Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kingston College Boys Choir

Basil Waine Kong

No doubt you have heard of the Vienna Boys Choir, the Harlem Boys Choir or even the Boys Choirs of London. You may not have heard of The Kingston College Boys Choir. If you have, then your life has been enriched. If you haven’t, you are missing a treat. You haven’t heard the Handel or Bach until you have heard these boys. You haven’t truly got into the Christmas spirit until you have heard their rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, “We Three Kings” or “Good News”. Tonight (December 19, 2010). I attended their Annual Christmas Concert at the University of the West Indies Chapel and got the Christmas spirit. I rank them first among all the great Boys Choirs from around the world. After each song, the appreciative audience stood and applauded wildly. Jamaica has done it again by developing this fabulous institution. Their voices were the voices of angels. Your Bible did not say there would be preaching or even praying in Heaven, but it does say there will be “Choirs” and I hope when I get there, it will be the Kingston College Chapel Choir!

The only small, little teenie, weenie suggestion I would make is that when the boys gesture “To the World”, I think it would be so hilarious to boldly make the Usain Bolt sign. Just a suggestion!

In addition to continually exporting Reggae, Ska, Dancehall, Calapso and Mento, let’s export this choir! I believe audiences around the world would be tremendously entertained by them and what great ambassadors these talented, handsome, well dressed high school students would be for Jamaica. This is another occasion when we do not recognize an important resource. They have been entertaining Jamaican audiences for almost fifty years!

Father Holong and his choir does well performing abroad, these boys are even better. Under the direction of Audley Davidson, the KC Chapel Choir could be international stars. I wish them well. They will be performing again on January 2, 2011 at the St. James Parish Church in Montego Bay. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you do not attend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Annual Christmas Letter

Christmas 2010
Basil Waine Kong

Merry Christmas from the Jamaica-Atlanta Kongs. 2010 was a banner year for us. With the addition of Hailie Christine Kong to our tribe and the graduation of Dr. Aleron Kong from Medical School, Stephanie and I thank The Great Architect of the Universe daily for our health and the well being of our children and grand children. With apologies to the younger grand children and to those yet unborn, we took three of the grand children to Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios last summer and that was the last time I will be accompanying them on the roller coaster rides! While Mackenzie was fearless, I broke out in a cold sweat after each ride and still I rode. But never again.

I continue to enjoy my retirement and supporting Stephanie as she continues to pursue her professional interests. I never know who is going to show up on my frequent trips to the golf course, it could be 75 or 95! I have become one of those people who can say: “When I was in Nam.” We took a cruise to Thailand, Viet Nam, Malaysia and Singapore on the Silver Shadow, and gave up going to Cambodia to watch Tiger Woods play in Thailand. What an incredible journey and as usual, I have catalogued our experience on my blog.

I continue to travel back and forth to Jamaica to play golf and do a little business. I enjoy my work with the PNP helping to hash out what is best for the country and the people in Woodlands District are never far from my thoughts. They had a bad year as the storms destroyed their crops. New Market is completely flooded. I became a Freemason and have immersed myself in reading everything about its culture and traditions. My bIog has passed the tipping point with more than 15,000 hits. I continue to promote and encourage my ABC colleagues as well as continuing to serve as President of “The Heart Institute of the Caribbean Foundation”. Please help to make cardiovascular care more accessable to Jamaicans.

Stephanie continues to practice Pediatrics and help clients in Louisiana to gear up for managed Medicaid. This schedule has allowed us to travel back and forth to Jamaica and some very good bonding time. She continues to chronicle her spiritual journey at her blog and is determine to read and comment on the entire Bible. My love and dedication to this remarkable woman grows with each passing day and we are all blessed to be in her orbits. I commented to her just the other day how blessed she is among all women because her fabulously successful children have a genuine love for her. Being Stephanie, she reminded me that she only takes half the credit because they have had a GREAT role model in their Dad and it’s easy to love the Mom when there is love coming from the Dad. We do indeed have a GREAT love story.

Jill and her family continue to bloom in the dessert of Phoenix. Brooks has become quite the orator and is a spelling bee whiz. Mackenzie is now officially a teenager as she celebrated her 13th birthday this year. Most of you have seen Mackenzie grow up with us! Brian continues to be the anchor of his family and both he and Jillian continue to be generous with their home and their children. A while ago, I was ruminating about a legal question and called my daughter, (the immigration lawyer) and got the answer forthwith.

Freddie, Tracy and Kai welcomed Hailie Christine this year and Freddy turned the BIG 40! His wonderful wife Tracy threw him a fabulous surprise birthday party and went all out to ensure he knew how special he was to her and the rest of his family. Freddie also took a new position in Atlanta and is transitioning his family here. Can it really be that Stephanie and I will be able to live in the same city as one set of our grand pickney dem? Be still my heart! Kai continues to delight both his Poppop and Nanna and Hailie is right there with him.

Melanie’s business “Play Connections” is thriving as she added more staff and clients this year. Check out her web-site Audrey is blossoming into a wonderful girl and delights in the antics of her brother Vincent. We were able to visit them in the spring and never tire of their faces. Don continues to master his skills as a brew mister and has converted his garage to the production of some good Northwest beer. I hope I am not getting him in trouble writing this. Maybe you also saw them in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade holding up Horton.

Dr. Aleron Kong is working his way through his 1st year residency in Internal Medicine. Stephanie called him for something a couple of months ago and when he answered, “This is Dr. Kong”, she had an out-of-body experience and cried. He continues to want to complete an ER residency and is interviewing as we speak. Keep him in your prayers.

My mother Violet is celebrating her 88th birthday this year (December 16)and although she suffered more than usual this year, she continues to be independent. Stephanie and I are learning how to be caretakers and I am sure as time progresses we will get better at it. We are hoping she decides to come and live with us.

As we approach 2011, Stephanie and I wish you and your family a prosperous and healthy New Year. May God continue to smile upon you and give you peace. Let His love rest, rule and abide with you forever. Happy Christmas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Getting Ahead in Malaysia

Basil Waine Kong

We arrived in Kuching, Malaysia, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, on the Island of Borneo which is relatively close to the Philippines and Indonesia.

There are many theories about where the name came from but most likely it was named for the fruit (mata kuching or cat’s eye resembling the lychee) that is found here in abundance. The population is about 30 million Chinese and Malays who are mostly Muslims. Yes, this was the country of blow guns and head hunters which only came to an end in the 1990s.

When we departed the ship, we were serenaded by dancing women in traditional dress handing out beads. Paris has gargoyles, Chicago has cow statutes, Canary Islands have dog statutes, and Kuching has cats. Kuching actually means cats so it has become a tourist attraction. There are cats in all colors, shapes and sizes throughout the city including a cat museum.

In 1839, James Brook, and Englishman with the help of the British Navy, subdued the natives who had revolted against the Sultan of Brunei. He and various progeny then ruled the country (The White Rajahs) for 100 years. The Japanese then captured it in 1939 and lost it again after World War 11, succeeded by Australia and back to Britain and finally to independence in 1963.

In response to a simple question about when headhunting stopped, our guide said it was outlawed in 1939 but continued until the 1990s. He was very graphic about a tribal war in the 1990s between two philosophically different groups. It appears that one tribe were the serious hard working people that got ahead. The other group I am going to call “The Manana Tribe” or “we will do it when we get around to it” people. The hard working group advanced economically, took all the available jobs and were even attracting the women from the manana tribe. This made the manana men furious and they decided that they were not going to take it anymore. This was war! Notice that they never considered becoming industrious as well. They went into the hard working group’s village and killed all the children while the parents were working away from the village and predicted that the men from the hard working group would impulsively want revenge. So, they set an ambush and were able to collect the heads of all the men from the hard working group. Unfortunately, this is a true story. I wonder what the lesson is?

Like Jamaica, Malaysians were subject to British colonial rule. The economy of the country has, traditionally been fuelled by oil and timber but they are increasingly becoming tourism oriented and in particular, medical tourism.

In order to get to the see the monkeys at feeding time (9:00 am) the first stop for our tour bus was the Matang Wildlife Center. We were privileged to see the big orangutans that looked like King Kong in the wild. They also have large proboscis monkeys but we didn’t see any. It was a long walk in a very humid climate that exhausted all of us but well worth the effort. Over 1,200 species of orchids flourish in Kinabalu National Park, home to Poring Hot Springs.

I would like to tell the people from Fern Gully (Near Ocho Rios in Jamaica)that they eat fern as a delicacy in Malaysia!Paku is a Malay word for a type of fiddlehead fern that is found in Sarawak. They like to stir-fry the ferns with belacan (shrimp paste). They also harvest the young unfurled fern, boil them in salted water 3 to 5 minutes. Toss with lemon butter, soy sauce and sesame seeds. The local rice wine (tuak) goes well with it and actually taste good together.

