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mercredi 24 juillet 2013

People of the Cape (qʷidiččaʔa·tx̌)….An Elder Visits

I am associated with the North American Indians, and over the course of time, have met some excellent Nurses.. MS and LL at Hocank, CP at Yankton and DG at Yakima. I have to say that the excellence of the Indian Health Service rests on the hardwork of these nurses and other non MD professionals within the system. It can be truly said that the system wont run this smoothly without them.

Received an email from DG at Yakama, asking my opinion about gifts given to her in the past by an Elder of the Makah tribe who has since passed over to the other world. She wanted to know whether it is appropriate to return them to a custodian within the tribe.

She had been seconded to the Makah Days celebrations in 1999 where the ceremonial hunt of the whale was rumoured to become confrontational between the Indians and the Non Indians who opposed to the whale hunting. Makah historically had killed one whale within the context of their ceremonies and celebrations. The ceremony passed without incidence and during the Makah days she met a Makah elder . He like many Indians of his generation was jovial, friendly, hospitable and willing to share the culture. Over the years they became friends, DG used to drive the day long trip over the weekend to spend time with her good, compassionate and wise friend from the Makah Tribe. As is the custom among the Indians, the elder gave my friend Makah handcrafts,  facsimiles of their famous canoe, leather jacket with makah motive sewn into it, and also a regular correspondence with news exchanged between the two. Ten years ago, the elder passed away and my friend guarded the gifts. She wanted to return to the tribe the gifts, in case it would be of some use. But who to write to ? She wrote to a sister of the Elder, who did not reply. A mutual friend informed her of the existence of a MAKAH museum and gave the name of the person who could be contacted.

They are also known as the People of the Rock Shelf and Sea Gulls .

Any one who have visited them and one of their villages at Neah Bay would immediately know how appropriate is the name for them, in this piece of land where they have lived from time immemorial.

From their strategic position at the entrance of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, they had watched outsiders come and go. Their museum contains the remains of their ancestral village at ozette which was buried in a landslide 500 years ago. Inn 1970, a tidal erosion exposed a group of these 500 year old homes and thousands of artifacts that helped re create the Makah life long before Europeans set foot on this continent. It is well worth a visit.

On arrival at Neah Bay, a four hour drive from the ferry that deposits you in Kingston, after a short driver from Seattle, one is confronted with a pristine port, full of fishing villages but without the trappings of modern day tourism.  Unlike many other ports this is entirely within an Indian reservation and thus subject to the laws of the tribe. The nature reigns here without much interruption. At the height of summer the temperature did not rise above 70 F and there was always this reminder that the mighty pacific ocean is just around the corner.

We soon found out why the letter to the sister had gone unanswered, she too had passed away and the lone surviving brother was in a hospital in Seattle. After consulting with him, it was decided to go and see the lady in charge of the museum, whose name had already been given to us.

After hearing our story, she shared her own recollection of her uncle, who this elder turned out to be and she was glad to receive memorabilia pertaining to him. We felt that they belonged there and were glad that they had returned home. These were gifts to my friend but as she explained, if she was not around, others would have thrown them out of ignorance
They celebrate Makah days towards the last weekend of August each year and they expect visitors at that time. The rest of the year, apart from intrepid travelers, the area is not on the radar of tourists, and as such there are no developed tourist facilities or dining establishments. For those who area  little adventurous, Neah Bay and the land of the Makah people would reward you with pristine scenery and some of the friendliest people in all of America

