samedi 23 septembre 2017

A LOVE POEM TO THE RESILIENCY OF CUBAN PEOPLE SUNG BY PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE

I had already left France and Belgium when the storm IRMA was pending and when I reached Doha in Qatar, it was evident that there would be no flight to Miami. I waited four days in Doha and on the first available opportunity left for Miami. The flights to Havana did not commence for a few more days.
The entire week my thoughts were with each and every member of our large circle of friends, their families and how they would confront this natural phenomenon.

It was an unfortunate time but not a coincidence that the ultra conservative anti-Cuba (their motherland) coalition in Florida and elsewhere in the USA to begin agitating to close the US Embassy.(photo above)
I wrote a note to my friends, attached below. I do not translate the note but you can do that using Google Translate or any other application. If you have friends who are Cuban or those who sympathize with Cuban people, you are most welcome to forward this item to them.
People especially the ultra conservatives in the USA do not know the depth of resiliency of the Cuban people. Cubans will overcome this natural disaster like the other natural disasters of the past as well as the  USA mediated aggressions on their territory.

My heart welled up with pride, love and affections for friends as they began answering my emails. I am enclosing some of them, in their original Spanish.
First my note to them and then replies from some of my friends

¡Este no es un buen momento para estar en los Estados Unidos! La retórica y las amenazas y los discursos de odio abundan y el propio Presidente perpetúa muchas de estas noticias falsas, así como la desinformación.
Por supuesto, somos un pequeño conejo sentado al lado de este elefante y cada vez que este elefante se mueve, lo sentimos, nos guste o no.
Los senadores de Miami junto con otros han pedido al presidente que cierre la embajada de Estados Unidos en La Habana debido al "ataque sónico" de algunas personas que trabajan allí. Cada uno está desconcertado y Cuba niega categóricamente que tenga algo que ver con él, excepto el hecho de que tuvo en la tierra cubana. Raúl ha invitado al FBI a venir a investigar y ayudar a descubrir quién realmente perpetuó esto!
Inmediatamente comencé a recibir correos electrónicos. Maya, una indiecita que había visitado Vedado escribió en angustia: ¿Qué pasará con el café de mi hermano? (David). Tuve que asegurarle que el café de David florecirá, ya que el cierre de la embajada no significa una disminución en el número de personas que solicitan visas.
Yo estaba tan feliz cuando Barack Obama abrió Cuba para los estadounidenses, ahora el turismo de los Estados Unidos se ha secado. Las aerolíneas están recortando sus vuelos a Cuba, con la excepción de La Habana.
Este es el momento para recordar que Cuba, a pesar de todos los inconvenientes que tiene, es una sociedad humana. En los Estados Unidos, están tratando de quitar el cuidado de la salud de los pobres, proporcionando educación de buena calidad sólo a aquellos que pueden pagar (el Dr. M paga 50 000 dólares al año como matrícula para su hija!
Quiero estar en Cuba en este momento, echo de menos a mis amigos, nuestros placeres simples, el tiempo que pasamos juntos y los esfuerzos que hacemos para pasar tiempo juntos.
Espero poder pasar tiempo con todos ustedes muy pronto!
Description: https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif






Querido hijo
Cuba se recupera. Trump no conoce la capacidad de resistencia del pueblo cubano! Sólo necesitamos tiempo y recursos. Ya la ciudad va cobrando su aspecto habitual. Y por supuesto que saldremos de esto. Hemos pasado Crisis de Octubre, Playa Girón, Lucha contra bandidos, bloqueo. Cuba vencerá. Los pasos serán más lentos pero seguiremos siempre adelante.
Un beso




Gracias mil veces hermano. Tú comprendes exactamente lo que sucede. Ese loco y sus seguidores tergiversan todo, emprenden justificaciones mentirosas y no reconocen la nobleza y tranquilidad de nuestro país y su pueblo, que por demás también es tuyo como gran persona y humanista que eres. Pase lo que pase Cuba seguirá digna y respetuosa, la calumnian los que están desesperados y no ven el futuro. Te esperamos bajo cualquier circunstancia, con mucho amor y cuando quieras, incluso a nuestros hermanos de allá.

video

Querido amigo: Así están las cosas en este mundo cada vez más convulso y de gente loca, empezando por el presidente americano que está contra todas las banderas,,empezando por la suya. Cada vez es más amenazante en sus discursos que como bien dices son de otra época y totalmente desinformado.
Por acá están investigando sobre ese incidente, puedes estar seguro que es obra de terceros para provocar cualquier situación de ruptura diplomática, es una pena que tantas personas de bien quieran unir puentes y caminos y como otros se empeñan en hacer la distancia cada vez más larga y con muchos obstáculos.
Por lo demás estamos bien, recuperándonos de Irma y haciendo muchas cosas mejores a como eran antes del huracán. 
Tremendo lo del terremoto en México, por acá estamos siguiendo las noticias, este mundo está patas arriba, pobre gente, cuántas pérdidas de vidas humanas, ya casi 300, qué horror.



