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After the Lava Sleeps

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On December 10, 2018 a group of displaced Puna residents met at Nanawale Community Association longhouse to hear about the future of Highway 132 from representatives of the County of Hawai’i, the government entity for the region.  Approximately 25-30 people attended from the 50 or more households with no road access to their properties surrounded by the lava flow that started in early May, 2018.
Residents were forced to evacuate under pressure of advancing lava by the end of May.  Many lost everything.  While County of Hawai’i Civil Defense monitoring was robust when the volcanic eruption captured worldwide media attention, County action on rebuilding and recovery could now be characterized as listless and sporadic.
The county representatives began with a presentation about how they wanted the meeting to proceed. But the group would have none of that and in unison boomed out, “We want to know when will Route 132 be rebuilt! “
Many called out,  “What’s the county doing to work with the geothermal plant contractors already pushing through lava to their facility?” Again and again, people spoke out,  “When will we be able to get to our homes and farms?”
I had arrived early for the meeting and spoke with a representative of the County, learning that one of the goals for the evening was to “get people’s stories about the disaster.” This is part of an effort to reanimate news coverage and tourism after the lava flow that made countless people homeless and consumed acres of productive agricultural land, pastures and public recreational areas.
Individual stories, heartfelt examples of what the disaster has wrought on the community, families, individuals and institutions could be presented to state legislators, the county council or even the U.S. Congress to explain the extent of loss and begin to quantify needs to restore economic viability and human stability.
The greatest need from the perspective of people whose farms and homes were cut off from road access by the lava was repeated often: “We need the public roads repaired and replaced for access to our land and homes!”
The County participated in the talk story meeting with those profoundly disadvantaged by the lava inundation to ask affected residents about how visitors — tourists — could better understand the impact of the lava and show respect for local culture and Hawai’ian traditions of respect. The county is gathering thoughts from school-age youth and local residents to create a Pono ethics code for the Hawaii Tourism Authority to convey to tourism industry stake-holders and their customers.
By communicating to visitors the challenges faced by locals during and after the lava flow, officials anticipate that tourists will have a better understanding of local people’s priorities and possibly reduce potential conflicts due to lava viewing or lava tours for visitors that stray onto local family land. The County of Hawai’i website now provides facts for potential tourists to the island of Hawai’i (aka Big Island).
I was reminded by a Kama’aina friend today that Pono is not an elastic term or concept, but a specific Hawaiian word meaning ‘righteous.’ Is this righteous advice to tourists or an expression of the righteous behavior that Hawaiians expect of tourists?
How to finance repairs of the roads and how to best manage the influx of tourists in search of lava viewing thrills are the thorny questions for which no answers were offered during the meeting.
Can the state and county redirect a portion of the tourism promotion budget to support Puna area institutions?  Can a donation website and a Kickstarter funding platform be created to fund the road repairs and rebuild some of the Pahoa area recreational facilities damaged or obliterated during the lava flow?
Will advertising aimed at visitors feature stories of Puna residents affected by the lava? Are local institutional needs and road repairs enumerated anywhere?
Is it appropriate to encourage more visitors to the devastated area when dozens of families have no secure homes and cannot return to their property?
A social media platform where locals could share their disaster stories might illuminate the extent of loss and future needs. But how are these stories reported? Is accuracy and truth verified?  Some may not want their personal experiences publicized to attract philanthropy or curious visitors.
During the talk story phase of the evening, I heard participants around the tables offer compelling and detailed accounts of divided families, financial loss, upset, expense, sadness, great loss, as well as mental and physical exhaustion.  No one that I heard expressed that their lives have been improved by this experience and the outcomes. Many felt they’d been overlooked and ignored by the County of Hawai’i either as individuals, as families or property owners, or as a distinct group affected by the lava.
I wondered if the representatives from the various social assistance agencies who wrote notes as people shared their stories actually get the facts. Will the individuals have a chance to review their stories before they become human-interest examples to attract budget increases?  Were the oral stories accurately reported?  If these stories become part of a proposed social media platform showing how affected residents are building resilience, will individuals be able to review the content before it is made public or used in appeals to state or national legislators? As one mother stated, we residents are already demonstrating the strength and resilience described in branding phrases I noticed on handouts and other materials: Puna Pono and Volcano Eruption Recovery.
In the end, nothing concrete was offered regarding the rebuilding of Route 132 except that a Risk Assessment will be done by the Univ. of Hawaii Manoa.  The “risk” being the potential liability of the road-builders on the Route 132 area. Will they encounter hot zones, active lava, lava tubes, re-eruption, and other hazards.
I hope the Risk Assessment team are not just keyboard desk jockeys with spreadsheets working on another island.  I hope they consult onsite vulcanologists 
Old settled lava.
and geographers and social scientists and community-based psychologists.  There is more at risk than what the lava presents.
It’s time for an end to the slow-walking and expecting residents to solve their own access problems. Distracting the affected people with platitudes and soft strategies like story telling, identifying community needs, or school involvement,  instead of providing direct leadership and specific actions. Public road building is the responsibility of the local government.
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Museum of Political Corruption

