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dimanche 31 octobre 2010

Cochini Jewish Influences in Cochin INDIA

Yet another gift from Cochin

I had the good luck to make friends with a young Cochini, Thoufeek. He is very talented in Calligraphy and we are fortunate that he is interested in things Jewish. The Jewish Community of Cochin, the original inhabitants are decreasing in number, but with the presence of a Foreign Contingent of Jewish people, the Synagogue wont go to waste, and for many years to come there would be sounds of Hebrew prayers heard inside.

So when Thoufeek contacted me and I knew about his attempt to do Kufic Script in Hebrew, I was more than pleased. Calligraphy enters the life anyone who spends more than their share of time in art galleries or museums, since it appears in one form or another in the art of great empires of yesteryears.. Moghul, Persian , Ottoman just to mention the Moslem ones, not to mention the striving Calligraphy in the Chinese and Japanese circles…

What is a Kufic Script?

There is no doubt about the existence of this form of writing long before the advent of Islam, from the time of the cities of the like of Petra of the First Century of the Common Era. Kufic is named after the style which was perfected in the Iraqi city of Kufa and it is reputed that the first Quran was written in the Kufic Script. As can be seen in the above examples there are many variations of this script some of which may be familiar to the visitors to the Museum of Islamic Civilizations in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia where there are exhibiting Jewels of Shah Jahan with calligraphic “decorations”.ec

A few months ago I had a chance to read this on Thoufeek Zakariya’s blog, a bold attempt to write Hebrew Characters in the Kufic Script.

Hebrew alphabets in Arabic kufic style, a new attempt.

Recently I had received a requisition letter for Calligraphic job; it was from Odessa, Ukraine. Mr.L(not mentioning the name due to his request) is a Jew who admires Islamic Art and Architecture he had designed his house in Moroccan (Magribi) Style. His need was to design Birkat Ha Bayit in Hebrew but the twist; it must resemble Arabic Kufic style writing. As a calligrapher it is a challenging job to create a new style of Font within a short period of time, but I am a sort of person who likes these type of Challenging works.

To My knowledge no one had created such a font a liaison of Hebrew and Arabic. Some alphabets resembles to some extend but not the corresponding or respective alphabets.But some like ש,س resembles the same, but the ultimate aim, to create a Hebrew font in Arabic specifically Floral Kufic style made me to get acquainted with the job for a long hours. Hope i can meet the need of Mr.L and make him happy.

I will soon upload the picture of the work as soon as possible.
I can even do any such challenging Calligraphic work. Contact :

This was taken from his blog

I am happy that once again, the history of the Jewish People of Cochin would become remembered in stylish calligraphic depictions of Thoufeek..

I hope to meet him personally on my next visit to Cochin in February 2011.

Thank you Thoufeek Toda Raba

vendredi 29 octobre 2010

Childhood Obesity in the USA

Some thoughts on Childhood Obesity in the USA as I am waiting for a Lunch of Langoustines in the sea side Brittany port of Quiberon..

The prevalence of overweight was 37% higher in blacks as compared with whites (30.6% vs 22.4%) even by age 9. The rate of overweight almost doubled in both groups during the 10-year period. By age 19, the rate of overweight was 56.9% in black and 41.3%, in white girls. The prevalence of obesity was 17.7% in black and 7.7% in white girls at 9 years old, and the rates also doubled during the study period.

Conclusions. The doubling in the prevalence of overweight and obesity during adolescence in black and white NGHS girls was surprising. By age 19, more than half of black girls were overweight and more than one third were obese. Almost half of white girls were overweight and almost 1 of 5 girls were obese. These findings should sound an alarm for all primary care physicians and public health professionals to take heed PEDIATRICS Vol. 110 No. 5 November 2002, pp. e54f what is happening to our youth.

it has been nearly ten years since this study was published.

More money has been spent, more exercise programmes, more nutritionists some even calling themselves Medical Nutritional Therapists, A slew of slanderous charlatans promising snake oil remedies, frustrated pediatric endocrinologists whose waiting rooms are full of fat children wanting to know if there is a hormonal defect giving rise to their cherubic appearances…

US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data and our longitudinal data do not indicate a parallel increase in energy intake that explains the doubling of obesity in this cohort during the 10-year study period.4

Activity does make a difference in the onset of overweight and obesity in adolescents as shown in the study by Dr Kymm.

