Saturday, September 30, 2006

I am not isolated

One of my greater stupidities was thinking once I retired (allegedly I can hear my daughter thinking as she reads this)is that I would be isolated. It is right up there with the stupidity that when I moved to Switzerland I would no longer have good fresh fish totally forgetting the excellent fish from Lake Leman and Lake Neuchâtel.

My social life over the past week has shown me to be anything but isolated and in the middle of such an international community, that to be surrounded by only one nationality would be boring. I have shared lunch and belatedly celebrated the birthday of my Swiss gentleman friend, had tea with a Canadian, gone to two movies, Paris Je T’aime and the Devil wears Prada with an English friend. Today I met a French/American friend in Geneva where we went to a Japanese restaurant than retreated to her French mountain home until it was time to come back to Switzerland for a Swiss church fair in my old commune. We also went to see my favourite Indian teenager dance her Indian dance. Tomorrow if it is good weather (inshallah) I will go to my commune’s pumpkin festival.

The activities alone aren’t what is so enriching, but the sharing of cultures, ideas, and just simple warmth that friendship brings.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Le Vendage

The smell of fresh grape juice is in the air as I walk by the vineyard on the way to the post. The vendage has begun. Men with trapezoid-shaped, backpack-like white plastic pails from the top of their heads to their thighs with leather straps over their shoulders pick the fruit. The pails are empties into the large metal barrels on flat-bed trucks parked between the rows.

This year I won’t have time to go to the Canton of Valais for Brazili (I am not sure of the spelling). Restaurants near the vineyards serve roasted chestnuts, apples and the first pressings of the grapes. Still, it is enough to watch the men move among the vines as has been done for centuries, only long ago the pails were made of branches.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


He wanted to go home,
stalked around my flat,
wound around the flutes
on the kitchen shelf,
oozed under the bed,
sat in the sink,
used his litter,
he was in the wrong room,
and I was the wrong woman.

Signs of the Seasons

Despite the rain, I decided to walk from Rive to Plain Palais where I had an appointment with my dermatologist, about 30 minutes. My leather coat and umbrella kept me dry and I could enjoy the fall feel. All the indications that autumn has come are there. The first was “The hunt has arrived” signs in restaurants meaning they are now serving venison, pheasant and other wild life brought in by local hunters. Likewise the butcher shop displays a stuffed small deer and a stuff pheasant. His shop window could qualify for a Gourmet magazine cover.

The second was the chestnut stand being set up near the fountain at Molard. The mini chalet has a large iron kettle outside and inside burlap bags filled with chestnuts cover half the space. I have yet to be bonked by a chestnut, another sure sign of this season. Bonk is not used in the Brit sense of a brief sexual encounter but the American meaning of a sharp encounter with a falling object.

The last sign will have to wait. That is when the nouveau Beaujolais will arrive. At that point I will buy winter gloves.

In New England other signs foretold the change of season. The first red leaf would flutter from a tree. The leaves, although pretty, are no where near as brilliant as in New England, but I can content myself with the crisp nights and the rain and the hunt and the chestnut stands and…

Meeting a friend for lunch

Our park picnic was rained out, but we settled for one of the UN restaurants to catch up. He and I began our friendship 9/11 when I ran into his office after seeing CNN when the first plane struck. We could no longer connect to CNN so he logged onto El Païs, which was reporting it. He speaks four languages, giving us more choices. I ran home and phoned back news as it happened.

He is better read than I am, but we can debate the merits of editorial policy on a number of European, Mid Eastern and Asian papers. Our discussions, like so many American, worried about the future of the country went quickly into politics.

