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dimanche 30 octobre 2011

VISIT THE FRIENDLY SKIES OF USA..outsiders made welcome here

Despite my repeated visits to this sprawling country and the remoteness of some of my destinations,
Eagle Pass, Texas
Walthill, Nebraska
Eagle Butte, South Dakota;
I am amazed at the continuous, effusive friendliness of americans of all walks of life..
In Nebraska, the receptionist at the hotel where I stay, saw my name on the list of reservations and had already upgraded me to the room with a Jacuzzi bath because she knew I liked to have a bath after a long trip!
This morning, on entering the United Airlines 757 aircraft, I was greeted with a smile and warmth that would take away all the travails of journeys, by G, whom i had met only yesterday on another flight on United Airlines. This Michele Obama-esque lady was a metaphor for the effusion of warmth of America!
You now have a new friend, she said, as I handed her my card after our chat together about things of mutual interest while the plane was being loaded with passengers. I do agree, I have made a new friend!
Workers at the airport (especially MIA and FLL) greet you like an old friend, you are made very welcome in their lounges. Last night the shuttle bus driver taking me to the hotel, after a broad grin wanted to engage me in a conversation about the current ultraconservative leanings of the people he wouldnt be voting for! the Cuban lady just a few years out of our island of love and affection, makes coffee at the suburban shop in Miami which makes the coffee tastes even better and the memories of my days in La Habana even sweeter and the next trip to La Habana of my dreams even more anticipatory!
all of this and more transpired within 24 hours in the US OF A..
Australians are very friendly, tainting me with that enthusiasm while I was growing up there, people dont understand when I say Asians are not as friendly as the Americans.. because a smiling vietnamese, especially in the travel industry, has his eyes on your wallet, the notoriously unfriendly singaporean chinese need no introduction (chinese are less so in Malaysia because there there are some restrictions and more examples for them to follow to be good human beings).
Americans are friendly, because they can afford to be so, they are not eyeing your wallet to get a dollar out of you, they already have that dollar which they would like to spend on you. They see something special in people they meet and they make the move to gain something from an encounter knowing fully well that in this world, most of the casual encounters are of short duration.
Of course these personal affirmations of american genuine gestures do not include the official friendliness accorded to a frequent flier doctor to the indigenous people: almost always upgraded by airlines, entry into their clubs, greetings and help at Avis rent a car at Omaha or elsewhere...the list goes on and on.
My advice to newcomers to this country whether they are from Mexico or India, is : Please dont get caught up in this glitter and glamour, take on the deep values of the americans: friendliness, generosity , hospitality and open mindedness. Dont equate USA with MCDOs and CocaCola..
My personal list of Friendly/Warm countries:
Cuba (the cubans in Miami get caught in the glitter and many a times loose that genuine SOLIDARIDAD we practice in Cuba)
Australia/New Zealand

My friendly cities:
La Habana
Buenos Aires
London, UK
Yangon, Myanmar/Burma

When you arrive in Miami, you would hear this welcome: Bienvenidos a Miami a sus playas.. in Spanish
Where else in the world they are going to greet you in another popular language of the continent? English in Paris? German in London?
Where else, but in the United States of America...
So this morning, sitting at the United Club at Denver airport, I express my feelings towards my American friends and others who are yet to be friends ..
Gracias Merci Beaucoup Obrigado Arigato

mercredi 26 octobre 2011

Learn to Love your Brothers and Sisters.. they are everywhere

One of the images burnt in my memory is that of an Israeli soldier carrying an elderly Ethiopian Jewish woman, during the clandestine airlifting of 10 000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He was asked, Is she heavy? No, she is not heavy because she is my relative!
reflecting the brotherly feelings echoed during the Hippie Era: He aint heavy, he is my brother...

In the last ten days, I have been in some major International airports: Newark, Toronto, Amsterdam, London Heathrow (2) and Paris CDG (2). A anthropologist would note that regardless of the country, the faces of the people serving you whether directing you to a line or checking your luggage or at the security...they were from somewhere else..
Just think of it, 200 million people live outside the country of their birth. Yesterday I left Paris, I saw an african at the airport and when i arrived in London there was another african... colonialists have divided them since these two brothers cant communicate with each other, even though we might assume they are brothers. In one day alone: a persian ticket agent, a surinamese lady, a cleaning lady from indonesia, a refugee from sri lanka, a shopkeeper from Uganda from Idi Amin's time...
The lounges at Heathrow are full of young women from Poland, the taxi drivers in Washington are Ethiopian, Somalis clean the floors of Minneapolis airport, Cubans make coffee in Miami... In front of the house I saw an older man directing school traffic and he was friendly to me, he spoke with a heavy french accent, I asked him where you are from, he said, Madagascar!!! We can no longer look at a person and think that he is from India or China or Congo, the answer might surprise you..

