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"Siamese", the cat with the long straight tail (unusual in Indonesia) who showed up at the OFI office and took up occasional residence

"Siamese", the cat with the long straight tail (unusual in Indonesia) who showed up at the OFI office and took up occasional residence

Jakarta, like most cities in developing countries, is very much a city of contrasts with mansions in Pondok Indah rivalling those in Beverly Hills, California, and slums in south Jakarta reminiscent of Calcutta.  It is also noisey, gritty, smoggy, and sweaty.  But it still has some of the nicest people in the world.  You just have to engage them.

The OFI office is in a very typical part of Jakarta, a middle-middle class area with very narrow streets (just wide enough for two small cars to squeeze by each other if both drivers are very careful).  Each household has a car. There are two parks closeby, one small and the other quite large, where children are allowed to play and people walk and jog.

Closeby is a market.  The market sells fish and chicken and there are cats galore.  The Indonesian attitude towards cats is remarkable.  They are tolerated and almost treated as if semi-sacred.  Mohommed himself respected cats.  It is written that a cat was sleeping on his prayer rug.  Rather than disturbing the cat Mohommed carefully cut around the cat to move his rug so that he could pray.  However, even in the non-Moslem areas of Indonesia, cats are given much respect and never killed.  If an Indonesian kills a cat by accident with a car, it is a major trauma.  People have been known to sell their cars immediately after the car hit a cat.  I know an Indonesian who blamed all his subsequent misfortune to having accidentally run over a cat in the dark.

Most cats in Indonesia have short, crooked tails.  Visitors ask if someone cut their tails off but it is not so.  The short tails come from genetics.  Our cat whom we named “Siamese” because she bears a superficial (and possibly genetic) resemblence to Siamese cats in her elegance, large eyes, and screeching vocalizations, started appearing at the OFI office.  Eventually we let her in and started giving her left-over rice and tidbits.  Her visits became more frequent.  Now she comes daily and brings her offpsring with her.  I have tried to get her spayed but she is either perpetually pregnant or suckling her kitten(s).

Ms. Renie and Mr. Yandi who work at the OFI office say that a cat’s life near an Indonesian local market is a good one.  “Siamese” tends to have one kitten at a time, anyways, they say so there won’t be a cat overpopulation any time soon.  Her last litter consisted of a remarkably beautiful orange-colored kitten that has no stripes of any kind.  I have noticed that the rats have disappeared around the office.  We are fortunate to have this elegant cat and her brood visiting and sometimes even staying at our OFI office in Jakarta.

Government and other buildings in Jakarta

Government and other buildings in Jakarta

Interesting building in downtown Jakarta

Interesting building in downtown Jakarta

A campaign banner for the current President of Indonesia on a building next to McDonalds

A campaign banner for the current President of Indonesia on a building next to McDonalds

Buildings with flags from the party of Sukarno's daughter, Ibu Megawati, who was once president and is running again for the office.

Buildings with flags from the party of Sukarno's daughter, Ibu Megawati, who was once president and is running again for the office.

Did I not mention that a presidential campaign is going on and the three major candidates for president, which include the current president, a past president, and the current vice-president, are actually participating in official debates?  The polls indicate the current president will win but probably not by a 50% majority which means that there will be a run-off election.

A girl in front of a street corner stall in Jakarta selling cigarettes, candy, and crackers.  There are tens of thousands, if not more, of such street stalls in Jakarta.

A girl in front of a street corner stall in Jakarta selling cigarettes, candy, and crackers. There are tens of thousands, if not more, of such street stalls in Jakarta.

Graffitti on a wall in Jakarta.  The six-pointed star was commonly found on Jakarta's walls.  I asked what it meant and someone told me it was the insignia of a street gang while someone else told me it was a cigarette brand.

Graffitti on a wall in Jakarta. The six-pointed star was commonly found on Jakarta's walls. I asked what it meant and someone told me it was the insignia of a street gang while someone else told me it was a cigarette brand.

