samedi 29 mai 2010

Au Revoir.. A bientot La Havanne Mai 2010



arrivals and departures
if it is a voyage, then there is sadness
the longings for the love and affections lefft behind
and the incertitude of the return, an anxiety of the loss of remembered times
but what if Havana is part of a journey?
there are no Departures nor Arrivals
the affections enhanced by the brief absence ahead
wind to a fire, someone has said it before
the journey enlarges the love and affection that is Havana
the harshness of everyday life of other countries is masked by the reality
of existence here
and the innocence like the new growth from the cracks of walls
blushes forth
almost every one who comes to visit this island hates to leave its shores
deep in their hearts they foudn the stream that had not been allowed
a free expression under their own skies
now it flows, without its usual inhibitions
as i change my skins
from the intellectual and innocent interactions that touch my soul
i leave you, havana, with no sadness, my emotional life await me in Paris with
its gurgles and its daily gifts of new expressions
so it is neither a bientot au revoir or adios to you la habana la havanne havana
it is just that my retina has shifted a little
to other continents and soon it will once again focus on you....

in french, Quand on a va revoir la personne dans quelques heures: A Tout a l'heure!

vendredi 28 mai 2010

MAYA ST CYR daughter of my friends you make us all proud

Maya St Cyr HoCank/Umonhon Indian 17 years old was among the 100 graduates who received their diplomas recently at the Boys Town School in Omaha, Her inspiring story was featured in the local TV and is available for view at you tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE2cuU2MK_0

As a Physician Anthropologist interested in the health and future of Indians of the Americas, Maya and her story of success is awe inspiring. It is success and vicotry of love and guidance over social ills of living in isolation, surrounded by poverty and cultural discrimination, poor educational standards to become one of the three graduates to enter the prestigious Creighton University with a view of becoming a Doctor!

On my next visit to the reservation of her parents, I would be discussing with the people concerned at the tribal health departmentts, how we can emulate the Boys Town experience, what Boys Town does is what most of America needs if they want their children to succeed not just a selected few in selected private schools.

mardi 18 mai 2010

The Magical Surrealism of being with INDIOS, the natives of America



I am virtually in the middle of nowhere and it would be difficult for someone does not understand the silence of space, or if you live in a country where the concept of private space as sacred does not exist. in this small town near the banks of Upper Missouri River, there is no Cafe, at 8 pm, the only thing open is a Bar where the drunken locals and farmers wander in and out and drive out in their dilapidated cars.
Yet there is an incongruity here which borders on the magical reality of Gabo.
My Lunch was Panang Curry with Shrimp, and my dinner was vegetarian Pad Thai. I have had a piece of La Roux chocolate voted as the best chocolatier in France (all chocolates are not the same my dear, the same with men!) and I am sipping Nespresso Cafe promoted in France by a well known American actor!(George Clooney)
this is the contrast I have to get used to, in this country of extreme wealth, exploitation and socialist generosity, marginalized people and at the same time, how many people in any part of the world could have a day like mine today?
First of all the clinic of the Indians, the characters who came through, all with their generous gifts of laughter and hearts bigger than their meagre land they were allotted to by the conquistadores from Europe, would fill pages of a novel from a fictitious country in south America. I am not in America or USA but in this imagination or a dream. Like the Bushman told me in !Tsumkwe, we are all dreams dreaming of ourselves..
the fluidity with the fellow workers and the lack of competitiveness, when money is not involved goodness comes out and when you work in the corporate world , then the money aspect drive the agenda. Indians are not quantitative so to subject them to quantitative thinking is wrong.
Our Diabetes Clinic in this isolated part of North Eastern Nebraska delivers some of the best care in the country, because the agenda is CARE, the happiness of people who seek us, they are not patients or clients but our relatives ( Mitakuye Oyasin)..
At Lunchtime, this Lakota couple, tall and handsome suggested that we go for lunch to the Thai restaurant. we talked about the environment, their country (not synonymous with USA, but the land of their ancestors).. I asked M.. while looking at the trees which have all put on fresh green gowns.. Do you ever think of a time when white people were not here..
I think of it all the time, doctor was her reply. they are connected to a time, which is beyond oblivion.
The connection of an Indian is to the Universe not to an ideology of a country or philosophy but values that are represented Universally, they particularize it with their strong cultural identity. They know they are Indians, they don’t have to go around telling every one else they are Indians.
We talked about Buffalos, as we passed the herd, I shouted at them, Brothers , we are going to eat Thai food for lunch and hope you are not jealous of us.. the buffalos heard us but ignored us as they were too busy shedding their heavy winter robes and getting ready for the dry Plains summer.
We talked about pesticides and poisoning; food not as a medicine but a disease producer, giving examples of water contamination and thyroid problems in the reservations. The increase in Attention Deficit disorders among the children…
Like I say, at my presentations ( recently at KL and Havana)
The Indigenous peoples have already the answers, it is just no one is asking them..
I told the story why Indian children do not die in their cots, I told them one interpretation of the hole in their moccasins, then about young thunder beings playing and creating havoc... all these would sound hocus pocus to a western mind but to them it all made sense.. because they are able to connect the dots however obtuse they may be in path...
What a sense of simple joy, this form of conversation, and a friendship solidified not by concrete slabs of networking or profit and gain but the softness of the collective understanding of the universe around us..

