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CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD

CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD On my way out of Cuba, from La Habana, on COPA airlines flight to Panama, I w...

dimanche 17 janvier 2016

CONTENT TO BE WITH AMERICAN INDIANS.. DESPITE THE SNOW AND THE COLD... CUBA IS WAITING

After leaving France and Belgium, it was so good to spend a few days in Miami, my American home. Miami always reminds me of the variety of food and the people, some of whom I have known for a long time.
It was time to go to the Indians. 
I can never get over the friendliness of the people who inhabit the middle of this country and the reception they give me, each and everytime, considering that they see at least once a month consistently, except perhaps the month of February when only the brave souls venture out here to visit the Natives.
While it was not snowing or raining or windy, the temperatures were in the single digits (minus C).
I had braced my self for it. The employees at Sleep Inn where I spend the night of my arrival and at AVIS where I rent my car, are so overtly welcoming. I thought it not incongruous that the car they offered me had plates that said TSH, very appropriate for an Endocrinologist.
The rituals continue, and the next stop was Trader Joe's to stock up for the stay, as the village of my destination has nothing in the way of supermarket or cafe. At Trader Joe I was greeted very warmly by the same faces and I was happy to hear that the lady with two children was getting married and hoping for good weather at the end of April for her outdoor ceremony.
The drive north through the sparsely populated countryside makes you appreciate our earth, barren under the snow, blindingly white snow.

 at the end of the drive, passing through small town such as Hermann, Blair, Tekemah, Decatur, Macy, one reaches Walthill, a town within the Omaha Indian Reservation.
The sight of the Blue House is always welcome!
The house is warm and very clean (thanks to a patient of mine) and I get about settling down for the next ten days. Enough Food and some nice sauvignon blanc from New Zealand..

I have surrounded my self in this refuge with symbols of my cultural identity and affiliation.
Cuba is present everywhere in this house. I even have Coffee and Sugar from Cuba. Chocolates are from Belgium, Sardines from Quiberon in Brittany.
Brown sugar from the eastern part of Cuba, the bottle is the cuban brand of water.
Once I am here, my mind switches off the rest of the world, I am fully conscious where I am, with the Indians, to be with them, I have travelled from other continents, and I am content. No attachment to my other "lives" but concentrate on the goal at hand and enjoy the people I have come to serve.
And there are always unexpected pleasures. Students come to the Clinic and they spend the day with me, during which time I regale them with stories about Indians, philosophy of Life and travels. I enjoy their curiosity and the innocence with which they look at the world. This time I was lucky in that the two who spent time at the clinic with me were a cut above.
Very curious, interested in the welfare of the patients she would serve in the future, not only interested in self but mostly in others, knowledgeable in her field and very helpful to me during the day to an extent that I trusted her medical judgement, I wish her well in her career. She made me realize that some students look for jobs and some look for a career, she belongs to the latter.
I have the luxury of long interactions with patients as I request a light schedule (one hour per patient whether I know them or not), and it is such a pleasure when traditional Indians come in. It is incredible that even after 300 or so years of contact, many Indians think just like their ancestors did and have such unpolluted minds. It is a pleasure to take care of them, physically, emotionally and occasionally spiritually, and be a part of their world.
The days pass swiftly and each day I wonder how the hours passed so swiftly! 
The weekends are a bit difficult, especially during the winter. Indians are busy with their lives and unless there are ceremonies that I want to attend, the weekend (I am very seldom here for more than one) is a solitary one, completely immersed in books and article, reading and writing and as such very productive. I think about the pure loves in my life and innocent interactions that I had enjoyed in the days prior. I enjoy the solitude, as in my next destination, Cuba, being alone is almost impossible!
On Friday night, while the night outside is cold and biting, it is so good to light Shabbat Candles and wish friends and mischpochah Shabbat Shalom...

lundi 11 janvier 2016

SWOON OVER MIAMI MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TROPICAL LANGUOR

SWOON OVER MIAMI: LOVE AFFAIR WITH TROPICAL TORPOR CONTINUES. 2016
Just a few days ago, I said a symbolic good bye to Europe. It is symbolic rather than pedantic, as I have said good-byes to Europe previously, Sweden, France, and England. I still long for London but to others I have no attachment.
American Airlines Flight 39 took me from London to Miami. On arrival, Global Entry machines demand your fingerprints and then cautiously questions, in print, were you on flight 39? I answer yes and that is it, you are welcome to the USA and within minutes I am waiting for my café cortado ..On the other side.. The Cuban Miami.
Miami was love at first sight when I arrived here as a Graduate Student and then again as a full-fledged doctor to study Endocrinology.
More importantly this is where my love for Cuba was born! To be able to live on “ambos lados del rayo” on both sides of the line has been a privilege.
Coming to Miami before going off to other destinations has the advantage of integrating yourself into American Culture and environment. My sister lives here and I am always relaxed at her house, the fact that she can make the best Baba Ganoush, Taboule and Hummus is an added incentive of course . Years ago while enjoying this common Mediterranean foods, I was able to formulate the concept of Genetic Food, that you must eat your ancestors food, which in my case , resembles what my sister cooks for me.

