My problem is the following: I get to a point where I have 7 or 8 drafts of ambitious yet incomplete blog posts that, if my to-do list is to be believed, will ‘soon’ be published. But my to-do list is not to be believed, not ever. And so these drafts sit and collect their digital dust, impatient and agitated. I tell myself that I will write nothing new until I finish what has already been started. And then I stop writing altogether.
But wait, there are worthy excuses as well, dear internet. Since we have last spoken, Iris and I are now living together, in the same city, for the first time. Not only that, we moved from a small-but-furnished apartment to a larger and very much unfurnished house. Renting a house in Mexico, we quickly discovered, is no simple matter. There are tomes of paperwork to be filled out, and then they must be filled out once again, but this time all with the same color of ink. There are appliances, which have features and price tags that make no sense to your humble author. There are well-intentioned, young men who flood the living room with leaking water when they try to install the internet.
Finding a half-decent couch proved even more difficult. With nowhere to actually sit in the living room, for three weeks we were left with either the office or the bedroom. Work and sleep and very little else … other than the four sets of visitors over the past four weeks. (Delightful, understanding, loving family and friends.)
I am only getting started … though I should clarify that this is all good news that I am “complaining” about. If I were a better person, this would be a blog post about how fortunate I am, and all the amazing people who have helped me along the way, and how I hope to use my fortunate position to do good. But instead I am me. So before I continue with my litany of complaints about my fortunate circumstance, let me first share a photo of this cute lil’ guy:
That’s Coco, our new puppy. He’s wearing a Pacific Northwest hipster-before-it-was-hipster sweater because I gave the poor little guy a winter cold before I abandoned him for the tropical environs of Brazil. Coco means coconut in Spanish, and he does look like a bit of an inside-out coconut, but coco also refers to your brain, as in usa el coco (“use your head”). El Coco (sometimes cuco) is also the hispanic equivalent of the boogeyman, a mythical monster that noiselessly takes away misbehaving children deep in the night. Finally, “rompecoco” is something like “headache,” and coco has already proved adept at causing plenty of rompecocos. Take all of that together and it seems to sum up our new pup pretty well. (Much love to Juan Manuel & Melissa for introducing us to our new housemate.)
But let me not get distracted from my unwarranted ranting. In the midst of all of this change, I wrapped up my previous amazing job in order to start an even more amazing job. I am now a “principal” at Omidyar Network, working on expanding our government transparency work in Latin America. After months of ongoing discussions, all of a sudden it was time to wrap up multiple projects at Open Society Foundations within a few weeks, take two days off to move into a new house, and then ship off to San Francisco to meet my dauntingly cerebral team of colleagues from the US, India, and the UK. My impression is that they all graduated from either Stanford Business School or Harvard’s Kennedy School. Me, I worked in a coffee shop until I was 26.
Just one month in to my new job and I could probably write an entire book about the differences between Open Society Foundations and Omidyar Network, but I’ll shoot for three lines. Open Society Foundations was founded by a billionaire speculator who grew up fleeing the Nazis and dedicating much of his life promoting liberal capitalist democracy as a replacement of communism. Omidyar Network was founded by a young entrepreneur who programmed a website over a three-day weekend that eventually became one of the world’s most profitable Internet companies. The vast differences in their philanthropic approaches are rooted in the vast differences of their formative experiences. If you’re a philanthropy geek and want to know more, I recommend Soros’ LRB essay, “My Philanthropy,” and Omidyar’s essay, “How I Did It,” from Harvard Business Review.
I’m not the only busy body in our new, half-furnished household. Coco, already a neo-luddite, is busy biting into ethernet cables. Iris, in the meantime, has started a company from scratch. With custom designs and (mostly) locally sourced materials, she has created a whole collection of women’s purses and laptop sleeves. If you live in Mexico you can purchase them on Facebook or at the hippest boutiques — like Guru and Conejo Blanco. If you live in the US you can purchase them on Etsy (the laptop sleeves are coming). Lest you think that I only complain about my own fortunate state of affairs, let me also inform you, on Iris’ behalf, that starting a successful business is no easy matter.
I write all this, my patient reader, to say that I am back. That I want to be back. There are those of you who will raise a skeptical eyebrow. Part of my new job is to distribute a significant amount of money. In other words, I am now a “donor,” and becoming a donor usually goes hand-in-hand with becoming a half-human. Of not expressing one’s opinion. Of limiting one’s interactions to exclusive clubs and one-on-one meetings with unfair power dynamics. This is my symbolic effort to say that I am still me and that I will continue to be so. If there is any evidence to the contrary, call me out on it. You’ve always made me a better person, dear Internet, and I’m still counting on you.
This is my second-to-last day in Brazil. Last weekend I finally met a new friend, Greg and his lovely wife, Carolina. In fact, Greg was instrumental in encouraging me to continue to write, to continue to be open. And tomorrow I will be with an old friend, Jose Murilo. Both are intellectual co-conspirators and inspirational conversationalists.
I could use a couple weeks of uninterrupted sleep, but despite all my complaining, life, it must be said, is good. I leave you with a photo of Murilo and me from 2009: