Travel Pinch Me Moments

“You have to travel to see new light, find new hope, renew the mind and revitalize the soul.” Lailah Gifty Akita

It was summer in January on a beach in Napier, New Zealand.  The weather was hot and the sun was setting at 930 PM. The moon was out at the same time.  My new friend pinched the fingers of both her hands together and said, “This is a pinch me moment”.  I had heard of pinch me moments when someone wins an Academy Award or accomplishes a dream but I had never heard of it standing on a beach watching a sunset.  She explained that, “You pinch your fingers to save the moment. When I am sitting in my kitchen in England and I look out the window at the dreary weather, I will remember this moment.” 

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 As I watched the moon that night, it made sense that it is also the small moments that resonate in our minds. They are part of the story making events of our lives. Here are some of my travel pinch me moments. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Looking out at the balloons in the air over Cappadocia, Turkey.

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Watching the sun set over the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

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Rainbow over Iguazu Falls, Missiones, Argentina

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Angor Wat, Cambodia

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Walking on the beach in Varadero, Cuba

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 Sailing on the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

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Machu Picchu .

Seeing the elephants up close in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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The Tori Gates on Myajima, JapanIMG_1074

The view of the volcano in Santorini, Greece

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Of The Poorest Countries In The World

Ten Of The  Poorest Countries In The World

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.” Muhammad Yunus

This is a hard one for me. Why have we always spent so much money on defense and war? I have never understood it. I believe for much less money than we have spent in my lifetime we could have provided clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services and basic education for human beings in the world. It is possible that would have solved both the refugee problem and the terrorist problem.

Decade after decade, politicians and international organizations have failed to tackle poverty in Africa. Nor have they been able to help generate growth or build basic infrastructure.  Some countries here struggle more than others. The cycle of poverty in Africa will unfortunately  continue without the help of the international community.

The Central African Republic is the poorest country in Africa and the world. They have been badly governed since they received their independence from France in 1960. It is plagued by fighting, coups and rebellions. Political instability has prevented the country’s development, despite an abundance of timber, gold, uranium and diamonds. More than fifty percent of the population is below the age of fourteen. Children that manage to avoid becoming internally displaced persons or child soldiers often never enter the educational system. There are terrible health conditions and an alarming food crisis. Violence has displaced 1.2 million people and most of the country is in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and  clean water.

There are two Congos. There is the Democratic Republic Of Congo and the Republic of Congo. The  DRC received their independence from Belgium and  The Republic of Congo received their independence from France in 1960. The DRC is neither Democratic nor a Republic. The extremely corrupt government rules over one of the poorest countries that is also one of the richest in natural resources.The world’s bloodiest conflict since WWll – The Great War of Africa has been fought almost entirely in DRC with over five million deaths. Kinshasa is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The DRC is a country of human suffering on an unimaginable scale.

Burundi is considered the hungriest nation on earth. The unstable political situation continues to make things worse. Like much of Central Africa, Burundi is prone to natural disasters such as floods, hailstorms, drought and torrential rain which has contributed to the displacement of communities, the destruction of homes, the disruption of livelihoods and the further deterioration of food security. Burundi needs social and economic change and political institutions that are genuinely accountable to its people.

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Two civil wars in the last 30 years have decimated Liberia‘s infrastructure and led to widespread poverty.  The civil wars have left the country with inadequate roads, water and other basic infrastructure which has proved to be a significant barrier for economic growth.The wars also contributed to the over 250,000 Liberian orphans who frequently suffer from malnutrition and are sometimes completely abandoned. The lack of health care access often leads to high fatality rates. As far as education goes, only half of the Liberians are literate, and many Liberian children are kept out of school in order to help on their families’ farms. The good thing about Liberia is that it has the landscape, resources  and a new stable government available to make it a prosperous country.

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Life just gets tougher in NIger. Niger is more impoverished today than it was thirty years ago. Hunger is the biggest problem. High birth rates make it harder and harder to feed families.  Half the deaths of children under five are from malaria. Less than half the population has access to clean drinking water causing  typhoid and cholera. Any small crisis creates a humanitarian disaster. They need an international commitment to help develop the country and get it out of poverty.

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Poverty in Malawi is at a critical level. It is one of the  most impoverished nations in the world. Malawi was one of the worst hit countries by HIV AIds. There are over a million orphans due to Aids. As with other countries, lack of education, droughts, sanitation and corruption impede economic progress.

