America, m
ake no mistake this week! Don’t be afraid.

 


Bali Healer

A long while ago I was terribly sick with a slipped disk or lumbago or very bad back-pain. I suffered for months, got myself hooked on painkillers in booze, and then I lost my job and my friends too. Cause & Effect merged. Things can get so bad; you don’t know where to start repairing your life.

After some inner and outer travel I came to suffer in Bali. A friend recommended a famous local healer. OK, whatever, I’ll try it.

I don’t know about famous but the healer certainly was local, very local. At noon he was in underwear, fresh out of bed. His reception teamed with chicken and the office was an open-air carpet.

Children cried “Foreigner! Foreigner!” and gathered to watch. I was suffering my usual bad day, so I sat down in the mess and surrendered.

The old man studied and squeezed me, and poked my ears and eyes, all the while mumbling stuff in Balinese. He might have called the healing ghosts or just cursed the interruption of his nap I didn’t know, but the birds, children and chickens were dead silent. That made me kind of anxious.

To escape from anything spiritual and because it is common in western medicine, I started complaining about my body, how bad I felt and so on, but he cut me short: “Shush!”

As suddenly as he had begun voodoing he stopped, got up and plucked some leaves from a bush and started to chew them. I thought he was finished, but, oh boy, he just got started.

For appetizers he added some white powder to the chewed leaves, munched them a bit more and then spat the whole slimy mud into my face and on my chest.

The stuff burned on the skin, but I was kept busy with a much stronger sensation: Do you know the point on your elbow that gives you these electricity-like pangs? It turns out you got these points all over the body and when you push them real hard with a stick or something you get electric pangs that last minutes. You squirm and howl. Tears make the chewed leaves in your face burn even more.

Each of these, say, energy points becomes the center of your little universe until the current slowly subsides and that point becomes just a normal point on your body. Gone, no more pain there, good, next point. You squirm and howl and so on.

An hour later he had worked himself from elbows to heels, left to right. I was soaked in sweat, tears and chewed leaves.

Finally he said: “Finished”.

That was the first thing he said to me. The birds, children and chicken started to chatter again. I felt finished too. I could hardly stand.

We did have a long talk thereafter, and he explained to me that in his view the nerve system stores pain in those energy points, and that he “opened” them to release my old pain, like cleaning a hard-drive of old files, old memory of pain. He said I was breathing too shallow and holding my breath too often. That my body was dried up (true, I had only beer and coffee for years), that I needed quietness and massages, air and above all water, water and more water.

Was I healed? No, but I sure felt I had a clean place to start repairing. Which I did.

P.S. When I went again years later he send me away: “No sick. You go home.” No charge.

 

 

 


Sick on CNN

Unless I have a very good day, watching the news makes me sick. I had a friend; she lived on a beach in Brazil. Every evening she would double-lock herself inside the house and watch the world go crazy on CNN.

She was a very paranoid creature. Her world was a terrifying, hostile place and she was always in trouble. She’d call me with news like “They found Glukomoxamil in lemons!” or “The north pole shrank 5%!” or “Barbaristan has attacked Autistan!”

Those days on the beach in Brazil, I ignored all news. I read no papers and had no TV. And you know what? The world was doing just fine as far as I could see. I knew of no problems for months. The sun shone, the waves crashed, people did what they always did and I simply didn’t know. The stuff they mentioned on CNN was not visible on that beach.

One day my friend called me and said: “They fly airplanes into the world trade center.”

I laughed: “Ja, ja, sure” and hung up. Paranoid stuff.


Sharks

 

Well, well, now we know for sure. The masters of the universe are in fact no masters. They don’t have a clue either. Not on their street and not in their own companies.

For years they have allowed local banks, homeowners and real estate agents to dream up house prices, give loans based on those dreams and then pay each other fat fees and bonuses.

The homeowner, most innocent of the gang but not free of guilt, closed both eyes and enjoyed the banks generosity. People, not only in the US, got themselves annual loans to buy some whatever (“Our house went up 20% last year!”); or financed a bigger even more overvalued place with a debt on the old house (one may call this a “self-enhancing feed-back cycle”).

And as sure as physics the cycle defaulted. The long financial food-chain awoke from dreaming up asset values. With that awakening crashed a good deal of world economy, paying for the damage not only in taxes but in trust and confidence. Failing masters are scary.

