I just finished watching Jackson’s memorial. It’s kinda like a bomb went off in my head a week too late. i have goose bumps on my arms, especially seeing his childhood pictures and him singing “I want you back”. Like He would know at age 10.  I can’t help but wonder: What if? What if he stayed and aged as he should have? how handsome he would look. God works in mysterious ways and they say he can’t give you everything. I don’t know that I would’ve reacted this way if I hadn’t dealt with a similar situation not so long ago. Though every experience, every loss is different, I finally understand most of what his family is going through.

I was in Tunis when I heard of the news of Michael’s passing. Surprisingly (or maybe not) the tunisians in the hotel seemed much more touched than the bunch of americans I was around. Still, though I felt sadness, that was about it, maybe because I had my own demons to fight. Upon getting back to the US, it actually hit me more and more that a prodigy was gone. It’s unbelievable how much time I’ve spent on youtube watching the man’s videos and concerts and remembering some songs I had forgotten about. Gosh! He had so many, kinda reminds you he’s been singing since he was 6. At times, I couldn’t help but feel pitty. Knowing how much he’s been through while watching every and anyone paying tribute to his life, I kinda wish someone, anyone would’ve stood up while he was still alive to stop the madness and circus the media made about his life. Even the coverage right after his passing was offensive: talks of prescription drugs and all the rest. Yes the man had flaws, try living your life in the spotlight since childhood and being held up to some  impossible standard. My sister and I were wondering yesterday if his fame and fortune were worth all that he had to go through, and both answered Hell no! no one should have to go through what he did. And in the end, he was more of a soul in need of help than anything else.

So let’s keep celebrating the best that ever did it, and the best that ever will. I don’t think we’ll get to see such a genius for a long time. It wasn’t just his dancing, but also his persona, his character, his smile, his sensitivty, his high-pitched voice that all got lost in a masquerade of surgery and singularity that everyone just labeled as mere weirdness. But that was him, with all his greatness and his flaws.

God bless him and may he rest in peace!

As soon as people are asked of their favorite michael song, it’s either Beat It, Thriller, Billie Jean, Bad or Smooth Criminal. Those were GREAT and I can listen to them over and over, LOVE them. But I like the more subtle ones, the underrated, but nonetheless great: Heartbreak Hotel, Who’s loving you, PYT, Another Part of Me, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and my ultimate favorites: Human Nature,  Give into Me and The Way You Make me Feel.

MB in LA - Jan'09BC in LA

 FB in LA- Jan'09SD in LA- Jan'09 ” La Bande a Bono” in LA- January ’09

 

Dance Away!

M.

It’s 3:48 AM and I can’t sleep anymore. For the past 10 years, every so often, say every month or two, I’ve had this dream, actually let’s call it what it really is, a nightmare. A nightmare that I’m being chased. Always the same story, getting chased by a man, a dark, scary, sweaty, dirty and relentless man, who without a doubt is out to hurt me. There’s always familiar faces in it, friends usually,  sometimes family but  neither can ever help me. At the end of the dream, I always wake up right when the man is about to catch me. So far, he never has. Tonight he didn’t either. I usually get back to sleep after a 1/2 hr because I’m used to it happening. But tonight I can’t. Tonight, my friends were not in the nightmare, but my family was: my mother, grand mother, sister, twin brother and nephew.  One was missing.

Amina (from the Coup de Coeur Blog) sent me an email yesterday about missing my posts. Though I meant to answer over email first, I didn’t get around to it before going to bed. I have gone M.I.A for a while. Last you heard from me, I was coming back from travels and getting slammed by a wicked agenda between thesis, papers, internships and work… Though I was able to finish and graduate, the unthinkable happened: my dad left on May 2nd at 1:05 AM. I was on the plane taking me to Dakar after my mom told me dad wasn’t feeling really well since the day before.

 He never got to see me graduate. My reason for ambition and determination had left a week before I graduated.

You see, the worst part of that nightmare that got me curled up in a ball when I woke up,was not about being chased around, but rather because of my dad’s absence in that nightmare. To this day, a month and 29 days later, I go around, back to routine day after day, after day and yes I’m able to smile, joke around, even laugh. But every once in a while, something, and it’s never something precise, makes you break down. In the middle of nowhere, in the middle of people, in public places, in the shower, behind the wheel…anytime, anyplace. I went to Tunis for work last week and though it did me some good, I broke down in the middle of a meeting. No triggered word, no triggered image… just thoughts alone, and a heavy & bleeding heart… Anytime, anyplace…