Typical entrance to typical Jakarta alley

Typical entrance to typical Jakarta alley

Dr. Birute at the OFI Jakarta office with the mother cat and her offspring who adopted us

Dr. Birute at the OFI Jakarta office with the mother cat and her offspring who adopted us

Ms. Renie, office manager OFI Jakarta, and Mr. Martin from OCSP, after a meeting in Jakarta

Ms. Renie, office manager OFI Jakarta, and Mr. Martin from OCSP, after a meeting in Jakarta

Mr. Edy Hendras, Indonesian conservationist extraordinaire, editing OFI's  Indonesian language newsletter

Mr. Edy Hendras, Indonesian conservationist extraordinaire, editing OFI's Indonesian language newsletter

It’s great to be back in Jakarta, a city that many foreigners avoid.  It is also called “The Big Durian” and the pollution does sometimes stink.  Jakarta is Indonesia’s capital, largest city, and probably its most dynamic urban area.  It has at least ten million people and is one of the largest cities in the world, number 12, at last count.

Jakarta is also the city of dreams.  This is where Java’s rural poor come to earn a living, students come to get an education, and entrepeneurs to start or expand their businesses.  This is where people come to make their dreams come true.

Jakarta is the center of government power for the unitary state of Indonesia.  With regional autonomy, the provinces and regions gained some power but in the end, much depends on Jakarta.  About five or so years ago, OFI decided to establish an office in Jakarta.  We are a small foundation so it was a risk for us financially.  But it was well worth it.  Previously, with our one office in Pangkalan Bun, we were relatively isolated from the decision-makers both in Jakarta and the provincial capital of Palangka Raya. Under Ms. Renie’s guidance, the OFI office improved our communication and relations with government agencies.  Even now communication with Pangkalan Bun in Central Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan Tengah) can be a problem.

In particular, there is a tendency in Indonesia to call meetings a day or so before they actually take place.  It’s helpful to have someone in Jakarta who is dedicated to communications and gets told about the meeting as soon as possible.  Otherwise, in Pangkalan Bun we get notified of the meeting days after it has occurred!

Ms. Renie was my first female Indonesian student and did her undergraduate honors thesis on orangutan parasites in Kalimantan.  She went on to study a wild orangutan population in Sumatra.  This served as the basis of her Master’s degree in ecology at the University of Indonesia.  In some ways, she is a pioneer, having studied the southernmost of all Sumatran orangutan populations.  One of her life ambitions was to be a working primatologist and she is grateful to OFI and its supporters for allowing her to fulfill this dream.  For her, Jakarta is where her dream was fulfilled –  in its fullest.

Mr. Edy Hendras is another one of my former students from Universitas Nasional, Jakarta.  He, too, found a successful career in conservation.  He works primarily in conservation and environmental education, having set up conservation education and training programs throughout Indonesia.  I sometimes call him on his cell phone and when he answers, he’s often in the Indonesian portion of New Guinea or in Sulawesi working with local people, training them in such practical enterprises as composting or making gas fuel for cooking stoves from the manure of farm animals.  When he worked for OFI in Pangkalan Bun, he set up field training trips for hundreds of local high school students where they went into the wilderness for several days at a time and learned about conservation and nature.  But he has long been based in the Jakarta area and Jakarta is where his dream to work in conservation was fulfilled.

Jakarta also helped my dream of studying wild orangutans come true 38 years ago.  This is where I received the first permits to do my orangutan study.  I still come to Jakarta several times a year: to buy supplies, to attend meetings, and to catch international flights in and out of Indonesia.

Thirty-eight years ago I heartily disliked Jakarta.  It was a noisy, polluted city where you could barely breathe and where you could hardly hear yourself think because the roar of traffic was so loud.  Air quality was dismal.  My eyes watered.  I had a constant headache.  I coughed incessantly.  Traffic was insufferable.  Drivers honked their horns seemingly non-stop.  Bejaks, bicycle cabs, were everywhere and obstructed traffic.

