Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2009 HERE I COME...




Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

happy christmas?

The number of young children dying from preventable diseases like malaria and diarrhea has increased dramatically because of war in eastern Congo, an aid agency announced Wednesday.

Refugees wait for food last week at a camp near Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Displaced people fleeing the violence are living in poor conditions as they walk for days through the forests to get to camps in and around the provincial capital of Goma, World Vision said.

Hospitals have seen an influx of patients suffering from preventable diseases, the aid group said.

"You can imagine if you've got young children who are really vulnerable, that walking and sleeping under nothing, walking through the forest [will affect them]," said Anna Ridout, part of World Vision's emergency team in Goma.

Cold and damp conditions lead to respiratory distress, she said. Some of those pushed from their homes suffer extreme cases of diarrhea caused by bad sanitation, which leads to dehydration, Ridout said.

The World Health Organization said last month that cholera cases in some areas of the region had tripled since the conflict erupted in October. The disease is mainly transmitted through contaminated water and food and is linked to poor sanitation; it leads to diarrhea and vomiting and can be fatal if left untreated.

Since government troops and rebels began clashing in the volatile eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, "the numbers arriving at the hospital have gone through the roof," said Dr. Louis Kamate of the Virunga Referral Hospital in Goma.

The hospital said 30 children younger than 5 died of preventable respiratory distress in November, a dramatic increase from the three deaths reported in September, according to World Vision.

A health center in the poorest slum in Goma admitted nearly 60 cases of acute respiratory distress in the past week, and all the patients were children younger than 5, World Vision said. Seventy percent of the admitted children had been displaced from their homes, the aid agency said.

"These deaths are a direct result of children living in poor conditions in camps," Kamate said. "The rain goes straight through the banana leaf huts and makes children extremely vulnerable to disease."

More than 250,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, adding to the roughly 800,000 already driven from their homes by past violence, the United Nations say

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Reading the papers...

The Congo, Zimbabwe, Greece, Iraq... Why them? Why not me, why not "us"? Reading the news these days leaves me feeling sad and puzzled; I think more so just now because my personal life is so happy that it is bordering on bliss - yet I look out at the world and see the pain and misery of so many it makes my heart hurt. There IS no logic, no pattern that I can see. There is hope, there is always hope but I think for a mother in the
Congo or Darfur ravaged by war or Zimbabwe ravaged by cholera it is not a real thing.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Never give up

No matter what is going on
never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
is spent developing the mind
instead of the heart
Be compassionate
Not just to your friends
but to everyone
Be compassionate
Work for peace
in your heart and in the world
Work for peace
and I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up.

His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama

something to think about...

The mind is the world,
One should purify it strenuously.
One assumes the form of that which is one's mind.
This is the eternal secret.

Monday, 10 November 2008

next door

Ceasefire Broken in Democratic Republic of Congo; International Medical Corps Warns of Looming Humanitarian Catastrophe and Wider Regional Impact

November 10, 2008, Los Angeles, Calif. – As fighting resumed Friday in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and rebels appeared poised to seize Goma, International Medical Corps is deeply concerned that a humanitarian catastrophe could unfold and quickly spread across the region.

In addition to ongoing efforts in DRC, International Medical Corps is also preparing a regional response to the situation and currently has teams mobilized in Uganda and Burundi to deliver assistance to the potential influx of new refugees.

“The delivery of life-saving medical and nutrition services has already been severely curtailed,” said Pierre Willems, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in DRC. “With the resumption of fighting, even more people will be displaced and in need of care, and yet we fear the humanitarian corridor for delivering assistance is narrowing drastically by the hour.”

An estimated 200,000 civilians have fled fighting between government and rebel troops in North Kivu Province – adding to the estimated one million people displaced by an escalation of hostilities in the region a year ago.

Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda declared a unilateral ceasefire over the weekend, and so far it has held. However, a rebel spokesman has said the groundwork is being laid for a generalized war in the region.

International Medical Corps has been operating in the most volatile regions of DRC since the mid-90’s. In North Kivu province, where much of the recent fighting has taken place, IMC runs primary health care clinics and nutrition programs that serve more than 300,000 people.

11 November 2008

Next door, nearby, the Congo – it’s ALL our world isn’t it?

No matter how well or poorly our day is going, we are fortunate when we compare any aspect of our lives to that of the refugees attempting escape from the horrors that have occurred in the past, continued, and now again permeate the Congo with death and despair.

Last week, widespread attacks by rebel groups displaced enormous numbers of people. More than 200,000 fled the fighting and sought refuge in communities and displacement camps near the besieged city of Goma, swelling the ranks of the displaced in and around that city to about one million people. The situation is becoming critical. There are over 200,000 newly displaced persons, in addition to the 850,000 that were already displaced in the areas around Goma. The water and sanitation needs are enormous – this reported by the BBC.

Other reports state that “Nkunda (the rebel leader) declared a cease-fire on October 29 as his forces reached the edge of Goma, but there have been sporadic clashes since then.
Some 50,000 refugees have crowded around Kibati, some taken into log cabins by villagers, others living in tents or hastily built beehive-shaped huts. Thousands are sleeping out in the open, and they huddled under plastic sheeting Sunday as heavy rain pounded down.
Dozens of people have died of cholera in recent weeks elsewhere in eastern Congo. Doctors also fear an epidemic north of Goma behind rebel lines, where access has been limited by fighting and rebels have driven tens of thousands of people from camps where outbreaks had been contained.
At a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers Monday, Germany and Britain opposed sending EU troops to Congo, despite France's urging that a battlegroup be sent.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the EU's role should be to encourage the African Union to do more militarily while promoting a political solution.
He welcomed a declaration made at a summit of southern African leaders on Sunday that said African countries could send peacekeepers if needed to help the U.N. force.

"It will be for every country of the world really to consider its own position," Miliband said. "What's significant about the talks on the weekend is the clear determination from African leaders to make sure their countries are in the lead politically and militarily."

As more and more people are displaced and the dead bodies pile up from the fighting and it becomes impossible to return home, to find food or clean water – disease will not just rear its head in multiple incarnations and manifestations, but will ravage the refugee population without quarter. Cholera has already made an appearance and the numbers are rising daily, more than fifty cases since Friday. There has been scattered fighting over the weekend that gives concern that patients could scatter and launch an epidemic.
The fighting has ceased for the moment but apparently only for the opposing sides to regroup. And what is the fighting about? Is it for freedom from oppression? Is it to redress a wrong? Is it to bring justice to a people? NO. It’s about mineral rights! It’s about money and power.
Demand for minerals has fueled Congo's conflicts for years. Nkunda has complained about a $9 billion agreement in which China gets access to Congo's minerals in return for building a highway and railroad that would open up the remote mining interior to southern neighbors.
The fighting in eastern Congo is fueled by ethnic hatred left over from the 1994 slaughter of at least 500,000 Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda.
Gen. Laurent Nkunda, whose rebels launched an offensive Aug. 28, has said he is fighting to protect minority Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu militants who participated in the genocide before fleeing to Congo. I have some trouble buying that explanation myself but that’s just me.
Nkunda's rebellion has threatened to re-ignite the back-to-back wars that afflicted Congo from 1996 to 2002, drawing in a half dozen African nations. Kabila, elected in 2006 in Congo's first election in 40 years, has struggled to contain the violence in the east.

Nkunda began a low-level insurgency in 2004, claiming Congo's transition to democracy had excluded the Tutsi ethnic group. Despite agreeing in January to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, he resumed fighting in August.

Congo has charged Nkunda with involvement in war crimes, and Human Rights Watch says it has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under Nkunda's command in 2002 and 2004.

All sides also are believed to fund fighters by illegally mining Congo's vast mineral riches, giving them no financial interest in stopping the fighting.
The European Union decided Friday against sending troops into Congo, saying the 27-member bloc will instead focus on a diplomatic solution to end the conflict.

Here is my concern – the civilians who are dying, the mothers and children and fathers and brothers who can’t go home, who can’t feed their families or even give them clean water.

"We've had nothing to eat for three days," said Rhema Harerimana, traveling with one baby nursing at her breast, another on her back and a toddler clinging to her skirt.

Harerimana said she had been on the run for five days but was heading home to Kibumba, about 17 miles from the eastern provincial capital of Goma, where rebels halted their advance Wednesday and called for a cease-fire.”

I don’t care to whom you contribute – the International Medical Corp seems to be doing good work and my personal chaps Doctors Without Borders are there. Let us all be so very grateful for all that we have and share a bit eh? It is not a zero sum game – giving to their dire situation will not affect in any sever manner our surplus. Think of the benefits, the benevolent selfishness – you will be helping to save part of the world, nothing less, and you get to feel bloody fantastic about doing SOMETHING! If you do nothing else, please remember these desperate people in your prayers to whatever deity works for you. I thank you, and thank you for coming by.

More data:
From NYTimes:

• From AP:

• From Reuters:

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The World View the Day After

November 5, 2008
For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed

GAZA — From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth — call it America — where such a thing happens.

Even where the United States is held in special contempt, like here in this benighted Palestinian coastal strip, the “glorious epic of Barack Obama,” as the leftist French editor Jean Daniel calls it, makes America — the idea as much as the actual place — stand again, perhaps only fleetingly, for limitless possibility.

“It allows us all to dream a little,” said Oswaldo Calvo, 58, a Venezuelan political activist in Caracas, in a comment echoed to correspondents of The New York Times on four continents in the days leading up to the election.

Tristram Hunt, a British historian, put it this way: Mr. Obama “brings the narrative that everyone wants to return to — that America is the land of extraordinary opportunity and possibility, where miracles happen.”

But wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief. Mr. Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm — a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos — saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.

They say the country that weakened democratic forces abroad through a tireless but often ineffective campaign for democracy — dismissing results it found unsavory, cutting deals with dictators it needed as allies in its other battles — was now shining a transformative beacon with its own democratic exercise.

It would be hard to overstate how fervently vast stretches of the globe wanted the election to turn out as it did to repudiate the Bush administration and its policies. Poll after poll in country after country showed only a few — Israel, Georgia, the Philippines — favoring a victory for Senator John McCain.

“Since Bush came to power it’s all bam, bam, bam on the Arabs,” asserted Fathi Abdel Hamid, 40, as he sat in a Cairo coffee house.

The world’s view of an Obama presidency presents a paradox. His election embodies what many consider unique about the United States — yet America’s sense of its own specialness, of its destiny and mission, has driven it astray, they say. They want Mr. Obama, the beneficiary and exemplar of American exceptionalism, to act like everyone else, only better, to shift American policy and somehow to project both humility and leadership.

And there are others who fear that Mr. Obama will be soft in a hard-edged world where what is required is a clear line in the sand to fanatics, aggressors and bullies. Israelis worry that he will talk to Iran rather than stop it from developing nuclear weapons; Georgians worry that he will not grasp how to handle Russia.

An Obama presidency, they say, risks appeasement. It will “reassure Europeans of their defects,” lamented Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the Italian right-wing daily Il Foglio.

Such contradictory demands and expectations may reflect, in part, the unusual makeup of a man of mixed race and origin whose life and upbringing have touched several continents.

“People feel he is a part of them because he has this multiracial, multiethnic and multinational dimension,” said Philippe Sands, a British international lawyer and author who travels frequently, adding that people find some thread of their own hopes and ideals in Mr. Obama. “He represents, for people in so many different communities and cultures, a personal connection. There is an immigrant component and a minority component.”

Francis Nyamnjoh, a Cameroonian novelist and social scientist, said he saw Mr. Obama less as a black man than “as a successful negotiator of identity margins.”

His ability to inhabit so many categories mirrors the African experience. Mr. Nyamnjoh said that for America to choose as its citizen in chief such a skillful straddler of global identities could not help but transform the nation’s image, making it once again the screen upon which the hopes and ambitions of the world are projected.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the People’s University of China, said Mr. Obama’s background, particularly his upbringing in Indonesia, made him suited to understanding the problems facing the world’s poorer nations.

He and others say they hope the next American president will see their place more firmly within the community of nations, engaging in what Jairam Ramesh, junior commerce minister in the Indian government, called “genuine multilateralism and not in muscular unilateralism.”

Assuming Mr. Obama does play by international rules more fully, as he has promised, can his government live up to all the expectations?

“We have so many hopes and wishes that he will never be able to fulfill them,” said Susanne Grieshaber, 40, an art adviser in Berlin who was one of 200,000 Germans to attend a speech by Mr. Obama there in July. She cited action to protect the environment, reducing the use of force and helping the less fortunate. In essence, she wants Mr. Obama to make his country more like hers. But she is sober. “I’m preparing myself for the fact that peace and happiness are not going to suddenly break out,” she said.

Many in less developed countries — especially in the Arab world — agree that Mr. Obama will not carry out their wishes regarding American policy toward Israel and much else, and so they shrug off the results as ultimately making little difference.

“We will be optimistic for two months but that’s it,” predicted Huda Naim, 38, a member of the Hamas parliament here who said her 15-year-old son had watched Mr. Obama’s rise with rapt attention.

But some remain darkly suspicious of the election itself. They doubted that Mr. Obama could be nominated or elected. Now they doubt that he will govern. The skeptics say they believe that American policy is deeply institutionalized and that if Mr. Obama tries to shift it, “they” — the media, the corporate robber barons, the hidden powers — will box him in or even kill him.

“I am afraid for him,” said Alberto Müller Rojas, a retired Venezuelan Army general and the vice president of President Hugo Chávez’s Unified Socialist Party. “The pressures he will face from certain sectors of society, especially from white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, will be enormous.”

Part of that fear stems from genuine if distant affection.

“He has charisma, he’s good-looking, he’s very smart, he’s young and he knows how to make people like him, to the point that when he went to bow down to the Israelis, people here still made excuses for him,” said Nawara Negm, an Egyptian writer and blogger.

There is another paradox about the world’s view of the election of Mr. Obama: many who are quick to condemn the United States for its racist past and now congratulate it for a milestone fail to acknowledge the same problem in their own societies, and so do not see how this election could offer them any lessons about themselves.

In Russia, for example, where Soviet leaders used to respond to any American criticism of human rights violation with “But you hang Negroes,” analysts note that the election of Mr. Obama removes a stain. But they speak of it without reference to their own treatment of ethnic minorities.

“Definitely, this will improve America’s image in Russia,” said Sergey M. Rogov, director of the Institute for U.S.A. and Canada Studies in Moscow. “There was this perception before of widespread racism in America, deeply rooted racism.”

In Nigeria, a vast, populous and diverse collection of states, Reuben Abati, an influential columnist, has written, “Nigerians love good things in other lands, even if they are not making any effort to reproduce the same at home,” adding, “If Obama had been a Nigerian, his race, color and age would have been an intractable problem.”

So foreigners are watching closely, hoping that despite what they consider the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, the nation they once imagined would stand as a model for the future will, with greater sensitivity and less force, help solve the world’s problems.

There is a risk, however, to all the extraordinary international attention paid to this most international of American politicians: Mr. Obama’s focus will almost certainly be on the reeling domestic economy, housing and health care. Will he be able even to lift his head and gaze abroad to all those with such high expectations?

Reporting was contributed by Rachel Donadio from Rome; Steven Erlanger from Paris; Nazila Fathi from Tehran; Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem; Nicholas Kulish from Berlin; Clifford J. Levy from Moscow; Sarah Lyall from Reykjavik, Iceland; Lydia Polgreen from Dakar, Senegal; Simon Romero from Caracas, Venezuela; Somini Sengupta from New Delhi; Michael Slackman from Cairo; Sabrina Tavernise from Istanbul and Kiev, Ukraine; Edward Wong from Beijing; and Robert F. Worth from Sana, Yemen.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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Saturday, 1 November 2008

It's important that's it's real to us...

November 1, 2008
A Warning, a Blast, a Fight to Save an Afghan Life

COMBAT OUTPOST LOWELL, Afghanistan — Jamaludin, an aging Afghan cook, twisted and writhed on the green stretcher. Blood ran from his mouth and nose. Medics had cut away his clothes, revealing puncture holes where shrapnel from a Taliban mortar round had struck him minutes before.

Capt. Norberto A. Rodriguez, an American Army doctor, listened through a stethoscope as two Army medics and a Navy corpsman inventoried Jamaludin’s wounds. There were holes on his back, neck, buttocks, left leg and beside his right eye.

Jamaludin, who like many Afghans has only one name, had been made wild by fear and pain. But for some reason he could not speak. He shook his head, sputtered and vomited blood. “Oh no, no, no,” Captain Rodriguez said, and quickly rolled him to his side.

The patient had heavy internal bleeding and was choking on his own seepage. The captain needed information. Was it shrapnel, a shock wave or both that had ruptured him inside? Jamaludin was near death. They were racing against time.

“Hey, can you ask these guys if he got blown, if he got thrown?” the captain asked an interpreter, to relay the question to the knot of Afghan men gathering outside by the body of another man, who had been killed and was now covered with a sheet.

The captain pushed his hand into Jamaludin’s mouth. He would keep this man alive. “Don’t bite my thumb,” he said, as much to himself as to a patient who spoke no English.

Jamaludin’s jaws clamped shut. “Ahhh,” the captain said, fighting to keep his hand there until suction and a breathing tube could be snaked down.

Combat Outpost Lowell is a company-size American and Afghan position in Nuristan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Far from view and named for Jacob Lowell, an Army specialist killed in the province in 2007, it is meant to play a remote role in the counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, disrupting the Taliban and foreign fighters on a route to Pakistani tribal areas, and tying up Taliban forces far from more populated areas. It is one of the United States’ most forward positions in a war now in its eighth year.

Isolated, ringed by forested ridges and under such regular fire that helicopter pilots prefer to avoid flying here, especially by day, the outpost imposed an unforgiving condition: anyone injured would have to wait for an evacuation. It was up to Captain Rodriguez and a team of trauma medics to keep Jamaludin alive.

On this October day, the Taliban began firing mortars about 10:30 a.m. An American Army sergeant’s voice had crackled over a loudspeaker. “Incoming! Incoming!” it said.

Somewhere high overhead, an explosive 82-millimeter mortar round was in a free fall.

The soldiers of Apache Troop, the cavalry unit in the First Infantry Division that is assigned here, had scrambled to slip into flak jackets and helmets and waited for the round to come down. It exploded near an ammunition bunker with an earth-shaking roar.

Marine Capt. Markus Trouerbach, 40, the officer assigned to train the post’s Afghan soldiers, uttered an unprintable word. “That one was real close,” he added.

In the mountains ringing the outpost, he knew, the Taliban mortar crew had found the range.

The loudspeaker repeated the warning call. Another round was inbound. It was a teardrop-shaped steel canister packed with explosive putty, weighing perhaps seven pounds.

It screamed in and detonated beside a bunker used by the post’s local guards, blasting shrapnel deep into two Afghan men.

