Tuesday, June 30, 2009

going on

The rainy season has come in force. Most days are spent under clouds, the sky pouring forth for 6-9 hours, and then it becomes unbearably hot and humid. We had a power failure last night in the middle of the night. It made sleep nigh but impossible for an hour or two. On a more positive note, though, I am getting a mosquito net finally. No more swatting and scratching throughout the night, not to mention minimizing possible exposure to malaria.

Work is accelerating. We are constantly reminded that we're only here for a year and we have to be fully operational by november in order to get packages sold and set for february. I am spending most of my time still doing basic data entry, but it is vital because these varied databases are lists of service providers that we're trying to have on our website, so I can't slack off too much. But it is still mindnumbing work on the best of days. I've also got to get ready for Dr. Smith's arrival and getting her coordinated with my profs to set up a workshop looking at tourism, development etc..for a few hours in mid-August.

I had my first decent goat in this city yesterday. Aus took me to the old residence, a museum/conservation site, and we got some goat pepper soup for lunch. The goat was relatively tender and flavorful and the pepper broth was out of this world. I could barely finish it it was so hot. I must figure out how to make this stuff at some point. Unfortunately, waiting for our ride back to the office we got followed by a little beggar child. Cute kid, broke my heart to see him as he was, but I had no small money left on me and I wasn't about to hand him a thousand naira note. He continued to follow us after we got our ride and walked alongside the truck as it was pulling into traffic. His persistence was heartbreaking to me. Little shit like that reminds me why some of the stuff we're doing here is important and can do some good but it also reminds me of the enormity of the situation. I don't want to leave here too jaded and I also don't want to leave here having romanticized my experience.

I see little nobility in poverty and I'm not one of those people that has an issue with trying to increase peoples' access to material wealth, whether that be adequate access to food, water, healthcare, or even being able to get a tv or get connected to the internet. I don't buy into the notion that you ruin people through development, turning people from an "innocent" philosophy and outlook to one of empty materialism, as if worrying about the size of a tv is somehow worse than not being to feed one's self. Excessive materialism comes from an immense level of egotism, not from being to feed one's self or to enjoy some of the better things in life. Personally, I find many arguments to the contrary to be nothing more than a mutation of the idea of the "noble savage", polluted by our modern ways. It doesn't seem to matter to much if these people can properly feed and clothe themselves...but I guess that's just because I'm an empty materialist. I've also got issues with a philosophy that demands that other people be content with their poverty without striving for something more because it may pollute them, it parallels too closely with the "pie in the sky" arguments used by segregationists to keep blacks, and poor whites, from organizing.

Poverty holds no nobility for me. Neither does wealth. One can be an asshole whether you're rich or poor. Forgive the rambling nature of this post, it's just an issue that has tugged at me and continually comes up in varied forms in different conversations.

I pray everyone is well. Keep commenting.

Friday, June 26, 2009

you never know...

I meant to write on having my first positive experience with suya last night. We went to a different spot and it turned out to be rather tasty, but I awoke to the news that MJ had died and I didn't have the mood for it.

Nothing I can write here will be that unique or different from the millions of words that have and will be written over the next few days. To put it simply, MJ was and is a legend. He is, beyond argument, the greatest, in terms of popularity and influence, artist that has ever been, and probably ever will be. This morning, it's been our normal stream of varied people stopping by our office and all of them have mentioned Michael and how sad it all is. The radio hear in Calabar is blasting "Billie Jean", "Beat It", and other of his hits while mourning his death. There are not many artists that will receive a near universal, global coverage and have billions of people acutely feel the loss. When we lost Heath Ledger, the surprise and anguish were real and vast, but he could not come close to the depth and breadth of feeling that our loss has. And that is because MJ was unique.

I'm currently sitting at my desk listening to Thriller on repeat, because I was too stupid to put my other albums on my machine, and I am vainly trying to download some tracks from varied sites but my internet here can't even handle the downlaoding of a 5mb sound file, so I am left with his greatest album only, hardly a loss, but depressing nonetheless.

While James Brown and George Clinton may be the most sampled of musicians, it is fair to argue that Michael Jackson is the most covered and emulated artist in the history of music. To borrow a phrase, til the other side, Mike.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I've got some new duties, that primarily entail the oh-so-exciting work of data entry. But I'm also helping out with the grant apps. So, I'm going through a stack of applications, rejecting the blatantly half-assed ones and passing all the others. Because the apps are so short and not that specific it's pretty hard to discern who are the real serious players, so we're gonna have to take a shotgun approach and have a lot of firms just give us proposals. This will be a lot of work on their end and on our end because we have to read them all. Unfortunately, it's our only real recourse.