Our next stop is the Sarawak museum which has excellent exhibits on everything Malaysian---history, culture and industry. We are particularly fascinated by the exhibit on Malay villages (Kampungs) with the Iban and Bidayah long houses.
The proceeded to the Sarawak General Hospital for our joint scientific session and head back to the ship. There was obviously so much more we could have experienced but the visit was short and sweet. We make a promise to return some day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kotching in Atlanta

Basil Waine Kong

I didn’t come to 'merica to stay
I only came to learn and earn a little money
To go back home to build a house, buy a car and maybe a bar
But I now have seven grand pickney here
Who don’t know the joys and have no interest in the place I call yard
I yearn for the Rock but the rock won’t have me
While I am kotching in Atlanta, my heart is in Jamaica
I don’t want to stay but I cannot go
See me daya between the sheets of the bed I made
With no idea where the grass is greener
I try to duplicate Jamaica in Atlanta but the patties are neither Tastee or Juici
I play dominoes, drink rum punch and Red Stripe Beer
I can eat escovitch fish, curry goat and rice but it’s not Cooshu’s
I can get fried fish, bammy and festival but it’s not at Hellshire Beach
I scream for run raisin ice-cream but it’s not from Devon House
I watch cricket matches but it’s not at Sabina Park
I read the Atlanta Journal Constitution but it is not the Gleaner
I enjoy all the comforts of home but it no home
I miss Mass Birtie, Mother Blake, Uncle Benji, Brother Boogs and Aunt Poochos
Greeting me with “mawnin” and “God bless you” when I share what I have with them
Sorrel and fruitcake in December only make me long for Father Christmas
I don't want a "Merry Christmas" I want a "Happy Christmas"
I can watch 200 stations on my TV but find nothing to watch
Instead of pumpkin beef soup on Saturday I now eat hamburgers and beans
Mi Belly full but mi hungry

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Singapore Slings

Basil Waine Kong

Jamaica is often compared to Singapore. We are both Islands that are highly dependent on tourism and enjoy fantastic weather. But as it turns out, Jamaica has ten times more land mass and a million fewer people making Singapore the second most densely populated country in the world. We also gained independence about the same time and that is about where the comparisons end. Singapore is a highly disciplined first world country with enormous wealth; while Jamaica remains one of the poorest with a third of its people unable to read.

After independence in 1965, Singapore rapidly became the fastest growing economy in the world with one of the five busiest ports. They build ships, mining equipment and heavy machinery. The IMF has no business with them. You will never find a pothole in any of their highways and streets that are beautifully decorated with flowers and other vegetation.

Singapore is the end of our cruise in the South China Sea and our port of disembarkation. This means that we are required to pack our bags and have them outside of our stateroom door by 11:00 PM the night before so that the crew can get them organized and off the ship. The passengers are given colour coded tags that will organize the timing that we use to leave the ship and clear immigration. Most of our group is given purple tags, so after breakfast and taking care of tipping our butler and our other favorite crew members, we wait for our “colour” to be called. After we clear customs, we claim our luggage which is then loaded into a separate bus and sent ahead to the Ritz Carlton. Our group is loaded into buses for a quick tour of the Singapore before heading to the hospital to continue our medical lecture series.

When our bus leave the dock, the first thing the tour guide says is: “Welcome to the City State of Singapore. We are a fine city: we fine you for everything. You will be ”fined” for spitting on the sidewalk, “fined” for littering, “fined” for jaywalking, ”fined” for smoking, “fined” for making loud noises and other lesser crimes against the state. She further joked that Singapore was so small, if you get lost, just keep walking, you will soon find the ocean and you can swim home.” She went on to say that the Rich Carlton (Ritz) is a very holy place. When you enter, you will immediately say: “Oh my God, look how beautiful everything is!” When you pay your bill you will no doubt remark: “Jesus Christ! That was expensive!.” She was a laugh a minute.

The Tour guide told us that there is no homelessness, as this is also a crime. But it is a crime with a benefit. If you do not have a home, the government will provide one for you and if you don’t have a job, the government will find one for you as well. So, there is no unemployment or homelessness. The government of Singapore is also tough on crime. In addition to the “fines”, the government also has a system of corporal punishment which includes “caning”. They budget very little to provide guards, room and board for prisoners, so caning is the prescribed punishment for many offenses including stealing, not meeting your financial obligations, sexual offenses, including rape and vandalism. They also impose mandatory death sentences for murder, drug-trafficking, and for possession of an illegal firearm. Amnesty International reported that they carry out 2 executions per month while Jamaica have had no none in over 20 years.

At the hospital, a lively exchange of ideas is well received by both the visitors as well as the doctors in residence. We learn that the citizens of Singapore contribute to a National Health Insurance fund and in turn receive the best health care in the world at no additional cost. The hospital provides a superb lunch after the educational program and we are able to exchange ideas and information with some of the local physicians.

After the lectures, a city tour is scheduled. However, we opt to be dropped off at the Ritz as we are scheduled to fly back to Bangkok in about six hours. (Twenty two years ago, Stephanie and I visited Japan and Singapore on our honeymoon.) We are joined by Dr. Jesse and Wilma McGee and the four of us imbibe Singapore slings (US$20.00 each) in the beautiful lobby bar/restaurant until it was time to depart for the Airport. The Singapore Sling is a cocktail mixed with gin, cherry heering, cherry brandy, cointreau, benedictine, grenadine, pineapple juice from Sarawak (Malaysia), fresh lime juice and angostura bitters and served over ice in a long glass. It was developed by Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender at the Raffles Hotel Singapore before 1915. Actually, I prefer rum punch, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Singapore is the closest that we have come to streets paved with gold. The high rise buildings do really scrape the sky. The glitzy part of town is the “Las Vegas of the East“ where a huge ship is balanced on three high rise hotels. This hotel/casino is very impressive and draws people from around the world. The government discourages gambling for citizens by assessing a charge of $100 US as an entry fee but free for tourists. There is no social security or welfare for the elderly as this is perceived to be the responsibility of their children. This is legally enforced as parents have a right to sue their children for support as a percent of the children's income.

I am reminded that several months ago, Dr. Wendel Abel, Head, Section of Psychiatry, University of the West Indies, wrote an editorial in which he made the following comments:

Jamaica must decide how we want to be seen by others. One of the first things the people of Singapore did before they embarked on their development was to decide how they wanted people to see them. The image that many people have of Jamaica is a bad and sad one. To many outsiders, we appear as a barbaric and disorderly people. Alcohol is sold to minors; ganja is smoked openly in public spaces; driving is reckless and undisciplined; music is played loudly; squatting is widespread and people freely litter the streets. We must now take a zero-tolerance approach to lawlessness.

So, Jamaicans are undisciplined and Singaporeans are disciplined. No one jaywalks in Singapore while in Jamaica, everyone compete with the traffic and dare cars to hit them. So, why is Jamaica the third happiest place on earth? Why doesn't Singapore win any medals at the Olympic games or have a football team that can compete with our Reggae Boys? When is the last time you heard of a new hairstyle, clothesline, song, dance move or a new musical genre coming out of Singapore. Our brethren developed the only new religion in the world in the last 200 years and produced geniuses in every field of human endeavor. Other than their discipline and economic success, make me a list of the great accomplishments for the people of Singapore.

While we could use a little discipline, do we really want to become like Singapore? Is this our model going forward or do we want to do it Jamaican style?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good Morning Viet Nam

Basil Waine Kong

We are now in Nam, some 9,000 miles from Jamaica. Our good ship “The Silver Shadow” has docked at the Harbor of Saigon early morning on Monday, November 1, 2010 after a day and a half crossing the South China Sea from Ko Samui, Thailand. By beloved wife is happy that we are finally on terra firma; Stephanie had a rough time at sea and has either been sea sick or drowsy with Dramamine. All is forgiven and forgotten as we look forward to exploring Vietnam for two days. First, the city was renamed Ho Chi Min City after the conflict in 1975. However, there are still signs with Saigon on hotel buildings and other structures. Stephanie and I decide not to take the organized tours and hang with a business associate living in Ho Chi Min City.

I e-mail Rose, our local contact who has promised to meet us at 9:30 AM on the dock. Rose doesn’t disappoint and is waiting for us as we disembarked. She is extremely gracious as we introduce ourselves as well as our friends Drs. Merton and Barbara Hutchinson who we invited to join us. Merton (Hutch) is a fellow Jamaican who lives in Maryland.

We commandeered a taxi and our first stop is the main post office which was originally built during the French occupation. The structure is significant for its European style and the foyer is crowded with merchants. Stephanie buys some old stamps as well as some stamps to mail the postcards that she has written to family. We also do a bit of shopping. There is a catholic church across the street from the Post Office where a wedding was taking place. Judging by how the bride and groom were dressed up, the wedding could have been a wedding in Kingston or Atlanta. We asked to take their photograph and the bride and groom obligingly posed for us!

After the Post Office, we are off to see a Dao Cao Dai Temple (Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ or just Great Religion or even that highest spiritual place where God reigns). Joan of Arch, William Shakespeare and Victor Hugo are venerated. It is a very colorful edifice. True believers (about 4,000,000 Vietnamese)wear white to attend services, pray unceasingly, honor their ancestors, practice non-violence and are vegetarians. Men and women enter their Temple using different entrances. Like the Masons, they too have the all seeing eye (Holy See) as their symbol. Their goal is to join God in Heaven when they leave this life. They played an important role in the resistance to President Diem’s government in the early days of the conflict during the Kennedy years. President Diem, as you may remember, was assassinated in 1964 by his Generals.

Our next stop is the war museum or the Museum to American Aggression located in what was the Presidential Palace. Captured American helicopters, planes and tanks litter the yard and the interior of the museum is dedicated to the effects of bombing with Agent Orange as well as the painful detail that chronicles the 10,000 day war with the United States. France had lost about 100,000 soldiers before the United States entered the conflict with 500,000 soldiers. The US eventually rotated some 8,000,000 US soldiers during the conflict. The US eventually lost fifty seven thousand (57,000) soldiers with an additional 10,000 returning as amputees.

The totals on the Vietnam side of the ledger are a bit grimmer. Out of a population of seventeen million people, two million died, not including an additional two million who perished from starvation and from treatable medical conditions that could not be treated due to the war. North Viet Nam (The Viet Cong) survived 350,000 bombing raids dropping 8,000,000 tons of bombs (three times the amount used in World War 11). In the process, the United States lost 3,700 planes and 5,000 helicopters and 8,000 pilots.

We stopped for lunch in a very western four star restaurant where they bake rice bread in clay pots. One waiter breaks the clay pot, releasing the bread on one side of the room and tosses it across the room like a Frisbee where it is caught on a plate by another waiter. The food is excellent and as we are joined by a language professor who was invited by our tour guide. He spoke excellent English and was able to clarify several historical facts for us.

