Recently in Jamaica, the youth-led advocacy group Help JA Children launched a locally-designed application for BlackBerry. The app, named CARS (Child Abuse Reporting System) is the first in the Caribbean and the second such application in the world to be approved by Research in Motion for listing in its Blackberry App World. More on this in a later post.
We know that young people love their mobile technology… Here’s another great social use for teens from South Africa. You can read the article by Tania Page, and watch a couple of videos on Al Jazeera English here: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/africa/south-africa-youth-tap-gender-app?utm_content=blogs&utm_campaign=Trial4&utm_source=twitter&utm_term=socialflow&utm_medium=tweet
A gender violence game doesn’t exactly scream fun, but it’s proving a hit with thousands of South African teenagers.
It’s a generation hungry for new knowledge – knowledge many in the western world simply take for granted.
It’s revealing that despite 25 years at the United Nations Development Programme it wasn’t until Anne Shongwe, the app’s developer, actually started asking young Africans about their perceptions of the opposite sex and how they coped in a sexual relationship that she realized education was the key.
Shongwe left the UNDP determined to break free of its bureaucracy and forge her own path by addressing gender based violence among young people.
But it was a big challenge to go from a good salary, with lots of support, to a start-up. Especially, as she freely admits, as she’s not that technically minded.
But she hired people with the right skills and a few years later she’s an award winner.
After winning the AppCircus 2011 competition in South Africa with Moraba, Shongwe was selected as one of the top 20 finalists to pitch her app to a live audience at the Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona, Spain.
She did so alongside Ghanaian app developer Robert Lamptey of Saya and Ugandan app developer Christine Ampaire of Mafuta Go!
They were the first African app developers to pitch at the awards. Ampaire’s Mafuta Go! won the Ringmaster’s Award. Her app, inspired by Uganda’s petrol crisis, lets users find the nearest petrol station with the cheapest prices.
Shongwe and her team at Afroes have a major challenge looming. She’s returning to her native Kenya to develop an app to prevent young people from being manipulated into causing trouble at next year’s elections.
The last ballot was marred by violence and she says it’s believed a lot of the trouble makers were youths who’d been paid off or talked into taking to the streets.
So, the app is meant to educate them so they can identify when someone’s trying to use them for their own gain.
And this story from Zambia from the great organization Room to Read gives us a lesson on the importance of literacy… We should go to all lengths possible to ensure our children can read – and enjoy reading, too. Lack of resources is no excuse. Here is a great quote on the website from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:
“Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, is essential to development and health, and opens the way to democratic participation and active citizenship.”
Chimbundire Basic School in Katete never had a library, but its teachers and administrators didn’t let the lack of resources get in the way of ensuring the highest possible quality education for their young students. With only a few books, the school implemented a reading program once per week, and held story sessions under a tree on the school grounds.
When our team in Zambia first visited the school and saw the enthusiasm for reading of the school’s 1,000 students, we knew we wanted to partner with Chimbundire Basic to build a library. With more books and trained librarians, we thought, imagine what they could do!
For this project we would have to start from scratch. An average class size of 114 meant that there was no existing space to spare for bookshelves, so we prepared to build a brand new structure that would both house a library and provide additional storage for the school.
While our team got to work on the building design, the community leaders in Katete met to discuss how they could commit a significant portion of the project costs (as is required by Room to Read), knowing that their extremely rural setting did not provide many resources.
In the end it was decided that each village served by the school would take an entire day molding bricks for the new library. The next day, the neighboring village would do the same, and the rotation would continue until enough bricks were made to finish the project.
After the building was complete, Room to Read provided brightly-colored children’s books to stock the shelves along with chairs and desks for library activities. Then we conducted training (the first of several to take place over the next three years) for three teachers, a school administrator and one member of the community on library management skills like book leveling and community engagement.
In the months since Chimbundire Basic got its first-ever library, things have started to change. More committed than ever to ensuring all children in their community gain a solid foundation in reading, the school’s teachers have begun to take time out of classroom instruction to conduct reading activities in the library. “It is so lovely to have our reading program conducted there,” says the school’s head teacher.
A weekly library period for each class to read and check out books has been implemented school-wide, and the facility remains open before and after school so that students can enjoy the new books in their free time as well. Some of the students still like to take books out to read under the old “library tree,” but they no longer have to.
Learn more about our work in Zambia.
http://www.roomtoread.org (Room to Read website)
http://www.theelders.org (The Elders – independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights, including Kofi Annan)
http://www.google.com/literacy/ (The Literacy Project: Google)
Well, here I was at the “home from home” that is Trench Town Reading Centre – just over the road from the Trench Town Cultural Yard, where Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and others spent their formative years.