Everyone said: it was God’s will and the funniest part is, I have said that to people before, but I don’t think I could’ve ever realized what it meant, and I still don’t. If there was a plan out there for my dad to pass and life to go on, I don’t know what that plan is for because the pain my sister, brother and I have gone and still go through is only made worst by seeing my mom’s world completely shattered and having no idea what to do with herself. Despair alone is enough to break you to pieces, let alone missing him.  Heaven should’ve waited…

… Or picked me. If there was ever a way to designate oneself before God called my everything back to Him, then I would’ve volunteered to go over him. Because there’s so much my dad was looking fwd to, because there’s so much more coming from me that I would’ve wanted him to see and be proud of, because there’s so much good he could’ve still done for people around him. It’s unbelievable how many stories I’ve heard after he passed that almost made me feel like I didn’t know him. People coming fwd with stories about how he helped or even saved their lives. And closer to my heart, stories about him, his reactions, temper, character, habits, likes, dislikes and it made me smile under puffy, teary eyes because I realized right then, tough I had an idea already, that I am my dad’s carbon copy. And though it makes me proud, it also leaves me ever sadder. Everyone has a story about dad but the same theme keeps coming around: “Un homme de paix, mais avant tout un homme de principes”. Avoiding drama like the plague, but ready to stand up for what he thought was right. 

If nothing else, my mom, sister, brother and I were proud. Even from his place in the cemetery, next to his mom and dad,  he made us proud. If today indeed I’ve lost 1/2 of me, lost all of my ambition, lost quite a bit of my reason for being, God only left me with pride, memories and a whole lot of questions. Can I add anger? Because I kinda am, but that’s blasphemous, isn’t it?

If only heaven would’ve waited, he would’ve seen his grandson (that little devil!) turn one the day before he passed, me graduate 6 days after he passed, his wife’s bday a month later… And God knows he wanted to see all of that, he was getting ready for all of that. Even he didn’t know he was leaving. 2009 started off very well for each and everyone of us 5 in the family and all was going smoothly, until May 1st when he suddenly got stomach pains…

So here’s why I haven’t posted anything in so long. It might just be that way for a while because I have to admit, not much matters to me right now, not even myself. I will get through this. They say tough times do not last, but tough people sure do, and family and I will.

For now, despair and a big empty hole are all I got… And no one can help.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
M.

 

I’m sticking my nose out of reports for a second. Couldn’t help but react. I tried to shut it after Guinea’s events, after Bongo’s, but news out of the Hague about Sudan are too big for me to just keep quiet.  Are things moving for Africa… Maybe?

Well, you know what I think of all these people, “African leaders”… I don’t have to repeat it! (Not all of them, but let’s say 99.9% of them)

*Bongo, the only man shorter than Sarkozy…  They only froze a tiny part of what he stole… Freeze more! With all its potential, Gabon is still one of the poorest country in the world. You’d think it’d be otherwise given the size of the country and small population… not sure this will hurt in any way, but it’s clearly publicity not needed

* Al Bashir, it’s sad that there is even a debate about whether there should be an international warrant for his arrest. It is the right thing, is it what’s needed? Unfortunately not… Of course, the dire situation humanitarian agencies and peacekeeping mission are going to take a it and be retaliated against… BUT, the bigger picture you ask me? This will show any and everyone no one is above the law, not even a Pdt.

Overall, it’s about time the Internaltional justice community took notice of Africa’s woes. Now, I’m not calling for radom intrusion. Call me bias, but any warrant against Kagame for example, I’ll stand against… Now people like Al Bashir, I salute the “intrusion”, that is if you call trying to stop a genocide an “intrusion”. It is certain more need to be tried, more injustices need to be highlighted and more atrocities condened and swift action to be taken, in many places accross the globe. BUT, some intervention is better than no intervention.  Some are saying, why randomly assess who gets tried, and who doesnt. Sudan’s case is not random. It’s long overdue!

*As to Vieira, well the man is gone. Rest in peace, and may your people finally get out of misery… AT LAST!

AND CAN SOMEONE ASK WADE (Senegal’s pdt) TO SHUT HIS TRAP? That I know, he’s never done anything to allievate Darfurians suffering, hell, doesn’t do half nearly enough for his own people in Senegal, except for his pockets getting fatter…. So Puh-Lease….Actually, that all these leaders (Tanzania, Senegal to cite a few) would rather ask for more patience, I’m bewildered. It’s been going on for so long, how much more time do you need? 400,000 dead and 2 million displaced. More time for what? The cowards only fear for themselves and one other importance of this arrest warrant: precedence. If it happens to Al Bashir, it can happen to anyone of them. Meanwhile, they all sit around him in meetings, they may not congratulate him, but they might as well! It’s sad this has to be taken care of by international community. I hear the argument about making the situation more volatile…because Al Bashir and his people are senseless murderers. The issue is not that there shouldn’t be a warrant out for his arrest, the issue is the lack of action: unlilateral, miltary use of force to back it up…

All pigs, and will all burn in hell: I said it! Ocampo is a hero. The chances of arresting Al Bashir are not so low. As soon as he flies in international space, he can be arrested by UN agents,according to Intl Law. Bottom line, people are slowly dying: women are massively gang raped, 500,000 die each month of excrutiatingly painful deaths… in th end, maybe, just maybe al Bashir acts eraticly, then action will be taken.

