A global perspective on USA
Hello Friends, you are receiving this holiday letter because you are on our "Friends" list. Most of you will remember that our computers were struck by lightening in March this year; we've never really caught up and our address books are still out of whack. As I went through our book to pull out friends, I found multiple similar names and addresses, so, I expect a lot of bounces and a few of you to wonder who we are or why you are on this list. Maybe your replies and bounces will help me get my address book sorted over the holiday season once and for all.
After the bounces and replies settle down, I'll send out a year in pictures of the Nordin family. Khalidwe has changed so much since the last time most of you saw her. Her parents look about the same. We hope this finds you well and ready to relax over the holiday season with whatever religious or non-religious celebration you choose!
Stacia, Kristof and Khalidwe
A Global Perspective on America
Stacia, Khalidwe, and I were some of those people that Barack Obama referred to in his election night speech as, “the people huddled around their radios in the forgotten corners of the world.” We do not have a television, so we literally were huddled around our radio waiting anxiously for the BBC to begin broadcasting live election results to our part of Africa and to the rest of the world. Due to the time difference with America , we began receiving election results around 2:00 am.
As we listened, the BBC asked people from all over the world to call in, text in, and e-mail their comments about how they were feeling on the eve of the election. As the feedback began to pour in from the various continents we began to see a pattern emerging. From almost every part of the globe people were calling in to voice their excitement in support of Barack Obama, to extend their encouragement to the Americans to “do the right thing”, and to speculate about a new type of world in which America once again began to engage people of differing views and differing cultures in an open and honest dialogue. As we listened, we began to feel as if we were taking part in an extraordinary new chapter, not just of American history, but of global history that was being written right before our eyes. People, just like us, all over the world were staying up throughout the night to see what message America was going to send to the world.
I don’t think that many Americans truly realize the overwhelming influence that our country has on the rest of the world. Our policies directly impact the economies of other nations, they mold international relations, they shape foreign administrations, they influence diplomatic negotiations, they determine foreign aid, and they govern peacekeeping efforts. But, most importantly they serve as a role model to the rest of the world in demonstrating the enormous obligation of ethical responsibility and moral principles that are imperative to being one of the world’s most powerful and free democracies. This is an obligation that, regrettably, we have seen many in the world beginning to question over the last eight years. As America has turned inward on a path of patriotic isolationism, we have abandoned and discarded many nations and many individuals that had at one time greatly admired us and looked to us as a beacon of hope in a world of ever-growing injustices and inequality.
We thought that Senator McCain’s concession speech was one of the better speeches that we have heard in quite some time. Many people that we had contact with here in Africa simply shook their head in disbelief and admiration of how respectfully the senator accepted his defeat and peacefully handed over power to his adversary. Unfortunately, this type of behavior has not yet become a standard in many African nations. What may have been Senator McCain’s downfall was the rhetoric that he chose to use throughout the duration of his campaign. He repeated many times that he had fought in Vietnam, that he had spent his life fighting for America, that as President he would fight for each and every one of us, and that together we could fight for a better America. What he may have failed to realize is that a great majority of the people in the United States , and an even greater number of the people around the world, are simply tired of fighting. Barack Obama’s campaign of “change”, on the other hand, succeeded not only in inspiring millions of Americans, but also in energizing the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of billions of people that comprise the global community that we have now all become a part of.
We have no idea what the mood of the American nation was like on the evening of the election, but if our personal reaction was anything to judge by, we are assuming that it was full of electrifying tension and nail-biting suspense. As the red and blue states once again split down the middle in a narrowly separated 53%-46% result, the analysts heralded the election as a “landslide victory” and a “political mandate” for Barack Obama. This truly was a historic moment for America, not only in what Barack Obama symbolizes for a nation that has had such a abysmal track record on the issues of race, but also with its record turnouts at the polls and record numbers of new voters showing up to exercise their right to vote. What is striking, however, is that while in America a 7% margin may be considered to be a solid win, the international community’s support of the two candidates was much differently divided. In an extensive international Gallup poll that was conducted in 73 countries and represented nearly three-quarters of the world’s population, the world’s citizens chose Barack Obama over John McCain nearly 3-to1. This means that if America ’s election results had reflected international opinion, the numbers would have been closer to 93,605,079 in favor of Barack Obama and 31,201,693 in favor of John McCain, or a margin of 66%-33%.
