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samedi 29 janvier 2011


French Paradox: an additional piece: Slowly digested or Undigested Carbohydrates.

Another Piece of the French Paradox: Why French are not fat or have higher Cardiovascular Diseases.

Most people working in the Medical Field especially in the field of Obesity or suffering from it have heard of the French Paradox. The French have less Heart Disease than the Americans, in fact roughly half the amount. But the French Diet is rich in Saturated Fats. In 1991 it was postulated that it might be due to the fact that the French tend to drink with their meals, and a rush of wine drinking followed around the world (among the educated classes in the poorer countries).

It has been polemic and Low Fat diet has not been shown to be as good as Mediterranean diet or a Low Carbohydrate Diet in studies from USA and Israel among others.

All studies measure Quantifiable things: the amount of Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Cholesterol, Calories etc. but very seldom any mention of the Quality of the Food.

Having lived in both United States and France, I can tell you that Qualitatively the French Food is far superior to that of American food, that which is available to the public in most places. There are pockets in the USA where qualitatively good food can be obtained but they are few and far between.

Otherwise how would explain the Quantity of “Bad” Ingredients eaten by the French and their Lower Cardiovascular Disease rates?

The average French person consumed 108 grams per day of fat from animal sources in 2002 while the average American consumed only 72. The French eat four times as much butter, 60 percent more cheese and nearly three times as much pork compared to the Americans. Although the French consume only slightly more total fat (171 g/d vs. 157 g/d), they consume much more saturated fat because Americans consume a much larger proportion of fat in the form of vegetable oil, with most of that being soybean oil. Also in USA, there is widespread use of Palm Oil and Corn based products.

I repeatedly tell my students in Medical Fields in the USA: take a loaf of bread there and put in the fridge or freezer and it will stay edible for weeks to come. When you visit American families, you see loaves of bread in their plastic covers lying about. What gives them the longevity that is denied to the French Baguette?

I eat nearly one half to three quarters of a normal baguette per day while I am in France. I have to buy baguettes every day, as by the next morning, the baguette is nearly inedible, harder and less tasty.

The French baguette contains much less of the preservatives and chemicals that adorns their new world cousin, the humble American Loaf.

I have always asked myself the question, why do they add High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is an artificial sweetener to their bread?

As an anthropologist, I have observed when visiting French Families in Paris and in the countryside, the lunch and dinner times are accorded a certain respect. Food is prepared from fresh ingredients (daily visits to the market for Mussels, Fish, Scallops or Langoustines in the seaside and daily visit to the store to buy fresh produce in Paris) and a certain order of eating is observed. Plus they sit down to eat and eat slowly and there is conversation over dinner and there is an atmosphere of relaxation. There is always wine and an occasional Champagne.

Nutritional Scientists have suggested that Quality of Fats may be protecting the French, even if they are eating much more Saturated Fats, 80 per cent of their fat intake comes from Dairy and vegetable sources, including whole milk, cheeses and whole milk yoghurt.

Definitely the French eat much more fish (at least three times a week. When I am in Paris, I have some fish every day, even if it is just smoked salmon to eat with my baguette with a wedge of Comte cheese thrown in). Eating more courses of smaller amount seems to be the trend in France

Low Calorie and Low Fat foods have not caught on in France, since they have higher concentrations of Sugar.

I travel once a month between USA and the countries of my other residence. At the airport one notices, apart from the obvious obesity, that most people are either eating or drinking or something that has to do with their hands and mouth. At CDG international airport, you very rarely see snacking French. And this pattern is seen throughout where snacking is not part of the custom.

As part of my work, I have to visit some rural townships where the Native Americans live. Looking at what is stocked at the local stores, it is obvious that over 95 % of the items in those stores are unhealthy, tinned and pre prepared and heavily chemicalized and preserved food form the majority. The Health of American Indians, for more reasons than just Nutrition alone I would guess, is one of the poorest among all inhabitants of the Developed Nations (in this they have the company of Australian Aborigines).

Some years ago I came across an easy read: French Women Don't Get Fat and I think there was a follow up book as well.

Mrs. Guiliano who had to leave her native France to come and live in the USA, noticed that, the French women who were much slimmer than the American ones, ate smaller portions, smaller amounts of high quality food rather than obscene amounts of All you can Eat, Low quality Food, lack of snacking in between meals, eating when hungry. Drinking fluids in the form of water, soups, herbal teas of various concoctions.

As an Anthropologist, I must stress that the French take time with their food, very seldom have I seen what I observe in America, huge TV screens dominate the scene and various people are in various poses scattered around the room, sharing food and occasional conversation while the TV blares on. French sit down, including in places like La Defense in Paris where there are hundreds of corporate workers, but at lunch time you see hundreds and hundreds of well attired, in suits and formal clothes, men and women trooping out of the tall buildings and sitting down to have their lunches.

I tell my patients who say that they don't have enough time to eat: If you don't have time to eat, don't eat! Eating while you are on the phone as well as your computer while listening to a colleague complaining is not an ideal Lunch. At this moment, all your predatory hormones which create insulin resistance, such as Cortisol are being cranked out by your stressful situation and eating anything, good or bad, will be stored away as energy. The chances are that such a person is not eating Broiled Chicken Breast with Honey Mustard Sauce from the Health store, more like a Burger and Fries from McDo!