They afternoon was more of the same, more patients but plenty of time with each patient, in between socializing with various Indian workers. this aspect of belonging to a world, which is vanishing, is the greatest reward of my work. It is an arduous journey for me to come from my home to the land of the Indians, but after a day like today, nothing is too tedious! And to do that in the most advanced technological country in this world.. even more poignant..

It is my custom to have dinner with Indians when I am in these remote parts of their habitations, and we drive the 35 miles to the nearest city (an uninteresting and uninspiring city which had known better times) and enjoy the cuisine of the Immigrant workers to the Meat Packing Factories! It is amazing that in this dump of a city, we can order Ethiopian bread, a bun ga xao, a pad Thai.. in addition to much of the fast food garbage that passes for food.. To each his own, and I am thank ful for the Lao and Vietnamese refugees for their excellent home cooked meals..
The newest member of the tribe is only five weeks old but it is the right time to introduce her to the pleasures of dining with friends. In the company of her mother and grandmother, we partook in a nice meal. More pleasant conversations.. More memories and collection of affections that strengthen the fibre of a good life….
In one weeks time, I would be partaking yet another feast…moveable, sensuous, intellectual, exhilarating, full of love in my Isla Rica… my little Island

samedi 15 mai 2010

WELCOME TO THE STATES SAYS THE IMMIGRATION OFFICER


For Frequent Fliers to the USA, I strongly recommend the programme Global Entry. I entered the Immigration Hall and it took me no more than sixty seconds to get cleared, and the immigration officer looked at the print out and said: Welcome to the States.. Since I had no luggage, and the queue was short, just one question from the Customs Agent: any food or Alcohol.. None. and altogether within five minutes of entering Immigration Hall, you are out of the customs and immigration area.
The white card that is printed out when you put your ID as well as your finger tips on the machine, says the flight you have been on, so that they dont have to question you and in fact very seldom you will talk to anyone in the officialdom..
Within half an hour of the Air France flight touching down, i had gotten out of the plane, cleared immigration and customs, gotten my boarding passes for the next flight and then cleared the security to enter the boarding area and viola.. I was in the Presidents Club of Continental Airlines.. After a long flight over from Europe, it is always nice to be welcomed.. Bobbie S, the continental agent at the reception at Presidents Club, said, nice to see you again, Welcome Back...
I must admit, I have entered USA on numerous occasions, and it is always with smiles and friendliness that I have not seen at any of the major international airports.. Merci Beaucoup.. Gracias...

