Saturday, April 20, 2013

Change.... it'll do you good.

Moving back to Canada, my homeland, last November was daunting.  I accepted the reasons why at the time, feared the challenges that were looming, but also tried to envision what it could all look (metaphorically) like in a perfect world.  Inevitably, the acceptance turned into an embracement of the necessary, the fear turned into determination to overcome obstacles, and the vision is slowly coming true. Its funny how we THINK we choose the paths we take in life. Where, from my experience, often those paths become so fluidly based on an unconscious metaphysical level of choice and direction, melded with fate, the spirits and the fortunate or unfortunate invisible puppeteering fingers of life, that we are truly at the disposal of a revolving nature vs nurture debate that has no right answer or preparation pack.  The best we can do is to be honest, realistic and again, acknowledge, accept and embrace that who we are ... and who we could to will be tomorrow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


As the New Year evolves I am beginning to settle into my new surroundings, home and city, with a sense of caution as well as anticipation weaving through my tumbling emotions. The comfort of "knowing" my environment to the depth that I do is very satisfying after the challenges of the past 4.5 years abroad. But the readjustment is not as easy as some may think. I am no longer the wide-eyed adventurer I was in 2008. I'm wiser, humbler, quieter, and certainly more pensive than I could have imagined. I've moved on from the naive accumulator of experience, to a point were I now embracingly accept my most valued quote to describe existence "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" ~ Socrates, 470BC - 399BC. Enjoy the Season.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Return to whence one came....

So I have finally returned back to the land of prayer flags and poinsettias, and can not say enough about how the Canadian experience has helped remind me of how good the West has got it. Although it took about 3 weeks to overcome reverse culture-shock, and be able to walk into dollar stores without suffering from anti-capitalistic anxiety attacks, the overall 6 week adventure was fabulous in being able to spend quality time with family, friends and old acquaintances alike!!! Not to mention, basking in the true luxury of breathing fresh air, eating nutrient-rich and diverse foods, while drinking safe, clean and purified water. Alas, it was also the joy of my surroundings the made this trip very cleansing and rejuvenating (and all accessible right outside my families front door)...

Oh, and just to compound my anti-capitalist fears, it came as quite a shock to see that our national animals are also now buying into corporate media influences... (yes that is a television satellite dish on a random beaver dam near Kaladar, Ontario....).  Hope the reception isn't "dampened" by the housing location... hee hee couldn't resist the pun...

Now back to reality...and the impending risk of typhoid and cholera that is inevitable this time of year in this part of the world.... ;-}.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prayer Flags, Poinsettia's... & Shiva?

As the seasonal monsoon pours in on this very day, I am heartfelt to enjoy the cooling effect of soft and steady rains, yet reflective on the more common skyline of white fluffy clouds and clear blue skies.  I will be leaving Nepal for the bulk of the hot and wet season to visit the closest of family and friends back in my homeland of "Labatt's Blue & Beavers" :->. Only too anxious to return in 6 weeks time and learn of how the ongoing political crisis has unfolded and what challenges await my colleagues and community in the Far West of the country. Until then the colour and spirituality of the nation will be not forgotten...

Monday, May 7, 2012

What the world doesn't know....

Have you ever wondered how desperately challenging any given moment of the day is for someone else in the world? Have you ever thought about how many stories of oppression, violence and ignorance you are missing because of the preferential politics of your local media? As someone living within a current situation that hasn't made any news outside of the country, I can honestly say that you are missing lots!!!!

I live in a Far Western Terai (flat, hot, southern border with India) District of Nepal. Far away from the capital, Kathmandu, and much closer to the Indian capital of Delhi toward the vast rocky terrain of Kashmir and Pakistan than the rest of Nepal. This region of Nepal, because of it's separation from the centre, has been left to evolve within its own pace and up against limited support from the political and economic sources to the east. Because of this, politics and economics are deeply engrained within a social/cultural Indigenous identity that speaks its mind and acts without regard for the direction of its Kathmandu associates. Their struggle for recognition and promotional support has been ongoing battle and one that speaks very clearly to those of us who live here.

Now, I am not going to go into the fascinating recent history of Nepal, but it is safe to say, that since the decade long civil insurgency ended in 2005, this country has been without an official constitution, let alone stable government that has  withstood resignation of top officials for nothing less than 12 months. However, on May 28th, 2012, that could change. The current government could still be in power, and the signing of an "official" constitution, the first ever federal democratic constitution to be written for this nation, is to be signed. One might deduce however, that these next few weeks are therefore heavily steeped in political maneuvering and strategic action by all factions of society, and especially those in the Far West who want to have a voice within a government agenda that will affect the whole of the nation for the foreseeable future.

Possibly then, it is not surprising to hear that where I live we have been gripped by a 12 day bandha (or strike) across all of the far western districts. What this means is that groups of protestors (anywhere from a few hundred to ten's of thousands) march along the main market road demanding (and violently at times enforcing) that all shops, offices, schools, etc. remain closed. These groups also barricade the roads so that no motorized vehicle can move. There were some overnight buses and motorcyclists that managed to move out of the region last week, but that has recently stopped due to the escalation of rock pelleting to drivers/passenger windows and then the resulting burning of said motorbikes and buses before people make it to the district border. Purified water is no longer available, and propane for gas stoves is dwindling. Supplies, such as toilet paper, carbonated drinks, coffee, any canned goods, etc. are no longer available, while medicine is also becoming in short supply. Just as we in this region of Nepal can't get out, neither can things get in.