By the end of the evening, or I guess I should say at the break of dawn, it was reported that Barack Obama would indeed become the next president of the United States of America . We cannot begin to describe the emotions that surged through us as we witnessed Malawians dancing around our small village chanting, “Obama! Obama! Obama!”. It was perhaps one of the most profound and moving experiences of our lives. To celebrate we bought a crate of good old fashioned American Coke-Cola and, since we didn’t have any hot dogs, we threw a goat on the grill and held a spontaneous celebration with our African friends and neighbors to mark what we are all hoping will be the beginning of a new period of global unity, peace, equality, health and prosperity.
These are, of course, unrealistic expectations to put all on the shoulders of one individual, but what America needs to realize, now more than ever, is that there are a whole lot of incredible, intelligent, and graciously supportive people from every part of the globe who have been simply waiting for a chance like this to extend their hands in a gesture of mutual friendship and goodwill. Our challenge now, as a nation, is to accept their embrace and begin to work together with each other to build not only a great country, but a great planet that we can all call “home”.
As our family heads into this new year and era of renewed hope, we would like to encourage everyone to do anything and everything that they can to encourage peace throughout the world, and to remember that this peace starts in our own homes. Teach each other about other cultures, make a compost pile, explore new ideas, try new foods, join a community group, read something the improves your mind, lobby a congressperson, plant a tree, whatever it takes to leave this planet a better place than you found it.
Here in Malawi we have already begun to formalize our commitment to a better future: Stacia has just renewed her contract for another year with the German-based GTZ (German Technical Cooperation) to help communities in Malawi work hand-in-hand with their schools and students to create productive and healthy school environments. In unison with the Malawi ’s School Health and Nutrition Program, she has been working very hard over the past three years to facilitate the implementation of sustainable school Permaculture designs that have been producing nutritious foods as well as creating safe, clean, and exciting places of learning.
Kristof has been very busy over the past year teaching about Permaculture implementation from their home/demonstration area that is now known as “Never Ending Food”. This has included a wide assortment of people from governmental to non-governmental, Malawian to foreign, extension workers to university students, local youth clubs to church groups. It has been extremely encouraging as we have seen our work growing so rapidly, gaining so much recognition, and starting to have such a tangible impact throughout the country (and we hope throughout the world). This next year is already lining up to include more trainings and more excitement as Malawi has agreed to host the 9th International Permaculture Convergence!
As for Khalidwe, she is still as amazing and culturally-integrated as ever. Her first language of Chichewa has become fluent to the point that her parents can no longer understand her, and she managed to fail her mid-term English exam this year. (Dad has decided to put a bit more effort into the English home-schooling curriculum). She continues to amaze and delight us as she explores her path in this world. Having a role model like her around makes it very easy for her parents to work toward leaving her a better world to live in!
We wish you all the best in your 2009 endeavors, whatever they may bring. Just remember that you are not alone in your ups and downs, your joys and disappointments, and your successes and failures. We share them all in common. Every culture, race, tribe, nationality, and person on this earth faces the same concerns and hopes for a better tomorrow. Together we can move forward in accord with our humanity. As Tolstoy once said, “Only a man who lives according to his conscience can have influence on people, and only activity that accords with one’s conscience can be useful.”
Happy New Year
Happy New World !
-- Stacia Nordin, RD Registered Dietitian Advisor to Malawi Ministry of Education, School Health and Nutrition * American Overseas Dietetic Association, PastPresident@... , www.EatrightOverseas.org * AODA Country Rep for Malawi, CR-Malawi@... * ADA HEN DPG International Food committee, www.HENDPG.org * Permaculture Network in Malawi, outgoing newsletter editor, see page on www.NeverEndingFood.org * Nutrition Society of Malawi (un-registered), Treasurer Kristof, Stacia & Khalidwe Crossroads PDN x-124, Lilongwe, Malawi Physical Address: Chitedze Trading Centre, 18 km west of Lilongwe Malawi is +2 GMT (6-7 hours before USA EST) +265 (0) 1-707-213 home +265 (0) 9-333-073 cell stacia +265 (0) 9-926-153 cell kristof +265 (0) 8-132-710 cell khali / home www.NeverEndingFood.org