Monday, April 28, 2008

The Wall That Heals

Through the ages walls have played an important role in the lives of humans, either as a defensive barrier or as a symbol or device of dedication.

The Great Wall of China was built to keep the Mongolian and Manchurian tribes out while the Berlin Wall was built to keep the East Berliners inside East Germany. Hadrian’s Wall was to physically mark the frontier of Roman civilization in a barbarian England, while the Aurelian Walls of Rome and the walls around numerous ancient cities were clearly built for defensive purposes. Then there are the walls from the Bible cities, Jericho and the old city of Jerusalem, which also has the Western Wall, also called the Wailing Wall, revered by Jews across the world. The Tsoi Wall in Arbat Street, Moscow is used as a wall of remembrance to the first Russian Rock legend, Victor Tsoi, while the Byker Wall is a long block of apartments/flats admired for its innovative design in the district of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Lastly there is the theatrical wall, built from cardboard that was used by Pink Floyd during performances based on their very successful double album, The Wall.

The past week The Wall That Heals visited Danville. Ky. The “Wall” is a mobile, half-size version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, which is often simply called The Wall. It contains the names of the 58,195 people that died related to the Vietnam War between 1959 and 1975. I went to take a look and took some photos.

Apart from the official memorial monument in Washington, DC, there are two mobile walls of the memorial traveling the US. One called The Moving Wall, and another called The Wall That Heals, supported by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. There is also the Virtual Wall on the Internet, which allows people to publish poems, photos, letters, etc. in remembrance.
Searching for the name of a love one, a brother or sister, a dad or mom, a comrade lost.

Moments of remembrance and recollecting the past. More than a thousand Kentuckians died in the Vietnam War. Six soldiers from Danville and Boyle County are among the fallen Kentuckians.

The trailer with artifacts and historic details.

More artifacts with the wall of names as a backdrop.

Medals, names and dog-tags. At the Wall in Washington people leave all kinds of artifacts all the time. The National Parks rangers collects these items at the end of every day, tag it and then take it to the Archive of the memorial. From time to time some of the artifacts are on display at the American History Museum.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Importance of a Second Language

Mouse family sits around their kitchen table and talk. The cat suddenly burst in. Dad mouse jumps up, frighten to death and starts barking like a dog. Cat turns around and run away.
When Dad mouse got his wits back and sat down again he told the Kid mice: I hope you now realize the importance of a second language.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

Why did the Chicken cross the road?
(From a South African point of view)

ESKOM: I do not care as long as he saved 10% electricity crossing the road.
KINDERGARTEN TEACHER: To get to the other side.
JAN F.E. CELLIERS: Dis die hoender, dis die pad, dis al.
NATANIEL: Ek was vreeslik op my nerves vir sy part tot hy anderkant gekom het. Ek dink dit was stunning.
NAAS BOTHA: Aan die einde van die dag maak dit nie saak hoeveel keer hy oor die straat stap nie. Wat saak maak is die telbord.
NELSON MANDELA: It was his long walk to freedom. A true Rainbow chicken.
PIETER-DIRK UYS: Was dit ‘n he-chicken of ‘n she-chicken? Does it Pik?
ALLAN BOESAK: How can the motives of a chicken who had done so much for chickenhood be questioned? It must have “struggled” to cross the road.
DULLA OMAR: I am sure the chicken is innocent. He did what he did because of the apartheid legacy.
NGCONDE BALFOUR: The government will ensure that a fair quota of black chickens cross the road as well. Why should black chickens remain on this side of the road? I only watch black chickens crossing the road anyway…
TREVOR MANUEL: Makes me think: we don’t tax chickens crossing roads yet….
MARTINUS VAN SCHALKWYK: Let’s join the chicken and cross the road!
TONY LEON: No matter where the chicken goes, we have the guts to fight back.
DESMOND TUTU: We should have crossed the road with him. Together we will make a difference
THABO MBEKI: I don’t really have an opinion about this…
MARK SHUTTLEWORTH: I would have paid a million to see the chicken cross the road!
ROBERT MUGABE: Stop that chicken! It must be repossessed together with the farm it belongs to. And the farm on the opposite side of the road, where it was going, and all the chickens on both farms. Repossess it all. And it’s nobody’s business what I do in my country with my chickens. It is Britain’s fault for bringing chickens here anyway.
JACOB ZUMA: The showers were across the road
Dr. MANTOMBAZANA TSHABALALA-MSIMANG: Whish schicken (hic!) - I saw many … pink shikkins

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oupa's Little Helper in the Kitchen

Centre College Carnival 2008

Scenes from Friday night's yearly college carnival

Pie Painted Faces.

Ideal opportunity to buy a plate of cream and paste it on the face of someone you don't like.

Flea-Market Fun Alley

Friday, April 18, 2008

Green-Collar Workers

What on green earth is a green-collar job? No, no, no, don’t tell me it is someone whose job is related or designated to environmental work, because we have had those kinds of jobs for a very long time already and they were never called green-collar. We have never thought of a park ranger or a maintenance worker mending National Park fences filling a green-collar job. Or have we? I have never heard of them been spoken about in that terms.

