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07 March 2004

 
Field Notes from Chiang Mai, Thailand
Randy Sutherland
March 7, 2004
 
Arrived Bangkok on Wednesday, toured the extensive national museum and visited exquisite temples before flying north to Chiang Mai on Saturday.  The museum chronicles the long history of South East Asia wars, invasions, insurrections, assasinations, genocides, murder, mayhem, and misery typical of the human condition everywhere.  Prior to the introduction of cannons by the French, Thai wars were a kind of knightly duel fought from on top of elephants.  There are many mythical birds in Thai legends.  The Portuguese introduced the sweets and candies that Bangkok street vendors sell.  Before Siam pursued Western fashions, women wore butch haircuts except for long strands of hair over each ear for attaching flowers.
 
Although the heat and humidity in Bangkok are as severe as in Mumbai, at least it doesn't smell like a sewer and it is much more pleasant to walk the streets of Bangkok.  I saw many old, unattractive and morbidly obese Caucasian men with young, thin, pretty Thai girls on their arms.  I also saw a lot of sleeping dogs, every few feet, on every sidewalk.  Except for a few Thai men who were passed out drunk on the street, I did not see people sleeping on the sidewalks.
 
The highlight of my Bangkok visit wa a ride up the river to see a temple.  The boat that I hired was very long and narrow with an upturned, flower-festooned prow; a kind of gondola on steroids  powered by a gigantic truck engine with the differential adapted to drive a prop at the end of a long shaft.  Sometimes we would stop to buy iced tea served in plastic bags from little old women in tiny boats that seemed ready to capsize with every wave.  The river teemed with giant cat fish.  The shore had temples, houses on stilts above the water, and sections of lush jungle.
 
After three days in Bangkok I was eager to escape so I am now up north outside of Chiang Mai, in a beautiful house on stilts in a large garden valley surrounded by forested mountains with monkeys.  The resort is full of medical professionals who are here for some kind of team-building retreat.  On the night I arrived, they had a welcoming party so I decided to hang out and watch how Thais party.  Some of them looked a little alarmed to have a white man in their midst and the waitress worked hard to make sure that no Thai would have to sit at the same table with a farang.  The situation reminded me of a novel by a friend of mine, Faye Ng, who wrote "Bone," in which she describes how embarrassed and bored she was to have to sit at a table with a white person once at a wedding reception in China Town as a girl in San Francisco.
 
The party turned into a karoake fest fueled by the jet fuel of Thai whiskey.  There was a bizarre moment when eight Thais took the stage and offered a version of a song by an artist whose name escapes me but with lyrics approximating, "Yes, I'm going back to Massachusetts....(something, something).... Massachusetts is where I want to be."  I had a similar absurd moment in January while watching the weather report in Zagreb where the TV showed an overview of Croatian weather accompanied by the song with the refrain, "Oh Lord, Stuck in Lodi again."  After being politely tolerated  by most of the party with slightly forced smiles, I was invited to join a table of four men.  As it turned out, they were sexually attracted to me and they described in graphic detail what they wanted to do to me and they asked me where my house was.  For the first time since leaving America I felt afraid, but I just laughed at them and told them that I only like girls, which did nothing to reduce their ardor.  So I slipped away from them and returned to my haven on stilts by a circuitous route to foil any attempts to follow me.  I padlocked the doors and secured the windows and went to sleep to the sound of frogs and crickets.
 
In the morning I awoke to the sound of birds.  When I opened the curtains I saw two women wading in the stream next to my house, wearing hill-tribe clothes and catching tiny river fish with wicker-latticed fish scoopers. 
 
Today I meditated for hours by the river next to a white cow and a young brown bullock.  By observing these cows and they way that they lolled in this eden, I learned something new about prayer and meditation.   


posted by LoZo 05:51


01 March 2004

 
1 March 2004
Om Namah Mumbai
Field notes from Randy Sutherland
 
Franck and Sharima, my friends in Morocco, arranged for me to visit a family in Mumbai.  (Bombay is a British mispronunciation of the Hindi word, Mumbai.)  When I located "the pink bungalow on the beach," I was not expecting a six-story mansion with elevator.  Frederick and Corinne gave me the top floor with private staircase.  I have 4,000 square feet to myself, including a teak temple bedroom with Buddha.  The scalloped wall and every square inch of pillar, floor and wall are decorated with mosaic tile.
 
