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In America: Guns & Violence

Barry and I are on the road again.

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Barry loading up our bicycles in St. Louis

At the beginning of March, we flew from Maui to St. Louis, MO, where much of my family lives.  My nephew is getting married there in April, so we will join the family celebration.  Before that event, we are taking a road trip to visit friends, family, high school and college friends, Servas hosts, and a newly discovered first cousin who lives in Boyton Beach, Florida.  We are now in Plantation, Florida, visiting dear friends, Fran and Roy, whom we have known for many years.  On our way, we have visited – among others – a Green Party Servas family in Memphis, TN, a Mennonite Servas family in rural Macon, MS, my terrific brother and his wife in Gainesville, and  three of Barry’s high school friends from New York, who now live in Florida. . . .  We have more great encounters ahead.

One of our stops along the way was in Memphis at the Iron Works Museum.  What we learned there in the Guns, Violence, and Justice special exhibit – about guns and violence in the U.S. – shocked us.

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Guns and violence

Among many facts, we learned:

Percent of Americans who say they have a gun in their home in 2014:

By race –

White 41%, Hispanic 20%, Black 19%

By environment –

Rural 51%, Urban 36%, Suburban 25%

By ideology –

Conservative 41%, Moderate 36%, Liberal 26%

Number of guns per 100 people by country:

U.S. – 88.8

Yemen – 54.8  [this is a war-torn country so citizens are likely to have guns, but the U.S. has more]

Switzerland – 45.7

Finland 45.3

Serbia 37.8

Mass Shootings – since 1982 in the U.S. [when 4 or more people are killed in one incident]:

Total Mass Shootings – 84      Total Victims – 1,353

Type of Weapons Used in Mass Shootings:

Semi-automatic Handgun – 73

Rifle – 29

Revolver – 24

Shotgun – 23

Top Five Reasons Americans Own Guns:

60% – Personal Safety/Protection

36% – Hunting

13% – Recreation/Sport

8% – Target Practice

5% – Second Amendment rights

When I went to school in Southeast Missouri, a date could involve target practicing.  Now I’ve been in Hawaii for many years.  The low gun violence rate there is another reason to say, “MauiKa ʻOi” – Maui is the best.

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“This group exhibition features artists using guns and gun references in their artwork to address issues impacting our lives. The works in Guns, Violence and Justice explore concepts of militia consciousness, individual and national accumulations of weapons, protection and aggression, recreation and justice. Several artists are examining their personal relationships with guns while others are engaging in a cultural critique in response to the increasing gun violence across the country.

Participating artists: Boris Bally | David Hess | Darryl Lauster | Bill Price | Stephen Saracino | Victor Hugo Zayas”

Go to –https://www.metalmuseum.org/visit

Gun Deaths  – “33,636 people died from firearm related causes in the United States [in 2013].  63% of firearm related deaths were suicide [my emphasis]. 33.3% were homicide and 3.7% were unintentional, undetermined, legal interventions or war.

Of those gun deaths in 2013:                                    Male                       Female

Total White 25,044                                                    21,116                       3,928

Total Black  7,797                                                         7,016                          781

Total Hispanic  2,951                                                   2,595                          356

Total Asian or Pacific Islander 469                              381                           88

Total American Indian or Alaskan Native 326          281                           45

Many of these facts (with sources) surprised me by not fitting into  assumptions that I’ve made.

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Guns converted into tools.

On the wall behind this artist’s piece of transformed guns: “In 1791, total estimated population of the U.S. – 3,929,214 at the same time total estimated firearms in U.S. – 118,629.  In 2016, total estimated population of the U.S.  325,025,419 and total estimated firearms in U.S. 357,000,000.”

There are more guns in the U.S. than there are people!  That’s ridiculous!  The current administration has passed a bill that allows people who have a history of mental problems to buy guns!!!  What’s wrong with us?

The exhibit presents gun facts and artists creations.