dimanche 14 juillet 2013


Life should be without Longings and Regrets
Once when I was a Junior Doctor at a hospital in Brisbane, Australia, I remember leaning on the wall to support myself, to relieve my mind of the intense  nostalgia of my life in Melbourne, especially some special friends.
I have never again experienced that depth of Nostalgia; anoransa in Spanish and even better, Saudade in Portugese.
Being fond of Mornas and Coladeras from Cabo Verde, a group of islands full of nostalgia and sodade, I learned to convert my nostalgia to fondness: the country I love most, Cuba remains in my heart, not as a weeping wound but a flower with an eternal perfume.
The countries which provided me with so much joy for the past few years: Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia, all are blanketed with a tenderness, that extends to its people, its scenery and its food.
I am grateful and I look forward to the next encounter.
Whether in Bali with a Japanese friend involved in saving the Jungles of Borneo or in Miami with  two delightful new friends from Aarhus in Denmark, to them I say, quoting my favourite poet Pablo Neruda: I have lived so much that I want to go on living
The other side of Saudade: missing something or someone even before you have experienced their departure is Regrets.  Songs and Poetry all express it elegantly.
I am sure you can think of one or two popular songs with lyrics that include Regrets…
It was the anthropologist, Margaret Mead who scorned at the idea that Regrets should be relegated to older age and hope to an younger age..
It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.

Each encounter in life, for me, is full of possibilities and one should explore it, but neither regrets nor longings would arise if there are no attachments.
Here the Buddhist, Yogic philosophy converge, and this would resonate with those people who follow the words of Krishnamurti.
We are the things we possess, we are that to which we are attached. Attachment has no nobility. Attachment to knowledge is not different from any other gratifying addiction. Attachment is self-absorption, whether at the lowest or at the highest level. Attachment is self-deception, it is an escape from the hollowness of the self. The things to which we are attached, property, people, ideas, become all-important, for without the many things which fill its emptiness, the self is not.
Decrease your desires. I was taught. Be grateful for what you have and don’t be unhappy with that which you do not have, said my Indian teachers.
Attachment makes the soil of your heart and soul infertile for happiness.
Here I must thank YMC, my dear friend from KL, who made me aware of the Kleishas, the structural defects of the mind, who acts as a gatekeeper for my kleishas whenever they rise  up in my heart.
Among the Indians, nothing happens without the basis of a Relationship, in the social context. So life has become one long series of experiences of intensely savouring the experiences of others while offering to exchange your own to listen and learn from the others.
It is when you wish to hang on to those sweet moments or further indulge in them, that nostalgia and regrets arise. This particular friend who gave me that intense feeling of Nostalgia at a Brisbane hospital, explained it very clearly: We love each other so much, that we must never see each other again, in this way we will always have each other..

Written in Miami, on this day the skies are a misty gray, with expectant clouds with thunder and rain, after meeting two delightful friends from Denmark, and think of a recent encounter in Bali

mardi 2 juillet 2013


Each of the person I met today –in the context of the interactions of capitalist culture of travel- was culturally competent. They had been born into families speaking Bembera or Farsi, had to adjust themselves to French or English Language. Most importantly they had to adjust ot the transient, individualistic, north American mentality of a present without a past.
What we need is Efficiency-whether they wear a burqah or turban or speaking accented English or French..
Remember, the Chinese are waiting.. to gobble you up. Don't worry, the Indians and the Brazilians are not interested in you.
You see cultural competency being translated into commercial efficiency:
At Louis Vuitton stores in Paris, there are Japanese speaking Attendants
At Gallerie Lafayette in Paris, there is a separate section for Mandarin Speakers.
At the Security at Montreal Airport, I asked the agent, what languages he speaks.. he answered.. French and English, a little bit of Spanish.. and then he added,
I am learning Chinese.
You will need it, I added.
All western nations are courting the Chinese tourists, regardless of the crude nature of the behaviour of some of them, but Yuan makes the vultures forget the crassness…
When I arrived at the Montreal International Airport, the shabbiness of the airport was a throwback to lesser sophisticated times-it reminded me of the old Bogota Airport (as Mortiz Thomsen would say where the drug lords were displaying their trophy wives)..
The inefficiency of the operations were immediately evident. The Border Control agent a long time to let me go to the Transit areas, only after a telephone call. But no one was at the door of the transit lounge, had to wait more than 15 minutes, standing there by myself, bringing the matter to the attention of the Security personnel. As it is common, in the western world, the service personnel (ticketing agents, boarding service personnel, café waiters, cleaners at the Maple Leaf Lounge etc) were all foreigners, most of them just proficient in one of the two official languages. Where are the native Canadians, now that most manufacturing has flown off to China? Swiss Air which I was flying today, the agents at the counter were anything but Swiss in their efficiency.
I could name it the Montreal Malaise. To get a boarding pass reissued needed the assistance of one Asian, one African and one Irani…
Do you remember the old jokes about JAP.. jewish American princesses?  How many Japs does it take to change a Light Bulb?
While the Westerners are worried about
Cultural Competence
Cultural Sensitivity
And teaching to respect these values, which cannot be taught anyway. ( look at the rise of the fascist, anti immigration political scene in Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary and Greece)
Do you think it is relevant to put up highway signs in Arizona to say
We Love Mexicans
Or advertise what the French say:
On a billboard in Toulouse..
There are no Arabs of Moslems in France, only French.

