Monday, July 18, 2005

In London after the bombings

Ok, so seeing as my sister has yet to ban me from posting despite no longer being anywhere exotic I’m taking that as indication that she so deeply enjoys my writing that she wants me to keep posting.

Hello from London!…where the bombings continue to dominate the news and the plucky Londoners continue to get on board bues and the tube without batting an eye. It really is something the way they’ve rolled over the incident as though it were common occurrence. However, it is in keeping with their national character that displays no public emotion under stressful circumstances until some seemingly random tragedy sets the country off and then displays public emotion wholly out of all proportion to the actual event - ie. the death of Princess Diana.

Last night I went to dinner with friends who live between the Liverpool Street and Altgate East stops and they were completely preoccupied with the latest questions on the investigation and not at all concerned that the trains being picked out of the tunnels were ones on which they normally travel to work.

The thing that has been most interesting is the desperate attempts on the part of the BBC to not label it ‘terrorist’ attack. In fact, the words ‘terrorist’ have been retroactively removed from BBC articles and the incident is generally referred to as the ‘London Bombings’ - the explanations that I’ve heard about this is that the British have become so accustomed to finding fault with themselves and saying mea culpas for colonialism that they have a hard time believing that anyone would attack them without valid reason and that somehow it actually is their own fault.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

From Ukraine on the Orange Revolution

Apparently, my sister has forgotten to change the password settings which still allows me to post! (Lucky, lucky YOU!)

Am no longer in Indonesia - PRAISE THE LORD! - but am in Ukraine and thought I would send an update on the scene here from the U.S.’s new best friend - sorry UK.

I was last here in November, immediately prior to the second election of orange revolution fame, and was curious if upon return I would find the country different…well, at all. I have to admit that I was skeptical. The U.S. is notorious for getting behind the revolution du jour and then forgetting about it while the new government slides into the same corrupt pit into which the last one lived. Then, six or so years later, we rise indignant shaking our head and wagging our finger and help a new government ascend the throne. It’s a beautiful system, actually, we feel good about ourselves and isn’t that what’s important? I digress…

The question remains how is the orange revolution doing six months on? And, in my opinion the answer is, surprisingly well. The first noticeable change was at the airport where passport/customs control operated like a civilized group of human beings rather than a thuggish group of hoodlums. EU citizens don’t even need visas in the summer months. Orange is still everywhere, on buildings, on scarfs, in kiosks, on flags, on clothes. Investigations are being carried out into shady business deals from the previous government. The currency has stabilized and is strong against the dollar. Yushenko (the funny looking guy who was poisoned and then elected) has cleaned house - even the social services people with whom we deal are new. The last thing - and the hardest to quantify but the easiest to notice - is that people are less afraid. A sort of apathetic gloom that has pervaded the atmosphere for at least 10 years has lifted. Things just ’seem’ more open, happier. Obviously, none of the things I’ve mentioned are significant policy changes or promising hard data on improvement but as a barometer for how the country is doing I’ll say it’s on the better side of good.

So what does it all mean? Well, it means that Ukraine is going somewhere. And, most importantly, that somewhere is not Russia. A friend of mine referred to a recent article she’d read that said Kyiv is the new Prague. I think that sums up quite a lot. Ukraine, at the moment, sees it’s future with Europe rather than Russia. Hopefully, it will get all the help it needs to carry on down that path.