Thursday, November 17, 2016

Democracy in Crisis - another Forum 2000

This year, what I believe will be a key year for the future of democracy, the topics of Forum 2000 were a critique on the progress and status of democracy over the decades.

Shortly thereafter were the American elections.

I wish more people in the world, in leadership positions, were more in-tune with the base concepts of individual freedoms, valuation of individualities, th e underlying concepts of human rights, and moving towards understanding the minor impact of our differences, be they cultural or religious, rather than focusing on how differences divided us. Most people in this world want to live in a safe environment, have a family knowing they're secure when they walk out the door, and have financial security. Those are core shared goals. How we view those concepts may differ, but until we value each person on this planet and their right to live outside of a war zone, their right to food and safe water, shelter and clothing, to be free of religious persecution, or persecution based on gender (inclusive of gender identity), sexual orientation, race, or disability - we will continue to move towards a divisive world rather than one that inclusive and oriented on a peaceful existence; we will continue to move towards a world run on fear and mistrust, inflammatory rhetoric, and the elevation of self over others.

These concepts, this momentum, this exertion of will over right, undermines the concepts of democracy, It does, in fact, place the future of democratic societies in crisis. And it makes the world an inherently more dangerous place. Not just for people of color, women, non-Christian faiths, or nationalities or heritage other than that of the country in which they reside - but a destabilized world is one that is less safe for the majority as well . It breeds discontent. It continues to grow fear, from all people not just the dominating populist, and may lead to a self-actualizing reality of conflict upon delineated lines.

We need compassion and humility on a global scale. I do. I'm trying. And hopefully you are trying to act from a place of peace, love and respect as well. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Of a decidedly more feminine nature - not for the delicately minded

I haven't written, probably in a few years, as life had fallen in to an certain flow and just continued moving along as it should... Recently, however, there's been a bit of a turn and these past few weeks have been the source of a great deal of anxiety. To quickly bring you up to speed - I've got uterine fibroids which will require a series of medical procedures. The first, a D&C, will allow for diagnostic testing before the next step It is done on an out patient basis in what they call a 'sanitorium'.... I've always associated that word with a place for the criminally insane. Seeing my appointment set there didn't do much to calm my nerves.

It - from start to finish - was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I was alternately in a heightened state of stress and under heavy drugs when you read my notes below. Yes, I started writing as I had to get my mind off what where I was and what was going on. Please keep in mind - these tests and this care, which is medically necessary, are those that are provided by Planned Parenthood in a caring and supportive environment. Even with the differences described below, I knew that the doctors and nurses were there with care, concern, and without judgement; I cannot begin to imagine how much harder the process would have been had I not been able to obtain affordable, immediate, and shame-free care for a truly invasive diagnostic procedure.

I've walked in to a very bright light room - stark, actually with four beds and two cots, each with crisp lavender bedding, five of them occupied by women of varying ages, all younger than me. The women are readily apparent as there aren't any curtains dividing the room.

A wardrobe stands next to the door. The nurse opened it to show me an empty shelf and then handed me a white gown and told me to change. I was the sixth and last person and didn't know where to go as there wasn't a changing center. As she left I asked for the bathroom and was given directions. After figuring out how to put the gown on (white of all things! white when, if you're not bleeding now, you will be soon!) I came back out to put my things on the shelf. These gowns have one tie, at the top, and that's it. It felt like a juggling act, trying to open the wardrobe, put my things away, and keep myself decent. I'm not a good juggler. And all eyes were on me. This was a very uncomfortable start.

My bed was the last cot, wedged against the wall between the wardrobe and the bathroom. 'Cot' may be a generous term. The top of the mattress barely reached mid-shin. The coils of the mattress were visible through the sheets. But the blanket was warm. I didn't want to lay down at first as it was a bit poky. I got over it and ended up curled up in the blanket with my head sunk deep in the middle of the giant pillow. I didn't want to see anyone or to be seen. My cramps hurt. Obviously, feeling a bit vulnerable right now.