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Check the transparency and  ethics of government and corporate management daily. Maybe hourly?

Teachers, create a popular lesson by displaying the reach and excesses of political corruption all the way into the classroom.

Random browsers, visit the Facebook presence of the Museum of Political Corruption

No building is big enough to hold the documented and undocumented malfeasance of politicians and their money-bag cronies.  Mr. Big, and Mrs. Big too, built their short-cut to the big-top on a pile.  They usually don’t get caught; throw their myrmidons out as distraction bait.

Mr. Big gets a suitcase

The  Museum of Political Corruption will be located in Albany, a city-state capital thought to be the bedrock of American political corruption.  Maybe the museum library will be interested in maintaining print and digital archives of reporting on political corruption. Some writers and journalists have deep troves of subject files long predating the Internet.

Fortunately, investigative reporters like Susanne Craig of The New York Times are on the case.  In May, 2017 Susanne Craig was named first winner of The Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Reporting.

Reporter Susanne Craig’s mailbox mysteriously yielded leaked pages from Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return.  A former Albany bureau chief for The Times, Susanne Craig has also led investigations into allegations of wrongdoing in state government, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to shut down a much-heralded commission investigating public corruption.

The Museum of Political Corruption established the Nellie Bly Award to recognize the vital role investigative reporting plays in government oversight and maintaining an informed electorate.  The award is named after late 1800s pioneering investigative reporter Nellie Bly.

Nellie Bly stamp

Footsteps of the Saint-Simonians in Cairo

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When I visited Cairo in 2013 the Arab Spring had not yet devolved to utter bloody chaos throughout the region, though anyone could see the trend

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Entry to Franciscan Center for Christian Oriental Studies. 2013 ©L. Peat O’Neil

In Cairo I sought the Franciscan Friars’ Oriental Studies Library intent on researching the pioneering men and women who traveled from France to Egypt in 1833-34 with Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin. The French group of adventurers were members of a social reform movement (sometimes described as a sect) known as Saint-Simonianism.  Their philosophy originated in the writings of  the Comte Henri de Saint-Simon, a proto-socialist aristocrat focused on improving education for working people, removing the influence of the Roman Catholic church on private life, and replacing marriage inequality with rights for women and family alliances outside of civil or religious certification. We would call that common law marriage or a civil partnership, but the conservative French government and the church described it as “free love” and jailed the Saint-Simonian leader Enfantin with a handful of others for inciting revolutionary ideas.

Soon, these French idealists were heading to the middle east with vague plans to to discover a female Messiah to balance the Christian emphasis on the male Messiah.  On that pursuit they were unsuccessful.

However, Saint-Simonian ideas did influence other areas of French social structure, finance, and public transportation during ensuing decades. Their work in Egypt was especially notable and enduring.  

Scientists and engineers, doctors, midwives, and educators affiliated with Saint-Simonianism worked under the aegis and with the approval of Muhammad Ali, the Egyptian Viceroy,  to establish or improve and modernize the infrastructure of Egypt. Saint-Simonian efforts included building a medical school and the military training infrastructure, preliminary work on the Suez Canal, midwife training for local women and children’s education. 

While in Cairo and Alexandria, many of the French men and women died during cholera and typhus epidemics during  1834-35 and 1836. I hoped to find their tombs.