Treat each and every one of these people who are making coffee for you, cleaning the hotel rooms, or at the front desk like Aung at the Comfort Inn in Heathrow who is from Burma.. the list is endless..

The homogenous people are the ones who are sitting in this Airline Club in Washington DC or the people in the front cabins of the Aircrafts..

Our brothers from Asia and Africa are yet to arrive there but i look forward to the time when instead of avoiding eye contact with my seat mate (as I did today on my flight from Paris to Washington), I can grin and ask: where are you from?
I would hear the laughter of waterfalls and the distant sceneries in their eyes..

They too have arrived in this world, to this western man's world, it just took them a little longer because the path was more tortuous for them, like the journey of the Sri Lankan refugee who helped with my telephone yesterday at a London store
He left Jaffna in 2006, for four years he was in various gulf states, dubai, abu dhabi and muscat; and then somehow ended up in Zambia and finally to the UK..I imagined the psychological and physical difficulties this young man must have gone through..

In the not too distant future, when I am flying to Europe on seat 4 D, I expect to see someone like him and I would grin from ear to ear and say, Welcome and have a nice flight..

samedi 22 octobre 2011


Dont listen to the nutritional advice you see on the Internet or from a person to whom you pay to hear it.. just watch the french eat.. why is that the americans tell us that we shouldn't eat this or that , this is not good or that is not good and they change it every few years and if the French were to be judged by American Nutritional and Medical Advice, half of them should be dead.. for the french eat well, not worrying about calories but worrying about good quality food, not worrying about paying a little for loca produce..

Today's welcome back to Brittany dinner consisted of:
needless to say glass or two of champagne
aperitifs olives cheese bits tomatos
tuna pie but like langoustine, bought locally or processed locally in this town of fisherman
a mellow french white or a slightly heavy red
cheese, various with bread
apple pie home made with ice cream
followed by chocolates and coffee...

dont worry about calories and fat content and the counting of carbs.. but what matters, in my anthropologists opinion is that:
we began eating at 8 pm and finished eating at 11 pm

and between the six adults, we covered the entire world in conversations, in french and english
about the history of women's rights in tunisia in face of the elections there tomorrow
the glory of the jewish life under islam in Andalusia when islam was a religion and not a suicide bombing ideology
who would win tomorrow's rugby world cup, and i said, who cares as I drowned another sip of Champagne
good conversation, good feelings, lack of stress and feeling good being in this part of France.. Brittany Bretagne Bretonia

Quiberon, almost as if I am back in OZ

Many years later while walking in solitude along the streets of Palermo in BA, I used to think of the innocent days in Melbourne,where I thought the flowers had the sweetest of fragrances and that the birds sang so beautifully and that Southern Cross belonged to our skies. I am grateful to have had such an innocent period in my life and that too in Australia, for which I am always grateful to that Big Brown Sunburnt Land. Even on a recent visit to Melbourne I thought I had died and gone to Paradise since every thing I remembered were the same, and with the exception of a little colour added to the scene, it was the same Melbourne, welcoming you into its bossom .
Just this evening, I arrived at Quiberon, presquile they call it , since in pre historic times it was an island and then became connected to the mainland Brittany. A historic town and a quaint town and now a favourite tourist spot for Bretons and other French people. Very seldom do I see foreigners or even people of foreign origin who live in France. So in this quiet corner of France, blessed with a violent sea on one side which swallowed many of its sons, and a tranquil view of the Belle Isle on another (the photo enclosed is of that beach)..
A walk along the beach, cafes and shops selling clothes and postcards and books and chocolates...the place has become familiar to me .. and for a moment I thought, this was the sensation I used to have in Melbourne, at that time who cared about what was happening in Serbia.. and today I am not worried about the autopsy on Khadaffi or the elections in Tunisia tomorrow or another elections in Argentina nor the Rugby match (I know nothing about Rugby, but hard to escape France is playing tomorrow) in Auckland.

For those interested in Jewish Hisotry, Musical History, French History it is nice to remember that songstress Sarah Bernhardt who used to arrive here by train from Paris, then stay at the hotel pictured before taking the boat to Belle Isle where she maintained a Chateau. Belle Isle is interesting to visit, and for me visiting her home was the highlight of that trip.

So dont expect me to be disturbed about Khameinis and Assads of this world, nor the fluctuating Euro, or the state of Health care in USA..

