All posts by Henry Lewis

Unconventional artist, writer, videographer and teacher. Personal Quote: It isn't easy being me ;-)

CultureTravel

The Camel Beauty Pageant

As the Monty Python crew used to say, “And now for something completely different!”

Let’s escape to the deserts of southern Oman to participate in one of the locals’ favorite events – a camel beauty contest. Mind you, these descendants of Bedouin tribes take camel raising very seriously as the princely sums paid for a prime specimen indicate. Contestants – lovely one-humped dromedary camels with long double sets of eyelashes – are judged on the fullness of their chests and downward curve of their lower lips, among other distinctive qualities.

As you’ll see in the following video, the owners and other audience members create a party atmosphere, filled with dancing and lots of cheering for their favorite contestant.

Be sure to crank up the volume!

peace~henry

Covid-19Health and Well-beingPolitics

Covid-19: The Next Phase

While some areas of Europe and the USA are beginning to see a flattening of the Covid-19 transmission curve and subsequent death rates, much of the rest of the world is still in the early stages of the pandemic’s first wave. Business lock-downs and population quarantines have become the widely accepted means of reducing the spread of infections across the globe. Governments — in countries both rich and poor — are now grappling with how to restart sagging economies without risking an overwhelmed healthcare sector.

Meanwhile, millions of workers in the informal economies of the developing world — who scrape together what they and their families need to survive on a daily basis — are becoming increasingly restless as insufficient government efforts fail to supply food to the neediest across the globe. Many governments in Latin America are facing the threat of medical worker strikes unless they can provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by staff.

As rich and poor countries compete for the same limited international supplies of PPE as well as ventilators for the most severely ill patients, a pattern is beginning to form. The developing world is being priced out of the very supplies necessary to fight the pandemic.

As infections and deaths continue to increase in the poorest regions of the world, indications are that social unrest will grow as well. This is especially true in countries such as Chile and Ecuador that saw weeks of protests, rioting and looting during last fall’s uprising against corrupt, institutionalized systems that have always favored the wealthy, leading to some of the world’s most dramatic economic inequality. Such raw feelings will be easily reawakened by the ongoing ravages of hunger, illness and death associated with Covid-19.

Here are some of the stories I followed for readers this week across Latin America and beyond.

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ArchitectureTravel

Towers, Turrets and Spires: Postcards from Prague

Start Here >>> Relax with a bit of Miles Davis as you browse……..

Emerging from my hotel on a cold January morning, I braced myself against the breeze as I closed my jacket and adjusted the wool scarf wrapped tightly around my neck. I certainly wasn’t going to allow winter’s chill to slow my pace of exploration. After all, I felt it was far better to brave the elements of a Czech winter than face the tourist hoards that predictably descended in summer on Prague, the much-hyped former capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and home to a golden string of Holy Roman Emperors.

Old Town Square is the heart of Prague’s UNESCO-listed historic area. Photo: Henry Lewis

The twin towers of the imposing Church of Our Lady Before Tyn dominate this view of Old Town Square. Photo: Henry Lewis

The Prague astronomical clock, located in Old Town Square, is a visitor favorite. It was first installed in 1410 and is the world’s oldest working astronomical clock. Photo: Henry Lewis

The Gothic tower of Old Town City Hall in Old Town Square. Photo: Henry Lewis

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NatureTravel

Escape to Krakow Botanical Gardens!

I don’t know about you, but I need a nature break!

-Henry…wacky humanoid with a bad case of cabin fever

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve resorted to finger puppetry due to being quarantined alone for too long. Photo: Henry Lewis

Being alone and under quarantine in a small apartment for an indefinite period of time is beginning to take its toll on my mental health. The chain-smoking downstairs neighbor who’s using his confinement time to build furniture (think lots of electric saw noise) and the weight lifters who set up their own gym just outside my balcony, complete with blasting sound system playing Colombian reggaetón music, are just two of the distractions that have been making the hair on my back stand on end.

A neighbor working out just in front of my balcony. The music system stays on low volume these days after a polite request. If you coat your words with sugar, you’re more likely to get what you want. Photo: Henry Lewis

The most important thing to remember at a time like this is to do our utmost to be kind to others. Besides worrying about the possibility of loved ones getting sick, millions of people have also found themselves suddenly unemployed and are wondering how they’re going to pay for rent, food and the other basic necessities to survive.

