Since my last post, I have gone most of the way towards getting
settled in NYC, to include finding a place to live. My future digs
are on the second floor of a house in Weehawken on the ridge
overlooking the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and the Manhattan
skyline. But why, you may ask, would anyone want to live in 'Jersey,
a land populated by guys named Vinnie who desplay their virility in
the form of gold chains on hairy chests, and drive late 70's Trans
Ams, complete with screaming chicken hood art...? The answer is that
my office is WWAAAAAYYY out near Paterson, NJ, so I got as close to
the city as I could.
The house itself is large - 2 1/2 bedrooms,
living room, large kitchen, dining room, and bath. It comes with
hardwood floors and a washer and dryer. There is also a fair sized
back yard (I already have plans to get a pooch), with a fantastic view
of the NYC skyline. You may pose yet another question by asking why I
would sink to this gruesome level of delail about my life (as though
anyone cared). I answer with a question of my own - What would happen
if Martin landed a great place to live which was beyond his financial
means, and did not find some way of defraying the costs? The answer
is that it would be bad... The rent for just me is $1100. The rent
for me and another person is $1200. Therefore, if anyone out there in
our reading audience knows of someone who is in the market to share
such a place as mine, please send them my way. The house is in a very
quiet neighborhood (see attached map) and
offers easy access to the city by bus, ferry, car, or ox cart.
After reviewing the recent posts from Jame and Tom (by the way, if
either of you read this, let it be known that I speak for many others
in saying that I look forward to your by-lines with a sense of
anticipation most non-SAIS people reserve for, say, the New Republic,
the Economist, or TV guide), I feel remiss in not being more creative
about my postings. However, New York should provide ample raw subject
Finally, after 9 years of intensive debate Reyer and I have decided to get
married. So people ask me (mainly female friends I have to admit) how and when did he ask you? But
that is not the way it went, as I already said, we talked about it for a
long time and came to a consensus.
My present job at the European Parliament has given me the necessary
political experience to reach this consensus. Quite useful. However, now
that I am going to throw a 2-day party on August 1 and 2, I have to move
back to the Netherlands again. How else can I get everything organised? Can
anybody advise me on a decent country band? Of course I am expecting a
large delegation from SAIS/Bologna 1993-1994.
All the best, Veronique
- Ben Neaderland / Washington, DC / Feb 18
Alas, it would appear that in the interest of the national security of the
United States, I will no longer be able to send or receive e-mail at work. I
have gone to work on NATO policy in the office of International Security
Affairs here at the Pentagon, which looks like it will be very interesting.
Unfortunately, both the e-mail and netscape systems are only internal, so
until I get my act together and get onto the net at home, I am being cast
into the cyber outer darkness. farewell.
I think I know, just a little, how astronomers felt when possible traces
of biological organisms were discovered in the Martian meteor unearthed
in Antarctica--that sense that we're not alone. I have made contact with
a new intelligence, the Hong Kong SAIS mafia. Mirror-gazing.
Jennifer Stanley and Denise Flood, our beloved Japanese studies acolytes
displaced to New York, referred me to a Japanese-studies friend of
theirs, Julie Wurfel, who lives in Hong Kong. Some of you, many of you,
may know her, but I did not. Julie told me she recognized me from
Cordon's monetary policy class. We went to dinner last night with another
Stanley/Flood friend--sorry, only know the first name, Carla--and later
I met up with several more Nanjing Center folks, some of whom had made
the DC tour.
It was an eerie (though altogether enjoyable) evening. The SAIS profile
translates fluently. Like obscenity, you know the typical SAISer when you
see one. Instead of chatting in French and Swedish about skiing in
Slovakia they chat in Mandarin about sailing around Indonesia.
We Atlanticists speak of New York, London and Washington being the major
SAIS centers. Add Hong Kong to the list. Their group--our group--is quite
substantial. So, wonderful as it was to be introduced to their circle, I
can't but help wonder: are we standardized as Henry Ford's assembly line
parts? Is there an "Asian studies" type and a "European studies" type and
an "African studies" type and an "American Foreign Policy" type? Or just
a SAISer? Does this open new questions about free will and the
individual? Or did we merely hit the Sambuca-and-espresso too hard last
night in a European-style cafe?
