This post has been removed at the request of Belgium.
I only remember 2 things from high school: (1) the day Raymond Van Het Groenewoud performed in our school and (2) erghhh, wait, no I don’t remember anything else.
Unlike most popular Belgian music, Raymond Van Het Groenewoud is not always easy to listen to, a lot of his music tends to be rather raw, emotional, sometimes lighthearted to the point of being silly but at other times more dark and sad.
We’re taking the little munchkins to Oostakker in a few weeks to spend the “summer vacation” with their abuelitos and hopefully / finally learn some Dutch. To get ready for the trip I’m delving into Dutch language music.
First installment, Laat Me / Vivre from the late great Ramses Shaffy, here with Alderliefste and Liesbeth List.
Is only stunning if you know nothing about European history and culture.
I’m already wore out from seeing stunning Brexit news everywhere. All the talking heads telling you how stunning this is and what it means to you (hint: nothing)
While it may be stunning how wrong the pollsters were and how badly the Remain camp miscalculated their political moves, the actual outcome should come as no surprise to anyone who knows European history.
Since when do the Brits consider themselves an integral part of Europe?
They never have and probably never will, and that’s perfectly well and within their right.
* * *
Peace in Colombia. Largely overlooked amid all the Brexit noise is the great news out of Cuba that the Colombian government is now formally at peace with the FARC rebels. Real news that affects real lives.
Where have you gone, Rosa Parks, MLK Jr, Václav Havel, etc?
Several of you have written to express your concern for my family in the wake of the terror attacks in Brussels. I’d like to thank you all for your thoughts, fortunately nobody in our family was directly affected but it’s a terrible situation for everyone involved and Belgium in general.
To many who have emailed I’ve responded roughly “Europe is in trouble and it’s going to get worse before it gets better”. I wanted to reflect for a few days before adding some thoughts here.
In terms of motivation for these terrorist attacks I believe you have to be more nuanced than the “Muslim extremist” storyline that’s readily peddled everywhere. Although Islam and Christianity have a long complicated history, from the crusades to the Armenian genocide to 9/11, our wars in the Middle East and now Brussels, it’s simply not true that Muslims or Christians have some kind of intrinsic hate or motivation to blow each other up. Two of the tenets of both Islam and Christianity are that the material world is a distraction from the spiritual life and that life in this world is just precursor to a heavenly afterlife for true believers. Even though those concepts are easily exploited by those promoting violence, it’s important to recognize most any ideology can be used in that sense. In the 1970s and 80s terrorism in Europe was largely inspired by communism vs capitalism, now it’s Islam vs Christianity.
There are 2 triggers beside the ideology:
1) The social and economic circumstances of the suicide bombers: financially secure and emotionally satisfied people don’t blow themselves up in a train station. However if you look around many predominantly immigrant neighborhoods in large European cities you’ll find a lot of rough areas, crime, poverty, you name it. In those neighborhoods there are plenty of disillusioned people who feel excluded or done wrong by society and culture.
2) Geopolitical factors: the Middle East is known for its proxy wars and many European immigrants come from areas with repressive or authoritarian regimes and internal power struggles. The people behind the violence are simply carrying over their proxy wars to Europe or deciding a way to hurt their enemies at home is to hurt the countries and cultures around the world who support their enemies.
I hope additional security measures prevent more violence in the short term but in the long run I’m not optimistic about the social and cultural issues in Europe, to the point where it affects my thought process about what we may do long term.
I can’t think of any massive migration in history that didn’t come with significant social or economic consequences. Europe lost control of that long ago. Many liberal European leaders have long accepted all the migrants and refugees in a kind of charitable manner, like, “we well to do white people have to at least give these poor people from those bad countries a safe home”. As long as the migrants largely settled together in inner city neighborhoods and sent their kids to bad public schools instead of good private (Catholic) schools, white leaders in Belgium felt good about their charitable act of welcoming migrants but society never fully included or accepted them as equals in daily life.
