Category Archives: Passport

Words and Images in Transit

Been a while….

PARIS, France—Unfamiliar with Paris Nord railway station I approached a group of men for directions. Gauging from their clothing the men didn’t look either like passengers or police, but they did look like authorities of some kind, who’d likely know where to direct me. One man, a hulking brute, stepped forward to reply: Do I look like I speak English? I said I have no idea but you’re speaking English now. Are you an American? Yes, why? This is France. We speak French here. Is it necessary to politicize this, I said. I just need directions. Please. “Alors…” He ordered me to follow him to the security area. For what? For speaking rudely to me. I was worried, since the other three guys were nodding in agreement. I asked them to identify themselves. They said they were customs agents. Oh, shit, I will definitely miss my train and worse; they’ll spend hours going through my suitcase and I’ll spend hours in a police station.

I thought of the British kid in Kenya, who police arrested for drug possession. Police allegedly beat him to death after he mouthed off a little too much. Deal with customs man as you would when face to face with a silverback gorilla. Don’t look him in the eye. Look down. Don’t talk back. Be the coquette. I told Mr customs man that he was absolutely right; I was a rude American and I was very sorry. I smiled, his eyes softened, and he let me go.

I was furious that this guy abused me by abusing his power. I was depressed that I allowed him to bully me into submission. But I caught my train. Viva la France

#abuseofpower #trainstations #paris #customs #parisnord #stpancras #trains

[photo: St. Pancreas station, London]

View To Grenfell Tower, West London [VIDEO] 

LONDON, England – On June 14th a 24-story public housing apartment building caught fire killing at least 80. A faulty freezer-fridge in an apartment sparked the blaze, but police say flammable insulation and exposed gas pipes along the building’s only staircase fueled it. The death toll is expected to rise, so it’s no wonder police say they are considering filing manslaughter charges against one or several dozens of companies, firms and council officials involved in a 2014 renovation in which design trumped safety. The 70s built tower dominates a neighborhood that’s since gentrified.#grenfelltower #london #westlondon #portobello #gentrification #uk #kensington 


Adventures in Eldercare 

I spent the last several weeks in Tucson helping my mother transition to “independent living” after she’d suffered a mild heart attack and stroke. 

The first takeway – in Tucson (and probably in most retirement communities) elder care is not a service, it’s an industry. 

Before her discharge from the hospital a case manager told me my mother needed after care. Without hesitation she recommended a company. Let’s call it Total Geriatric Solutions. (Looking back I realize the case worker didn’t offer me a choice). I’d viewed Total Geriatric Solutions (TGS) as a temporary solution until I found a more professional one. These caregivers spent most of the time at my mother’s playing with their smart phones. As time went on one in particular began triangulating my mother and me. When I announced we’d found another company, she said,” You ain’t gotta speak to your daughter. You’re not incapacitated, and you have your rights.” The owners threatened to sue. As to my role as Power of Attorney they said they’d first need to scrutinize the “verbiage” of the legal document before deciding. 

I looked up the owners of TGS on LinkedIn — they appeared all of 30 years-old. Their last jobs were listed as store managers of Best Buy and T-Mobile. They were strictly business. #moms #eldercare #tucson #arizona 

Photo: with my step-brother, mother, and sales lady at the senior living community

The Sea in Salalah

OMANعمامه ‏

 A Dubai-based pilot and friend suggested I visit Salalah, a port town on the southern tip of Oman. He told me to visit from June to September or in January, when the monsoon rains paint the sun-baked desert a brilliant green. 

Not many people have heard of Oman. It rarely makes the news, yet it is one of the seven oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf that include Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

“What’s the story with Oman?,” I asked a Yemeni friend.

“There is no story,” he said.

I could see why; Salalah is just 20km from the border of war-shattered Yemen. It remains an oasis of serenity despite its being surrounded by some of the most dangerous, politically violent and oppressive countries in the world, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq. 

Sugar white, powder-soft beaches and dramatic cliffs trim the country. When I visited, the rains had turned the rocky landscape lush green. 

Oman is the southernmost of the states, where the Arabian Gulf meets the Indian Ocean. The country is huge, roughly twice the size of Colorado with a population of only 3 million. (200,0000 in Salalah). The highways are perfectly groomed with few automobiles.

Almost everything about Oman seems perfect and orderly; the air is clean, markets are fragrant with frankincense and old. The sandy beaches are cool, not too white, not too black. The sand is the perfect a grain. The weather is neither cold nor hot. The waves don’t crash violently but gently spill. Except for two big chain hotels there’s hardly a soul on the beach. 

I hired a driver guide to take me to wadi in the mountains. On route he turned on the radio. A stern voice recited the Quran followed by a few minutes of bagpipes. The national anthem, the Omani driver explained. I asked him what kind of music he usually listened to. “I hate music.”

The journalist in me is slightly suspicious of countries you never hear about in the news. They seem almost too good to be true. 
No politicians and security forces appear to be threatening journalists. Yet Oman rates of 125 out of 180 in the 2016 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

 Shame the Sultan of Oman plans to demolish most of the old seafront on the corniche to make way for five star chain hotels.

A new airport is under construction.

Oman has made international news as of late; a week before his last day in office, President Obama sent 10 Guantanamo prisoners to “resettle” in Oman. I doubt the new detainees will be served tea everyday. 
At the end of the day, I prefer Kenya with its lively press corps. For all its faults Kenya has soul. Oman is bliss. 



2016 in Images 

Sailing dhows made of garbage, crusaders, flying low over a baobab-packed forest, guerrilla warfare, Maulidi festival, tattooed and “bearded badasses”.

This year I seemed to be at a loss for words.  For most of last year I stayed in Lamu. I wanted to keep a close eye on a military operation.

Pate island

Lamu town

KDF soldiers on beach President Uhuru’s security detail for his visit to Lamu, January, 2016

Wahabi mosque