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Doorway of the Franciscan Monastery, Cairo, May 2013. Image © L. Peat O’Neil

My prior reading suggested that some tombs of the dead French idealists were located in the cloister of the Franciscan Monastery. In particular, Jehan d’Ivary, author of the 1928 travel book Promenades a Travers du Caire, which I examined in the Municipal Library in Toulouse in 1982, stated that a few Saint-Simonian workers were buried at the Monastery of the Franciscan Fathers, at the Hospital Abou Za`abal, and other locations, but that it was impossible to discover the locations of other French graves from that distant time. 

In the 1830s Abou Za`abal was the Egyptian army hospital, but 170 years later, it was one of Cairo’s prisons and a short–or long term–compound for those ruled to be on the wrong side of the Arab Spring demonstrations. Abou Za`abal made international headlines in August, 2013 when dozens of prisoners perished as fully reported in the Guardian newspaper in February, 2014. 

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Door to the Franciscan Monastery Church behind locked gate and fence.

I arrived at the Franciscan Center of Christian Oriental Studies Library when the head priest was having lunch, or praying, or resting — I wasn’t certain of the explanation. Seeing my disappointment, the French-speaking library manager graciously invited me to use the library and perhaps return tomorrow when I could talk to the priest about the history of the Franciscan Monastery.  Always at home in a library, I fingered through the card catalog searching for names of the French engineers, doctors, teachers, and other Saint-Simonian personnel.  Without my laptop at hand, it was hit or miss to recall the correct spellings of the French immigrants from long ago. Eventually I found a trove of catalog cards citing books by or about the French-trained Doctor of Medicine and of Surgery, Dr. B. A. Clot (known in Egypt as Clot-Bey) who was the founder of Western medical systems in Egypt.  After submitting a few book request cards to the library manager, I soon was paging through a copy of La Peste written by Dr. Clot-Bey. It was published in Paris in 1840 detailing his observations and experiments with quarantain during the frequent cholera outbreaks during the 1830s. I began scribbling notes

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Dr. B. A. Clot-Bey at El-Aini the Medical School he founded in 19th century.  Source: https://sites.google.com/a/kasralainy.edu.eg/portal-trial/home/admin/history/clot-bey

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Dr. Barthelmy Antoine Clot- Bey

As Surgeon-in-Chief of the Armies and founder of the medical school in Cairo, Dr. Clot-Bey was awarded the honorific “Bey” by Muhammed Ali, the Viceroy of Egypt, and excused from pledging fealty to the Viceroy or the Muslim religion.  At the time, Egypt was subject to the rule of the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople, but Muhammed Ali was in charge and had visionary ideas about improving Egypt.  Dr. Clot-Bey selected and trained medical officers for the Egyptian army hospital founded in 1827 as Qasr al-‘Ayni School of Medicine.  

Religious leaders at the time resisted the perceived threat of modern medical treatments and practices.  Examination and autopsies of cadavers were considered insults to the body and prohibited in the Koran. Women could not be seen or touched by male doctors. The persuasive power of the Viceroy brought gradual change, but male medical doctors trained at Clot-Bey’s institution were forbidden to treat Egyptian women.  The Viceroy asked Dr. Clot-Bey to found the maternity school for midwives which began training hakimas (Egyptian medical women).  

During the decades of my interest in the Saint-Simonian women and their early feminist social movement, I have read and accumulated information about those who traveled to Egypt to teach hygiene and midwifery.   In her memoir of the Saint-Simonian women in Egypt, the French midwife Suzanne Voilquinmentions Dr. Clot-Bey as teacher and mentor. She later traveled and worked in Russia as a midwife.

Dr. Clot Bey was concerned with public health issues for containment and treatment of cholera and typhus as well as the childbirth mortality. His influence led directly to the foundation of a separate medical school for women and training midwives in Cairo.   Dr. Clot-Bey’s thesis for the Doctor of Surgery awarded in 1823 by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montpellier was “Dangers of the Instrumental Manipulation in Obstetrical Delivery.”  Even in the 21st c. infants and mothers remain at risk of damage and death from forceps manipulation. 