Today our topics were –

  1. Why is America even debating torture? Excluding the morality issue, becoming the new Spanish Inquisition doesn’t mean that truth is gathered. Victims say anything to stop the pain. Torture doesn't work and only creates more enemies.
  2. How come we are so anti Iran for threatening to destroy Israel when they have not attacked a country for decades whereas the US has destroyed Iraq and aided in the destruction in the Lebanon through its supply of weapons and rejection of resolutions and feet-dragging?
  3. The new intelligence report saying that the Iraq has only increased terrorism. Therefore “staying the course” so our soldiers didn’t die in vane makes even less sense. Our soldiers not only died in vane, they made the situation worse for the people they wanted to protect. If America reacted so violently to less than a day of isolated attacks, how could we expect a people to react after three and a half years of living under terror? Wanting to get us back.
  4. “We must be thought of as paranoid," we said, as we related we wouldn’t return to the US until after the election. We were only reassured of our sanity by the large number of ex-pats who worry about being able to get in and out of the US. We share every mention of the conditions that would necessitate martial law when spoken by people like Tommy Frank, the president and others. We try hard not to think of Blackhawk mercenaries shooting our citizens in protecting property not people in New Orleans.
  5. The national debt. How long can the US continue to borrow? How much further can people go into debt before it all comes crashing down, we ask ourselves.”
  6. The Swiss elections: For once the roesti curtain (The French and Germans almost always vote differently. The name comes from the potato dish typical of Swiss Germans ) didn’t hold when it came to tighter asylum laws. The Canton of Geneva also voted that pupils in grade school would be graded 1-6 beginning next year ending several years of no grades. The teachers seem happy.
  7. The film Jesus Camp. There is a trailer Seeing a little boy rock back and forth is too reminiscent of the children in the madras schools rocking back and forth as the read the Koran. We agree it borders of child abuse and crossed over into brain washing.

All in all when we meet there is a great feeling of sadness and despair when we look back to from where we came. We want the America of our civics classes where there is truth and justice and hope not what exists today. Even if we choose to live outside the borders, even if we choose the nationality of the country we now live in what America does has an impact on the world. We want to be proud, not ashamed of our origins. It just plain hurts to see what is happening.

His time was limited, and I was due to meet a friend at the Café du Soleil. We mentioned meeting after work in the not to distance future joined by his wife as we walked off in different directions physically. Mentally I wished he could have proven me wrong in what I was thinking.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Television News December 11, 1998

Blood draws tiny roads
across his face
an unplanned journey’s end.
He cannot talk of
The horror-joy of survival.

White-haired men
masked as leaders
know which camera angle
Profiles sincerity
while they rework clay words.

Above men’s heads a board.
On the board a boy’s body
wrapped in a flag of
a country that is not.
He died saying it should be.

Skype I love you

As a technical dummy, I am trying to set up a web site. Fortunately the person I consider my French daughter is a webmaster and she has been walking me through it with more patience than any sane person can expect. She has calmed me through terror, down to panic, and I’ve proceeded to this makes sense and I am almost at a point where I am saying I can do this.

Equally thrilling, since she is in New York, we both are on Skype so a two-hour phone call is doing nothing to my pocketbook. I should probably buy her a gift certificate for aspirin – she’ll need them before I can say I am functioning independently.

Likewise, the ease of a quick check in with other friends on Skype is a wonderful way to maintain friendships and exchange snippets of information. Saturday I was able to chat with my best friend and she was able to give me a minute call to ask a simple question all without charge.

Some of my other friends are adding Skype as well making the Atlantic Ocean a mere puddle when it comes to communication.

Another reason to be afraid

I maintain that Americans are scared of terrorism when there are more things to be frightened of that can actually hurt them: air pollution, medicine (Vioxx), water (too high arsenic allowances, medical system (46 million without health insurance, mercury in vacines,), environmental changes cosmetics (only one American cosmetic company meets the stringent safety EU standards), than marauding terrorists.

There’s a new fear. Flying. This is has nothing to do with Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying but the desire of the government (FAA) to cut the number of air controllers serving the nation’s airports by 10% and to make the remaining work longer hours. The recent accident in Kentucky has not stopped them, although the air controllers themselves have protested.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Airport Restaurant

Cups lifted to lips.
Cutlery scrapes china.
Laughter rises over voices.
Babies prattle.
A pushed chair skreaks.
Departure screens
list gates, places, times.
Coins disappear in a
waitress’ pocket.

Lives touch but
leave no mark

She did it

N, who I have not seen since before the summer, has finally grown taller than I am, although that is not a huge achievement. When my first Swiss boss called my old boss in the States for a recommendation, my old boss raved about me. The future Swiss boss asked, “Can’t you think of anything bad about her. “Well, she isn’t very tall,” my old boss said. In any case N has come a long way since she couldn’t reach the button 6 in our elevator to get to the floor where we had our apartments. She will continue to grow. I am fighting to maintain my five foot one.

It is there

Assisted suicide will now be allowed at the Geneva Cantonale hospital under strict conditions. Lausanne and Zurich already allow this. Although I am not sure that I could ever do this, it is good to know that I have a choice if I am in situation of agony with no hope of recovery. Part of maturity is knowing that the word never seldom holds true when faced with certain circumstances.

