Category Archives: Factual

Broken chair

Eric Grassien is staging a protest under the Broken Chair to emphasize his plight.

Handicapped and in a wheelchair, the 44 yr old camped under the monumental statue opposite the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. Smoking a pipe and looking every bit Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, he told me in French (which I hurriedly tried to decipher with my ‘Conversational French’ book) that he liked it under the chair, but had no home to go to.

The police told me he was evicted from his apartment and after a couple of days they will get social services to find him a half-way house to go to. For now, however, they left him to smoke at a giant wooden table with nothing but a candle, pamphlets and some bread and jam under the giant statue dedicated to remind UN delegates of the destruction of land mines and cluster bombs.

Created by Swiss artist Daniel Berset, Broken Chair had only three legs, the third symbolising loss of limbs from mines left by war. I was very impressed by Eric-what a perfect metaphor for his own situation, if not a little over the top-but hey, what’s a handicapped man have to do to get a home around here?

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It turns out Grassien is no stranger to media.

http://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.protestant.ch/applic/ge/vplib.nsf/84e4fe34b43e48aac12566f200463018/ea2a64ceb712dd9cc1256fcb005b3329%3FNavigate%26To%3DNext&prev=/search%3Fq%3Deric%2Bgrassien%26rlz%3D1C1CHMD_enAU488AU488

http://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=fr&u=http://www.tdg.ch/geneve/actu-genevoise/Le-handicape-le-plus-mediatise-de-Suisse-vient-d-obtenir-le-permis-B/story/30802430&prev=/search%3Fq%3Deric%2Bgrassien%26rlz%3D1C1CHMD_enAU488AU488

-If any of the facts in this post are incorrect, please let me know. I do not speak French and people who spoke to me, did not speak fluent English. Thanks!

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This day

UN office with my brother.

Go to see the Broken-Chair statue.

Talking French with a handicapped man in a wheelchair protesting his recent eviction and smoking a giant pipe;

His dog’s name is Laik.

Tourists watching us suspiciously.

Camping under a giant three-legged chair outside UN headquarters,

he gives me a pamphlet in French as the cops come.

They leave him for one more night.

 

Hospital for last check up before sister’s c-section.

Drinking french 3 franc wine in a dimmed apartment with sleeping pregnant sister.

Reading me his brothers letter over skype,

space cucumber and the smell of soil,

written like how it is spoken.

Figuring it out on the bathroom floor,

but you smell like a warm breeze

Probably on a day when it would normally be too hot, but in it’s own way it’s exciting and refreshing.

 

Saw an old woman smash a bottle of red fruit cordial in the corner shop

Bought 2 Heinekens for roughly 3 francs,

drank one gave one to one of the guys in the park.

Bastions park:

“Hey camera lady come here!”

“I like the way you look, I like the way you walk.”

Nigerians, Congolese, South Africans smoking joints on an archway.

Shiny, ripped, shirtless man pulling weights with addictive intensity.

Kids breakdancing,

A man with a pet chicken on a string putting the bird on peoples heads,

Blonde women with prams walking by

Young couples dancing the waltz under colomned alfresco

Smoking joints with African dealers.

Cops arresting dealers with handcuffs and searching the grounds around us.

Mood drops momentarily.

Other dealers slowly escape into the crowds.

 

Change of scene.

Sitting on the grass smoking a joint stuck into a fruit drink bottle a quarter full.

Works like a bong.

Man practicing slap bass.

Slacklining in the distance

Purple clad marching band surrounding the park.

Drowning them out with freestyle to beats.

Not understanding, but feeling completely accepted.

Wander home feeling stoned.

 

What an interesting day.

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March on Melbourne

Melbourne 2013 and House sit 059 Melbourne 2013 and House sit 062 Melbourne 2013 and House sit 054 Melbourne 2013 and House sit 061 Melbourne 2013 and House sit 058 Melbourne 2013 and House sit 055

Jan 14th -Some girls approached me in the heat with a bottle of water  and told me about Imam Hussein.

Every year Shia Muslims all over the world commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammad.

It is a long story so I will just say that he rejected corruption, slavery and oppression and was killed for his beliefs.

His consolation: Shia Muslims will lament his death on the 10th of Muharam (the first month of the Islamic calendar)

” It is one of the four sacred months of the year. Since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, Muharram moves from year to year when compared with the Gregorian calendar.

Muharram is so called because it is unlawful to fight during this month is important, the word is derived from the word haraam, meaning “sinful”.