I have never liked to eat while standing up and I never see the French do it. I am writing this while I am in France and in the past few days my food has consisted of:

Baguettes, obviously. Various Cheeses, at least twice a day, smoked salmon, freshly prepared potage, homemade guacamole, Noodle Soups, Shrimp, Salmon, Brick of Tuna, Couscous of Chicken prepared fresh over fire at a Moroccan Take Away, Surimi Salad, Glasses of Wine with every dinner, ( I don't like to drink at Lunch), always sitting down to eat, always conversation of some sort of another, always enjoying the pleasure of eating and as American Indians have taught me, always grateful for the life accorded to me. I buy fresh vegetable and fruits on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the open-air markets nearby. Most of the fruits and vegetables are grown in France or Spain with the exception of non-native fruits such as Bananas from French islands in the Caribbean and Litchis from Madagascar that are plentiful now. I avoid the Chinese take Away food countes called Traiteur Asiatique in France, as their food do not appear fresh. Cheap food in France is very suspect.

All these thoughts were floating on my mind after reading a medical item from yesterday.

A study by researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center for Human Nutrition shows that resistant starch food may help people lose weight.

According to Health News, the study was based on 4,451 participants. The researchers found that the slimmest people ate the most carbohydrates, while the heaviest ones ate the least. Also, the specific sorts of carbohydrates eaten made a difference between wide and trim waistlines.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) support eating starch resistant food. Bananas, potatoes, pasta, whole grain bread, oatmeal, barley, and brown rice are typical examples.

The logic behind the magic of starch resistant food is that regular starch foods gets digested quickly in the small intestine and are converted into short-term energy, which, if it is not needed immediately, is stored as fat.

Resistant starch food, on the other hand, is digested through fermentation in the large intestine and converted into energy for the body more slowly. Resistant starch food stays in the body for a longer time, making people feel fuller for longer. This increase in feeling satiated also contributes to a reduction in the overall amount of calories taken in daily.

So yet another clue to the French Paradox: slowly digested carbohydrates, smaller portion of fat laden food but more importantly Food eaten with reverence and leisure and with gusto. An occasional piece of chocolat Noir..

Let us raise our glasses and shout

Vive La France!

mercredi 26 janvier 2011

Globalization in a Paris Suburb: an Anthropological View

Paris Suburbs: Shopping for Everyday Goods

Globalization at Work

This morning I went shopping in one of the western suburbs of Paris and it was truly a lesson in Globalization and also on the movement of people.

Over 200 million people in this world live in countries, which are not theirs by birth, the largest migration seen since early 1900s when Europeans were flocking to USA Canada Australia New Zealand Chile Brazil Argentina. One in seven Australian and One in three Portenos is of Italian Origin to give the extent of that migration. Over 70 million Italian immigrants and their descendants live outside Italy currently. Lebanon is another great Emigrant Nation.

The tide has changed. I clearly remember a cartoon from the Punch when I was student in London. A plush mansion. A lord in Residence. A man dressed in typical Indian clothes of yester years is at the door, waiting to be ushered in. The butler goes up to Lord Clive (of India, a great Governor General during the East India Company rule) and says: Milord, a gentleman from Calcutta is here to see you!

In Paris, gentlemen and fully covered ladies are not from Calcutta from Mali and Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, Congo and Rwanda and others places in Africa. The East Indian presence is small since the French only had minor colonies in India: Pondicherry and some towns.

I walked over to the open-air market where I like to buy fruits and vegetables. I usually go to a grower or a representative of a farmer rather than a middleman who is trading on someone’s behalf.

Today the man in attendance was a young French man. He recommended Mona Lisa potatoes at 1.45 euros/kg and Royal Gala apples at 2.95 euros/kg. I paid him 5 euros for the purchase. (Calculating 1 euro=USD 1.4)

Walked over the Boulangerie Artisanal, and requested a baguette. The Algerian gentleman behind the counter sold one to me for 1 euro.

Walked past a Colombian/Spanish restaurant, an Italian home made pizza shop, a Chinese take away ( traiteur asiatique as they are called), on to a street which has a Moroccan take away, a Turkish restaurant and a Sushi place, usually owned by Chinese migrants from the mainland. At the Moroccan place, I looked at the menu, thought temptingly about the Couscous Lamb but today just bought a Salade with Surimi and some Moroccan sweets. A bottle of San Pellegrino (Italy) water was included in the deal for 7 euros.

My destination was the Chinese owned fruit shop where I always get a warm smile, unlike the usual Chinese owners who seem to carry a perpetual frown. But we had no language to communicate with. With great difficulty I wished him Gong Xi Fatt Choy, he had no idea what I was saying, I tried Spring Festival, New Year of the Rabbit, but he just returned a toothy smile. At least I tried. Litchis from Madagascar at 1.95 euros/kg and Bananas from Martinique at 1.85 euros/kg, for a total of 4.45 euros.

