The last time I did this, I caught flak from a few people who felt
slighted because I had not mentioned them, even though we had spent time
together. Apologies both belated and in advance, then, for a very
incomplete and random round-up of news of SAISers from Markus and Serra's
Joachim Alpen has an interesting job with Sweden's foreign service in
Moscow, the perks of which include a luxurious flat and more holiday than
even the most die-hard German unionist would know what to do with.
Glenn Mannoff has beaten him to the punch in terms of changing jobs. No
longer a journalist, he now is the corporate communications head for
Esprit Telecom, a small UK upstart.
Aygen Yayikoglu managed to visit Tom Jacobs
in Kyrgizstan on an EBRD mission to fund a power project. He's also
learning the Khazak language in his spare time in London.
I was once told I am the best worst dancer. This is not true. Ladies and
Gentlemen, hats off to Tom Jacobs.
Charles Kenny is right. Osten is crap at charades. Osten is also moving,
from Dubai to the Channel Islands, in two months or so. He's not sure
whether he will prefer elderly women to camels.
Charles, in the meantime, is also wondering how to escape the clutches of
his job at the World Bank, which involves a lot of vacation, decent pay
and relaxed pace, in favor of something which will give him an ulcer.
Something Africa-related, he says.
Nick Lasagna married, as we all know, this summer in Ferrara to Maria.
This was Emilia-Romangna's Romeo and Juliet tale of the decade. You may
recall Lasagna senior's role as campaign manager for Silvio Berlusconi.
Maria's father happens to be chums with Romano Prodi. Happily no one died
as a result of our star-crossed lovers' union: Prodi showed up at the
wedding and Berlusconi sent a congratulatory telegram.
The IFC is keeping Martin Spicer busy. He's been to Brazil numerous
times. Fertilizer projects. He still smells okay. Do we have Becky to
SAIS and its connections are supposed to advance our careers, not torpedo
them, right? Go ask Zach Messite, who was slated to be named the CIA's
spokesman until his background checkers decided he had too many foreign
Julia Holman is itchin' to get out of Atlanta. No doubt she will keep us
Jame DiBiasio went elephant riding in the environs of Chiang Mai,
Thailand. Elephants are revered symbols of wisdom througout South-East
Asia, and he hopes Euromoney, which has just purchased the company he
works for, demonstrates sufficient amounts of it and doesn't sack him.
Word was passed during the boat trip that Geralyn Smitherman has joined
USTR with responsibility for implementing the agency's agreements
worldwide. Sort of a top cop role for US trade policy, if I understood
correctly. So nobody better mess with Uncle Sam. (In other news from
absent SAISers, Andrew Stephens and his wife Manuella have moved to
Northern Virginia and he is now doing anti-dumping work for the
Department of Commerce...Suzan Tobler married her beau Brad.)
I don't know much about what Tom and Uta have been up to but it must
involve a lot of sports because those guys are in shape.
Serra and Markus, who must be exhausted after taking care of more details
than we need to know to make their celebration a success, are planning a
brief, quiet holiday in Spain. Where they will not see one single SAISer.
Markus and Serra's wedding took place on a boaty-island type thing in
the middle of the Bosphorus. Imagine Rockall with a dance-floor, a
restaurant and a swimming pool and without the circling Icelandic
cruiser, the Greenpeace survival shelter and the forty-foot waves. In
what was to become a repeated motif, we ate and we drank, plentifully
and well, again and again. It was one of those meals where what you
think is the main course turns out to be the first appetizer. Luckily,
there was plenty of raki to help wash down excesses of food --not for
the first time I discovered that it tastes all right after the third
glass. Markus gave a speech in Turkish, or at least a close
approximation. God (and perhaps even the odd Turk) knows what he said,
but it got a laugh. Then Jelittos young and old took the floor with the
belly dancer. It must be said that old showed somewhat more panache
than young, who was obviously pining for a dance with his own sultry
maiden. But Markus did do a good impression of a cicada on speed during
a stirring rendition of "Jump." Serra and Mike looked somewhat more
elegantly sedate in their turns around the floor, but they were cheating
--they actually knew how to dance. Meanwhile, Julia tried to teach me.
Not through lack of trying, she failed miserably. I blame the violent
rocking of the dancefloor. A Prize goes to Tonje, for most successful
attempt to lose her airline tickets. Prizes might also go to Tom A.
and Rob for earliest attempt to buy tickets on the Midnight Express and
Tom J. for greatest efforts to find a ticket to bliss, but I could have
my wires crossed.