I am waiting for the first glass of champagne and I am sure fresh fish would be served for lunch and dinner for the next few days..


lundi 17 octobre 2011

The Long Way Home from the Blue House: The Vagaries of Travel

Because y itineraries and plans change without much notice or plans, I end up in journeys longer than planned. Take this last one for example.
To get back home to Paris, It took me two days, visiting six airports, going through five countries!
I left the Blue House in the UmonHon Indian Reservation on a sunny afternoon to drive the 135 km to the city of Omaha. Stayed at the usual hotel by the Airport and had a mediocre tex-mex meal. It should have come as a warning as I entered the resto, there were many large TV screens all with sports channels on!
AVIS rent a car people are always friendly and it is a nice touch when one is in a strange town, to see familiar places and smiles.
A Continental airlines flight to Newark, enough time to go to their Airlines Lounge and check emails before embarking on another Continental Flight to Toronto.
A very pleasant lady at the KLM check in.
Two observations: regardless of the airports you are in these days, most of the workers are foreign born to that country, and there seems to be a kind of hierarchy or hidden messages.
The ladies checking you in seem to be young foreign born usually white or fair skinned. The security or people guiding you to the right lanes for cheking in seem to be from India usually a little plump, the guards are of African Origin. In Singapour, they prefer the better looking Malays than to the Chinese, in Paris,it is the better looking Arabs.. it shows you one thing, good looks can help you get ahead!
Recently learned that Singapore Airlines do not employ older Flight attendants, most of them are on five year contracts renewable just once. Whereas on long distance flights on USA based airlines, you get very senior attendants and I remember niew rgB one who were in their sixties! Why should the young have all the fun? I admire that really since it does show a broader approach to life.
Air France flight attendants for example, are there for show rather than service, and almost without exception they are young, fit and good looking. Very rarely have seen a black flight attendant on Air France long distance flights.
Frequent Fliers are treated very differently. and of course these days, the colour of the frequent fliers is changing, once the exclusive terrain of white skin businessmen, it is now sprinkled with a little brown and yellow, still not many black. Yesterday at the Amsterdam airport, I could see a couple of beaurocratic looking Africans waiting for their flights to Africa..It is amazing how one begins to tell the geography of the passengers: Indian travelers from India regardless of their tech saavy still dress differently from Indians living in UK or USA .. Chinese travelers from Taiwan are distinguishable by their peculiar behaviour, one can see the dress sense of Mainland Chinese travelers and of course no one can mistake the young japanese traveler from japan.
Frequent Flier perhaps also understand a little better the monotony and difficulties faced by those work in Airline Service sector, so they are nicer to the personnel?
On this trip, I enjoyed the KLM lounge at YYZ even though it was nearly full of chinese travelers on Hainan Airways, which also uses that lounge.
The flight from YYZ to AMS was very short, once you have had your dinner and hardly anytime was left before you are woken up for breakfast and before you know, you land in the still dark AMS airport.
Bilcart-Salmon Champagne Brut
Smoked Salmon presented with caper creme fraiche
Artichoke Agnolotti, offered with marinara sauce, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesian cheese
MapMaker Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cheese plate with camembert and cantal cheese and dulce de leche tart
The was just coming up on the horizon when i settled myself into the KLM Crown Lounge at 52 at the very interesting airport at Schipol..
it has to be one of the nicest airports in the world, along with Changi in Singapore. Most of the airports are just functional including LHR CDG EWR but few of them are worth a visit on their right: AMS SIN, but the pleasure of arriving at MIA or HAV is unparalleled for me!
The long wait began, sleepy but with internet connection and papers and magazines to read and nice snacks (who wants to eat?) and drinks (truly not appetizing at this hour and time)..
A quick flight to LHR Terminal 4 and as usual the welcome at Skyteam Lounge which is also a nice lounge..
The flight from LHR to CDG is a short 40 minutes and while my luggage had arrived at a different terminal than the one I had arrived, it was quickly resolved. I must say i have a good star following me on my journeys since very seldom am I inconveniened or stuck at airports or without luggage.. considering that I take more than 100 separate airline trips even though as you can see on this one: OMA EWR YYZ AMS LHR CDG five airline trips for one journey!
Paris at last after leaving the Blue house nearly 48 hours earlier.. The sweetest gift was that a french moroccan taxi driver by the name of Sam was waiting with a card with my name on it... at that time, getting home by public transport with two pieces of luggage to shlep was not a welcoming thought, very quickly through the mild night of parisian autumn, we sped towards the home at Asniers sur seine, from where i can see the lights of Paris!