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Twisted guns

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QUAAK (Quintessential Ugly Amphibious Attack Kraft), 2016 – Steel, pewter, brass, bronze, cherry – by Bill Price

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G-11-12GA GooseGun, 2016 – Steel, shotgun, brass, maple, mahogany, bumper guards – by Bill Price

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Museum viewers reaction to this exhibit – some more informed than others

Besides the special gun exhibit, the museum also has metal pieces of beauty, humor, and whimsy.

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Metal flowers

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Beautiful metal gate

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Metal bird

 

Banner image:  Loaded Menorah 2, 2016 – 925 silver, altered handguns, gun barrels and gun components (steel) (weapons courtesy of Goods for Guns Anti-Violence Coalition, City of Pittsburgh, PA – by Boris Bally

P.S.  More information: in  the Columbia, South Carolina April 2, 2017 paper, The State,  p. 9A article by Lisa Marie Pane, “Once-booming gun industry recalibrating under Trump,” notes: “President Donald Trump promised to revive manufacturing in the United States, but there’s one once-burgeoning sector poised to shrink under his watch: the gun industry.

Fears of government limits on guns – some real, some perceived – led to a surge in demand during President Barack Obama’s tenure and manufacturers leaped to keep up.  Over the decade ending in 2015, the number of U.S. companies licensed to make firearms jumped a whopping 362 percent.  But sales are down and the bubble appears to be bursting with a staunch advocate for gun rights in the White House and Republicans ruling Congress.”

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In this March 9, 2017, photo, a row of AR-15 style rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense sit in a vault at the company’s headquarters in Black Creek. Ga.

Image from: https://www.scribd.com/article/343693403/Once-Booming-Gun-Industry-Now-Recalibrating-Under-Trump

May all guns remain in their vaults.

Go to the Metal Museum when you are in Memphis.  And let’s put guns to good use: transform them into art.   Aloha, Renée

Bali: Monkeys

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In the Monkey Forest Sanctuary – monkeys in the trees and on the ground. rr photo

Filtered sunlight makes its way through the tall canopy, the stone statues of snakes and monkeys, the ornate temples, and the calls of monkeys create an eerie, spirit-filled setting.  Visitors follow trails; a deep ravine runs through the park grounds, at the bottom flows a rocky stream. The heavily forested and hilly Ubud Monkey Forest covers about 27 acres (10 hectares) containing at least 115 different species of trees and over 600 crab-eating  macaques (Balinese long-tailed macaques).

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Crab-eating Macaque and her baby. rr photo

The monkeys roam freely – doing all their monkey business – in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud. Although these macaques are called “crab-eating,”  they often eat fruits and many other things; they are native to Southeast Asia and often used in research.  Since they  are most active during the day, visitors can observe their activities – caring for their young, mating, fighting, and grooming  – at close range.

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Monkeys hang out on the walkway railing in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

Five groups of monkeys inhabit the park, each occupying different territories.  In recent years here, the monkey population has become larger than a natural environment could support, so conflicts between the groups are unavoidable, but it also means that visitors can see more monkeys here than in the wild.

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Monkeys playing in the trees above. rr photo

Know that the monkeys are interested in any food you have.  So, don’t be casually walking along enjoying your fresh young coconut.  You are likely – actually guaranteed – to be jumped.  Likewise, monkeys can smell food in your backpack; don’t count on just hiding your food.

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This monkey down by the stream is trying to open a coconut. rr photo

The Monkey Forest park staff feed the monkeys sweet potatoes and other vegetables three times a day, providing them with their main source of food in the park, and so, the monkeys here are usually not as super naughty as in some other places.

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Monkeys being fed corn-on-the cob. rr photo

In general, monkeys will not come up to you if you do not bring bananas or any other food.  But they are smart and curious, and they may think you have food in that bag you are carrying, and they know how to take a lid off a bottle in search of whatever delightful drink they think you might have there. We saw a female trying valiantly to crack open a coconut by hitting it repeatedly with the side of her hand.  She used a folded leaf to cushion the blow to her hand.

