dimanche 27 juillet 2014

148TH WINNEBAGO POW WOW

For most westerners, Tribes would mean exotic groups of people who live in the hills, wearing handmade jewelry and who would dance for them, put on a show for a few dollars donation. This is very common in Thailand and Vietnam, so that the tourist can go home saying, he has seen some tribes.
But most tribes do not put on dances for tourists, they go about their everyday lives but they do remember important dates and persons in their history.


Today was the last of the four day celebrations of the 148th Annual Home Coming of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
It is a celebration in honor of the last war chief of the Winnebago, Hoonk-Hoo-No-Kaw or Little Priest.
The great responsibility of a man was to protect his family and his village, that was the duty of the warrior. To this day, each and every family has a member who has fought in some war, starting with the Spanish American War!
The First recorded celebration of the Winnebago Nation  was at Doty Island, towards the end of September 1634, when the French commissary Jean Nicolet was present (who dressed himself in Chinese silk, thinking that Indians were actually Chinese! he was disappointed to say thousands of regally dressed Winnebagos!)

Each day, twice, the entire group of dancers, local and from other tribes, enter the arena, in a ceremony called the Grand Entry. Each time I am present at this, I close my eyes and imagine the time when they could do these dances when there were no invaders on their lands!

Most Americans including those living in a city just 25 north of here have never been to these magnificent ceremonies and celebrations. I feel sorry for them. They would rather go and see the put on shows of the Thai Hill tribes, the effect is what Claude Levi Strauss described as making exotic, the search is for exotic and not for meaningful experiences which the western tourists can have much closer to their own homes.


I thoroughly enjoyed watching them, socially mixing with them and wondered why are these innocent people the butt of discrimination and oppression. I could only think of what Laurens van der Post said of the San/Bushman: for the white man, they represent something they have lost hundreds of years ago, that connection to the universe only those closer to the creation can achieve. 

American Indians do not have churches or buildings to pray, their universe lay all around them, they do not need preachers, pastors or imams, the knowledge about the superior forces come to them by observation, sacrifice and being good people.

This afternoon, talking to an older Indian, he wondered why all this hullabaloo about Immigration. They didn't ask our permission when they came in, he remarked. In the USA, I don't think you would meet any group of people so open minded, so generous with their time and so giving and tolerant as the American Indian! You stand to become a better person by befriending him. I am grateful for my association with them..

ENGLISH THE LINGUA FRANCA OF EUROPE AND ALREADY THE WORLD

Those of us who are English speakers may take comfort in the fact that there is hardly any place on earth that we will not be understood! The formation of European Union has hastened the supremacy of English in Europe, since most europeans do not wish to speak German or French, unless you are native of course, and in most countries 50 % of the population is able to hold a conversation in English!
Not being able to converse in English is a tremendous drawback in Europe at this moment when you go for a job interview, especially across the free borders!
It is impressive how many scandinavians can speak English and I must add, they do speak English better and clearly (than say people from Singapore or Malaysia). Spain and Portugal and France lag behind (thank God I can make myself understood in these countries). Impressive is also that 52% of the Belgians can hold a conversation in English.
Psychologically it must be sad for native French speakers, the language which dominated the upper crest of the societies before the First World I. Even in former French colonies such as Cambodia and Vietnam hardly anyone speaks French over and above the customary BonJour!

English is a good language to speak properly!
In Spain only 22 per cent can hold a conversation in English, not much different than some of the cities in Texas bordering Mexico!

mercredi 23 juillet 2014

A NEW DAWN FOR INDONESIA : WELCOME PRESIDENT J0KOWI

WELCOME PRESIDENT JOKOWI OF INDONESIA 

I am sure there are thousands of politicians and businessmen in Indoneisa, shivering in their boots at this welcome news of a simple son of a wood seller becoming President of one of the more populous nations on earth. 
The gang of corrupted, including their presidential candidate, accused of human rights abuses and who amassed a huge fortune during the time of the reign of his father in law, Suharto, must be packing their cash into bags and making sure that they have somewhere to hide with their ill gotten gains. Good riddance!
Indonesia unlike their undemocratic neighbors, Singapore where the democracy is a farce, just there are elections and Malaysia, the only racist state in the world by legal adoption at this moment (after the death of Apartheid in South Africa) have a lesson to learn. It is possible to prosper and also pay attention to democratic principles, not pay lip service to 1Malaysia while oppressing the Indians and the Chinese and of course crushing any dissent or difference in opinion in Singapore. Of course, Thailand and Cambodia have a very long ways to go in terms of human rights and freedom of its citizens. Laos and Vietnam under firm grip of the governing Communist parties have no one to be accountable to, so they go on their merry ways. 

