Monday, January 19, 2015

Brookline Climate Week 2015

Brookline Climate Week: TinySol and Community Shared Solar Hyperlinks

Stand Up Now for our Future

TinySol in Brookline

TinySol Cruising on Lake Winnipesaukee

Link to TinySol Solar House Brochures

Cuddle up in TinySol, or Wake with the Sun,  a solar-powered house cum houseboat. You walk in and you are in another world – a future world powered entirely by the sun. Curl up on one of the bunks in this 128 sq. ft. house on wheels. It sleeps two. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being inside TinySol. Walk in and feel welcomed, comfortable, and safe. Enjoy a snack or a meal prepared in the solar-powered kitchen. In a home like this, you can live anywhere: the woods, the beach, your back yard, or on pontoons for solar-powered exploration of rivers or lakes. Come visit this 21st Century Walden cabin.

Community Shared Solar Gardens - Renewable Energy for Everyone

47 Kw Community Shared Solar Array, Winchester Street, Brookline

Link to Community Shared Solar Documents

What if you would like to benefit from the incentives and savings of being a solar panel owner but rent, or don't live in a sunny location? You can become an owner or investor in a shared system on the roof of an industrial, commercial, or town owned building or on open land. You would reap tax credits, reduce your electricity bill, and help the environment.

The good news is that for many in Brookline, there are very attractive opportunities for a potentially outstanding return on an investment in solar panels. Community Shared Solar Garden is an opportunity for apartment residents, owners or renters of commercial properties, and owners of condominiums can choose to switch to a renewable source by solarizing theie electrical power source.

Here is an analogy: Not everyone can work a farm, but anyone can buy into a farm’s production through a Community Supported Agriculture CSA.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Ready for our meal

Thanksgiving Holiday 2012

The cooking

Corn bread

Roasted vegetables

Creamed pumpkin apple soup

Mushroom tomato stew

Mashed potato

Ilana and Debbie

The table

Deserts: pumpkin pie, apple crumble, sweets

Another treat

More to eat


The Thanksgiving Story

The Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1620 and landed on the rocky shores of a territory inhabited by Wampanoag Indians, a tribe of the Algonkian nation. The Wampanoag lived in round-roofed wigwams made of poles covered with flat sheets of elm or birch bark.

The Wampanoag moved several times each year in order to get food. In the Spring they fished in the rivers for salmon and herring. The planting season was the time to begin cultivating corn, squash, beans, and native vegetables. While the women took care of the crops, the men moved to the forest to hunt deer and other animals. At the end of the hunting season, the Wampanoag moved inland where there was greater protection from the severe weather. From December to April, they lived on food that they stored during the earlier months.

Any visitor to a Wampanoag home received a share of whatever food the family had, even if the supply was low. The Wampanoag extended this courtesy to the Pilgrims.

It was because of Wampanoag kindness that the Pilgrims survived at all. The wheat the Pilgrims had brought with them to plant would not grow in the rocky
New England soil. They needed to learn new ways for a new world, and the man who came to help them was Tisquantum or Squanto.

In 1605, 15 years before the Pilgrims came, Squanto traveled to
England with a friendly English explorer named Captain John Weymouth. He had many adventures and learned to speak English. Squanto came back to New England with Captain Weymouth.

A British slaver raided Squanto’s village, captured Squanto, and sold him in the Caribbean. A Spanish Franciscan priest befriended Squanto and helped him to get to Spain and later onto a ship to England. Squanto found Captain Weymouth, who paid his way back to his homeland. Squanto returned to his home village called Patuxet in 1620. The village was deserted. Only skeletons remained. The members of the village had died from a European illness the English slavers had brought.

In the Spring of the next year, Squanto, while hunting with his friend Samoset, along the beach near Patuxet was surprised to see people from
England. His friend Samoset walked into the village and said, "Welcome". Squanto soon joined him. The Pilgrims were amazed to meet two Indians who spoke English.

