South Sudan, Letter two, Small Road Trip

April 8, 2012 Easter Sunday Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends, Friday, April 6:  Everyone is waiting for the rain. When the rain comes this area is very productive, if not, famine.  It looks encouraging.  On Sunday the barometer dropped and we got thunder and lightning signifying, for that day at least, nothing.  Monday and Tuesday the clouds teased us.  Wednesday night we got our first downpour.  I sat on the verandah looking at kids running in the rain, but the rain was short. On Thursday afternoon we got another brief downpour, followed by more sun.  Thursday night the rain on … Continue reading South Sudan, Letter two, Small Road Trip

Juba Letter 1, First Impressions

April 1, 2012 Juba, South Sudan Dear Friends. At the bar Saturday night (anti-malarial gin and tonics or Stony Ginger Beer) an American raised as a missionary son now working for a USAID funded fish farming project building ponds along both the Nile and Congo said, “Welcome to Africa.  Kenya and Uganda are just ‘Africa lite.’ This is the ‘real’ Africa.  You’re not in Nairobi anymore.” I’m staying at the Jebel Lodge, a fenced compound of metal pre-fab buildings.  I have my own cabin near the fence on the far side of the compound from Rock City, which is a … Continue reading Juba Letter 1, First Impressions

South Sudan

When it comes to media in South Sudan — radio is king.  Radio plays to the country’s oral tradition.  Further, there is limited electric power distribution.  The country is poor and TVs are expensive.  Finally TV coverage has not reached much of the country.  Radio is perfet for a country like this.  Radio sets don’t require much infrastructure.  Radios can be powered by batteries, solar cells or hand cranks. South Sudan had just become the world’s newest nation after decades of civil war with the North.  The infrastructure was ruined and radio is playing a central role in nation building, … Continue reading South Sudan

Vukovar, Croatia

Note, Vukovar was the first major victim in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  It is a border town on the Danube, in Croatia but, before the wars, with a slight Serbian majority.  The Serbs finally took the town over but after the Dayton Accords the town was administered by the UN before being turned over to the Croats, 13 days before we arrived.  Our job was to work with the Serbian radio stations in the region to make sure they got licenses from the Croatian government and to help assure that the rights of the Serbian, Roma and Hungarian … Continue reading Vukovar, Croatia

Belgrade, NATO Bombing Sites.

This is from an October 2000 letter from Belgrade, on my first visit to the city after Milosevic lost power– and my first visit since the NATO bombing.   When someone asks “do you want to see the sights” he really means “sites,” the places hit during the NATO bombing.  Like in Pristina, the tour points out how accurate the bombing really was.  People mark time “before bombing, after bombing” always pronouncing the second “b” in bombing.  And when people ask “how has Belgrade changed” they expect me to cite the most visible of the sites, the tall building next … Continue reading Belgrade, NATO Bombing Sites.

Rose Revolution Square, A Transformation.

Rose Revolution Square is still under re-construction.  It had two anchors, The Hotel Iveria and the reviewing stand for Mayday parades.  One is gone and the other utterly transformed. In 2004 I wrote:  “Georgia has some of the screwiest modern Socialist Realism on the planet, including a massive, several story high multi arched reviewing stand for May Day parades that looks like what Le Cobisier would build if he had a commission from McDonald’s.  Locals playfully call it ‘Andropov’s Ears.’ Andropov’s Ears is where President Saakashvili reviewed the troops last week and made his saber rattling speech on Adjara.” Andropov’s … Continue reading Rose Revolution Square, A Transformation.

Arab Spring, April 2011

The bridge cleaned up.   April 15, 2011,  Cairo, Egypt I got into the cab in Cairo and was shocked; the driver was wearing a seatbelt.  I hadn’t seen this before.  I put mine on.  He smiled and said “New Egypt.”  New Egypt is being stuck in a traffic jam near Tahrir Square and seeing a citizen in a white t shirt step forward, waving a cigarette like a baton, directing traffic.  People are taking responsibility.  One friend said “They used to own Egypt, now we do.  We have to take care of it.”  Or as another said “Before we … Continue reading Arab Spring, April 2011

Arab Spring, Feb 11, Mubarak Steps Down

On February 11, Hosni Mubarak stepped down as President of Egypt.  Suzi and I were in Doha, Qatar that night and went out on the streets as soon as we heard he had left power.  We were watching the events on Al Jazeera in our hotel room.  I looked out the window and across the bay I saw what looked, to me, like a large number of cars for that time of night.  We could hear a lot of honking so we set out from the hotel on foot to see what was happening.  Doha is a strange place.  To … Continue reading Arab Spring, Feb 11, Mubarak Steps Down

Arab Spring, January 2011, Suzi’s Story

Suzi’s McClear was Chief of Party for USAID’s  Media Development Program in Egypt.  Tuesday, January 25 was a state holiday, Police Day.  That day a group of demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square protesting the government.  It was a large demonstration but many people thought not much would come of it.  The local press tried to ignore it but Suzi got an email from our son, Kevin, who said that international media said Cairo looked like a war zone.  From her perspective it was a quiet day. Two days later, Friday, prayer day, a traditional day for protests,  social media activists … Continue reading Arab Spring, January 2011, Suzi’s Story

Arab Spring, April 6, 2008, A blogging course.

April 8, 2008, Cairo, Egypt Dear Friends, For the past several months we’ve been trying to pull off the first ever course on blogging in Egypt.   There is a lot of concern because bloggers have been the ones who exposed police brutality, sexual harassment and bloggers have given people a voice that is denied in state controlled press.  The news moves forward on blogs.  At the end of Ramadan two years ago several women reported being groped in public, the police denied it so some women bloggers took their cell phones and photographed the groping.  The story was picked up … Continue reading Arab Spring, April 6, 2008, A blogging course.

Kosovo, June 1999

In June, 1999, about a week after NATO took control of Kosovo Suzi and I visited Prishtina for the first time.  For the next two years we would be regular commuters into Kosovo, based either in Podgorica or Belgrade but managing a media program in Kosovo as well as for Serbia.   Dear Friends, It was 4:22.  The muezzin’s morning call to prayer drifted through the apartment window with a warm spring breeze.  “God is great, prayer is better than sleep.”  This time I didn’t sigh my own Christian prayer and drift back to sleep.  I had an early appointment. … Continue reading Kosovo, June 1999