European leaders also misunderstand the motivation behind the migration. Going back 60+ years, most of the migrants to Europe are not abject poor or refugees from conflict, rather they are working or middle class who are looking for a better opportunity. Lately perhaps they’ve heard that Angela Merkel gives them a free house and 3,000 Euros a month but when they actually get to Europe and start a new life, the gap between the migrant community and “old Europe” has to be painfully obvious to the new Europeans. Meanwhile the “old Europeans” are befuddled as to why the migrants aren’t happy, don’t they have it so much better here than back home, and if not, why don’t they go back home? There is a huge gap in understanding between the cultures, especially in places like Belgium or France which have strong traditional cultures – Belgian people are not known as being the most worldly.
At the end of the day you have a significant minority who feels excluded or wronged by society and culture, easily exploited by those who promote violence for their own geopolitical objectives. Demographics are only going to make this situation more urgent down the road. You’d be naive not to think there will be areas of Europe where no woman will be allowed to walk without covering her face a hundred years from now. The Muslim community will remember the laws that were made “back in the day” preventing their daughters from wearing religious attire to school or at work in public places.
Unfortunately I don’t have much hope that either the geopolitical factors or social/economic issues behind the terror attacks are going to improve any time soon. Sadly the distrust between Islam and Christianity will become more matter of fact with every terrorist attack or drone strike. People in Europe tell me now, they can’t help but look who’s around them while they’re out in public. Sure I understand that but I’m also sure people in Yemen or Pakistan can’t help but look for the nearest ditch or shelter when they hear an airplane or drone overhead.
Back in the day the Incas sacrificed a few kids to the Inca Gods every year for the rains to come. It never failed, the rains came again every year. Surely the average inhabitant of Tawantinsuyo had to believe in the power of the sacrifices. Don’t become one of them: next time you hear about Muslim extremists, a war on terror or an international coalition remember it will rain again in Cusco next year between December and April.
Forget the spin, ask your leaders what they’re doing about all the proxy wars around the world, ask them what deals they’ve made around the world that prioritize business and strategic objectives over the value of ordinary lives. Challenge leaders in “old Europe” as well as the “new Europeans” to deal with the social and economic issues in the immigrant neighborhoods. Challenge everyone to leave their comfort zone, you’ll probably find the other person is a lot like you, only from a different culture.
We took a trip to the Raqchi archaeological site a while back. The site is about a 2 hour drive from Cusco, tour buses which take you on an excursion from Cusco to Lake Titicaca or Arequipa sometimes stop in Raqchi but overall it’s a pretty quiet site. Much of the ruins appear to be reconstructed but I like going to places like this because it gives you a glimpse of what life in the Inca empire could have been like. By the way, a good part of what you see in Machu Picchu today is also restored, as you can tell by the pictures from the Hiram Bingham expedition.
Mamacita Linda went to work in Paucartambo for a couple of weeks recently. Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to join her because I had baby-sitting duty at home. Mamacita says Paucartambo is very nice, quiet, clean, the kind of place where I would live if Mamacita let me. Unfortunately that won’t ever happen because schools in those small towns in Peru aren’t very good at all.
Paucartambo is located near the East edge of the Andes mountains, very close to the Amazon jungle. If you ever have the chance, make a trip from the Andes mountains to the jungle below, it’s one of the most stunning changes in environment you can ever make in a short period of time. Where the Andes meets the jungle is a beautiful place but also a place of significant environmental and social challenges nowadays.
Paucartambo is known for its annual festival of the Virgen del Carmen which takes place in mid July. However, while Mamacita Linda was there, a procession took place in honor of the 30th anniversary of Pope John Paul visiting Paucartambo. Here are some pictures of Paucartambo and the procession:
Totally unrelated. I was thinking the other day, the farmhouse my dad grew up in didn’t have central heat (and it gets cold in Oostakker). Nowadays my dog sleeps on an orthopedic bed. I know it’s apples and oranges but the point is we have come a long way, I want to be thankful more often and fuss less than I do.
They say it’s hard to be a Saint in the City but I say it’s even harder to be a Belgian in Peru. Or to be a Belgian anywhere outside of Belgium for that matter, because old habits die hard. Take the Belgian idea of politely offering a cup of coffee to a visitor in your home:
HOST: “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
GUEST: “No thank you.”
