Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ending 2013..the good, bad and ugly...

First the good-- Ministry of Works seemed to have found its backbone and after having work on the East Coast roadwork stalled in Court  (incidentally by the lawyer heading the "Third Party") the Government got some sort of legal 'go-ahead' and proceeded to dismantle structures built by a businessman with more money than sense-- many abound here as the Law of the Jungle seems to Rule.  I see this as a good move as in my opinion, too many people are infringing on sensible regulations, mind you the Government as well but that is a totally different Blog: maybe this particular businessmen fell out of favour as there are way too many dunces bullying their way and destroying the infrastructure.  I would like to be executive President for a year, cut`back the perks of those useless people sitting in Parliament achieving nothing and force people openly flouting regulations to pay for remediation.....I probably would not last a week before someone put a bullet in my head but it is a nice comforting fantasy ending in a few Hangings - I always knew Madame Defarge was not a good literary person to emulate, but I digress..
I believe Ministry of Works also started clearing up a few drains highlighted a few Blogs back but not unfortunately the Lamaha Street canal outfall as that would mean treading on the toes of one of the untouchables- good friend of the ex-President who propped up a dodgy set of people with seemingly no morals during his reign, sad... bird of a feather and all that...

The bad is that road traffic accidents continue at an alarming rate, mainly young men under 25yrs, driving 'under the influence', claiming to drive someone's vehicle without permission (so the owners are not culpable) unlicensed and uninsured so the victims can't claim compensation and walking away with ridiculous fines in proportion to the damage they cause-- in the region of U$100-U$150. Under my fantasy rule they would be put into forced labour camps and made to do community work until they paid back for the damages inflicted to infrastructure and the victims' family agreed that compensation was sufficient-- that way-- there is a pool of available labour, and the youth would learn about gainful employment... two problems solved at once!

The ugly is the continued disregard for the lives of Guyanese women by Guyanese men. I felt sad to read of a mere 17yr old rural girl whose father could not afford to send her to school so agreed that she could 'go with' a young man who came to work in the area and who promised to pay for her to go to school-- turned out to be a drug addict-- took her to his home in Berbice for a couple of months then 'lived home' with her for a while then abandoned her. He came back after a while and the father rightly told him that he was not to contact the daughter, so the family had to watch helplessly when the young man got his employer's shotgun, barged into the home and shot the girl dead in front of them!   Four other women died at the hands of the men who are supposed to protect them this past week.. what is going on?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Things that bother me with the last blog!

So in the last blog, I indicated that no sympathy for any side was merited in my opinion.

The maid was/is clearly disloyal to shop her employer, she could have just asked to return home and move on with her Life if she were that unhappy.  My view is her agenda all along was to reach the nirvana of working in the US and apply to stay there permanently - the fact that she got the US government to do so says a lot about her manipulations - pretty damm expert- feel sorry for the hapless US Taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the stupidity their Government.  Expect a xenophobic backlash at some point.  Notwithstanding the minimum wage rule-- which makes sense if one has to factor in Living Expenses such as board and lodging and transport. It had been commented on that the correct thing to do was for the Indians to request a waiver of the salary rule... alternately... Mrs Khodegade could have stated in the maid's contract -- deductions for board and lodging -- it is commonly done in the Traffic-ing in Persons  offence: the 'girls' have to work to 'pay back' the costs of being taken- legally or illegally - to a foreign country, board and lodging and interest at an extortionate rate: no difference really done 'above board'.

The Indians are arrogant to ignore the US's rule which had been brought to their attention previously. We had/have the same problem over here with the Drug Lords blatantly flouting the Law and ordinary moral decency-- being surprised to be 'caught' when they leave these hallowed shores; strikes me the same-- the diplomat's family are part of an immoveable elite/oligarchy, probably untouchable back in India and used to having the rules bent to suit their purpose.  The current solution of promoting the diplomat to the ranks of the UN mission when she is responsible for bringing the country into disrepute just goes to show how alienated the Indians are from their heritage of moral decency:


The US is the worse offender, because they were aware of this pending problem 4 months ago when the maid reported her employer. They clearly carried out 'investigations' and decided that Mrs Khodegade was in the wrong. Surely some neutrality is called for? Clearly the State Department must have been informed - why is Kerry apologizing? - and the hammer must have fallen against the Indians. I find it strange that no-one thought it fit to diplomatically mention to the Indians their precarious situation. Would the Americans mete the same treatment to the Saudis - notorious for doing the same and worse?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

...and you wonder why the rest of the World hates ya....

Thanks to a FB friend with waay too much time on her hands this story was brought to my attention.
The US immigration authorities arrested an Indian female diplomat while she was taking her child to school, strip-searched and charged her for Visa fraud due to inaccuracies on her maid's Visa application. The strip-search bit was a bit surprising for a white-collar crime-- were they expecting to find stashes of drugs or a concealed weapon? The fact that she is a spokesperson for women's affairs adds a certain irony to the situation.

Wow! Guyana being as small as it is, I have come across many American diplomats who seem like such nice human beings - never mind the probable stirring they do;  even in our small topsy-turvy part of the world, if a diplomat were found in serious breach of the Law, unofficial channels would be used to sort out the problem. I mean - we would probably call in the Indian ambassador and contact New Delhi to lodge a complaint for whatever reason.

What on earth would possess the Americans to publicly humiliate this representative of India?  India's neighbours who would be benefit from this rift - Pakistan and/or China probably couldn't be happier! Or maybe the great USA has fallen to the small-minded politics over here where the opposition takes pleasure in one-upmanship, never mind how the country would suffer?

Given that over in India, it appears that the majority of women are treated abominably themselves - gang-rape being reported with alarming frequency- this is hardly an example for an 'enlightened country' to set! The general consensus on my friend's and the internet page is that the Indian diplomat deserved this harsh treatment as pay-back for exploitation of the maid. I immediately remembered a dreary book I read this year which gave the servant's point of view (he was the cook and general dogsbody) - his glee of being given a closet to sleep in, in Washington - a step-up from sleeping on the pavement of Bombay/Mumbai. And rather like 18th Century England, if the nanny was not doing this job, is it possible she might be subjected to something even worse back in India?
I would like to hear the nanny's side.  Apparently the US is holding that their minimum wage is U$9 an hour and the diplomat lied on the application form saying the nanny's salary satisfied this requirement -- um so my question is -- what concern it of the US government? Will they be collecting taxes and ensuring that the servant gets healthcare insurance? Are the illegal and unclassified workers who work under the radar and ensure their economy runs, getting at least U$9 per hour minimum wage?? And if they are concerned about the on-the-breadline-earners shouldn't they be turning their attention to their trans-national companies-- maybe institute the rule that anyone working for an American company anywhere in the world gets the American minimum wage - like Britain threatening to prosecute any British company who is found guilty of bribery overseas... but I digress...
It smacks of outdated colonial upmanship:  Here funny coloured people, WE are entitled to exploit your ignorant asses because we are superior, know what best and created the system but you have to dot the i and cross the t.  It is ironic but karmic that the same diplomat might indeed be guilty of the same thing back in her own country.

