Oh six

There's nothing like a trek through the Andes to get help you get your head on straight. That's where I've been over the past ten days. No internet. No phones. No news. No Bush. No lottery. No war. No North Carolina.

It was a blessed break from all of the things that have come to occupy my life and my mind 24/7 for the past few years.

Most of my Peruvian encounters involved people living on the edge . . . in conditions we'd all consider intolerable. Outdoor toilets, cooking with wood, eating guinea pigs that scurry around the kitchen. Moving rocks, digging holes, planting potatoes and corn. Herding llamas.

At the same time, the intrusion of North American culture is pervasive and toxic. We in the US are making the world a fatter place. A more polluted place. A more dangerous place.

In the year ahead, I will be focusing on the example we set here in North Carolina for other cultures and for children in our own culture. I will be relentless in examining values we project at home and abroad. I will dig deep into the nature and the role of our considerable military presence. I will call North Carolina to account for its role in building the common good -- not just within the state, but around the globe.

That's my agenda for 2006. Wish me luck.

And happy new year. It's going to be a helluva ride.