28 December, 2009

Compassion

While thinking upon our actions of this past year and the goals we wish to set for the year to come, perhaps the words of the Charter for Compassion can move us towards peaceful action.



Last year, Karen Armstrong spoke to the TED community about her wish to make religion a force for harmony by creating with others the Charter for Compassion. She speaks well about how we are currently being summoned towards compassionate action; how we have to move away from toleration and towards appreciation of others.

27 December, 2009

Short Break



Short break to recover from a cold, the wonders of a big family Christmas celebration, and just time to wind down....

23 December, 2009

Courageous Heart



"Shaffi Mather explains why he left his first career to become a social entrepreneur, providing life-saving transportation with his company 1298 for Ambulance. Now, he has a new idea and plans to begin a company to fight the booming business of corruption in public service, eliminating it one bribe at a time."

What a fascinating concept. I wonder whether this might not be a new viable solution to a long tradition that needs to be eradicated.

If you want to know more about the Acumen Fund activities, please consider reading their blog.

20 December, 2009

Frozen Blossom

rose_frozen

I wanted to write a poem of love revisited, but only struggled with a jumble of phrases whose pieces, no matter how placed, didn't mean anything of importance. So, instead, I surrender and just gift you the image of a frozen blossom.

18 December, 2009

It's Snowing

IMG_1330

It's snowing in Luebeck and what a fine thing this is! Fairy lights and falling snowflakes and Christmas on the horizon. I wish I could sing this joyful feeling into a song. Instead, I made a collage for you.

My last day of work was Wednesday. Will take two weeks off and just enjoy the company of family and friends. Come January, I'll start looking for meaningful employment.

13 December, 2009

Pride

automn02

My grandmother took
Pride
In the fact that
We were
English.

In a French-speaking Canadian province, our family name
Stood
For all those great
Anglo Saxon
Values our
People
Grew up on.

I don't believe she ever visited
England in her
Lifetime.

As a child, I thought her
Pride
Was
Carved In Stone
And this made it hard for us to approach her in a
Heart-felt... manner.

As an adult, I wonder whether
It (that Pride)
Was rather a cloak
That covered an
Unspoken Yearning
To feel more important
Than she normally
Did.

Insignificant beings
That
We are.

07 December, 2009

Back on Key

woodgrain

I've got over my disappointment at having stupidly erased all my documents last month. The first change in activity was to make up a few collages.

This one was inspired by waves and wood. Many years ago, I had the thrilling experience of flying over Greenland while the sky was clear and springtime had just arrived. What was startling was to see the various wave motions embedded into the glacier formations. I had never thought that solid mass could be flowing movement as well.

05 December, 2009

Ghost from the Past

About 18 years ago, I became acquainted with a woman who had been laid off from the company I worked at. This short acquaintanceship taught me a painful lesson about naivety and ignorance.

After having met with her a few times, I hired her to come and clean my apartment once a week. She was very thankful for this additional source of income and all went well for a few months. After a while I began to miss a few items. Since I am a very forgetful type of person, I didn't think anything of it. It was only after she suddenly stopped coming to clean (having given the most weak of excuses) that I began to make the connection of missing items to times she came to clean.

A horrible moment of realisation about how stupidly naive I had been, came when I went into my cupboard and took down my jewelry box. It should have contained all the jewelery I received as a child in Venezuela and the pieces I had inherited from my grandmother. I found it empty.

I haven't thought of the lost jewelry in many years, until yesterday when the woman came into the Oxfam shop when I was working there. She didn't recognise me. It has been nearly twenty years after all. I'm probably only one of many people she stole from in her life. Yet, I recognized her for she's the only one whose stolen from me.

It would be nice to say that I felt forgiveness towards her, but I didn't. Instead, I just felt this leaden dullness in my heart. The whole episode was like a visit of a ghost from the past.

03 December, 2009

Breath of Winter

frost

Winter breathes cold silver slivers upon the skeletons of grass blades and faded summer leaves.

02 December, 2009

Speak Out

Annie Leonard created the really interesting series Story of Stuff. Now she's looking into the Cap and Trade practices.



I think she clearly states her argument and expresses her worries well. What about you?

28 November, 2009

Wisdom Comes with 65

WISDOM Trailer from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.



It's a quiet Saturday morning. I'm on my way to (volunteer) work at the Oxfam shop. This is something I do once a week and every few months, on a Saturday as well. Looking at this video, it made me think of some of the older customers who come into the shop daily to look around and see what new items we've put on the selves. I wonder what each would say about wisdom, or what piece of advice they would like to pass down to the younger generations.

Do enjoy.

25 November, 2009

Difference of Opinion

Just watched these two videos today. Both concern the US as a leading superpower, but both presenters are of different opinions about the chances of US continuing to be a leading power.



The presentation above given by Robert Guest is a Washington correspondent for The Economist. This presentation is funny at times, but it's center argument does not quite convince me as much as Hans Rosling's presentation, which is equally funny presentation.



This could well be because I just love numbers and the numbers Hans Rosling presents so clearly demonstrate the connection and plausibility.

18 November, 2009

Knowledge and Acknowledgement

Paul Van Zyl is a South African who has spent his career working with human rights issues. In the presentation he gave recently at the Pop Tech! conference, he speaks eloquently about why Americans should undertake a proper and public reckoning about the torture and other forms of abuse carried out in the name of the global war on terror by the Bush administration.



The presentation is not a presentation, as much as, it is a moving speech that convincingly and, at times, beautifully articulates how South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission enabled this country to move forward into democracy after years of apartheid.

So much of what he says moved me to tears, here is just on quote of his speech,

“It was through this process of testimony and revelation that our country began to move from knowledge to acknowledgement. It is one thing to know that crimes occurred, it’s quite different to acknowledge that they were wrongful and to promise never to allow them to happen again.”

16 November, 2009

Taking Baby Steps

These last weeks have been filled with various work on various projects. Most of the work seems like a hard build up to a specific goal and then a long tail slug afterwards to get all the odds and ends collected and properly put in place. Thought I'd write about some of the stuff I've been involved in:

The group I work with in Kenya, has finally received the money from the charity tea party and various other donations (bank here sent the funds to Mombasa and not to Nairobi). If all goes well, they will buy 5 drip irrigation kits this week and head up to Kimilili on Friday and hold two best business training workshops this weekend. I am kind of excited because another women's co-op from Kitale is also attending one of the workshops and they will receive one of the drip irrigation kits for their community. It is our hope that once the two communities see what drip irrigation is all about they might find the means to make their own DIY systems.

I've (finally) finished writing a project proposal for our Gardening Vocational Training Program. This is a program targeted towards women's co-ops and our youth project group. We want to set up a garden project where groups work in collaboration learning and implementing "modern" sustainable agriculture techniques. (The reason I say "modern" is that many of these methods, such as polyculture, mulch systems, organic composting, etc. were techniques western countries took away from indigenous farming cultures in developing countries over the last 70 years. It is ironic that we are in the position of trying to reintroduce these techniques back into those countries so many years later.) The project proposal is for approx. 8,000 USD for the purchase of land and materials (e.g. treadle pump and drip irrigation systems). If anyone knows of an organization that might fund such a project please send me a link.