Surrounded as they are by such political entities, this election in Indonesia and the election of a People's Politician is very significant. Indonesia is doing well economically with a sturdy growth and with a little better equitable distribution of its wealth, it is bound to rise even higher. It is also important to note that the Islamist parties sided with the Corruption and Human Rights Abuse and the new president is respectful of the rights of all religions and all cultures to coexist. Indonesia unlike Malaysia does not discriminate against non moslems even though the majority population is Moslem and also the Moslems in Indonesia are not coddled into becoming fanatics as is the case in Malaysia.
So a new day for ASIA
Welcome President Jokowi.

samedi 19 juillet 2014

MH 017 BAD LUCK FOR MALAYSIA AND NAIL IN THE COFFIN FOR MH, AND LOTS OF MEMORIES FLYING THEM     

I am at the International Airport in Kuala Lumpur, just one day after the news arrived that MH 17 enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with nearly 300 passengers and crew had been shot down by Russia backed rebels in the Eastern Ukraine!
What a tragedy!
So many households affected and more importantly so many lives altered forever, with unfulfilled dreams and inconceivable difficulties. Life is the most sacred of all and its puffing out, especially under strenuous circumstances, is never acceptable.
The mood at the airport was sombre, and people checking in to various destinations, in silence and there was no laughter and the lines moved quickly enough

Malaysian Airlines holds a special place in my heart. On a visit to my parents that I could remember, I flew them from Brunei to Singapore with a stop in Kuching on my way to Perth in Australia. I even remember the aircraft, A Fokker 100 or was it called the Fokker Friendship aircraft?
Soon after qualifying as a doctor in London, I needed to get back to Melbourne to begin my first job as a Houseman, I remember, it was Malaysian Airlines that took me home: London to Kuwait to Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne
Before South East Asia became a popular destination, one could easily get Business Class seats on MH.
I remember flying them from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur via Tokyo and then on to Madras in India!
I liked the fact that one could get Nasi Lemak for breakfast and then Teh Tahrek made to order.
The most memorable flight on MH was certainly the one from LHR to KUL to MEL and back with a short stop over in KUL. I remember sleeping all the way back to London!
In the last couple of years, I have tried to fly them internally within Asia, as well as a DXB to KUL flight and a KUL-CDG flight. In recent months, I flew MH on KUL-RGN, KUL-SIN, KUL-REP as well as KUL-CGK in addition to flying them domestically to TGG.
I would miss MH but it may be reborn as some form of a long distance Budget Airline? Under the leadership of that aviation dynamo, Tony Fernandes?
In the local news paper, the Union Boss had insisted that whatever happens to MH, the new management must not include the top three guys, all with lots of honorific titles like Dato, Tan Sri etc. As the union boss said, they were given a chance but they have shown they cannot manage this airline.
The same rag, owned by the government, had a small story: yesterday all Cathay Pacific Flights from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur were full but the MH flights were carrying light loads of groups travelling on discounted fares!


I will miss MH and also their lovely lounges at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport! (photos below)






vendredi 18 juillet 2014

SHABBAT SHALOM FROM MALAYSIA A MOSLEM COUNTRY

IT is so very important to me to say my Shabbat prayers here in this Moslem Country where they chant anti Israeli songs each day and the politicians call Israel an arrogant and superior country.
The Malays here are a converted people, having converted to Islam only in the 15th century by Gujerati moslem traders who were in the court of the Hindu Prince who had fled the Hindu Kingdom in Sumatra. The enthusiasm of the converted, you may read VS Naipaul's book, Among the Believers, are staged and exaggerated and Malaysia is no exception, trying to legitimize their role as Moslems by finding a blood connection to the Arabs!
So, on this day, on this shabbat, as the sun was setting over Kuala Lumpur, I was at the 34th floor of this hotel, saying the ancient Hebrew prayers
welcoming this night
giving thanks for the fruit of the earth 
for grapes and vines..


and tonight for the families of the people lost on the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 which was shot down one day ago..

