pen_grunt: (Waits in Tree)
I made it back from San Francisco on the red-eye. Unfortunately, I didn't get to sleep. I blame the guy in the seat next to me...who wouldn't stop talking to me. Fortunately, it was one of the more interesting people I've ever met.

This gentleman was the former ambassador to the US from the Philippines. He went to Harvard in the 60's, got his law degree, and started a sort of Bar Association in the Philippines. He was on his way from CA to Washington D.C.: "They want me to give some kind of speech," he explained, "I don't know why." He then flashed some sort of flickering humble smile. He told me about how he had served his country as ambassador 17 times in Geneva and other places.

He was incredibly interested in my opinion of Barack Obama vs. Hilary Clinton in terms of general likelihood of being elected. He said that he liked Hilary, and didn't know why the US didn't just go with female presidents--it had worked in the Philippines. Of course, he also said he was biased--he was a co-baptismal godparent with Hilary Clinton for some statesman's child (on short notice, actually, the other guy was sick)--so he knew her personally and liked her personally. He acknowledged that this was coloring his opinion, though he thought Barack Obama wrote well, but was very, very young (he then proceeded to discuss his book). I shook my head--I cannot believe I'm having this conversation on a plane at 3 a.m. It's rather awesome, and I wish I were more awake for it.

He told me about his 8 children, "5 of them are doctors!" he pronounced proudly, "But none of them are lawyers like me." (A little disappointment there.) They had all gone to medical school in the US: Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc. In the Philippines, your government will send you to an Ivy League school to be a doctor or a lawyer, or a whatever, really, if you want to go--but you have to sign a contract that states you will spend X years (usually not that many) in your native country practicing your trade. Seems like a good reciprocal agreement to me. Most of the people stay in the US, on a permanent basis, however. Out of his class of 60-some, this gentleman was the only one to start a family and stay in the Philippines.

He knew about the book I was reading A Brief History of The Dead, and commented on his opinion of it.

He was interested in my work, and told me that if I wanted to write, I should go into investigative journalism. For some reason.

Overall, he was one of the most intelligent and interesting passengers I've ever been next to on an airplane. I'm glad that if I had to be kept up all night on a red-eye, at least it was next to him and not one of the "other" guys.

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