We are in the process of setting up a clean cooking fuel small-scale business co-op between the Makerere University in Uganda and various rural communities. This project is going to take a while to develop because we haven't the proper technology as yet. We are trying to establish a pilot project to make clean burning cooking briquettes out of bio-waste (e.g. maize cobs or sugar cane). These briquettes burn nearly smokeless and set out no toxins and save on the need to burn wood. I'm still at the stage of trying to figure out the technology needed and set up a feasible collaborative business model. The outline of the project currently is to have a) a youth vocational training program that mass produces and sells the corn cob crushers (a wooden box with a coarse roller to crush the charcoal bits), b) a central briquette-making press where people can come with their crushed charcoal and make the cooking briquettes, and c) a series of small-scale businesses to sell the cooking briquettes at markets.

We are trying to set up a NGO so that we can do all the project work mentioned above more formally. This would mean that those individuals who contribute donations or micro-loans would be able to make them tax deductible. It would also mean that we could approach more organisations and foundations for funding.

My son managed to hand in a research paper titled, Web 2.0 Revolution (Consequences for Corporations), last week. This was a volunteer paper he researched and wrote in the hope of improving his final grade when he graduates from high school next June. I volunteered to yield the whip to get him to set up a schedule, work on the paper regularly, and not get preoccupied with all sorts of other activities. This was not an easy task, nor one that I did with any grace or sense of authority. Contrarily, it consisted of a great amount of petty hysterics, long plea bargainings, and mini breakdowns on my part.

Time to go off to the office...

13 November, 2009

Take a Moment



Take a moment and watch
Michael Pollan's presentation about non-sustainable and sustainable food systems. Not only is the information he presents very interesting, the presentation itself is a masterpiece.

On a personal note, I unfortunately and stupidly erased all the documents on my computer a week ago and have been struggling unsuccessfully to retrieve the files. As you can imagine, the effort needed to try and retrieve the data has been extensive. I have not been commenting, nor writing on my blog as a result, though I have been reading and appreciating your blog posts.

10 November, 2009

Perfect Moment



Perfect moment to a quiet start to my work day. William Hoffman's film set a gentle accent.

01 November, 2009

Lost Luggage Claim #2

palm_old_piece
Passenger’s Name
: Mr. Leaving It All Behind
Date: 09.09.1999
Point of Departure: Friday afternoon after a dull and frustrating week on the road selling supplies to gas station managers
Final Destiny: the Easy Life, Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, the West Indies

Listing of “Then” Luggage Content:

  • Baccalaureate Certificate, majors in history and geography (level mediocre)
  • Six seasonal regional ski passes for Davos-Klosters, Switzerland
  • Ski instructor id for the Silvretta Parkhotel, Klosters, Switzerland
  • Acceptance letter to the University Lumière Lyon 2 in their business and economics program
  • Cancellation letter at University Lumière Lyon 2 due to lack of attendance at the end of the first year
  • Stub receipts for heliskiing at Whistler (B.C), Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Breckenridge (Colorado), Pyramid Mountain (Alaska), Valle Nevado (Chile), and Riksgränsen (Sweden)
  • Various photos of different topless or skimpy bikinied female guests on deck of their Mediterranean sailboat charter with him as captain
  • Letter of boat owner firing him as captain of above mentioned boat for inappropriate drunken behaviour
  • Full-time work contract as product supplier at his uncle’s gas station franchise
  • Copy of a monthly travel expense report, including: summary of mileage driven (10,478 km), gas stations supplied (76), bad meals eaten (63), hung overs suffered (31), coffee drunk (27.41 l), cigarettes smoked (520), beers (153) and shots of whiskey (96) drunk, time spent doing something remotely interesting (0 min.), chances of being promoted any time in the next ten years (null)
  • Only source of fun: going to bars, drinking too much, chatting up young women and regaling them with old stories about the grand days of him heliskiing around the world

Listing of “Now” Luggage Content:

  • A modest sum of money acquired by selling all of his worldly goods and also the house he inherited from his grandparents in La Rochelle
  • One-way plane ticket to Carriacou
  • Slick high tech smart phone with the ring tone from an 80s Bacardi Rum commercial
  • A backpack full of electronic gadgets
  • DIWA diving instructor certificate
  • Preconceptions of what the Easy Life is and how one goes about living it
  • The ethical and moral values of a lizard
  • Predisposition towards drinking too much cheap alcohol and smoking too much weed
  • Plump certainty of successful sexual quests with local women, as well as passing female tourists

Passenger’s Complaint:

All items of my “Now” luggage have been stolen by the locals. Everyone is smiling and appearing friendly, but on one is really concerned about helping me out of present predicament. I have no means of making a living other than living off female tourists who I despise, but whose pockets run deep. Currently, acting as captain on a large flashy American motor cruiser. The wealthy owner’s wife likes to watch me kite surf half-naked. Unspoken agreement that she is allowed look, but not touch, which I am thankful of since she is old and ugly.

Officer’s Statement:

Passenger suffers under a ridiculous unwarranted sense of self-importance and privilege. The items he claims were stolen were wastefully spent or destroyed through neglect. Accusations, complaints, and angry alterations voiced towards or about local residents are increasing in their regularity. This indicates an increase in paranoia and disillusionment with his life situation. We are all waiting patiently for him to leave the island and leave us in peace. When he does leave, he will leave friendless, despite having lived here ten years

28 October, 2009

Mood Picker Upper



I dare you not to smile!

27 October, 2009

Smart Design



Just love this minimalist nativity set by artist Oliver Fabel. The set is available in German and in English. Oddly, I was talking to my daughter yesterday about how much she is looking forward to Christmas. She does live in a household of Scrooges, which doesn't always make it easy for her to live out her Xmas fantasies. Unfortunately, she's not old enough to get the joke, if I was to give her this nativity set as a gift. It would cut too close to the bone of our inadequacies to fulfil her expectations.