It seems that during this year’s Presidential primaries we have heard the term green-collar worker et nausea. Suddenly Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama and to a lesser extent Mr. McCain are bragging they can create millions of green-collar jobs. And not only can they create these job, which is in the first place very doubtful since politicians rarely create any private sector jobs, but they even claim these jobs cannot be taken off-shore to Asia. What a lot of bull.

Suddenly a worker climbing up a ladder of a wind turbine is a green-collar worker. Nonsense. People working on turbines have never been called that. Or what about a scientist working on renewable energy? Is he/she a green-collar worker? No way. When people started drilling for oil more than a century ago it was also renewable energy and no one ever call them green-collar workers. Today’s renewable energy workers are trying to eliminate the jobs of yesterday’s renewable energy workers. Oilmen were always blue-collar workers. More likely black-collar workers because of the dirty environment they worked in. (But black-collar workers are something totally different. Later about that.) And are we going to make the differentiation now between farmers growing corn and cane for bio-fuel and call them green-collar workers and other cash-crop farmers are just going to stay plain farmers. Or maybe we should call them earth-workers or maybe dirt-lovers.

I admit everything is relative and our lexicon is in constant flux as it pleases those that seek change or say anything to get elected, or who want to push their specific favorite cause of the day. Don’t make a mistake. I am not against less pollution or against living greener. But I don’t see any reason why we should create another box to categorize people’s jobs. Don’t we have enough colored boxes already?

By the way, I guess I was ignorant, but I never knew there were so many different colored-collared workers. Searching the Internet I discovered, apart from green and the usual white and blue-collar workers, you also get:
- Black-collar workers (those that work on the black market),
- Pink-collar workers (mainly women working in the service industry and clerical work in the industrial sectors),
- Grey-collar workers (those working-class professions like technicians that do not involve significant manual labor),
- Open-collar workers (persons working from home, especially via the Internet) and
- Scarlet-collar workers (mainly women, but also men in the sex-industry.)

I didn’t find any real yellow-collar workers, but I did find brown-collar workers, although there don’t seem to be a clear definition of these characters. The term has different meanings in different countries. Brown-collar workers can be people in the waste management industry, workers from Latino descend or anyone with a brown skin. In Australia they call working dogs also brown-collar workers, and in Canada it is implied to be a workforce consisting of foreign professionals, from a visible minority and doing low wage jobs. In many cases the term is related to discrimination in the work place.

I also found red-collar workers (to some a very new term that refers to those persons who want to be cared for cradle-to-grave without breaking much of a sweat, figuratively or otherwise, in the workplace, and to others red-collar is the same as scarlet collar – sex workers.)

Wow! I am all techni-colored now. My head is spinning. I feel I walked through a color-wheel. I am sure if I have more time for research or innovative enough I can find or coin more collared workers, i.e. the Stiff-neck collar worker or the golf-shirt-collar worker, or the collarless-professional-sportsman-collar worker, or the everyday-different-emotional-actor-collar worker. I mean no one said you can only assign colors to collars. It’s our language and we can word-play with it anyway which way we choose. Can’t we?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cowboy Food, Argentinean Style

When I come to Monterrey I don’t usually have too many fix plans for after work hours. I go by the flow of the job. So when something actually happens what I roughly planned to do it’s great. Tonight was such a case. More luck than actual effort.

I was in meetings till late and missed my ride back to the hotel. A colleague offered me a ride if I was willing to wait until 7 pm when he completed some training. No Problem. I had lots of other work to do. Upon my arrival back at the hotel I bumped into another colleague and an ex-employee of our company and an impromptu chat revealed that they were on there way to dinner. No definitive destination yet.

Sometimes life is all about asking and sees what happens. After all, the worst that can happen is getting a no answer. So I mentioned that I have never been to El Gaucho restaurant, whether they are willing to go there and they said why not. One restaurant is as good as another. So off we went.

El Gaucho, the cowboy, is an Argentinean-style steakhouse that has built the reputation as one of Monterrey’s best restaurants for meat and good service. It is located on the southern highway on your way out of town towards Villa Santiago. It was still before 8 pm so parking was not a problem when we got there and neither was getting a table without a long wait. We got there just in time as the place was getting crowed. An interesting feature of the restaurant is that they present you with a platter of the raw meat so you can see the size and the cuts that are featured on the menu. It’s then that you realize why their menu offers steaks in half and full portions. For example, a half order of rib eye steak is about 1 ¼ inch (30 mm) thick and about 16-20 ounces (1/2 kg) in weight. That’s a lot of meat. This is no place for vegans.