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Monkey working to unbutton this girl’s pocket. rr photo

Once as I was walking along Monkey Forest Road and not even in the sanctuary, a monkey, a  BIG monkey, climbed up my leg to check out the bottle I was carrying.  When he saw it was only a plastic bottle of water, he climbed back down.  Luckily – and surprisingly to me, I didn’t freak out.  I was very happy I was wearing pants.

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See the monkey on this girl’s back? It’s working on unzipping her backpack. rr photo.

Monkey Forest Sanctuary site recommendations include:

  • Leave any non-essential bags and bottles at the ticket counter.
  • Do not bring in food or drinks to the park.
  • Do not feed the monkeys peanuts, biscuits, bread, or any other human snacks because they are detrimental to monkey health.  Some of the monkeys are now obese 😦 from such feeding.  You may give the monkeys bananas that can be purchased at the entrance, but use care in giving the bananas.
  •   Never-
    • scream
    • pull at a monkey or
    • move suddenly.
  • Do hang on to, or better yet, hide –
    • caps,
    • earrings,
    • cameras,
    • phones,
    • pens,
    • glasses,
    • or whatever might be taken.  Don’t have anything shiny, money sticking out of your pocket, or your computer available in your open bag.
  • If you do feed the monkeys, always look out for the claws and teeth of the dominant male.  He should be given food first to avoid fighting or you getting bitten.
  • Don’t get close to the babies.  Especially don’t get between a mom and her baby.
  • When you smile, don’t show your teeth.  In monkey understanding, this is considered an aggressive gesture.  Monkey grimaces are indicators of inferiority while panting and open-mouthed threats are indicators of dominance.
  • If you have a child with you, be particularly careful.

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary staff in the green uniforms are throughout the park in case you need assistance.

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Some people hold bananas above their heads to encourage monkeys to climb up to their shoulders – in order to get a “cool” photo. That is really not a good idea. rr photo

Even if you are careful, it is possible to get scratched or bitten.  The monkeys are wild animals, and they are not afraid of humans.  I haven’t heard of monkeys having rabies here, but some dogs do.  Although dogs aren’t allowed in the sanctuary, I’ve seen a monkey and a young, rambunctious dog near the park entrance scraping over a bit of food.  So don’t take chances.  A puncture wound or even a scratch in a humid, hot climate such as Bali’s can quickly become infected.  Seek immediate medical attention even if your wound seems minor.

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Monkeys here, monkeys there, monkeys all around. rr photo

Even with all these cautions, I recommend that you go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  Except for that one curious, climbing-up-my-leg monkey, I haven’t had any others bother me.  They are fun to watch.  And it’s fun to watch tourists interact with the monkeys too.

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Tourists feeding monkeys at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. photo from MFS website.

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A monkey statue – and a real monkey in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

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On a hot day, the monkeys like to cool off in their Monkey Forest Sanctuary pool. rr photo

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary  is not only a tourist attraction with about 10,000 visitors a  month but also an important site in the spiritual  life of the local community. The Monkey Forest grounds are home to three Hindu temples, all apparently constructed around 1350!

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Temple in Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

The Main Temple is used for worshiping a personification of Shiva, the transformer. The Pura Beji Temple is a “Holy Spring” bathing temple, a place of spiritual and physical cleansing and purification prior to religious ceremonies.

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Temple pool – holy water. rr photo

The Prajapati Temple is used to pray for procreation and the protection of life. A cemetery adjacent to this temple receives the bodies of the deceased for temporary burial while they await a mass cremation ceremony (because of the extremely high costs), held approximately every five years.

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Monkeys among the graves. rr photo

The temples play an important role in the spiritual life of the local community, and the monkey and its mythology are important in the Balinese art tradition. The Monkey Forest area is sanctified by the local community, and some sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and to wear proper Balinese praying attire.