Table 2. Prevalence of obesity among U.S. adolescents aged 12-19, for selected years 1988-1994 through 2007-2008

NHANES 1988-1994


NHANES 2001-2002

NHANES 2003-2004

NHANES 2005-2006

NHANES 2007-2008

Boys, All







Boys, Non-Hispanic white







Boys, Non-Hispanic black







Boys, Mexican American







Girls1, All







Girls1, Non-Hispanic white







Girls1, Non-Hispanic black







Girls1, Mexican American







1 Excludes pregnant females.

NOTE: Obesity defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

So in the ensuing ten years, the obesity rate once again nearly doubled among the adolescent Girls, especially among the BLACKS.

(I find amusing this epidemiological stratification of non Hispanic Black, a child of Dominican or Puerto Rican or Cuban Black while they are considered Black will not be included in this count because they are considered Hispanic with surnames like Fernandez or Hernandez! Same applies to Blacks from Panama or any other atlantic rim countries of the Americas with a Black population such as : Venezuela, Colombia, Central American Countries )

If it is not the Quantitiy of Food, the food couldn't have been Doubled to account for this obesity , how about Quality of Food?

12-Year Old McDonald's Hamburger, Still Looking Good

Photograph taken by Karen Hanrahan

The McDonald's hamburger on the right is from 2008; the one on the left is from 1996. And they both look fairly edible.

Wellness educator and nutrition consultant Karen Hanrahan has kept a McDonald's hamburger since 1996 to illustrate its nonexistent ability to decay. Aside from drying out and bit and having "the oddest smell," it apparently hasn't changed much in the past 12 years.

This isn't the first time someone kept an uneaten McDonald's hamburger for an extended period of time for the sake of science. Or in the case of the Bionic Burger Museum, multiple burgers for over 19 years. There are even instructions on how to start your own collection of old, self-preserving burgers.

I have been in the USA consistently at least once a month since 1990, and have observed this phenomenon as a participant observant. As an Endocrinologist, I was interested in the blossoming Obesity Epidemic and I can tell you, the quality of the food (especially the food available to the poor and the food of choice to the middle class) has continued to deteriorate.

During my visits to USA, the places I visit are remote areas:

Tama, Iowa; Walthill, Nebraska; Eagle Pass, Texas; Eagle Butte, South Dakota to give you a sense of where I go; mostly inhabited by the lowest rung of the economic ladder in the USA.

It is this poor quality Food Culture that is being exported as American to Australia, UK and other countries in the Wannabee West Belt of Asia: India, Singapour, Malaysia to give you some examples.

So I say to you:

As an admirer of American Generosity, American Ingenuity and American Hospitality ( all of which I have benefited from in the years of my study and visit there)

If you THINK like an American, you would become more generous

If you ACT like an American, you would become friendlier and more hospitable


If you EAT like an American, you will look like an American: Mostly FAT. ( I have difficulty buying clothes since Men’s sizes range to XXXXL… can you imagine how big is that? I can use S or M and by Asian standards I am bordering on Overweight, BMI of 22 kg/m2)

dimanche 24 octobre 2010

My Neighbourhood in the City of San Cristobal....Vedado

This is one trip that I am happy to pay for, to anticipate and go through the rigorous customs and immigration check and other hassles.. not to mention the paperwork necessary to travel between Miami and Havana.. No, I am not talking about going to Miami but leaving Miami to go back to Havana.
American Indians, who have a wicked sense of humour, long taunted me: our doctor is the only one wanting to catch a raft back to Cuba! Soy Balsero en Reverso!
Havana has always been a moveable feast and always the place of unexpected pleasures...this time it wil be the same, I go back with no expectation other than the academic work that needs my presence there (Medical Anthropology, they have enough doctors so they dont need foreign doctors!)... long hours spent in discussions, the strength of friendships felt like a tattoo in your heart....the breeze from the Malecon, simple dinners ...
Cuba is the place that makes you realize how wise are the words of Dalai Lama, who once said.. Material Goods do not bring you happiness, it is the gratitude for what you have that brings contendment...
what I have in Havana is pure, unadulterated friendships....

mercredi 20 octobre 2010

A Wonderful Day with Los Indios.. The Original Inhabitants of this Land

Today is 20th October 2010
My feelings are so tender, so warm and so effusive..
What is the source of tenderness? It is the time that i spend with these fountains of love, affection and tenderness..
I had felt the rays of good wishes from Paris, from Spain, from Vietnam, from Malaysia... especially on this day, I was in the company of these ancient people of this earth, the Indians of North America..
Happy Birthdays lining up like pine trees with great expectations
leaves falling on this autumonal breeze
and I sit here thinking of the love that surround me and how little sacrifice can bring so much tenderness!
Thank you, my friends and my lovers, my mother to my little ones, those in the island, Nuestra Isla Rica, my brothers and sisters... and the special ones who bring such cheer into my life..from various corners of this earth..
The photo collage was sent to me from Mexico, where my dear friends the Kikapu live, my sister Mena and her son Keatu and their spiritual leader Chakuoka. The photographer is an excellent one, Jose del Rio. You may wish to visit his website for more beautiful pictures of Mexico...