So far our personal safety has not been compromised, but as the deadline of the 28th looms, and the escalation of limited patience is noticeable amongst the protesting groups, our status could become quite precarious. Its not that I want to sound too ominous, for when you live in one of the poorest nations in the world, the loss of some limited goods at this stage is not a big deal. But as people continue to feel the pressure of these enforced strikes, much like we Canadians witnessed with the Oka crisis of 1990 (even though that conflict did make international news), tension leads to violence, which leads to victims of the violence....

Looks like I'll have some more interesting stories to match the challenges of last year's Egyptian revolution to share during this coming summer's visits abroad....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Image vs Vision

When you experience something, someone, somewhere for the first time, what thoughts do you draw upon to measure the experience? Where do these thoughts find their roots: in experience, in socially-learned behaviour offered from family, school, religious community, neighbourhood, local media, etc...through the only lens of learned knowledge that you have uniquely developed from your earliest days on the planet.

When we look, engage, assess any experience for the first time, we bring our biases, our judgements, our expectations, our learned knowledge of what and how we think things "should" and/or"known [in our minds]" to be to that assessment.  And those who might offer their "un-bias" opinions, [unless otherwise cognizant of their biases and judgements in relation to that which is outside of their learned experiences], will find themselves shifting into a prescribed response which, is at its root oppressive, ignorant and patronizingly superior in deliverance.

I am currently reading Greg Mortenson's Stones into Schools. A recently controversial biographic tale (and follow up book to Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea) about Mortenson's experiences with building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the last 15 years. Both books have become controversial because of the challenges that have come about to the stories accuracy. Yet, the author makes his shortcomings very clear to the reader in both books, let alone describes the nature of the personal challenges working in that part of the modern world.  Now, I'm certainly not in a position to argue the legitimacy of the whole story, but what I can offer, as someone who is currently working in education within the Far Western Districts of Nepal, and most recently in Egypt, that there are realities within many stretches of the world that can not be judged based on the lived experiences of non-travelled North American's or Europeans. Indeed, these audiences should not be in any position to judge the legitimacy of the story, unless they have lived and worked for an extended period of time in the areas which Mortenson has engaged. The subtleties and nuances of all cultures are labyrinthian in nature. To be ignorant of how your learned knowledge has come about and in not having shared in a lived history for any length of time, is not an excuse to super-impose another "standard" upon those that are "different". To judge an "image" based on your perceived "vision" without accepting to embracing difference, is in my opinion to continue the sins of the colonial fathers.

I tip my hat to Mortenson for his attempt to share the far reaches of a 21st century Pakistan and Afghanistan with the world, in so much as the raw determination and persistance that many people, who are faced with phenomenal challenges of survival, endure to empower their kin while relishing in ancestral negotiating patterns embracing progress and their civility.  The "images" he has encountered were offered, again in my opinion, through a "vision" of humble acceptance and passionate conviction to embrace difference. This message is something that all believers AND doubters of the story should learn and act upon.

Children of Nepal.... by what "vision" do you measure the image of their faces?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Progress without colonization

Upon returning from my first adventure to Thailand, my 23rd country in 16 years of international travel, I sit inspired by this peninsular South-East Asian nation. Although I knew very little, historically, politically, and socio-culturally about this tropical gem of a country prior to arrival, I was at once in awe of their obvious level of infrastructural development (roads, transportation, electrical and water capabilities), accessibility and diversity of goods and food products, while holding on to the true nature of the commodity-profit theoretical equation: if it's a basic living condition (food, water, transportation, housing) and cheap (in the global economic dollar-pound-euro scheme of things) most people will purchase at random and often. A definitive role-model society if I ever saw one. Again, compared to the global scheme of things... and especially having lived the last 3 years in Egypt and Nepal. The historic and modern sites memorable, while the country-side and sea-view landscape overwhelming picturesque. Thailand is truly a nation that lives up to being a major tourist hot-spot for the modern traveller.

Personally, I don't know why more South-East Asian nations don't take note of how this small, but diverse nation has maintained its political constitutional monarchy (that is highly praised if not challenged subliminally every now and then), while progressing into the 21st century as a modern nation with much opportunity and forward-thinking in its major grounding arenas: economics (i.e., the control/sale/distribution of the national lottery), education (the diversity and quality of government and private institutions), health (quality and standards with international support), compounded with the acceptance of diverse religious, cultural, racial, linguistic and gender/sexual diversity (I know I have never seen the number of non-gender or ambiguous gender identity individuals in any one experience of a country in all of my travelling experiences, let alone country of origin, it was breathtakingly wonderful!!!!!!!!! let alone freeing).

What more can I say.... Visit Thailand before the rest of the world catches on (and the Thai government hikes up the price of the adventure)...

 Yes...this is one of many "piled high food stands" often filled with various protein/meat products such as these dried/deep fried fish/seafood products....