We started with a mixed green salad topped by a creamy white cheese and also ordered a Queso y Chorizo (melted cheese with spicy sausage), but this order were never delivered. Strike one against the establishment. I ordered a filet mignon wrapped on bacon and covered with smoky mushrooms to be washed down with a half bottle of Chiati Ruffino from Italy. My steak was certainly not topnotch and far to tough for a filet mignon. My colleague had an arracherra cut (skirt steak) and said his was quite good and tender. I suppose I can say I should have…rather than…but at a place like El Gaucho with a good reputation that line of reasoning should not be required. Strike two.

The wine was reasonably good, but then they were just pouring someone else’s labor of love. There was no immediate room for dessert. I would like to say the service was good, but when they brought the check and we got billed for the Queso y chorizo which we never received, I had to strike El Gaucho a final time and send them to the dugout.

We returned to the hotel and I opted for a dessert of hot Brownies and vanilla ice cream with café Americano in the hotel’s restaurant while I write this post.

In conclusion, if you are a big meat eater and love big portions and you are lucky to pick the right cut and get the grill master on an excellent evening then El Gaucho is the place to eat in Monterrey. Unfortunately tonight they will not be on my list of recommended restaurants, simply too many little things against them for the price of the dinner.

But I am glad I went. The place came highly recommended, reviews on the Internet were good, and it just wasn’t my night for an excellent meal. That happens. Simple as that! Some you win, some you lose. And if you don’t go out and try you will never know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Visions from above

The Houston morning was crisp and clear and the sky was cloudless as I stepped out of the airport building for a smoke. Spring has certainly come to this part of America.

Although spring has also arrived in the Bluegrass, well sort of, the weather is not yet that warm. As a matter of fact, a few snow flurries were even predicted. Luckily they never came. Disgusting! I am tired of winter. And I am delighted that the earth is once again starting to tilt, moving the northern hemisphere closer to the sun. Not only is spring a renewing of nature, but is also such a lifting-of-the-spirits experience.

After lift off from Houston we flew my favorite route to Monterrey. Because I usually sit on the left-hand side of the airplane I could see the expanse of the Gulf of Mexico as we flew all along the coast line. We flew over several rivers that spill their brown silt into the Gulf, causing little brown “island” in the blue expanse. Over the lagoons that go on and on and near Corpus Christi we turn out over the Gulf proper.

Here and there oil platforms or some structures that look like oilrigs to me stand like solitary beacons in the vastness of the waters. We never drifted too far from land, but after about 20 minutes of flying we turned back over land again, heading for the border town of Nuevo Laredo. Here and there the beaches are narrow strips of white and brown sand and at other places they are wide strips between sea and lagoon.

Now the landscape changed. Neatly cultivated squares, circles, rectangular, and triangles, cross-crossed by many snaky rivers that curls and turn through the land, while arrow-straight roads separated the patterned farms of southern Texas. Near Nuevo Laredo we turned south and gradually the green earth turned to light-brown with dark grey patches as we entered deeper into Mexico’s rugged arid north. White dirt roads linked small communities every few miles. Soon a more mountainous terrain appeared in my airplane window. At one point I could clearly see where the folds and peaks of the mountain end or starts, depending how you look at it. Just like a land of a peninsula strutting into the sea, the mountain stood out, surrounded at its point by flat lands. As we got closer to Monterrey the high peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains appeared in the hazy sky. Hazy as always.

After a sharp turn from west to south-east we descended, lower and lower and I could see lazy cows grazing the land, a farmer plowing his land with a tractor, trucks moving earth and stone near a quarry, and a narrow dirty-red river that has gorged a deep trough through the dry land.

Touch down! The many peaks of the surrounding mountains flew pass in the distance as we taxied down the runway towards the airport buildings.

Another week of careful listening, translations, slowly learning of Spanish and hot weather is lying ahead. I don’t have any plans for cultural education this week except going to the “famous” El Gaucho Argentinean-style restaurant which is supposed to provide excellent service and grill the best steaks in Monterrey.

Pictures: Spring blossoms from my garden.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sick Notes

These are absentee/sick notes from parents (including original spelling) collected by schools all over South Africa.

1. My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. (Physical Education) today. Please execute him.
2. Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
3. Dear School : Please ekscuse Shadrak being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.
4. Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
5. Please excuse Blessing from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
6. John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
7. Moses was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
8. Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
9. Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
10. Please excuse Justice Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
11. Please excuse Pedro from being absent yesterday. He had (diahre) (dyrea) (direathe) the shits. [Words in ()'s were crossed out.]
12. Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea and his boots leak.
13. Petros was absent yesterday because he missed his bust.
14. Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault.
15. I kept Beauty home because she was to go Christmas shopping because I don't know what size she wear.
16. Please ekxcuse Wiseman for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off verunda, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.
17. Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral.
18. My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the Marines.
19. Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well.
20. Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps.
21. Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover.
22. Please excuse Burma , she has been sick and under the doctor.
23. Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night.
24. Please excuse little Jimmy for not being in school yesterday. His father is gone and I could not get him ready because I was in bed with the doctor.