dimanche 17 septembre 2017


Miami airport was closed during and after the Hurricane Irma, I had to wait two extra days in Doha, Qatar. 15h 20 minute flight from Doha to Miami, it was a beautiful flight AirBus 350. The flight had wi fi and I was not at all bored, as I kept myself busy reading and writing and communicating with wi fi.

The Electricity had returned to the house of my sister the day I returned, so when I came into Miami, I was surprised to see how normal it looked.
Restaurants were open, we ate at Kampai, with unfriendly Thai pretty boy waiters and others of complex oriental nationalities and a Honduran who left Tegucigalpa to find a better future in USA. The food was not exceptional and the large quantities made ones appetite disappear. A glass of cheap Pinot Grigio made the Mango Roll more palatable.
 Miami has always been close to my heart and when I was a student here I took full advantage of all that was available and had an immensely pleasurable time. I have lived in many other countries since then but it is Miami that I come to loose my liminality of constant travelling.
At one time, I kept in touch with many people in Miami but lately I dedicate my time to my good friends M and G and last night we chatted for nealy 9 hours.. there is always something new, something exciting and something to rehash.. lovely conversation, to which the Yiddische word Schmoozing can be applied..

 The storm surge must have brought insects, so a crowd of Ibis could be seen busily plucking away at the salt water covered grass.
 Cafe Creme is a French American Restaurant, with a good ambiance. A nice crowd was gathered and the temperature was ideal to enjoy a French inspired Chicken Curry (to distinguish it from the Curry one eats at an Indian Restaurant).
To enjoy such a nice meal so soon after a category 5 storm threatened Miami, shows the unpredictability of weather in Miami
It was time to leave Miami to go to the Indians. When returning AVIS rent a car, the attendant says to me: I remember you, you are the doctor from Cuba!
I was astonished as I had not seen him in over two years and what is that made him remember me, when he sees so many people in the course of his day? 
Such connections can easily be made in Miami!

samedi 16 septembre 2017




The source of my affections, the incredible fountain of love and tenderness, is no doubt, my little island of Cuba.
11 of the provinces in Cuba suffered some form of damage from the Hurricane Irma, a powerful category 5 storm.
The solidarity and resilience of the Cuban people shone through.
What is the strength the inhabitants have that helps them through calamities big and small, continual or episodic?
For a people who have very little material possessions, loosing that little is traumatic but not unsurmountable, if you put in context of the value that is held dear by the Cuban people, urban and rural.
Following is a part of a letter I received yesterday from my good friend, who is a Psychologist.

The medical student you are talking about is not poor; neither am I. Poverty is a social condition that does not describe our situation very well. We are humble, we have limitations with resources, many material shortcomings, we need many things to live better, that are true, but we are not poor. Look at her, she has the blessing of her parents, her dad works in an excellent company and they have a nice family. She dresses very well, she looks very happy and that indicates that she is very happy, I know that she lives a good family life like most Cubans, with limitations but without starving. She is young, is studying Medicine absolutely free of charge, she does not have to move away and live in hospital accommodations, she can stay with her family while she is a student, her parents are young and healthy, thus she is very fortunate, she is a millionaire like me, because whoever has a good friend has a treasure with them.
You are that treasure.

In the western and capitalistic societies, every thing is measured in terms of money, material wealth (Quantitative life), whereas not much time or  attention is paid to the genuine affections. (Qualitative life). (I tell my sister all the time: Time is the Greatest Gift. I am truly not impressed by workaholic managerial types of any nationality)
Octavio Paz had written, others had mentioned that one can count the good friends in fingers of one hand, that is one has less than five good friends in the West. (perhaps, one of the reasons, why people have hundreds of FaceBook friends, Dunbar number dictates that it is not possible to have more than about 120 "friends", according to research women are capable of more friends than men, so the number of Good Friends still is below 12 or 15, as is the case in Cuba)
In Cuba, I can count on at least 10 good friends and another hundred friends. People ask me, why are you so obsessed with your life in Cuba, and I tell them: Because that is where most of my friends live and that is the fountain of affections for me.