amigo querido, temo mucho x mis hijitos todo lo q esta sucediendo y x suceder en nuestro mundo. Pudo a dios q nos ayude a todos. Ahora mismo estoy en una reunión en mi trabajo. Dufto x las víctimas d todos los desastres q han ocurrido, y no puedo ver mas imágenes en el tv xq me deprimo terriblemente.
(wherever and whenever DISASTERS strike, whether it is an Eathquake in Ecuador, pictured or Ebola Crisis in West Africa or natural disasters in Pakistan or Nepal, Cuba is ready to send qualified PEOPLE including Doctors, psychologists and rescue workers)


Querido amigo:

Ante todo un gran abrazo espiritual para ti y familia, y un enorme agradecimiento por mantenerte al tanto de nosotros y por siempre estar con tu disposicion de ayuda incondicional. te agradezco yo y mi familia por tu ayuda a nosotros y al resto de las familias amigas, de verdad, eres tan generoso amigo!!! Eres una de esas personas que como el Quijote, no cree en molinos de viento. Gracias de verdad.

Amigo, increible esto que compartes con nosotros sobre el gobierno norteamericano. Ya H me habia comentado porque ellos tenian viaje planificado a Huston para este noviembre y todo se ha pospuesto. Es increible de los argumentos que se valen las personas y grupos minoritarios antiCuba en EU. Espero que todos los avances logrados por Obama no se pierdan
(Cuba educates over 18500 students from poorer countries and poorer sections of the richer countries to become Doctors on full scholarships. Here is a contingent of USA students at Escuela de Medicine Latino America ELAM in Havana, Cuba)


querido amigo gracias nuevamente por tu gesto. aquí estamos un dia mejor, otro regular ayer y anteayer yo estaba muy down hoy y antes, mejor. es q ha sido muy duro and for some days in stress for huracan and fear, pero la recuperacion ha sido buena y rapida, aunque ya sabemos que  aplacar emociones  tiene sus tiempos, como recobrar la confianza  en tu calle, en tu casa, en tu mar, demora.
(the doctor on the left, a native of Easter Island, graduated from a medical school in Cuba. Photo taken at her mother's restaurant in Hanga Roa, Rapa Nui, Chile)

My travels in International Humanitarian Medicine takes me away from you, my dearest Island. As soon as I finish my duties, you would see me there, amidst the warm breeze and the foam bringing our longings to the shore..I cannot wait to walk along the Malecon, just one block from where I stay!
(Cuban food at home and at restaurants, but always sharing with friends. Havana has regained its languorous rhythm and its humanitarian touch) 


The love and longings for CUBA perhaps is best expressed as a love affair, like in the words of PABLO NERUDA who also loved CUBA..

No estés lejos de mí un sólo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decírtelo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.
No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.





dimanche 17 septembre 2017

MIAMI IS MULTIETHNIC AND MULTICULTURAL SO IT IS GOOD TO SAVOUR IT FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS BEFORE ENTERING AMERICA


Miami airport was closed during and after the Hurricane Irma, I had to wait two extra days in Doha, Qatar. 15h 20 minute flight from Doha to Miami, it was a beautiful flight AirBus 350. The flight had wi fi and I was not at all bored, as I kept myself busy reading and writing and communicating with wi fi.

The Electricity had returned to the house of my sister the day I returned, so when I came into Miami, I was surprised to see how normal it looked.
Restaurants were open, we ate at Kampai, with unfriendly Thai pretty boy waiters and others of complex oriental nationalities and a Honduran who left Tegucigalpa to find a better future in USA. The food was not exceptional and the large quantities made ones appetite disappear. A glass of cheap Pinot Grigio made the Mango Roll more palatable.
 Miami has always been close to my heart and when I was a student here I took full advantage of all that was available and had an immensely pleasurable time. I have lived in many other countries since then but it is Miami that I come to loose my liminality of constant travelling.
At one time, I kept in touch with many people in Miami but lately I dedicate my time to my good friends M and G and last night we chatted for nealy 9 hours.. there is always something new, something exciting and something to rehash.. lovely conversation, to which the Yiddische word Schmoozing can be applied..