Istanbul is amazing. Even its waterworks are worth visiting (sucks to
you, London Ring Main). If you men want to learn how you look in a
skirt somewhat more fetching than the Scots version, just go to a Mosque
in shorts and one will be provided for you (imagine Oral Roberts'
reaction if you tried cross-dressing in his holy of holies). Inside are
some pretty impressive architectural feats, with remarkably little odor
of athletes' feets. My favorite was the Sulamanyie Mosque, in part
because I found, gratified in six foot high letters on the wall behind
it, the acronym "SAIS." Serra denies all knowledge, but not too
convincingly. The Topkapi palace has a skull bone and arm of John the
Baptist. You can tell they're genuine, because they aren't connected.
It also has a collection of tacky Nineteenth Century curios from the
great heads of state of the World. Imagine the bejeweled equivalent of
a garment emblazoned "My Daddy Made a Binding Treaty at the Congress of
Berlin and All He Got Me was this Lousy T-shirt." The police are very
nice, and speak fluent French. Always remember to take an extra roll of
film if you do have to go to the police station, though --I now have
sixteen pictures of me with various Turkish gendarmes, because you don't
say no to people with submachine guns.
We all flew down to Marmaris, apart from those hardy folk who took the
bus (14 hours, limited toilet facilities). Marmaris, it must be said,
sucks. It is full of pink English tourists, with sunburned patches on
the upper curve of their beer bellies, stumbling along to Itsy Witsy
Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini and eating fish and chips as a sign
of appreciation toward the local cuisine. We played "spot your
tourist," and to be fair there were some really annoying Germans there
as well. One who looked like Tony Blair at the age of eight. Tony
Blair looked really stupid when he was eight. Marmaris does have lots
of beautiful boats, however, onto two of which we all piled, and left.
The boats didn't so much sail as motor. Indeed, the one time our boat
put the spinnaker up, it ripped. Rob was very disappointed, because he
had practiced with his string for weeks before coming, and was hoping to
use his double-back sluice knot to tie the jib to the focísl. The rest
of us were rather happy we didn't have to sail back and forth against
the wind. The days were spent cruising from one bay to another,
sunning, eating and swimming. The nights were spent eating, drinking,
playing a succession of party games. One night was also spent
swimming. A certain member of the party remembers that evening with
especial delight, and cannot stop talking about a particular "rack" that
he espied. But decency demands the drawing of a veil. While this was
how the majority of the party spent their time, Serra had a different
agenda. Our peace-loving and ever-attentive captain was faced by a
constant barrage of complaints from Ms Ayral, obviously still tired and
emotional from the wedding party. But we all had our little quirks.
Markus wasn't happy without a paddle in his hand, which made me wonder
if he'd ever been in an English public school. Tom and Uta were always
down in their cabin "having a drink" (which I assume was a metaphor),
while Joerg and Marlynne dispensed even with the metaphor. Makram had
an overwhelming urge to do instant consumer surveys on call waiting. I
could go on.
One had to be careful in knowing when the party games stopped and
started. Purely rhetorically, I once asked about the plucking of nose
hair. I suppose I deserved the half-hour exposition. Markus was a good
psychiatrist, Serra an evil patient. As to the last night's
entertainment, Rob, Mike, Beth, Makram, Andrea, Tom, Uta and I should
not be allowed loose on the stage again, and Osten is truly crap at
Despite it being a predominantly SAISy crowd, there wasn't one
conversation dusting out the corners of an Edgeworth box, and the only
j-curves appeared while playing Frisbee. It was all very relaxing. The
one excursion that we all took was to a water-drip, packed with other
people. Luckily, it all got rather beautiful and empty above the falls,
with clear pools surrounded by butterfly-laden stones. Otherwise,
off-boat adventures were limited to games of hunt the sharpest thorn
through the spike-infested flora of the nearest hill. Osten and Joachim
found a goat skull on one such trip --no doubt it had collapsed from
internal bleeding after trying to eat some of the stuff.