The guards’ second in command, Nezamudin, was killed outright, smacked by shrapnel in the neck and face. Jamaludin, the cook, a man with a nearly atrophied leg and a thick red beard, fell stunned to the ground. Blood rushed from his wounds.

If there is any universal and binding compact among military men under fire, it is this: If you are hit, we will come to get you. Among units that endure, it is a pledge more inviolable than law. And it comes with a corollary. You will do the same for me.

As soon as the word came over the two-way radio that the Afghans had been hit, Petty Officer Third Class Ramon G. Gavan, 23, Captain Trouerbach and Gunnery Sgt. Daniel P. McKernan, 36, grabbed their weapons and nodded knowingly to one other. They checked their helmets. They were on tight.

Within seconds, they were sprinting in the open across the outpost, where they met Army Sgt. Michael S. Ayres, 24, a scout, and a group of Afghans, who had slid the broken men onto litters and began to make their way to the doctor, who was in an aid station inside a tiny stone building.

“Incoming! Incoming!” the loudspeaker said.

The Afghans and Americans all dived to the ground and waited for the next shots to end. Then they were up and running again, carrying Jamaludin, who was semi-fetal on the litter, moaning.

It would be more than an hour before a helicopter could get here, if it could run the gantlet of fire. Could the trauma team keep the grievously wounded Afghan alive?

As Captain Rodriguez assessed him, Sgt. Zackary Filip called for help. “They need to call a medevac,” he said. “They need to call it now. Urgent.”

Sergeant Filip’s hands were covered in blood. He said he had always worn rubber gloves; on this day, there had been no time. He had been applying pressure to Jamaludin’s wounds and bandaging him. Now he began taking the patient’s pulse.

Petty Officer Gavan inserted an intravenous line in each of Jamaludin’s arms and cleaned the clotting blood on his face and beard, and leaned in to examine his ruined right eye. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

He prepared an oxygen line, and turned to an Afghan interpreter. “Tell him this will help with his breathing,” he said.

Jamaludin started to fight, tearing at his intravenous lines and oxygen mask. The captain and the corpsman tried to pry his hands free. They handed a syringe to a reporter, and asked him to inject its contents into an intravenous bag; it contained morphine.

Then they injected Jamaludin with ketamine and versed, two sedatives, to calm him down.

When he stopped swinging his arms, they inserted a breathing tube, and soon were helping him breathe again with the oxygen mask.

A change came over Jamaludin swiftly. Bleeding from the eye, nose and mouth, naked and sprawled across the messy litter, he was relaxing. He began to look restful. His oxygen level climbed to 94 from 80. One hundred is the maximum score.

Captain Rodriguez, 32, started to seem confident. A few minutes before, Jamaludin was near death. Maybe he might make it.

First Sgt. Douglas K. Terrell, 36, the senior enlisted man in Apache Troop, stepped into the room. He looked at Jamaludin. He was curled in a pool of blood. But he was stable.

“Can we get an E.T.A. on the bird?” the first sergeant asked into his radio, trying to determine when the helicopter could arrive. The answer came back: 45 minutes.

Captain Rodriguez looked up. “How many,” he asked. “Four-five?”

The first sergeant did not want to leave the helicopter exposed on the landing zone. He wanted everyone ready to rush the patient outside early.

“Go with about 40,” the first sergeant said. “At max.”

“He’s going to roll in here,” he said. “But I would tell you all right now,” he nodded, “be prepared.” The implication was clear: When the helicopter arrived, the Taliban would be firing.

He turned to the Afghan interpreter, Rahatullah. First things first. He wanted Jamaludin to hear encouragement in Pashto, his native language. “Tell him we’ve got him,” he said. “We’ve got him.”

Petty Officer Gavan, his face glistening with sweat, was on his knees, trying to reach the injured man in other ways. He clutched Jamaludin’s left hand with both bloody gloves, kneading his fingers, coaxing him to fight.

Sergeant Filip had a moment free, and he scrubbed Jamaludin’s blood from his fingers. “I hope he doesn’t have anything,” he said. Sweat dripped from his forehead and rolled off his nose. “I didn’t have time to put gloves on,” he said. “You have to stop the bleeding however you can.”

Forty-five minutes passed. No helicopter. Jamaludin was kept alive by another medic, Specialist Jeremy W. Wright, 20, who kept him breathing by pumping an oxygen bag. Jamaludin’s stomach rose and fell.

At about minute 65, the rotors could be heard in the valley. By then the medics and Captain Rodrigiuez were running with Jamaludin, now bandaged and strapped onto a litter, back across open ground.

The first sergeant had been right. The Taliban were waiting. As the medics loaded Jamaludin onto the helicopter, the mortars started again. The first round landed wide.

The loudspeaker was barely audible over the roar of the Blackhawk’s rotors. “Incoming! Incoming!” it said.

As Captain Rodriguez and the medics ran clear of the rotor blades, the helicopter shuddered, rose and lurched forward to gather speed for the run past the hills.

“Get down!” Captain Trouerbach shouted. “Get down!”

Everyone bounded from bunker to bunker back to the aid station, where for a few minutes the medical team, now with nothing to do, circled and paced. Jamaludin’s soaked clothes and bandages were knotted into ugly clumps on the soiled floor.

Sergeant Filip stepped behind a screen and prayed.

The silence had come suddenly. The helicopter was gone. The mortars had stopped again. Captain Rodriguez leaned onto his desk. There have been dozens of mortar attacks here since Apache Troop arrived four months ago.

His voice was almost a whisper. “I don’t know what to think,” he said, unprompted, looking up toward the sky that they fell from. “I’m happy to wake up every morning.”

An hour or so later the call came in. The helicopter had reached the next base. Jamaludin was in surgery. He was alive.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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Friday, 31 October 2008

a little thing, but forgiveness is forgiveness eh?

Halloween pardon sought for executed British witches

Story Highlights
Petition seeks pardon for UK witches hundreds of years after their deaths
Around 400 people were executed in England for alleged witchcraft
The Witchcraft Act of 1735 put an end to trials of accused witches
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Campaigners in London planned to petition the British government Friday for a posthumous pardon for the hundreds of people executed for witchcraft between the 16th and 18th centuries.

They said Halloween is a good time to highlight the "grave miscarriage of justice" suffered by the men and women falsely accused of being witches.

Their petition asks Justice Minister Jack Straw to recommend that Queen Elizabeth issue a pardon.

"We felt that it was time that the sinister associations held by a minority of people regarding witches and Halloween were tackled head-on," said Emma Angel, head of Angels, a large costume supplier in London.

"We were gobsmacked to discover that though the law was changed hundreds of years ago and society had moved on, the victims were never officially pardoned."

Angels launched a Web site,, to solicit signatures for their petition. They had between 150 and 200 by Friday morning, Angels spokesman Benjamin Webb said, but they hoped Halloween publicity would generate more.

Around 400 people were executed in England for alleged witchcraft, and many more in Scotland, the campaigners said.

The Witchcraft Act of 1735 put an end to trials of accused witches, but many still faced persecution and jail for other crimes such as fraud.

"It shifted from a spiritual thing to more of a criminal thing," Webb said, but "it didn't pardon those people who'd suffered before."

The campaigners worked with witchcraft historian John Callow to detail eight cases they hope will persuade the government to act.

They include the case of Ursula Kemp, a woman who offered cures in Essex, England in the 1500s. The uneven results of her work prompted accusations of witchcraft and she was hanged in 1582.

A century later, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards were begging for food in Exeter, England, when a local woman blamed one of them for an illness and they were jailed.

A jail visitor noticed Edwards' shaky hands and suggested she was "tormenting someone." It started a string of rumors that resulted in an accusation of witchcraft, and the women were executed in 1682.

In 1645, clergyman John Lowes was regarded as too attached to Catholicism in a strongly Reformed area. He had already defended himself once against witchcraft when he came to the attention of a notorious zealot named Matthew Hopkins.

Hopkins made Lowes walk for days and nights until he was unable to resist confessing to being a witch. Lowes was hanged in Bury St. Edmunds, England, after conducting his own funeral.

"Today we are well aware that these individuals were neither capable of harmful magic nor in league with the devil," Callow said.

He said the endemic poverty of the 16th to 18th centuries put pressure on leaders and the judiciary to blame someone for society's problems -- so they decided to blame witches.

"A lot of these cases were score-settling in local communities," Webb said, adding many cases of alleged witchcraft weren't even reported.

"The notion that people could suspend their disbelief and believe that women were talking to toads -- just horrible times. Horrible times."

Webb said while few people today may believe those men and women deserved execution, their stories still generate suspicion and stigma.

That extends to modern-day criticism of children dressing as witches at Halloween with the idea that it's evil or connected to the devil, he said.

"Witches were not emissaries of Satan," Webb said. "They were in fact persecuted women and men who deserve a pardon."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice would not comment on the case but said the granting of such a pardon is extremely rare.

"To receive a royal pardon, the test is a high one," the spokesman said. "Evidence must prove conclusively that no offense was committed or that the applicant did not commit the offense. It is not enough that the conviction may be unsafe -- the applicant must be technically and morally innocent."

Go here to sign the petition.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

sometimes humans really disappoint me

The New York Times
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October 31, 2008
China Meeting for Dalai Lama Envoys

BEIJING — Chinese officials and emissaries of the Dalai Lama are expected to resume talks on Friday about the future of Tibet despite low expectations for a breakthrough and growing disillusionment among exiled Tibetans over the halting diplomatic process.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, confirmed that two senior envoys left New Delhi on Thursday for a five-day trip to Beijing. He said the Chinese had not provided a schedule but predicted that talks would begin on Friday.

