May 31, 2006


On Tuesday we stopped on our way back to Kapenguria in Tamkal. It's a town tucked down in the fold of the Cherangani Hills. In a lush narrow valley with a waterfall above it and noisy river running through it, and a grassy road neatly trimmed by goats and cows, shaded by acacia trees. We were to visit a dispensary, but the nurse was not there, is never there. Marina suspects he's not working. Some problem with the community as well perhaps. We leave a message with his daugher and go back to the car. The flies are murderous. They attack the ears and behind the ears. You can't take your hands down from your head. I feel like a prize fighter in the late rounds. But I notice the flies don’t seem to attack the men in front of us. I ask Marina.

“Fresh skin,” she replies.

Fresh skin and she's fresh skin and I'm wondering how long she can manage this. This kind of work, the beauty and graciousness of East Africa notwithstanding — and the insecurity of it, let's not forget that — this work burns you out and there's always need for fresh skin.

May 27, 2006

Things Didn't Work Out

In addition to everything else, Marina gives me a birthday party. She makes the bread herself, along with mashed potatoes, barbecued meats and egg plant, fresh salad, lemon meringue pie and brownies. Her friend Ellen, from Peace Corps days in Togo and then New Haven, arrives from the DRC where she’s helping several pygmy tribes to learn the art of zoning land. Baptist, Marina’s boy friend is there. He’s Swiss, good natured, and the director of a small NGO focused on stopping forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) — known locally as “cutting”.

All three, Marina, Ellen and Baptist speak Swahili. They are not wide eyed idealists but perhaps typical of a new generation of Expats looking to fit in to Africa rather than rule it, and content with an uncertain future rather than a romanticized, glorious past.

Dick arrives. He’s from the previous generation, from the 19th Century really. Tall, gaunt, with baby thin, clown-like hair on either side of a bald head, aviator glasses, a slight stoop, a dry wit and a weird biography, even by colonialist standards. He’s in his late 40s, although perhaps older, was born in Kenya and for years tried to leave, but never successfully. He went off to England for a while, got pieces of an education, but then things didn’t work out. He went to Bolivia for 12 years. He mumbled something about cocaine and having married a woman who liked to fight. But things didn’t work out and he returned to Kenya. He exported rare birds — he has a penchant for marginally illegal activities — but that didn’t work out either. These days he lives with his sister and his elderly mum, who run an upscale lodge. This is an odd lot; his mother, for example, always goes dreamy eyed when Dick puts a certain kind of cheese in a little tin, lets it hide for a few months until it turns blue with mold and smelly as a bushman’s socks.

During desert I asked Dick about the case of Lord Delemere’s son, Tom, who on the day I arrived was charged with having murdered a game warden walking on his property with another man and two dogs. Tom’s father owns two large properties, which total more than 150,000 acres. The murder is front page news in Nairobi, in part because this is the second time Tom has killed a black Kenyon. Six months ago he killed another man who he also claimed was trespassing. The case was dropped for lack of evidence.

Dick was defensive about Lord Tom, although I don’t think they know each other and they travel in different class circles. But there was the suggestion of white Kenyans giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Dick said the rumor around was that the killing was not in cold blood as many black Kenyans have suggested but rather a weird accident, in which Tom coming down a hill and spotted two men on his property. Land is lord in Kenya, especially for that generation of whites. The story is murky but predicated on Tom being a little wild and wild about his wild animals. Dogs present an unneeded predator to the environment. So with or without warning, Tom shot the two dogs with a .303 and killed them with one bullet each. But second bullet ricocheted off a bone and hit the game warden hiding in a bush.

Why was the warden hiding in a bush when he would have every right to visit? It’s not clear and later Dick suggested that Lord Delemere's son may have been involved in some marginal activities involving animal meat, but the whole story made more sense when Dick told it, even when he explained the second bullet’s extraordinary trajectory. “I was in the Red Cross once,” he had explained earlier, one of his few more benevolent tours of duty in the absurd. “We had some dodgey time then.” Once when driving near the Sudanese border a man tried to hijack his ambulance. Dick got out ran around the ambulance and tried to pull the man out. In the struggle the jacker’s gun went off. The bullet went through Dick’s hip bone, his penis, one testicle and out.

“I looked down and there was blood but I didn’t feel anything,” said Dick in his deep voice and in between long sips of beer. “But the same thing could have happened here.” He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, ‘I know it sounds strange but this is a strange place and a lot of things happen that you can’t explain.’