I pray for my family and friends in France, USA and Israel!
I pray for the conflict with the Palestinians to end and them to have their own state and recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. I pray for the anti israel mindset of many of the intellectuals in the west and let them see that it is we who are their friends and not the  radical Arabs, who would think not twice before bombing their trains, killing their children or burning their churches.
shabbat shalom from Malaysia 

lundi 14 juillet 2014

CELEBRATING BASTILLE DAY, THE FRENCH NATIONAL DAY IN MALAYSIA

IT is 14th of July 2014
Bastille Day
Fete Nacional France
Celebrations Parades Fireworks
yes in France but I am in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Since I have family in France and some good friends, I decided to celebrate the Fete nacional here. I don't want to go to the French Embassy so why not celebrate it symbolically.
Pondicherry was a colony of France until quite recent times and why not celebrate with a nice meal from that part of the world!
That is not a problem here, since everywhere you look, you can find, representatives of Tamoul Culture here in KL.. so a walk through the Little India, the answer was waiting
Saravanna Bhavan, a well known restaurant catering original South Indian food..

(jewelry from Pondicherry region dating back to 2 BCE can be seen at Musee Guimet in Paris)

 who would not love such a lovely Vegetable Thali? I was reminded of a lovely visit to Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram in December 2008/January 2009 and the wonderful meeting with the Blind Astrologer of Madras!
Soon after that I arrived at the Hotel for the Hospitality Hour where they served MOROCCAN lamb ! Apart from White Wine, this time a Chardonnay from Australia, Perrier Water was available... in France, there would have been champagne, but never mind, we are after all in the Tropics!

The pastry chef at this hotel is exceptional in that each day he produces something different and todays Chocolate Mousse was delicious indeed!

As the night was falling over this city, built on the confluence of two rivers, in a country with no deep history before the arrival of a Hindu Prince from Majapahit Kingdom in the 14th Century, I thought of my dear friends and family, scattered over the globe
France, Belgium, Israel, Miami, Portland, La Habana, Baracoa
Felt good thinking about them, felt good about Malaysia, knowing that I will not be coming back anytime soon. I wish the Chinese and Indian Citizens of this country, peace and prosperity and most importantly Freedom and Equality in the future.
On this Fete Nacional of France, I can only hope that in the years to come Malaysia along with many other countries where there are Moslem majorities would understand what it means by the french concept of Secularism:
French secularity (or Laicism) in Frenchlaïcité (pronounced [la.isiˈte]) is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.


dimanche 13 juillet 2014

TOURIST NOT AN ANTHROPOLOGIST IN MALAYSIA: LAZY DAYS IN KUALA LUMPUR

This is the first time, in a very long while, that I have spent any time as a tourist in the capital of Malaysia.
First of all, I have to shut off all my observant eyes of an anthropologist and just enjoy the train rides, food and conversations with people. 
So obviously when I approach anyone there is a change in my demeanor or the tone of voice and I am rewarded for that.

I have to hide my sorrow at the indentured laborers by the thousands and the ridiculousness of the Malay politicians (hail hitler, said one of them, when Germany won, racist sentiments prevalent in the country, such as Indians drink Toddy and they are all Gang members etc)

Once that stage is over, it has become a very pleasant experience.
All Malaysians that I come in contact with, including some of the immigrants, have  uniformly been friendly.
(searching for remnants of colonial architecture has been rewarding)
I am staying at a very nice hotel and the room at 32nd stood affords  a panoramic view and can see the Twin Towers of Petronas very easily from this floor. The Executive Lounge at 34th floor is staffed by people, who I have become friends with, so breakfast at 9 AM and the afternoon wine and cheese and canapés are long drawn out affairs. The pastry chef is very good and there is a good combination of food offered during the day, complimentary, at the Lounge: 

Hummous and arab salads, samosas, various Chinese tapas like dishes, and wonderful cakes and snacks, and wine served by lovely people who are attentive to your needs.
Each day, I plan to do one touristy thing: Botanical Gardens, Batu Caves, taking the Commuter train to nearby towns, a day trip to Malacca
Shopping is not an option as I have to travel to Bogor from here and then on to Miami and I have become used to traveling with just hand luggage.
 (I am surprised that the entire populace is not obese only about half of them, as there is good food, bad food at cheaper prices and thousands of opportunities to eat them)
(Can you be a health conscious Moslem and break your Ramadan Fast at Pizza Hut? Look what they are offering!)
Along with Indonesia, Malaysia is very tolerant to non moslems enjoying their food during their Ramadan month of fasting/ In fact Ramadan is hardly evident in the air!

All in all it has Visit Malaysia Year 2014 for me!
The rest of the year my academic responsibilities will keep me in the western hemisphere, so let me savor this lovely visit to Malaysia