The shopping bag was becoming heavier but I decided to walk a little in search for Chai Tea. At the entrance to the Marche Exotique (Exotic Market), a crowded store of imported things from India and other warm climes, I was greeted by an elderly Tamoul gentleman. To another young man in the store, there were no customers, I asked him in French, Do you have any Chai Tea. He nodded his head to the part of the shelf where teas were held and of course no Chai Tea. I decided to get some Green tea with Mint made by Lipton’s, 20 bags packed nicely for 1.95 euros.

I thought of the ridiculousness of using a language, which does not belong to neither of us, just one generation ago, my father might have been able to converse with the old man in Tamoul!

One habit I have acquired in Paris is the taste for Champagne and there is always a bottle in the fridge but with that taste has come a love of white wines in general, my delicate stomach acquiesces to white of the Bacchus less so of his red gifts. Went inside Nicolas, a chain store that sells moderately priced wines like the ones they have in London. I opted for two suave whites, a sauvignon Blanc from Chile 2009 and a Torrontes (very different taste than its motherland, Spain) from Norton in Mendoza, Argentina. Both bottles together cost only 8.70 euros, each bottle costing slightly more than a kilogram of apples! Drinking and Eating is of excellent quality in France, and drinking is definitely cheaper! The woman behind the counter was French.

So a short expedition in shopping this morning was like a visit to various parts of the world, east and the west, north and the south.

Viola! This is the France of Today and this same story is repeatedly in all of Europe. The conquered ones from the colonies have sent their descendants to seek revenge, and a certain silent peace seems to reign, without excessive cordiality.

Above is what 26 euros would bring you, i.e. 36 dollars would buy you in a Paris suburb of today, but the experience is priceless to an anthropologist.

dimanche 23 janvier 2011

Shekhinah or Love of the Universe: Trip from Paris to the Blue House among the Indians

Air France 0636 Boeing 777-300

Paris Charles de Gaulle international airport to Houston International Airport

10th January 2011

0701 train from Becon les Bruyers in Paris to Gare San Lazare, walk over to Opera past Printemps department store and then on Boulevard Haussman (he who created the wide streets), to the magnificent Opera Garnier. Just in front of that opulent building now undergoing renovation, the bus RoissyBus run by the Paris Transport begins its journey to the Paris CDG International Airport, some 17 km away.

The fist stop is Terminal 1 which we reach by 0805, having left Opera at 0740. Then Terminal 2A and therminal 2C and I get off Terminal 2 E.

Very slow check in at the Elite Member section of Air France, I just wondered how it might be on the Economy check in. To check in at the Elite line, the Airline has to recognize you as a frequent flier.

I told myself it is not worth getting worried and upset over such things, even though I would have preferred a quick check in .

Quickly through Imigration. I have to say that the French Immigration is the fastest immigration check that I have ever encountered, Singapour comes a close second. They glance at the passport and glance at you and may or may not decide to stamp your passport, then you are on the other side. Take the little train to the gates from where most of the USA and Canada bound flights leave. The train compartment is heavy with the sleep of the passengers who had arrived from India and Africa and now going on to another long leg to USA. Some of them were traveling with young children. How tough on their little bodies to take two 10 hour flights and lack of sleep and crossing so many time zones?

Quickly through the security, there is also a special line for Frequent Fliers and then direct to the Air France Lounge.

The same routine.

Open the computer and connect with the free wireless Internet


Pain au chocolat

Jus de Orange or something similar

Welcome e-mails from Paris and Teheran. Quickly answered them.

Tenderness over every one. I cannot afford not to harbour tenderness over the same people who feed me tenderness.

(Listening to Miles Davis : autumn Leaves)

I leave my Skype on when I switch on my computer. The Vietnamese student who helped with the research in Mekong Delta is on line and we have a very pleasant chat. I truly wish to help her establish herself as a social scientist in Vietnam. She will present her research findings sometimes in February towards the end of it, I wonder it would be possible for me to be present there. Also she could attend the discussions on International medical Anthropology when I am participating in it at my old University.

0945 time to leave the lounge. One more glass of Perrier Please

Boarding is orderly and soon I am ensconced into seat 23 B. nice seat. An American lady with her daughter sitting behind was conducting a conversation that could be heard all the way to Alaska, I thought. Why do they have to talk so loud? Are they all deaf? Why do they want their presence to be felt? Of course I am a master of ignoring my fellow passengers. Each voyage and each flight to me is as if it is new, and exciting but I have come to expect nothing of my fellow passengers.

I will one day write an article: You don't meet any interesting people travelling the way I do. I pray to all the spirits to change my luck but this is the bad luck in my skies.

But in another note I want to tell you about two wonderful meetings I had, yesterday at a Starbucks in London and today at the Air France lounge in Paris airport. Life is full of unexpected pleasures.

So far I have had a glass of champagne, a glass of white wine and a Hindou non vegetarian meal.. All very pleasant.

I have watched a documentary on the Pa Pu Nya people of Australian desert; the Easter get together of the Norwegian Sami people and a documentary of two interesting French metropolitan islands: Aix and Frioul.