Sleeping Over

I spent the night with the Indian family at my old address. When living on the other side of the lake, my apartment house floor was a joy of internationals. During my eleven years there I had the pleasure of meeting English, Russians, Czechs, Kenyans, Japanese and Italians. I have stayed close to the English couple and still talk to the Couple Czech every now and then.

However during my last few years at François Lehman, the Indian family and my Syrian girl friend and I became almost a triumvirate with tooings and frooings, shared teas, meals, epiphanies with the special 12th night cake, holidays, dance and play performances, book readings, movies and outings. Even Sunday morning breakfasts when we would show up in pajamas, not needing to change or rush during a lazy winter morning felt special. To me these were golden times. I am lucky we are still building memories that moving hasn’t diminished the warmth and the pleasure of sharing just being together.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Relish Making

Jars clatter against the pot.
Their lids cook clean in boiling water
drowning the flick-click of Sister’s peeler
as cucumber skins pile high.

Wonder Bread dangles from Mother’s mouth.
“Stops the tears,” she mumbles shoving
another half onion into the grinder.
She pushes faster than I can cut.

We are a coven of cooks
women from four different decades,
my daughter allowed for the first time
into our fall relish making.

Each year I forget turmeric stains.
Each year I am told use the old towel
to wipe the jars sparkling green
in the late day sun.

And only when we’re done
when all is clean and put away
does my daughter open the door

letting our men back into our lives.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Celebrating Mabon by Accident

The red and green grapes are so juice ladened that the vines are bent. The vendage will start shortly.

As a writer, it is easy to lock myself to my computer, but on a day like today, it would have been to substitute writing about life for life.

Thus I found myself on a walk through the lushness of a late-summer afternoon not going gently into the good fall night.

Everywhere flowers or all the colors of the rainbow were standing tall. Trees and bush leaves were almost hidden by blue, red and white berries. The breeze from the lake whispered across my face.

My memories roamed back to a day like this years three years ago when my daughter and I played hooky from work and job hunting to take a boat across the lake to Yvoire (please look at the photos).

As I walked back down the hill, the beauty of the lake and mountains almost too much to bear, I remembered that September 21 is the pagan holiday of Mabon or Winter Finding, the second harvest festival and a time of thanksgiving and meditation. Spiritually one sets up new patterns for the future and encourages the sharing of the richness of the earth.

So much of what was natural and beautiful that surrounded me that I knew true peace. I was celebrating a pagan day that I had forgotten, which made the moment all the better.

Luc Surbeck

Luc Surbeck was an attorney, but unlike many attorneys he spent most of his time at a theatre he started with his partner Claude Para. Over the years I enjoyed many of the plays the two men put on and like the old-time movie comedy where the same person fills many roles, these two men did everything, took the tickets, served at the bar and as waiters for dinner before the theatre, were ushers, designed the sets, and acted in the many two-men plays they found.

Monday he died at the theatre he loved. He was 55.

He was a man who lived his dreams finding a way to succeed in a profession that denies so many talented people a voice. Maybe it is reminder to all of us to do what we love as much as possible.


Girl to woman,
“Define passion.”

Eyes shut
she thinks,
Pluck pinpoints of light
from coal dust skies.
Sear the skin
with sparklers.
They fly,
penetrate Heaven.

She kept it
to herself.
Passion is lived,
not defined.

Mont Blanc Returns from Holiday

Many who don’t live in Switzerland and have never visited here find it hard to believe that any mountain, especially one as big as Mont Blanc, can disappear even on the clearest of days, but it can and it does. That made its appearance yesterday even more exciting as it made the perfect backdrop to the water spouting up from the lake.

When I was first working in Geneva, I got a call from my boss. “Come quick.” He hung up before I could answer, and I rushed to his office, not to be greeted with a catastrophe but a perfect view of Mont Blanc from his window. “I haven’t seen it in weeks,” he said.

In my imagination I see the mountain packing its suitcase full of rocks, trees and streams and saying, “Think I’ll go to the south of Italy for a while.” Of course, newspapers never report it as a celebrity visitor, so maybe it finds other places to hide when it is not gracing Geneva with its beauty.