The language professor was a colonel in the South Vietnamese army. As it turns out he was trained in the United States but left behind on that fateful day in 1975 when he was not able to be accommodated on one of the last helicopters that left the roof of the American Embassy. He tried to blend into the population but the Americans had kept detailed records of all soldiers in the South Vietnam Army on computers that fell into the hands of the victorious North Vietnam Army. So, he, along with 200,000 military officers was sent to re-education camps for two years. He said they were just prisons. He has made several attempts to migrate to the United States without success. I asked him about the United States and he was ambivalent. “On the one hand, the United States is a great country that never understood Viet Nam. Throughout the history of our country, we have always struggled against superior foreign invaders and repelled them. We also have a history of moving on and not belaboring our struggles. Cambodia, United States, France, Japan and China are now wonderful trading partners and the quality of our lives has never been better.”

Our immediate impression is that the city is a marvel with busy streets and modern building. Motor Cycles and mortar scooters are everywhere. Business seems to be booming and seem very capitalistic.

We then took a five hour tour of the Mekong Delta. On our way, we marvel at the fertile plains with rice, bananas and other fruits and vegetables. We noticed that Mekong is a bustling city as we make out way to the Warf. We rent a boat and a captain who gives us coconut water and deliver us to the other side of the river were locally made products are displayed for sale. Everyone is friendly and we especially enjoyed the five piece band with two female singers. They were actually not bad---I actually felt something. We took longboats rowed by women down one of the canals that emptied back into the river where our other boat was waiting for us. We just imagined American soldiers wading through these canals with their guns above their heads. We made our way back across the river as the sun was setting and got some lovely photographs. Before boarding our bus to return to ho Chi Min City, we saw about 100 ladies doing aerobic dancing to American music at the community center.

On our return, Rose offered massages at a Parlor she is familiar with. After working on five of us for an hour, the charge is $10.00 per person. They asked how much it would cost in the United States and we estimated $100.00 per person.

We got back to the ship at 9:00 pm tired and relaxed in time for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

The next day (Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010) we were taken by bus to a very modern hospital (Benh Vienn Tim Tam Duc Cardiology hospital) in the more developed part of the city that was indistinguishable from Paris. We met the Vietnamese physicians, toured the hospital and listened to presentations by both American and Vietnamese scholars followed by lunch. What were most memorable were the crowded waiting rooms.

On our way back to the ship, we met our wonderful guide (Rose) who took us to the market where we shopped. The prices are very reasonable. Even so, Rose got the prices lowered even more. We get back to the ship just in time for our 4:30 pm departure for Malaysia. In parting, Rose gave us all gifts and wished us Bon Voyage! We are very grateful and a wonderful time was had by all. I can now talk about: “When I was in Nam”.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Day At Sea on the Silver Seas Cruise

Basil Waine Kong

For those of you who are contemplating a cruise, regardless of destination, here is a typical day when the ship is between destinations and you are on the deep blue sea for a day or more. On days when we are at a Port of Call, we are usually on tours during the day while the ship is docked and sails at night while we are sleeping. “Sea Days” can be pleasant or fraught with opportunities for seasickness when you just to want to lay flat as your inner ear gets accustomed (or not) to the swells of the ocean.

These cruise lines offer Wi-Fi access in each room which allows you to check emails in the privacy of your own room. Again depending on the conditions of the sea, my wife can be found checking emails while I read the newspaper while having our morning coffee.

Regardless of the sea conditions, we awake with the rising of the sun and immediately call room service for coffee that is delivered within five minutes with a copy of “USA Times”. Room service is available 24 hours per day for a beer or a full meal at no extra cost. We enjoy our coffee, go up to the gym for a workout, walk around the top deck (2 miles) and swim (in a pool), return to our room, get dressed and meet our friends for breakfast at 8:00 am. A cruise is a perfect opportunity to develop deeper, more committed relationships as the conversation never cease as well share meals or have drinks on any number of patios and observation decks.

There are two dining rooms on this ship that are available for breakfast. Our choices for our eating pleasure include a variety of fruits, breads, cereals, eggs any way you like it and ten types of fish and meats items from around the world. We point to what we want and a waiter places it on your plate and deliver them to our table. We try to exercise more than usual because our consumption of calories will easily double. The food is all very tempting. So, cruises are not the place you want to come if you are trying to lose weight.

After breakfast, we meet in the lecture hall for an educational program. While the lectures are substantial, they are over by 1:00 pm, and we are ready to eat some more. Yesterday, an Asian Feast was set up on the eighth floor which also doubles as the pool deck. We were treated to a cornucopia of cheeses from around the world and a fanfare of Asian dishes representative of China, Japan and the Indo-Asian countries. On these cruises you are also treated to desserts after each meal inclusive of pies, cakes, ice-cream (especially rum and raisin) with all the toppings, as well as fruits.

Various activities are available for the afternoon including bridge, wine tasting, cooking classes, golf lesions, dance classes, casino games of chance and a lecture about our next destination. I chose the lecture and my wife chose wine tasting and the cooking class. We meet for bridge and participate in the golf putting contest. I come in second but it is all in good fun.

We dress for dinner and it is formal night. The Captain’s reception is at 6:00 pm so we get dressed in my summer tuxedo and my wife in her backless gown and present ourselves to the Captain. The band played on and we danced and enjoyed the finger foods before joining our friends in the dining room at 7:30 pm. My wife takes the Maître D’s elbow and I follow to our table for six where we are immediately offered libations. The conversation is lively and the jokes are funny so laughter is in the air. Our drink is followed by a six course meal. For my main course, I chose duck a la orange and my wife orders beef wellington. As I had previously ordered grand Mainer souffle for desert, it is perfectly baked and served with sweet cream. After coffee, we go across the hall to the theatre for a show featuring dancing from around the world. It is delightful but as the ship is rocking (tilting), the dancers often stumble. After the show, we go down a flight of stairs to the lounge where we are treated with a piano player and a Filipino lady singing the blues.

We retire to our cabin at midnight, discuss our plans when we dock in Malaysia in the morning and fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the ship.

I remind my wife that it is not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean. She reminds me that this term was coined by persons unaccustomed to large boats!

So, from small ships to tall ships
Here’s to all of us who sail in ships
But most of all to our friendships

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From Bangkok With Love

Basil Waine Kong

This is our first visit to Thailand. So, Sawatdee Krub to our male friends and sawatdee Ka to our female friends. If we were greeting you in person, in addition to “Sawatdee” we would clasped our palms together under our chin and bow slightly. There is no good morning or good night, as they ignore the time of day but wish that God will shower his blessings on you. This is called the wai. While the actions are the same, the equivalent word in India would be “Namaste”.

We departed from Atlanta on Tuesday, October 26 at precisely 9:47 am for the first leg of our flight to Seattle. Because of our incessant presence on Delta Airlines planes, each year, we accumulate enough miles for our annual two week safari to distant destinations around the world---first class! As a result, our ample seats recline to beds; we watch movies from our individual monitors as they lavish us with all the food and libations we can handle, again at no cost. They step it up on international flights and tend to our comfort including kits with toothbrushes, lotion, slippers, blankets and fluffy pillows. We will need them.

We are pleasantly surprised to find another couple who we know from previous cruises taking the same route to Bangkok and thoroughly enjoy their company. Dr. and Mrs. Roy Irons was recently elected President of the National Dental Association. This will be our twelfth cruise.

We gain three hours and arrive in Seattle at 11:00 am (five hours later). After a two hour layover that we spend in the Sky Lounge, we depart again for Tokyo, Japan on Thursday, October at 1:00 pm landing at 5:00 pm (ten hours later). Yes, we lost a day that we will get back on our trip back home when we will again cross the International Date Line. After a two hour layover at the Narita Airport in Japan, we are off again on our 6 hour flight to Bangkok at 7:00 pm and landing at 1:00 am having flown for 21 hours! After clearing customs and claiming our luggage we are surprised that we can just walk out without anyone checking our luggage or even having to turn in a declaration form. We are relieved that we immediately spot our driver who is holding up a sign with our names. He takes our luggage and accompanies us to the car we reserved.

We are impressed with how clean the streets are but we passed a road block where the police are checking drivers who may be impaired due to alcohol. We had no problem and we arrive at the Kingston Suites hotel at 2:00 pm---exhausted but exalted. We chose the hotel just so we could say we traveled from Kingston to Kingston. We are pleased with the quality of our accommodations and immediately step into the shower after two days of travel and were able to sleep for four hours. The time difference between Jamaica and Thailand is eleven hours.

A full breakfast is included in the cost of our hotel so we go down at 8:00 am and was surprised at the familiar fruits: mangoes, leeches, jackfruit, papaya, oranges, figs, strawberries, water melons, pineapples, sour sop, custard apples, rose apples, guava, and even neaseberries (sapodilla). I was, however, unfamiliar with mangostem, lampotan, dragon fruit, rambutans, durian (smells like hell but taste like heaven) and logans. We both got western omelets along with our usual coffee and croissants with orange marmalade.

We decided to take a walk just to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the city and as we depart, we are asked by the desk clerk: “pai nai?” which is a friendly “where are you off to?” To which we responded: “No where in particular. Which is the way to the city?” The usual rush hour traffic was brutal. As there are far more taxis than passengers, on our walk, we are constantly approached by taxi drivers with offers to take us on various tours. The streets are crowded with “tuk tuks” (motor cycles converted to seat six people), Japanese cars, buses, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles. Motor cycles can be taxis here and they are best for negotiating the traffic but the pas sager, usually a woman, sit sidesaddle. Unlike Jamaica, all riders and passengers wear helmets. In many ways, this is Kingston. When I left Jamaica, the authorities were struggling with vendors about crowded sidewalks and trying to get squeegee kids off the street. It is the same here. You can get a full breakfast from street vendors who cook and sell you breakfast items as well as lunch and dinner later. Like Jamaicans, Thais love soup. Instead of pumpkin, peas and pepper pot, They love the hot and spicy Tom Yum.

