Nicest Populations Get Murdered

Sitting in the heart of the Jordaan this evening, as boats sailed by, bikes rattled past, and drunken teenagers hobbled from bar to bar, I spent some quality time with a very special girl. She graduated, as did I, from the U of Amsterdam, and during her studies went off to Darfur to do field work related to displaced people and the genocide that happened and is beginning to happen again.

She’s been travelling alot lately, and so I updated her on things like Spike Lee’s documentary, conspiracy theories, and who’s been on Bill Maar’s show lately. As we sat there talking about all the death and destruction in the world, she began to go into detail about her experience in Darfur and how everything is unfolding with the world’s full knowledge and yet nothing is done.

Among the things she talked about was the hospitality she received there, how people were so unbelievably welcoming to an American girl from Georgia. They even knew I was Jewish, she said, to further emphasize how kind the people of Darfur are. We went on to speak about the oil deals and other interests, especially those of China and Russia, that further help to halt any and all efforts to intervene in the mass murders.

At some point, she puts her empty glass on the table and says something like

“It is almost like, the nicer a culture or a population, the more likely they are to be victims of mass murder.”

I thought about that as I rode home. I thought about her travels and how eventually, she’ll likely end up back in Sudan, trying to do whatever she can, her small part in the face of so much complacency. As sad as the conversation sometimes seemed, it is inspiring to spend time and share ideas with someone of such intelligence and understanding of the world around us.

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Tea, Corn, and the Colonial History of Food

Trying not to be troubled by the limited connectivety that Portugal offers. I’ve dealt with it for years.. but every trip I’m annoyed with the slow progress the nation makes.

The interesting conversation over dinner is my topic for today. This evening, as I had just wandered back to Lisbon for some relaxing. Got called to dinner with JP and his very worldly family. Both his parents are very well schooled in History, just as he is, so naturally everything has its historical context… even things I’d never considered.

At some point the topic of food came up and where certain foods come from. And considering the very long colonial period of Portugal in relation to the rest of the world, it is interesting to know that in fact- it was Portugal that introduced alot of foods to parts of the world that had never heard of it. Some examples?:

Tea. I’ve heard this story for years. Portugal had a special relationship with China long before any other nations, and one thing they shared was this thing called tea. At some point, a Portuguese princess was visiting Bombay around 1650, and she asks for tea. Their hosts have never heard of it. They go looking in the stock of different spice and herb sellers.. and they find tea, which to that point, was not thought of as a drink. I think from there it becomes a known drink in Europe, especially with the British.

Beyond tea, Rice is also a big deal in Portugal and has been for centuries. But of course, rice arrived in Portugal thanks to very early trade with Asia in the pre-colonial days.

And the list goes on… corn.. which can be found all over the north of Portugal.. came from the Americas. They had a different version of corn here, prior, and it was barely worth eating.. apparently.

I’ll mention one last one for tonight… potatoes. Originally from the Andes mountains, apparently for a long time even after being introduced in Portugal, people saw the practice of eating the potato of the plant as disgusting. JP’s dad remembers his grandparents scoffing at the idea of eating that part of a potato plant.

Interestingly one thing that sticks out in my head, which his mother mentioned, is that these types of transplantation and plant introductions might today be viewed as dangerous and crazy. Then again, considering the widespread use of genetically modified foods, maybe the tradition continues with a whole new twist and a new set of risks that maybe weren’t considered back then. It may seem like a story that ended happily, with the whole world having more choice of food, but being that we understand more about the risks now than we did then, we should proceed responsibly. Still, amazing to think food that is considered typical of a nation, often has orgins that are far far away.

Vlog from the fields containing fruit and veggies…. forthcoming this weekend.

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Who Gave What to New Orleans

Catching up on news from the past few days, I found time to look into some details until now I had not seen. As I read the list of who gave what for the Hurricane Recovery from around the world, it’s really interesting to see how the world can be. Take a look for yourselves:

  • Kuwait: 500 million (makes sense considering what the US spends on Kuwait)
  • Qatar: 100 millon, including 17.5 mil to Xavier University
  • Saudi Arabia and UAE: 100 million each
  • India and China, 5 million each
  • Bangladesh: 1 million (I’m impressed.)
  • Sri Lanka: 25,000
  • Cyprus and Dominican Republic: 50,000 each
  • Ghana: 15,000
  • Denmark: An oceanliner docked in Baton Rouge which houses evacuees

Of course there’s alot more. Some is direct, but much is actually through organizations. Lots of donor countries, especially the EU, didn’t do the direct money thing, probably because they’re well aware how many can be mismanaged. Hopefully that doesn’t happen in Louisiana… but considering how corrupt the national government and the shakey record of the local government in places like New Orleans.. everyone should keep on eye on this.

Speaking of eyes on New Orleans and hurricane recovery, I’m subscribed to miss B. havens vlog, and you should see their place down there.

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Nuclear Irony

I burst into the amsterdam vlogger meetup this evening and my opening statement was as follows:

If you don’t want other nations to get nuclear weapons, try not developing them in the first place.

I listened to radio open source on the way from the oud west to de balie, and they were talking about what if Iran gets nuclear weapons. And then the bigshots give their little shpeal about what might happen and what might not. They bring plenty of points, some are even good, but I can’t stop having the same thoughts over and over:

Why does the United States or the European government get to decide who can and can’t have nuclear technology or weapons? I mean, I hate both and think both have brought more harm then good to the world. But put aside my idealistic evaluations — we live in a world where nuclear weapons exist. Yet somehow a few nations try to decide who can and can not have these weapons that can basically lead to the destruction of the earth. Somehow they are more responsible and are more qualified to determine right and wrong, good and evil, and responsible and irresponsible.

It just keeps repeating in my head — these weapons shouldnt exist to begin with, but they do. And who the hell can point the finger and say Iran is not allowed, while Pakistan, India, China, UK, Russia, North Korea, France, hell.. even Brazil has enriched uranium. Its the old double standard of international relations. Hypocracy through and through.

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