Ivy and I are doing some babysitting for my sister and husband tonight. I'm still struck by how convenient it is that I can check email from their computer and also do some blog updates too.
I want to recommend a great book that Ivy and I both finished last week called "Children of Jihad" by Jared Cohen. (Note: checking books out from the library is actually a great incentive for having to finish them off with a deadline.)
Cohen is a young, adventurous, smart guy who graduated from Stanford, was a Rhodes scholar and loves to travel. He spent two years traveling throughout the Middle East right after he graduated from college. His book (written when he was 25 or 26) tells about his experiences interacting with young people from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. He asks them about their views on topics like democracy and terrorism and spends lots of time getting to know their perspective and culture.
Ivy and I both had our eyes opened in many areas: how similar young people in the Middle East are to Westerners; how most of these countries have experienced devastating wars just in the past couple decades and on their own soil; how few opportunities they have to get a good education and jobs; how oppressive it is to live in Iran and Syria in particular--they are police states similar to the communist system.
It was an inspiring book and I'm glad Cohen has since joined the US state department. Also, having cross-cultural exchanges between the Middle East and the US and Europe is definitely the way to go and very important these days especially. An idea that Ivy and I are toying with is to save up some money to go to the Middle East for a week or two with Ivy's cousin Rita who is fluent in Arabic. That would be an amazing trip--and a hot one, so we'd want to go in the winter for sure.