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samedi 22 mars 2008

Poem for a New Morning of Love…written in
Yangon in Myanmar…

It is time to go, dear friends
Someone or other is waiting..
Where was that?
Is there a table set for me in Australia
Where the fading autumns once coloured my desires?
It is I, that person who waits and waits and waits
For those who eagerly plant a kiss
And are ready to leave
On the rainbow path of their dreams
To raise flowers and wheat and honey
Sea, wind and Salt know who I am and that I am waiting
Here I am
Wet, salty, smile larger than a waterfall
Holding on to my dreams with a string of tears
Singing songs of a glorious sunset
I shall always be waiting for…

Each discovery a new dream
Present me with a plaque of lost memories
Where does one encounter a cemetery for lost memories
Do they bury them with elaborate rituals
Like the hindu bodies being burned on the
Tongues of the earth of the delta of irrawady
Silenced forever by the gurgles of myth magic tragic reality

We come in and out
Wander through this palace of wonders
That is our mind
Our desires and our dreams
One moment one is alone, the other asleep
United in another planet, in another reality
Souls migrating in the infinite
Such is life..

Once the boundaries of expectations are broken
Nothing stands in the way
It is the desires that we must curb
That greed puts borders on our fantasies
A man who owns no clothes is not afraid of nudity
Just you and the wide world of words and images
Of trees river and music

And an occasional kiss from
Doctor Yehuda Kovesh
Endocrinologist to the indigenous
Medical anthropologist to the voracious
An Australian
A Jew
More importantly
A brother, A Son, A Father
A Friend and A Lover….

Memories of Right Whales


Writing this in the cosmopolitan city of Sao Paulo, the third biggest city in the planet, recollecting the peaceful days in Itipiruba, in Santa catarina state, is like looking through mist hanging over the memory of recent whale watching. But the gentleness of mother and child whales, the ambience of the deserted coastal town of itapiruba and the generosity of the people there-Mozart, Rozi and Karina among them-is hard to forget. It is the lucky traveller who has such a delightful natural and human experience etched into the heart while the retina moves on focusing elsewhere.
Right Whales so called because they were the RIGHT ones to slaughter, Balea Franca, baleens instead of teeth ( from Latin ) and Franca for their studied slow movement have been visiting the shores of what is now SantaCatarina state from time immemorial. Itapiruba in the loca lindian language, signify Rocks rolling down to the water, a good description of the hilly topography of this piece of land jutting into the sea-exposed to southern and northeast winds. Whales, largest of the animals, reaching up to 20 metres in length ( some are even larger, such as the blue whale ) and weighing up to 40 tonnes , feed in their favourite fertile grounds in the Southern Atlantic/Antarctic regions and during the period of June to November, come close to these shores to relieve themseles of their pregnant bellies and trim their accumulated blubber.
Hunted into near extinction ( the singular Basque people have been the "terrorists" of the whales sine the 9th century of the common era )for their oils, baleens, skeletons and flesh ( the japanese consider it a delicacy, even now!) the right whales have revived slowly because of the increasing international consciousness and poor business prospects. The International Community has banned commercial whaling and this activity has stopped in Argentina, Chile, Brasil, North America, Canada, Hawaii, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Norway, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Japan only recently ( 1987 in Brasil )-still Iceland, Norway and Japan, especially the latter find ways to circumvent the ban.
In keeping with their innate sense of natural balance in ecology, it is possible that Indians of north and south america, aboriginals of australia and the maori of new zealand did not hunt the whales ( until the arrival of the europeans ). Makah and other indians of the northwest regions of north america as well as inuit people consider themselves related to the whales, similar to the relationship of the Plains Indians to the Buffalo. The native peoples considered a beached whale, not so much with misery and compassion, as Greenpeace volunteers are seen to do, but with great glee as a gift from the spirits of the ocean. Hunting whales who come closer to shore during the birthing season and later on with sophisticated weapons going after them in the open seas is symbolically congruent with the expansive, arrogant european mind which find no jungles too hard to penetrate, no human beings too humble for extermination, no land nor sea, too barren to plunder- in the name of profit and christianity.
Trudda ( jose trudda palazzio jr) the director of Projecto Balea in Brasil is an exemplary visionary who with his relentless work has achieved much on behalf of these animals. The new generation symbolized by scientists like Karina and the youthful volunteers from all parts of Brazil give us hope-not only for the whales but also for trees, water,land and indigenous peoples of our planet.
To be a good human being should be our objective, says a wise UmonHon indian. That includes respect for universal laws of thousands of years and respect the harmony of environment into which we can insert our own humble lives. How can we call ourselves a proud Brasilian, Australian or north American when we are not proud Human Beings?
whales bring us a sense of balance, letting us examne our concepts of history, our selfish preoccupation with the present. Historic time is always there,whales will return the next year as they have for hundreds of thousands of years. Present time and our preoccupation with it shows our selfish interest, putting ourselves before the welfare of others-animate and inanimate.
Itapiruba with its changing winds and the sky, a nobility ingrained into the its inhabitants ( permanent population number around 50 but swells to hundred during summer months )remind us that we cannot exist alone, as individual humans, as nuclear families-but only as a part of a large family:humans,animals, flora and fauna. It is this relationship-fleeting as it may have been in my encounter with mozart, rozi and karina and as meninas voluntarias- that reaffirm our individual existence and enhance our own capacity, in however a humble way to the betterment of all humanity-which include the whales of course, our big brothers and sisters who lie in deep waters.
My stay, though short, left a memorable stamp in my voyagers heart. It is such gifts that i call my own personal wealth, a pleasant longing (saudade in portuguese ) bringing a smile in other climes, at other times. I am very grateful to Karina with her teutonic devotion to these animal brothers, for accomodating me with her time.Lovely hosts mozart and his wife rozi , her mother, their grandchild eduorda with an infectious smile at Pousada do Surf quickly became friends. The last night we chatted into the night over "ajiaco" (cuban word for vegetable stew ) and Cuban Rum and Brasilian wine...accompanied by the wide eyed innocence of As Meninas Voluntarias whose expectant looks brought the Future close to us.