Power at the tourism bureau has been incredibly spotty this week. We lost power and internet for the last 3 hours of the day yesterday and we lost power for three hours on Monday. Not sure what the deal is, but it makes work all but impossible for a lot of our duties this week which require a lot of email correspondence. But we persevere and try and stay on schedule. I've got my first staff coordination meeting later today and I hope I can impress upon the group the potential strength in exploiting the expertise of the professors I've been working with. Folk seem really hesitant to include them because they aren't business owners and they don't want them to dominate. Those are legit concerns but I feel we can communicate those issues with the profs and they'll be sympathetic. In the meantime, we're ignoring a big resource. We shall see.

Also, on a totally unrelated note, I am not nearly stylish enough for this country. Everyone here with a decent job is forever decked out in something that is fashionable. My standard scruffy grad student style of a tshirt, loose jeans and flip flops gets as many looks as my hair. At some point, I'm gonna have to step my game up. I gotta make a note of that when I get home.

Anyways, back to my apps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

love it when things work out sometime...

I am currently at the office working on rearranging some files for sharepoint and waiting for any possible emails from the home office or my profs. To waste time in between organizing folders I am perusing the news when I came on this article CBO Estimates Cost of Climate Change Bill in the washington post that warmed my heart. It kills me that in the wake of economic recession and because we've had some uncharacteristically cold winters the past two years that climate change skeptics continue to dominate potential policy and really stand in the way of meaningful policy interventions. The latest trope parroted by foes of the proposed cap and trade bill love to say that it would be economically harmful for families around the country. Well, a report from the CBO says that jut ain't so, estimating average yearly costs of $175 for the average household in 2020 and actually saying that the bottom ten percent would see a $40 savings from the bill. Of course, the repubs are responding by claiming the report does not take into account the millions of jobs that will be lost due to higher energy prices. This is of course total bullshit and doesn't follow the literature they claim to cite. They cited a report by an MIT professor and even the professor said they severely distorted his numbers, he concluded the average cots would be a little more than 300 dollars, not the 3000 dolars that Boehner and his colleagues have been pushing.

But I was mainly pleased because I love seeing good analysis combined with an explicit crititque of the overheated, wrongheaded, business-centric rhetoric that so many on the right put out in place of, you know, actual policy analaysis. So forgive me, while I take up some space on this humble blog to celebrate a victory for the geeks and wonks.

But I also want to take some space to rant a bit more. The thing that bothers me so much about the business and economic arguments pushed by many republicans is that they are not just naked appeals to industry interest but within it is the explicit assumption that global climate change is not real and that it does not provide a threat in the medium or long term. Not only does it fly in the face of the majority of the scientific community that study such things but it's also unbearably short sighted. Climate change is real and unless the companies have forecasted that they can make greater profits cleaning up the impending disasters that will befall us if we don't do something then I don't understand their position, other than not wanting to dish out money now. That's not an entirely unreasonable position but I think it puts them in a disadvantaged spot to survive the next few decades. Also, it only reinforces the necessity of a strong government response on the national and international levels. Planners most often get the shittiest end of the stick when it comes to policy work and implementation because they usually have to deal with local problems directly. They are the ones trying to deal with reconstruction of New Orleans after Katrina, they are the ones trying to figure out how to deal with water issues in the west, pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, they're the ones that have to solve problems that could be prevented or lessened if the federal or even their state governments had more seriously taken already well known risks into account.

Anyways, I'm done. I'm trying to download the CBO report analysis (it's not that big but with my internet connection a 16 page report takes nearly 20 minutes to download on a slow day like today) and get a better read that isn't summarized by the newspaper. If you're at all interested just head to the cbo website, it's on the front page.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

weekend work

I am currently in lobby of the metropolitan hotel in downtown calabar shamelessly stealing their lobby wifi. Don't worry, I plan on compensating them by buying some criminally overpriced drink in their bar for their happy hour and then walking back to the lodge.

It's been an interesting weekend. I just returned from a semi-emergency meeting with one of my coworkers, meeting with some of the big time stakeholders here in calabar. We had to to defuse a situation concerning a grant program we're running and assure everyone we're not going to give grants to companies that don't care about Calabar or Cross River State. Afterwards, two of our hostesses treated us to lunch at their hotel.