Tonje and Elise both became experts in carpet perusing. Tonje can now
explain the difference between a Persian yaks' down double weave and an
Anatolian shag (no innuendo intended). Despite some quiet griping in
the background (sounded like the Swedish for "not another fucking
carpet"), Elise bought a camel rug --not of or under, but on, I
believe. For some reason she had to pay more because it had already
spent fifty years in close contact with a camel. Obviously carpets have
their own standards when it comes from differentiating "antique" and
Back in Istanbul, most of us were able to go for a last night at a great
restaurant (all you can eat and drink, 3 million Turkish Lira --ask
Serra for the address, and ignore the taxi driver when he says that its
the most dangerous place in Istanbul, frequented only by violent youth
and Mafiosi). We sat down at around 8:30. The food stopped coming at
around 2:00. God knows how any Turk weighs under 300 pounds. By the
end of the trip there were schemes afoot to buy a boat in Turkey, to buy
a house in Tuscany and to buy another boat in Stockholm. This made me
realize I didn't have nearly enough in the way of earnings potential,
but it also suggested how much we'd all enjoyed the week. Endless
thanks to Serra and Marcus.
Stefan: Rebecca Patterson is cool. Because its hot in London yet it doesn't seem to affect her, How does she do it?
Matthew: Impressive thermo-dynamics.
S: You wouldn't be referring to her dancing skills?
M: Oh no, Stefan, I'm referring to her ability to eat a four course meal and then salsa in the hallway with several random Wall Street Journal reporters. It's gone three o'clock now, and heaven knows what she's up to.
S: I think the party affected us all equally, Matty.
M: What did you contribute then?
S: I appreciated her from the gutter.
M: Would you care to explain that rather oblique statement? Would it be related to that famous Uppington chat-up line: "I love you, but I'm scum."?
S: Scum is a relative term. When Uppington uses it I'm sure it's enirely justified. But you must ubderstand that the word gutter implies so much more--an upwards gaze, a yearning, a acknowledgement of there bein more to life, a feeing for one's own motaliy, the knowing that the guter is all there is, even itf yearning is a legitimate quest, the...
M: ...rustle of an empty fag packet, the collection of mouldy leaves, discarded needles and un-used supermarket coupons. That's what's in the gutter. And by the way, you can't yearn for a quest. It doesn't make sense.
S: Surely your inebriation does not extend to misuderstandig the written word.
M: You know, I'd have an easier time udderstandig the written word if it were typed properly...
S: Given this text will be subjected to a spell check you point is nirely moot.
M: Frankly, such ex-post facto self-jusification is symptomatic of your entirely unhumanistsic approach to technology. May your novel wither on the keyboard of your lack of imagination.
S: My imagiation does not rest on a keyboard, but in the gutter--that's the whole point.
M: Well, it seems rather a blunt one.
S: Blunt instruments tend to hurt the most, do they not?
M: Maybe, but sharp ones are more incisive.
S: I prefer consicion to incision.
M: I thought consicion was a similie for being patronizing, young man.
S: You were wrong, but it is gratifying to see you admit your mistakes. See consicion.
M: I'd rather not. Anyway you're not jewish. How can you have a concision? And don't you think our generous public is getting tired of our witty repartie?
S: I never assumed it was witty, I always assumed it was after an excellent dinner of gazpacho and red mullet with hand-shelled peas on a bed of alcohol among good friends, including Rebecca, to come to a point.
M: Do you?
S: Yes, good night Matty.
M: Good night Steffl.
Could not deal with, NJ, so I moved into a place on the Upper East
Side. Love the neighborhood, but am roasting like everyone else. Had
the stereo stolen out of my car, and now feel myself to be a partially
initiated New Yorker. Being the Upper East Side, they locked the door
after they were through.
My new email address is MartinBuhr@HotMail.com
It's hot here, too.
It dosn't happen often, only a couple of merciless days every year, but London has been squarely hit by a heat-wave that makes even native New Yorkers sweat.
Sitting in my spare room -- currently occupied by a travelling Stefan -- and wishing that my normally mouse-like neighbors would shut off the salsa, it seems like only two years ago that I experienced that same feeling of febrile dampness while hanging out of a window across from Dupont Circle.
London doesn't just get hot. It seethes. August, too, the cruellest of all months, brings with it hordes of tourists. The sort who seem drugged, stumbling around, stopping in the center of the street to admire some speck of dust on the ground. The sort who stop and gaze around right in front of me as I'm walking behind. There must be some sort of rota, where tourists take it in turns to stop dead in-front of otherwise sane people going about their daily business. This, along with the gurgling buses and the hideous number of cars on the road (not including mine) sends the temperature shooting way over tolerable limits. My car has plastic seats, and no roof, but I still stuck to the seats.