On-going research and conservation programs also happen here with researchers from  around the world  focusing particularly on the monkey social interaction and behavior with their surrounding environment.

So go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary for the monkeys, the trees, the temples.  Especially if you are aware, you will have fun.

Selamat jalan, Renée

Information from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubud_Monkey_Forest

“The Holy Monkey Forest of Sangeh” by Bill Dalton, Bali Advertiser, 26 Sept. – 12 Oct. 2016, p 26.

Text and photos from: http://monkeyforestubud.com/

What Do You See?

Especially when traveling, you see how other people do things differently.  One wonderful aspect of Bali is there are no homeless people.  I know that is a sweeping generalization, but I haven’t seen one person sleeping on the street!   I wish I could say the same for Maui, the U.S., many other places in the world.   Everyone has a home here mainly because they live in family compounds and take care of each other.  Much of Bali land is government owned or controlled by the villages, so those who live in a family compound can’t sell the land.  Even when they were colonized by the Dutch for 350 years, the Balinese kept control of their land, so they had their family home and family fields for shelter and food – for everyone.

In about 1930, Balinese began importing tin roofs (instead of using the grasses and having their neighbors help them thatch it – thus creating roof that would last 15-20 years – for free).  Then they started importing cars – and needing money.  Until that time, Bali could be considered one of the richest places on Earth.  Because this traditional society was controlled by the village and temple laws, there was not much difference between the richest and poorest people in a village.  Everyone got water for their family fields  (a real “trickle-down” theory in practice).  The system was so efficient that most people needed to work only four months a year to sustain themselves and their families; the rest of the year was dedicated to their art, temple, and family!

How’s that for a terrific idea that we could use?

(Source Hickman Powell’s The Last Paradise: An American’s Discovery of Bali in the 1920’s).  <https://www.amazon.com/LAST-PARADISE-AMERICANS-DISCOVERY-1920s/dp/B01LMJYTBI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476854387&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Last+Paradise%3A+An+American%27s+Discovery+of+Bali+in+the+1920%27s&refinements=p_72%3A1250224011>

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Balinese temple – the center of community life.  rr photo

Even now that they have to work year round, most Balinese are artists: dancers, musicians, painters, carvers, mask makers,  weavers . . . .  We could learn much from the Balinese.

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The carved door to the kitchen at Agus Ayu Cottages in Ubud! Beauty and art are everywhere here. rr photo

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Carved statues, wooden plank tables, embedded stones at Nick’s Restaurant on Jalan Bisma. rr photo

But since an outsider can often see what a local does not,  I’ve noticed since I was last here in 2014, the trend in Bali to keep caged birds.  Bali is tropical; birds are everywhere.  Just look out your window.  Farmers in the rice fields are chasing birds away from the ripe grain.  If you want more birds, you can just put out some bird seed.  On Jalan Bisma, sometimes a van of tourists come to bird watch.

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Birders on Jalan Bisma. rr photo

Why would you cage them?

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Caged birds at a tourist home stay.  rr photo

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Do you need a caged bird to entertain you while you eat a pizza? rr photo

While I’ve been here in Bali, I’ve read that although Balinese don’t eat dog meat, other people do. “Dog theft here is rampant, be it by agents of the dreaded . . . dog meat restaurants, or by thieves looking to sell a breed dog . . .  at the famous ‘pasar burung’ in Denpasar where many breed dogs are sold on. . . In desperation to retrieve their beloved stolen pet, owners offer a considerable financial reward on posters and flyers which sadly can encourage further theft (though the owner is left no choice really but to go down this route).  Even if dog meat thieves are caught, they are seldom punished with any severity – and as long as they keep getting away with it, they will keep doing it ” (Pet Care” Bali Advertiser, 12-26 Oct. 2016 p. 50).

Also while I’ve been here, I’ve seen the New York Times, “Big Food Photo Essay”:

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Calves  – a herd animal –  are kept from their mothers.