 The storm surge must have brought insects, so a crowd of Ibis could be seen busily plucking away at the salt water covered grass.
 Cafe Creme is a French American Restaurant, with a good ambiance. A nice crowd was gathered and the temperature was ideal to enjoy a French inspired Chicken Curry (to distinguish it from the Curry one eats at an Indian Restaurant).
To enjoy such a nice meal so soon after a category 5 storm threatened Miami, shows the unpredictability of weather in Miami
It was time to leave Miami to go to the Indians. When returning AVIS rent a car, the attendant says to me: I remember you, you are the doctor from Cuba!
I was astonished as I had not seen him in over two years and what is that made him remember me, when he sees so many people in the course of his day? 
Such connections can easily be made in Miami!

samedi 16 septembre 2017

VIDEO SHOT ALONG THE MALECON IN HAVANA: HURRICANE IRMA

video

CUBA: THE LAND OF AFFECTIONS

The source of my affections, the incredible fountain of love and tenderness, is no doubt, my little island of Cuba.
11 of the provinces in Cuba suffered some form of damage from the Hurricane Irma, a powerful category 5 storm.
The solidarity and resilience of the Cuban people shone through.
What is the strength the inhabitants have that helps them through calamities big and small, continual or episodic?
For a people who have very little material possessions, loosing that little is traumatic but not unsurmountable, if you put in context of the value that is held dear by the Cuban people, urban and rural.
Following is a part of a letter I received yesterday from my good friend, who is a Psychologist.

The medical student you are talking about is not poor; neither am I. Poverty is a social condition that does not describe our situation very well. We are humble, we have limitations with resources, many material shortcomings, we need many things to live better, that are true, but we are not poor. Look at her, she has the blessing of her parents, her dad works in an excellent company and they have a nice family. She dresses very well, she looks very happy and that indicates that she is very happy, I know that she lives a good family life like most Cubans, with limitations but without starving. She is young, is studying Medicine absolutely free of charge, she does not have to move away and live in hospital accommodations, she can stay with her family while she is a student, her parents are young and healthy, thus she is very fortunate, she is a millionaire like me, because whoever has a good friend has a treasure with them.
You are that treasure.

In the western and capitalistic societies, every thing is measured in terms of money, material wealth (Quantitative life), whereas not much time or  attention is paid to the genuine affections. (Qualitative life). (I tell my sister all the time: Time is the Greatest Gift. I am truly not impressed by workaholic managerial types of any nationality)
Octavio Paz had written, others had mentioned that one can count the good friends in fingers of one hand, that is one has less than five good friends in the West. (perhaps, one of the reasons, why people have hundreds of FaceBook friends, Dunbar number dictates that it is not possible to have more than about 120 "friends", according to research women are capable of more friends than men, so the number of Good Friends still is below 12 or 15, as is the case in Cuba)
In Cuba, I can count on at least 10 good friends and another hundred friends. People ask me, why are you so obsessed with your life in Cuba, and I tell them: Because that is where most of my friends live and that is the fountain of affections for me.

I am very much reminded of the American Indians with whom I work. Earlier on they said: We are neither a minority nor poor, as we have a rich spiritual life. We may be materially poor but we don’t consider ourselves poor. And there is a strong sense of solidarity among them.
In France, people have a sense of national feeling but not a sense of togetherness or happiness and even when they give gifts to each other, it is almost like an obligation and a favour returned, one does not feel the genuine solidarity or feeling of unity of a nation.
Cuba is unique, has had a very special history in the last 60 years, for the first time, Cuba has been sovereign and independent, not puppets of any one or following orders from the metropolitan states. I feel that over the course of the time, economic difficulties have made their hearts and souls malleable so as to adopt themselves to the human need.
Even conservative people in Cuba would be heard to say: This is a humane society.

The world needs more places like CUBA, not just  concentrate about places, which are making great economic successes, such as Singapore, while the human aspects of living and giving are completely neglected. Cuba has its pitfalls and it is up to the Cuban people to rectify that in the manner of their choosing, but not imposed upon them from outside individuals or powers.

I am proud of my friends in Cuba.