It is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding Ramadan. Some Muslims fast during these days. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura, which to Shia Muslims is part of the Mourning of Muharram.” Wiki

“Processions (Juloos) in the holy months of Muharram and Safar have traditionally taken place in public by mourners of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him) for centuries. The aim of such processions is to carry on the public relations work which was started by Lady Zainab and the holy women in Karbala, and create awareness of Imam Hussein’s sacrifice and his message.”  Marching for Hussein.

The article (above) explains performing this march in the west, and the complications/additions that arise.

For example:

“”Die like Hussein? Saddam Hussein?!” That’s what one of the youth was asked by a non-Muslim while taking part in the procession.Furthermore, if a person has no idea about what a Muharram procession is, and while strolling down the footpath one is to suddenly come across a huge crowd of Muslims holding signs splattered with what appears to be blood, in addition to curiosity, it may very well just be the scariest moment of his/her life.

Instead, signs should be attractive with clear, bold, and simple colours. Additionally, dressing babies in bandanas with fake blood and making children wear fake chains isn’t too appealing. While it’s aimed at creating a visual of what happened in Karbala, perhaps we should keep our cultural context in mind and reserve these traditions to the private mourning sessions only.”

It also recommends giving blood -a modern way to save lives- and wearing black, but smiling encouragingly to the non-Muslims.

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Manaia

JayManaia Manai Feet Manaia1 AngelManaia

 

Manaia – messenger between the earth and the spirit world, guardian, protector  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manaia_(mythological_creature)).

Born at 8.38pm on the 1st of February to Angelica and Jordan McGregor.

Much love to all three.

xx

 

 

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Egypt, Egypt and what happened to me.

Crazy, crazy Egypt.

Chaotic, loud, intimidating and inspiring.

The harsh sunlight pummels the dusty streets, where poor and rich alike, sweep the desert sands out of one crevice and into another.

So my friends might be under the impression that I did not enjoy my short stay in Egypt. This is not true, sure I was angry, but Egypt is a place simultaneously disagreeable and beautiful and I want the chance to explain myself.

Travelling by myself in the country made me a spectacle. The blonde hair, the foreign face and being alone caused many men to stare and comment at me in a disparaging way. I felt intimidated and harassed, but that was not the reason for my angry facebook rant, it was a particular situation.

So under these glorious photos of an (EMPTY) major tourist destination, I will explain what happened.

A man at the hotel asks me my plans for the day and gives me some cheese and olives (welcomed, as the breakfast at the budget inn was truly bad), I tell him I am off to the pyramids in Giza and he says “oh me too! Want a lift?”

Hesitantly I say yes (after some convincing of course). Turns out his brother is coming too, I don’t know this as he just gets into the car. In the car we get lost three times, it takes hours to get to Giza from Cairo and I am very nervous. The two guys are much older and intense, they keep asking me to help them get American papers (I explain I am Australian, then they change it to Australian papers).

They feel that because I accepted the lift, we have entered a transaction whereby I owe them and need to help them get Australian residence (like I have the power to make this happen anyway).

I keep telling them they have to apply through the Government and I have no power to make this happen, and they decide I should marry the brother, and start saying things to me in Arabic that I presume are lovey or dirty. I presume this from they way they wink, rub my shoulders and laugh. Plus I can understand ‘sweetie’ and ‘I love you’ in Arabic.

I decide to ditch them as soon as we get to the pyramids.

When I tell them I would like to be alone they get very angry and say I owe them. A large group of English tourists defend me and a fight almost ensures, but I end up throwing money at the two men and they leave me alone. This is after some hours or so of following and yelling. The English tourists treat me to a tour, lunch and a lift back to the hotel. I am very apologetic, but they love that they ‘saved’ a damsel in distress.

The hotel staff find out what happened, as I ask if the men have checked out, I don’t want to see them again. Later a young  staff member knocks on my hotel room door with a can of coke.

“This if to say sorry for what happened to you today,” he says.

“Oh, thanks,” I take the coke.

ANOTHER MISTAKE – (this is where the actual story starts by the way)

He knocks again an hour later and asks to speak with me in the office. He wants me to write a letter to other female solo tourists who might stay at the hotel, about safety and not accepting lifts, gifts etc.

We are talking for a while. I write a small passage about how accepting lifts can cause problems. That by accepting things from Egyptian men, they will expect something in return. He wants to keep me there and keeps asking questions and telling me about himself.

He’s really nice and I am relieved to meet someone I can talk to, even though I’m a bit exhausted, I decide to stay and chat for a while.