Hungary Fights Lies

Hungary is rioting because it found its government lied deliberately. Once again I wonder why Americans so docilely accept Bush’s lies about the reasons for the war in Iraq. Maybe for the same reason they accept being the only industrialized country without universal health coverage, having a health care system that is rated 37th (Cuba’s is 8th, France’s is 1st) having the lowest vacation times of any industrialized country and having a child poverty rate that is only surpassed by Mexico’s. Maybe they just don’t realise.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The copier and the birthday party

I went to a birthday party for my favorite little boy because someone in Holland bought a copier in 1990. It shows how a simple action can change or create lives

  • Because RB2 was living in Holland and wanted to test his new copier he copied an International Herald Tribune Ad.
  • Because he read the ad he applied for the job.
  • Because he got the job he moved to Switzerland where he moved into the company flat.
  • Because I lived in the company flat too we became friends.
  • Because we became friends I introduced him to Argelès.
  • Because he went to Argelès he fell in love with it.
  • Because he loved the village he bought a house.
  • Because he bought the house he met and fell in love with the girl next door.
  • Because he fell in love with the girl next door he married her and they had a son.

Now that little boy is six and I enjoyed his family birthday party. As usual there were four languages, English, French, Spanish and Dutch and the boy thanked everyone for his presents in their own language. Even my daughter is grateful for that copier because she feels that the copier and the resulting birth fulfilled whatever grandmotherly urges might be floating in my system. And the copier? Long since consigned to the junk heap.


Fall/Autumn (depending if you speak American or Brit) is on its way. It isn’t the drop in temperature and no leaf has fluttered to earth in crimson or even yellow glory. The marché has a variety of mushrooms picked from the woods in all shapes sizes and colors. Mushroom picking can be a family pastime on a Saturday with the baskets taken to the local druggist/chemist (American/Brit) who will identify those that will add to a meal versus those that will require a hospital trip.

Because I am heading back to Geneva and am trying to eat down the food I have laid in, I resisted, but I have already planned a trip to the marché in Ferney next weekend to duplicate the mushroom and sage soup eaten in a Welsh pub when I was starting my masters degree at the University of Glamorgan.

Failure at math

I know I am a disaster with numbers and measuring, but the rug I ordered for my bathroom which is no more than two giant steps long and a normal step wide, would cover a good part of the rest of my apartment.

At the moment it sits propped up on the stair leading to my loft.

At first I thought I could cut it up for the bathroom which would still leave 95% of it unneeded. Instead I asked the couple who GAVE me the perfect dining room table and chairs for my flat if they wanted. They agreed. I can say thank you and get rid of it at the same time and only be reminded of my stupidity when I visit them.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Four black and silver photos

  1. On an iron-posted bed, a leg with a gaping wound is cooled by a fan. The leg is Sunita’s who was too near a bomb explosion during an uprising in Nepal.
  2. Sunita’s face is contorted in agony as her wounds are cleaned, although we don’t see the medical staff working on her. At the head of her bed is a sister, her head veiled in the old fashioned way, her face dark and wrinkled, looking at the woman thrashing below her. Their hands are side-by-side on the iron bed railing.
  3. Sunita’s husband holds her body, wrapped in her native clothing as he stands in a river ready to let her go.
  4. The husband holds his hand in prayer. He is still standing in the river and just below him under the water the photographer has got the swirl of cloth covering the young woman as she sinks to the river bed.

These photos of personal pain taken by Philip Blenkinsop were in no way unique. Four of us had gone to the 18th International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan that filled nine buildings, but we could only cover two in a day both for the sheer number and the sheer volume of suffering that they showed.

Stanley Greene’s “Beyond the Wire. Voyage to the Country of Hate” taken in Iraq shows what he sees as “the failure in this war. These photos are an attempt to direct the pictures away from the fast-food journalism and towards a subjective and intensely human focus.”

Not all photos were recent. One of us had “lived through four revolutions” when he had spent time in Argentina. He was quiet as he walked by the photos from his time in that country and only later did he mention neighbors that were among the “disappeared”.

An immigrant’s body lay under a cloth in a failed attempt to escape the devastation of his own country. Uprisings against dictators in different countries was a reminder to those of us that live comfortable lives that freedom is not easily won and perhaps less easily kept.

The four of us could leave, have tea and a snack at a tapas bar, return to our comfortable lives. Yet we are the abnormality in a world filled with poverty, war and devastation.

A Four Star Guest

She is a four-star guest, a relatively new friend met under business circumstances and converted to personal friendship over many dinners. This is her second trip to share in my nest.

