Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2008

I remember years ago seeing a cartoon in my ex-husband’s Playboy that pictured a tarted up babe with the look of a pro chatting to another saying, “I’m thinking of moving to another town and starting all over as a virgin.”

Living on an island 1,000 miles from anywhere massive or densely populated, I have come to realize that there are a lot of people who think that sort of transmogrification is not only possible, but seamless and invisible.

I’ve written about this phenomenon before, using the same Playboy ref, actually … I just realized this when I looked up the link … but the topic deserves a re-visit.

Because Seychelles has to rank in the top three of the most beautiful places on the planet, and Number One when it’s tropical you’re talking, a lot of people dream of coming here. (Not so many Americans, actually, the bulk being geographically challenged and most having a hard time placing the Indian Ocean on a globe.)

Most are content with a holiday, or perhaps some stint working on contract for a couple of years, but there are a resolute few determined to come and to stay.

Some, of course, are lovely and genuine people who soon get over being impressed with themselves for finding the place … many have what must be a Columbus Complex or something, somehow figuring they’ve “discovered” Seychelles … and settle into the business of living.

They introduce themselves to their neighbors, feel their way around slowly, laugh at their ignorance and understand quickly that everyone here has seen it all before.

Others, however, run on different tracks and tend to assume that we’re all DYING to learn how to do things just like they were done in whatever country they’ve just rejected in favor of these islands, and that they are exactly the people to show us all how to do it; the “What you need here is ____” types that wonder how we got by without a ____ for all these years, not stopping to consider the likelihood that someone started a ____ a while back and it tanked within 6 months.

Another group has, from the beginning, no intention of having anything to do with the way of life that recently everyone lived fairly unanimously. Until a short time ago, the difference in day-to-day between the very rich and the very poor was very small, but that is changing. It’s no longer the case that when we’re out of butter, we’re all out of butter, as now there may be butter for those with something other than rupees in their pockets, and this is tempting for some wanting the beautiful beaches, but not the logistical consequences of tiny, mid-ocean island life.

(Imagine the carbon footprint of butter flown in on a private jet! Ewww. Messy.)

In discussing between those who belong in the country … it being home, and all … the ploys entry-hopeful newbies of the “not going to fit in well” group employ, there seem to be three main categories: those who try to buy their way in; those who try to lie their way in; and those who try to bully their way in. One method works … or doesn’t work, or works only for a little while, actually … about as well as another, and all are easily spotted.

When it does work, the spot-’em-a-mile-away-trying-to-shake-the-tourist-look-crowd can be almost as entertaining as annoying.

Usually the tales that come with new imports are merely amusing, although embarrassing, diversions for those of us who have seen it all before. From the maybe-German-wannabe-tango-dancer to the South African who was “advance man for multi-millionairs”, they manage to cadge a few free drinks and invitations to a couple of barbecues, but beyond that the damage they do is mainly self-inflicted.

Most often, these folks don’t last long. Once their stories run out and the level of phoniness has been firmly established, whatever benefit they were hoping to get out of life in Seychelles dissipates, so they move along to try it all on again somewhere else, probably adding fake tales of island conquests to their repertoire for the audience at the next stop.

There are those, however, who tough it out … most likely because they burned all other bridges before investing everything in a flashy dodge that didn’t fly … and spend the rest of their lives being reminded almost daily of what an ass they were when they came and suffering the resultant lack of trust and respect … if, that is, they don’t get kicked out like the Austrian who kept picking fights with everyone who disagreed with him and the Italian looking for “investors”.

Occasionally, however, reasons for reinvention are nefarious, and it can be difficult to establish which bullshitting new arrival is playing a game of ego-boosting Let’s Pretend, and who has motivations of a more sinister variety.

As the world gets smaller, Seychelles moves closer to the rest of it, and without the protection of thousands of miles of sea and the almost uniquely exclusive isolation we’ve enjoyed here for so long the ever-increasing population of the run-of-the-mill not-so-nice and downright slimy are more likely to find us.

It has been only recently that hard drugs have made it this far, and although the years of avoiding that horror were lovely, they have created a climate in which people have not been prepared for the onslaught. People with no idea of the dangers, having never seen the devastation that crawls in the wake of drug abuse, are just now waking up to the fact that cannabis and heroin are not interchangeable party drugs.

