What a year! My head is still spinning of this emotional roller coaster called 2011. In January I was in Sudan and we expected a year of big events –big and predictable events that is. On January 9th the referendum on South Sudan’s independence began and all seemed well. When the final results were announced in February even the Sudanese paid little attention. The events after all were not only big, but also utterly unexpected. And yes, January 25 was only the beginning –OK sure, technically it all began in Tunisia, but I hadn’t really paid attention to that. In quick secession we got the Arab spring, a monster earthquake followed by a monster tsunami followed by a nuclear disaster followed by Godzilla –oh wait, the last actually didn’t happen, but considering the previous events it would have been perfectly believable–, the American debt ceiling crisis followed by Occupy Wall Street and the Euro crisis –does anyone really know what EFSF stands for?– followed by governments crumbling left and right. Oh right, and Bin Laden died, and Kim Yong Il –whose name should only be written in serif fonts to make sure people do not mistake it for a Roman numeral– and Steve Jobs.
2012 is upon us and this time we know it is going to be a year of uncertainty. The future isn’t bleak, but it will be a year of struggle and for many it will be a year of individual suffering. The financial troubles and the risk of a global recession are still upon us. The fighting in the Arab world continues and people die for Freedom or are imprisoned and are tortured every day. In the West we need to save the economy from collapse while we rethink our social contract, the latter is even more urgent in America. In the Arab world continued pressure will be necessary to build the basis for a better future –a future which will take maybe another decade to arrive. Besides all of these developments we need to figure out how to fix climate change or alternatively learn how to build livable cities in the ocean and desert –maybe once again Egypt will teach the world… OK scratch that, I said livable. And while we do all that, there is still some progress to be made on the UN Millennium goals, peace in Sudan and Congo, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea.
For me personally it was also an exciting year, which began in the (freezing cold) desert close to Shendi in Sudan and will end in a hopefully more moderately tempered Bangkok. In between, as usual, I did a bit of traveling. I never got around to writing down my impressions of America, but visiting the new world for the first (and second) time(s) was(/were) one(/two) of the year’s highlights. Besides that, I loved Rome and yes, I really enjoyed Easter mass on St. Peter’s square. Being in India with lots of good friends for Mahadevan’s and Haruka’s wedding was fantastic. But in the end I was happy to finally stop living out of a suitcase, have my own flat and be a little more settled for a while. The next year will be a year of uncertainty also on a personal level, as I still need to finish my doctorate and need to figure out what comes next. I have some good ideas by now, but nothing is set in stone yet. What ever way it goes, I will surely keep you updated.
If I may make a wish for the coming year, then it would be this: Please keep following what is happening in the Middle East. Do not turn away because it seems difficult to understand or because the parties elected for now disagree with your beliefs. The Arab Spring is a long term process and Europe –even with all our own faults and all our own problems– needs to assure these new democracies of our full support. If we do not fill this gap, support will come from elsewhere, like from Saudi Arabia and neither you, nor I, nor my friends in Egypt would like the consequences of that.
At last, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and and a Happy New Year! May all your wishes come true and may you live in a little less interesting times.