metropolis*

thinking about superman visiting children’s homes and hospitals in metropolis when it starts to get cold with bags full of hand knitted jumpers and mittens and soft toys, threaded with little labels with each child’s name and a note that says love superman’s mom

3

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It’s like looking through the window of a bullet train passing by downtown of a metropolis at night. You only see the well-lit boulevards and tall skyscrapers while the darkened slums are blurred out of view. Today, when I look back at my 29 years in Pakistan, I can’t remember the pitch dark slums of the late 80s or early 90s. The memories that have remained or those which my brain has chosen to record are the ones where only the metaphorical boulevards and skyscrapers remain.

Before a myriad of Pakistani television channels sprung up, before a number of musical bands with idiosyncratic names popped up, before the ‘with us or against us’ moment, before the Kargil fiasco, before the mushroom growth of satellites across city rooftops and even before silly old cynicism crept into our collective minds, …I remember playing cricket in the streets in pouring rain and in scorching heat…“—Ahmad Hassan.

Pakistan through cricket (Insp.)

Loving you in Los Angeles was driving up and down Sunset Boulevard, to Los Feliz, to West Hollywood, to every bar and restaurant and concert hall in between; it was crawling through traffic on all the freeways in that sprawling metropolis, the 10 West to the ocean, the 10 East to the desert, the 101 North to the Valley, the 101 South to LAX; it was speeding along the PCH towards Malibu with the windows open, with the music loud, with your hand in mine, with a permanent smile on my lips, with stars in my eyes for you.

Loving you in Los Angeles felt warm most of the time, felt hungover the rest of the time, felt like a lot of firsts and even more bests and just one forever. It was running reckless and acting invincible and neglecting all obligations and considerations for the people we used to be or the people we’d become- the people we’d grow into that made us grow out of each other.

Loving you in Los Angeles was lingering after every kiss, hanging on your every word, hoping every night that you would stay, wishing every morning that we didn’t have to grow up. It was a persistent ache in my chest for the palm trees jutting out of the smog and the sterile aisles of Ralph’s lit in florescent and that stretch of highway by the Hollywood Bowl, barreling down Highland engulfed in the hills, hovering over the flats, feeling like everything was possible and we were part of all the beautiful people pregnant with dreams waiting to come true, feeling with every step I took on those avenues and boulevards all the promises that city would never break for me but that you eventually did.

I could have met you in any city in any state in any country in this great big world but I met you in a tiny dorm downtown off Figueroa and the next year I fell in love with you in a slightly bigger apartment just up Figueroa and the year after that we had the best days and nights of our young lives in a 14 bedroom house on Magnolia and one year later you began to put a wedge between us while I cried in a three story apartment on Sierra Bonita and the last year, the breaking year, in a four bedroom penthouse on Edinburgh three doors down from a movie star you looked me in the eye and said ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

And as bad as I got hurt and as much as I still miss you, I’ll never be anything but grateful that I got to meet you in Los Angeles and fall in love with you in Los Angeles, and everytime I go back, it’s colored with all the things we did and all the places we went and to this day I feel lucky that Sunset Boulevard and the palm trees jutting from the smog and the ocean and the freeways and even the florescent aisles of Ralph’s still look like you, the people we grew out of, all our firsts and bests, and that one forever.

—  Los Angeles
Some Impressions from Japan

We just got back yesterday from an amazing family trip to Japan. We spent 5 days in Tokyo, 1 day near Atami at an Onsen, 3 days in Kyoto, 1 day in Nara and 1 day Kamakura. Thanks to many recommendations by friends ahead of time (including great foursquare lists) and wonderful hospitality by people living there we had many terrific experiences. Here are a few of impressions from the trip.

The importance of culture and norms in shaping human behavior is powerfully on display in Japan. There are many examples one could give but one that struck all of us was how clean everything is including in Tokyo, which is a metropolis that’s significantly bigger than New York City. There is not a piece of trash to be found and that despite the fact that trash cans are few and far between. People simply put their trash in a bag and carry it until there is a trash can. That is a striking contrast with New York which has a trash can at every street corner and yet has trash everywhere. Having grown up in Germany I recognized many similarities in some of the key norms such as deference to authority and an emphasis on order and punctuality (as an aside: in my US naturalization interview one of the questions was “which nations was the US at war with in World War II?”).

Contrasts between high tech automation and traditional rituals abound. Take the amazing Shinkansen train system for example. These trains are not only super fast, but run frequently, are completely on time and incredibly quiet (if you stand on a platform at a smaller station and have a train fly by you can continue your conversation without raising your voice). In order to board at many stations you have to pass through not one but two automated turnstiles that check your tickets. Yet once you are on the train a conductor still comes around, bows at the front of the car, then proceeds to check tickets and stamp them (having a conductor could be partly union based but the ritual aspects of it were striking).

We encountered a similar contrast between visiting both the famous Tsukiji fish market and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The fish market is as traditional as they come with lots of small individual trading operations (although at an epic scale – you could easily get lost in it). The TSE by contrast is fully automated and where the trading floor used to be is just a space for visitors and press with a couple of big electronic display boards. Anything that’s automated in Japan is done incredibly well including the countless vending machines that provide not only a bewildering variety of soft drinks but also instantly hot coffees.