What ultimately made this visit to the old Franciscan Monastery library so important to me was holding the book  La Peste.  The library ‘s copy was inscribed by Dr. Clot-Bey himself.  Dr. Clot-Bey’s book brought out of the stacks for me to explore and read was an 1840 gift to the Monastery with the author’s signature in brown ink, copperplate script. The covers had been wrapped in different paper. I expressed surprise and appreciation to the library manager who reminded me to return the next day to meet the director. 

When I returned the following day, I enjoyed an hour or so with the head of the monastery who listened to my research project and counseled that it would be nearly impossible to find tombs, graves, or headstones from nearly two hundred years ago. But he did have handwritten ledgers of deaths which I could peruse.

He disappeared for a while and I returned to claim a table in the small reading room area of the library.  At another table a woman student was participating in a language reading lesson in a low voice while a senior man, possibly her father or other relative, observed looked on. This was familiar; I’ve taught English to immigrants in Maryland libraries, though parental escorts weren’t required. Soon the director brought out a stack of fat bound ledgers recording deaths of people from the international community living in Cairo from 1833 to 1836 who were in some way affiliated with the monastery’s church. Most of the deaths recorded in the large ledgers were due to cholera but I noted there was an occasional drowning or street accident. The nationalities of the deceased included citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey, England, Italy, Spain and France. 

The author in appropriate disguise.

The handwriting in the ledgers was difficult to decipher, and the script changed when one recorder succumbed to cholera which a note in the ledger explained with emotional emphasis. I managed to find records of a few French residents and even a doctor who was part of the Saint-Simonian group and died during the cholera epidemic, as Dr. Clot-Bey details in his book. 

A significant street in Cairo is named Clot-Bey, depicted below on a 19th c. postcard from the Gilded Serpent website.  

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Ultimately, I wandered through a cemetery in the old Coptic section but none of the dates on grave markers extended to the 1830s. I contented myself with the timeless connection of using a book handled and inscribed by Dr. Clot-Bey, reward enough for my effort.

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Author, perhaps in mufti.

Resources:

Burrow, Gerard N. “Clot-Bey: Founder of Western Medical Practice in Egypt.”  The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: 48, 251-257 (1975) .

M. Paul Merruau, ”L’Egypte Contemporaine de Mehemet-ali a Said Pacha”, Paris, Librarie Internationale, 1860, p. 84.

Myntti, “Medical Education: The Struggle for Relevance”. Middle East Report, V:161

Clot-Bey, Antoine-Barthelemy. “De La Peste Obseré en Egypte.” Paris: 1840.

No White Food

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Check our my food blog sometime NoWhiteFood

 

Written by patwa

21/10/2016 at 10:39 pm

Railway Museum in Cairo Reopened

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Egyptian Railway Museum renovation construction. May, 2013.

Egyptian Railway Museum renovation construction zone. May, 2013.

 

 

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Track #1 Ramses Station, Cairo. May, 2013

In March, 2016 the Egyptian Railway Museum reopened.

Photo Gallery of the renovated museum.

 

 

 

 

Nearly three years ago, during May 2013, while visiting Cairo, I planned to see the Egyptian Railway Museum which occupies a portion of Ramses Station on the edge of a vast area of traffic flyovers, market stalls and vehicle congestion.

Ramses Square, Cairo. Mosque in background.

Ramses Square, Cairo. Mosque in background.

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Elevated roadways in Cairo.

A colossal statue of Ramses in the busy plaza is a visual landmark if you arrive by taxi.

 

 

 

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Historic locomotive at Ramses Station rail museum. May 2013

 

At the time I visited, an antique locomotive, part of the Egyptian rail network built by Scotsman Robert Stephenson, was displayed in front of the train station.   The Stephenson family produced notable civil engineers, designers of railroads and bridges. The other Stevenson family — of writer Robert Louis Stevenson —  were lighthouse designers and engineers.

Signs in the plaza pointed to the museum inside the station.  As I walked closer, I saw the railway museum was in a state of deplorable ruin with massive piles of rubble outside, windows broken out, and an abandoned dozer tilting on piles of broken stones and tile.   The museum building was a wrecked shell.  Was a renovation project placed on hold because of the disruption caused by deep-seated unrest back in early 2011? Or was the building destroyed as a byproduct of cultural editing and property destruction undertaken during the “Year of Morsi” ?   I could only wonder.

