Tag Archives: travel

Blurry Guate Snapshot

27 Dec


Meet Sandra from Antigua, who sweeps

While she speaks, 29 and widowed

Her husband shot 2 years ago

In his car while delivering electronics

From Mexico to Guatemala

She lives with her 3 children

Forgotten by her  husbands employer

See Polo, a Garifuna musician,

From Livingston, “We are not

Jamaican nor African, know your

History!” he shouts.

“No one sees Garifuna in Livingston

We have no representation,

The Latinos outnumber us.”

Watch Lorenzo an expert on every

Jungle plant and animal

Received an education up to age 10

Lived through the brutal civil war

“Man is savage, only the forests and animals have

Nobility and that is why I protect them.”

Nature: his redemption and solace.

Sit with Ronaldo, a guide in Carmelita,

“The jungle raised me” he says

“But I can’t get a job anymore as a

Jungle guide to El Mirador because I lack

A special ID no longer issued from the

Cooperative.” The cooperative- a racket,

That stole the gum, the chate, and

Now the tourism business from the locals.

Share a beer with Pedro and Carlos

Farmers from a border village town

“We take tomatoes  to Mexico

We cross without papers

we know the routes” they say

“ Once we deliver, we take a plane back”

Drug lords move faster than the Evangelicals.

Then see the two who travel

As ‘world travelers’ or tourists

They wander from Monte Rico to

Rio Dulce, Pakaya to Xela

From Ceiba forests to Tikal

And waken to the pain that has

Shaken a country – a people,

And incomprehensibly

Perceive themselves to

Have understood it all.



GLADIADOR BORGHESE

4 Nov


Black threaded roofs

Hover over this city’s streets

Rows of stalls suffocate every empty space

Transient vendors or daily squatters appear

As white hair sprouting on an aging man

Recycled yogurt plastic containers

Line the table of this cooks stall

Nopal, beef, and mushrooms tacos

Prepared for a make shift life or lunch

Green and red chile to enliven the

Senses or the suffered soul

Sit under the immense Sunday

Cathedral mass cold shadow

Of horrors long forgotten

Feel the crisp altitude breeze

Full of repressed smog resentment

Watch the Zocalo street vendors

Fearful for their livelihood

Cram goods into huge black plastic

They wrap and run

Police lights flash the horizon

Descend to metro Balderas depths

Of bent back postures,

Breath strained and half shut,

Stuffed metro riders begin a

Punk-rock slam dance in silence

Walk the neighborhood line divide

Between Roma Norte and Doctores

Sit in the Pendulum cafe and hear

The French man boast that he

Lives on the Tamaulipas of Paris.

Scalped skull morbid headlines

Blood, and bodies torn apart

That happens in the North” they say

This is Mexico City”

There is no violence here”

Except a languid one 

Perhaps a more lasting one?

Al-Qahira

12 Feb

 

 

CAIRO – SOME IDEAS OR THOUGHTS THAT HAVE MADE AN IMPRESSION.  BELOW ARE PEOPLE WHO ONCE STEPPED FOOT IN CAIRO. ENJOY!

IBN BATTUTA 1304-1369, A BERBER FROM TANGIER, MOROCCO, WHO TRAVELED THE WORLD AND LATER WROTE ABOUT IT IN HIS BOOK RIHLA. HERE IS WHAT HE HAD TO SAY ABOUT CAIRO:

I arrived … at the city of Cairo, mother of cities … mistress of broad provinces and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendor, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the stopping-place of feeble and strong. … She [Cairo] surges as the waves of the sea with her throngs of folk and can scarce contain them...”

AND THEN THERE IS THE REMARKABLE PHILOSOPHER, RABBI, AND SCHOLAR MAIMONIDES  (1135-1204), WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AND SERVED AS THE PHYSICIAN TO THE SULTAN. HERE IS AN EXCERPT FROM HIS TIME IN CAIRO:

I dwell at Fostat, and the sultan resides at Cairo [about a mile ­and­ a­ half away]…. My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed, I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing. Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed multitude who await the time of my return.

Maimonides astounds, not only for this deep thought,but that he wrote so many  of his commentaries and essays while on the run, fleeing from persecution.   Many quote him and yet don’t know him. His is the famous “give a man a fish and you feed him a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Here are his progressive thoughts on giving:

“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty; assist the reduced fellow man, either by a considerable gift or a sum of money or by teaching him a trade or by putting him in the way of business so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding out his had for charity. This is the highest step and the summit of charity’s golden ladder.”

