Where is home?
For all these refugees, immigrants and expatriates?
Where do you come from? It’s such a simple question, but these days simple questions bring ever more complicated answers.
I met this wonderful family: The father ( Yemeni ) met the mother ( Palestinian ) in London , lived there for a couple of years and had their kids and then moved to Qatar and they’re living there since then.
So I always have this question : Where do you think the kids think Home is ?
(Knowing that Qatar is sending troops to fight in Yemen along side the most obscurantist Saudi monarchy?)
And When they introduce themselves what would they say: I am X from … ?
0:20 People are always asking me where I come from, and they’re expecting me to say India, and they’re absolutely right insofar as 100 percent of my blood and ancestry does come from India.
Except, I’ve never lived one day of my life there.
I can’t speak even one word of its more than 22,000 dialects. So I don’t think I’ve really earned the right to call myself an Indian.
And if “Where do you come from?” means “Where were you born and raised and educated?” then I’m entirely of that funny little country known as England, except I left England as soon as I completed my undergraduate education, (that the best of identity) and all the time I was growing up, I was the only kid in all my classes who didn’t begin to look like the classic English heroes represented in our textbooks.
And if “Where do you come from?” means “Where do you pay your taxes?
Where do you see your doctor and your dentist?” then I’m very much of the United States, and I have been for 48 years now, since I was a really small child.
Except, for many of those years, I’ve had to carry around this funny little pink card with green lines running through my face identifying me as a permanent alien. I do actually feel more alien the longer I live there.
And if “Where do you come from?” means “Which place goes deepest inside you and where do you try to spend most of your time?” then I’m Japanese, because I’ve been living as much as I can for the last 25 years in Japan.
Except, all of those years I’ve been there on a tourist visa, and I’m fairly sure not many Japanese would want to consider me one of them.
And I say all this just to stress how very old-fashioned and straightforward my background is, because when I go to Hong Kong or Sydney or Vancouver, most of the kids I meet are much more international and multi-cultured than I am. (Which passport do you carry, or better which passport you prefer to use)
And they have one home associated with their parents, another associated with their partners, a third connected maybe with the place where they happen to be, a fourth connected with the place they dream of being, and many more besides.
And their whole life will be spent taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole. Home for them is really a work in progress. It’s like a project on which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections.
And for more and more of us, home has really less to do with a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul.
If somebody suddenly asks me, “Where’s your home?” I think about my sweetheart or my closest friends or the songs that travel with me wherever I happen to be. (Who keeps you company, including your preferred songs, music and language)
And I’d always felt this way, but it really came home to me, as it were, some years ago when I was climbing up the stairs in my parents’ house in California, and I looked through the living room windows and I saw that we were encircled by 70-foot flames, one of those wildfires that regularly tear through the hills of California and many other such places.
And three hours later, that fire had reduced my home and every last thing in it except for me to ash.
When I woke up the next morning, I was sleeping on a friend’s floor, the only thing I had in the world was a toothbrush I had just bought from an all-night supermarket.
Of course, if anybody asked me then, “Where is your home?” I literally couldn’t point to any physical construction. My home would have to be whatever I carried around inside me.
In so many ways, I think this is a terrific liberation.
Because when my grandparents were born, they pretty much had their sense of home, their sense of community, even their sense of enmity, assigned to them at birth, and didn’t have much chance of stepping outside of that.
And nowadays, at least some of us can choose our sense of home, create our sense of community, fashion our sense of self, and in so doing maybe step a little beyond some of the black and white divisions of our grandparents’ age.
No coincidence that the president of the strongest nation on Earth is half-Kenyan, partly raised in Indonesia, has a Chinese-Canadian brother-in-law.
The number of people living in countries not their own now comes to 220 million, and that’s an almost unimaginable number, but it means that if you took the whole population of Canada and the whole population of Australia and then the whole population of Australia again and the whole population of Canada again and doubled that number, you would still have fewer people than belong to this great floating tribe.
