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vendredi 31 janvier 2014



I was quite happy to obtain a ticket from Miami to Brussels, via  a rather circuitous route of flying
Miami to Washington DC on a CRJ700 operated by Mesa Airlines seat 1 A  2 hours 
Washington DC to Tokyo  on a 777-200 operated by United Airlines   seat 6B  13h45 min
Tokyo to Singapore on a 787-8 Dreamliner operated by All Nippon, seat 4H 7 hours 

This is the fastest I have gotten to Singapore from Miami which usually takes more than 30 hours of connections and flying, this time it was more like 26 or 27 hours with good connections in Tokyo with its extremely efficient staff. 

Also I was happy to be in Asia as they celebrate the Year of the Horse of the Chinese and also the Lunar New Year of Tet in Vietnam! 
I am writing this from the airport in Changi, Singapore and it is unusually quiet. Today and yesterday are not the dates of travel for the Chinese as they would like to be with their families. I am on my way to my Chinese friends in Bogor but New Year is not the occasion, but an intense exercise regimen with excellent eating, including some Sundanese food, is on the agenda. 
I am already looking forward to my flight on QR from CGK via DOH to BRU

My dear Kickapoo, who live in Texas and Mexico would be celebrating their New Year with the usual rituals which are hidden from outsiders. I know that the Spiritual leader of the Kickapoo whose blessings I seek for my family and friends, awaits the announcement of the new year by the Thunder Spirits and as soon as the new rain and thunder appear, he declares the New Year. This usually comes around a Lunar calendar too but it is not rigidly set. Once the announcement is made, the news spread faster than their new cellular phone connections (many of them have both Mexican and usa based cellular phones!), and they all troop down to their ancient home territory by the valley of the Sierra Madre Oriental by the river and begin a week of celebrations and prayers.
I wish many friends of mine among the Kickapoo a pleasant time reaffirming their cultural identity.

So it is a pleasure for me to wish a happy year to come to my Chinese friends overseas, especially EC in Seattle, Washington; JT and MW in Singapore as well as Pak Chee in Kuala Lumpur. My Indonesian Chinese friends seem very secular about the New Year Celebrations since they are culturally well integrated into the modern Indonesian society. In any case, I would be physically with them so that itself would be a great celebration! 

Good friends who have remained close to my heart in our sister socialist country of Vietnam, T and N in HoChiMinh and C in Hanoi, as well as the Cuban-Vietnamese family near Dalat, Bienvenidos La Cubanita Vietnamita!

So happy to think of Family and Friends and I know that they too would join me in celebrating and wishing every one a Contented New Year of the Horse
especially my sister J, her husband J and a new friend C and some old friends M and G in Miami
my mischpochah in Portland, especially my brother E who has sat down in this very same airport with me more than once
I don't have too many doctor friends and they know who they are: M N and my brother R and J in South Dakota!
my sister friends in the Indian Country: Yakima, Hocank, Lakota, Kickapoo
and I reserve the best for Last, my friends and lovers in Cuba, whose names are tattooed in my heart!