Escrevendo isto na cosmopolita cidade de São Paulo, a terceira maior cidade do planeta,
recordando os dias tranqüilos em Itapiruba, no Estado de Santa Catarina, é como olhar através da neblina ameaçando a memória do recente espetáculo das baleias. Mas a docilidade das baleias mãe e filhote, o ambiente da erma cidade costeira de Itapiruba e a generosidade do povo de lá – Mozart, Rose e Karina, entre outros – é difícil esquecer. É um viajante de sorte aquele que tem tal deleite natural e experiência humana gravada no coração enquanto a retina move-se focando qualquer outro lugar.

Baleias (Right) então chamadas porque elas eram as certas para o abate, Baleia Franca, barbatanas ao invés de dentes (do latim) e Franca por seu estudado e lento movimento tem
visitado as costas do que é agora o estado de Santa Catarina desde tempos imemoriais. Itapiruba na linguagem indígena local, significa ‘Rochas rolando para a água’, uma boa descrição da montanhosa topografia deste pedaço de terra sobressaindo no mar aberto aos ventos do sul e do nordeste. Baleias, os maiores animais, alcançando 20 metros de comprimento (algumas são até maiores, como a Baleia Azul) e pesando até 40 toneladas, alimentam-se em seu solo fértil favorito no Atlântico Sul e nas regiões da Antártica e durante o período de junho a novembro, se aproximam destas costas para darem à luz (parirem suas barrigas grávidas) e perderem sua gordura acumulada.

Caçadas até proximas à extinção ( o singular povo basco foram os “terroristas” das baleias desde o século IX da era comum) por seus óleos, barbatanas, esqueletos e carne (os japoneses consideram uma iguaria, até os dias de hoje!) as baleias (direitas – right) se recuperaram vagarosamente por causa do aumento da consciência internacional e das pobres perspectivas de negócios. A Comunidade Internacional proibiu o comércio da baleia e esta atividade parou na Argentina, Chile, Brasil, Estados Unidos, Canada, Hawai, Islândia, Faroe Islands, Noruega, África do Sul, Austrália, Nova Zelândia, Rússia e Japão apenas recentemente (1987 no Brasil) – ainda a Islândia, Noruega e Japão, especialmente o último, encontra maneiras de lograr a proibição.