Below the balcony, a wide esplanade guards the Indian ocean.  Indian families wash their bodies and laundry in the sea.  Cricketers use the uncrowded esplanade in the old-fashioned way:  The team at bat will actually cheer for their opponents when they are caught out.  Likewise the team in the field will clap for a batter when he scores runs.  The British schools that I attended in Swaziland taught us to play in the same way.  At my first American sports event, I learned that American-style gladiator sport is not a gentleman's game to pass the time after tea at a country club.
 
Last night, a crow attacked a pigeon on the balcony.  I found the pigeon carcass freshly stripped to nothing but skeleton and feet right outside of my bedroom window.  When I brave the heat enough to walk outside, I step over dead rats and walk around dead donkeys.  On one of my walks, I watched a man and a woman eating chapattis on the sidewalk.  Suddenly, the man attacked the woman, bullied her and manhandled her and hit her.  Nobody in the crowd said a word to him.  Indians warn me that anyone who acts as a Good Samaritan by helping the victim of a crime or traffic accident will be detained, harrassed, and implicated for some trumped up crime by the police.  Recently a man was struck by a train at a train station.  Nobody in the crowd rendered assistance because they did not want trouble with the police.  The police arrived two hours later but it was too late for the man.  A policeman's salary is $250 a year here, so they resort to accepting bribes and to creating situations where their victims are manipulated into paying bribes.  Most people earn two or three dollars per day.
 
Now that I am here, I understand why India looked to Russia for so long and even adopted Soviet-style five-year production plans.  After Mumbai, any Soviet republic must have looked like the promised land.  The Indian air force uses old MIGS that crash frequently and the Indian army uses Russian machine guns.  Every Indian that I have talked to wants to go to America, or "any place other than here."
 
Since visiting the Hindu caves at Elephanta, I have visited another Hindu cave and two Buddhist caves on day trips outside of the city.  The caves are carved out of solid rock, with dimensions calculated to amplify chanting vibrations.  Each large Buddhist prayer hall contains a large stupa (tall, solid dome), which is not to be confused with a Shiva lingam.  I was able to spend a lot of time meditating and chanting in these caves.  The echo makes any vocalization sound like Gregorian chant.  Outside of the caves, women washed clothes from 2,000 year old cisterns that still collect monsoon water.   After four cave tours, I wondered if they were oriented to focus Summer Solstice rays on the stupa.  Guides confirmed my hunch that the caves are illuminated by the sun's rays around September 21 every year.  The Celts also created Solstice-aligned caves in the West.
 
I leave tomorrow for Thailand with very little hope for the future of India, where the entire country is ensnared in a corrupt system for which there is no obvious solution.


posted by LoZo 00:18

 
1 March 2004
Om Namah Mumbai
Field notes from Randy Sutherland
 
Franck and Sharima, my friends in Morocco, arranged for me to visit a family in Mumbai.  (Bombay is a British mispronunciation of the Hindi word, Mumbai.)  When I located "the pink bungalow on the beach," I was not expecting a six-story mansion with elevator.  Frederick and Corinne gave me the top floor with private staircase.  I have 4,000 square feet to myself, including a teak temple bedroom with Buddha.  The scalloped wall and every square inch of pillar, floor and wall are decorated with mosaic tile.
 
Below the balcony, a wide esplanade guards the Indian ocean.  Indian families wash their bodies and laundry in the sea.  Cricketers use the uncrowded esplanade in the old-fashioned way:  The team at bat will actually cheer for their opponents when they are caught out.  Likewise the team in the field will clap for a batter when he scores runs.  The British schools that I attended in Swaziland taught us to play in the same way.  At my first American sports event, I learned that American-style gladiator sport is not a gentleman's game to pass the time after tea at a country club.
 
Last night, a crow attacked a pigeon on the balcony.  I found the pigeon carcass freshly stripped to nothing but skeleton and feet right outside of my bedroom window.  When I brave the heat enough to walk outside, I step over dead rats and walk around dead donkeys.  On one of my walks, I watched a man and a woman eating chapattis on the sidewalk.  Suddenly, the man attacked the woman, bullied her and manhandled her and hit her.  Nobody in the crowd said a word to him.  Indians warn me that anyone who acts as a Good Samaritan by helping the victim of a crime or traffic accident will be detained, harrassed, and implicated for some trumped up crime by the police.  Recently a man was struck by a train at a train station.  Nobody in the crowd rendered assistance because they did not want trouble with the police.  The police arrived two hours later but it was too late for the man.  A policeman's salary is $250 a year here, so they resort to accepting bribes and to creating situations where their victims are manipulated into paying bribes.  Most people earn two or three dollars per day.
 