It was a fascinating bit of conversation. Both of the ladies are expats, they married their Nigerian husbands when they were in school, one is an Armenian by way of Romania, and the other is a German lady. They run an event and hotel management firm and also dabble in interior decorating. They've been here in Calabar going on thirty years. To an extent, their's is a positive tale that speaks to the tremendous change and growth that can be found in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. They were here when it would take 2 weeks just to get a telegram back home and 6 hours to place a phone call. But they are equally frustrated at the backwardness of the government and the loss thay Cross River has suffered concerning tourism. Before the tourism bureau became entirely ass backward it actually worked well with the private sector and the governor, Gov. Duke, liked working with the private sector as equals. Some good things were happening, but with Duke gone and the bureau ashambles, life has been hell for business owners. The tourism bureau decided to compete directly with business, slapping a 5% tourism levy on the business, ostensibly for "training", and then using that money and the assets that the bureau and the business owners originally worked on together and made its own packages and tried to steer guests to their own state-owned hotels. It was a betrayal of the worst sort and was entirely sudden. We're feeling the effects of it now and not much can be done until government can their shit straightened out.

I enjoyed their conversation btu it also was more than a bit disconcerting. There are so many issues here that I wonder how much good our little project can do in the face of the lack of proper infrastructure, proper upkeep of tourim assets, and the shoddy frontline customer service. Not to mention a venal, incompetent tourism bureau. It's truly frustrating, but baby steps must be made. I have faith that our program has a good start and my only concern is to try and make sure that it works. The other problems can't prevent us from trying to do something.

Ms. Anoush, the Armenian raised in Romania, gave Jess and I a ride to and from the lodge and talked a bit. She asked me if I had tried to trace my roots at all since I'd been here. I confessed to her that I hadn;t looked and that, honestly, it would be next to impossible. The efforts of slavers to erase any possible history was very effective. Not to mention, why worry about catalogouing the extensive background of what you saw a relatively common commodity? But still, the question stung a little bit. It's not something I've thought about too much since I've been here because I thought the effort would be futile. Records are not great. But it is true, though. There is a good chance, a chance as any I guess, that I have some ancestors from there and it is fascianting to walk around and, like Richard Pryor and Jamie Foxx, see people who look just like people back home. This area of the country has some pretty distinct tribes and ethnic groups, so there are some semi-common phenotypes but Calabar also has a lot of other Africans and others from abroad so you get a good mix. It stung me a bit. It's just one of those things that sweeps over from time to time, I guess. All I know is America. And what family I have. We can go back a bit into slavery, but not much farther. It's a bit despairing to not have an idea of an ancestral homeland, at least one that isn't Kentucky.

I don't know. I'm surrounded by black people and not of them. But there's a warmth and openness, most folk are just curious to see a person with my hair. And as I said, somedays, I just think I'm walking through DC, just seeing folk I haven't seen before. I miss home, I guess. But, more importantly, I miss and regret the fact that that history ws STOLEN from me and for the vast majority of African-Americans. I try not to get too angry but I still believe, and will die believing, that America has a lot to atone for that it never will. It can't get my history back. It can't undo the effects of slavery and it's having a ahrd enough time trying to let go of its virulently racist strains, although, even there, much of it is institutionalized and will take a while to weed out. I know even greater change is coming. But it's astoundingly depressing to be aware of some things we won't ever get back.

I'm out. Daddy, I pray you have a happy father's day. You and mom and everyone else are always in my thoughts. To everyone else, if you have them, say thanks to your dads.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

my damn bathroom

The past couple of days have been interesting, to say the least. I finally have water back in my apartment after I lost both water and my toilet broke late last week. A plumber came through and fixed the problems with the water flow and my toilet, but ended up leaving a load of mud, rust and standing water on the floor. Needless to say, I wasn't able to make use of my bathroom for most of the weekend. I mopped up what I could and put in a request with the lodge staff for a more thorough cleaning, which I got on Monday. But, while I was at work on Monday, my shower sprang a leak and my bathroom was reflooded with about 2.5 inches of standing water. The staff came in and pumped the water out, but in the process, I lost water connection. I got water back this morning, but I was running late so I've yet to shower since sunday...feeling a little crunchy.

