How I Learned To Play The Piano #metoo

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“There are about forty cats and dogs on my property.  One cat can open doors. All those animals see us going in and out of doors every day but only one animal learned how to do it. He jumps up on the door handle and it pushes down. The door opens. He walks through.  If I didn’t see one cat open doors, I would never know that a cat could do that.”    Al Wei Wei“

When I was ten years old I was molested by my piano teacher. I did not know how to handle it or how to stop it. I knew that I did not want to talk about it to anyone. In my ten-year old wisdom, I decided that I could handle it for five months until the end of year concert at Carnegie Hall. Everyone knew that I wanted to play there. I would “choose” in the summer to stop taking piano lessons. If I quit before, there would be too many questions. Eighty per cent of childhood sexual abuse happens from family members or someone you know. It is usually not done in a scary way.

I remember this day. After the concert I thought – I did it.  This is finally over and no one knows anything. My mother walked into the bedroom and said, “Everyone was so good at the recital. Next year I will start your brother and sister with piano lessons.” I blurted out, ”But you will go with them. You shouldn’t let them go alone.” My mother thought that was a weird response. I wouldn’t explain and she wouldn’t stop asking. Several hours later, I put my face under the covers and told her.

Everything happened really fast after that. My father went to his house to kill him and my mother took me to the police station. That was so much worse than being molested. I remember lying on a cold metal table having my first physical exam with a lot of people and police in the room. I was staring at the ceiling with the exposed light bulb and ugly green paint, pretending to crawl out of my skin and be anywhere else.

My father had walked into a large family dinner with his accusation and the piano teacher sued us for slander. My parents counter sued. Now the story that I did not want to tell even once, got repeated many, many times to lawyers. This was not going away so quickly.  If you were wondering why women don’t talk, telling was definitely much worse than not telling.

The lawsuit kept getting postponed. The story was repeated and practiced every time we got a new court date. I kept thinking that if I had not told, it would have been buried in the dark somewhere and not following me around for years. A kid can only carry so much before it starts to unravel. I was lucky in the way that my family stood behind me and never doubted me for a second  – even though the neighborhood turned against me for a while.  He was the best piano teacher the area. I wasn’t the only one it happened to. I could see it in the eyes of kids who had heard the story. I have found that victims can recognize each other. But no one else was talking-especially after they saw the reactions. Predators pick their victims carefully. I had taken piano lessons for two and a half years before it happened. They know who lacks confidence and who won’t tell. The people who it didn’t happen to never understand that.

I was fourteen years old when I finally went to court. He was found guilty and his punishment was that he had to stop giving piano lessons. Sexual abuse was not even a category for children until 1984. He was eighty years old and died a year later.

I was not the same person I was before. I had learned at ten years old that anything can happen when you are in a room alone with a man.The dark side had taught me the signs to watch out for.

Men seem to be much more shocked than women about all these current sexual accusations. It is called living in the world while female. Every woman I know has sexual harassment stories.  I have these stories but I have learned not to be the victim ever again.

As a child, you feel that the best way to survive something is to do nothing. As a woman up until now, it has been the same. Telling your stories, makes you a survivor and not a victim. It makes others feels that they aren’t alone. But the scars never go away.

When I had kids I wanted to be a stay at home mom because I had a working one at a time when mother’s didn’t work. It was also because I knew the world could be unsafe for children and I wanted to protect them. I sat in every private dance lesson with my daughter. I had them take self-defense classes and put them in programs like kid power. I forced myself to give my children piano lessons. i interviewed many teachers.  I rented a piano and stuck it in my open dining room (where it did not fit). I could see it from any angle in the house. Once a week, I relived the story with every wrong note. Luckily they gave it up after ten months.

I never listened to classical music. I never played it for my children. I thought  that I did not like it but I had forgotten until now that he used to listen to it. The music made me feel invisible. Your mind sometimes puts memories that are too hard into your unconscious to protect you.  I listen to it now. Eleven years ago I got a dog who loved classical music. I downloaded music for him to stay alone and realized how beautiful it was. I have recently added some piano concertos. I am ready to let it go. It wasn’t my fault. I was ten years old.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love, mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”Talmud

The Global Peace Index measures each year the national peacefulness of a country based on  perceptions of criminality, security officers and police, homicides, incarceration, access to weapons, intensity of internal conflict, violent demonstrations, violent crime, political instability, political terror, weapon imports, terrorism impact and deaths from internal conflict.

I’ve done blogs about it before rating the safest countries and the not  safest countries to visit.

But what really shocks me  is that the US  is a slacker when it comes to promoting positive peace. It is rated 103 on a list of 163 countries. This means that there are are a 102 countries that are safer to visit and live in than the US. Our performance  number is lowered because of the number of people in our prison system and our involvement in conflicts overseas.