Now that I am here, I understand why India looked to Russia for so long and even adopted Soviet-style five-year production plans.  After Mumbai, any Soviet republic must have looked like the promised land.  The Indian air force uses old MIGS that crash frequently and the Indian army uses Russian machine guns.  Every Indian that I have talked to wants to go to America, or "any place other than here."
 
Since visiting the Hindu caves at Elephanta, I have visited another Hindu cave and two Buddhist caves on day trips outside of the city.  The caves are carved out of solid rock, with dimensions calculated to amplify chanting vibrations.  Each large Buddhist prayer hall contains a large stupa (tall, solid dome), which is not to be confused with a Shiva lingam.  I was able to spend a lot of time meditating and chanting in these caves.  The echo makes any vocalization sound like Gregorian chant.  Outside of the caves, women washed clothes from 2,000 year old cisterns that still collect monsoon water.   After four cave tours, I wondered if they were oriented to focus Summer Solstice rays on the stupa.  Guides confirmed my hunch that the caves are illuminated by the sun's rays around September 21 every year.  The Celts also created Solstice-aligned caves in the West.
 
I leave tomorrow for Thailand with very little hope for the future of India, where the entire country is ensnared in a corrupt system for which there is no obvious solution.


posted by LoZo 00:14


18 February 2004

 
First Impressions of Mumbai from Randy Sutherland, February 19, 2004
 
I escaped Paris a few days ago before the air traffic controller strike stranded travelers there (although "stranded" is hardly the right word for an opportunity to extend a visit to the City of Light).  As I shuffled through the security queue with legs still aching from climbing the Eiffel Tower, I struck up a conversation with Lalji, an Indian hydrologist.  He told me that he was raised in Kenya and had worked in Swaziland for seven years.  I told him that I had lived in Swaziland for 11 years.  He warned me that, even though I had lived in Africa, I would see things in India that would shock me.
 
When I walked into the Mumbai airport, heat, steam and flies enveloped me.  Quotes from Ghandi decorate the walls.  The English-speaking taxi company representative assured me that my driver knew how to get to my hotel but we found it by stopping periodically to ask pedestrians.  The taxi was an ancient black Fiat.  The trunk lock has long since broken and he secured my suitcase by tieing the trunk closed with a piece of frayed string.  The roof was so low that I had to bow my head.  Every time he decelerated, the seat underneat me would slide forward and pin me against the front seat.  The roads were filled with human-drawn carts, cows, dogs, bricks, garbage, and speed bumps.  Pedestrians walk down the middle of the road because the sidewalks were lined with sleeping families, so our progress was often no faster than walking speed, which allowed begging children to walk alongside my taxi with pleading eyes.  The driver entered each intersection with his horn blaring.  Even though it was past midnight and this is winter, I was sweating from the heat and wishing I had spent the extra rupees to hire an air conditioned taxi.  The air was full of smoke.
 
The next day I was jetlagged and could only find the strength to walk outside for one hour in the heat and smog.  There are 22 million people in Mumbai.  It is difficult to walk down any road.  Women dressed liked goddesses carry heavy cans of petrol.  Mothers load piles of scrap wood onto their little daughter's heads for carrying.  Men assemble transmissions in alleys using medieval-looking tools.  I saw a man sharpening knifes on a bicycle-powered grinder that uses a fanbelt connected to the rear wheel to spin the sharpening stone.  Sewers and garbage ferment in the heat.  Bleary eyed men smoke chillums of hashish next to cows with beaded necklaces and painted horns.  Some shops are nothing more than a closet with a pullout ledge on which the owner squats.  People eat food from plates that the street vendor rinses in a bucket of filthy water in between customers.  Particulate matter floats in the air and lands in eyes and forms a film of grime on the skin.  Even though I had showered just before my walk, an hour later when I wiped my face with a white handerkerchief, it was black.  I took another shower, cranked up the air conditioner, and watched "Apocolypse Now" on cable TV.
 
Yesterday, I decided that I needed to go somewhere and breathe better air.  I stepped onto a two-dollar ferry (just outside the hotel where Ravi Shankar taught the Beatles how to play sitar) and went over to Elephanta island to explore the 600-year old Hindu caves and sculptures.  I did not realize that I had chosen a special day to visit.  It was the Mahashivayatri festival and there were 40,000 people there celebrating.  A swami tied saffron-dyed yarn around my wrist and painted a red thikal on my third eye while chanting a Hindu blessing.  The caves are very big and contain fascinating sculptures, bas reliefs, and Shiva lingams.  There were so many people that I felt like an ant in an ant farm. 
 
