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November Mist

Posted in rock the cage, Tribute with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2009 by Silvia

It was a freezing, gloomy morning, a true November sunrise. The mist was almost impenetrable, thick and heavy. In the roads, could be heard the tired, still forced, steps of who was going to work. Sometimes, a light showed up in the mist, trying to get through. It was the Militia’s car, patrolling the roads, assuring that no-one caused any problem.
 
Behind the grey buildings, with no colour or joy, all alike, in the closed corner where the back gate of an “Alimentara” (food shop), we could see a queue that seemed to have no end; a long queue of women and children, and very few men. Three people could stand side by side. Some were standing, but the most of them were sitting close to each other because of the freezing, cruel cold of the dawn. It was still dark and the mist felt like an ash cloud; there wasn’t a single light shining in the streets, not even in the windows. This was the system. Saving energy was the rule. Only the common citizen had to save, though; the direction of the Party and their relatives lived a different life, without the lack of essentials to the daily survival that was normal to everybody else.
 
In the second row of this queue, there was an old lady sitting. She had white hair, a tired face from all the suffering she had endured all her life, but her eyes were an angel’s, staring at the little boy who was still sleeping, holding her arm.
A few metres ahead, the gate moved, the heavy locks opened slightly. The crowd agitated a little, in the queue, but no-one abandoned the position where they were.
 
Above the gate, a weak light flamed and a strong, cold voice of a woman yelled. That voice had no feelings; it was like the voice of an officer in the Army, yelling at his privates.
“Attention!”
Silence.
“Today, maybe I decide to open the door and to distribute the oil and the sugar!”
The expectation raised, still everybody kept silent.
“I still don’t know if it’s enough for everybody!” she continued yelling. “I just know that, if I hear a loud voice, someone yelling, a complaint or a pushing, I close immediately and I don’t open any more this week! You can be sure that I’m not playing around! Yesterday I didn’t open because I was still nervous from the day before, when that pregnant woman bothered me.”
She waited.
“You shouldn’t have children if you can’t wait for your turn. But you want more children, to receive more ration! Here, that woman won’t come any more, because if she does I will give her nothing!”
Indifferent to the desperate people looking at her, she still said:
“That’s it! Is that understood?…”
Nobody answered.
“Now you must wait, because I’m going to drink my coffee, so that I can be in a good mood. Any questions?… Uh?”
A man’s voice sounded, from behind, hidden by the morning mist.
“With respect…”
“Say!” she yelled. “Quickly; I don’t have time!”
“The ration for each person… Is it the same?”
“Now, that” she said, exasperated. “Of course it is the same! As to me, I think it is already too much!”
The ration per person is a half litre of oil, and one kilogram of sugar per month.
“Sorry!” the man replied. “Thank you!”
The man sat down. His leg was amputated below the knee.
 
The child, who was sleeping before in his grandmother’s arms, was already awake, listening to the conversation. He was five, maybe six years old, an age at which children, nowadays, still don’t understand much, but at that time children were forced to grow up and become more mature with the problems of life and the need for survival.
 
The little boy was thinking that his granny was already there for two days. He had gone to his neighbour’s house to eat and sleep, but the old lady had stayed there all the time, to avoid losing her turn.
His granny was already old, around seventy, tired and hardened by the storms of life, but she had a heart full of love and sensibility.
The boy was also thinking “Could it be that all the world lives this way?”
He knew nothing of the world outside the walls; nor knew anybody. People just weren’t informed. Who had a T.V. or a radio could only listen to the local news.
 
The iron gate was closed and the light was turned off. In the cold of the morning, people sat down once more, hoping that finally, in that day, they would receive the monthly ration.
The child didn’t how long it elapsed. He saw the grandmother fall asleep. He stood there, awake, waiting for the moment when he would hear the iron gates opening.
The gate opened once more and the light cut through the mist.
The aggressive woman’s voice sounded again, stridently.
 
“Come on! Everybody stand up!”
“A queue of two! Not a word!… Move!”
The child stood up and pulled his grandmother.
“Let’s go, granny! It opened!”
The old lady didn’t answer and didn’t move.
“Come on, granny! You can sleep at home, afterwards!”
Nothing.
 
The little boy bended his knees to hold her, trying to wake her up. But, suddenly, he stopped. The tears filled his eyes and he screamed, with a voice that refused to come out.
 
“Granny!”
His grandmother didn’t answer… She died.
 