The new year has passed and I'm back in Bishkek for another year of sad business, confused politics, and willing sheep. It seems hard to believe that I'm going on year 2 in this place. Overall things are going fine. I had thought I might get transferred to Uzbekistan, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen now. No big deal. As I understand it, Uzbekistan is sinking deeper and deeper into Soviet-style paranoia, restrictions, oppression, and misguided and historically dubious self-importance so there won't be much investment work going on there anyway, especially given the currency restrictions they've introduced recently.
I got back to the States for a few weeks over the holidays which was nice. Spent a little time in NJ, DC, and NC, and got to catch up with a SAIS folks. Nothing overly exciting, but a good break from here. In early December I got the chance to spend about 10 days in India. It was pretty interesting, but I can't say it's one of my favorite places. It's an amazing country, but frustrating with people constantly trying to sell you things and not shy to lie, cheat or steal to make a buck (or rupee). I crammed a lot in, probably too much, but I did get a chance to see a good bit of the country and I think I bumped into all 900 million of them. It's like a living zoo there--saw camels, elephants, pigs, goats, chickens, water buffalo, monkeys, cows, boar and others--basically living free and easy in the streets of major cities including New Delhi.
"Hello, hello. One pen. One pen. One rupee. Hello. One pen. Hello, hello." It seems that "om" is out and this is the new mantra. If I heard another little boy say "Hello" to me, I thought I would kill'em. Between them and the horns blowing all over the place, it was enough to make you go insane. I'm really glad I went, and got it out of my system though. I don't mean to imply that I DISliked it, but I'm still trying to figure out what I thought. "Hello, hello. One pen. One pen." It was like stepping into a National Geographic Magazine with all the colors, sights, and sounds--none of which I understood. The Ganges was interesting, but filthy. Though that didn't stop the daily bathers; they would just splash water at the foul, bloated animal carcasses that floated nearby as they bathed. No biggie. Also, everything is cheap there; got some good karma for under $.20, a blessing for the family goes for under $3 if you are good at negotiating (up to $50 if not), and lots of "Dead-head" clothes for pennies. Sandals are cheap too, but not necessarily practical. With all the animals running around, I stepped in enough shit to fertilize Africa. Now there's a thought. If you were to send all the shit that I stepped in over to the Sahara Desert...................you'd have one stinking desert!!!!
Last week I spent in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan for work. It was interesting, but rather similar to here except they have lights on the streets, man hole covers, lines on the roads, and real construction going on. I don't know how they can afford it as I don't think they're selling much of their natural gas yet. They are probably just diverting all the aid money to make everyone think things are going great. Let's see...brand new airport and nice hotels (but no tourists), brand new Boeing jets for the President, Turkmenbashi (Father of all Turkmen--who's picture is everywhere, I repeat, everywhere!), and a new $100 million palace for him too. Good use of foreign aid if you ask me. We can't have the "Big Turkmen" living in some $50 million dump, now can we? What would all the other leaders of poor, corrupt, misguided countries think?
It was a pretty good time, until we tried to leave the airport with rugs we had bought. It was our fault for not getting the proper export licensees, but they first tried to get bribes from everyone to let us through, then decided that none of the stuff could leave the country so we had to leave about 45 carpets and other things with the local office to deal with. Worst of all was when the custom official was going through my bag and took a shine to my $3 travel clock. He decides that he wants it and then claims that some crappy little hat I had bought could not be taken out of the country, but if I gave him the clock, he would let me go. Scumbag. I know it wasn't expensive, but it really pissed me off that the little SOB would even demand it. I ended up giving it to him, and then went to talk to his boss who was standing a few yards behind him. As I was doing this (and basically receiving no sympathy from her), he came and gave it back. What an asshole. Kind of ruined the whole experience.
Other than that, there's not much to report. I hope all is going well for everyone. Take it easy and if you get cold, lonely, or bored, just do what I do, curl up with a good book or warm sheep. That always does the trick. See ewe later!!