De acordo com o seu sentido inato de balanço natural em ecologia, é possível que os Índios da América do Norte e do Sul, os aborígenes da Austrália e os Maori da Nova Zelândia, não caçavam as baleias (até a chegada dos europeus). Makah e outros índios das regiões noroeste da América do Norte bem como povos inuit se consideram ligados às baleias, de forma similar ao relacionamento dos Índios das Planícies com o búfalo. Os povos nativos consideravam uma baleia encalhada, não com tanta infelicidade e compaixão, como os voluntários do Greenpeace são vistos fazendo, mas com grande alegria como um presente dos espíritos do oceano. A caça às baleias que se aproximam da costa durante a época da cria e mais tarde com sofisticadas armas perseguindo-as em mares abertos, está simbolicamente de acordo com a expansível, arrogante mente do europeu que não encontra selvas demasiado difíceis de serem penetradas, nenhum ser humano demasiado humilde para ser exterminado, nenhuma terra ou mar, demasiado estéril à pilhagem – em nome do lucro e cristandade.

Trudda (José Trudda Palazzio Jr.) o diretor do Projeto Baleia no Brasil é um exemplo do visionário que com seu inexorável trabalho conseguiu muito em nome destes animais. A nova geração, simbolizada por cientistas como Karina e os jovens voluntários de todas as partes do Brasil nos dá a esperança – não só para as baleias mas também para árvores, água, terra e para os povos indígenas do nosso planeta.

Ser um bom ser humano deveria ser nosso objetivo, diz um sábio índio UmonHon. Isto inclui respeito pelas leis universais de milhares de anos e respeito a harmonia do ambiente no qual nós possamos inserir nossas próprias vidas modestas. Como nós podemos nos chamar um orgulho brasileiro, australiano ou norte-americano, quando nós não somos Seres Humanos orgulhosos?

Baleias nos trazem o senso de equilíbrio, nos permitem examinar nossos conceitos de história, nossa egoísta preocupação com o presente. O tempo histórico está sempre lá, as baleias retornarão no próximo ano como elas tem feito por centenas de milhares de anos. O tempo presente e nossa preocupação com ele mostra nosso interesse egoísta, pondo-nos antes do bem-estar dos outros – animados e inanimados.

Itapiruba com seus ventos mudança mutantes e o céu, uma nobreza enraizada nos seus habitantes o número da população permanente é em torno de 50, mas aumenta para centenas durante os meses de verão) lembra-nos que nós não podemos existir sozinhos, como humanos individuais, como famílias nucleares – mas apenas como uma parte de uma ampla família: humanos, animais, flora e fauna. E por mais fugaz que está relação possa ter sido em meu encontro com Mozart, Rose, Karina e com as meninas voluntárias – isso reafirma nossa existência individual e realça nossa própria capacidade, no entanto em um modesto caminho para a melhoria de toda a humanidade – que inclui, é claro, as baleias, nossos grandes irmãos e irmãs que vivem em águas profundas.

Minha permanência, embora curta, deixou uma marca memorável em meu coração de viajante. São tais presentes que eu chamo de minha própria riqueza pessoal, uma agradável nostalgia (saudades em português) trazendo um sorriso em outros climas, e outros tempos. Eu estou muito agradecido à Karina com sua germânica devoção aos seus irmãos animais, por acomodar-me com o seu tempo. Os encantadores anfitriões, Mozart e sua esposa Rose, sua mãe, sua neta Eduarda com seu sorriso contagioso na Pousada do Surf, rapidamente nos tornamos amigos. A última noite nós conversamos noite adentro sobre “ajiaco” (palavra cubana para um guisado de vegetais) e rum cubano e vinho brasileiro... acompanhado pelos amplos olhares inocentes das meninas voluntárias de quem os semblantes esperançosos trouxeram o futuro para perto de nós.

vendredi 21 mars 2008

Cuba and Vietnam

A Letter to my friends in Cuba:
Dear Friends:
I want to convey to you two images from my first few hours in Vietnam.
In Miami, I had bought a pulsera roja, with the flag of Cuba and the word Cuba prominently written on it. I have it on my wrist as I write this to you.
I arrived today at the Saigon Airport from Singapore after a short flight of only 1 hour and 30 minutes.
A young immigration officer was checking my papers, noticed my pulsera.. and smiled as he said:

viva Bac Fidel.. Bac is the honorific title of Uncle as in Bac Ho, Uncle Ho.