vendredi 10 janvier 2014



While I was studying Anthropology in London, the buzzword of the day was Cross Cultural Awareness, how it is necessary to become aware of other cultures! Professor Adam Kuper lamented how the word “Culture” had been used in the media and public worldview, rather than what it actually means. Another lecturer added that for most people, Multi Culturalism of the day meant that they could get chicken curry at the canteen!
Cultural Diversity is the buzzword now. In the Jan 9, 2014 of Business+Strategy, it stated in a lead article:
When we recently surveyed more than 2,200 global businesspeople to get their take on culture’s role in business, we saw that culture is widely seen as more important than companies’ strategies or operating models. This view of culture’s importance holds true around the world.
Every time I travel in the USA, I am delighted how diverse this country has become; in fact, it is the most diverse country on this planet.
On arrival at the airport, the shuttle bus driver, the lady at the reception at the hotel, the waiters at the local restaurant, the entire staff at Versailles or La Carreta restaurants in Miami was all-foreign born. In fact, Miami holds the distinction of any city with the largest number of foreign-born citizens in the world! (Gulf States don't count since indentured labourers, both European and Non European there are not citizens)
(Asia, Middle East, Africa, South America represented in the above photograph)
This is very positive! Each of the migrants come with the strong values of the culture from their homeland, tend to adopt the best work ethic and the positive values of the American Culture, thus they are an addition to the sociocultural and economic landscape. They tend to be happier, apart from the usual longing for their countries of origin, they are usually grateful to be in the USA.
They are anchored to their cultures, they are happy to be in the USA, and grateful for the opportunities which they take full advantage.
I asked myself the posed question, would this concept of Cultural Diversity also disappear, when I pondered the darker side of this phenomenon, culturally speaking, while my flight was about to land in Honolulu, Hawaii recently.
My Meskwakia teacher once said: I am baffled by the white people, when I ask them, who they are, they say I am ¼ English, ¼ German. ¼ French and ¼ Scandinavian. That makes no sense to me, four quarters do not add up to one, it adds up to Zero!
The European immigrants to the USA have been mixing among themselves for a while now, the famous “melting pot” theory. I am a mutt, is a frequent answer heard in the USA, when you ask them about their origins. I speak more Swedish than most Americans who identify themselves as Swedish. In small Midwestern towns, it is not unusual to see:  Czech days, Bohemian Festival, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Italy fondly remembered-usually with extremely superficial song and dance and a very Americanised cuisine of what might have been once a great cuisine.
What does this loss of culture lead to?
A line from Pablo Neruda floats up the mind.
Un alma sin raices es injusticia
A soul without roots is injustice
One could say, they have become Americanised (Australianised or canadianized?), but what does that mean?
Especially in societies which are conscious of colour of the skin of the inhabitants? (Could that disappear over time as well?)
What would be the relationships with each other? Across the lines of lineage? (There is greater tendency for Native Americans to marry Mexicans, for example, rather than whites; does it have a cultural or economic basis?)
How does this affect the “success rate”? (Doing well functioning in the integrated society)
(Aloha from Hawaii, Iorana from Rapa Nui, Bienvenidos from Miami!)
I am an American, a Mexican living in Texas will inform me, in his broken English, while cleaning the hotel lobby. Yes, I would encourage him and at the same time tell him, don't forget your ancestors did not come over on the Mayflower, teach your children Spanish and let them know about Montezuma! This self-denial, as Octavio Paz called it, a sense of shame, affects their chances of rising through the social ranks, an anthropologist would say.
I have felt that the designation of Hispanic, to include the predominantly Mexican population of America but with Cubans in Miami (a high achievement group) and other Europeans from South America (Chile, Brasil, Argentina, all better integrated into the American society), was constructed to hide the consequences of this sense of shame. A Cuban in Miami is never ashamed of being a Cuban and of speaking Spanish.
On my flight, my seatmate was an elegantly dressed Chinese lady. She told me her story.
23 years ago when I came from Shanghai as a student to the USA, most people expected me to be from Hong Kong or Taiwan, and I felt a sense of neglect, said this “successful” corporate lady from Dallas, Texas. Now I feel the respect accorded to the Mainland Chinese, proud of being part of a powerful nation on Earth!
My father, Olav ha shalom, told me of Zhou En Lai who seems to have understood the reason for this lack of respect for the overseas Chinese. Not even a Chinaman’s luck was an epithet for extreme misfortune! When all of us get ahead, Zhou En Lai was said to have professed, then the whole world would respect the Chinese.  What a visionary!
Being a member of the “other” group, from more than one sociocultural point of view, I am well satisfied with the reception and respect accorded to me in various parts of the world, even in countries with peculiar xenophobia such as Jamaica.
A recent compliment was from a social activist in Hanga Roa- you look like you are from here too!
(Miami Beach from the air)
Look at the successful “groups” of people who are migrants to another country.
There are wonderful stories of “culturally distinct” groups in the USA
Early 20th Century   Jews, Armenians
Late 20th Century            Cubans and East Indians
Knowing the Cuban situation well, I can say that Cuban migration to Florida since 1962 has to be considered one of the most successful integration into the host society by any group, especially in the economic and educational spheres.
I was happy to see my friend Jawar at his supervisory capacity at a hotel in Waikiki. When he gave me his email, with promises of a good rate on my next visit, I noticed that his last name had a distinct Spanish tilt to it: Bautista
You are a local, right? I enquired
Yes I am a Hawaiian but I am of Pilipino/Puerto Rican/African heritage. Since he has no native Hawaiian blood in him, he passes under my Meskwaki teacher’s rule: four quarters don't make one but Zero! At the Sakura lounge at Honolulu International Airport, the receptionist told me she was Filipina/Chinese/Spanish and wanted to know how that mixture would affect her health. The Chinese and the Spanish (European Spanish and not Hispanic as in Mexican) parts would compensate for the ill health suffered disproportionately by the Filipino migrants to the USA- in a nutshell.
I am born in Miami, my mother is Mexican and my father is Cuban, said the AA agent. He had no shame to speak Spanish, he did it well.
I told him:
Welcome to the USA! (He should welcome me?), with a Kenyan-European President, Cuban-Americans rapidly ascending the corporate ladder (check out Cuban-Americans in Wikipedia and you would be astounded how many are CEOs of major companies in the USA including McDo!), Chinese American doctors, Vietnamese manicurists (mine is! From the delta)…etc. etc. etc.
It is good to be a Jew among them all!
Even the wines offered at a recent party in Miami reflect the cultural diversity: France, California, Chile, South Africa)

