Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy 60th birthday Mum

I remember a few years ago Mum had an experience on the street in the middle of Sydney. A friendly man walked by, took one look at Mum and said "you´re still beautiful".

Happy birthday Mum. 60, Beautiful and inspiring as ever. I love you and miss you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

who can pick the glaring contradiction in this?

U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver a speech next week in which he is expected to reveal a new strategy for the 8-year-old war in Afghanistan, one that is likely to include an exit strategy as well as a fresh injection of troops....


Currently reading "The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East" by awarn winning foreign correspondent Robert Fisk. Gripping stuff.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A good road trip is a wonderful thing

Last weekend I had an incredible road trip adventure with my best mate Steve. In two days we had such a variety of experiences, and all within 2 hours of Mexico City.

We bussed out of DF on Friday night to the little town of Amecameca, to head up to Popocatepetl and Ixtacihautl, Mexico´s 2nd and 3rd largest volcanoes the next day. These two volcanoes are the stuff of legends - the white dormant mountain representing a lady, and her lover, the smoking active volcano, looking over her.
(4500m and over 5000m, respectively - we were there in the non snowy-season)

On the saturday evening we headed out of Amecameca, faithfully following the locals´ instructions to link up with the buses passing on a nearby highway, under a bridge, which were supposed to take us to Tlaxcala (another state). We waited under the bridge in the absolute middle of nowhere in the dark, only to be offered a ride by a reasonably unsuspicious looking sort of man. We accepted the hike and climbed along. Zooming along the highway, our driver told us he was a Federal Policeman and used to be in the Army. After we got out of the car 45 mins later, on the side of the highway, Steve said to me "Pinche Maddy - I know you too well. As soon as the guy said he was a cop, you froze and went silent in the back seat, so I had to do all the damn conversation." Hehe. Steve later admitted that he was also imagining what his final words would be as the policeman kidnapped us and held us for ransom before execution. Ha! On the side of the road in San Martin (we didnt know whether we were in Puebla or Tlaxcala state), we were told that it was a quick crossing of the highway to where the buses left for the town we wanted to get to. The "quick crossing" ended up being a hair-raising dash through a 50cm hole in a wall between cars on the highway going 120kph! Phew.

We finally arrived in beautiful, enchanted Tlaxcala on Saturday night and enjoyed the charming town, its history, colours, old ladies hand weaving, adorable little Bulls-plaza, and excellent coloured lighting. We felt we had stumbled across a well-kept secret. Mexico has so many of these.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

3 small examples of why living in Mexico is amazing

1. I head down to the market at Balderas to buy a few books and a new hammock. As I come out of the metro I decide to make a detour by the plaza del son to watch the die-hard fans of son (slower, yummier version of salsa) taking a whirl under the Saturday sun. A dignified senior in a suit asks me to dance. I put down my shopping bags and spin a couple of songs around the fountain with him, watching everyone else and admiring their stylish steps. I thank my dance partner and continue along my with day.

I get to the market and the man that sells me a hammock tells me that he´s been in this same market for 40 years, that he and his wife were orphans and have been married for 58 years and have 11 children, who have all sorts of professions, from surgeons to lawyers. The hammock man has travelled all around europe, USA, but he still believes that "we´re living the glory in Mexico".

2. I'm sitting in the back of my friend's car and suddenly I cry out "sí, por favor!" and lean out to a flower seller standing at the traffic lights in front of us. My friend has just received some great news and as a joyful gesture we grab two enormous bunches of flowers - about 30 long stemmed roses among others - for only about $4AUD. I reach out to pay and the vendor stuffs the flowers into the back of the car so that it´s overflowing with colour. The lights turned green and we keep speeding on. Love it.

3. A heartfelt waling session with Andrés on guitar and my old Centro Prodh chums, all singing a melodramatic song of misery from José José, one of Mexico´s most famous singers. Everyone just goes for it! Well this video says it all.

As Margaret would say, now that is what you call the spice of life.

A fin la tristeza es la muerte lenta de las simples cosas..

Sunday, November 8, 2009

20 years on

In November 1989 I was 6 years old and no doubt thinking more about the lollies in my local shop than one of the most significant events of our generation.

20 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, what does it mean for me to have grown up in a post- Cold War world? I am a product of consumer capitalism, for better or worse. Be as it may that my political views tend to rally against the excesses and abuses of capitalism, I cannot for a minute deny that this much hated and much loved system is also responsible for the economic growth that has pulled many nations out of poverty. But of course it would be far too simplistic to put it like that. Inequality has generally soared throughout many parts of the world and the environmental cost of this beast are plain for all to see. However I continue to speak in platitudes. I am a mere law/anthropology graduate without any formal economic education. The closer I get to working on economics through my different jobs, the more I am flabbergasted by its complexity, by the necessity of trade but also the cruelty of it, by the need for competitiveness, but at what price, and the overall thing that seems to hit me is that you can´t be simplistic with economics. Who is to say that nationalising a company is bad for economics? Who is to say that private is necessarily bad or public is necessarily good? These are questions that rattle in my head and prick me constantly. They have for a long time, since working with the campaigners of Oxfam to witnessing the corruption of some Mexican unions to hearing the heartbreaking tales of Mexicans crossing the US-Mexico border in search for a future to feed their families. Sometimes I just say, oh sheesh! Bloody economics!!

On occasion of this anniversary, the BBC has published an extremely interesting and ambitious survey of 29,000 people in 27 countries to gauge the general reflections on global capitalism. The report card shows a thumping disappointment with capitalism.

I would tend to go with the yellows here. Yep. Capitalism cannot be the best model we have, surely.

Based on this survey above, the Mexicans and French show up as deeply confused: they have the highest rate of disapproval for free-market capitalism, however both countries have given support to clearly right-wing governments. Oh but dammit, who is to say that free market capitalism is the monopoly of the right wing? O gawd, take me back to the class room now!

Thursday, November 5, 2009