Sunday, April 28, 2013


How do you say "cougar" in Portuguese?

I don't know, and sadly, I couldn't speak enough Portuguese to figure it out.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Keola and company enjoyed the traditional Saturday feijoada at the popular Armazem do Erreira. Feijoada is black bean stew- cooked with different cuts of meat and stewed onions in bubbling black cauldrons,  It was originally food of the Brazilian slaves, made from their main staple food of black beans and cuts of meat leftover from the plantation masters' kitchen.

Now it is widely enjoyed as typical Brazilian fare, and is eaten over rice with shredded cooked kale, oranges, fried banana chunks and farafa (madioc crumbs).

There was a particular cauldron of black bean soup that is traditionally  poured into a cup with a lil extra spicy sauce added on top.  I poured so much spicy sauce in, a worried waitress came to tell our embassy host Karla to warn her that an American had taken too much spicy sauce.  Karla asked which person it was, and when the waitress pointed to me, she just laughed and said I would be okay. I was, I don't think the spicy sauce even particularly registered.

Dessert entailed pudin de leite (condensed milk flan) and sugar syrup-cured figs (Abba, you would have loved both). The sultry sounds of samba filled the sultry afternoon air. Muito Bom!

Bom Aloha!

There is something so immaculately beautiful in hearing tranquil Hawaiian words pronounced in the bouncy, mellifluous Brazilian-Portuguese tongue.

Goiânia: The Nashville of Brazil

After a brief sojourn in Brasilia, we headed out on the road.  First we had a little rehearsal session with a Brazilian guitarist named Jaime Ernest Dias, who Keola and company would be collaborating with for their big show on friday night.

After the collaboration session, we stopped at a Brazilian restaurant called Mangai, which had a full buffet of regional Brazilian delights.  It was an immaculate lunch of different Brazilian cuisines and fresh fruits and veggies.  We are all quickly becoming Brazilian gastrodiplomats.  We sat out on the covered porch and enjoyed the afternoon breeze over lunch.  I had an amazing plate of rice and feijoada with grilled veggies and fried manioc.  The highlight was a cooked banana covered in a nut crust.  We washed down our lunch with glasses of mango-esque juices (Family of Mango).

We are also quickly becoming huge fans of the Brasilia horizon.  The horizon is so vast here, and the clouds are soft and fluffy.  I have not seen such vast beautiful horizons since Texas or South Africa.

After the rehearsal, we started on our journey to Goiânia, where we would spend the next two days.    On the road to Goiânia, we first stopped in Gama- one of Brasilia's satellite cities, for a workshop on Hawaiian music, culture and history at CIL (a language center).  At CIL, students learned English, French, Spanish and Japanese.  We were working with a group of about 25 English students.  Keola, Moana and Jeff discussed Hawaiian music and culture, and gave an interactive learning session.  The highlight was the hula workshop, where Moana explained to the students how to use hula to "talk story" and share the beauty of the world around you through interpretive movements.  It was a fantastic engagement, the students loved it and were so interested in the dance.  After the program, the teachers had us in their lounge to share some delicious corn bread cake, and chat with some of the students.

After the workshop, we headed off into the day's fading light to Goiânia- some two hours away.  We arrived, checked in and had some dinner at hotel restaurant.  I had a local soup dish- a chicken soup with sour hearts of palm.

I woke up the next morning in Goiânia, feeling a bit stressed.  I took a walk down the avenue and through the park.  I stopped to watch a brilliantly yellow tree slowly drop its yellow flowers on the wind into a sea of yellow blossoms.  Color affects emotion.  I wandered a bit further into the park and stumbled upon a statue honoring Khalil Gibran, which I took as a fortuitous sign.  Turns out I was on Avenida do Lebanon, and this was a statue donated to honor Lebanon's anniversary.  Among its extremely diverse population, Brazil has a large Lebanese community that has contributed greatly to its social fabric (and cuisine!).  I spent most of the morning working, stopping for lunch at a little hole in the wall cafe for some pamonha- kinda like a Brazilian tamale wrapped in banana leaves.