“They will get down to business,” he said in a telephone interview.

The latest negotiations are the eighth round of talks since 2002 in a process that assumed heightened international significance after violent Tibetan protests erupted last March in Lhasa and then quickly spread elsewhere in western China. Foreign leaders called on China to resume the talks — which had broken off in 2007 — and threatened a possible boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Chinese leaders had vilified the Dalai Lama and accused him of orchestrating the protests. But they relented and the two sides met secretly in May in the city of Shenzhen, then in July in Beijing. Those discussions resulted in an agreement for this week’s post-Olympic meeting but no tangible progress.

At the same time, Chinese authorities have continued hard-line policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas. Officials have ordered Tibetan monks at Buddhist monasteries to submit to patriotic education campaigns and have also continued to block foreign journalists from visiting areas of western Sichuan Province that saw especially violent confrontations between Tibetans and paramilitary forces.

The lack of progress in the negotiations has deepened frustration among Tibetan exile groups in Dharamsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile. For years, the Dalai Lama has called for autonomy within China, rather than independence, a stance that has been met with deep suspicion by Chinese authorities as well as mounting impatience among many younger, more confrontational Tibetans living outside China.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Dalai Lama expressed concerns about the negotiating process. “I have faith and trust in the Chinese people; however, my faith and trust in the Chinese government is diminishing,” he stated.

The precise agenda for this week’s Beijing meeting is uncertain, though Chinese authorities have said they are only willing to discuss the future of the Dalai Lama himself and possible terms for his return to China. Tibetan envoys believe the talks should be framed around the future of Tibet, greater religious tolerance and other issues. The two sides have long sparred over what would constitute the Dalai Lama’s goal of “genuine autonomy” within China.

“The task at hand is to develop a system that would grant the kind of autonomy required for the Tibetans to be able to survive as a distinct and prosperous people within the People’s Republic of China,” said one of the senior Tibetan envoys in the talks, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, during a speech earlier this month at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

itchy fingers

I have such a story to tell you! BUT I can't tell you until the end of November for reasons you will understand then - but trust me, you are going to love this!

Meanwhile in America...I am trying to get used to hot water whenever I turn on the tap and huge stores full of goods I've not even thought of having! I'm surrounded by conservatives, but then some of the people I love best are conservatives...

I'm going to spend this month getting myself caught up with all of you.

And my favourite holiday is coming up - Samhain! Ghosts and goblins oh my! What are YOU going to be on dress up night?

Friday, 10 October 2008

good bye and hello

After just over two years I said good bye to Morocco today. More on that at a later date. I'm in Paris now. This trip promises to be memorable - details to come. Right now I want a cup of tea and bed. Later lovely readers and thank you for sticking with me during this lean time. I promise to pay more attention to you in the future - and soon.

Friday, 3 October 2008

to take note

Ramadan is over. The coffee shops open, ONLY MEN with their tea fill the tables out front and make me grateful to be a woman born in the West. The young men cross the streets of the Medina taking bread and pastries to the ovens. The directions to another apothecary on the sides on those closed for the holidays provide relief for those in need. Rabat is not Fez in many ways – most noticeable now is the rapidity with which the city reopens its doors after Ramadan.

Please take note of the posting below and go vote. I’m not even asking for money, this time, just the time to click and click with your cursor. Thank you lovely readers.

“I am so excited and wanted to thank you so much for your help! There were more than 87,000 votes cast and thanks to you & everyone who blogged & voted, our project, "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children," is now in the Top 5 of American Express Members Project. It got pretty close at the end and we only made it by 147 votes. We really couldn't have done it without you!

We are now guaranteed at least $100,000 in funding, but we still need your help. The second round of voting has begun and the project with the most votes will receive $1.5 million. Your vote and the votes of your readers will determine how many lives we can save. I would be so grateful if you could repost to keep the conversation and awareness out there and if you could thank your readers for voting for us too.

Please let me know if you can post and please vote again for "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children." Voting ends October 13th. Thank you so much.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Please check this out...

I just wanted to follow up on the email I sent you last week. My organization, International Medical Corps, was nominated to be one of the Top 25 in American Express' Members Projects, "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children." Our project was chosen out of 1,190 projects and is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million to help feed hungry children, but the voting ends next Tuesday and we need your help to spread the word. I've put together this blogger friendly web release explaining everything.

If you are able to post something on Braveheart Does the Maghreb, please send me the link, it would really help and could potentially save many lives. At the minimum, please vote for "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children." Please let me know either way. Many thanks.


Monday, 22 September 2008

no words, too pissed!

AG orders probe on fatwa legalizing marriage of nine-year-olds

Rabat, Sept. 22 - A probe was opened Sunday on the fatwa (Islamic decree) legalizing the marriage of nine-year-old girls issued by theologian Mohamed ben Abderrahman Al Maghraoui, judicial sources told MAP.
The probe, ordered by the Attorney General, will look into the fatwa in which Maghraoui said girls of nine years can marry and are able to fulfill "wifely duties just like twenty-year old women."
The fatwa has triggered an overwhelming wave a criticism among child and rights activists, and even among the country's religious scholars.
On Saturday the Higher Council of Ulemas reacted strongly on the fatwa, condemning it as "absurd and abominable," and saying Maghraoui is known for his "subversive and confusion-raising tendencies."
To give more strength to his decree, Maghraoui has cited the case of Prophet Muhammad who had married a nine-year-old girl.
Reacting on the issue, the Council said in a press release the hadiths (prophet sayings) touching on this subject talk rather about the date of the conclusion of the marriage contract, while the marriage itself took place years later.
The Ulemas stressed that no scholar has ever taken these hadiths as a reference, considering them as one of the particularities of the life of the prophet.
Only the Council of Ulamas is entitled to issue fatwas, they said, adding that the legal age of marriage is governed by the Family Code, which was drafted in concert with the scholars and approved by all Moroccans.
The new version of the Family Code, approved in 2004, sets the legal age of marriage at 18 for girls and boys.

Feel free to comment. I'm seething now, will comment later.

Friday, 19 September 2008

just thinking...

The revelation (albeit not surprising) this week that the U.S. is conducting raids inside another sovereign nation’s borders (please quote me the International Law that approves that action) started me thinking about the why and how religion has become a major driving force behind international terrorism, and what are the factors that make religious terrorists different from other terrorists groups with an agenda.

The breakdown of the old conflicts of the cold war gave rise to expectations of a new society that would meet a myriad of needs both in poor and wealthy countries – these expectations were not met and resulted in “the “public sense of insecurity”. This feeling of uncertainty was then accelerated by factors such as population increase, rapid urbanization, and for various reasons the breakdown in public services. In this atmosphere the certainty of religious extremism became more and more attractive.
The post WWII anti-colonialism wars in North Africa and the Middle East left a simmering discontent in some countries and the sense of wrongs (going back to the first Crusades) not addressed in any way that was satisfactory to the populaces.

The feeling of alienation encouraged and fed by religious leaders - Islamic, Christian, Jews, Hindu, other religions and cults - lead followers and potential recruits to turn even more inward to the security of the group. Seeking approval from the group and the recognized leaders in religious garb makes the grooming of martyrs an easier task. The idea of living and dying for a higher purpose rings true for the educated as well as the illiterate.

The Iranian revolution led the way, the vision of the world remade in the vision of Islam. Ten years later none of the world’s major religions were free of the taint of extremism. In 1992 the number of terrorist groups had increased exponentially, and now embraced not only major religions, but also obscure religious sects and cults.

While the conflict in Israel/Palestine continues and feeds the fire of both religious and political extremism, that conflict has remained within its geographical boundaries. However it affects all international and some domestic policy in the area of not only the Middle East, but western nations as well.

When the Arabs of the Mujahadeen were trained and armed in Afghanistan by the United States to fight the Russians there was no way to see that one of the solders, Osama bin Laden would turn so completely against the West. Bin Laden wants all “unclean forces” out of his native Saudi Arabia, a country whose government at least officially, gives him no support, yet his popularity in the Middle East and North Africa remains intact even today. I have seen it here in Morocco.

An important tenet of this way of living in the world is seeing the enemy as anyone outside their religion or sect
Seeing the enemy as less than human,
Seeing the orders to kill the enemy as originating in Holy Text or as a personal call from their god which not only justifies their actions but allows them to take whatever actions seem most effective no matter how brutal or destructive, leading to more heinous acts of violence and a greater number of dead.
The more dead the better, they have no political agenda that calls for future compromise so there is no need, and no time they need to present themselves as an alternative; but rather the agenda is to completely wipe out the enemy and replace them.

Unlike secular/political terrorist groups where a particular need or policy could be addressed and compromise reached, “Perhaps the most sobering realization in confronting religious terrorism is that the threat – and the problems that fuel it – can never be eradicated completely.”
When terrorist acts are motivated in part or entirely by religion, where violence is seen as a religious duty divinely inspired, calls are made on different justification than the secular counterparts. These features lead in turn to increased bloodshed and destruction without remorse. These are the problems we have to confront if we have any hope of ending the terror.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

the unexpected pleasures

I’m still blushing a little bit from the pleasure of it. A lovely young woman named K. (in case she doesn’t want her identity spread about cyberspace) approached me at bert’s and asked, “Are you Braveheart?”
“My friends and I read your blog. It’s too bad you are leaving Morocco.”
“Yes, it’s time to go. I imagine I’ll keep the blog name the same, just the geography will change.”