I am very much reminded of the American Indians with whom I work. Earlier on they said: We are neither a minority nor poor, as we have a rich spiritual life. We may be materially poor but we don’t consider ourselves poor. And there is a strong sense of solidarity among them.
In France, people have a sense of national feeling but not a sense of togetherness or happiness and even when they give gifts to each other, it is almost like an obligation and a favour returned, one does not feel the genuine solidarity or feeling of unity of a nation.
Cuba is unique, has had a very special history in the last 60 years, for the first time, Cuba has been sovereign and independent, not puppets of any one or following orders from the metropolitan states. I feel that over the course of the time, economic difficulties have made their hearts and souls malleable so as to adopt themselves to the human need.
Even conservative people in Cuba would be heard to say: This is a humane society.

The world needs more places like CUBA, not just  concentrate about places, which are making great economic successes, such as Singapore, while the human aspects of living and giving are completely neglected. Cuba has its pitfalls and it is up to the Cuban people to rectify that in the manner of their choosing, but not imposed upon them from outside individuals or powers.

I am proud of my friends in Cuba.

jeudi 14 septembre 2017


Like many people living in the Western world, my own conceptions of the Oil Rich Gulf states were not very favourable, because of what the Media portrayed as feudal societies. Around 5 years ago, I began flying Qatar Airways on my way to Malaysia and Indonesia.
I noticed that service orientation has been taken to a higher level and as I began to talk to the guest workers in Qatar, a different picture began to emerge. The workers began to recount tales of how Qatar, in many cases Qatar Airways, have made to their lives and the lives of their families.
Qatar has only a population of 300 000 but they have found an ingenious way to improve their lifestyle and also those of nearly 2 million guest workers from around the world, but mainly from Asia.
Percent of total*
Data recency
Dec 2016
Jan 2017
Jun 2016
May 2016
Jan 2017
Feb 2015
Sri Lanka
Dec 2016
Oct 2016
During the months of August and September 2017, I visited Qatar three times and stayed at
Marriott Marquis Hotel
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Souq Wakif Hotel
Hilton Doha Hotel .
On earlier visits I had stayed at Shangri La Hotel, Oryx Rotaana Hotel, Westin Hotel as well as Movenpick Hotel.

As an anthropologist I am interested in participant observation, having the distinct advantage of not looking European but like many of the workers themselves.
What I listened and learned had been an eye opener to me, worthy of an essay or a book and perhaps an example to the rest of the world grappling with the balance of sharing their generosity and helping the Other without meddling too much in their affairs.

The first group of people easy to access for conversations were the Flight Attendants. On Long flights there were plenty of opportunities to talk to them. I remember my first conversations: a Chinese Indonesian from Balikpapan living in Jakarta, another Filipina living in Manila. Their answers were unanimous now confirmed by dozens of other flight attendants. They are from poor countries where Travel remains a dream but this gives them an opportunity to see the world. They also appreciated the fact that they could see their families often enough as they take advantage of a three or four day furlough to fly home. In the succeeding years I have met hundreds of Flight Attendants and senior staff. As there are thousands of Cabin Crew working for Qatar Airways, one very seldom runs across the same person, even if you fly often enough, because the flight map is all over the world.
Some leave good impressions and wish I could have become friends with them, Maria from Romania, Chris from Goa, MiJin from Seoul, Guia from Manila, the list is long enough.
They have a privileged position among the Workers to Qatar in that they are often able to go home and homesickness or longing for someone or other is decreased to a minimum.
I purposely did not wish to meet doctors or lawyers or accountants, especially from Europe.
While the Asians are here driven by the lack of employment in their countries and lack of opportunities, the Europeans here are not at all attractive in that their purpose is purely commercial, they are here because they are paid better than in their home countries and in my opinion, they do not bring any additional charm to Qatar.
In fact I had not desire, nor make any attempt to know any of the workers, usually in managerial positions, from European countries working in Qatar. Also my idea was to understand Qatar and Qataris and their relationship with workers from poorer countries and the feelings those are reciprocated.
The next group of people were the ones working at the hotels, there seemed to be a division of duties here in that many Egyptians worked in the Reception, Filipinas dominated the restaurants, Indians were found in semi managerial positions and hotel domestic work and the unlucky Bangladeshis at the bottom of the heap assigned to managing the hygiene of the place.
I spent long hours talking to various employees whenever their schedule permitted.
One thing was immediately clear. The workers are very well looked after. The Hotel provides accommodation for all its workers, in one or two room apartments or villas, there are kitchens, and swimming pools and many of them are situated near the ocean. All of them are air-conditioned and wi fi are freely available.
There are sports and gymnasium facilities in all the living quarters area. They are not camps but resemble modern facilities found in Europe or USA. Transportation to and fro work is provided.
Qatar is a peninsula in the Arabian Desert. The riches from the Oil industry has transformed this oasis into a modern city state, with all the modern conveniences of living: An excellent airport, clean navigable roads all clearly marked, beaches, recreation facilities and restaurants from all corners of the globe (Ethiopian, Nepali, Yemeni just to name some exotic cuisines).
All in all, Qatar has created a favourable impression in my mind, by visiting Doha repeatedly and mingling and mixing with the hundreds of workers who had come from various parts of the world. While Indians, Nepalis, Filipinos, Egyptians dominate the work force, there are sizeable numbers from all parts of the world.
As I mentioned earlier there is a division of labour here, not strictly enforced but most of the Security men seem to be from Kenya and Uganda. Uber drivers seem to be from Ethiopian and one of them remarked: There are no illegal migrants in Qatar, it is just not possible!
Mohammed from Alexandria, Sunil from Nepal, Bektar from Kyrgyzstan, Ali from Cairo, Ayman from Tunis, Mohammed Ramadan from Damascus, Mostafa and Elsayed from Egypt, Shirin from Kyrgyzstan all had very positive things to say about Qatar, their employment and the facilities offered them and also the safety of the country.
My Love for the Country has only increased as I get to know the Qatari mind that creates this atmosphere of hospitality. The current diplomatic crisis against Qatar is unjustified and the Emir Tamim is handling it in superb statesmanlike fashion.