Keola was feeling a lil under the weather, so Mama Hen scrubbed him from the afternoon program.  The rest of us headed over to the new Centro Cultural Brazil Estados Unidos (CCBEU) for a sound check, Hawaiian music and hula program.  Jeff and Moana ran the program on their own.  Jeff also got to meet the ensemble they would be collaborating with for the evening.  It was a popular local singer named Diego Falk and his band.  This had been a bit of a surprise to us, but Jeff rolled with it and had a great time jamming with the band.  They strummed along some favs like stuff from Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz.

I headed back to the hotel to retrieve Keola, who was thankfully feeling well enough for the program that evening.  The concert was a big hit.  For starters, it was the first program at the brand new CCBEU center.  Since the collab band was a surprise, we used some good public diplomacy to figure out the order of events for the concert.

Jeff began the concert, and wowed the crowd with his incredible guitar prowess.  I was so impressed, I have never seen anyone play a guitar like he does.  I will have to post some videos, it is just such a different style.  The hosts had found scenery of Hawaii on YouTube, and let it run on a screen behind the stage.  It made for a great prop, as Jeff was able to explain different part of Hawaii such as beaches close to his own home, and mountains where he grew up.  He also spoke of the Hawaiian paniolo (cowboy) culture, and its similarities with vaquireo (ditto) culture in Brazil and Goiânia in particular, and shared links to Portugal.  I have found that I have learned so much about Hawaii since the tour began.  I had no idea that Hawaii had a large Portuguese community, who brought the instrument that would become the ukulele; Brazil has a similar instrument called the cavaquino.

After Jeff's set, Keola and Moana came on for their own program.  Keola did a masterful job playing slack key guitar.  He strummed and tapped the strings, and made the guitar sing in ways that the crowd (and I) had never heard before.  He and Moana gave a wonderful performance that included everyone's new favorite instrument- the nose flute.  Moana gave interpretive hula dances that accompanied Keola's strumming, and helped draw the crowd in further.  Keola and Moana performed their set beautifully, and were then joined by Jeff to finished out their program.  The audience absolutely loved it.

After the full company set, Keola and Moana headed back to the hotel to rest, and Jeff stayed on to perform with Diego Falk's band.  They collaborated on "The Girl from Ipanema," and the crowd went wild.  Jeff joined the band for the rest of their set, and had the audience enthralled with his guitar skills.  I would venture to say that Goiânia may some day become the home of Brazilian slack key guitar.

The show ended a bit later, and we hung out with our new friends from the center and the band.  We wanted to see some of the Goiânian country music, so we caravaned across town but unfortunately the place was closed on a wednesday night.  Instead, we headed over to a bossa nova bar, and hung out, drinking caiparinhas and eating fried chicken croquettes with pecki.  I had been told about the fruit that is pecki prior that it is a yellow berry with a cactus structure inside.  It is served with chicken, and is a bit sour and a bit dangerous.  You can't actually eat the berry even though it is served on your plate because the cactus in the berry will scratch your throat and stomach.  Sounds like a gastrodiplomacy challenge to me, and I was quite keen to try the fugu of fruits.  Alas, the restaurant had only a yellow pecki sauce but no actual fruit. I got to dip the chicken croquettes in the yellow sauce, which was tasty but lacked the sense of danger of the actual fruit.

We sipped caiprinhas, watched Brazil play Chile in futebol, and chatted about life in Brasil and in Goiânia.  I asked my new friends about their feelings on the upcoming World Cup.  They mentioned a sentiment that I had heard a few times: that Brazil was behind and not going to be ready.  There seems to be a real trepidation that Brazil is not going to have everything done in time.  I explained to the Brazilians that the same thing was said of South Africa, and that everything turned out fine.

The next day we left Goiânia and drove back across the endless horizons (belo horizonte), back to Brasilia.


Watching Brazilian girls learn to hula. God, I did something right in a former life..

On Karma

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WTOP on Gastrodiplomacy!