The Asians are running further and further away and ahead. In the capitalist system, social coherence, empathy is not what is stressed, but money, profit. (whereas as an average WALMART employee does not get liveable wages or medical benefits, the CEO is proud of his 22 million dollar Salary!)
Don't continue to blame the Chinese for human rights abuses (but don't forget it either)
NIKE, ZARAH and multitude of others who made use of Cheap Labour and unhealthy practices as in Bangladesh (remember the recent collapse of a clothing factory where more than 1000 people died!)
Is it also not a form of abuse of human rights?
It looks like there is only one currency
Money, Profit, Stockholders, Stocks, Shares..

Amidst all these, falling European living standards, rising Asian living standards, lack of human rights and ethics on a global scale.. sit the immigrants, 200 million of them
Eritreans in Australia
Turks in Germany
Sri Lankans in Norway
Sudanese in North Dakota
Afghanis in Britain
Bangladeshis in Malaysia
Indonesians in Singapore
Burmese in Dubai
Filipinos anywhere they can go
Moroccans, Algerians, Nigerians, West Africans, East Africans, South Africans..

Lucky are the people who do not have to emigrate because the pleasure of living in ones own country, in a state of contentment, is a cornerstone of a house of happiness.

When I was an adolescent, some one  gave me a key chain with the following words
"Never mind, it is good to die for our country" (En davar,  tov lamut be'ad artzenu                       
ארצנו בעד  למות טוב,דבר אין I am unable to write the Hebrew characters in the correct order! here the characters are from left to right, which is not the case with Hebrew..

I am grateful that I have lived in 10 different countries without being a Immigrant, in my eyes and in the eyes of the locals, in any one of them!

lundi 1 juillet 2013


On a recent visit to South East Asia, to Malaysia and Indonesia, discussions with my friends made one realize that in a very short period of time, there has been a shift in the minds of the Asians. There was a blind adoration of all things western which was normal as the countries were coming out of colonialism. Now Asians, like many Asian descendants in the West, are no longer ashamed of being Asians and dont have to make an apology.
During a nice evening under the stars in Gotong Jaya, my good friend C, had introduced me a person MF, who now exemplifies the new world order. Intellectually on par with anyone if not surpassing a westerner, but at the same time maintaining certain good aspects of being Asian, such as the strong family ties.
The Western Hegemony is over, said my friend C. That does not mean we think of ourselves as superior or not listen to the westerners but go back to the age old wisdom of the American Indians: We are all related, we are connected more than ever. Only a fool now would say, East is better than the West or vice versa, but it is good to find the place where there is a good fit with your cultural/intellectual leanings and aspirations. or in some cases, oscillate between the magnets that attracts you.
It is always important in this everchanging and fluctuant world of interconnectivity and knowledge transfer, that you know WHO you are.. What you are is becoming less and less important, even more your passport and national identification, apart from some deep values.
It was so good to watch a talk given by Paddy Ashdown on TED brussels.

I highly recommend any one interested in this rapidly changing world to give it a and the world would be better off for it ...