And the drums reverberated from walls to ceiling and back again in the Centre’s community classroom. A sharp crack, a deep roar, a rumbling. The tight midday air tingled. Thunder rumbled further uptown.
We could hear the children’s voices faintly underneath. They were sitting on the floor.
Later they stood. Later they drummed. Later they sang. Later they danced…
The power of the African drum.
For more about the Trench Town Reading Centre, visit the website at http://www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com/ or join their Facebook page at Friends of the Trench Town Reading Centre. Email: email@example.com. Or contact me for further information and to discuss ways you can help! And for more photos of this session, please check my Flickr photo stream on the right or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bananakatie/.
Yesterday, all eyes were turned on Africa – and this mighty continent rarely makes the headlines – with the fifty-year sentencing of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Mr. Taylor was charged with aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone. There is undoubtedly a sense of relief and of “moving on” from the years when Taylor served as the 22nd President of Liberia (1997-2003).
Educated in the United States and trained as a guerrilla in Libya, Mr. Taylor was responsible for many horrors – including two periods of civil war in the country of his birth, in 1989 and 1999. When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf requested Taylor’s extradition from Nigeria, where he was exiled, Taylor tried to escape to Cameroon, but was arrested and transferred to the United Nations Mission in 2003. In 2006 Taylor pleaded not guilty to the eleven crimes he was eventually found guilty of in the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The crimes included rape, murder, acts of terrorism, enlisting child soldiers and enslavement.
So, justice has been seen to be done and, despite some mixed reactions in Liberia itself, Sierra Leone has greeted the sentence with joy. The rest of the world sees this as a stern warning to would-be dictators and despots, wherever they may be. We know the stories of blood diamonds, amputations and other horrendous human rights violations. Now, can both countries take a deep breath, swallow hard and start to move on from that era of pain and trauma?
In Liberia, a little hope comes from a perhaps unlikely source. Like modern-day gypsies, surfers roam the globe, surfboards tucked under their bronzed arms, seeking new places to ride the waves. And Liberia has gorgeous, largely unspoiled golden beaches blessed with deep, deliciously rolling waves. Here is a blog post from a few days ago from the town of Robertsport - only about ten miles from the border with Sierra Leone - which brings good news. A small community-based organization, Robertsport Community Works, founded with money from overseas, not only encourages surfing but has also engaged in income-earning and environmental projects in the area.
More than a decade after wartime aid workers left surfboards with a few eager young men in Robertsport, Liberia has been declared a “surfing nation” by the International Surfing Association. This official designation means that Liberian surfers are now eligible for ISA support, including contest support and scholarships, through the association’s wide network.
Our thanks to partner Surf Resource Network for helping to make this longstanding dream a reality. We are certain that this important step will benefit Liberian surfers as they promote the sport and as they seek out wider recognition in the region. This official designation will also raise the profile of surfing in Liberia and further attract surf tourists interested in sustainable tourism that directly benefits the local community.
At Robertsport Community Works, we have been mentoring and supporting local Liberian surfers since 2009 by co-organizing the annual Surf Liberia Contest, helping to connect surfboard and gear donations to surfers in need, and mentoring surfers to finish secondary school and move on to university or vocational training.
Congratulations to all Liberian surfers and to those working hard to raise the profile of surfing in Liberia!
Related articles and links
Charles Taylor sentenced to 50 years (guardian.co.uk)
Charles Taylor’s heavy sentence a stark warning to world leaders (theglobeandmail.com)
Joy in Sierra Leone, mixed feelings in Liberia after Taylor sentencing (theglobeandmail.com)
http://www.surfliberia.com/ Surf Liberia
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8092112.stm: In pictures: Surfing in Liberia
The balmy, sweet weather that Bob Marleysang about (which song, Marleyites?) is here in Kingston, and to celebrate the Petchary’s husband had a large branch chopped off our splendid guango tree this week. It will take a while, but he will be forgiven. At least it’s not the seething hot time of the year when sunlight hurts.
We need some sweetness, as the news grows more disturbing every day. Between riots/civil war in “the cradle of the Arab world,” a presidential hopeful who prides himself on his ignorance, protesters getting hauled off by men in black…and on the island of Jamaica the bitching and bickering gets louder every day as we all teeter on the edge of a general election. And on the environmental front things are, inevitably, grim and grimmer. To quote the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, the “animal walking around with a gold horn” is walking around no more. The IUCN has declared the Western Black Rhinoceros officially extinct. As if that’s not depressing enough, the Northern White Rhino may also be extinct, it adds. And the Javanand Sumatran Rhinos are also on the brink.
