2016 Year in Review

Lots of excitement as we close out 2016, knowing our time in Mexico is coming to an end. I’ve battled various health issues this year, beginning with a cracked tooth and ending with shoulder surgery to repair a torn tendon. It’s put me out of sports commission, including running, for several weeks. But given the amount of sports I’ve played/dumb things I’ve done, avoiding surgery till now is a huge win. Meanwhile, I spend a few hours a week with a very nice but clearly sadistic physical therapist who insists on moving my arm exactly where it doesn’t want to go.

Kirstin has served as Head of Chemistry at Greengates for the last year and a half. Unlike U.S. high schools, in British schools that’s a big deal, both in prestige and workload. She’s crushed it and clearly will be missed when we depart this summer, though she’s looking forward to a reprieve after an intense couple of years. Otherwise, K continues to run regularly and patiently herds the boys on Sunday bike rides on Reforma.

Ruben is now 5’1″ (or more, if you ask him). As an almost 10 year old, this is frankly insane. But given I hit 6’2″ by age 13ish, he’s been blessed/cursed with the same early onset height. Gigantism aside, he remains a nice, considerate, sensitive kid. He continues to love maps, and has taken an increasing interest in the NFL and trivia in general, peppering us with non sequitor questions, a tendency for which I have only myself to blame. And he’s embraced his genetic roots as a long distance runner, knocking out a couple of 5k’s this year.

Rohan is a voracious reader and is slowly learning to control his temper. He’s tall for his age as well, has taken a strong interest in cooking, and quite enjoys music. We do karaoke occasionally at home, either with my 2005 machine or connecting to YouTube for more contemporary music. Lukas Graham’s Seven Years has been his favorite, since when you’re seven (or 37), commonalities like that matter. And like a good little brother, Rohan has also started running, though I get the feeling he’d lie around indefinitely with a book if we didn’t require him to move.

We were able to do a lot of traveling as always. Highlights included California for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (side note– 50 years! I can barely focus 50 seconds these days); catching up with family and friends near and far in Vermont; hiking in the mountains of Oaxaca; and five weddings in a three month window to close out the year.

2016-03-ahuehuetes-tree2016-03-oaxaca2016-02-la-palma2016-03-ruben-1st-5k2016-fate-wedding2016-shyaam-afterparty2016-holiday-party

On the band front, we had a great run before summer transfer season stole most of our group. I remained an old voice grasping at my youth but our group had real talent, and I can’t thank the gang enough for giving me one more chance to live the dream. Here’s one video (recorded with Ruben’s unsteady hand) and audio of the first set of our last show:

Audio of first set of our last show (my best moments at 9:39; 18:24; 37:36)

We’ll be returning to Washington DC next summer after four years in Mexico (visitors– you have till June to make it happen!). I’ll be working for the new Secretary of State, helping prepare briefing papers and “advancing” trips (traveling ahead to help arrange visits in cities worldwide). It will be fun, glamorous, important work, trying to determine what our policy priorities are and how to best shape messages to resonate locally.

Finally, no doubt many are wondering how I’m feeling about the election. As a government stooge I have to be measured, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. When I signed up for the foreign service, some asked what I’d do if I had to work for an administration with whom I didn’t see eye to eye. My answer, admittedly corny, was that my interest in public service was to the country and principles, not to any individual or party. And if I did see things differently, I’d rather be on the inside, in a position to present my point of view and hopefully mitigate things.
  2. I realize “we’ll be fine” may sound empty. I think it’s because we’re not saying the second part– we’ll be fine because we’re going to make it fine. And I’ll be doing my part. Elections, after all, are intramural. We’re in this together no matter how strongly we may disagree on things.
  3. For my left leaning friends, I recommend both Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in their Own Land. Both helped me better understand a point of view quite different from my own. In our 2016 echo chamber, reading out of the box was super-useful. It didn’t particularly change my personal opinions, but it helped me reflect on others’ motivations. If we’re going to find middle ground, it needs to start with getting past the strong emotions, justified as they may be, and trying to listen honestly to why so many in our country feel the way they do. Seeing things from the other person’s point of view is step one.
  4. For my right leaning friends, I don’t have a specific book recommendation, but rather recommend you speak to someone from the other side. Try to understand why this election feels categorically different than in the past, and appreciate that the ability to separate policy from rhetoric isn’t a privilege everyone has. Just as many on the left need to better understand the systemic problems afflicting much of the rust belt, so to do many on the right need to better understand the systemic problems that remain with race and gender.
  5. And to help us all see the long view geopolitically, since nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems (except perhaps the Seahawks winning, and then losing the Super Bowl), I recommend The Next Hundred Years. In lighter fare, I recommend The Disappearing Spoon (fun backstories on the periodic table; #nerdalert).

Thanks to Martin for the closing pic, from our visit to Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo (yes, the Shawshank place).  Hope is indeed a good thing. Here’s hoping for a wonderful 2017 for everyone. Anand, Kirstin, Ruben and Rohan.

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