Product: Dairy calves
Facility: Calf Source
Location: Greenleaf, Wisc.
Capacity: Approximately 10,000 calves at any given time

Newborn females arrive from local dairies and spend their first 180 days at Calf Source — first in one of 4,896 hutches, like the ones seen here, and then in larger group pens. Trucks pass down each of 72 rows, dispensing water and milk. After a transfer to Heifer Source, another facility owned by the Milk Source company, the cows are inseminated and then returned — seven months pregnant, and just under 2 years old — to the dairies they came from.

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What’s life like for these turkeys? What about the worker?

Product: Turkeys
Facility: Gary’s Gobblers
Location: Northeastern Iowa
Output: 150,000 turkeys per year

During its busiest season, Gary’s Gobblers might have up to 60,000 turkeys living on five acres of its 160-acre facility. The worker seen here is spraying an antibacterial solution into the turkey pens to prevent disease.

Calf and turkey photos and text from:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/09/magazine/big-food-photo-essay.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

During the Bali Vegan Festival, I attended the talk, “The Plight of the Bali Dog.”  The facts about the dogs were bad – but also hopeful with information about what organizations such as BARC are doing to meet the challenges.  What surprised me the most was what a young woman from India attending the talk said in response to my question about the Balinese Hindus offering animal sacrifices to their gods.

I know India is a complex country, the world’s most populous democracy, the land of Gandhi, and ahimsa (seeing the spark of the divine within each person).  India is a country where you are confronted with big questions about glittering wealth and abject poverty – and where the Hindu majority religion respects the lives of animals.  Indians  make up two thirds of the world’s population of vegetarians – and Indian food is healthy and delicious.

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Young woman originally from India at the Bali Vegan Festival

What the Indian woman told me was very surprising to me:

1) Today – vegetarian, respect for animal life – India is one of the biggest exporter of beef cattle in the world!!!    According to a 2015 CNN news report, “India was the world’s top beef exporter last year.  That’s because India exports large quantities of meat from water buffalo — a member of the bovine family classified as beef by the USDA. . . .  Meat now earns India more export dollars than basmati rice. . .

India’s buffalo meat — a chewier and cheaper alternative to beef — mostly ends up on plates in Asia and the Middle East, where rising wealth is spurring demand among diners for animal protein. . . .

The cow is revered in Hindu culture, the religion observed by roughly 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people, and restrictions on cattle slaughter apply in most states. . .

Still, the $4.8 billion annual export trade has almost developed by accident — the animals are needed to keep India’s huge domestic dairy industry going, said Rabobank analyst Pawan Kumar.

This is unique among countries with large bovine exports, Kumar said. It also means buffalo meat from India is cheaper. That helped the country generate record export earnings from the beef last year, although growth is moderating from the 30% annual rate seen between 2010 to 2013.

Here’s where it all goes: Vietnam is the top importer, with Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia other key markets.

Then there’s China, which may actually be the largest consumer of the meat, according to Rabobank’s Kumar. Some 40% of Indian buffalo is sent to Vietnam, before large quantities make their way across the Chinese border.

http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/05/news/economy/india-beef-exports-buffalo/

The Indian woman told me a second fact shocked me even more than the first:

2) Some Hindus offer animal sacrifice to their gods – as a gift of the best food.

According to the November 2014 Daily Mail  article, “Animals are being lined up for slaughter as Nepal embarks on a two-day religious festival where buffalo, birds and goats are sacrificed to appease a Hindu goddess.

Millions of Hindus flock to the ceremony, which is held every five years at the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power, in Bariyarpur, Nepal, near the Indian border. . .

In 2009, more than 250,000 animals were killed, according to animal rights organization PETA, who is campaigning to put a stop to the practice.”

