Archive for September, 2009

Guess what I found in my post office box today. No. Really … guess.

(Take some time … )

Okay. Spilling now …

Today, the 28th of September, 2009, I open my PO Box to find … ta daaaaaa!!!! … my absentee ballot that starts out like this:

Dear Voter,
Your Vote by Mail Ballot for the November 4, 2008 General Election is enclosed.

You are designated as an Overseas Federal Voter. Your voter registration form indicates that you are living out of the country indefinitely. As a federal voter you are only entitled to vote for federal candidates in the following offices:
President, Vice President, US Senator and members of the House of Representatives. (And so on …)

Gee. Thanks.

I’ll assume that “only entitled to vote for” can be interpreted as ENTITLED to vote, which may be a bit tough since my ballot reached me almost one full year late.

Although Seychelles is on the other side of the world, it is actually ON this planet, and … hey! … we have a postal service that connects to other countries. My address on the envelope (no postmark to indicate when it was sent, by the way) is correct, and with “OFFICIAL ABSENTEE BALLOTING MATERIAL – FIRST CLASS MAIL” writ large across the front, it seems that slow-boat-round-the-horn was not to be an option for getting this into my hands.

I was in Sacramento, site of the return address, just a couple of months ago, so know that it has not vanished for one hundred years, a la Brigadoon. and that planes still fly from California toward the rest of the world, many carrying post.

Were I the conspiracy-minded sort, I may suspect that my declaration of Democrat on the application might have slowed down the process a bit, but … well … okay, that did run across the corners of my mind and felt no less far-fetched than the idea that I’m either living in a time warp or on some far-flung planet.

Imagine how pissed off I’d be if Obama hadn’t won …

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As a species, are humans getting dumber, or does instant access to information just make it seem that way? A couple of stories in today’s news have me pondering pandering as what was once journalism jigs toward justification with revenue being the mighty motivator.

Starting with all the flap over the President of the United States addressing the nation’s school children, I admit to being aghast. Although I agree that it was totally wrong for Dan Quayle to insist kids spell potato incorrectly, the country’s leaders are supposed to be role models, inspirational … every kid has the potential to be, etc. … and it is rather the job of the President to LEAD, even kids.

This article from the Heritage Foundation takes issue with that whole ‘leadership’ thing, apparently, reducing the office of the President to a political entity without merit .

Parents across the country have raised alarm about President Obama’s planned “back to school” address to American students. When the Department of Education released a lesson plan that included asking youngsters—how can you help President Obama?—parents’ concern that their children were being “organized” for political purposes was justified.

Helping the President is now a bad thing that children are to be turned away from, protected from the idea of? There’s a concept history will not take kindly to.

I won’t bother making too much of a point about the fact that math skills seem to be lacking at the Heritage Foundation … “This year, American taxpayers will spend $10,000 per-student on the average students’ public school education this year. A kindergartener starting school this year can expect to have $100,000 spent on his or her education.” … but will say that $7,692.31 per child per year is peanuts.

Considering the fact that Americans spent more than $66 billion on soft drinks in 2004 … and probably more than that in 2008 … that less-that-ten-grand (do the math) sounds meager.

And speaking of how things sound …

Yet for millions of kids, this six-figure investment will lead to dismal results.

doesn’t sound good. Turn it around, however, and talk about the millions of kids who make the most out of under-funded education, graduate from high school, go through college, establish successful careers, head up companies, raise families and keep the world spinning and the picture shifts from a boo hiss to hearty hoorays accompanied by no few thank-our-lucky-stars.

Arguments over a Presidential address to American children should have been nothing more than a tempest in tepid tea, sour grapes grumbling from some of those who didn’t get enough votes to be running the show right now. Contrary to the general welfare, however, the rabble raises revenue so rates regurgitation.

Of course, this isn’t only an American phenomenon. Over in Europe, they’re getting the short end of the stick from the press as it goes to great lengths to make a tall tale out of French President Sarkozy’s stature … as if his wife wearing flats proves he’s a heel when it comes to running a country.

The BBC headlines the story, “Sarkozy height row grips France”, and if that’s not insulting … even to the French (which might very well be the point, since this is from the BBC) … well …

Mass media … short on substance, but long on prevarication. Why? Because it sells.

We’ll be shortchanged as long as we keep buying it. Shouldn’t we have loftier goals?

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Are we having fun yet?

Fuck itWall … ouch. Wall … ouch. Wall … ouch. Wall … ouch.

Just call me Lumpy and hand me a helmet, please.

My house may be made of wood, but brick walls are everywhere, and I’m bloody tired of banging my head against them.