I have made up a List of music to play on the Ineractive screen: John Coltrane Miles Davis Ibrahim Ferrer Cristina Branco Frank Sinatra Nina Simone.. a little melange..

We left Paris at 11 04 am ie 13 34 in Teheran, 18 04 in KL and 504 in Havana.

This flight would arrive at Houston International Airport at 2 14 pm i.e. 9 14 pm in Paris, 4 14 am in KL and 11 44 pm in Teheran.

Each voyage is unique, it is also about separation, even though for some of the people, it is I who is gone and not them, for me, I am leaving all who are dear to me, even if it is only for a few days.

My dearest friend, Azadeh, is leaving for India for three months, to enter another world altogether. How this new world of hers wood affect our friendship remains to be seen but I have no expectations.

Paris is Paris and I am determined to fall in love with Paris this year. My heart has only so much love to give: Havana Miami London KL all demand their share and poor Paris, the moveable feast now has to compete!

One thing came to my mind: it is I who share other people’s lives and no one shares my life? Is that true? Do I have a particular life? Or is it just shekinah, the Jewish mystical idea of wisdom being broken and reflecting, shekinah, so that the various affections are reflecting my love, each of them, so that there is one big love, that is for the universe, which is much bigger than each of us

vendredi 14 janvier 2011


Cuando me cuentas de tus dias siento nostalgia de que
habitemos lugares tan distantes, no poder tenerte mas cerca, para poder
mas tiempo juntos, visitarte y que me visites, conversar y acompañarte en
yoga, en los ejercicios respiratorios, tomando el te,...son mis sueños
relacionados contigo
y la presencia que me gustaria tuvieras en mi vida.
This letter arrived from Cuba, from a colleague, a
wonderful friend, Her husband has been a journalist for Cuban Press for
ten years and together they have 11 year old son. She lives by the sea at
Guanabo in the city of Havana.
I translate:
When i read about your days (in Paris and Kuala LUmpur) I
feel very nostalgic because we live in places so far away from each other,
cannot have you near us, to spend time with you, to be able to visit you,
for you to visit us, to talk about and learn Yoga with you and the
exercises you talk about, drinking TeaŠ these are my dreams. .. to be
closer to
you and to have you in our livesŠ
Where do they learn such tenderness?
i had noticed that from the very first encounter.
they harbor such tenderness , that is how they are brought
up. and don't think it is just the women, men are equally demonstrative. to
quote my closest friend in baracoa, he always says goddbye when i leave
our little village by the sea: i am
not saying good bye to you, because i am taking you away in my heart.
another friend said: you are not a friend, you are not a
brother, but you are a tattoo in my heart.
i think the special situation in cuba, which limited
freedom in many aspects of commercial and consumerist life in cuba, gave
to an expression of such pent up emotions, in its purest form , so that we
talk to each other, with such open minds and hearts.
when i am in baracoa, if a non cuban in our company, it
happened only rarely since we didn't encourage that, since wwe were not
for any form of escapism like the tourists were, i would say to them: you
the young woman walking on the other side of the road, i don't know her
and she
does not know me; i will go across and kiss her and talk to her. the
is surprised , because i don't now how many countries exist in this work,
a total stranger can cross the street and kiss a young woman and begin
with her and receive a warm feeling?
pablo once called his lover, that bakery in the sky. i
would like to refer to cuba as the great bakery in the sky for me, with
inexhaustible affections.
if you are reading this note, you are also experiencing
that warmth, however indirectly, through me, as i try to dispense my
wrapped in as much innocence as possible.
so wherever you are, imagine yourself being hugged and
given a load of affections from me.
you have to give me nothing in return, not even an email.


It is often like this

One day you are brimmed with hope and desires

And then the next, you realize, how alone in the world you could be, especially you are expecting tenderness to arrive from the four quarters of the globe

Azadeh from KL is about to leave for India and that means that for the next three months the communications between us would be minimized. I feel a sadness at her departure, since India is not something we have in common: whereas we have so many other things in common, Today she sent me some youtube videos on Toltec culture of Mesoamerica and I immediately dreamt about the various trips to the archeological ruins in Mexico.

Coming to the Indians, always begins like this, first of all the change is dramatic. I was in London and paris and now I am in a small hotel in Omaha, Nebraska a non descript town of no great importance to me in the middle of the country, only thing it is immersed in snow. That immediately puts a damper to my heart.

I don't look forward to the 150 km drive to the reservation and once I am there I am fine I know that since it has happened so many times. It is like going from one century to the next.

In this liminal period, everything appears as a loss. The Loss of my friend in KL now exaggerated by her well intentioned words of wanting me to forget KL which increases and not decreases my sadness. I live in a magical world of symbols, and I can interpret things with the slightest of meanings.

In a way to me, it is difficult to accept that in KL something is dying to be reborn again, but I shall not be there to smell the flowers. Life goes only forward.

At the same time, I am reading Hafez’s poems, each sentence with its most difficult to interpret but rather lyrical meanings. It is nice to have someone guiding you through this.

Everything can exist in your imagination in the form of magic, the reality is too harsh, to think about it and construct a castle of reality.

