Friday, July 11, 2014

July 4, Citizenship, GAO Cultural Day, My Kids in Hawaii, Ramadan with Rebiya Kadeer, Honduran Miners, Goodbye Mario Coyula

This posting is primarily a photo gallery. Here you see my son Jonathan on July 4, a tranquil scene that he sent from the far end of Oahu, the same island where busy Honolulu is located, then near the same area with my daughter Stephanie. Another photo shows the two of them when they were small. July 4 was a lovely day in Washington, DC. That evening, it was only about 70 F with a gentle breeze blowing with a nice party outdoors featuring live Mexican guitar music, singing, and dancing at a home near my own. A perfect evening for the fireworks and outdoor festivities.



At the Museum of the American Indian, I met with long-time friend, Manolo, holding up a copy of my new Cuba book in the photo, which was taken (as per copyright notice) by Jose Manuel, a former Cuban refugee rafter who appears in the book.
Days later, on July 8, I had the privilege of attending a friend's citizenship ceremony, for 117 new citizens from dozens of countries. A few children were also present, reminding me of the ceremony we attended for son Jon, adopted from Colombia, who became a citizen at age 4. I recall that many onlookers gave him quarters, to the great envy of his siblings.



My three GAO visitors will be leaving soon, shown at recent GAO Cultural Day. They are from Argentina, Tanzania, and Zambia; the other photo is of me with the GAO fellow from Papua New Guinea, a colleague of someone who stayed with me years ago.



On July 9, we in Amnesty International in DC held an Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan, a month when no food or water is consumed during daylight hours. Exactly when Ramadan falls depends on geographic location and the cycles of the moon, but I believe the calendar for DC this year is June 28-July 27. Iftar refers to the first meal occurring after sunset, beginning with the consumption of a date. But before our dinner, we heard a speaker, Rebiya Kadeer, as shown above, a leader in exile in China’s Xinjiang region, formerly known as East Turkistan, with a population of 20 million, but, like Tibet and parts of Mongolia, taken over by the Chinese government and subjected to forced assimilation through language and Han Chinese immigration. The inhabitants are a Turkish people, the Uyghurs, most, but not all, Muslims. I had had met Kadeer, a small woman in her 60s with long gray braids, previously at an Amnesty conference in Delaware and rode back on the train with her and her interpreter.  She was once as a very successful businesswoman, but ran afoul of Chinese authorities and spent 5 years in prison as an Amnesty prisoner of conscience.  Two of her sons were also arrested and one is still in prison. One of her daughters attended our event and chatted with me.


Kadeer explained Ramadan as time for exercising self-restraint, showing solidarity with and empathy for poor people, and performing good deeds. She said that China is the only country that does not allow Ramadan fasting, forcing people to eat and drink water during daylight hours, contrary to their religious beliefs and preferences.  Many Uyghurs have recently been killed and arrested. She said she has written a piece that appeared recently in the Wall St. Journal asking for peaceful dialogue with the Chinese government and she had also asked Secretary Kerry to bring up Uyghur grievances during his meetings in China. Ask why more Muslim countries don’t support the Uyghurs, she said because of economic and political alliances with China. Her people do feel solidarity with and provide moral support for Muslims in Burma, who are similarly marginalized. The Voice of America recorded and filmed Kadeer’s presentation. I reintroduced myself to her and she acted as though she actually remembered me, smiling broadly and shaking my hand with both of hers.

El Corpus, Honduras (CNN) July 4, 2014-- Three of 11 miners who were trapped in a Honduran gold mine this week were rescued Friday morning, freed nearly two days after a landslide blocked their path out.

After rescuers brought the three out of the mine near the town of El Corpus, live footage shown on Honduran network Televicentro showed ambulances driving them away. Scores of Red Cross volunteers, firefighters and others have been trying to free the miners since a landslide blocked a tunnel late Wednesday, El Corpus Mayor Luis Rueda said. Information on the conditions of the three freed miners and the eight who remained in the mine wasn't immediately available.

Mario Coyula, a Cuban architect and planner, with whom I met several times, as recounted (and pictured) in my Cuba book, has died of cancer. He was loyal to the regime, but not uncritical, and
was a champion for the preservation of Havana’s architecture. He was very kind to me personal
and his death is certainly a loss to Cuba and to Havana, especially.

 Too bad the USA lost the World Cup, but actually didn’t do so badly after all.

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