I was impressed to see Catholic nuns paying their respects to Shiva.  Apparently they do not misunderstand the mystical truth of "I am the way, the truth and the life" in the way that Western Fundamentalist Christians twist this Jesus quote into intolerance. 
 
I hired a guide, Nittim, who was born on the island and continues to live there with his parents.  He showed me caves that are not even mentioned in the travel guide books.  He showed me a cistern in a cave with Hindu sculptures that is the water supply for the 1,500 people that live on the island.  There is no running water.  His mother fetches water from the cistern in buckets.  He praised the sweetness and purity of the water and said that they just ignore the bottles and cans and plastic and paper that float on the surface.  They have electricity for four hours a day:  7am until 11am.
 
On the ferry back to Mumbai, I chatted with a 70 year old marathoner from Manchester, England, who has been traveling the world for six years.  I had been feeling quite smug about finding a three-star hotel for $26 a night until he told me about his $5 a night hotel!
 
When I got back on land, a dodgy looking Indian man offered me a young woman for $15 and I was approached by charming beggars with such fascinating stories that I gave them a few rupees just to honor their imaginations and the earnestness of their delivery.
 
Mumbai is a human tragedy so horrible that I find myself having to shut down part of my heart in order to stay sane.  Part of me wants to flee this place immediately and another part wants to experience more. 
 
Namaste
 
 
                     


posted by LoZo 22:50


09 February 2004

 

Yesterday I arrived in France. I flew from Casablanca, Morocco, where I was visiting my French friend, Franck LeClercque, who runs North African sales for Dell. As a bonus, Franck?s parents were also visiting. Franck ran European public relations for Cisco when I was at Cisco, so he used to visit me in San Jose. I visited him and his wife Sharima and their two sons, Indie and Enzo, in London during the Nineties. Now they have a third child, Emil, 14 months old. I was Emil?s age when I lived in Morocco, so it was fun to try to see Morocco through his eyes.

Franck and Sharima have a big and beautiful villa in Casablanca with a huge walled yard, magnificent garden and swimming pool. I had my own bedroom with private marbled bathroom. A pair of lively and unusually social tortoises live inside the garden walls (video attached).  In a land with not much of a middle class, one form of insurance for the well-to-do inhabitants of ?Quartier Californie? (the most upscale residential section of Casablanca) is to hire staff such as gardeners, housekeepers, and drivers. Residents of Quartier Californie who do not hire staff are more likely to be robbed. Franck and Sharima have a full complement of staff, including a 24-hour armed guard. The housekeeper is a strong, and wise woman who has endured much. At age 10, her parents married her to a 20-year old and she had the first of her six children when she was 12. On the night that I arrived, she cooked a delicious couscous to celebrate the 65th birthday of Franck?s father.

Franck?s father was in the French army stationed in Morocco during the time that I lived there as an infant, 1956-1958. Like me, he had not returned until now. I took a walk with Franck?s parents through Quartier Californie to view the beautiful villas. Shepherds tend flocks in the empty lots between the houses. Right now there are many newborn lambs. Morocco is the second Moslem country that I?ve visited on this trip (first was Bosnia). The Moroccans were friendly and kind. If they are willing to name the most prestigious area of Casablanca after California, I guess they must not hate us that much.

On Saturday, I awoke to the sound of doves that I associate so much with Africa and to the sound of the morning call to prayer, Allah u Akbar, which I also heard wailing from a medieval mosque every morning while I was in Sarajevo. We drove inland about 100 kilometers because Franck?s father wanted to visit the town where he was garrisoned with the French army during the Fifties. It turned out that our driver knew the town and had lived there as a boy so we found the base, which is now a Moroccan army base. The French army was in this particular place in order to protect French interests in the largest phosphate mine in the world.

I was curious as to why there were French and US military bases in Morocco at the same time and the driver explained that the French allowed the US to maintain four large bases in Morocco after WWII. After independence in 1956 the French stayed until 1958 and then the King of Morocco asked the United States to close bases in the early 1960s. The driver told me that the Moroccans were happy to see the French go but that they cried when the Americans left.