In addition, internet connection in the office has been shameful. This post has taken over an hour and a half to make because the internet connection would drop whenever I would try to sign in. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes to send an email because of signal dropping, and that doesn't include lost time due to continually trying to open up email messages, so my average read and response time for a single email varies between 10 and 25 minutes. I'm ready to smash my head against a desk. But in between waiting for my email to load up I've been working on rearranging and coordinating all of our project files, which is my primary duty right now...that's about as exciting as it sounds. I spend hours going through semi-disorganized folders that are either organized by organization it involves, chronology, or just some broad theme. There's a lot of crosslisting and old files that are rough drafts of later drafts. It's quite tedious, but it needs to get done.

One a brighter side, I had an excellent chicken pepper soup last night at this hole in the wall spot on a dirt road somewhere in neighborhood in Calabar. It reminded me of an old fashioned uke joint with a bunch of picnic tables screened off from the street with 3 overhead fans whirring slowly and an old tv blaring Nigerian music videos. The soup nearly blew the top of my head off, it was very spicy but delicious and the rice they served with it helped to cut into the rice a bit. My only complaint was the chicken was surprisingly chewy for a soup but overall an awesome meal. The best I've had since I've been in country, I think. I'm still trying to find some decent goat, but I am quickly losing hope.

Had a great conversation with Alvin and Aus last night where Alvin relayed much of his career and just spoke about development. Alvin's been all over the world, from Russia to Iraq to Jamaica, the man has done work. I find myself gaining more respect for him and for many of his ideas. He's correct in his critique of the general approach many development orgs and some ngos take where they do not approach development with the mindset of business people. As the saying goes,"The business of business is business". Too often development firms come in and don't really work to truly arm business with the ability to sustain themselves after they're gone because they won't work on building a sector, so much as individual businesses. It's kind of an "give people some training, some modern technology and subsidies for two years then let them go". One's goal should be to ultimately liberate folk from needing these subsisdies and being able to be successful and competitive on their own merit, cause that's the only way they're going to get by. He pointed to a lot of successes where good ngos went in with precisely that mentality and worked with folk on all levels to eventually do for self. It's a tricky business, I am learning every day some more ins and outs.

We shall see. I have hope we'll be able to do some good and make sure folk can continue on after we're gone.


I was looking at one of my favorite blogs that doesn't require a lot of bandwith orcinus at dneiwert.blogspot.com and he linked to an article in salon looking at the rising presence of white supremacists in the army and the fact that the military is turning a blindeye to it. I found it interesting considering the recent spate of right wing violence and it once again points to a very worrisome set of conditions that threatens to blow everything up. I have less fear, with each year, that there will be some massive racial civil war, but I am increasingly afraid in a concerted terrorist campaign of "lone wolves" fed by the right wing media hate machine, supported by the many right wing organizations that exist today, and trained by likeminded individuals with extensive combat experience and training. This is the singular domestic terrorism threat we face today and it's only gonna get worse before it gets better. What angers me though, is that no one except for a few lefty-sounding journalists seem to care. Must we wait for another McVeigh to come along before we take it seriously?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Got an expanded scope of work this morning. I'll be going through most of the major files we have, around 700 individual files in about 30 or 40 folders and try make some order of them and help to sketch out an architecture that the files will follow when we finally get our websites up and running, so trying to just put everything in order...In addition, I'm supposed to be attached to some of the local sourcing work for when our grants start coming in so I may get my feet dirty, visiting some farms and the like. So, there is lot to do.

Had a semi-heated debate over science and math education with Aus in the office this morning. I mentioned how summer vacation, even though it's fun, helps to hurt a lot of kids in terms of retaining their schooling, and that we need to do a better job encouraging the pursuit of and the teaching of mathematics and science. For some reason, Aus my opinion on summer vacation inimical to the American lifestyle and then said that we were still a leading country in terms of creativity and entrepneurship. When I mentioned that a large portion of new entrepeneurs, especially in the technology fields are first generation immigrants who came here as students and that many high-profile people in engineering and technology, including folk like Bill Gates and orgs like the National Science Foundation and others, all decry a severe shortage of qualified engieers, scientists, and physicians, he blithely dismissed it and said we can always bring in more people and we are still creative. When I then mentioned that a few studies have shown that a good portion of kids lose a lot of what they learn over the summer (something that makes intuitive sense but does have empirical backing), he replied that kids learn other things during the summer and we shouldn't "imprison" them in the classroom and that the summer offers other opportunity for many kids and we shouldn't worry about it, and that the studies didn't take into account what kids did learn over the summer. This was the last straw for me because I can tolerate a lot of argument and debate but when you start blithely dismissing data that shows that kids are losing ground over the summer and then den the veracity of that becuase it doesn't take into account potential non-academic learning a kid has over the summer, I just get pissed. Not to mention, that doesn't include the millions of kids whose parents can't afford or are unaware of programs which they can place their kids into. He recognized this but countered saying we just need more summer programs and should incentivize better teachers, which does nothing to address my original point on encouraging better domestic science education and more time in school for kids so they don't lose what ground they made the previous year.