24 October, 2009

Lost Luggage Claim #1

Loneliness and alone

Passenger’s Name
: Dr. Political Exil
Date: 06.06.1990
Point of Departure: outside the Damascus police headquarters after a 24-hour interrogation
Final Destiny: Lahti, Finland towards a vague promise of employment at the Lahti General Hospital

Listing of “Then” Luggage Content:

  • Certificate of General Medicine from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Sofia, Bulgaria
  • Stamped governmental form allowing Bulgarian citizen the permission to marry a foreigner from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Marriage certificate issued by the civil status official who held the ceremony at the Sofia civil wedding hall
  • Wedding photo of bride, groom, mother-in-law, father-in-law and grim looking civil status official holding obligatory glasses filled with champagne
  • Airplane stub from flight back to Damascus, Syria
  • List of invited guests, who attended celebration of passenger’s return after finishing his 8 years of university studies in Bulgaria
  • Passenger’s grandmother’s engagement ring and gold bracelet presented to the young bride of her much-loved grandson to welcome his bride into their family
  • A map of Bulgaria with all the train routes drawn in detailed and miniature red flags pinned to all of the trains his father-in-law rode as chief locomotive driver in the national railway company.
  • Confirmation of a full-time position in the internal medicine department at the Central Hospital of Damascus
  • Copy of mother-in-law’s travel itinerary for her first visit to Damascus
  • Bank statement of available funding for down payment on their new home

Listing of “Now” Luggage Content:

  • Nightmarish memories of 24-hour interrogation at police headquarters
  • Unfathomable relief for being released temporarily, mixed with the dull certainty that the police would take him into custody again soon
  • Intense guilt, knowing that his wife’s premature labour was caused by her panic that he’d be taken and transported to one of the detention centres in northern Syria, never to be heard from again (as happened to three of his fellow students who studied with him in Bulgaria)
  • Joy and relief of the successful birth by caesarean of his darling daughter
  • The terror of having to leave the country 3 days later to avoid further interrogations
  • The endless tears shed by his parents and siblings upon the announcement of his departure; knowing he could no longer communicate with them for risk to their lives
  • The stone weight on his heart not knowing whether he would ever see his family again
  • A letter of intent from the head of administration at the Lathi General Hospital assuring the immigration authorities about their willingness to employ Dr. Political Exil
  • A letter of sponsorship from fellow Damascus doctor living in Lathi to immigration authorities

Passenger’s Complaint:

“Now” luggage piece became permanently lost when my wife stepped out of the train in Rostock, as it waited to board the ferry to Finland. She just needed a bit of fresh air, after being cramped in their train department for over three days while travelling through Europe. She was ignorant of the fact that by stepping on German soil she voided any possibility of us immigrating to Finland.

Officer’s Statement:

Passenger and family were transported back to Germany from Finland immediately after it was made known of passenger’s wife having stepped out of train in Rostock harbour. Passenger and family claimed political asylum. Luggage was lost at this time.

The following situation ensued: 6 years as political refugees, 8 years working as nurse on closed ward in a geriatric facility, 2 year re-qualification program of medical certification, 3 years of temporary hospital postings, recent entry into specialty studies at University Hospital of Rostock.

Luggage never retrieved. Claim case closed.

23 October, 2009

My friend, Ann

The reason that I love my childhood friend, Ann, is because while I am a porcupine in my extended family, a fierce mother bear in my immediate family, a chicken with my head cut off at work, but, Ann, she calls me a lamb. A lamb. What is nicer than that?

18 October, 2009

Not Gone as much as Not Available

Things are picking up with various projects. The funding for two further workshops in Kimilili at the end of the month is assured. We have two business and economic graduates, Millicent and Ericah, offering to be instructors for the two best business practice workshops in Kimilili, Kenya. We also are blessed to have two local supervisors, Wilfred and Samuel, to oversee the farming and garden training afternoon sessions.

My Lost Luggage series is in the works (new computer!).

As is various activities for a radio-dial-up mobile phone news update system, I have been working on for the last six months. So, please know that I may not be available at this time, but I am very much here!

15 October, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

luggage_climate

I remember a time when I could blissfully board a plane and fly down to the country of my heart, Grenada, or another country of my dreams on a whim. I remember a time when riding to work every day on my bicycle was an alternative lifestyle rather than a ecological political statement. There was a time when being a vegetarian was about salads and stir-fried vegetables and not about the environmentally wasteful complexities of producing meat. There were ocean crossings and long coastal cruises where I believed in the omnipotence of nature's divinity and punitive influnences of the human race.

Yet, in the proceeding decades so much has changed. So much is at risk. So many of us need to make sacrifices. We need to change our practices big and small. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all just stepped up to the plate. Why can't all of us; politicians, corporations, organizations, groups, family, and individuals, just study the wealth of information available and translate it into practice?

11 October, 2009

Glitch in the Works

My computer (MacPro) is having serious problems these days. It all started last year about this time, when I spilled a glass of bitter lemon over the laptop. Miraculously, after some "blow drying it while turning it upside down" it continued to work, though admittedly with some serious hiccups. I've been keeping my fingers crossed that the sticky keyboard and the kaputt DVD player were the only bugs. But, some major glitches have occurred. Most notably, my dear Photoshop program is not working, and thus my work on Lost Luggage collages is going to have to wait. Sorry guys, will let you know if anything changes (i.e., I win a lottery and can afford to buy and new laptop).

10 October, 2009

Rainy Autumn

Blue Sea

Rainy cold autumn weather. Brunch in my favourite café with a good friend and my kids to boot. Long leisurely conversation about everything and nothing. Sat an for hour watching the passing pedestrians wrestle with their umbrellas and wrestled with our own dilemma of whether we should order another pot of tea or brave the elements. Tea won out.

08 October, 2009

06 October, 2009

Lila Lily

Lila Lily

This is one of the last of my flower series. I have one, perhaps two, more and then I will start on my Lost Luggage series. It is, at least in my mind, taking on form.

04 October, 2009

Flash Warning

daisy

I just had an inspiration for another series of collages and related stories. It is called "Missing Luggage". It will probably take a week or so to set up (lots of work on the table at the moment), but hopefully it will be worth the wait. The idea stems out of a dream I had this morning,

The dream takes place in some terminal (border crossing, bus terminal, airport) where a mixture of people are given the task of identifying and claiming their luggage from a large pile of missing luggage. No one is allowed to leave the room until all pieces of luggage have been identified. The mystery is, all people in the room believe they checked in one piece of luggage, but they also, unknowingly, brought one more piece of hidden luggage along as well. On each luggage there is a tag “now” or “then”. Depending upon their traveler's frame of mind, they are willing, even eager to claim one piece of luggage. Conflicting emotions arise when each passenger finally realises, or is forced to claim, the second piece of luggage.

03 October, 2009

Victorian Lace

pink flowers

Can anyone tell me the name of this beautiful flower?

02 October, 2009

Dudeism



A few months ago, I saw the film above and it really tickled me, because we happen to know The Dude personally. He works at our local video store and he actually signs the stores slips with The Dude. I thought I would surprise him by ordering him a t-shirt of Dudeism.

So, after a bit of a search, I managed to find a site, chose him one in "serene green", paid by credit card, and entered in my address. The order was dutifully processed, the company sent a confirmation that the order went out, the money was booked from my band account... and that was the last I heard of the t-shirt.

After a month or so, I finally decided to tell The Dude about the t-shirt, which he though was nice gesture, and we philosophised that maybe the whole point of Dudeism is to order the t-shirt, pay for it, and not get it in the end. Detachment.

Yesterday, I learnt that the whole point of Dudeism is to order the t-shirt, pay for it, and not get it, and just when it has all left your mind, it appears on your doorstep. The address sticker on the envelope did not have any space for country, so in hand writing there is "USA", and then "S. Africa", and then mysteriously, an official German "Priority" sticker. The Dude has really gone global.

28 September, 2009

In Brief

The guests came. They conquered the cake buffet. The sun shined the whole time. Coffee and tea were served. I don't know much more than that because it was one of those out of body experiences. I am definitely not a party queen, a gracious hostess, or master of smalltalk.