I felt like a mini-celebrity, which is about as much notoriety as I will ever be comfortable with I think. Thank you K. for making my day.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Life is in the details

As I entered the section of the gym that leads downstairs to the ladies dressing room, the spa, salon, and hammam I noted that my way was lined with rose petals and candles. Well I like this fine I thought to myself, down the stairs and as I am about to turn into the corridor for the dressing room and hammam I came very near to running smack dab into two huge, really huge black men in really well cut suits – so I knew right away they did not work for the U.S. government or the British Secret Service.

As it turns out the Princess of the Congo was in the hammam. I didn’t know there was a princess of the Congo. I’m happy for her but was happier that she was out by the time I finished my workout and it was time for MY hammam.

And after the Princess of the Congo incident. I came home to the Oudayas and proceeded to one (I try to spread my dirhams about) of my favourite hannouts and was accosted by a rather large and scary chap who was insistent to the point of rudeness, even for a Moroccan, that I accompany him home to break the fast “with [his] mother”, right. I was using all my “go away” techniques while remaining polite, but was on the verge of being rude when the shopkeeper had apparently heard enough. ‘Stop bothering her. You can see you are frightening her. Go home.’ All this in Darija. You must understand this shopkeeper is verging on ninety and has the appearance of a well worn branch of mahogany and the bothersome chap was about 6’2” and burly. So I stood quietly and let the chap play hero and the big guy hung his head and slunk away home. It was lovely! The look of male satisfaction on the face of the old man was priceless. I made my thank you-s and went home smiling.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

It's good to be loved..

My fabulous roomie, the delectable A. found me a wireless cafe in Agdal, serving cafe au lait to the infidels during Ramadan! I love that boy.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

It's good to be King

The King is coming to the Oudayas today - I left - too many chaps with guns. I'm a bit miffed that they have been tarting up the Oudayas for weeks now - and now I find out it's all for his visit. Doesn't sit well with me. I may be a monarchist, but I like a benevolent and conscientious monarch.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

It's Ramadan

2 September 2008

Oh yes it is indeed Ramadan. Once the sun set not a soul was indoors! I forget from one year to the next just how crowded the Medina becomes at night. Remember that Star Trek episode where Kirk was trapped on the planet in a mock up of the Enterprise with the pretty girl who wanted him to 'infect' her because no one could die on the planet. And when he could see through the windows you saw all the bodies pressed against the glass - that's the Medina tonight. You have to get into a current of people and just go with the flow.

Then Rachid at Café Arab was trying to convince me that Yemen is a garden spot and lone women are welcome and safe. Yes, well good luck with that. I spent some time in Beirut and since that time am leery of men selling bridges, or garden spots.

And the streets of the city are not much less crowded. A taxi you say? Lots of luck with that. I did finally manage to secure one after warning off two young bucks with a look that said, 'Back off or die young'. I did not want to face the walk through the Medina again, and not this late. Normally I'm not worried but I do not like having my laptop out this late... Too tempting.

A matter of timing. Morocco changed the bloody time zone thing on me again. I arrived at the gym at what I thought was 1130 hours to discover it is 1030 hours where NOTHING is open in Morocco especially during Ramadan. Fortunately I took myself over to Mega Mall where the café shop is not open but the table, the a/c, and the Internet are! Considerate eh?

I apologize to you my lovely readers for not being more attentive but Internet access is difficult to come by and with Ramadan on even more so. I have my airline tickets for Paris and then points West – at which time I will have unfettered access – oh joy and rapture! I shall then again bend your ear daily. Thank you for your attention and patience.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

more to miss..

The taxi drivers of Morocco. I love them. I shall miss them, like my fleet of private drivers. Some obviously trained for Le Mans, others like my driver today is a frustrated language instructor. He took me through my shria Arabe, and worked to increase my vocabulary while taking me through my present working speech in French and Darjia. I have long since given up telling them that I DO speak five languages, just NONE OF THEM ON THIS CONTINENT. Too sweet and too funny. Just one more thing to miss about this wonderful and varied land.

Here are snapshots for you of my darling neighbours who chat with me in French. More to miss…

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

But we knew this!

Reasons to be cheerful: Scots are among Europe's happiest

Published Date: 15 August 2008
By Hamish Macdonell
Scottish Political Editor
THE traditional image of Scots as dour, doom-laden pessimists was shaken yesterday by a new Europe-wide survey showing them to be among the happiest people in the Continent.
The research, carried out across 24 countries, found Scots are failing to live up to their caricature. They are now the happiest in Britain and the third most contented in Europe, beaten only by the Swiss and the Danes.

On a ten-point scale, Scots scored a "life satisfaction" rating of 8.06, compared with 7.2 for the rest of the UK.

At the bottom of the scale, with scores of less than five, came Ukraine and Bulgaria.

People all over Europe were asked to rate their happiness on a scale of one to ten. Happiness was divided into five sections: job, family, standard of living, life as a whole and happiness.

In Scotland, the survey found that women were generally happier than men, that people became happier as they grew older and that those with more money were happier.

A degree, or time in higher education, also helped to make people more contented in later life, as did homes in rural or semi-rural areas and working for small companies.

The report also found that people who were married or in long-term relationships were happier than the single, the separated and the divorced.

The results followed increasing evidence this week that the Scottish economy was weathering the economic downturn better than the rest of the UK, with unemployment still falling and house prices continuing to rise.

Sheila Panchal, a psychologist, said: "This suggests the popular image of the nation as glass-half-empty pessimists is outdated. There appear to be much more positive feelings coming out, which we can be very pleased about."

Ms Panchal said part of this might come from Scots having a stronger a sense of "belonging" than ever before.

Dr Stephen Joseph, professor of psychology at Nottingham University, said: "One of the main things, in terms of people's happiness and contentment, is social networks and community cohesion.

"Possibly in Scotland, where communities are smaller than in the south of England, people have more connection with family and friends."

Happiness has eased quietly on to the political agenda over the past few years.

In 2006, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said improving people's happiness was the real challenge facing politicians. He recently asked all his MPs to take a book on the subject away as holiday reading.

The Scottish part of the survey was conducted between May and November last year, after the SNP came to power. It became a party-political issue yesterday, with Nationalists claiming their short time in government had been, at least partly, responsible.

The SNP's Alasdair Allan, a member of Holyrood's communities committee, said: "The fact the survey was done in the second half of 2007 is one measurement of the SNP government's success in delivering a wealthier and fairer Scotland.

"Only this week, we had figures showing unemployment falling in Scotland, while it rose in the UK as a whole – and unemployment is now significantly lower in Scotland than south of the Border."

A Labour spokesman dismissed Dr Allan's remarks, saying that if Scotland had had a glorious summer, then the Nationalists would probably have claimed credit for that, too.

Malcolm Chisholm, Labour's culture spokesman, added: "It is ridiculous to suggest this is the result of a few months of SNP government. A more substantial claim would be to say it was due to progress in the last decade under Labour."

Dr Carol Craig, the chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being in Glasgow, said the very political system that has generated the Labour-SNP animosity may be partly responsible for Scotland's high satisfaction ratings.

"We still believe in fairness at work and the political process. These questions probably played a part, behind the scenes, in the answers people gave, and that is very, very positive for Scotland," she said.

'I enjoy every day for what it brings'

SHIRLEY Spear lives in the community of Glendale near Loch Dunvegan on Skye, where she runs the Three Chimneys restaurant and hotel.

"I grew up in Edinburgh but moved to Skye 23 years ago to take over the Three Chimneys," she said. "We live next to the restaurant, which is in the westernmost point of Skye.

"The location is completely idyllic. We can see the water out of the bedroom window. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

"No matter the weather, the scenery is always dramatic. Skye is a stunning place and I love living here."

Mrs Spear, 55, runs the family business with her husband, Eddie, 61, and daughter, Lindsay, 26. Her son, Steven, 29, works for the Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh.

Although the restaurant business can be extremely stressful, Mrs Spear loves her job. She said: "My life is exceptionally busy, but I get great enjoyment out of being involved in Scotland's immensely important tourist industry.

"This is one of the busiest weeks of the year. Things can be brilliant one minute and dreadful the next, but it's great running my own business. I couldn't be a bank manager, or work in a job where I am stuck in a shop all day."

Despite the credit crunch, the tourist industry is currently booming on Skye. Mrs Spear said: "The credit crunch is a disaster for everyone, but so far we have come off better because we are at the quality end of the tourist market."

Mrs Spear often has to drive from Skye to Edinburgh – a journey which takes her five hours – but she doesn't mind doing it: "Day or night, no matter what time of year, I love driving through Scotland and seeing the rolling purple hills. The scenery is so beautiful."

And with a successful work and home life, Mrs Spear is very happy.

She said: "Happiness is enjoying every day of your life for what it brings, and making the most of what Scotland has to offer."

Mrs Spear believes that Scots are happier than their UK counterparts because of the strong relationship they have with their country.

She said: "People in Scotland have a real sense of belonging which other countries don't really have. The rest of the UK does have a sense of identity, but I don't think they feel like they belong quite as much as we do in Scotland."

• Dr Carol Craig is chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being.

A dour and miserable nation? You must be having a laugh, mate

The full article contains 2238 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.
Page 1 of 1

* Last Updated: 14 August 2008 11:34 PM
* Source: The Scotsman * Location: Edinburgh

Friday, 15 August 2008

I love my life!

All right ladies, prepare to be pea green with envy!

So ‘mister six pack (could be twelve) abs., my new roomie, walks into the kitchen in his boxers (I’m a boxers over briefs girl), looking all tousled from sleep and says, “You don’t mind me going without a shirt do you?”

