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Archive for November, 2008

"Democratic" Republic of Congo © BBCGetting back into writing on issues of the world’s children, I’m struck this morning by a story the BBC is running today on the present state of affairs in the euphemistically named Democratic Republic of Congo.

Anyone who has been paying any attention at all is aware that, like the ongoing situation in Sudan, the DRC is a mess in large areas of the country and has been for years.

Of course, the children get the short end of the stick … or the sharp end, as is very often the case … and if you can stomach it, you can watch a vid on the page that illustrates the point.

This is NOT news … well, not to me. But it does seem to come as a surprise … surprise, surprise … to the UN.

Good old Ban Ki-moon is doing the usual Sec. Gen. tap dance thing of announcing a report … 28 pages of a report … that expresses concern.

Big whip! And SO too little and too late.

In his 28-page report for the UN Security Council, Mr Ban says the human rights situation in DR Congo is a “cause for grave concern”.

He states that elements of the Congolese army and national police “were responsible for a large number of serious human rights violations during the reporting period, namely arbitrary executions, rape, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Rebels, including Gen Nkunda’s Tutsi CNDP and the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia – some of whose fighters are believed to have taken part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide – are meanwhile accused of perpetrating “serious human rights abuses with impunity”.

These include “mass killings, torture, abductions, forced recruitment of children, forced displacement and destruction of [refugee] camps, force labour, sexual violence”, the report adds.

The Congolese national civilian and military intelligence services are also accused of making arbitrary arrests, followed by “torture and extortion”.

Do I hear a “duh” resounding?

The Security Council did just approve sending another 3,000 “peacekeepers” to an area that has seen somewhere around a quarter of a million people displaced … no one knows how many are dead, so don’t need to bother with becoming refugees … so, gee, that should make a big diff. Or not.

Once again, I’m forced to harp on the useless of the UN and wonder how many children who have been orphaned, tortured, raped, pressed into soldiering, prostitution, starvation or other horrors most would rather not think about.

I’ll also drop in a bit about the impossibility of offering any of these children a family while I again wonder about the segment of the world that considers international adoption a bad thing … cultural genocide that robs a child of their birthright to die in the country that bred them.

Gee. Why is this a one-note song?

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Kim (South Africa), Sam (Cambodia/Seychelles/UK), Calina (France) ... all together on my couch.

Kim (South Africa), Sam (Cambodia/Seychelles/UK), Calina (France) ... all together on my couch.

As seen in yesterday’s post, we celebrated Sam’s 6th birthday with a party on my veranda. I’m prompted by the event to wax on about life in the greater world … the world that includes other countries, cultures and concepts.

Not only did we have people from Seychelles, Cambodia, the US, the UK, Norway and Australia here, Sam also received birthday greetings … via Skype, facebook and emails from a whole bunch of folks in America, Sis … New Zealand-born, now living near Portland, OR … Sas and Miss B … born in India … in Luxembourg, Liv-Synnove in Norway, Calum in Kenya, Nadiera in Sri Lanka, Mervyn in China, Clint in Lebanon, Oscar in Finland, and friends living here from France, South Africa, and so on.

The fact that the world is small should be an easy one for all to take onboard, but one that appears to elude far too many on this tiny, interconnected planet. Our differences pale in comparison to our similarities, yet seem to get most of the focus outside social networks like facebook and myspace, and blogs, where people tend to go to look for like-minded folks to share with.

We’re a simple species, apparently, and although we can conceive the most amazing ideas and birth creatures that bring us together in ways unimaginable just a few years ago, we tend to lose the plot more than we follow.

I can only hope that the closeness that happens when people from so many different places and backgrounds communicate … I’m not talking about the pinheaded fools who try to turn chat to porn every chance they get — boring, stupid gits, they are — but those who build bridges and lifelong friendships with people they never would have had a chance to know before the world shrunk … will eventually make a huge difference for the positive and lead us away from our base nature and move us into a new realm where we are happier to share hugs than lob grenades.

And send birthday wishes to a little boy in Seychelles.

