So the conference was a success, and all seem happy with the results. Of course, it's nowhere close to being over for me, as I have to do a final accounting, a final report, and edit a book of all the collected papers.
Also, my somewhat less-than-conservative friends in Vienna looked at me a bit askew when I told them that I was working on a NATO conference. As though NATO were the enemy. Seems to me that NATO doesn't really have any foes right now, although that "you attack one of us, you attack all of us" thing could get sticky a little bit later down the line.
The final night in Kyiv was nice, as I finally got to see the city. Beautiful statues and sculptures, and the most amazing gilding I've ever seen. And finally, no vodka.
Now I'm in Vienna until Wednesday, when I leave for Lisbon. So, for those of you following the world cup, I'll be in Wien when Germany plays Italy (yes, I know that Vienna is not in Germany, but hey), and in Lisbon when France plays Portugal. Who'd have bet that Portugal would be in the semi finals? Probably the same people that thought Brasil would not be. FWIW, I'll be in Lisbon for the day of the final, which would be insane if Portugal makes it to the final.
I have made quite clear to the people here that I consider myself not an American, but a New Orleanian. They appreciate that, and they express shock in the evident abandonment of America's greatest city by its adminstration. One of the questions I've been asked frequently is "what is happening to all that oil in Iraq"? The only response I have is for them to ask Dick Cheney.
What really struck me as rather odd was that my Viennese friends, one of whom is an expat New Orleanian (OK, he lived in Kenner), have targeted their animosity toward Cheney and Rumsfeld...even Wolfowitz. Not really toward W, as they consider him to be simply a dim puppet. That's harsh, harsher than my feelings, but kind of telling of the world's view of the US administration.
Also, fortunately, most of the Europeans I have spoken with are quick to separate the works and deeds of the US administration from the US citizenry. They haven't been blaming me personally for any of this crap, which is nice.
All of our lives, the adminstration has told us who our enemies are. We've all seen how Goebbels taught the Nazis to use fear and "lack of patriotism" as tools of propaganda. Thing is, the Soviets were never really the bad guys. The whole cold war was primarily an excuse to get the likes of Lockheed, Halliburton, and their ilk rich. Now, they tell us the enemy is "terror". Huh? Why can't the enemy be inadequate housing, inadequate flood protection, inadequate public transportation, inadequate wages, and hurricanes?
Also, everybody is wondering, "Why don't you just contract the Dutch to build the levees? They're the best in the world at doing that" Well, we don't do that, because the concept that somebody other than an American is the best in the world at something is a completely alien concept. We're the greatest country on earth is beaten into our brains from second grade, usually by people who have never been to another country, except maybe to Juarez for a tequila junket. What is inherently wrong, or weak in suggesting that those with more experience and success may be better at doing something. I don't get it.
The Europeans also seemed very concerned about the rebuilding and future of New Orleans. One thing I'm going to miss (well, let's just say I'll be absent for it) is the Neville Brothers in Vienna on July 7. I told my Kennerian friend to ask Cyril "how's Austin". The Kennerian also shared a story of how the Olympia brass band (he thinks it was Olympia) was performing in Vienna, and he was dressed as a typical Austrian in his suit, and walked by the bandleader as they were marching and said in his best Kennerian accent "Hey bra, way y'at?" The guy's jaw fell, and he whistled back at my friend, who waved and moved on.
You can't get away from New Orleans culture. At this point in time, it is the best export New Orleans has, and is the best export the USA has. Maybe the politicians and multinationals that control all the bucks should realize that we're worth preserving.