In his broken English and with hand gestures he said to me: Cuba and Vietnam very close. Bac Ho love Cuba.
It was very emotional for me, as you know, I am very fond of the dear little island which all of us unashamedly love, but never, not even in Venezuela, have I received (as I have in the past), such affection from all quarters in Vietnam, from school children to porters at the hotel! I know for a fact that all elementary school children in Vietnam learn about Cuba.
I was nearly in tears at this gentle affection for Nuestra Isla Rica. I wanted to give something of a souvenir, the only thing i could easily find in my handluggage was a button of CHE which i had bought for fifty cents in Birmania..
He was so pleased.. He said, Bac Che, we know him..
For the many hours after that, my heart felt so good, so full of love for Vietnam... which only increased after my dinner with my friend, Pham Thi Nga, at Bun Bo Hue Restaurant..

This is something we should take note.
Nga (which in Vietnamese means Ivory) and I went and sat down and quickly within seconds, the lady arrives with menu. since i cant eat pork, had to choose carefully from the large menu.
This is what we chose..
Sugarcane juice (guarapo) with Tangerine
Rice Pancake with Shrimps
Mussels with shredded vegies and greens
Steamed clams with citronelle in claypot
Nga ordered pork dish for herself

One by one the dishes arrived, we never had to wait. Iced Tea was compliments of the house.
Better taste than any of the vietnamese restaurants i have eaten in Paris..

PCV is still in power, but in the two years I have been absent from Saigon, the place is more prosperous, life has certainly gotten better for the Vietnamese..

Uncle Ho Chi Minh's vision for an united and prosperous Vietnam has come true eventhough he may not have approved of some of the market economy methods. It made me wonder...

It is well past midnght here in Saigon, and it is 1 pm in San Cristobal de la Habana.
Fond Wishes and Good night to all of you

Sudah Yehuda
4th night of Hanukkah in Saigon HochiMinh City

PS Nga and I had further meals at a restaurant in the market at breakfast time, the lunch was at a place called PHO 24, café with friends at a café called AQ café, Saturday night at a Karaoke Bar (my first experience, to which Nga and I were invited by her friends). Lunch on Sunday was the best, prepared by Nga and her friend Thuy at the home of Nga. Fresh and simply delicious.
Japan has the healthiest food on a daily basis and Vietnam has food with flavor and fragrance on a daily basis and all that is fresh.

How I long to go back to Vietnam, to feel the balmy air of the night as you ride through the nights silence, repeatedly good food and a friend called Ivory.
I have visited Vietnam with both my brothers, with Elliott in 2003 and with Richard in 2005. In fact I had emailed Richard to say that at 12 noon on the 14th of July 2005, my friend Nga would come there to give him a present on my behalf for his birthday. He arrives with a flower in his hand and a postcard of thanks for Nga… and imagine his surprise to see his brothers voice over the public address system of the Hanoi Hilton Hotel.. Dr Hartoch, please come to the reception… like they page the doctors at hospitals..
I am writing this on 6th January 2008 from the house of my sister in Miami.

I wonder when I will be back in Vietnam again?