My younger brother who would travel a hundred miles for a good foul madames, must be green with envy as I feasted on foul, hummus and other delights of our ancestors.

The languorous  days were broken only by visits to Carlito’s Café where the seasoned Cuban waitresses extended their effusive welcome, and I realized that in Cuba, Starbucks would only be popular among the tourists. We already have the champagne of coffees there...
Harvard scientists following the original class of 1938, had made the startling but fresh discovery that in the end relationships is all what that matters. Not being a member of Facebook, and knowing the significance of Dunbar number which caps our capacities for good friendships at far below 15, visits to Miami on top of the tattooed in your heart friendships in Cuba, I have my 15 already!!
In Europe it seems that relationships are measured in terms of blood ties on which is based what one can do for another or give and take. In Miami and Cuba, my aim in my relationships have always been to appreciate the other to such a degree that it would bring them closer to their dreams
                 (Brickell Bay and memories of student days in Miami)
This visit was especially good. A good friend was visiting from Cayman Islands. My dear friends M and G were as usual the gracious hosts with whom I had the luck of sharing a very nice meal at Prima Pasta.


This emotionally satisfying visit, congruous with what I believe happiness derives from, was capped by an invitation received from TED MED to be a Research Scholar for 2016 with a possibility to attend the meeting in November 2016. It is truly an honour.
Now in the days to come, I play the medical anthropologist to the Indians of America, and return to the dear ISLA RICA south of here to give two conferences, one to a group of Family Physicians and the other to Endocrinologists of Havana

The second topic would be looking at Obesity and Diabetes from the socio cultural point of view, rather than physiologic or biomedical. The first talk is the one I am looking forward to giving: 100 different thing you can do to make you and your patients happy and healthy, which would be an amalgam of scientific studies, yogic philosophy, Buddhist thinking and the teachings of American Indians.

jeudi 7 janvier 2016

REMEMBERING CHARLIE HEBDO JANUARY 7TH IN MIAMI SENTIMENTS OF A JEWISH TRAVELER


During the years I lived in Europe, I had to tragically witness three terrorist attacks, two of them involving mainly Jews and the last one in November 2015 of the indiscriminate assassination of innocents in Paris.
The first one, involving Jewish teachers and Jewish children hardly evoked comments. Charlie Hebdo drew widespread attention and sympathy, not only from France but from around the world. (the majority of the victims were Jewish). 
But the government responses from France and Belgium were less than adequate
I thought of the French philosopher who commented? First they came for the Jews, I did not comment...etc and when they came for me, there was no one left to comment.
As a Jewish Traveller, I feel very safe in most countries in the world I travel to, I felt completely safe on a recent trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. In Israel, you know that your brothers and sisters are looking out for you and it is much safer for a Jew to be in Israel than in France or Belgium, even though a recent stay in Brittany, it was as if Charlie Hebdo had not happened. The largest proportion of migrants to Israel last year was from France, if that serves as a social commentary.
On the taxi ride to the Brussels airport, the Brussels born taxi driver and I talked about the problems facing children of North African immigrants. In the USA, you would never even think of him as an outsider, but his question was poignant: it is difficult to integrate when the society points out to you that you are not Belgian? Israel is the prime example of a country which has integrated over 140 different nationalities into its national fibre, USA is fantastic when it comes to integration of nationalities while allowing them to maintain cultural characteristics, it being the home of the largest number of languages spoken in the Developed World!
One year later  I AM STILL  CHARLIE   JE SUIS CHARLIE and refuse to fall into the shallowness of Islamophobia and looking at a person, such as the Brussels born Moroccan origin taxi driver as an OTHER.
Bernard Lewish, the British Born Jewish Historian who is nearly 100 years old, is a beacon when it comes to explain the middle eastern history. We now use the world Assassins irreverently, but Bernard Lewis traces the history of an Ismaili sect of Muslims who used assassinations for political goals and thus the origin of the the sect, which has since died out and the origin of the word in common parlance.

