Friday, September 23, 2011

Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara - Festiver!

A popular place on weekends and when the river is rushing,
but is is also important to remember that locals have built
up immunities to the things that are in this water.
The film festival for ecological filmmakers, Festival de Cine Verde de Barichara, began on the 20th of September running until the 24th and this is a first here in Barichara. The mission is a grand one, hopeful of reaching young and old on the issues of habitat preservation, promotion of initiatives, projects, etc. No one wants to see a successful event more than I do.

Dinner's waiting... uncovered chicken parts in 70+ degree
temperatures (Oh well, it is shady...) along with the laundry.
Underneath this platform were piles of chicken feathers,
bits of trash, and decaying other chicken bits - gasp!
However, click on this YouTube promotion which I find rather curious. I don't discount the heartfelt welcome the video offers, but the ecological aspects are confused by a large plastic rolling thing which doesn't make sense to me at all. Also, the place where the young boy is swimming appears, at first glance, to be 'scenic,' but it is hardly the place of ecological splendor when the consequence of trash, decaying chicken parts and excrement can be washed into the pool by our torrential rains; a pool which is actually swimming with bacteria. This didn't show up on the film, but here is what I saw a few days ago at this location.

It is not my intent to tear down the objective of the festival, but the disconnect between the ideal and the reality is huge here. There is a terrific need for leadership for the community to bring it forward into the 21st Century without losing the charm and beauty of the 17th Century and we are about to have an election which I fear is based on 19th Century objectives.

There are the outsiders, referred to as 'afuedas', some of whom see this village as a potential money pit and are doing all they can to place themselves for what they see as the coming windfall, and some others of whom are attempting to turn the tide to protect what is viewed as precious and antiquated and attractive while educating on the merits of preservation, ecological awareness and good, planned growth. The battle lines are being drawn and it may not be pretty.

But there is also a group of natives, whether native to Barichara or to someplace else in Colombia, who see the growth in Barichara as dangerous, life-changing, and a threat to the old way of living and controlling the camposinos (workers). These people have little to lose in their efforts to stop what is, although they don't see it, inevitable. I recently warned some individuals who want to establish a new business outside of town that they must be mindful to find a way to include those locals who will be eventually displaced by the new activity; whether by finding them a job in the new business or doing something else to moderate the pain of change. Resentment is a powerful emotion, easily fueled by a minor slight.

It is wonderful to have a cinematic festival here in the pueblo. Free movies every night with a double feature for four days is one of the benefits. Last night we saw a US film, "A Sea Change," (  which was an excellent explanation of the damage that CO2 is doing right now and which will affect all of us. This is a great film for children to understand the importance of our oceans as a grandfather writes and shares with his grandson his perspectives.

The night before we saw a Canadian film, "How to Boil a Frog," which was a delightful - and sometimes humorous - call to activism using YouTube and other social media to effect change. The language in the film, however, is not for young kids.

But the irony is not lost on me that for all its focus on the ecological aspects of filmmaking, there is a huge gap in understanding that education about preserving the land begins with the very young and must be guided ever afterwards by an astute leadership.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What is passion fruit?

Maracuya is a fruit with a variety of external color of skins
and internal varieties of seeds and flavors.
If you have ever watched Jeopardy on TV, you know that every answer has to be given as if it is a question. So if Alex Trebek was asking you, under the Letter M, for $200, "Tell me the other name for maracuyá?" I hope you all are smart enough to say, "What is passion fruit?" But I certainly would not qualify, because I did not know much about this fruit until I came to Colombia. Averaging in size from a typical orange to a slightly larger than normal avocado, the fruit is truly ripe when the skin becomes slightly wrinkled.

Once you cut open the fruit, you can see the seed pods,
filled with juice. It's kinda slimy, but they slide right off
and out of the inside and into a bowl,
The fruit holds quite a bit of water and almost 1/3 of its weight is water weight. It is a good fruit juice to drink for healthy hair, skin, eyesight and for the immune system since it is rich in vitamins and minerals: potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, Vit C, pro-vitamin A and beta carotenes. It is also low in calories and great for constipation because it has a high-fiber content as well. It's a good juice to drink if you've had a bout of diarrhea or stomach upset to replace electrolytes.
The inside of the fruit after the seeds have been removed
looks like something used for packing... it did. It kept
the seeds from bouncing around and damaging the juice.
In order to make the juice (jugo in espanol), you have to break the juice out from the seeds without breaking up the seeds because breaking them makes the juice bitter. Some of the juice will be yellowish and some of the juice is more orange in color, depending on the type of fruit used. Most of the fruits I find here tend to have yellowish to green skins with orange colored juice.

Once the seeds have been separated from the juice, it is
advisable to put them into a colander and get all the juice.
Other claimed or reported benefits of this strange, but aptly named, fruit are: to reduce depression and anxiety, a pain reliever, reduces inflammation, enhances the libido, and is good for urinary tract infections. The indigenous peoples use the leaves as a tranquilizer and the juice for a heart tonic and to calm coughs. It is on a level of sub-acid to acid (about the same as cranberry juice) and apparently there are over 200 varieties, but mostly the yellow version is grown in Colombia. I have friends who have small trees growing in their yards here in Barichara.

After collecting the juice - about three of the fruits will generate about three small glasses of juice - and in most cases you will want to add water plus a sweetener. I like to use Stevia powder or liquid. The flavor is nice, hard to describe, but it is refreshing. I make ice cubes of the juice and then add them to iced tea.  Hope you will be able to find passion fruit where you are and can try this different kind of 'orange juice.'