Biting the inside of my cheek and turning my face away I said, “Oh no baby, you just walk around without whatever you want.” I then had to retire to my bedroom where there is a/c and lie down a minute until the palpitations stopped.

Ohgod! I love my life.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Time for change

The decision is made – I’m leaving Morocco. Mid-October I’m buying a one-way ticket to Paris because – well you don’t really need a reason for Paris do you? And then over to the U.S. for a while. I want a good long visit with the children and I will be hawking my manuscript to those with the printing presses.

I am sad to go. I have had such a fabulous time here. The people of Morocco have been so lovely to me, and I have had adventures and flirtations enough to keep me kicking. I’m trying over the next two months to write down all my impressions so as not to lose them.

Yesterday as I traversed the Medina I paid particular attention. Normally I let the sounds wash over me like a friendly flock of birds, but I really listened to the individual events – the hawkers touting their wares to the passing crowd at the tops of their lungs, the mothers scolding children or admonishing them to keep up, or describing some new sight, the languages! – French, English, Arabic, Darija, Spanish, a touch of German and some Oriental quips thrown in for variety. Watching the women lined up at the hanout to pick out the ghasoul from the open barrels; the hannout with the stands of dates and nuts; the incongruous tawdry underwear displayed so openly on mannequins and hanging from the sides of the hannouts; the men with sheets and sheets of every set of wares you can imagine – underwear, plastic containers, books, DVD’s, jewelry, spruce boxes, and on and on – lined up on both sides of the street anywhere there is a space; the hoards of people jostling through the Medina like fish traveling the stream – and you thought the Manhattan side walks were crowded. The smells, oh the smells – the tang of fresh mint tea leaves, the encompassing breath of fresh bread in every incarnation, the sweet smell of incense, the fried smell of fish from the street vendors…


Monday, 4 August 2008

The Past

The Past forms us does it not? Whether we are pulling away from our experiences, hiding from them, or embracing them – the Past is always present. Depending on your belief – but that’s not right is it? I mean either something exist or it does not, it doesn’t require belief – which leads to choices (doesn’t everything? Sigh) either time is linear (boring) or it is fluid. I choose fluid because it opens so many possibilities, and as always I leave open the door that I could be wrong.

No matter if you have lived only one lifetime (you youngster you) or many, it is the karma or the history of your existence that makes you what you are now ;or rather how you choose to react to those experiences. What choices we make, which turn in the road we choose, if we run forward into adventure or away from danger – it is our decision as to how our Past exist in our present.

I know from personal experience that you can live in the present physically and yet be living in another time, another experience. When that happens you never leave that place, all your new experiences are colored by the fact you never left. For me the experience was traumatic and life altering, for others I think it can be a moment they felt they were at their best; but it’s never the right thing to do is it? How can we move forward in time unless we have the capacity to travel the river of time freely in both directions?

Light traveling at a finite speed takes ‘some’ time to reach us, so by the time we see the event of the light, it is most likely in the past. If you stand at the mirror and shave or brush your hair you are looking at an image of yourself in the past.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), which relies on satellites to pinpoint locations for devices such as car navigation systems, can function accurately only because it takes into account the effects of special relativity. These effects are significant because the GPS satellites travel at very high speeds and they make use of high-precision timings.

A consequence of Einstein’s special theory of relativity is that both distance and time are flexible; the flexibility of both space and time are inextricably linked – therefore (ta da) spacetime. Spacetime as it happens is the underlying cause of gravity, and bada boom you have the universe in four dimensions

Just as telescopes act as time machines because of the speed of light we can only ever see things as they were in the past. As we observe events in our lives, we can only ever see them in the past. We can postulate outcomes – no, relax I’m not going off on my favourite String Theory spiel – but until we can truly conceive of time as fluid we can’t make as much use of the ‘future’ as we can the ‘past’.

Yes, you guessed it – my own past came to visit last night and I’ve been doing some time traveling of my own. I could really use the Enterprise about now to return for a closer look…


Saturday, 2 August 2008

Tsunami in Rabat

I apologize for my absence but I was drowning in the Migraine Tsunami that appeared, like they do, from out of nowhere. As I walked up the stairs from the kitchen bringing my tray of tea to bed to begin my day this morning, I realized how fabulous I feel and it occurs to me the pain-thing is like a hurricane, this one being a class 5.

First comes the dread as you see/feel it coming over the horizon, just the beginnings of the wind/pain/nausea and the darkness in the distance portending the catastrophe to come, and you know there is nowhere to go for escape. If you’re lucky and have enough warning you can lay in supplies (medications and soda) and batten the hatches (put down clean linens and close all the shutters and drapes, turn off the telephone).

Then you can see nothing but the pain as it crashes in on you, the intensity of it driving you into a darkness so intense there is no escape, just the desire to curl up and find that one sweet spot where the storm is less, the lighting just missing instead of striking you straight on. You lose the time, the days; they are simply gone as if you were dead for that spot of time.

Coming out it is like the devastation you see on CNN, the houses, trees, and boats tossed about like kindling. You are so very tired, sore, and stiff and you have lost the time. The day still has an unreal quality like the aftermath of any disaster and you walk slowly and softly in fear that this was only the eye and there is more to come.

Then you have today, oh joy and rapture, when you wake and you are yourself again. I used to feel the most difficult part was the recovery – getting back up off the matt one more time like Rocky in the last round; but now I find I have settled it with myself. It is something that happens to me. It is unpleasant and frustrating, but it is my lot and how I handle it, not the situation itself, will determine my karma. So today my lovely readers I am spry and sassy, ready to make trouble and stir up the Universe. Sometimes I think I can judge the intensity of the pain by how relieved I am when it’s over – did I mention I feel positively giddy?

That’s it then, back to the laptop. Write that book, so we all can find out what happens… Ah there are some new diggings in front of the Oudayas. I will take out the camera tomorrow and explore.


Monday, 21 July 2008

Self Revelations

No, THIS is my favourite.

Since my blog is a continuing stream of consciousness, this is what my consciousness is streaming today. I have discovered, much to my dismay, that I am a coward. I am not happy about this, an understatement, as I have always prided myself on my courage. My daughter is not the first person to accuse me of having a ‘rescue complex’, and it is true. In almost any given situation from earthquakes, to a man hitting a woman, to shots fired, I automatically assume I’m the only one there capable of handling the trouble. Yes, you’re right – I don’t play well with others. It’s really never been a problem, at least not for me, because every task I have attempted up until now I was well trained for and felt quite capable of executing.

What brought on this torrent of self-examination? I took a creative writing course last year from one of the American Universities. It was splendid, I learned a lot. A few weeks, all right a month, ago my instructor emailed me to see if I had continued with the novel I began in her class – I have but it’s on the back burner until I do further research, that’s why I am writing “Valley of the Kasbahs” – write what you know. Back to the act of cowardice – this lovely woman wanted to read what I had, and “any other writing” I had been doing. To say I was flattered would be another understatement, but have I sent her anything? That would be NO. I have found every excuse you could imagine – the wedding, the trip home, the rewrite, and on to blithering nonsense. I finally confronted myself last week and wrote said Professor and confessed, but did I send her the manuscript? That would be NO. I managed to find one more excuse.

I know why now, it’s because I’m terrified I’m not good enough. Understand I am one of the very fortunate people, and I know it, to have been excellent at everything I have turned my hand to in my life. I like that. Q says I ‘m competitive, a label I denied for years, but she may have something… I find it amusing that I am the first one in line to give encouragement to anyone who wishes to try something new. I also have an embarrassing amount of self-esteem, so what is the problem? Cowardice. Damn. But the definition of courage is to be afraid and do it anyway. I am sending the manuscript off today.


Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Professional Photographs

I think this is my favourite!

another day, another luxury...

Life is just so very difficult in Morocco.... Yesterday the hammam where I was steamed,scrubbed, oiled, massaged and given a facial; and then today having my hair done, a manicure and a pedicure - sigh. Someone has to do it (big shit eating grin).

I'm giving the locals one more reason to think me odd with my lovely red Japanese parasol. But I love it so, my own portable shade tree!

Back to work... no really!


Thursday, 17 July 2008

My butt feels so much better…

It works like this; I am one of those people who do not attach status to possessions, as evidenced by the fact that I never fixed that dent that a man put into my baby SUV because the car still ran just peachy. So, when my toilet seat developed a crack, no jokes Mutley, and then when Sally was here, broke through – I used the universal fix-it, duct tape. It worked just fine until the other side developed a crack (just how old that toilet seat was I have no idea). That was it for me and I informed Abdul I needed a replacement – pinches on my bum from handsome men are one thing, from an inanimate object – just not as much fun. Now that it’s here, whew.

Apparently all the scaffolding on the inner side of the big gate and museum at the entry to the Oudayas is a primping up of the walls. I am so pleased that the material appears to be that of the original, just as they did last summer out front. Now if they would just polish my cannons.

I’m off to the hammam tomorrow, oh joy and rapture! Which works out really well as I have another love scene to write. After they oil me up and massage me, the facial mask goes on, and then I’m left in the warm steam for thirty minutes or so – great for the creative process.


Monday, 14 July 2008

I can't get my bloody post to post!

How Big is Your World?

This is a question that I have often thought about, perhaps because I have done so much traveling in Third World countries. It came to my mind again yesterday as I finished reading “The Bookseller of Kabul”, which I recommend by the way.