Lessons Learned

About half the people who said they would come were not able to (sent their apologies) or didn't show. This meant there was more cake than needed, though if everyone had shown up, I think we would have been a bit tight for cakes. So, next time, invite more people and bring cookies for when the cake runs out.

Because not everyone came to the event, the amount of people donating was less than expected. Note: make a Plan A and Plan B on what the money is needed for. Originally, I said we would use the money to make a down payment on land and to pay for two business training workshops. We'll be able to do the later, but not the former. Even if we don't have enough to make the down payment, we will be able to buy one or two family drip irrigation kits to help the families through the drought. It is perhaps best to aim for something incremental (irrigation kits) and not monumental (down payment on land).

Everyone came at the beginning of the afternoon. Our "operating system" (my kids and friends who came to help) was not up and running. Best, to ask for a few friends (guinea pigs) to show up beforehand, so the kids can get everything sorted about who is to do what when, and then have the real guests come.

Raffle was good. Need more little prizes.

Weather was great. No one wanted to sit indoors. This meant all the tables we had set and all the flowers we ordered, did not come to use. On the other hand, thinking about all those children running around in the restaurant instead of outdoors, gives me goosebumps. Not sure what I would do about this if there is a next time and the weather isn't as good.

Really liked the saxophone quartet who played out in front of the restaurant twice for a short period of time. They also got some of the kids and adults moving from the back of the terrace to the front. They also annoyed some funddy duddy who called the police for disturbing their peace. The police were very polite, if somewhat miffed, and left without telling us to stop the music. Admittedly, the quartet would have been too loud to play indoor if weather hadn't permitted it.

My kids and friends helping were just spectacular. Sevnja the waitress was phenomenal. Couldn't have done it without any of them.

26 September, 2009

Tomorrow's Tea Party

Tomorrow is the tea party fund raiser! Organising the event has been quite a learning experience indeed. This was supposed to be a modest, but serious attempt at raising money for a good cause (see below). It's turned out to be a bombastic and fun affair. I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow, and perhaps it isn't really important, the main thing is just to flow with the moment. The original scenario was,

Expected guests: 20-30
Expected location: our apartment
Beverages offered: coffee and tea
Cakes: 2-3 (10 pieces/cake)
Expected helpers: me, myself, and I

Tomorrow's expected tea party scenario:

Expected guests: 100 (40 adults/40 children/20 teenagers)
Expected location: my favourite restaurant
Beverages offered: everything that Svenja from the restaurant can create from their industrial Italian espresso machine
Cakes: 13-15 (I've lost count)
Expected helpers: 8-10 (I've lost count)
Children's raffle: 35 prizes to win
Adult's raffle: 40 prizes to win
Entertainment: saxophone quartet from my children's school's big band

I'll have to tell you how the end scenario goes. If only two-thirds of the expected guests show up, it should be interesting since the restaurant only seats 40 people.

What I have learnt in these last weeks, is how kind and generous people are. The people at the restaurant, those people who have donated stupendous gifts for the raffles, all the housewives and students baking up a storm of homemade cakes, and my children's friends that think it will be a blast to spend six hours helping. Who would have known?

The funds donated from tomorrow's event will be going towards; small downpayment on some land for a new school, two best business training workshops at the end of October, and, if the money is sufficient, a few family drip irrigation kits. The workshops will concern possible small-scale gardening and farming business models. Since there is no existing farmers association in the Kimilili, we are trying to get online training information to two CBSM community members who have offered to supervise our garden vocational training program.

This year, the area around Kimilili suffered from food shortages due to a drought, and there is every indication that the situation will become even more severe next year. We are hoping to build a small network of people in Nairobi and Kimilili who will offer training to the people within the CBSM community about what they can do to assure proper harvesting. Their very existence depends upon the produce they grow in their household gardens.

21 September, 2009

19 September, 2009

Small World

I had a very surreal experience this afternoon when I went to get my hair cut. As I walked through the door of the salon, all the hairdressers turned and said hello (this is a normal practice when entering any shop), as did all the six customers they were cutting hair of. I knew all of the customers (a colleague, two friends, another shop owner, a friend of a friend, and an ex-neighbour), but none of them knew the other. This was a totally bizarre experience. For one instant, I had the feeling as if I was part of a waking dream.

P.S. Luebeck is small, but not that small. It has 250,000 residents.

18 September, 2009

Next Step

sea

work contract runs out in a few months time/ trying to figure out the next step/ options do seem less feasible than they did even a few years ago/ friends deliver predictions or platitudes such as "you've always managed before" on my doorsteps/ or, some give up dire predictions about the finality of life on the job market/ nothing really is reassuring/ yet, I remain, for the most part, optimistic/ silly isn't it?

13 September, 2009

Sunlight Shimmering

Poppy Green

Late summer sunlight shimmers on our living room wall. My dear son turns 19 today. My dear daughter returns, the gods willing, safe and sound from her travels. My dearest husband listens to music on his iPod and irons this week's worth of shirts and blouses. I listen to podcasts of books and films and flirt a little with the colour turquoise, which is one of my favourites.

10 September, 2009

Music of Nature

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.


The photographer Paulo Pinto published this picture of birds on electric wires in a newspaper. Jarbas Agnelli made the association like many of us do that it looked like music notation. The difference is, he went about finding out what the music sounded like. Don't you wish you were one of those people who could play or just be looking could hear the music the birds formation are making?

06 September, 2009

31 August, 2009

New Fund Raising Event Format

A have this friend in the States who is one of those straight-out-stand-tall type of women that I so admire. She is helping the people I work with in Kenya and me figure out what sort of activities we can undertake to find sponsors and donators for our various projects.

Recently, she told me how many people she knows in the States are organizing private fund raising events. The idea is to find a nice location and then hold a brunch, lunch, or dinner where everyone gets to eat and enjoy themselves for free, and they donate a certain amount of money to a cause or organization in return.

I thought I would give it a whirl and set out to give a private charity tea party the last Sunday in September. We are going to try and raise money for the Community Breakthrough Support Mission, so they can make a down payment on some land for their new school.

One of my favourite restaurants has generously offered to let me use their restaurant (they are closed Sundays) and they are donating the coffee and tea. Friends have said they will bake cakes. In this culture of homemade Black Forest Chocolate Cherry cakes, the cakes promise to be very special indeed. My son and two friends are going to man the massive steaming espresso machine and whip up cappuccinos, espressos, latte machiatos (sp) to dream for. My daughter and a few of her friends will do the serving. I’ll either be out front circulating amongst the guests ever so calm and suave (not my forte) or be in the kitchen washing the dishes (most likely scenario).

The reason I was attracted to this private charity event, is that the amount of work you invest and the amount of risk that the whole thing will fall apart are minimal. A graphic designer friend made up an invitation. I sent it out to all of my friends and their second cousins. At the moment it looks as if there just might be a healthy-guests-to-cake ratio attending. Last week, before everyone was back from their summer vacations, it looked as though there was going to be more cake than guests… which possibly still might happen. I’ll let you know how it all works out.