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Despite its  economic growth rates and the encouraging development progress made by the government in recent years, poverty continues to be severe and widespread in Mozambique. It ranks among the lowest in human development, life expectancy, and inequality. Rates of Malaria and tuberculosis are very high in Mozambique. Lack of improved water sources is a major issue for both urban and rural populations. More than half of Mozambicans must walk more than an hour to reach the nearest health facility. The potential is certainly there for Mozambique to capitalize on its many resources, but foreign assistance  may be the key to ensuring  Mozambicans are able to help themselves.

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Despite its rich natural resources,including diamonds and gold,  Guinea remains underdeveloped. Poverty and malnutrition have an enormous impact on children and young people in the West African country, where more than half the population is under eighteen years of age. Although Guinea has abolished school fees, learning materials  still cost money and many teachers are poorly trained. Children are dropping out of school and either looking for work in the streets or falling victims of child trafficking. As a peaceful country, it has become home to neighboring refugees increasing the poverty level.

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Eritrea is one of the youngest independent countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest.  It won its independence from Ethiopia after thirty years of war  in 1993. It has become one of the world’s fastest emptying nations, Droughts, conflict, malnutrition and disease  is  overseen by a corrupt dictatorship that has been accused of many human rights violations. Attention is focused on the Syrian refugees but far more Eritreans are fleeing. Perhaps that is why it has been included in Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.

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Madagascar’s poverty is due to political corruption, economic colonialism, lack of infrastructure, poor education system and environmental degradation. There are severe food shortages causing serious starvation and  acute malnutrition. Almost half of  the children under five suffer chronic malnutrition, the fourth highest rate in the world.  Severe water safety and sanitation are huge problems.  Madagascar is an island. There is no terrorism. There are no geopolitical interests.There is a need for an urgent priority list but Madagascar will probably never attract the necessary donor aid from the global community.

Fly safe and I did not take these photos.,

JAZ

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,  Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

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Growing up in New York, with immigrant grandparents, the Statue of Liberty meant something. “Tell us the story of when your parents saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time again” we asked.   My mother would say that to her parents and many like them, the statue meant freedom to live in a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be. America was the place to go to flee from oppression, racism, class-ism and poverty. We understood that it was something special to be born in a country with ideals like that.

America is not perfect. We have racism and poverty. But that doesn’t destroy the dreams it was built on. Millions of people came to America to build a better life for themselves and for their families and still do to this day.

On the Statue of Liberty, there are words I know so well: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That’s the spirit that made me feel like an American.  I wouldn’t be here without that philosophy.

Fly safe.

JAZ

Make America Hate Again

Make America Hate Again

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Maya Angelou

It turns out that it was not just the economy that brought out the Trump supporters but the shame that the white working class had previously felt about themselves. The Right was very successful in campaigning on the premise that it wasn’t the white working class that failed but some other villain – Muslims, Jews, Liberals, African-Americans, Immigrants, Gays, Feminists, the Media  – the list keeps growing.

The liberals and the media did not understand this deep level of classicism between the haves, have less or have-nots.

Right or wrong Donald Trump gave them back some pride. In doing that, he gave license to their rage and has done nothing to stop that.

I now live in an artsy, racially mixed (and by that I mean interracial couples)  neighborhood. I am at the beach and there are many visitors on the weekends. I was walking my dog and  there was a truck double parked facing in the wrong direction. A man driving by got out of his car to ask him what he was doing.  They were both white. The truck was an Escalade type thing. The car was the cheaper Mercedes model. The Mercedes driver wore a Hawaiian flowered shirt. They were arguing and it was getting ugly. As is my New York custom,  I crossed the street to avoid trouble. The truck driver yelled, “You are such a fucking faggot. You are a big loser. Did you vote for Hillary?”

The racism, sexism and xenophobia that Trump used to advance his candidacy had found its way to my street. When things happen right in front of you,  it is hard to stay open and indifferent. White hate speech against white people in a very liberal neighborhood is new. It is nothing new for black or gay people anywhere. Venice is the kind of mixed arty community that people move into to avoid this. The big conversation among strangers here is how are the waves today or look at that sunset. The lid against hate has been blown off. 

I still say that I wasn’t brought up to hate. I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, McCarthyism and my parents’ fears.  I was raised not to sign anything, peacefully protest but not call too much attention to yourself by leading the march.  