jeudi 13 octobre 2011

We will always have Paris..Indians need you now

I have had a long and fruitful association with some tribes of North American Indians. In the years I have been coming to see them on a regular basis, I have lived in London, Galveston, Miami, Kingston, Baracoa, La Habana and Paris. So they are the permanent focus, friends and other lovers have come and gone, even countries with which I was enamoured have disappeared from my passport: Cuba and Miami remain.
Come rain or shine or snow, like the slogan of the Postal Services of the USA, I have shown my face here in these remote parts of the USA where Indians were relegated to live …
I have seen children in Kindergarten grow up to be adults and sending their children to Kindergarten where I see them… I used to ask, who is your mother? When I visit the schools and talking to the students, now I ask, who is your grandmother?
I have been taught and given an entirely pure perspective on life, I have gained so much from this association, but not without some pain of the knowledge of their suffering, living as they are surrounded by a not very sensitive culture.
The extraordinary result of this association in which I was told to respect and if possible love the Indians, is that my days with them, as their doctor and consultant to them in culturally related health issues, are without any stress. I can honestly say that I have not had a single bad day in the two hundred odd visits to their home countries in many many years.
The structural defects that cloud the minds of the westerner, in the world of commerce and competition, include the idea of oneself being better, an aversion to things taught as being inferior and an attachment to the good life for which they struggle and come back to square one of egoism and self importance. When I am with the Indians, my structural defects of the mind are all suppressed, my ego is low, I watch the world without attachment or aversion and as if I am watching a movie and most importantly Indians have taught me how not to be judgemental.
That does not mean that I am not sensitive to their suffering. They don't like the misery associated with it, while accepting suffering as their lot but nothing prepares you for what you are told and what you witness.
Today is the last day of my cycle of visits to this tribe, the clinic closes at 4 30 and it is now 5 pm and I am leaving the hospital towards the house in the reservation where I stay. I saw a little girl of 11, whom I know well coming towards me and holding up her hand. Her mother who is a patient of mine shadows her.
I have had a bad summer, I should really come and see you and talk about it.
She looked heavier than I remember the last time I saw her sometime at the beginning of the summer.
This has been a bad summer she began and for the next one hour, she told me one by one what had gone wrong.
She has Type 2 Diabetes complicated by severe depression. The last time I had seen her as a patient in the clinic, she had been doing extremely well, working in the garden of the tribe and eating well and also avoiding conflicts at home.
She has a son who had returned from his tour of duty in Iraq and suffers from Posttraumatic stress disorder and makes those around him uncomfortable by his uncontrollable rages. In one of those rages he beat up his younger brother black and blue who needed medical attention. The daughter had to be flown by medical mercy mission to the nearest town when she had hit her head and suffered from amnesia. During this time, her husband of many years was not supportive at all, since he was lost in the fog of alcohol abuse. When her son of school age fell down and suffered concussion, she had decided to look after him at home. During this time she was baby-sitting her relatives children and many a times she couldn't answer the door when someone knocked at the door. One such knock was from the school wanting to know the whereabouts of the boy who should be at school. Soon, it was assumed that she had been drinking (untrue) and the child welfare authorities arrived with a view of taking her children away from her only to find her sober and having not had a drink in many years.
A third son was told to stand upon a chair at school but he slipped and fell down. Minor injury was diagnosed but soon he had to be airlifted to the nearest facility for emergency orthopaedic intervention for his intertrochanteric fracture. She gave up her job and nursed him back to health after he left the hospital with a pin in his hip at the tender age of 11. Thus she was deprived of her livelihood, baby sitting and working in the garden. Her diabetes that had been well controlled now took a turn for the worse.
The stress was not to end there, the son with PTSD went missing and to this day she is not sure where he sleeps and how he feeds himself. Now and then he shows up at the house and then disappears. Her husband had been oblivious to all these and the major burden are handled by her. She is in the process of applying for tribal assistance to commit him for compulsory treatment for alcohol addiction.
The children are watching all these; they present cheerful faces like the girl of now 11 whom I have known for 4 years. Today she was pushed at school and landed with her left palm stopping the fall, and by the looks of the swelling, there is certainly a fracture underneath.
She was stoic, this little girl, while having pain, silently at there. She is well trained I thought, to face a lifetime of suffering and what has she seen so far in her tender years?
I was sitting down and listening to my patient regurgitating her memories, I was being drowned. I told her, just by listening to you, I feel stressed and I am so grateful that my visits to your tribes are without stress so that I can listen to you and while I feel sad, I wont be plastered down to the floor with the helplessness of the situation.
I said to myself, here I was leaving the clinic at 5 pm in a hurry to get home, to catch up on correspondence from various parts of the world, sip a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, thinking of packing for the up coming trip within a few hours to Paris.
I am so grateful for the love and affection I have, from my friends and my lovers
In Paris from my Little Family
In Miami from my sister and her husband
In Portland from my brothers and their families
In Kuala Lumpur with my friend who has bound me to her heart and her family and the friends she has introduce me to.
In Cuba, ah Cuba, the island of my dreams where I can forever float in the sea of its tentacles of affection and love
I am grateful
Thank you
Each and every one of you
My friends scattered around the world.
I am homeless because I have more than one home, in the hearts of those who love me.