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago

The Saguaro cactus doesn't get it's first arm
until it is at least 50 years old!
Ten years ago I was living in Phoenix, Arizona and I was working for a start-up company providing on-line educational programs to troubled youths. I was up early listening to NPR as I was getting ready to head off to work. Arizona doesn't shift time for the Daylight Savings program, so we were only two hours ahead of the East coast. But it was light enough to see the Saguaro cactus and other desert flora and fauna from my condominium windows.

The night before I had just had my weekly phone conversation with my mother and, as usual, we had been talking about the weather and how lovely New England can be in early September. So when I heard that a plane had crashed into the twin towers in New York City, I said to myself, "How can that be? The weather is supposed to be clear today." I went in and turned on the TV, just in time to see the second passenger plane hit the skyscraper.

Everyone who was alert that day probably remembers where they were when they heard the news about what happened on September 11, 2001. I listened to the radio as I drove into work, astounded and disbelieving what I was hearing. Since our company used televisions to prepare the student programs, it was not surprising to arrive and find all the TVs tuned in to various channels for news updates. But what was a surprise is that our vice president was in NYC and had planned to make a pitch to an investment group at the World Trade Center. As there was no cell phone contact by the time we heard about it, we had no idea if he had been in either of the towers at the time of the disasters.

No work got done that day as we all watched events unfolding, and worrying about our VP. Just as the collapse began, our phone rang and it was the VP's wife calling us to let us know that he was fine. He had not gone to the WTC as planned because the fellow he was supposed to meet had called in sick that day with a bad cold and they had rescheduled for the next day. Of course, there never was a "next day," and eventually our VP was able to get back to Arizona, but it took him three weeks and several bus and train connections to do it.

I did not know that I would end up in Colombia almost a decade later, nor did I know that another issue of undocumented aliens would result in over 27 Colombians being added to the list of those who were killed that day because they were working in the restaurants in the towers. Affecting people who were of different nationalities, cultures, religions and persuasions, this horrible event should become a way to remember that we all bleed the color red, and to become a united world in remembering this day.

I have just reading "City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance and 9/11" by Anthony DePalma, a former NY Times reporter, who has done extensive research on the consequential health issues post-9/11. Apparently huge numbers of people who were working in rescue and recovery for weeks after the destruction were not wearing any kind of protective masks to prevent breathing in all the toxic dust. Some of that was due to not having the equipment, some of it was because of the heat and difficulty in communicating with a mask on, and some people were those who were caught unprepared in the first dust storm of pulverized materials with no way to protect their airways. What is clear from this book is that there were people who died on September 11, 2001, murdered in those terrorist events. But there are also people who have died, and those who are still dying, because of failures of the governmental agencies - local and national - to either properly assess or report on dangers of the environment, failures of employers to protect their workers from toxic exposures, failures of the medical community to properly identify symptoms and certainly failures of various investigative committees to pursue logical routes because of political agendas in place.

My purpose in posting about this book is two-fold: even a decade after the horrors of that day, there are emerging health issues related to the event which people should be aware of and not discount, and secondly, one of the emerging health issues is Multiple Myeloma. This from the book: "Mount Sinai reported in 2009 that it had found a higher than expected number of cases of multiple myeloma in responders who were younger than 45."

DePalma, Anthony (2010-07-21). City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11 (FT Press Science) (p. 223). FT Press. Kindle Edition.

Collaborative effort by two Colombian artists to create
their version of a remembrance of 9/11.
My hope, perhaps wrongly placed, is that it will not take another ten years before those people who have been 'in charge' are willing to look at their culpability, deliberate or accidental, so that the many victims of 9/11 at least are given the medical and financial support they need for whatever time they have left. And finally, that should anyone ever again be caught up in any kind of disaster where the clean air is compromised, they remember to do all they can to protect their lungs on their own because the government will not be your mother and will not take care of you.

Remembering this day ten years ago, my condolences go out to all who have lost someone they cared about as a consequence of 9/11 and I send blessings around the planet to heal what can be healed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How would you like your beef?

At the corner of the road that leads to the main bus terminal and the street
that has the mini-terminal on it, I found this beef on the hoof, tied to the
lamppost. There are a lot of restaurants in the area.
I have been in San Gil for the past five days taking a free art 'seminar' with this awesome teacher and terrific group of other crazy artists! But on the way back to the mini-bus terminal to head back to Barichara, I saw this lovely bull on the street corner. It seemed so out of place I wondered what the rest of the story was, but didn't have a chance to find out. So all you creative types, write me a short, short story - two sentences!

El Maestro, our art professor, puts the finishing touches
on an acrylic piece that was started by another artist -
their cooperative effort is called "9/11".
Although I didn't understand everything the professor said, I was beginning to catch more and more as the days went by. I missed out on the first three days because I didn't know the course was even happening, but jumped right in on Thursday and was there for all the other days. It forced me to free up and let the colors come out as they wanted to. And I met a lot of nice people as well.

And we were using acrylic which is completely new for me as I have been working in watercolors first and then oils. I can see why lots of artists move over to the acrylic side after this week of experimenting with it.

I've completed the work on the photos for the art show next month and submitted them. I only have one of the oil paintings ready to go, but with two weeks left I am sure I can complete the other one.

Here are the photos I chose (The first two are shots of nature in Barichara, and the second two are shots of local people doing their 'work'):

Barichara at sunset in February (2010)

Flowers at sunset in Barichara (original shows more
cloud detail over the mountains

Local painter at work on casa in Barichara.
Artist at work painting in Barichara

The show is about three weeks away, and I'll report back about it. Thanks for stopping by!