mercredi 8 janvier 2014



One of the pleasures of being trained as a Medical Anthropologist is to absorb with the vision you have been taught about the Society and Health, very quickly while integrating yourself. In a way you have to become a symbol of healing yourself, not an agent of some change, treatment or advise.
In my early days at the University of Havana, I had noticed, the medical doctors always talked about GOODS: and in quantitative fashion, such as:
How much is such and such a text book in the USA?
Whereas the Medical Anthropologists always talked about ideas
This distinction is much the same as the modern European and european influenced ways of thinking which are Quantitative and Indigenous ways of thinking which are much more qualitative.

Embody characteristics which are emic to them.
What are they? The values which they live by?
Without a genuine interest in their culture, it would be difficult to learn or understand it. This becomes acute, when sickness or suffering is involved. Perhaps that is why there is such a general dissatisfaction with the rotating doctors in any Indigenous community whether the Chilean doctors in Rapa Nui or the Doctor of the Day at many of the Indian Health   Clinics.

(two pineapples, locally grown, were given to me, at the home of the first patient I visited in Rapa Nui)
Rapa Nui Symbolism
Openness to friendship so that you can receive their friendships
Non Commercial nature of friendships or transactions
Accepting their Explanatory Models
Many of the above are common to many indigenous cultures but 
FRIENDLINESS and lack of Moroseness
seem to be more often seen in Rapa Nui
Offer Comfort

Talk about Natural Remedies
References to remote past and history always brings out a good response, this I learned from American Indians
Herbs, Natural Teas
Principles of Breathing, Yoga or Meditation, translated into the local ambience

take into consideration that of the 6000 inhabitants of Rapa Nui, only 60 % can be classified as Rapa Nui

mardi 7 janvier 2014


I was mulling over an email while walking towards the Church, at the end of the street.

My friend in Miami was talking about Shlomo Carlebach whose name had been mentioned in the Study group led by Rabbi Mitch Chevitz.
Had I met him in Copenhagen or in Lund? Is it possible? I had heard so many stories about him. That triggered a whole lot of thought about
A dental student from New Jersey
Rabbi Mitch Chevitz
Irena Glaser and all the occasions related to them.
Reminding me
That we are being mindful
Not directed by desires
No Attachment
But appreciating the beauty of each moment and the moments shared with people around you.
I was thinking all these, while I walked towards the Church in the village of Hanga Roa, in Rapa Nui.
The services had already finished; an older couple were walking towards me.
She was limping a bit, holding on to her husband’s shoulder
Hello, I greeted them.
Iorana, they replied, the typical Rapa Nui greeting of welcome
Are you well, senora, I asked her.
Not very well, my son, my knees are hurting
Thus began my first medical consultation in Rapa Nui on this visit.
She wanted to sit down, we entered a shop with two chairs, and we sat down.

She is a grandchild of a French Sailor who left her grandmother pregnant many years ago
He is pure Rapa Nui, she says pointing to her husband, the dignity of the island deeply etched on his face
We talked about her illness, sounded a combination of osteoarthritis of the left knee, which was swollen, making her movements a little difficult
Plenty of sunshine and Vitamin D
They have lost almost all the knowledge about the natural remedies
Medical is just basic
The preserved food that comes from the Continent may not be good for us, she stated.
We talked about cooking with oil
I promised that I will send her some natural teas, some thing in the order of Chamomile for soothing her evenings.

