Monthly Archives: May 2011

“I will know him by his bones”

I’m a softie for hurt animals, baby anythings, sad people and even have a soft place in my heart for those who have done wrong and have themselves then suffered. I’ll put a caveat on the last phrase. Generally. The arrest of Ratco Mladic is an exception. For many of you that’s just another eastern European name without enough vowels. For me it’s a hole in my heart.

How many others were guilty of the tragedy at Srebrenica I cannot say. But this was Mladic’s doing. What he did was more bragged than disputed. He was the commanding officer and his the signature on a death march unlike many the world has known. Beginning July 11, 1995 more than 25,000 girls, women and elderly of Srebrenica were put on buses and told they would later meet their sons and husbands. Torn from their homes and the arms of their loved ones, they were given no chance to say good-bye or gather many belongings. Anything of value was stolen from them on the buses anyway.

Meanwhile instead of going to meet their families as they had been told, all the boys and men of the area, more than 8,300, were forced into a genocidal march that ended in mass graves.

Srebrenica was once a middle class Muslim town where many Serbs went skiing in winter and enjoyed the beauty of nature walks in spring and fall. That was before years of massive propeganda hammered a wedge between the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs so deep that a genocidal war resulted. The massacre at Srebrenica was the largest atrocity in Europe since WWII.

I worked at the time as communications advisor to the US Ambassador to Austria and her passion was supporting women in emerging democracies. Some months after the massacre we went to Tuzla where the women had been taken. We found a refugee town of hard-working, grieving women and children without a male figure in their lives. The women had nothing but their skills, their strength, and their sorrow. Collectively their strength and sorrow were a force that carried them forward.

We had come to organize a one-year anniversary of the massacre for the following summer — a larger-than-life international do that would bring the likes of Queen Noor of Jordan and some US$ 3 million to help the women start cottage industries and begin to rebuild lives.

The July 1996 event was an intense journey into collective sorrow. Everywhere we went women held up pictures of boys and men and asked if we had seen this one or that. The auditorium was filled with signs and overflowing with tears. If longing and torment could bring them, there were also the ghosts of more than 8,000 dead.

One woman touched my shoulder and in broken English said: “Just show me his grave. I will know him by his bones.”

So forgive me when I turn a cold eye to Mr. Rladic’s poor health. Reading his name in the press has always rattled me as it brought with it the innumerable sad eyes and longing hands. But today his capture means that the survivors of Srebrenica can finally reach out for a small act of justice. A small act for which they have had to wait 16 years.

Whatever his condition Mladic must go to the Hague. His trial at the International Court of Justice is not for or about him. It is for and about those he slaughtered and the women and children they left behind.


Semana Pascua and beyond

Next time I want to invite friends I won’t tell them to come the week after Easter when all is calm. Two reasons: First off it’s not. Semana Santa, which is the week before Easter is crowded. But the following one, Semana Pascua, also has its own name. That should have clued me in that it too would be busy. In fact it’s also packed here at oceanside PV. Somehow it works out that the group that second week replaces the young, single Spring Breakers from DF Mexico and Guadalajara with families from the same areas whose younger kids are on spring break .

Apparently you feel that change big time if you live in the tourist zone (Emiliano Zapata aka to gringos and other tourists as the Zona Romantica). Which we don’t. We live in a Mexican neighborhood. Both weeks were crowded here, but there was no major difference for us. Well it was a bit noisier than usual but mostly it was different noises — more people laughing in the middle of the night and cars showing off. It outdid the regular noises of dogs, pick-up & delivery trucks and the stereo early calls of roosters. By Monday a.m. of the following week life had returned to normal, but not.

That brings me to the second reason I’d reschedule on the invitation thing: The weather is getting muggy, hot and hotter&muggier. When we moved here 1 June a year ago after close to a year in Suriname, a relentlessly hot and muggy tropical country, we thought we knew muggy. HA! and HA! By July we were hoping for a let-up. By August we were panting. By September we were really REALLY over and done with the damn humidity, sweat and mold. By mid October we were moldy. By beginning of November we thought we had moved to another part of the world. Or, pardon the pun, had a sea change.

So begins the cycle of perfect weather in paradise that lasts close to 6 months. But now I’m S.A.D.ding and I didn”t think I would. Some snow bird friends are gone NOTB (that would be north of the border). Some activities have stopped and places shut down, but that’s not it. In Seattle we take that Seasonal Affective Disorder stuff seriously. When you’re sunless for months on end it’s no surprise to feel the loss of all the goodies we get from Vita D and sunshine. But here in paradise? I expect it’s the transition. My body is arguing with me about going out between oh, say 11 and 5. It’s complaining when I try to sleep, and I’m astounded when I go on the terrace at midnight and it’s not much cooler than it was 5 hours earlier. So I figure I’ll just do what the animals do and learn to live with nature instead of arguing with it.

I’ll let my body and psyche adjust and jump into the ocean to cool down, go to the occasional afternoon movie, seek out air-conditioned coffee houses to work in, and snuggle into the major PV contraction known in other places as Summer.