28 August, 2009

Man with an Imagination

I saw the funniest thing this afternoon: a fellow riding an Harley (old model) wearing a motorcycle helmet covered in white feathers. He was obviously trying to make the thing look like the head of a bald eagle. Totally bizarre.

27 August, 2009

Dropping by for Dinner

This week is a friends-dropping-by week. A friend who lives around the corner called today and asked if she could drop by for a pasta dinner. She has been an ever present ersatz aunt for our kids, so has an open invitation. There have been endless pasta dinners and lively discussion over the years. Would be impossible to count how many.

Feeling rather sentimental this evening, since I just realised my son is going to turn 19 in a few weeks time... gosh, time does fly.

For those of you who have no patience for sentimentality (usually I am one of those people), you can go over the our Short Short Stories blog and read the story I wrote about a surprise that didn't quite go right.

24 August, 2009

A Friend Drops By

A friend living on the northern tip of Denmark was travelling today on a train through Germany. She decided spontaneously to get off the train in Luebeck and make a pit stop visit. We met for lunch. Had a lovely chat. She then got on the next train heading north. I went back to my office with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. A sunny day in more ways than one.

22 August, 2009

Saying Adieu

When I moved to Germany 27 years ago, the first people who befriended me were Bernd and Trude. They were much older (nearly 30 years older) than I was, but we had a wonderful close and lively friendship. One that was easy to nurture, yet caused other people, including their two grown sons, to wonder what the attraction was.

Bernd died a few weeks ago and so this trip down to southern Germany to visit old friends, is mixed with a bitter sweet experience of saying adieu to my old friend. Yesterday and today, Trude and I talked about old times. She told me about his last illness and we visited the chapel where his memorial service took place and the cemmentary where he is buried. It sounds as if this would be a sad things to do, but actually it was more touching and endearing and, yes, at times, tearful, but mainly a quiet prayer to send him on his way.

20 August, 2009

What has social medicine ever done for me?

I moved to Germany about 27 years ago from Canada to work as an engineer in a large international engineering company (think Seamens spelt different). Moving to Germany meant that I received immediate social medical insurance. Having spent nearly 20 of those 27 years working in the medical equipment field, in quality control and service, I’ve had the opportunity to view various medical systems all over the globe from the sidelines, as it were. Some systems work relatively well, others not at all.

Much of what I read these days in the US newspapers makes it seem as if adopting a universal health system is going to lower standards medical services. It is as if Mr. Obama is trying to flog off something inferior. It doesn’t have to be so. Having friends and family scattered all over, we’ve shared many stories about in ins-and-outs of our countries medical systems. What these discussions made me realise is that, even though many Germans complain about their social medical system (national favourite pastime), and there are many things that could be improved, and many indications that services will get worse, overall, we have it good.

I can say this because the system here tries to keep some things that traditionally were good (e.g. having the same family doctor for 20 years), as well as implement some things that are new (e.g. alternative medicines). All the while, they offer everything from preventative medicine to emergency care for everyone living in Germany.

The title of this post “What has social medicine ever done for me?” comes from a conversation I had recently with an acquaintance, who was complaining about having to pay for a selective preventative procedure at her gynaecologist. As a response to her, and hopefully of interest to you, here is a list of a handful of situations that highlight what the social medical system has done for me or my family over the years:

  • We have had the same family doctor since we moved into our present apartment for the last 15 years. If, as has occasionally been the case, one of us is too ill to come to her office, she makes house calls.
  • At all births, even in hospitals, a midwife as well as a doctor is present. Midwives are there to assist you through the labour and birth in a way that doctors can not.
  • During my second pregnancy, I experienced early labour pains as of six months. I had to say at home in bed the last trimester. The medical insurance paid my salary after the initial six weeks of being on sick leave.
  • After my children were born and after we went home, my medical insurance paid a midwife to come for a daily visit for ten days. They also paid for a friend to clean my house daily for two weeks since I had to (unfortunately) have caesareans both times.
  • They paid for both my children’s orthodontist costs when they needed braces and my son's dental surgery.
  • They paid for taxi costs when I had to come into physio therapy after some surgery.
  • When my daughter became lacto-intolerant as a young child, they paid for homeopathic therapy.
  • I’m not sure who pays for what (i.e. employer, medical insurance, and social services), but for 6 weeks before estimate date of birth, during your stay in hospital, and 3 months after your baby is born, you get 100% of your salary, (You also get partial payment for up to 1 ½ years and job security for up to 3 years maternity leave, but that has nothing to do with the medical insurance).
  • For the last 12 years, I have been a part of a preventive breast cancer program receiving mammogram and ultrasound examinations for free since my mother had breast cancer.
  • The insurance company pays for part of my glasses and hearing aids costs. There are glasses and hearing aids available at the prices they pay me, but they look somewhat gorky, so I choose to buy more modish expensive ones.
  • They pay for annual and semi-anual check ups to the gynaecologist, ERN, cardiologist, internal medicine, dermatologist, and dentist.

Well, I was hoping to come up with ten examples and I came up with eleven, so I guess I’ll stop while I am ahead.

19 August, 2009

German Medical System 101

Ronni asked her non-US readers to write about how our universal (social/national) medical insurance systems work. One aspect that I find interesting about the debate in the US is how little differentiation is made between the existing universal medical insurance systems. Instead, the discussions seem to be stuck with the “Yea or Nay for Health Care Reform”. So much of what I am reading these days has to with the analysis of the poor behaviour of the nayists. Their tactics and arguments rob me of words. I do hope that Ronni’s idea of each of us writing posts the next two days has a positive effect in some way or manner to the debate.

In Seth Godin’s recent blog post, “Willfully Ignorant vs. Aggressively Sceptical”, he presents a short astute argument to those people who openly oppose health reform. He writes, “If you want to challenge the conventional wisdom of health care reform, please do! It'll make the final outcome better. But if you choose to do that, it's essential that you know more about it than everyone else, not less.”

Even if the differences in the various systems are not highlighted or discussed, it would be advisable for people on both sides of the argument to take a look of these systems and try to decide which components they like best. There are a slew of articles available out there that point out the differences. Admittedly, many of them are not written from the patient’s point-of-view, which is why I thought I’d write about how the German social medical insurance system works from a user’s perspective.

It is actually a very easy system to understand; it is a two-tier system where you can decide yourself if you want to be state insured or privately insured. Most people opt for the state system.

The principal reason some people go private is out of costs reasons. If you earn a relatively high income, it can be
less expensive to be privately insured. All people, whether privately insured or state insured, go to the same doctors’ offices and hospitals. You chose whom you want to go to and where you want to be treated. You can choose general practitioners or specialists according to your will.