mercredi 6 janvier 2016

UNEXPECTED PLEASURES OF 2016 WELCOME TO CUBA

Life is not about the regrets about the PAST nor about the anxieties of the FUTURE.
As I sit here at the Admirals Club at Heathrow Airport in London, I realize that the sad departure from my life in Europe is mingled with the excitement of unexpected pleasures to come in 2016 of which Cuba would certainly be one.
This is the fourth time I am saying Good Bye to Europe: Sweden was the first country I lived in Europe, then it was London, England on two different occasions, once as a student; for the past nine years I have made over 100 trips to France and Belgium.Saying Good Byes to countries is nothing new in my life.. Jamaica, various places in the USA, but never to Miami..the three places in Australia, one of which, Melbourne was my home!
Even my travels follow the path of renewals.. While I lived in Australia, I tried to cover the South Pacific Nations; while I lived in Miami, I tried to cover the Caribbean; and in the past few years, I have traveled extensively to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia. This morning I noted with some sadness that I have not been to South East Asia since July 2014! There was a period when I was in Buenos Aires frequently enough to be mistaken for a local at Palermo stores and cafes...
Miami would always be there
CUBA is where my heart has been and where my heart is and that would always be HOME...
(my cuban colleagues)

This year I look forward to travel to 
Qatar
Cochin
Amazon River
and perhaps a return to South East Asia, Cambodia ..

Hasta Luego Amigos!

Here is thought for today from the Indian Elders, in this case, Rolling Thunder
"When we're through with this earth and all these problems, we don't have to come back. But as long as we're here we have a job to do and a purpose to fulfill, and that means dealing with the circumstances around us."
-- Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE
We are put on the earth to participate in life. We have a beautiful mind, we have the ability to pray, we have the ability to change, we have the ability to accept, and we have choices. All things God created are constantly changing. This constant change causes our circumstances to change. Sometimes we say life is difficult. During these times we need to use our tools: the tools of prayer, and the tools of meditation. We are designed to change and live joyfully on this earth. The only requirement for living joyfully is to live according to the laws, principles, and values given to us by the Creator.

WHAT HAD JIDDU KRISHNAMURTHY  TO SAY ON THIS DAY?


Self-knowledge is not a thing to be bought in books, nor is it the outcome of a long painful practice and discipline, but it is awareness, from moment to moment, of every thought and feeling as it arises in relationship. Relationship is not on an abstract, ideological level but an actuality,the relationship with property, with people, and with ideas. Relationship implies existence and, as nothing can live in isolation, to be is to be related. Our conflict is in relationship, at all the levels of our existence and the understanding of this relationship, completely and extensively, is the only real problem that each one has. This problem cannot be postponed nor be evaded. The avoidance of it only creates further conflict and misery; the escape from it only brings about thoughtlessness, which is exploited by the crafty and the ambitious. - Krishnamurti, The Collected Works, Vol. VI",50,Choiceless Awareness

On arrival in Miami, my sister had prepared such a tasty middle eastern food which is my genetic food, we talked and laughed as we do when we are at a table
As the Harvard study had found out
In the end, what all matters are RELATIONSHIPS
Cultivate it,, sacrifice for it and enjoy it
Otherwise You have only LONELINESS to embrace in your life as it progresses..
For me a meal without laughter at the table is no Meal at all.. it would be just like animals filling their guts to satisfy their hunger. Human beings are meant to be social, to talk, laugh and chat and exchange information and knowledge..

SWAMI SIVANANDA'S 

 Message of the Day for Wednesday, January 6, 2016


 There is something good even in all seeming failures.  You are not able to see that now.  Time will reveal it.  Be patient.

A line from Pablo Neruda comes to mind

“Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us”






lundi 4 janvier 2016

IF YOU WISH TO BE HAPPY PRACTICE COMPASSION, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE OTHERS HAPPY PRACTICE COMPASSION

Yesterday I was watching a TED talk video from the director of the Harvard Project , which had followed a cohort of people in Boston, including Harvard College students 1938, for the past 75 years. It is illuminating what amounts for Happiness Health and Longevity!
In short: GOOD RELATIONSHIPS!
If you have time, you may wish to watch it. It is in English with no subtitles available.