And the number of us who live outside the old nation-state categories is increasing so quickly, by 64 million just in the last 12 years, that soon there will be more of us than there are Americans.
Already, we represent the fifth-largest nation on Earth. And in fact, in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, the average resident today is what used to be called a foreigner, somebody born in a very different country.
I’ve always felt that the beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake.
You can’t take anything for granted. Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.”
Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world. The real voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust famously said, consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes, even the old sights, even your home become something different.
Many of the people living in countries not their own are refugees who never wanted to leave home and ache to go back home.
But for the fortunate among us, I think the age of movement brings exhilarating new possibilities. Certainly when I’m traveling, especially to the major cities of the world, the typical person I meet today will be, let’s say, a half-Korean, half-German young woman living in Paris.
And as soon as she meets a half-Thai, half-Canadian young guy from Edinburgh, she recognizes him as kin. She realizes that she probably has much more in common with him than with anybody entirely of Korea or entirely of Germany. So they become friends. They fall in love. They move to New York City. Or Edinburgh.
And the little girl who arises out of their union will of course be not Korean or German or French or Thai or Scotch or Canadian or even American, but a wonderful and constantly evolving mix of all those places.
And potentially, everything about the way that young woman dreams about the world, writes about the world, thinks about the world, could be something different, because it comes out of this almost unprecedented blend of cultures.
Where you come from now is much less important than where you’re going. More and more of us are rooted in the future or the present tense as much as in the past.
And home, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born. It’s the place where you become yourself.
And yet, there is one great problem with movement, and that is that it’s really hard to get your bearings when you’re in midair. Some years ago, I noticed that I had accumulated one million miles on United Airlines alone. You all know that crazy system, six days in hell, you get the seventh day free.
I began to think that really, movement was only as good as the sense of stillness that you could bring to it to put it into perspective.
Eight months after my house burned down, I ran into a friend who taught at a local high school, and he said, “I’ve got the perfect place for you.”
“Really?” I said. I’m always a bit skeptical when people say things like that.
8:45 “No, honestly,” he went on, “it’s only three hours away by car, and it’s not very expensive, and it’s probably not like anywhere you’ve stayed before.”
“Hmm.” I was beginning to get slightly intrigued. “What is it?”
“Well —” Here my friend hemmed and hawed — “Well, actually it’s a Catholic hermitage.”
This was the wrong answer. I had spent 15 years in Anglican schools, so I had had enough hymnals and crosses to last me a lifetime. Several lifetimes, actually.
But my friend assured me that he wasn’t Catholic, nor were most of his students, but he took his classes there every spring. And as he had it, even the most restless, distractible, testosterone-addled 15-year-old Californian boy only had to spend three days in silence and something in him cooled down and cleared out. He found himself.
9:41 And I thought, “Anything that works for a 15-year-old boy ought to work for me.”
So I got in my car, and I drove three hours north along the coast, and the roads grew emptier and narrower, and then I turned onto an even narrower path, barely paved, that snaked for two miles up to the top of a mountain. And when I got out of my car, the air was pulsing. The whole place was absolutely silent, but the silence wasn’t an absence of noise. It was really a presence of a kind of energy or quickening.
And at my feet was the great, still blue plate of the Pacific Ocean. All around me were 800 acres of wild dry brush. And I went down to the room in which I was to be sleeping. Small but eminently comfortable, it had a bed and a rocking chair and a long desk and even longer picture windows looking out on a small, private, walled garden, and then 1,200 feet of golden pampas grass running down to the sea.
I sat down, and I began to write, and write, and write, even though I’d gone there really to get away from my desk.
10:55 And by the time I got up, four hours had passed. Night had fallen, and I went out under this great overturned saltshaker of stars, and I could see the tail lights of cars disappearing around the headlands 12 miles to the south. And it really seemed like my concerns of the previous day vanishing.