Although the country is racing to get up to speed, education and enforcement are struggling to catch up with the much faster process of dealing and using, so there are likely to be some who figure we have a good place here to set up base and provide illegal substances in the region.

Others have come here to hide, or live openly but avoid prosecution, and we have had our famous cases of fugitives from the law of other countries.

One of the many advantages of being a small nation 1,000 miles from anywhere is the ability the country has to control who is here. It’s virtually impossible to hide in Seychelles; a population that lived with one part-time TV station for years … still the case for those of us living off the beaten track … has learned the entertainment value of neighbor-watching, and since everyone is related to everyone, those that aren’t tend to stand out.

Since sneaking in and hunkering down without anyone noticing can’t really happen, the government is in a good position to decide on a person-by-person basis who gets to come, who gets to stay and who doesn’t. The agencies in charge of making such decisions have much to consider, and potential contributions to the overall good of Seychelles comes in way higher than providing a pretty view to someone who wants to hang out on an island … unless that pretty view comes at a price that makes it worth being considered a contribution on its own.

Although I am very much on the side of grasping firmly to a status quo that even I admit sees the development writing on the wall, it is a given that Seychelles is changing and that our little population of 85,000 cousins and second cousins and uncles-by-marriage is becoming more like other places where being related to the people you run into in town is more of an oddity than a daily happening.

New people are coming, and I can’t blame them for wanting to live here. (Heck, I want to live here, so why wouldn’t someone else?) But I do wish every one would be required to pass, in addition to an international criminal background check, some sort of orientation and an exam.

The orientation would include being handed a list of items, then told to go out and make the purchases.

Sample list:

Tweezers
14″ white shoe laces
tortillas (corn or flour)
mint jelly
tire patch kit
green curry paste
aspirin
chainsaw blade
The latest Harry Potter book
Bra: Size 36 or 38 D or DD or any size in yellow
A picture of St. Michael the Archangel in wellington boots.

Okay. The last one is a joke … those are everywhere.

And the test? Breaking out the JerkDetector and the BSometer would be a start.

Read Full Post »

Steven Spielberg pretty much ruined the sea for me … a fact I have brought up with him on more than one occasion, and one for which he is not nearly as regretful as he should be … so I was more than thrilled when today I showed Sam the dorsal fin of a baby shark a friend had found at our neighborhood beach and saw his only reaction was a deep sadness.

I have long resented my gut response to all things shark-like, the involuntary dread that creeps over me as I snorkel in water with a tinge of mirk, a hint of looming possibility. That these amazing creatures bring out the worst in knee-jerk horror is a disappointment in my nature.

The knowledge, however, that I’ve not passed that along to my son gives me cause to rejoice.

Growing up as he has in the tide pools and shallows of the Indian Ocean where it touches this island is a gift Mark and I are grateful to give. Even with the inherent risks that come with island living, with the sea so close, so strong, so potentially deadly, our kids, like their father, have a relationship with it I can only dream of.

At five, Sam already has those velcro-like feet that allow him to jump from rock to rock without slipping and the balance to stand in a pirogue in choppy water. He learned the hard way not to jump in bait-filled water, as a graze with a stone fish was painful enough without serious consequence, thankfully … and the stay in hospital served to reinforce the lesson … and catching macabale in the lamar is as easy for him as it was for Mark when he was a boy.

Yes, it’s the right combination of joy and respect that he’s built, and at the same time the ocean feels like his vast and interesting playground he understands its power and the total disregard it has for life in any form.

Mark grew up with the sea at his doorstep. I did not, so didn’t learn the language it clearly speaks or to read the waves, and I still need a translator even after years of patient tutelage. Because of this handicap I can’t fully love it, as I tend to doubt its intent even on those days when it seems the Indian Ocean is as calm as a pond from here to Kenya.

Although I worry every time the kids are anywhere near the sea, I am pleased they don’t, and happy that the most basic of basics of island living … being surrounded by water … makes them happy.

So, although we have an abundance of Spielberg movies on DVD, “Jaws” will not be added to the collection. When it comes to his classics, we’re sticking with Indiana Jones since Sam’s not likely to develop an irrational fear of devil-worshipping nazis that could put a crimp in his Saturdays at Grandma’s.