Many of our ideas and memories of an American childhood overlap. In others our differences made us wonder if we were from the same species, but the exchanges only increased the respect. Neither doubted how the different conclusions were based on different information sets. If ideas differed that was fine because ideas are not the person.

But the long discussions, sometimes in the pajama-party style of our teenage years, didn’t make her a four-star guest. It was the basic consideration, sense of fun, curiosity to try whatever was offered that wins the honor. The ease with which we wondered hither and yon (a matter of great courage on her part letting me try and find our destinations).

Because this is the second visit, an artist friend who met her before, was pleased to see her again and made sure she had a dinner party while she was here.

When I left her to return to her normal life, and I to mine, the lack of her presence created a fissure in my day’s activities. The next day as I ran into people she had met, they all said, they hoped she came back another time. Me too.

Bun frustration

After ten days of holidays and playing tourist, I had vowed to work my buns off until I returned to Geneva next week for the fall and winter where I would also work my buns off with my new projects and my old writing.

While out during a violent electrical storm that caused flooding and chaos throughout the region, my modem was burned out, which is better than some neighbors who lost their modems and their computers. Thus my time has been spent running my buns offdelivering the computer to the computer hospital and going for a new modem.

I will wait until I get my buns back to Geneva on Tuesday to fix the wifi. I tell myself if I drop it off right after I arrive (but not before I get some much mixed sushi) I won’t have to tore both a suitcase and the computer case home. Silver linings are some times hard to come by and this one will have to do.

In the meantime I am prevailing on the good will of neighbors to let me use email and doing what I can accomplish off line glad that my computer is not as in rough shape as some others. And as for buns working off, that will come, although I doubt if it will show up on the outside.

Friday, September 08, 2006

UN votes against peace, democracy, safety

I wonder how the US can claim to be promoting democracy and human rights when steps to accomplish just this have come up for vote after vote in the UN and the US is in the minority against the world in vetoing these steps toward peace. Interestingly enough the US voted AGAINST making the Middle East nuclear free in 1981.

Below is a partial list of votes that the US has exercised since 1978. Make your own decisions but some of the things had they passed and were implemented would have made the world less dangerous. Please notice how many countries have voted for the pro-democracy, pro-development, pro-human rights resolutions, pro-environment, pro safety and how few countries including the US have voted against them.

Maybe when people claim the UN doesn't work, we should look at how the US is sabotaging activity after activity that might better the world.


Urges the permanent members (USA, USSR, UK, France, China) to insure United Nations decisions on the maintenance of international peace and security. 119-2

Criticises the living conditions of the Palestinians. 110-2

Condemns the Israeli human rights record in occupied territories. 97-3

Calls for developed countries to increase the quantity and quality of development assistance to underdeveloped countries. 119-1


Calls for an end to all military and nuclear collaboration with the apartheid South Africa. 114-3

Strengthens the arms embargo against South Africa. 132-3

Offers assistance to all the oppressed people of South Africa and their liberation movement.


Concerns negotiations on disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race. 120-3

Calls for the return of all inhabitants expelled by Israel. 121-3

Demands that Israel desist from human rights violations. 111-2

Requests a report on the living conditions of Palestinians in occupied Arab countries. 120-2

Offers assistance to the Palestinian people. 112-3

Discusses sovereignty over national resources in occupied Arab territories. 118-2

Calls for protection of developing counties' exports. 111-2

Calls for alternative approaches within the United Nations system for improving the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. 136-1

Opposes support for intervention in the internal or external affairs of states. 104-2

For a United Nations Conference on Women. 121-2

To include Palestinian women in the United Nations Conference on Women. 122-2

Safeguards rights of developing countries in multinational trade negotiations. 112-1


Requests Israel to return displaced persons. 96-3

Condemns Israeli policy regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian people. 118-2

Condemns Israeli human rights practices in occupied territories. three votes


Afirms the right of self determination for the Palestinians. 120-3

Offers assistance to the oppressed people of South Africa and their national liberation movement. 137-3

Attempts to establish a New International Economic Order to promote the growth of underdeveloped countries and international economic co-operation. 134-1

Endorses the Program of Action for Second Half of United Nations Decade for Women.