After lunch in the only restaurant in town, where we paid a total of about $25 for our party of nine people, we drove to the coast to tour Jedida, a former Portuguese fort that had been built in the early 16th Century and abandoned in the 18th Century. The fort contained a very large cistern that nobody knew about until 1916 when a shop owner began to expand his space. By accident he punctured the wall of the massive cistern to release a flood of water that had been standing for more than a century. Local firefighters still use the cistern. We bought bread that was still hot, baked in the original oven of the fort.

People inhabit this old walled town in the same way that I saw in Dubrovnik, Croatia, but Jedida is neglected and crumbling whereas Dubrovnik is cherished and well maintained. As we walked around Jedida on top of the fort walls, we sidestepped a lot of human feces, endured foul stenches, and observed squalor, filthiness and decay.

Our drive in the countryside exposed the extreme poverty of the Moroccans. Nevertheless they love their current 37-year old king. Perhaps Islam allows them to be pacified that their poverty is the will of God so that they don?t make the connection between national poverty and administrative policies. People told me that, if not for the massive cultivation and sale of hashish, starvation would be worse. A monthly salary of $200 is considered good enough to support a family. There are police check points in many locations where the game is to accuse drivers of infractions so that the police can collect $20 bribes. Franck?s driver and I were pulled over one day and falsely accused of speeding, so the driver just mentioned the names of a few friends that he had in the Police force and we were allowed to continue as if nothing had happened.

Right now I am in Versailles, walking distance from the grand chateau of the Sun King. Franck and Sharima are letting me stay in the flat that they keep in this posh Parisian suburb. A week from today I fly to India.

 

 

 



posted by LoZo 03:21


25 January 2004

 
Dovidjena Croatia
by Randy Sutherland
 
After a five-week visit with my sister, I am leaving Croatia tomorrow.  I have cleaned the apartment that her missionary friends allowed me to use because they went to the United States to deliver their third child.  They had a girl.  I laundered the sheets and towels for the last time with their washing machine and dryer.  Believe it or not, the wash cycle and dry cycle on the unbelievably small-load capacity machines are more than two hours each!  The manufacturers (sorry cant find the apostrophe on the European keyboard) excuse is "conversation of water and electricity."  How exactly a two-hour cycle conserves more water and electricity than a 30-minute cycle is beyond my engineering ken.  My direct experience with these infernal damnations allowed me to understand a comment from Zhelko, my nieces horse-riding instructor.  He said that he used to be a distributor of locally engineered washing machines and dryers, "which were good enough for Yugoslavia.  But with a more open market now, we couldnt compete with machines from other parts of Europe."  He must have done something right before the business failed because he has a big new mansion where he entertained us for lunch (three kinds of meat, no vegetables), a large stable with horses, including one worth more than 100,000 Euros, and a number of vehicles, including a new Jeep. 
 
I met another wealthy business man when I visited Rijeka in Istria on the beautiful Croatian Riviera.  Over a leisurely many course lunch with a different sublime wine for each course, he demonstrated deep understanding of the Enneagram, the psycho-spiritual system based on an ancient Chaldean symbol referred to by the Eastern Mystic Gurdjieff (half Armenian and half Greek but considered Russian) and elaborated into a profound personality typing system for profound spiritual liberation by the South American, Oscar Ichazo.  Under the influence of South American shamanism, Ichazo conceived of the Enneagram and 107 other Enneagons, which he taught in the Mystery school, Arica.  It was taught be one of his psychologist students in Berkeley and from there it influenced Don Richard Rizo (my teacher), among others, who left the priesthood to popularize it.  After lunch, this Croatian entrepreneur took me to his labyrinth and I walked it with fond memories of a similar labyrinth that was laid out in shoes in the desert sand of Northern Nevada.  That night, asleep in his Venetian villa, in a room that I shared with my brother-in-law, I dreamed that someone asked me to read the word on a building that I could see through the window.  In this dream I read the Croatian word, "osiguranje" on the building.  In the morning I asked my brother-in-law what it meant and he said osiguranje means insurance.
 
I leave Croatia filled with fond memories of cats stalking pigeons where bombs once fell in Dubrovnik, adolescents fist fighting in the town square, a young girl carrying three rabbits in her jacket to keep them warm, intriguing images of a man wearing a hat that said "Pro Pain," and Hindu graffiti such as "Shiva Maha Dev" and "Hari Bol," not to mention the "F**k America" graffiti near my sisters Baptist church in Zagreb. 
 