Postscript: (4hrs later) apparently the nanny/maid read the Visa application and felt she should be getting what was stated on the application- approximately U$4000 per month- and then reported her the vice-consular general. Ha- the next step would be to apply to stay in the US on refugee grounds - in the book referred to above, the guy 'ran away' and worked illegally in an Indian restaurant and lived with an African-American woman- think I tossed the book aside meaning to return to it when I had more time - wonder if the maid's story will follow suit?
Postscript 2: In an odd situation of Life imitating Art- from VS Naipaul: night.ntcc.fju.edu.tw/night/class/ENG/.../class/.../OneOutofMany.ppt
also: the US point of view:  http://www.rediff.com/news/report/Devyani-Khobragade-was-not-arrested-in-front-of-her-children-she-was-not-handcuffed/20131219.htm      The comments after are also interesting  - seems a mutual corrupt situation - strange story where one has no sympathy for any side!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Going around in circles..

Can appointing local business executives to 'come up with ground-breaking proposals that will ignite production incentives and fiscal strength with its recommendations'  really do the work of a good economist?
http://guyanachronicle.com/does-tax-distortion-breed-inequality/

I had noted that the Fat Cats seem unable to think long-term and seem hell-bent on destruction for short-term gains:
http://gtobserver.blogspot.com/2013/01/why-its-exhausting-to-live-in-guyana-6.html
so much for sustainable development!   It is extraordinary that Guyana would be collecting from Norway to preserve the rainforests while making deals to exploit the Land without a clear understanding of the long-term damage.  It has come to light that the Minister of Natural Resources had given exploratory licences to a well-know miner for one of the least visited areas- the south-east of Guyana, without informing the rest of the country. This Ministry is an odd, newly created one putting all the viable industries in Guyana under one roof - presumably with the blessing of the ex-President (as the minister is his niece's husband ) who is well-respected worldwide for being on the Climate Change band wagon!?
This is the topsy-turvy contradiction that is Guyana!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Drains of Georgetown

Last week central Georgetown ground to a halt after a few hours of heavy rain in the early hours of the morning. Previous blogs ( http://gtobserver.blogspot.com/2013/07/appreciating-our-dutch-built-heritage.html) have referred to the fact that the Dutch envisioned Georgetown as part of a huge plantation system and the English modified this to expand the City.

The foolishness of the post-Colonial governments in screwing up the system - mainly expanding the Public Hospital and blocking a few key drains in recent times meant that lower Georgetown ( between the Demerara River and the Atlantic Ocean) , where my office is located is a now a man-made created basin. My drains expert fumes about the stupidity of not providing one way gates for the 40-foot canal which drains Cummings Lodge and his theory is that the water gushes down and contributes to flooding the City which is under seige from uncleared and blocked drains.

So we took a second run with him sighing the Patience of Job when I puzzled over what he telling me - they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I walked with my camera to take a few shots in case anyone is in a position to do anything- as we have reached a desperate state where those who know have defeatedly started shouting solutions without thought of payment so someone else can take the credit and get paid handsomely.

Sothe basic problem is this at the bottom of Lamaha St and Urquart St:

Nope, I am not talking about the uncleared grass in the trench, but if you go up from DEC you will see a largish pipe. Back in British times, the Colonial masters threw on a train depot over the ultimate outlet for this canal which drains the lower part of the City-- mainly Cummingsburg. However, they maintained the drainage with a Koker to which a pump was later added:
Unfortunately that outlet is now blocked by the geniuses at BK Tiwari who threw up a Prime Spot building on the riverfront - slightly worrying as they are given many major engineering projects involving nuff money, implying more money than sense.








The post-Colonial government didn't help by contributing to blocking the run-off to the river by throwing up the Transport and harbours building:
just across the road from the defunct koker and
redundant pump.













So now picture that the gradient starts to rise from Lamaha Street, therefore logically the water from Church St to Lamaha St going from Urquart St to Queenstown until Irving St is supposed to drain into the Lamaha Canal but... the outlet is blocked. Parallel to lower Lamaha canal is the lower part of the 40ft Canal draining all the way from Cummings Lodge, taking in the neo-1992 squatting area of Sophia.
View of Koker controlling 40ft canal outlet to the Demerara river

At some time in the late '70s /early '80s, as a response flooding in Cummingsburg - no doubt exacerbated by blocking drains by expanding the Public Hospital willy-nilly and not maintaining the drains - a passage was cut to allow water to flow into the 40ft canal from the Lamaha canal:
View of channel from Lamaha St

View of channel from lower Cowan St





Unfortunately for everybody, due to unregulated building all the way down, the volume of water is too much for the 40ft canal and without some sort of gate/pipe with valve system the water from the 40ft canal would further contribute to the flooding of the Cummingsburg by draining into the Lamaha canal!










Ironically, the blocked drains and poor maintainence  saves Cummingsburg from further flooding from the over-worked 40ft canal - which is what I believe happened the other day: rain from up the East Coast draining in the 40ft canal spilt over into the Lamaha canal, most probably due to sheer volume and added to the woes of Cummingsburg struggling to drain its own volume of water, to bring that part of the City to a halt with higher-the-usual-water levels which took longer than usual to clear.

Also in the late '70s/early '80s, the city Engineers decided to relieve the heavy burden on the Lamaha canal, now draining Bel Air park due to blocked drains along Vlissengen Rd, Queenstown/Albertown  and Cummingsburg by putting pipes to drain into the 40ft canal - at this point one wonders if it is plain ignorance or a deliberate strategy to flood the residents out to grab Prime land?  Unfortunately, it tends to backfire and water from the 40ft canal drain instead into the Lamaha canal which has no-where to go resulting in Cummingsburg getting flooded and the northern part of Georgetown draining into the Lamaha canal via the 40ft canal??  The cynic in me says as soon as all that illegal money buys up Cummingsburg then I am sure sensible drainage will be on the agenda!
Junction of Lamaha St and Irving St..note pipe on left drain 40ft canal into silted Lamaha canal and bridge where the water connect with the central trench between Visslengen St and Irving St.


On the other side of Irving St/Vlissengen Rd, one would logically expect a continuation of the Lamaha canal and one would be so wrong-- I forgot to take a picture as Drains man friend passed and asked why he wasn't at a BBQ party- the man has places to go and people to see instead of running around the City explaining the madness that are the Drains of Georgetown! So on the eastern side of Visselengen road - where Bel Air park and all the way from Le Repenitir , there is the sad story of unregulated buildings and blocked drains preventing drainage into what should have been the continuation up of the Lamaha canal. Instead, bizarrely the 40ft canal cuts into where should be the Lamaha canal (!!??!!).  Yes, because sometime in the '70s/'80s people apparently filled in the main 40 ft drainage canal in Kitty and built buildings on it - just like that-- you could not make these things up even if you tried!

