Thursday, October 20, 2011

Photos, MLKing Memorial, Gaddafi’s Demise, Honduras, Cuba, Peace Corps Response, Zimbabwe

Will try to post some photos pertaining to recent blogs, keeping my fingers crossed that they actually come out. (We will find out whether I am successful if and when we see them posted here.) If so, one shows me with Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) at a luncheon for Peace Corps writers held at the Library of Congress during the corps’ recent 50th anniversary celebrations. The others were taken on the fourth birthday of my great-grandson, DeAndre, celebrated at Chucky Cheese’s, including one of him and me beforehand in my living room with 7-year-old twin step-grandchildren in town for his birthday. The woman shown sitting with me at Chucky Cheese’s was one of my late son Andrew’s first girl friends, Julie, now a divorced mother of three.

Last Sunday, October 16, ceremonies were held to dedicate the new MLKing Memorial, a celebration postponed in August because of a hurricane. Fortunately, last Sunday turned out to be a warm, dry fall day, with many dignitaries taking the podium, including one of King’s daughters. The original ceremony had been scheduled for the anniversary of King’s “I have a dream” speech on the mall, an event I actually witnessed with my then-husband as part of a huge crowd, unaware that it would be history-making event.

Like Saddam Hussein in Iraq before him, Libya’s Gaddafi was trapped in a hiding hole. Certainly his ignominious demise must strike fear into the hearts of dictators everywhere, among them, Cuba’s Castro brothers. Unfortunately, Amnesty International investigators, recently returned from Libya, have discovered that Gaddafi loyalists are not the only ones subject to accusations of human rights abuses. The victorious side has apparently gone after supposed Gaddafi supporters with a vengeance, including black African migrant workers targeted automatically as mercenaries for his side when, in fact, they only came to Libya as temporary workers and were not involved in the fighting. Such scapegoating is always a risk during and after armed conflicts (remember Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II).

In the local Spanish-language press, an item appears reporting that a half-submerged ship was found off the Caribbean coast containing 7.5 tons of cocaine worth $180 million. Central America, now in the rainy and hurricane season, has been buffeted by Hurricane Jova, which may have contributed to the sinking of the drug ship. Storms notwithstanding, 28 Cuban rafters arrived on Honduras’s north coast, the sort of happening that was common when I was in the Peace Corps. It’s not easy to get from Cuba to Honduras on a raft! But many Cubans have made the journey, probably knocked off course by winds and waves.

News of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s likely demise within two years comes from an indirect source, Pravda, which quotes his personal physician in that regard. However, Chavez himself has announced he is now cancer-free and invited supporters to celebrate his victory over the disease.

Sad news has come from Cuba regarding the death of an outspoken member of the Damas de Blanco (Women in White), Laura Pollan, who appeared in the Norwegian-made documentary of the same name. She was hospitalized with hemorrhagic dengue and suffered a fatal heart attack in the hospital. Her husband was released earlier this year, one of the last of the 2003 Black Spring prisoners to be freed because he refused exile. At least, they had a few months together before her death. Up to the end, she had been very active in continuing with the marches with other women, calling not only for the release of their loved ones, but for the freeing of all political prisoners and an end to repression. She suffered many indignities, blows, and short-term arrests, but did not stop her advocacy. Reports of her death in the official Cuban media did not mention dengue as a factor in her death. Cuba has a history of covering up dengue epidemics for fear of scaring away tourists. There is no vaccine or curative medicine for dengue, a mosquito-borne viral illness.

Alan Gross, the American former USAID contractor given 15 years by a Cuban court, appealed his sentence on humanitarian grounds, not only due to his ill-health, but to that of his mother and daughter, but the appeal was denied.

Peace Corps is now recruiting Peace Corps Response volunteers for work on maternal health in Africa. Response volunteers are those who have once served a full term, but now go back for shorter assignments, usually three to six months, never more than a year. Having worked in maternal health in Honduras as a volunteer and because maternal survival and health are also priorities for Amnesty International, where I am now volunteer Caribbean coordinator for AI-USA, I would very much like to work on PC maternal health projects in Africa. However, six months is too long for me to be away from my Spanish interpretation work. I’m lucky, at age 73, that I still have work assignments and that the two agencies I work for tolerate my yearly absence in Honduras during the whole month of February. But an absence of six months would be really too much. When I retire from interpreting at age 80, if I live that long, then I plan to join PC Response, primero Dios, God willing, as the Hondurans say.

I have mentioned before that I’ve known both deaf and blind Peace Corps volunteers, as well as of at least one in a wheelchair. Now, I see in the 50th anniversary celebrations at Gallaudet University (a local university for the deaf) that at least 59 deaf volunteers have served, many of them teaching American English sign language in English-speaking Peace Corps countries.

Zimbabwe is another country of interest to me because of Amnesty International and folks who have stayed at my house. Once I attended a talk by two leaders of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise), Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who were recently arrested in Zimbabwe, along with ten others. Now all have been released, thanks to an international outcry, including from us at Amnesty. I confess to being all over the map in my interests and concerns and thank my few faithful readers for indulging my far-flung ramblings.

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