The meat from the slaughtered animals is usually given to meat eaters (but how long does it take for the meat of those thousands of buffalo killed in a field to be refrigerated?).
Since 2009, activists have been working with the government to stop the sacrifices but although there were fewer animals slaughtered in 2014, the ritual still continues.
What do you see where you are?
Wherever you are in the world, there are practices that we might want to emulate.
For instance, can we ensure that everyone has shelter and food as the Balinese have done so well for hundreds of years?  Can we change our frantic pace of striving for  more and more money and more and more things to have time to develop our artistic abilities and to spend time with our family and community as the Balinese do?
And what behaviors can we help change?
Look around. Be aware.  What can you do to make the world better for others – and yourself – wherever you are?
Aloha & Salam, Renée

Sign: Do more . . .

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Sign on Angelo’s Store, Sugriwa Street, No. 10, Ubud, Bali.

— a good reminder.  I hope you are doing what makes you happy.

Selamat Tinggal, Renée

Signs: Beer . . .

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In Ubud, Bali

Drinking responsibly, of course.

Aloha, Renée

 

Sign: Skinny People . . .

sign-skinny-peopleSign at the Black Pearl Restaurant on Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali.

(The grilled chicken dinner is under $4.00; the Grouper about $7.00 U.S.).

Enjoy, Renée

Monks on a bus and monkeys on the roof

Our Israeli friend Ruthi whom we’ve known since teaching in China just went home after a great experience teaching English to monks in Sri Lanka.

Piglet's House

Now I’ve got your attention. This had to be the title for this blog entry, especially after I saw the number of “likes” my monks on a bus photo got on Facebook. Here it is:

monks on a bus Travelling to school

Anyway, how to sum up this crazy experience of a month teaching Buddhist monks in Bhiksu University, Sri Lanka? Was it what we had expected? Of course not! Things never are. On the plane over to Sri Lanka we again looked at each other wondering whether we were totally insane. How bad could it be, we thought? We had spoken via Skype to the Reverend Mediyawe Piyarathana, the English lecturer in charge of the program, and we had been interviewed by Paul Ellmes of http://www.giveafigvolunteering.com, who also lived there in the city, and seemed to be a nice, friendly chap.  Just for a month….. what could go wrong, we thought. Well…

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Postcards from “the field”

Here’s a blog from an anthropologist  who knows Bali well. Thanks, Anne.

Anthropology, Indonesia, Bali : according to Graeme MacRae

Once upon a time anthropology was about what happened in faraway places. The way we found out about those places was by going there and hanging out and keeping our eyes and ears open. This was called “fieldwork” because the “field” we were studying was somewhere else. I’ve never been very comfortable with these words and now that the everything and everybody is moving everywhere I suspect the whole idea of “field(work)” may cause more problems than it is worth.

Nevertheless, all research happens somewhere, and when we are there we may experience everyday life in different ways than when we are “at home”. Sometimes, especially when I’ve just arrived, I write little stories which I send home to students, friends and family. What I think they reflect are a first, existential layer of the ethnographic experience that anthropology gets built out of.

Here are this years crop …

#1…

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Australia: Cairns – the Good and the Bad (Really Bad)

 

After World Sprints near Brisbane, crew mate Audrey and I flew off to explore.  We landed in Cairns – a popular destination for setting off to the Great Barrier Reef.  Barry, John, and I were there about 13 years ago and spent three days on a boat over the reef.  The experience was fantastic!  Tour boats – but in greater numbers – still go out.

The Cairns harbor has developed with an esplanade lined with outdoor cafés, up-scale restaurants, and galleries.  Now some boats serve great seafood feasts on board.  I barely recognized what had been a touristy, but small town on the mangrove coast.  We had fun then – and we had fun now.  This time, I learned more.

The Cairns Esplanade is especially wonderful: you’ll see playgrounds for children, fitness equipment for adults, two public swimming pools, bike and walking paths along the beautiful waterfront. You’ll even find quiet spots for anyone wanting to stop and strum a guitar.

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Cairns has birds and fish and marine life to enjoy.  If you are there at sunset, thousands of  birds swoop down to roost, somehow missing everyone – but not by much. 🙂

For me, one of the best experiences in Cairns was going to the Tjapukai Cultural Center.

