The consequences of neglect

Trash, litter, waste, and rubbish may be our actual four horsemen. We have almost as many words for what we throw away as the Inuit supposedly have for snow. We all face the same problems of lives spent leaving an unsightly trail.

As many of us work to improve our neighbourhoods and celebrate our communities, some can’t be bothered to carry a plastic cup to a bin. Children are allowed to drop garbage as they walk. In fact, children are encouraged in the lackadaisical littering by the somnambulant slovenliness of their supposedly more mature elders. What still shocks me, and shouldn’t, is that this attitude carries over into private homes and places of worship.

As you drive through Surabaya you will see high apartment towers, shining malls, mosques and churches. You will also see quite a number of ornate neoclassical and modernist homes. Many of these enclaves of large homes are ringed by gates and staffed with private patrols.

Even in these fortresses, and the schools and shops that serve them, the lack of care is evident. Tables and desks left strewn with the detritus of a task or meal. Trash piled against a wall or left littering church or mosque steps.

Parents, schools, and communities need to be on board for any change to work. Imagine the reaction from Mom and dad when the satpam tells the kid, “Hey, use the trash bin!” Even if it’s phrased as “please dispose of your trash in the appropriate receptacle”. (Insert correct translation as you like) In the west and in Singapore people have been conditioned not to litter, and of course there are fines. We see it here in Surabaya, and in Bali that quite a number of North Americans, Europeans, and Singaporeans happily relax their morality and social conscience while on vacation.

This isn’t about when in Rome … the long term consequences of our actions and inactions have to be considered. The same goes for us as visitors; you don’t litter at home, don’t do it here.

Locally, people will change, even in more traditional communities. They need to see viable alternatives and workable (within their capabilities and resources) solutions.

Governments and industry are happy to tout their respect for local/traditional wisdom as long as it keeps locals traditionally ignorant. Kalimantan, Sumatra, Lapindo, Bali’s water crisis and the mess that is Kenjeran beach are not the fault of villagers and tukang parkir.

Waste and neglect are not an enviable legacy to be left by any culture.

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Carrie Fisher

This is the Carrie Fisher I knew, which is to say I never knew her.

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She had a substantial contribution to the creation of characters that were part of the magic of movies which my younger brother and I enjoyed. I never crushed on Carrie fisher or Princess Leia. My heart was already divided between Tina Turner and Yvonne Craig. I loved Star Wars, and I greatly admired the courage and humour of Carrie Fisher, the author, and the woman.  She struggled and she lived fiercely, on her terms. The world has lost a fighter, an actress, a writer, a comedian and an advocate for mental health. I have nothing to add but my admiration for the choices she made. Thank You, Carrie Fisher, for your smile and your courage.

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The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three (Safety first)

The Missing Motorcycle: Part Three

Safety first

 

_________:First put on your helmet.

_________:Like this?

_________:Yes. Now fasten the chinstrap.

_________:It’s so uncomfortable.

_________:It’s only uncomfortable at first. You’ll get used to it.

_________:What’s next?

_________:Sit on the motorcycle.

_________:I know how to do this.

_________:Please pay attention. Sit facing the front with one hand on the throttle and the other on the brake.

_________:I can steer with one hand.

_________:You can also get arrested again.

_________:I don’t want that.

_________:Then pay attention. What do you do at a red light?

_________:Go very fast.

_________:No! You stop. What do you do at a stop sign?

_________:Stop?

_________:Right… I mean, that’s correct.

_________:When can I go fast?

_________:Once you learn how to be safe then you can learn how to have fun.

 

New words

Safety

Fasten

Chinstrap

Helmet

Fast

Throttle

Brake

Arrested

Steer

Stop

Sign

Safe

Used

Uncomfortable

Attention

 

One of the most important days of my life.

Bright sunlight and a bad breakfast were two elements of one of the most important days of my life.
A day with equal parts fear, anticipation and confused pride was about to begin.
Emily was already at Hospital Number Three in Changsha. Changsha is Hunan’s capital and Hospital Number Three is an appropriately modern hospital, at least by Chinese standards. Emily’s operation was scheduled for nine o’clock that morning. Any surgery is worrying, but this was a Chinese hospital, my wife and our child. Tense would hardly describe my emotions. Emily would deliver the baby by caesarian, due to her age and the estimated size of the baby. Hospital policy forbade me from being in the room during the operation. So I waited outside with our friend Nancy, our school accountant. Tense would hardly describe my emotions. A doctor came out about nine-thirty and I almost jumped out of my skin.
When he proceeded to lean against the door of the operating room and light up a cigarette I almost throttled the insensitive bastard. Walking, sitting and nervously jumping at every noise occupied the better part of the eternity that was the next quarter hour. Then a nurse came out.
“It’s a boy,” she said.
“No, a girl,” I replied.
“Boy,” she insisted.
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We had been told it was going to be a girl a few months before and we were quite happy with that. We had chosen to name her after my father’s mother and had taken to calling the baby Catherine. Dutifully following the nurse down a couple of flights of stairs, and towards a small room I stood and watched as she prepared warm water for the baby’s first bath. The blanket was removed and Catherine was revealed to be “a boy!?!”
I was shocked, proud, and no more delighted by being Daddy to a boy, but I was mightily confused.
Our little boy, born at 9:48 Beijing time on 29/03/2004, weighing 3.9 kg, and measuring 58 cm was here and being cleaned and polished. He had all his toes, and fingers, brown eyes and pointed ears. My pride was somewhat checked by the fact that I now had to come up with a name.
The months of preparation gave way to the concern for Emily’s recovery and the baby’s health. Anticipation gave way to joy and responsibility, as a new child became part of our lives. Confused pride remains.

Oh yes, the boy’s name is Wyatt Alexis.

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