There is a selection of state run insurance agencies to choose from. Each agency has to compete against each other in services offered and costs. They all offer the following:

Children (under age 18)

Children and students are insured under one of their parent’s insurance policies at
no extra cost. This insures that 100% of your children’s health costs (medical and dental) are covered for all short term or long term diagnostics or therapies. All prescription drugs are paid by the insurance company. You go to a pharmacy with a prescription slip and they hand you over the drugs; the pharmacies deal directly with the insurance companies for recompenses. With certain chronic illnesses (e.g. neurotmesis, asthma, allergies), recognised alternative medicine therapies (e.g. homeopathy, acupuncture) are also paid for.

If your child is sick, each parent is able to take up to 10 days of “child sick leave” per child per year. The insurance company compensates 75% of your salary for these sick days you’ve taken because of your child’s illness. If your salary is below a certain income, 100% is compensated.

All billing formalities are carried out directly between doctors’ offices, hospitals, and insurance agencies: you go to the hospital or doctor’s office, they swipe your insurance card through the computer, you receive medical advice and then you go home to get better. Basta!

Adults (> 18 years and employed)

Insurance pays 100% medical and dental costs. Up until recently, this really was 100%, but in the last few years some of the selective (e.g. dental crowns) and cosmetic (e.g. plastic surgery) procedures are only partially covered. If there is any indication that such a procedure (e.g. breast reduction) is not solely cosmetic (e.g. back aches), the insurance company will pay for 100% of the costs.

Most people have a general practitioner they go to. This doctor,
  • cures you of most of your ills,
  • writes you your prescriptions,
  • writes you off on sick leave,
  • and makes recommendations for you to various specialists for both preventive procedures (e.g. mammograms), as well as acute diagnostic or therapeutic procedures (e.g. at a cardiologists).
Any procedure that is needed to be done immediately, you usually can get an appointment at a specialist or hospital right away. For preventive procedures, you might have to wait a 2-3 weeks for an appointment at a specialist.

Your state insurance company compensates you your income if you are ill for longer than a six-week duration. Under six weeks, your employer continues to pay your salary.

The insurance costs are a fixed percentage of your monthly salary. At the moment, the costs are somewhere between 12-13% of your salary. Your employer matches and pays the same amount (i.e. 12-13% of your salary) to your state insurance company. Thus, there is no necessity for company health insurance policies. (Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are a large corporation or a small business, you pay the according to the number of employees and their income.) The monthly payment is automatically transferred from your pay check.

Students (> 18 years and not yet graduated from university)

Insurance pays 100% medical and dental costs. Your insurance rates are approx. 100 USD per month.

Adults (> 18 years and unemployed)

Insurance pays 100% medical and dental costs. Your insurance rates are paid by the unemployment agency or social services.

Adults (retired)

Insurance pays 100% medical and dental costs. Your insurance rates are paid by the state pension plan.

What I am hoping to convey in this post is that when talking about Health Care Reform, we don’t talk about the quantity of care, this is what doctors provide, but about the services offered and prices paid. And, these things do vary. The medical system in Germany has evolved over the decades. It is always changing, and so will the US system once it gets set up.

My personal belief is that any medical system that doesn’t offer full coverage for all people at competitive prices is a system that is ill. By all accounts, full medical and dental coverage in the States is almost unpayable for the average family. Why not just say, “Yea to Health Reform”, it would be the beginning of a long journey for all and not the collapse of a system for the few.

17 August, 2009

Food for Thought

If found that the facts contained in this video race by too quickly to read at the speed the video is presented. Nevertheless it is worth pressing the pause button while watching the video and taking time to digest the information.



What do you think, fade or revolution?

11 August, 2009

Magical Night Journey

One of the many joyful experiences I had during this last trip Montreal happened during the last hours of the journey. When the plane hit Europe (Ireland) and all the way down to Munich we had a spectacular clear view of all the cities and highways illuminated in oranges, reds, and yellows.

It is impossible for me to describe the magical beauty of this aerial landscape. The hour or so I watched, I thought we were seeing veins of burning lava, a treasure chest of jewels, and brewing colony of insects all in one. We flew in a perpetual dawn that never became sunrise...

Why Social Media

If you have ever asked "What is all this crazy hype about social media?", here is someone who makes no apologies, is in your face, and yes, is blatantly up front about saying "enough with the stupid question" and urges you just to get going.



I found it surprising the 2/3 of the global internet population uses social networks. It seems as if a large part of my own social circle belongs to the 1/3 that doesn't. Why is that?

10 August, 2009

The Big Picture

The Big Picture is a fantastic site. Every few days, The Boston Globe presents a series of photos, fantastic photos, that concern a current topic of interest.

Whether the photos are about water,

mia_bc_038

Or, about Greenland,

mia_bc_038

they are not to be missed. Sometimes the topics are about war and violence and I can not look at the images because they just hurt too much, but mostly they are just spectacular.

08 August, 2009

Contemplation and Definition of success

I first heard of Alain de Botton when reading his book, The Consolations of Philosophy. Since then, I’ve very much enjoyed reading his work and hearing interviews he’s given. So, you can imagine my delight discovering he held a Ted Talk.



Do take a look while he contemplates how our culture defines success and how we might look inside of our minds and hearts to find a more appropriate definition.

06 August, 2009

Back from our Trip

Can't talk, let alone write... feeling the jet lag. On the red-eye flight from Munich to Hamburg, the pilot said something like, "Thank you everyone for arriving on time this early morning. Most of you probably were up even earlier than those of us in the crew. So, why don't you all just rest your heads and try to sleep. I won't bother you with any annoying announcements until shortly before we land." And he didn't.

28 July, 2009

Back from the Country

We've just got back from five days in the Laurentines, a range of mountains north of Montreal. Our dear friends have this wonderful house there with 66 acres of wooded land. We did the full monty: hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoing, swatting mosquitoes the size of helicopters, eating good food, enjoying a good read, and generally just having a marvelous time.

I don't remember the last time I felt so relaxed. Bliss. Thinking of all of you.

20 July, 2009

Early Morning in Montreal

Jetlag has woken my daughter and I up to a very early morning sunrise. All the other people in the household are sleeping and will probably continue to do so for a few more hours yet. It is, after all, summer in Montreal in a household of teenagers and teachers. And, even though my friends work veryvery hard during the school semesters, it is a life of luxury in the summer months. Visiting teachers who have lots of time off, is the best way to wind down quickly.

Normally, it would take a day or two for me to get into the flow of being on vacation. This has something to do with the chaos we left behind in Luebeck after packing at the last moment and the guilt of knowing that the to-do list on the dinning room table still had all sorts of items not checked off.

On this trip, we instantly became easy with all plans or non-plans. It's been delightful. I love Montreal. Especially, on a morning like this one, when the sun is shining and the cafe down the street is beckonning.

12 July, 2009

Listen to the Attitude



This video interesting analogy between the punk rock movement of the 1970s and the current social media revolution. The video also challenges large corporations and mass media to,

"... listen to the attitude and respond with respect..."

The reason for doing this is expressed well in Clay Shirky's recent TED Talk.



He nails the reason large institutes should be listening and responding around 12 minutes into the talk.