Another child, around the same age, two rows backwards, held tightly his grandmother’s arm, feeling his throat tied and his eyes flooding with tears. He looked at his granny, feeling the fear, in his heart, that one day, it might happen to her.
 
This second child was my husband.
  
In memory of all those who lived and died in dictatorship, around the world.
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The way to Freedom

Posted in Life with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by Silvia
Portrait of Fernando Pessoa, oil on canvas
Image via Wikipedia

Today I reached 103 hours of Management Accounting.

This is an important psychological victory because, finally, I crossed the line of hundred. Enough? Not yet. I still need to know how to work with SAGE and still have hundreds of exercises to do. I need to be able to complete fifty exercises in two hours to do the exam. It’s this time management the worse thing that I must deal with.

But I’m full of courage and energy inside of me. “Hunger and cold put the hare on her way.”I have all the strength of despair to push me. My Freedom is glowing at the end of the tunnel. My Freedom and my family’s Freedom. The end of the nightmare that we are gowing through. It’s a very bright star, isn’t it?

I’m compiling formulas and making resumes. I’m doing exercises and schemes… I copied all the manual into a notebook, to be able to read it. Sometimes, my eyes get so tired that I can’t read those little lettres. My handwriting is much better.

The strange thing is : I still don’t know who my tutor is. I have a good one, though…

 

 Freedom     

 

“Oh, what a pleasure

Not to accomplish a duty,

To have a book to read

And not to make it! 

To read is boring,

To study is nothing. 

The Sun gilds

Without literature

The river runs, well or badly,

 Without an original edition.

 And the breeze, this,

So dawning,

As the time, does not have haste…

Books are papers painted with ink. 

To study is a thing where is indistinct

 The distinction between nothing and not a thing. 

How much is better, when there is mist,

To wait for D.Sebastião, 

Whether he wants comes or not! 

Great it is the poetry, the goodness and the dances… 

But the best of the world are the children,

Flowers, music, moonlight, and the sun, that only sins

When, instead of creating, it dries. 

More than that is Jesus Christ,  

That wise person knew nothing of finances

Nor does it consist that He had a library…”

 

(Fernando Pessoa)

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The man who found the Ark.

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2009 by Silvia
Ark of the Covenant
Image by Cryptonaut via Flickr

Hancock, Graham, The Sign and the Seal, 1992.

Somewhere in the mountains of Ethiopia, the Author talks to a blind old man who is the Guardian of the Ark of the Covenant… And this is the start of one of the most extraordinary adventures of Archaeological discovery that I’ve ever read.

The blind unarmed man is the only privileged one who has the possibility of contacting with one of the most treasured myths of the History of Mankind… Except during the ceremony known as the Timkat, in the month of January, when the Ark comes out in the streets, in a sacred procession, duly covered to prevent its destructive effects over the ones who look at it… That’s why the old man is blind.

It’s a lifetime job, a responsibility that the blind man carries with his heart, and defends with his life. And he is so happy, closer to the Lord. Before he dies, he must choose a successor. The “skills and qualifications” required are ” love to God, purity of the heart, mind and body”.  It’s absolutely fascinating.

The problem, or the “miracle” is that in the country of a thousand churches, there is one thousand arks, each one hidden and protected in the Holy heart of the church, a place where no-one ever is allowed to enter. Which one is the real? Someone said that the most hidden thing is the one that lies carelessly ahead of our eyes. There is no doubt that the Ethiopians are very wise and I’m glad the Ark didn’t end in some military deposit  as it happens in the genial Indiana Jones’ s film (The raiders of the lost Ark, Steven Spielberg, 1981).

It is amazing to think that effectively, there still is an Ark of the Covenant. To believe that it’s there, in Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, devastated by war and hunger, it’s astonishing. But after reading this book, the path of this lonely researcher, his fight against all the bureaucratic difficulties and all the political obstacles, his way through the countries where the Templar knights left their mark, there’s a secret growing faith inside of me that it’s the truth.

But how did the Author get to this amazing conclusion? He started by reading the Holy Bible. The Bible is a depository of wonderful mysteries and historical secrets, sometimes coded, sometimes so obvious that we almost can’t believe what our eyes see. The Bible explains the origins and even the construction of the Ark of the Covenant – its every detail – but there is a point when it simply disappears. Such an important Holy and historical object is left without any reference to follow.  a strange fact or coincidence because, as the Author says, this Ark is part of the very foundation of the Jewish faith (please forgive me if I’m wrong, but everything points that way). Now, the disappearance of the Ark might not be such an outstanding mystery, but the absence of posterior references to it in the Holy Bible certainly is.