Fast forward a few years.  A follower of this blog named Davy posted a comment with the photos of the reopened museum.  I haven’t had the opportunity to return to Cairo since 2013, but the freshly opened railway museum offers an incentive.

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Street vendor in Cairo. May 2013

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Train platforms at Ramses Station, Cairo. May 2013

Interior Ramses Train Station, Cairo. May 2013

Interior Ramses Train Station, Cairo. May 2013

 

 

Pedestrians cross tracks at Ramses Station platform.

Pedestrians cross tracks at Ramses Station platform.

 

 

 

 

 

The world’s first national rail networks began in Britain, with the inter-city line connecting industrial midland Manchester with the port of Liverpool in 1830.

Egypt forged a national rail network next. France had short rail lines in place, but not an network that could move goods long distance overland. Egypt’s rail system connected ports on the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea until the Suez Canal was opened in 1869.

Egypt’s initial railway track was built between Cairo and Alexandria. By 1856-1858, Egypt had a functioning railway network, which fitted the British interest in keeping the region stable and to secure faster communications and transport routes to India, the crown jewel of British colonial resources.

Britain tended to support the Ottoman Empire (which in theory ruled Egypt at the time) against all challengers, while British merchants nosed out commercial opportunities in the Nile Valley and Suez.  An overland route opened between the port of Alexandria and the Gulf of Suez and the rolling stock and engine designed by Stephenson improved the route.

Plaque describing historic Stephenson locomotive.

Plaque describing historic Stephenson locomotive.

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Train platforms at Ramses Station Cairo. May 2013

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2013 Renovation construction of Egyptian Railway Museum.

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Stephenson locomotive at Ramses Station, Cairo.

Plaque states this is the original 19th c. locomotive of the Egyptian rail system.

Plaque states this is the original 19th c. locomotive of the Egyptian rail system.

Written by patwa

14/10/2016 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Egypt, Museum, Train Travel

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Exploring Female Adventurers at London’s Women of the World Festival

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Great concept to pull together successful women of the world and learn from their adventures.

Nellie Bly in the Sky

Sunday 13 March, 11.30 a.m.  SOUTHBANK CENTRE, London   

wow logo 4As part of the Women of the World Festival 2016,  I am inviting women to ignite their own adventurous spirits through the journeys of  women explorers — past and present — who defied convention, pushed limits and travelled into the unknown.

In this era of shrinking comfort zones and glitzy role models, I’ll be celebrating women adventurers — women who take a walk on the wild side and explore the world. I’ll be paying tribute to those before us who left inhibition at home and journeyed through a man’s world on awe-inspiring voyages;  as well as today’s ‘adventuresses’ who challenge themselves on foot, bikes, skis; in boats, vans, planes…in the true spirit of adventure.

Today's female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women's Adventure Expo 2015. Today’s female explorers (l to r) Felicity Aston, Rosie Stancer, Jacki Hill-Murphy, Lois Pryce, Ann Daniels and Arita Baaijens at the Women’s Adventure Expo 2015.

The…

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Written by patwa

08/03/2016 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Global view, Travel, Women

Falcon Dam :: Rio Grande

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Falcon Dam on Rio Bravo Norte (Rio Grande) forming Falcon Lake, on the border of Texas and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States) Image from National Archives and Records Administration NARA.gov

Falcon Dam on Rio Bravo Norte (Rio Grande) forming Falcon Lake, on the border of Texas and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States)
Image from National Archives and Records Administration NARA.gov

The 1953 dedication of Falcon Dam created a massive reservoir on the Rio Bravo del Norte, aka Rio Grande. Farmers and villagers were displaced on both sides of the river.

A city on the Mexican side was flooded, the inhabitants relocated to new homes built for them by the Mexican government.

Map of Falcon International Reservoir bordering Zapata County, Texas

Map of Falcon International Reservoir bordering Zapata County, Texas

Towns and farms on the U.S. side were also flooded, the inhabitants had to sue for relocation assistance and compensation, resolved — perhaps not equitably — years afterwards.

Reference: U.S. Congressional hearings on the dam.

 

 

Written by patwa

29/12/2015 at 8:27 am

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