Archive for the ‘Saka-saka’ Category

Grace, wisdom and justice

November 6, 2011

The sacred and the profane.  Torn between the material and the spiritual, back to back blogs, one deals with angels, the other with humans.  Although pilipili and sakasaka are mundane things, even angels need vegetables, so the material stuff feeds the spirit at least on this earth.

After a leave of absence of sorts pilipili will make its diabetic and vegetarian and spiritual point of view known to both humans, commentators and spam readers, as one of the seven billion contributors that should be speaking, speaking up, voting and living great lives.

The gracewisdomjustice blog in wordpress.com remains alive thanks to the few readers taking the time to read lines that may not, one hopes, be a waste of their time.

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G & G

July 4, 2010

Ghana and Germany, two teams that have shown style and beauty in the soccer kingdom. When Germany  wins they really win.   Both should have been in the final in South Africa.

G & G  an ideal final, that will not happen. Germany has not yet gotten past the semi finals stage and Ghana was eliminated for reasons I will never grasp.

Was and is wrong

July 4, 2010

The FIFA referee who gave a red card and a penalty in the Uruguay Ghana game was wrong.

The Ghana kick sent the ball into the famous rectangle.  The ball was about to enter and would have entered and scored were it not for an Uruguayan hand that stopped its trajectory. 

So the ball was in and all the laws of physics indicate that the ball would have hit the net.

Therefore there was a goal.  Ghana won.  Period.

Giving a red card is interesting and meaningless.  Giving Ghana a penalty is giving them a fifty fifty chance of scoring. Giving a penalty for a hand anywhere near the goal would have been ok, but giving a penalty for a hand that definitely stopped a goal that was a definite goal is a mistake and is totally wrong.  FIFA was and is wrong and if rules say they are right those rules should be overruled and Ghana should have won that game.

To speak of Ghana’s fair play, and mention the lousy penalty kick, or show the sad crowds all over Africa at this unjust loss, is besides the point.

That kick was a goal and Ghana should be playing one of the semi finals.

Koro-koro?

June 22, 2010

On the day of a major train accident near Yanga station, sixty kilometers from Pointe-Noire, (imagine the horrendous sight of four overturned cars -four out of six-with casualties and injured on the one hand, and on the other hand panicked families all over the city running from hospital to hospital from 10 pm last night until this afternoon, franticly checking names, it is nearly impossible to describe the horror, so I will write, for now, on what appears irrelevant to the sadness lived by many, just to get my mind off the tragedy: the imaginative and practical transportation solution used within the city, and within the marketplace, to move goods. 

Pili-pili and saka-saka abound in any local market, and you could move tons of them on koro-koros or pousse-pousses.  And thousands of articles sold on tables and other surfaces need to be constantly moved, back and forth, between the market and their depots day in and day out.  Whereas extremely heavy bags, wood, iron bars, cement bags and furniture get to use pousse-pousse (“push push”) vehicles, koro-koros serve small loads.  Planes, trains and cars are scaring more than one passenger these days, so we shall dwell on the koro-koros instead.

Koro koros are sturdy one-wheel carts or elongated wheelbarrows, whereas pousse- pousses are two-wheelers, with recycled car wheels.  The pousse-pousse has a rectangular metal container (imagine a large metal box with no lid) with front and back raised bars so it can carry heavy and extra long items like extra long poles.  The koro-koro on the contrary is a simple contraption that carries heavy bags from point A to point B within the market, for small change.  The advantage for their owners is that they can sit and sleep on their koro-koros, because they act as a comfortable and sturdy metallic chair.  And for clients the clear advantage is that they are quick, practical and inexpensive. 

I have never noticed these things till the other day.  And now their funny name keeps ringing in my ear.

Big Upsets

June 20, 2010

For soccer aficionados and for the the not so aficionados the big news is that the World Cup in South Africa is not just a noisy affair with the much celebrated plastic vuvuzelas but an exciting series of games between nations in which some of the major countries have lost in a surprising way.  Lost games not the real thing.

Spain lost to Switzerland, and France to Mexico.  Just two examples.  The Serbia-Germany confrontation being played as these words are written shows Germany loosing to Serbia.  The outcome of this match will be noted in the last paragraph.  I write as they play.

Last night I started writing into the France Mexico game at the 74 minutes 13 seconds mark.  At that point Mexico was leading one to nil.  I was following this game trying to cheer for France, but France looked doomed.  Mexico’s team looked full of motivation. The English-speaking commentator reminded his audience that France qualified for this World Cup ingloriously because a French player scored with his hand!

There must be some sort of justice through chastisement.  Something to do with the arrogance of some, or their lack of humility.  There is always something psychological that pops up when dealing with sports.  The commentator added that whereas Mexico played like a team, France was just a bunch of very talented individuals playing.

The French coach looked impassive and a bit lost in one corner,  analyzing the action with the eye of an eagle.  He sent Valbuena to replace Govu.  Nothing changed. The Mexican fans looked happy and excited by the minute, understandably.