Mr Drains noted that to pump out water is quite expensive and the Kitty pump station serves the block with national park and the block with QC. His suggestion is to stick a koker/pipe with one-way valve - allow non-essential places to drain naturally and instead address the question of draining the more heavily occupied areas of Cummingsburg.
Picture of one of the oldest functioning kokers in Guyana

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

by Mark Jacobs

December's book is an interesting first book comprising a collection of vignettes taken from his various blog postings, primarily when he went to Haiti to teach urban agriculture to those suffering in the aftermath of the big hurricane.  (It is quite alarming to Google and see there have been Hurricanes in Haiti since 2008 which have not allowed the people to get back up on their feet.)
It seemed ironic that as I got to the end where the punchline of the book dwelled - nice touch - one of the Sunday papers had an article about how the English slavemasters made sure they were adequately 'compensated' for the loss of their slaves by such an extraordinary and large amount their decendents are still living off the proceeds - Gladstone the father of the ex-British Prime Minister got the largest payment-- about 83million pounds in today's terms! Even the current British Prime Minister's family has benefited in the past from these 'dirty payments'.  Of course, it is a matter of perspective - the English would tell you it was a hard job getting those lazy slaves to work and they deserve/d compensation!  Likewise in 'The West on Trial' after the bauxite company got the English to give them the land free or dirt cheap - they held Burnham to owe astonishingly high payments as reparation.  Interesting how the Power-Brokers hold the Law over our heads when it is in their favour and  ignore it when it suits them.

I am thinking how the WTO make the ignorant who muscle their way up to power, sign agreements which cannot be rescinded as Governments change and do the Pontius Pilate thing of saying -- your country  made the agreement even though we know it to a ridiculous deal for the country and we will hold you to it! The penalties from breaking such a contract mean that any new Government coming in would be ostracised and not be allowed to sign any others!  Australia and Canada whose mining companies are probably causing major environmental destruction worldwide have recently demurred from enacting climate change Laws.  Like slavery they are profiting from something causing immense, unrecorded and long-lasting misery but would probably take the high ground and demand compensation for a cease order! Ok-- totally strayed off topic-- sorry Mark - but I know you'll agree with me! I am totally in favour of the British Law for Companies-- those found guilty of Bribery doing business out of Britian will be tried in Britian-- well, I say the same-- those multinational companies who come into poor countries with weak and/or unenforceable laws ought to be tried in their counrties-- maybe that's why these countries are not 'signing up' to Environmental Laws?


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A word on economic refugees...

...my brain clicked awake at 3am to catch a BBC report of a Nigerian man on Hunger Strike at a detention centre near Heathrow.  I confess I do not have much sympathy for him as Nigeria can hardly be described as dangerous to live in. His contention was that the Boka Haram had him on their Hit List.  The British have wisely learnt to not release these types of refugees into general circulation as their laws do no prevent him from using their money and social services to fight against deportation!

A Scottish woman trying to help him said he was too weak to speak to her on the phone but that the British would stick his ass on a plane accompanied by someone with enough medical knowledge to ensure he was alive when the plane touched down in Nigeria. Well good on you Britain! Now I wish you and your fellow North Americans would extent the same courtesy to the other Third World people hell-bent on screwing over and selling off their countries by fair means or foul -- usually foul-- then going to your countries to enjoy their ill-gotten gains and retire in peace where things and services work. And can I say-- you are very welcome to the scum!

We have half our Parliament, holding foreign passports and/or property in your countries; the younger ones having contributed little or nothing towards developing the Health Services, going to have their children in your countries-- that is the height of ludicrous!  I very strongly feel if EVERYONE knows that there is no OUT, that if you are sick you have to use the local services maybe, just maybe they would start paying attention to improving conditions. But of course your 'elites' collaborate with our 'elites' and leave the rest of us with little or nothing - small wonder then you and your services are over-run.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

That's how you do it.. money, patience and ploddingly hard work!

Yaay, happy to shout out good news. Today's papers have a very good photograph of the first locally trained ER specialist. The local guy is standing central and a little forward and standing behind him are the four American doctors/educators from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. It is such a great photo as is graphically represents what genuine assistance means. The local guy 'made it' with enormous help from the overseas people; of course he must be one of the many talented locals willing to stay back and fight the good fight and I am glad he has been given the opportunity to do so. 

I can't even begin to imagine the cost of setting up a master's program to US standards locally in terms of personnel and resources but am grateful that one out of the three locals made it to the end-- and was rewarded (?) with being promoted to head of department in Emergency care.  Surely THIS is the way to get ourselves out of the hole we find ourselves in and start getting rid of square pegs in round holes. The good news being that several more students are entering the program and hope, really hope that our local people can eventually shoulder most of the training - that's the way to do it. It has taken three long years, many young American doctors coming down to support the American doctor stationed here and God knows what else-- but success! Guyana would be surely richer for it.
Canadian doctors are setting up an Asthma program, there is currently an obstetrics program and a family medicine program on its way.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

The above quote was a favourite of our first dictator, Burnham.  It is a French epigram meaning "the more it changes, the more it's the same thing".  Gerald Durrell in his 1954 book 'Three Singles to Adventure' decried the Guyanese propensity for making grandiose promises and not delivering. Foreigners/investors/exploiters years later have discovered the same annoying trait to the extent that they walk with their own workers to do menial chores as they claim Guyanese cannot be trusted!  It is basically The Peter Principle on a grander scale due to lack of people/education.

So by chance I happened to be reading about Waste Hierarchy, based on the European Union's rules for waste management. Now some very sensible people worked out the Stages to reduce the amount of waste that threatens us all on a large scale -- non-biodegradable waste can linger in the environment almost infinitely and/or then breakdown to cause further damage, poisoning the soil and water supplies in addition to causing Climate Change and its devastating effects-- witness the 'worse storm ever' in the Philippines.  These stages are - initially to try to reduce producing waste, re-using the product- either for its initial purpose or an innovative new purpose, recycling the product, other forms of recycling such as energy recycling ( Sweden currently leads the field - producing energy from waste- 50% from household waste - generating as much energy as 1.1 million cubic metres of oil) and then finally - responsible disposal - not just digging a hole and dumping the waste to rot - but lining the sides and base to prevent leaching of waste 'juices' from contaminating ground water, hopefully harvesting the methane produced and preventing pests from breeding.

