meeting between President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. There was hope that this meeting would lead to some peace in the area, but it did not. After the meeting, the President used language that Odinga and his people found insulting and more violence ensued.

I know nothing of the history, but the news stories state a long history of hatred between the various tribes. The conflict over who is the "rightful" President appears to be the tip off for the rioting, but the real reason seems to be rooted in the racial issues. In an interview I heard on NPR, Odinga said he asked his supporters to stop the violence, but it didn't sound truthful.

I'm fascinated by people like Kofi Annan who attempt to mediate a resolution. I've always admired people who have the vision to see resolution to large, difficult and seemingly unsolvable issues. In one interview on NPR, a Kenyan politician was offended when the interviewer asked about compromise. The politician said, "this is not a good word". If the leaders are not willing to compromise, what hope is there?

The violence is frightening to me. Stories like this make me wonder what I would do if riots started in my neighborhood. How could I protect my family? If it seemed to be ongoing, would I try to outrun it and leave? Would there be somewhere safe to go? Who could help? This is why I hate "the news". I don't want to think of a riot in my neighborhood or think of my daughter living in such unrest.

I also start to wonder what I, in my little suburb in the US, can do to make life better for those in Kenya? Nothing that I can see. I suppose raising a child that has values will help the future in general terms. I wonder if Odinga and Kibaki were taught that it is ok to admit that you have made a mistake, that it might be ok to be flexible in your opinion for the greater good, that people in the other tribes are very similar to yourself. I'm guessing not, or at least not effectively. So, I'll try to effectively teach my daughter the basic values. Who knows, maybe some day she'll be a mediator brokering peace for a country in need.

Today I'll send out a few silent wishes...

For Kofi Annan - that he have the vision and the words that the politicians will accept that will lead to a resolution of this latest conflict and open the door to preventing future internal conflicts.

For Kibaki and Odinga - that they can learn to compromise, let go of past hatreds, and be leaders that can promote and maintain a stable, healthy and diverse community.

For everyone with children in their lives - that we can teach them the values and skills that will lead to a good and peaceful life.

For my little SweetiePie - that she never has personal experience with the violence and fear that so many people in the world live with everyday.

- Peace

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recycle Plastic or Conserve Water?

I had a Jello Pudding Cup as a snack at work and decided to take the cup home to recycle it. Before taking it home, I washed it out.

Which is better, to use water to clean the cup so I can recycle or to save the water and just throw the cup out? I suppose I could just wipe it out with a napkin and not use water, but then again... use a paper napkin to recycle or just throw it out?

This "green" thing is tricky!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Back to It

Today is my first day back in the office after "the big trip home". I hadn't used my work laptop in 8 months, so it took almost the entire day to get that going again (it had issues and needed to be rebuilt). I have a phone and I know the voice mail password, but I can't get it to stop forwarding my calls to the Blackberry. The best thing of all is that I have a desk! Before I left, I was in a temporary space... long tables with outlets and everyone just sat in whatever seat was free. Now I have my own cube (how sad that I'm so excited about a cube...once upon a time I actually had my own office... with a window... things have changed * sigh *).

It's kind of nice to be back to the familiar, but I'm sure it will irritate me soon enough.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

On The Road

We are about half way through our trip home...

From Sydney we flew to Honolulu and spent 4 days in Hawaii; 1 day sleeping (jet lag - but we did see the sunset!), 1 day at the pool and at Waikiki beach (SPie loved the beach), and two days in rainy Hilo. We were scheduled to go on a helicopter tour of the volcanoes, but it was rained out. Instead we drove around the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (cool to see, but wet).

On Christmas day we flew to California where we spent 3 days visiting relatives. We were completely spoiled with home cooked meals and the most comfortable bed I think I've ever slept in. It was great to see family and to have SPie spend time with her cousins.

As we drove, we tried to stay off the highways and visit sites along the way. We went through a small part of the Sequoia National Park (most of it is closed for the winter), drove down the strip in Las Vegas at night, stopped at the Hoover Dam, spent 1/2 a day at the Grand Canyon and visited the ruins at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

We missed a few things we tried to see. The Grand Canyon Caverns, Four Corners and the Navajo National Monument were all closed by the time we arrived. We also wanted to see the rock in Shiprock, New Mexico, but our timing was off and we drove through at night so we couldn't see anything. Most of these stops were things we picked off the map as we drove, so it's not such a big deal, but the Four Corners does bug me a little. It's only closed 3 days a year and we were in the area for one of them!

Yesterday we had a fun day visiting with friends in Albuquerque. We spent most of the day at the Explora Science Center which is full of hands on exhibits that were good for SPie, but also interesting to us.

...8 days to go before we are home