The Pilgrims were not in good condition. They were living in dirt-covered shelters. There was a shortage of food. Nearly half of them had died during the prior Winter. They obviously needed help. Squanto, who probably knew more English than any other Indian in
North America at that time, decided to stay with the Pilgrims for the next few months and teach them how to survive. He brought deer meat and beaver skins. He taught them how to cultivate corn and other native vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses. He pointed out poisonous and medicinal plants. He explained how to dig and cook clams, how to get syrup from the maple trees, use fish for fertilizer, and dozens of other skills needed for survival.

By Fall, things were going much better. The corn they planted had grown well. There was enough food to last the winter. They were living comfortably in their Indian-style homes. They were now in better health, and they knew more about how to survive. The Pilgrims decided to make a thanksgiving feast to celebrate their good fortune.

The Algonkian tribes held six thanksgiving festivals during the year. They celebrated the beginning of the Algonkian year with the Maple Dance, which gave thanks to the Creator for the maple tree and its syrup. This ceremony occurred when the weather was warm enough for the sap to run in the maple trees, sometimes as early as February. Second, was the planting feast, when the seeds were blessed. The strawberry festival was next, celebrating the first fruits of the season. The summertime green corn festival gave thanks for the ripening corn. In late Fall, the harvest festival gave thanks for the food they had grown and hunted. Mid-winter was the last ceremony for the old year. When the Indians sat down to the "first” Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, it was really the fifth thanksgiving of the year for them.

Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, invited Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoag), and their immediate families to join them for a celebration, but they had no idea how big Indian families could be. As the Thanksgiving feast began, the Pilgrims were overwhelmed at the large turnout. Squanto and Samoset brought 90 relatives. The Pilgrims were not prepared to feed so many for three days. Seeing this, Massasoit gave orders to his men to bring more food. Thus, it happened that the Indians supplied the majority of the food: Five deer, many wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn soup, corn bread, and berries. Captain Standish sat at one end of a long table and the clan chief Massasoit sat at the other end. For the first time the Wampanoag people were sitting at a table to eat instead of on mats or furs spread on the ground. The Indian women sat together at the table with the Indian men. The Pilgrim women, however, stood quietly behind the table and waited until after their men had eaten, since that was their custom.

For three days, the Wampanoag feasted with the Pilgrims. It was a special time of friendship between two very different people.

It would be very good to say that this friendship lasted a long time. However, unfortunately, that was not to be. More English came to
America. Mistrust grew and the friendship weakened. The Pilgrims displayed intolerance and hostility toward the Indian religion. The relationship deteriorated. Within a few years, the children of the people who ate together at the “first” Thanksgiving were killing one another in what came to be called King Phillip's War.

It is sad to think that this happened, but it is important to understand all of the story and not just the happy part.

Today the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts has a Thanksgiving ceremony each year in remembrance of the “first” Thanksgiving. Wampanoag still live in Massachusetts. In 1970, the town asked one of them to speak at the ceremony to mark the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival. Here is part of what he said:

"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of Europeans in
America. However, it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoag, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe, that we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or die from diseases that we caught from them.

Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the European.

Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoag, still walk the lands of
Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed.

But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and Nature once again are important."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We are back in Brookline and in one piece


The trip home was very long.  We arrived in Boston just as the sun was just disappearing beyond the horizon. It was wonderful to see the familiar sights of our home city.  Boston is truly a beautiful place.  Our Son, Dani, was at the airport, but he was waiting at the wrong terminal.  There  are five separate terminals.  We were at B.  He went to E. We needed to call him on our mobile, but our account was suspended so we would not have to pay for the six months we were in The Gambia.  I called the company, and within one minute, were had our service back and were able to call him. Welcome to America! Such efficiency! We were able to fit our luggage into his car, no problem, which surprised me because we had so much.

Neighbor children had made welcome home signs that were on the door to our apartment, as well as flowers, so this was very pleasant.

This is Friday.  We arrived on Tuesday night.  We are still unpacking. The weather here is beautiful summer days.  The temperature is about the same as in Brikama.  It is less humid. The sun is much weaker because we are further north and the sun has to pass through more atmosphere to reach us.