“But whatever really happened out there,” Dick added. “Tom will have to leave the country.”

He didn’t say it with sadness exactly but clearly the case spreads doubt. Between the lines there’s always the worry that even in Kenya, someone could do what Muggabee did in Zimbabwe. The difference is that Kenya is more stable and a couple of black Kenyans, including a former president, own huge tracts of ranch land. This case could call people’s attention to the fact that the new colonialists, the new land lords, are black not white.

May 26, 2006


Friday afternoon. We go to the aids wing of the district hospital in Eldoret, a wild west town of 40,000 in the highlands above the Rift Valley. Marina has been very clever, she has lead me into the country slowly as though a long qualification is required. First to the game preserve, to heritage, to the ‘idea’ of Africa, to what little is left you could say of its origins; then closer in, but still on the flanks, to the colonial notion of a far away place, wild and inescapably beautiful. But ever in a compound, ever protected. Ever cut off.

Then finally, on the third day, to this second story room we’re in right now, with ten people, men and women in their 20s and 30s and one woman, in her late 40s. They look like professionals. They are attractive people, well groomed, with big smiles, confident looking. They remind me of insurance sales people I used to work with. In fact, they are trainers and outreach workers and they look like trainers and outreach workers anywhere in the world. Janice, the woman in her 40s, is a forceful personality, in her closely cropped hair, with her theatrical manner and voice. She introduces me to the group with the suggestion — and I'm guessing here — that because Marina is in Africa, and by gracious extension, African, therefore I am also African and being a father I am the father of everyone in the room. Everyone addresses me as 'Dad.'

'Hello, Dad.' And I'm thinking, is Janice playing with me or is this merely a clever graciousness? Later, I talk to her in the hall, say goodbye, and she seems both distant and close. I can't make her out. But then she has the illness, herself.

After Janice's introduction, one by one, we go around the room and each person identifies themselves. Most begin, ‘I am hiv-positive, ‘ and they might add, “living positively”, which has become the catch phrase in the last several years, a mantra from Magic Johnson perhaps to remind oneself that the stigma can be faced and life goes on. Despite the awfulness of the disease and all it has done to ravage humanity and make filth of a life. In West Pokot the infection rate is around 10 percent, although figures are suspect. Perhaps, 7 percent. And falling although the worst has yet to come......

So these people dressed in skirts and slacks are the front line soldiers whose job it is to go to towns and villages and persuade people that testing is worthwhile, especially for children, that condoms are not filled with the virus, that this is not an American plot to kill Africans, one of those myths that many here believe. And that living and facing this disease is the way to shed the stigma, not hiding, not fearing.

It’s tough work. And consider that these workers who themselves have the disease also have families. And they’re having children and having sex.....

Afterwards, Marina goes off to see someone. I stay in the courtyard of AMPATH, the large NGO, whose three story building this is, and whose game this is as well. They’re the organization spearheading getting drugs and food to HIV patients in the West Pokot District — one of say four districts where the virus in Kenya has hit hardest; the others are around Mombassa on the coast, Lake Victoria, three hours to the east, and to the south. All tolled there are 2 million people here who are HIV positive. Along with 900,000 orphans, in other words, children with one or both parents dead from the illness.

After I run into Janice I sit on the brick boundary of a circular garden in the courtyard. I notice a neon green grasshopper. I put my finger out; it shakes the tip of my finger and leaves its leg in the air as though to say, ‘I enjoyed meeting you.’ I try to continue our conversation but it jumps away, and then again. It moves toward a deep hole in the cement and I stand up and try to steer it away back toward this little circular garden, but it doesn't want to go that way and it occurs to me that I may increase the very danger I’m trying to eliminate, so I walk away. Everything is a metaphor in Africa.

Marina returns and we walk out to the parking lot of the hospital. And now there is an interesting little exchange that tells you much about the interior of the problem in fighting AIDS. Marina is arranging a taxi to take three trainers to their home after this seminar. In the background a man is singing from a low building with bars. This seems to be the facility for mental health patients. I ask the taxi driver what the man is singing but he doesn’t know because they’re from different tribes.