Just a frustrating experience. Also, if you haven't gotten as to where I stand on the issue, we should shorten the traditional summer vacation or lengthen the standard school day in addition to encouraging the study of math and science. Too many kids are turned off of the subjects early on due to poor teaching and when kids get to college they often meet professors and departments that are too preoccupied with weeding potential scientists and engineers out rather than encouraging kids to truly pursue these subjects...we're only shooting ourselves in the foot and we won't be able to import our way out of it. Better education for all.

weekend meanderings

Had a fairly chill weekend. I spent most of saturday reading, relearning how to use exponents, and I went to the market with Jessica and Blessing to go grab some stuff for Jessica's party. The market was pretty cool. It's like what you see in th emovies sometimes where there are stalls packed on top of each oher selling all manner of goods and there is only space for traffic to go one way even though you try and make it work both ways. We picked up some stuff from there and left smelling of fruit and slightly decaying fish. The rest of the day was spent reading and hanging out with Aus in his room discussing something that didn't matter and watching thebig lebowski on repeat. Quite amusing.

Sunday was a day of reading also. Around 3:30 I went with Mr. Essien to go and pick up the cake and food for Jessica's party for later that day. The South Africa-Iraq soccer match was on at the chicken place where it took us a half hour to get food we ordered on saturday. Note: I like south africa's fast style but they play like some bitches, they're the first to call foul when a defender is remotely near to them but have no hesitation in crunching an opposing player or actually playing hard on the ball when they're in a position to score, so I was rooting for the Iraqis. The game ended 0-0 and we finally got our food and went to this bakery/hotel/restaurant off Asari Esoh Layout where we waited yet another half hour to get a cake that was ordered on Friday. Timeliness and punctuality aren't strong suits here...The party ended up being pretty cool, though. Jessica and Blessing spent the afternoon in the kitchen making Tex-Mex, Jessica's from Arizona. She made a pretty awesome guacomole and a nice salsa and we had Nigerian food from the chicken join for those who didn't like. I got to try Hocrhada for the first time, a milky, sweet rice drink, mixed with cinnamon from Mexico. Not bad stuff. Alvin got Jessica a band he heard outside the pool of his hotel. The band was good, but they're leader was a rather poor saxophone player making it hard to listen to for long. But overall a pleasant evening.

I finished "American Prometheus" and "Anatomy of Fascism", both of which left me deeply affected. The trial of Oppenheimer that stripped of him his security clearance really was a watershed moment that irretrievably sent America down a quite dangerous path and changed the relation of scientists to their work that exists even to this day. The book stressed that the revocation of clearance, due to his political and philosophical positions not only legitimized our primary cold war strategy of arms building and massive retaliation, which would only guarantee that the only things left on earth if we ever went to war with USSR would be some giant species of cockroach, but also tied the fates of scientists to private labs that were primarily funded by government (read: military) research and stressed that they had no right whatsoever to lend their opinions on the use of their creations, placing them in the role of simple engineers and technical advisors. This is still true to this day and has done more to encourage ass backwards policy, and has given scientists a shield to deny the true moral and philosophical questions that go into the research they perform. Oppenheimer, and other scientists in the early 50s, pushed hard for openness between the USSR and the US regarding their weapons stockpiles and nuclear technology and to come together to control both access to uranium and the technology. If we had taken those suggestions seriously, it is conceivable we would not have the massive problems we have with North Korea and Iran today concerning their use of the bomb.