Gracias a la vida... violeta Parra de Chila
La Vida es un sueno de la Vega, Cuzco

lundi 18 octobre 2010

It is so easy to be a Medical Pawn...

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

John P. A. Ioannidis

John P. A. Ioannidis is in the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece, and Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Department of Medicine, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. E-mail:

Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

I try to keep up with what is happening in my chosen fields of Study: Endocrinology as well as Medical Anthropology, in addition to my craving to know what is happening in this world (I try to read BBC News, The Economist regularly and scan through the internet in search of interesting news items).

I see a medical tendency to exaggerate, and this exaggeration is related to the interest the author has in increasing his prestige or income or career opportunities.

Always look for the Competing Interests.

I am not interested in reading about the Lack of Effect of Oral Medications in Type 2 DM from a professor who has financial relationship with Insulin producing drug companies.

If one researcher has many relationships with many drug companies, the chances are his research results would be WRONG.

I will highlight this article by Dr Ioannidis who has done a favour to all or us by highlighting how often biased results are published and gain in popularity.

Corollary 1: The smaller the studies conducted in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 2: The smaller the effect sizes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true. Power is also related to the effect size. Thus research findings are more likely true in scientific fields with large effects, such as the impact of smoking on cancer or cardiovascular disease (relative risks 3–20), than in scientific fields where postulated effects are small, such as genetic risk factors for multigenetic diseases (relative risks 1.1–1.5) [7]. Modern epidemiology is increasingly obliged to target smaller effect sizes [16]. Consequently, the proportion of true research findings is expected to decrease.

Corollary 3: The greater the number and the lesser the selection of tested relationships in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 4: The greater the flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 5: The greater the financial and other interests and prejudices in a scientific field, the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Corollary 6: The hotter a scientific field (with more scientific teams involved), the less likely the research findings are to be true.

Most Research Findings Are False for Most Research Designs and for Most Fields

Claimed Research Findings May Often Be Simply Accurate Measures of the Prevailing Bias

How Can We Improve the Situation?

Is it unavoidable that most research findings are false, or can we improve the situation? A major problem is that it is impossible to know with 100% certainty what the truth is in any research question. In this regard, the pure “gold” standard is unattainable. However, there are several approaches to improve the post-study probability.

Better powered evidence, e.g., large studies or low-bias meta-analyses, may help, as it comes closer to the unknown “gold” standard. However, large studies may still have biases and these should be acknowledged and avoided. Moreover, large-scale evidence is impossible to obtain for all of the millions and trillions of research questions posed in current research. Large-scale evidence should be targeted for research questions where the pre-study probability is already considerably high, so that a significant research finding will lead to a post-test probability that would be considered quite definitive. Large-scale evidence is also particularly indicated when it can test major concepts rather than narrow, specific questions. A negative finding can then refute not only a specific proposed claim, but also a whole field or considerable portion thereof. Selecting the performance of large-scale studies based on narrow-minded criteria, such as the marketing promotion of a specific drug, is largely wasted research. Moreover, one should be cautious that extremely large studies might be more likely to find a formally statistical significant difference for a trivial effect that is not really meaningfully different from the null [32–34].

Second, most research questions are addressed by many teams, and it is misleading to emphasize the statistically significant findings of any single team. What matters is the totality of the evidence. Diminishing bias through enhanced research standards and curtailing of prejudices may also help. However, this may require a change in scientific mentality that might be difficult to achieve. In some research designs, efforts may also be more successful with upfront registration of studies, e.g., randomized trials [35]. Registration would pose a challenge for hypothesis-generating research. Some kind of registration or networking of data collections or investigators within fields may be more feasible than registration of each and every hypothesis-generating experiment. Regardless, even if we do not see a great deal of progress with registration of studies in other fields, the principles of developing and adhering to a protocol could be more widely borrowed from randomized controlled trials.