Cool.

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Sam’s birthday was on the 10th, but that fell during his time with his dad, so we decided to do a birthday redo today, the first weekend home again.

I have to admit that the day had a tang of the bittersweet for me, and I suffered with that taste in the back of my throat through the morning. Not only did I navigate the first family celebration as a single parent since Jenn and Jaren were young, I also did my first non-spontaneous party, meaning that the tag-team Mark and Sandra show was obvious in its absence. The dance that we choreographed over 15 years that had him doing the food while I did drinks and entertainment was today a pas de one … a difference, a change to be recognized, new steps to be learned.

Stick today on top of the mountain that is Thanksgiving looming … my favorite holiday that has me bumming myself out every year I’ve lived so far from my original family … and, well, it’s the Blues grabbing me by the heart and tugging.

Had a good cry while Skyping with Sis, then sucked it up and made the day fun and love-and-laugh filled. Friends gathered. Kids played. Magnar manned the BBQ. Stan toted and tidied. A good time was had by all.

Tried to load a vid, but it won’t work. There are photos on my facebook page, though.

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Just can’t resist posting this …

And when I go back to Paradise FM next year, this may be my theme song …

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I got my new car today.

That may sound like an easy thing to those who don’t live on an island in the middle of nowhere, but here it’s quite the feat. Won’t go into details and tremendous costs for a vehicle that in the rest of the world would be considered reasonable, but will say that I like it.

One biggie about it is that it represents another severing from Mark. We no longer have a car as bait for bitching. He has the company car … a French piece of shit with windows that pop out and wing mirrors that haven’t worked for 3 years … so less shit to toss at me as ammo.

I now have a cute little zippy number that is all mine.

Plus, it has a great music system that lets me blast out “low down, cheatin’, lyin’ man” country music at full blast … and I’m belting out tunes all the way up La Misere and down Les Canelles. (Rock on, Reba. Take it, Tammy!)

Goodie.

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I had so many comments … both on the blog and privately … on yesterday’s post that I reckon some addressing is due.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who has voiced the opinion that my voice is still valid in the adoption world. That is tremendously encouraging. The fact that even Coco lent encouragement is huge for me … thank you, Coco … and I’ll tell you why.

The online adoption community is notoriously fractious, and in my years of writing on the subject I have made no few enemies … some who have taken their level of vitriol so far beyond the realm of polite reason that mud blobs with my name on them stuck to the net will outlive me.

So much of this has felt counterproductive from the early days of my writing on the subject, and I refuse to pussyfoot my POV, as healthy debate has always seemed a good way to forge links that might eventually provide foundations for bridge building.

A conversation with Gershom, an adoptee who wrote what for all intents and purposes … and title … was anti-adoption, ended up in a dialog that encouraged everyone involved to participate in supporting the right of adoptees to their identity, and I’m pleased to say that she and I have developed respect for each other … a friendship, even

Coco and I also have had issues, but although we differ greatly in attitude, we have found the common ground and mutual respect that will eventually provide the only means to true reform that will protect those needing protection without cutting children needing families out of the equation completely.

Both of these relationships forged in fire where the inspiration behind the formation of Adoption Under One Roof, the community I helped found … then felt unworthy of continuing to contribute toward (although I hope and plan to reenter soon) … that was based on the idea of bringing all notes in the adoption triad together to learn to sing harmoniously, rather than harp on discord … or dis”chord”, as I think of it in these terms, “triad” also meaning a group of three notes on a chord, not simply opposing positions of those whose lives have been touched by adoption.

Of course, I also thank the adoptive moms that formed the backbone of my readership years back and continue to grow in numbers that form a protective circle around me as they close ranks and ‘get my back’.

And I’m pleased as anything to find new readers like Peter … an amazingly talented musician and writer with no adoption affiliation, as far as I know … adding his related experience to the mountain of support I find myself clinging to these days as I lurch my way up and out and toward the light that leads from the depths to the heights.

Thank you all.

