I will be heading out to Africa this Saturday for a two week trip. I'll be going to Sierra Leone for 10 days and spending two days in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. (Then I'll spend two days in Brussels with Louise Ferguson.) Why am I going to a tropical disease infested area like Sierra Leone during the rainy season? The U.S. Agency for International Development is sending me on an "agricultural assessment". Luckily, they're also sending along someone who actually knows something about agriculture. I'll give a report when I get back!

I just got a letter from Yamilee Bastien who asked me to pass on some info. Yamilee is serving in the Peace Corps in Benin. She's working on small business development and SAIS people can write to her at:

c/o Corps de la Paix des Etats-Unis
B.P. 971
Cotonou, Benin
West Africa

By the way, Jim Cerenzia no longer works at CFED so I would take his name off the e-mail list. [Anybody know his new email adress?]

Jenny

Hi everybody,

I got a new e-mail address:

jstrohma@cet.co.uk

It's supposedly faster, but most importantly I can now retrieve my messages from everywhere and don't have to wait to return to my London desk. The twentieth century is approaching... yippie...!

Ciao
Jancsi

As the chilled winds of the north and the upcoming elections have begun to turn our nation's fair capital from green to gold, this past weekend saw temperatures in the thirties. How lucky Washington was then to receive warm visits from Atlanta's own Swede- cum- Texas- idependence- hero- namesake Osten "Austin" Johansson and everyone's favorite crypto- Welsh- revolutionary- activist John Uppington. While both were here for only a brief period, they did find time to go out on saturday night for a small carouse, and--judging from Osten's somber expression at brunch the next day--it would appear that neither of them have yet accepted the great Puritan dictum of "moderation in all things." Hang-overs aside though, they both seem well.

Sunday night, I also had the pleasure of dining at the Stephens-Montanari residence on Capitol Hill. Andrew and la sua nuova moglie seem very happy and it appears that the good Mr. Stephens may soon find his way out of tomato protectionism hell.

Both Chris Donat and I (and about 17,998 lucky others) are now heading into our final week of preparation for next Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon I have never run 26 miles before, and probably never will again, but I will hopefully find the wherewithal to do it once -- Cheering SAISers on the sidelines are most welcome.

hope all is well in NY. Vote Republican [Wherever you may be--Oops, sorry Ben].

Ben

It seems to me that the newsroom has grown rather too calm as of late. Is it that nasty noun--apathy? Or all we all still recovering from the shock of autumn at the workplace (I work in academia where the summer is beautifully lazy)?. I don't have much exciting news, but qill contribute anything to keep the spirit of SIGHS alive.

I travelled down to DC a few weeks ago on business and hung out with Chris D. and Ben. they are both training for the Marine Corps Marathon (it is at the end of Oct, send them some luck). Which means they spent half a day on Sat running and the other half eating. Both are looking frigtheningly fit. I went to their building's annual bbq and met a few of their neighbors--including an oversize, I mean giant, poodle which Ben seemed to have a peculiar affection for (it had a large tuft of hair on its head which Ben though was really cool).

We went to see Purple Noon: a 1960s re-issue about two American guys involved with a French gal named Marge and a murder (actually several). The acting is real 60s fab. If you see it, pay close attention to the first scene where there is a great skit done by an american posing as an american in Rome--his accent is classic.Let me know who you think the true culprit is (not necessarily the murderer) Marge, Philip or Tom. I couldn't believe it when C & B blamed Marge! Chris and I also enjoyed a real tourist treat-- paddleboating on the tidal pool. It wasn't too stinky that day.

On this trip I also had the pleasure of seeing Gioia, Sebastian, Jeff (and his fiancee Laura), Diana, Becky and Martin. Sebastian was attending a rather impressive conference at the Brookings Institute. He and Gioia seem happy as always. Diana has a cool job overseeing elections in Bosnia. Unfortunately on this trip I found that DC had deteriorated a lot. This may come as no suprise, but I found it really depressing as it could be a beautiful city except no one really seems to care about the city or its inhabitants.Rather sad.

Aideen Mannion has a job at the Financial Volunteer Corps. She is living in Brooklyn, where, she already had her first apartment disaster! Apparently, on her third day in the apt., a cupboard came crashing down on her head resulting in Aideen being brought to a NYC hosptial. I can't imagine either of these was a pleasant experience. Guido S. was just practising his Italian in Milan as he went there to give a presentation.I like many other, missed a visit with our fair Dutch boy Arend who was in DC and NYC attending the IMF annual meeting. Beth did visit with him, so she is responsible for any news on that front.

The biggest bit news (which I am sure you all know) is of course that our fair innocent [Matthew] Rose has moved in with an American woman--from Oregon. Best of luck to the happy homemakers.