Susan, who had been to Japan once before two decades ago, pointed out that there was a huge increase in the number of people who spoke English as well as in English language signs and announcements. For instance, it was straightforward for us to navigate the amazingly extensive subway and rail system in Tokyo as all the lines we used had signage in English. When we used cabs, most of the cab drivers understood some English and the same was true for restaurants and hotels.

We were blown away by the variety and quality of Japanese food. During our stay we had Ramen, Soba, Tempura, Tonkatsu, Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, Yakitori, Sushi and Sashimi in settings as informal as an Izakaya or a Ramen shop and as formal as a multi course Kaiseki dinner at a Ryokan. I am pretty sure I gained several pounds in the process.

Finally there are experiences that are hard to classify because they seem so unique. Those include our visit to a Maid Cafe in Akihabra (on an excellent Otaku tour with Patrick Galbraith) and to a Geisha house in Kyoto. Both are performances of a kind but without obvious counterparts that we might be used to. By comparison seeing Sumo wrestlers practice was rather straightforward. Despite the rituals surrounding Sumo, the wrestlers are easily recognizable as athletes. We were also invited to a Japanese tea ceremony. This too felt like a unique experience that would be wrong to relate to say sacraments even though there is some commonality.

All in all it was a fantastic learning experience and we feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity. Many thanks again to our friends for helping us with preparations and to everyone we encountered for their hospitality. 

IsraAID – Emergency Relief for Earthquake Struck Nepal

April 27, 2015

 Summary: This project will see IsraAID send an emergency relief team to Nepal to help with relief efforts, distribute emergency supplies, provide medical services, and help government authorities respond to the situation

GlobalGiving

What is the issue, problem, or challenge?

On Saturday 25th of April, 2015, at 11:56 am local time, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal, and its capital Kathmandu. A Metropolis of over 2.5 million people, the Kathmandu Valley is also the most earthquake vulnerable city in the world, with construction often very poor, and infrastructure nearly non-existent. The full extent of the damage remains unknown, but initial reports suggest massive damage and loss of life, with the death toll rising to 686 within the first few hours.

How will this project solve this problem?

IsraAID will deploy its emergency relief team to provide food, water, and relief items, medical services, and psycho-social services to devastated communities within the Kathmandu Valley and outside. The immediate concerns are basic supplies, shelter, and medical services for the injured

Potential Long Term Impact

Initial efforts are focusing on the immediate survival of those without access to food, clean water, or medical services. At the same time, IsraAID’s ERT will perform needs assessments to focus efforts on long-term recovery via agriculture, fishery, and water infrastructure, as well as capacity-building in the field of psycho-social services (PSS) to increase coping mechanisms and resilience after tragic events such as this earthquake

Funding Information

Total Funding Received to Date: $8,761
Remaining Goal to be Funded: $90,239
Total Funding Goal: $99,000

Resources

Donate by US Mobile Phone 

Text GIVE 20305 to 80088 to donate $10 to Emergency Relief for Earthquake Struck Nepal. Message and data rates may apply. Only works for US mobile phones.TXT MSG from our lawyers: Note that your $10 donation will be made to the GlobalGiving Foundation-Emergency Relief for Earthquake Struck Nepal project. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by the account holder. You must reply YES to the confirmation message. You must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Text STOP to 80088 to stop all communication. Text HELP to 80088 for help. Message and data rates may apply. Full Terms: www.mGive.org/T. Privacy Policy: goto.gg/privacy.

ABOUT IsraAID

From Crisis Management to Sustainable Living

IsraAID, founded in 2001, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long term support. For over a decade, our teams of professional medics, search & rescue squads, post-trauma experts and community mobilizers, have been first on the front lines of nearly every major humanitarian response in the 21st century. Our mission is to efficiently support and meet the changing needs of populations as they strive to move from crisis to reconstruction/rehabilitation, and eventually, to sustainable living.

Core Values

Professionalism

One of our trademarks is our ability to draw from ever expanding networks of highly experienced professionals. From world leading therapists to top agronomists, we offer innovative solutions and day -to-day sustainability through our team of seasoned and dedicated aid workers.

Innovation & Dynamism

Every crisis is different, and so are the people it affects. After more than a decade operating in some of the most challenging and unstable environments around the globe, we have been able to create an efficient framework of support for both long term and short term needs.

Partnership & Sustainability

It is our belief that the local population must be involved at every stage of a project – from planning to implementation, all the way to the final monitoring and evaluation. For this reason, we have built strong connections with all significant parties operating in each region such as government, international and national organizations, and the local communities themselves.

In over a decade, we have…

  • Responded to crises in 22 countries
  • Reached over 1,000,000 people
  • Distributed over 1,000 tons of relief and medical supplies
  • Trained more than 5,000 local professionals
  • Mobilized over 750 staff, volunteers, and professionals (among them 156 doctors and nurses and 100 therapists and social workers).