Sultry Summer

bee and daisy

What a strange summer it has been hear so far. No summer weather as such. So much work to do on various projects, so much that needs to be addressed, and, therefore, I don't have the sense of experiencing a summer lull. Yet, the gods willing, I'm off on vacation at the end of the week until mid-August. If you notice a blogging lull then you know why.

09 July, 2009

Eyes - Postcards VI

Olive oil in bottles

She sits in the small terrace garden at her favourite restaurant. Alone, yet content. At home at the table with the lone white rose in an olive coloured bottle. Jazz music from the upstairs apartment seeps down the walls, crawling through the vines and peppers her food with unpretentious savoury pleasure.

08 July, 2009

A Love for Stop Motion

It might be the child in me, the one that tried to make stop motion films by drawing on the corners of pages in my school exercise books, but I love the stop motion films. There are so many excellent ones out there that I couldn’t possibly name them all. Here are but two of my favourites.

“This is the PEN Story in stop motion. We shot 60.000 pictures, developed 9.600 prints and shot over 1.800 pictures again. No post production! Thanks to all the stop motion artists who inspired us.”



I like this because it is obviously a story that took place in Germany in the last 50 years and I can identify not only the scenery, but also the emotions and impulses that have driven the man through his life.

Players from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.



This film is wonderful because the background motion in most stop motion films is relatively static, which is not the case in this film.

Lastly, are there any parents out there looking for a summer activity for their children to do during rainy summer holidays?

05 July, 2009

Self-evident but Clever



Even though so much of what Michael Shermer says in this video is self-evident, the way he says it is clever.

It makes me think John Hodgman's recent speech at the
2009 Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner.


Can't help but think these two might add much sparkle to any dinner table conversation.

The idea behind both presentations is the need for all of us to question popular theories and offer intelligent skepticism towards our beliefs of life's truths.

04 July, 2009

Eyes - Postcards V

eyes_old

I’m listening to an interview of an elder, a well-known public figure, talking of his family’s past. So carelessly, so sincerely, this man says, “I look back on my parents with such enormous affection”. This statement acts like a knife, stabbing through my protective shell of pretend equanimity towards marred parental disputes and disappointments. Hard to know how to balance realistic expectations of how relationships can be with truthful acceptance of life as it is.

02 July, 2009

Eyes - Postcards IV

eyes_blackwhite

He sits in the night train travelling northbound, passing through a dark countryside spotted with neon-lighted train stations, through places he has never heard of, in languages he doesn’t understand. Alone in the train carriage, he stares outward towards the people he has yet to meet, to a life he’s yearning to find.

01 July, 2009

Eyes - Postcards III

eyes_young

A New Idea

A tiny ripple of hope
Then inspiration tearing
Downwards. Unexpectedly,
A synaptic burst of light.
My child’s mind. So simple.
Right there. There, where nothing
Is complete except that one step,
Or, leap into the unknown.

30 June, 2009

My dear friend just doesn’t get it…

Recently, a good friend of mine wrote that she is “amazed by all the stuff you do outside work”. This reaction, to be honest, sort of miffed me, since I consider all that I do, except for writing blogs and creating collages, work. Then I thought about her comment for a while and came up with this:

all the stuff I do outside work – monetary compensation – filling out lots and lots of forms – dealing with the Difficult Colleague – having to attend numerous weekly meetings that are often just a whole waste a lot of time – the really fruitful discussions I have with my Favourite Colleagues – the wonderful technology to be found in my office = Work

So, if you consider that “all the stuff I do outside work” is shared with some amazing people at different corners of the world and the work can be done just as well without the wonderful technology that is found in my office, it is not only Work, but work with perks because those negative aspects of my job fall by the wayside. Except for the fact that I am not being paid to do the work, it is a cushy job.

28 June, 2009

Eyes - Postcards II

eyes_wood

Aubrey

Walking through your farm, thirsty, you duck behind the shadows of a grapefruit tree. With studied precision, you lob your arm upwards and then gently tap a grapefruit at its navel with the blade of your machete. The fruit plops down into your awaiting hand. Gracefully, you untwine the rind into one yellow ribbon. Slicing through the fruit, its juices trip between your fingers.

We share the sweet sunshine taste, and wonder why grapefruits are so sour elsewhere, away from the farm, from Grenada, and from the sourcing silence of this hot afternoon. Finished, we wipe our hands on our trousers and continue on our way.

27 June, 2009

Eyes - Postcards I

eyes_bamboo

the tender spring leaves
of my garden hedge
cradle the skeleton of a
lone bird dying in winter

26 June, 2009

Stay Tuned

Oh, good, just got an idea for another collage series called "Eyes". It will, if all goes well, be a series of postcards with individual poems or memories. Somewhat like the "Postcards to Past Lives" series I did a while back.

Here is an example of what the results were. Here is a slideshow of the results.

25 June, 2009

Two Sides of a Mirror

While making a summer collage this morning, I came up with two versions of the same motif that I equally liked.

poppy02

poppy

What about you?

24 June, 2009

Small Blessing

These last weeks have been weeks of end of school year madness. Everyone writing exams, creating presentations, as have been my husband and I been doing for various projects at work. It is crazy, Germany goes summer mad and nothing, absolutely nothing, happens between the beginning of July and the beginning of September. Everyone tries to make all the important appointments in June. I've never quite understood how this economy works with such an extended vacation, but it does.

Isn't it a civilized world where employees offers their workers six weeks of paid vacation a year, universal medical insurance, free or minimal tuition (200-400 USD per semester) university education, and full unemployment insurance after working one full year? Looking at many of my friends' precarious situations in this present economic crisis (USA, New Zealand, Canada, England), and knowing that my current work contract runs out at the end of this year, I am glad to be living here. That is not to say that I do not worry, but I know I will have time to avoid any demise.

19 June, 2009

Dance

Worth a definite look!

17 June, 2009

The Wonders Of The Internet (3/3)

The last of this series concerns a skype conversation I have with Millicent in Nairobi. During our talk, Millicent tells me about reading a newspaper article about how Carbon Manna Unlimited is compensating Kenyans for reforesting their land by planting trees.

After some investigation, I still am not able to find any information about receiving monetary compensation for replanting trees, though this is probably true, but just hasn’t come up in my search. There is though a series of articles pointing out their program that allows people in Kenya,

“to claim by mobile phone on a bi-weekly basis the carbon offsets they produce by converting to more efficient cooking methods such as a modern charcoal stove or solar cooker, instead of an inefficient 3-stone fire burning biomass. As a result, each family becomes a micro-profit center and is able to monetize directly its own contribution to mitigating global climate change, while also slowing regional deforestation and desertification”

I am not so sure how successful the mass introduction of solar cookers and the modern charcoal stoves will be, since they are still quite expensive items to purchase. Which brings me back to smoke-free briquettes created out of bio-waste…. Don’t you think that Carbon Manna Unlimited might have an interest supporting (funding) the manufacturing of corn cob crushers and the use of smoke-free briquettes?