And why did the rhino have a gold horn, one asks? Because ignorant human beings (largely the Chinese and Vietnamese and yes I am pointing fingers, it’s well-known) rhino horn is considered to have wonderful medicinal properties. And oh (of course), it’s an aphrodisiac! And therefore much sought after. So a magnificent animal is killed by poachers just so that a Chinese/Vietnamese man (or woman, perhaps) can have a more exciting time in the bedroom. It’s a sad world, isn’t it. The Chinese have, to their credit, since condemned the use of rhino horn and taken it out of the book of Chinese medicine. But generations of believers in the stuff, made of the same substance that makes hair and nails (keratin), will go on believing, and poachers will go on poaching. Hence the demise of the Western Black Rhinoceros.
And hey, in South Africa they are killing rhinos like there’s no tomorrow – 341 so far this year, to be precise – to spice up those Vietnamese love lives. This is the worst year ever for sawing off rhinos’ horns and leaving them to bleed to death. Which is what they do, by the way. Back in Jamaica, the illustrious and always-focused Environmental Foundation of Jamaica held its annual lecture recently, a great success. The topic? ”On the Brink of Extinction: Saving Jamaica’s Vanishing Species.” Dr. Byron Wilson, a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies‘ Department of Life Sciences, covered such areas as “recent and current threats from the human species” – yes, that most dangerous of all. Other dangers include climate change, “too many people and too little land,” invasive species, environmental pollution, and the list goes on. It’s a wonder anything manages to survive. Lord knows Jamaicanhumans themselves are not doing too well at it.
Our one and only native land mammal, the Jamaican Hutia(Coney) is endangered, along with twelve bird species. But amphibians and reptiles are in an especially precarious position – indeed there is a “global amphibian crisis,” with one third of the world’s amphibians threatened with extinction. The lecture in booklet form is available online, and if you would like a copy I will gladly email it to you, or you can find it on their website. It is gloomy (we can’t possibly reclaim our turtle population, it seems – all we can do is protect the few nesting beaches remaining on the island) – but it’s a must-read. So where do we go from here, or is it downhill? Here I am, trying to end on an optimistic note… The South Africans seem to think that legalizing the rhino horn trade might help. This seems, at this stage of the game, a risky strategy. What can work, though, is captive breeding. This is actually happening with the Jamaican Iguana now and some have been reintroduced in the wild, recently.
On the other side of the earth, the Przewalski’s Horse – such a beautiful creature, which was once extinct in the wild like our departed rhino, has been bred in captivity, and reintroduced onto the windswept plains of Mongolia, its native habitat, recently.
A huge round of applause for the Chinese, there!
Meanwhile, my dear Jamaicans, let’s start caring about the small, sometimes slimy and not particularly beautiful amphibians and reptiles that we share this small island with. Instead of taking a stick to them, let’s live and let live.
I love my ground lizards, rummaging around in the leaves on a hot day. They are grouchy sometimes… but cool. And they are playing their part.
- Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Medical myth is dooming the rhino to extinction (independent.co.uk)
- Chinese Medicine Driving Rhinos to Extinction (livescience.com)
- On Wikipedia, the Western Black Rhino Moves from ‘Is’ to ‘Was’ (dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com)
- http://www.efj.org.jm/ Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
- http://www.iucn.org/ International Union for the Conservation of Nature
2011 hasn’t got off to an impressive start, has it. There are floods (Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka), famine (Kenya, parts of India), and indeed pestilence (Haiti, a few African countries). There have also been large quantities of birds falling out of the sky, and dead fishes floating side by side on the surface of lakes and rivers. All very Biblical, and very discouraging. And no, the Petchary does not believe in “the end of days.”
Let’s look at the famine (food) part of it, to start with. We can move on to the floods, pestilence and showers of dead birds in another post, perhaps. Today, a president, who has ruled his country (Tunisia) for as long as our adult son has been on this earth, fled from the power he so tenaciously clung to, leaving behind burnt barricades, bleeding and masked protesters and streets filled with the acrid scent of anger and pain.
How did the Tunisia crisis start? Well, there is a food connection. An unemployed young man was selling vegetables without a permit, and set fire to himself in protest. The first demonstrators shouted the slogan, “Bread, water, Ben Ali out.”