I notice a woman standing a few yards, away, white, in her 40s, clearly an American, with the sunglasses and body authority so engrained in Americans. She's from Iowa and exchanges greetings with Marina who asks about the possibility of getting more services to some of her patients. This is a long and convoluted story, but suffice to say Marina’s NGO works in part as a subcontractor to AMPATH, does some of the outreach work and shares in the grant money which AMPATH pulls in by bucket full. And to its credit. But there is some acrimony here. The NGO business is entrepreneurial by nature. The directors often act like Greek colonels or Donald Trumps for that matter. It’s all about control and since you’re so far away from the donors and administrators in New York or London or Geneva, anything goes. And if you can show the numbers, you get more money. And if you are a powerful personality you can attract more money. And the more money you get and the more numbers you get — the more people you can document getting your service — the more donors you get. The whole edifice of NGOs is built on the notion of critical mass — of patients and donors. Efficiency, however you define that, becomes the guiding principle, but as your organization grows bigger, and more and more management controls are applied to handle the ever bigger number of patients, the humanity sometimes begins to leak out. And in terms of management flexibility may be sacrificed. So the director of AMPATH, who is by all accounts a dedicated and creative genius, has set up his organization of clinics and satellite offices like a MacDonald’s franchise. There is one model for each clinic and you don’t deviate from the model, which is both good and bad. In effect, you leave little room for error, or innovation.

Marina’s NGO is small. She has four employees; AMPATH has dozens and big time grant money. Marina's notion is that there isn’t just one model and that all models need to remain organic, all models must be joint ventures between the NGO and local staff, and of course between doctors or social workers and patients. In effect, it’s the Paul Farmer notion that you give someone what they need and you treat one person as you would treat many and you treat all people as though they were your mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter. As you would if you were in America or Europe.

And so Marina and this woman from AMPATH are standing in the dirt parking lot of the aids wing with the crazy man singing in the background and Marina wants to know if food distribution and drug distribution can be localized. The other woman in an imperious way, responds and right away you can hear her defensiveness. Marina steps toward her and the power dance begins. The other woman says, "well, we’re thinking about it but there’s nothing we can do right now “ And then she adds to leave hope on the table, “we’re continuing to discuss it.” In that tone of organization-speak, which is to say, “mind your own business, we’ll get to it when we goddamn well please.”

But Marina is not put off and having presented her thesis in front of a room full of Yale’s finest minds in the school of public health isn’t going to be deterred by such old and transparent obstacles.

“Okay, but I still don’t quite understand why we can’t get these services to people who have to make several trips, to get drugs in one trip and food in another....”

Marina steps still closer, the other woman backs up. “But we have only a few people coming to these sites and it’s going to be a long time before we reach the critical mass that will make it worth while to....” The other woman is now retreating to her vehicle. “We’re going to keep discussing it but like I said, we just can’t do anything right now.’”

Right now is any time soon,. Right now is in the next few months, by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the patients must get to market today, must get medicine by tomorrow, must get their children tested as soon as possible. The well meaning woman from Iowa, who has herself been in the Peace Corps, is lost in the model, in the diagrams and grant proposals, and the expectations of people far away, who want the atta-a-boy feeling they’re doing something for the world.

But ‘on the ground,’ in the heart of darkness, the heart is your only hope, and once in you’re in, once you’ve made contact, your humanity is all that’s possible.... Nothing else will do, you have no other protection.

At the end of this, I’m thinking, Enough time spent on dialectics, reasons and withdrawals. Too long wandering among interesting ideas and pretty possibilities. Time to commit, to put your money down on something, to engage fully.

May 24, 2006

Lake Baringo

We drive north, further up the Rift Valley. We reach Baringo Lake. In the middle there's a lodge. I'm sitting there as we speak. It's 4:20 in the afternoon, hot but cooling. Behind me are two single beds, in a tall tent under a thatched roof. Banjo lake is in the middle of the valley. In front of me, perhaps 20 miles away, are the bluffs that border the northern side of the valley. Directly in front of me is a yellow weaver. I can hear the gurgling coo of a male gray dove enticing its lady love. The sounds of birds are everywhere in the bushes.

Somwhere behind me and above Marina is reading by a pool. She’s reading Aspirin, the story of how Bayer refined the process of taking salicylic acid out of willow bark and turning it into a miracle drug. Four o'clock tea is being served. The only other people at this camp are a father, an investment banker from New York, wit hhis two sons, one in his 20s, and a woman companion. Her role is unclear. She is older, with curly hair and a British accent.

In front of me the sky steches west in a way reminiscent of films made in the 1950s, in cinemascope. The clouds are scattered but they appear flattened, unnatural, surreal. To my left, all objects — mountains, sky, lake and bluff — have turned blue as indigo ink. It’s the beginning of the rainy season, small storms pass by here late every afternoon.