I am missing everyone at NARI and The Gambia already.  Actually with email we are still together because we can write to each other instantly.  The thread and connection is still there and we can continue to share our lives, though at a distance. 

So far this blog has been about our travels.  We did do work while at the National Agricultural Research Institute.  We were only actually working for a few months.  It seemed that it was almost time to leave by the time folks figured out and actually understood our role. (This process took time, even though there was a wonderful introduction and welcoming acceptance as a member of the NARI family.) We will write more about the work, but are waiting to find out how it turns out.  The work lives on after our departure, but now in the hands of our colleagues at NARI!

Above is the team for our project.  The photos below show examples of the kind of problems that we, unfortunately, had to leave behind that still need to be resolved.  More on these problems and how and why they came about in a future posting.

(The views expressed are our own)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Visit to Sengal

June 1st to 5th, 2012

We hired Lamin Gaye as our driver.  He has taken other VSO volunteers to Senegal and speaks Woloof, one of the local languages common in The Gambia and Senegal. His car is big and sturdy. 

The road trip to/from was quite rough. A lot of the road is in poor condition. Lamin was skilled at spotting the many hazards and taking evasive action to protect his car and passengers.
We started early from Brikama in order to catch the first ferry at 7:00 a.m.  Lamin had transferred the car to the north bank at Barra the night before. Otherwise, we would have had to wait many hours for a space for the car on the ferry.  The Banjul/Barra ferry is unbelievably slow. If it were any slower, it wouldn’t be moving at all. Only one of the four engines functions. Getting on and off is truly an experience, all the crowding and shoving.  Watch for pick pockets!
Another aspect of our trip to Dakar: We went eight hours without the use of a bathroom.  Somehow, the body adapts.  It was so hot (the car has no air-conditioning.)  We had to watch our fluid intake to avoid dehydration.

It took Lamin an hour at the border to deal with his papers, associated with taking an automobile into Senegal.  Meanwhile, we, waiting in the car, were under siege, as you can only imagine, with little urchins wanting money or to sell us nuts, fruit, cakes, water. Our formalities were also like nothing we have seen at any other border.  First we went to the Gambian police, who copied all of our passport information into a big bound ledger book with many columns.  Then we went to the Gambian immigration police who did the same in another set of books. Each added stamps to our passports. I can't imagine what use those books would ever have?  But there they are. And once the books are full, what happens to them?  If any one wanted to know about our crossing the border, what would they do?  How would they find the information unless they already knew when and where we crossed? On the Senegal side, they also keep a book and write everything, row by row.  But Senegal is more streamlined. They only have one book and one police.

The ride to Dakar is through flat, dry, desert-like countryside dotted with small villages.  Closer to Dakar, we passed salt production flats.  We arrived late afternoon. Dakar reminded me of Buenos Aires in one respect.  There are some modern, impressive buildings and workers in suits and ties. There are also people living on the street, as in Argentina.  From our hotel window, we saw, each night, directly across from the hotel, a family set up pieces of cardboard, supported by benches and stools, and spread out thin mattresses and blankets for the night. That's where they live.  In the morning, they got their kids up, made breakfast, and put all the pieces away again.  Up and down the street others were sleeping on the sidewalk.

The hustlers (bumsters) were very thick.  Somehow, they knew to speak English to us.  Same stories, same strategies, very persistent. We felt like glue paper, and they were the flies.  Coming back from a performance, it was more than hustlers. They had their hands on me and had my bag open, but didn't get anything.  It started as an offer, so friendly, to sell a shirt, but the shirt was like the newspaper used by the gypsy children in Rome.  I knew to be vigilant (grab my wallet before they did) and with Ilana's help, we managed to escape the situation. Shopping in the market is a difficult experience.  The sellers in the street or shops come over to you and do not leave you alone.  They are very persistent and stubbornly unwilling to hear no.