There are the usual but many were surprising to me. Uganda is rated 101. Uganda is safer to visit than the US – apparently. Jordan (where I just was) is much safer at 96. Angola, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Gambia, are all in the nineties. Haiti, Burkina Faso Peru, Cuba, Bangladesh  and Paraguay  have a rating in the eighties. Liberia, Benin, Oman and Senegal are in the seventies. Nicaragua, Argentina, Mozambique, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the sixties.  Madagascar is above Italy  which is rated 39. Chile and Botswana are in the twenties.

According to the data, we are further away from World Peace then ever with the Middle East dragging us down. 

The most peaceful countries continue to improve their rating while the least peaceful ones are getting worse. Violence and conflict are escalating.  The world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

In case you just woke up from a coma, the world is less peaceful this year than it was last year.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Safest Countries To Visit Now

Safest Countries To Visit Now

“These are all I have.I do not have the wide,bright beacon of some solid old lighthouse, guiding ships safely home, past the jagged rocks. I only have these little glimmers that flicker and then go out.”  Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood

“A person isn’t safe anywhere these days.” How often have I heard that lately – terrorism, zika, gun violence. Before that it was the fear of aids, dengue, swine flu and malaria. So for those of you who would like to lessen the odds,  these are some of the safest countries to travel to.

Slovenia is a relatively safe country to visit. They have a strong economy and a stable democracy. The days of being part of communist Yugoslavia ended when they established their independence in 1991. They are members of both NATO and the EU. You should probably use tick repellent in the beautiful national parks.

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Japan is safer than most countries. It is definitely safer then the countries we come from. They have a very low crime rate and Japanese don’t worry about locking their doors or walking home late at night alone which is a nice way to live. Is it 100 per cent safe ?- no.

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Americans believe that Canada is a crime free oasis. Violent crime is very low but purses and wallets do often go missing. Don’t leave your things unattended,

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There is very little crime in Switzerland but most of it is geared to tourists. Car theft, pick pocketing and purse snatching are common in tourist areas. Sometimes football games get a little rowdy and you might see police in riot gear.

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I’m surprised that the Czech Republic has such a high safety rating. I’ve been to Prague a few times and I didn’t feel that safe. Then again, nothing happened to me. Don’t exchange money on the street. Petty theft is very common in tourist areas and taxi drivers are known to cheat you. It’s always best to get a taxi in front of a hotel. If you have a problem, the police station is open 24 hours a day and has English translators.

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Portugal is one of the safest countries to visit. That is good for me to know because I am going there soon. If you get very drunk and it is late at night, you could become a target for thieves. Violent crime is rare but they do have a few gangs that hang out on the beach late at night. A late night beach walk toward a group of people who look like they might be trouble is probably not a good idea. Also if anyone approaches you to buy drugs or anything on the street like sunglasses, which could turn out to be drugs, just say no.

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New Zealand is a very safe place to travel with few diseases, a great healthcare system and a low crime rate. The terrain can be challenging outside of the main city. You need to be reasonably fit to enjoy the new Zealand bush. New Zealand’s clear, unpolluted atmosphere and relatively low latitudes produce sunlight stronger than much of Europe or North America, so if you don’t wear sunblock, be ready for a major sunburn.

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There is no travel advisory in effect for Austria and it is one of the safest countries in the world. You might get a stomach ache from eating all that schnitzel, sacher torte and strudel. There are very few violent crimes but bicycle theft is becoming a problem. Also don’t walk in the bike lanes. As in the Netherlands, you could easily be hit by a cyclist. I just read that racism is a problem (not a violent one) especially in villages where there are no non-white people. What exactly is considered non-white to an Austrian anyway? Could be anything. I think I have to disagree with this one though all the lists say it is very safe.

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Travelers do not worry about their safety in Denmark. Denmark is the second most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Index. it score very well in the level of violent crime and likelihood of violent demonstrations, political stability, freedom of the press, hostility to foreigners and respect for human rights. This makes it a great place to live and travel.

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Iceland is beyond safe to travel to when it comes to crime .However you should pay attention to natural dangers. Signs like Do Not Drive Up The Glacier Without A 4×4 or Do Not Go Here – mean it. There is no cell service in many places so you may experience a bit of technology withdrawal but the beautiful scenery will easily fill up the time.

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Other safe countries include Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Bhutan. So if you’re feeling nervous, you still have many great options to travel.

Fly safe,JAZ

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.” — Howard Gardner

I was thinking about the countries I would be most afraid to travel to. I decided to look on the internet at other people’s lists. Many  countries were the same – the usual suspects, unstable governments, high crime rates, drug cartels, terrorists, kidnappings – all things that could ruin a vacation. There were a couple of surprises. Russia and the United States were on a few top ten lists. The reason is that we have enemies. We invaded countries and had a major terrorist attack. We have gangs, crime, drug problems and random, crazy shootings. There are people from peaceful countries that are afraid to come here.

The list of dangerous countries changes with economic and political stability.  I’m not sure of what the time limit is but when a certain amount of time passes and nothing terrible happens, people start traveling to a country on the danger list again. They are not in order because the order changes  based on acts of violence.  Some of these countries have been on this list for a very long time.