lundi 11 septembre 2017

SHIMON PERES:always remain Jewish and ensure the Jewish people always remain.

There is a beautiful recounting of the wonderful friendship Shimon Peres had with the French PM who on the last night of his stewardship before being thrown out, made concrete his promise of cooperation with Israel to build a Nuclear Plant in Dimona in the Negev.
Recalling those nerve wracking last moments, Shimon Peres recollects the episode in No room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the making of Modern Israel:
In this way, I felt that our work on Dimona, an effort once marked for certain failure, had fulfilled the covenant I had made with my grandfather, but on a far grander scale: to always remain Jewish and ensure the Jewish people always remain.

Those of us, with certain convictions, need no reminders; we will do our bit, in our own minor capacities in this big drama that Jewish People survive.
Those Jews who in the false sense of being liberal and open minded, would drown their own people, and shout support for a group of people bent upon destroying the Jewish state, we cannot change their minds, but we can use every opportunity we have and we get in the future to do our drop in the ocean bit to ensure that Jewish People survive.
I do not have surplus money to give to institutions that ensure our survival but I have surplus time and I come across a lot of ordinary people who harbor ignorant but innocent hatred towards our people and when I meet them or look for an opportunity to inform them, of Israel or the Israeli people and also the fabulous gift that is being Jewish, highlighting the common concern, the devotion to study and innovation and the desire to help others, the mitzvah, without being a braggart or without substance. I tell Uber drivers in Moslem countries who invariably have the name Mohammed, that the technology of the accessories in the car, are all Israeli in origin. And then I have to be a good example of the people I represent so that they would question themselves: we were told the Jews are bad but how come the Doctor from Cuba who is Jewish is so pleasant and gives me self-confidence and listens to my story and gives credibility to my existence?
I have won over many a Mohammed in Malaysia and Qatar and Indonesia with the presentation of symbolism in my behavior which represents the best of our people, the people whose existence we have to strive for, as promised by Shimon Peres to his grandfather.
Am Israel Chai
Which has the sentiment much like what indigenous people say everywhere
Mitakuye Oyasin (in Lakota)
We are all related.
And we would actively practice this relationship; enhance it at our simple level, by understanding the knot that ties us, the link in the chain that we are in the long chain of the history of our people.

Let me raise this glass of South African Sauvignon Blanc in the 22nd Floor of a building in this Muslim country and city where everything gleams of newness and prosperity

L Chaim to Life.