We visited Dakar at an auspicious time. The Biennial Arts Festival was underway.  There was so much to do and so much to see. We went to many galleries and saw the work of many artists. We were fortunate that the National Ballet of Senegal was performing on June 2nd at Dakar's Institute Français.  The Institute is like Alliance Française in the Kombos, The Gambia but much bigger. It is a very nice place, with a lovely restaurant, exhibition spaces and outdoor performance space.  It was a short walk from our hotel. We went there for dinner - it has s a wonderful French restaurant, and then the show. 'Ballet' may be a bit misleading.  This is modern dance with a strong West African orientation. (When we see an ad for this company’s tour in the US, we will surely go again.)  It was excellent. The dancers were very well trained and the production was exciting: The drumming, the costumes, the dancing, the singing, acrobatics, and clowning (One fellow seemed to mimic Arlecchino of the Commedia dell’Arte). It was so rich, affecting all senses at once and difficult to absorb it all. We had not had a chance to witness much artistic life in The Gambia during our short stay here.  We are so glad we went to Senegal and were able to find a bit of what is happening in West Africa.  Senegal seems to be a source for innovation in the arts that is constantly carrying over and influencing culture in the US, particularly for the African American community.

The Artists’ Village is a government institution that provides living space, studio facilities, and an exhibition space for Senegalese artists.  While in the gallery, we connected with an Italian economist, who dabbles with abstract art.  He had a couple of pieces in the show. He took us around to introduce us to some of the Village’s artists. Most speak English and exhibit in the US.  When needed, however, he provided translation because he speaks Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and some Arabic. Ilana bought a simple, small painting from one of the artists we met.

The Ille Gorée is the original European (Dutch were the first) outpost. The ferry to the island was relatively new, fast and comfortable with enough seats for everyone.  We waited for the ferry at a modern ferry building with seats and an orderly queue, all so unlike the ferry passage in Banjul.  There is slave house on the island, which most tourists visit. In reality not many slaves passed through the island. We eschewed a guide and decided to wander around the island on our own. There are small, curvy streets, where the buildings are painted with pastel colors, like in Italy. There are colorful, blooming, climbing, and potted plants.  The buildings are ancient. Some are collapsing. Many need repairs. A few have been restored. Views of the water surrounding the island appear here and there through some passageways, windows or garden plots.  
We discovered that George Soros owns a house here and also supports (ée_Institute ) the historic Gorée Institute for Peace on the island. (

We found some artists in their studios and conversed with them. While walking up the path up to the castle, we met a Haitian American woman. (There are no vehicles on the island.  It is therefore completely pedestrian friendly.)  We started talking. (Her name is Fania Simon.) She told us that she is a writer. She came to Senegal for a visit and ended up living with a family in a compound on the island at the very top, in the ruins of the castle.  She has been on her extended visit for two years now.  She has published 20 books.  She gave us one of her books of poetry. We walked up to the compound and stayed as long as we could and still make it back to the mainland on the ferry.  Here is an African American who has lived in Senegal for two years on this historic island.  Well, she has learned a lot and we were very curious to hear what she had to say.  We talked a lot about the status of women in Senegal (very bad, she said) and exploitation of children (shocking - think Oliver Twist and worse.) In a way it was a tour of Dakar from a social and economic stand point. We talked about massive levels of injustice and the complexities of even understanding it, certainly not knowing how to deal with it.

(Below is a Google English translation from French of information about the exploitation of children in Senegal. ( Fania (the woman we met), gave us a hard copy of the booklet referred to in the material below. (I have included this information in case you want to learn more. It is at the end so take as much as you want.)

With our last ounce of energy we went to Marché des HLM fabric market. This market probably has more fabrics and artisans that all of what exists in The Gambia combined. I said to myself, I can't believe I am here experiencing this. It was such a jumble and crush of humanity, sewing machines whirring, and stacks of endless amounts of batiks, and fabrics with enthusiastic sellers promising great (the best) prices. I am not sure we did so well on the price.  We were too worn out to do battle.

We bought a piece of Moroccan jewelry from a Moroccan shop near the hotel that is referred to as the street of the Moroccans.  I offered half the quoted price. They accepted immediately. I should have offered one third, as I have previously.  You offer one third and then go up a bit.  They accepted half, saying it was Friday. Even at half, the cost was a fraction of what one would pay in the US.  So we paid a bit more.  It is a nice piece, which is the most important in the long run.