mercredi 12 mai 2010

THE BARBER OF PORT VILA


I have to thank FeiWen, the hair stylist at A Cut Above at Bangsar in KL, for this chance meeting with the Barber of Port Vila.
My best friend in Asia had been journeying to the La La Land, thus my trips in April and July to KL had been cancelled, as predicted by my Kikapu Sister. The fast growing hair of mine, began growing at an even greater pace and I found myself in a predicament of unable to transact symbols of the French Society.
It is a Sunday, a town in Normandie, a man comes into the pharmacy, hair flowing to the shoulders, the wild winds of the coast had made it look like an unkempt haystack and declares: I am a Doctor and I would like some medications for an Irritant Eye!
I am an expert on transaction of symbols and I realized that to do well in French Society, better be well coiffed and well coutoured!
The first enquiry at this Presqui'le de Quiberon, a peninsula of Bretagne jutting into the sea, was to find a Coiffeur.. Sure enough, they said, you would enjoy meeting Mr Patou, who has a shop near the Church and his wife exhibits her paintings in an atelier attached to the Hair Dresser's Salon.
At the appointed time, I appeared at the door, a tall slender man with fashionable trousers and an interesting design of glasses welcomed me warmly. What language shall we speak, I humbly demanded.. I speak a Little English, I had learned it in the South Pacific, said the Barber Patou..
His father had been a pilot for UTA French Airlines as it was called then, and based in Papeetee, where the young Patou grew up amidst the wahines and palm trees and steep mountains which was to leave an impression on him for the rest of his life. He spent a year in New Caledonia and opened a Barber Shop in Port Vila..
Port Vila? I asked him, incredulous of this coincidence of a town in the back yard of Australia!
I remembered my two visits to Port Vila, once on Air Nauru from Nauru and another time on a circle Pacific tour with Air Pacific..
Do you remember the nice hotel, Le Lagon, and he did, I used to live just one km away and my daughter had a pirogue and she used to ply the waters of the lagoon which was my front yard.
Rarely does one encounter an European, a romantic at heart such as portrayed by Somerset Maugham, longingly thinking of distant frangipanies and mosquito laden forgotten colonial outpost
this one was peculiar if any thing.. I remember distinctly, the doctors from the French Sector packing their bags and leaving and the British ones arriving. It was the worlds only condominium, administed for six months by Britain and the other six months by French. So every six months the flags would change, preferred langauge is gone, and all the while the Chinese immigrants were counting their Pacific Francs while the John Frum movement dressed up in discarded american clothes waited for the white messiah from USA to air drop the latest goods from WalMart!
What does it matter? the country does not change, I had such a fantastic time there, I consider Port Vila to be my home. I had a small barber shop near the chinese restaurant and for six years, with my wife and daughter (conceived in the Blue Hills of NSW and saw her first light at the French Colonial Hospital in Noumea, Nouvelle Caledonie), I loved every minute of it. I like living in Quiberon, but if something dramatic changes in France, it is to Port Vila that i would return, declared the Barber from Port Vila, Nouvelle Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu.
He talked some more about the south pacific, his eternal longings for the beach, the trees, the fish and most of all the people, whom he genuinely liked. he was one of the last links of a colonial era vanishing into the setting sun of the french empire of the east..
in broken English and broken French, the latter being mine, we communicated and reminisced about our times in the South Pacific, I had wandered through the islands, magical names.. tokelau, nauru, funafuti.. from whence I sent a telegram to the hospital explaining my absence at the wards of a University of Melbourne teaching service: Marooned in Funafuti, Unable to report for Duty!
This was a genuine experience for me in France. He is Breton, and sees France for what it is, appreciates it for what it is, and is grateful to be living in Quiberon which is a tourist trade oriented small place, much like his beloved Port Vila.
He said: I will try and give you a good hair cut, but does it really matter? it would grow back in a few days time, but enjoy your time in France and especially in Quiberon..
We all have little towns that we carry in our hearts, in my case it is Baracoa, Cuba and I am looking forever for other Baracoa, knowing the original one can never be topped.
It was strange, just this morning, I was thinking.. Quiberon looks like my Baracoa of France... and the words of the Barber of Port Vila sounded so true..
Like Port Vila, Quiberon is small, has beach, sun is shining, there is even a small bird. Colibri, that you can see in summer which reminds you of the tropics..
Quiberon is my Port Vila in France, said the Barber of Port Vila

mardi 11 mai 2010

Photos from La Habana, Cuba




Hope my friends can see these photographs taken recently in Nuestra Ciudad San Cristobal de la
HABANA, Cuba..