THEN WE HAVE RABBI IBN BEN EZRA, THE GREAT POET, MATHMETICIAN, GRAMMARIAN AND WRITER 1089-1164, WHO LIVED IN CAIRO AROUND 1109. HE LIVED, TAUGHT, AND WROTE ALSO WHILE LIVING IN EXILE AND WANDERING THE WORLD. HERE IS HIS POEM:

I HAVE A GARMENT

I have a garment which is like a sieve

Through which girls sift barley and wheat.

In the dead of night I spread it out like a tent

And a thousand stars pierce it with their gleams.

Sitting inside, I see the moon and the Pleiades

And on a good night, the great Orion himself.

I get awfully tired of counting all the holes

Which seem to me like the teeth of many saws.

A piece of thread to sew up all the other threads

Would be, to say the least, superfluous.

If a fly landed on it with all his weight,

The little idiot would hang by his foot, cursing.

Dear God, do what you can to mend it.

Make me a mantle of praise from these poor rags

Translated by Robert Mezey

VAN

27 Jan

Van—no, not the boxy vehicle we drag children or drum-sets around in, but the city cupped by the Zagros mountains and resting on the side of the great Lake Van. Van is the city center of Kurdish culture. Hidden in the eastern part of Turkey unknown to most tourists–unknown even to most Turks – it beckons. The beauty of its setting gave it the title “Pearl of the East” even in antiquity. Now a town of about half a million, it is today often imagined to be as conservative politically and culturally as, say, Erzurum, about 240 km  to the northwest. In fact, visitors are surprised by Van’s modernity and relative openness. Strolling though the city streets, one cannot help but notice the throngs of people walking about—women with shopping bags in hand or pushing strollers, men proudly wearing their hats, women displaying their hair or in scarves. In Van, one is meant to see and be seen, and the city exudes tolerance. The immaculate cobblestone streets display the cleanliness of its people, and the sidewalks are repeatedly swept throughout the day; restaurants follow suit. Famous for its breakfast culture, even in the late morning Van offers plenty of opportunities for eating. It is easy to find a spot and sample the local delicious honey with buffalo cream (kaymak), hot flat bread, and tea or cay (chai). Add to that feta cheese seasoned with thyme, hard boiled eggs, olives, and peppers, and that is a true Kurdish breakfast. The Seval Cahlate Salonu on Yeshil street is a favorite. Later in the day, a chat with the locals might open up several topics of conversation – Kurdish sovereignty, free press, and the future of the Kurdish people in Turkey. The new government has been listening to Kurdish complaints, and last year opened up the only Kurdish TV station. But the Kurdish station which broadcasts from Brussels is still a favorite.

Van is a dynamic but ancient place, and its long history dates back to the Urartians (c. 900 BC). The remains of an Urartian castle are still to be found on a hill in the southern part of the city overlooking the ruins of a town occupied continuously from its founding to the 20th century—a span of some three thousand years. A chronicle of the city would have to mention, at the least, Alexander the Great, the Armenian Kingdom, the Romans, the Sassanids, the Byzantines, the Seljucks and finally the Ottomans and Turks. Ancient Van was, however, destroyed by wars and invasions from 1915 – 1920. The devastation was so extreme that only a few church walls and two minarets remain standing amidst the rubble.  Still, a stroll through the ancient city rewards the imagination with a sense of how life must have been.

New Van was built 5 km to the north of the ancient city, and is as modern as most other Turkish cities. The locals know how to have a good time, and many remind their visitors that beer and wine were created in this area, and drink may have something to do with their openness. Night falls and the music strums out of every other building; Turkish and Kurdish songs are in the air. In the bars couples sit on one side, and single men and women on another. Still, they all mingle once the music has moved them to dance. The night lasts long in Van.

A traveler in eastern Turkey or the Middle east generally cannot help but ponder the long struggle and divide between the East and the West, but at least in progressive, open Van, the East does not really seem so “Other,” and the West no longer so reassuring.


city talk

27 Jan

ABRAHAMIC MILK

Cream colored ashlars adorn these ancient city streets,

Sidewalks of silk and perfumed linens fill the horizon

Seekers of gold or prayer beads,

All find what they need

Even a mosque and church straddle one another

And atheists are invited in for tea.

 

A city of gentlemen, and refinement.

From Alexander to Flaubert. Who has not come here?

In these crowded streets, strangers glance,

Eyes dialogue, and passions collide.

A darting heart that fears,

Is drowned by the Grand Mosques

Bosom of receptive serenity.

Here a father still rules.

 

Fried felafel fills the air,

Pita with hummus to go,

No one feels the hunger.

The honey coated baklava,

Handed to me for free,

Ahlan wasahlan….welcome to our city.

This is Aleppo.

 

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