Finally, instead of chasing statistical significance, we should improve our understanding of the range of R values—the pre-study odds—where research efforts operate [10]. Before running an experiment, investigators should consider what they believe the chances are that they are testing a true rather than a non-true relationship. Speculated high R-values may sometimes then be ascertained. As described above, whenever ethically acceptable, large studies with minimal bias should be performed on research findings that are considered relatively established, to see how often they are indeed confirmed. I suspect several established “classics” would fail the test [36].

It is quite obvious that most of the medical practitioners especially those in private practice have absolutely no idea of what is wrong with evidence based medicine or how certain articles are being touted as the new remedy, especially if they are relying upon drug company salesman or conferences in snow resorts or Hawaii for their continuing medical education. But they can feel that they are “legally” safe, but practice of medicine was supposed to be ethically safe and not legally safe.

As an anthropologist, I look at the published medical literature, even in prestigious journals such as NEJM and see the bias, such as: talking about pregnancy outcomes in San Antonio without mentioning that majority of the people studied there are of Mexican origin and poor, studies from Atlanta talking about High Blood Pressure fail to mention that it is the city with highest proportion of Americans of African Origin, more than once in my travels they have asked me Why do Pima have such high prevalence of Diabetes and people think Pima are the only Indians with Diabetes, such labeling had made pariahs of citizens of Nauru and other Pacific Islands.

Today I was seeing a patient, 38 year old and the note was made that her random Blood sugar was over 400 mg/dl (divide it by 18 to get SI unites i.e. about 22). She was on Long Acting Insulin and also Metformin, Actos and Glipizide.

It would have been so easy to look at the paper and give her more medicine or more of the same medicine and admonish her or label her as a Non Compliant patient. Obviously she was not taking the medications, but the reasons were, all non medical:


Lack of self-esteem in inability to look after family

Food Stamps not allowing her a healthy nutrition.

Bad relationship with Boy friend, who is yet arrested for another DUI (Driving Under Influence).

Alcohol abuse to stave boredom

Depression and lack of interest in her health.

She herself said: if I had a job, most of these problems would disappear.

The approach to this patient is not: more Pioglitazone or more Insulin; it is not a nutrition lecture; it is not Prozac for depression, it is not admission to the in patient ward.

The correct approach is culturally sensitive counseling. How many of our providers can be counted on doing that. I am very lucky since the person I work with, an RN with CDE is extremely competent and takes care of many of the aspects and gives me ample time to do what I think should be done for a Social Disease: Culturally Sensitive Counseling.

I do 5 minutes Continuing Medical Education vignettes for my colleagues. They dismiss the ranting of professors from New Orleans who push vigorously the new generations of drugs (Byetta,ONglyza etc) but are very happy to hear when I give them the summary of article that appeared in Archives of Internal Medicine, Sept 27, 2010

Long Term Effects of a Lifestyle Intervention on Weight and Cardiovascular Risk factors in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes

I quote their conclusions

Intensive lifestyle intervention an produce sustained weight loss and improvements in fitness, glycemic control and CDG risk factors in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.

The study lasted 4 years.

As a good hearted friend of mine from the West Coast said to me: we already know what is good for Diabetes, but so little money goes into the research and implementation of that but millions of dollars are spent by Pharma so that Bald Head professors (Bob Marley would have said that) can go around the world touting that 140 usd per month medications have dubious value over 20 usd per month medications but they certainly reduce something or other from 9.7 to 8.1 and stress the fact that the reduction is 20 per cent! Most of the erudite listeners have no idea that the way it is being presented is an exaggeration and what does 20 per cent mean to most people?

I am currently reading

Diabetes Sugar Coated Crisis

Who gets it, who profits and How to stop it

If you are among those who is not manipulated by the drug companies in your prescribing habits and one of the few who hang on to the youthful hopefulness that you had when you were a medical student, I recommend you read this book…

Within the first few pages, you would read

Social Diseases need Social Approaches….

Hope my doctor friends in the Far East read this blog!

mardi 12 octobre 2010

It is Nice to Dream about San Cristobal de la Habana

Reveries of a Born Traveler

Three days after my birth, an astrologer was consulted who drew the map of the stars at the time of birth (a chart I still possess) and predicted, much to the dismay of my birth mother, that the child in question would cross all seven seas. It was at that time and to this day remains a concept outside the mental horizon of most people.