samedi 15 mars 2008


My name is Sudah, Su in Pali, I am told, signifies that which is good, and in many languages, this name is associated with Food, for which I am very glad! Like all Jews, I have a Hebrew name, the name I am known by, Yehuda..
Mon nom est Sudah, Su en Pali, ce qui, d’apres ce que l’on m’a dit signifie « ce qui est bon » et dans beaucoup de langues est un nom associe a la Nourriture, ce qui n’est pas pour me deplaire ! Comme tous les Juifs, j’ai aussi un nom hebreu qui est mon nom d’usage, Yehuda…
I am a medical doctor, educated in Australia, the country I call Home, England and the United States. I am an Endocrinologist and my professional life has been devoted to understand and stem the epidemic of Diabetes among Native populations. Realizing that an understanding of culture and society is necessary to comprehend fully the forces outside the individual body that has created this epidemic, I returned to University in London, for post graduate studies in Medical Anthropology. I have worked in many parts of the world, but the emphasis has always been on the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. I have university affiliations in Medicine in the USA and in Anthropology in Havana, Cuba.
Je suis medecin et ai etudie en Australie, le pays que j’appelle ma patrie, en Angleterre et aux Etats-Unis. Je suis endocrinologue et j’ai consacre ma vie professionnelle a comprendre l’epidemie de diabete parmi les populations autochtones. Ayant realise qu’il était necessaire de comprendre les cutlure et les societes pour apprehender pleinement les forces externes aux corps de chaque individu qui sont a l’origine de cette epidemie, je suis retourne a l’Universite de Londres faire un troisieme cycle en Anthropologie Medicale. J’ai travaille en beaucoup d’endroits du monde mais toujours plus particulierement avec les populations indiennes des Ameriques. J’ai des affiliations universitaires en Medecine aux Etats-Unis et en Anthropologie a la Havane, Cuba.
When I began visiting Cambodia, Diabetes among Cambodians, was far from my thoughts and actions. But repeated social visits, almost always to Siem Reap, endeared the people to my heart. A chance meeting with an Australian Colleague, Dr Sinha, led to meetings with Dr Lim Keuky. His dedication and enthusiasm for the welfare of the patients with Diabetes in Cambodia is admirable. These meetings made me want to combine forces with Dr Keuky and assist him, in whatever modest way, in providing a much more wholistic-Physical, Emotional and Spiritual-approach to the care of patients with Diabetes in Cambodia. The emotional stress and fracture of society in Cambodia in its recent past has taken its direct and indirect toll on the body of the individual Cambodian, whether within the Cambodia or as a migrant to a country like USA or Australia. They have a higher rate of Diabetes compared to the neighbouring Lao or Vietnamese people, in South East Asia or elsewhere!
Lorsque j’ai commence a visiter le Cambodge, le Diabete était loin de mes pensees et de mes actions. Mais au cours de visites repetees, pour des raisons sociales, presque toujours en Thailande ont rendu ce peuple cher a mon cœur. Une rencontre porteuse de chance avec un collegue australien, le Dr Sinha, m’a conduit a rencontrer le Dr. Lim Keuky. Son devouement et son enthousiasme pour le traitement des patients souffrant de diabete au Cambodge est admirable. A la suite de ces reunions, j’ai voulu associer mes forces a celles du Dr Keuky pour l’assister, modestement et selon quelque manière que ce soit, afin de donner aux patients souffrant du diabete au Cambodge une approche plus holistique, physiaue, emotionnelle et spirituelle. La tension emotionnelle et la fracture sociale intervenu dans un passe recent au Cambodge a directement et indirectement ebranle le corps de chaque individu cambodgien, qu’il soit qu Cambodge ou emigre dans des pays comme les Etats-Unis ou l’Australie. Ils ont un taux plus important de diabete compare a ceux des peuples voisins du Laos ou du Vietnam, en Asie du Sud-Est ou meme ailleurs !
Combining forces with Dr Keuky I could also garner support from my colleagues elsewhere, to provide material, educational and emotional assistance. I would be proud to participate in the educational programmes, to provide a complementary approach both as a western educated Endocrinologist ( Washington University School of Medicine and University of Miami School of Medicine ) to alleviate suffering of the Cambodian patients with Diabetes. As well as a Medical Anthropologist,a professional whose role is to understand the social and cultural roots of that suffering.
En associant mes forces a celles du Dr Keuky je pourrais aussi recevoir le support de collegues du monde entier, afin de fournir une assistance materielle, educative et emotionnelle. Je serais honore de participer aux programmes educatifs pour transmettre une approche qui se veut complementaire, a la fois en tant qu’Endocrinologue forme en Occident (Universite de Washington Faculte de Medecine et Universite de Miami Faculte de Medecine) pour soulager la souffrance des patients cambodgiens souffrant de Diabete, et, en qualite d’Anthropologue medical, dont le role est de comprendre les racines sociales et culturelles de ce mal.
I look forward to meeting the professionals working in the field in Cambodia during my forthcoming visits to Cambodia.
Je suis impatient de rencontrer les professionnels travaillant dans ce domaine au Cambodge lors de mes futurs visites au Cambodge.
Dr Sudah Yehuda Kovesh Shaheb.
I travel between Paris which is my home base at the moment and USA, where my Endocrinological and Applied Anthropological work is concentrated and Cuba where I collaborate at the University with a group of Psychologists and Anthropologists. I also participate in a project in Northern Mexico
Je voyage entre Paris ou je suis actuellement base et les Etats Unis, ou sont concentres mes travaux en endocrinologie et anthropologie appliquee, ainsi que Cuba ou je travaille au sein de l’Universite avec un groupe de Psychologues et Anthropologies. Je participe egalement a un projet au Nord du Mexique.