I said goodbye to my apartment where the landlord turns the heat off throughout the building for 12 hours every night in subzero weather.  The landlord also takes advantage of a property tax loophole that allows him to avoid paying tax until the building is completed.  Zagreb is full of these buildings that have perfect interiors but as long as the exteriors are not plastered and there is a pile of bricks and sand outside to make it seem as though it is under construction, the owner avoids paying property tax. 
 
My original plan was to fly to Genoa, Italy, and take a Mediterranean cruise with ports of call in France, Spain and Morocco.  However, a few days ago, my travel agent told me that the ship was seized by Barcelona port authorities due to impending bankruptcy.  So I plan to visit a friend from Cisco days who now works for Dell in Casablanca.  The flight to Casablanca from Zagreb goes via Amsterdam so I will stop off there for a week or so and then continue on to Morocco.  I lived in Morocco from age six weeks until two years old.  I am curious to see what early life impressions might be triggered by a visit to Casablanca. 


posted by LoZo 13:34


21 January 2004

 
Sarajevo (Bosnia) and Dubrovnick (Croatia)
As a ten-year old in the Kingdom of Swaziland (Africa), I devoured the set of encyclopaedias that my mother bought for me out of my parents' missionary stipend. When I read that the assassination of Duke Franz Ferdinand (heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne) sparked World War One, I looked up Sarajevo on the National Geographic map of the world that was pinned to the wall above my bed. In answer to my questions about Yugoslavia, one of the missionary doctors that worked with my father, gave me a book entitled, "You Can Trust the Communists (To Be Communists)." At that time, I never imagined that I would stand on the spot where high school student Gavrilo Princip shot the Duke and his wife, Sofia.

Last week, when I tried the door to the museum on the assassination site, it was locked. A local told me that it would reopen when Bosnia gets around to editing the exhibit descriptions to remove Communist interpretation of the event. Then he asked me if I had seen "The Tunnel." My blank stare caused him to explain that when the Serbs laid siege to Sarajevo in the early 1990s, the only escape was to run over the UN-controlled airport into Hercegovina. After the Serbs shot 800 people trying to run across the airport runways, the inhabitants of Sarajevo built a tunnel under the airport, which became their lifeline for water, oil, food, and military supplies. So I jumped in a cab in what was "Sniper Alley" and went out to visit Edis Kolar, whose family farmhouse stood on top of the exit to the tunnel. Edis let me walk in the part of the tunnel that has not yet collapsed and then showed me video from the daily attacks on the city, hideous footage of high-rise apartment dwellers prolonging the moment of death by hanging from the balconies by their fingertips as their buildings were bombarded and enveloped in huge flames.

To this day there are still many burned out skeletons of high-rise buildings. Sarajevo is a small city in a deep valley ringed by mountains. I remember watching news in America showing Sarajevo housewives dodging snipers as they ventured out to buy bread. When I asked how the attackers were able to occupy the high ground he explained that, at first, it was the Yugoslavian army who said that they were conducting training exercises. But then the Yugoslavian army morphed into the Serb army because of Tito's mistake of allowing Serbs to monopolize the officer class.

Tito died in 1980. So when nationalistic urges began to strain relationships among the ethnic groups within former Yugoslavia, the Serbian officers were able to appropriate all of the best equipment and resurface as the "Christian" Orthodox Serb army bent on establishing "Greater Serbia" at the expense of their traditional enemies: Catholics and Moslems. So Croatia was forced to buy arms on the black market, due to the arms embargo from the West. The taxi driver told me that he lived near the Sarajevo airport during the war and he said that the UN proved to be a cruel joke from the point of view of the Croatians. The UN did not allow any humanitarian shipments into the airport. The UN agreed to a deal that allowed them to occupy the airport and use it, but only to support the needs of the UN forces. Unfortunately for the people of Sarajevo, the UN forces assigned to the airport were French and Ukrainian, both of whom sympathized with Serbia. The taxi driver recounted a memory of watching two tanks at the airport, a French UN tank and a Serbian army tank, side by side. While the Serbian tank shelled the Moslem neighborhoods, the French watched and smoked cigarettes.

Serbia killed 11,000 people in Sarajevo, almost 2,000 of whom were children. They also killed 2,000 people in Vukovar. I felt personally affected by the history here when a friend of mine and I had to cancel a planned trip to the mountains east of Sarajevo because of a giant manhunt for the fugitive Serbian leader, Radovan Karadzic, wanted by the Hague on genocide charges.