So, my goals for this year:

* Create two instruction manuals for building a corn cob crusher and how-to-make briquettes
* Create two small scale briquette making businesses in Kimilili
* Get in contact with Carbon Manna Unlimited and start communications about the possibility of them helping to set up a corn cob crusher manufacturing carpentry shop
* Get in contact with the Kimilili community elders and start talks about setting up the above-mentioned shop

Of course, my goals are not going to be achieved all by myself. It means involving all sorts of people from all sorts of different countries. To date that would be, Kenya, Zambia, Canada, USA, Switzerland, and who knows how many more before this project is up and running in Kimilili.

The wonders of the Internet, don’t you love it?

14 June, 2009

The Wonders Of The Internet (2/3)

Continued from yesterday's post...

A few weeks ago, Millicent and Ericah (Kenya), go from Nairobi to Kimilili to hold a business-training workshop. Initially, the workshop is intended for the eight women in the CBSM women’s co-op who are starting up two Village Phone Salon businesses. When Ericah and Millicent arrive at the CBSM school at 7 am on the day of the workshop, over 20 persons show up and cannot be persuaded to leave. They all want to learn about business practices.



Amongst the group that came of their own volition, are various youths desperate to learn as well.

After some reflection, I wonder whether it wouldn’t be more practical to set up a Corn Cob Crushers manufacturing business as well as of creating clean fuel briquette-making businesses. If we could set up a youth vocational training program and show the young entrepreneurs how to make the a Corn Cob Crushers, they could manufacture them on mass and sell them to local residence either for private use or to set up a briquette making business.

13 June, 2009

The Wonders Of The Internet

A few days ago, I mention I am on an oxygen-high. After months of research and communication with various people, I’ve figured out a wonderful green business idea for the rural communities I work with in various countries in Africa. It is not only the idea that is so fantastic, but how the idea evolved that is so remarkable. The serendipity and beauty of being able to form new business ideas with people all over the world through the Internet, makes me want to jump up and down with delight.

I’d like to write a few posts and take you on a journey about how the new green business idea formed. I won’t say at this point what the idea is because that would spoil the fun, so, if you only want to know that, you can skip the next two blog posts.

The journey starts off in California listening to Amy Smith’s talk on “Life Saving Design”. In this talk, she informs the illustrious TED audience: how fumes from indoor cooking fires kill more than 2 million children a year, how millions of women and children spend upwards of 2-4 hours daily searching for wood fuel, and how many countries are rapidly being deforested because of this practice.

Ms. Smith goes on to explain how she and a group of designers constructed a prototype Corn Cob Crusher that produces smokeless cooking briquettes from bio waste materials (principally sugar cane or corn cob waste).

So, I contact Sumit (India) of the above-mentioned design group and ask where I could get more information about the crusher. We have some people interested in opening up such clean fuel briquette-making businesses in Kimilili, Kenya. We are hoping to find someone in Kenya that can teach these business entrepreneurs how to build crushers.

Sumit introduces me to Joshua (Zambia), who is also in the crusher group. Since
Zambia isn’t Kenya, and Joshua obviously can’t just hop over to Kimiilili, I talk to a Nabuur friend (Toronto) and she suggests approaching another Nabuur friend, Misheck, in Zambia to see if he can help.

Simultaneously, I meet up with a graphic designer and book publisher friend of mine for a cup of tea (Germany) and she asks me all sorts of questions about the Corn Cob Crusher project. It becomes obvious during our talk that we what we need are instruction manuals explaining “How to make a Corn Cob Crusher” and “How to make cooking Briquettes with a Corn Cob Crusher”. She offers her assistance in the project.

Upon inquiry, Joshua and Misheck both prove willing to work with us in making these manuals. It will probably take a few months for us to get the script written and the monies together so they can buy the materials needed, but it is all looking rosy in that department.

These manuals will be published and made available in various formats (e.g. pdf, html, ppt, and mp4), so that any one wishing to build a crusher can do so.

The next post talks about how my original idea evolved from one of creating clean fuel briquette-making business start-ups to an idea including youth vocational business training and crusher manufacturing start-ups as well.

To be continued...

11 June, 2009

Stay Tuned

Just worked out a brilliant concept for a new green micro-financed business possibility for the community I work with in Kenya. It is so fantastic an idea; I almost feel as if my head will pop. Let me come down from my creative oxygen high and make some sense of all that I am thinking of. Stay tuned...

10 June, 2009

City of Graffitti and Angels



Here is an animated slide show of some photos my son took last weekend when we were in Berlin.

08 June, 2009

Short Short Stories

lila_grass

This is a call out to readers of this blog, asking you whether you would like to join my daughter's and my new project, Short Short Stories blog as co-authors or loyal readers. It is the perfect opportunity for all over-stressed, over-worked, too-busy-to-tie-my-shoes type of persons. It is a mini-micro storytelling site. Do go over and have a look and tell me what you think.

Each story a leaf of grass in the field of daily occupation.. (sic)

07 June, 2009

Making chaos beautiful

dandilions

Quiet weekend. Friends dropping by. Good food. Find conversations.

Managed to do some cleaning up of the mountains of paperwork that plagues my conscious. Actually, a friend and I decided on Friday that we are now formally giving up hope of becoming good housewives. Instead, we are going to make our chaos more beautiful. As of tonight, the large piles of papers that crowded the bookshelves in my work area, are now all nested inside of decorative boxes.

29 May, 2009

Telling Stories with Feeling

Recently, a good friend and I had a conversation about my blog. She mentioned how she loves coming to the Yum Yum Café to get caught up with the going-ons of my life. Further into our discussion, she talked about her occasional surprise and perplexity at the content of some of my posts. She wondered how I could write and publish such personal texts.

This brought me back to the dilemma I wrestled over nearly four years ago, when I started this blog; what is the difference between being engaged and personal and being too intimate and forthcoming? Admittedly, there are guidelines to follow and boarders that shouldn’t be overstepped when publishing a document. It doesn’t matter whether it is a newspaper article, a book, or something as inconsequential as a blog post. At the very least, the respect of privacy, both of others and our own, is one of the borders we should walk carefully. Therefore, the critical observation from my friend made me reflect upon how my guidelines and borders have changed over time.

It made me question whether I write about things now, which I wouldn’t have written way back then, or whether I divulge details of my day-to-day existence that would be best kept private. And, the answer is that I probably do from time-to-time. It is not always easy to walk the tightrope between remaining respectful of the people’s privacy portrayed in my stories, and writing about topics close to my heart and relevant to my life.

When I write a blog post that might be questionable, I ask myself the following two questions:

Will my children find what I write embarrassing?*
If the content was instead part of a café conversation I was having with a friend, and someone at the neighbouring table overheard it, would I be mortified?

If the answer to both questions is no, then, I’ll probably post the text. For, the raison d'être for this blog, is that my children have a journal of these years in future times. Secondly, even though this blog is public, it is read by only a few. Its readers are people I more or less know. I might not have met all of you face-to-face, but I do know you to be loyal readers and I hope this is because I don’t all too often cross that border into the extreme.

What I have learnt in the last years is that without the personal details and the emotional connection, there are no stories to tell.


* Both my children read this blog and have veto rights on anything I post.