Archive for October, 2007

Life has once more come between me and my personal blog. Not only have I been dealing with some unpleasant work issues and sick kids, I’m putting the finishing touches … I hope … on a collection of short stories and other bits that have been begging to be included between the front cover and back page.

Of course, I’ll be flogging the book here when its available … no worries about that.

Since I’m using up all my meaningful words in other places at the moment, I thought I would post some pictures (worth thousands of them, I hear) of our Bird Island trip for general consumption.

De plane … de plane …

The runway … avec Giant Aldabra Tortoise
That’s no rock on the runway! (Yes, that is the runway.) It’s a Giant Aldabra Tortoise.

Runway tortoise, up close and personal
Up close and personal with the runway tortoise.

Bird/Sam&bush ©SHBenoiton
No footprints, please. (Sam with a bush on the beach.)

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A weekend on Bird Island with friends from Kenya provided one opportunity after another to get all of us, kids included, thinking in terms of wildlife large and small.

Our visit to their neck of the woods last year took us to Tsavo National Park where we watched herds of elephants pick gigantic bouquets (trunkgays?) from vast fields of end-of-rainy-season blooms as baby giraffes clumsily cavorted under the far-distant noses of attentive mothers.

The whole of Bird Island being about the same size as the grounds of the Kilaguni Lodge, our Tsavo home-from-home, had to bring a completely different experience.

The ten-year-old in our midst was instantly taken with the tag-team of common noddies that found his family’s chalet the perfect perching point, so didn’t seem to miss at all the much larger mammalian fauna of home.

My kids are well acquainted with the local varieties of feathered friends, but with more than a million sooty terns calling Bird home for the breeding season, even two-year-old Cj was impressed, spending a good portion the first day on the island astonished by almost every single one of those more-than-a-million.

“Mommy! Mommy!” she’d shout, “Birdy … LOOK!”

Darned cute for the first, what? … eighty-five times? Just a tad tedious from then on. Thankfully, she developed an immunity by Day Two and spent more time trying to avoid stepping in bird poop.

“Yucky, Mommy!”

Sam, at almost five, was in his element with the freedom a small island gives a small boy, warm and calm seas, birds and lizards and giant tortoises everywhere, and full use of Mom’s digital camera to record all the wonders. His shot of a baby fairy tern earned him our combined families’ unofficial, but so prestigious “David Attenborough Award” that came in the shape of a bowl of coconut ice cream. Baby Fairy Tern

By mutual agreement it was decided that Bird Island’s “Big Five” must-see counterpart to Kenya’s list — lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe and elephant — would boil down to: dolphin, whale, whale shark, ray and sea turtle. (Land creatures on Bird being habituated to humans and far too easy to ‘spot’, the challenge had to come from the sea.)

One morning out on a boat produced fine viewing of three out of the five … the whales and whale sharks not cooperating, apparently … so everyone was happy as a clam (also not seen).

We’ll be doing this again.

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With all the predictability of a lemming, Mirah Riben tries to spin her fifteen minutes of some people with brains looking in her direction into some sort of respectability.

Yes, her appearance at the Ethica/Institute Conference has her feeling so cocky that trying to insult me is a matter of first importance. I am SO flattered. She’s put me right in there in the mentions on her Pickled Family Plffftt … or whatever … blog with people like Brenda Romanchik and Adam Pertman. Cool.

Apparently, I was quite the topic of conversation in nincompoop circles, and from the Riben’s writings (shudder) one would gather that those anti-adoption nut cases are as geographically challenged as they are misled about the circumstances of the world’s children.

Sadly for the poor and limited Riben, with all that a weekend such as this should have brought in the way of enlightenment, I was one of the few things she could focus on.

Oh, yes…and the piece de resistance for me: I was told that Sandra Hanks Benoiton, who slandered me on a.com, requested to attend the conference as a blogger and was refused because commercial bloggers were not allowed!!!

I’m a piece de resistance. It matters not that she’s wrong, as she always is, I like the designation and plan to forever … or for a week or so, at least … introduce myself in certain company as “Mirah Riben’s piece de resistance”.

Still deluded into thinking that my pointing out the fact that her writing sucks is “slander”, she continues to prove the truth of my words (the opposite of slander, for anyone not quite sure) over and over with multiple exclamation points and incorrectly spaced elipses and even more bad writing, as is obvious by the following exchange from her blog:

I just want to clarify that your comment about Ms. Benoiton is inaccurate. The conference was open the the public and she was not excluded to attend. Rather, one our criteria to participate in the bloggers introduction (not panel since there was no discussion or presentations), was that they not primarily blog professionally or for commercial sites. Thanks!

Linh Song, MSW
Executive Director
Ethica, Inc.

To which the Riben responds:

Thanks for that clarification, Linh. I guess I was unclear. I did not mean to imply that she was barred from attending, I guess it was her choice not to be a paid attendee to attend and learn about adoption ethics.

About as well-spoken as usual, that one.

If I thought there was any chance of educating this woman, I’d send her a map of the world with a little circle around Seychelles.

