Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 5th, 2015

But we will be staying in a house in Sweden and not in a camp – clowns don’t come to houses.

A happy day in Lesvos.
So far everyone arrived safely. We helped some people getting to the first registration camp and performed there.

One girl loved the small origami tree she got during one clown skit and after the show came to me and asked if we will go to Sweden because she’s going there.

I said she will definitely meet some other clowns there. Then she replied with a very sad and concerned face :

” but we will be staying in a house there and not in a camp – clowns don’t come to houses.”

Hurray clowns for making the refugee camps a desired place smile emoticon

ClownsWithoutBorders in Lesvos!

I snap out of hectic dreams filled with the images of last night.

People running for doctors in broken accents of every language past the old grandmother being helped down the stairs near the shoeless man with feet like an elephant’s.

The tear-smeared cheeks of the tall man wrapped in wool.

Emergency blankets drifting down cobblestones into the sea. Wet piles of clothes. Huddled mothers.

Crackers. Soup. Cigarettes.

The first crack of that little girl’s smile. It’s 5:23 a.m.

The moon casts the slanted shape of a window on my bed. Molly breathes dreaming on the other side of the room.

In an hour and a half we’ll wake up and gather our noses.

After 9 time zones of upright and locked positions, coffee, train delays, in-flight meals, coffee, moving sidewalks, trams, busses and coffee, four clowns meet in Athens International.

Molly, our logistician, spots me first and after a grand squeezing reunion leads me to the others at the front of the baggage check in line.

None of us really know how many hours we’ve been traveling except maybe Sabine who has traveled one time zone from Lebanon. My grin pinches my own cheeks when I see her.

We met one year ago in Lebanon clowning kids away from land mines. Her vibrancy and presence make her seem a lot taller than she actually is.

I meet Luz’s hug for the first time. Her warm and inviting nature instantly link us like family.

Luz, Molly, and I are in the middle of our glassy eyed fifth winds but we fill the little plane with laughter on our way to the tiny Greek island of Lesvos, just off the coast of Turkey where thousands of refugees and migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, are pouring through every day.

After weeks to years of traveling they board crammed rubber rafts for 900 euros per person to traverse the windy, choppy seas for an hour or so to reach the rocky shores of Europe for the hope of a safer life.

It takes us two hours of GPSless driving to reach the tiny village where we are staying on the northern tip of the Island. On the way we see hundreds of orange life jackets strewn about the beach. We take a wrong turn down a road blocked by a collapsed castle.

A man stops his car to feed dogs in the middle of the street in front of us. Refugees line the sidewalks along the sea downtown.

In the morning we run assessments, visiting camps and speaking with contacts.

Our first stop, The Captain’s Table, a restaurant turned headquarters for a brand new NGO named Starfish. Born out of necessity due to this crisis, Starfish gets its name from an old story about a little girl who comes across thousands of Starfish washed up on the beach.

She decides to begin throwing them back to the ocean to save them. A man walking past says, “Little girl, why do you throw these starfish back? You can’t possibly save every one.”

“True, but you see this one?” She throws it back. “I just saved that one.”

Starfish began as a few locals and tourists who couldn’t stand by and do nothing and has grown to a force of foreigners from all over the world working together to save lives as best they can.

There are 3 camps on the Island.

First we visit Karetepe, the camp for Syrian families waiting to be processed for asylum in Europe. Even in normal clothes we can’t help but clown and wave and play music with our phony big teeth in. We have to find a man named Stavros, the camp manager.

Sabine gets sucked into translating wherever we go but the rest of us eventually find Stavros, a very busy but gregarious Grecian who just says, “Yes, Do the show right now. Right here now. For these people. You see there are too many kids just there. I want to see the show. Yes right now.”

We explain that we aren’t ready right now and that we have to come back tomorrow. He gives us free reign to do whatever, whenever, wherever. Please.

Stavros with Luz, Clay, Molly, and Sabine.

Next we visit Moria, the camp for everyone else. After getting lost a few times on dirt roads, we finally find it. We see our first police car pull up as we arrive. People of many ethnicities stand in various lines and sit on brown blankets in the dirt.

Coughs and confusion fill the razor-wired air. We ask a few people from other NGOs about doing shows but no one seems to know who is in charge here. The police run the camp but they aren’t really there at the moment.

“If you really want to ask the police they will be here in the morning,” Says one man in a bright yellow vest. “But I think you can just do what you like. They won’t stop you.” We decide to come back later but not before clowning for some children who laugh like they haven’t in weeks.