The Lac Rose (the Pink Lake,) is where workers from Guinea Bissau and Mali  mine salt from the bottom of the lake (Senegalese don't do the work, it is too hard.  The foreigners do it - they are migrant labor and get the toughest work and are paid the least.)  The lake is pink, hence the name. The men go by canoes to the shallowest parts of the lake and, standing in the water, hack the salt from the bottom and load it onto the canoe.  When the canoe is full, they pole it to shore. The women carry the salt on their heads in buckets and dump it on large piles sorted by the quality of the salt.  Some of the salt is of high quality, purely pinkish, white, and is sold directly to buyers. The poor quality salt is sold to a factory nearby for processing. We hired a boat and crossed the lake to get a close look at the process. Afterwards we had a lunch at an outdoor restaurant over looking the pink lake. It was so scenic, romantic, and peaceful.
Lamin, our driver lost the way on the way to the lake.  There is so much construction going on in Senegal that the roads and the scene are constantly changing, so he became disoriented.  He speaks Woloof, so he was able to ask directions, but many don't know their way themselves, so the information can be very wrong.  We did arrive, but on the way, saw a behind the scenes look at the emergence of new neighborhoods. All of this was interesting to our eyes, coming from The Gambia where the situation is not the same.  Around Dakar we saw many modern apartment buildings, while other apartments are in the process of being constructed.  This means that the country is also developing modern infrastructure and utilities for those apartments (electricity, water, sewage,) while in The Gambia we tend to see construction of more traditional compounds, often with less amenities.

On the way back to The Gambia, we spent a half a half day at the Bandia Nature Reserve. This is a safari park. We rode on a vehicle built for viewing animals and had a guide. The cost is a bit stiff, but it is worth it if you like to see animals in their habitat, up close.  We saw giraffes, impalas, antelopes, wart hogs, crocodiles, hyenas, zebras, buffalo, many monkeys, many birds, and others I am not remembering.  The rhinos didn't show themselves.  They are the highlight.  We saw plenty of their excrement, but not the individuals who left it.
The ferry ride back to Banjul was very difficult because all but one of the ferries were broken down.  The one that showed up had only one engine running. It took a long time for the ferry to arrive and of course all the waiting multitude were anxious to board before the gate closed, though no one seems to pay much attention to capacity limits, life preservers, or life boats. One trusts to ones fate, I guess. We sat next to a member of the Ministry of Agriculture (NARI, in fact) who is a soil surveyor.  He studied at the University of Illinois.  Since the crossing took so long, I received a thorough briefing on Gambian soils, problems in agricultural development here, and certain other issues relating to NARI.  He works at Yundum, which is 10 km from Brikama. It is NARI's western station, a counterpart to Sapu in the east. His driver and Lamin were both stranded in Barra on the northern side of the river. They had to sleep overnight to wait to bring their vehicles back to Banjul some time the next day.

Attachment:  About Action Senegal projects related to exploited children (online translation of brochure in French)

In recent years, the Action Senegal Association has been active in the bush and in the Sahel in Senegal for partnership projects, funding, among other initiatives, in consultation with local authorities: Building wells, plantations, classrooms , clinics ... It is through these actions in the bush, talking with the local residents, I discovered the problem of  children in care of marabouts of Senegal who are false. True marabouts, teach talibé children attending religious classes in real Koranic schools subsidized by the state. But false marabouts enslave children in daaras that are illegal. The lives of these enslaved children of false marabouts ('martyrs') caught my attention and curiosity. Wanting to check carefully all the information received from people in the bush, I walked through the doors of illegal daaras to see what was really happening and I discovered the horror. With the help of an educator on a mission to Senegal, we began a census of the number of illegal daaras in the slums of St. Louis, the number of children in each marabout’s daara, in each region of Senegal. I realized that the problem was very serious because it concerns tens of thousands of children. Shocked to have seen children abused and whipped, on my return I talked to friends and journalists.
Television Walloon Picardy "Notélé" went onsite and directed his first documentary "The white tornado in Black Africa". Then two other reports were made:  "In the heat of a village in the Sahel" and "descent into hell of talibés".  Following the reports of Notélé, we found we could educate those around us.