Spin, spin, spin, stop, step forward and, smack! … the wall of sadness. It gets no thinner, no shorter, and I’ve yet to find a door through. I’m learning every chink and seek out some when I need to feel specific pain in a hurts-so-good sort of way when I worry about scabbing over.

Spin again, step, bang, and it’s fear I run into.The how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-make-it and where-the-hell-am-I-going wall that sends me stumbling down dark corridors searching for the tiniest flicker of light somewhere, anywhere.

Spin, lurch, and smack into loneliness, missing people, yearning, regret.

Turn away from that one and slam straight into frustration, had-enough-of-this-shit, doing-the-best-I-can-why-isn’t-it-enough exhaustion that makes me want to lie down on the cold, hard floor and curl up into a ball.

Some days are better than others. This is not one of those days.

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As regular readers know, my household is international in every sense. One of the results of being born in one place and living in others can be dual nationality, or, in some cases, even triple the legal connections to countries.

My hope is that sooner or later we humans, with our inbred tendencies to inbreed out of xenophobic compulsion, will grasp the idea that divisions are arbitrary, and as bipedal primates we are more similar than we are different no matter where the heck we popped onto the planet.

Not that we’ve grown any closer to accepting that basic fact over the centuries, as illustrated in a recent post, and with so much at stake … power and money being at the root, of course … keeping divisions in place makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

“Divide and conquer’, also known as “divide and rule”, divide et impera, is such an easy strategy that most don’t even think to question the wisdom, true necessity and history of this long-standing tactic.

The use of this strategy was imputed to administrators of vast empires, including the Roman and British, who were charged with playing one tribe against another to maintain control of their territories with a minimal number of imperial forces. The concept of “Divide and Rule” gained prominence when India was a part of the British Empire, but was also used to account for the strategy used by the Romans to take Britain, and for the Anglo-Normans to take Ireland. It is said that the British used the strategy to gain control of the large territory of India by keeping its people divided along lines of religion, language, or caste, taking control of petty princely states in India piecemeal.

Extrapolate it out globally and wonder why, in today’s world of instant communication, ease of peregrination and cultural blending, the need for lines drawn on maps exists.

How much energy goes into defending borders that are nothing more than artificial designations, and how many people die in the process of attempting to keep invisible lines etched in sand holding back floods?

Of course, keeping the enthusiasm for an outpouring of resources and blood is of the utmost importance, so whipping up a constant frenzy of “we’re better … and different … than you are” is a mission passionately embraced.

It’s not like fencing folks in and calling them a People solves the problem of unity. We maintain our tribal affiliations no matter what neighborhood we’re tied to, so eliminating a a few specifications would hardly rob us of an opportunity to look down upon our fellow man with scorn over eye color or choice of peanut butter.

So why not get past the archaic notion that soil defines?

Well, for one thing, a lot of people would be out of work. Keeping things separate is big business and multiple governments employ millions. If, for example, geography, not politics, dictated affiliation and Canada, the US and Mexico were to be considered the same place with one set of grand plans and one set of workers charged with overseeing those plans a lot of offices in all three places would be empty.

This is a ridiculous idea, though, since Canadians, Americans and Mexicans represent completely different species.

Aliens, that’s the word.

Oh! Gee. That’s not correct. They are no more different from each other than are Oregonians from New Yorkers, yet those admittedly diverse groups manage to exist within the same broader borders.

So, where does the advantage lie? What do we get out of divisions, other than conquered and ruled, and why do we not ask this question often?

Wondering how I got on this kick today?

It all started with an emailed newsletter from the US Embassy in Mauritius … another small island nation in the Indian Ocean that spends a fortune making sure its government is a distinct entity … that included the following:

Almost all male U.S. citizens (including dual nationals) and male aliens living in the U.S. who are 18 through 25 are required to register with the Selective Service.

If a man does not register, he could be prosecuted and fined up to $250,000 and/or be jailed for up to five years. Registration is a requirement to qualify for Federal student aid, job training benefits, and most Federal employment. Even if not tried, a man who fails to register with the Selective Service before turning age 26 may find that some doors are permanently closed.

As the mother of a Cambodian-born son living in Seychelles with a British passport I can’t help but react to this negatively and fall back to thinking that begging the American government to make Sam a citizen will not be a priority.

The world is a small place, we are citizens of this world, and I do my damnedest to teach my kids that there are no limits to where they can contribute and to whom they can feel connected.

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Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP

Archeology has long been an interest of mine, and if my life had gone according to plans made when I was about nine I would have spent a good deal of time digging around places like the Olduvai Gorge, doing my utmost to follow Mary Leakey’s immense footsteps, or looking for the roots of Quetzalcoatl at Tenochtitlan.

Of course, it turns out that John Lennon was right … life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans … but the physical evidence of history continues to fascinate me.