Next stop is Pikpa, the camp for a few vulnerable people. Maybe it used to be some kind of apartment complex or school. Now it’s a home for orphans and the wounded.

A woman in a hijab washes lettuce in an out door sink. I begin to play with a few children that are scattered about. One bright-eyed boy’s name is Ali. He laughs at my fake teeth and tries on my blue nose. He likes when I rub his buzz cut hair.

The next day we wake early and put together the show easily over breakfast combining acts we know well and learning new ones together. Somehow full of energy though slightly carsick from the winding hills of Lesvos we arrive at Karetepe, the Syrian family camp.

We parade by the rocky tents singing, “Yala, Yala.” Which means something like “come on” in Arabic. Before we know it we’ve pied pipered two hundred or so children and some of their corresponding adults.

After a successful show of applause and uproarious laughter we slowly make our way through selfies and a humongous thank you from the manger Stavrous back to the clown car.

Clay and Sabine performing during a show on Lesvos.

We wind our way downtown for a bathroom break that somehow morphs into three impromptu mini shows (or “Clown Pit Stops” as we’ve dubbed them) along the water where hundreds of refugees sit waiting for the ferries.

One excited older man gives us a hula-hoop performance and three cute kids do an acrobatic cartwheel act to everyone’s delight.

After a crowded lunch in our favorite restaurant where we just couldn’t stop clowning even for the local Lesvians just trying to enjoy Greek Day (some national holiday similar to the 4th of July maybe) we march through the ferry terminal and again gather hundreds of people in minutes.

People from maybe 14 countries all laugh in the same language and save some smiles in their pockets for their long journey onward. Exhausted we return home for some much needed rest.

Not 10 minutes in, Molly receives a distressing text from our friends in the associated press. A large boat of 400 people has capsized, at least two babies are dying or dead, and wet refugees are arriving at the Captain’s Table. We quickly dress in non-clown clothing and head to the harbor to see how we can help.

The wind blows cold and dark off the water. Already piles of wet clothing line the cobble stone streets.

It’s oddly calm and quiet. Volunteers from the Netherlands or anywhere methodically organize clothing into the right boxes.

Fifty more people are about to arrive.

The coast guard only has one boat that can hold only a few at a time. They continually make trips back and forth from the harbor to the humans fighting waves with cheap life jackets in freezing cold water.

Another boat is about to arrive so we sort clothing for a while. I climb the stairs to the second floor of a small square brick building and realize where everyone went. The floor is covered with humans.

The air is fluorescent, hot, and humid with evaporating seawater. A sweet looking family sleeps up against the wall opposite the door. A blond aid worker gently stokes a girl’s hair in her lap.

A woman near me asks, “Excuse me sir, I don’t know where my mother is. How can I find her?” in pretty good English. I don’t know what to say except, “I don’t know.”

There’s nothing I can do in this room but take up much needed space so I walk slowly down the stairs behind a very old woman. People are squeezing and rushing past us looking for a doctor. A man stands on the stairs with huge swollen ankles and no shoes. Outside I see three medics walk calm but quickly in with stethoscopes around their shoulders.

When the new people come we give them wool blankets. I take a young man to find some dry shoes but there are none to be found. He has to make do with plastic bags around his feet.

Sabine is incredibly busy translating for everyone. She finds a shaking woman who has completely lost her mind asking, “Where is my husband?” to everyone she sees. A very tall man wrapped in wool is crying and crying.

He says he’s lost his own children but found a small baby in the sea and began swimming with it but moments later when he looked he was only carrying a small life jacket. The baby had slipped out in the waves. Sabine and I approach two men smoking by a lamppost. She asks what has happened. Here’s what I gather:

There were four boats that left 15 minutes apart from each other, three rubber rafts and one large boat.

One rubber raft made it all the way, one capsized, and one ran out of fuel and drifted for a while before being over taken by waves. Refugees hired the larger boat for added safety, paying about 2,800 American dollars each person.

This boat had a capacity of 100 people but when the refugees arrived they found they were 400 in number.

When they refused to board, the smugglers pulled guns on them and said they would shoot if the refugees didn’t get on. The women and children crammed into the bottom of the boat while the men were instructed to climb atop the plastic roof.

About half way across the sea the roof collapsed crushing people and causing the boat to start sinking.

A jet ski came to rescue the smuggling captain.

Shots were fired, people were left to die in the freezing treacherous sea, and some smugglers made over 1,000,000 dollars.