Now I am glad that soon I would be with my friends in Cuba. There is no confusion with morality, sensuality and affections; one can enjoy the innocence once again..

In the world of magic, all are innocent, there are no roles for imagined pathways but a fluid expression of ones love for the world, its inhabitants whether they walk on two feet four feet or fly …

I never thought I would be affected so much for the ending of this chapter in KL. I am being melodramatic but I see clearly signs of a chapter ending, and I am sure I should look at it with Khayyam’s abandon: Unborn tomorrow and Dead Yesterday, why fret about them if today be sweet?

Then Hafez can come in with his deep analysis of every day things and say: what is that you are worried about? You are surrounded by affections, let the balloon of this magic deflate a bit. Others live as they have lived for years, with no assistance from you. Pack your bags and return to your tavern of existence.

It is early morning. The place is covered by snow. I am listening to Brasilian music, rather moving music, words of saudade and longing and at the same time hope.

In a few hours this intermediate period in my life would end, when I am with the Indians once again, in the Blue House which would be there to welcome me even though I have not been there for two months. Books music coffee and perhaps some emails from friends from far and near..

I don't want you to think I am sad or lonely, but I am in between, neither there nor here.. rent a car and go to the Reservation and forget about MunChing leaving for india.

Think about the poems and their interpretations arriving at the doorstep..


mardi 11 janvier 2011

London Sunday; Paris Monday;Tuesday in Walthill TOLTEC HEAD

Toltec head (several tons), Mexico City, Mexico
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Mexico City Part 2

But where is Walthill?

12 January 11

the outside temperature is Minus 18 degrees Centigrade. It is going to be a cold and frigid day.

Do you remember the shortest short story ever written? by Augosto Monterroso?

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí. ("When [s]he awoke, the dinosaur was still there”)

When I woke up this morning, my friend N from Teheran had sent me a poem by Hafez with annotations:

حضوری گر هم خواهی از او غایب مشو حافظ

متی ما تلق من تهوی دع الدنیا و احملها

Hafez! if thou desire the presence from Him be not absent

When thou visitest thy Beloved, abandon the world, and let it go

Poetry touches your heart, depending first of all your own personality and also the time, ambiance and nostalgia or saudade you are feeling and/or curiosity.

Hafez! if thou desire the presence from Him be not absent
When thou visitest thy Beloved, abandon the world, and let it go

I am putting together a few words from yesterday when I was listening to a brasilian singer by the name of Ana Carolina. And was trying to understand the meaning, with a little help.

Aprendi a me virar sozinha

E se eu tô te dando linha

É pra depois te abandonar..

aprendi learn sozhina alone dando gave depois later abandonar abandon

The approx translation: aprendi a me virar sozinha = I learned to get by on my own

i guessed somethig like i am used to being alone

A se eu tô (=estou) te dando linha = this comes from the action of flying a kite. We release the line (line??) to let it fly. We are becoming alone because we have released our attachements, like the sufi stage of attachment.

So she meant, I set you free so that I could go away too.

WH Auden a british poet once said 20th century

If you love someone, set hm free, if he comes back to you, he was yours and if he doesn't he was never yours..

Isnt it interesting to see the knitting of emotions across the globe and time

So the emotions are what remains stable, politics and ideologies may change but our emoitons from Hafez to Yehuda remain the same..

all these before going to the Clinic to look after some native patients...

Special Thanks to Rio and KL as well as a Secret..

Why the Toltec Head? Anyone who has visited the Museum of Anthropology would not have failed to notice the huge heads sculpted by the warrior race of Toltecs. There is also depiction of their Eagle Clan at the platforms in Chichen Itza.

My dearest friend is begining her journey as a Yogini today. She has read the Four Directions and felt she could use some of their advice

agreement no. 1 : Be impeccable with my words
Agreement no 2 : Don't take things personally
Agreement no. 3: Don't make assumptions
Agreement no. 4 : Always do my best in applying agreement no 1-3.

Good Luck, Yogini to be Azadeh

lundi 10 janvier 2011

Toi La Bacsi: Vietnam Cross Cultural Medicine at 38 000 feet AF 7770-300

TOI LA BACSI: Cross Cultural Medicine at 38 000 feet

I kept on saying to the very old lady, now slumped on her seat. She was flailing her arms and there were already a French doctor in attendance and one of the attendants was translating for the French doctor who didn't speak much English.

But neither did the patient. She looked well into her 80s. I had watch them board because there was a young couple with a baby with a mother and a grandmother I thought. The baby was very Asiatic looing baby and in fact quite an attractive baby I thought when I saw them boarding the flight.

She is Vietnamese but have been living in France for a long time. She speaks French but her current problem was incoherence, so language skills were not of any use but certainly cultural skills would be useful.

Very quickly I found out that this old lady who is living in France is being taken to USA for a visit, by her grand daughter and her husband and a family member who spoke no English, who might be her mother. A French speaking Grandmother, A Vietnamese speaking mother and an English speaking grand daughter..

Medically from her pills, I could say that she was a diabetic and that she must have some allergy problems. She also had medicines for diarrhoea.

