Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Life is Good.

So, I don't think pediatric nursing is for me, but......

.....my nephew is wonder-full.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Cookbook Quote for your day

"Well hung meat is quite simply, tastier and more tender than unhung or underhung meat." - John Whittingstall, THE MEAT BOOK

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

true story someone sent this message to me on facebook:

"hey, i was so shocked to see you on facebook. i remember you from junior high school and I always wanted to tell you that I hated the way people treated you in middle school. I know your probably thinking this girl is crazy that was like 8 years ago..regardless I always said if I ever saw you again I wanted to tell you that you were one of the nicest kids at that freakin' school,you were always nice to me, and it's good to see you thriving!!!"


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

remember when i hosted kovit boonjear- that really incredible organizer from thailand in richmond for a week?

below is an interview with kovit that was published this week in Spare Change Newspaper, a homeless-run newspaper in the boston area.

it was a really great experience to have kovit in richmond for a week and to be able to show him some of the exciting things going on here.
also kovit is totally r a d i c a l and it was really great to just be able to sit around and share thoughts and ideas with him- i wish more of my friends could have met him- but i think this is a pretty neat article.

let me know what you think...

Interview with Thai Community Organizer Kovit Boonjear

on squatter communities, housing rights, and community empowerment

- by Katherine Foo

Please tell us about yourself and your background.

I was born in southern Thailand in Songkhla Province. My Mom was from Bangkok, and my Dad was from Hua Hin. They moved to Songkhla and had three girls and three boys. I am the fifth child.

My Dad worked as a waiter. He worked really hard, but he considered education to be really important for his children, so he sent all of us to school. At the end of the month, every employee received a salary, but my family would not because of the credit that they used during the month. In the end, they would have little money. My Mom was a housewife, but when we would go to school, she would go out to work as well. When I was 11 years old, I followed my Dad when he moved to Bangkok for work, but my Mom stayed in Songkhla.

I finished law school, but I found that the law had very little to with me. I thought it was more important to help people and work with people. When I finished school, I went back to the South to work with Muslim communities for six months. Then I moved to Isaan [northeastern Thailand] and worked with an international organization for 12 years. When I went to work, I found that I couldn’t change the policy of the government; I was only doing welfare work. When the government would stop giving out money, the situation would revert back to its initial state without improvement. I think when people initiate something by themselves, and they negotiate with the government, then I think they can make real change. But when we work for big organizations, we cannot really change anything.

What type of work do you do now?

I help organize squatter and "scavenger" communities related to housing rights and self-sustainable income generation. I work with these communities in the context of a national people’s organization called the Assembly of the Poor. I also coordinate the Khon Kaen Educational Initiative, which connects these urban communities in order to develop educational, professional and social opportunities for them. I promote an alternative to conventional NGO-derived models of "self-help" and instead emphasize participatory education with input from students, families, teachers, government officials, and communities

What are the main causes of homelessness in Thailand?

The reason for homelessness in Thailand is that the government only supports the industrial sector and not the agricultural sector. People sell their land for industrial purposes and need to move to town to get new jobs. This is a uniquely urban problem. The people in the rural areas still have land. When in the city, people go to the public land owned by the Railroad Authority of Thailand (RAT) and squat on that land. They find that to buy land in urban areas is very expensive, so they stay on RAT land.

They can’t buy that land because it belongs to the government, so they have to negotiate to rent the land. But it takes time to rent the land because the RAT prefers businesses to rent at a higher price. The community has to constantly negotiate with the RAT. It took 2 years for the communities in Khon Kaen to reach an agreement to rent the land. They also have to negotiate for fair loans and utility rates because squatter communities usually have to pay higher interest on loans and higher electricity rates.

What are the most effective methods that the squatters have used to improve their situation?

It’s most helpful for the homeless people to form a group, to develop into an organization, and to link together to become a network with other interest groups. Linking up issue by issue is not enough. The linking up of squatters with squatters is not enough. The linking up of squatters with the HIV/AIDS network or agricultural network is good because it lets them form a long-term process of change. We work together. When we work together to become a group in the long-term, we can make progress.

