Title borrowed from the venerable Sidney Bosley. So begins my favorite entry of the year: the last one ('06, '07, '08, '09). The year begins as it ends, on the road. One more year honing the craft of public diplomacy, one more year practicing the fine arts of knight errantry. It was a year that began in Central America, and will end in Southeast Asia. As usual, where it ends is never close to where it began.
The year began in a typical babablased fashion, in the Guatemalan Disneyland of Antigua. I had lost my friends the night before as the fireworks shot over the cobblestone lanes and wandered aimlessly before retiring in the wee hours of the new year. New Years Day was spent conducting an interview and wondering if the loud booms in Antigua were a revolution or simply kids exploding fireworks. I spent the afternoon climbing Pacaya, an active volcano. Looking like Moses in a pink shawl, I climbed over the ribbed black volcanic rock and up to the river of golden lava. While roasting marshmellows in lava, as well as my the soles of my shoes, I was reminded of Borges' notion of panta rhei- everything flows.
From there, I headed on to Guatemala City, as I wrote then, a place with more arms than charm but greets you with a barbed wire smile. My journey continued on to El Salvador, which I loved for its warmth. I swam in a volcanic lake with the last boyscout and continued on to San Salvador for my pilgrimage to remember Romero. I dropped down to the beach to welcome my thirties in with the waves. I continued on to the end of El Salvador to pay my respects to the ghosts of El Mozote, and then passed through Honduras and on to Nicaragua and the Sandinista Santa Cruz that was Leon. I passed on through Managua and the protest against Flor de Cana and on to La Gran Sultana, the grand Grenada. In Grenada, I found Lina Fina, a lovely Swedish travel companion for my final leg onto Panama.
Don Pablo Quijote concluded his trek to from LA to Panama, ending at the Panama Canal. Lina and I took in the wonderful city of Panama, which sits so precariously on the fault lines of different worlds, and we ended my trek in true Hemingway style.
I returned to LA for a phenomenal 30th bar mitzvah brunch with my dear PD friends at Ivan Kane’s Was. The party proved a raucous affair, given that the place had bottomless Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Screwdrivers, and kicked off the race to 2014. So began the healthiest of nonrelationships.
I returned to USC for what I thought would be a quiet semester, since I had no courses. Things proved quite the contrary as I bounced from project to project, staying super busy for my last semester. As Comm Czar for APDS, I helped launch our new website and stayed busy with conducting outreach for the org and sending out our weekly newsletters. I also played Editorial Editor for APDS, getting my classmates to submit weekly articles to Neon Tommy and the CPD Blog. I gauged the weekly news and matched it up with my classmates regional and political specialties; I have never enjoyed a role so much as that, and need to figure out how I can be an Editorial Editor when I grow up. Also, the Rockower Post had a grand time picking a fight with the LA Times.
I audited two classes, one of which being with the unauditable Castells. I also kept busy working on Prof. Starr’s US-Mexico Network, and continued my job as news aggregator for PDiN.
I also put together one last photo show, A Focus on Global Health, the project that had me trekking from LA to Panama in the first place. If the 21st Century Family of Man celebrated humanity, this exhibit was a reminder that we still have a long way to go. Nothing stresses me like photo projects. While this one was far easier than the previous since I knew who to partner with, it still had its share of difficulties. Such as the hubris of putting up an outdoor photo exhibit in LA in the spring (C’mon, it never rains in LA- except the week of my exhibit and I have to put tarp-condoms on the photos). In the end, it came together extremely well, and I filled VKC with 8ft walls depicting various issues of global public health.
Meanwhile, I played Senior Editor for Public Diplomacy Magazine for our edition on Human Rights and Public Diplomacy. With the help of my dear colleagues Leah Rousseau and Tala Mohebi (other Sr. Ed and E-I-C), we contemplated conducting human rights violations against uncooperative human rights organizations, and I even lobbed a few land mines at a Nobel laureate.
