Category Archives: Latin America

Updates on The Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect which disturbs and affects me the most is the geographical changes. I look at maps almost every day and the world I see is so different from my memories of it that it leaves me shaken. Although I touched briefly geography in my last article on the Mandela Effect, I want to look at this in a bit more depth and detail.

Remember the ‘Land down Under’? Australia was always known as such, for a reason. It was ‘under’  everything else, meaning it was far south of the equator and distant from almost everywhere else, especially the closest large country, which is Indonesia. My friends and I used to talk about visiting Australia, but whenever we looked at it on a map, we commented on how isolated it was and how expensive it would be to fly there. In this parallel dimension we’ve slipped into, Australia is now part of Asia. There is no separation between the Australian continent and the southernmost islands of Indonesia. You can now literally swim from the northern tip of Australia to Papua New Guinea and the surrounding islets. If you’re an Australian, I suppose this could be either something to celebrate or mourn. If you enjoyed the isolation and remoteness that you had in the earlier reality, then this new reality sucks. However, if you’re an Asian-Australian and wished you could be closer to your relatives, congratulations.

Japan is another country that I look at and say to myself, “That looks all wrong!” Japan was always a long and thin country, so to speak. I remember this because I used to hear someone say that they lived in ‘Western Japan’ and I replied, “Oh come on. There is no real Western Japan. There’s only Northern and Southern Japan.” The current version of Japan (or at least Honshu) is now shaped like a comma. In this reality, Japan really has acquired a ‘West.’ Shikoku is currently an East-West island. Hokkaido bears no resemblance whatsoever to its former incarnation. It’s badly misshapen and enlarged.

Panama is  another country which has metamorphosed from an North-South oriented land mass to an East-West one. I remember reading about the Panama Canal when I was young; I recall seeing photos of the men building it. They dug out a straight line from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in an East-West orientation. In this version, the canal now goes Northwest to Southeast! In the old version, people would lie on beach on the Pacific Coast and watch the sun set looking due west. Currently, people who visit a Pacific Coast beach in Panama will be looking southward or even southeastward.

Cuba is now a bizarre sight to look at. In the old world, Cuba was a small country located 90 miles off the southern tip of Florida. It lay to the southeast of the North American landmass. Its size and shape were not particularly noteworthy. Presently, Cuba is an Orca whale-shaped island, twice the size of its former self, and provides an almost seamless bridge from the Yucatan to the Eastern Caribbean.

Moving over to Europe, Denmark formerly situated itself far to the south of Sweden. The northernmost tip of Denmark pointed toward Stockholm. Nowadays, in this reality, Denmark is located to the west of Sweden! It has seemingly moved itself hundreds of kilometers northward to snuggle in between Norway and Sweden. I wonder how the Swedes feel about their new neighbors.

Italy has always been the most easily identifiable country in Europe. When kids first begin studying  a map of Europe, the first country they learn is Italy; the reason is simple. Italy juts down from the continent into the Mediterranean and is shaped like a boot. In our parallel dimension (PD), Italy has been ‘pulled’ westward. It now points in a more southeasterly direction and the heel of the boot is much more pronounced than it used to be. Sicily has shifted hundreds of kilometers to the north and now almost joins the mainland of Italy. No matter how often I look at the map of Italy, I can’t shake the feeling of unreality which envelops me.

These countries are the most obvious and outstanding examples, but it is certain at this point that every single country has changed and shifted in PD. It appears that all of the countries in the Northern Hemisphere have moved en masse toward the north pole which, by the way, has disappeared. Welcome to the new world.

Addendum: I wanted to collect some new examples of the Mandela Effect and did a quick search on youtube. When I entered the search term ‘New Mandela Effects’, I was confronted with page after page after page of channels that are, apparently, produced by teenagers. Their headlines are always in all caps; the descriptions are nearly identical and are some variation of this: OMG! NEW MANDELA EFFECTS. THIS WILL BLOW YOUR MIND. The accompanying photo of the channel shows the teenager with an exaggerated look of surprise and shock with pictures of Jif peanut butter and febreeze  floating above his head. The channels have different names, but with the nearly identical headlines and photos, they are obviously being produced from a common source. I would guess that the source and producer of these channels is Intelligence. Perhaps they are trying to surround the topic of the Mandela Effect with a lot of noise and mindless trash in the hope that people will dismiss it.

 

 

The expat’s life: Why I left Ecuador

One of the most popular destinations for American expatriates is Ecuador. Thanks in large part to websites such as internationalliving.com, Ecuador has become a hot spot for gringos  looking to relocate, particularly over the last ten years. The majority of those moving to this small South American country have been retirees, mostly baby boomers.