Frustration mounted.  At 77 minutes a penalty was given to Mexico, because a defender tripped an attacker!  A 37-year Mexican attacker, the second highest scorer of all time in Mexico who had just come in to inject experience and strength, kicked the penalty and the score became to 2 nil.

And everyone was waiting for a miracle to save France.  Last night no miracles were forthcoming. The Mexicans were opening champagne bottles before the end of the game.

And back to the German Serbia game: the Germans received a red card, so they had to play with only 10 players.  That also happened to Nigeria and caused their downfall.  As we move from game to game, nationalisms are confronting each other, as if the soccer field mirrored the political and economic arena, and the Big Upsets in green fields stood as a symbol of what could occur in the real world…

Germany did loose! And now…as I write these notes while watching the Slovenia USA game at the 42 min 12 sec Slovenia leads against the USA 2 to nil!!  That was not supposed to happen.  Within the hour we will know if another Big Upset was in the making!

Well, the news is that the game is over and the USA came from nil to 2 and there was no Big Upset this time.  The two million inhabitants of Slovenia settled for a 2-2 score.

Shall we listen to the vuvuzelas?

June 17, 2010

The contrast is striking.  Yellow balls have flown for two weeks in Roland Garros in a semi hush and will fly for another two weeks in Wimbledon in a respectable silence, but in between these tournaments and during four long weeks in South Africa thousands of spectators have the absolute right to sound the plastic vuvuzela horns made in somewhere to stir feelings and create a noisy ambiance in stadiums across the land.

There are complaints; players have a tough time hearing each other and their technical staff, hearing the referee’s whistle, and spectators fear for their eardrums, and those at home prefer to lower the volume on their screens and wait for a goal to up the volume.

It is indeed an annoying non-stop noise nuisance emanating from a mass of fans cheering for the two teams for over 90 minutes.  Those noise producers must be having the time of their lives, and the only redeeming value of those unpleasant decibels coming from all those improvised musicians is that they are not getting into trouble or causing havoc so long as they are playing those plastic horns.

The omnipresent insistent celebratory insane vuvuzela sound reminds me of the annoying buzzing singing sound of ten billion mad mosquitoes that won’t quit even when you are safely hiding under a brand new mosquito net.  So for the duration of sixty four international soccer games everyone has to put up with thousands of colorful vuvuzelas that are likely to turn off millions from the artistic feats of a few soccer players.

“Are you in the real estate business?”

June 14, 2010

Driving on French toll freeways is not as pleasant as driving in toll-free national and regional highways or even village roads.  When you have the added pressure of seeing radars ready to photograph your license plate when you go beyond the speed limit you long for the days when you could enjoy the scenery by hitchhiking or by train.

On one of our return trips from Bretagne, as we were headed for the Auvergne region in the heart of France, we suddenly left the A28 toll freeway to have some lunch.  The inspiration to leave the freeway came from a sign indicating some sort of château worth seeing.  It is always a mistake to stop for lunch past 2 pm because with the exception of imported fast food restaurants of renown, almost no one serves lunch past the sacred and official lunchtime.

It took us more than twenty minutes to reach the château town, but the château was being cleaned or renovated and there was nothing to see and do at that time.  And no one was open for lunch.  But as we were going back to the freeway I remembered seeing, on the way in, a corner café snack bar at the intersection of two roads.   I had seen it coming because when I saw it I could have taken the road to its right or the one to its left, and that snack bar stood in that angle, a very appealing white structure.  It was time to stop and ask for lunch and by the same token, I told myself, a snapshot was calling to be taken.

Once inside the dark café I asked the owner/bartender if he was serving lunch, and he looked at me, then at the lonely man by the counter across him, and at the wall clock, before saying something in French which would be the equivalent of « Can’t you see that it is almost three and by that time you can go anywhere in this country you won’t find a soul willing to fry you an egg, so thank you for coming and good bye monsieur and I don’t really care if I ever see you again.»

On the way out I chose a spot from which I could snap the historic shot, to keep it in my memory bank.  The name of the snack bar had changed from « Au bon coin » to « Le bon coin », roughly meaning the « right corner » or the « good corner ».  Indeed it was a fitting name, the good angle and the right angle in that imaginary triangle, in an isolated corner of the county.

I went back to the rented car and as I was about to start the French engine, a police car with two very tall and serious « gendarmes » parked to my immediate left, almost blocking the car.   They basically came from nowhere.  I was so puzzled that I stepped outside to see what I had done in a car that had not moved an inch for over ten fifteen minutes.  It is at that moment that one of the « gendarmes », came around his unmarked car and asked me with a straight face: « Etes-vous dans l’immobilier ? » (« Are you in real estate? »).  Frankly I had no idea what he meant, and within seconds he mentioned the fact that I had just taken a picture of the snack bar.  Oh my God! I thought.  Did they see me take a picture, or did the snack bar owner phoned to complain about my asking for lunch at a suspicious time and THEN take a picture once outside.

I said that I was American and that I was fascinated by French towns, buildings, streets, trees, and I may have mentioned that my wife was French, and that I had spent my life reading French literature till my head went dizzy,  and that I was not in the real estate business.  That was all they needed to hear before they left as fast as I they had arrived.

