Thursday, April 29, 2010

You say potato...

England and the US have been famously described as "two nations separated by a common language" (variously attributed to Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill, depending on which unreliable website you choose to believe). I think the cultural differences may actually run a little deeper than mere semantics, as I tried to explain to my friend Richard the other day on facebook.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Politics aside...

Meet Hassan Khalif Salih, Chairman of the Human Rights Network in Hawieja Province, Iraq. Hassan is one of a group of Iraqi leaders here in the US as part of the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs International Visitor Leadership Program. A group of us met at my friend Susan's house tonight to talk about grassroots civic engagement--and to eat delicious halal food and share our stories.

Coming from Great Britain, an Imperialist country with a shameful history of colonialism, I'm not a supporter of invasions in general or the 2003 one justified by those elusive (some might say imaginary) weapons of mass destruction in particular. However, as I love to tell my students, I frequently learn most from those whose positions are very different from my own. This evening I learned some very positive effects that regime change had for ordinary Iraqis.

Hassan told me that prior to the 2003 invasion, groups such as his--which exists to safeguard human rights in Iraq and to lobby on behalf of political prisoners--simply could not have existed; they would never have been allowed. After Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, hundreds of civic action groups, small and large, organized and not so organized, began to spring up everywhere as citizens discovered a new freedom to take part in grassroots activism. Hassan, who is from Hawija, a poverty-striken area in Kirkuk Province which is a source of much terrorist activity, saw an opportunity to put his lawyer's training and deep concern for human rights into action, creating the now seven-year-old Human Rights Establishment.

Hassan and his fellow guests, Bashar Al-Mandalwy, founder and manager of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, and Hamid Hussein Safar, Director of Media and General Relationships at the Wasit Electoral Commission, offered us a fascinating perspective on what regime change meant for civic engagement in Iraq. More than that, they offered us the hand of friendship.

"See you WHEN you come to Iraq," Bashar the Iraqi journalist told my daughter Joy, the politically active US high schooler. All politics aside, such friendships forged over falafel and black tea give me great hope for our world...

Friday, April 2, 2010


I think it's probably best if we all just ignore the pink splodges, although I would like to mention that considering how fast it comes off your lips and gets onto the lid of your non-fat caramel latte, Clinique lipstick has amazing stickability once washed and dried with a load of clothes.

I always knew it was a good brand. What I didn't realize was that in order to get it to stay on your lips all day, all you need to do is apply it with liberal amounts of hot soapy water and then dry it with hot air for 40 minutes till it hardens and sets.

It's a great money-saving discovery. Do it that way, and you probably only need to apply it once more for the rest of your life. Helpful hint: choose a shade you can live with--for EVER!