WTOP has a great article on gastrodiplomacy.  Kudos to Alex Beall of WTOP and to my fellow gastrodiplomats Sam Chapple-Sokol and Mary Jo Pham

Governments find their way to the public's heart - through the stomach


More and more governments are connecting with the foreign public over their national cuisine through state- and citizen-sponsored programs. (Thinkstock)
  • Gallery: (25 images)

Alex Beall, special to

WASHINGTON - The Korean dumplings in your grocer's freezer, the new Thai restaurant on the corner and that Burmese curry you ate for lunch are doing more than satisfying your craving for an exotic and flavorful meal. These foods are also helping to foster international relations.
A new diplomacy program -- called gastrodiplomacy -- is giving food a seat at the negotiating table. This type of diplomacy seeks to incorporate a country's traditional food into the everyday life of the foreign public. This, in turn, expands that's county's diplomatic influence.
"Gastrodiplomacy basically acknowledges how food plays a core role in national identity, culture and communication," says Mary Jo Pham, a graduate student in the School of International Service at American University, who researched South Korea's gastrodiplomacy campaign. "What you experience when you sit down to a dish of Pad Thai is so much more than just a dining experience. When you immerse yourself in a new foreign cuisine, you are partaking in another culture's heritage."
This type of public diplomacy, which has been around for 10 years, helps countries increase national brand awareness, economic development and foreign investment through tourism and trade, namely agricultural trade. It also helps consumers in the recipient country since it provides them with more options in the marketplace and new food experiences.
"It's about talking to the average diner, the average shopper and sharing not only a tasty delight that South Korea has, but also the cultures behind the food and the brand behind the food as well," Pham says.
The term gastrodiplomacy originated from an Economist article, but was popularized by Paul Rockower, the communications director for American Voices.
While highly visible private events, such as a state dinner at the White House, are forms of gastrodiplomacy, the public implementations are also important in the role of government interactions.
"Gastrodiplomacy is just one tool in the arsenal of public diplomacy," Pham says. "It's just one tool that benefits a government that wants to improve its strategic communications in the 21st century and that wants to harness smart power."
Rockower explains that public gastrodiplomacy is mostly used by middle powers that lack military or political power, such as Thailand, South Korea and Peru.
"You're starting to see more and more countries appreciate the role of food as cultural diplomacy because it really reaches people on an emotional, visceral level," Rockower says. "You can talk and talk about how great your culture is but if you actually get to taste it and get to smell it and really get to experience it hands-on you'll get a deeper appreciation and you'll want to learn more about the place that you're tasting."
There are, of course, challenges with the program. Because the practice is a new development, current shortcomings are limited to the public's ignorance of the specific programs or the consumer's dislike of a certain food.