Guyana in its wisdom and propensity for spending 'big money' on projects they are barely able to understand are diving headlong into the THIRD step - a recycling plant. To give some background, we have a lingerie shop called 'Secrets of Victoria', an opticians called 'Lenscrafter'- presumably one of the owners is called Len, and not to be undone... adisgruntled technician who used to work for them went off and set up shop as 'Lens Optical Designers' - there have been numerous ads in the papers taken out by companies who are keen to inform the reading Public that a Company with their misspelt name - is NOT them. 
So not unsurprisingly, a Guyanese living in Canada woke up to the idea of using a Canadian recycling company's name to persuade the Government to spent U$30 million( thinking about it-- I must be worng-- must be 30 million Guyanese-- U$150,000? always get mixed up with the noughts!) to open a recycling plant. The bona fide company in question told a local newspaper,opposed to the government, that a plant for this size of the population should be in the region of $3million ( where the 27 million going??). They did not point out that there are two other necessary steps before getting to recycling and both involve educating the Public-- and most likely the ignorant officials who think throwing other people's money is the answer to Life's problems.
Brings back memories of Mr 10%.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Restitution

So we had our first American-styled random shooting by a nutter, allegedly in a cocaine-induced paranoia state. His three children issued an apology to the victims - the first a Policeman who ran on the scene without any protective gear or back-up apparently operating without a plan!
It has been pointed out that a gun licence as recent as 2011 was issued to this man although he had a history of strange behaviour which would lead one to question his mental state.
The chickens have come home to roost where progressive Lawlessness is impinging in the lives of ordinary citizens - now making it difficult to go about your business in peace.
I really believe that Civil laws need to be re-written incorporating some form for restitution to the victims - in this case, presumably a miner building a hotel in Bartica and randomly shooting people with dependents - I think there are about 8 children without a parent as a result- would have resources that should be given to support these children.  There are just too many cases where the State fines the culprit  but the victims go uncompensated and the Culprit is free to repeat his/her actions.
This irresponsible attitude of bullying one's way is setting a wrong standard-- starting from the Top. If Human Rights are not respected then you would not get the Public's confidence to follow Laws and a near state of anarchy would rule. This I think is the main 'push factor' in Guyana.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sustainable or not?

The week opened with the Headline that Guyana was in danger of losing 20 million from Norway as apparently Norway could not figure out how the agreement to pay for standing primary virgin forest gelled with the upsurge in Mining and Forestry- apparently the only thing bringing in Foreign Currency in spite of widespread illegal practices in that sector.  The newly-created post of Ministry of Natural Resources by the young Minister possessing an executive MBA, also the nephew-in-law of the former Champion of the Earth and being ably advised by a Cambridge Master's graduate in Environment should more than satisfy those pesky Norwegians, who for some strange reason are not accepting local figures but instead using GIS technology to map out the extent of possible deforestation. The fact that there are only 31% of original forest left standing in the World doesn't seem to sink in -- but then again conflict of interest links with various 'miners' linked to those in 'power' whether in government or opposition might have something to do with the selected blindness.
The week ended with the revelation that the Chinese may be getting a fisheries deal - even though the local fishermen have found evidence of declining stock and why on earth would a deal be struck with a people possessing much better technology than we can monitor and a terrible history of disregard for wildlife and environmental concerns?  Would THAT deal also be struck under the Ministry of Natural Resources I wonder?  IF not-- which and who is making these decisions? Exactly how safe IS our Natural Resources in their hands? Thinking about it, not only ours but the World's as the biodiversity is something still to celebrate--just the governance issue which keep sidelining the rest of the population in short-term fixes-- 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Not Ready Yet


One of my cathartic rants as it sadly sums up the way Guyana is headed.

I dashed into work to sort out a few last minute queries and was dismayed to find out in the mere half hour I was there some fool had parked a shiny new SUV across my drive - no note  where they might be; requiring me to make snappy enquiries at the card shop below my office and the photocopy place next door. The  unhelpful, bored and slightly belligerent guard on the other side had her usual response that she did not see whose vehicle and she didn't know if it was anyone visiting their premises.   It was 10.30 and I had booked a taxi to take me to the airport for  11 and had only half-packed! Talk about cutting it fine!

Hasty enquiries to the staff revealed ignorance of what transpired outside but thankfully a schoolchild on some sort of work-study said she thought the vehicle belonged to the doctor, I expressed my doubt as naturally one would expect more intelligent parking, also presumably not starting a clinic in the middle of the morning. I restrained myself from stomping down the corridor but couldn't resist an acid comment that maybe the person ought not to be driving if they were capable of such stupid parking. I would have happily paid my mechanic to tow away the vehicle but he is such a laid-back character he probably would not get there for another hour.  Went back to see if I could squeeze through by angling my car and ripping off the left side... Nope.

To my surprise, the doctor was one of my friend's trainees - one of the bright new hopes for Future Guyana,  on a program my friend had spent considerable time and energy to get off the ground with an American university to try and reach one of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing the Maternal Mortality figures. Now I had met this child at the local Pub Quiz and noted her and the other (younger) Guyanese way of doing the quiz which consisted of using cell phones. There had been a past hoohah between teams who took the quiz very seriously indeed over that same matter and the quizmaster  had several times tried to tell the new Guyanese teams that the point wasn't to be googling the answers on cellphones.

I told her that parking obstructing a driveway was probably not a good idea,  and although she said 'sorry' her tone implied the usual Guyanese attitude of 'what you getting annoyed at, can't you see I am more important?'  She then went on to qualify her remark that there was no other place to park her vehicle when she turned up. I debated about pointing out a note indicating where to find her, allowing enough time to find parking if going to work and treating other people's time with respect - both mine and presumably those people waiting to be treated, the foolishness of driving an oversized vehicle on roads not designed for them; but precious minutes weren't ticking by. She jumped into her vehicle and sat there instead of reversing into an empty space to let me out, as the focus was entirely about her parking on the other side of the street.  How on earth can you be a good doctor with such lack of empathy and surfeit of ego resulting in a peculiar form of entitlement?

My brother who has a great sense of humor, had us all in stitches with the picture of teaching Guyanese the mental equivalent of coming out of the jungle and learning to stand on two legs instead of four, then the painful and frustrating process of teaching them to  put one foot in front of the other to learn to walk but this lot have a misplaced arrogance and can be summed up with the local expression - you ain't ready yet!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Loneliness

'All the lonely people
Where do they all come from
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?'      Stanza from Beatles song Eleanor Rigby

According to the article below, 'They’re the outsiders: not just the elderly, but also the poor, the bullied, the different. Surveys confirm that people who feel discriminated against are more likely to feel lonely than those who don’t.'...'A key part of feeling lonely is feeling rejected, and that, it turns out, is the most damaging part.'
Read an intelligent article on the effects of Loneliness on Human Beings:  http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you#

"we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking."
"Loneliness, ....—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy."

The article went on to say that this is becoming a Public health crisis -- with a third of Americans reporting they don't feel close to anyone at a given time. The numbers growing from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 from 10 yrs ago to now.
I felt pleased with myself when I read one of the researchers presumably back in the early '80s, thinking of imagining the world from a gay man's perspective, that I recognised a qualitative study -- considering the subject's point of view.
'If we now know that loneliness, a social emotion, can reach into our bodies and rearrange our cells and genes, what should we do about it? We should change the way we think about health. James Heckman, a Nobel Prize–winning economist at the University of Chicago who tabulates the costs of early childhood deprivation, speaks bitterly of “silos” in health policy, meaning that we see crime and low educational achievement as distinct from medical problems like obesity or heart disease. As far as he’s concerned, these are, in too many cases, symptoms of the same social disorder: the failure to help families raise their children.'
'As nearly half of all marriages continue to end in divorce, as marriage itself floats further out of reach for the undereducated and financially strapped, childhood has become a more solitary and chaotic experience. Single mothers don’t have a lot of time to spend with their children, nor, in most cases, money for emotionally enriching social activities.
“As inequality has increased, childhood inequality has increased,” Heckman said, “So has inequality of parenting.”
The article mentioned that depression- set to become the largest Public Health disease in the future - may be a symptom of Loneliness but is not the cause  (http://gtobserver.blogspot.com/2011/11/depression.html)  but ended on a positive note that we can be masters of our fate and change the outcomes with a deterministic attitude. 