Since I don’t, I’ll just try this heads up: Yo, Riben and Riben-thinkers (And that’s a real ox of an oxymoron … or is it simply more moron?) — the Indian Ocean isn’t in Indiana.

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For those touched by adoption from Cambodia, or simply interested in happenings in the country this week, the news update is posted at the following links:




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Blessings and Beer

Today is the fourth of October, and for those not in the know, it celebrates the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Why would a reformed Catholic like myself have any inkling that this date has ties to an animal-loving, robed and haloed guy of the blessed persuasion?

Because in the village of Baie Lazare honoring St. Francis means Party Time … note the capital “P” capital “T”, and break out the beer!

Yes, this weekend … since the actual feast day falls during the week … will see festivities unlike any to be had over the rest of the year in this village on the south end of the island of Mahé, and preparations are as well under way as they can be in a place where few things are really ever prepared. Bamboo frames are in place at the church, and by Sunday, maybe, they’ll be covered in coconut leaves to be used as booths for gambling games, food stalls and purveyors of alcoholic beverages at prices higher than those charged at the shops just down the hill.

People dressed to the nines will coming by the bus- and car-load from all over the island for this, one of the biggest fetes on Mahé, and as soon as Mass is over, hundreds of people will be cruising the booths, visiting, gossiping, flirting, playing games and, yes, drinking.

The police will be out in small force directing traffic, asking those who tend to hover rather than park to move along. Those watching closely may notice that some urged back behind the wheel by officers of the law impatient with the choice of stopping spots have a beer or a plastic cup of whiskey in hand, and clearly more inside, but it will be moving along that’s required, nonetheless.

A great deal of slow circulating will go on around the church, as groups move in one direction by the various offerings of food, drink and entertainment, then shift to the other direction for a while in hopes of coming across someone they’ve not yet shared all the latest with. As the day gets hotter, shady spots will be taken by old ladies and young children and everyone but the ‘tweens and teens will be slowing down considerably.

By the evening, the ear-splitting music and over-amplified voices will have stopped and most folks will have drifted away toward home. What will be left will be a couple of drunks who’ll sleep off the day through the night, a strong smell of urine from the periphery, and an incredible amount of garbage.

The church will have made a good deal of money, and a good time will have been had by many, and everyone will be looking forward to next October … which will, of course, come around again in what will seem a month or so.

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With super storms brewing earlier each year, floods and droughts becoming common as mud and dust, and just about everywhere tossing some sort of difference in climate conditions at the inhabiting plants and animals, I thought some might be interested in my totally unscientific take on how Seychelles is being impacted by global warming.

When I first came here in the early ’90s, it was pretty much guaranteed that at least a few weeks a couple of times a year would have people lining the streets at odd hours of the day and night waiting for a water truck to chug into dispensing range to fill a wide variety of receptacles … buckets, barrels, pots, bottles, jerry cans — you name it … that would then be carefully toted back to houses with bone-dry taps and toilet tanks for judicious use until the next time water could be driven within reach.

The dry seasons were correctly defined as such. Brushfires often grew out of control as the bush went crispy and the oil in the cinnamon leaves that cover much of this island made for aromatic conflagrations.

Small rivers all but dried up, so the roadside ‘car washes’, small turnouts near streams that attracted taxi drivers who kept buckets in the boot of their car … okay, that’s ‘trunk’ in the old language … and others who’d want to spiff up the coupe for an island drive-around, were out of luck and driving dirty.

People with jobs, but no water tanks at home (and very few had water tanks at home, for some reason I’ve yet to figure), had to stagger schedules so that someone could manage to be near the house and roadside when the bowser passed and poured. Anyone that didn’t or couldn’t was out of luck water-wise until the next day when the same problem would present.

We spent a couple of years doing the water bucket dance before building a 30,000 liter tank that would allow us, with some prudence, to go about three months without new water coming in. Since the usual dry spell was about two months, we were covered … and clean.

Sometime after we built our tank, the government installed two desalination plants, to the tune of somewhere around $24 million.

About that time, the weather began to changed in earnest.

Seychelles no longer has dry seasons. We have marginally less wet seasons, but sometimes those end up being wetter than the wet seasons. Because of this, things are much greener around here and fires don’t tend to go anywhere but the smoldery little pile of garden refuse that’s refusing to burn.

Water comes from taps, for the most part, and when it doesn’t it’s because there’s a broken pipe somewhere spewing an Old Faithful all over a road.

We do have more mosquitos now, and an extra mosquito-borne disease that wasn’t here a few years ago, an unpleasant agony called chikungunya that migrated up from Mauritius after hopping across from East Africa. We also have dengue, but still, so far, no malaria.

So, there’s good and bad in our local version of climate change, and seeing as there’s not much that can still be done to avert whatever consequences the world shall suffer because of human idiocy and greed, I’m happy enough being in one of the places that’s getting wetter, rather than dryer.

Of course, the sea level rises that are certainly coming will cause problems here, and I’m glad we live a good distance uphill, especially since high tides and rough seas already have water going many places it never used to go.

I sure do wonder, though, about the wisdom that has companies building multi-million dollar projects on beaches, but that habit seems to be continuing all over the world.

Oh well. Maybe they know something I don’t.

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