I also had a little free time to trek around California, visiting SLO, SF, Oak-town, Leland's gift, Bacharach's fav and the Sacrament. Seeing more of the gilded, failed state helped me firm up my decision that I had no business being there.
In the end, it was an exhausting but wonderful semester that sadly had to end. Graduation rolled around, and I collected a Phi Beta Kappa honor as well as the Order of Arete student leadership award (the People’s champ medal!). By the end of graduation, I had also packed on the pounds in my celebratory lifestyle I had been leading- thankfully my stint in Asia and rice diet has gotten rid of that.
Sadly, I bade farewell to my dearest friends and concluded the most fulfilling chapter of my life. I left Lalaland and was off to Taiwan to be a Visiting Fellow at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. It was not the easiest chapter of my life, as I always felt like a stranger in a strange land. I arrived in monsoon season, and was a mess amid the loneliness and grey skies. But the fellowship proved immensely beneficial, as I researched Taiwan’s public diplomacy and enjoyed the task of being paid to think, read and write.
Meanwhile, I fashioned a life for myself in Taipei, finding a nice apartment with good roommates (Ken and Harry) and started learning Mandarin. I began to grok Taiwan, and I bounced all around Ihla Formosa, taking in all its gastrodiplomacy charms-I even conducted a search to find the stinkiest of the stinky tofu. I concluded my 4-month stint, with some real kudos and achievements in terms of publications and interviews. Before I concluded my time in Taiwan, I had a lovely visit from my parents, as well as my sis as a surprise guest for my mother (haunted hotel!).
I slipped out with the wind and headed on to the Philippines to island hop. I arrived to Manila to remember Rizal. Then I visited the paradise that is Rasta Romblon, in its marble, coconut and bamboo splendor. I continued down the wine-dark seas to Cebu, and to Bohol and its chocolate hills before I caught a boozecruise ferry back up to Manila.
I spent November in Indonesia, skirting across Java as I dodged the exploding Merapi and on to Bali. Bali proved disappointing- although Ubud, its cat-sh-t coffee and rogue monkeys proved fun, and I made my way back past the smoking Mt. Bromo and through Yogyakarta and back to Jakarta. From Jakarta, I caught the longest bus of my life, some 54 hours to the middle of Sumatra. I arrived in Bukittinggi and never left that lovely town as I chatted it up with Lord Jim himself. My time in the Spice Islands ended up as an op-ed in the
In December, I crossed the Straits of Melaka to take in the spice history of Malaysia. I fell in love with Malacca, its history and its diversity. The mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese really had the plague of ideas heavy. From there, I headed to KL, a city I came to love. I was joined in Malaysia by the esteemed Sidney Bosley and we traveled north to Penang and Cameron. I returned to KL, which proved to be a limbo as I was unable to gain entrance to Bharat. I was forced to leave Malaysia and start a long march to Bangkok to acquire passage to India. I conclude this rich year of adventure and change on the road to Bangkok, passing the new year in Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand.
I conclude this marvelous year wondering what the next will hold and wandering to hasten its bounty. I don't know if I will pass it in India, South Africa or places unplanned. I will conclude this entry as I am apt to do, with a few favorite missives from the ages, a poem from Borges and a sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have enriched my life during this past year.
"The past and future do not exist; all we have is the infinite present"
-James Clavell, Shogun
The Dream by Jorge Luis Borges
While the clocks of midnight hours are squandering
an abundance of time,
I shall go, farther than the shipmates of Ulysses
to the territory of dream, beyond the reach
of human memory.
From the that underwater world I save some fragments,
inexhaustible to my understanding:
grasses from some primitive botany,
animals of all kinds,
conversations with the dead,
faces which all the time are masks,
words out of very ancient languages,
and at times, horror, unlike anything
the day can offer us.
I shall be all or no one. I shall be the other
I am without knowing it, he who has looked on
that other dream, my waking state. He weighs it up,
resigned and smiling.