UPDATE 25-Nov-1013: Canada too:  http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-of-solitude-a-loneliness-crisis-is-looming/article15573187/?service=mobile
 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Curvilinear Lines

Guyana television churns up the odd interesting program in the mish-mash of junk.  One such program I happened across was the ‘Looking at and Understanding Great Art’ series.
I caught the end of one recent episode which put up a picture painted by the German artist Franz Marc who preferred to paint animals, horses mainly, in bold colours and curvilinear lines. The lecturer narrating the series said that curvilinear lines are more pleasing to the eye and it struck me why men like looking at women’s bodies – ‘cos they’re all curvilinear lines!  
 I remembered being surprised that Page 3 of The Sun – a rubbishy newspaper but one of the most widely-sold in England when I was a student – pulled in wide sales because of the topless young girl it displayed with something trite — the girl in question purported to say something like – ‘this is for you Dad, because I know how much you like Page 3!’ (?!!?!)
So, the Saturday Woman’s Feature of Stella Says in one of the local papers, is entitled Blurred Lines and is talking about the objectification of women – being so widespread that the young impressionable women can see hundreds, even thousands such images per day so that they do not think it is wrong to put up ‘sexy’ images of themselves in social media and for the world to view generally. She then extrapolated the knock-on effect on the local men, who began to feel ‘entitled’ to pass comments on passing women and said ‘if a man thinks he has a right to treat a woman with such disrespect and aggressiveness in public, he will do far worse in private.’  This sadly referred to often violent response of men to the realization that ‘their’ women is/was planning to leave them after putting up with years of neglect and/or abuse;  the papers have practically reported daily a case of a man killing the children and woman before fleeing or killing himself. (The book I am reading has a great line- ‘Sexual jealousy is the greatest crazy maker we have.’) The article ends saying that ‘as long as society continues to objectify women, the violence against women will also continue.  Sadly, women play right into this trap. They want to feel wanted and they have been given a how-to manual on what they need to do to be wanted by men.’ She said that it is ‘sentencing ourselves and our daughters to more violence and death’.

Makes me wonder how things get taken out of context and get out of hand rapidly – the natural appreciation of curvilinear lines morphs in porn then exploitation (cos dirty old men persuading young attractive females to view their bodies as commodities could only be that!). The natural inclination towards sweet and fatty foods is then exploited when junk has high fructose sugars and artificial flavourings added to it to fool our senses that we are eating something good for our bodies. A Facebook post—always subject to exaggeration - found a fast-food burger had only 2% meat.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Choice Have We Really Got - 2

So there was a minor scare of sorts as apparently the country ran low on Petrol. I noticed the Shell Gas Station on Vissengen Road shut and it is sad to think I just assumed it got robbed!
Apparently there was a delay in uplifting fuel from the Venezuelan refineries.
So this is very interesting -- my cousin sniffed his nose and informed me that the fuel was poorer quality from the Government managed Petrol Stations but now we discover that all fuel-- Shell, Rubris (formerly Texaco) and the humble Guyoil all get their petrol from THE SAME PLACE!
My recent foray with economics says that for perfect competition to exist, the product must be the same --check; the buyers must be so informed --check; many sellers-- check; therefore the perfect price should exist - right-- nope-- the sellers organised themselves to jack up the prices so that the Government was forced to open and run Guyoil to sell about $22 cheaper to keep the prices down-- mind you better yet would be to turn a blind eye to fuel smuggling from Venezuela and get really serious competition for low fuel prices-- in the midst of all that is not working it would surely be better for the country to buy from people willing to sell across the border??

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why It's Exhausting To Live In Guyana -7

Because it makes you feel like a small insignificant piece of humanity who don't matter. My long-suffering mechanic woke up to find his yard flooded and having not invested in ramp that lifts the vehicle in the air or not having the space to construct a concrete ramp as the other out-of-town mechanics do, due to lack of space; his work ground to a halt.
City Hall apparently can't find the City Engineer's Plan for drainage and the Lands and Survey Department was equally unhelpful and advised him to check City Hall.  So basically the poor man is going around in a circle seeing that the other side of the street is not flooded and his side is!  Apparently there are drains/culverts but the guard to stop clutter from going in and blocking got removed-- either by those people paid to clean and never replaced or one of the numerous madmen on the road. So he has to shell out of his pocket to find someone to go and clear out the gunk (my friend in Canada says, Guyanese only run to fix the roof when it rains- my defence was that you only KNOW the roof is leaking when it rains!)
So the knowledge that the new wing of the Hospital has been built on some of the drains that were meant to drain his area does not help; neither that the current flooding of a few selected streets, mine included, is not due to overnight rainfall but rather the accumulation of water from other areas as this area of Cummingsburg is just before the final destination of the Demerara River. Most fustratingly, the Lamaha Canal isn't looking flooded/overtopped and apparently in 2005 after severe flooding of the City, a pump was installed which has since stopped working. So what's the solution? The super-rich, that is- not money earned through the formal economy, generally buy a property and raise their buildings about a foot from the road so it's not their immediate problem, the rest go line up for a visa out of here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What choice do we really have?

 So came across this list courtesy of Facebook:

http://www.realfarmacy.com/printable-list-of-monsanto-owned-food-producers/#!prettyPhoto



..and it stuck me that we really have limited choices-- and what was the rationale for having Boxed Cake Mixes-- my pet peeve as it is so popular in Guyana and one of the highest in bad fats -- in Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, General Mills and Pillsbury all under the same umbrella? Did they start off as different companies, then were bought over and surely then it would be cheaper to have one large central producing factory-- considering the economy of scale and why bother to repackage in four different Brands? Same shit-- different box?
And why have Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine, giving a nod to healthy eating while promoting 'bad' eating with the rest of the companies? I remember asking the local trendy cafe down the road from my office to start doing fresh squeezed juices and was told Guyanese don't like the healthier options when I pointed out most things for sale had white refined sugar and flour-- the healthier options are not even available and apparently not profit making enough!
And the world-wide competition between Coca-Cola and Pepsi is what-- some executives playing a profit -making game with themselves to see how much sugared-water they can sell?
Sadly Guyanese are now heading to convenience foods - even down to the humble coconut milk as it seems housewives prefer to open a tin from Thailand with perservatives for $200 rather than buy a fresh one locally for $80 and go through the hassle of grating it-- I found the Juice extractor did a good job to save me grating my fingers but a bitch to clean the different parts.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Interesting views on Water

Caught the ending of this BBC radio program with the grim statistic that currently, 40% of people living in urban areas have no piped water to their accommodation

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036w3b6

So for those of you too unable to listen to the half-hour discussion, here's a summary and some food for thought:
Currently 50% of the world's population live in urban areas, and with a projected further 2 billion people by the year 2050, the projected percent of the world's population living in urban areas is reckoned to rise to 75%.
Currently only 2.5% of the world's water is freshwater, of which 70%  is locked into the Arctic, Anarchic and mountainous areas, which is inaccessible for consumption and means that currently 40% of the world's population are living in a water-scarce area.
So to control/manage this resource, one can reduce Demand and/or increase Supply.