One by one we're called out of bed. We had done the check in and signed paperwork prior to being brought to the room but apparently they do the payment after everyone is tucked in. One by one, six women have to climb back out of bed, find their wallets and conduct the transaction while their bare butts are hanging out of the mini-gowns - that one tie makes sense actually as it's not just a mini-gown on me but on everyone, no matter how skinny - barely covered the back and your bum is free and clear of everything that could possibly provide a bit of modesty
I've been laying there wondering if this is just pre-op and where do we go for post? There's no monitoring equipment in this room and not enough room to navigate a bed so I don't know what's in store. OK. The door just opened. Apparently I missed girl #1 being taken out but she's just been brought back in. This is also post-op. She's in a wheelchair, though, and has to stand to be transferred to her bed. It's not an easy process and she's got a full size bed. I've no idea how they're going to do this for me on this rinky dinky cot.

When I'm sitting in my bed I can't see the door. The wardrobe is to my back. I see the door to the toilet and a window. When I turn my head I can see the faces of a few of the women. Nobody looks comfortable. It's dead silent in here.

The lady came for me - my turn to pay. I gave her some money and she needed change. She said something abruptly, it took me a moment to process, and in that second the middle bed gave me a translation. Her speaking and my thanks brought a momentary lapse of tension with a few smiles being shared but, now, back to my cot, downstairs, while they're still upstairs in the real beds.

The only other cot girl is maybe in her early/mid 20s. She's been chattering away on her tablet like it's a phone, for a while. She makes me thing of someone you'd find in WalMart at 3 am. She's got pretty, strong features but a coarseness comes through that undermines her physical beauty. And a lot of makeup. We were told not to wear any and I'm not, but she's got a face and a half full at least. She's the only person I can see easily while laying down.

I've not had any pill, shot or injection to start the dilation and it's after 1. My pick-up is scheduled for 3 so I'm a bit anxious about getting things going. I don't know how they're going to get dilation, put me out, wake me up, make sure I'm not still bleeding and decide it's safe for me to leave all in less than 2 hours. Along with all of these other women, too.

The only sound in this room is the rustle of the pages when I turn this notebook... and the woman nearest me, she's on the verge of tears, she can't sit still and I hear her blanket move with her anxiety. I think she's the only one with underwear still on.

I'd really like to just sleep through this whole experience, starting about 20 minutes ago, but unless that sleep is natural I'm not sure that'll happen as nothing is going on. An IV with some sort of anti-anxiety or relaxer or something would be really nice. I can hear some noises behind me but I can't see what's going on and my cramps hurt too much to contort in to a better position.

I tend to think of a difference between an institution and institutionalization. This is more more on the institutionalization side. Not undermining the integrity of the institution I'm in, but this is far more institutionalization, but like institutionalization lite, I suppose.

There are women here who want to be mothers but are losing babies - or have lost them already, women who don't want to be mothers, and women like me who no longer could be if they wanted to. It's palpable. The emotions, the greater impact, the implications... My presence, my condition, this step and the next - not my choice. Not what I wanted. This is not where I want to be and so far from what I want to be doing. I understand the necessity but I just want to skip ahead and be done with it.

I think the first girl just woke up. The one I saw wheeled in in her chair. She's a bit chatty and sounds high - high pitched, giggly, and just plain out of it. But, being on this side of it, that's not so bad... she's not miserable. She fell asleep again.

The tablet girl is back now and she's moaning. Not cool. Sh'es not awake and this is not cool.

It's very quiet again. There are two girls sleeping, one girl is out, two girls are silent and then there's me. I just farted. I guess it's better now than in surgery.

You can hear them in the other room calling the girl's name - I don't know what it is, actually but they're calling her name over and over... you don't get a gradual wake up here. Your procedure's over? WAKE UP, you gotta get yourself off the table, into the chair and then out of the chair and in to bed. (?!?!?) Wow.

HOLY COW. I'm back. I've had more than my fair share of general anesthesia but I've never had one that I came out of like this... I normally don't' remember anything, any of the hallucinations or whatever, but this time, on the waking up end, I was FB messaging with some friends and the Dr kept popping up in messenger and it was a bit frustrating till I saw she was telling me to wake up... so I did.

I do not remember anything after that but I'm in my bed now... cot, still. And I hurt. Worse than the cramps.A lot worse.