If you see a shark fish swimming in open water you have to pay him respect. He is a formidable creature, in his way a crown of creation. But he will suffocate on too big prey, poison himself with stuff that is not food and eat his own children.   

 

 


Kids Kingdom

 

Despite my do-all-better colonialist mindset let me tell you that there is no better place in the world for children (and mothers) than some South-East-Asian countries, namely Bali and Thailand.

Bali tradition prohibits children to touch the ground or be alone until they get the first teeth. That means babies must always be carried around and are never to be let alone. No children “crying-it-out” in their lonely bedrooms. Especially fathers are held responsible to take care of the very youngest. In dense family compounds children grow up as responsible members of their micro community.

Children represent the gods. Mistreating them is bad luck.

In dog-eat-dog Bangkok one never sees a child being yelled at, let alone hit, never ever. If somebody raises his voice against a kid there is usually a foreigner involved. Whenever a mother with child enters a cramped bus in Thailand adults jump to offer their seats to the child. I think that is just the other way around in Europe.

Taxi drivers love to take pregnant women to hospital hoping for an early birth, because that means good luck for the driver. Police officers have basic skills in child delivery to help if the occasion arises, which is not too rare because of the bad traffic.

In the West, it may be easier to find a flat with pets than with kids. In Bangkok, having kids is a sign of reliability and gets you a much higher score with picky landlords.

Thais are simply wonderful with their kids, tolerant, patient and caring. They take them to work and let them do whatever unless they hurt themselves or others.

And you know what? These kids behave much better than the little blue-eyed expat devils. I can’t say whether that is in the genes or some sort of early conditioning. While Europeans kids kick their nannies to get what they want, the Thai kids smile and achieve the same.


Beggars

 

Many soft-shelled Westerners are shocked when first confronted with the seemingly unlimited suffering on the city streets of Asia or Africa. Men without limbs lie on streets holding plastic cups with their lips, pregnant women wail for alms, little children with sad eyes roll in the mud and blind mongoloids play heartbreakingly bad on some ancient instrument. Yes, it is terrible… but look twice before you donate. 

I remember a little girl with her two puppies: She slept on the busiest piece of sidewalk in town, right next to the stench and dirt of a roaring six lane road. People might have stepped on her or the dogs at any time. If you love kids and puppies, like most humans, seeing them helpless and without shelter in the filth seems too much to bear.

But, when passing that area more often, you will realize that she sleeps there only on Tuesdays and that the puppies change every month or so. Also, the dogs are strangely calm, not like normal puppies at all. 

One Tuesday you will see the girl sneaking out of a taxi a couple of hundred meters up the road. In the car sits an elderly woman with three or four other girls and a lifeless heap of puppies.

They are professionals. The girls and the dogs are being used by a hard-shelled mother (if one may call this a mother). The puppies are probably drugged and die regularly, the girls never get to see a school and learn to sleep in the dirt as a profession.

The worst thing, in a twisted way, is to give them money for their performance.

Better leave a tip with that taxi driver. At least he works for a living.

Then, on the other hand, try not to harden too much and keep an eye out for people truly needing help. They are often the ones who don’t ask.


Morning Prayer

I thank you for this new day and for the sleep that I had

I thank you for the clouds in the sky and the birds in the trees

I thank you for the health and happiness of my family and I pledge to do my very best to be a good husband and father 

I pray for the strength and the insight to follow your will, so that my actions may be guided by care and compassion, and that I may overcome my ego and set aside resentments and fear

I humbly ask for your guidance in my decisions, so that I may be able to provide for my family and share with those who are in need or dear to me

I thank for this new day and I will use it to the best of my abilities  


My Shame in Babel

When we opened an office in Thailand I started learning the local language, as I always do when new to a country. Because Thai sounds like voice-over on a Donald Duck movie, I hired a teacher for one-on-one lessons.

As most “small” language Thai is not well documented and any word will have various translations depending on which book you open.

Thai doesn’t have many words, hardly any grammar; it has no articles, no inflection of noun, and no declension of objectives, no variation of verbs in regard to gender, number, tenses or cases and many other simplifying no-rules. A sentence like “If I would have known, I would have had the chance to use past perfect.” does defy translation.