People begin to be antsy if they are the ones being controlled , so efficiency can be increased by controlling leakage-- this problem bigger than you think!-- reducing demand and/or changing behaviour.
The latent right-winger in me nods when they said that increasing the price would reduce demand but then the Brazilians rioted the other day when their Government tried to increase bus fares and the Venezuelan government dare not increase fuel prices from ridiculous.  So the panel discussed the introduction of meters as a way to change people's attitude to waste-- if their pockets feel it then they would be more inclined to change their behaviour. Education plays a part in changing behaviour also but not as effective as making people pay-- where Australia found a 15-20% reduction in demand by introducing 'block charges', presumably following vertical equity principles.
Leakage is a big source of wastage, about a quarter being wasted in Europe and 10% in efficient Singapore. Tokyo and Amsterdam claim 5% wastage.  Unfortunately the cost of fixing the leaks is about the cost of savings so far as many pipes need to be dug up to replace fittings. One way is the reduce the water pressure but again the pesky consumers might object,  water pressure can be varied according to demand so that people wouldn't notice as much in off-peak hours.

The other solution is to increase Supply. The cost of desalination has been reduced considerably in the past fifteen years and is common in Australia and the Middle East and gaining popularity in Portugal and Spain, however it is quite energy intensive but with the introduction of better solar power maybe that can be balanced off.

Recycling is the other option in conservation but the difficulty is persuading people not to contaminate by adding hydro-carbons like waste oil: one drop of motor oil can contaminate 50 litre of water!  Canada's Vancouver has a sensible water system separating recyclable water directly in the drainage system from the houses-- very smart.See pgs 3 +4 of  http://www.metrovancouver.org/region/teachers/k12education/Resources/WhenIFlushBrochure.pdf

Can only hope the Guyana Government incorporates some sensible ideas out there-- however bearing in mind the uneducated population I wouldn't hold my breath! They run the risk of increased vector-borne diseases in the long-run apart from the side-effects of a polluted water supply like in Madhia.
Finally to end, a email petition in Florida to discontinue the addition of compounds to add fluoride to the water as the people thought the compounds were waste products from industry and the tooth-cavity delaying stuff is better accessed from foods; also the addition of fluoride compounds in iodine-poor areas can have a the effect of causing further childhood development.... just some food for thought!
Check out: http://www.realfarmacy.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-fluoridated-water/
Also important are the comments-- asking for the sources and scientific/literature reviews like this one:  http://www.ijdr.in/article.asp?issn=0970-9290;year=2009;volume=20;issue=3;spage=350;epage=355;aulast=Dhar



Friday, July 12, 2013

Appreciating our Dutch-built heritage

In the lecture given at Moray House last evening -

The first point of note was that they introduced the use of bricks in construction in Guyana back in the 1600’s when the ifrst Dutch structure/building was constructed at Kykoveral – which translated to - - "See-over-all"( I thought afterwards there is a strong argument for renaming Georgetown, Kykoveral at the rate we and Global Warming are going but from a pun point-of view- Sea-over all!). Some of the bricks got removed as recent as 2010 by people re-using them in their own personal construction, however the National Heritage is now in charge of the site and hopefully will stem the flow.  For those who didn’t know—Kykoveral on the Mazaruni river is located just beyond the junction where the Mazaruni and Cuyuni River intersect and join into the Essequibo. It is probably the first Dutch construction in the Caribbean region.
The Dutch then moved a few times and finally built a more substantial fort – Fort Zeelandia on the aptly named Fort Island.  However it was never actually used in active duty and is currently being captured by the encroaching river as those who may be interested do not have the wherewithal to do anything about it! The lecturer then went on to spend a longer time than was necessary to discuss Fort Nassau in the Berbice river, believed the be the one destroyed by the revolting slaves in 1763. Whatever remains also falling apart and being reclaimed by the Land.

At this point I was joined by a drains enthusiast who fidgeted when the ‘old boys’ moaned about the filling in of the canals in Cummingsburg in Georgetown by the English.  So interesting to hear about any subject from someone passionate about it—even Drainage in Georgetown!  So apparently what the English engineers did was fill in the irrigation canals while creating additional drainage trenches, as Georgetown was originally envisaged as a few very large plantations under the Dutch – hence names like Middle Walk.  As the City assumed more importance, the English engineers catered for drainage to cope with the expected rainfall—making the assumption that the drains would be maintained and kept clean at all times. Then the coloured/decolonized people took over and filled in some of the drainage trenches – like throwing up a new wing of the Public Hospital over one of them - and didn’t maintain keeping drains clean, leading to flooding in parts of the City with a few hours of rain.  Independence is great isn’t it – you get to screw up all by yourselves, however I note that with the wisdom of hindsight the Caricom heads have decided to ask the West, deep in financial trouble themselves, for reparation - to do what I wonder?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guyana and Climate Change/Sea Levels



Apparently the Jesuits ( http://gtobserver.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-black-robe-canadian-film.html ) are still around and have formed an online group called ecojesuits.com or something like that. A bookclub member who is also a member of the local Human Rights group helped organized Rev Dr PedroWalpole from the Philippines to share his experiences about rising Sea-levels and how climate changes affect small communities.
He struck me more as an ageing hippy than a serious ecologist or priest and I was not too sure I agreed with his radical view of throwing away all the textbooks and teaching science based on what the community that he was in needed/experienced. Hmm, all well and good to impose these radical views on some poor community for which something/anything is better than nothing, but as I get older I begin to appreciate what a good job the nuns did beating the 3 R’s into us (reading, writing and arithmetic) as it is truly appalling to see the younger generation/s sadly lacking in these basic skills necessary for critical thinking and analysis. This is   the second Millennium Development Goal - primary education for everyone.  However, I agreed with him that although Science might indicate a course of action, it was Social Research methods that had to find a way of ‘selling’ that idea to the policy makers and empowerment of the community is necessary so that they are not passive receivers of someone else’s will.
My textbook suggests three strategies for adaption to sea-level rise which are: retreat, accommodate and protect. Guyana has inherited the latter strategy from its previous Dutch and English masters but the Rev Dr seem to suggest that the former might be a better strategy as the sea-level does not rise steadily and there are dangers of storm surges. These contribute to devastating phenomena such as Hurricane Sandy earlier in the year which knocked out parts of New York City; who apparently were warned a couple of years ago about that possibility and they had considered putting in Oyster reefs to prevent damage but didn’t actually do it.
Interestingly sometime back in the 40’s an English engineer F E Hutchinson, had designed a comprehensive plan to drain the many areas in Regions 3, 5 and 6; but sadly these measures were never implemented as the major economic power in Guyana at the time - sugar- needed the workers to be dependent and impoverished to continue to provide cheap labour. (from The West on Trial). And previous to Hutchinson, Governor Gordon Lethem had proposed and got subsequently rejected a comprehensive drainage plan. Back to the present day: continued reinforcement of parts of the Seawall will only make adjoining areas more vulnerable, this then leaves – retreat. The German government had apparently commissioned a study whereby everyone moved to between Lanaballi  (just behind Parika) to Ituni,  that area fortuitously has most of the raw materials necessary for developing a new State within a state – first time I heard about that plan. Sadly the Wild-Westers got there first and the madness that is Madhia – an illegal miner decided to throw up a town of sorts – complete with gross pollution of waterways and other environmental and social disasters rule the day. Not helped by other mining companies operating almost independent of the Government – now who’s going the bell the cat and tell these people to heed some new idea??