I think I fell asleep again. The lady in the middle who did the translation is back and I swear she never fell asleep or something but whatever they gave her kicked her mouth in to overdrive.

I fell asleep again. Woke up to translation girl talking, still, in Czech, about Yosemite, Las Vegas, San Diego, Obama and WalMart. For a bit I thought I was hallucinating again so I sat up and asked for clarification yes.... they were all talking about the US and I joined in a bit... amazing how drugs loosen the tongue.
Honestly, though, I have no idea how she is so awake. I think I've fallen asleep a few more times and she hasn't shut up as far as I can tell. For a second time I thought maybe it was me, but I don't understand a lot of the words I'm hearing and I don't think my brain would hallucinate in a nonsense language, foreign I can go for, with words I know, but stuff I don't know... I'm not sure brains work like that. The nurse just came in and told her to be quiet as we must sleep... I don't think it's just me anymore.

There are only 5 of us now. The teary eyed girl went last. She was beautiful and the entire time she's looked like she's struggling not to cry. My heart really goes out to her. Whatever she's going through her struggle was clearly printed on her face.

It still hurts.

I've slept some more. The last girl is back and now the nurse and doctor are in. One by one, they come to each bed, spread your legs... yep, you're bleeding, ok, no sex, no baths, no blah blah, get a fever - call, goodbye. No privacy. I've literally got blood dripping down my legs. Actively, still. Got up to get my clothes and find that I'm more efficient than Hansel and Gretel... and yet it's time to go. All of us. We're all still bleeding, Six women, half naked and bloody, bleeding, trying to find their underwear and get dressed, while in discomfort - emotional, physical, psychological and quite possibly, for some, spiritual as well. This is so abrupt and feels premature - like maybe, hey - shouldn't we stay until we're all wide awake and not actively bleeding this much? Actually, I think I'm bleeding more than everyone else - everything I've touched is now stained. That sounds so biblical.

The doctors and nurses are efficient and pleasant enough but the absence of privacy I find shocking. It feels so clinical, like I'm but a cog in their machine - and in truth that's what I am. This is a typical Tuesday afternoon, kind of like the group from the rest home that goes to the movies every Tuesday afternoon... you'll see the horde climb off the bus, sell them tickets and snacks, maybe one or two need an enhancer for their hearing aid, and then you'll clean up after them but they, as individuals, don't really exist. It's just what happens on Senior Special day.

I'm home now. It still hurts. Right up behind my belly button. It hurts. And cramps. I know I've got another surgery in the future, a bigger one, one that requires actual hospitalization and extended recovery time, and I'm torn between wanting to start researching my local options and not wanting to think about it at all. I'm going to go with the latter for now as there's plenty of time for all the anxiety that research will bring. And right now, I hurt. Not too bad but enough. But that was expected. I have no complaints about the quality of care today. I think, rather, the setting in which I got it sort of knocked me out of my head space so much that in a sense it was easier for me than if everything had been more familiar and comfy, cozy and catered.... except that then I'd have gotten an IV and drugs a whole lot sooner. Maybe this way wasn't so bad though. I survived. Unscarred and unscathed. Literally.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Forum 2000, 2013 ed. - Dalai Lama, Suu Kyi and de Klerk

Once again I was able to attend Forum 2000. This year’s guests were overwhelming – while I had anticipated an appearance by the Dalai Lama I was completely taken aback by the grace and peace that radiated from Aung San Suu Kyi – you may remember her as the Nobel Peace Prize winning Burmese dissident who was under an illegal house-arrest some years back on an island when an American swam across, uninvited, to see her, stayed to recover his strength and then swam back – his intrusion earned her an additional sentence of 3 years of hard labor which was commuted to another 18 months of house arrest.

People talk about Audrey Hepburn as an iconic image, this slight wisp of a woman who carried an air of grace, elegance and benevolence. Suu Kyi is the personification of the ideology. As she settled in to her chair the dying applause was replaced with an almost palpable sense of ease and calmness. I had not read much about her prior to this event, familiar with her on only a surface level, and was completed unprepared for the experience her presence brought about. She is viewed as the modern day Gandhi for her non-violent activities devoted to ensuring appropriate care and representation for her people. The label assigned to her by Indians gives me a greater insight in to the force of Gandhi’s character.