In time the municipal government banned the bejaks.  I think they should have banned the motorized traffic!  What an avant-garde city Jakarta would have been then!  They also cleaned up the air quality somewhat and instituted “busways” so that commuters could get around Jakarta remarkably quickly with high speed (by Jakarta standards) buses on dedicated lanes. 

During the first twenty years of my stay in Indonesia one of the great things about coming to Jakarta was that I could actually make phone calls to my family back in Los Angeles. It took some effort but it was do-able.  I could taste ice cream and western food such as spaghetti.  Over the years I have lost my taste for ice cream but not spaghetti.  But we can now get a version of spaghetti with tomato sauce even in Pangkalan Bun.  About seven years ago we even got cell phone service in Pangkalan Bun!

I like Jakarta better now than I did when I first arrived.  I think it’s because Jakarta changed and I changed.  I learned Indonesian and became used to the rhythmn of life common here.

Jakarta has changed in a number of ways inconceivable forty years ago.  It now has shopping malls to rival New York and Singapore.  All the prestige brands are here. My favourite shopping malls are in Jakarta.  I cannot even afford to think about the three thousand dollar bags and three hundred thousand dollar champagne diamond bracelets but I can browse, take a look, and move on, content that my meagre cash assets are going to save species and individual animals, a pleasure that no mere material trinket will ever provide.  I can buy office  and field supplies, most types of food, and even books and magazines in the English language, all impossible to do when I first arrived in 1971.

Another marked change is the dress of women.  Forty years ago women wore Western clothing or a modified version of traditional Sundanese (West Java) or Javanese clothing.  Now, increasingly, they wear Islamic head dresses and sometimes flowing robes.  Once or twice, I have even noticed full facial veils on local women.  In some places near Jakarta, a tipping point has been reached with signs  from the local government  saying “Respectable women wear  head coverings.”

Clearly, a dichotomy has been reached with one part of Jakarta racing into the future and another striving to hold on or to find a comfort zone that perhaps is difficult to attain in this modern world.

I stayed in Jakarta one and a half weeks, attending government meetings, working on our Indonesian newsletter with Ms. Renie and Mr. Edy, buying watches and backpacks and other supplies for our field staff, and doing a variety of other tasks that needed to get done.

I spent much time (literally hours) in Jakarta’s notorious traffic (worse now than the traffic in Los Angeles or Bangkok) just trying to get from one appointment to the next.  And dreaming, paradoxically, of the days when I could spend more time in Jakarta, enjoying it, instead of rushing through it, and of the days when I would spend none here at all.

Jakarta's traffic is well-known for its hordes of motorcycles

Jakarta's traffic is well-known for its hordes of motorcycles

 

Atypical Jakarta traffic - not so heavy.  Notice the abundance of taxis.

Atypical Jakarta traffic - not so heavy. Notice the abundance of taxis.

Carrying a baby carrier on a motorcycle, the vehicle of choice for millions in Jakarta

Carrying a baby carrier on a motorcycle, the vehicle of choice for millions in Jakarta

Not a bare head to be seen!  Presidential campaign banner for candidates J. Kalla, current vice-president, and Wiranto, Kalla's vice-presidental choice, with their respective wives shows all wearing head-gear, the women head scarves and the men mosque-hats.

Not a bare head to be seen! Presidential campaign banner for candidates J. Kalla, current vice-president, and Wiranto, Kalla's vice-presidental choice, with their respective wives shows all wearing head-gear, the women head scarves and the men mosque-hats.