It helps to create something to hold the group in place in the short term in order to help the group to grow in the long term. For example, the people can create a savings group or a community bank for community projects. We try to develop the group into an organization, and then we link together with other organizations. That is where power comes from that can change things. People who have lost their homes can use this process.

In Thailand, there are no shelters. In Bangkok, the squatter network pushes the government welfare department to build shelters. But this is organized by the people. The government now has already created a budget for squatter settlements to establish themselves in Bangkok. Now it’s easier to rent on RAT land because we’ve been fighting them for a long time.

In the squatter settlements, the people create a community police. For hard problems, like if something really violent happens, they call the city police. But otherwise, they try to take care of their problems by themselves.

How do the squatter communities work with the Assembly of the Poor (Thai: Samacha Con Jon)?

In the Assembly of the Poor, different issues organize into different groups, for example: squatters, people living with HIV/AIDS, farmers promoting alternative agriculture, etc. In the AOP, the different focus groups form into a network across the country.

"Samacha" means that everyone comes together. When we come together with people of different issues, we call it "Samacha," like a conference. "Con Jon" means poor people. AOP translates into the meeting together about issues pertaining to poor people. I think this is a good model. If one group within the network wants to protest to change a government policy, everyone in the network has to support them and protest with them. They are strong. They can protest for 99 days in front of the Government House. It’s really hard, but they can do it. However, now I think they are weak because of Thaaksin’s [former Prime Minister] policies—they were good for beating down the AOP.

What are the ways that government policies affect poor people in Thailand?

I think most policies from the government are the biggest impediment to helping squatter communities become stronger. Most people who write the policy are from the upper class. Some policy supports the poor people, but it supports them as welfare policies. It doesn’t encourage poor people to stand up for themselves.

Most education changes children’s ideas. Most children go to school, and they don’t go back to the community where they came from. Education makes them individualistic to think about themselves only and not their communities and society. Also, education usually doesn’t include a local curriculum. If you learn about local history and local issues, you can become proud of who you are and where you’re from. Isaan has a rich history of growing jasmine rice and many regional cultural traditions that the students don’t learn about in school. For example, the school curriculum studies the Chaopraya River. Even if the students are in Isaan, they are
studying the river in Central Thailand. Why not study the Mekong River, so that we can protect it?

All the people tell younger people that they need to study hard in order to be smart, to become the boss, to walk proudly. They don’t tell them to go to school to become a good person. They say, you can reach a high position in a company and become "hi-so" [slang for high society in Thai]. This is the way of thinking.

Have you learned anything in the United States that may help the work you do in Thailand?

I am not sure about that yet. But I have learned that the people here are not the same as the government. In the past, I didn’t separate the government and the people [of the United States]. But the people find themselves in the same situations as the people in Thailand. They are similarly oppressed by the policies of consumerism and capitalism. But they are the same as people in Thailand and around the world. I think I learned this.

Another point is that before I used to not understand racial issues in the United States. But after coming here, I am more sympathetic to racial issues. Minorities are citizens the same as white people, but I think there’s a double standard for them. I understand this much better now.

Another thing I see clearly is that U.S. Americans use a lot of resources. They are about four percent of the world population, but they use 25 percent of the world’s resources. When I see a skyscraper, I don’t just look at the form, but I see the details. I think about the amount of resources and water that it uses. One day of water use in one American skyscraper could use the equivalent of one village or a farmer to irrigate all of his crops.

Monday, March 23, 2009

and i'm pissed again

i found this on my friends blog. its a real advertisement used in bar bathrooms by an israeli beer company


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If I may make a suggestion...

Living downtown affords so many luxuries. For example, a legless man sits under a plastic tarp all night and day in the back alley. But even better, my darlings, are the effing sandwiches. Next time you are just every so slightly soaked with mountain dew please go to Nick's International produce (located at Broad and Madison) and eat a salami and pepperoni 6 in sub toasted all the way. 'Tis ruler. I think they make their own mayonnaise.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Domestic Disturbia"

In lew of the sensationalized chris brown and rhi-rhi news

really good commentary by Elizabeth Mendez Berry (wrote an article for Vibe magazine about the normalizing of domestic violence in the hip-hop culture)