Life has been kind with great gifts. Being Jewish is definitely the most important cultural characteristic about me; the second one is that I grew up in Australia where I was infused with such a sense of human dignity and equality and sense of civic responsibility. I enjoyed the process of becoming a doctor, an anthropologist (the best of all education I have received) and my time studying to be an Endocrinologist in Miami. I don't mean I had a good time, but I have to say they were memorable times, each a bubbly enthusiastic time, full of love and dreams, devoid of any great tragedies. Some friends and other lovers did enter and eventually said good-bye, which is the rule of nature.

But a great gift which keeps on giving, is my association with Cuba, which began in the earnest in 1996 and I would liken the years in Baracoa, Cuba as my “epoca de Oro”.

I enjoy speaking Spanish, in addition to the fact that I adore my first language which is English (other languages have come and gone, as I am always under pressure to either to learn or forget languages, because of my wanderings), and the very thought of Cuba brings an unusual warmth to me.

In the shadows of Tour Eiffel, yesterday, on a warm autumn day, I had the pleasure of the company of a Cuban Lady who knows lot about Museums and also about the world of art in the entire world. On her way home from an event in Shanghai, I considered it a privilege to share a few hours with this friend from La Habana.

The pleasure was doubled when her daughter joined us for Lunch. I had chosen to have lunch at Samaaya, a Resto Libanaise, as such cuisine is rare in Cuba or many parts of Latin America. During the Lunchtime I felt I had been transported back to La Habana, the moveable feast of my life. How easily one converses on a variety of topics with a Cuban? How open is their world of knowledge! Buenos Aires, yes, and a short discussion on Food, Psychology and Books. Spain, where the younger woman had studied, evokes a saudade in all of us, because of our umbilical connection to that ancient land, through language, literature, architecture and food.

I made a mental note that I should take up an offer of a Fish Dinner in La Habana, at the soonest, to coincide with a birth day on November 13th and with anticipation of time spent with the Fine Arts Graduate from Spain… so when you read my travel blog on La Habana, in the future, you would see that you more women friends have been added to my list of intimate friends in La Habana… the city that enlightens your spirit, your mind and your emotions…an intellectual city of the Americas, along with Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Sao Paolo…

PS as the astrologer had predicted, I did cross all the oceans, in one form or another.

dimanche 10 octobre 2010

Yet another General Strike Looms...

I have a generational legacy to keep up, my Grand Father and Father were always on the side of the workers, even though they both held jobs in Education and Health. When your work gives you an intellectual satisfaction, payments for your services may not take on the same magnitude were you a provider of manual or physical labour or skilled jobs that has not literary claims! Studs Terkels book had demonstrated that 9 out of 10 people are not satisfied with their work, so it does cut across the societal spectrum.
so the inconveniences caused by a strike of workers in the train, metro, bus among others is not going to make change my loyalty to the family traditions. so it was not surprised to find that 71% of the population support this strike and it may also reflect the low popularity of the current president Mr Shark, to whom saving money so that the poor can starve some more is a perfectly acceptable argument..
I am in Paris, and about to leave for USA. It is early to say whether or not I would be affected by the strike. I am certainly not going to loose sleep over it. I will get over to Los indios and they would be the first to understand, having lived the life of an oppressed and colonized people all their lives...
So respect the strike, dont curse the workers,curse the oligarchy that causes the workers to take these extreme measures...
always make sure that your sympathy is on the side of the humans and not monsters...

The appropriate caption for the photo should be: To Love France or Not?

mercredi 6 octobre 2010

I am Proud of Cuba and Cuban Doctors

Only yesterday I became aware of the fact that there are students from Solomon Island studying Medicine in Cuba. Just looking at the following citation from 2008, I was so heartily suprised and thankful to the Govt of Cuba for sending doctors to ten different island states in the Pacific and also educating doctors from Nauru, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.. Fiji to follow..They have offered 400 scholarships to study Medicine in Cuba!
It is a slap in the face of the developed nations in the region, which are more interested in making money out of the misery of these islanders, whether studying them or selling them medicine...
Australia's relationship with Naurus, the history of it, is a good case in point...
Photo shows a young cuban medical student with a well known Cuban Musical Conductor..

From Wikipedia:

Cuban medical aid

Cuba's medical aid to Pacific countries has been two-pronged, consisting in sending doctors to Oceania, and in providing scholarships for Pacific students to study medicine in Cuba at Cuba's expense.