Of course, the protests took a political turn. And, as so often is the case, the high price of food was closely linked to dissatisfaction – essentially, anger – with the government in charge. Reuters reports the chant of Tunis protesters, ”We don’t want bread or anything else, we just want him to leave…After that we will eat whatever we have to.”
And, naturally, the gloomy specter of unemployment and lack of opportunity – social, educational and economic – shuffles around in the background, in shabby doorways. The dark shadow taps the young, eager-faced students on the shoulder, reminding them, “I’m here for you. Whenever you’re ready, here I am.”
Now food riots are contagious. The price of food (and perhaps, oil) can sometimes have the same effect as tossing a can of gasoline on an already smoldering bonfire. There have been riots in Tunisia’s close neighbor, Algeria, and now down into Jordan. Last September, there were food riots in Mozambique, where huge price increases were sparked by catastrophic fires in the great wheat fields of Russia during a tremendous heatwave.
Many developing countries, including little Jamaica, are highly dependent on imported wheat. We may have to change, and start producing more cassava flour, yam flour, breadfruit flour. Why not? The Petchary watched a TV report this week about how Indian cuisine is suffering because of the high price of onions. Well, guess what… find a substitute. We will all have to adapt, and we’d better start now. In Jamaica, we can stop moaning about the price of salt fish, too. It’s an anachronism, a colonial hangover that is just too expensive. Find something else.
Yes, we use words like “catastrophic,” “crisis” and “chaos” with increasing frequency, don’t we. Crisis is really sadly over-worked, and we try to find other words, like… well, there’s no word like crisis. It sums it all up.
Meanwhile, in Jamaica, there is the scare of food poisoning – which may seem trivial compared to the riots, but is also sometimes rooted in poverty and deprivation. After the death of an Argentine tourist at a Christmas wedding celebration, apparently from saltpeter liberally used instead of salt, a rash of ackee poisoning has broken out. Warnings are going out (as if we didn’t know) that ackees must be fully and naturally opened before they are consumed. But people are desperate, picking them when they are not open and therefore poisonous, and selling them. And again, desperate thieves are busy stealing sweet peppers and other crops from the fields of the long-suffering, industrious farmers, and selling the food with the residue of more poison – freshly sprayed chemicals – still on them.
Food and want, going hand in hand.
The Maputo riots last September were a direct result of climate change. Fire caused by high temperatures is a destroyer of crops. Floods caused by an over-enthusiastic La Nina in Australia and Brazil (yes, both the same cause) also destroy crops. So do the numerous hurricanes and storms that afflict the planet daily. Let’s bear this in mind, too.
Adaptation is the name of the game. Which means: get used to change; roll with the punches; make changes in our lifestyle; leave the cultural hangups behind; become self-reliant; think outside the box; prepare for the worst, even if we don’t know what that is.
A U.S. professor who visited Jamaica last year, an Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Fellow named Gerry Galloway, made a simple statement: ”The only thing we know for certain about climate change is that it is uncertain. The future is uncertain.”
Let’s get used to it, people.
- Sri Lanka floods hamper food distribution; 27 dead (ctv.ca)
- Revolution in Tunisia: photo gallery (boingboing.net)
- First Goes Tunisia, Next Goes… (businessinsider.com)
- Mozambique food riots: The true face of global warming
Yes, the very name allows all kinds of images to flit through our minds, doesn’t it? The very ring, the sound of the name falls soft and sweet on the tongue. Those lucky people who are planning slow trips down the Nile always say in an almost reverential tone, “I’m going to…(pause)…Egypt.”
Reverence for the place, its long, deep history going back into the dusty darkness of tombs. Its rich history of Pharaohs and golden masks and the intense blue of the lapis lazuli and the siena brown of the pyramids and the sable sands surrounding them.
And Egypt continues with its daily toils and troubles and celebrations, its huge and bustling population, its music and buildings and cars and television stations and cell phones and soap operas – all piled up on top of what came before. The friezes of women with their painted mascara faces and thickly braided hair have transformed into the too-perfect photographs that adorn the sheet glass windows of beauty parlors.
And the young men of Egypt wear their gold chains proudly and their slightly too tight vests and their leather jackets, like the film stars and the singers with their big brown eyes and wavering voices. They would be wonderful performers in the Pharaoh’s court.