Then, he visited the Cathedral of Chartres, a stone book. There, he perceived the unusual presence, among the prophets and the saints, of the Queen of Sheba. What would she be doing there? She had, in the legend, a relationship with king Solomon, as the Author refers from the reading of the Kebra Nagast, and there is a remote possibility of her conversion to the Jewish religion, but in some other documents its said that she left king Solomon’s court and this conversion never happened. The possibility is that, with the conflicts that threatened and still threaten Jerusalem in our days, king Solomon thought that the Ark would be safer in a (by then) stable and peaceful country like Ethiopia. And by strange or not coincidence, the Portuguese, in the time of the Descobrimentos, knew the Ethiopia as the only christian country in the African continent.

This is just a taste of this fantastic book. I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to spoil your pleasure of reading it.

To finish, I just want to pay my honour to the Ethiopian people and to the country, which I knew, before i read this book, as a tragically dry and suffering one, and now I know it a country of outstanding beauty, of “miracles” and mysteries, the country where the glorious Blue Nile starts. Peace be with you.

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Watergarden – a piece of heaven at your home

Posted in Art, Life, Nature with tags , , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by Silvia

What I’m going to show you is a sample of my husband’s artistry.
He did all this with his bare hands and a few tools (as you can see below).

(…)


This is a suggestion of a way how you can take advantage of that little empty space in the corner of your garden and give it a special feature, your own vision, making it become your space of reflection and Peace.

 (…)


First of all, you need to clean it up, to pluck out all the grass and the weed that can prevent the growth of new plants. You need to move the earth too, the little stones, and create depth to insert your reservoirs. The easiest way is to buy rubber ones, but you can also isolate the ground yourself with liner. If you chose this way, it’s convenient that you put a layer of sand over the earth, so that you can minimise the risk of perforation and leaks.

(…) 

.
The flow of rocks, the way you display them, is of major importance to achieve a good balance. The landscape you create with your hands must seem natural, must appear in your eyes as if it had been there all the time. You must look at your landscape and feel it as a part of you, as a way to your inner self. Of course this is not an unique recipe to everyone, because each person has a different way to see the little corner of his or her dreams.
.
(…)

The rocks were chosen one by one, literally. Everywhere we travelled across the country, we were looking at the ground “This one we like, this one we don’t.” The schist gives a water garden a very special shine, contributing to a very calming healing through light. It’s radiances flow between the golden and the orange, the reddish and the ocre. It’a a very beautiful rock. We used too pebbles that we caught in the river, beautifully polished by the water torrents.
.
(…)
.
There are no straight lines in a true Feng Shui garden. They are unnatural and imprisonate the spirit, while the curves liberate it. Building a pond is a work of patience and dedication; in my vision a “natural looking pond” is a true artistry. These stones were moved several times, before they found their perfect positioning.
.
(…)

The sound of water cascading over the stones is like a song in the silence. Though it may not seem. A submersible pump must pull the water to the cascade, from the lower preformed liner to the cascade on the top. Of course you must think of the leaning on the ground and you must fit your reconduction tubes before building your stone puzzle.

(…) 

.
 The water means wisdom, while the rocks grant the spirit the security and the protection of the life within the mother’s womb. That’s why the combination between the two is so vital. In practice, we need to create a little cove with peaceful singing waters, surrounded by the majestic
envelopment of the mountains (in a small scale, of course!)
.
(…)

This is the final conception. A cascade on the top, from where the water falls in a first large basin. Then, it flows through the ground, isolated with liner, among the shinning rocks, to a second one; it has a little cascade from where the water falls into a third, and so on. If you close your eyes, you hear a constant flow and a song that won’t stop dripping in your mind, as if you were in the most isolated and quiet refuge in the middle of the mountains.
.
(…)
 
What you see here, growing over the rocks, is Verbena and Poligonum (knotgrass). You can give it colour with Irises, Water Lilies and Lotuses. You can give it flow, using rushes with light pending leaves that flow in the breeze. The Bamboo is very musical and refreshing, and its presence gives a mystic oriental atmosphere to your garden.
.
(…)
.
The Japanese lantern is so beautiful that we couldn’t forget it. Though we didn’t have much room to build a small wooden bridge (moonbridge) as we wished, this lantern provides so much magic to this garden, specially at night, that we almost forget everything else. It is the representation of the Earth, Water, Fire and Wind.
.
(…)

Ca you see the colours?
The yellow means the mind, the optimism, the ability to reach, the reflexions. It’s the energy, the justice and the honesty.
The green is a bridge, like the heart. It’s the idealism, the unselfishness, the understanding.
The blue is the highest intelligence and the depth of truth. The blue inducts contemplation and tranquility.
The white shows us the shine and the supreme purity of the light. The white is faith, is reason and is also hope.
And many other colours have different meanings. I just tried to give you an insight of what you can see in this picture.
.
(…)

And, as Nature takes its time, this is the way how it looked, after one year.