And here I am in the middle of nowhere in the middle of this country, listening to an Indian with stress levels similar to a Hiroshima bomb of Stress. What am I to do?
By talking itself, she would feel fine. Knowing that we are here for her to talk about her disease and also about her social situation would help her.
I was planning to leave tomorrow morning to drive down a 100 miles to the city where the airport is, having lunch at the Persian resto, to order Jujeh Khoresht
Boneless chicken cooked with garlic, tomato, & shallots in fresh h lemon sauce
Then over the Atlantic, to the seaside town in Brittany, celebrating a tender birthday with champagne and coquille sant Jacques… mm.
I realized that nothing is more important than to take care of the grief and suffering of this lady.
All the while, the little girl had been standing there holding her hand up. I examined and was certain that the push at the school had caused her to fracture her third metacarpal bone. I went with her to the radiology department. Even in this isolation we have technology that allows us to view the images on computer. As they left to go to the Clinic Rooms, I told the mother, I want you to call our Clinic at 10 am, and come over, we can sit and talk and afterwards I want to go to your house and visit the girl who would be home in a plaster or sling.
North American Indians do not profusely thank you since in their culture there are only symbols to thank but not words. She looked at me and I knew what she was feeling in her heart right now.
I, like my father before me, who fought in the jungles of Burma, want to be of assistance to people. My father from the backstreets of Abadan had chosen Burma as his theatre and I a Jewish boy from the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield have chosen American Indians or shall I boldly say, they chose me?

I will arrive in France one day later, but the arrival will still be sweeter for I know, according to the law of the Indians, my little family will be blessed by the Spirits. Then I will go to London to see my sister from Miami who is visiting London.

In a few days time I will repeat the cycle again, this time it would be the Lakota of South Dakota. In December the Traditional Kickapoo of Mexico/Texas…

mardi 11 octobre 2011

American Ingenuity or Two Dollar A day Chinese Workforce?

This week, the Jewish High Holiday week has been full of news of all sorts. The News TV especially CNN has become a personality cult series and without much merit in news analysis of the world. Al Jazeera, which gained, some respect for reporting from Arab Lands when no one could go there, is dry and humourless and reflecting its national origin in Doha.
Fortunately we still have
The Economist
While traveling I spend the waiting periods at the airports in Lounges of the airlines and some of the lounges are good at providing reading material. On a recent visit to the Fort Lauderdale and Houston Lounges, I could collect
FP foreign policy
Strategy and Business
Executive Travel
Global Traveller (much more advertising medium)
Laptop for the recent introductions and tricks to improve your laptop
FT weekend edition and any of the local newspapers.

The news was heavily weighted towards Steve Jobs’ death and rightfully so. So much grief over a technology entrepreneur who touched millions of people not only because of the tech creations but also because of what he stood for, and his devotion to work, family, ambition, hope and optimism. It is those human qualities that we would remember Steve Jobs for, not for ipad or iPhone, which will be superseded by the future gadgets coming in at lightning speed into the arena.
Talking about the future, there was an interview with the Guru of futurism, Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi, both masters on their own rights. They had published the widely successful Future Shock in 1970 and followed it up with The Third Wave. According to an interview published in FP, we are moving on to the Fourth Wave. Toffler’s coined Information Overload and every one knows that we have very little privacy left when we are on Internet. The hybrid age we are entering is the one in which there is an interaction between humans and technology, dating to the time when a Computer trounced two selected participants in a quiz show on TV!
Future business models among others would be affected by this hybrid age we are entering into. Imagine the changes in the last twenty years, where were we 20 years ago? Internet? Ipad? Chinese Manufacturing? Call centres in Bombay? Decline of French as a language? English as the most spoken second language?
In this age, what would distinguish societies would not be their unique cultures but their adaptability and those who cannot adapt would not be able to eat their share of the pie.
Americans would leave the manufacturing of silly things to China, and can tailor make niche products for the regions of the USA, and China’s dominance might become shaky when USA no longer need to buy from China?
Interesting times ahead. But where would you rather spend those interesting ahead? In Yemen? In Doha?
In Damascus? Or in the United States of America?