In a few minutes we will set out on a 25-foot skiff. Dixon, the guide will take us around the island. He will point out birds on the shore and as part of the show he’ll whistle for a fishcatcher eagle watching from a branch about a quarter mile away. Then he’ll throw a small fish over the side. The eagle will come running, circle several times, appearing both shy and wary, a reluctant performer, but then finally will tuck wings, dive and without seeming to look, snatch the fish. Then a few rain drops will multiply and the banker and his sons will propose returning to shore. The older woman whose status is unclear will open her umbrella. The boys will open an umbrella, there will be another call to see who would like to return to shore. Marina and I remain quiet, but our vote will not be enough and we will return to shore. When we reach the pier the shower will have passed and one of the boys will say, not a little defensively, that he’s worried about his digital camera getting wet. Marina and I will return to our cabin and we will continue our conversation about Paul Farmer, the icon of all those who come to the developing world, not to evangelize but to help. Farmer teaches two courses at Harvard, runs a clinic in Haiti (see Tracy Kidder’s biography), travels all over the world, answers hundreds of email messages a day himself, and occasionally stops in to see his wife and children in Paris. It’s the A personality run amok but all to the good and Marina recounts pieces of the legend including the time Farmer gave away $4,000 to a returning vet down on his luck, the time he had a boy flown by private plane for expensive surgery from one country to another, at a cost of $20,000 and when critics said, ‘the money would be better spent on prevention or serving a greater number of people,’ Farmer’s reply was to question why the pilot doesn’t give up some of his salary and why don’t all the people involved in this operation sacrifice something so the cost wouldn’t be $20,000. In essence, why is it so hard for people in the West particularly to see all children, as their own?

We will talk about that and Marina will talk about her work and her life, about the metaphorical island she lives on, and we will go to dinner, which will be unexpectedly good, and we will overhear the father at the other table recount stories about his ex-wife and about the expense of New York and one of the sons will talk about living at home. And the proprietor of the lodge, Percy Hennessey, a ‘chap’ if there ever was one, a Brit in early 50s, in full colonial regalia, the shorts, the shirt, the rascally tone, the suggestion of a man who has perhaps lived on islands too much.... he will recast his life, working for various hotels in Africa and how this is the second oldest lodge in Kenya, and then he’ll take us to see his new internet set-up and a photo of his girl friend on the desktop. And then we will go to bed and the next morning wake up just in time to see the sun rising over the bluffs on the horizon and the lake will change colors and we will go out on the skiff again and see the whole island, and crocs, and hippos and more birds, and I will become lost in the bow wave of the skiff filled with electric bolts and scratches from the light. And we will go on over mountains and to the top of the plateau, to Kitale.

But just now, in the middle of the afternoon, with everything uncomfortably still because there is nothing to do, no activity at all, which takes some doing in itself, but in memory it seems like another trait of Africa, more being than doing, listening, waiting for the heat to pass, waiting for the cool to begin and then the hunt.

And just now I notice a crocodile swimming along the shore. It looks very long, about 5 feet. Later we will hear about Shirely, a woman that lives on an adjacent island, separated by a narrow marsh, which is the home of the crocs. A few years ago she went swimming which has been her custom for the last 30 years and was attached by a croc. Her arms were all but torn off, sewn back on later. One, said Mr. Hennessy, is no good, can’t do anything with it, but the other she can still lift a fork. She’s 74 by the way. Shirley Dufrene, the wife of one of the men that originally opened the camp. But he left after a few years and she stayed on. After the crocodile bit her she had a pool built, which was filled with lake water, so it’s the color of mud and when Mr. Hennessey asked her if she wasn’t afraid of going swimming in her pool, she assured him that she always asks the gardener to go in first.



In the morning we stop at the auditor, which advises Marina’s NGO, Doctors of the World. DOW, which is based in New York, is one half of a French organization that includes Docteurs Sans Frontiers. DOW has a human rights aspect that Docteurs Sans Frontiers doesn’t.

We go on to visit Merlin, an NGO that provides medical services. Marina is ever looking to network. The project director is Lionella, a fiery Italian who after two years is quitting to find another job and to start a cat orphanage.

