Meeting the resistance: the other Panama

Thousands of kilometers away from tax havens, in South-East Sri Lanka, a handful of farmers has been resisting for several years to land grabbing by the army, which wants to build a tourist resort.

Access occupied land
Entrance to the occupied lands, where the army lets the inhabitants – and the tourists – go through

Somasiri community leader Panama
Somasiri, 41, is a community leader. He participates actively to the fight for the lands; several court cases are still in progress. Families’ houses were burnt down: they are left to demonstrate that the army perpetrated this. They also have to prove, in the absence of land titles, that they have been living and working on the land for generations; the presence of the little temple could act as a proof, and the monk supports them in their struggle.

Temple Panama

Hin Aya in front of his house on the occupied land. It has all he needs, and there is always tea for bystanders.

Fence Hin Aya

Since the military have been occupying part of the site, their trash has been attracting elephants. Those have destroyed houses and fields several times. Hin Aya says he saw one the previous evening.

Community members in front of the house/shop where inhabitants meet at sunset, when the heat becomes a bit less sizzling.

At Somasiri’s place, a calendar from last year displays his inspirations. Calendar Gandhi Panama

Resistance gets organised

Justice for Panama

Meanwhile, a few hundred meters away, tourists enjoying the beautiful beach have no idea about what is happening here.

Shooting surf Panama

Surf Panama final

Is another type of tourism on the side of the rebel citizens possible?

Rebel citizens

Note: This post is available in French here

Advertisements

A walk in Sir Lipton’s footsteps

In the mountainous region of the tea plantations in southern Sri Lanka, tourists are invited to take a walk up to “Lipton’s Seat”, the lookout area where the Ceylon tea magnate was coming at the end of the 19th century to admire his work from above. Lipton workers

Staff is generally accomodated on the plantation. The best off enjoy a little field where they can grow some vegetables.

Fragile habitat Lipton
Amazing view but fragile habitat, in this fresh and rainy region

As women live permanently on the plantations, a whole village has developed, with its temple, its school…

Temple Lipton

School Lipton
All along the path, ecologist or frankly social quotes are plastered on the stone walls, to the exclusive intention of tourists. They are only available in English, and thus incomprehensible for the tea gathering women, all Tamil.  It is said Lipton was one of the pioneers of advertising.

Right nearby, men, this time, spray pesticides and fertilizers, without any protection, and immediately next to women harvesting tea. Pesticides Lipton

Pickers Lipton
Each woman can transport up to 15 kilos of leaves in the basket fixed to her head, which she will then bring for weighing.

Weight Lipton

The right to retirement doesn’t seem to exist, but what a smile…
No retirement at Lipton

And as we were no strangers to incoherence, we had a cup of tea when we reached the top (and what’s worse, it was delicious)

Tea at the top

This post is availble in French here

Leaving Home

No one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

Your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
You only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
It’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

You have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

No one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

The
Go home blacks
Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry
Niggers with their hands out
They smell strange
Savage
Messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
How do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

Or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
Or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
I want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

No one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
Leave,
run away from me now
I dont know what i’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here.”

Poem by Warsan Shire, a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London.

069

Abroad

“So basically, you want to work in this field in order to travel?”

During these days when Ghana memories have been knocking on my door (and more specifically, sleeping on my couch), as we drive through the mountain roads and fight the (relative) cold with impressive amounts of hot chocolate, I keep thinking about our reasons to travel, our discoveries, expectations, unavoidable disappointments and happy surprises, intercultural communication difficulties and enriching differences. I remember some evenings, when I would have given a lot just to be able to speak my native language, or to eat food that tastes like childhood. And days of closing my eyes in an effort to save the beauty in my mind while forgetting the pain my butt was enduring in these seemingly never ending bus rides, the feeling that nothing could replace this moment, of realizing how fucking privileged I was, and wanting this road never to end.

So many years ago, when I applied for the training in Humanitarian Program Management and they asked me during the long recruitment interview, in a way that was supposed to destabilize me and test my motivation, if my real aim was to travel, I crossed my fingers under the table, stared back at them and answered a firm and definitive “NO”. After all these years, dear trainers, I can finally admit it: I (partially) lied.

8. Endless road

Living with them

In a few days, I will turn the age she was when she left us.

As by coincidence, I hear a program on the radio talking about our relation to our dead.

WHO defines a normal grieving period at two months. I would like to tell WHO to fuck off, as well as to these norms that define who we should be, where the limit is, when we should be sad and when we should be medicated.

There are still feelings of self-blame, anger, and of some kind of quirky irony to everything, but I don’t have these guilty dreams that often anymore. Somehow, we are closer today.

I have learnt there is not much to lose. And I have learnt it’s ok to cry for no reason, to celebrate her birthday, to do things she loved, to wear her clothes, to laugh with her daughters and to be amazed by them, to tell them about her, and sometimes not to.

I have hung a colorful portrait of Frida Kahlo on my wall, maybe because she is a model of resilience.

It’s still not easy and that’s fine.

vaness04[1]

Pic by a friend of hers-all my gratitude to him

 

 

Time machine

Childhoods, under different skies. A smile, a stare, a moment in time. Wondering about their daily life, their future, how fast they will all become adults, and how smoothly.

They say you don’t need a time machine if you know how to remember. What do you keep from your own childhood?

1. Saint Augustin 12Saint Augustin, Madagascar

2. Kids AntsirabeAntsirabe, Madagascar

3. Omar at home, in ZribaOmar at his home in Zriba, Tunisia. Omar lives in a mountaineous village without access to electricity or running water.He held my hand for a long time in silence, before looking up and asking me to get him a bicycle.4. Bath, Dominican RepublicDominican Republic

5. Eid celebration, WaWa, Northern Ghana, on Eid day

6. Small scale gold mining community, Northern Burkina Faso (1)7. Small scale gold mining community, Northern Burkina Faso (2)Small scale gold mining community in Northern Burkina Faso

9. The little salt seller, Tamale, GhanaThe little salt seller, Tamale, Ghana

10. Grandfather babysitting on a shrine, Tongo Hills, GhanaGrandfather babysitting on a shrine, Ghana

I leave to children exclusively, but only for the life of their childhood, all and every dandelion of the fields and the daisies thereof, with the right to play among them freely, according to the custom of children, warning them at the same time against the thistles. And I devise to children the yellow shores of creeks and the golden sands beneath the water thereof, with the dragon flies that skim the surface of said waters, and the odors of the willows that dip into said waters, and the white clouds that float on high above the giant trees. And I leave the children the long, long days to be merry in in a thousand ways, and the Nights, and the trail of the Milky Way to wonder at. Williston Fish, “A Last Will,” 1898

Haïti: Daring to Love

“Who still dares to love this country

And to say so?” Evelyne Trouillot

1. Bombarde“What people! They are so used to looking for life in difficult conditions that they will carry hope all the way to hell.” Dany Laferrière

5. Girl Bombardopolis“I think Haiti is a place that suffers so much from neglect that people only want to hear about it when it’s at its extreme. And that’s what they end up knowing about it.” Edwidge Danticat

2. Water
3. Marie Reine des Coeurs
4. Ladies Bomarde “Haiti, where négritude stood up for the first time and said it believed in its humanity” Aimé Césaire

6. Jacmel sunset“Étranger qui marches dans ma ville/ souviens-toi que la terre que tu foules/ est terre du poète/ et la plus noble et la plus belle.” Anthony Phelps