On Becoming a Father and The Invasion of Ukraine

Mark Fonseca Rendeiro
Rambling when he should be sleeping.

In a time of so much frustration, confusion and despair – a podcast is always appropriate. Especially when you couple that with the backdrop that this month I also became a father! So much joy on the one hand, so much struggle on the other, and then you have the incredibly unjust world taking another horrible turn. This monologue is the story of the rollercoaster month it has been and the mounting questions that obviously I am not equipped to answer but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Future Co-Host

End of Summer Update

Remember when I used to record podcasts about social issues with guests from around the world? Well this is not one of those. I do discuss issues, in addition to things that have been going on; journeys, etc. All this from the comfort of my new home while making a dam fine cup of chai. If you enjoy me talking about life and the world for about 40 minutes, give this one a listen. Also you may enjoy Kate’s ukulele songs from hacker camp a few weeks ago. Well worth a listen!

Important announcement: a live podcast event this September 27th in Amsterdam! Yes. I’m launching the Realities Podcast (website almost ready), a production of citizenreporter, carrying on the tradition of this program’s candid, human conversations, only this time they will be done live with an audience! And you can be in that audience, if you can make it to Amsterdam in the coming month. Read all about it and sign up if you can be there for this most historic event.

Learning Russia from the Inside

Not since the cold war has the world needed to take a time-out from political posturing and the information game to get beyond the gate keepers and speak directly with the people referred to as “Russia”.  Not unlike 25 years ago, we in the west are once again talking about a people as if they cannot be spoken with and do not have a wide range of opinions and values. Over in Russia, similar is happening with what the media refer to as “the west”.

Enter the power of the podcast:

On today’s program I am coming to you from Moscow, the heart of the nation that so many are talking about these days with angry and confused tones. But this is not about Ukraine or Putin. This is about the city, life, culture, changes, and other developments that remind us of the wealth of things we citizens of planet earth have in common. Today we speak with my friend Victor, an resident and keen observer of this country and its culture, to hear what he sees and has seen.

Walking the Tight Rope of the Caucasus

OlafKIf you search for adventures in the Caucasus, it is his picture that should pop up first. From the loud taverns of Tblisi, to the shiny new streets of Gonzy and eventually to the  future Olympic village of Sochi, he has seen it all and shared many of his adventures with anyone that cares to know.  Now he has taken his greatest hits from the Caucasus and assembled them in book form (in Dutch).  The result is a hilarious, insightful, and often exciting journey in a region with so much diversity and such a rich history.

On today’s podcast I’m joined by none other than Olaf Koens, as we sit along the Amstel river in a windy afternoon, we talk about some of those adventures in that magical region of the world.

His book, (.nl) Koorddansen in de Kaukasus

Language and War in Georgia

Old Tbilisi
Wandering old Tbilisi

Driving outside of Tbilisi on the way to the ancient city Mtskheta, my hosts and I talk about Georgian language and how it has been effected by decades of Soviet Occupation and migration patterns. We also delve into Russian-Georgian relations today and how war is still very much part of the language and memory of the nation.

You can follow one of the guests on this episode via his twitter account. The other guest will remain anonymous.

Fresh Wounds

“It is hard to speak without any emotion about a conflict when you live it,” a great new friend and journalist explains to me as we drive across busy Tbilisi on a Friday night.  “I can talk about Kosovo, Iraq, without getting emotional, but this… its so complicated and has such an impact on my life,” he struggles to find the words to explain why the long standing conflict between Russia and Georgia, especially the 2008 war, is so hard to address and explain without getting angry or frustrated.

Police in Tbilisi sitting around.

It is this complexity that I have brought up, or seems to come up, quite often in the comings and goings of a visiting foreign citizen journalist. I’ve gotten to hear about the experiences of people here, what they were doing to keep safe and protect their loved ones while their home city was being bombed from above.  I listen to the stories and then I walk down to a local café with fancy named drinks and free wifi, I struggle to imagine bombs raining down anywhere near this place.  Why would anyone agree to do that? Who pushes that button, and goes on with life?

2008. Not 1998. Not 1948. In 2008 the Russian army moved using their justification and the Georgian army responded using their justification. Even if I’ve got the sequence of events wrong, at the most basic level, two armies which are made of  human beings, took aim at each other in an effort to damage or destroy the other.

I’m simplifying war, which my wise friend reminds me in words, is more possible when you haven’t lived that war.  But I do it because I have studied and I continue to study the world. In my observations and studying I have witnessed that most irreconcilable differences are reconcilable. Most conflicts are created, orchestrated, and inflated by political and military leaders. And beyond who creates the conflict, it is we the citizens of the world who carry out the gruesome inhumane task of trying to destroy one another. Without our cooperation, our hands at the controls, our fingers on the triggers, most wars could not be fought.  Even a drone has a pilot somewhere, who is consciously carrying out a task relating to war.

So now for the impossible. Where I lose you because what I invision is considered impossible… even though in terms of our abilities as humans and our collective power… it is physically and mentally possible to do.  That is to refuse.  Refuse to line up for war. Refuse to pull the trigger. And perhaps most importantly, refuse to believe what you’re told about the mission; that those people over that line deserve to die and that you’re right for carrying out orders to harm them.  -OF course- this means both sides. This only works with a cross border, cross cultural, out pouring of some of the greatest bravery the world has ever seen. That two militaries would refuse to take aim at each other.  What a beautifully boring war it would be.