Furthermore Thai belongs to the group of tonal languages. Tonal languages, as opposed to the non-tonal Indo-Germanic languages, root meaning in tone, not in grammar. Hence the same word may have a myriad of meanings depending on how you pronounce it while the written form remains identical.

“Leo” for example means “beer”, “right”, “quickly”, “come” and “here” and some unidentified food. Imagine you want to say:  “Quickly, come here with the beer.”

My teacher described this tactfully as a three-dimensional language concept but I smelled the competitive disadvantage of a nation, especially when one realizes that the locals do not understand each other very well. 

In my lessons, I focused on simple sentences of importance (like the one mentioned). After four weeks of study my teacher deemed me ready to order my favorite dish “Fried rice” which is “Khao pad” plus “Nung, krap” which is “One please”.

Confidently I walked up to a fried rice vendor and said “Khao pad, nung krap”. He looked irritated and called his wife.

By the time I had said “Khao pad” about eight times, the fried rice vendor and a group of spectators had organized someone who supposedly spoke English. He didn’t understand me neither.

Exhausted I pointed at the fried rice, said not a word and gestured “one”. That went through like a revelation. “Oooh, he wants fried rice! Man, why doesn’t he say so? God dammed foreigner.”

The bi-lingual Thai laughed, padded my shoulder and called out: “Yuu wiht eiis on.” and meant “You fried rice, one.” 

I took another 6 months of private lessons, and then I gave up. Now, when in Bangkok I never say a word in Thai except a Buddhist “Mai pen rai.” which means “Never mind”, I hope.

How flat is that Mr. Friedman?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Andesine takes Gold in Carat Scamming

Olympia. Thank God. It is over. Finally! And well over too.

 

Congrats to the Chinese people. No major loss of face. Some expropriated and arrested grandmas, some faked children, some underage athletes, yes, yes, but nobody is perfect, especially not a big country.

 

What remains? For me as a gem trader one thing stands out: 50.000.000 carat of Andesine.

 

It turns out Andesine has won gold in scamming this year, even in the highly competitive field of gem traders.

 

For those who are not informed: Some, probably Chinese, mastermind bought 50 tons of pretty worthless Mexican feldspar years ago, artificially colored it red and created a new brand called “Natural Tibet Andesine”. Great name. Great origin. Especially for making it the Olympic gemstone and sell it to unsuspecting tourists at $500 per carat instead of $5, which is what it is actually worth. 

 

Well, well, in the gem trade such a plot is no novelty; it has been done many time and it will be done in the future. What makes this case so refreshing is the scale of publicity. While Omega and GE have paid millions to be associated with Olympia 2008, Andesine’s mastermind just spread rumors and engraved the five rings into the gem.

 

So, we have a fake gemstone sold in millions as fake Olympic gem. That is gold in all scamming disciplines.

 

China, we forgive you. Nobody is perfect.

 

 


Good Health Care – Too Cheap

On my first visit back to Germany something bad got stuck in my eye. Alone on a high-speed train, I couldn’t see beyond my tears. I forced my hands off the panic button and sat still for three eternities, until we arrived in Freiburg. There I stumbled around like a sick pigeon waiting to be hit by a car.

 

Another couple of eternities later I plunged onto a homely sofa. Incomprehensibly, even the finest grappa does not heal sliced eyes, so later that night my friends decided to call an emergency doctor.

 

Back in Sri Lanka I might have had to wait for the village vet to get sober, but not so in Infrastructure-Germany. There you call a doctor at midnight and ask for help, which he renders without complaint. This doctor came promptly and got a glass splinter out of my eye. He thought that if I had waited through the night I might have lost that eye.

 

Thank you. What a relief. Truly grateful, I dropped a 100 euro bill into his bag, as I would have done in Asia. But the man didn’t want it.

 

I thought this is the usual polite “no need” and stuffed the money in his hand. Alas, now he was really offended. How dare I? He would not take any cash from me. That was illegal. Like bribery. He got so upset he might have stuck the splinter straight back into my eye.

 

My friends calmed him down, explaining that I had been living in South-East-Asia for many years and was not used to the German way.

 

Finally he accepted my apologies, and remarked that hundred euro were far too much anyway. 

 

100 euro for my left eye too much? This professional came out of his warm bed to rescue my eye but was not allowed to accept more than the thrifty insurance would pay him. Strange customs.