On our way back to our hotel, we passed the “Dream Spa“ and my wife decides to get a Thai massage. The cost is US$50.00 for 60 minutes although the cost elsewhere is advertised as low as $20.00. By the time we rendezvous back at the hotel for our 1:00 pm tour of the Grand Palace, she is glowing and absolutely relaxed from her spa treatment. She promptly falls asleep in the car.

On our way to the Palace, Tony, our guide, imparts essential data about the country and their culture. He does not speak English very well and I am obliged to ask him to repeat himself and even to spell out what he is trying to say. In a country of about 60,000,000 people, 15 million live in Bangkok, the capital. Fifty percent of the people are employed in the agricultural sector and produce 30% of the rice in the entire world!

I learn that “Korp khun mak” means thank you; “mai pen rai” or "mai mi pan ha” means no problem mon, and “Jai yen yen” means “Don’t sweat the small stuff" or “Be calm, what difference does it make?”. Unlike Jamaicans, the people pride themselves in not being excitable. They speak in a whisper and never never lose their cool. Unfortunately, the down side of their personality is that you can never tell if someone is glad to see you or not. I much prefer our haughty laugh and hug when I meet friends. The guide and driver say they are impressed that I am showing so much interest in their culture.

There is no touching in Thailand. You will never witness any public displays of affection. A man touching a woman (not his wife) even to try to shake her hand is a serious offense. Touching someone’s head is a fighting offence. So, no hugging or kissing in the street! The story is told that the palace guards were escorting a princess from one palace to another by boat when she fell overboard. Since none of the men could touch her, they watched her drown and everyone (including her father) agreed that that was the right thing to do.

They do not joke about their benevolent King who is greatly loved and revered. Thanks to shrewd maneuvering, they were never colonized. They changed the name of their country from Siam to Thailand (Land of freedom) in 1939. If you remember when the country was Siam, the movie “The King and I”, depicted a naive King Rama V, who welcomed missionaries and teachers to their Kingdom but remained independent. By the way, the movie is still censored in Thailand and our guide never saw it.

The current king, Bhumibol Adulyade, (Rama IX), who is the longest serving monarch in the world, was actually born in Cambridge, Massachusetts when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. So, he is an American citizen. He loves dogs, so no one would dare abuse them. As a result, dogs are to be found all over the country. He is also an aficionado of Jazz, sailing and photography. While the country is democratic and has a democratic parliament, every so often the King will put his food down and say: “It no go so” and will have his way. For example, when parliament outlawed "tuk tuks" because they were too polluting, these taxi drivers appealed to the King and he reversed the lawmaker's decision. You would not expect anything less as they celebrate December 5 (The King’s birthday) as father’s day. In Jamaica, you can be locked up and fined for cussing out a police officer, in Thailand, you can be charged with “lèse-majesté” for not showing enough respect for members of the Royal family. In Jamaica, many people look forward to earning Christmas money, in Thailand, the King will advise everyone: “nai nam mi pla nah mi khao” (There is fish in the water and rice in the fields."

The two dominant political parties are roughly equivalent to our own PNP and JLP. The PNP cousins wear red and are allied with those who struggle and the Yellow shirts are like the JLP,the party of the rich and powerful.

As we arrive at the Grand Palace, we encounter the unexpected. It is, indeed a grand palace that I believe is more impressive than the Vatican, the Hermitage in Leningrad, Versailles in Paris, any of the Mormon Tabernacles or Buckingham Palace. I have always been impressed with the effort that can be invested to immortalize God and King. The moment we arrived, we were awed and overused the word ‘wow” to describe one impressive temple after another. The Wat Phra Kaeo (The Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) are particularly spectacular; I could not possibly describe this experience. You should definitely put seeing it on your bucket list. We also saw the golden Buddha that was made with a ton of pure gold and unguarded.

Exhausted from walking several miles viewing the various edifices in the compound, we ask our guide to take us to a great Thai restaurant and we would end our tour at that point. He takes us to Ban Khunmae. Both of us agreed that there are better Thai restaurants in Atlanta such as Nan’s. Common ingredients in Thai cooking are coconut milk, curry, fever grass (lemon grass), ginger, mango, chili peppers and always served with rice or rice noodles. We enjoyed the meal, walked five blocks to the sky train, got off at the Astok stop and walked five more blocks to our hotel. There was never any feeling of intimidation or concerns regarding our safety on our various nighttime walks.

After a jointly sponsored meeting on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Ramathibodi Hospital between our group and the Thai Society of Cardiology hosted by Dr. Supachai Tanomsup, we make our way to the Silver Shadow. To our pleasant surprise, in addition to the wonderful food that cruises are known for, all drinks are free. There is a bottle of Champagne on ice in our room and I order a bottle of twelve year old Glenmorangie single malt scotch for our room as well. We meet our butler (Andrew) who promise to accommodate all our needs.

We arrive in Ko Samui, a small island in the South on Saturday (October 31, 2010). On our tour we visit the Big Buddha, the smiling Buddha and more other Buddha we could count. We saw elephants dancing, playing soccer and giving massages, monkeys picking coconuts as well as a demonstration on how to husk coconuts and extract the milk. It is so efficient that I wonder why we don't do it this way in Jamaica. Can you believe that a small island with 60,000 people process one million coconuts per day? They have also found over 1,000 uses for coconut. We are late getting back to the ship but they accommodate us and depart an hour late. So, tomorrow, Good Morning Viet Nam!

After the cruise ended in Singapore, we flew back to Bangkok for three days. The one disappointment we experienced for the entire trip was having to pay an additional US$300 because of overweight bags. That was not fun. But all our bags arrived with us and we made our way back to the Kingston Suites.

Early next morning, our tour guide picked us up and transported us first to the Ramhopp market fifty miles away. It was definitely worth the drive. Actually, it is a railroad market! When the train comes, 100 vendors pull their good off the railway track and they relocate back on the track as soon as the train pass---four times per day. In addition to the usual fish, satay and coconut pancakes, unusual items include deep fried grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars. I buy some pak thong kor (fried flour dumplings) and enjoy them. This area is also famous for producing sea salt, dried fish as well as sea food in general.

Our next stop is the famous "Floating Gardens"! The is the Venice of Asia. There are miles and miles of canals where boats outfitted with automobile motors cruise up and down these crowded waterways with tourists. You can buy a meal or anything else your heart desires from boats that pass you or you can pull up and shop from the thousand vendors along the banks. This is definitely a concept that would work in Jamaica. We loved it---very colourful and the bargains were wonderful. No wonder our bags were too heavy.

We then visited the famous China Town and then on to the Gen factory where you can see jewelery being made as well as displayed for sale. After all, this is the land of rubies. It was tempting but we bought nothing!

For dinner, we went to the "Cultural Show and Dinner". The show is an absolute feast for the eyes but the food wasn't. This is a model village that Chronicles the history and achievement of the Thai people. I wonder why we don't have a Jamaican village and show. It is very popular!

Instead of our planned trip to Cambodia, our tour guide arranged for tickets and transportation to watch the skins game with Tiger Woods, Carmelo Villegas, Paul Casey and Thongchi Jaidee in honor of the Thai King at the Amada Springs Country Club. It was a spectacular affair and the 5,000 people who watched and were all allowed to take pictures to their heart's content. Paul Casey played the best golf, Villegas won the most money and Tiger did not bring his A game. But a good time was had by all.

I was fascinated by a coincidence. On our pre tour stay in Bangkok, we saw a black family but was not bold enough to talk with them. But when I saw them again at the golf tournament, I could not resist and showed them the pictures I took of them. They turned out to be really gracious people from New Orleans who are on a five year assignment in Bangkok. That was special!

The next morning, we boarded the Delta flight to Japan then a terrifying flight (the bumpiest we have ever encountered) to Detroit and back to Atlanta. We took nothing but photographs, killed nothing but time, left nothing but footprints. Lckoon!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand and Singapore

Cruising with Mahfouz
Basil Waine Kong

For the past twelve years, Good friends, Mahfouz and Sylvia El Shahawy, and Admiral Travel, annually host fifty couples on a fabulous cruise to distant shores around the world. They have taken us to Egypt, China, Mauritius, Slovenia, Croatia, The Check Republic, Austria, Reunion, Zimbabwe, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Western Caribbean, Tunisia, India, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy, The Seychelles, Maldives; and who could forget our visit to Nosey Bee in Madagascar?. We depart on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 for Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand and Singapore. Stephanie and I have yearned to see this part of the world and it is now eminent.

One of the endearing qualities about my wife is that she keeps a detailed dairy of our travels with our photographs and clippings. I believe we will enjoy reminiscing about these adventures when we are old and sitting in wheelchairs. You see, we do not just visit these countries as tourists. Because most of the people on these cruises are physicians, Mahfouz is able to arrange meetings and symposia with other physicians where-ever we visit. These are meaningful exchanges that add tremendously to the value of our experience.