I also learnt that the ocean/s are not flat and level but have internal surges depending on the temperature – there was nice picture of the East Coast of the US preceded by a red alert and to a lesser degree, the northern coast of South America.

Post-script: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/opinion/letters/07/05/murders-are-a-small-but-significant-part-of-the-culture-of-lawlessness-in-the-interior/

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sergei Guriev – Russian Economist

Thanks to BBC Hardtalk and improved technology, the interview can be heard until 7 days hence:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p019zqkd

This interesting interview reflected many of the realities of Guyana although not as significant on the world scale.

So Mr Guriev felt the third time might not be so lucky when the secret police come knocking at the door, as he made the mistake of commenting on the second case of the (Putin's)State vs Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oligarch who fell afoul of prime minister Vladimir Putin. Mr Guriev claims that he gave an economic viewpoint that any economist would have, that apparently displeased Mr Putin.  The legal system that served a warranty to take away Mr Guriev's emails for the past 5yrs being a mere rubber stamp and perhaps 'they' wanted to see if there was anything in there that was critical of Mr Putin's third term bid.  The Americans at least read all your emails and don't seem so intimidating unless like Mr Snowden, you tell the rest of the world/country that that is what they are doing!

So as the interview progressed so did the parallels to Guyana - 37% of 18-35 yr old Russians want to leave the country which means the country will lose Time and generations of talent necessary for development. There is now less freedom and integration in the global economic system, more cash outflow and local investors can see that Property Rights are not protected, Courts not as good as they should be, Competition not developed, protected and promoted.
And although the interviewer pointed out the dropping on the scales of Transparency International and the scale of ease of doing business, I thought his reply was good that - my words- the country wasn't living up to someone else's judgment but in fact had to address the challenges of decreasing good governance, infrastructure and educated labour force. My past year of learning Health Economics came in handy as I actually understood what he was talking about, especially when he mentioned revealed preferences - what I learnt as a method of assessing a benefit of an intervention - but simply put- voting with your feet!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Air Pollution

From my out-dated textbook (2006) - 'Air is considered polluted when it contains any extraneous constituent in sufficient quantities to adversely affect the environment or the health of people exposed to it'.

The legal/illegal burning of the forests in Sumatra have released sufficient particulates to affect visibility in Singapore, even to the extent of the Singapore Government considering a cease-work order as the current advice is to stay indoors as much as possible. I thought I heard the BBC say that the Indonesian government told the Singapore government, following a complaint, that it is very likely Singapore companies were benefiting from that activity in their forests so quit whining -- but I was half-asleep and must have imagined that part!

So 'clean' Singapore will have to do a mass 'clean-up- in a few weeks as three weeks or so worth of burnt  organic matter will not be a fun activity to clean up. More to the point-- what effect would breathing in particle-laden 'air' have on people's lungs? And should anyone be culpable?  Health Economics refer to this as a negative externality-- Peter paying for Paul and not getting any benefit from the activity occurring elsewhere.
Back in the 1980's Scandinavia suffered from destruction of their forests from 'acid rain' resulting from chemical by-products from Industry in North America drifting across the Atlantic and causing damage to vegetation and buildings.
California and Mexico have taken to installing stations distributing oxygen at street-corners to over-come the breathing problem some people might face: seems like an extreme solution and wouldn't it be better to address the things causing the problems in the first place?

Back in Guyana, I was informed by my neighbour that it is now forbidden to burn garden waste and that the Local Council is quite strict about reinforcing this-- shame they didn't seem to notice a radiation-emitting tower thrown up overnight in the playing-field down the road- but the fact that it was by a company run by the President's son may have something to do with the selective blindness! I note that the UNDP saw it fit to send the same son on a trip to Rwanda on solid-waste management exercise-- mmm, yes -that is totally in keeping with e-governance  - concern for the environment, health and sustainable development.
So there is now an accumulation of oversized branches building up near the trench behind my house and creating nice pockets for breeding mosquitoes-- nice move you clowns-- run and institute a rule without thinking it through!

However in Georgetown where nothing works as it should-- a mad German has taken to burning rice-paddy in the limited yard space next to my good-natured and long-suffering mechanic. I dropped the car off and stood chatting with him for a few minutes and came back with my clothes reeking-- there is a odd pipe emitting smoke continuously out of the smoldering heap -- where are the authorities concerned about the environment now? Maybe I should tell the mechanic to call the EPA but being a true Guyanese he would die before he does that and probably think as most Guyanese-- they wouldn't do anything anyway.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Love by Toni Morrison

After an irritatingly slow and confusing start and a brief laying-aside period, I returned to the book as an achy lower back had me on the floor with elevated legs. Totally different point of view from the floor!

Her experienced eye on human relations and 'a clear sight of the world as it was - barren dark ugly without remorse' ( pg 132 in the Library's copy I have) had me both laughing and sad, and amazed at her insight : check this out from pg 84 'Some creaky, unhip glossy for teenagers disguised as men that catalogued seduction techniques, as if any technique at all was needed when a woman decided on a man'.

The book was written in a series of flashbacks and centres around the deep friendship between two children and the effect of a strong patriarchal racist society supporting a pedophile, opportunistic grandfather who society holds up as a Pillar of the Community. 
There was a touch of Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations) in Heed, the street-girl made good.
I thought the book did not fully explain the motives of the grandfather in destroying his family and at the end we learn that he willed the business and house to his favourite roll-in-the-grass but the faithful family retainer intervened to destroy the Will to save the women. I suppose it is a good illustration of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Black Robe-- Canadian Film

This was a film shown at Castellani House while I was in exam panic mode and luckily got a copy to view.