The next day, when I woke up in the absence of telephones and TVs and laptops, the days seemed to stretch for a thousand hours. It was really all the freedom I know when I’m traveling, but it also profoundly felt like coming home.
I’m not a religious person, so I didn’t go to the services. I didn’t consult the monks for guidance. I just took walks along the monastery road and sent postcards to loved ones. I looked at the clouds, and I did what is hardest of all for me to do usually, which is nothing at all.
And I started to go back to this place, and I noticed that I was doing my most important work there invisibly just by sitting still, and certainly coming to my most critical decisions the way I never could when I was racing from the last email to the next appointment.
12:13 And I began to think that something in me had really been crying out for stillness, but of course I couldn’t hear it because I was running around so much. I was like some crazy guy who puts on a blindfold and then complains that he can’t see a thing.
I thought back to that wonderful phrase I had learned as a boy from Seneca, in which he says, “That man is poor not who has little but who hankers after more.”
I’m not suggesting that anybody here go into a monastery. That’s not the point. But I do think it’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go.
And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home.
I’ve noticed so many people now take conscious measures to sit quietly for 30 minutes every morning just collecting themselves in one corner of the room without their devices, or go running every evening, or leave their cell phones behind when they go to have a long conversation with a friend.
Movement is a fantastic privilege, and it allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing.
But movement, ultimately, only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is not just the place where you sleep. It’s the place where you stand.
(Taking positions and joining marches and demonstrations that care for the others: That’s home)
Not socially acceptable: Being divorced.
Worse: seeking to divorce
I had four days left before I was due in court to finalize my divorce. My mind was made up and I was adamant about wanting to start a new life.
I had found a small apartment as a “square one” starting point for me and my children and promised myself I would make it all better for them once I could.
Carole Mougharbel posted
I went to visit my future landlord to complete the necessary paperwork and pay the down payment. As I sipped coffee with her in her enormous home, she kept glancing at me from under her glasses, it wasn’t long before I started getting uncomfortable.
Suddenly and out of nowhere, she asked, “You are married aren’t you? Because this is a ‘family’ building and we would rather not have a ‘divorcée’ here.”
My active imagination went into overdrive and I pictured her imagining me erecting dance poles in the apartment and opening up my very own strip joint.
After all, isn’t that what she was so afraid of? A divorced woman with less than ideal morals coming into her ‘family building’ and ruining the neighbors’ children!
I am very well known for my temper but I quietly bit my tongue and lied, “Yes, I am married.”
After all, it was a white lie and I wasn’t divorced just yet. I could have told her it was none of her business or asked her to keep her uppity nose out of my affairs but I needed the home and I would have killed to get it. Lying was easy when it came to sheltering my children.
A few days later, I found myself driving to my new home and physically moving my stuff into my tiny new apartment. I carried box after box from my car and up the stairs to my home, single-handedly.
I carried clothes and toys and TVs. I moved small pieces of furniture and kitchen utensils. I did it myself to save money on the movers since I had to buy new furniture and kitchen equipment and appliances for my new home.
And all through this, I know she watched me from her window, waiting to see the “man of the house” helping me, but I disappointed her time and time again. We both knew that I had lied but I had a 3-year binding contract in my hands and there was nothing she could do about it anymore.
While I lived in her building, I effortlessly gained her respect and admiration but I never forgave her the question – or more the accusation – that she shoved in my face during the most difficult time of my life and I had all the reason in the world not to forgive.
Months after living there, I discovered that my landlord herself was in fact a “divorcée” and had been so for over 35 years.
I should have been in a rage! I should have knocked on her door and demanded an apology!
Instead, I pitied her with all of my heart for what she did to me was nothing more than the manifestation of what society must have done to her all those years ago. They must have shunned her and pointed their fingers at her and possibly even questioned her morals as well. And there she was, 35 years on, doing the same thing to me.