Allright! I’m out… I’ll have to come back and profess my love for Kigali,  Rwanda overall …AND Kagame, my skinny hero!

I’m watching his monthly press conference on TV: when asked about the situation, he doesn’t agree with the ICC and the selective nature of how it deals with its programs. He finds the institution too political. He acknowledges his bias and that he might not be the best person to ask about the ICC. Now, about Al Bashir, he sees as a separate issue than the ICC, and doesn’t want to take a stand about his being guilty or not. BUMMER! Very disappointing answer. What happened to fighting for the vulnerable and defenseless. He of all people should know. Didn’t he cry foul and hammer the Intl community for not standing up for his people. He’s had to take charge in a country that went through the horrors of Darfur and worst… I really thought his answer would be different, but then again maybe Sudan is geographically too close, maybe all african pdts know in the back of their minds not to disavow each other (god knows they’re almost all alike anyway!), and mayb it might be the fact that some judges are on his case as well.

I’ ll say more next time.

Peace out!

Okay, haven’t blogged in a while. I just wanted to sound off now before I leave. I won’t be around for at least a month and I can’t say I’ll miss winter in DC (it’s been colder than ever).

Got a lot to do and not much time to do it all:

* I have a seminar this weekend on: the “Methodology of Peace”.

*  I just chose my thesis “Business Engagment in Conflict settings: How Foreign Direct Investments help or hinder fostering peace in Africa”. Due by the end of the semester.

* I have to do some work/school study and my topic will be: “International Public Health System in Post Conflict Countries: How NGOs should better gear their policies to ensure sustainable peace”.

* AND on top of it all, I’ll be traveling  for work over the next month to: Addis, Kigali, Bujumbura, Nairobi and Geneva (in that order). Hopefully, winter will be done (or almost) by the time I come back (March 18th).

So my plate Is definitely full (and I thought things would slow down in the beginning of the year, HA!). I will try to post as often as possible, but given the scope of what’s waiting, I wouldn’t hold my breath!

So, I’m signing off for a little while, packing my ballerines and short sleeves and leaving the boots and coats behind. But i’m sure i’ll be reading your blogs from my hotel room on weekends!

Any suggestions for good books ?(French or English)? You’d think I’d have enough reading to do with the thesis and studies I have due soon but I’d like to read stuff non work/school related as well. I have to admit I haven’t followed up in the literature department  lately. I’ll need some for the time I’ll be spending in planes and airports.

Smooches,

M.

Muslim/Arab/Persian (pick one)

issue/problem/conflict (pick one)

Mr Pdt came out today on Al-Arabiya TV to discuss US-Arab world relations. 1st interview on Arab television, al-Arabiya’s Hisham Melhem, this has to be an event (especially coming from a US pdt, how different). It’s like fresh air. I just hope they take time to listen, let him prove himself and show the new direction he wants to take.

See I take issue with the amalgam people make about muslim and Arab world. All muslims aren’t arabs, all arabs aren’t muslims. If you read part of Obama’s inauguration transcript, I think he could’ve done a better job at separating those 2 worlds. It’s not the muslim World you have a problem with. Now, I’m sure Obama knows that, but maybe it would be a good start to stop spreading that into American media.  As muslims, we’re even asked, why don’t you stand up for what you believe and defend your religion against terrorists who want to hijack it. My answer: I don’t feel i have to defend anything because if you only knew better, just a little better, you’d know they’re not speaking for all of us out there, they’re not even speaking for the majority of us out there.. So yes, I’ll educate people when asked about it, but it’s pretty hard to educate people when you spend most of your time defending your position when being attacked (because fighting stereoptypes and prejudice means being defensive everytime you’re asked about it). Now, not to overstate, it’s not like we’re being persecuted. But if you just listen closely to what is being said out there, it’s not a comfortable feeling. I’m confident enough in my faith that it doesn’t bother me in my day to day activities, my faith is not written on my face, and you would’ve thought ignorance would’nt be such an issue by now. But 95% of americans do not know 95% of Senegal is of muslim faith. I guess ignorance is bliss. That being said, I can only imagine a woman walking with her veil in the US or some religious sign accross her chest.