This also was a week of Nobel Prizes!
Literature prize went to a swede, peace prizes well awarded to the two Liberian ladies and the Yemeni activist!
But all the other sciences, Americans shared or were given the prizes. One French and One Israeli and one Aussie.
Which country provides the innovation? Which provides the nurturing ground for such genius?
An article on Business+Strategy was thought provoking as well.
We tend to blame China when things are not going well in your country and blame India when the 800 number you called has a foreign accent answering them. Leave the Chinese to manufacture the 2-dollar tchotchkes and the Indians to answer your credit card enquiries, and sell them instead Boeing Aircrafts and Computer innovations, let china manufacture the iPhones but the innovations are in the USA. Instead of worrying about the culture of outsourcing and young men dying in their twenties with heart attach in Bombay, lure their best brains out for 100,000 usd plus salaries to Google, Apple, Facebook, YouTube. The four are already managing many a things including revolutions in other countries. Whilst the young men some countries are dreaming of sixty virgins in heaven, let the innovations of the west provide virgins of their own countries with some sense of freedom by connecting them to the world of ideas and liberal thoughts.
France Faces a Dilemma was the title of the article. There has been deterioration in manufacturing in France but they have not shifted to China or allowing unlimited imports, but the production had moved to Germany. China produces lower-tech, lower margin products, such as apparel, furniture and other office machines. France’s trade imbalance with western European nations has come at the expense of higher value products such as automobiles, advanced chemicals and industrial machinery.
So France’s decline along with the decline of the national language is a shift to regional western economies, which may not decide to return. In the USA, we can visualize a regional production forcing the Chinese and other manufacturers to set up factories in China, ditto the previous shift of regional production of Japanese automobiles in the USA.

Another interesting article that was quoted in another article about Chinese Tiger Mother type of singular education vs. Jewish view of education as a liberal one with greater breadth, was from the President of Wesleyan University.
It does make you think, as the world is going through changes and the terms like globalization has lost its meaning.
I recommend that you read the article by Michael Roth; it would make you think and direct your children towards not Associate Degrees in Business Management but towards a greater liberal education before they branch off into their peculiar career interests.
Roth says:

We should look at education not as a specific training program for a limited range of mental muscles but as a process through which one will generate some of the most important features in one's life. It makes no sense to train people as narrowly as possible in a world going through cataclysmic changes, for you are building specific strengths that leave you merely muscle-bound, not stronger and more flexible.

So at a time of economic spasm as the one we are going through, it is good to think that there are people in America who value liberal education over a strictly utilitarian education. In Asia, Education is seen a Business in itself, otherwise why should KL and Malaysia have 43 medical schools? all charging high tuition fees so that they can educate a small number of people in a very narrow field of rote learning?

So despite the political charade of the conservative Americans and the bling bling of the French conservatives, one must be grateful for the life provided for us by the citizens of these countries who light our path to individual self realization.

I am not interested in comparing my quality of life with that of India or China (neither country interest me too much) but very interested in how to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the two western countries, USA and France where I spend my time and that star of the developing world, Cuba where one can always find a good conversation on any intellectual subject of your choice…
Thank You.
PS I highly recommend the magazine MONOCLE edited by Tyler Brule who also writes a regular column for FT.

samedi 8 octobre 2011


This has been an incredibly good evening. Before going to the Yom Kippur Evening Services at the Temple Israel, we decided to have dinner at Soyka. As if it was a prelude to what was to come, the dinner was delicous: ceviche peruana that had subtle tastes in the mouth, a fresh water tilapia that melted long before it reached the mouth that soft and tender.. more important the company of my good friends, Mark, Greta and her mother and Margaux.
The main auditorium of the synagogue, built in the 1920s is rather cavernous and by the time we got there, the hall was nearly full.
The Chazan/Chantor began chanting and very soon it was a full blown concert of Jewish sacred music, especially Kal Nidre the prayer of forgiveness.. He was superb and little by little one could get into a trance of fervour for our people.
I felt so privileged to be a Jew today, singing and listening and enjoying melodies which are thousands of years old, to feel that i belong to that universe where these songs have been whether they wer among the Amazegh in Atlas Mountains or Bratislava or Berditchev or Bagdad or Shiraz... and now forever in Israel. Two things are certain, these melodies and the Jewish People both would survive, we have had many Hamans in our history trying to destoy us, they should learn, no one has been successful!
It was a special night for me. Prayed for the transgressions of the past year, whether committed in error or in purpose, to learn from it and hopefully will not commit it again this year..
Most importantly for me, a wandering Jew, from one part of the world to the other, it is important to sense and feel and belong to the jewish community and though that to the humanity.
Thank you Mark and Greta for making this evening special for me.