Read Full Post »

I know we’re all getting tired of the Miguel the Violent Nut Case story, but since he’s yet to run out of stupid, and since some readers have voiced interest in follow-up, there’s more. Sigh …

Surprise, surprise … he’s taken down the offending post on his blog, done a rewrite he must think casts him in a good light and me in a poor one, and posted it as a Must Read for Seychellois that actually manages to make him look like an even bigger ass.

Seems he’s changed the link to his trash. (I’ve changed it, too, so the click still works.) By the way, here’s a link to how he feels about negativity and his Creator. Yeah … right. Very spiritual, this Miguel, heh?

I know, I know … that didn’t seem possible.

He’s all with the threats again, although this time he’s not insinuating violence to my poor old self, but exposure. Yep, he’s planning to let the world know that I know that Seychelles is expensive, has shortages and a rising crime rate, and he’s going to email his idiocy to ” government officials, newspapers, TV station, police, ministry of tourism”, apparently having no idea that everyone has already seen it along with his nasty, although poorly composed, revelation of his true self.

And, get this:

What she did not realize is that my film company is not just a motion picture company, and I have way more contacts and pull in more “real” media than she could ever imagine.

Garsh … he has contacts in the movies.

Read Full Post »

Burmese man ©Leeroy09481Here’s an interesting dilemma to weigh …

When a country has gone to hell in a handbasket, is it better to give it a wide berth or barge in and take a look around?

This is the debate between the British Trade Union Congress (TUC) in conjunction with Tourism Concern Burma, and the Lonely Planet Guide going on right now, with one side insisting that travel to Burma constitutes unethical support of the repressive regime that rules the country and makes life miserable for its people, while the other argues that there are pros and cons, and that people should make up their minds for themselves.

Listed at the front of the book are points for and against:

Its reasons not to go include:

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi opposes tourism
The military government uses forced labour
International tourism seen as ‘stamp of approval’
Money from tourism goes to the military government

Reasons to go are:
Tourism is one of few areas to which locals have access
Carefully targeted spending reaches individuals in need
Locals have told travel guide authors they are in favour
Abuses less likely in areas frequented by foreigners

I’ll admit that I am no fan of tourists … living where and how I do has calloused my view on those who traipse into a country, treat the place like Disneyland and the people like entertainment hired to amuse or serve, then depart with no thought whatsoever as to what legacy they might be leaving. In fact, I detest their arrogance and their ignorance and wish they would all stay home and annoy their own.

On the other hand, I am quite fond of travelers.

There’s a big difference between those needing to place a check mark saying BTDT alongside other peoples’ homes in hopes of impressing friends probably too busy doing the same to actually be impressed and people seeking knowledge and horizon expansion. Of course, both can be called tourists, but the impact made is as contrastive as are the motivations.

And motivations do count in travel, especially when talking about travel to a place like Burma.

Adventurers looking for the undiscovered destination come in many flavors, and where those determined to fill the first-white-man-the-village-has-ever-seen types can do a lot of damage and ruin the place … not only for those coming behind, but also for the locals, and forever … some with a gentle approach may prepare the ground for the populace to have some control over the changes about to descend on their world.

High-end tourists, those demanding Five Star service in Six Star destinations, aren’t likely to head for Burma until Raffles builds a resort and Bill Gates puts another Four Seasons on another “unspoiled” bit of property … spoiling it forever like the place he’s building in my back yard … but there are a few of the more intrepid rich guys who will rent a villa with the full complement of staff so they can be the first in their private-jet-parking group to say, “Had a lovely couple of days in Mandalay.”

They could have just as well been in Mauritania or Mauritius for all the Myanmar they experienced, but that wouldn’t be the point, now, would it?

I suspect sex tourism will be on the agenda for far too many who look for new ground to break in South East Asia and might figure the poverty in Burma would make for easy pickings.

Holiday destinations rise and fall in popularity, and the trendiness of Burma is probably only a matter of time as other countries become tarnished with familiarity. I predict this will be both a good thing and a bad thing and that life for the Burmese will change both for the better and for the worse as it becomes part of the homogenized world of franchises that Lonely Planet, like every guide book ever written encourages whether meaning to or not.

Calling for a boycott of Lonely Planet seems just silly, as I know I wouldn’t be writing about tourism to Burma had they not pressed the issue, and I’m betting others are doing the same in reaction to the BBC coverage it spurred.