So I applaud him for tackling this issue so early on in his presidency. I guess he’s trying to set the tone Biden, Clinton and Mitchell will have to follow (because god knows he’s going to have to focus on domestic issues: job losses, stimulus plans and market crashes)

Hopefully, the bitterness and pettiness he wanst to kick out of DC, he’ll be able to kick out of that region. What needs to be clear though, which I think he touched on (around 4:10 of the video) is that thought Israel is an ally, they need to bring something to the table as well, and even moderates in Israel agree they’ve been given a blank check these past 8 years.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you straight up, Israel doesn’t have the right to exist. I said it. agree, disagree? That’s my opinion. Now, is  Israel’s annihilation a solution? Maybe not given the alliances they were able to built (don’t think the US is the only one, it’s their biggest ally, but they have some in the muslim world and the Egyptian government has been accused time and again to be part of it). I don’t think it’s fair to impose Israel, but if Palestinians want to be better off, then they have to put aside some of the differences. I think the Arab community in the Middle East did a very bad job at building alliances.

Mitchell is a breath of hope. He was very efficient in brokering a sustainable Irish-Catholic peace agreement in Northern Ireland. let’s see where this ends… It’ll be long and it’ll be tedious. But I do think if someone can do it, it’s Obama and we can only go uphill from where the whole matter stands today. It was  about time someone thought of reaching out to the ArabMuslim world (I call it that because the conflict is mostly with those who belong to both). It’s only right that in trying to broker a peace deal between two sides, you’d TALK TO BOTH sides. Even during the campaign, you hear talk of Israel all the time but only hear of Palestine as in the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It’s like Palestine only exists in a conflict paradigm.

On my way to work this morning, I was listening to Radio MPR (I use to put on music all the time, but I’m so sick of TPain and Akon every 2 seconds). They had this Palestinian student who lives in the US call and told of the story of his father and deceased brother who died last month in one of Israel’s show of force. Israeli soldiers came into their house, shot the brother and refused for the father to call an ambulance. They made sure to stay until the 18yr old  (freshman in college) died in his father’s arms. Worst part is, after the father was able to sneak for a moment and call an ambulance, the soldiers asked the ambulance to turn around. The boy bled to death while the hospital was less than a mile away. The father begged to even let them walk, he would carry his son to the hospital himself, but they refused. It’s such a sad story, but then again it makes you think and wonder how they think they can get away with such behaviors. I’m not discounting that of the Palestinians, by all means, this just all has to stop. Both need to be called back to order and hopefully Obama will and stop with the unfair one sided policies. That is only a recipe for failure.

Here’s a link to the full transcript.

Well, his time has finally come!

No need to tell you, DC’s been hijacked by out of towners. Out of town licenses everywhere, people don’t know how to use the DC Metro (major slow downs…) but the atmosphere is jovial and happy all around filled with sea of faces from all around the world. Iwent to the Inaugural concert on Sunday and today’s inauguration as well. Estimates talk of nearly 2 mil people, but in 9 years that i’ve been in DC, I’ve never seen such crowds, such excitement and such pride. There’s a feeling out there that America is beautiful again.

At The National Mall

At The National Mall

Political leader and cultural icon…

So now the weight of the world is on his shoulders, litterally, and what a weight! I don’t really envy him. As the saying goes: to whom much is given, much is required. He’s been given a whole lot,  and a lot of optimism is going around. Today’s a day for celebration, but tomorrow is time for work. He is in trouble. He’s the most powerful man in the world, but he’s in big trouble.

There’s loads of optimism and confidence in his ability to lead. A lot of hope, inspiration and joy. And that might help him damper people’s high expectations. Also, he’s such a rock star and popular right now that no one dares oppose him. In times of hardship, no one likes to see catfights, all they want is action and going against the Pdt’s will is seen as being catty.

Going down Constitution avenue...

Going down Constitution avenue...

Extraordinary party for an extraordinary man…

I cheered when he said his full name… So so proud!Many raised the question as to whether it was appropriate to have such a grandiose party in such harsh economic times. The answer from one CNN reader on Cafferty: “America has been going through 8 years of mental recession, spare us one day to celebrate and then we’ll all get back to work.” The Inauguration Committee spent $160 million for the day. This will be the campaign, the inauguration, the era that will break all the records.

