a.k.a. The Happy Valley
It is cool for summer. In fact, the chill at night feels more like autumn. Otherwise the lush, bright greens (of trees, grass, cultivated crops and wild bush), sky and mountain blues, and varying tones of white in the clouds are as they ever were. I got out on the bike trail yesterday, smelling freshly mown hay and listening to birdsong . . . aaahhhhhhhhh.
Although re-entry is relatively painless, I have noticed slight and subtle differences in the US now compared with when I left nearly a year ago. CNN has a news program, Black in America. Susan told me that standardized test scores for young African-Americans are improving in a crucial way: historically if students were asked to identify their racial demographics at the beginning of a standardized test their scores would be lower than if they were asked to provide this info at the end. Now this gap is decreasing! In other words, flagging racial identity used to work “against” confidence/competence for some black youth; now – after Obama – this internalized self-perception is being transformed.
I was startled, the first day back, when strangers addressed me in English (instead of Flemish or French). Riding in a taxi from the airport to a temporary destination in DC brought me in visual contact with a familiar landscape. I found it comforting to be closed in by tree-covered rolling hills instead of looking out on the centuries-tilled farmland of Belgium – which always somehow conveyed the hint of battle. Not that history is pristine, here. The namesake of this university town in western Massachusetts is infamous for having provided smallpox-infected blankets to the local Indians. Most of the original peoples from the East Coast were decimated in the colonial invasion, although some tribes managed to survive and even establish authenticity in the eyes of federal law (which is deliberately designed to make such claims as difficult as possible while appearing to be fair).
Whiffs of cow manure are occasionally overwhelming.
It’s been windy since I arrived, but Ambarish assures me it is not always like this. I had been quite aware of the wind in Belgium, and it had crossed my mind that this might be a sign of global warming: as the planet’s atmosphere heats up, there might be more likelihood of “weather”. I wondered if, some day in the future, a still day when there is no wind might be a rarity, a phenomenon only remembered by the very old . . .