Declaration of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. 110-2

Emphasises that the development of nations and individuals is a human right. 120-1


Promotes co-operative movements in developing countries. 123-1

Affirms the right of every state to choose its economic and social system in accord with the will of its people, without outside interference in whatever form it takes. 126-1

Condemns activities of foreign economic interests in colonial territories. 133-3

Calls for the ending of all test explosions of nuclear weapons. 118-2

Calls for action in support of measures to prevent nuclear war, curb the arms race and promote disarmament. 78-3

Urges negotiations on prohibition of chemical and biological weapons. 109-1

Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc are human rights. 135-1

Concerns changes to the United Nations accounting methods. 127-1

Condemns South Africa for attacks on neighbouring states, condemns apartheid and attempts to strengthen sanctions. Seven votes


Demands that Israel cease excavations in areas of East Jerusalem considered by the United Nations to be part of the occupied territories. 114-2

Condemns Israel for bombing Iraqi nuclear installations. 108-2

Condemns Israeli policy regarding living conditions of the Palestinian people. Two votes

To establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. 107-2

To establish rights for the Palestinian people. two votes

To clarify the status of Jerusalem. 139-2

Discusses Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. 141-2

Concering the rights of displaced Palestinians to return to their homes. 121-3

Concerning revenues from Palestinian refugees' properties. 117-2

Establishment of the University of Jerusalem for Palestinian refugees. 119-2

Concerning Israeli human rights violations in occupied territories. 111-2

Condemns Israel closing of universities in occupied territories. 114-2

Discusses sovereignty over national resources in occupied Palestine and other Arab territories. 115-2

Affirms the non-applicability of Israeli law over the Golan Heights. 121-2


For the ratification of the convention on the suppression and punishment of apartheid. 124-1

To promote international action against apartheid. 141-1

Condemns apartheid in sports. 138-1

Calls for the cessation of further foreign investments and loans for South Africa. 134-1

Calls for the setting up of a World Charter for the protection of the ecology. 111-1

Sets up a United Nations conference on succession of states in respect to state property, archives and debts. 136-1

Nuclear test bans and negotiations and nuclear free outer space. three votes

Supports a new world information and communications order. 131-1

Prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons. 95-1

Development of international law. 113-1

To prevent the exclusion of certain United Nations employees. 129-1

Protects against products harmful to health and the environment. 146-1

Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights. 131-1

Implementation of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States. 141-1

Concerning the adequacy of facilities of the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. 132-1

Development of the energy resources of developing countries. 146-1

Restructuring international economic relations towards establishing a new international economic order. 124-1

Afirms the right of every state to choose its economic and social system in accord with the will of its people, without outside interference in whatever form it takes. 131-1

Resolutions against apartheid South Africa. four votes


Prevention of an arms race in outer space. 147-1

Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights. 132-1

Concerning international law. 110-1

Concerning the Transport and Communications Decade in Africa. 137-1

Prohibition of manufacture of new weapons of mass destruction. 116-1

Reversing the arms race. 133-1

Prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons. 98-1

Requests a study on the naval arms race. 113-1

Concerning disarmament and security. 132-1

Strengthening the United Nations to respond to natural and other disasters. 126-1


Condemns support of South Africa in its Namibian and other policies. 121-2

International action to eliminate apartheid. 146-2

Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States. 134-2

Condemns Israeli attack against Iraqi nuclear installation. 106-2

On the elimination of racial discrimination. 145-1

Affirms the rights of the Palestinian people. 127-2

For the convening of a Middle East peace conference. 121-3

Prohibition of new types of weapons of mass destruction. 125-1

Prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons. 84-1

Concerning the law of the sea. 138-2

Concerning Israeli human rights violations in occupied territories. 120-2

Condemns assassination attempts against Palestinian mayors. 143-2

Condemns Israel for failing to place its nuclear facilities under international safeguards. 94-2

Concerning a nuclear test ban. 123-1

To study military research and development. 141-1

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 143-1

Proposing economic assistance to the Palestinian people. 46-1

Support for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. 118-2

Concerning the Industrial Development Decade for Africa. 120-1

Questions regarding the Economic Commission for Western Asia. 123-2


Condemns Israel for occupying and attacking southern Lebanon. 134-1

Condemns Israel for using excessive force in the occupied territories. 130-1 Resolutions about cooperation, human rights, trade and development. 133-1

Measures to be taken against Nazi, Fascist and neo-Fascist activities. 121-2


To set up a zone of peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic. 124-1

To eliminate existing imbalances in the information and communications fields. 148-1

