It’s December 30. I am obsessed with the Year in Review. I don’t know why. Every year I love taking time to reflect. This year was a wild one…
The Republican primaries? I remember discussing them over coffee with my CouchSurfing host, a guy from New Orleans who worked at the US embassy in Tirana, Albania and spoke no fewer than four European languages– French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese all of which he learned by living and working in places like Benin, Costa Rica, Albania and the Cape Verde islands.
The Syrian and Afghan conflicts, Gaza too, slow-burning, threaded through the year like wires. Same with Yemen, Egypt, Congo, Somalia and Darfur– the New York Times acknowledges the last three with one cursory, though well-composed, picture each. For me, the Congo will always be a friend of a friend of a friend, whose name I never even caught over the terrible line, who lives in the East, shouting down a scratchy connection as I sat on a bench in sunny Berne with my notebook on my knees. “I am an eyewitness, I buried the bodies myself.”
Elections in France? Sitting on a balcony in Nimes with Daphnée, Jean-Claude, Thierry, D’artagnan and Frédéric. Protests in Spain? Listening to them draft solidarity petitions.
Aung San Suu Kyi, perpetually exhausted and amazed at the great things which have fallen to her to do in Burma. Mbonisi once interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi and was blown away by her intelligence, resilience and modesty. An intelligent, resilent and modest man himself, he was an excellent choice to interview her, I think. I always think of the two of them, source and journalist, leaned forward listening to Skype screens.
The London Olympics? I watched the opening ceremony at a bar in Bujumbura– Havana Club in fact, a muzungu colony par excellence where I ordinarily never set foot. The bartenders thought no one was paying attention (and the women were too busy fending off the laughing advances of drunk Chinese), so they kept the Rihanna on loud. That is, until the Parade of Nations, when the place went mad for Burundi. All the expats screamed for their countries– China! France! Kenya! Rwanda! Senegal!– and we had our own parade of nations in there that evening. I never saw a second of the Olympics, except for a few minutes of the US-Canada women’s football game (at a bar in Rwanda with Averie, Yamina and Dave) and the final run of the women’s 800 metres where we had a Burundian competitor, Francine Niyonsaba. She was, I believe, seventh of eight– but in the competition overall, she was seventh of fifty. Not bad for the 19-year-old daughter of illiterate subsistence farmers from Ruyigi. At the newspaper I hogged the Olympic-related briefs, realizing my kid’s dream of becoming a sportswriter. The places allotted to Burundian journalists at the Olympics were taken by heaven knows who, none of us, although Rasta had the privilege to meet “our” athletes at the airport after the closing ceremony.
Floods in Russia? I was writing an article for Union Postale on passport applications at the time. The somewhat annoyed public relations guy for Russia Post was like, “As a result of the floods, we’re rather busy.” I went on the BBC. Then I felt like a right prat.
Election night? Sitting in the Democracy Now studios in New York, enjoying free vegetarian lasagna and a live broadcast of Amy Goodman’s show. Hurricane Sandy? Watching the deck lights dance and almost snap outside my hostel window in New York as the lights snapped on and off and our meetings got cancelled one by one.
Here is the New York Times’ one:
The “World, I’m coming” face on the young Malian girl in the US makes me sit straight up in my chair.
The Aurora shooting was not even included in this one, which scares me a little in regards to violence in my home country.
The BBC did two, one for the UK (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-20757511) with a lot of focus on the Olympics and the Royal Family– love the one of the Queen which is the only photo in which I’ve ever seen her happy. It was also quite a year for Andy Murray, the tennis player. Frédéric is an Andy Murray fan–well, mostly he just loathes Roger Federer for some reason–and we hooted and shouted for Murray all summer long. Then there was an album for the world as a whole (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-20770268) — pallid, cowed Hosni Mubarak, bewildered Prince Charles on a foreign tour, breathless Spanish soccer fans–every Spaniard in Switzerland was singing in the streets of Berne the night we watched them win the Euro championship. The BBC acknowledges the miners’ strike in South Africa, the tensions in Sudan, the protests by the Greek working class tricked into a false sense of security by their leaders and suffering in a crisis they did nothing knowingly to create, no wonder the Parthenon looks like it’s exploding.
BBC Africa did their own (http://wordpress.com/#!/post/) , starting with “Occupy Nigeria,” the fallout from the fuel price rises, through the Cup of Nations football tournament–which I talked about with my Moroccan and Tunisian students in Nimes–and the relatively smooth elections in Senegal. And the disaster in Mali…it’s weird that so much shook the world this year that the death of democracy in a stable West African country with a world-famous cultural heritage (Timbuktu, anyone?) barely rates.
The CBC ones, with the tuition fee protests that shook Montreal:
The suicide of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old bullying victim, following her video cry for help, brought me back to my own school days…*shudder*. There was also the videotaped brutal murder of a Chinese grad student by his boyfriend. When you think of that, the Occupy London protesters dragged from the grounds of St. Paul’s cathedral by the wrists for no crime other than being there, and the man from India who was pushed into the path of an oncoming New York subway train by a Hispanic-American woman, who claimed to have “hated Hindus and Muslims ever since they brought down the Twin Towers”… aren’t we humans awful to each other? So thoroughly bloody awful?
But then there’s the Huffington Post’s approach. “Most heartwarming photos of 2012.”
In the middle of Hurricane Sandy, one family with electricity hooks up a power bar on their fence. A sign: “We have power, please feel free to charge your phone.”
As Kapuscinski wrote: “There is so much crap in this world, and then suddenly there is honesty and humanity.”