Her grand daughter who had seen her for the first time just four days ago said that her grandmother was an active lady, in fact very sarcastic in her outpourings and was behaved absolutely normally until we were over the atlantic and there were four hours of flight time left.

It reminded me of patients at the Repat Hospital in Melbourne, who went hallucinating after an alcohol withdrawal. I couldn't find a focus to say that she might have suffered a stroke. She felt warm and was moving in a fashion which was not far from a normal old person. There was no gaze preference or blurred speech. She could speak even though she may not make sense. Are you thirsty? I have drunk water already, she would say.

There was a dentist who came into the foray who couldn't even take blood pressure. Blood sugar taken showed it was 235 mg/dl which the French Doctor said , it is okay. I thought to myself, she probably has been running at this high blood sugars all the time and dehydrated, and this flight had been the final blow and that something must be happening in the brain. I also felt confident that this reversible. The French doctor was concerned about a stroke.

I did notice that the flight attendants preferred to speak to the French doctor, and he did not seem very high up the hierarchy of French medicine, since he was flying Economy class. ( a slight jab at him?)

In any case, the captain spoke to him and it was decided that she would be met by ambulance on arrival in Houston.

The very efficient Purser, a lady , arranged for her to be moved to the First class so that she could lie down properly and that alone would give some comfort to the lady.

The flight attendant and I virtually carried her from her economy seat through premium economy and business class to the first class. There was a bed free there and put her there and she lied down quietly.

I came back to my seat to write this. I also noticed that she had that peculiar odour and that the famlly might have decided to bring her to the USA because she was not being cared for properly there in France.

In any case, the granddaughter asked me, do you think they will take her French medical insurance? I told her, first of all they will take her to a public hospital and because of her condition is acute, she will be attended to . and she will be discharged as soon she comes around. Worry about that later. Call with the help of the flight attendants, your family in Houston and ask them all to come to the airport if they are not already planning to come. The ambulance will take her to the hospital and you all go later to the hospital.

I better go and see how she is doing. But the afternoon snack just arrived.

When I went up to see her, she was lying down flat and still moving her arms but much calmer. The French doctor for his credit had put in an IV and it was running too! He didn't speak English at all and I couldn't find out from him whether or not he put some Diazepam in the liquid. When the flight touches down, Ambulance and EMT would be on board and will take her to the hospital.

What a Welcome to America! But I felt very strongly at heart for the granddaughter with her baby of just a few months, also the husband didn't speak much English so it may have been a match made in Vietnam as it happens very often in Viet Khieu communities in USA.

I went back to find her and told her that it is my feeling that once she gets a little sedation and fluid on board by tomorrow morning she should be fine. I gave her my card to send me an email to inform me of the progress of her grandmother.

She took my arm and said, thank you so so much.

Where does the cross cultural part come in?

I could see that the old lady calmed down and had less movements the minute I told her Toi La Bacsi, which is Vietnamese for I am a doctor. In 2002 on my fist visit to Hanoi with my brother Eliyahu we had stayed at a hotel at Hang Bao street in Old Hanoi and the girls at the reception had taught me that phrase which I had used many times to excellent effects all over Vietnam. Here is an elderly lady and I saw that a doctor, is with her, she may not known that the French guy was a doctor, he was too busy doing things to her to notice anything like that.

I held her hands and put the arm around the shoulder and kept on telling her Toi La Bacsi, I am a Doctor and I could see her calming down. Even when I went to see her the second time, the french doctor was busy looking at the drip and the rate it was going, and no one was looking at her, the elderly lady who might have grown up in Cholon during the French Protectorate and who came to France for a better life! I put my arm on her arm and comforted her, Toi La bacsi..Never before learning one short sentence in another language has come in so handy.

When the plane landed at IAH in Houston, the rest of the passengers waited as she was wheeled out.

I send a little thought to her: Good Luck, Grandma.

As I am member of the trusted traveler programme, The Global Entry, I was through the Immigration and got the bags and they have a special line at customs for global entry passengers. It was the fastest entry into the USA and as you know I enter once a month into the USA.

Who says there are no spirits who look after you?

vendredi 7 janvier 2011

The Four Directions A Formula for Euphoria in Life



Decrease Your Desires

Joy in Life

Be helpful to others


Be a Hollow Bone through which Spirits would enter the world of Others

Be Grateful

To all those on whose shoulders you are sailing through this life. Theirs is the energy, your give it a direction

Today was one of those days, Euphoria arriving your doorstep, on this first fine day since 1 December when the snow arrived unannounced (I left on that day for KL but arrived back 16 days later)

It has been cold but the warmth comes from the heart. Each and every day I lived in the four corners of this world. It is as if apart from Quiberon a port city in the Brittany coast and the city of Paris, I was also living in KL in Malaysia, Havana in Cuba, Miami in the USA and for the past few days in Tehran, Iran, with other persons and people making cameo appearances on the canvas of the emotions.