Socially acceptable or not, I am divorced. While some may think it is a taboo subject, it is my way of knowing that I am a fighter and I have survived something unimaginably difficult and I am still around to prove it.
Sometimes, I hope she feels the same way about herself too.
This USA “The Good wife guide”. No better than current ISIS view on women
But the US society progressed since 60 years ago. Why?
Stable and responsive public institutions in the long haul?
Dieting doesn’t work: A personal experience
Three and a half years ago, I made one of the best decisions of my life. As my New Year’s resolution, I gave up dieting, stopped worrying about my weight, and learned to eat mindfully. Now I eat whenever I’m hungry, and I’ve lost 10 pounds.
Patsy Z shared this link TED, September 26, 2015
Why it’s so hard to lose weight and keep it off:
0:32 This was me at age 13, when I started my first diet. I look at that picture now, and I think, you did not need a diet, you needed a fashion consult. (Laughter)
But I thought I needed to lose weight, and when I gained it back, of course I blamed myself. And for the next three decades, I was on and off various diets. No matter what I tried, the weight I’d lost always came back. I’m sure many of you know the feeling.
1:09 As a neuroscientist, I wondered, why is this so hard?
Obviously, how much you weigh depends on how much you eat and how much energy you burn.
What most people don’t realize is that hunger and energy use are controlled by the brain, mostly without your awareness. (Most probably it is the second brain that is the main factor: Your intestines)
Your brain does a lot of its work behind the scenes, and that is a good thing, because your conscious mind is easily distracted. It’s good that you don’t have to remember to breathe when you get caught up in a movie. You don’t forget how to walk because you’re thinking about what to have for dinner.
Your brain also has its own sense of what you should weigh, no matter what you consciously believe. This is called your set point, but that’s a misleading term, because it’s actually a range of about 10 or 15 pounds.
You can use lifestyle choices to move your weight up and down within that range, but it’s much harder to stay outside of it.
In the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body weight, there are more than a dozen chemical signals in the brain that tell your body to gain weight, more than another dozen that tell your body to lose it, and the system works like a thermostat, responding to signals from the body by adjusting hunger, activity and metabolism, to keep your weight stable as conditions change.
That’s what a thermostat does, right? It keeps the temperature in your house the same as the weather changes outside. Now you can try to change the temperature in your house by opening a window in the winter, but that’s not going to change the setting on the thermostat, which will respond by kicking on the furnace to warm the place back up.
Your brain works exactly the same way, responding to weight loss by using powerful tools to push your body back to what it considers normal. If you lose a lot of weight, your brain reacts as if you were starving, and whether you started out fat or thin, your brain’s response is exactly the same.
We would love to think that your brain could tell whether you need to lose weight or not, but it can’t.
If you do lose a lot of weight, you become hungry, and your muscles burn less energy.
Dr. Rudy Leibel of Columbia University has found that people who have lost 10 percent of their body weight burn 250 to 400 calories less because their metabolism is suppressed. That’s a lot of food. This means that a successful dieter must eat this much less forever than someone of the same weight who has always been thin.
From an evolutionary perspective, your body’s resistance to weight loss makes sense. When food was scarce, our ancestors’ survival depended on conserving energy, and regaining the weight when food was available would have protected them against the next shortage.
Over the course of human history, starvation has been a much bigger problem than overeating. This may explain a very sad fact: Set points can go up, but they rarely go down.
Now, if your mother ever mentioned that life is not fair, this is the kind of thing she was talking about. (Laughter) Successful dieting doesn’t lower your set point. Even after you’ve kept the weight off for as long as seven years, your brain keeps trying to make you gain it back.
If that weight loss had been due to a long famine, that would be a sensible response. In our modern world of drive-thru burgers, it’s not working out so well for many of us.
That difference between our ancestral past and our abundant present is the reason that Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa would like to take some of his patients back to a time when food was less available, and it’s also the reason that changing the food environment is really going to be the most effective solution to obesity.