It makes you long for the wide open plains of Oregon. Stefan and I, having befriended a hairy logger called Mike, helped him build a road with the help of very heavy machinery. We dug shit and moved shit. There were no cars on that road. In fact, the only cars to speak of were rusting hulks in front-yard auto-graveyards. The air was fresh -- the sort you imagine exists in TV adverts for fabric softener. The beer was weak, but it was at least cold. Warm beer is a trait I will never forgive my country for.
Having grappled with the heaving masses in Soho, struggled to find somewhere to serve alcohol at midnight that didn't resemble a sauna, that didn't employ style-guru door-people, and that didn't leave your ears ringing, the open space that you can still find in the West seems tempting indeed. At least the heat is shared around a little more evenly. London is like a microwave: It cooks from the inside out, which is no good if you live in the middle.
I wouldn't take Stefan with me, though. He's sitting on the balcony quoting passages from a book by Mother Teresa. Literally.
I thought some SAIS people might be interested in (or bored by, one or the
other!) my latest adventure in Africa. After Gioia and Sebastian's wedding in Italy, I
flew straight to Nairobi, Kenya, where I spent a month as part of a USAID
team gathering information about the Rwandan refugees in Zaire (now the
Democratic Republic of Congo). The work itself was pretty routine, but
Nairobi is quite an interesting place. I definitely saw a marked
difference between Nairobi and Freetown, Sierra Leone (my other Africa
For those who haven't been, Nairobi is nothing like one's standard picture
of Africa. There are tons of great restaurants, at least 5 modern
shoppings malls (some with "eateries"), several movie theaters, lots of
scrapers, etc. (You get the picture!) As in Sierra Leone, it was hard to
find "African" food but there's a great Indian restaurant and a wonderful
French restaurant. One of the more interesting places I ate specialized in
serving "game" meat. Waiters come around with samples of gazelle, giraffe,
crocodile, eland, zebra, etc. I probably ate more meat that night then I
do in a month!
Another highlight was my safari -- I spent two days in the Masai Mara game
preserve. Masai are the traditional herdsmen who still live on the plains
in grass huts. Mara means "spotted land" in the Masai language. In our
camp (yes, we were in tents) there were two Masai men who walked around in
traditional costume and let tourists have their picture taken with them.
Wonder how much they get paid?
The game drives (I went on four of them) were amazing. I saw a lot of
animals; most of them were just 10 feet away from our jeep (lions, hyenas,
zebras, elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, eland, water bucks, gazelles,
etc.). I have great pictures for anyone who wants to be really bored!
Well, there's probably more to tell, but I should get back to work.
First, let me thank you for rallying the troops to write in. Like New York,
the dog days of summer have hit Boston so the action is slow, maybe
sultry.Our cat's attitude sums it up, he basically stretches out full
length (he's huge, approximately 2 feet of cat) and snoozes till midnight,
then wakes up for fun -- which consists of hissing at our house guests like
Chris Donat as we are talking about how loving and sweet the Pud is. Given
that the temperature was 95 yesterday and I have no a.c., I drank a beer
for lunch, several for dinner, and rapped the evening up by watching
Saturday Night Fever from 11-1am. I hope the next SIASesque wedding has a
70s disco theme.
Unfortunately my news is rather self centered. John and I about to become
homeowners. After moving every year, from city to city, and continent to
continent, for the past ten years, this is a very scary prospect. The only
thing of value I have ever owned is my mountain bike and some books . But,
sick of being slapped with taxes for being DINKS and YUPPIEs (I think these
words are gross and rather base, but they are accurate), we're taking the
plunge. So for those who have slept on our pull out couch (Beth, G&S,
Chris, Aideen) there is relief in sight, as this is a two bedroom. Right
here in Harvard Square.
The other news is that I have taken a job with a small, new energy company.
I will be leaving Harvard sometime in the next month, to enter the
for-profit world for the first time. The name if the company is New Energy
Ventures. It is a marketer/aggregator of electricity. We sell power to
consumers in deregulated markets. Our headquarters are in CA, but I will be
working out of the Boston office as the manager of business development and
public affairs. the busniess is focused on domestic markets, but I hope it
will include Europe as the EU directive to open up electricity to
competition is implemented. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised and
G&S's wedding to learn of how many people were somehow involved in the
energy industry. I think I counted aound 7 or 8 people (Hazlyn, Matthew
Scott Hansen, Beth, Linda, Kim, etc).