CUBA oh CUBA.. If I could tell you just one lesson from that little island with a magnificent BIG heart, this would be it: Solidarity, with all those who are suffering, emotionally, physically and intellectually. If Cuba, a materially deprived country, the USA embargo since 1962 does not help a bit, can be so generous, what does it say about the Cuban soul? This month we remember so many important dates: The Flight of the tyrants to the USA from Cuba 1959, the triumphant entry of Fidel and Companeros into La Habana 1959, Birthday of the Cuban Apostle Jose Marti… and it is always good to remember the departed revolutionaries Che and Camilo whose faces appear in our vista daily in La Habana reminding us of their great sacrifices.

Cuba is about Sacrifices. You sacrifice to the extent that someone else benefits, small or big, each Cuban sacrifices and it is so well understood (in anthropology we say emic behaviour, like a New Guinea tribesmen know about honour of his family, no one has to teach him) that it is evident in everyday behaviour.

I have been a beneficiary of this kind behaviour of the Cubans since 1995 and I have been a visiting Professor at the University of Havana since 1996.

I received the photos of a beaming Carlos and his wife, Nestor and my best friend in Asia, who is adopting into the nuances of our Little Treasured Island (Nuestra Isla Rica) from the 52nd anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution, celebrated with the showing of the talents of a slew of young Cuban artists in Kuala Lumpur.

Gracias a mi madre Lucia en La Habana for introducing me to Carlos.

While this was actually taking place in KL, because of the time differences I was enjoying a pleasant day in Paris, news was arriving from Havana, my family in the USA.

As the poet Pablo Neruda (a great friend of Cuba he was) would say: each soul would need an anchor. My anchor now is this little space in Paris, grateful for the chance to enjoy the world from this little perch, grateful for those who facilitate this vista.

Today the Spirits had granted good winds and the walk along the streets of Paris was exhilarating. With the usual visits to café, boulangerie…. An older man, with looks that belongs to the Maghreb, was in his usual corner, asking for coins. He wishes me a Happy New Year… how meaningful to me, more than the plastic hollow shouts of the same across the oceans…

A new Country entered into the life of my self same friend in KL, when she was visiting India, she met and made friends with Iranians, who introduced her to Hafiz, Shahnameh and other poets and mystics from the golden age of Persian Poetry. They were volunteering at the Pilgrim site of Meher Baba in Central India. My best friend in KL had books and other information for me when I was in KL recently. I had promised to read one poem of Hafiz in original translation per day! It is not as easy as you think.

Suddenly, a few days ago, a soul from Tehran, makes an appearance in our skies. Communication is good and a certain level of knowledge transfer was quickly arrived at: to live the lives through the eyes of the other. As in the archaic societies of other centuries, a form of Gift giving, to give each other what one can, with expecting nothing in return, in the realm of possibilities of the countries we live in, with respect to tradition, history and the current ambiance.

So just in one short day, I knew this year 2011 is going to be an enchanting one as I had come to expect through some form of my own adivination: KL and Paris where I have inexhaustible amounts of Love, news of an appointment to teach in London, to continue my academic collaboration in Havana… a secret Persian breeze. Love notes from Vietnam, American Indian Country, …affections competing with themselves to pile high on the heart…

How could one not be Euphoric on such a day?

PS after writing the above, I confirmed my flight into La Habana! January 16th!

lundi 3 janvier 2011

Food and Beauty in the New Year 1.1.11 Quiberon

Instead of telling you about the revelries of 31 dec, I shall describe the first day of the New Year 2011 which has begun very well.
The morning though cold had a special glow to it. One hears the seagulls and magpies in this part of the world. If you get up early enough you still can see the lamp shining from the Lighthouse of Quiberon. The coast of Brittany is famous for its Lighthouses including the tallest one in Europe at Ille verge in the north of Brittany.
It is good to begin the day with a nice thought and who better than Rolling Thunder to tell us about being responsible for our thoughts.

"People have to be responsible for their thoughts, so they have to learn to control them. It may not be easy, but it can be done."

-- Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

We control our thoughts by controlling our self talk. At any moment we choose we can talk to ourselves differently. The fight comes with the emotions that are attached to our thoughts. If our emotion is high and seems to be out of control, we can say to ourselves STOP IT!, take a few deep breaths, then ask the Creator for the right thought or the right decision or the right action. If we practice this for a while, our thought life will be different.

To feel positive about all our plans for the coming year is very important. The year 2010 had ended up with greater joy and anticipation and pleasure and accomplishment than expected with the usual minor disappointments.

some one had sent this quote from Mary Kay?

If you think you can, then you can; if you think you can't, then you are right.

While doing Pranayama with a deep sense of solittude and meditation that cuts all but inner awareness, I knew in my heart this year has begun well, not only for me, but all those 12 good friends and 80 odd acquaintances (thus telling you that I have fully used up my brain's capacity for intimate and casual friendships, according to Medical Research).

A simple but tasty and good looking lunch. Reminded me of the chinese friend in Brunei who said to me, after he drove 30 miles to get the right sort of fish for dinner that night (this after a sumptous yum cha in the mid morning, remember in Brunei 30 miles is a long way, in fact almost 1/3 of the length of the country!): for us Chinese: the food has to look good, smell good and taste good. (no wonder they are healthier than the other asians in SE Asia)

A drive around this peninsula which in pre historic times was an island and a visit to the Penthivre Castle built by Louis XIV where unmentionable atrocities were committed by the Nazis just a few months before their defeat in 1944-1945. I said Kaddish for those martyrs many of them from one village Locmine near Kiberen.