We go on, in an SUV crammed with bee hives for one of Marina’s friends. The drive is four hours to Nakaru Lake Game preserve. The road out of Nairobi is unbelievably bad. A dirt road after a rain storm is better. As a result of indifference and the relentless pounding of semi trailers, the road is a colander of pot holes. And in the late afternoon, roaring dust and black diesel smoke become a fog bank so thick you can barely see the dim red brake lights of trucks ahead, much less holes to avoid. The road is also narrow and drivers use the shoulders as a lane. They also heard together charging into the gloam with no thought of collision.

We stop in Nakuru, meet some friends of Marina, and then reach the preserve late in the afternoon. We drive thorough it, you're not allowed out of your car as there are lions and leopards, driving past gazelles, white rhinos, dik-diks, water buffalo, giraffes, literally hundreds of thousands of storks, both larger and lesser, we see a leopard in a tree, about 100 yards off the road, lying splayed on a long arching branch, all four legs hanging down.... We spend the night in a lodge overlooking the preserve. The place is jammed with the jowly, heavy bresated people, in their long tight shorts.


Nairobi, late Tuesday night. The plane arrives after a stopover in Rwanda.

Nairobi is a crime capital of East Africa, although first hand reports are hard to find. We go to the Fairview Lodge, directly across the street from the Israeli Embassy, which is embalmed in barbed wire. The room has an overhead fan. Things are modern and careless.

Kenya presents an interesting comparison with Morocco. Roughly the same population, the same number of square miles, both on a highly commercial ocean, both colonies, both corrupt to the bedrock, both bombed by Islamic fundamentalists, both filled with roadblocks although the police here carry rifles and machine guns, unlike police in Morocco. Both countries present the appearance of democracy.... Yet the most glaring difference in that sense is that Kenya has a true civil society; Morocco, not. If only for The Nation, which compared to Le Matin, is a true newspaper, and filled to the brim with stories of wrongdoing and intrigue. As opposed to the press releases in Le Matin.

In addition, Morocco is above the equator, Kenya is on the equator and below.... All the stereotypes that go with north and south apply. And then culturally of course one is 99 percent Muslim, the other is brackish with various denominations of Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and animists.

One country is homogeneous, the other, heterogeneous. One is a monarchy, the other an oligarchy with old dictators in the wings.

Morocco seems dour by contrast, repressed, more careful, less docile more despairing, more seething. Kenya seems happy go lucky, almost frivolous in a way. The customs agents joke and play with me when I complain about paying $50 for a visa. Moroccan customs agents never laugh, and they would never hear criticism of the country’s parliament, that ‘political souk’ as appointments call it. I asked the Kenyan customs agents if the $50 is to help pay for the salaries of the new parliament which just voted itself an $81,000 annual salary, plus an equal amount in expense money. In addition, they’re given free cars and houses. The annual per capita income in Kenya is $463. “I would not want to venture an opinion,” said one of the agents, a woman, “Yes, but of course, its’ true. And why do we vote them in? That you have to ask yourself. But next year we will try again.”

And here’s one other difference: The swank neighborhoods of Kenya are filled with the signs of NGOs. Morocco, no. The associations, except for a few keep a low profile and perhaps play a different role. And there are fewer of them and fewer from the West. For a moment here you get that impression that everyone in the world has come to help Kenya, and no one more than W’s faith based institutions.

May 23, 2006

transiting through Brussels

On the plane to Brussels, the passengers were returning from an exotic place. The women carried heavy breasts and jowls, and bad skin. They seemed happy to be going home. The men ate quickly and demanded more wine. The stewardesses were blonde and tired. They gave out newspapers in Flemish. The headlines spoke in huge type. The news was dire, stocks all over the world had taken a dive.

The plane descended. The winds were ferocious and the fuselage groaned under the strain. The plane kept sideslipping and then dropping. Passengers grew quiet. The woman next to me held a girl of two or three. The woman had a cheap, worn look. I wondered if she was a prostitute, I don't know why. She was petrified in those last seconds before the plane touched down....

The streets of Brussels seem particularly modern, generic, clean. In the first miles on the train from the airport the only trash was a Kleenex tissue on the rail beds. On the train a nun sat perfectly still, in her perfectly pressed tunic. She wore wire rim glasses and neither a serious expression nor a calm expression. She drew a pen out from beneath her tunic, from a row of pens hanging in a little engineer’s shirt protector. Everything was just so. When the conductor asked for her ticket her left eye shuddered; there was a problem. She drew out a document; the conductor examined it and passed on. The nun sighed in relief.