Some of the moments from these trips that occur to me as I write this include:
1. Celebrating our New Years Eve party twice by re-crossing the international date line;
2. Visiting a village in South Africa where everyone, including the women were topless;
3. Dr. Malcolm Taylor and I seeing a golf course while on a tour of Morocco and asking the bus driver to pull over. We walked across a field to the course, rented some clubs and enjoyed a marvelous afternoon. We then took a taxi back to our good ship, The Crystal Harmony.
4. Touring a sheep farm in New Zealand and after watching men herding several hundred little lambs into a slaughter house, my wife asked: “What are you going to do with those cute little lambs?” to which the herder replied: “Lady, have you ever hear of lamb chops?”
5. The marvelous food and wine in Tuscany (Italy) as well as enjoying a city without cars or streets (Vienna)
6. Playing elephant polo in India;
7. Meeting the head of Antiquities in Egypt who took us on a personal up close and personal tour of the mystic Sphinx. The four Alpha men in the group gathered and sang the Alpha Hymn in the presence of the Sphinx;
8. Standing on the rim of a live boiling volcano in Reunion;
9. The morning and evening exercise /dance sessions at the public parks in China
10. When we learned that the Canary Islands were so named because the explorers found dogs (canis) and that there were no canaries, we went to the Virgin Islands and didn’t find any canaries there either.

While we will be away for two weeks, I will obviously write about our travels, please pray for our safety and plan to join us next year. After all my travels, I continue to believe: “Nuh weh no better than yard!"

Monday, October 18, 2010

The State of Health Care in Jamaica

Basil Waine Kong, Ph.D., JD

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer , wrote in his Oct. 17, 2010 Column that: “…human-rights groups would do well to focus their attention on the health sector. I suspect that the treatment at hospital is worse than police excesses, if less spectacular.,, Over the years, the RHAs and senior positions in the public-hospital system have been administered by persons who are clearly motivated by the need to protect their jobs and status instead of advancing the Government's vision of a cost-effective, sustainable health-care delivery system… Can one, therefore, blame persons who rush abroad to seek medical treatment as they feel that a minor bellyache is coming on?”

It would appear that we have assassins in uniform on the one hand as well as a health care system that hastens the demise of those seeking acute medical care on the other. Underfunding, lack of appropriate planning and organization result in the inhumane treatment of our citizens. The shortages of essential medicines, supplies and equipment is a crime against those needing medical care. Given that lack of resources and organization is not a problem with a foreseeable solution, we need to change our focus from acute care to prevention. Obesity and inactivity exerts a heavy burden on our resources.

It is difficult to imagine that with all the sunshine, ocean, open spaces, and such a strong sports tradition, 20% of our children are overweight. All aesthetics aside, being fat ought not to be perceived as anything other than unhealthy.

Obesity has reached troubling proportions in Jamaica. Since 1980, we have seen a 50% increase in the incidence of obesity every decade. This dramatic rise in obesity is inevitably accompanied by an equally critical rise in diabetes, resulting in over 20% of Jamaican adults suffering from this awful disease. Diabetes is particularly nasty as it impairs eyesight, causes impotence, and may result in the amputation of toes and legs. How did a society where people walked miles each day, succumb to this plague of inactivity, diabetes and obesity? An unhealthy country is a country without a future.

The United States has taught the world that there isn’t enough money to pay for all the disease caused by obesity, lack of exercise, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes. However, the United States spends 20 cents of each dollar collected as revenue on health care. Still, the life expectancy of an average African American men is less than Jamaican men. The United States has a so-called ‘state-of-the-art’ health care system, yet they are way behind the rest of the world in promoting health and well-being. When a patient has a disease, treat the disease; similarly, when a large segment of a population has a disease, treat the country. If you want to reduce violence, crime and unwanted pregnancies in Jamaica, let children have the opportunity to know their grandparents.

Jamaica needs a system that promotes health and not an expensive “health care system” that only treats disease. In a country where the average household income is less than US$4,000 per year, Jamaica can ill afford to provide invasive and expensive medical services to treat illnesses that should have been prevented. A “System of Health” emphasizes prevention, while a “health care system” places emphasis on the treatment. By being proactive instead of reactive, we can inspire people to take health promotion and disease prevention seriously.

Jamaicans live on an island of sunshine and cool breeze and most of us must live and eat by the sweat of our brow. Europeans and Americans come to our island to lose weight through exercise and heart healthy eating, so why can’t we take advantage of these home grown remedies? If we consider the fact that most of the disease that plague us and cost so much can be prevented, it becomes apparent that promotion of heart health and exercise would allow enormous savings for the health care system. In fact, just about all the heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, diabetes, kidney failure (diseases that kill 50% of us) could be prevented by making simple adjustments to our lifestyles. Being proactive in health can add 10 more years to enjoy the company of our grandchildren and guide them to a happy, healthy and productive life.

I grew up reciting the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty who was lazily sitting on a wall, had a great fall and nothing could put him together again. If Humpty was not sitting on the wall, his risk of falling would be far less. We can take an important message from this nursery rhyme by understanding that no matter how good our reactive plans in medicine and surgery may be, it will never be as good as prevention. An ounce of prevention is always going to be worth more than a pound of cure.

While our government struggles daily with how to allocate our limited resources, it should be recognized that it would be a good investment to spend more on prevention. At present, the Government spends less than 5% on prevention of diseases and we need to increase our spending here to at least 25%. In a Gleaner article dated 13/8/2008, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in identifying this problem addressed 750 delegates from 80 countries at the opening ceremony of the 57th August General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations disclosing the fact that the Government is planning to launch an island wide program aimed at getting people to adopt healthy lifestyle practices. In outlining the Government’s plan, Prime Minister Golding emphasized the need to sensitize the public of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, letting them know that “you can eat yourself to death in the same way that you can smoke yourself to death.” However, other than this speech, not much has been done in this arena.

Comparable to the above mentioned program, The Heart Institute of the Caribbean has developed a plan which involves an island wide tour aimed at training “Community Health Advocates” in various parishes. This plan also involves cardiac screening and group counseling thus effectively identifying the healthiest and most at risk communities in Jamaica. This way, we can educate and motivate our citizens up close and personal to maintain good health.

Just as it would be unconscionable not to have an infectious disease program, it is unacceptable not to have a prevention program. Every citizen must recognize that if they do not take time to exercise and eat well, they will prematurely succumb to disease. God made us to be strong and physically fit, and by choosing to be “fat and lazy”, we will have to pay a price that our government can ill afford.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Myths about the Common Cold

Basil Waine Kong

My fellow Jamaicans have a great fear of catching cold and the rain (fresh rain or acid rain from South Africa) and the weather are often viewed as the culprits. Important indoor events are cancelled because of rain and whenever I anticipate standing in a long line, I go when it rains as there will be no wait. A subtle reason may also be our fascination about love and romance when it rains. On the other hand, it would make no sense to Jamaicans why Freddie Astaire and Ginger Rogers would be singing and dancing in the rain. They must be nam fools.

I was walking around barefoot ina mi yard in Jamaica during a recent rainfall and a total stranger passing by advised me that if I didn’t put on some shoes, I would catch cold in my foot. I am told that over-exposure to the rain can also precipitate a cold in the knees and back. I am puzzled when my very sophisticated friends rush into the locker room to put on dry clothes after getting wet on a golf course. This started me thinking about the times I was encouraged to wear a hat so wouldn’t get a head cold; to never get out of bed and immediately expose myself to water (shower); never go outside immediately after taking a bath; stay warm with a jacket or sweater to avoid being chilled; and the many other myths about the common cold that is part of our belief system. In fact, myths about the common cold exist in all societies.

My grandmother thought the common cold was caused by “night air” and would call in the pickney dem as soon as it got dark. It turns out that she and others had noticed that during a malaria (ghengi fever) epidemic, those who stayed out late at night, became sick and even died and so developed a healthy fear of the dark. The culprit were mosquitoes that bit malaria infected people and spread the parasite by biting new victims when the mosquitoes swarmed and bit everyone in sight. A very important lesson is that a correlation does not a cause and effect make. That which is said to cause something, should exist when the cause is present and should be absent when the cause is absent.

The common cold, also known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection, is a contagious disease that can be caused by hundreds of different types of viruses. Because so many different viruses can cause a cold and because new cold viruses constantly evolve, the body never builds up resistance against all of them. For this reason, colds are a frequent and recurring problem. In fact, children can have up to 12 colds per year while adults typically have two. The common cold is the most frequently occurring illness in the world, A single tourist who is infected with a cold virus, could infect the entire plane full of people who could in turn spread it to the entire population of Jamaica within 24 hours by sneezing on each other. As soon as the cold virus get into our nose, it will rapidly reproduce and will not be relieved by frequent blowing of the nose or sneezing.

Cold viruses infect the victim’s upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, eyes and throat). Symptoms include runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, congestion, coughing and sneezing. You could have the virus and have no symptoms and you could have one or more of these symptoms but do not have the virus. These symptoms could be an allergy such as when you sneeze from cold feet or have runny eyes from tree pollen, dust or smoke.

You can prevent getting a cold by disinfecting surfaces that are likely to be touched by an infected person like phones, doors and doorknobs. So wash your hands after touching potentially infected surfaces as well as after shaking hands with an infected person who recently put their hands to their nose. Although difficult to remember, keeping your hand away from your eyes and nose will work as well. This is one of the reasons people in India do not shake hands but will greet you with “Namaste” accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. Officially, this may be a greeting of well wishes for your good health but it could also mean: “You keep your germs and I will keep mine”.

While the common cold accounts for frequent visits to doctors, If you are infected with the cold virus and consult a doctor, it will last a week; if you don’t, it will last 7 days. You can make yourself more comfortable by drinking plenty of fluids and keeping up your nutrition to strengthen your immune system. Antibiotics work against bacteria, while most colds are viral. So, taking antibiotics, sucking on cough drops and drinking bottles of cough syrup may relieve symptoms but will not cure the common cold. Chicken soup or any soup, tea, coffee or hot drink will help as the steam will help open the sinus passages and the warm liquid going down will sooth your dry, ticklish throat. Contrary to popular beliefs, drinking milk and eating milk products will not increase the production of mucus or in any way make your symptoms worse. Exercise helps. So, resist the temptation to go to bed but do not shake hands or otherwise spread the virus to other people as you move about. While drinking alcohol will help you sleep better, it will neither drive away or clear away the virus but may have the opposite effect because alcohol lowers your immunity. In addition, according to Gabriella Kadar: "Alcohol is dehydrating, consequently it disturbs the body's ability to produce the low viscosity mucous required to move pathogenic and other particles out of the respiratory tract."