This story demanded my attention today, and set me toward a mental meander I’ve been wandering for hours.

A 3,700-year-old wall has been discovered in east Jerusalem, Israeli archaeologists say.

The structure was built to protect the city’s water supply as part of what dig director Ronny Reich described as the region’s earliest fortifications.

The 26-ft (8-m) high wall showed the Canaanite people who built it were a sophisticated civilisation, he said.

I’ll completely ignore the mention of the fact that the guy in charge of the dig has the surname “Reich” and move along to the more salient points, one being the stunningly naive statement attributed to him about the wall showing “… the Canaanite people who built it were a sophisticated civilization” that I’m hoping was an under-educated reporter’s version and not words actually uttered by an archeologist.

Considering that the Canaanites came up with the alphabet … their city of Byblos was the inspiration for the Greek word for book and hence Bible … figured out how to navigate and set up major ports and trading posts from Britain to Africa shipping and selling everything from salt to wine to ebony, started the first lending institutions, and had a system of government that included legal rights for women that allowed them to sue, invest and even adopt children, a wall that managed to stick around for almost 4,000 years seems superfluous to need when it comes to defining “sophisticated civilization”.

Even slaves … and everyone had slaves in those days … got a fair shake:

As was commonplace in the ancient days, there were slaves, but laws protected them from mistreatment and authorized payment to them in redress of grievances. They could earn their own money, purchasing property and eventually their own freedom. A freed slave could reach high office.

Let’s also not forget that the Canaanites were named for the color purple …Kinakhu: the purple people .. since they were the only source for the die that indicates royalty to this day.

Jump ahead 3,700 years … Shall we? … and take a gander at our modern world and the progress humankind has made in almost 4 millennia. We could start with the fact that the method of making purple from sea snails is a long-lost art, then move along to the mess the Middle East is so well known for these days, as witnessed by reaction to the discovery of this old wall:

Critics say Israel uses such projects as a political tool to bolster Jewish claims to occupied Palestinian land.

Perhaps if ancient walls could talk we’d learn a lesson or two. If nothing else, maybe we’d rethink our arrogance, our perpetual self-congratulatory back patting over our advancements, our short-sighted claims of enlightenment, and realize that we’ve not come a long way, Baby, at all.

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Sam and Cj on and adventure with Gay and Carlos

Sam and Cj on and adventure with Gay and Carlos

Ooooh, lookie here … a brief window in the pickle that’s been gerkin me around lately, taking up my thyme, so how about a little ketchup?

We’re enjoying the last week of the holiday, as Sam and Cj start school again on Monday. Sam will be in Year 2 and Cj in what’s called Reception 2, and both are looking forward to getting back in the education saddle.

We’ve not done a heck of a lot over the couple of months they’ve been free from schedules, but have hit the beach more than usual and enjoyed leisurely breakfasts at The Pirate’s Arms … which is not the same as IN A pirate’s arms.

Irina, a lovely Russian friend, took Sam to Praslin and LaDigue, and Gay has invited both kids to adventure and hyake (That’s hike and kayak on the same day … sounds much better than saying they kiked.) a few times.

With guests here — Carlos, Kim, Cade — excuses to be out and about were easily available, so we took advantage and showed the sites of Victoria, both of them, which managed to fill a couple of 15 minute slots that would have otherwise been spent sitting on the veranda gazing at the sea.

Party fun with Violeta, Mel and Lio ...

Party fun with Violeta, Mel and Lio ...

I’ve had many laughs at great parties lately. Sadly, some of my favorite friends here are coming to the end of their Seychelles time and are soon to move along, but that no longer stops any of us from enjoying what we have while we do, and staying in touch no matter the distance in future.

Diversion has been good for me. I’m okay most of the time now, but do get sideswiped by sadness on a regular basis. Some days are better than others, but even on the bad days now there is comfort in the fact that this hole I live with in my heart will refuse to heal; I don’t want it to scar over, not ever.

Ernesto, me and Carola in Basel in July

Ernesto, me and Carola in Basel in July

Ernesto is headed to Seychelles at the end of the month for a five week stay, and I’ve been laying the groundwork for him to play here … a lot. He’ll be doing guitar workshops for the National Arts Council, giving group lessons for music students at the French School and performing.

We’re all looking forward to having him around for quite a while, and Sam is working on his Spanish in order to expand a repertoire of mutual banter that is presently limited to little more than pollo loco.

So, life is what it is, and as the summer from hell draws to an end I’m not sorry to see it fade into past. 2010 looms and I have hopes that arbitrary designation contains more happiness sandwiched between its bun than its predecessors 2008/2009.

Pass the mustard …

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