We wanted to act in three phases. 
1st Phase:
An ambitious project: building a shelter for 13,000 children from marabouts’ daaras and children in difficult circumstances of Sor Pikine (St Louis). This facility opened November 6, 2009. Every day, many children, aged 3-15 years attended. A team of volunteers are working in Senegal (Institutrices - doctor - health care assistant - responsible for carpentry / sewing / craft ...) The children learn to read, compute, and to play too, as do many other children in the world. They are fed, they can rest, sleep safely! The oldest are just starting their professional training.
Without this place, a home, these children are in the street, begging all day and even at night, for an alleged 'marabout', a disbeliever unworthy to bear that respected and respectable title. These children spend all their youth to be talibés martyrs! This shameful reality we opposed! These false marabouts exploit gullibility and family poverty. They make them believe that their children will be properly educated in the big city so they can acquire work that will ensure their future and that of their families in the village. But the reality is different: In miserable daaras, without any comfort or hygiene, they are obliged to recite the Koran for hours in a language they do not understand, then walk the sidewalks, begging for the sole benefit of these so-called 'marabouts' and cronies. The child who does not return enough money to feed their greed is beaten, tortured, starved, and chained like the slave he has become. During the trips, we often met the real marabouts, anxious to provide a good religious and general education for their students, within respectable Koranic schools. Confusion between true Islamic schools and illegal daaras is common. Many political, religious, and social groups with whom we have shared our outrage are in support of our cause. Thus, very quickly awareness of the urgent need to denounce these atrocities on these (very!) young, defenseless children has become widespread! Awareness of the plight that enslaved talibés children who live every day and every night that goes by in misery is our priority. No one can say: “I did not know.” Warn ignorant families, inform young people themselves through education in schools educate and empower all responsible authorities (both religious and political) are all goals that we want to achieve.
2nd Phase:
Production of books and Kamishibaïs by Daniel Barbez for advocacy work in the bush
Daniel Barbez created a portable communications tool: the Kamishibaï (Japanese theater) to educate the illiterate population in the bush against sending children to marabouts in major cities. He explains that it is possible to study religion and vocational training not far from home. He warns that there are false and true marabouts.
3rd phase
Publish a book of photos and a DVD. It seemed most appropriate to introduce this hard reality not always easy to confront by publishing a book. The book documents through research the correlation between items in the Declarations of the Rights of the Child, the verses of the Koran, and the Code Noir of Louis XIV on slavery.
( July 31, 1990, under the administration of President Abdou Diouf, Senegal ratified, like many countries in the world, the Declaration of Rights of the Child (DDE). This text was presented by the United Nations in November 1959. A second text followed: the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989 .)
I certify that all the pictures in the book are authentic: They are real and not fake; they were taken in Senegal during visits to daaras and centers for child talibés. By the widest dissemination of these photos to religious and political leaders, we believe that the creation of effective laws may regulate the establishment and operation of these daaras, infamous for the sole benefit of greedy miscreants who hide under the false name of 'marabout'. Hence we provide the Koran readings and references to various verses. I actually read the 600 pages of the Koran to make reference in the book to some verses which clearly show that the Muslim religion does not tolerate this kind of practice to these young children. A second priority is to legally stop the influx of children from neighboring countries and bush villages. Then, with the support and vigilance of everyone, including local religious authorities, it is possible to establish effective supervision in neighborhoods to remove permanently the reality of talibés martyrs. Finally, the establishment of legitimate schools is the most direct route to the harmonious education of these children.
You can find this book 'Child talibés, child slaves'. If each of you to discover ten other people, which in turn will introduce to another ten, which in turn ... Then, one day, the child talibés can, thanks to you, break their chains! And live free, like all children of the world.

ooo The views are my own ooo