A wide range of countries have adopted their own gastrodiplomacy campaigns. Here's what's happening in the U.S. and around the world.
United States
Though the U.S. is not a middle power, it created its own gastrodiplomacy campaign to celebrate its regional cuisine.
The State Department launched its Culinary Diplomacy Partnership Initiative in September, which named about 80 chefs to be part of the American Chef Corps to serve American dishes for foreign leaders. These chefs also travel abroad to teach the foreign public about regional American cuisine.
The U.S. chose regional chefs to represent cuisines from different areas of the nation.
"This is a way of focusing in on Cajun cuisine, focusing in on the differences in barbeque, trying to show the nuances of American cuisine," Rockower says.
American citizens have also started their own food-focused ventures to promote U.S. foreign relations.
The Pittsburgh-based project Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant that only serves foods from countries that are in conflict with the U.S. The cuisine changes every six months and has featured Iranian, Afghan and Venezuelan menus.
The group hosted a joint meal via Skype between Iranians and Americans during which the Americans ate Iranian food, the Iranians ate American food and participants discussed the conflict between the nations.
New York's Global Kitchen blends cultures within the city through hosting immigrant-led cooking classes to preserve traditional recipes and culture and provide a platform for cultural exchange.
The Thai government was the first to implement a gastrodiplomacy program on a state level in 2002. It established the Global Thai campaign to increase global awareness of the county's cuisine by increasing the number of Thai restaurants worldwide. The program also trains Thai chefs.
"(Gastrodiplomacy is) the fact that you can go to a Thai restaurant and eat Thai food and meet Thai people and understand more of what that culture is about," says Sam Chapple-Sokol, who researched the topic in graduate school at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and now acts as assistant course manager for José Andrés's course "World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization" at George Washington University.
The campaign opened and certified thousands of new Thai restaurants internationally, including Thai Town in Woodley Park. A second campaign, Thai Kitchen of the World, was later created to educate the public about Thai products and food.
South Korea
In 2008, the government of South Korea began the Global Hansik campaign to share the country's culinary heritage with the world. To carry out this goal, it set up the Korean Food Foundation, which builds up the Korean food industry, trains Korean chefs and provides scholarships to chefs who want to study abroad. It also recruits Korean celebrities to represent the culinary brand.
The Korean government partnered with the CJ Foodville food services company to open Korean restaurants. Together they opened the restaurant B.B.Go, a Chipotle- esque chain that serves a traditional Korean mixed rice bowl dish called bibimbap. Other measures include the opening of Korean food trucks in New York and DC and the Bibimbap backpackers, who travel the world to serve Korean food.
"The Korean government has also gone ahead to pick up on contemporary food trends," Pham says. "It's not just about talking about gastrodiplomacy, but talking about how we can get foreign diners to eat Korean cuisine."
Spearheaded by celebrity Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, Peru is working to reclaim and share the country's cuisine. It's encouraging the growth of a new generation of Peruvian chefs, the establishment of new cooking schools and the use of indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques.
International efforts include an educational outreach program to teach others about Peruvian food and adding Peruvian food to the Mediterranean diet.
Taiwan invested $38 million into a four-year program to host international food festivals and sponsor Taiwanese chefs and their restaurants and create other means to promote Taiwanese cuisine.
One event at the Sackler Gallery allowed guests to view the film, "Eat Drink Man Women", by the Taiwanese director Ang Lee, while eating a traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
Unlike other countries' government-run programs, Spain's gastrodiplomatic campaign is maintained by leaders in the Spanish culinary arena, such as José Andrés, owner of Jaleo and Oyamel. The chefs are opening restaurants internationally and sharing the Spanish tradition of tapas, or small appetizers and snacks. The government has recently become more involved in this process, but has still not harnessed this movement completely.
Like the programs of other countries, Malaysian Kitchen for the World opened food trucks and restaurants to share its food. But unlike others, they also set up Malaysian night markets where the public can experience the culture and taste the food.
A 2010 movement in Australia worked to soothe internal race relations. Sparked by acts of violence against Indian students, the Vindaloo Against Violence campaign urged the public to eat at Indian restaurants as a protest against the racism and an effort to incorporate the Indian community into Australian society.

There are other international events and organizations that bring together the chefs of the world including the Embassy Chef Challenge held in D.C. and the annual meeting of Le Club des Chefs des Chefs, a club comprised of the head chefs for heads of state, including the White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford.
Gastrodiplomacy is becoming more widely adopted by countries looking to increase their international influence, such as India, China and Indonesia.
"What's unique about gastrodiplomacy is there is a market there," Pham says. "People have to eat. There's really nothing greater in terms of relationship building than the opportunity to sit down at a table and enjoy a meal together."

Brazil's Orwellian Islamabad

Keola and company finally made our way out of limbo, and headed south via Miami to Brasilia.  Nothing to report or speak of on the way down, and we arrived redeyed to Brasilia.

Years ago, I wrote an entry on Islamabad titled "Pakistan's Orwellian Brasilia," and in the spirit of its opposite, we have arrived in Brazil's Orwellian Islamabad.

Brazil's capital turned 53 years old just the other day, and sadly we missed the celebrations.  I find the city to be a bit fascinating.  It is laid out in quadrants and sectors, with wide boulevards driving through.  There is nary a place to make a left turn in the whole city- those are conducted via circles and underpasses.  The city feels as inorganic as you can expect from a new capital that was built from scratch some 5 decades prior in the middle of nowhere.  But it also has its charm.

Keola and company headed out last night for dinner with my contact at the Embassy, Ramona the ACAO.  We took a taxi to meet her and her husband Ted (who also works at the Embassy), and I chatted during the ride with the amiable driver in spanguese- the bastardized Portuguese that I speak of pushing Spanish words out through my nose.  He told us of the satellite cities that ring the Brazilian capital, the traffic of the greater Brasilia area and how expensive life can be in Brazil's capital.