For those who want more of a taste of Egypt, note the following:
Beautiful music: “Egypt” by Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. A devout Muslim (most Senegalese are Sufis), Youssou upset some people by releasing this delicate and sensitive album in 2004 during Ramadan. Backed by a traditional Egyptian orchestra, Youssou’s voice is tender, sweet, strong. It’s an incredible and subtle blend of Islamic traditions. By modern standards, not a long album, but one to treasure and enjoy.
And if you get to see him live…The Petchary would urge you not to pass up that opportunity. It is a powerful, invigorating experience, and your feet, arms, legs, head will not be able to keep still.
Absorbing book: ”The Yacoubian Building” by Alaa Al Aswany (a dentist whose first office was in this very building in a district of Cairo filled with such old-fashioned buildings, reminiscent of old movies).
First published in 2002, this book caused quite a stir and is still (so far as the Petchary knows) the best-selling novel in the Arabic language ever. But there is a great translation of course, so that the English-speaking reader can become entangled in the lives, love affairs and struggles of the building’s inhabitants. Highly recommended for its biting social commentary on corruption, hypocrisy, exploitation of the poor, exploitation of women and all those other ailments of “developing countries” (but surely Egypt developed thousands of years ago already!) And a hint at the gentler, more elegant, courteous earlier days of Egypt.
Delightful movie: “The Band’s Visit.” Gentle humor, a poignant little story about an Egyptian band (in lovely pale blue uniforms) – the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, who arrive on a bus at a bleak, windswept little Israeli town for a special performance. However, it’s the wrong town. As they try to get themselves back on track, they get to know their bored, lonely Israeli hosts, and connections are made. The story ends with a beautiful performance (and wonderful singing) by the orchestra. The Petchary loved the acting of Sasson Gabai (the solemn, dignified band leader), Saleh Bakri (the tall, slightly rebellious young trumpet player who loves Chet Baker), and the amazing Ronit Elkabetz (the warm-hearted, sexy restaurant owner who refuses to let the dreary little town oppress her spirit). Have I given too much away? No, you will love it anyway.
And then – last but not least – there is the Egyptian football team (the Pharaohs). Egypt are pioneers in the sport, being the first African or Arab country to compete in the World Cup in 1934. And the Pharaohs are the most successful team in the African Cup of Nations, having won it seven times (including this year). There is the powerful Amir Zaki, and the volatile Hossam Ghaly, and the flamboyant Mido, who has had a very difficult history with the national team. Exciting players.
The Petchary hopes you enjoyed this short cultural tour of Egypt, past but mostly very present.
It’s not all about crumbling mummies… It has much life.
No, certainly not the last time the Petchary will write about Africa. But just a quiet goodbye to the World Cup, which bowed out in a dour and bad-tempered final – after a third-place game that was full of flair, goals and excellent play on both sides. On the overly physical final, one online friend of the Petchary’s commented, “why don’t they stop playing football and just fist fight instead?”
Firstly, the eight-legged oracle Paul (now wittily renamed Pablo) is perhaps the non-human hero of the day. Here is a delightful picture of the charming creature, stolen from a Facebook friend.
He has had many offers, but I hear that he is “hanging up his tentacles” (no more silly octopus jokes…) and gently retiring at age two – although he has had one slightly worrying offer to “appear” at a squid festival in a small Spanish village as a “mascot.” Sounds a little sinister.
But the offer is going to be turned down. Pablo/Paul is going back to his original occupation, says his owner, which is “making children laugh.”
What better job could there be than that.
Meanwhile, things will be very quiet without the vuvuzelas’ blast. Are they still going to be echoing around the townships in weeks and months to come? I suspect so. An echo of the joy of life – all too fleeting. Now one hears that the United Arab Emirates has issued a fatwa on vuvuzelas. So – if you want quiet – and do you want quiet, dear football fans? – go to the UAE and be miserable.
But congratulations are due to the twenty-year-old German midfielder on winning the Golden Boot. Thomas Mueller (the name has a sturdy, healthy ring to it), reminds the Petchary of a tousled young country boy, who hasn’t yet learned the ways of the big city. He always had a look of innocent surprise on his face – not surprisingly, as his rise from the lower ranks of the German league in just one year was positively meteoric.
Then there is the masterful Diego Forlan, winner of the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. He of the cool control, the curving free kicks, the audacious goals such as Saturday’s, steering his team steadily into the semi-finals. Eduardo Galeano, author of “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” (see the Petchary’s earlier blog and book review) must be thrilled that his small country, the hosts of the very first World Cup, reached so far.
So, farewell to the joyous crowds of South Africa, now scattered across the planet, back home, back at work, back to their routines. I hope some are still basking in the afterglow. I do trust Mr. Nelson Mandela is doing so. He deserves all the afterglow, and more.