Though I am not a baby boomer and am nowhere near retirement age, I was enticed by the information I came across on the internet regarding Ecuador. I was already leaning heavily toward South America as my ultimate destination, so I just had to narrow down my choice of country. Ecuador offered many inducements; the climate was tropical to temperate. The geography varies  from tropical beaches to spectacular Andean mountains to lush Amazonian rainforest.  Ecuador is considered a ‘megadiverse’ country and has more biodiversity per square kilometer than any other country. Its political leader is left-leaning and independent minded , steering clear of U.S. hegemony. The cost of living is relatively low, compared to the U.S.A. ,and the country uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.

I chose the southern Andean city of Cuenca which is where the majority of North American expats settle in Ecuador. Within a few short weeks of my arrival, I was feeling disappointment in my new home. It seemed like every day there was a new problem. Some of those problems were the normal circumstances which a new expat can expect to encounter in a foreign country; however, a realization was quickly growing inside of me that I had chosen the wrong country.

Note: The following observations are generalizations and certainly do not reflect all the people of Ecuador. I met some wonderful people there and made a few great friends. There are always exceptions to any rule.

Lying, cheating, stealing

The prevalence of lying, cheating, and stealing in Ecuador was far beyond anything I had experienced previously. The general standards of ethical behavior were quite low.

Theft is rampant throughout large swathes of South America, and Ecuador is no exception. In fact, it seems to be a way of life for many, not just juvenile delinquents and thugs. Most people I met in Cuenca, both locals and expats, had been robbed at least once. During my second month there, my colleagues were robbed at gunpoint after leaving  class at 9 p.m. in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood less than one kilometer from the downtown. The experience severely traumatized a young female teacher. My backpack which contained my computer was stolen right out from under me in a cafe, in the middle of the day by a group of professional thieves. The house where I lived, which was located in an upper-class neighborhood, was broken into and robbed. A pair of young female tourists in Quito related to me their horrifying experience of getting robbed their first day in Ecuador. 

Some of my friends and colleagues started to carry weapons with them when they walked around at night. I contemplated doing the same. Expat newcomers and tourists learn quickly to carry nothing of value with them when they go out and avoid most areas along the riverfront. Some of my Ecuadorian friends told me that they didn’t even trust their own family members when they came to visit. After the family members returned home, my friends discovered something missing from the living room or bedroom.

The high occurrence of robberies in Ecuador has had a number of sociological effects. For example, every bank has two or three armed guards standing in front with machine guns. The guards stand at the ready, with fingers on the triggers, and have severe expressions on their faces. When an armored car pulls up to take cash out of a bank or an ATM, at least a half-dozen heavily armed guards jump out and hold their machine guns tightly, looking extremely tense and frightening. All houses are heavily fortified. Nobody takes chances. A typical house, even in a lower-middle-class neighborhood, has a ten-foot -high concrete wall with embedded glass shards surrounding it. This wall is often supplemented with razor or barbed wire above the glass shards. A large and vicious dog such as a pit bull is often present as well.

To live in a society with such a profound level of paranoia and fear was a jarring experience for me. I reflected on what this fear did to human relations. If people are hiding behind their fortified compounds, what does that do to neighborliness and interaction with strangers? What does this fear do to street life itself? To community?  In my neighborhood, I never saw neighbors talking to one another.

I also pondered the root causes of robbery. I came up with some rough hypotheses. First, there appeared to be few consequences for those caught stealing. By law, any theft in which the stolen item has a value under 500 USD is punishable only by a small fine and perhaps a night in jail. Juvenile offenders are usually set free with a fine, a warning, and possibly probation. That’s not much deterrence, is it? Furthermore, most boys and young men in Ecuador, and South America in general, are overly coddled , especially by their mothers. They understand intuitively that no matter what they do, their mothers will only give them a mild scolding, and go right back to cooking and cleaning for them, even when the boys are well into their mid- to- late 20s. Finally, the Catholic church, which plays such a prominent role in people’s lives in South America, does nothing to stem the rate of robberies. Boys and young men know that they can go to confession and obtain ‘forgiveness’ from a priest.

With little to fear from the government, family, or the church, young punks, juvenile delinquents, and professional thieves are free to roam and prey on the populace.

Lying is commonplace. Trying to get a straight and honest answer from most Ecuadorians was exhausting. Some long-term gringo expats justified this behavior by stating that Ecuadorians spoke in a ‘circular’ manner instead of a ‘linear’ manner, and furthermore they preferred to give a ‘good’ answer instead of the right answer. Well, I’m not a psychologist nor an expert on Latin American culture, so I must  rely on my common sense and the values I was brought up with. To me, this talk of circular conversation and good answers smacked of shallow apologetics. A lie is a lie.

An example of this behavior is the reply you will get if you go looking for something in a store which doesn’t have what you want. Instead of the owner telling you, “Sorry, we don’t have that and we can’t get it,”  they will smile and nod and tell you to come back in ‘a few days’ when the product will be available. So, you return in a few days to see that it is still not there, whereupon the owner will repeat the line. A few days later, you return and the scene is repeated yet again. It took me a while to catch onto this silly little dance, but it reflects how the people operate. I now live in a country where the store owner will wave me away rudely when he doesn’t have what I’m looking for. While I despise the rudeness, I much prefer it to the fake smiles and lying that I encountered in Ecuador because the end result is a much greater waste of my time.