It is a beautifully shot film showing off the wonderful scenery of Canada-- wide open spaces and lakes.
The film itself referred to the Jesuits- the Blackrobes- whose mission it was to 'save' the souls of the Indians -- it was very satisfying that a few of them got butchered by the savages, although the native (Amer)indian viewing the film with me was appalled at the violence and it was with difficulty I persuaded her that our local Caribs were just as bad-- she was relieved that her Arawak tribe wasn't so bad.
She and I were interested about the belief in dreams and I paused the DVD to tell her about Segu (http://gtobserver.blogspot.com/2012/08/segu-by-maryse-conde.html) where the African tribes also intuitively believed that dreams were omens and needed an experienced shaman to interpret them. I also told her that her ancestors originally came from Africa-- went up to eastern Europe, crossed over by Alaska and then made their way down to Guyana - so maybe the belief in dreams was a traditional thing that got wiped out with the 'scientific' Europeans who 'won' and wiped out everybody else's belief?
It was interesting that the tribe that interacted the most with the white men got wiped out and the leader/father says sadly at the end that he was just as stupid and greedy as the white men - and that they got dependent on the white men to provide 'things' - we had an interesting discussion about the relevance of that statement to today's Guyanese-- or maybe I was doing most of the mouthing off?
Sex doggie-style seemed to preferred way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drown by Junot Diaz

Having been temporarily engaged into other reading, this was the welcome book back to the Bookclub-not!
A totally depressing one at that-- who's choosing these books?
It is basically about a low-life's journey to America- Nueva York with flashbacks in his father's life. Unlike the Haitian journey of Edwidge Danticat, this book would lend itself well to the argument of stopping immigration to the US from poor Caribbean countries as they - the immigrants- are so screwed up with aimlessness by the time they get to the US they are basically lost causes and just add to the misery boiling up there in the Pot.
The misogyny and bullying of those perceived to be weaker follows the Law of the Jungle philosophy and having no sympathy with the characters wondered about the rave reviews on the back cover.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wrong in so many ways!


I sometimes wonder how Guyana keeps going in the face of   ‘de small man doing he ting’.
My mind jumped to the 60 yr old woman who along with numerous others had been squatting (illegally) for some time in the flight path of the smaller local airstrip at Ogle apparently since 1992, in spite of numerous house-lots being made available at low cost.
So about ten days or so ago, the inevitable happened—a small aircraft crashed in her house after engine failure and being knocked off-track by the top of a coconut tree. The papers apparently omitted to say that the 71-yr old American pilot, clearly suffering from massa-syndrome, shrugged off the local engineers’ warning that the plane was un-flight-worthy as it was his personal aircraft which he flew down from Florida where his company was based. Apparently the morning run proved ok but he pushed his luck during the second afternoon flight and for some reason – probably male arrogance – did not return immediately when one engine failed and apparently didn’t switch over to the other engine in time and fell on the woman’s house.
Which begs the question of why would someone want to go to the trouble of getting in a foreign pilot unfamiliar with the territory to fly over Guyana’s interior air-space, notorious for not adhering the GPS specifications – apparently mountains appearing suddenly out of the mist. A similar tragedy happened last year with some gadget-loaded plane – you think ‘they’ would learn? There are two or three local flight companies—surely it is better to pay them and be safe or at the very least—pay a local pilot to assist?
Then begs the question of who pays for the house and why should they as the woman is there illegally?  Apparently the spineless Government, missing a good opportunity to say ‘I told you so’ found a spare house in the area to lodge her, until they sort out if the man’s insurance will cover her costs—fat chance in hell I would have thought— but then who gave the man permission to fly over Guyana’s airspace without making sure all the technicalities were in place? Oh – could it be the Government trying to cover their backside in a dodgy Amelia Falls project? What a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive…

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Think.Eat - Save?

Funny how things happen by chance - read a notice in our local paper that the UN designated 2013 as the Year of Quinoa and then a Facebook friend sent a notice of a Blog competition on the World Environment Day's theme of reducing your foodprint. Ironically will be doing an exam on Public Health which covers this topic -Environment, Health and Sustainable Development at the same time the host country will be giving out the prizes!
So my first thought when I read about Quinoa being chosen was something I had read about the poor peasant women in the Andes who were showing signs of mal-nourishment as their staple food was being flown to be the new trendy food of Health food enthusiasts of the World and the question of the amount of food miles of flying the super-grain from the Andean region in South America to the tables of the developed world being sanctioned by the UN raised my eyebrows:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa
Quinoa for those who don't know is a nutty-tasting grain originating from the Andes which has no gluten, a high concentration of amino acids along with trace elements and vitamins. Like our local farine, it fuels the system of the indigeneous Indians to work for long periods. Its journey to our tables is an interesting example of the globalisation of food production.
Apparently the grain is very adaptable to different agro-ecological regions and can be grown from areas with relative humidity of 40 to 88% and from low-lying areas at sea level to 4000m above sea level and in temperatures from 8 to 38 degrees Celsius. So it's only the ecological balance that would need to be taken into consideration and a way of keeping the major Agro-Food-manufacturers from thinking of a way to captialise and monopolise the market. So far, it seems the only other place growing the grain on a commercial scale is Colorado in the United States, which means the Andean farmers have seen a tripling of the price of their crop since 2006 - leading to increases in the export market and driving down consumption in the local market where it was reported to leading to  increasingly substitution of the more unhealthy Western diet of  'junk food'. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/25/quinoa-good-evil-complicated
This is a good example of risk transition - when an increase in modern risks like obesity due to unhealthy calorie-dense foods increase while the traditional risks partly due to poverty recede with increasing economic development.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation sees this grain as an important contribution towards food security and achieving the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. A recent article http://www.stabroeknews.com/2013/features/02/26/the-food-threat-to-human-civilisation/ noted that with increasing population 'All inputs needed to feed each additional person will, on average, come from scarcer, poorer, and more distant sources, disproportionately more energy will be used, and disproportionately more greenhouse gases will be generated.'
While the production of a vegetarian protein-rich food is more sustainable in the long run compared to meat production, it was reported in the second article above that other traditional sustainable forms of agriculture are being sacrificed by the mass production demands for quinoa, already upsetting the ecological balance involving soil fertility and llamas. It remains to be seen what effects introducing a new plant to a different ecosystem in order to cut down the carbon footstep,will produce.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Insane Policies of Guyana --- 1


Duly informed that my old banger has reached the stage where it would be unprofitable to keep buying parts to repair it … had been half-heartedly scouting around for a replacement.

Came across the rules from the ‘70’s that cars are considered ‘luxury goods’ and as a way to limit the number of vehicles on the roads--- high import duties were imposed. England, on whose legal system our Laws are based and whose road space is limited also imposes high Road Taxes and Insurances premiums and puts the onus of responsibility for Road-worthiness on the mechanics issuing a Certificate of Fitness. – leaving the Police free to impose harsh penalties in the event of car-unroadworthiness.

So I discovered to my surprise that higher duties are imposed on vehicles less than 5 years and those 10years or less are charged much less, resulting in Guyana being inundated with reconditioned vehicles over ten years old --- mmm which bright spark thought of THAT loophole? Also, apparently until recently the oversized fuel inefficient vehicles way too big for our roads had a flat rate of import duty way below the regular vehicles. So Guyana is a dumping ground for old inefficient vehicles! But no worries as we have virgin forests belching out oxygen – never mind the illegal mining and unregulated forest harvesting!

I thought the oversized vehicles were for interior travels until a mechanic told me that the Tundras have a poor something (-suspension?) which make them unsuitable for the rough interior roads. It seems the main use is for rich parents to give their inexperienced children a big vehicle to drive – the logic being that they will incur less injuries in the event of an accident and as for the other people involved in the accident --- well sod them- that’s their problem.