When I was in McLeod Ganj teaching English to the monks, yes there are Tibetan monks about who speak English with a Scottish brogue – don’t you love it? – I was astounded by their lack of knowledge in the area of science, specifically cosmology. Because I have an affinity for physics and cosmology I use words from those disciplines for examples, which ended always with a long and convoluted explanation about space, the planetary system, etc. AS in the Madrassas (Islamic seminaries) the education of Buddhist monks is concentrated on religious text (but we leave out the “we are right and everyone else is wrong” diatribe). Most of the monks enter the Temple at the ages of eight or nine and that is their formal education. But consider this, where their knowledge of the physical world is limited, their familiarity with the spiritual world exceeds mine by far. The abilities of some of the older monks are astounding – the ability to control their body functions up to and including their deaths, the ability to penetrate and travel in spiritual realms that I have only read about.

What about a young woman in Kabul? The Taliban prevented the education of an entire generation of women and subjugated them. Even though the Taliban is gone, the mindset of many of these women prevents them from moving beyond the barriers that were imposed. They are for the most part, illiterate. They have never traveled outside their village or town; some of them have never left their father’s house. In Khost on the Afghan-Pakistan border the law of purah reigns, the total segregation of men and women. The town appears to be devoid of women as they are rarely allowed out. They move from their father’s house, after an arranged marriage in which they have no say, into the house of their husband. How big is their world? What they know of the outside world is what they learn from the men in their homes. Men who get their knowledge from the state television, the Mosque, and if (a big one) they can read, whatever state approved or smuggled in papers and books they design to take in. They know nothing of science, literature, world politics, the intricacies of economy, and the variety of cultures in the world.

The young boy in Rabat who has to work because the father is dead. He left school after only a very few years and now must toil from dawn to dusk to put enough food on the table for his family. He goes to the Mosque, listens to the older men who lounge in the coffee shops, and watches a great deal of television which in large percentage consist of the reruns of really bad American serials. He sees the wealthy tourists come through the Medina, and the rich Moroccans in their mansions in Soussi but knows he has no chance of ever living that life. There is no government program to feed his family while he goes to school in order to improve his lot.

It is not only the Third World is it? What about the children in the American ghettos? They see Hollywood’s version of life in the movies and on television, but does that help them make a life. Is there anyone there to tell them how essential an education is? Anyone to encourage them and support them? Violence, drugs, and the pressure of various gangs surround them. How big is their world?

This line of thought always makes me monumentally grateful for the education and worldview that I had as a child and young woman. Knowledge in my world was revered, any knowledge, all knowledge. Even though my talents lie more in the sector of Political Science and literature, I have a continuing thirst for physics and cosmology and I try to keep up with all the modern discoveries. And the other world, the spiritual world is one I continue to explore and strive to make my way on the Path.

So, that’s what I was thinking about. What do you think?

Here is an excerpt from “The Valley of the Kasbahs” for everyone

Here is an excerpt for everyone BUT JMB and Q.


Saturday, 12 July 2008

back online, ta da!

12 July 2008

Hello, hello all my lovely readers, and thank you to those who have come ‘round to check on me this past month while I was out of touch.
I have not been idle I assure you. I’ve put several thousand more miles on my passport; I now have a married daughter and a new son.
The heat wave, more like a scorch, is over for the present. Rabat is back at the normal 27 to 33 C until August when we get up to 37C. I have to tell you I have become more of a hermit than usual because of the delightful, refreshing, comforting, luscious, brilliant a/c in my little house in the Oudayas.
The cobblestone avenue outside my door is filled with the usual summer tourists. The fencing for the outside digs has been tarted up and there are scaffolds over the inside wall of the Bab Oudaia facing the Rue Jamaa. I will get some photographs for you soon.
The beaches are filled with the usual summer crowds. Whenever I head over to the Medina I see them coming up the sidewalks and across the road carrying their beach umbrellas, food, children, towels, and surfboards. They arrive in various states of dress from the young men sporting only shorts or a bathing suit to the mothers in djellabas escorting children in slacks or dresses. There is a surfeit of young men and a dearth of older ones.
I continue knee deep in the book, the later third at this point (whew). My goal is to have the full first draft finished by the end of summer – any prayers, good wishes, crossed fingers, and rotating prayer wheels will be appreciated. On Monday I’m going to post a couple of excerpts – remember first draft. I would like input, both praise and criticism. One excerpt will be for everyone, and the second will be for everyone but Q and jmb and it is rather – physical. Yes, Mutley I expect you to be first.

It’s lovely to be back and next week I’m going to do some visiting every day until I get around to everyone.


Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Neal, Katy, My self, and the wedding couple.
The special invited guests awaiting the ceremony are on the far right.


Click on the photograph of the Bride and it will take you to the album.



And from our Katy

Monday, 26 May 2008


The wedding was perfection! I can't think of one thing that would have made it better. The weather was perfect, the food tasty, the flowers gorgous, the bride radiant, and the groom attentive. We had one moody guest, and one bitchy - both women! But you need those for the stories later. The reception was elegant and fun. Photographs to come. My hat was perfect, and yes I did cry. Ohmygods, I'm someone's mother-in-law now! the good news is that in addition to the perfect daughter, I now have a wonderful son.


Sunday, 11 May 2008

Taking time off

I am going to be taking a month off. I think that's right for Blog Power yes jmb?

In a couple of weeks I will be posting a couple of excerpts from the book, I would love some feedback.

Thank you, and thank you for your patience.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

not dead yet

To those who have ask, and I love you.. the book is going very well. Picture me chained to my laptop, not you mutleythedog - your imagination would go way overboard, and typing away like mad. I have 20 May for my goal for the completed first draft. can imagine.

Meanwhile young Joshua is having adventures. Read this: for your entertainment.

Kul blaza, or, All men are...

Kul blaza, or, All men are...

Africa » Morocco » Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer » Rabat
April 11th 2008 by JC44

On my way to meet Abbas at home this Wednesday I passed by—or really, walked through—another protest. They’ve been getting really bad lately. You can tell this not from media coverage or anything, which is nonexistent, but because the watching crowds are getting bigger on Mo V; because if you’re in the old medina and you hear intermittent screams or police sirens you see several people, now, dropping what they’re doing to go and watch—at least putting down what they’re doing to look up and listen for a moment. Also, people are talking, which gossip here does more than the news (and the news, which is what we watch when we’re not watching soccer or soap operas, is watched for gossip, i.e. last night’s reports on Casa’s slums was depicted with dark piano music and montage sequences).

Walking through this one was different; it was, at least, getting old. The very first thing I saw was a man fallen to the ground, curled up, surrounded by standing and crouching people intermittently looking over their shoulders for state police and down to their fallen friend, to help him (many of them are, actually, doctors). I saw his wallet and phone and a bunch of coins scattered a few feet from him, which nobody was paying attention to, and a little trail of blood leading from these prison-checked items to their fallen owner. All I wanted to do was stand and watch, like I was afraid I was going to miss something. It was almost like entertainment, like that feeling you have watching a television show—just one more minute, in case something REALLY good happens—except it wasn’t. There’s this incredibly fine line, I think, between feeling the need to keep on watching to satisfy your insatiable need for entertainment and the need to watch for some bigger reason, witness maybe.

I have usually been on the fringes of the protests, and with someone else, but this time I found myself feeling more a part of it—when the protesters began one of their ritual dispersions, when the state police began to run at them with their long lopes and clubs raised, I found myself dispersing, too. Though I wasn’t in any danger or anything. I’m not sure if I was physically more a part of the protesting crowd, or if my unconscious were more attuned to their protesting, but regardless, I ran for a few minutes. Soon, I was near the edge of the old medina, and I could only hear what was still going on behind me, like a dream just left. Was I meant to walk by? Is this ordained? What the hell am I not getting? I saw a woman—veiled—get hit in the back of the head with a club. What is it to be a witness? How is this different from being a spectator? Why will no one—Moroccans—answer my questions about this violence? These protests are totalizing—I mean, they silence you. How am I on my way to a soccer game? What can I say, and be justified in saying, that does not have to do with this?

I met two friends from the trip, Alex and Ben, and we walked to my house to meet Abbas. I made them wait outside, because I am still not sure about bringing strangers into the house uninvited. Abbas was rushing about; he immediately cornered me in the sort of foyer of the house, took me by the biceps like he does. He explained, in French, Arabic, and English, that his mom doesn’t know he’s going, that I need to tell her I’m just going out with my friends; he’ll meet me on Mo V a few minutes after I leave. He had told me the night before that his father doesn’t let him go to FAR soccer games, because: joomhoor haib. The crowd is horrible/evil. He nudges me into the courtyard of the house; I go upstairs, change my nice sweater for a hoodie, come down. Mama is waiting. Msheet ee-la sharia ma sahebee. I’m going into the street with my friends. Abbas is watching me from upstairs. Mama closes her eyes, looking down, waving her hand up: ya’allah.

The three of us wait in the street for ten minutes. Abbas shows up, packing a red sweatshirt into a backpack. In the bag: sports pants, which he showed to his mother, who he told he was going to the gym to play volleyball. The red sweatshirt is to wear outside the stadium, before and after the game, so that the fans of Raja, the opposing team, do not single him out for the FAR jersey he is wearing and beat the shit out of him.

On our way walking to the bus, Abbas, tall in his red, black, and green FAR jersey, trailed by three goofy Americans, is singled out by FAR fans who would have remained otherwise invisible to me, at least. When’s the game; how much are tickets; what bus do you take; will God will a victory—5 or 6 men, ranging ages, say, 12 to 65, shoot these questions as Abbas walks by them, not stopping, but answering, patting his heart at them. It is as if he is at the center of the world, and yet think about every other FAR fan like him walking to the bus: like there are many coexisting centers of the world, their orbits overlapping, one hopes concentric. When we get to the bus, there are kids literally hanging off the sides of a recently departed bus, banging on the sides, which seem made of tin. Abbas is patient, I like that about him; we get on the next buy, empty, and get seats. It is filled soon and the drunk guy sitting behind me—only he and his 3 friends are drunk—immediately turns me around and begins to try to teach me songs. They are too long, says Abbas; they are long, sure, but they repeat the same words.

