Long Distance


Even more than is usually the case, the credit for this issue of the Gazette goes to the editorial staff. While I helped pick the stories, I spent the greater part of the weeks during which this magazine was put together out of the office—first traveling to China with my wife Carole Bernstein C’81 and our eight-year old daughter Sarah to adopt our new baby, Lily Barbara Chunyue Prendergast, and then at home recovering from jet lag and the shock of caring for a 14-month old after getting used to the less strenuous (except on the vocal cords) task of parenting a “nearly double-digit” child. I can’t say that we’ve quite managed the latter yet, but we’re making progress.

A lot of the trip is a blur now. The plane flights were very long, and Guangzhou (once known in the West as Canton), the city in southern China where we adopted Lily, was very hot. Those we were prepared for, or at least had been warned about. What surprised me, though, was how aware Lily seemed. Perhaps unconsciously thinking of Sarah as a newborn, I’d expected her to be … blobbier. Instead, from the moment our number (“Family Seven!”) was called and she was thrust into our arms, she seemed to know that something momentous was occurring.

Her first response was intense observation (or stunned silence), followed, the instant after Sarah remarked, “She’s the only one not crying,” by earsplitting howls. Her second was to attach herself to Carole, and save her wailing for moments when that body-to-body contact was broken (to go to the bathroom, say).

That’s eased up—a bit—since we’ve been home. Lily gets a big kick out of Sarah as a playmate, and will hug and touch foreheads with her, and she’ll even throw me a courtesy attempt to leap out of Carole’s arms to be held—for about five seconds. (That’s OK; I’m working on her.) Even now, though, when she’s sitting up on the changing table and looking around her room at the crib, the pale-pink walls, the toys that she’s methodically emptied from their box, I get the sense that those deep, wide, dark eyes are somehow measuring the distance she’s come—and maybe wondering what’s next.

With a quiet determination, Safia Rizvi WG’03 has traveled far from her expected life-path as a dutiful daughter and wife in a traditional Pakistani household, a journey retraced by associate editor Susan Frith in “The Power of Her Choices.” While her personal achievements are remarkable enough, Rizvi is also working to make life better for other women through a non-profit she founded called eLit that provides basic computer training at centers in Pakistan, India, and West Philadelphia.

In her four decades as one of the nation’s leading broadcast journalists, Andrea Mitchell CW’67 has traveled, well, just about everywhere. When we learned about her new memoir, Talking Back, we were eager to excerpt it, and Mitchell kindly agreed—after checking to make sure we had not been swayed by one of her off-camera activities, as a trustee of the University. Not to worry. The book is a great story, engagingly told. Senior editor Samuel Hughes picked our excerpts and also interviewed Mitchell for a sidebar to the story.

One more journey: A planned trip by President Gutmann this January will be the first visit by a Penn president to India—but that’s no indication of neglect. In fact, the University has enjoyed varied and extensive connections with India for decades. We take the occasion to sketch in some of those in this issue’s “Gazetteer.”

While in India, Gutmann will meet with alumni and participate in a Wharton School forum, among other activities. The trip also marks a homecoming of sorts for the president. Though she’s never been to the region personally, her father lived in Bombay (now Mumbai) for more than a decade after escaping from Hitler’s Germany in 1934, and her parents honeymooned at the Taj Mahal Hotel.

—John Prendergast C’80

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/25/05

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