As for myself, my home is still happy. John and I enjoyed our first anniversary with a meal at an expensive, but mediocre Italian restaurant (nothing like Loro di Napoli in NYC--see Beth for details). Seeing each other was the real treat as John works as corporate lawyer in a big firm.

I am moving to Hong Kong straight after New Year's Day. Institutional Investor has offices in London and HK as well as New York, and for several months I have expressed my interest in a post in Asia. No knock on London, but after New York what Western city would be as exciting? And I am not anxious to leave the Big Apple--but I expect it will still be here in its full-fledged insanity. Hong Kong, on the other hand...I'll be there for the Chinese takeover at midnight on June 30, although I hope too drunk to claim "witness to history" status.

I will continue to report for our scrappy newsletter division, but will end my beat on Operations Management at the end of this month. (OM deals with matters too obscure and arcane to go into.) I will report for Foreign Exchange Letter, a solid SAIS sort of thing, covering Asian exotics, chatting up barbaric currency speculators and shifty Asian central bankers. I'll do that in New York for the final two months of this year, briefly inheriting a position that for a few months was helmed by our own Monique Wise before her move to Bloomberg.

In the meantime I remain in the same Village apartment from Hell, which surprises no one more than me. In a wonderfully ironic epilogue, Carolyn moved out and Per, the self-styled Queen of Sweden, has returned. Faithful readers recall he lived there initially. Our mad hatter Nancy has been released after three weeks from Bellevue's mental ward and is on rather heavy medication. Don't some of us have all the luck. At any rate, because her space is very separate from mine, I don't have to deal with her. I ignore her and because I'll be going soon, the situation is tolerable. She has full control of her senses, an improvement but not a great one as she is a bore to begin with. I had tried to move, I spent a few weeks looking frantically. But New York can be difficult and I did not have good luck and in the end it all works out.

Besides, I love the area.

Finally I have a job that I can tell my SAIS friends about. I work at the European Parliament for a parliamentarian, who's been elected through the Lista Pannella Reformatori, or something like that. It is a pity my Italian was pretty useless when I was in Bologna, and only needed in restaurants; now I am all of a sudden working with Italians. It is also a pity I never paid attention to European politics, it's actually a lot more interesting than I thought.
This past weekend Stefan and I journeyed to Atlanta to visit Julia and Osten. Along the way I made a few observations. The first is that Atlanta public transportation is extremely annoying. It talks to you. Antiseptic voices drone on about what stop you're at, advise you where to go, chide you for smoking and treat you like a complete moron. Sure, the metro is swift, clean, spacious and quiet. It would be bearable without character, but the system sinks to the lows of intellectual mediocrity with its patronizing babble. Despite all the mothering, we got lost in the airport.

The picture now brightens, because upon our arrival Julia and Osten threw a splendid party and we got collectively and thoroughly hammered. They've discovered Absolut Kurant goes very well indeed with cranberry juice and Julia can make laudably toxic margaritas. The crowd was typical modern, white Atlanta: about 40% Southerners, 40% Northern transplants and 20% actual Georgians. Some very cute women but mostly married. Too many blondes. The locals have trouble with Osten's name so he has resigned himself to going by "Austin." Hearing people call him Austin was amusing, but hearing Osten call himself Austin was tops. My request to have him dressed in a seer sucker suit with a straw hat was denied.

Downtown Atlanta is spread out like many American cities but manages to retain a cohesive form. I've been in some places that sprawl like a gutted pig's innards, but Atlanta's downtown is well-defined (was that a simile or what!?). The skyline includes some respectably tall buildings but is overall too languid to elicit real excitement (this from a new New Yorker, mind). Atlanta is still in the Olympic spirit, although most of those grounds have been returned to barrenness. The city benefits from artwork, public infrastructure and a slew of advertisements still up from this summer. We skipped the Coca Cola tour. Every time Osten entertains guests from out of town he takes them there and he's sick of the place, and Stefan objected to paying for an advertisement.

Atlanta has a past as well, and the four of us visited Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthplace and the relatively new Park Service facilities highlighting his role in the Civil Rights movement. There is very little left of his neighborhood: a few houses, the church, a fire station. Atlanta has paved over the rest in its quest for modernity. The MLK story is a familiar one--at least it should be--but worth the review.

I suppose you would like more gossip. Julia and Osten have amicably parted. Of course this is entirely the least tasteful forum for discussing this. But nothing was off the record (sleazy journalist here) and they both agree it's for the best. Osten has decided to stay in Atlanta at least for a while--a tribute to the city. They remain on good terms. Julia has run off with Stefan, who refused to return to NYC with me. OK, now I'm lying. She ran off with ME, and I'm writing this from Atlanta. Stefan ran off with Austin.