Cheating is widespread and rampant in schools. In the school where I worked, teachers learned never to turn their backs on the class when the students were doing an assignment or taking a quiz, even for a moment. The notion that cheating was acceptable was ingrained in many, if not most, of my students. I had to wonder how they grew up with that idea in their heads and how their native teachers dealt with the issue. In any case, given how commonplace cheating is in the primary and secondary levels, it is hardly surprising that Ecuador’s tertiary education is so poorly rated.

Noise

The noise level in Cuenca was horrific. The city is surrounded by hills and mountains and noises are amplified and ricocheted by this configuration.

The city buses are old, diesel models which are loud, dangerous, polluting, and obnoxious beasts. They are manual stick-shift models, so every time the driver violently mashes  the clutch down, the buses make a low, rumbling growl which is audible from a kilometer away. In fact, I could set my alarm from the buses. They woke me up every morning at 5:30 a.m. with their shifting. Lying in my bed, I was able to distinctly hear first gear, followed a few seconds later by second gear, and then third, and so on.

In addition to the bus noise, Cuenca suffers from year-round firework noise. You see, Cuencanos and Ecuadorians LOVE fireworks. While people in other countries reserve fireworks for specific holidays, Ecuadorians love fireworks for their own sake, and see no reason to reserve their use for only a few days a year. Hence, firecrackers, bottle rockets and the like are set off nearly every day, in every neighborhood, at every hour. It makes no difference whether it is 1 p.m., 5 p.m., 10 p.m., or 3 a.m. Somebody, somewhere is setting off some fireworks. If you are a light sleeper, like I am, then you are S.O.L.  Fireworks are sold widely with no restrictions on age. With no noise ordinances governing their use, it’s hell on earth for those who like a little peace and quiet.

Ecuador is a middle income country which means that many people are now able to afford a car. Given the fact that theft is so rampant, naturally people want to protect their asset. Every car sold in Ecuador comes equipped with a hyper-sensitive alarm system. If a leaf fell  from a tree and landed on the hood of a car, the alarm would  go off. If I brushed against a car with my shirt sleeve, the alarm would go off. I lost count of how many times I saw people sitting inside their cars with the alarm going off. Nobody seemed to know how to turn it off, so they would fumble around with the controls, giggling and laughing while their eardrum-shattering alarm went on for five or ten minutes, affecting people for kilometers around. The absolute lack of awareness of noise pollution was stunning to me. One afternoon, I sat inside my apartment and counted 27 car alarms go off in the space of three hours.

If all of that were not bad enough, locals had also decided  to augment all of their  home security apparatuses with yet one more: THE HOUSE ALARM. Prior to moving to Ecuador, I was unfamiliar with this hellish invention. Compared to the house alarm, car alarms are a tiny, insignificant nuisance. The decibel level of the house alarms in Cuenca is comparable to a Rolling Stones concert. While they could, and did, go off at any time, they most often went off somewhere in the middle of the night, just when I was reaching REM sleep. I would bet that they were audible from at least 10 kilometers away. What’s more, the alarms seemed almost useless. I once witnessed one going off in the middle of the day in my neighborhood. I stood in front of the house to see what happened. Did the police or some private security agency come running to the house? Did the neighbors come over to check on things? Did anybody pay attention or do anything? NO, no, and no. The thieves could have been inside, cleaning out the house with their earphones on and nobody would have noticed.

There’s much more I could talk about, such as the lousy weather, lame nightlife, introverted and dour people, graffiti, basic lack of respect for pedestrians and mediocre food. Amazingly, I still see Ecuador and Cuenca mentioned as great landing spots for Northerners looking to relocate and retire. I only hope they are better prepared than I was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sad decline of youth hostels

Youth hostels have been transformed over the last twenty to thirty years. The physical and structural changes seen in the hostels themselves are less dramatic than the changes seen in the people who frequent them and who have destroyed the wonderful feeling of camaraderie which formerly existed there. I believe that the negative transformation of hostels can be traced to three major factors: the popularity of Lonely Planet , the baby boomer generation, and the smartphone.

Before Lonely Planet and Rough Guide arrived on the mass market shelves, information on hostels was more difficult to come by. Sure, there existed some travel guides which listed the hostels in various countries, but you had to search them out, especially in the pre-internet days. After LP and RG became extremely popular, followed soon after by the internet and its plethora of travel sites, hostels became known to a much wider audience, far beyond  their traditional base of young backpackers. One of the many consequences of this was that millions of first-time hostel guests were now flooding the market and few of them knew anything of the traditional culture of hostels. For this new wave of hostel-goers, it was about one thing: money. Hostels were seen as the cheapest accommodation available, and for those on a tight budget, it was an easy call.

