Pandemic Musings: Chapter 7 on the First Trip Back to the USA Since Before the Pandemic (combining a series of progress reports)

Chapter 7 on Pandemic Living started with travel anxieties in anticipation of my first trans-Atlantic flight since the pandemic began.  The draft was initially written on 30 and 31 July 2021. Progress reports on 10, 20 27 and 31 August have continued the saga with various mid-travel reflections, and a final piece dated 12 September incorporates my post-travel reflections. During this same period, the delta variant was rampant but quixotic in its own travels around the world. We are still living with bated breath even as we try to go about a return to “normal” living, but this chapter .

Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: Chapter 7 on the First Trip Back to the USA Since Before the Pandemic (combining a series of progress reports)”

Pandemic Musings: 6. Entering (Early) the Fourth Wave in France (July 2021)

As of today, 21 July 2021, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that we have entered the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in France. Less than two months ago we were eagerly phasing out of the lockdown measures of the third wave -ending the curfews, lifting the face mask requirements and mandatory forms and time limits for activities outside the home, gradually opening up the restaurants (outdoor dining only), fitness centers, museums, theaters, shopping centers and non-essential retail  establishments.  Although we are no  longer being called upon to reinstate any of these lockdown measures (at least not yet), the Prime Minister has described this fourth wave as worse than any of the previous three waves, with a “faster and steeper slope” in the spread of the virus than any of the previous waves.  Who expected this? How is it affecting us personally here at Villa Ndio? Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 6. Entering (Early) the Fourth Wave in France (July 2021)”

Democracy in Jeopardy: French Regional Elections

What follows here is my first commentary on electoral politics in France. It will be part of an ongoing series of commentaries to explore a number of specific settings – I have chosen France, India and the US – where democracy might be seen to be in jeopardy.  I started this series with a general commentary on democracy in jeopardy (available here), and I will be linking the specific case studies to this overall perspective from time to time.  Although I am an American who is a voter there but not in either France or India, I write these commentaries as an interested observer who has studied and written about electoral politics academically. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: French Regional Elections”

Democracy in Jeopardy: A Running Series of Commentaries on the US, France and India

The shock of Trump lingers among those of us – of which I am one – who had not fully understood that democratic societies are not permanent fixtures in the political scheme of things. In an effort to record my own appreciation of the fluidity of democracy, I have decided to start a running series of commentaries on “Democracy in Jeopardy”. They will include three case studies of how democracies are being challenged today – case studies in which I am personally interested – the Bengali elections in India, the PACA regional elections in France, and the statewide elections in the American state of Virginia. They all involve “sub-national” elections that are occurring this year (2021), with significant national implications for the future of democracy in each country.  But first, I start the series here with some personal reflections on why I am inspired to write about the overall issue of democracy in jeopardy. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: A Running Series of Commentaries on the US, France and India”

Pandemic Musings: 5. The Uncertainties of Lockdown Living: Musings at the End of the Third Wave (in France, 7 May 2021)

So much has happened on the “living with a pandemic” front since I recorded the way of things back in October 2020. I’ve written other musings since then, of course, on November as the month of memorials or the traditional Christmas greetings in December, and even a thing or two about the gender perspective both locally and globally since then. But I realized the other day that we are gradually moving out of yet a third confinement and  into the hopeful anticipation of a post-pandemic lifestyle, at least here in France, without my having written down the typical diary kind of record of “living with the pandemic” that I had originally envisioned doing. I was so struck by its transformative significance back there in the 2020 days of what I described then as the “new March madness”. And I know that much of it is very mundane, but still, I did intend to have a sort of personal record of what I consider to be pivotal moments for me and for my family in the evolution of this horrific pandemic.  Let’s hope we don’t forget its significance. Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 5. The Uncertainties of Lockdown Living: Musings at the End of the Third Wave (in France, 7 May 2021)”

IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, unsurprisingly, is “Women Leading the Fight against COVID-19”. Well, it seems to have been a bit of a tradition to honor accomplished women on this day, and we can all agree that women are very much involved in leading the fight against COVID-19, right? So where are they? The accomplished women, that is. In the sciences? Physicians? Well, there is at least one we know about, Ôzlem Tûreci, co-founder of BioNTech, right? And in the political world? What ever happened to Deborah Birx? And yes, there was a flurry of publicity early on that countries with women as head of state or government were doing better than their male counterparts – Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Angela Merkel in Germany.  But I would rather we had a focus this year on the women “happeners” in the fight against COVID-19, and I don’t mean something as “patronizing” as praising women in the traditional ways that emphasize their gentle and selfless nature or their beauty or their unquestioning endurance. Continue reading “IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic”

Gender 2021: Post-Pandemic? Post-Beijing?

As we come to the end of 2020, we are taking some time to recall those things that we didn’t get to celebrate together. Fair enough. It isn’t that I thought of gender when I sat down to do an end-of-year reflection of this awful 2020. Rather, I just happened to be sitting down to write down my thoughts on gender on this penultimate day of 2020 and thought to myself: I should prepare an outline of what my main points might be. And oh yes, one of those main points is that this year of 2020 was the 25-year anniversary of the Beijing Platform and Declaration on the Rights of Women. Major events and visible displays of the anniversary had been planned for Mexico in April and then France in May, but then the whole process leading up to these events was abruptly suspended, and the main events were postponed until 2021. Continue reading “Gender 2021: Post-Pandemic? Post-Beijing?”

Christmas Décor 2020

Living with the pandemic continues to define our lives in a uniquely isolated setting. We love Villa Ndio, but we also love sharing it with family and friends. For the Christmas holidays, we had accumulated holiday decor over the years that we minimized using in recent years. We had spent many a Christmas here with children growing up and grandparents nearby.  But the past few years took us away to visit our grown children elsewhere for most of the holiday time – thereby leaving the Christmas decorations stored away in the grenier.  This year, however, we’ve been bringing all the decor out of their boxes as a sort of mental health gambit. Continue reading “Christmas Décor 2020”

Thankful for Neighbors

On the fourth Thursday of the month of November, we will be celebrating American Thanksgiving. This is normally a time for families and friends to get together for a big feast and to be thankful for a successful harvest. This year, the second pandemic lockdown is keeping all of us at home, but we can still be thankful. We are thankful this year for an abundant harvest from our olive trees, and we are also thankful for having such wonderful neighbors. Neighbors have been an important part of our life at Villa Ndio. Here is an essay on how we came to live here at Villa Ndio and some of the things we have appreciated doing with our neighbors. Continue reading “Thankful for Neighbors”