He tells me how he likes motorbikes and massage. He likes to give massages, receive massages, conversation moves on to pleasing women, then foreplay, then before I know it, he is telling me how he likes to finger women and make them cum, he grabs my hands on the table and tells me he loves anal, and that women love it too. He pushes my fingers into a circle and starts dipping his finger through it saying anal is much tighter then pussy and much better.

“Are you horny?” he asks “I am! Can I kiss you?”

“Ok,” I say. ” We’re done here.”

I pull my hands away from him and get the hell outta there. I mean c’mon, we were there to discuss harassment! It’s so moronic, If i didn’t feel so terrible I could laugh, but there is this pervading nothingness filling me up inside and I can’t even speak.

I go back to me room and slam the door.

I feel like everyone is out to get me.

He chases after me and continues to knock for furiously at the door, leaving and coming back, begging me to open the door.

Then he calls the room phone over and over all night. Somehow I don’t think to take it off the hook.

I put headphones on to drown out the noise (Kate Bush “Hounds of Love”).

I try to draw in my journal,  and pretend I am not alone in a country where I seem to be seen as a massive whore, and alone in a room where three men in the same building have made me feel exceptionally uncomfortable and intimidated.

I really just cannot comprehend what I have done wrong.

The young man surely has a spare key to my room.

I just stare at the wall for hours as the phone continues to ring and in between ringing there are knocks at the door. I am waiting for the handle to open.

At one point he pushes the piece of paper I wrote my warning on, under the door.

Finally my need to pee forces me out of the room. It has been quiet for a while, so I take the chance. On my way back from the toilet, he is waiting outside my door. He asks for the piece of paper back, he needs my warning  to lone female travellers he says.

The audacity!

To get me to write a warning to solo travellers about harassment, and give it to a man who has just harassed me, I am bitterly laughing to myself. Ok, If that is what you want, here is a warning to female solo travellers, from bitter experience.

I go back inside and the room and scrawl on the paper in capitals:

“DON’T TRUST ANYBODY! ESPECIALLY NOT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK AT YOUR HOTEL!!”

and shove it back under the door.

I will definitely go back to Egypt.

Egypt is AMAZING.

Just not alone…

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High life in Addis Ababa

Since I’ve just displayed the abject poverty of life on the streets in Addis Ababa, I thought it only fitting to show you all how I have been living.

Don’t judge me.

 

Note: The fridge was never locked, and I don’t condone people living under the stairs. Also the book in Indalla’s quarters reads ‘Be Always Yourself. Confident Mind is Always Creative. Thanks God that I am on my Own. I Always want to be Successful. To be Important is to be Expensive.’

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-Awesome!

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Life as a privilege, not a right.

With over 80 million people in Ethiopia, (there is 20 million in Australia, for perspective) homelessness is rampant. People will find anywhere to sleep at night, a concrete pipe (which at one point will surely be used as a pipe?), a medium strip, a wall, etc. This life is unforgiving and extremely dangerous, but as my favourite photo (below) shows, being sick, poor and on the street, doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humour. xx

Just because you live in a villa, made from mud, plastic bags and corrugated iron sheets, doesn’t mean you can’t have 600+ channels of satellite TV! All you need is a satellite dish and you point it towards Mecca and you have FREE Arab Sat! MTV, millions of drama channels (most in Arabic, however), terrible American cop shows and all the latest Hollywood movies you can handle.*

*All sex scenes, hand holding and kissing excluded, but as much gratuitous violence you can take.

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A moment.

So now I’ve started to make  the slow transition from travelling a country to living there. The ‘Welcome to Addis’ or ‘You, you, you, I love you’ have started to wear a bit thin, and the young mothers, children and elderly begging for birrs, have moved to my periphery of my vision.

I no longer stare wide-eyes at the jagged construction ripping the skyline, nor the dead animals decomposing on the sidewalk, nor the ingenuity of the homeless to construct a warmer, less wet place to sleep.

Although most people are indifferent, some kind, and some infuriating, (much like home) I still feel like I will never truly belong in Ethiopia.

I will always be stared at, heckled, over-charged, given advantage to and laughed at. I will always be different. Alien.

And this makes me realise, what it is to leave your language, your culture and most importantly your friends and family.

I want to take a moment to reflect on the refugee’s, new immigrants, displaced persons and asylum seekers out there feeling these exact same feelings and having no way to go home again.

It’s much harder than you think it is. Only by experiencing this alienation can we begin to understand how much easier life is, in the place you were born. These people leave because they have to.

And I leave because I can.

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