A man, a woman, a ‘tache

Translating agricultural development articles doesn’t often make me break out into a smile, so I was particularly pleased to discover this evening that the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency goes by the wonderful name of Antoine Marie Moustache. It’s the mother lode of tease.

And then there’s his job: with a land mass of only 455 square miles spread over 115 tiny islands and coral outcrops, the title seems to rival that of Swiss Admiral*.

Determined to find more about Mr Moustache, I tracked down his M.Phil thesis at another of my old stomping grounds, the University of the West Indies: Fertilizer use in Cabbage with Special Reference to Urea-N.

– Irie! U-Ria! Why y’hafta pee on de cabbage dem?

– Yeah man, me drink me root juice
an’ forget de damn waterin’ can an’ ting.

(Read previous work-related highlights and other barely plausible names.)

* What’s the difference between a Dyson vacuum cleaner and a Swiss Admiral?
A Dyson vacuum cleaner sucks and sucks and never fails, while a Swiss Admiral …

Deep in it

Just heard that our stuff, including essential babyware and car, will now be leaving Dakar around the date it was supposed to arrive in the Netherlands. Apparently the delay is due to congestion in the port. The whole coast of Africa must be gridlocked if it takes two weeks to clear the way to port. I reckon the more likely causes are either incompetence or corruption — either our agent has no backup plan for these types of situation, or he forgot to pay off a key bureaucrat in the chain of exporting goods.

I’ll be glad when I don’t have to deal with this sort of crap. It was the same in Jamaica, by the way, trying to store and ship our stuff. Sure it got done in the end, but only after hours of emailing and skypeing every few days, wheedling and conniving, trying to explain what should have been understood from the start. It’s exhausting.

There really is a difference in culture that is almost insurmountable. And the difference comes in the education, both at home and at school, between the traditional style (“because I say so!” “don’t hit your sister” WhAcK! “Memorize these unrelated data”) and a more modern style (“… otherwise you’ll get your shoes wet”, “tell me why you hit her”, “do a project with your group”). You get the drift. And the results do come through in adulthood. The former culture is submissive, non-collaborative, always seeking an angle to promote or at least protect their own position, lacking initiative; the latter is reasonable, can handle negativity, can empathize with the customer and behave in such a way as to maximize the customer’s position, etc.

But for me, the best thing about being here is sleeping through the night. I don’t know why, but in Dakar I rarely slept the night through, usually waking at five am, worrying about one or more of the problems that needed to be dealt with.

Here, I sleep through … I may still be exhausted but it’s my alarm that wakes me, not my worries.

Edit at 9 am next day: Strike through “I sleep through”.
Reason: Sitting up with baby JuJu from 12:30 to 2:30 am. Choking in snot. beurrggh.

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Ghetto can’t hold you back

The athletics results this last week in Beijing represent the summum of success for Jamaican runners, putting them in first place in the gold medal league table, equal with Russia and ahead of the US.

Bear in mind that Jamaica has a population of only 2.7 million.

Jamaican athletics results

The first gold medal went to Shelly-Ann Fraser in the women’s 100m. Amid the thousands of news stories trying to come up with something original to say, AFP interviewed Shelly-Ann’s mother.

Shelly-Ann Fraser can thank her mother’s uneasy relationship with the Jamaican police for helping her become an Olympic Games sprint champion.

Maxine Fraser, who brought up her daughter in one of the Caribbean’s meanest ghettos, believes her quickfire genes have been passed on to the 21-year-old who led a Jamaican cleansweep in the 100m final in Beijing on Sunday.

Maxine has had to live on her wits all of her life and working as a street vendor she regularly has to put in a blinding turn of pace if police are chasing her for illegal trading.

“This is to show that something good can come out of the ghetto. Ghetto can’t hold you back as long as you have ambition,” said Maxine after watching her daughter take gold.

Source: AFP

The reference to running from the police reminded me of a post I wrote back in March 2006. I’ll give you advance warning: turn your speakers low before you watch the movie.

“[27 March 2006] The source of the sprinters’ success then is that Jamaicans know from a young age and from much experience that at the sound of gunshot …”

Some commentators wonder whether Jamaican runners are not getting a little extra kick from illegal doping …

However, locals have scoffed at suggestions that drugs may be the reason for the country’s recent success.

In fact, many argue that the heavy consumption of yam, banana and breadfruit have helped power the sprinters.

Source: AFP

Nyam yam, myam-myam!