To Strengthen international security. 126-1

Dialogue to improve the international situation. 117-1

For the establishment of a comprehensive system of international peace and security. 102-2

Declaration on the right to development. 146-1

Measures to improve the situation and ensure the human rights and dignity of all migrant workers. 148-1

Protection against products harmful to health and the environment. 146-1


Calls on Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians. Calls on Israel to stop deporting Palestinians. 145-2

Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States. 153-2

Calls for compliance in the International Court of Justice concerning military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua and a call to end the trade embargo against Nicaragua94-2
Measures to prevent international terrorism, study the underlying political and economic causes of terrorism, convene a conference to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of people from national liberation. 153-2

Resolutions concerning journalism, international debt and trade. 3votes


Opposition to the build up of weapons in space. 154-1

Opposition to the development of new weapons of mass destruction. 135-1

Opposition to nuclear testing. two votes 143-2 137-3

Proposal to set up South Atlantic "Zone of Peace". 124-1

I don’t have the vote counts for the following vetoes but they are similar in contrast of the opinion of the rest of the world against that of the US

1987 Calls on Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.

1987 Calls on Israel to stop deporting Palestinians.

1987 Condemns Israel for its actions in Lebanon. 2 resolutions.

1987 Calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

1987 Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

1987 Calls for compliance in the International Court of Justice concerning military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua and a call to end the trade embargo against Nicaragua. 2 resolutions.

1987 Measures to prevent international terrorism, study the underlying political and economic causes of terrorism, convene a conference to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of people from national liberation.

1987 Resolutions concerning journalism, international debt and trade. 3 resolutions.

1987 Opposition to the build up of weapons in space.

1987 Opposition to the development of new weapons of mass destruction.

1987 Opposition to nuclear testing. 2 resolutions.

1987 Proposal to set up South Atlantic "Zone of Peace".

1988 Condemns Israeli practices against Palestinians in the occupied territories. 5 resolutions (1988 and 1989).

1989 Condemns USA invasion of Panama.

1989 Condemns USA troops for ransacking the residence of the Nicaraguan ambassador in Panama.

1989 Condemns USA support for the Contra army in Nicaragua.

1989 Condemns illegal USA embargo of Nicaragua.

1989 Opposing the acquisition of territory by force.

1989 Calling for a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on earlier UN resoltions.

1990 To send three UN Security Council observers to the occupied territories.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Of pigs and cookies

Peeking in the door of the store of the store in the medieval city of Carcassonne all we could see were tables with large plastic containers of different kinds of cookies. No matter that we were both mature women, a herd of knights swinging swords could not have stopped us from going into that store.

We quickly saw that plastic gloves were available and we started to pick up cookies until a sales person ran over with a bag, a very pretty gold plastic bag. On it was a drawing of a woman in Edwardian dress, holding an umbrella. We were really in a multi-time dimension, modern plastic surrounded by designs of the last century in a village of the time of courtly love.

The legend of how the town got its name was that Charlemagne had it surrounded and was conducting a siege for years and years. Dame Carcas force-fed a pig and threw it off the ramparts. Charlemagne, dismayed that those inside the walled-city, still had so much food that they could waste it, pulled up camp. Dame Carcas was so thrilled that she had saved the city blew a trumpet, and when Charlemagne asked what it was, one of his aides said, “Carcas sonne.” Carcas calls.

If a pig had wandered by we could have stuffed it with cookies, but they were much too good. Any resemblence to us as pigs eating the cookies...well...

Sleeping in another time

As many times as I have visited Carcassonne over the years, I never tire of its walls, château, cassoulet or feeling of being in another time (if you ignore the tourists in shorts). This time visiting with a friend, we stayed over safe within the ramparts, something I always wanted to do, but never got the chance. Both of us got up in the night to admire the towers of the château visible out our window.

The next morning we visited the château. I had been there years before because I used it as the scene for a character’s wedding. I had also used the area near the well to burn a couple of heretics in the same novel. The quality of the tour has increased including an audio in English. When I was there before I went through with a French-speaking guide who did his best to make me understand. At the time my French was limited to a few polite words and a couple of less polite ones. One of the new exhibits included a film which was made up of all the movies shot in Carcassonne, some modern, some, old including Costner's Robin Hood.

For all the memories from there including my daughter toting the little girl I like to think of as my French Daughter, to folk singers serenading us by a fire, to other good meals, to research for a book, this was another memory from a memorable place.