jeudi 14 septembre 2017

PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION IN QATAR; WHAT A SURPRISE IN A SAFE AND HOSPITABLE COUNTRY

LESSONS FROM QATAR
Like many people living in the Western world, my own conceptions of the Oil Rich Gulf states were not very favourable, because of what the Media portrayed as feudal societies. Around 5 years ago, I began flying Qatar Airways on my way to Malaysia and Indonesia.
I noticed that service orientation has been taken to a higher level and as I began to talk to the guest workers in Qatar, a different picture began to emerge. The workers began to recount tales of how Qatar, in many cases Qatar Airways, have made to their lives and the lives of their families.
Qatar has only a population of 300 000 but they have found an ingenious way to improve their lifestyle and also those of nearly 2 million guest workers from around the world, but mainly from Asia.
Nationality
Population
Percent of total*
Data recency
India
650,000
25.00%
Dec 2016
Nepal
>350,000
13.50%
Jan 2017
Qatar
313,000
12.10%
Jun 2016
Bangladesh
280,000
10.80%
May 2016
Philippines
260,000
10.00%
Jan 2017
Egypt
200,000
8.60%
Feb 2015
Sri Lanka
145,256
5.60%
Dec 2016
Pakistan
125,000
4.80%
Oct 2016
During the months of August and September 2017, I visited Qatar three times and stayed at
Marriott Marquis Hotel
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Souq Wakif Hotel
Hilton Doha Hotel .
On earlier visits I had stayed at Shangri La Hotel, Oryx Rotaana Hotel, Westin Hotel as well as Movenpick Hotel.

As an anthropologist I am interested in participant observation, having the distinct advantage of not looking European but like many of the workers themselves.
What I listened and learned had been an eye opener to me, worthy of an essay or a book and perhaps an example to the rest of the world grappling with the balance of sharing their generosity and helping the Other without meddling too much in their affairs.

The first group of people easy to access for conversations were the Flight Attendants. On Long flights there were plenty of opportunities to talk to them. I remember my first conversations: a Chinese Indonesian from Balikpapan living in Jakarta, another Filipina living in Manila. Their answers were unanimous now confirmed by dozens of other flight attendants. They are from poor countries where Travel remains a dream but this gives them an opportunity to see the world. They also appreciated the fact that they could see their families often enough as they take advantage of a three or four day furlough to fly home. In the succeeding years I have met hundreds of Flight Attendants and senior staff. As there are thousands of Cabin Crew working for Qatar Airways, one very seldom runs across the same person, even if you fly often enough, because the flight map is all over the world.
Some leave good impressions and wish I could have become friends with them, Maria from Romania, Chris from Goa, MiJin from Seoul, Guia from Manila, the list is long enough.
They have a privileged position among the Workers to Qatar in that they are often able to go home and homesickness or longing for someone or other is decreased to a minimum.
I purposely did not wish to meet doctors or lawyers or accountants, especially from Europe.
While the Asians are here driven by the lack of employment in their countries and lack of opportunities, the Europeans here are not at all attractive in that their purpose is purely commercial, they are here because they are paid better than in their home countries and in my opinion, they do not bring any additional charm to Qatar.
In fact I had not desire, nor make any attempt to know any of the workers, usually in managerial positions, from European countries working in Qatar. Also my idea was to understand Qatar and Qataris and their relationship with workers from poorer countries and the feelings those are reciprocated.
The next group of people were the ones working at the hotels, there seemed to be a division of duties here in that many Egyptians worked in the Reception, Filipinas dominated the restaurants, Indians were found in semi managerial positions and hotel domestic work and the unlucky Bangladeshis at the bottom of the heap assigned to managing the hygiene of the place.
I spent long hours talking to various employees whenever their schedule permitted.
One thing was immediately clear. The workers are very well looked after. The Hotel provides accommodation for all its workers, in one or two room apartments or villas, there are kitchens, and swimming pools and many of them are situated near the ocean. All of them are air-conditioned and wi fi are freely available.
There are sports and gymnasium facilities in all the living quarters area. They are not camps but resemble modern facilities found in Europe or USA. Transportation to and fro work is provided.
Qatar is a peninsula in the Arabian Desert. The riches from the Oil industry has transformed this oasis into a modern city state, with all the modern conveniences of living: An excellent airport, clean navigable roads all clearly marked, beaches, recreation facilities and restaurants from all corners of the globe (Ethiopian, Nepali, Yemeni just to name some exotic cuisines).
All in all, Qatar has created a favourable impression in my mind, by visiting Doha repeatedly and mingling and mixing with the hundreds of workers who had come from various parts of the world. While Indians, Nepalis, Filipinos, Egyptians dominate the work force, there are sizeable numbers from all parts of the world.
As I mentioned earlier there is a division of labour here, not strictly enforced but most of the Security men seem to be from Kenya and Uganda. Uber drivers seem to be from Ethiopian and one of them remarked: There are no illegal migrants in Qatar, it is just not possible!
Mohammed from Alexandria, Sunil from Nepal, Bektar from Kyrgyzstan, Ali from Cairo, Ayman from Tunis, Mohammed Ramadan from Damascus, Mostafa and Elsayed from Egypt, Shirin from Kyrgyzstan all had very positive things to say about Qatar, their employment and the facilities offered them and also the safety of the country.
My Love for the Country has only increased as I get to know the Qatari mind that creates this atmosphere of hospitality. The current diplomatic crisis against Qatar is unjustified and the Emir Tamim is handling it in superb statesmanlike fashion.