The separation of scientists' views on their creations also has encouraged some existential questions within science, especially the social sciences. Planners have a pretty intense debate over what it is we actually do and what we stand for. As planners, we are literally social engineers. Is it appropriate to try and place ourselves in the role of a neutral "technician" or should we push towards a normative view of planning? Should planners advocate strongly for positions that we believe to be appropriate, or do we let policy and its implications be dictated from above, or below? How often are morality and philosophy even mentioned in science and engineering classrooms (I include the social sciences here)? It is a a shame and moral tragedy that these questions are not brought up more. I often wonder how engineers and others feel when they're working on a project that will be used to more efficiently kill people and how they have absolutely no right, in many cases, to even comment on what they believe the result of that use has been. Oppenheimer and others who worked on the atomic bomb are a unique case, in that the power they unloaded on the world is literally great enough to destroy every last thing on the surface of this planet, but that makes their treatment all the more horrifying and depressing. We could do a lot better if we allowed for a bit of ethics and thought before we continue to gladly go down the road of happy-go-lucky militarism...

PS- On an entirely separate note, Carl Friedrich Gauss, badass...if you don't know, look him up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

crazy times

Got a little side assignment down here...so, I'm supposed to be working with a group of professors from university of calabar here. The big plan is to try and develop a series of parallel institutions, both private and academic sectors, to eventually put some pressure on the government as well as act as a group of learned advisers and consultants. Not much they can do without any real resources, political will, and a sense of hopelessness that comes from years of witnessing government's benign neglect. So, now I'm tasked to try and get this group up and running to an extent, in addition to some other duties I am waiting on.

On a lighter note, we finally got someone in to look at our plumbing. Even though we're living in government lodgings I get no hot water, my toilet doesn't work, and the water pressure coming out of my shower is about non-existent. So, I pray this guy will be able to get my stuff working. Also, a corner of my bed collapsed...it's just a continuous run of comic mishaps here in Calabar.

I heard about that old, crazy anti-semit and racist shooting the holocaust museum this morning. This makes around 8 high-profile right wing attacks on immigrants, jews, and/or abortion providers since the election of Obama. These are worrisome times. Some of my better friends know that I am constantly harping on the potential dangers of populist right wing violence and often tire of me talking about it. But we are seeing the beginning of something here, something that is terrifying. I pray we can nip a lot of this in the bud. We have a lot of explosive elements here. Two unpopular wars abroad that daily bring home jaded, vulnerable veterans with a load of ocmbat experience. Classic fodder for right wing elements. A horrific economic situation that can be partially blamed on financial and economic elites. The election of a popular president, but one who also engenders a lot of unease and vitriol from many in the media and in private. And a sense of political impotence. Congress continues to act and talk big but their seems to be little happeneing, even though the opposite is true, if you read the newspapers, watch the news, or listen to the radio, you would think nothing has happened. Perceived government impotence, economic hardship, disillusioned warriors returning home, these are all of the ingredients that can add up to a long, hot, summer of right wing resurgent violence. Right now it has been a series of supposed "lone wolf" attacks but these groups are organizing and the internet makes even lone wolfers instant martyrs around the world. I fear the worst.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nigeria- Week 1

I am currently in the lobby of the hotel Metropolitan in downtown Calabar in Cross River State in Nigeria. I don't know how long or how often I'll be able to blog as my office at the state tourism bureau only gets 2 hours (sometimes) of rationed time per day and the internet connection is beyond woeful so this will not be regular by any means, but I'm willing to give it a go.

My first few days here have been a bit of a crash course in doing business in Nigeria and in a lot of countries in West Africa, unfortunately. Government here is quite frustrating, but the current state governor and the new president seem to be trying to make some legitimate reforms. But there is a lot of inertia and there are many, many people who depend on government's inability to function to properly.

But this program, though, has potential to get some decent work done, I think. It is a new model that is a hybrid of some other development approaches, but we are literally just beginning a very specific process. Our approach doesn't address issues with the regional or national government, infrastructure or even medium term planning for the state, but it is a beginning.

Something I am excited about is that I will be meeting with some planning and geography professors and grad students tomorrow. Alvin, my program director, and I will be talking with them. We hope to be able to harness some of that expertise to build up a parallel structure that will assist our businesses and the tourism industry in general with their technical expertise. We are a bit wary, as one or two have exhibited some behavior that indicates some rather large egos and control issues, but what PhD doesn't suffer from that? I'm hoping we can work with them, as they are too vital a resource to not exploit and they are necessary if we're serious about trying to get this prospective "cluster" up and running.

On a more personal note, I am becoming addicted to tea. Just regular english black tea but I get it each morning and evening at breakfast and dinner. I will have to continue drinking it when I get back home.