Sidi Mansour vs Ma Baker

Life in Kingston, Jamaica was sometimes like living in a war zone: occasional bursts of excitement — driving after dark through a ghetto zone, boarding up the windows as a hurricane approached — interspersed with long periods of boredom, for the city does not offer much in the way of amusement for a young family of unbelievers. By midday Saturday, we were already kicking our heels, wondering where to go. In fact the only option for non-church goers was eating out, which was fine, given the surprising variety of good restaurants: Japanese, Lebanese, Chinese, Swiss-French. I can firmly state that I have eaten the best samosas in my life (with plum sauce!) at the Indian restaurant in Marketplace, a great recent development by Mafoud senior.

Right next door to the Indian restaurant was another regular destination during our weekend outings, the Habibi Latino. As its name suggests, it offered a mix of South American and Arabic cuisine — I guess there was a mixed marriage involved. While we tucked into the hommos, fatoush, tabouleh and kibbeh, shivering slightly from the hyperactive air-co, the kids could crawl around the empty benches and dance to the CD of Arabic golden oldies. One of the songs reminded Mr B of his Baghdad days; for me, it brought back rainy summer days in a caravan on the Isle of Arran, listening to Boney M’s Ma Baker. We asked one of the Jamaican waitresses dressed in a black chador if we could copy the song, but this seemed to cause her great confusion and came to nothing.

We found the song again recently on a mix CD in my in-laws’ car, and since then … I have found myself forced into having to convince each family-in-law member, one person-in-law at a time, that Sidi Mansour is the inspiration behind Boney M’s 1977 hit. Maybe I didn’t need to go further than humming the relevant bits, but, well, I’m something of an obsessive musical listener — I may not remember the lyrics, but I reckon I have something of a photographic ear (you know what I mean). Result? Three hours on Acid (Pro) mashing up Saber El Robaey’s version of Sidi Mansour with Ma Baker.

[audio:Sidi Baker – remix.mp3]

The first reaction I got was typically Dutch in its laconic understatement: “Okay, you convinced me just a bit. nice.”

What do YOU think?

Postlapsarian PNP: After the fall from grace

The recent general election in Jamaica was a close run between the People’s National Party, in power for 18 years, and the Jamaica Labour Party. While at least one of the sixty seats remains to be decided by the courts, the JLP still managed to squeeze past the incumbents with a four-seat majority.

Politically motivated violence had been anticipated; in the event it was relatively peaceful, at least in comparison with the 800 deaths attributed to the infamous 1980 elections. One death stuck out, literally, in last month’s election: a JLP supporter stuck his head out of the party bus and was almost decapitated by bamboo growing by the roadside. Stupid behaviour, and worthy of a Darwin Award, but actually not at all surprising if you have ever seen buses carrying party supporters to a rally in Jamaica: there are more people on top of the bus than inside – not to mention those hanging from the outsides of the windows, or those sitting on the bonnet or hanging onto the radiator grill … The bus proceeds at top speed down the centre of the road, swerving violently in time to the beats from the monstrous sound system, which takes up more space inside than the passengers. It is an awesome sight, in the true meaning of the word.

My dear friend, the Reverend Dr Philip Phinn (read previously), had predicted a victory for the ruling party. Alas, his divine gift of prophecy failed yet again.

I took a more prosaic approach to predicting the winners and losers by using anagrams of names.

Here are the best results

BRUCE GOLDING (leader of the JLP, now Prime Minister)
Budge con girl – an eminently respectable goal

or

Boring cudgel – True, Bruce is no Portia when it comes to rabble-rousing

or

Glib con urged – a comment on the huge investment in a media blitzkrieg. I particularly liked the ambiguous slogan, “Be apart of the change”, used in one of the many JLP TV ads (watch ad on YouTube).

Adding “MR” to his name gives us the more sensational
Cold, murdering B.G.

From the other side, PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER (now former Prime Minister), gives us
A missioner pimp troll – a savage comment on her getting too cuddly with religious crackpots

or

Interim liar pomp loss – The only Prime Minister never to have been elected. For “Liar”, see YouTube vid link above. And yes, she did enjoy travelling in high style when she went “a farrin” (overseas).

SIMPSON MILLER produces the pithier
No slimmer lips

or

Smell imprison

My favourite anagrams, however, are generated by the now former Minister of Information, Donald Buchanan. He seemed to be the only member of the Government that spoke to the public and the media, relaying matters from other ministries and defending the party from any criticism. Unfortunately, he was also the most antipathetic person you could imagine as the Government mouthpiece: at his daily press conferences, he would slump forward on his desk, wearily reading from a sheaf of papers, occasionally peering up over his glasses to cast a withering glance over his audience – he oozed total disdain and resentment towards his questioners.

Anagrams of MR DONALD BUCHANAN give a possible insight into the man behind the frown:

Dubland anchorman

or

Hardbound clan man

or

Nonhuman bald card

or even

Bad man, unclad horn

Just in case you take my anagrammatical musings too seriously, note that MS RIA BACON is only

A minor scab