What is indisputably true is that water in any form, whether it is hot or cold, cannot make us sick except from downing. You can shower ten times per day, stand out in the rain all day in wet clothes, swim in the ocean or a river, go from a hot steamy room into a cold, air conditioned room, jump from a hot tub to an ice bath and you will not become sick with a cold. Air conditioning does not infect you but will dry out your sinuses which is a cause of frequent sneezing. Though the common cold usually coincide with cold weather, it is not a direct cause. Rather, it is during inclement-weather when people spend more time indoors in close proximity to each other, making it easier to spread the virus. Interestingly enough, cold germs will not spread by mouth (kissing) or by eating foods that have been sneezed or coughed on as the cold virus does not infect the digestive tract.

So, the way to avoid the common cold is to exercise, eat a healthy diet and build a strong immune system as well as wash your hands frequently with a proper disinfectant soap. Rather than spread myths along with our cold germs, let’s join together to spread scientific truths. A professor at The George Washington University Hospital made an offer to students that if they were able to “catch a cold” without a virus, he would pay each of them US$1,000. No one has yet to collect and these students tested every myth that was ever conceived by man. Are your courageous enough to put your myths to the test?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baksheesh for Jamaica

Basil Waine Kong

On my first visit to Egypt twenty years ago, I encountered a practice that I have put into effect while I am in Jamaica and would recommend to all who can afford it. Each day, my Egyptian host would make sure he had a bag of coins and would give something to everyone who asked. Since there is more poverty in Egypt than in Jamaica and no welfare system, crime is low because they had institutionalized the practice known as Baksheesh. This is not begging. These are little tips that are graciously accepted by the less fortunate for little or no services rendered. Often, my Egyptian host would even thank the receiver of the baksheesh for giving him the opportunity to earn a blessing. At least a person in dyer straights could get by with the cooperation of several people. Rather than arrest or even resist the solicitations from those less fortunate, can those of us who are blessed daily share a little of our good fortune with our brothers and sisters? Here is a case where a little from all who can afford it will go a long way to reduce the desperation of those who need it.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha

The Songs of My People

I remember the songs
B. Waine Kong

As a Freemason, I can always count on a big smile on my face and my mood picking up when we gather to toast our benefactors and to sing. There is nothing like a room full of men singing the old songs. These experiences cause me to reminisce about my early years in St. Elizabeth where songs are important elements of our culture. We used every occasion to express ourselves in song.

My Granny (Rosella McKenzie, who raised me) prayed aloud when she greeted the day each morning, prayed again before each meal as well as before bedtime. She sang hymns all day long while doing her chores and never missed attending church where she was more delighted with the music from the old pipe organ pumped by Mr. Mears and played by Teacher Chang, than the sermons, responsive readings and even prayer time. There was a gentleman at Springfield Moravian Church whose voice made everyone wince. He sounded like a bullfrog. No amount of gentle urging could get him to understand that the Bible said: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” not a dreadful noise. As he refused to be silent during the singing of hymns, we just laughed, grinned and bared it.

The men sang when they worked. Women sang and make wonderful rhythms with their coconut brushes as they put a honey wax shine on the wooden floors as well delighted me with squeaky noises when they washed cloths. There was always a song in our hearts and a rhythm to all activities of daily living. We sang non-stop for nine nights when someone died. In the old days, the men got together to plow the fields, children brought the water, the women cooked the food and served the rum and a song leader kept the men singing and working all day long and no one got tired. There was nothing like a song and camaraderie to motivate men to work without being paid. Neighbors just did it for each other. The joke was to box someone in a corner by a group of men swinging hoes because the rule was you couldn’t stop even to save a man’s life as long as the song continued. You could not break the rhythm. When they took a break for food, it was hard corn meal dumplings the size of cart wheels,yam, coco, dashine as well as fried up salt fish and salt pork with onions, scallions and tomatoes and the drink was “waters” (white rum and water) as well as lemonade made with sour orange and wet sugar. Whenever a man drank rum, he was expected to do four things, throw a little to the ground for the ancestors, drink it with one gulp, make a loud grunt and put down the glass as if he just bowed out in dominoes. The rum we served was called “Jan crow Batty”. It was so named because it was stolen from the rum factory by workers who filled their water boots, wear it out and emptied their boots in a pan when they got home to later share with friends. The over proof alcohol cured his athlete’s foot and added flavor to the run.

We started and ended every meeting with a song. At school, we had a song for every occasion. When a new teacher came to school, we greeted them with a welcome song: “Hello, we are so happy to meet you”. Those leaving heard: “Good bye, Farewell”. We had a good morning song, a good evening song: “Now the Day is Over, Night is drawing Neigh” and when we graced our food: “Be present at our table Lord; be here and everywhere adored.”

My favorite song at “Nine Night “was:

Mi sa my old man dead
And he no lef no will
He lef a little piece a land
Fi feed the whole a wi
But wi bigger breda
Tief it way from wi
Glory Be to God
Glory be to God
Fi di whole a wi

Whenever our cricket team went to play another town (New Market, Darlistown, Black River, and Middle Quarters) we tried to big up the team by singing and waving to those we passed from the time we left and especially when we arrived and was in the presence of the opposing team. If we lost, the truck was quiet on our way back but if we prevailed, we sang all the way back: “You were wrong to send and call us, you were wrong.”

Nothing like a song to pick up our spirits.

Teaching Our Children to Swim

Basil Waine Kong

The unbelievable suffering by families who lose children from drowning is upsetting to me for this un-necessary loss of life. I read too frequently, newspaper reports about children (as well as adults) drowning in our ocean, in pools, rivers and ponds. With the abundance of water around and in our island, the risks of not knowing how to swim and the ease of learning how to swim, why are 90% of our citizens not able to swim? I am puzzled.

All my children and grandchildren who are more than two years old can swim. It is really not difficult. Anyone who is not afraid to put his head under water can learn to swim in less than one hour. All we need is a commitment to do it. Just like we need a national commitment to end illiteracy, we need everyone into the pool. The risk of drowning is one thing but when I contemplate the hours of joy I have experienced wading in and under various waters around the world, why would we want to deprive our citizens (particularly our children) this source of joy. Tourists come to Jamaica to swim in our clean beautiful blue ocean and enjoy our white sand beaches and too many of us deny ourselves this pleasure. If we made a commitment to require swimming proficiency in our schools, in addition to saving lives and increasing activity levels, we may also discover some talented individuals who could represent us in the Olympic Games. We are gifted people looking for opportunity.

If our Minister of Education wants to be remembered for his leadership, this is something he should consider.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inside the Ropes: Can a 67 year old man carry a 25 pound golf bag for five miles?

Adding Up My Blessings
Basil Waine Kong

In the twilight of my years, I find myself adding up my blessings. According to Eric Erickson, after 65, we become what we were. Here is my list: I have never been sick and continue to enjoy excellent health, married to an incredible woman who I love dearly, fathered four fantastic children who completed all the education they wanted and have fabulous careers and six beautiful children of their own, visited 100 countries, arrested just once for demonstrating against apartheid in front of the South African Embassy in 1989, enjoyed a career that as a lawyer and psychologist, included being a college professor, Dean of Students, vice president of a hospital, executive director of a medical research organization, CEO of the Association of Black Cardiologists and Executive Vice President of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean. Since my retirement, I have been focusing on the further nurturing of my family, reducing the ravages of cardiovascular disease as President of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, participating on various Board of Directors, writing and improving the human condition in Jamaica.

As an athlete and sportsman, I was the boys sports champion at Springfield All Age School when I was fourteen years old, set a 440 track record at Madison High School in New Jersey, earned 7 varsity letters in not only track, but wrestling, soccer and cross country, as well as earned an athletic scholarship to Simpson College in Iowa. Every time I watch a cricket match, I remember the feeling after I hit a six when I was fourteen years old playing for the Boys Brigade. At some point, I have tried just about every game and sport that I encountered including "Elephant Polo" in India. My other hobbies include swimming, skeet shooting, tennis, ping pong, bridge, bid whist, badminton, and racquetball. I work out regularly at a gym and can still do 35 push-ups. Jamaica taught me to be adventuresome and to pursue excellence.

However, for fifty years, my passion has been golf. I started playing at sixteen year's old when a kind member of Springbrook Country Club in Morristown, New Jersey, gave me an old set of clubs and as a caddie, I was allowed to play on Mondays. I have returned the favor giving several sets of golf clubs to caddies over the years. I once played to a nine handicap but that was as good as I got and now play to a fifteen. Golfers do not necessarily get better with practice or experience. It is a fickle game and as Mr. Peter Lindo says often: "golf does not live in anybody's yard." It is amazing to me that from day to day, there can be a 20 stroke difference in our scores. I live in envy of professional golfers who can effortlessly hit such great shots.

During the past week-end (August 23-29), I accompanied my wife while she was doing some work at Taylor Memorial Hospital. Coincidentally, it was the week-end of the Annual Hooters Classic at the course where I usually play when we are in Hawkinsville, Georgia. Since the course was occupied with these professionals, the most adventuresome thing I could think of doing was to volunteer to caddie for Mr. David Wax, a 23 year old phenom from Los Angeles, who shot an incredible 16 under par after four rounds but did not win. On the other hand, I lost 5 pounds and my bones were aching and tired but I felt proud and accelerated. It was a true test of my endurance and no successful climber of Mt Everest felt more accomplished. Contrary to the professional tournaments I have watched outside the ropes, I was lock step with my player and was right in the middle of the action.