It’s a 20-year old site, but Barry and I didn’t know about it when we were there years ago, and Audrey and I wouldn’t have found it this time except that Tom and Denise and some of our other Kihei paddlers had gone.   Tjapukai seems to be advertised only in conjunction with the crocodile feeding experience – which is not something I fancy.  When you go to Cairns, do the dives and zip lines and all the activities, but also find out about the rich history of the original people.  I highly recommend the Tjapukai cultural site.

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Tjapukai – the original people – a culture that has lasted 50,000 years!

The indigenous Aboriginals of Australia have one of the oldest living cultures on Earth.

However, when British Captain James Cook arrived on Australia’s shores in 1770, the country was  described  as uninhabited, despite the fact that an estimated 700,000 people were living  there.  Like many other colonized places, the original culture was not respected for its rich practices that allowed the local people to live in harmony with their land.

Tjapukai celebrates some of the knowledge and skills of the Aboriginals.  After a Cirque du Soleil light and sound show about the Aboriginal history, our friendly guide, who is proud of his heritage, shared some of their  practices.   We saw a “bayngga” – an underground oven – much like our Hawaiian “imu” that allows meat and vegetables to be steamed; we got to sample them later: delicious.  Also, much like our Hawaiian “ʻaumākua” spirit guides, Aboriginals have special names connected to nature.  ʻ”Dingo,” the young woman who helped us make bracelets out of seeds and other found objects and showed us symbols we could use in painting boomerangs, was given her name by her father.

Audrey and I also took the medicinal/herb tour and were introduced to plants that have helped Aboriginals survive and thrive in what we consider a very harsh land.  Australia, you probably know, is  infamous for its deadly animals, including the Box jellyfish,   Irukandji jellyfish, the European honey bee, bull sharks, Eastern brown snake, saltwater or estuarine crocodile, Sydney funnel web spider, and the Blue-ringed octopus.  The plants in Australia can kill you too.  But the Aboriginals have learned how to use them well.

For instance,  the Aboriginals make use of  the “Stinging Tree” or “Suicide Tree.”  If you get close to it and happen to touch it, your skin will burn for months!  Its stinging hairs cover the whole plant and deliver a potent neurotoxin.  Incredibly, the Aboriginals discovered that its fruit is edible if the stinging hairs that cover it are removed.

We were given pointers about the circular breathing necessary to create the haunting music of the didgeridoo.

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We got to try spear throwing – all animals were safe from us – even the stationary target!

The boomerang was fun too.  Again, we would have gone hungry if it were up to us to use a boomerang to hunt.

We were impressed by the Aboriginal skills, art, and knowledge.

The overal message of the Tjapukai was about the  Aboriginal expertise in living in harmony in a sustainable way – for over 50,000 years.  We saw the richness of their art and myths and saw examples of Aboriginals who have become famous in politics, art, music, sports, and business.

Art at the Tjapukai Cultural Center:

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We lived in harmony with our land for 50,000 years

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Our land was taken/ Our culture broken/  Our children stolen

Although the atrocities were mentioned, they weren’t the focus of the cultural center perhaps because many of the tourists coming to Tjapukai would not know the Aboriginal history at all.

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But – We are still here

Our Aboriginal guides at the Tjapukai are proud of their art, their culture, and their survival.

Going to the Tjapukai Cultural Center made me curious for more information.

I learned that Aboriginal culture in Australia has almost been destroyed.

Immigration to Australia was restricted almost exclusively to whites from the country’s founding in 1901 until the mid-1970s.

It wasn’t until 1962 that Indigenous Australians could vote in Australian federal elections. Queensland became the last state to remove restrictions on Indigenous voting in state elections in 1965.