Trying to be empathetic and put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes will go a long way toward soothing the frustrations of being cooped-up inside. A little empathy along with FREQUENT MENTAL ESCAPES will be necessary for maintaining a positive perspective over the next few months.

So, let’s give our minds a break from all the current uncertainties for just a few minutes, breathe deeply (then exhale) and take an easy trip to one of my favorite botanical gardens – the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

Looking across the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University to the university buildings and towers of Kraków’s Old Town beyond. Photo: Henry Lewis

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Health and Well-being

Covid-19 Transmission Advice

No, I’m not working for the New York Times (don’t I wish!), but I just read a credible, practical and useful article in NYT written by two geneticists that explain coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission in easily understood layman’s terms. Speaking for myself, I’m totally open to useful advice these days!

…and follow the link below ⇓

⇓⇓ peace~henry

                      ⇓⇓⇓

 

Health and Well-beingPolitics

What Happened America?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, made the following statement about the new coronavirus in an article published in the New York Times on February 2, 2020.

It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic.

-Dr. Anthony Fauci

As of March 28, 2020, the USA leads the world in the number of confirmed cases with more than 124,000 and over 2,000 deaths.

Infectious disease specialists working with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) predict the number of new COVID-19 infections in the USA may not peak for three to six weeks.

How high will the number of confirmed cases and deaths have climbed by then?

What will America’s healthcare systems look like at that point?

How did we get here?

1. Absence of leadership at the highest levels of the US Government
2. Leaders who dismiss scientific evidence at every turn
3. Ignorance of the threats of COVID-19
4. Lost opportunity to blunt the spread of the virus

Americans must depend on those who
are risking their own lives at the moment
on the front lines of the battle
at times without proper
protective equipment
our brave and dedicated

MEDICAL WORKERS ♥♥♥

Medical personnel transferring a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Rome, Italy. Photo Credit: Gemelli Policlinico via Reuters

  • Remember that the lives of medical workers may depend on the decisions you make each day.
  • Do whatever you can to avoid being infected and becoming a burden on already stressed hospitals and clinics.
  • Only trust the preventive measures listed on the websites of the CDC and WHO.

As a close friend living under a mandatory quarantine in Italy advised me this week, “Stay home.”

peace and good health~henry

Health and Well-being

Attitude Adjustments and Other Lessons From Mandatory Isolation

Time and reflection change the sight little by little ’till we come to understand.
-Paul Cezanne

My phone notifies me that I have another whatsapp message. I hesitate, wondering if it’s news from an old friend abroad or from my local contact who’s keeping me updated on steps the Colombian government is taking to fight the rapid spread of the new coronavirus here in my adopted country of Colombia.

Over the past two months, many of us have had the good fortune of watching from a safe distance as lives were turned upside down in other parts of the world. That’s no longer the case, as COVID-19 has continued to spread rapidly, with confirmed cases now being reported in 185 countries, areas or territories according to the WHO.

The initial incompetent reactions – or lack of action – from top leaders in the USA, the UK and here in Colombia have caused conflicts and chaos which in turn have slowed any positive steps toward controlling the outbreak before it began spreading from person to person within local communities. Despite earlier warnings from both the military, intelligence community and international medical professionals, many national governments have shown themselves to be unprepared and unwilling to listen to voices of reason coming from regional and local officials aware of the real-time changes taking place on the ground.

In my local region of Antioquia, last night marked our first mandatory 3-day lock-down, a test to identify the service gaps prior to a longer period of quarantine. After taking action on their own, local and regional leaders are now finding Colombia’s national government more conducive to cooperating with local authorities. Although the confirmed case numbers here remain much lower than in the USA or Western Europe, medical experts are demanding action – now.

Fearing that even a mild epidemic could cause the country’s underfunded healthcare system to collapse, the national government has finally heeded the call of health experts and local leaders, calling for a nation-wide lock-down from March 25 to April 12. Colombia’s borders are now closed and all international flights into and out of the country will cease operations on March 25.

Unfortunately, these actions have come too late as infections are no longer limited to international travelers and have begun to spread within communities. The situation on the ground seems to be changing at lightening speed and we can no longer fool ourselves with the belief that the wolf will remain on someone else’s doorstep.

Colombia’s second largest city, Medellín, has some of South America’s best hospitals. Still, the government fears the country’s healthcare system could collapse under the stress of even a mild COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Henry Lewis

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ArchitectureTravelVisual Arts

Italia, ti amiamo (Italy, we love you)

 

Frescoes draw the viewer aloft into the domed ceiling of the Bascilica di San Marco in Milan. Photo: Henry Lewis

Italy, we love you!