I am, by the way, wearing a tight black red, green, and black skullcap with a fake black haired Mohawk. Abbas made me do it. The FAR fans I am surrounded by don’t seem anywhere near as impressed by my American gamesmanship as I thought and hoped they would be; instead, the bus rides gets immediately, anonymously violent. Banging on the roofs, shaking the bus, pushing one another—you can disturb the peace all you want on public transportation, but do not think about standing up for what you believe in on Mo V.

We get to the stadium, which is bigger and more impressive than I expected, definitely, and we can’t get into an entrance anywhere. The cops—the state police, too, are here, which is both reassuring, since if they are at the protests they should be here, and soul-deadening, because they immediately evoke fear—are beating at kids trying to sneak in. There is one angry mustached cop swinging at a group of ten kids, who seem less sure whether they want to get in or taunt the cop; his little hat falls off his head, just like Beckett promised it would (sorry). Every few minutes, also, there are bum rushes: kids without tickets literally storm the police gates, which are manned by a few club-wielding police, and hedge their bets that they will be the ones that slip through—the majority will get beaten down and kicked, though they’ll try again. A few hundred feet above, those who are in, inside, look down from the top rim of the stadium—I can’t hear what they’re saying. They should wrap their tickets around baseballs and throw them down to those without tickets—I’d like to see a familiar scramble for a home run ball.

Mom, I need to go here: my wallet was in my front pocket, and it was taken out of my front pocket; my phone, too, was taken out of the other pocket. I had been thinking as we were trying to get in how this crowd felt unified in its opposition to the police; how it surely seemed that there was recognition of one another, even if it was based on a unity against state evils, whatever; I was feeling so trusting, riding on it. But then I have been thinking, too, whenever I se the state police, just how fine the line is between the men in these uniforms and the men and the women who the men in uniforms are beating; why should clear lines, uniforms, be my understanding both of what humanity is and what society is. So my wallet was taken—I didn’t feel it, though I think I did, because right when I first realized it I turned around and there was this kid, no more than 13, looking me right in the eye. He had been trying to get me to hold onto him, get him in, maybe in a bum rush; I had a ticket, had said no. When I turned around then I saw a bulge in his pocket; I knew. But what kind of thief stays, even for a moment? Did I really see that bulge? I couldn’t accuse him. I didn’t know.

When we got into the stadium, I kept my gaze down, because everyone was looking at me and the two other Americans. Must have looked funny, an American with a FAR fake black Mohawk unhappily looking down. We got to seats, though didn’t sit. Singing became immediately, singing which my brother put on my iTunes, along with the Koran, and makes me listen to almost every night. The first chant/song kept on hailing Che Guevara—can I really hold this against them? It his just his name—do any of them know that he called for “…hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become…”? Does it matter? Yhey are using his name to bond with one another—to be loving—right? Can you evoke a name separate from what it stands for? Is their hailing Che, for all purposes, the same as their hailing “Bob”? But, no, I don’t buy that—they know something about him, more then I think they know they know, there is a collective unconscious, if that doesn’t come too close too taking away their agency. Am I seeing a loving brotherhood between them that is the same lie of loving brotherhood men like Che told? (Are all brotherhoods lies; they have to be private, right—between just two? But: “All men are…” Zach: let’s go to India) Shit! I told my brother I liked his Che belt—why keep my mouth shut? And yet what right do I have?

I dropped my cigarette on the chair in front of me by accident, went to pick it up and properly put it on the ground in front of me, but Abbas stopped me. Kul blaza he said—anywhere. This isn’t America. That was the first time I had ever heard him make any explicit comparison to America. It was immediately alienating and cold, and it was worst that he smiled and put it out for me, like he was reveling in his own hatred (he is only 16, right?). In retrospect: foreboding—only boding, really, though. No payoff.

There were at least a hundred kids standing lined up on this partition sloping downwards, which separated two sections of the stadium. They were holding one another by the shoulders, and they were stilled by the tension required to balance and yet trying to move and sing at the same time. At times, a policeman in a club would come and swipe them down, for whatever reason, and there would be mini-fights, and whoever was swiped down would laughingly climb back on. It never occurred to me there was a reason for the policeman’s violence. At one point, something I have never and will never see again happened: like dominoes, this is the only image to use, the entire line of standing fans fell, one man knocking down the man in front of him, someone must have fallen first at top, and they fell for at least 30 seconds, which is the same as 30 seconds of any serious falling: it looks and feels like an eternity. They actually fell like dominoes, a hundred some odd of them—and still some got back up and on.

It began to rain, a scramble to get shelter above. Someone ran onto the field and we watched a few cops chase him and then we watched the chase disappear behind some concrete wing out of our sights—and I felt like I was the only one who saw the fan who had run on reemerge being held up by the cops because he couldn’t stand ten minutes later, dripping blood. Suddenly, watching that, the stadium lights on the left side went out, like a little plug controlled it all (like God could merely blow: I had to), and in seconds lighters were lit and raised in the air. Torches made of paper—then tin foil: how we learn when we want something!—were lit by the lighters and raised in the air. Have you heard the silence of a violent crowd? It, and they, can be so brilliant and beautiful sometimes that you wonder whether the beautiful is only the failure of the normally violent, bright, dark, dull.

The game ended—zero-zero tie (of course?). There was a rush to get out, and I thought, being me from New York, that it was a rush for taxis. But no, Abbas explained to me, it was a rush to meet the fans of the opposing team—that foolish minority, who must be mad—and beat the shit out of them. Outside the stadium, there were fires, sirens; mainly, people running in every which direction. I don’t know how you knew who you were with and who you were against. There was screaming and laughter. And then—just like a few hours earlier, on Mo V—everyone began to disperse, in this nightmarish expanding V, in a direction away from some unseen state force (I imagined a tank). We ran with steps low to the ground, under low hanging branches, I lost my brother and friends, then found them, and then we had to jump the metal fence. They three went first. I felt the lack of my wallet immediately—why is this a lack at all? Damned cathexis. I couldn’t get up; I was wearing my incredibly flat-soled slip-ons. A large man hoisted me from behind without asking (the best kind of help, sometimes); and then, of course, I sat there straddling the spikes, trying to laugh. I threw a leg over and jumped; it was further down than it looked, there was a moment between my landing and my falling when I could think, and I thought, think something!, and somehow I rolled well enough only to slightly hurt my ankle. That was acting—I was imitating movies—that somehow made real-world sense.

It was impossible to find taxis. There were a half-dozen white pick-up trucks filling up the backs of the trucks with men. 5 dh. So we get in, which it wasn’t even easy getting in; I had to get pulled in by the arms, like I was getting pulled out. We swing and swerve down the street and around corners. The adrenaline of this buries the hurt of the ankle; the men in the back of this pick-up truck are the nicest anyone has been to me, looking at me, blessing me; we can hear one another. A little quiet. Maybe because it’s over. We pass by a small group—one women, one of the few I saw, and her four men. She calls me a touriste. My brother says, yell Tabon mak—which means, I remember, I fuck your mother. So I yell it. And in moments bricks are flying at our truck. Abbas pulls me down to sit and cover our heads. The driver of our truck gets out—he has jeri curls and is bulging in every direction—and he picks up the fender, which has fallen off in the process of our abrupt stop, and raises it at the group that has thrown bricks at us. Is this really all me? Or Abbas?

We drive through the worst part of Rabat. There is silence for a few moments, and then the singing really begins. Every time we drop someone off, we sing to them. I see the familiar ramparts of the old medina. We get out; I head immediately to a cyber café to email you, mom, about the credit cards. I dread that. How—? On my way, I pass SiMo (Sidi Mohammed), our neighbor, who stops after I’ve passed him—he says, with a straight face enabled by his foreign perfection of English, that I have been cursing too loud on the street. But I said fuck—and yes, everyone understands fuck. He invites me to use the Internet at his house; this invitation trumps practicality. I wait for him to eat; while I wait, a Gambian calling himself Bob the Builder (named Bombekar) detains me. Wants to talk about bitches. Tells me loyalty—which I claim—is not a third world concept.

I get back to dinner when everyone has finished. You can sense things in these homes; there’s only so much air to breathe, and fill. I sit; I am offered nothing. Mama asks, I think, you were at the tiran, the stadium—I say yes, immediately, which I could have been and not have lied since I only said I was going out, but the way I say yes makes it seem (i.e. confirms) that I was lying. I am stupidly smiling and hot. I cannot believe this. What have I been thinking? And then, and then—Abbas comes in, and HE is smling. And he says, it’s okay, they know. After all that. But they know, and I didn’t know, and even though I now know it is meaningless; I look down like I did in the staium. Abbas is holding my computer under his arm and sits and he opens it, searches “allah” in my iTunes. Said, my brother in law, makes a joke about the wallet, whose plight no one is sympathetic to: it is the end of your stay in Morocco, he says—of course, you must pay. (If I had written this after it had happened—it’s Friday now—I’d comment on this, this guy. )

Said once called me a man. I forget the context; something about my right to go and come as I please versus women. Now I feel nothing like it. On my way upstairs, to try to write this, which I don’t then, he adds: takbar nseah. When you’re older—or a man—you’ll forget. But, Said: that is exactly the worst part.

Josh Cohen