I sit down exhausted next to three little siblings and their mother.

A Dutch woman tries to hand the oldest girl some emergency crackers but she shakes her head no. The woman insists so she grabs them but continues looking down disinterested.

I put in my big tooth false grin I found for fifty cents in the U.S. When she looks up I show my goofy teeth not knowing what reaction I’d get. She looks into my eyes for a second then cracks a smile. Then taps her brother to show him. He laughs. Another small girl comes over to see what’s happening.

Before you know it I’m playing with noses, teeth, magic, and letting the kids play my little charango instrument for an intimate audience.

The mother somehow explains that they have been separated from their father as I put slightly-too-large pink sneakers on the small boy. Those smiles of hope are worth it to me.

Sunshine has replaced the moonlight on my tiny bed, birds begin whistling, and four clowns are making coffee. Sabine packs her bag with bubbles while Luz warms up her hat tricks in a polka dot dress.

It’s time to dawn my tiny blue hat and ridiculously large blue pants and get back to work.

Share seeds: Share knowledge, share varieties and life-style

Fight back companies patenting their seeds, seeds part of nature varieties and abundance

Back in 1905, a book called “The Apples of New York” was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture.

It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson’s personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.

That was 110 years ago, when commercial apple orchards were still pretty rare and when even in the biggest of those orchards, everything was done by hand

But why is that apple book such a big deal?

The book is significant because most of the apples listed in it have all but disappeared in the past century. DISAPPEARED.

In fact, we used to have thousands of apple varieties, but most of those have largely vanished due to industrial agriculture. Now, many varieties are only found tucked away in agricultural research centers and preservationist orchards.

Fact: Today, the 15 most popular apple varieties account for 90% of all apple sales in the U.S.

The most commonly sold apple? Red delicious

 The fate of all those apple varieties is not uncommon.
“In the last century, nearly 75% of our agricultural crops have disappeared. They’re simply gone. Today, farmers primarily grow 12 crops.
And of these, we mainly eat potatoes, rice, corn, and wheat.”
So what gives? Why the huge shift?
In part, the shift has a lot to do with seed regulation.
Back in the day, farmers would save seeds from year to year and share them with friends and neighbors. But nowadays, most seed production is controlled by big companies — and those companies patent their seeds, prohibiting things like seed saving or sharing
Not all hope is lost (yay!). It may be an uphill battle, but there are lots of small farmers working to preserve the freedom to freely share and use seeds.
People store thousands of seeds from all around the world in buildings called seed banks, and trade with other farmers at seed swaps.

“They’re preserving culture and biodiversity, one seed, one plant, and one person at a time.” How ’bout them apples? (No, really, I bet those antique apples they’re swappin’ are ridiculously tasty.)

To check out the full story from The Lexicon of Sustainability, watch the video below:

Did you know we used to have *thousands* of apple varieties? 

Ever heard of an Esopus Spitzenburg? I hadn’t.|By Megan Kelley
Note: Seed Savers Exchange is a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.
Images on this site are protected by copyright, unauthorized use is not permitted.

Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 North Winn Rd, Decorah, Iowa 52101 Phone: (563) 382-5990

How to Long for Palestine while Living the American Dream?

After living under occupation their whole lives, and with no prospect of political resolution on the horizon, Palestinian youth have taken to the streets this month in protest.

As I sit and watch the polarizing coverage—​now considered to be at near-“catastrophic” levels—​from afar, disparate emotions dart around inside me like pinballs, striking chords and hitting nerves.

There’s the sadness that I always feel when I think about Palestine—​that is now pulled to the surface and sharper than usual. Sadness that so many of today’s young people are lost to a struggle that is 7 decades old.

Sadness that it feels like it may continue for decades more.

Andrew Bossone shared

“I find hope in the eyes of my lifelong Jewish-American friends as they nod in understanding (or ask us to write essays like this). I feel hopeful when people ask me what it means to be Palestinian.

I feel hopeful when I’m given the opportunity to explain that Palestinians live with a deep anguish spawned by a lifetime spent under occupation.

I want people in my American home to look at people in my Palestinian home and know that all they want are the same basic things Americans demand for themselves—like equal protection under the law.

Like the ability to not only survive, but to really live.”