In 1995, the people of Srebrenica also placed their faith in the UN forces: A fatal mistake. As I rode into Sarajevo, I noticed a wall with a giant human skull painted on it and the words, "Don't forget Srebrenica." An hour later as I was watching the BBC news in my hotel room, I saw a reporter standing in front of the same human-skull mural offering a story that the Netherlands army, which was the UN force in Srebrenica, had retreated when the Serbs arrived. The locals laughed at that news story and told me that the Netherlands army did not run away, they stayed and did nothing. While the Serbs killed 9,000 Moslems in Srebrenica by sending out buses and cars to round up the inhabitants and bring them to a killing field, the Netherlands army smoked cigarettes.

Evidence of the war is everywhere. I have seen a few hundred bombed residences and a thousand buildings whose facades are completely pockmarked from machine-gun fire. There are men in wheelchairs and men with shrapnel scars on their heads.

The people of Dubrovnik, a beautiful medieval walled city, were sleeping in their beds when the Serbs attacked them from the air, the sea, and the land. The locals point out that neither Napoleon nor the Nazis hurt civilians when they conducted their campaigns in the area. (However Croatia was a Nazi puppet state and there were concentration camps near Zagreb to contribute to "The Final Solution.") The Serbs hit Dubrovnik with guided missiles and 200 people died, people that did nothing but sell pizza and postcards to tourists. I stayed with the former chief of the military police for the defense of Dubrovnik after he pulled me from the bus and begged me to rent a room in his house. He showed me his photographs of the destruction and described what it was like to be there. The people had no food supplies or electricity for something like two years. They survived on fish that they caught in the sea, and they invented a home-made torpedo to resist the Serbian gun ships: Television sets filled with explosives and nails, able to float because of the sealed TV tube. They named this weapon, "The Television."

Dubrovnik people are influenced by Italy. Venice controlled Dubrovnik during the 18th Century. The people look more Italian and speak with slightly Italian accents and gestures, compared to the Croatians in Zagreb. I even had to adjust the Croatian that I learned in Zagreb. For example, in Zagreb they say "dovidjena" for "good bye." In Dubrovnik they understand and use "dovidjena" but most locals say, "adio" with the emphasis on the first syllable. They say it is slang for "ari vederci." Dubrovnik is on the Dalmatian coast, which is not where the canine species of the same name comes from. The Romans brought Dalmatian dogs with them as guard dogs.

Up the coast from Dubrovnik is an island, Korcula, whose people claim that Marco Polo was born there. Men's neckties are derived from the cravat, which became popular after French soldiers observed Croatian soldiers wearing bright scarves around their necks.

I am on my way back to Zagreb now after visiting Dubrovnik. I am a regular at one of the pizza places in Zagreb and the other day the crew there opened a local newspaper and pointed to a picture and asked me who it was. I took one look and told them, "That is Dennis Kucinich." I explained a little bit about his platform and about how I heard him talk live by telephone at the Prophets Conference. I told them how excited I became when I realized that he is a man of consciousness. I told them that he has risen from two percent in popularity polls to eight percent but that the right-wing US media is trying to paint him into a peace-and-love corner. They told me that his ancestry is Croatian. I told them that I have friends who volunteer for his campaign.

There is a big wide world out here and I am so happy to be exploring. I miss you all but I am not lonely and I am not homesick. It is not so bad to travel alone.
--Randy Sutherland


posted by LoZo 06:13


20 January 2004

 
A View from the Balkans
(Observations from Randy Sutherland)

In Sarajevo I was hosted by Aida Causevic, a Bosnian woman who endured the war and then went to San Diego to finish high school and attend university. She had to walk through the tunnel under the Sarajevo airport when it was the only escape from the Serbian seige, a narrow low tunnel that does not allow for standing up. As a teenager she had to slosh through the filthy standing water that was always a problem in the tunnel, past dead floating rats and dangerous pipes with electricity and oil flowing through them. I met her when one of my San Diego neighbors, Marco Massimei shot a film starring her. After I sold my house and moved the furniture out, he told me that he had entered a film contest and required an empty house to produce his vision. He won the contest with the film.

If you are interested to watch this five minute film, you will see Aida. Just go to www.theshapeofevil.com and click on Multimedia and then Purgatory. (If you are not a Mac user, take a second to dowload Quicktime for Windows so that you can run the film, Purgatory.) Marco is a renowned independent film producer, director, and screen writer with awards and critical acclaim in the film biz publications. He is also an extraordinary musician who writes his own scores. We have a common interest in studying the Bible. I am happy to have this film memory of the house where I healed and rested after slaving in Silicon Valley for 17 years without a break. Marco shot footage until the sun came up before he declared that he had enough to edit.

