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News and Us

October 27, 2002

Dear Friends and Families,

We've been reflecting on the news lately. Maybe we do that because CNN and BBC News are the only English television we receive, although CNN was our channel of choice in Kyiv where our satellite brought us a dozen or more U.S. channels. I suppose we follow news stories the way others follow sports or soap operas, but lately the news has become almost too personal.

We can't see pictures of U.S. Marines flying helicopters in Afghanistan or hear talk of similar flights into Iraq and not think of our 19-year-old nephew who has just completed training. Mike now faces deployment to a helicopter repair base in the Middle East. We ask "Is this war necessary?" with some of the feelings of 40 years ago.

At the other end of the axis, we see that the arrangement for providing the North Koreans with a nuclear plant has fallen apart due to Korean duplicity. Just two months ago, we had been talking to one of our company engineers who works on that project. We had listened to his stories of the grim living conditions under a despot's reign and speculated on the likelihood that the project would never get completed. The first "nuclear component" was due for installation in the lowest level of the reactor building, but the North was still balking at countrywide inspections that were a prerequisite for such a step. Now we know why.

Then we see news of civil war in Ivory Coast and find ourselves worrying about friends in neighboring Burkina Faso. Who'd have thought a few years ago that we'd have to be concerned about wars spilling over into a capital named Ouagadougou? Come to think of it, who'd have thought we could even learn to pronounce such a name.

The terrorist bombing in Bali would have been horrible news no matter what but now that we've met Australian friends (and a relative or three), we find ourselves looking in crowds for the one-in-a-million chance of recognizing someone. So far, so good. No recognition of faces or of names on lists.

Yesterday, we found ourselves worrying about friends in Moscow. We were hoping that Marlene's Russian was still not good enough to have warranted a trip to the theatre. And we hoped that other friends were not among the "foreigners from Ukraine" that had gone to watch "North &endash; East" last Wednesday and ended up in a drama far too real.

Closer to home, or at least one of the places we call home, we do recognize bus stops, gas stations, and Home Depots. The snipers' first victims were shot just a few miles from where son Geoff lives and where I frequently go to working conferences and meetings. They were found sleeping just an exit or two away from the Interstate 70 exit I take to visit my sister. It is over, I hope, but, even at odds of a million-to-one, the threat was far too close.

Not even our new neighborhood is immune. About a mile from here, a young teenager was kidnapped for ransom and then killed before the ransom was paid. The kidnapper was caught, but catching kidnappers, snipers or bombers, seems such a weak remedy.

So this too is part of our life overseas. Headline events can have personal connections. That's interesting, but it does leave us wishing we could change TV channels to get the more cheerful world news.

Stay in touch. Stay out of the news.

John and Marianne

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Created October 27, 2002