New Year 2006What a year: Nature terrorized humans with hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Awareness rose of the threats of a global flu pandemic and global warming. Terrorists killed innocent people around the world. Human rights abuses, government secrecy and spying were uncovered in the U.S., in Europe and in many countries around the world. The new pope is German and the new German Chancellor is a woman. The president of Togo GnassingbĂ© Eyadema died and his son inherited the “family business.” Togo qualified for the World Cup! The last year saw a lot of hardship and tragedy for many people around he world. And sadly, again, far too little was done to help those in need.

For our little family, however, 2005 was not a bad year. We have a lot to be grateful for, and we did our best to share what we have with those in need. Most importantly, we’re all healthy and we made it through some pretty significant changes. Yet, we also lost some friends to illness, and last Friday my aunt passed away, after a long struggle with cancer.

In January ’05, Laura started her new job at One World Market and she has just completed her first holiday season at the store. Her first year in retail was very successful, and she really enjoys her work at the store. She has introduced new vendors to the store and new members to the board. And she has discovered a new, intense connection to the community where we live. Her job has vastly expanded our social network and our appreciation for our town. The store was founded by a very active, well-connected church group from Durham, and many of the volunteers and customers are very active in various neighborhoods and in the community.

In July, Jacob got is first taste of “real life” when he began Kindergarten. After the first four years of fun and games, he is now settling into public school and the harsh reality of mass-education. As he is a bit spoiled, and also a bit young (he only turned five after the end of the first quarter) his adjustment was not completely without bumps, but overall he did well. And since he spent a good part of his life in day-care and pre-school, he was socially quite adept and his immune system was up-to-speed. But it is the discipline that got to him. Being quiet, waiting your turn, following the rules and listening to the teacher are the things he struggles with. Yet, none of this is really bringing him down. He is still his happy, unfazed self. He is embracing life with gusto, and he is at this point where his five-year-old world is his oyster.

Julia started third grade, and for her, too, the pace picked up a bit, as this is the first end-of-year testing grade. They spend a huge amount of time on practice tests, cramming spelling words, math problems, reading and comprehension. And occasionally they even learn something, like when she did a report on Minerva, including a costume she made, complete with an owl and a Medusa head on her shield. Last January one of her paintings was selected for an art show at the art museum at the NC Central University, where the best student art of the Durham Public Schools was presented. During the rest of the year she was as creative and prolific a young artist as ever. Using whatever materials she can get, she created sculptures, pictures, games and “fun stuff” throughout the year. I should really scan some or take pictures to make an online gallery … She also got another “Terrific Kid” award and her teachers are generally gushing about how smart and mature a person she is.

Myself, oh well, I got into blogging, made my first few liters of biodiesel, started a biodiesel coop, and read a book. I am still at Duke messing with computers and rooting for Carolina. Right now I am very busy ripping out and re-building several servers at work, since this is a otherwise very quiet time at the office. I need to get working out more again.

As a family, we did some fun stuff this year: we visited Iceland and took a trip to Germany. We also met up with a guy from our family in Togo, who is studying in the US right now. Toward the end of the year, we met several of our neighbors, and our children started playing with some of the neighbor’s kids. That may seem trivial, but most of the properties here are several acres, and we’re right off the highway, so we don’t tend to run into our neighbors, unless we’re traipsing through the woods (or when the firemen are putting out fires).

So now it’s another year, full of excitement, adventures, dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, homework, debating politics, ranting about traffic, laughing about the antics of our chipmunk and moaning about the state of this world. We’ll do our best to keep our little family safe and wish a safe and happy year to you all.

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