We arrived to an immaculate hole-in-the-wall called Paulecia to meet Ramona and Ted.  We sat out on the back patio, at plastic tables on plastic chairs.  The metal barbecue that was shaped like a tin house was just a stone's throw away, and the grey smoke swirled around in the cool night.  We sat out in the cool evening, sipping Antartica beer in small cups as the barbecuer kept bringing us picahna- hunks of meat with a thick marble of fat on top-rolled in rock salt and cooked to perfection.  He would take the chunk of meat right off the grill and right to our table, and slice it small.  We breathed in the smoke of the grill as we ate the perfect cuts of grilled picahna kept coming our way until we could stomach no more.  'Twas quite an immaculate welcome to Brasilia.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ipanema meets Maui

Listening to "The Girl from Ipanema" in Hawaiian Slack Key guitar style. This is cultural diplomacy at its finest.

This just in...

"Inspired by the events of the past week, here’s a handy guide for anyone looking to figure out what exactly is going on during a breaking news event. When you first hear about a big story in progress, run to your television. Make sure it’s securely turned off.
Next, pull out your phone, delete your Twitter app, shut off your email, and perhaps cancel your service plan. Unplug your PC.
Now go outside and take a walk for an hour or two. Maybe find a park and sit on a bench, reading an old novel. Winter is just half a year away—have you started cleaning out your rain gutters? This might be a good time to start. Whatever you do, remember to stay hydrated. Have a sensible dinner. Get a good night’s rest. In the morning, don’t rush out of bed. Take in the birdsong. Brew a pot of coffee.
Finally, load up your favorite newspaper’s home page. Spend about 10 minutes reading a couple of in-depth news stories about the events of the day. And that’s it: You’ve now caught up with all your friends who spent the past day and a half going out of their minds following cable and Twitter. In fact, you’re now better informed than they are, because during your self-imposed exile from the news, you didn’t stumble into the many cul-de-sacs and dark alleys of misinformation that consumed their lives. You’re less frazzled, better rested, and your rain gutters are clear."

Monday, April 22, 2013


The wrong kind of Caucasian:

"At this time, there is no evidence linking the Tsarnaev brothers to a broader movement in Chechnya, a war-torn federal republic in southern Russia. Neither of the brothers has ever lived there. The oldest, Tamerlan, was born in Russia and moved to the US when he was sixteen. The youngest, Dzokhar, was born in Kyrgyzstan, moved to the US when he was nine, and became a US citizen in 2012.

 "Despite the Tsarnaevs' American upbringing, the media has presented their lives through a Chechen lens. Political strife in the North Caucasus, ignored by the press for years, has become the default rationale for a domestic crime."

Brazil, eu te amo

As I sat in a cafe with the mellifluous sounds of Portuguese washing over me, and I sipped a black, sweet cafe caroica and munched coxinha- the fried mashed potato-chicken teardrop, all I could do was grin from ear-to-ear. Brazil, you make me muito feliz and you are always a big thumbs-up.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Spirit of Aloha

Finally a hot minute to blog.  It feels like it has been ages.  Been busy.  Where to start?

Let's see:

First the ghost of Chavez cancels my Bolivarian adventure.  The general in his labyrinth.  Truly the specter of Chavez reigns down chaos on Venezuela, ending months of planning and excitement.  Truly a shame, as the US Embassy in Caracas had done a tremendous amount of work putting together the tour for Hawaiian slack key guitar greats Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson, and hula master Moanalani Beamer.  Wonderful, meaningful collaborations with local indigenous musicians and really well-thought programming.  It would have been great public diplomacy.  And it may still be (Bolivarshalla).  But no the now.

So Keola and company and I had to scramble.  And re-arrange. And move.  DC was full to the gills with people in for the TEDMED conference, and there was no occupancy anywhere for a reasonable rate.  Even for an exorbitant rate.  So we left DC for Charm City, and began our limbo and exile in Baltimore.

Charm City earned its name with some deliciousness at the Inner Harbor Phillips.  Also some great beer at the catacombs of the Brewer's Art.

I re-arranged the schedule and flights and details of starting early in Brazil with Post Brasilia and we worked out coming in early.  Beamer and company visited the delights of the Walters Museum.

And NPR called.  Asked to speak to "the Paul Rockower of Gastrodiplomacy."  Should have saved that voice mail, I am wishing now.  Not bad when NPR comes calling about a field I made up.

We left our Charm City exile and returned to the GWU Inn.  The staff left me a really warm note welcoming me back, and left some delicious trail mix.

And I got an evening to hear the tales of Nica from Che Jari, and get to appreciate the margins of time once again.  I had no business being around to greet Sancho Harranza back, and yet here I am (Henneni) to see my brother home.

And we had a lovely day with a halau.  Kind of a Hawaiian hamula.  A halau is a Hawaiian school/group that studies hula under a hula master (kuma).  They hosted us for a day of delicious Hawaiian foods and "talk story" (Hawaiian vernacular for sharing stories and companionship).  My favorite was the gelatinous coconut cake.  Will have to work on a piece on Hawaiian gastrodiplomacy, but got to get there first.  Meanwhile, Keola, Jeff and Moana spoke of the spirit and history of hula and aloha.  I saw tears in the eyes of some of the audience after Keola played his legendary Honolulu City Lights, which was a huge hit when Hawaiian music first started becoming popular on mainland  in the 1970s.

I depart today with the Ambassadors of Aloha to a Brazilian cultural diplomacy adventure.  I have come to learn the meaning and spirit of aloha.  So much more than hi.  The spirit of Aloha is the spirit of love.  The spirit of kindness and compassion combined with love.  Peace be with you; peace be upon you.

I look forward to sharing the spirit of Aloha with the warm and wonderful people of Brazil.  I think it will  make for an amazing cultural engagement. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jew Down

And then there is this: Jew down.


On the Road with Charlie


Guess which gastrodiplomat just got interviewed by The World on PRI about gastrodiplomacy...ME!!!  Tune in today!

The Baltimore Incident

Incident by Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.'

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

words of...

Old Venezuelan proverb: Chavez laughs when you tell him you him your plans.

Monday, April 15, 2013

This American Corner

My latest missive on CPD:

This American Corner

While recently on a cultural diplomacy adventure across Central Asia on anAmerican Music Abroad tour—the State Department’s flagship musical exchange program that American Voices administers—with the bluegrass band Della Mae, I had the opportunity to encounter the public diplomacy space that are the State Department’s American Corners. As one who ascribes to Professor Manuel Castells’ postulate that public diplomacy is meant to build spheres in which diverse voices can be heard and understood, I found myself quite impressed with these corners of public diplomacy for their ability to create a space for cultural exchange.

In an age where American embassies have become more removed from city centers, and more fortress-like, the State Department’s American Corners are found in the heart of places like Bishkek, Almaty, and Dushanbe, located as a section within the confines of public national libraries. Or in other locations like Khorajand in Tajikistan, the American Corner was an adjunct space within the local university.

These information resource centers are a vital open space of American culture and information. Bedecked in maps, pictures and posters showcasing the diversity of U.S. cities, terrain, and culture, American Corners are small American-style libraries located within larger national libraries or on university campuses. They feature a variety of resources that draw in local populations and connect them with—and develop a broader understanding of—American life and culture.

Della Mae perform at the American Corner in Bishek

The resources at the American Corners are free of charge, and help locals develop a better understanding of American life and culture. Such resources includes stacks and stacks of books, ranging from fiction by American authors such as Norman Mailer (The Naked and the Dead), Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and T.C. Boyle (The Tortilla Curtain), as well as popular fare such the Twilight series.

In addition, the American Corner libraries had their fare share of non-fiction such as encyclopedias and books on on U.S. history, U.S. politics, biographies and general world history books. Subjects ranged from business management and econonomics to gender studies to law and human rights. Filling in the stacks were scores of magazine titles and study guides for the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, and GMAT tests, as well as information on conducting study and cultural exchange programs in America.

In addition to the books, there were fun board games available such asScattergories and Apples-to-Apples. Meanwhile, there were movies, documentaries, and TV series available for borrow, ranging from Gilmore Girls to Ken Burns’ documentaries on Jazz.

More importantly, the American Corners make available computers with free internet access as well as WIFI. This is especially important in places like Turkmenistan, a country where internet penetration is in the single digits.

