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Archive for September, 2015

Victoria ... shopping“I need to run into town to pick up a few things.”

These are dreaded words. Hated. And although ‘progress’ has made it a more simple process to find some of the necessary items, the process itself continues to be … well … an adventure?

Victoria, being very small for a national capital, may seem like an easily navigable undertaking, and it possibly could be; park the car, walk all over town and someone named Robert is your mother’s brother. Being, however, the only game in town … or rather the only town in country … makes it the de rigueur destination of the entire population of Seychelles, including that Robert guy and your mother, on any given day.

No parking ...

No parking …

Twenty years back there were fewer cars, so easier parking, and since the increase in autos dictated changes (apparently designed by a schizophrenic crack addict) the traffic flow doesn’t and parking places are few, far between and difficult to get to. There has been additional parking added — that near Marine Charter, for example — but getting there requires a spin of the Trois Oiseau roundabout, now perpetually blocked by the addition of a stop light near Caravelle House a couple of hundred meters further down the road, and if your search turns out to be futile it’s a long and frustrating way back to try again.

Shopping is easier, though, as there is more stuff. Much more stuff. It’s been years since fights broke out over buckets and fans, as items like those are now almost ubiquitous, albeit expensive and not likely to last long … and come with user guides explaining in Chinese why your fan just broke.

The egret is optional

The egret is optional

Shops can be jammed with a bazillion different and non-related items, so it still takes local knowledge to discover which shop might have what when. Still not as confusing as the days when the only shop that sold women’s undergarments had a stack of car tires at the front door. Need eyeliner? Try the Chinese shop on Market Street with the running shoes in the window. How about a haircut? Up the stairs next to the place that sells hammers and washing machines, down the hall, last door on the right. Looking to get a tattoo? The place in the souvenir shop across from Bank of Baroda, up the stairs in the back might still be operational. Out of nail polish remover? Sorry. Napa.

(Napa … Creole for ‘we-ain’t-got-none-but-did-last-month-so-you-should-have-bought-seven-then-and-no-I-don’t-know-anywhere-there-might-be-some-so-bugger-off.)

Friends visiting Seychelles would sometimes get a bit bored with beaches … or burnt … and need a day doing something a bit more active. I would give them a list of 10 items, normal-sounding things like tweezers and shoelaces, and send them off to town to find as many as possible. Having no idea what they were in for, and scoffing at my description of the day as a “Scavenger Hunt”, off they’d go, only to return many hours later exhausted, sweaty and sheepish as they’d hand over maybe two or three of the ten.

One of those "Look what I found" shopping moments.

One of those “Look what I found” shopping moments.

Shops in town are still bewildering, but not quite as bad as they were. The tendency of importers to buy whatever was going really, really cheap in China and India still appears to exist, but it’s been a long time since I’ve stumbled upon entire sections of shelving chock full of windscreen de-icer and “9-11 Super Funny Children’s Toys”. (A tiny track to race around with George Bush in a tank and Osama bin Laden on a skateboard.)

Today cheese is available and it’s been years since we’ve run out of onions or toilet paper. Shopping can be done without setting foot in Victoria proper, which is a blessing, but …

I need to run into town tomorrow to pick up a few things.

Sigh …

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Man is a blind, witless, low brow, anthropocentric clod who inflicts lesions upon the earth. ~ Ian McHarg ~

That's the church ... just there behind all the garbage.

That’s the church … just there behind all the garbage.

It’s a Sunday, which in Seychelles means a large number of people have dressed in their best and wandered off to church. Everyone attending will be spick-and-span in well-laundered and neatly pressed garments, no few carrying a sifon soaked in cologne to fragrantly wipe away any dampness that may arise from the heat. Children will be fresh and tidy, scrubbed and anointed with smell-good powder and hair wrangled into neat dos.