Her husband in the meantime had slipped into the shop, comes out with two shell necklaces and put them around my neck
How lovely are these people!
A lesson to be learned, be friendly, not only with the people you know, but every one that comes across your path
Each and every one
She told me about her family, two daughters, two grand daughters studying in Chile, one wants to be an actress in theatre and wants to go to the USA.
Her daughter, who was walking on the other side of the street, joined us. She is the mother of the two daughters studying in Santiago de Chile.
She wrote down on a piece of paper their address so that I can send her some tea as promised
I noticed that their surnames all bore the proud history of this island
Of course, there are no addresses, just Post Office, Isla de Pascua, Chile
After saying good-bye to them, I stopped by the church; the worshippers had already vacated it.
Next door is the Artisanal market, geared for the tourists, with extravagantly highly priced local chotchkes!
I saw a lady sitting on a chair with obviously swollen legs
How are you doing? I asked
Regular, she replies, the Latin way of saying, I am just okay.
She has hypertension, has swollen legs
She is dissatisfied with the rotating doctors from Chile
She is taking medications for Hypertension and it is under control, she says
I talked to her for a while; it was obvious that more than kidney function, sitting in the chair long hours waiting for the tourists to sell her wares may be the reason for the oedema.
I will bring my stethoscope and check you tomorrow, I said
Okay, I will be here, waiting for you, she said
(I did come back with my stethoscope the next day!)
In a matter of minutes you can reach out and touch so many people
Only because you are open
And you let others in
People don't want to be friendly with you
When you are shut within yourself
That is why the tourists, don't return my smiles, while walking on the main street in Hanga Roa
But not the more innocent Rapa Nui
I felt that the tourists are here physically, to see the sights, but they remained chained to wherever they are chained to.

Felt good to be here among the Rapa Nui.

lundi 6 janvier 2014


Have you ever heard the term WEIRD? I do not mean it in the deviation from normal, sense of the word but
Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic Societies, it is in the first chapter of the book by Jared Diamond: The World Until Yesterday.
He writes, “ yet psychologists base most of their generalizations about human nature on studies of our own narrow and atypical slice of human diversity”. Most of the papers published in psychological journals deal with subjects who are not even typical of the societies they live in, he continues.
So it is always interesting to read Medical Journals in which an “Intensive” treatment regimen is compared to the “usual care”. As it is well known, a large fraction of clinical studies involving drugs or weight loss methods come from the USA. And of course, the lay press and the media would tout the results:
Weight Loss Can be maintained over a Long Period of Time
But if you read the description of the studies, the “Intensive” care is so atypical of the care that is provided and can be afforded by the population of obese people in the United States, where as the usual care is the one most of them can hope to obtain, and in the case of the poor people, have not hope of obtaining. It is good to remember that, in industrialized societies, majority of the poor are overweight or obese.
Experimental: Lifestyle Intervention
Participants in the lifestyle intervention arm are offered individual and group sessions designed to help achieve and maintain weight loss.
Behavioral: Lifestyle Intervention
The lifestyle intervention is implemented
 with individual supervision and group
sessions and is aimed at achieving and
 maintaining at least a 7% decrease in
weight from baseline and 175 minutes
 per week in physical activity.
It is implemented during a four-year
period with the most intensive application
 during the first year, less frequent
 attention during the next three years,
and a minimum of twice yearly contacts
 during an extended follow-up period.
To help participants achieve and
maintain weight loss, a variety of diet
strategies (e.g. prepared meals and
liquid formula), exercise strategies,
and optional weight loss medications
are utilized based on a preset algorithm
and participant progress.
Active Comparator: Diabetes Support and Education
The diabetes support and education arm provides group sessions on diabetes management and social support.
Behavioral: Diabetes Support and
Participants assigned to diabetes
support and education are offered
three sessions each year in diabetes
management and social support.

While we are taught that we must compare oranges to oranges and apples to apples, studies coming out compare oranges to apples and say that oranges are not as sweet as apples or some such.
Studies such as these reinforce the current understanding that societal forces play an important part in the overweight and obesity “crisis” in the industrialized nations, and that we must look at the system rather than the individual for an answer, in addition to the general education of the public as well as availability of reasonably priced, good quality food without much chemical interference!
Social System, write the sociologists,
Sociological idea that society and health are structures that
are well when they are in a homeostatic equilibrium and that change is