Twenty years ago, I would have been one of the first to buy the book and try to plan a trip. These days, however, I’m just hoping a few of the rude and pushy tourists cluttering beaches and driving on the wrong side of the road in Seychelles decide to go there instead.

Photo Credit: Leeroy09481

Read Full Post »

I’ve just read the most confounding bit of news I’ve seen in a while, and in a source that usually delivers it straight up, making it even more confusing.

It’s this article in the Washington Post that sent me scurrying all over the Internet in search of corroboration and reason.

The story is about George W. Bush’s Africa trip from the angle of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, where it has succeeded and where it has fallen short. It makes sense, for the most part, as it explains how $15 billion has increased the availability of treatment, but with the rate of infections going up faster than meds can be handed out, that the big picture is not rosy.

The statement that “nearly half of today’s 15-year-olds in South Africa, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program, will contract the virus in their lifetimes at current infection rates,” jars gratingly against the claim of 157,000 cases of pediatric HIV prevented through providing antiretrovirals to pregnant women, and research that says 40% of those given the lifesaving drugs drop out of the loop, stop taking their meds and most likely die takes some of the gloss off the 1.3 million PEPFAR supports treatment for.

The political motivation combining with whatever portion of the PEPFAR dollar comes from pure benevolence puts an interesting point on the quill, as well:

Studies have shown that family planning could avert far more infections than antiretroviral drugs because many women, especially those with HIV, want fewer children. Critics say the restriction, along with PEPFAR’s emphasis on untested abstinence programs, exists mainly to win support from conservative congressional Republicans, undermining the full potential of a program that the White House bills as one of the biggest humanitarian ventures in history.

Yes, that’s confounding to me, as medical issues should not be cross-contaminated by moral judgement as far as I’m concerned.

Not nearly as confounding, however, as what wraps up the piece:

Yet the past five years have also shown that the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will. Africa’s biggest declines in HIV rates during Bush’s AIDS initiative have come in Zimbabwe, where economic collapse has coincided with fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships, research there shows.

Yep … Sandra reads those words, and goes scuttering in search of something that has THAT make any sense.

Zimbabwe put forth as an example of something going right? Hmmmmm. Me thinks there’s something rotten in Harare.

A quick search of “AIDS in Zimbabwe” comes up with 604,000 links on Google and not one I opened made any grand statements about a drop in the HIV infection rates.

Curious.

AidsPortal.Org has something about an increase in the number of people on antiretrovirals, but also mentions the “daunting task of breaking the vicious cycle of new infections,” which doesn’t sound like a big drop in infections is happening.

HIVInSite, a project of the University of California, doesn’t give any indication of a letup in infections, either. It does, however, give one tiny clue that moved me along … under “New HIV infections, 2005” the entry was “nd”: no data.

Hmmmmm.

Eventually coming across Avert.org’s page on AIDS in Zimbabwe, the true picture emerged.

In many cases, as one Zimbabwean doctor explained to reporters, the reality is that AIDS can now be counted amongst such concerns: “Put simply, people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death.”

The situation in Zimbabwe is now so bad that:

Between 2002 and 2006, the population is estimated to have decreased by four million people.

Infant mortality has doubled since 1990.

Average life expectancy for women, who are particularly affected by Zimbabwe’s AIDS epidemic, is 34 – the lowest anywhere in the world. Officials from the World Health Organisation have admitted that since this figure is based on data collected two years ago, the real number may be as low as 30.

Zimbabwe has a higher number of orphans, in proportion to its population, than any other country in the world, according to UNICEF. Most of these cases are a result of parents dying from AIDS.

So, there’s the reason AIDS numbers are down in Zimbabwe … more people are already dead than they were last year and the year before, and the deaths are happening just that much faster than new infections are being reported. (We don’t even need to start in on the accuracy of reporting in the country.)

For the WaPo to suggest that Mugabe’s masterwork of horror that is modern-day Zimbabwe proves that “the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will,” but rather through, “fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships,” is irresponsible at best, and shows an inclination to accept “research” generated by tyranny in attempts to provide positive spin to genocidal maniacs.

I have come to expect much better from the publication.

Confounding, indeed.

This is x-posted to Adoption Under One Roof because it fits in both places.

Read Full Post »

No, I’m not harkening back to the flap last year that had tacky t-shirts emblazoned with the what was either cleverly hip or cynically horrid “Adoption: the New Black”, but rather the REAL New Black, which is black.