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Magnar teaches Sam and Cj to groom a horse

Magnar teaches Sam and Cj to groom a horse

After 10 days with their dad, Sam and Cj are now home again, and home is once again a calm environment, albeit punctuated with girly giggles and the occasional squabble.

This reality, the one that has them having another place that’s home-like with the man who is their father, along with some woman I’ve never laid eyes on … and a baby on the way … is one that I never saw coming back when Mark and I were going through the adoption processes for them.

I’m not going to whine on here about ends of eras or dashed dreams or bumpy roads. In fact, I’m not going to whine at all.

I will, however, touch a bit upon how pulling rugs out from under the feet of children who began life with loss impacts, and how unfair it all still seems … to me, yes, but also, and more importantly, to them.

I was a child of divorce, so unlike my husband who conveniently assumes that “they’ll adjust” because “kids are resilient”, I know the consequences that come from abrupt shifts in the world, and I see the effects creeping in.

Although they are happy, healthy, smart and funny little people, emotional bruises are showing.

A few examples:

Cj now asks many times a day if I love her.

Every drive to school has her asking, “Will you pick me up?”

Sam refuses to mention one word about anything that occurred during his week away from home, as if it’s all one big guilty secret he must keep.

None of the signs I see are blatant examples of emotional upheavals, but all show cracks that weren’t there before their dad walked out. Their trust levels are way down, while their worry levels are way up. Stress, in other words, has come to their lives.

As long time readers have noted, I no longer write much about adoption, and since I used to post about 2,000 words per day on up to six different sites, this has been quite the drop-off.

The reason? I feel a bit a fraud touting the gifts it brings since I can no longer offer the bubble of security and protection I thought I was assuring when we brought them from Cambodia to Seychelles, promising, I thought, happy ever after.

Okay, life happens. I know this. And I also know the long term advantages of learning early that life is hard and that adjustments will have to be made as one makes their way down whatever path is put at their feet.

That was an easier take with my bio kids. For one reason, I was younger and less concerned by outcomes years down the pike. For another, they were the results of what had always been a crap shoot. Neither was planned, so their existence felt meant-to-be in ways beyond my scope.

Sam and Cj came to me through great and concerted efforts that involved much inward examination of motives and well-laid plans for futures based on foundations forged in determined ground that was to hold solid for them.

There is no lack of love around them … Mark does love them … and, in fact, they are getting love from sources that wouldn’t be showering it upon them now had circumstances not put people like Magnar in their lives.

And they are doing well, according to all observers, from teachers to friends to me and their dad. But they do, again, know loss, and that hurts them.

I may again take up the adoption torch and advocacy roll that had me so active, and in some quarters so hated, but I’ll enter that fray from a different angle now and with a cautious optimism that my kids will make it through the upheaval in their young lives and learn to live with a family much less the “Brady Bunch” than I’d hoped.

Not all sunshine and lollypops, for sure, and that’s a drag when learned at 5 and 3. But learned it must be, and I’m working like hell to keep the lights and goodies coming while helping them navigate the unfamiliar waters of a family broken.

Life is what it is, and theirs has already had such drastic twists and turns. I can only hope the result for them will be like it has been for my brothers and me … a capacity to roll with the punches and make lemonade.

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So, sure, we break out in spontaneous parties, have fab friends, lovely weather and azure-blue seas, but anyone getting the idea that life on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean is all sunshine and lollypops was clearly not around the past couple of days.

Thursday: Just after 6pm, when I’d just finishing the agonizingly slow process of uploading a photo to this blog, the Internet crapped out. Phone call to Internet Service Provider prompted.

You must understand that the term “ISP” in this part of the world is misleading in that they often do NOT Provide any Service, and since I’m such a raging bitch I call whenever my connection fails. (Keep in mind that this is how I make much of my living, so live and die with my connectivity.) All the guys at Kokonet … my “I” not quite “S” and flaky “P” … know me too well, and answer any call with a number of mine they recognize with a roll of the eyes I can hear and a consigned-to-their-fate “Hi, Sandra” that carries the same tone conveyed by a 10-year-old whose mother just caught them smoking … crack.

