I would like to recommend the above-titled article by Russell Shorto, published in the New York Times on 31 July 2011.
On a bus ride in West Los Angeles, I was distracted by a young man who stood near me with his underpants exposed. It was right there in my face: a garish, orange-red, silky boxer briefs. Then…I noticed the teddy bears, dressed in blue, all smiling at me. Teddy bears!
What kind of young man wears teddy bear underpants? What kind of young man exposes his underwear? I glanced up at his face: early twenties, taut features, serious expression, backpack slung over a shoulder. Eastern European immigrant? He appeared too engrossed in his own thoughts to notice my scrutiny.
When I first saw a young man with the waist of his pants hanging near his crotch, exposing his underpants, I was walking on a street in West Hollywood on my way to work. As a newbie in Los Angeles, I found such indecent exposure among males disturbing. Fearful that he was drunk or on drugs, I crossed to the other side of the boulevard.
Over time, I observed that this form of male display was prevalent among young hip-hop fans. When I questioned a young Afro-American colleague at work, who wore a long baggy shirt to hide his saggy pants, he could not give me an answer. That’s the way it is.
Is sagging a “cool” fad that will disappear with time? Do these saggers dress this way to fit in with their social group, the males in their neighborhood? Is it just an act of rebellious young males? Are these young men trying to attract a like-minded mate or are they simply screaming for attention and love? Is this behavior something more serious: a soft form of mooning, intended to demonstrate disrespect and scorn for society?
Whatever the reasons for this behavior, I view sagging as warts on the hand or foot of the human body.
SOURCE: Population Demands More Buses, Diário do Nordeste, Fortaleza, 2008
Be prepared for anything when you use the bus in Fortaleza, capital of the northeastern State of Ceará. More so, if you are a woman. But if you’re like me and you don’t drive, the bus is an everyday lesson in tolerance and sharing space: sometimes, a very tight space.
During the first month of our arrival in Fortaleza, I learned not to enter a bus with little standing room. As you have to pay the trocador and pass through the turnstile, you cannot get off the bus through the entrance. When my stop approached, I couldn’t squeeze my way towards the exit. I was forced to remain on the bus until it reached the terminal.
Getting to work by public transport was a waking nightmare. There were never enough buses during peak hours. If I wanted to get to work on time, I could not make the mistake of thinking that the next bus would be better. It could be clogged at the entrance! It’s no way to start your workday, especially if you have to take two or three buses.
I leave you to imagine what wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters must face under such a tight squeeze, especially when targeted by perverted males on the hunt. Until the day I started working for a manufacturer that provided privately operated buses for its workers, I, too, had my share of close encounters of the degrading kind.
Like the trabalhadores brasileiros (Brazilian workers), I dreamt of owning a car to end this daily assault. Even a Fusca 1982 (Volkswagen Beetle) with a sickly engine would do. Clammy bodies struggling with adversity squashed my decision to reduce the toxic fumes pumped into our atmosphere.
Life has a way of getting in the way of our best intentions.
SOURCE: Building a Green Collar L.A., June 2009, http://www.dwell.com.
I don’t drive. When I first told a colleague at the retail store in West Hollywood where I once worked, she was flabbergasted: “You’re living in L.A. and you don’t drive? Girl… you’re crazy!”
Moving around in sprawling earthquake-prone Los Angeles – where there appears to be more cars than people – is a great challenge for me. Recently, it took me two hours, travelling on two buses, to get home from an afternoon show on Hollywood Boulevard. I missed the second bus by one minute and had to wait for half-an-hour at a desolate, cold, and windy bus-stop. Happily, I spent the time chatting with the two female passengers who got off the first bus with me: Australian tourists who had arrived in L.A. the night before.
You never know who you’ll meet when you ride the bus. I just love when I meet people in such an unexpected way. What a small world!
I work from my Home Office. Through my Virtual Office, I can share my knowledge of the Brazilian market. The world is my marketplace.
My decision not to drive was made in the seventies when, as a geography undergraduate at the University of Guyana, I became aware of the effects of exhaust fumes on our delicately balanced biosphere. Of course, that was only a small part of our habits that was destroying our planet. The bad news had come from a visiting American professor who conducted the one-year course: Biogeography.