Her warmth, kindness, care and compassion were neatly complimented by F.W. de Klerk, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President of South Africa and the man who freed Nelson Mandela and brought an end to apartheid.  Again, a man of compassion, integrity and wisdom whose presence was an entirely different force – not an oppositional one, but one that carried his kindness and gave a glimpse of a highly effective man.

Today’s closing ceremony was again inspirational – chaired by Gareth Evans, F.W. de Klerk was joined on stage by the former Czech Foreign Minister and the man who should be President, Karel Schwarzenberg, by the Cuban activist Yoani Sanchez, previously identified by Time Magazine, and others of that ilk as one of the world’s most influential people, one of the 10 most influential Latin American Intellectuals and one of the World’s Top Dissidents, and the Dalai Lama. Suu Kyi was seated in the front row and wrangled in to the discussion as well.

Let me say that I am grateful to the media today. Not that this event will receive the attention it warrants but because in the midst of the conversation taking place I was listening without reflecting; hearing in the moment and not fully processing, and the value of the words shared, while immediately apparent on one level, were not fully realized until I had some time to read them and sit with them and give some attention to the individual statements, both in context and as independent truths.

The love and compassion for people; the statement by the Dalai Lama that prayer and meditation were very nice but there is a stronger need for action; the evaluation of motivation; the need for selfless governance; the willingness to risk harm in order to ensure equality for others… there was so much more said, but not said in theory or remote observation but said by those who had lived it, who continue to live it, and who are focused on spreading it.

I was in the eighth row. This is a free event. I cannot encourage you enough, wherever you are, to make a point to attend it next year and to support it however you can now. Don’t think about what is wrong in the world and ponder what can be done to fix it, come and listen, learn, meet people who are focused on implementing positive change and live it.

Zofin Palace - primary space of the Forum 2000 - image from Forum 2000 website

Sunday, September 1, 2013

G20 and the Dali Lama

I have been home all weekend. I wish I could say I've been super productive and my house is all unpacked, decorated and sparkling clean but it's not. Food poisoning or something like it hit me Friday and I've been resting ever since.

It is now quite late on Sunday and I'm finally putting together some stuff for school. What am I looking at, you might wonder... well... some documents created by Seimens addressing the topic of transparency and anti-corruption for inclusion in the G20 Summit set to take place in Moscow later this week. Yes, Moscow, that haven for homophobia. Good lord, at this rate I'll never make it to St. Petersburg.

Surely that's not the only thing occupying your mind this lovely evening, you might say... well, you're right. I'm also review the topics at hand for the various panel discussions at Forum 2000 and noted I am set to attend a closed session with the Dali Lama. Yes, that Dali Lama.

The dichotomous nature of those two events in one mental space should create a rift in the time/space continuum. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

death and a departure

I haven't posted much lately; I've had a great two months with my kid while she's been in town - while it's been peaceful and relaxing it also seems as though we've been chock full with activity. We both hit a new decade and took some trips to celebrate. She got to reconnect with old friends and made some new ones. It is such a pleasure having here here. She left today. 

While she was here I moved, again. This time from a small place that was making me quite sick - mold - to a much larger and more spacious and healthy environment. The thing is - this has only been my home with her presence and now... now it's empty. Loomingly empty.

This week has also brought about news of the death of two friends - one I have known for 4 years but until this year thought of him as a strictly fun and party kind of guy. This year I got to know the inner bit and I found a lot of respect and a new appreciation for him. The other I've known for about 15 years and had a tremendous amount of respect for him. One lived here, one lived back in my hometown. The one here I saw with some frequency, the other I'd make a point to stop by and see him each trip home. One had recently expressed his desire to return home, move away from the partying and start a "real" more substantial phase of his life, the other was married, had children and was successful in his work life.

They both died of a heart attack. They were both far too young for such a thing. 