The American Corners also serve as a space for programming such as English language clubs or comic book clubs and discussion groups like the “Ask me anything” club, presentations on world events and lectures by Embassy representatives and visiting American guests. I found this to be smart public diplomacy, seen in innovative programs that draw in locals to the space and host eager local audiences with engaging programming that illustrates more fully American life.

As part of their American Music Abroad tour, Della Mae held performances for local students at American Corners, and had informal discussions about life in America. It made America far more tangible when these cultural diplomats would point on a map where they were from, what their home states were known for, and what life was like back home. Della Mae would perform bluegrass favorites for the audience, and educate about the style of music and its origins, while engaging the audience in informal banter.

One of the members of Della Mae points to her hometown for the guests at the American Corner in Dushanbe

Moving forward, I remain curious to see how these corners of cultural diplomacy will be used to engage with audiences back in the U.S. to foster bilateral engagement and communication. Perhaps the American Corner can be used as an access point to connect communities abroad with communities in America via Sister Cities or high school classroom connections via skype, google hangouts or Adobe virtual exchanges.

While perhaps overlooked and underappreciated in the discourse on American public diplomacy, the American Corner program exists as a valuable and worthwhile facet of the U.S. public diplomacy outreach. The indirect nature of public diplomacy socialization is profound: by drawing in younger audiences with engaging content, the American Corner obliquely invites younger generations to know America better. During my travels, I gained a much deeper appreciation for American Corners as a meaningful contribution to the construction of space capable of fostering American public diplomacy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Looking around corners

A ditty and a plan
Roses are red;
Rainbows are ROYGBIV;
An elephant never forgets;
Machiavelli never forgives.
-Eric Hayes

To Escher, From St. Louis

If you feed them, they will come

The Gastrodiplomacy Institute:
Connecting the world through food and drinks

Cherry Blossom Zen; Snow Blossom Haiku

Sea of cherry blossoms
One falls slowly to a sea
of dead snow blossoms

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ambassadors of Aloha

OMG, I just had the most immaculate vision of Brazilian girls learning to Hula. That will be my public diplomacy contribution in a few weeks. I leave next week for Venezuela with the Ambassadors of Aloha, as the embassy hath proclaimed.

Remembering Maggie

"Before long came the complaints, such as Tony Blair saying: “Even if you disagree with someone very strongly, at the moment of their passing you should show some respect.” Presumably then, when Bin Laden was killed, Blair’s statement was: “Although I didn’t agree with Osama’s policies, he was a conviction terrorist, a colourful character whose short films were not only fun but educational as well. He will be sadly missed.”
The disrespect was inevitable, as millions were opposed to her not because they disagreed with her, but because she’d helped to ruin their lives. If someone robs your house, you don’t say: “I disagreed with the burglar’s policy, of tying me to a chair with gaffer tape and stripping the place bare, even taking the pickled onions, which I consider to be divisive. But I did admire his convictions.”
For example, a Chilean woman living in Britain was quoted in The Nationmagazine, saying: “The Thatcher government directly supported Pinochet’s murderous regime, financially, via military support, even military training. Members of my family were tortured and murdered under Pinochet, who was one of Thatcher’s closest allies and friend. Those of us celebrating are the ones who suffered deeply.” Yes, but she was able to buy shares in British Gas so she was better off in other ways. In so many areas, the party that insists we show compassion for their departed heroine made a virtue of showing none when she was their leader. She didn’t just create unemployment, she gloried in it. Her supporters in the City revelled in their unearned wealth all the more because they could jeer at those with nothing."

I am proud of the Brits for trying to square the historical memory and not just melting into nostalgic platitudes for Maggie.  I wish we did the same when Reagan died.  Rather it was an outpouring of verbiage for the man who "won the Cold War," because we Americans love our heroes, no matter how little introspection we give to those myths.  I wish there had been more honest discussion of Chile, Argentina, the Contras, support for Apartheid South Africa, failures in Lebanon, selling weapons on both sides of the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Grenada (!), not to mention the tremendous dent that Reagan's trickle-down economics did to the American social fabric.  I could go on an on.  And yet, at the time, it seemed that it was all swept under the rug for the vacuous beatification of St. Ronnie.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The terror that is the mantis shrimp

It is Genghis Khan bathed in sherbet ice cream.

