Season Greetings from the Philippines

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At times it is possible to find little gems in the little-screen-inflight-movie-world. The other day, while flying to Sydney, I watched Another Earth. It tells the story of an approaching planet which is the exact copy of our Earth. The planet is like a second moon and can be seen up in the sky. Since it is a copy of our planet, it is lived by copies of us (other us) whom we could eventually meet since the distance is not too great. I am writing this in a Starbuck in Manila and imagine sitting here with another myself: looking as I look but having different thoughts than I have. What would I say to him?

Maybe I would start by showing some pictures as the ones at the top of this page and I would speak about Olga, Venla and Katja and what has happened this year. The same I want to do with you now keeping up with the tradition of a common end of the year message. The last few days have been worrying days due to the floods that have hit the Southern part of the Philippines.

The typhoon that hit Mindanao touched also the island of Negros and Dumaguete, the city where we live. Areas of the city nearby the two rivers that crisscross the town have been affected, houses flooded, some people have lost their lives.  An Italian friend who is running a shelter home for kids who are temporarily separated from their families due to poverty or domestic problems has been damaged and the twenty kids they host had to be evacuated. Home of other people we know have been flooded now having to deal with the mud that was brought down from the mountain areas.  The news paper say that people had been warned in the South of the Philippines, but we are not living in the typhoon-belt part of the country and they may have not followed instructions to evacuate while the floods hit during the night.It is a bit scary to think how fragile our way of living is when confronted to nature and its indifference. Yet, thinking about this I feel really close to people of Dumaguete and the town that has been now our home for two and half years. A town where I like to live, where Olga and Venla have many Filipino friends from school and our neighborhood.  The town where they go to ballet school twice a week.

The island of Negros where they have learned to swim and discover, with a mask and a snorkel, the colors and the hundreds of fish species of the coral reefs. We continue living with our three languages at home. I speak English with Katja. She speaks Finnish to the girls. I talk Italian to them. I get replies in English but it does not matter as long as the replies are correct and I think that, though Olga and Venla not always understand what I say they are now more open than they used to be to tell me to repeat or translate. This has helped to start reading to them novels in Italian and using books with few images and a lot of words. I really enjoyed sitting with them in the evenings and reading them Pinocchio written in an old Italian style with words that at times I did not understand myself. Reviewing and making sure that before starting a new chapter where al knew what had happened to Pinocchio up to that point.Reading Pinocchio has been part of getting closer to Italy during this year. Maybe the time has come to miss my country more than I used to. Maybe it is because I now cannot run without listening to a radio podcast such as Caterpillar of Farenheit, maybe is because I have been away since 1996, or maybe is because I want my daughters to have a feeling and appreciation of the history of my country and what it means to walk in the Piazza of Cremona surrounded by buildings built centuries ago, of maybe … who knows.

The fact is that from afar I feel closer to my country.  I did not write much about work, I notice now. Well, it is still very interesting. I did a presentation few days ago where I quoted to the participants something I read in the International Herald Tribune few days earlier: ‘politicians do not have to be intellectuals, but they should live intellectual lives.’ I found this an interesting idea which made me reflect about my current work researching the link between knowledge and policy making in developing countries. It made me also think about my previous work in Cambodia and Vietnam. How can we help to develop greater demand by policy makers and decision makers to use knowledge from research and development programme to inform the policies of a country? I do not have an answer, but this question can lead to various areas of research next year. For the time being I just wanted to let you know that I am fine we are all fine. We look forward for travelling to Finland this evening and spend the Christmas there.  I hope we meet soon somewhere and do come to visit us in Dumaguete. It is far, but not too far.

Wish all of you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year. Buon Natale e Buon Anno.

Arnaldo, Olga, Venla and Katja

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