Some of my younger readers may be wondering what this ‘traditional culture’ of hostels was. Quite simply, it was a culture of openness and friendship. Saving money was only one of many reasons for people to stay in youth hostels. Equally as important was the opportunity to make friendships with others from around the world who shared a passion for travel, exploration, and discussion.  The communal kitchen, the dorm rooms, and all the common areas were places where you could meet fellow travelers and make instant friendships. Traditionally, hostels were one of the few places in society where it was not only permissible to approach and greet a stranger, it was encouraged.

I have stayed at a handful of hostels in South America and Asia over the past few years, and I have witnessed the rapid decline in the old camaraderie and sharing which used to define the hostel experience. Hostels may have been able to withstand the onslaught of the new breed of budget traveler and even instill in some of them the hostel ethic, but they will surely not be able to survive the invasion of computers and smartphones.

Most hostels still have small libraries or reading rooms with worn copies of old Kerouac novels and LP guides, but nobody reads those anymore and certainly nobody gathers there to talk. Nowadays, people only sit at the computers which more and more hostels are offering.  The remainder of the guests sprawl on the couches staring into their smartphones, lost to the world and oblivious to their fellow guests and the happenings in the hostel. Animated conversation and the excited retelling of adventures are rarely heard today inside the walls of hostels.

Baby boomers need to take their share of blame as well for the decline of hostels. Remember, these establishments were always known as YOUTH hostels in the past. These days, the ‘youth’ part is frequently dropped and they are referred to simply as ‘hostels.’ Why? When and how was ‘youth’ dropped? Was there a vote taken? Was it simply an acknowledgement of the new reality? That reality being that many older people are now enjoying the benefits of hostels.

I don’t know exactly when middle-aged and old people started to frequent youth hostels in large numbers, but I suspect it was sometime in the 1980s, right when boomers were reaching middle age. Not wanting to let go of their youth or acknowledge the arrival of middle age, staying at a hostel affirmed to them that they could still hang with the young crowd.

Some will argue that this is a good thing. Hostels should be open to everyone and having some older folks around adds a  bit of flavor to the whole vibe. I couldn’t disagree more.  The low cost of hostels and the young clientele was an arrangement that made complete sense. The theory behind hostels was that young people, fresh out of college and jobless,  had little money but still wanted to see the world and they  should have a clean, comfortable, and safe place to stay. Their parents, and older people in general, who did have money and established careers, were expected to stay in regular hotels. Well-off and middle-aged people who choose to stay in hostels to be cheap and save a few dollars or who hope to appear ‘hip’ when they are deep into their 50s or 60s strike me as somewhat vulgar.

 

Italy to halt ‘Mare Nostrum’ but the agenda moves on

The issue of illegal migration has been a hot topic in the news during the last few months, and it will undoubtedly remain so for the foreseeable future. The root causes of the problem have little to do with the perfunctory explanations given in the mainstream media and have everything to do with a global agenda being pushed by the zionist global elite.

Let’s look at Italy. Last year, the Italian government launched a program called ‘Mare Nostrum’ which was ostensibly a humanitarian mission to rescue the hundreds of thousands of poor and desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East who were attempting to reach Italy by way of wooden boats across the Mediterranean Sea. Stories of overcrowded boats sinking with hundreds of people drowning had made headlines in 2013 and the government had a good cover story to launch the mission. I am using words and phrases like ‘ostensibly’ and ‘cover story’ on purpose here, as I don’t believe for one moment the government’s glib explanations to devote manpower and money for this program when the country is in such economic dire straits and when poor Italians cannot get government assistance for basic needs. The government’s words ring hollow, as usual.

Immigrazione: Marina Militare, ieri soccorsi 1812 migranti

According to reports,  Italy deployed 32 boats, two submarines, planes, and helicopters and the 900 man crew picked up an average of 400 migrants a day. These people were then taken to Italy for ‘processing.’ Many, perhaps most, of those people will eventually file for asylum in Italy or perhaps another EU country if they can manage to make it somewhere else.

The latest word is that, after massive popular backlash at home, the government will shut down ‘Mare Nostrum’ and the EU will pick up the slack with its own program called ‘Triton.’

The backlash is not surprising. The Italian masses are not that stupid. They see what is happening. The government is simply ferrying in immigrants with ‘Mare Nostrum’ instead of dissuading them from coming. Remember, these people are attempting to illegally enter a country. That is grounds for immediate deportation in most cases, but here we have a government actually assisting them to enter.

So, what is the real story here?  The leaders of the Italian government are receiving orders from a much higher place and the Renzi government is merely a mouthpiece for those elites higher on the pyramid scheme. As always with these agendas, there are primary, secondary, and tertiary benefits. The primary benefit is in line with what is happening throughout most of Western and Northern Europe. That is, push in huge numbers of immigrants from foreign countries who have vastly different cultures from the native cultures of Europe and shove the ‘multicultural’ meme down people’s throats. The ensuing dilution and  weakening of native cultures will serve to benefit the agenda of one world government, by way of the NWO.