Afterwards, over a cup of tea, Aida asked me why I was selling such a beautiful house and I told her that it had served its purpose for me, but that I was now rested and ready for a big change and planning to visit my sister in Croatia and continue around the world from there at a slow pace. She told me that she was from Bosnia and would be visiting there during the time I would be visiting my sister.

If I had not sold my house it would not have been empty for Marco to shoot a film and I would not have met Aida and therefore I probably would not have visited Sarajevo, which is a seven-hour bus ride through narrow mountain passes from where my sister lives. Speaking of coincidences, Aida studies English Literature (as did I) and intends a Public Relations career (which was my career). I was able to refer her to the best PR agency in San Diego and the director has hired her for a PR internship.

When I arrived in Sarajevo, Aida took me ice skating at the facility that was built for the Sarajevo Winter Olympics. Ice skating brings up anxiety for me because it was one of the "Youth Group" activities that I had to do with my church when we returned to California when I was 15 years old. We didnt have ice skating in Africa. And because there were no sidewalks or pavements, we didnt even have roller skating.

I had so much fun ice skating in Sarajevo. I fell five times but toward the end I could sort of do it. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. There were about a dozen of us in this ice-skating party: Aidas friends and family. Afterwards we all went bowling, which produced anxiety again for me as it was another thing that I associated with the "Youth Group" when I came to America, after never having bowled at all. Even the name Youth Group did not make sense to me because in Africa, a 15-year old is an adult and yet in America I was being called a youth and forced to go to ice-cream parlors with immature American teenagers in the name of Jesus. I guess the reason that none of the "Youths" in that church had ever seriously studied the Bible was that they were always being bused out to play miniature golf or go on hay rides. I received some healing as a result of facing skating and bowling performance anxiety with Aida. I now have a new imprint, a positive feeling about skating and bowling.

I had dinner with her mother, cousins, uncles and aunts in the house where they survived the war. Aida showed me the basement where they spent so many hours avoiding becoming war casualties. Over dinner, I learned that Aidas 80-something grandfather was leaving for the Haj within a few days and they were brainstorming where to stash his trip money on him, since he is forgetful and might lose a credit card or ATM card.

After dinner, we went out to a few night clubs. My friends pointed out a man in one of the clubs and told me that he participates in "fights to the death," which attract ghoulish sports fans in Macedonia. I also met a Bosnian man who works for the Catholic Relief Agency here, installing Cisco routers to connect the schools! He told that the project is funded by American Catholics.

In terms of food, I felt completely at home in Sarajevo, which has a cuisine very similar to Armenian: Kebabs, different kinds of burreck, yogurt, lockum, baclava, and thick Turkish coffee. Sarajevo is a place that takes kebabs seriously.

The city is fascinating to walk in: Wide pedestrian walks leading past bazaars and open air markets, gypsies trying various schemes to get money, and all of the amenities of a modern city including internet cafes. The first internet cafe that I went to was locked during the middle of the day so I went on searching. I should have known better than to go into an internet cafe named "Club Bill Gates" but I was desperate. After 15 minutes of trying, I never managed to get a browser up on any of the computers. When I asked the staff for assistance, they demonstrated complete lack of concern. So I left and continued up a hill and found a Moslem internet club down an alley up a narrow stairway, where the people took me in and I became a regular. The place had so much atmosphere and warmth. Connection speed was excellent, except when the boys were hogging the bandwidth with online shootem-up games. I never imagined an internet cafe with so much spirit.

In one of my walks I stumbled across the Serbian Orthodox Church, which has an ancient mosaic of Mary. It looks as though someone has fired a bullet right into her chest. I walked onto the grounds with the thought that I could get some insight into Serbian culture and found an office that said, "Museum." Once inside I greeted the woman behind the desk gently in her own language and asked how much it cost to tour the museum. She was completely rude and uncooperative with me and just plain poisonous. She never allowed me to go into the museum using some kind of "holiday" excuse, even though she couldnt explain why the museum store was open to make money on a "holiday." Later that day, when I asked some locals why she had treated me that way, they said, "Oh, with your Armenian eyebrows, she assumed that you were a Turk." So, discrimination is alive and well in Sarajevo, as it is around the world, but at least she didnt kill me for being a Turk in her eyes.
--Randy Sutherland


posted by LoZo 10:49


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