Life in Benin
The Nigerian border crossing at Seme was undoubtedly the most wearing so far. It was absolute mayhem with 80% humidity and added motorbikes (as the okadas banned in Lagos were back in full force). Police directed us through the milling hordes of vehicles and people to the first boom where blokes were shouting at us before we’d even got there. An official in a sandy uniform and sunhat came and beckoned two gentlemen, who introduced themselves as T.T. Camara and George, to escort us through.
I went with them and explained to the first gendarme we’d spent all our remaining Naira at the supermarket getting food for our children so there was none left; the climate change project story had him so bemused, we were eventually moved along. At the next stop, a super friendly woman outside Immigration wrote down our Facebook page after taking our passport details; inside I was given long forms to fill in by a deputy as various young men in transit were shouted at, bullied and humiliated by the senior official for N500 notes.
I nipped back to the truck to fill in the usual reams of pointless detail while scoffing a quick fried plantain to keep my strength up. TT was very impressed by our living arrangements and by Zola – he’d never heard of adoption and first thought our son was a miraculous conception – and by Ruby, whom he offered to marry. This is becoming a slightly worrying pattern, especially as when I point out she’s only 12, it rarely seems to put suitors off.
Back in Immigration, I sat quietly with folded hands, casually looking outside and purposefully not seeing the money changing hands within, showing no hurry and bracing myself for the biggest asshole so far. The senior official was an older geezer in a magnificent Nigerian suit and hat, calling all the shots while looking hawkishly out from behind small round glasses. It seems he was checking me out as shrewdly as I’d checked him, as 15 minutes later, he chose not to engage, just signalled his deputy to wave me through to the inner sanctum for stamps……..
Life in Russia
“”In the incongruous atmosphere of the Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, an extraordinary encounter took place in 1979. During the Dalai Lama’s first visit to North America, he met with three Hopi elders. The spiritual leaders agreed to speak in only in their Native tongues. Through Hopi elder and interpreter Thomas Benyakya, delegation head Grandfather David’s first words to the Dalai Lama were: “Welcome home.”
The Dalai Lama laughed, noting the striking resemblance of the turquoise around Grandfather David’s neck to that of his homeland. He replied: “And where did you get your turquoise?”
Since that initial meeting, the Dalai Lama has visited Santa Fe to meet with Pueblo leaders, Tibetan Lamas have engaged in numerous dialogues with Hopis and other Southwestern Indians, and now, through a special resettlement program to bring Tibetan refugees to the United States, New Mexico has become a central home for relocated Tibetan families.
As exchanges become increasingly common between Native Americans and Tibetans, a sense of kinship and solidarity has developed between the cultures. While displacement and invasion have forced Tibetans to reach out to the global community in search of allies, the Hopi and other Southwestern Native Americans have sought an audience for their message of world peace and harmony with the earth. In the context of these encounters are the activities of writers and activists who are trying to bridge the two cultures. A flurry of books and articles have been published, arguing that Tibetans and Native Americans may share a common ancestry.
The perception of similarity between Native Americans of the Southwest and the Tibetans is undeniably striking. Beyond a common physicality and turquoise jewelry, parallels include the abundant use of silver and coral, the colors and patterns of textiles and long braided hair, sometimes decorated, worn by both men and women.
When William Pacheco, a Pueblo student, visited a Tibetan refugee camp in India, people often spoke Tibetan to him, assuming that he was one of them……………….