1. Syria If you are in Syria, you should leave immediately. Kidnapping  of foreign nationals, terrorism, polio and ongoing military clashes make it an extremely dangerous place to be at the moment. Thousands of people have already been injured or killed. If you insist on going, travel with an armed guard. If you are stopped, they will assume you have picked a side and you could be executed.

2. Afghanistan  It is probably not a good idea to travel to Afghanistan especially if you are from a country in the NATO Alliance. The Taliban  has issued a threat against every citizen of these countries. The American government has pretty much issued the same travel advisory about Afghanistan.  There are a few tourists but keeping them safe is difficult.  Some of them have not come back. Afghanistan has spectacular scenery. There are snow-capped mountains in the Hindu Kush and Pamir ranges, Buddhist monuments and Islāmic temples,. No one knows  if it will ever be safe for tourism because it is ten years after the international community has come in and it is still unsafe.

3. Iraq  As the cradle of civilization, Iraq  has always been a pilgrimage site. The lack of security, daily bombings, shootings, and unstable infrastructure make it very difficult to even get a tourist visa. The few western tourists that come to Iraq,  travel with an armed guard in an unmarked vehicle. They try to blend in and not call attention to themselves, and are stopped at many checkpoints. The violence seems to be getting worse so the small tourism that they do have will soon decrease.

4.Venezuela   There is no travel advisory for Venezuela other than avoiding the Colombian border. There are violent street demonstrations, kidnappings and armed robbery. It doesn’t help that Venezuela has one of the top five murder rates in the world.  (Jamaica’s is higher and they have plenty of tourists)  A  friend of mine who travels with the World Athletic Organization  said that he never felt fearful except after landing in Venezuela. It felt like anything could happen in that country. Chavez shut off the internet the weekend he was there.  Whatever improvements the Chavez government brought to Venezuela, tourism wasn’t one of them. The situation has improved since his death, but due to crazy monetary policies, it is hard to attract foreign investments and even tourists. Venezuela has the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, the world’s tallest waterfalls and an amazing Caribbean coastline but they have a lot of damage to undo before there is even pre Chavez tourism.

5. Somalia The situation in Somalia is getting better after a twenty year conflict. A traveler still has to travel with armed guards. The first tourist came to Somalia a couple of years ago. He was retired and visiting all the countries in the world and wanted to check Somalia off his list.  At first, no one believed that he was a tourist. The story made all the newspapers. It is a beautiful country with fantastic beaches and the hope is that there will be peace, tourism and economic stability with this new election.

6. Pakistan Tourism in Pakistan has definitely been declining over the last twelve years. But the mountain climbing community was undeterred. Five of the world’s fourteen highest mountain peaks are in the Gilgit-Baltistan range, which includes K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Last year the Taliban killed ten climbers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. The mountain climbers who bring so much revenue to the region, stopped coming and that loss has been staggering. The US government feels that we are at risk for random attacks from Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups  throughout Pakistan. The British government advises against travel to Pakistan due to random terrorist attacks and violence.

7. Sudan is the third largest country in Africa and has been affected by civil war for the last forty years. Seeing the Blue and White Nile River and camel market at Khartoum sound appealing, but the recent indictment of Sudan’s president for war crimes and the killing and starvation in Darfur might make it a less than perfect travel destination.  Southern Sudan is considered extremely dangerous due to bandits and terrorist attacks. There is a general threat of terrorism throughout the Sudan and tourists should avoid protests, demonstrations and anywhere there are large gatherings of people. The Australian government asks that people reconsider their need to go there due to violent civil unrest and kidnappings.

8. Democratic Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s most interesting countries. Travelers want to see the Congo River, volcanoes and gorillas. The area is plagued with  extreme violence, instability, kidnappings, robberies and warlords. The travel advisory is don’t go unless you have to or unless you are Anthony Bourdain.

9. Libya is in a state of political instability due to a weak provisional government replacing the Gaddafi regime. There is still fighting between armed militia groups. If you are already in Libya, stay away from large public gatherings, demonstrations, and sites of civil or militia conflict. As of January 2014 the assassination campaign that was mainly targeting Libyans has now begun to affect foreign visitors. It would not be a bad idea to postpone your travel plans to Libya unless of course you are Anthony Bourdain.

10. North Korea I had trouble picking my tenth country. I couldn’t decide between Iran, Egypt, Burundi and North Korea. They are all good choices for dangerous. I went with North Korea because they have nuclear weapons and they make it very difficult to visit. Going in and out of the country is hard and you could be “detained” as an American for the slightest negative remark. This makes it difficult for someone like me without a good filter. Arbitrary arrest of Americans is common.  Walking around without your guide can get you both in trouble. Talking to North Koreans without permission can get you all in trouble. It’s never a good idea to travel to a country that America has recently severed diplomatic relations with if you happen to be American.

Writing this I felt real gratitude to my grandparents that I never met for getting on that boat and coming to America. I appreciate the freedom, comfort and privileges of living here that I usually take for granted. Things aren’t so great with our country right now but maybe the message in the mess is that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do better.

Fly safe,

JAZ