The day before I had read a blog on addiction to Sadness! How to feel good being sad for yourself or for others or showing interest in their sadness.
http://theinnbythehealingpath.com/
In another blog I will write about wounded healers, a concept first expounded by CG Jung himself but the idea of wounded warriors appeal to me. I am not sure whether you need to be wounded to be a good healer, but as the TED talks would help you discover there are some fundamental principles that is universal to all religions and philosophies.
As I had been thinking about these things in the bright new days of this year 2016, as if on cue, I received yet another link to a TED talk by Barry Kerzin (a buddhist monk and a medical doctor and an international figure in the world of meditation).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNmR8rGKz5g&sns=em

The combination of all the above, two TED talks and the blog by David Spero calmed my mind this night before departure from Brittany.
I immediately wrote back to my friend. I was also thinking of MGM in Miami as well as NK in Little Rock and that delicious bakery of affections in the sky called CUBA...
I am sure my friend in Kuala Lumpur would forgive me to put here in my blog what is a private letter to her.
My dear friend MC:
It is evening here in Brittany and tomorrow I will begin my journey back to the American Indians.
So your video of Barry Kerzin arrived in time, to put my mind at ease for the days ahead with the Winnebago and Omaha Indians, then with my beloved Cubans.

Love Compassion Humour Laughter Sacrifice Mindfulness
we have talked about these things a lot of times and needless to say, You among my friends who live in the West have large doses of each of these. and I am glad that I benefited from your knowledge and search for knowledge when we were able to share the gift of time with each other as well, during my many trips to the Far East.



I have included the ted talk about Harvard Study where they followed a set of men over 75 years, an unique study group and then did every two years extensive interviews and over the years, found out what is the fundamental of Happiness... It is relationships.. paying attention to all sorts of relationships is what makes one happy, healthy as well an important predictor of good ageing and good old age, without memory loss. For a good life to be lived well and enjoyed well, you need good relationships, I do not only  mean a romantic relationship but solid relationships of people who practice Love and Compassion and who are living in the present and who are willing to give you the gift of time and with whom you can laugh out loud. 
I consider you one such friend
I am lucky to be with the Indians where I can count on so many friends, and also in Cuba where I am lucky to be amidst my good friends.
A man is only capable of having 10-15 good friends , unless of course they are Indians or Cubans, and just take good care of them, like you do, going out of the way to be there for your friends, regardless of what they could do for you or did for you .

I can truly say that you have been a great gift of a friend to me, one of the best friends I have had in my life

Things happen for a reason, we are not intelligent enough to understand why, Indians have said to me. I feel a Special Dawn in my life as I depart from Europe. Yogic philosophy teaches you to get rid of attachments, and if you practice what was outlined in these talks, the structural defects in our ways of thinking would simmer down as well.

This note will not be complete if I do not express my gratitude to my sister J and her husband J
my sister friends in the Indian country, DBSG in Yakama, MS in Winnebago and my Omaha sister WS in Nebraska.




samedi 2 janvier 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016 FROM THE WILD COAST OF QUIBERON IN BRITTANY, FRANCE



Walking along the windswept coast of this village which has become a tourist destination for the French, I couldnt but think of the poems of Pablo Neruda who had described with such love the wild coasts of his own narrow country, Chile!
Pero con corazón irremediable
recordé cada signo innecesario
como si sólo deliciosa miel
se anidara en el árbol de mi tierra
y esperé en cada pájaro
el más remoto trino,
el que me despertó desde la infancia
bajo la luz mojada.
Me pareció mejor la tierra pobre
de mi país, el cráter, las arenas,
el rostro mineral de los desiertos
que la copa de luz que me brindaron.


that feeling of loneliness of being an eternal exile, looking for TIERRA in wrong places..always becoming yet another time, an Exile..
But the beauty of this wild coast, the majesty of the sea as the conqueror and the poems of the poet of Isla Negra..all brings a joy, an euphoria beyond description..

Recently I had been exposed to yet another wild coast, by my sister friend from Washington, reminded me of the rain squalls, wind and the foam of this wild coast



Hope this New Year brings you to destinations your heart desires. I hope Leticia in the Amazon; Cochin at the head of Backwaters of Kerala along with my beloved La Habana come into view soon enough!
Other intriguing possibilities include Siem Reap, Cambodia; Doha, Qatar, with Boston added to the Endocrine Society's annual meeting..It would be nice to savour the air of London, how I would love to go to Haifa.. ah well . La vida es un sueno.. let us wait for the unexpected pleasures..