OFI buying forest from happy local man

OFI buying forest from happy local man

Mr. Freddy, a local businessperson from the province of Kalimantan Tengah, flew to Jakarta so that he could immediately receive the funds for 20 ha. of forest that he agreed to sell OFI.  Otherwise, the forest would have been cleared for palm oil and lost forever to a relic population of about 50 – 100 wild orangutans just barely hanging on by the skin of their teeth in a mixed area of peatswamp forest, dry ground forest and cleared land near Pangkalan Bun.

This forest will be ours in perpetuity.  Twenty hectares (approximately 50 acres) may not seem like much but for the birds and mammals who live there, it will be like a universe saved!

Mr. Freddy charged the same price for the forest that he ws planning to charge a palm oil concession but he admits that he feels better about being able to save the forest!

Coming Home: Indonesia

I flew back to Indonesia on Singapore Airlines, middle seat, economy.  The journey took over 30 hours as I had to briefly overnight in Singapore (in by 2 am; out by 6 am).  Singapore Airlines must have the most comfortable seats on an international flight since I was able to fall asleep despite being shoehorned by a 6 foot five engineer from Texas on one side and a young sleeping Japanese man on the other.  As the latter slept, he leaned over to my shoulder and a thick shock of black hair went into my face.  Woken abruptly, I reeled.  For a second, I thought his black hair was a huge tarantula coming at me!

The excitement on the plane was provided by an East Indian woman who passed out in the aisle.  The Air Singapore stewards brought out the oxygen and called repeatedly for a doctor.  After ten minutes, one appeared – a Chinese-looking man in a yellow polo shirt.  (Obviously he had not paid attention to the fashion advice that people with his skin tones should not wear yellow! Since I have the same skin tones myself, I know.  I avoid yellow like the plague.)  I anxiously tried to see what was happening but she was in the aisle just on the other side of me and I couldn’t get high enough (without conspicuously standing on my seat) to see.  The stewards were very busy.  One took off his jacket as though he really meant business.  There must have been half a dozen airline staff  leaning over her.  The doctor soon left and after about an hour, she finally got up and returned to sit in her seat.  I heard buzzing about low blood pressure.  She was a Tamil woman in a sari who seemed all right for the rest of the journey.  She looked younger than me.  When you reach my age and younger people pass out on planes, you start to worry that it could easily happen to you.  However, I was impressed by the competence of the Singapore Airlines staff.

Eventually I arrived in Jakarta and went straight to our small spartan OFI office where I promptly went to sleep.  Upon waking, I read the Indonesian daily newspapers to catch up on the news.  What is in the news and what the media emphasize says much about the culture of a nation and its people.  So I try to peruse the newspapers wherever I am.  What is fascinating is that much of what is of great interest and concern in Indonesia is totally unknown in North America.

The largest number of letters to the editor in the Jakarta newspapers did not deal with the on-going presidential election, corruption trials of prominent politicians, or economic issues.  Rather pages were filled with indignant rants about the fact that the current Miss Indonesia allegedly does not speak Indonesian.  Her brother, the Indonesian actor Yusuf Iman, defended his sister by saying she was home-schooled in English and didn’t go out very much so she can’t practice her Indonesian.

Her selection was probably influenced by the fact that last year’s Miss Indonesia spoke English so badly she called Indonesia “a city.”

As far as I am concerned, I don’t think any beauty queen is chosen primarily for her intellectural or linguistic achievements so the flap about the current Miss Indonesia is really irrelevant.  In any case, she promised to brush up on her Indonesian language skills for the Miss World contest.  She probably speaks some Indonesian  (being Indonesian!) but froze at the beauty contest when asked questions.

Other news that filled the newspapers was the case of an ordinary housewife who had expressed a complaint via e-mail to her friends about the treatment she had received at a local hospital.  She was arrested for defamation.  It was claimed that she had tarnished the reputation of the hospital and one doctor who had treated her.  She was kept in jail for three weeks, unable to receive visitors, and cut from contact with her two infant children, one of whom she was still breast-feeding.