A younger couple had heard it as well and they walked up to me. He is blond. She is Asian. They asked how it started. “Stay safe,” they say when they walk away.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Fake News

Fake News

“My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.” Mitch Hedberg

Today President Trump closed his twitter account. The UN  divided up all the Syrian refugees  and every nation in the world took some in. Peace was declared in Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria and Congo.  Other African countries are going to follow their example.  With a lot of effort on both parts, a peace agreement to the mutual satisfaction  of both sides, was finally reached between Israel and Palestine.  In a historic quick defeat resulting in no casualties, the Arab Nations banded together and defeated Isis. They are planning a joint effort against other terrorist groups as well. Boko Haram returned all the girls to Nigeria. They were unharmed and well taken care of. The Muslims Clerics issued a doctrine saying all girls must attend school. A mysterious virus is killing the opium and coca plants in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. The Mexican cartels are looking into other businesses – perhaps building supplies. Scientists say that the hole in the ozone layer is noticeably smaller and that climate change is reversing due to the joint efforts of every country in the world.

The Republicans  have repealed and replaced Obama Care with a low-cost high level health care plan pleasing the medical profession, the patients and the insurance companies. Donald Trump has created so many new jobs that we need to take in more immigrants to fill them. Suicide and murder rates are the lowest they have ever been. America has been declared a smoke free country. A new drug has been approved that cures Cancer, Diabetes, MS, Autoimmune Diseases, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Racism. Pharmaceutical companies are working over time to cure-all other diseases as well. American billionaires have all banded together to eradicate homelessness and they are expecting everyone to have homes by 2025. The government has poured money into education and mental illness research and treatment. The police have issued a new  policy stating that if you get to your car while they are writing a parking ticket, they will rip it up. Gas prices are the lowest they have been in one hundred years.  Kindness is up fifty percent  and continues to soar.

If we are going to have fake news and alternative facts, let’s use it for good. Why not fake what we want the world to be like? Why not pretend to be the people that we didn’t think we could be?

Fly safe,

JAZ

Staying Sane In An Insane World

“The most insane things can become normal if you have them around you long enough. A mind can’t seem to hold anything too crazy for too long without finding a way to make it seem normal.” Deb Caletti

You can get used to anything. You think you can’t but you can. When I came home from New Zealand I had horrible anxiety every time I turned on the TV. There was another Presidential order that was always badly rolled out and more protests. There is way too much bad news bombarding us twenty-four hours a day.

A few weeks later, I just feel numb. I am becoming desensitized. Things were said today  that went almost unnoticed. A month ago they would have been front page news. What is going on in America is wrong and it takes all my sanity to get through the day. In the midst of all this I am trying to live a conscious life of kindness and intelligence. Just because America is going insane does not mean that I have to follow.

The cause of these external events have been a long time in the making. They did not just happen. There are no simple answers. Finding a scapegoat to blame sounds very fascist to me. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Feminists. It’s the Immigrants. It’s the Jews. It’s the NRA.  It’s the Whites. It’s the Blacks. It’s ISIS. It’s the Environmentalists. It’s the Left. It’s the RIght. It is so convenient to have someone to blame – especially when said in a confident, authoritative voice. It’s becoming really hard to separate the real threats from the manufactured ones.

Here are some real threats. There are 117 suicides in the U.S. each day compared to 43 murders. There are 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Ninety six  people a day die  in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts)There are 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease.

I need meditation and yoga in my life now.  I can’t exhale this out. Beaches and travel help. I allow a short time period to watch the news and take days off. It looks to me like all this fear mongering is illogical. We are the biggest threat to ourselves.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Watching The Trump Inauguration In New Zealand

“A leader is best if the people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, we did it ourselves.”  Lao Tzu

It was not all Trump all the time on Sky News. They  played a five-minute clip.  We saw Michelle Obama accepting Melania Trump’s gift with awkward newscaster banter about regifting. We heard that “Some Americans were not happy at Trump’s victory and would have preferred someone else” as they cut to a grim faced Hillary Clinton. They played a bit of the speech and commented that ” it was unlike any American inauguration speech that we have heard before.” They showed the first dance at the different inaugural balls.  I did not see KelliAnn’s outfit or Scott Baio till late at night.

What I did see was that our country is on display as a divided America.  Protest signs and Pro Trump T-shirts showed our Democracy until it erupted into violence.

There were big protests in Sydney Australia-not against Trump, but against the hatred and prejudice that was brought out.

Sky News makes no secret of their anti Trump views. This part of the world liked Hillary and wondered why Americans preferred Trump.

They often repeated that the new American focus is domestic. The newscasters say that they are hearing aggressive tweets and not proper strategies. His commitment is to transform Washington and create jobs. They believe he will be running a What’s in it for America  government.

Having low expectations is good for an incoming president. But what they didn’t hear in his Inauguration Speech was a call for unity as his policies continue to divide the country.

“A man who is used to beating to his own drum is now running the free world. He is about to write his own playbook.” We will have to wait and see what happens.

Fly safe,

JAZ