For some reason this is sticking with me. My local friend - we couldn't have been more different. But we both valued family and our friends and both of us knew this wasn't permanent. This was fun and temporary and offered a modicum of success in our respective career paths but didn't allow for opportunities in the ways we each wanted - familial connections and support and wider ranging financial and personal development in the work arena. 

I'm going to miss these people. They weren't a part of my daily life and they've not left a nagging hole but I'm accustomed to them and their role in my life and I enjoyed their company. I'm also stuck looking at the disparity of two men who died unexpectedly and the lives they led; trying to think about my own.

And, after dropping my kid off at the airport at 5 a.m. this morning and returning home to a hot bath, with these various forms of loss weighing on my mind I felt lonely. Not alone, but lonely. Empty and alone. For the first time in a long time. I think a hot dinner, a good night's sleep and some time will help to alleviate that; developing a new routine, putting my house in order will help to create a new sense of belonging, but right now this is where I'm at. At home. Alone. Sad. And lonely.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June has been an apocalyptic month

We started off with massive flooding and fear. The anxiety in certain regions was palpable. The national State of Emergency lasted for the first two weeks of the month.

Last week they cleared away the flood barriers, most, not all, and reopened a number of the the parks. It was cold.

Immediately over the weekend we transitioned to a massive heat wave. There hasn't been a break. The national meteorological release has warned people to stay inside, reduce their activity, and increase their water consumption.

Not all parks have reopened since the flood.

Monday night, the first day of the oppressive, sweat in the shade sort of heat, a large portion of the city lost water.

Last night a power station blew and on the second evening of the heat wave, a night when fans were required in a country without residential air-conditioning, the power went out. It impacted the same area as the water loss and far beyond. Half a city of over a million people lost power. It was still sweltering. There is no nighttime cooling here. Fortunately just before the power blew I had taken a cool shower trying to wash the sticky sweat off my body and out of my hair. Even so, after cooling down and cleaning up, even with the fans running, I was sweating again, before the power went out. And then I had to start lighting candles.

I woke up at 6 a.m. The sun is harsh and the heat relentless.

Tonight I'm going to the gym. It's in an air-conditioned building and I will be swimming in a pool that usually feels quite cool but I expect will feel a bit tepid at this point. But I am looking forward it nonetheless. Afterwards I will be riding out to the airport to retrieve the kid. I just hope that when we get back, after her day and a half of traveling, that we have both water and electricity so she can clean up and get a nice, cool, comfortable night's sleep.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I wanted to give a little cheer, instead I had a heartfelt smile

So, roundabout lunchtime narrative here... let's take it back a few months for a moment:

I moved last October. Apparently I left behind all of my warm weather shoes. I've been trying to get them back ever since but I think the girls who moved in have the same size foot as I do and have appropriated them for themselves as, despite an ongoing dialogue, they're never available for me to come by.

No, why am I talking about warm weather shoes when we've been on a flood alert? It was called off. We're officially in the clear - it happened within the last 24 hours. And now, it's really rather warm, rapidly approaching hot. People out and about in sleeveless shirts and shorts and such...

And I only have one pair of shoes that aren't winter shoes. And they're not comfortable. Tiny little ballet flats without any structure or support and so thin every little edge on each cobblestone seems to poke its way through the soles.

So today I went shoe shopping at lunchtime. Shoes are one of the things I've learned should be quality. Unfortunately, here, that means disproportionately expensive, but I know they'll last. So first I went to the Clark's store - but I struck out. Then Ecco and I found some. Some that are remarkably similar to the last past of Ecco sandals I bought a few years ago and to the pair my Mom bought in the past year or two too... but they're really, really comfortable and pretty good summer sandals.

That's not what made me want to cheer.

On the way back I took the metro to Mala Strana and then got out and waited for the tram. There was a long delay due to traffic and then I heard a police siren. I thought maybe there'd been an accident but it was only one car and he wasn't in a rush, in fact he was going pretty slow. And then, behind him, were a few oversized flatbed semi-type trucks.

My first thought was - what in the world? Why does an oversized load get a police escort? Then I saw what was on the flatbed - the individual components of the flood defense walls. The police were escorting the last bits of the river defense system away. And that made my heart a little brighter.