Kol Nidre is an Aramaic declaration, meaning "All Vows." It states that all personal vows and oaths that a person makes unwittingly, rashly or unknowingly during the year should be considered null and void since these types of vows would have been difficult to fulfill. It is interesting to note that Kol Nidre acquired particular significance during the period of persecutions in Spain in which some 100,000 Jews were forced to forswear the Jewish faith and adopt Christianity. The prayer was used by these secret Jews, or Marranos, as they were called, to renounce the vows that had been imposed upon them by the Inquisition.

vendredi 7 octobre 2011


The one who says I love you
is a lugubrious minstrel
who has lost his song I wish love had the tongue to speak

There are a thousand happy larks in your eyes
And a thousand silent canaries in my throat I wish love had the tongue to speak

The one who says I love you
is the sad heart of a night
who searches its moonlight I wish love had the tongue to speak

A thousand smiling suns are in your amble
A thousand weepy stars
in my hope I wish love had the tongue to speak

calling the lover who declares his love, Lugubrious, the poet immediately sets the ethos of the story
this is about a love that cannot be..

mournful, dismal, or gloomy, esp. in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner: lugubrious songs of lost love

Why has he lost his song? What is singing about is about a Love he has lost, that loss in my opinion increases his desires to sing .. not loosing his song… but what it could mean is clear in the next stanza
Silent canaries in my throat

No the lover has not lost his song but it has become silent
A canary is supposed to sing but now it has become silent which is

In the eyes of the woman, there are larks
While the silent canaries in the throat of a man

Why larks?

a merry, carefree adventure; frolic; escapade.

Innocent or good-natured mischief

her eyes are full of carefree adventure, she is happy?
Could it be that this is a case of Unrequitted Love?

Unrequited love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may not be aware of the admirer's deep affections.

The same sentiment continues with the beautiful metaphors about the night and the moon and the stars
Stars twinkling are always used for hope
Moon with its seduction is always used for love
Night and its darkness is always used for dejection, lack of hope

Suddenly I remembered the first line of the book
Love in the time of Cholera by Nobel prize winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez
It was inevitable. The smell of burnt almonds always reminded Dr Juvenal Urbino of unrequited love…..
it is as if the silence between had its own tongue of love..

jeudi 6 octobre 2011

Food for the Kickapoo.. in South Florida

The Traditional Kickapoo Tribe with their homes in Eagle Pass, Texas in Maverick County and Nacimiento in Coahuila, Mexico is one of the few tribes in North America with dual nationalities (Mohawk in NY and Turtle Mountain Chippewa in North Dakota come to mind). They are and they were fiercely independent and refused any contact with the US Govt at that time and went lock stock and barrel to Mexico 150 years ago where a grateful Mexican Government gave them large tracts of land, in the shadow of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
Maverick County which borders Mexico and Texas has 97 per cent spanish speaking Mexican population and the poverty rate is 1 out of 3 households, twice the national level. At one time there was plenty of discrimination against the Indians but lately they have become the largest employer in the area and the discrimination has eased somewhat.
I have visited Maverick county on numerous occasions and one thing I can tell you if you want good food, you better cross Rio Bravo and go to Mexico. Here is one example where America is not as good as Mexico. Since 9/11 and the recent narco wars, the crossing into Mexico is not as easy as it used to be.
I especially made a detour to be here in South Florida when my Kickapoo sister, Mena and another Kickapoo arrived to attend a conference being held at the Seminole Indian Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida. I appreciated this chance to show my appreciation to them and be a good host and especially to introduce to them a taste of the rest of the world.
As you can see in the collage above, I took them to : Thai, Italian, Peruvian, Cuban . Also made them taste: Croissants, Pain Au Chocolat, Cafe con Leche.
They were eager to try but many things were not easy on their palate but they were brave.
More than anything else, when they were out of the conference, which they attended dutifully, we had a good chance to talk and for me to learn a lot from them.
I wanted to make their visit to South Florida as memorable as possible. I may have succeeded.
I have invited Mena to come to La Habana to visit the Medical facilities there so that they can freely choose to go there for services not easily available in their poor county or surrounding region in Mexico, for example Neuro restoration of stroke patients.
My Cuban Mother is fascinated by the Kickapoo and always asks me, how are the Kickapoo? If Mena comes to La Habana, I will make sure my Cuban mother gets to meet her..
In the meantime, I am grateful for this chance ...


Steve Jobs in Teheran

This morning I received an email from Teheran, Iran:
Steve Jobs has died. The news made every one sad, even here in Iran, where few people use Apple products, people are not ignorant about his death. I checked Facebook, and I have seen lots of people sharing the news. There was something adorable in his character which one could see through his eyes.