 

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The Invading Darkness

Posted in Life, rock the cage with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2009 by Silvia
Light in the Darkness

Image by Michael Mistretta via Flickr

Suki went to work feeling happy, pleasantly determined to work like a donkey, ignoring pain and tiredness, as she used to do when all doors and possibilities of a brilliant career were still on the table. And so she did, the first four hours, organizing the merchandise beautifully, tidying up, taking her cages in and out. Suki was singing, as she always does, because music helps her spirit to maintain concentration on the job and the body to keep the rhythm (isn’t that why they sing those songs in the Army?). Suki thought “This is a brand new day, a bright new start.”

Then an Apprentice of Manager came to her, around five o’clock, asking: “How many time of break do you still have?” Suki answered “One hour!” “Then, you have to take it now!” “Why?” “Because Mr. Supreme said that you have to!” “Well, tell Mr. Supreme that I can’t have one whole hour of break now! It’s the Health and Safety Regulations!” How come this, may you ask… Suki’s job is a physically demanding one, like a sport. It takes time to warm up the muscles and get them to work well. If the warming up isn’t done properly, the workers are subject to all kinds of accidents, that can include resulting in paralysis. When the muscles are all warmed up and the workers take one hour of break, then the muscles cool off, the pain comes and it’s quite difficult to restart. Suki likes to work, she doesn’t like to be there blowing balloons. It’s already difficult enough at the beginning of the day, because in practice the workers really don’t have the time to warm up. There was a time when Suki went to work walking, not only for economical reasons, but she realised that when she arrived it was much, much easier to get into the rhythm. To be able to restart the body when having one hour break in the middle of the day (uuufff!)… It’s almost a miracle.

The Apprentice went away. Soon enough, Mr. Supreme came to Suki, with an outraged look on his face and said: “You must have your breaks in the middle of your working day, because this is the convenience of the factory.” Convenience of… Well, as Suki remembers, the breaks were created, in the first place, to protect the Worker, not the factories. The breaks prevent the Worker from doing excessively long turns of effort and from risking accidents caused by tiredness. Suki explained that to Mr. Supreme. “I’m sorry! It’s the System!” Well, then the system forces her to take her breaks, one hour and a half, concentrated between half past three and six o’clock. Yes, because when she tried to take her first break at two o’clock, “No, you can’t, because there are too many persons in break at this time!” OK. Half past two? “No, people have lunchtime. You must wait until everybody comes back!” “Three o’clock, then? “There are still persons at break! YOU MUST wait until everybody comes back!” That’s why Suki said between half past three and six o’clock.  Hey, but you are forgetting some important detail: between four and five no-one, but absolutely no-one can have a break.  What’s left for her, then? Half an hour from half past three to four. One hour from five to six. One shift of four hours and a half, then one shift of one hour, then one shift of two hours. And there is something absolutely blinded in the middle of this story. Why her, why Suki has to wait until everybody else comes back to be entitled to a break?

Suki explained that to Mr. Supreme, as she could.  And she asked: “Who else in this factory is forced to have one hour break in these terms?” “Ah, many people have…” Yes, they have because they want, because they chose to (as Suki knows, everybody walks in and out of the factory when they want, for a cigarette, for a chat, to go anywhere else, at the point that the Direction had to put the Security counting the minutes, because they lost track of their own workers). “Who else is forced to…” No-one.

Suki told Mr. Supreme: “I didn’t want to issue a complaint for detriment when I was told that I have no future in this factory, for the fact that I was promised that after Christmas I would be doing training to evolve in my career. I didn’t want to complain that I was yelled at here, that I was lied to, (how many times?), that I was forced to close my eyes to violations of the principles of the Company… But this is already too much to me. Are you sure that you want to do this?“ He laughed: “Who are you going to complain to?” After all, HE IS Mr. Supreme. Suki told him who she was going to complain to (I can’t say it here, because the Company would be identifiable and they finally would have a good reason to sack me). But Suki told him about the governmental agencies that take care of problems of discrimination. “Discrimination?!” He laughed at her again. “Yes, that’s the only way I can understand the difference in the way I’m treated here, this harassment that happens here every day!” “You are doing blackmail with me!” he said. “No, I’m not! I’m going to act legally, accomplishing every step that the Law previews, on something that I can’t bear any more.  It’s a right that, as a Worker, I’m entitled to.” And Suki thinks that it’s much more honourable to warn him than to do it on his back. Suki was never the treacherous kind of person.