I did see Chris D. a few weeks ago as he and Adrainna flew in for a rapid
fire visit before heading off to a family party. Beth came up for July 4,
we basically drank too much, bought too many pairs of shoes, and showed
off our lack of skill in softball.
Hope everyone has fun in Turkey. Given the condo purchase, we just can't
swing two trips. Best wishes to Serra and Marcus! And other soon-to-be
[More recently, Carrie wrote:]
I will be leaving my position at Harvard on Friday, August 8. My e-mail
account will no longer be valid after that date. I do not have a new e-mail
address yet, however, I will pass it along as soon as I get one. The
company I am going to work for is New Energy Ventures. It is located in
Boston. The number there is 617-859-3666 .
John and I will be moving into our new place on September 1. More
information to follow......
Summer in Washington oozes on, made bearable only by evenings at the Fox
and Hounds supping down gin and tonics and batting off mosquitoes. If
it weren't for the lack of elephants, and that we gave up this corner of
the world to native rule a little longer ago, sitting there with one's
Bombay Saphire substitute and warm Schweppes one could empathize with the
British members of the Indian Civil Service who stayed on after
independence, a la Paul Scott. Of course, I doubt there were many gay
pride marches in Bangalore, but what of it?
I visited another piece of English field that will be forever foreign
earlier in the year, meeting up with Jame DiBiasio, Julie Wurfel, and a
slew of ex-SAIS types with hidiously well paid jobs. Jame, my brother
and I went off to Macao on a foggy and miserable day, we ended up
looking a bit like Prince Charles at the handover. We were sadly
disappointed not to meet any shady sicilian-looking Chinese underworld
types being beaten up by Jackie Chan, but I suppose if life imitated art
in that part of the world, we'd all be two-dimensional and have
moustaches down to our backsides. Met an interesting investment guru
there called Marc Faber, who though Hong Kong after the handover would
follow the same trajectory as Venice after it joined a united Italy.
Which I guess means don't invest in HK property, because it's all going
May 1st, back in Washington, I watched the British election results with
a lot of very drunk Labour supporters. Little did I realize then that
seeing Goldsmith shouting 'out, out, out!' at David Mellor would be his
last public words, and probably his most coherent at that. Got chatting
to Wolfensohn's speech-writer at the party. Just before she fell off
her chair, she told me that the man never uses her material, but just
makes it up as he goes along, which explains a lot. Wolfie's latest
nefarious scheme, hopefully soon to be scuppered by Captain Reality,
involves fish again. This time tuna. Based on the overpaid
recommendations of a bunch of four-foot three beanpoles from Peat
Marwick, Jim has decided that we no longer need to rent any office
space, and only use what the Bank owns. This means 1,500 more people
will have to be stuffed into three buildings. To save space, consultants
will now share desks like submariners do beds, and pot plants will be
banned. To help people cope, Wolfensohn is planning to install a
deoderant and breath-freshener dispenser on every floor, and he has
promised not to visit any of the smaller offices for fear of suffocating
their occupants with his flab. Otherwise, Bank work remains vaguely
amusing. I have discovered (1) growth doesn't cause happiness (2) we
don't know what causes growth (although I'm guessing its happiness).
Joachim and Elise came over for a visit in July. Stefan came down and
we spent an enjoyable day swapping paedophile jokes. Joachim fell in
love with a stuffed horse called Misty, with a map of the US on her
flanks. Too long in Rusia and he's started thinking like Catherine the
I am organizing a volunteer mentor program that will pair volunteers
with Washington, DC high school students at Calvin Coolidge High School
to assist the students in the college application process (identifying
schools, writing entrance essays, financial aid processes, SAT prep,
etc.). I participated in a similar program last year and found it
tremendously rewarding. I am working with Alicia Robinson (SAIS '96,
I'm SAIS '95) to develop a program centered around SAIS alumni who live
in DC. The program is open to anyone, not only SAIS grads.
We are working actively with the SAIS and JHU Alumni organizations. I
wanted to approach you about publicizing the program on the class Web
pages. We are trying to schedule a room at SAIS in early September for
a reception and information session for prospective volunteers. I
should have a firm date soon. Would you be able to help in getting
something on the class Web pages with a link to my e-mail for those
desiring more information?
I look forward to hearing from you.