Argentine roots… can never be forgotten!

My Father never forgot his Argentine roots. He and my Mother loved poignant lyrics of old tangos. One of them -a famous one- was Adios Muchachos. It is a sad song of someone who is dying and saying goodbye to his buddies.

The Americans romanticized an Argentine tango the song in the movie “Scent of a Woman”…  The melody is delightful.  The lyrics -in Spanish- are devastating:  gambling leads to perdition.  My parents pointed that out!

Oh…listening to these old tangos and remembering my parents’ thoughts makes me reflect. Here is an old tango about “Returning when you have gray hairs”… I understand the lyrics. I returned to Buenos Aires, where I grew up, after a 35 year absence.

What I have learned through the decades is that no matter where home is, one develops a strong sense of nostalgia. So much so that, because I have a strong attachment to music and places, I relate music and places together, even if I cannot understand the lyircs!

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My Father: When Irish eyes are smiling.

My Father introduced Ruby Murray to a large group in Argentina, who had never heard of her. HAH, have you? She had a lovely voice and sang some beautiful Irish songs… She was so special that even a Catholic priest we knew could not resist her songs and never returned the records he had borrowed from us. But, he was a nice man, and my family did not hold it against him. He will remain anonymous. This was a song I grew up listening all the time. In fact, my Father sang it a neighbors’ big party…and he did not disappoint.

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El Concierto de Aranjuez – Tokyo Times.

Indeed it was in 1969 that my Father discovered “El Concierto de Aranjuez“.  We were living in Tokyo at the time.  I will never forget how shocked we were when he announced that he wanted this concert to be played at his funeral.  I was a young girl at the time.  My siblings were even younger.  He was 41 years old.  It is funny what one remembers as time goes by…

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Hip Father…

As we became teen-agers, my Father brought home The Graduate “album”.  So many lovely songs, so many intriguing songs… Two that stick today:

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Thank you Girl!

Looking back, I guess we were lucky when our Father came home with 2 Beatles’ recordings (we never had heard of them..we were young and in Argentina).  Looking back now, I realize he was always at the cutting edge!  I could never have thought of him as hip, then.  But, he shared with us what was special then.

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My Father and Les Sylphides.

My Father introduced me to Les Sylphides when I was a little girl. The music that made a big impact on me starts at 8:48. I remember asking my Mother to put the record on when my Father went away on long trips to Europe and the US (in those days, plane rides took a while to cross continents and oceans!). I missed my Father on those long trips, and the music he listened to made me feel closer to him. (In the age of the dinosaurs, we used to listen to music through a plastic vinyl disc that rotated with a needle circling around the disc).  This was a long time ago.  But, for me, it feels like it was yesterday.

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A beautiful Mazurka from Coppelia.

My Father introduced me to this beautiful ballet when I was between the ages of 6 and 8. It was a long time ago. After all these decades, I still feel the thrill of the little daughter who felt goosebumps when she heard this music… Bitter sweet. In retrospect, who would have thought I would have been to the Bolshoi during Soviet times, and enjoying Mazurkas in Poland post-communism. Go figure.

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Don’t blink – life goes faster than you think…

…so true.  But then, most of us don’t realize it until much later in life…

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The spirit of the great heart… South Africa…

Here is a little bit of memory for my children:  how we loved the songs Savuka and Johnny Clegg sang in those heady days in South Africa, after Nelson Mandela had been elected President.  I can honestly say I am humbled and privileged to have lived, worked, served in South Africa during such a historically unique time as the early 1990’s.

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American troops – around 850,000 plus contractors – have gotten to know us…

“… in ways that very few people have known our country.  I agree.  What every single person I have ever met, both soldier or contractor, who has ever worked/served in Afghanistan has said the same thing to me:  the Afghan people are unique and Afghanistan gets under your skin, forever.

President Ghani:

Today, we’ve been very privileged – Dr. Abdullah and I and our colleagues – to engage in a discussion that characterizes a discussion among enduring partners. First of all, again, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women in uniform who have done the ultimate sacrifice: 2,215 Americans have lost – members of the armed forces have lost their lives; numerous members of the Secret Service and civilians. They will be part of our enduring memories, and we pay tribute to them. Equally, over 20,000 American military members have been wounded in action. We pray for their recovery and we hope that their families will recover from the trauma.

American troops – around 850,000 plus contractors – have gotten to know us in ways that very few people have known our country. They know locations that most Afghans probably don’t. They served in the highest peaks, in the most difficult deserts, and the barest of places with the minimum – with minimum support structures. But what they brought was a difference in attitude. We Afghans are fiercely proud, but we always know the difference between those who come in anger and those who come to support us.

It’s not Dr. Abdullah and I alone who want to say thank you. The parliament of Afghanistan by overwhelmingly supporting the Bilateral Security Agreement, previously the consultative Loya Jirga endorsing this, speaks for a consensus. This is a foundational relationship, and we are very proud that this relationship will be transformed into an enduring relationship.