The world today has been united in grief at the death of this great innovator, a great mentor, a good philosopher of life and death, who taught and inspired millions by his own example.
It made me think, there was a time we looked up to politicians, to inspire and unite and bring peace and harmony, but now the role is taken up by the innovators and visionaries as politicians have become corrupt and self aggrandizing and more interested in special groups rather than the general peace and harmony and welfare of the world.
Branson of the Virgin Atlantic inspires awe in people with his story. But can you think of any of the recent politicians in the UK that would bring that kind of awe?
There was a time, historically speaking when the world was full of vibrant politicians. Churchill in the UK, Adenauer and Brandt in Germany, Golda Meir and Rabin in Israel, Nehru in India, de Gaulle in France, Nasser in Egypt, Soekarno in Indonesia, Nkrumah in Ghana, Kenyatta in Kenya, JFK in USA, Whitlam in Australia, Tengku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia and some still living legends such as Lee Kuan Yew of Singapour and Mandela of South Africa.
Now, taking the example of India, the innovators are bountiful and pulling the country forward while the corrupt politicians drag it down, so we know the names of Ambani, Tata, Murty among others and very few of us can think of five current Indian politicians other than ManMohan Singh..
France has Sarkozy after the legendary deGaulle, we had wimpy Brown in the land of Churchill.. the examples are too numerous
The countries of greatness of yester years such as Iran are languishing in darkness, truly the middle ages have arrived for them. We will wait for a Steve Jobs from Arabia, a Churchill from Iran and a Tony Fernandez (CEO of Air Asia, which has done more to unite the South East Asian Countries than any other single person or entity) like PM for Malaysia.. it is a darkness of politics that covers us
And people like Steve Jobs are the light and the hope. Innovation and Vision has nothing to do with political ideology or religious affiliations, it has to do with the desire to help the humanity.

The world will miss Steve Jobs. Grateful to have lived at the same time as him on this earth where we could be blessed with his indomitable spirit and vision.

Kickapoo Friends Visit Florida

spending three days with my two Traditional Kickapoo friends from Eagle Pass, Texas/Nacimiento, Mexico was a great pleasure indeed. It made me wonder how these remnants and descendants of ancient people of this continent have maintained their superior value system to this day, despite all efforts to contaminate them.
I have known them for a while and once again I realized that they reinforced to me why they are in my life.
to teach me humility
teach you how to laugh with your heart
look at others without judging them and take pleasure in their pleasures
lack of self consciousness
they are proud to be Indian they dont want to be anything. For me, who is very proud of who I am and what I am ,it is always soothing to be with them.

Thank you for your time, dear friends, I will be coming to see you in your country soon enough.

lundi 3 octobre 2011

Cross Cultural Sensitivity and my Kickapoo friends

I have been fortunate to have been friends with the Traditional Kickpoos with current homelands in Eagle Pass Texas and Nacimiento Mexico. They were originally in the Green Bay area of North America, when the Europeans arrived in this country but their independence and resilience drove them to Mexico and current cultural status. Unlike other North American Indian tribes, Kickapoos do not believe in integration any more than necessary and consider it their main aim to maintain their cultural identity. I have to say, after having known them for a few years, they are succeeding. I respect them for it.
I would have gone to La Habana this week or gone to Paris but my Kickapoo sister Mena informed me that she and a friend would be at the Seminole Indian Reservation for a meeting. I thought to myself, here is an opportunity for me to show the same kind of hospitality they show me when I visit them in Texas or Mexico.
I picked them up at Fort Lauderdale Airport and they were lodged at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe near the Seminole Indian Reservation in Hollywood.
I told them that they are now in another "hispanic" area, and that Tacos are not de rigeur here and that i would like them to try various kinds of food. They reluctantly agreed. Indians are not adventurous when it comes to food but Mena has been trying.
I decided to take them to A Thai Restaurant along Stirling Road in Davie. They were not quite sure. I am glad i took them to this small restaurant and they looked at the menu. Their choice was Beef Spicy Fried Rice and Sweet and Sour Chicken. I made sure they tasted some satay.
I was quite relieved to know that they both liked their first ever Thai Meal! I enjoyed my Panang Curry with Chicken.
so I plan to take them to
Jewish Bakery, A Greek Restaurant, introduce them to Cafe Cubano and the cuisine of the island I love, perhaps even a tandoori.. I told them for the next three days , I will be driving you around to various places and we can taste different sorts of food. and the Last day you are here I will leave you alone and will not enquire what you have had to eat...
This is a cross cultural lesson in sensitivity for me as well. They are traditional but have adjusted to american life in their own terms not terms dictated by the American culture. They have no problems being Kickapoo, that is what they want to be, they dont want to be anything else, least of all Native American! they are not hyphenated Americans