The mantis shrimp is the harbinger of blood-soaked rainbows.

Behold, the Mantis Shrimp!

 TY Harry. But I will feed your puppy to the hordes of mantis shrimp that lie in wait. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Dark Side of Thatcherism

Some had said it. I'm glad someone said it so eloquently.

Taxes and Interest

I don't mind paying my taxes; it is paying the interest on my student loans to the banks that gets me. At least the government did something for my money and with my money, and provided me some services (and a passport). It's the interest that the banks collect who did nothing to earn it that bothers me.

Gastrodiplomacy- an american security imperative

Gastrodiplomacy: Reaching Hearts and Minds through Stomachs 

ty Sr. Policy Analyst Wallin, glad to see American Security represented at the Gastrodiplomacy summit.

On Hold

I have had a morning on hold.  Calling all the banks and credit cards to let them know I will be abroad.  Much easier than having to spell e.v.e.r.y. S.t.a.n.

Funny thing about customer service, voices and imagination.  I love asking where I am speaking with.

There was a point where I had to put an agent on hold while I looked for something.  I put the phone next my phone speaker and played her some Dixie grass.  Much better than Beethoven muzak.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Dream

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.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Most Traveled People in the World

Me, in the MTP Overall rankings.
Visited: 190 places
Overall MTP Ranking: 1019 (Senior Ambassador)
Ranking in USA: 424
Ranking in USA among Males: 334
Ranking in USA among age 30 - 39: 34
Ranking in USA among Males age 30 - 39: 29

I have one more to add soon!  

A true public diplomat

Public Diplomat Anne Smedinghoff died in Afghanistan.

"A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of students that she had never met, but whom she felt compelled to help," said Sec. Kerry.

A true public diplomat indeed.  We are honored by her service and her sacrifices.  May her family find comfort.

A true gastrodiplomat

Food + Diplomacy = Gastrodiplomacy

Ever a succinct statement in a great article by Mary Jo Pham,

Cheers to Prof. Hayden, Mary Jo and the AU students who have organized  perhaps the finest gastrodiplomacy summit since Nixon-Krushchev's Kitchen Debate- although I would probably classify that tête-à-tête as culinary diplomacy.  I have no problem mincing words.

To the AU organizers: May your plates always be full with culinary delights, and your glasses always filled with arbor gold. Buen provecho to all who come- come hungry!

"Free champagne and caviar, while supplies last"
-sign on a gas station in St. Louis

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Gastrodiplomacy Magazine

A magazine is doing an issue on some shit I made up

That's right, the gastrodiplomacy goodies keep coming.  Public Diplomacy Magazine is doing its Winter 2014 Issue on Gastodiplomacy.  I am going to exercise my Editor Emeritus role, and offer some direction on focus. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Passover is officially OVER! I am celebrating with a Blue Moon on a flight to STL. I convinced the stewardess to give me a free drink because it would be a mitzvah to help me end Passover. She retorted that if she didn't she might be anti-Semitic.

 Happy end of Passover everyone, enjoy your beer and bread!

Hello hops, my old friend...I've come to sip of you again...

il Duce de San Francisco

Something about San Francisco brings out my fascist tendencies.  To my pinko friend Jocelyn, who recognized my brown shirt leanings, this should probably come as no surprise.  But San Fran really brings out the urge to round up every homeless person and other derelict lounging on the street.  I would then conduct a power-washing, de-lousing and burning of their ratty clothes.  Then a proper re-clothing, dry-out in the drunk tank and put through some serious addiction and mental health counseling (probably the root cause of much of the blight).  All the while, a proper hose-down of the piss-filled streets, and a planting of petunias.  And the BART would run on time.

PS: Portlandia, Seattle and Lost Angeles, you're next...

Gastrodiplomacy: a panel discussion and tasting

Gastrodiplomacy aficionados in DC, come out for American University's gastrodiplomacy conference on April 9th from 5:30pm to 8pm. Stop in for the tastiest bit of public diplomacy!

Monday, April 01, 2013


A map of those with the capacity to leave (not sure why you would ever want to leave the good ol' US of A...) TY Abba,

And also the man with the largest US passport.  I hope South Africa won't let him in on account of a lack of space.