My blue jeans could be paper

My friend and I drove up and down from Mazamet to Carcassonne trying to find the mill that made paper by hand

We had seen it advertised on the paper place mat as we ate under the trees in Carcassonne and talked to the family with the identical twin girls (who looked a bit like Dakota Fanning had she been blond at three).

At the time it had seemed simple, but we missed the small sign among the scenery. Just as we were about to give up after a couple of hours in what should have been a 20-minute trip, my friend spied the small blue arrow with our destination. We turned and missed the next sign, but finally we reached the parking lot.

We still needed to walk through the woods along a small brook that bubbled and gurgled until finally we found the mill.

As a child two friends and I had tried to make paper. We made a mess instead, but our basic techniques were on track.

Not only did I learn that paper could be made from blue jeans, I learned it could be made from elephant dung, and that paper had been used by a winery to print its labels.

When I see another piece of beautiful hand-made paper, I will never take it for granted again whether it is made from cloth, plants or dung.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The annual apple pie

Like decorating the Christmas tree, apple pie making in early autumn has become a tradition. Each September I bring Crisco to Argelès from Geneva. The crust must be made with Crisco, even though a small can cost close to $8 at the American store on rue de Neuchâtel. Crisco makes the crust taste the way the apple pies made by grandmother and aunt tasted. It isn’t that I don’t like the tarte de pommes sold in patisseries here. They only have one crust usually made with butter and the evenly sliced apples are placed in solder-marching precision. I love them, but one does not replace the other or the other replace the one.

Even Babette at the green grocers knows when I pick up eight apples, it is The Pie-Making Day. Someday I should take her a piece, but there is never enough left after my friend Barbara and I finish.

I have an old tin pie plate stamped Table Talk. According to “In the early part of the 1920s, the call of “ Fresh Pies”…get your fresh pies here!” was a welcome greeting as the Table Talk wagon filled with fresh pies was pulled by horses throughout small-town neighborhoods." I am too young to remember the horse drawn cart and I never really liked the pies baked by the Worcester, Massachusetts firm preferring my grandmother’s, but I do like the tin pan. Sadly the tin is in Geneva where I don't make pies.

I rolled out the dough and like always after the pie is almost oven ready, used the bird cookie cutter of my grandmother and my great grandmother to cut one perfect bird. I put it in the middle of the pie and cut the design of a tree around the bird to let out steam and make the pie pretty.

My friend Barbara arrived just as I pulled the pie out of the oven. Outside it was rainy and the smell pervaded the apartment.

The pie is good, but not only does it taste of today, it tastes of my childhood.

A history lesson

Last night Barbara and I were invited to dinner by a man who lives in Pontalier and works in my beloved Val de Travers on the Swiss side of the Franco-Swiss border. He keeps his grandparents’ home in Argelès as a vacation place.

Not only did we get an excellent meal, we got an entire history of his house, and indeed the street which he still owns. “This is where my grandfather’s cave, where he kept the horses, the rabbits, the chickens…” on and on. The armoires, tables, tiles, were beautiful enough to bring tears to an antique dealer’s eyes.

But more than looking we got an insight into the history of the village, who was right, who was left, who was hidden during WWII, who was an informer. We learned more about the refugees from Franco, what people ate, what the manners were in the past.

Walking home, over stuffed after midnight it seemed as if the people from the past were still there, not as ghosts, but as reminders we never really own anything. We occupy places for a time and then disappear for another generation and then another and then another who will not ever know we exist. However, for a few minutes on a cool September night, those that were gone came back into existence over a dinner.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Two wrongs don't make a right or peace

During the 1967 Israeli war I was going on vacation to Syracuse with my future ex-husband and praying that Israel would survive as the radio broadcast the latest news. I had just graduated from university. Three weeks later while student teaching there was a Palestinian who spoke to the group of teenagers telling about the problems in her country and I saw another side to the story. At that point in my life, I was still naïve enough to think in terms of many sides.

Then living in Geneva I met many Palestinians and listening to their stories and that made me less and less pro Israeli.

Almost forty years later violence has solved nothing.

Today I watched on the news the plight of the Palestinians who are being subjected to terrible conditions by the Israelis and all I could think of was the early days of the Warsaw ghetto, with this time the Israelis being the oppressor. Doing unto others what was done unto you was all I could think of.

Killing, bombing, depriving people of a decent life will never solve the problem, no matter who is doing it.