Secondary benefits would include a new infusion of cheap labor into the market.  For example, many young Italians no longer wish to work in the country’s farms doing manual labor , but the newly-arrived Africans are more than happy to pick fruit. Wages will of course be depressed further as the new workers will lack the language and organizing skills to avoid being massively exploited.

Tertiary effects include  the divisive wedge the immigrant issue will surely drive into the country’s populace.  It’s already happening. Protests against ‘Mare Nostrum’ and the wave of illegal migrants have been met with the predictable charges of ‘racism’ and counter-protests have been organized by misguided and/or manipulated useful idiots on the Left.

But Italy and Europe are just one piece of the puzzle. The globalists don’t have that name for no reason. Over in the USA, Barry Obummer and his merry band of handlers are busy writing legislation and executive orders to give blanket amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegals even while more are continuing to cross the border.

illegal_alien_border

A recent story from the Inter Press Service News gives some insight into the agenda at work in America. According to the article, some 70,000 children were apprehended at the border during the fiscal year 2014. Most of these children came from Honduras and El Salvador and will be given temporary asylum; this ‘temporary’ asylum will surely become permanent under Obummer’s plan.

Already, the children are receiving free health care and free education. One of the school districts in Texas which is currently taking in a number of these students is called Sommerville. An administrator from the district, a real do-gooder, said, “As soon as the student comes to Sommerville, they are our students, period, and we don’t need to know, and we’re not interested in knowing, , about their residency status.”

She’s ‘not interested’ in knowing a child’s residency status? I guess she knows Obummer’s got her back. Texas is not alone in having such an open policy toward illegals. All children in Massachusetts have the right to free public education, regardless of immigrant status or national origin.

It’s interesting to observe  the tone of the article and the subtle ways in which it takes its stance. It presents the administrator and teachers in Texas as paragons of righteousness. The terrible conditions in Honduras and El Salvador are meticulously noted. The article states that the U.S. constitution ‘guarantees’ education for all children , regardless of status. The heart-wrenching stories of a young man named “Pedro” is given many column inches. You get the idea. The agenda relies on the media to do much of the front line work to brainwash the masses. It has often been called social engineering. Uproot people, make them refugees, move them far away and dilute culture wherever and whenever you can. The zionist plan at work.

 

 

 

What’s in your toothpaste? Colgate and the triclosan scandal

One of the most difficult items to find for health conscious consumers in large parts of South America and Asia is flouride- and chemical-free toothpaste. Indeed, in countries where I have traveled in Central and South America, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil,  and Peru, there is often only one or two brands to choose from,  even in large supermarkets. And the toothpaste brand that dominates the market in Latin America is Colgate. In fact, no other brand even comes close to approaching Colgate’s market share in those countries.

Colgate-Palmolive company is a publicly traded  American multinational consumer products company based on Park Avenue, New York City. In 2013, they had revenue of more than $17 billion and income of over $2 billion.

Needless to say, Colgate adds fluoride and a host of other chemicals to all of their toothpastes. The chemical cocktail will, of course, ‘brighten your teeth, fight gingivitis, and give you a winning smile!’ Are there any negative effects to swishing all these chemicals around our mouths and mixing them with our  mucous membranes? Not according to Colgate. Everything’s good!

Well, maybe not. A big story broke last month about Colgate and the chemical triclosan which they add to their Colgate Total toothpaste. According to the stories, triclosan has been linked to cancer cell growth and fetal bone malformations in animal tests.

Colgate Total was approved by the FDA in 1997, but a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealed that the documents used by the agency to approve the toothpaste relied on ‘company-backed science.’ This is due diligence? Is anyone still naive enough to believe that the FDA is a trustworthy guardian of the nation’s food and drug supply?

It gets worse. Recent studies have also linked triclosan to reduced fertility, lowered sperm counts and premature births. Think about that the next time squeeze some colgate onto your toothbrush.

This is a frightening story because of the numbers involved. When you consider Colgate’s market share in large parts of our world, we are looking at hundreds of millions of people who have been exposed to these toxic and possibly carcinogenic substances. As I stated before, for many people, Colgate is the only choice of toothpaste when they go shopping. Most of those shoppers will not see this recent story and take corrective action and don’t expect governments to pull it off the market either.

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In the bigger picture, triclosan is probably not as harmful over the long term as the neurotoxin  fluoride, but that’s a subject for another article.

Interestingly,  the most successful natural toothpaste brand in the USA, Tom’s of Maine, sold an 84% stake in the company to Colgate-Palmolive in 2006. This buyout was in line with the large wave of multinational conglomerate acquisitions of natural foods brands.