Sadly, a temporary weight gain can become permanent. If you stay at a high weight for too long, probably a matter of years for most of us, your brain may decide that that’s the new normal.
Psychologists classify eaters into two groups, those who rely on their hunger and those who try to control their eating through willpower, like most dieters.
Let’s call them intuitive eaters and controlled eaters. The interesting thing is that intuitive eaters are less likely to be overweight, and they spend less time thinking about food.
Controlled eaters are more vulnerable to overeating in response to advertising, super-sizing, and the all-you-can-eat buffet. And a small indulgence, like eating one scoop of ice cream, is more likely to lead to a food binge in controlled eaters.
Children are especially vulnerable to this cycle of dieting and then binging.
Several long-term studies have shown that girls who diet in their early teenage years are three times more likely to become overweight 5 years later, even if they started at a normal weight, and all of these studies found that the same factors that predicted weight gain also predicted the development of eating disorders.
The other factor, by the way, those of you who are parents, was being teased by family members about their weight. So don’t do that. (Laughter)
I left almost all my graphs at home, but I couldn’t resist throwing in just this one, because I’m a geek, and that’s how I roll.
This is a study that looked at the risk of death over a 14-year period based on four healthy habits: eating enough fruits and vegetables, exercise three times a week, not smoking, and drinking in moderation.
Let’s start by looking at the normal weight people in the study. The height of the bars is the risk of death, and those zero, one, two, three, four numbers on the horizontal axis are the number of those healthy habits that a given person had. And as you’d expect, the healthier the lifestyle, the less likely people were to die during the study.
Now let’s look at what happens in overweight people. The ones that had no healthy habits had a higher risk of death. Adding just one healthy habit pulls overweight people back into the normal range.
For obese people with no healthy habits, the risk is very high, 7 times higher than the healthiest groups in the study. But a healthy lifestyle helps obese people too.
In fact, if you look only at the group with all four healthy habits, you can see that weight makes very little difference. You can take control of your health by taking control of your lifestyle, even If you can’t lose weight and keep it off.
Diets don’t have very much reliability. Five years after a diet, most people have regained the weight. Forty percent of them have gained even more. If you think about this, the typical outcome of dieting is that you’re more likely to gain weight in the long run than to lose it.
If I’ve convinced you that dieting might be a problem, the next question is, what do you do about it?
And my answer, in a word, is mindfulness. I’m not saying you need to learn to meditate or take up yoga. I’m talking about mindful eating: learning to understand your body’s signals so that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, because a lot of weight gain boils down to eating when you’re not hungry.
How do you do it? Give yourself permission to eat as much as you want, and then work on figuring out what makes your body feel good. Sit down to regular meals without distractions. Think about how your body feels when you start to eat and when you stop, and let your hunger decide when you should be done.
It took about a year for me to learn this, but it’s really been worth it. I am so much more relaxed around food than I have ever been in my life. I often don’t think about it. I forget we have chocolate in the house. It’s like aliens have taken over my brain. It’s just completely different. (No more chocolate? How the brain can get the habit of forgetting chocolate? Or eating all kinds of nuts?)
I should say that this approach to eating probably won’t make you lose weight unless you often eat when you’re not hungry, but doctors don’t know of any approach that makes significant weight loss in a lot of people, and that is why a lot of people are now focusing on preventing weight gain instead of promoting weight loss.
Let’s face it: If diets worked, we’d all be thin already. (Laughter)
Why do we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results? Diets may seem harmless, but they actually do a lot of collateral damage. At worst, they ruin lives: Weight obsession leads to eating disorders, especially in young kids.
In the U.S., we have 80 percent of 10-year-old girls say they’ve been on a diet. Our daughters have learned to measure their worth by the wrong scale. Even at its best, dieting is a waste of time and energy.
It takes willpower which you could be using to help your kids with their homework or to finish that important work project, and because willpower is limited, any strategy that relies on its consistent application is pretty much guaranteed to eventually fail you when your attention moves on to something else.