Your extraordinary wealth of art and architecture dazzles our senses and ignites even our most latent sense of historical curiosity. Your heavenly cuisine provides all the sensual pleasures a lonely traveling soul could possibly desire. You’ve produced some of history’s most distinguished and intellectually gifted artists and scientists, from Leonardo da Vinci to Galileo Galilei, as well as showing us a woman’s view of life in the early 17th century through the work of the fascinating female painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

As residents of Italy’s northern Lombardy region – and its capital Milan – suffer under the local strain of a global pandemic, it seems fitting to present a tribute to some of my favorite places.

Milan, the country’s northern industrial, financial and cultural metropolis, is often quickly dismissed by travelers who rush through on their way to more popular attractions in the northern cities of Florence and Venice, or on to see the ancient sites of Rome and Naples in the south.

I LIKE Milan. It’s a vibrant, interesting city that feels authentic. At the same time, it holds enough treasures – from meticulously detailed Renaissance churches to great works of visual art – to satisfy even the most jaded traveler.

The Milan Cathedral–Spectacular

Every evening light is still visible in this view of the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) which commands the surrounding Piazzo del Duomo, and is the city’s most popular gathering spot. The Candoglia marble used on the building’s exterior constantly changes color, slowly taking on magical hues as the light changes from dawn to dusk. Photo: Henry Lewis

The Piazzo del Duomo from the rooftop of the Milan Cathedral. Photo: Henry Lewis

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Health and Well-being

Greetings In The Time of Coronavirus: To Shake or Not to Shake

Consider the humble handshake…

Dating back to approximately the 5th century BCE and popularized in the 17th century by Quakers looking for a more egalitarian gesture than bowing or tipping one’s hat, the handshake has become the defacto greeting used in international business situations. To some degree, it has also replaced many traditional forms of personal acknowledgment once used in various cultures around our planet.

Greek goddesses Hera (Queen of the Gods and the wife and sister of Zeus) and Athena (goddess of wisdom, war and the crafts, among other things) handshaking, late 5th century BCE, Acropolis Museum, Athens. Photo: Henry Lewis courtesy of the Acropolis Museum, Athens.

A handshake: Donald and Me (or I, uh?)

While searching through news articles this week, I discovered that I have something in common with Donald Trump. [You, dear reader, may be surprised, but imagine how I felt!] It seems that it’s a well-established fact – as opposed to an alternative fact – that Trump is a germaphobe and will often go to great lengths to prevent exposure to coughs, sneezes, and yes, even the common handshake. He reportedly once wrote that the practice of shaking hands was “barbaric

The infamous 2017 handshake between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is showing Trump who has the strongest grip! Photo: Courtesy of Bloomberg Politics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOf9FqsLfA8

I admit that I too have occasionally been known to recoil in horror (at least internally) when meeting new people and feeling the pressure to swap sweaty palms. It’s not that I dislike being touched. On the contrary, I think human touch is essential to an individual’s well-being. Part of my reluctance to press hand flesh with a stranger is because of my childhood upbringing.

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Health and Well-beingPolitics

Donald Trump and the Corona Virus: Can He Be Trusted?

Even though our factual truth is never completely free of interpretation or personal perspective, this situation cannot serve as an argument against the existence of reality and facts, nor can it justify blurring the dividing lines between fact, opinion, and interpretation. The outcome of such blurring is a confused public that cannot differentiate between fact, fabrication, and opinion.

-Philosopher Hannah Arendt

The mid-20th century writings of Arendt seem prophetic in today’s post-truth world where maintaining political advantage often outweighs the common good. In such an era, what happens when a confused public is faced with contradictory information relating to a topic as important as public health? A comparable scenario was created this week by the Trump administration while discussing the level of risk the US population may face from the current world-wide corona virus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The stage was set by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who accused the media of stoking virus fears to “bring down the President.” Mulvaney’s comments were purely political and had no basis in fact, and indeed, ignored the seriousness of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. They also fly in the face of health experts worldwide.

In an interview with the BBC, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of health emergencies, Mike Ryan, noted the advice posted on the official WHO website on Friday, February 28. “We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high.” This is the WHO’s highest level of warning.

The WHO warning calls for “all countries to educate their populations, to expand surveillance, to find, isolate and care for every case, to trace every contact, and to take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach.” According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.”

 Tom Toles – Washington Post

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