Now, roll on Brazil and 2014!
A certain preacher in Jamaica is talking a lot about his conscience, these days. His conscience, apparently, is his direct line to God. So, when he follows his conscience, he is really doing what God wants him to do. And he always follows it, because he is always right, and God is always right.
Something like that.
What is conscience? If you have one (some people supposedly don’t – or they have a malfunctioning conscience, one that’s confused) you are supposed to know right from wrong. Your conscience will tell you, “No! Don’t you dare do that! You know it’s WRONG.” Or, conversely, “Go ahead. You are doing the RIGHT thing, even if only you know it’s the right thing, and others have their doubts. You KNOW you are in the right.” Very comforting.
Mark Twain once wrote, “A sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience.” So, maybe the conscience is a tricky thing; and we all know – so is the heart. Now the Petchary is wondering whether Conscience is such a cut-and-dried, black-and-white thing after all.
Yes, Conscience with an upper case “C.” Our preachers are fond of capitalizing their words, aren’t they. Love! Hypocrites! Faith! Backsliders! Hallelujah! And, of course – Jesus! Or rather, JESUS! (all upper case).
Not everyone is as comfortable and cozy with his conscience as our preacher is. It can be an instrument of torture. People wrestle with their conscience; it doesn’t always tell them what they want to hear. It fights back. And yet, if you don’t have one at all, anything goes… You just have to get it under control, so that it can control you.
Amnesty International created the phrase “prisoner of conscience,” in the early 1960s when the first stirrings of freedom and self-expression began to flutter in the hearts of baby boomers. A prisoner of conscience is, however, not prisoner to his/her conscience – but, in fact, an innocent, who happens to believe, or live, in a way that others don’t like. Someone who does not express any of these things in a violent way – yet violence is done to him, or her.
A man expresses his political views in a letter to a newspaper. The next morning, he is woken by a knock on the door as the grey dawn flickers on the curtains of his bedroom window; and he is gone. A woman who loves the slow movements and quiet breathing and introspection of Falun Gong is taken away in a sunny city park, because her beliefs, her spiritual being are considered subversive, superstitious, poisonous. Defending the indigenous rights of your people; writing a blog like this; calling for better working conditions in your factory; simply raising a flag in a patriotic gesture; blowing the whistle on a corrupt public official; teaching children the “wrong” thing in school…All of these acts, and many more very simple, very quiet ones, can plunge the innocent one into weeks, months or years of darkness and punishment more cruel and heartless than you can imagine. Many just simply…disappear.
If you don’t believe me, look at the sad, almost endless list of human beings at http://www.amnestyusa.org/individuals-at-risk/prisoners-of-conscience/page.do?id=1011626 It is updated regularly – or rather, augmented. It grows longer, and winds its way across the world. A list.
Yes, let’s look into their eyes and remember…they are human beings.
Well, let’s end with the World Cup. Each day has brought its new drama, its little vignette of human strength and, often enough too, unexpected frailty. The images are wonderful: the Uruguayan striker Suarez, his black hair in a gleaming crest, rain pouring down his face, eyes tightly shut, runs gleefully down the pitch, chased by leaping team mates – who have not endured the sheets of rain that descended on their battling colleagues.
Then today there was the childlike Robinho, raising his eyes to the heavens with a look of sheer belief – or disbelief – after scoring the third pretty little goal (and his first of the tournament) for the conquering Brazil against a somewhat ragged Chilean team.
Another celebration the Petchary always enjoys is that of Carlos Tevez, the Argentine who, like everyone’s beloved bulldog, just won’t let go of that ball. After a stunning second goal, he tore down the pitch like a one-man tornado, his always unruly hair flying, his mouth agape in the wildest grin you ever saw, tearing at his jersey frantically. In the end, he sank to his knees at the edge of the pitch, his jersey (where his country’s symbol was) clenched fiercely between his teeth. He was joined by the ever-smiling Messi and the lankier, somewhat aristocratic-looking winger with the delightfully holy name of Angel Di Maria.
And I have to end with the powerful Black Stars of Ghana. Their solidity and their strength is what strikes the Petchary. In a test of stamina and resolve, they finally overcame the Americans and poured on in their glory as the sole standard-bearer for the African continent. The Petchary’s husband calls them his “ancestors.”
Yep, those legs are strong, and…the Petchary needs someone to explain the cooking pot. There is at least one fan who wears a carefully crafted one on his head.
Shine on, Black Stars!