Prita’s nightmare came to an end after presidential candidate and former president, Mrs. Megawati, visited Prita in jail and an outpouring of outrage from the public forced the government to release her.  However, the charges against her were not cancelled.   She will still have to go to court and defend herself, despite the fact that the e-mails she sent were private missives to her friends.

In Indonesia the freedom to express an opinion is guaranteed under the constitution.  People are very concerned that this case will gag public opinion and people will now be afraid to send private e-mails criticizing anything to their friends.  Welcome to Indonesia – and the rest of the world – where what you say, even in a private e-mail, may have repurcussions once it hits the internet and is recycled for public distribution.

 Malaysia-bashing was also prominent in the newspapers.  Malaysia is a neighbor that shares the northern third of Borneo with Indonesia and extends into continental Asia north of Singapore.  What is interesting is that there is currently relatively little Singapore bashing in Indonesia.

The front pages of newspapers were filled with a photo of an Indonesian maid in a Jakarta hospital.  The maid was allegedly tortured by her Malaysian employer before being rescued.  The maid was photographed receiving a sympathy phone call from the president of Indonesia himself. 

Many Indonesians were also upset by the incursion of the Malaysian Navy into Indonesian territorial waters off Ambalat, somewhere near East Borneo.  Members of the Betawi Brotherhood Forum and other Moslem youth groups demonstrated in the hundreds in front of the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta and declared that they were ready to wage war against Malaysia.  Letters to the editor suggested that Indonesia would win such a war because Indonesia had more war experience than Malaysia, despite the fact that the Malaysian army is better equipped.

However, some in Indonesia were not convinced because the Indonesian military has been hit by numerous disasters, despite the fact that they currently are not fighting a war.  In the last three months over a hundred  personnel have died when  two military planes and two helicopters crashed. As usual, these accidents sparked heated debates about the reasons for their occurence.  The army blamed bad weather.  Others blamed lack of funds for maintenance.  Letters to the editor asked how could Indonesia fight a war if military aircraft keep crashing and weapons and equipment are outdated.  In reality, it is highly unlikely that any war will be fought between Indonesia and Malaysia, neighbors who share much in common and fellow members of ASEAN (Association of East Asian Nations), the most important grouping in the region.

Possibly the best Malaysian scandal that tittilated the Indonesian public  and upstaged the Ambalat row with Malaysia involved a 17 year old Indonesian model who claimed that during her one year marriage to a member of Malaysian royalty, the prince of Kelantan state, she was slashed with razor blades, injected with strange substances,  burned with a cigar, and locked in closets.  The model escaped from the prince but was abducted after a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.  While her mother went public with her daughter’s story, Manohara herself escaped from her husband in Singapore. Represented by Indonesian celebrity lawyer Hotman Paris(no, I am not making this up!) who is known for his flashy Italian sportscars, the teen model sued the prince in an Indonesian court while he counter-sued in a Malaysian court.

Manohara’s story is slightly reminiscent of the Lady Diana – Prince Charles saga where an innocent young girl doesn’t really understand what she’s getting into when she marries into royalty (Obviously, the details are very different; it is probably preposterous to think of Prince Charles  with a burning cigar locking people up in closets!).  Manohora was tricked into marriage. The Prince of Kelatan invited the sixteen year old Manohara to dinner where she was told his family had already sent out the wedding invitations.  In typical Indonesian graciousness, she did not want to embarrass his family so she married him. She had seen him before since she was fourteen but always with a group of friends.

The prince apparently was alternatively abusive and “extremely sweet and gentlemanly,” a pattern typical of  many abusive spouses.  Most of the time, apart from the abusive interludes, Manohara and the prince allegedly “only met up for dinner”during their marriage.  Manohara is very pretty with plump cheeks and a sweet look that is a vision of childlike innocence.  She speaks about setting up the equivalent of “Boys and Girls Clubs” in Jakarta where children have a place to go to after school.  Manohara and the abused Indonesian maid represent, in some way, Indonesia’s frustration that the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population is not given the respect that many feel it deserves.