Here’s the conversation from Thursday, 6:20pm:

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ad nauseam (and this is the HOTLINE number) which doesn’t daunt me one single bit.

“Hello … ”

me: Who am I speaking to?

Richard … Hi, Sandra …

me: So …

him: Routine maintenance. We sent out an email.

me: Funny, but I didn’t get any email.

him: Well, we sent one.

me: Not to me.

him: Not my job …

me: Fine … so when are we back on?

him: Eight.

me: Really?

him: Well, around 8 …

me: sputter, sputter, doubt, sputter …

him: Maybe before.

me: Yeah, right. You do realize that every time you all do maintenance the system craps out?

him: intentionally obtuse blah, blah, blah …

me: So … 8 …

him: Definitely …

Of course, 8:00 comes … and goes …

By 9 I’m back on the phone …

him: Hi, Sandra …

me: Well … ?

him: Just heard that it will be another 45 minutes.

me: And then … ?

him: blah, blah, blah …

But, miraculous as it may be, 45 minutes later we’re reconnected and I’m working away … only to have the bloody thing die in 15 minute chunks every half hour or so.

So … I dial the hotline again, and … no answer, ever.

So … at 1:30am I call the mobile number of another guy who works at Kokonet, Selwyn.

Here’s that dialog:

Selwyn, sleepy sounding: Hi, Sandra …

me: What the feck is going on tonight … rant, rave, rant, rave ….

him: I have no idea what you’re on about. It was working fine when I left the office …

me: Well, it’s not working at all now.

him: Why is it always you?

me: Tell me!!!

him: I left my computer at work so I can’t check if the problem goes further than your place …

me: Selwyn, what DO you do for a living? You left your feckin’ computer at work?

him: Yeah … forgot it.

me: How bloody comforting. Now, give me some hope, please …

him: I’ll get into the office early tomorrow and sort this out … I promise.

After trying like crazy to get him to give me his bosses private number … “You know I can’t do that, Sandra. I’ll get sacked if I do,” … I give up, turn music up loud and do my nightly stretching exercises that spring my unstrung springs. (I am VERY bendy … even at this advanced age. Former dancer, you know … )

So … Friday dawns to … no feckin’ Internet.

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring …

Selwyn: Hi, Sandra …

me: And, so …

him: Big problem. I have no idea what’s wrong. Basically, though, we’re screwed.

And that’s were it stayed until half an hour ago.

One aside, that’s is SO more than an aside, but will sit there for blog purposes …

When I woke up this morning, not only did I not have Internet, my freezer had defrosted and my 50 bags of frozen bananas … along with everything else … had defrosted. Ever seen bags of thawed out frozen bananas? Well, they leak sweet, sticky black gunk. (It’s lovely warmed up on ice cream, actually, and in smoothies, which is why I had 50 bags of bananas in my freezer. When my bananas are ripe, there are hundreds of the buggers.) These had leaked the black gunk down every shelf and out the bottom of the fridge door all over my kitchen.

We have no such things as refrigerator repair people here. None. And there are no spare parts even if we did have someone who could diagnose the problem and tell me which parts were needed.

In other words, I’m screwed.

But, at least I can write about it.

(I must, however, throw in the NaBloPoMo towel for the month, as I missed a day, and that’s a no-go.)

Feck!!!!!!

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Skyping Sis at the party ... A hoot and a half!

Skyping Sis at the party ... A hoot and a half!

The kids are with Mark this week, so not only do I not have to spend four hours a day driving to hell town and back … twice … I also get to stay up late and hang out with consenting adults.

More often that probably happens in the real world, this can result in spontaneous parties breaking out on my veranda. Last night was typical …

We went do dinner at Julian’s down on the beach to meet up with Nic, a former Brit Army Major, who was spending her last day in the country at Anse Soleil. Dinner was lovely, when she finally dragged her sand-covered ass up to the café, but didn’t last long enough.