Did I make any mistakes? Well, at one point, David handed me his four iron and I thought I had placed it back in the bag while I was walking. As he was walking behind me, he merely picked up the club and told me that I missed. On another occasion, I gave him his sand wedge and prematurely walked to the back of the green so he had to hit up to the green without checking the sheet that he kept in his bag to learn the contour of the green, so he only made par. On another occasion, I walked ahead to make sure that I could locate an errant shot. I lost track of the ball as it sailed toward the white fluffy clouds in the background and it came crashing down near me. If it had hit me or his bag, he would have been charged a two stroke penalty and my wife would have been asking if my body could be buried at Southern Hills Country Club. For those of you who see players tossing balls to their caddies and caddies tossing balls back to their players, if they miss and the ball roles on the green, it could be a two stroke penalty for testing the green. I lived in fear that I would not catch the ball or misthrow it, so while David threw me the ball, I would always hand it back to him after I wiped it nice and clean.

This is another one of my memories and hope I can do it again. Thank you for the opportunity David. Good luck to you in your quest to join the PGA Tour. You are a fine golfer and gentleman with a great future.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Prayer to End Wanton Violence in Jamaica

Psalm 151: A Responsive Reading
Basil Waine Kong

Leader: O LORD God of hosts, how majestic and magnificent is Your name.
Congregation: Our father, strong and mighty, incline Your ears and hear our prayer.
Leader: We stand in awe of Your miraculous creations, particularly the splendour of the Island we call home. You are our light and salvation.
Congregation: In our distress, we cry unto You because our souls are hungry for Your wisdom, guidance and intervention.
Leader: Trouble is everywhere and we are consumed with grief. The wicked kill innocent men,women and children. Our land is polluted with blood. A stubborn and rebellious generation who do not keep Your commandments torment us.
Congregation: All night long we flood our beds with weeping and drench our couches with tears. Our eyes grow weak with sorrow.
Leader: We are desolate and afflicted as desperate violent men have united against us snuffing out innocent lives with callous brutality.
Congregation: Leave us not to our oppressors. Deliver us quickly out of the hands of the wicked and declare Your glory among the unbelieving. But instead of turning your hand against our adversaries, we ask that you forgive them and turn their hearts and minds from crime.
Leader: Let those who hate You submit to Your commandments. Let them be born again, never to return to this folly.
Congregation: Bring us out of our distress. Have compassion on Your affliction and deliver us Almighty God, We put our trust in You.
Leader: You keep your promises Almighty God and You said the needy will not be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish. You are a refuge for the oppressed, the ever present stronghold in times of trouble.
Congregation: Your promise is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths. Your words are sweeter than honey to our mouths!
Leader: You promised that You would never ignore the cry of the afflicted and that those who know Your name will never be forsaken.
Congregation: We shall wait on You and not be weary. We shall be of good courage as we lift our hands to You in supplication. Let not evil triumph.
Leader: Almighty God, many are our foes that rise up against us. In their arrogance, wicked men hunt down the weak who are caught in the schemes they devise. They compass us about like angry bees and wasps.
Congregation: As a nation, we have become corrupt. Criminal gangs have joined with gunmen to do abominable deeds. Their mouths are full of curses, lies and threats. Their victims are crushed under their misguiided strength.
Leader: How long shall our enemies be exalted over us?
Congregation: As our rock, our fortress, our deliverer and our strength, we call upon You to save us from our enemies.
Leader: Make the wicked come trembling from their garrisons. While we seek no personal revenge as You proclaimed with righteousness: “Vengeance is mine!”
Congregation: While You pledged unfailing kindness for your anointed, iniquities prevail in all of us. You know our reproach, shame and dishonor. We pray therefore that You purge these sins from us.
Leader: Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses. Remember not the sins of our youth. But according to thy mercy forgive us for our many transgressions.
Congregation: We are merely strivers to be pure in heart, trying to keep ourselves from sin and to live by Christian principles.
Leader: We acknowledged our own sins against You, and our iniquity we will not hide. We confess these transgressions with the faith that you will now forgive us.
Congregation: Forsake us not O Gentle Savior. Teach us to do Your will and lead us into the land of uprightness, integrity and truth so that sinners will walk from darkness into the light and become gracious and full of compassion for our fellow citizens.
Leader: Watch over the righteous, bless us and surround us with your favor as with a shield and make the nation our inheritance.
Congregation: Defend us from those who rise up against us. Place a shield around us and restore glory on us so we can lift up our heads.
Leader: Order our steps in thy word and let not any iniquity have dominion over us. Deliver us from the oppression of sinful men.
Congregation: Let the lying lips of the wicked be silenced and call them to account for their sins so they may terrify us no more. Let those who dig holes fall into the pits they make. Let the trouble they cause recoil on them. The violence they perpetuate come down on their own heads.
Leader: For those of us who have done evil. We ask thy forgiveness and mercy. We repent of these sins.
Congregation: Take away, O Lord, the desires and propensities of the wicked to be violent and the unrighteous to give thanks unto Your name. They are also our sons and daughters and You are the father of us all. But what has a man gained if he owns great wealth and loose his soul?
Leader: O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.
Congregation: Give us relief from our distress and be merciful. Let the light of Your face shine upon us and give us peace.
Leader: We lay our requests before You and wait with expectation.
Congregation: Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Leader: If You be for us, who can be against us? You only are the strength of our lives. If we trust in You, who shall we fear?
Congregation: From You come blessings and deliverance from wickedness. We will give thanks and sing praises to You, our LORD Most High, for You have kept Your promises and dealt bountifully with us.
Leader: We make a joyful noise unto You and come before You with thanksgiving. Your mercy is everlasting; and Your truth endure forever.
Congregation: May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be forever pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
Leader: Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for You are our constant companion. We promise to never let go of your hands.
Congregation: You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, exalting the righteous.
Leader: Save Your people, and bless our inheritance. Feed us until we want no more. Turn our mourning into dancing.
Congregation: Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us as we put our faith and trust in You. Put off our sackcloth, and gird us with gladness. We will join all those who are upright in heart to sing a new song and shout for joy.
Leader: Let truth, peace and prosperity return to Jamaica so that the land may yield her increase and our children inherit a new land.
Congregation: You water the land and provide us with a rich harvest of fruits, vegetables and grain.
Leader: You cause the grass to grow for the animals, they multiply greatly and herb for the service of man that we may bring forth food out of the earth. O LORD, how manifold is Your works! The earth overflows with riches. So is the great sea that caresses us, full of Your bounty,
Congregation: From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. May Your mercy endure forever.
All: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen. Amen. Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Trip to China in 2008.

Basil Waine Kong, Ph.D., JD

We were sharing travel stories with some friends and they suggested that I create a post of our trip to China. While we were not fortunate enough to visit during the Olympics, we saw all the preparation and in particular, posters of Asafa Powell who they had expected to the star of the Olympics. It was a fascinating adventure, nevertheless.

One of the outstanding highlights of our two week sojourn was attending a cardiology conference at Fuwai Hospital (Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College) Presentations by Chinese scholars, Drs. Gu Dongfeng, Hui Rutai and Yang Yuejin were particularly informative. With all our expectations about “Traditional Chinese Medicine”, we were surprised that cardiology in China resembled cardiology in the United States. They implanted pacemakers, stints, had the same diagnostic equipment available, medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol was the same as practiced in the United States. No where were any Chinese herbs to be found. They followed the same clinical protocol for demonstrating efficacy and side effects of various treatments and many of them published in the NEJM, Hypertension, and JACC. Smoking was their major concern as 50-60% of the population smoked and while obesity is currently less than 15%, it was on the rise as the Chinese people adopted western lifestyles. They were surprised to know that so many people in the United States were obese. The tour of the hospital was particularly enriching.

Our visit to China was just sensational, delighting all our senses. What do you eat when you are in China? The answer is Chinese food but interestingly enough, French, continental and even Jamaican was available. We even had Starbucks and McDonald's. The trip was a perfect blend of feasts, science, culture, history, sightseeing and shopping. The beer is equivalent to Red Stripe.

We started out in Shanghai with tours of the city (old and new), seeing the awesome acrobatic show and attended lectures on Chinese investment and business climate. We visited the Shanghai museum, the Yuyuan Garden and the Bund (The famous river walk).

We moved on to the “Three Gorges Dam” in Yicchang which is an awesome splendor and engineering feat. The Dams provided enough electricity to economically supply 100 million homes. We boarded the good ship “Vicking” and sailed for four days down the Yangtze River through the Wu Gorge, the Qutang Gorge and the visited the fabulous Snow Jade Cave and City of Ghosts. It was fascinating to see people putting every bit of land to use. For example, the sides of the road were planted up with corn and other vegetables. Master Poe did a masterful tai chi demonstration to the delight of all the passengers.

We eventually arrived in Zian where we spent a day viewing the incredible Terracotta Army. In a previous generation, the Emperor took his army, family and friends with him when he died to keep his company for the expected reincarnation. Later, another emperor was talked into making terracotta likenesses of his wives and soldiers to be buried with him. We marveled at the thousands of soldiers, archers, horses and chariots that were buried with the Emperor Qin Shi Huang more than 2,000 years ago.

In Chongquin, we were entertained by a dozen Pandas, strange looking koi and other unusual animals at the Zoo, and viewed a large collection of Chinese art. We found it fascinating that large numbers of people show up morning and evening in various groups to do group dace, tai chi, fan dance and other exercises in the parks.