On the internal Palestinian-American conflict.|By Karmah Elmusa
Next come the waves of frustration.
As a Palestinian-American, it frustrates me how irreconcilable my two halves often seem.
America is more home to me than any place I’ve ever known: I was born here, my mother was born here, and most of my family and friends live here.
In our glory days, my high school girlfriends and I blasted the Dixie Chicks as we swerved into the Cleveland Park McDonald’s parking lot for Big Macs and McFlurries
The light skin and eyes I inherited from my maternal French-English genes, and from my Sittu Mariam (grandmother) on my father’s side, have made that part easy for me.
I can seamlessly blend into a culturally white world, never being subjected to that split-second suspicion and judgment that so many Arab-Americans deal with daily. My complexion has afforded me a very privileged life here.
And yet, this is the country where my Palestinian cousins with darker skin are given dirty looks on planes, and where presidential candidates casually suggest that Muslims shouldn’t be president.
This is the country that gives $3.1 billion to Israel in military aid each year.
This is the country that looked the other way when Israel sentenced my Palestinian cousin to 9 years in prison for his role in a protest after the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
They came to his house in the middle of the night and took him away based on an anonymous tip. At age 22, he will spend the rest of his youth in a cell.

The author and her father. Courtesy of Karmah Elmusa

My father, as you may have gathered, was not born here. He was born in 1947, six miles from what is now the Israeli city of Jaffa, in what was then the small Palestinian village of Abbasiya.

For generations, my family lived simply on that land and cared for it deeply; they were farmers, growing citrus and olives in the Mediterranean sun.

In 1948, he and 750,000 other Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes in what Israel sees as its independence, and Palestinians call the “Nakba,” or catastrophe.

My father spent his formative years in a refugee camp in the Jordan Valley.

His feet are still rough and calloused from running around outside without shoes. He spent evenings listening to his elders wax poetic about home, still thinking they might one day return–​not knowing they would all one day die in foreign cities, never again having laid eyes on Palestine.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt a constant longing emanating from my father, a sort of melancholy incompleteness.

At some point his displacement became an essential part of my and my younger brother Layth’s identities.

Perhaps we felt the tension of being Palestinian-American more acutely as time went on, and it presented us with a choice: hide that part of ourselves or wear it like a badge.

So we embraced our Palestinian-ness—​and our ethnic names—​and never looked back.

By now, we know what’s coming: unrest. And we brace ourselves for the status quo: American politicians will dismiss dead Palestinians as “terrorists,” while respectfully mourning each lost Israeli life.

We live with the guilt that we are here, not there. The guilt that we can come and go as we please, while Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are barricaded into their homes, neighborhoods, or cities. Israel is flanked by water, but many Palestinians will never see the sea.

The author and her brother in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Karmah Elmusa

I’ve grappled, almost desperately, to understand why my fellow Americans can’t apply our beloved “put yourself in their shoes” mantra to the Palestinian experience.

Instead our elected representatives are quick to condemn Palestinian violence, to ask how we would react if we were threatened by rockets “coming over the border from Mexico”?

So, I’ll ask some similar questions: How would you feel if you were born and raised in Chicago and then barred from ever visiting again?

What if you were in labor and the military blocked your way to the hospital so you had to give birth on the side of the road?

What if your brother was shot and killed by a soldier, and the case was never brought to trial?

The card-carrying optimist in me hopes the answers to those questions are clear, but it also allows me to approach our struggle from a place of hope.

I find hope in the eyes of my lifelong Jewish-American friends as they nod in understanding (or ask us to write essays like this).

I feel hopeful when people ask me what it means to be Palestinian. I feel hopeful when I’m given the opportunity to explain that Palestinians live with a deep anguish spawned by a lifetime spent under occupation.

I want people in my American home to look at people in my Palestinian home and know that all they want are the same basic things Americans demand for themselves—​like equal protection under the law.

Like the ability to not only survive, but to really live.

Evolution Of Men’s Hairstyles Over 100 Years

I’m interested how military haircuts evolved over a 1000 years

I’m interested how elders’ haircut changed this century

In support of Movember, a cause to bring greater awareness to men’s health, Seattle-based video makers, Cut, have released their latest video chronicling the fascinating evolution of men’s hairstyles in America over a period of 100 years.

Covering a range of hairdos marking the iconic movements or stylistic preferences of each decade, the cuts include the tight centre-part of the 1920s, the thick and wavy poof worn by sailors in the 1940s and the long, untamed mane sported by men in the 1970s hippie era.

By Aqila Xiao Qi, Nov. 3, 2015

In support of Movember, a cause to bring greater awareness to men’s health, Seattle-based video makers, Cut, have released their latest video…




November 2015

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