FOOD AS CELEBRATION: NEW YEARS EVE IN QUIBERON, BRITTANY, FRANCE


FOOD AS A CELEBRATION: NEW YEARS EVE IN QUIBERON, BRITTANY, FRANCE.
When you are working with the American Indians, one becomes aware of the superficial and deep symbolism attached to Food in their specific cultural context. No concessions are made for the downgrading of the ingredients that go into their food, but rituals and belief systems are maintained. It may also serve as an example how to break, conquer and oppress a culture through the substitution of their Food!
How do natural products become food? When in our history did it happen? Bread is not natural, but wheat is, Sorghum is, Corn is and Rice is. It is interesting that we now blame these grains for the ill health facing the Westerners. But it was a turning point in the history of mankind when ingredients cooked became Food. that preparation became part of the Culture. Food becomes culture when it is eaten also. An Amazonian native would be horrified to know that for some Americans “food” arrives through their car window (thank you Michael Pollan for telling Americans that Food does not arrive through your car window). When it is eaten, with whom it is eaten with, are all cultural norms and deviations can create disequilibrium, which the native people understand very well. Another strong influence of Food as culture is seen when we choose to eat what we want to. We do not eat all that can be eaten, we are prohibited by religious constraints but also cultural constraints, snakes and monkeys are regularly devoured in the Amazonian rain forest and I am sure that there no haute cuisine restaurants serving any of those!
Food as an Identity is an interesting theme, and you don’t have to look too far, I am in the midst of the Breton people, a Celtic people who are considered one of the earliest inhabitants of Europe. 
Symbolism of Food (among American Indians, who prepares that food, with whom one eats, at what time of the day one eats, whether the food has been blessed by Spirits, all have greater value than nutritional value alone).  Such knowledge beyond the ingredients and their caloric content is necessary if one is working with culturally distinct groups. American Indians to this day do not like to eat after sunset, in the dark they say to me, one is not able to decide who is present, lest some evil spirits may be present. They also look at ceremonies which have been blessed by the Spirits to be medicine. In South Indian temples and Christian churches there are symbolic transfer of the spirit of the Gods to the recipients in the form of something that can be eaten or tasted. Coconuts by the dozen are offered to the Gods at the Hindu Tamil Temples, the remnant food considered spiritual and healthy to consume.
Food is present at all life changing events, birth and death, marriage and seasonal celebrations. Fasting to please the Gods and Spirits is less common than feasting to please them.
Bretons who occupy the western most part of the French Republic, to this day remain predominantly agriculturalists. While other agriculture based societies developed cities and adopted a “civilization” (Medieval History Scholar Montanari points out that cities and civilization have the same Latin root!), the Bretons alleviated the problem of overcrowding and poverty by migrating from Brittany, to Paris and also to other parts of the world. Today I read an interesting book on the History of Breton emigrants in Paris, which had begun in the in between war years, mostly economic migrants in search of job and security and a way to escape the poverty and blandness of the life of Breton country lifestyle. Brittany to this day remains predominantly a collection of villages, spread over the lush rolling hills and valleys, thus their fiery independent spirit and attachment to the unique culture persists, including the music, dance and the language.
Alejo Carpentier, the Cuban writer generally acknowledged as the Father of Latin American Magical Realism, wrote in his iconic novel about a country where people confused noise for happiness. To this day, Cubans welcome noise and all celebrations are accompanied by noise of some sort or another. The French on the other hand, do seem to abhor excessive noise and the celebrations are centered on Food. I realized that Food is the celebration here, how proud of their cuisine, which is truly delectable, the way it is prepared, and served and of course accompanied by champagne which can only be French by definition, and other wines.

My welcome of the New Year 2016 began in the old port (Quai des Indes) where the conquering ships had set sail for the Indies of the city of L’Orient. It was a surprisingly sunny and pleasant day, with temperature in the upper fifties F (15 C). At a bistro, a friendly couple, both with glasses of something or other in their hands welcomed guests and took their money, I was surprised at the good quality of Salmon which is cured on the premises. Sea Bass is called sonorously Loup de Mar in French, sported a soft tender chewiness, served with rice and mushrooms.




Dinner which was prepared slowly and eaten slowly over the course of time, accompanied by champagne, was a very varied fiesta to the palate. Various appetizers, small and gorgeously delicious, including foie gras and the quality of bread in France is unquestionable of course! Sea food had its prime place in the array of appetizers and Quail was a delicious sendoff meal for 2015!
No great celebrations with noise and glamour but a varied meal eaten with great pleasure and bubbles going down your gullet. Food is the celebration here.
Fruits, Vegetables, Sea and Land were all represented in this celebratory meal.









 We welcomed the New Year with yet another Food as Celebration with a simple but delicious lunch on 1 January 2016..
May this year be full of satisfying meals, in various countries, on various flights ( Qatar Airways comes to mind) with wonderful people to share the meals with...