The place seemed dreamlike in its cleanliness but then after a few miles, the first signs of the city to come — graffiti, in what was one continuous mural running across the side of every coach in the yard, across the ground level of every building, every structure, shed and statue, all the way to gare de nord.

And then, what city were you in? You couldn’t make it out. A squat WTC, some modest 30 story glass buildings, it could be Croydon, the insurance capital of England, or somewhere in the old East Germany, and as drab and dated as an old school tie.

Dinner in a sushi house in the center of town. A dozen tables, with mostly kids, save an older man in the corner and some business men in short sleeved shirts at a table for six. The atmosphere was quiet subdued, sedated, The look of people with everything, not used to working hard, and with not a lot to say about their luck. Another glass of beer perhaps? Not even that. But in the middle of the room, some rough riders. A man in his late 40s, an Asian woman. They stood out. He, blowing smoke rings, she casing the food on other tables. They seemed slightly seedy, up to some small no-good.

In the streets, an occasional horn. In the hotel, staff joked quietly, with nuance. In the internet cafe, only a few monitors were taken. Outside a Cineplex, where no one was coming to see The Da Vinci Code, a woman in a veil stood holding a man up in her arms. He appeared to be drunk or sick. late 20s. She was about his age or a little older. She was holding this man up in the middle of this plaza, in a heavy drizzle. The man in her arms was dressed in black rocker jacket and pants, with a
gold chain. He had the look of the Maghreb as well, someone who had stolen their way into the country a few years ago, or joined cousins and got work, got in the life, and then, like some rare animal from the desert unable to manage in a cold country’s zoo, was dying.

May 18, 2006

Woman In The Walls

Short story.... click on the title.

May 13, 2006

vertically divided, blue-white-red

.... a short story to be found at

May 6, 2006

93 and cloudy

This is where we are. Neither here nor there. Suddenly, I feel like a child urged to come back indoors when it's so much more interesting at someone else's house. On the other hand, this is always a love-hate relationship. The "culture of despair" is eventually an illness that even a foreigner catches. Mohamed Choukri, the great novelist (For Bread Alone is his best) once accused Paul Bowles of loving Morocco but hating Moroccans. I may have mentioned this before. Asked to respond Bowles claimed, not entirely with humor, that his once close friend had lost his mind. Whether accurate or not I've felt that sense. The endless road blocks, the nuances of corruption, large and small, personal and professional, and as a teacher the relentless resistance of students to work, to examine, to question. For each there is a but, a qualification, a counter argument or scene, and of course the country itself, the place itself, that undeniable exoticism which is the like the arable land, being slowly dried up globalization, by the new Marjane's in Meknes, by "Notre Maisons" Magazine, a color glossy home and garden magazine, by the relentlessness of TV, by the constant contrast between proof of despair here and the promise of hope in Europe or America, by a trillion little nuances moving like locusts through the country.... By us, in part, despairing this and that.

And so I, we, are caught. The other reason to return, the one we keep repeating is that we want a better education for Dash. That he's been beaten up now and then — and that his class of six includes one psychopath (who recently did a science experiment to see how fast crayfish died in boiling water and is rumored to have burned up two kittens) and one porn addict (a character from Morocco's South Street), both 12 — of course, this could also happen in America but there is something else, more than when we arrived, a hostility. You feel in the marche. You hear of it from students talking of parents who wish the university would get rid of the American teachers, and the American style of education as well. The smiles are in tact; the motion to cover the heart as a sign of good will. But the threads are wearing thin. You can see through now.

For sure, the country is turning inward a little. Arranged marriages are all the rage in Fez these days. That wasn't true a few years ago. The Islamicists are expected to win big next year. I have the sense the Arab Awakening has reached the end of the day. So time to go. Better to pull back.

And yet....

May 2, 2006

Arabian Nights

B is tutoring the princess. Lala Naizir, 16, is not quite pretty, more ungainly, smart, a hard worker, and the grand daughter of Hassan II, who presided over 'the black years.' She goes to school in Casa and missed a month this winter because of depression. Her family came to the mountains for a week and thought perhaps she might get some remedial help from ASI. She is sincere, particularly when the subject of poverty in America came up. "I've heard that it exists," she said, "but I don't believe it." She may be only dimmly aware of poverty in this countr as well, as she rides in her limo, behind tinted glass marveling at all the red flags put on the road into Ifrane, every hundred yards a flag, and a police man at every intersection, and shock and awe among all that see her car.