 

tthpst_ingrdnts_08_11

Faced with the dearth of natural and chemical free toothpastes outside the U.S., I learned how to make my own toothpaste. It’s quite easy and is something anyone can do. With the ongoing  blatant poisoning of the human race, it is something we all should  do. All you need is some coconut oil. baking soda, vegetable glycerin, a natural sweetener, and essential oil of peppermint. Dump the chemical toothpaste into the trash, get fluoride out of your body, decalcify your pineal gland and reclaim your health.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2722289/Chemical-used-Colgate-Total-toothpaste-linked-cancer.html

What happened to environmentalism?

The modern environmental movement is traced back to the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring in 1962 which gave impetus to  the budding ecology movement in the 1960s that culminated with the first ‘Earth Day’ on April 22, 1970.

Major ‘Earth Day’ remembrances and celebrations were held in 1990 and in 2000,  and smaller gatherings in many countries have been held annually thereafter.

springPrior to the big 20th anniversary event in 1990, I distinctly recall an excitement and sense of optimism amongst my progressive friends and acquaintances who were environmentally conscious. It appeared to us that the shift in consciousness that we had always hoped for was finally happening. Environmental destruction was finally getting the press and the attention that it deserved. At the health food store where I was working, we were phasing out all plastic bags and encouraging people to ‘bring your own bag.’ Taking advantage of the increased attention and momentum, we tried to make our little store as eco-friendly as possible. We imagined, or at least imagined, that within a decade plastic shopping bags would be a thing of the past, a relic of ignorant bygone era.

I can look back on my naiveté  during  that time with a certain amusement now. I had vastly overestimated the average person’s concern for the environment and had in a sense projected my own growing awareness onto the greater whole. Furthermore, in a war between environmental protection and the ever increasing needs of growing economies, the environment will always lose out. The capitalist corporate machine knows no boundaries.

In advanced first-world economies such as the United States and Western Europe,  where the educated class has been exposed to preservationist ideas, things such as littering out of the car window and burning your plastic trash in the yard are frowned upon and can even incur a hefty fine. In the developing world, it’s a different story altogether. Tossing your rubbish out of the car or bus window onto the roadside is normal and not seen as anything ‘bad.’ In South America, some roadsides I saw were heaped so high with garbage that you had to cover your nose when driving past. I remember once taking a bus through a beautiful, pristine mountain park in Ecuador, and the woman next to me casually threw her entire lunch, wrapped in numerous plastic bags, out the window into the wilderness.

Here in Southeast Asia, the ethic is the same. Outside of a few tourist areas, public trash bins are few and far between and people are raised and taught to ‘just toss it.’ The city governments hire thousands of street sweepers to keep the city free of rubbish, but a good amount of trash of course ends up getting washed into the waterways.

The deeper underlying issue is not whether or not the trash thrown onto the thoroughfares will get swept up and thrown away, but whether people can unlearn the dysfunctional habits they have  repeated  from a young age. When you venture into the countryside where there are no street sweepers, the ingrained habits manifest and people still toss it onto the ground, where the trash, if it doesn’t get washed into the rivers, will stay for millennia.

For developing countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Viet Nam, Indonesia and so many others, environmentalism is not a serious issue. It may be given occasional lip service by government ministers, but the name of the game is industrialization and ‘development’- at all costs. Build and develop now, clean up later. China is the poster child for this kind of thinking.  I’m afraid it’s already too late for many who live there, judging by recent news reports on the unbreathable air in many of its major cities.

This model of ‘clean up later’ filters down from the top to the bottom sectors of society. The populace of most developing countries, being uneducated and lacking any ecological perspective, is simply left to deal with the environmental crisis on their own. They are essentially abandoned by their governments who only want to see increasing GDP numbers. Incapable of organizing and  lobbying for laws for cleaner air, they simply don a primitive face mask in the hope of coping with effluent of industrial society.

And the plastic bags that I was so sure would be gone by now? They are more numerous than ever. The world loves plastic bags. Anything that I purchase, from a banana to a razor blade to a beer to a book, is handed to me in a plastic bag. I mostly refuse the bags, but my insignificant little act of eco-grooviness is pointless in the bigger picture. Nobody knows, let alone  cares, why I refuse plastic bags. The shopkeepers and clerks just shrug their shoulders and go about their business. I try to inform and educate whenever I can, especially to my students, but the level of enthusiasm for environmentalism is low.

I’m increasingly doubtful that environmentalism can ever gain any real traction in this world. In order for it to do so, a global consciousness shift would need to occur. Change must first happen in the mind before it can be manifested physically. I think Daniel Quinn pointed the way in his books, especially in Ishmael. As long as we continue to carry around the mindset that Earth is here to be conquered and for humans to use it at our pleasure, environmentalism will be but a pipe dream and a healthy planet only a memory.

Protestors, not fans, greet the Brazilian national team in Rio

World Cup Count Down Photo GalleryThe people of Brazil are doing what the people of England (2012), South Africa (2010,) China (2008), Greece (2004), and Australia (2000) should have done when their countries held mega sports events.  Protest!  Good for the Brazilians!