Yep. Black: The New Black.

Blacker than black, this new black is amazingly cool to a science geek wannabe like me.

It’s the Washington Post that puts out a version of this I can wrap my head around … almost … as it describes a new material that absorbs — get this — 99.955% of any light that hits it.

Hmmmmmm … If a moth gets to it, does it leave a Black Hole?

“It’s very deep, like in a forest on the darkest night,” said Shawn-Yu Lin, a scientist who helped create the material at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. “Nothing comes back to you. It’s very, very, very dark.”

I’m trying to imagine aiming my eyes at a bit of fabric from which nothing comes back.

What’s that like? Brain death, maybe? Like, I’m looking, I’m looking, I’m looking, but there’s so much nothing to see that I might as well not have eyes?

Cool.

Wondering what use the New Black will have, besides being the height of whatever heights get that groovy designation?

Well, the military is jazzed about adding it to stealth coatings that absorb radar waves. Why not?

But check out this stuff:

Solar panels coated with it would be much more efficient than those coated with conventional black paint, which reflects 5 percent or more of incoming light. Telescopes lined with it would sop up random flecks of incidental light, providing a blacker background to detect faint stars.

And a wide array of heat detectors and energy-measuring devices, including climate-tracking equipment on satellites, would become far more accurate than they are today if they were coated with energy-grabbing superblack.

Of course, I’m thinking of the fashion potential. Those extra pounds I’m toting could disappear with just a little nip and tuck, not of me, but of an outfit sporting strategic touches of “super black”. And think of the contouring possible if it could be added to a makeup line! Double chin! What double chin?

And Halloween! Head! What head?

I also can’t shake the idea of Bug Bunny’s portable holes … those disks of black he’d toss when he needed a quick getaway. With big enough circles of the New Black anyone could appear to exit Stage Right for “Wonderland”.

Of course, having all the light sucked out of the immediate area is one way to hide, but not the only one almost possible these days.

Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak is also in the works, but rather than gobble light the stuff being used bends it backward.

Known as transformation optics, the phenomenon compels some wavelengths of light to flow around an object like water around a stone. As a result, things behind the object become visible while the object itself disappears from view.

Does that or does than not give goose bumps the size of headlamps?

Okay … now that we can cloak a Volkswagon like a Klingon war bird, can we please get that beamy-uppy thing in the works? I’d really like to meet my oldest son’s girlfriend.

Read Full Post »

For a couple of reasons … 1) I’m old and becoming ever more resistant to new ways of doing things, and 2) I live on a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere … I have long managed to ignore a global phenomenon that has become part of the daily grist for the consumer mill and so common in the common vernacular to be included in almost ever reference that might have anything to do with the world’s favorite contact sport: shopping.

Yes, over the weekend I took the time needed to add my name to the list of millions of humans who are buying and selling as if life itself depended on the activity on eBay.

I have been familiar with the concept of eBay for years, as my step mom has made a good part of her fortune of dealing in hard-to-find specialty items on the site … not that I’ve ever looked at what she’s selling, but I hear that she hawks everything from dolls to dressers after combing estate sales and such for valuable antiques and collectables others have been undervalued by a bundle.

For myself, however, I never saw the need to frustrate my stifled shopping heart any further with a whole lot more stuff on offer that no one would send to Seychelles … having never heard of the place, or understanding that our money isn’t worth anything anywhere else.

The list of online companies I can’t shop from is long and disappointing, and often confusing. For example, I can buy books and movies from Amazon … and they’re great at shipping quickly and reliably … but ask the same website to let me buy a toy for one of my kids and I’m out of luck — or the kids are, actually. Toys, electronics, clothing … any of the items sold from the Amazon site that don’t happen come printed on paper or embedded on disks won’t come to Seychelles.

So, no I haven’t become a registered eBayer in hopes of buying any of the wonderful items available there and impossible to find here, but rather to sell, or attempt to sell things others might not be able to get their paws on, but that I have ready access to.

And what sort of treasures do I have that you many not? Well, aside from the biggest nuts in the world, there is the Bush / Bin Laden Racetrack Toy … that trashy bit of terrible taste I wrote about recently.

I’m not at all sure I’ve correctly eBayed in a way that would have anyone actually find the silliness I have for sale, but if you know anyone in the market for the crappiest toy of this year and next, here’s the link to my very first eProduct.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »