Life Since High School

Arne Disch

Dear (long-lost!) friends,

First of all, Thanks to Tony, Marcia, JoAnn and Leslie for taking on the task of getting our 40th Reunion together.

Many of you probably didn't know me or don't remember me, since I only spent senior year at NTW, as one of the two foreign students that first year with a NTW graduating class - a year that still sticks in my mind as one of the most eventful and meaningful in my life.

Life after NTW: I returned to Norway for the obligatory military service, freezing my butt off in Northern Norway (40 degrees below zero - and that is where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet, so it is cold either way you look at it!), and then three years at Oslo U (history, sociology), one semester each in Germany and France (development studies), before MA in International Relations and PhD in economics, both at Yale.

I spent three years as a visiting professor at U of Sao Paulo/Brazil, working primarily on agricultural development, before I Arne Disch Todayleft for Africa in 1983 with the UN Development Program. I spent five years working on their programs in Mozambique and then Uganda before returning to Mozambique for another four years with Norway's development agency. I then worked on public finance, poverty reduction and social sector issues for the World Bank in Zimbabwe for four years (fat lot of good that did judging by the really tragic state of affairs there now - but anyway), before returning to Norway in 1996 with Regina and Edward, Stephanie and Christopher.

I met Regina, who is Indian but born and raised in Pakistan, in Mozambique. She had moved there with her family in 1972. We got married in 1984, and Edward and Steph were born at the central hospital in Maputo (Mozambican, Italian, Cuban doctors in the maternity ward, run by a Swede!) while Chris was born in Kenya while we were based in Uganda (Uganda's Mulago hospital, which had been one of Africa's top research health facilities before Idi Amin, was a shambles, with no running water, no doors to the delivery rooms, nurses being paid the equivalent of the cost of one beer a month, etc.).

The two boys have both been called up for military service - it is still obligatory here - and while Edward has gone on for a second year as a sergeant (he is enjoying the rather tough environment up in Northern Norway!), Chris is finishing his service this summer before beginning his studies in the UK in international politics and business management. Steph is finishing her second year of university, also in the UK, doing international politics and diplomacy! She spent some months as a volunteer in rural Tamil Nadu, one of the poorest states in India, a couple of years ago, and will be with the UN in Bosnia this summer, working on local reconciliation and development activities after that horrific war in the early 1990s.

I have been working as a consultant on development issues since returning here 12 years ago through a small Norwegian firm called Scanteam. But of our 14 partners, four are foreigners - from Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Switzerland - and of the Norwegians, four are married to foreigners - India, England, Russia, France. It's a fun gang, work is interesting though at times demanding with lots of travel. I have worked in about 30 countries over the last 7-8 years, right now with tasks in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central Europe (one of the issues we have worked a lot on lately are post-conflict states). Tasks vary - spent five months in the Palestinian territories training them to put together their first three-year rolling development plans some ten years ago - and now working on a program for strengthening strategic planning and policy development in another country, apart from a number of evaluations we do for the UN, the World Bank and the Scandinavian development authorities.

With the three young ones out of the nest, Regina is still trying to make a civilized person out of me (the transformation from savage Viking to Indian sage is not simple!), though progress evidently is not impressive, according to feed-back received. The objective is to improve in the years to come!

Hope the reunion takes place - would be fun to touch base again after all these years. And sorry for being a little long-winded - but those of you who remember me expected that, no?

Globe image: Barun Patro