I learned a lot that year. I determined then that I would do my part to care
for and save our planet.
When you grow up in a small city where your school, church, workplace, shopping center, and cinemas are all within walking distance, there is no urgency to learn to drive.
That changed when I moved to Fortaleza, capital of the State of Ceará, Northeast Brazil.
Guyana, Brazil, and the United States are all located in the Western Hemisphere, once known as the New World.
Guyana – formerly British Guiana, until its independence from Great Britain on 26 May 1966 – ranks economically in 160th position among 227 nations of the world (based on GDP in 2010, CIA World Factbook). Its estimated total population of 745,000 people is less than that of the US city of San Francisco and not even a third of the population of Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern State of Ceará, Brazil.
Although located on the northern coast of the South American continent, Guyana’s language and culture set it apart from the rest of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations dominating the continent. Back in the colonial
days, the French language taught in high schools suited the British Motherland that hobnobbed with France across the English Channel, but did nothing to help Guyanese to connect with neighboring Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). Guyana’s kinship lay with the English-speaking islands in the Caribbean Sea.
A founding-member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1973, Guyana finally embraced its South American family of nations on 23 May 2008 when the nation’s president signed the Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Brasília, Brazil. By aligning with the immense regional block, little Guyana gains a bigger voice.
Brazil– the world’s fifth largest country and population – ranks in 9th position among the nations of the world (based on GDP in 2010, CIA World Factbook). Numbered among the world’s top four emerging economies, Brazil is fast gaining clout on international forums. Fear lurks among many Guyanese that the neighboring Brazilian giant will roll over and smother Guyana. Fear is good… It spawns caution.
Liaisons come with the good and the bad. Ask any American about the Chinese giant, now fully awake and kicking. Products, Made in China, are now anathema for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs to China. Still, American consumers expect more for less. To remain competitive, American companies are doing more with less: increasing their productivity by draining the blood of their lean workforce.
We want to have it all: gain without pain. Something’s gotta give.
From atop the five-foot-high granite wall protecting Georgetown, capital of Guyana, from the forces of the sea, I used to gaze across the muddy brown waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. I was born a coastlander. My breath synchronized with the rise and fall of the waters. Beyond the horizon lay Europe from whence came the ancestors of my maternal grandmother.
The Interior of my birthplace and home for over thirty years was shrouded by a dense tropical rainforest that oftentimes swallowed up small crippled aircraft on their way to remote mining or lumber settlements. Stories of such losses gave me dread of flying over that expansive mottled-green canopy beneath which Masacurraman, the legendary river beast, lurked along waterways and falls to devour those brave enough to venture into what was known as The Bush.
Across the ocean loomed Europe and North America. Our well-being depended on those distant northern lands: wheat flour for our bread and pastries; cloth for our party dresses; movies, exhibited in the numerous cinemas where we flocked at weekends; Alka-Seltzer to relieve our aches and heartburn.
When my husband and I could no longer stomach the bitter medicine forced down by our dictator in the name of self-reliance, we, together with our two sons – then two and four years old – ventured southwards beyond our forest to the vast and rich land of Brazil. Travelling by bus from the Brazilian border town of Boa Vista onto Manaus, we meandered through Amazônia, the Amazon Rainforest. On the last leg of our journey, from Belem to our destination in Fortaleza, capital of the State of Ceará, our interstate bus crossed the barren landscape of the sertão – the semi-arid interior region of Northeastern Brazil.
Fortaleza hugged the coastline. In that new world which I called my home for sixteen years, the rise and fall of the sea calmed my troubled mind and renewed my energies. On the distant shores of the warm blue-green waters of the South Atlantic Ocean lay the cities, towns, and villages of western Africa from whence came the ancestors of my maternal grandfather.
Nowadays, during the warm summer months, I go for walks along the Venice and Santa Monica beaches in Los Angeles, California. Here, the murky blue sea is too cold for my thin tropical blood. I look out across the North Pacific Ocean. Canton in China, from whence came the ancestors of my paternal grandfather, is only fifteen hours away by air. I am closer, too, to India from whence came the ancestors of my paternal grandmother.
I breathe with the ebb and flow of the seas, connecting the shores of the homeland of my ancestors. My breath is labored. I worry about the future of our planet and our species.