Manohara showed some class.  She cited someone who had once said “Forgiving is freeing yourself”  about her attitude to her husband even after the horrific abuse she allegedly suffered.

Let us hope we can all show the same type of class after terrible things are done us.

Coming back from the Canary Islands took three planes, two airlines, and twenty hours.

It is great to be back in L.A.  If you live in an established neighborhood and have a car, then Los Angeles is probably the most convenient city in the world.  In fact, where my family lives, you don’t even need a car with restaurants, supermarkets (including a 24-hour one), shops, the library, a church, parks all within walking distance.

After all the discussions at the Animal Rights conference in the Canary Islands about human cruelty to animals and climate change, it was a little bleak to come back to California and see that so much controversy centered around Prop. 8 which denies people the right to marry.

My former husband, Rod, was the straightest man you could ever imagine.  When (male) Indonesian officials stroked him or placed their hands on his knee, Rod simply was not used to it.  He did not particularly welcome those kinds of gestures of friendship.

When we first arrived in Kalimantan, Rod and I were very much in love.  I remember one day in Camp Leakey when I noticed Rod staring at me very intently.  I asked him what he was thinking.  He gave me one of the biggest compliments that anyone has ever given me in my entire life.  He said,”I am so glad that you were born a woman because if you had been born a man, I would have had no choice but to become gay.”

I think that summarizes it.  The heart wants what it wants. Let’s not worry too much about whom other people want to marry. 

Let us worry about the real things that matter on this earth: our treatment of animals, overpopulation, and the crisis of climate change.

Al Gore recently made the point that if the United States and every other deveoped country in the world reduced its carbon dioxide emissions to zero but if there was no change in the developing world, then “the crisis will still overtake us.” 

 Twenty per cent of the carbon emissions into the atmosphere come, not from industrial processes, but from the simple burning and destruction of the world’s forests, particularly in developing countries.

We need to save forests in developing countries in order to mitigate climate change,  as well as to save biodiversity.  When I return to Indonesia, much of OFI’s and my work involves trying to save forests.

Harbor Building on Wilshire Blvd. where OFI office was located until the end of 2008

Harbor Building on Wilshire Blvd. where OFI office was located until the end of 2008

                                                                 Harbor Building in Los Angeles

Northern coast of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Northern coast of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

It is always doubly delicious when you meet a delightful stranger somewhere distant and then discover that he or she is actually from your home town.  It happened to me in the Canary Islands.  At lunch the day of my lecture I had started talking to Luis Salazar, a distinguished film maker, who was in the process of making a film in Spain.  It turned out he was from Los Angeles and had attended Cal State Northridge (from which my son Fred had recently graduated) and UCLA (my own alma mater).  One of his films was about the sad re-location of some 200 Navajo families from land claimed by the Hopi tribe.  We started talking and he invited me to join him and his Spanish veterinarian wife and absolutely adorable 3-year old daughter, Sophie, the next day on a trip to the north coast of the island (Gran Canaria) to see the museum which exhibits the  aboriginal painted cave found in the nineteenth century.  This cave has a series of painted triangles and geometric forms that were probably used by the aboriginal people for calender calculations, very important for horticultural people without writing.

We visited the museum on a guided tour.  The videos were outstanding and the government had done an excellent job in preserving the very large site which included not only the painted cave but also a village with house floors as well as four re-constructed huts.  As Luis said:  all one needed was an internet connection and one could live very well in one of these furniture-less huts with platforms for beds.

Unfortunately, one couldn’t take photographs in the museum but it was terrific: very well done and modern.  The conquest of the Canary Islands was presented as was a sympathetic view of the conquered people themselves.  Very few of the aborigines escaped the slavery and slaughter but the few who did rapidly became Spaniards – just to survive as individuals.  There were also many courageous warriors who, in the hundreds, jumped off cliffs to avoid being taken as slaves.

