Happy New Year!!!

And I mean it! 2010 was for so many a quite difficult year, and I can only hope that 2011 will be better! From a global perspective, the financial crisis continued to have an impact on people’s lives all around the world. In the U.S. we hoped for a recovery that never came, at least not on the labor market, and many people continued to struggle in their daily lives. In Europe, governments had to deal with fiscal deficits and Europeans experienced severe state budget cuts. In countries where I work, the already vulnerable were often the ones hardest hit. And many developing countries saw continued low demand for exports and decreased remittances, slowing down much needed economic growth. Several severe natural disasters also hit the world, starting with the devastating earthquake in Haiti followed by the even more devastating floods in Pakistan (along with disasters in other places not fortunate enough to be the focus of Western media), and the consequences of these disasters are likely to remain for many years to come. Climate change continued to affect the world, not the least with the fires in Russia, while our never-shrinking demand for (cheap) oil led to one of the largest oil spills in history with horrifying environmental impacts in the Gulf of Mexico.

2010 was also a heavy year for me and many of my friends and for some of my family members. Work often seemed to be the cause of this, but it became clear how easily professional aspects influence other parts of our lives. Many looked for a job in a very slow economy, and had to experience the frustration that it brings. Others were unhappy in the places where they worked, but with no other options than to stay. Many of us also experienced an increasingly tight fiscal environment at our jobs and had to cope with the extra workload that it brings when there are no means to hire more capacity. And the stress from all of this seems to also have been tearing personal relationships.

For me too, 2010 was a very heavy year, perhaps more so than I had ever expected life to be. But through all this I have been happy to be in good health, especially since I know that not everyone was equally fortunate. Several of you experienced severe sickness this year, and a few even deaths in your family.

But even though 2010 was an immensely heavy at times, it was also a quite interesting year for me, with some travels to the usual countries (Sweden, Moldova, Romania, F.Y.R. Macedonia, and Montenegro), renewed Romanian studies (and I actually made progress!), and the start of a new and very interesting Master’s program in Food Policy, which hopefully is a first step to my long-aspired PhD. And perhaps best of all, I made a couple of new friends that I really value, and I had lots family and friends visiting me here in Washington DC!

I also know that some of you did have a really good year in 2010, and I hope that 2011 will be like that for the rest of us. So to all of you:









Sorry S – couldn’t find it in Kurdish…. Did I miss anyone else??

(Also, the photo of the White House was taken last year during Snow Week. We don’t have that much snow now.)

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