Sunday, September 8, 2019

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, GoneGo, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a timely and profoundly moving book about the unseen. Specifically the black African migrants who ended up in Germany after Italians rescued so many from the sea, and the hopeless future awaiting them in Europe. But it could be the Syrians, Latin Americans in the U.S. The narrator is a widowed, retired professor of Classics, who decides to "know" these people demonstrating in a plaza in Berlin for the right to work and live in Germany. He interviews them and comes to know them and it changes his life. As he befriends them, he comes to know himself and his prejudices. They are no longer faceless. Here is a to-do-list he prepare for himself and his visitors:
"Himself: schedule repairman for dishwasher
Urologist appointment
Meter reading
Karon: Eradicate corruption, cronyism, and child labor in Ghana.
Apollo: File lawsuit against the Areva Group (France); Install anew government in Niger that can't be bribed or blackmailed by foreign investors; establish the independent Tuareg state Azawad (discuss with Yussuf).
Rashid: Broker a reconciliation between C Christians and Muslims in Nigeria; persuade Boko Haram to lay down their arms.
Hermes & Ali: Prohibit the sale of weapons to Chad (from the U.S. and China); Prohibit U. S. and China drilling for oil in Chad and exporting it."

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

February 2012 Return Home from India

Having been home a week (and still confused about being asleep or awake and
what happened to  the missing day crossing the International Dateline?), I was
trying to capture my sentiments about this trip to India.  The initial return responses were all about how peaceful and quiet it is at home, how calm and orderly the motorized and pedestrian traffic flows on street and sidewalk, how clean and comfortably we live.  For India can assault the Anglo senses, particularly its urban life.  The smells of sewage, pollution, incense and spices make a heady mix.  The poverty and aggressive touts shook us immediately out of our complacency, dropping us into the unfamiliar culture. Our 22-day journey with Intrepid Travel called “Rajasthan Adventure” was a strenuous tour which combined an incredible potpourri of experiences:  ancient temples and forts including the Rat Temple devoted to those creatures, ornate palaces of rajas and rani, villages, towns, cities of every color (blue, red, ochre), a cracker factory, a camel breeding center, lacquer-making bracelet vendors, beautifully carved houses called havelis (which also served as our B&B), museums, a camel safari  to sleep on cots under the stars in the Thar dessert 13 miles from Pakistan, gypsy dancers around the campfire, home cooking with urban and rural families, cooking classes, lunch at a Jain Temple kitchen for twenty cents (tasty), an art class, a Bollywood movie in a beautiful Jaipur art deco theatre,  a boat ride to elegant dinner afloat in Udaipur’s palace hotel, bird watching at Keoladeo National Forest where we saw the white-breasted kingfisher with a neon turquoise tail, hair-raising rides, a birthday party with dancing and cake, a street dance celebrating a wedding.  Recollections of cows everywhere, lounging and chewing in the streets and huge glistening black water buffalo, coldest feet ever (marble floors combined with one of the coldest Januaries), women in sarees like brilliant butterflies in fields and markets, fascinating superstitions and rituals (soaking new birthstone ring in milk to “cool” its innate heat before wearing, bridal plans from our soon-to-be-married --in 18  changes of dress-- guide, Neha), fittings at “Lord and Tailor’s” for our traditional outfits, chai with extra ginger, English wine shops for our evening cocktails, an upside-down crescent moon, elephants lumbering along the street, the world’s largest sundial telling the exact time as it has done since the 18th C.  Aand finally the Taj Mahal at both sunset and at sunrise from across the river.