A few others had joined us, so it ended up being eight of us … me, Stan, Andy, Clare, Nic, Christopher, Kim and Calina … trotting up to my place with beers and wine and the willingness to yack our heads off and laugh our asses off.

And, boy!, did we.

We showed each other our tattoos … Calina gets the prize !!! … swapped outrageous tales, kvetched about rising prices, sung the praises of tropical living, and a good time was had by all.

No few countries were represented … America, England, India, Germany, France, South Africa and Seychelles (Norway was missed, though, because Magnar is ill, poor baby.) … so it was, indeed, an international affair as most on this island are.

The scope broadened considerably when my skype rang and at the other end, and from the other side of the planet, my sister, Jo, joined the party. (She’s a Kiwi living in Washington, so another country heard from.)

Video skyping is always cool, and when the result of this whizzy techno-stuff is another guest at a party … well, it was amazing.

My sis is funny. Really, really funny. (She is SO my sister!) So, when everyone ended up crowded around my computer and began to wet themselves laughing, I was not one bit surprised.

The only thing missing was music … I really need to find a roving band that does deliveries …

It was, again, a wonderful night, one that had me buzzing so much that I stayed up ’til 4:30 in the morning … Stan was a hammock lump by 1-ish, bless ‘im … IMing my heart out.

Ah … island life …

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I seem to be focusing a lot of my writing here on men these days … Gee! Go figure … and continue to be in the mood to do so.

So …

For NaNoWriMo, I’m working on a semi-autographical novel … to be tied to the one Stan is writing when November is over, if I manage the deadline, which I’m doubting … and in the process of constructing the bones of the book I’ve come to the point in my life, in my early 20s, where I worked as a roadie for a rock band in California.

Spider Kelly was a talented collection of smart, bitingly witty … for the most part … beautiful men, with whom I lived and worked and traveled for the good part of the 70s: Michael, John, Tony, Kit and Dusty … and to a later and lesser degree, Jeff.

With my well-known prodigious memory, I have no problem conjuring accurate images from the time … conversations, addresses, names of pets and girlfriends, clubs we played, insults we slung like grenades (all HiLarryUS!), lyrics and bass riffs and the heft of a Hammond B3 and its companion, the Leslie.

For additional inspiration, I pulled out a DVD sent to me by one of the guys a few years ago of a reunion they had, and I missed, dammit, back in 2004.

Wow.

I’d not watched the thing in at least 2 years, but was once again transported to the days of my misspent youth. At more than an arm’s length past 50, John still swings his bass and crouches above the mic just like he did at 20-something, and underplays his tremendous astuteness with the same shy-guy shade of a smile. Michael steps up to his vocals with the same sexy casual swagger and belts out those familiar words with every bit as much heart. Tony’s fingers haven’t slowed down one bit, and his “concentration face” … and smart-ass comment look … still flickers with the bloom of youth. Jeff still can’t remember the words to songs (and he’s the lead singer). Dusty, finally in ear protection, stretches between songs with the same arms-to-the-heavens reach and misses about all of the banter … due to lack of said ear protection back when it would have made a difference.

Prompted by this trip down musical lane, I wandered back to their website, gazed at photos from another life, listened to songs I haven’t heard for yonks and signed the guestbook.

I have, over the years, been in touch with Dusty and Tony by email, but lost all my addies in the latest ‘puter crash, so was right pleased when I thought to look up my boys on facebook and, lo and behold, found Dusty.

Amazingly … and I’m so far past doubting the fates that I’m more pleasantly surprised than actually amazed … Dusty had joined up just that morning! Of course, I friended him, and we’ve been catching up. (He actually emailed me, too, AS I was watching the DVD! How much do I love the times we live in?)

Michael, bless him, emailed me the same day, and to be sharing life details with him again is just too wonderful for words.

We’re all getting old now, but still rockin’ … and, more importantly, still friends, and how great is that?

I am now, and always have been, one lucky girl with the great proportion of men in my life. Sure, I’ve had my share of assholes and heartbreak, but weighed against the lifelong connection to so many wonderful friends of the male persuasion? I win, time after time after time.

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