lundi 10 mai 2010

Memories of a Collective Past.. weekend in Normandie

We who are from the New World, with an easy going lifestyle and an outward friendliness, find ourselves so comfortable in other new world countries.. for e,g., I am an Australian and I find myself very comfortable in Argentina, there is some thing about the lack of a collective past (except in the consciousness of the Indios). So to stay at a Farm whose foundations go back to fortifications from the middle ages, whose borrowed english architectural syncretism of a pigeon tower is from the 13th century, the local church has been functioning since the time when the English came over to conquer normandie in the Hundred Years War.. it is a bit daunting. Stayed at a tower, which had once housed nobles resting on their journeys, now a Gites Rural, a rural Bed and Breakfast. This one in Gefosse-Fontenay, which used to be two separate villages until 1861. This place is known to have existed since Richard I the Duke of Normandy drove out a bunch of Danish Pirates in the 10th century! The Normandie countryside is full of historical gems such as this, chateaus, medieval farm houses and old churches..
Of course, Internet has helped out by putting these places on the map, otherwise these things would be out of the trodden path of tourists but now anyone with a computer can find these places and the roads being as good as they are in France, you could reach this farm within three hours of Paris. The name of the Manor was Manoir de La Riviere
The Interest to reach this part of Normandy is of course the Gigantic Military Operation which virtually put an end to the German Megalomania in World War II, the naval invasion of Normandy under the command of Gen Eisenhower. As General Omar Bradley said to have remarked, We Americans ask for nothing except for the Freedom of the French, and many a French are grateful for the 9400 young americans lying buried at the cemetery at Colville sur mer, for their freedom, from a brutal Nazi occupation of France..
an extra sense for me was the name of the beach: code named OMAHA.. the tribe I have been associated with for a while. The other beach was named UTAH, another living tribe of North American Indians..
Felt a sense of gratefulness to the Americans, had a taste of the glory of their generosity while visiting these parts. Stories are so touching and so moving, one cannot be but pay respects to the United States!
American Indian soldiers always fought in the wars of the Americans, I cannot think of a single tribe of Indians in the USA who do not proudly to this day volunteer to fight.. it is in their consciousness and it is their honour...
After a day of learning History and imagining such a a living history, it was time to indulge in Normandie cuisine and there was no disappointment. French regional cooking is never disappointing. I opted for fish, of course, scallops and langoustines... a mild white wine to accompany the sweet morsels.. watching the changing colours of the harbour as the night slowly enveloped the port village of Grandcamp de Maisy...

The drive from Paris to Omaha Beach can be done within three hours, the national highway goes right up to the location. It is a comfortable highway. You feel like an insignificant fly buzzing through layers of history as you drive along villages with typical norman churches and houses huddled as if to protect themselves against the fields all around them, this time of the year, bright with Colza flowers..

Before going back to the REAL UmonHon Indians of Nebraska, a few days by the sea at Quiberon in Bretagne.. along with the Welsh, Scots, Irish and other gaelic people, Bretons are perhaps the oldest of the tribal people who despite thei dislocation and defeat have maintained their identity to this day.. Bretons of France as their name implicate, came from what is now England perhaps in the 4th century before Common Era, to a land Armorica(thus later named) , a land which had been inhabited by a menhir and dolmen building people...



vendredi 7 mai 2010

ETADAKIMASAI... looking to eat japanese food in paris


Since arriving in Paris from Cuba a few days ago, I have been discovering Paris using the Bus System, I have nearly mastered the major routes. Yesterday, I wanted to have lunch at a Japanese (read real japanese and not False japanese restaurants which abound in Paris!) restaurant at a La Marche des Enfants Rouges. I knew the vague location and i caught the bus number 96 and got off at St Paul. Saw a couple of japanese and followed them to rue st paul only to realize that i am far from my destination. On my left was the bookstore The Red Wheelbarrow. I entered the bookstore and they knew exactly the location, turn into Rue Turenne and and at Rue Bretagne take a left. As Native Indians would say, nothing happens without a reason, I took a business card of this bookstore which i had never run into before.
At the Marche, it is an ancient form of food court, various people tout their menus and they have a few tables and the japanese one was by far the busiest. i had to squeeze into a bench which was already crowded. As I sat down, the gentleman on the right, broke out in perfect English: Do you need any help with the menu? Thank you, I politely declined, I know enough French to decipher that. Do you have any recommendations at this restaurant? I asked him. Eventhough I was born and i live here, this is the first time i am here.
I ordered a Bento with Maqueraux avec sauc coreen and was enjoying this bit of authenticity in an otherwise false world of Ethnic Food in Paris. As I was ending my meal, I thought I would say thanks to the gentleman, and began a conversation. He was born in Paris, grandson of immigrants from China, and had perfected his English in Malta. and he is the owner of a contemporary wine bar/nouvelle south west french cuisine near Montmarte.
I thanked my luck. It is very rarely that i ran into people at airports or aircrafts( in fact i am hexed with travel companions, even in Business Class!). Could you recommend me some good ethnic restaurants, after i expressed my astonishment of the "chinese plague".
His name is Alain and his establishment is Zinc Des Cavistes at 5,rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris.
For authentic japanese food, he recommends TAKI rue du docteur Finlay, 75015. What a coincidence Dr Finlay was a Cuban Doctor who worked out the vector for Yellow Fever!
A chef cooking at your table at Benkai at Hotel Nikko 75015 in Paris.
Since he might know authentic chinese places, i asked him for suggestions, he said there are two popular places, where you go to eat, and not to hang around as many many people would be waiting to come in
Chez Vong rue de la grande truanderie 75001
Les Nouilles Vivantes rue du faubourg Montmartre, 75009 Paris you can watch your noodles being made by hand and then viola... dinner is ready
For a lover of Viet food, and i constantly look for good viet food wherever i go, he recommended
Paris-hanoi 74 rue de Charonne, 75011 PARIS

For visitors to Paris, to enjoy a French dining experience, he says Chez Chartier is a good selection at 7-9 rue du Faubourg Montmartre 75009

He invited me for a glass of wine at his wine bar, which i acepted with pleasure. He says he has learned a few words of Tamoul, because four of his staff are from Sri Lanka!
A nice meeting indeed!
I have few restaurants to try out..
By the way the japanese restaurant, I recommend, every one working there is Japanese, some looked student types and other professional kitchen types. As a rule when i see pictures of Sushi displayed in front of a "restaurant Japonais" in Paris, I avoid them. I suggest you do too, unless you want FALSE food...

dimanche 2 mai 2010

Photos from La Habana, Cuba

Two wonderful weeks in San Cristobal de la Habana.. a moveable feast indeed! Such good friends and so pure interactions.. and intellectually very few cities in the Americas (BA and SP) come close seconds, can match the intellectual power of Havana!
Come and See for yourself..

http://www4.snapfish.com.sg/snapfishsg/thumbnailshare/AlbumID=1935996018/a=410728018_410728018/otsc=SHR/otsi=SALBlink/COBRAND_NAME=snapfishsg/

One Week of ETHNIC eating in Paris


It is a pleasure to contemplate about eating in Paris. The choices are so great that one has the pleasure of thinking about it and choosing. There is no anxiety about Food, as one experiences in Cuba for example, since in many poorer countries, eating well is almost a luxury and at times a privilege. I am talking about Paris and it is foolish to complain about cost of food in this most expensive city on earth, but then again when you are in Tokyo, you are not thinking of cost of the food but the quality. This week, I wanted to eat Ethnic Food in Paris. Of course Breton food is not considered Ethnic but rather Regional. It is best to avoid Chinese or Chinese owned restaurants, since they have a poor reputation. Almost all Sushi places are owned by recent immigrants who are chinese. There is another large Chinese population here in Paris: from Cholon in Saigon, from Cambodia and from Laos and Thailand. They produce authentic food from the countries of their origin. There is one quartier where there is one viet restaurant after another, and it was there we headed for lunch today. It began raining and thus we took shelter at an elegant Lao restaurant, a mixture of Lao and Thai food. For a quick lunch, especially for a fan of South Indian food, nothing beats Quartier Tamoul where there are oodles of south indian restaurants all owned by recent migrants from Tamoul Nadoo. and Sri Lanka. Around the tourist areas, there are lots of Turkish kebab, Lebanese Falafal places but the safety of food at these fast food places cannot be guaranteed. I like a good falafel now and then and the best one is of course at the Jewish neighbourhood of Marais, where you can expect long lines.
so in this one week, breton seafood, masala dosai, vegetarian thali, falafel, viet neems, thai soup, lao sticky rice with fish souffle.. among other tidbits including sushi made by chinese, chirashi of salmon.
I have decided to watch out for the sodium content of the food after being warned of the high concentration of sodium in food in America, so i am begining to keep an eye for sodium used for cooking or preserving food in Paris. Will let you know later.
This weekend the Indonesian Embassy has a Cultural Programme and of course there would be food, and I look forward to a visit there.