There are currently sixteen doctors providing specialised medical care in Kiribati, with sixteen more scheduled to join them[15]. Cubans have also offered training to I-Kiribati doctors[16]. Cuban doctors have reportedly provided a dramatic improvement to the field of medical care in Kiribati, reducing the child mortality rate in that country by 80%[17], and winning the proverbial hearts and minds in the Pacific. In response, the Solomon Islands began recruiting Cuban doctors in July 2007, while Papua New Guinea and Fiji considered following suit[17].

In 2008, Cuba was due to send doctors to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Nauru and Papua New Guinea[18], while seventeen medical students from Vanuatu would study in Cuba[19]. It was reported that it might also provide training for Fiji doctors.[20]

As of September 2008, fifteen Cuban doctors were serving in Kiribati, sixty-four Pacific students were studying medicine in Cuba, and Cuban authorities were offering "up to 400 scholarships to young people of that region".[21] Among those sixty-four students were twenty-five Solomon Islanders, twenty I-Kiribati, two Nauruans and seventeen ni-Vanuatu.[22] Pacific Islanders have been studying in Cuba since 2006.[23]

In June 2009, Prensa Latina reported that Cuban doctors had "inaugurated a series of new health services in Tuvalu". One Cuban doctor had been serving in Tuvalu since October 2008, and two more since February 2009. They had reportedly "attended 3,496 patients, and saved 53 lives", having "opened ultrasound and abortion services, as well as specialized consultations on hypertension, diabetes, and chronic diseases in children". They had visited all the country's islands, and were training local staff in "primary health care, and how to deal with seriously ill patients, among other subjects".[24]

lundi 4 octobre 2010

What All Happens in the Course of One Week?

LH Miami to Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur. Reunion with Friends over a Chinese Dinner.

Brunch at Mandarin Oriental. Pedicure/Manicure by the greatest Pedicurist in the world, GS at A Cut Above in Bangsar.

MH from KLIA to HCMC. Reunion with a friend from a tour to Mekong River many years ago! Met up with C, the student with whom I will be doing the Khmer Project in Soc Trang. Off to Soc Trang with her. A nice introduction to the Khmer Culture of the Mekong Delta.
Time to begin the journey back home, but a nice reunion with N, who has been a friend of many years.
MH over the cloudy skies from HCMC to KLIA. Nice to see two good friends waiting for me at the airport. One of them is educating me about Breathing Exercises and the other is my best friend in all of Asia.
Thai Style Food. Both of them helping me to pack to go home: carrying Gifts for Paris, American Indian friends.
Left from LCCT on an Air Asia flight to Hong Kong and a few hours later, was aboard an Air France Flight (merci, Flying Blue) back to Paris, a long flight indeed, 12 hours and 12 minutes arriving stealthily at 0520 when flights from Gabon, HoChiMinh, and other points east were also homing to CDG..

Physically tired, Intellectually stimulated and Emotionally saturated...
this is what happens to a traveler in the course of one week...

vendredi 1 octobre 2010

The Deep Legacy of Khmer in Mekong Delta. Soc Trang Province

When I visited Cambodia regularly in the past, I was vaguely aware of a Khmer population in the delta region of South Vietnam. I had expected pockets of small communities of Khmer speakers, possibly recent immigrants or displaced persons. There is not much information on them on the Net, even though an australian professor has done some anthropological work among the Minority people in the delta.
The bus/minivan ride to Soc Trang from Ho Chi Minh City takes about 5 1/2 hours. it is a rather bumpy ride with stops in between for a cafe sua da or Mi..Soc Trang was a base for American Forces during the War, but there is nothing to show that americans had been there. It is a quiet provincial city which receives no foreign tourists. In fact during my stay there I did not see a single foreigner.
Chinh who is vietnamese studying South East Asian Studies in Passau (that itself a rarity, since Asian students are very seldom interested in Humanities, especially going to another country to study humanities!) was my guide and the commune we got to know was Dai Tom which is a short ride away from Soc Trang.
Dai Tom is a commune of 3500 households with about 16000 people, of whom 83 % are Khmer! with 2 % Hoa and the rest are Kinh.. very surprising and when you are there, you feel Cambodia in the air, in the faces and in the food..
A very jovial motorcycle mechanic I befriended, answered: when I asked him have you been to Cambodia. I live in Campuchea Krom..
This area historically had been referred as Southern Cambodia, but since the 16th century, vietnamese began arriving and soon they would become a majority in the delta region, when France annexed this portion Cochin China and it became a part of Vietnam.
For an anthropologist, an extremely interesting place to visit, especially after seeing the poverty and exploitation that goes on in Cambodia.