 

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“Kanakas” on a sugar plantation in Cairns circa 1890 via  Britannica http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/australias-secret-history-as-a-white-utopia-1739916322

Colonial Australian ships scuttling from island to island brought back tens of thousands of people to toil on sugar and cotton plantations. Aboriginals and South Pacific Islanders were taken against their wills. Although some were released after three-year contracts, many went unpaid and toiled for decades.

Since the first colonists arrived, Aboriginal life has been difficult. “The Aborigines of Australia were faring little better than immigrants of color and slaves during the latter half of the 19th century. Sometimes hunted like animals, and often taken prisoner for minor offenses (both real and contrived), they were treated like chattel. . .

It wasn’t just people who identified as Australian who were trafficking in slavery during this period. Some of the most ruthless and successful enslavers were Americans who sold people (again under the guise of “indentured servitude”) to plantation owners who needed cheap or free labor in Fiji, Queensland, and New South Wales.”

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South Seas blackbirding ship named Fearless (John Oxley Library).  “Blackbirding” refers to the practice of coercing through trickery and kidnapping people to work as laborers.

Another Australian practice against its Indigenous people involves kidnapping the children.

See the documentary/drama: The Rabbit Proof Fence that tells the true story of three aboriginal girls who are forcibly taken from their families in 1931 to be trained as domestic servants as part of an official Australian government policy. They make a daring escape and embark on an epic 1,500 mile journey to get back home – following the rabbit-proof fence that bisects the Australian continent – with the authorities in hot pursuit.

Go to: https://www.google.com/#q=the+rabbit+proof+fence

Between the 1890s and 1970s, thousands of Aboriginal children were kidnapped from their parents by the Australian government and religious missions.  Why?  The two major reasons seem to be: for cheap labor and to breed out the black! 😦 😦    Many [Most?] of those children suffered terrible abuse and  never saw their parents or relatives again.

Well, you might say, at least it stopped in the 1970s.

However, according to a 2014 news report in The Guardian, “The mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents continues unabated” –

“In 2012 the co-ordinator general of remote services for the Northern Territory, Olga Havnen, was sacked when she revealed that almost A$80m (£44m) was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children compared with only A$500,000 (£275,000) on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me: “The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it’s likely they won’t see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there’d be an international outcry” . . .

Today, the theft of Aboriginal children – including babies taken from the birth table – is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. ”

For the whole article, go to –https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/21/john-pilger-indigenous-australian-families

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Sunset from the Cairns Esplanade – it looks really good

Australia may be a good place to live or visit if you are white, much like in the U.S.

However, its Indigenous people still suffer, and the future does not seem good for them.

But, it’s easy to criticize other countries.

Wherever we are, we can celebrate diversity; we can learn from each other.    So, when in Cairns, be sure to go to Tjapukai; you will have fun while learning about the Aboriginal culture that has lived in harmony with the land for 50,000 years!

And if you are not in Cairns, look around.  Inequality and injustice abound.

Who seems different from you?  Find out about that person and his/her culture – then repeat.  You will enjoy an enriched life, and the norm can/does change.

We are all a part of the whole.

Sad but hopeful, Renée

Costa Rica: Snapshots – The Friends School

At the Monteverde Friend’s School, the library is on the honor system for checking out books, and it is open 24/7!  It’s an example of how terrific this K-12 bilingual, Quaker based school is in Costa Rica.

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Quaker school library.

“Surrounded by Nature, Supported by Love”

“Nestled in the cloud forest community of Monteverde, Costa Rica, the Monteverde Friends School was founded over 60 years ago by Quakers who left the United States in search of a country and community that supported their peaceful principles. Today, our school continues to promote the universal values of peace, love and respect in the context of a challenging bilingual education and a sense of community,” notes the website <http://mfschool.org>.

 

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This solar oven is where students and staff heat up their lunches

They have a garden too.

We loved seeing this busy school with students and teachers learning together in a beautiful atmosphere.  We felt the love of learning in the Monteverde Friends School.

Go visit Escuela de los Amigos when you are in Monteverde.

Pura Vida, Renée

 

 

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