HOST: “Are you sure? I can make a fresh pot.”
GUEST: “No thanks, I’m actually in a hurry to get to blablablah.”
HOST: “I’m going to make a pot of coffee because so-and-so is coming over in a bit.”
GUEST: “You don’t have to do that I was just leaving anyway.”
HOST: “Here’s some cookies, you sure you don’t want a cup of coffee with that?”
GUEST: “Well if you’re having a cup, I’ll have a cup with you.”
The Belgian guest will politely say “no” at least 2 or 3 times before accepting and the host will keep offering until the guest accepts. The idea is that the guest can’t accept the first time the host offers because it would indicate that he or she came hungry/thirsty to the guest’s house. A similar weirdness takes place when you’re passing that plate of cookies around the coffee table and everyone will refuse to take the last cookie until the plate with that lone last cookie has gone around the table 2 or 3 times, then someone will finally cave and eat the last cookie. The idea is that you don’t want to leave the host without anything, so nobody takes the last of anything until the host has insisted on passing plate around 2 or 3 times.
One of the things I like best about being in Peru is that we eat very well. Unlike the so called developed world, we eat real and fresh foods, not food-like industrial products. For example, we buy fresh bread twice a day, we don’t get bread that lasts 10 days in a plastic bag from a factory 3 states away. We make fresh juice for breakfast most days and I’m the self-proclaimed king of the Philips blender: mangos, papayas, pineapple, bananas, it’s all fair game.
Now lately mamacita linda’s been in a rush to get to work in the morning and she might skip breakfast at home, like this:
Me: “Mamacita, do you want a glass of juice before you go?”
Mamacita Linda: “No papi thanks”.
Me: “Sure you don’t want some of my world famous mango juice?”
Mamacita Linda: “No papi I already told you I don’t have time”.
Me: “Hmmmmmmmmm this is the best juice ever, do you want some before you go?”
Mamacita Linda: “NO PAPI!!!! How many times do I have to tell you the same thing??? I don’t have time!!!! I don’t want juice!!! I don’t want breakfast!!!! Quit asking me the same thing over and over!!!”
Oops. Then I realize I’m no longer in Belgium and there is no such thing as a worldly Belgian.
Have you heard about the latest archaeological “discoveries” at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco? Road work has been going on between Av. Sol and the Plaza de Armas, in the heart of historic downtown Cusco. As the old road was excavated, a number of historic Inca Walls have been “discovered” below the surface. Cusco has been abuzz about the new discoveries for the past few days, take a look:
While it’s great these historic walls are being exposed, the word “discovery” seems to be a bit of a stretch being that 50-year old underground utility pipes appear to have been routed in and around these historic walls. “Discovery” in this case implies not something we recently found but “creating buzz to attract tourist $ that will help us clean up the archaeological treasures we covered up 50 years ago”. Or something like that.
It’s hard to tell from the pictures (taken over construction barriers) how much of the walls is original, quite a bit appears to be later work built on top of Inca ruins but some of the walls are clearly original Inca structures in very good condition. You can easily tell the difference because the original Inca walls are of exceptional quality, the form and fit of the rocks is nearly perfect, as are the angles and dimensions. Also, the Incas used no cement or filler of any kind between the rocks. In the pictures, the stairway and adjacent parts are clearly original Inca architecture. Later walls that were built by the Spanish Conquistadores or restored in later times aren’t of the same quality as the original Inca walls.
I don’t know what the plan is for this site going forward, now that it has been laid bare again I hope the site gets a full restoration. It’s sad to see such a piece of history strung full of sewer pipes. Of course any archaeologist, historian or architect worth his salt could tell you that the entire historic downtown area of Cusco must be sitting on top of similar Inca structures. When the Spanish Conquistadores first brought “their” God and King to the New World, they built churches on top of the existing Inca temples, to show the superiority of “their” God and King. Here in Cusco you can still see some original Inca structures but sadly most of the original Inca architecture in the historic downtown has been covered up with buildings from the Spanish Colonial era and beyond.