mercredi 12 mars 2008

A slice of Cuba in Lille on a cold and rainy Night

Cuba continues to give me gifts wherever I go. One such thing happened to me on this rainy cold night in Lille in the north of France
I am a Jew from Australia, with ancient connections to Kuala Belait, Malacca and Cochin in Asia, with newer connections to Myanmar and Cambodia and the like... In Australia, Melb0urne and Brisbane had been closer to my heart...
Someone with a revolutionary fervor of many years had organized a dinner at a restaurant in Lille in the north of France. Wild as the wind that blows but pretty as the demure architecture, Lille is in the north of France, fiercely independent in many ways, ch’iti as they say, more Flanders than French... Louis the fourteenth, Spanish rulers, Holland and the history goes on… and the second only to Louvre museum of fine arts...
What has all this to do with Cuba of my heart, mi Isla Rica where my love rests... Friendships stronger than anything I can imagine
Yes a dinner was organized and they chose a Cuban restaurant to celebrate our friendship. A Cuban restaurant in Lille? , I asked myself, thousands of miles away, where would be the nearest Cuban restaurant?

I felt good going in, the ambience, more like a restaurant or a paladar in Cuba... four or five tables and in one long table about thirty people were already seated ordering their food and drinks.. It was to be a merry night for them...

We sit down. Six of us, the revolutionary couple. Fond of Cuba.
We begin to order. Cuban cuisine like our orishas are not transferable, even in Miami with its hundreds of thousands of Cubans, the food is more American, Cuban cuisine is found in Cuba. Take that to heart and don’t complain, this is not la Roca or Artechef , restaurants of Vedado, la Habana... another time another place and another circumstance..

The girl with long hair takes orders, I order mine in Spanish
Ropa vieja
With memories of the Cuban restaurant esquina de tejas near the university of Miami medical school where I had spent uncountable number of days and nights of joy and pleasure and learning..

Do you speak Spanish?
She asked, with a French tilt to her Spanish
Yes I do
What is your nationality?
I am an Australian I answered in Spanish, and her eyes lit up when I said
But I also live in Havana
We are from varadero where my father was a chef for many many years
We had moved there from Havana
The warmth in her voice was incredible
We had made a connection. I am Cuban at heart, I don’t need anyone’s permission to say so, I carry many other titles and other documents, but it is Cuba that gives my heart that indefinable warmth

That ability to put yourself in the heart of another and accept another person without any judgment but with unconditional affection, as we are supposed to do to each civilized human beings

Her father, Mario was a chef at varadero for many years
His wife, Maria caridad, believe it or not is from Guines, the little town on the way to San Nicolas de Bari
I have been to her town
How many diners at their The little Habana restaurant in Lille could boast about that?

The young daughter was Cuban to the core, friendlier than ever, she wanted to bring me platanos maduros, and did you like your food? She asked anxiously, when I didn’t want any dessert she brought me a Cuba libre instead, which hot blooded Cuban would refuse a Cuba libre prepared by a fellow Cuban….?
I live upstairs the lady said and you are welcome here anytime...
You have a Cuban family here in Lille, when you come here the next time.
What makes the Cubans accept one another so easily and give of themselves? I don’t know how they used to be before the revolution; certainly the Cuban revolution has given them a sense of solidarity.
Have a sip of this seven year old Anejo, said Mario. His wife from Guines was genuinely friendly; there were others around the bar, a tall mulata from Rio de Janeiro, an ageing lothario who was singing in bad Spanish, he looked more like a circus performer, and his suffering wife. All in all, we all basked in the warmth we shared.
The daughter is going to Miami, to spend two months to learn English, a requirement at her Business School. Mother looked concerned, but father was confident that his relatives there would look after her well. I told her to get in touch with me while in Miami.
It would be nice to reacquaint myself with the Cuban Lille, a little in Miami. And show her the barrio which bears the name of her father’s restaurant
La P’tite Havane… The Little Havana