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October 29

Dear all:

I hope all is going well with everyone. I will send this out tonight. We plan on going to Munich in the morning and will be back late Sunday night. (Probably by 9am Denver time, 8am California). We hope to get to Salzburg (where most people seem to have thought we went) and see Neuschwanstein Castle. We have no reservations so we feel very free to do what we want. The weather in Strasbourg is very nice and we hope the same for the rest of the week a little farther east.

As I may have told you, every Tuesday I go to a "Spouse's Tea" put on by an organization to help visiting scientists. One of the women is Afghani, She only came one time before and didn't say anything. This week she came and was very vocal. She calls herself a moderate Moslem. She dresses in western clothes and speaks French rather well. She is clearly well educated. She was very emotional and said some very interesting things, that mostly confirm what I read in the French press, but I'm not sure is being well documented in the States. (At least the French press claims that the US press is not publicizing lots of opinions contrary to the US position. I hardly believe none is being published, as we can certainly pick up some of the same ideas on the NYTimes website. Anyway, she started off saying how much she hates George Bush and can't understand how he can just keep bombing poor people who don't even have enough to eat. She feels his drops of grain are so little and insignificant that they are insulting since he is already killing so many and destroying their houses. Later on in the conversation I learned that the neighborhood she grew up in Kabul was destroyed. She was clearly directing her anger at Bush. She could not understand that the smart US couldn't find Bin Laden some other way. Many of the other people tried to make her understand that as has been reported here (I think I read one article translated from the LA Times about it) that the US hasn't done any real old-fashion "spying" with personnel on the ground in that part of the world since 1985. Luckily, other ladies, from Spain and France, mostly explained the American position and I could keep my mouth shut. She then went on saying that no one will run Afghanistan, not the Americans, not the Russians and not even Bin Laden. She noted that really it was the Americans who put Bin Laden in power and now they just want to play by their rules and get him out all in the mean time bombing innocent people. She said that in no way was there any justification for what Bin Laden did, as she finds no support in the Koran for his actions. (I certainly did not detect that she thought someone besides Bin Laden did it also). However, she also doesn't think that the US actions are justified. She admitted that the US can't just sit there, and that she didn't have any better ideas. In her opinion the reason Britain is fighting is because they lost three times already in Afghanistan and want to make up for it now. I think what I found so striking about her talk was that even though she wants Bin laden out, she certainly doesn't want (actually, its more like detests) the "help" that the Americans are providing. And this is from an educated, well-traveled moderate Moslem women. (She also clearly does not think that the traditionalist view on women is correct either. One of the women told me that last year she gave a very moving talk about the subjugation of women in Afghanistan.) The conversation sort of ended when several other women came in and one started to speak to her in some language I don't know but I assume was some form of Arabic. At the end I went up and told her that I was interested in what she said and that I wasn't George Bush. She said she certainly doesn't have anything against the American people and she very warmly gave me the traditional French parting kiss on the cheeks.

On other fronts life is not so serious. I found it rather amusing that the Minister of Education felt that it was too long of a time to have school from Sept. to Christmas with only one short week of vacation and proposed making it two weeks long. (I think I told you about that last week) . I was talking with my neighbor upstairs and explaining how my kids were looking forward to the vacation. She replied that it really wasn't a vacation as it wasn't for but one week. She seemed to agree with the Minister. I explained that in the US we manage to go from Sept. to Christmas with only two days off for Thanksgiving. She replied, "Oui, mais vous n'avez pas l'ecole les samedis."(Yes, but you don't have school on Saturdays) Oui, mais nous avons l'ecole les mercredis, toute la journee!. (Non, but we do have school all day long on Wednesdays). She couldn't believe that Americans actually went to school on Wednesdays and we could go so long without a two-week vacation. One of my American friends said that in her conversation class people were making comments about the differences between Germans and the French. She was told that there was a saying that "The Germans live to work and the French work to live." I really like the value placed on vacations in any case.

Peter got home more or less on time from a good conference in Biarritz. He says it was nice and warm and sunny there. He did comment that the security coming back was incredible. He says that he tried to go through the scanners with only the metal in his wedding ring on (he can't take it off anymore) and still he set off the alarm. (Before you get the wrong idea, he was wearing clothes). I guess Leslie has her full of these types of stories. Le Monde did a special on the travel industry here in France after the attacks. Needless to say its not good especially for agencies dealing in North America and the Middle east. The political cartoon accompanying the article had a traveler in front of the agents desk. The agent is explaining that with this deal he will get 6 nights in a 5 star hotel and all meals. The traveler asks, "And how much will you pay me to go?". The radio is advertising New York for Thanksgiving for about $250 for 3 nights, in a 2 or 3 star hotel with airfare from Paris. In the end, however, the article felt that things would pick up again.

This weekend we took two long bike rides around the city. The mother of one of Ethan's friends lent us their bikes for the week. It was beautiful. Ryan is finally getting lots of confidence. There is one particularily nice ride along one of the canals that circles much of the city and you only have to cross two streets. It ends a few blocks from our apartment.

Its really fun to be with the boys pick up French. They learned a game called POWER from Thomas, the high school student who was to babysit while we went to dinner with Phil and Jo. He speaks great English but I think they learned part of the game in French. They now discuss parts of the game in French among themselves. (Thomas left us the game for the week since he was going to Italy). Also, last night Peter used the word "adjacent". Ethan asked what that meant and Brennan responded "a côté" and Ethan said ok. I can't believe that they are already giving definition of English words they don't know by using a French word.

Time to pack. Talk to you when we get back.

Love, Linda

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This page was last modified on Sun, Dec 23, 2001.