11:54 Let me leave you with one last thought.
What if we told all those dieting girls that it’s okay to eat when they’re hungry?
What if we taught them to work with their appetite instead of fearing it? (At least when dealing with vegetables and fruits?)
I think most of them would be happier and healthier, and as adults, many of them would probably be thinner. I wish someone had told me that back when I was 13.
Air Attack on MSF’s Kunduz Hospital: An MSF Nurse Recounts from Afghanistan
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs was in Kunduz trauma hospital when the facility was struck by a series of aerial bombing raids in the early hours of Saturday morning.
This was a US strike. And the US is investigating.
Prior to this bombing a US helicopter was shut down and 11 of its crew dead.
He describes his experience:
“It was absolutely terrifying.
I was sleeping in our safe room in the hospital. At around 2am, I was woken up by the sound of a big explosion nearby. At first I didn’t know what was going on.
Over the past week we’d heard bombings and explosions before, but always further away. This one was different, close and loud.
At first there was confusion, and dust settling. As we were trying to work out what was happening, there was more bombing.
After 20 or 30 minutes, I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body.
At that point my brain just couldn’t understand what was happening. For a second I was just stood still, shocked.
He was calling for help. In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain. We did what we could.
I don’t know exactly how long, but it was maybe half an hour afterwards that they stopped bombing. I went out with the project coordinator to see what had happened.
What we saw was the hospital destroyed, burning. I don’t know what I felt, just shock again.
We went to look for survivors. A few had already made it to one of the safe rooms. One by one, people started appearing, wounded, including some of our colleagues and caretakers of patients.
We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.
We looked for some staff that were supposed to be in the operating theater. It was awful.
A patient there on the operating table, dead, in the middle of the destruction. We couldn’t find our staff. Thankfully we later found that they had run out from the operating theater and had found a safe place.
Just nearby, we had a look in the inpatient department. Luckily untouched by the bombing. We quickly checked that everyone was OK. And in a safe bunker next door, also everyone inside was OK.
And then back to the office. Full, patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere.
It was crazy. We had to organize a mass casualty plan in the office, seeing which doctors were alive and available to help. We did an urgent surgery for one of our doctors. Unfortunately he died there on the office table. We did our best, but it wasn’t enough.
The whole situation was very hard. We saw our colleagues dying. Our pharmacist…I was just talking to him last night and planning the stocks, and then he died there in our office.
The first moments were just chaos. Enough staff had survived, so we could help all the wounded with treatable wounds. But there were too many that we couldn’t help. Somehow, everything was very clear. We just treated the people that needed treatment, and didn’t make decisions. How could we make decisions in that sort of fear and chaos?
Some of my colleagues were in too much shock, crying and crying. I tried to encourage some of the staff to help, to give them something to concentrate on, to take their minds off the horror. But some were just too shocked to do anything. Seeing adult men, your friends, crying uncontrollably—that is not easy.
I have been working here since May, and I have seen a lot of heavy medical situations. But it is a totally different story when they are your colleagues, your friends.
These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people… and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.
The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.
What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.”
Women like to go to the restroom together
Women like to go to the restroom together, when they sit in some public places, at a restaurant, or at a seminar, even if it comes to intimate or family gatherings.
They wait each other in front of the bathrooms door, keeping each other purse, jacket, umbrella, in contemplation.
“Do you need to go to the toilet?”
“No, but I’ll come with you.”
Sometimes, while pissing, they talk about important issues: about love, about the events in the world or about brownie recipes.
Some women, if they do not have with whom to go to the bathroom, suffer until they get home.
And it’s not insecurity or a puzzle to be solved, it is a mutual concern, it is the mutual protection.
It is keeping the privileges that would be denied.
– Naida Mujkic
Painting by Arabella Proffer
Which Beirut are you talking about?
Beirut. Beirut. Beirut. I have been distant and cold from the news of Beirut