We eventually made it to Beijing, a city dating back to more than 1,000 years before Christ where Tienanmen Square, the world’s largest public square with the capacity to accommodate more than 1,000,000 people, the Forbidden City and other elegant palaces, pavilions courtyards and gardens. The climb on the Great Wall was a visual feast and the elegant Sacred Way leading to the Ming Emperors tomb featuring stone elephants, lion, camels and mythical beasts.

The street vendors are far more aggressive than in Jamaica. But shopping was great with incredible bargains. almost everything cost about 20% for equivalent items in Jamaica. But what really made the trip an awesome experience was interacting with the people. Our guides could not have been more entertaining, informative and engaging. And no, while I encountered lots of Kongs, I did not find any of my father's family.

This is a trip I would highly recommend.

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Review of "Jamaica Farewell" after we saw it last year

"Jamaica Farewell" is a magnificent production
See This Play
Basil Waine Kong

Last night, my wife and I were in Atlanta and took the opportunity to attend the fabulous one woman show titled: "Jamaica Farewell" staring Debra Ehrhardt and Directed by Francis McGahy. It is funny, it's original, well rehearsed and went off without a hitch. I could readily relate to the story line about a Jamaican girl who dreams of escaping to America during the Turbulent Seventies. Through many daring and hilarious twists and turns (Jamaican style), she averts disaster and achieves her goal. For good belly laughs and inspiration mixed with a great deal of back-home inferences, you will want to make every effort to see this magnificent production. I absolutely loved it and I am sure you will as well. Ms. Ehrhardt deserves an Oscar. To learn about play dates, please go to: Your soul will be enriched.

The play comes to the Theatre Place (8 Haining Rd. 908-0040) from Wednesday, Aug. 11 - Sat. Aug. 14.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Selling Worthless Pyrites for Gold

Basil Waine Kong

With all due respect, I believe our PM is under the illusion that a state of emergency (SOE)that authorizes our soldiers and police to be arresting officer, judge, jury and executioner is the answer to the crime monster. While the declaration of the SOE was absolutely the right thing to do to meet the immediate threat and the attack against the state, it is no substitute for day to day policing. He has, however, sold the public that a long term SOE will be effective and make us feel safe again.

Crime statistics reported by the government predictably show dramatic improvement but at what price? The killing of over 70 suspects or imprisoning over 4,000 compromises our rights as citizens without the requirement that they be formally charged and determine their guilt or innocence in a count of law. Apparently, more than 99% of those taken from their families and detained for up to two months under horrendous circumstances are never charged. An attack on crime in any society requires an investment in people, strategic planning and hard work, these do not seem to be elements of what is being done.

According to Hunmin Campbell: "The security forces and their admirers believe that the current crime problem can be solved quickly and easily. There is no quick fix to our crime problem. The Government must not be fooled by the facade of commissioner of police Owen Ellington or the eloquence of Colonel Rocky Meade of the Jamaica Defence Force."

Regardless of the pushback from the Chamber of Commerce, It was correct for the PNP representatives not to support the extension. The SOE provision in our constitution was never envisioned as a long term approach to crime. But our PM's great gift is that he can sell worthless pyrites for gold. While the Dons are on the run and we are focused on catching the bad guys and reducing the number of homicides, what is this doing to our basic human rights? What is the price of a crime free society?

With our culture of police brutality against poor people, we should be reminded about what they say about the path to hell. This usurpation of illegal powers is no substitute for a comprehensive plan to address not only crime but social development as well. The only money we are never short of is for law enforcement. When will we start redirecting some of these funds to education, jobs, and the rehabilitation of the criminals we are bent on putting behind bars?. As these are not life sentences, how will they be re-introduced into society? Most of these men who are being imprisoned are our youths. With five to ten years in prison, they will not only be more bitter, they will have gone to prison school and will have been indoctrinated into the criminal sub-culture. What will they do when they are released?

If you ever wonder about the plight of our young black men,I am envisioning two of them sitting side by side at the Emergency room at KPH waiting for a doctor to tend to their wounds---one a soldier shot by a criminal and the other a criminal shot by a soldier.

This is what a confessed criminal told me: “Wa me fe do? Me a desperate man and desperate men do desperate things. I am 21 years old and nutten a gwaun. Me can't read and me no fine no work. Every day me wake up from kotching and stress over how me gwan get a food. Me try to sell a little ting them pon the road but the police run me. If me don’t beg, tief or borrow, how me fe live? How me ever gwan have woman and pickney? Can me even dream of owning a car and house? Life hard. From the day me bawn, me have trouble. Life better in prison.”

Illiteracy is intolerable everywhere else but Jamaica. One third of our people cannot read. Where is the investment in their future? Our government close their ears to the cries of the oppressed and shut their eyes to the crimes of the rich. According to Mr. Lloyd Smith: "Jamaica has one of the highest levels of illiteracy and non-productivity in the Caribbean and Latin American region. This country is also one of the most undisciplined, corrupt and crime-ridden in the world. Education must be the means by which we change all that for the better, not just freeness or states of emergency."

Declaring a SOE says more about the incompetence of government than about law and order. We do not educate our people, tell them not to bother knocking at the door of government for help, deny them access to basic services and sentence them to a life of misery.

Leaders with a lust for power, once in fear for their tenure, cannot help but to be arbitrary and cruel. Today the gunmen and the poor. Who will it be tomorrow?

Personally, I live in fear, not only from criminals but from the government as well. What is to prevent the PM (under his emergency powers) from sending soldiers to extricate me from my home just because he doesn’t like what I write or say about him. Do we still have free speech? Tumultuous liberty is better than disgraceful peace. “I would rather be a dead man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave.” (Jimmy Cliff) Ruling by fear is the worst kind of government.

To quote Mr. Stanley Redwood: “Expediency has often been used as an excuse for oppression. Let us be very careful what we ask for. We just might get it. And those of us who spring from an ancestry of oppressed people and who continue to live and work among our people, we cannot afford to be so cavalier with our hard-won fundamental rights and constitutional freedoms.”

Our PM is not only misguided, he does not think things through and is without the moral fortitude to lead the country. It never occurs to him that solving one problem creates at least two more problems to solve. I am going to guess when he ordered the detention of thousands of our citizens, he never thought about where they would be housed and how their physical needs were to be addressed. History will judge him unkindly because:

“Moral Evil is Falsehood in actions; as Falsehood is Crime in words. Injustice is the essence of Falsehood; and every false word is an injustice.” (Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike)

But then again, desperate men do desperate things. The end, ladies and gentlemen, does not justify the means. It is time to bring back the restorer of the trust and the builder of the nation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's My Birthday

Basil Waine Kong

It’s my 67th birthday and I appreciated the well wishes of friends and family, particularly my passionate wife, our four prosperous children and our six gorgeous grandchildren who all called to sing “Happy Birthday” and bring tidings to warm the cockles of my heart. It was really special when my 87 year old mother called and sang to me. She cannot believe she has a 67 year old son! I feel really loved, and blessed today and believe my life’s work made a positive difference in the lives of a few people. Thank you all.

I often reflect on the fact that when I was growing up in Woodlands District in St. Elizabeth, I never knew how old I was and never even thought to ask. None of us children ever had a birthday party or was ever concerned about our age. When my grandmother was 60 years old, her children did assemble for a birthday party but that was the only one I remember. I understand that this was not the practice of those who grew up in Kingston but us country bumpkins did not annually blow our candles and eat ice cream and cake on our birthdays in the company of family and friends. I only found out my birth date when I had to get a copy of my birth certificate to apply for a visa to migrate to the United States at fifteen years old. Even now, it is an odd encounter when we do blood pressure screenings around Jamaica and find that about a third of the people we screen do not know their birth date.

When I migrated to the United States in 1959(Morristown, NJ), my mother was invested in making it up to me and spared no expense organizing a sweet sixteen party. The problem was that as I had only recently arrived and had not yet made any friends. So, I just went ahead and invited the entire school. On the night of the party, over 100 people who I did not know showed up. After admitting about 20 people, my mother locked the door leaving the remaining people wondering up and down Phoenix Avenue to my great embarrassment. Anyway, being the center of attention and receiving presents was a novel experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

As is her practice, my wife went all out to make today special and I appreciate her love, caring and attention to detail immensely. This was her e-mail to me this morning: “My darling husband:I wanted to be the first to give you a BIG BIRTHDAY hug!!!!!! I praise God for you and pray God’s blessings on your now 67th birthday. I love you because you are the fulfillment of my prayers and dreams for a man to share my life with. You are my proof that God exists and that He loves me because He gave you to me. You are my daily birthday present. I love you this day more than ever before!!!!! Your Wife”

Between watching The Open, lunch with my mother, an outing with some Haitian friends (Gee and Karen Douyon) in the afternoon and a lovely family dinner, it turned out to be a wonderful day. An old friend (Dr. Art Lee) who I have not seen in over a year showed up and contributed tremendously to the celebration. Seeing Luis Oosthuizen, the winner of The Open from South Africa, and his Caddie (Zack Rasego) walk down the eighteenth fairway on Nelson Mandela’s birthday was a heartwarming and emotional experience. Yes, I share my birthday with the great man himself.

But, I think we have things backward. Children love a lot of candles and older people hate them, so I propose that when a baby comes into the world, he or she should have 80 candles on their first birthday and each subsequent birthday is celebrated with the reduction of one candle. So, when you run out of candles, you will be reminded that it is time for you to go or at least when you get down to a few you will know that time is running out on you.

To be 67 years old with no aches and still able to play 36 holes walking,do 35 push-ups, having the support of a loving and dedicated family, and still making a contribution to the uplifting of mankind, is a blessing. I learned long ago the words of a wise man (Dr. Malcolm Taylor): “If you have God, family and friends, you may stumble, but you will never hit the ground.” Ladies and gentlemen, I have it all.