The latest news coming from Brazil: protestors of world cup spending  have met the Brazilian national team not with adulation and worship, but with anger. The team couldn’t even make it from the airport to their training facility in Rio without encountering a rowdy group of protestors who plastered the bus with anti-world cup stickers. When the team left the hotel in Rio, they again had to run a gauntlet of protests.

_75113003_75112998I imagine that the government of Dilma Rousseff is praying that once the tournament actually begins, the Brazilian people will gather ’round the television with family and friends and concentrate their energies on rooting for the home squad instead of plotting mayhem and mischief. And indeed that may happen. Football is a religion in Brazil and the fact that these protests are occurring in what is maybe the most football-mad country in the world shows us how deep the discontent goes.

This is a very important story to follow. The protests in Brazil over the world cup and olympics, resulting from extravagant spending, corruption,  hubris and incompetence, will shine a bright spotlight on these wasteful and meaningless mega sporting events, which serve only to line the pockets of a few stars and advertisers while predictably distracting the population from the systemic problems facing their economies.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/protests-brazil-stars-arrive-world-cup-camp-211414433–sow.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2639318/PICTURED-Brazil-countdown-World-Cup-start.html

Following the chaos in Brazil. Countdown to the World Cup

The latest news coming out of Brazil isn’t good. Bus drivers are going on strike in Sao Paulo and civil police forces are going on strike in 17 states and ‘will not be investigating crimes.’ Just what Brazil needs a couple of weeks before the start of the World Cup.

This is like watching a bad car crash in slow motion. Can the PR get any worse for the Brazilian government? Will Rousseff survive the next election? How many spectators and tourists are having second thoughts and canceling their trip to Brazil?

I shed no tears for FIFA, that arrogant and mafia-like bully. If the world cup is a disaster, perhaps FIFA will learn some sorely needed humility. Nor do I care much about the multi-millionaire players and their gargantuan egos, blow-dried hair and endorsement contracts. It’s the Brazilian people we should be concerned about, those who will inevitably pick up the tab for this unnecessary and costly fiasco.

Links are below. Simon Jenkins, who writes for the Guardian, gives an excellent overview of the situation, and offers an interesting piece of  advice for Brazil.

 

http://www.oregonlive.com/playbooks-profits/index.ssf/2014/05/post_37.html#incart_river_default

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/apr/23/world-cup-olympics-rio-de-janeiro-brazil-sensation-disaster

More drama as Brazil prepares for the World Cup

The news coming out of Brazil regarding preparations for the world cup and the olympics isn’t good. As I discussed in a previous post. hosting the olympics and other mega sports events typically does not turn out well for the host city and country. In fact, the results are often crippling financial losses and a host of other issues.

The Brazilian police and military have moved into the favelas around Rio de Janeiro in yet another effort to ‘pacify’ them, this time to try to secure the city before the start of the world cup in June. I bet that’s a reassuring picture to send the world and especially the thousands of tourists and spectators who will soon be pouring into the city. Imagine if you have a hotel room booked near Copacabana in June, and you read that  the military is in bloody confrontations in Rio, using armored personnel carriers among other tools. Feeling safe?

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The PR nightmare that the Brazilian government is suffering, and which is sure to become much worse in the months ahead, is happening alongside huge logistical problems in the preparations for the cup and the olympics. The situation has become so critical that recently the IOC sent down a special task force to help get things moving. It is appearing less and less likely that the country will have everything built, manned, and functional in time.

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Reading these stories which are coming out almost weekly now fills me with dread and a sense of anguish for Brazilians. I have visited that lovely country twice and to watch this unfolding predictable drama and know which way it’s headed is sobering. The Brazilian people will absorb all of the costs and very little, if any, of the benefits of these spectacles. All of the sophisticated police state apparatus being constructed will stay in place after the olympics end. Any talk of the new surveillance systems being ‘temporary’ is pure rubbish.

When the final bill is tallied up in a couple more years, the government ministers will tell the people, with long, sorrowful faces, that “We made a mistake. But we must not dwell on past mistakes. Let us move forward. But in order to do so, we must pay back the loans to the banks and be responsible. So, we regret to inform you that taxes are being raised, pensions are being frozen and bank accounts are being raided.”

Remember, Brazil is no longer a small player on the world stage. She has an enormous economy (7th largest by GDP) and is a founding member of the BRICS organization. A serious crisis in Brazil will have global implications.

 

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-11/sports/chi-ioc-belatedly-coming-to-grips-with-rio-olympics-mess-20140411_1_rio-olympics-international-olympic-committee-summer-games

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/29/sport/brazil-rio-olympics/index.html?iref=allsearch

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/24/sport/football/brazil-world-cup-favela-slums/

Peruvian food in Viet Nam???

