|I was looking forward to finally getting to a high school reunion this year, but alas, once again it was not to be. I am stuck on the other side of the world, holding down the fort at the US Embassy in New Delhi while my colleagues are on vacation. We cannot all be away at the same time, and my chance to travel came in June this summer. I actually did make it to Ames, where my parents still live. It was good to touch base with family and what I still consider to be my home town. I will miss not being able to chat with you all, but will continue to enjoy reading what some have shared about their happenings. Let me add a note of my own.
For the last 13 years I have been working for the Department of State. I am a member of the US diplomatic corps (a commissioned Foreign Service officer). When we fail to get the job done, the military comes in to clean up the mess ... or the military makes the mess and we clean it up? I guess there is some debate on that point these days. In any event, like my career military counterparts, I am obliged to move to a different assignment every 2 to 4 years.
At the time of our 20th reunion I was in Bangladesh. I then went to London for a two-year stint. What a great city; and the pub tradition is not bad either. After a year of studying economics in Washington, the State Department next sent me off to Senegal for three years. I had lived there for two years in the late 1970s as a Peace Corps Volunteer, so it was a chance to go back to something familiar and enjoy the pace and rhythm of African life. In 2000, the USG decided I could still learn a trick or two and sent me off to study international finance and trade at Harvard. It was great having my tuition paid by someone else for once in my life, but it really stretched what little mental flexibility I have left.
The last three years have been a bit rocky for my family. We went off to Pakistan in 2001, hoping that we had hit one of its stable periods. My timing was not good. The attack on the World Trade Center killed my younger brother Timothy and began the war on terrorism which forced my wife and three kids to return to the US. I stayed on to support the operation in Afghanistan and prop up our erstwhile alliance with the Pakistanis who were struggling with a weakened economy and social unrest. Spending the year separated from my family was not fun, but it was good for my head to be working on the front lines. Having a co-worker and her daughter killed in a suicide bombing, and avoiding similar attacks week after week, was a bit stressful. One year of that was enough.
Two years ago I transferred over to the Embassy in New Delhi where my family and I could live together again. Life has returned to normal, although my larger family took another blow in February last year when the shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry and took my first cousin, Laurel Clark from us. We had been looking forward to seeing her in India on a post-mission tour with fellow crew member Kalpana Chawla. All you can do some times is just move on and remember to appreciate the time you have with family and friends.
Next summer I'll pull up stakes again and move the family on to somewhere else -- yet to be determine. My son and oldest child will also head off to college then, starting a new phase of parenthood for me which will likely last for the next ten years, if not more. But let me stop there, I'm starting to feel old.
To those attending the reunion, enjoy your celebrations in Ames. I will raise a glass in your direction.
New Delhi, India
email: havilandab (at) worldnet.att.net