The government of national unity is an enduring phenomenon, and one of its key characteristics is its honesty in dealing with the balance sheet that we have inherited. We have had accomplishments. but we also have inherited corruption, impunity regarding rule of law, gender disparities, disparities between rich and poor, and the enduring poverty – 36 percent of our population still lives under the poverty line. Our determination is to make sure that our people live not just in peace, but with dignity and prosperity.

Dr. Abdullah:

And on behalf of the unity government, President Ghani spoke this morning eloquently and that was expression of our thoughts, our feelings towards your servicemen, towards your country, towards your people. I join him in every word, and our commitment to make the unity government a functioning – a more functioning idea – not only idea, but an opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and opportunity for our partners is that we still rely on your support, but we are moving towards self-reliance. And as a result of that, Afghanistan will be a better place. Our region will be a more prosperous place.

Once again, thank you.

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“No mistakes in the tango, not like life.”

No mistakes in the tango, not like life.  It’s simple.  That’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.

Thinking of Afghanistan and Argentina, chatting with a friend in Poland, brought back memories of a link he shared many moons ago: the tango scene of Scent of a Woman. I just watched it again, and must admit that it is special beyond belief. Al Pacino (I like him, but am not crazy about him) does a beautiful rendition of what EVERYONE thinks is a beautiful love song. Indeed, this tango has to be one of the most beautiful melodies around. The dancing scene is one of the most touching scenes in film and Al Pacino is great. The truth behind the song is that the lyrics refer to a horse race and losing by a head:

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Afghanistan: Team of Rivals.

A very interesting review of the two Afghan leaders, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and which gives me hope, as I continue working with Afghanistan and will soon be traveling back to Kabul…

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Reflections: Letters to my Granddaughter.

The last time I was in Kabul, I reflected on the ominous thought that I had become a Grand-Mother for the first time.  I kept wondering how I could convey to this little child the magnitude of my experiences, in case I died before she became of age.  So, I decided to start writing letters to her, just in case!

Posting the Merle Haggard songs reminded me of a reflection I had the last time I visited Afghanistan, where, for protection, I had to wear a Kevlar vest.  Below were my thoughts to my Granddaughter:

We put on the bullet proof vests. Oh my, truly, my vest must have weighed half my weight. I barely could lift it, and I could not put it through my head. I eventually slithered in it through a side vent. It must have been comical and pathetic to watch me try to climb up the SUV. I had to heave myself in 2-3 times, and eventually the momentum almost made me fall into the car. But I managed.

Well, I don’t doubt that there are some Amazonian gals who might not have a problem carrying 70-lbs extra on their bodies, but I do doubt that most women can, no matter how buff they are. Add to that the possibility that, in the battlefield, you might have to carry a fallen fellow soldier in addition to those 70 lbs., and I don’t see a very happy ending as a result. Funny what a very heavy bullet proof vest can make you understand. Funny, too, that it brought back memories of my two flights, where in both instances, four men helped me out. They took my backpack in and out of the overhead compartment because they could tell that 1) I was too short to reach it, and 2) that the backpack was too heavy for me to lift. True, maybe they were gentlemen who saw an older lady (after all, I am your Grandmother!) in need of help. But, frankly, I think, they saw someone who had neither the height nor the strength to manage the chore. They handled that backpack as if it were a small box of popcorn. I know men are stronger than women. But these gracious gestures made me reflect on the implication of that biological difference. You see, when you are going to a war zone, you pay more attention to your own physical vulnerability.

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Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.

As I have grown older and maybe a little wiser, I understand and better appreciate the poignant lyrics of country-songs and ballads.  So, the other day, I posted Merle Haggard’s song that he wrote because he was so upset about the desecration of national symbols: Me and Crippled Soldiers.

Ann Althouse points us to Bob Dylan’s reaction to Merle Haggard’s interview about Merle’s song “Fighting Side of Me”.    Said Bob Dylan:

“Merle had that song out called “Fighting Side of Me” and I’d seen an interview with him where he was going on about hippies and Dylan and the counter culture, and it kind of stuck in my mind and hurt, lumping me in with everything he didn’t like. But of course times have changed and he’s changed too. “

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Afghanistan: One Buzkashi Boy.

I have always found the story behind the film “Buzkashi Boys” quite intriguing.   I wrote about it a while back (check below).  Now Radio Free Europe has a great video telling the story behind one of the film’s actors, which I recommend checking out:  “From Street Urchin to Movie Star”.  What a difference the support of one person can make!

He set out to change Western perceptions through film-making and decided to center his first project around the story of two young boys. One is a street beggar dreaming of a better life, the other, a young boy daring to walk beyond his blacksmith father’s footsteps.

French was particularly inspired by the children he met here, because just like their American counterparts who dream of growing up to basketball or football stars, they hope to become national buzkashi stars.

“We wanted to tell a story about two kids who have larger than life dreams. And show that even here, in a country wracked by war, the hope of a better life connects us all”, said French.  “There are people here doing things and dreaming of things just like everyone else in the world.”

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