So much for lunch at 3 pm in quaint French towns.

Sugar-free food equations?

June 13, 2010

The quality/quantity dilemma applies to everyone.  In the case of a perplexed diabetic, food selection (quality) is a fair parameter, whereas food quantity is an impossible one.  Control of any kind is a tough proposition, harder than sugar control.

On the assumption that eating at home is a safer bet than eating out where it is never clear which unknowns enter into food preparation (msg, excess salt, or sugar) the next hurdle is how simple can meal preparation be if cooking and recipe reading is not a calling in one’s life.

TV dinners is an option.  Can opening and food warming another.  Bread toasting or warm bread, cheese, olives and cold cuts, peanut butter and jelly could do the trick and not only within campuses.

As I search, experiment and select simplicity to stay alive I can offer the following for today.  Writing this in itself calms hunger pangs.  These food suggestions apply if you live in Africa for one specific reason: living in other continents may trigger other reflexes, other choices and perhaps a different frame of mind to deal with food control. And perhaps another form of writing.

A combination of sliced endives (imported from either France or Belgium) with spinach, with added walnuts makes a salad if you add olive oil, vinegar and some mustard.  Whole wheat pasta sits nearby.  Chick peas mixed with slight fried onions with some curry, replaces the old filet mignon, but then I seek cabbage leaves stir-fried in our wok, and all is well.  A Chikwanga (manioc) piece or two adds weight to the meal.  And a couple of bites of a reddish papaya, with a bottle of water and you could call it a night. 

This isn’t much of a recipe, mostly cutting and some light frying.  As to the quantity in your plate, well, it’s all in the wrist!

Don’t say “Habeebee”

June 13, 2010

I am not sure I look at things the way most fellow humans look at things.  For instance, although I think I am prejudice-free, with multiple roots and multiples dwellings over the years, born there, lived over there and  moved to somewhere in-between, before going way over there and returning time and again to the middle of over here, and before settling in the middle of  another here, I still put tags on people.  It may be just pure curiosity.  The fellow may be French, but by speech patterns at least, I’ll say he is from the north of this place, or from the southern part of that place.  Can we speak of prejudice when the human tendency is to ask, “Where are you from?”

That evening, in front of our favorite French hotel, the sidewalk was blocked by a tall and muscular young man identified by the author as coming from the northern part of another continent I knew well.  For reasons to be determined I said to myself this young man knows one form or another of the Arabic tongue I used to speak with my father as I was growing up.

So when the young man, helmet and all, occupying a good chunk of the sidewalk would not move, thus blocking passage (I understood that the conversation he was carrying made it impossible to hear our repeated requests to move out of our way), I decided then more or less gently to tap on his motorcycle to get his attention.  He turned around and was so furious that he managed to get off his bike and became violent and almost hit me. “Why did you touch my bike?” and other similar comments ensued.

I thought it would be smart to calm him down with the word “habeebee”, meaning in Arabic “my dear”, as a way to show him I was not trying to attack him but simply that I was seeking passage.  “Habeebee” compounded the problem and I had to go inside the hotel to seek advice and decide whether the police should be called  to calm the intruding motorcycle from a pedestrian sidewalk. 

By the time I returned to the outdoor scene where I had left my wife and my daughter with a couple of workers trying to resolve the incident, the young man had decided to leave.  Three times his age it dawned on me that any youngster if insulted by my having “touched” his bike could easily have beaten me, “habeebee” or not “habeebee”.  The Arabic term of endearment did not go well either because he was insulted by my touching or tapping on his bike frame, or because I took the liberty to speak a language he may have forgotten or he may have not understood, or that he may have not accepted to use with someone unknown to him.

If there is another lesson here is that it is probably wise not to seek exchanges or involvements in public spaces at any time, anywhere, any place to avoid unexpected reactions from unknown and unpredictable fellow human beings who could care less about intentions and language use.

The “Feet Ball” festival

June 12, 2010

These are the days when South Africa becomes center stage for one full month.  The FIFA soccer world cup offers 64 games.  For those who don’t care for soccer I offer facts and opinions.  Soccer made simple.

There is one white ball, tattoed if you will, so that it does not always look like the same white or black and white boring ball.  That ball is kicked around for ninety minutes by twenty two players.  Only two can use their hands, one in each camp, to stop the ball from entering a very open rectangular “veranda” with a net in the back.  Two goal keepers and two teams.  There are times when after a full ninety minutes no team scores.  Nil nil is the result, which means nothing.  Everyone goes home frustrated.

Any recent convert to the game can’t figure out why there is so much excitement in the playing field.   He will be astounded to see grown ups jumping up and down and do very strange gestures to show their joy when a ball goes pas the goal keeper.  Even coaches and technical staff, with coats and ties will show no restraint in their emotions.

The world cup as exciting as it is, is an anomaly.  Once every four years nations bring back famous and rich players from foreign lands to play under their respective flag for a month or so.   During the four years players are married to clubs but for a month they show national loyalties and create temporary bonds with unfamiliar players.

Nations and their flags vs. the realities of a new world.  Go figure.