The pleasure of having friends strewn all around the world is that it gives me great pleasure to think of them, even though I may not see them as often as I would like. But my best friend in KL said to me: I see you more often than some of my corporate type friends who live right here. So wherever there is desire, there is the greatest gift one can give, the gift of TIME.

samedi 1 janvier 2011

Express your Gratitude, says the American Indian Wisdom

Gratitude List for 2010

As the year 2010 ends, it is good to recollect those people on whose shoulders the great fortune of 2010 came riding to us. Without them, we as individuals would have been able to accomplish nothing.

The biggest news of the year 2010 was that sister Jackie in Miami was free of Cancer. It was a monumental effort by her and her husband and the medical team taking care of her that she was able to conquer what was thought to be impossible.

celebrating Sister Jackie's good news at LAN pan asian Cafe in Miami

At times we have to be idealistic, and give up our reality check and that which makes us think logically. We had no choice with Sister Jackie except be idealistic and get to the best results. We had lots of help along the way, almost all of them coming from everyday sources in our lives: family, children, innocent and unconditional loves.

Paris, France and Quiberon, Brittany, France. Multiple emotions and understanding the voluminous nature of people’s hearts.

A typical Breton Dinner at Kervallon

Los Indios

HoCank Pow Wow 2010


My heart is in Cuba!

KL in Malaysia

My best friend in Asia and the Hundreds of Good Meals in Asia!

These three are such integral parts of my life that I cannot think of a life without them, even though KL in Malaysia refers to the magical life created there.

Cuba is for me an unending passion and source of love and genuine affection. Nowhere in the world has a country has fallen in love with me and vice versa as with Cuba. Life without Cuba is unthinkable for me. My dear friends in La Habana and the powerful loves from my village at the end of Cuba, Baracoa.

Los Indios, or The Indians of North America who have left their deep roots in my hearts continue to give. This year we welcomed Ruby in Walthill and Yoga united us: Mitexi, MiHu and myself. Their family has become an integral part of my heart. Each and every interaction with Indians when I am among them has contributed to make me a better person. Happy would I be when I can treat others as well as the Indians treat me!

The magical life in Malaysia is the result of the open minded and unending consideration and compassion of my closest friend in Asia and one of my colleagues. It was with her in February 2010 that I began my journey into Yoga and since then all of us, she, me and her sister have benefited not just physically but also emotionally and intellectually and not to mention the arrival of Hafez and Shanameh and Iran at our doorsteps.

Vietnamese Food at Mekong Delta 2010

An my family, my magical family as everything else in my life, Magical creations

In Miami

In Portland


I am so lucky to have so many sister friends, some are colleagues and others are friends in the truest sense of the word. My Meskwakia teacher told me, the reason why we cannot yet call you our friend is that, if you are a friend, according to our tradition, we have to step in front of you and protect you if someone is shooting an arrow at you. One special mention to Mena of the Kickapoo. But other sister friends are scattered over in Dakota Dunes and Yankton in South Dakota, Yakama in Washington, Hocank and UmonHon Nations

Traditional Kickapoo Indians of Mexico

Many others have graced all our lives. Pa Pa Win and EiTho in Chaungtha. Friends in Vietnam and Cambodia, Brasil and China and the entry of Iran and its ancient poetry. Old friends in Melbourne. The Love Birds of Kuala Terengganu. Good Friends made in Malaysia and a good from Baracoa in Bellingham.

Chaungtha, a village on the Andaman Sea in Burma/Myanmar

There is a new player in 2010, whom I am getting used to and who is teaching me humanity at a level that I never thought existed. She has anything but total pleasure and each day I learn something from her. Her blood family has been extraordinarily kind and generous and has made my wanderings possible without guilt.

The person I am most thankful to, she knows that I am full of words of gratitude for her, I don't have to explain it But Indians have taught me that each day you must be thankful for the good things in your life.

Ironically enough this is what was told me by my Pranayama Teacher in KL. Make up a gratitude list each morning and spend a little time thinking about it. This is my gratitude list for the beginning of the year 2011. I want to assure each person in this list that they cross my mind every day if not many times a day.

I don't wish to be ungrateful to Air France and Continental Airlines for the multitudes of upgrades and Lounge access over the course of the year 2010 and not to mention the various trips across the Atlantic and over to Asia in comfort. This year I hope to travel 10 times at least across the Atlantic; the usual four to Asia. It would be nice to make a trip down south to Brasil and Argentina! Two other definite trips are to see family in San Francisco and Portland.

Paris to Munich to Newark to Miami

December 2010

Miami to Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur

September 2010

Gracias in the language of my heart, Merci Beaucoup in the language of my emotions, Thank you in the language I adore and Muito obrigado and Teremah Kaseh in the other languages that please my ears.

Strangely enough, most Native American Indian Languages do not have a specific word for Thank you. I will explain the philosophy behind it in another blog.