An article appeared recently in Viet Nam News about a Peruvian cooking class which took place recently in Ha Noi. The class was organized by the Peruvian embassy and was for invited guests only, mostly diplomatic staff around the city, some local chefs and various media.

A Peruvian chef cooked up a number of traditional dishes for the guests, most of whom had never sampled the cuisine previously. According to the writer of the article, there were many ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as the Vietnamese chefs were surprised and delighted to learn many unique ways to prepare potatoes and corn.

Reading this article, I was filled with nostalgia for the time I spent in Peru. I have been there three times; in 2012 I was fortunate to be able to live in Lima for 6 months. Even if the country did not boast an exceptional cuisine, it would still be well worth visiting, given its astounding natural beauty and numerous archaeological treasures.

Ceviche_mixto_con_zarandajasIf Viet Nam is lucky enough to attract a Peruvian chef to come here and open a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City or Ha Noi, it will be time to celebrate. I think we are probably still years away from that happening, but who knows? The country is developing quickly and opportunities abound.

In the U.S.A., foodie types in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC have known about Peruvian cuisine for years. However, outside of those metropolises, it is still virtually unknown. Portland boasts one excellent restaurant, but when I was living in Seattle in 2011, it still did not have a Peruvian restaurant. I often sent emails to my friends in Peru, begging them to come to the Northwest and open a restaurant.

peru_mapThe staples of Peruvian cuisine are potatoes, corn, and chili peppers. The potato is native the Andean region of South America and there are somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 varieties, depending on who is counting. When I was a young man, I remember reading Jack Weatherford’s classic book Indian Givers, in which he explained, in great detail, how native American foods, once introduced into Europe, changed the course of world history. The potato in particular was to have an astounding impact on population growth in Northern Europe.

The humble spud: so unpretentious, boring, and often ugly. Yet, it is so versatile, easy to grow, delicious and filled with carbohydrates and calories that it can sustain a population almost by itself. Recently, I introduced my Vietnamese girlfriend to the joy of fried rosemary potatoes, and she became instantly hooked.

quinoaThere are many other native staples besides corn and potatoes, which are stars in their own right. Quinoa, for example, is slowly and steadily gaining popularity all over the world; its rich, nutty flavor, high protein profile, and easy preparation make it an ideal carb sidedish. It is now available in Viet Nam though it is prohibitively expensive.  Kiwicha, which is known as Amaranth in most English speaking countries, is another delicious and nutritious grain, with an almost muciloginous texture. Kaniwa, which looks similar to Quinoa, is yet another. Maca,  a tuber native to the Andes, is now a wildly popular add-on at smoothie bars in stores like Whole Foods Market. The tuber is ground into a fine texture, which can easily be added to shakes and smoothies or even sprinkled onto muesli and yogurt. Maca has a powerful physical and mental energizing effect. I once did a report on it for a nursing school class.

Peruvians eat meat dishes which are rarely seen outside South America, such as roasted Cuy (guinea pig), Alpaca, and marinated and roasted beef heart, called anticuchos.

variedades_nativas_500These staple ingredients are just the base of the cuisine. From the numerous immigrant groups who came to Peru over the centuries, including the Spanish, Italians, Africans, Chinese and Japanese, a truly unique and wonderful fusion cuisine has developed.  The chef Gaston Arcurio, who is a national icon,  has done more than anyone to popularize it around the world.  While living in Lima, I made sure to eat at least once in his flagship restaurant, Astrid y Gaston, and it was an experience I will never forget.

Gastón-AcurioA signature dish of Peruvian cuisine, and one served in every restaurant along the coast is ceviche, sometimes spelled cebiche. It a small, simple, and elegant dish made from fish which is marinated or ‘cooked’ in lime juice, with sliced onion, corn and often a side of sweet potato. You will often see a mixed seafood ceviche as well. Another well known dish is causa, which is made from boiled, mashed  potatoes which are then artfully layered with other foods and presented in a colorful manner. Papa a la Huancaina is a dish of boiled potatoes which is layered with melted cheese and served on a bed of lettuce. It is extremely popular in Lima and featured on most menus.

 

LucumaLucuma, native to Peru, is a fruit that is easy to become addicted to once you have tried it. Many restaurants in Lima serve it as an ice cream or smoothie flavor. Chicha Morada, a refreshing drink made of boiled purple corn (to lend color), cloves, cinnamon, sugar, and ice, was a daily staple for me. The Pisco Sour is the national cocktail of Peru. It is made from the Pisco brandy, key lime juice, syrup, ice, egg white and Angostura bitters. Though it will never achieve the fame of the mojito, it too is becoming well known around the world.

 

Chicha_moradaAs Peruvian cuisine  becomes known in new markets such as Southeast Asia, the never-ending story of food and cuisine cross pollination continues. Hopefully soon, average Vietnamese will have the opportunity to sample ceviche and causa, and Peruvians in Lima and Cusco will perhaps try their first bowl of Pho.