Ushering in a new era…

More than just a party with random people crying, hugging and kissing in the streets of DC, his speech rang true on every note. Given how interested I am in American Foreign Policy, the most important moment, was this part of the speech:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

If that is the guiding principle of his American foreign policy, then the world can only be a better place. The message is clear and direct. I guess all these African leaders that are in town, UNinvited, throwing their own “unofficial” inaugural ball (pittyful!) must, or at least, should feel a bit ashamed. If anybody wants to claim the dream he was able to achieve, then they clearly now know who can cling to it, and who cannot.  So to african leaders, please refrain in your celebration because he sure was talking to you about clinging to power.

His speech is all that it should’ve been. Concise, direct and with a clear message and purpose. He touched on every single issue that is important to America and the world to a certain extent. Magnificent speech overall, not that we expected any less of him. There was also an underlined criticism and backhanded compliments to Mr. Bush… i actually felt sorry for the guy because where I was standing, people booed everytime his name came up… Both him and Cheney were booed: “Nah nah nah nah; nah nah nah nah; hey hey hey Goodbye!”

Did you guys notice Cheney on his wheelchair?… talk about hurting his back the day before officially leaving office. People saying it’s too bad this is the last image we get of him… To all those, I say, you have seen nothing yet as to what happens to this man. Just watch…

And what’s with Justice Roberts messing up Obama’s oath…

The town’s going back to normal tomorrow. Roads will be open again and all out of towners will go home.  It’ll be business as usual and back to work for me. The first daughters are going back to school (how cute are those 2 with their cute outfits, beautiful!)… to a remarkable day…

 

The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds. ~John Maynard Keynes

…To another great left-handed personna! You know how US lefties do… ;)

M.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY: a plot to assassinate Hitler during WWII, also known as the July 20th plot. Operation Valkyrie was the official code-name for Hitler’s contingency plan in case of a national emergency, and what the plotters in a brilliant scheme decided to use against the SS regime once Hitler was killed.

Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg. The cast was brilliant. If you’re wondering what movie to watch, you HAVE to run see this one. We were ecstatic at the end of the movie and the story is so inspiring. The movie is directed by Brian Singer (Usual Suspect and XMen, 2 movies I Luv!)

Though initially, there was much ado about nothing because Cruise was playing the role of Von Stauffenberg, German Ministry and the Colonel’s family expressed concern over his following of Scientology, and that’s sad. Though I’m very puzzled by the teachings of Scientology, Cruise has always delivered on all of his roles and that shouldn’t determine whether he does a good job or not. Tensions flared then settled and in the end, he delivered with oozing charisma and presence. I feel this was his best role ever and should be nominated for an Oscar. His performance and that of others in the movie were electrifying. Add a great plot, loads of suspense and a touch of heroism and humanism, and you get one of the greatest movie ever produced. Really, it was THAT good! Tom Cruise NAILED IT…

So run see it. You’ll learn some history and better yet, it’ll inspire to make a difference. As I said many times: IF YOU DON’T STAND FOR SOMETHING, YOU’LL FALL FOR ANYTHING.  So often we only celebrate those that were able to make a difference and tend to completely disregard unsung hero.

The movie and the personality cult around Hitler is very reminiscent of most of our leaders in Africa. It’s a little tough to get passed Von Stauffenberg being a father of four, to put his family aside and work for the greater good of Germany (and the world to a certain extent). The greater sacrifice imaginable. Though I’d like to think of myself as a humanitarian in the flesh, I can’t ever imagine leaving my family off for any cause. But then again, those were extraordinary times…

Only spoiler to the whole thing: we already know how it ends. V. Stauffenberg doesn’t get to kill Hitler and the atrocities of WW2 keep going, we know for a fact. On the other hand though, knowing all of that doesn’t stop you from staying on the edge of your seat. D turned around to tell me how nervous he was at some point and we were both trying to figure out who the “traitor” was going to be: someone had a funny look on their face, so-and-so doesn’t seem to be 100% on board, why did he say it this way? why did this other not act according to the plan?. Overall, the director and the cast did a great job not spoiling the thriller and though you know how it ends and where it starts, you only know as much as you watch and the suspense keeps you boiling with excitement, to the point where you even ask yourself: wait… Hitler committed suicide at the end of the war right? You feel like going back to your history book, but ultimately and unfortunately as you’ll find out, we’re not rewriting history here… But makes you wonder about the turn of events had they succeeded and only wish for them to succeed. It’s like American Gangsta. You watch it knowing Denzel’s character goes to jail and gets caught, but Denzel plays it so well and is so charismatic, you almost dismiss all the harm his character has done for his community and hope he doesn’t get caught. This set of events is a little different because it would’ve been the right thing to happen.

10 out of 10, so go catch it!

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