Suki asked him: “Mr. Supreme, think for a while! What am I going to do here during one hour of break? You know that I can’t go home!” He asked: “What do the other ones do?” “They talk!” But, if Suki is forced to go for a break when everybody comes back, how can she talk to anyone? In practice, this is a sort of segregation, which is more a violence to the spirit. “Oh, then you are saying that you can’t take one hour of break because you can’t talk?” “Mr. Supreme, please don’t try to take advantage on the fact that I’m a foreigner to put meanings in my words that I didn’t mean to say!” Suki told him again that her fundament to a refusal is in the Health and Safety regulations. “Then, if you can’t stand the effort (not in these exact words) of this job, you must look for something else! (exact words)”

And this is it.

Suki went home, before her shift ended, crying and with her heart beating excessively. She was so nervous that she almost couldn’t stand up.

Suki didn’t go to work today.

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Not in the name of the Dutch people!

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2009 by Silvia
Anne Frank
Image via Wikipedia

I was listening to Mr. Geert Wilders on the news today, and I couldn’t believe that he, when condemning the immigration in general and the Islam in particular, was talking, as he said, in behalf of all the Dutch people. So, I decided to verify.

I know the Dutch people ever since I used to do research for my school assignments in the Embassy of Netherlands, when I was still fourteen. They were always friendly, joyful, and I never saw the slightest indication of xenophobia anywhere. When they came to Portugal to support their team in 2004, were one of the most peaceful and funny claques in the whole competition.

There was something wrong, then. Because the fact that Mr. Wilders conquered a seat in the European Parliament is a sign that many people voted in his party. Right? Wrong. In terms of numbers (the source is Wikipedia), in 12.378.500 potential voters, only 4.573.743 voted. The Christian Democrats won 20 per cent of the votes and the ANP, the party whose leader is Mr. Wilders, won 16 per cent. In 4.573.743, this means that 731. 799 individuals voted in his party, that is, 5,9 per cent of the number of potential voters. I understand that the numbers may be boring, but when we actually think of the Dutch population, this has a very special meaning.

According to the Wikipedia, an estimate of 2005 pointed “80,9% as Dutch, 2,4% as Indonesian, 2,4% as German, 2,2% as Turkish, 2,0% as Surinamese, 1,9% as Moroccan, 0,8% as Antillean and 6% as Others”. How do these persons feel when this gentleman speaks of this supposed position of the Dutch population against them?

The Netherlands was always, throughout History, an open and free country, and it has, just like Portugal, a “tradition” of immigration. The same numbers, in the Wikipedia, reveal that we can find Dutch descendents in the United States, in South Africa, in Australia and in the Canada. In the U.S. “5 million Americans claim total or partial Dutch ancestry” and in South Africa there are “3 million Dutch descendents”.

As to religious freedom, the Wikipedia quotes “250.000 Buddhists, 95.000 Hindus, 850.000 Muslims and 45.000 Jewish.” Between the Christians, who most certainly are not an exception, there are “7.261.000 Protestants and 3.703.000 who follow the Roman Catholic Church.”

Going back in time to the painful memories of the World War II, I must recall this very special little girl, Anne Frank, whose Diary arrived to us as a testimonial of the supreme disgrace. She wrote her extraordinary Diary between the dates of 12 June 1942 and 1 August 1944, while she was hiding in an annex in Amsterdam. Her example of courage remained in our hearts and will teach the next generations about “things not to do”. Or it was this way when I was in school. Anne Frank died in a concentration camp in March of 1945. She was only fourteen.

Anne Frank’s legacy to the World is a tribute to Peace. It’s a small, brilliant and moving little book that hopefully won’t be forgotten. We can’t let it be forgotten. 

So, in that beautiful country of tulips and windmills, that generous and happy people must show the world that no! Mr. Wilders is wrong, and he can’t raise his voice in behalf of a nation when he is the representative of a minority that dares to condemn other minorities, in the name of… What?

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

(Anne Frank)

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