If personal cleanliness is next to godliness, the Seychellois are close neighbors. Most shower at least twice a day and even work clothes are washed and dried and ironed. School children turn up every morning in crisp, clean uniforms toting rucksacks that have been scrubbed clear of dust, dirt and detritus. (Even before electricity was widely in place and washing machines became common household items, Seychellois women were assiduous in their scrubbing, either in streams or at concrete tables on which dirt was lathered, pounded and scraped away.) Gardens are swept. Houses are dusted and mopped and scoured.

It’s a common after-church activity to meet with friends and family for a picnic on a nearby beach. These are no small affairs. We’re not talking a basket with a few sandwiches and some munchables. No. A Seychelles Sunday picnic comes complete with a half-barrel barbecue and grill, tons of food — including at least one ginormous fish — loads of drink and a generator attached to fridge-sized speakers to make sure everyone within a mile gets to ‘enjoy’ the far-too-loud-and-distorted ‘music’ of choice for the day to truly be worthy the title ‘Sunday’.

contrariety that can’t be ignored rises when the Monday morning sun illuminates the beaches and reveals the undeniable fact that the scrubbed, cleaned, spotless, unsoiled, pristine, laundered, squeaky clean, as-clean-as-a-whistle Sunday morning folks’ idea of being in proximity to godliness doesn’t travel and personal responsibility for cleanliness doesn’t stretch beyond the clothes on their backs and the garden gate. When the party is over, the garbage is left where it lies.

Anse Royale

Beside the church at Anse Royale

And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use.  And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried:  “Look at this Godawful mess.”  ~Art Buchwald

AR2

Where the river meets the sea at Anse Royale ..

Takeaway boxes, bottles, plastic everything, used condoms and syringes … nasty shit of all sorts … litter this beautiful island like oozing carbuncles on a syphilitic. “Embellishment Teams” may sweep the roadsides and blow leaves around, but cleanups of rivers and beaches are left to the one “Clean up the World Day” per year. 

Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

At Anse Royale School. Some lessons are not being learned.

At Anse Royale School. Some lessons are not being learned.

It’s not at all uncommon to see tidily-dressed kids jettison crisp wrappers, plastic bottles and empty tins along the road or chuck them into the bush. It is also common to watch their school teachers do the same as they make their way home.

Rural families often have a special place in the forest to toss their garbage which, of course, mounts up over years of being a depository for everything from dirty nappies to rusted refrigerators, from dead animals to dead batteries.

The contrast between neat and tidy homes occupied by neat and tidy people and the amount of refuse that gathers is as frightening as it is confusing. Did no one read “The Little Prince”?

“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me later on. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

After heavy rains, the trash that has collected in rivers, streams, gutters and bush makes its way … where? … to the beach, of course, then into the sea.

We’re treating the oceans like a trash bin: around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, and most of that is plastic. Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health. ~ National Resources Defense Council ~

Sweet Escott, very near the EU 'project' ...

Sweet Escott, very near the EU ‘project’ …

An EU-funded project completed years ago to provide safe disposal of toxic materials and heavy metals sits behind a well-tended chainlink fence, and although the grass is cut regularly and air conditioning units grace a building on the site not one bit of sea-killing material has ever been deposited there, so all trash that is actually collected … and, yes, we do have a trash collection service that empties the roadside bins regularly … goes to the landfill, a purpose-built porous island on the seafront.

The Native American idea that ‘we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children’ seems to be interpreted to mean ‘those leaking batteries our grandfather threw in the bush will do just fine beside the baby’s poopy diapers’.

The magnificence of mountains, the serenity of nature – nothing is safe from the idiot marks of man’s passing.  ~Loudon Wainwright

Photo credits: Karine le Brun

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Source: Dead Refugees: The New Normal

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Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.~ UNHCR ~

Nakba-Palestinian_refugees-nakba-VTYou know those photos appearing everywhere … the ones of dead kids washing up on shores after desperate attempts get a new life? Sorry to break it to you, but you better get used to it. We are fast on our way to this becoming the new normal.