Luis muttered, almost under his breath, when I emerged from the museum wiping a tear from my eyes, “It’s just the same old story from all over the world.”  It was as if to say “And why are you still surprised?”

I was pleased by the sympathy and respect shown to the now long-gone people of the Canary Islands in this museum.  I think, like many people, the Spanish can now look back at their past from five hundred years ago and admit the terrible wrong that they once inflicted on the Canary Islands.  ( Armenians, I hope you don’t have to wait another five hundred years for the apology due you.  No, obviously not from the Spaniards!)

We drove to the coast and ate lunch near one of the beaches where the co-owner of the restaurant came out to serve us.  When I looked at her out of the corner of my eye, I suddenly realized, to my surprise, that she must be of Chinese heritage.  She was.  Her two young daughters, sitting nearby,  were as cute as cute could be and played with Sophie in the gentle manner of  (some) girls.

The meal was delicious and we drove off, looking for some forest or foliage to relieve us of  all the dry brown and bare rock that we had seen.  We found some  wooded slopes, got out of the car, and walked for about an hour.   The delightful Sophie picked some  flowers and handed them to her father.  As he bent over to receive them, it became one of those one in a million moments you treasure forever.

Luis, who is of Mexican heritage (not all that surprising for a native Angeleno) and his Basque wife, were very gracious hosts, pulling out fresh avocadoes,  tomatoes, and crustless bread, making sandwiches for us while I sat with Sophie in the back seat of the car.  Sophie had a jar of olives which she was eating like candy.  She offered me some and I took about a dozen.   She didn’t even pull back the jar but continued holding it with great equanimity.  Many other toddlers would have protested the big stranger taking a dozen of  their candy equivalent. She continued eating and finished off the jar.  She must have eaten 40 olives! They start early with the olives in Spain and it probably helps keep them healthy for a long time!

Luis and his family drove me back to my hotel shortly before dusk.  It was my last full day in the Canary Islands.  It had been a perfect day with wonderful new friends, a blue sky, beautiful beaches, a slight breeze, great food, and the green foliage of Gran Canaria’s mountain slopes.

And what will I remember most about the Canary Islands?  The terrible tragedy of the distant past?  NO!  One must remember the past but one can’t live there.  Of course, I will remember the friendship and warmth of the people I met in the Canary Islands, especially the animal activists who had dedicated their lives and labors to helping animals!

But, ironically, it is the avacadoes and especially the tomatoes that I will remember best.  (Probably because I tasted them!)  The avocadoes have insinuated themselves into Canary Island cuisine and are served everywhere.  And the tomatoes!  The tomatoes are grown on the islands in greenhouses and plucked when ripe.  They are probably the best tomatoes I have eaten since I did archaeology in the former Yugoslavia over forty years ago!

My one regret is that I don’t even have a picture of a Canary Island tomato!

Northern coast, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Northern coast, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Sun-bathers on a beach on the northern coast of Gran Canaria

Sun-bathers on a beach on the northern coast of Gran Canaria

Town on the north coast of Gran Canaria with bright-eyed dog in front of doorway

Town on the north coast of Gran Canaria with bright-eyed dog in front of doorway

Buildings on a green hill in the north of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Buildings on a green hill in the north of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Luis Salazar and family with Birute at the end of a perfect day in the Canary Islands

Luis Salazar and family with Birute at the end of a perfect day in the Canary Islands

Behind the beauty of the Canary Islands is a terrible sorrowI could not insert this photo into my original post on the Canary Islands.  My computer and the internet fought me.  After two hours I gave up.   But I wanted people to see what Roger and Deborah Fouts and I saw our first full day on this beautiful island. Whether it is animals or people being brutalized, it is the same.  We need to change some aspect of humankind so that tragedies of extinction , like that which took place so long ago in the Canary Islands, do not occur.