An article on NPR’s website today informs us that more than 300,000 people have headed for Europe so far this year from North Africa and the Middle East. As we learn every day, many don’t make it, dying in droves on the way. (The U.N. puts that number at 2,500 deaths at sea … so far.)

If you want one number to explain the mass movement today, start with 60 million. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide — the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since World War II.

The U.N. counts 15 new conflicts in the past five years, and the big one is Syria. More than 11 million Syrians have fled or been driven from their homes in that country’s civil war since it started in 2011.

The U.N., being rather good at counting, compiles numbers for us. Unfortunately, aside from its own PR there isn’t much else the organization does well … or at all. Those 15 new conflicts, for example, didn’t simply materialize instantly to take everyone by surprise. Anyone with an Internet connection saw them coming ages ago, building in bad attitude and weaponry, creepy coalitions and secretive dealings.

As if anything is secret these days! The country members of the United Nations have known exactly what was ahead, but did little to nothing to avoid the crisis that is now making headlines. Of course there are many reasons for the lack of action other than the usual ‘discussion’ mixed in with a bit of halfhearted ‘condemnation’ from time to time: disagreement over tactics; an inability to tell white hats from black hats, usually for self-serving nefarious reasons; lack of motivation mixed with a fear of discovery of their own agenda and so on.

But it’s not only institutions and governments that have neglected the signs of impending doom. More than 11 million Syrians saw it coming, too, and it didn’t pop out a box for them either.1408

The number is much higher than that 11 million, as there are more on their way every day, and aside from children included in the numbers all of them were there for the buildup to their horror getting on with life as they knew it … until they couldn’t.

That’s the way humans do it, isn’t it? Cruise along in their day-to-day right up to the moment they are personally presented with situations that have become unlivable?

Can we take a moment to imagine the impact more than 11 million Syrians might have made on their country and their future had they assumed some responsibility for the mess that was being created before them? Had more than 11 million Syrians dared to stand up, to speak their minds, to demand reason and humanity, to put time and energy into finding ways to make their world better for everyone how much of what is happening wouldn’t have.

Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.  ~Samuel Johnson

It’s a shame our species often sees more courage in pulling up stakes than in preserving and protecting was is dear. We have long made a hobby of fouling our own dens, then seeking greener pastures when the shit hits. That worked well for us when the world was bigger and wide-open spaces were available and accommodating, but those days are over. With the human population at this moment at 7,364,456, 853 and growing by around 166,243 people every single day our planet is congested and infested, a circumstance that creates conflict in and of itself.

But back to the ‘new normal’ idea …

Worldwide Displacement Hits All-time High As War And Persecution Increase

The headline on the U.N’s refugee agency, UNHCR, webpage brings up a worrying and interesting point, and the article underlines it:

Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

You may note that, yes, the number of refugees has increased by more than 8 million people in one year and find that disturbing. What you may have missed, however, is that these almost 60 million are running away from the death and destruction of armed conflict … man-made political and religious fallout resulting in catastrophes that shift borders and pit one side or another against each other.

Imagine not too long into the future when it is a cataclysm of Earth itself.

In the five years between 2008 and 2013 more than 140 million people were displaced by severe weather. Disasters triggered by storms in just 2013 forced 14.2 million people to flee their homes.

And it’s only going to get worse. At this very moment THREE, count ‘em THREE category 4 hurricanes are swirling in the Pacific for the first time in recorded history. Storms are getting bigger, more dangerous, with every increase in global temperature, and those are climbing faster every year. Drought has the western U.S. burning and Papua New Guinea starving. Northern Hemisphere winters get colder and more deadly. Crops are failing or getting blown away all over the planet and coastlines are making beachfront out of what wasn’t.

And what are we humans doing? Cruising along in our day-to-day assuming that when the shit hits we can pick up sticks and move along when the time comes we’re personally presented with a situation that becomes unlivable.

So … about those photos of dead kids: get used to it.

Coward:  One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.  ~Ambrose Bierce “The Devil’s Dictionary”

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