Febbri Tropicali e Aliti Vitali

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers,
having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that,
whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity,
from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful
have been, and are being, evolved.”
― Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

Quando finalmente Maggie Mee apre gli occhi e sente di poter muovere anche le ossa dopo giorni di temperature alle stelle e deliri febbrili, la mente e’ ancora in stato di confusione, e l’unica cosa che le appare chiarissima nel suo primo momento di lucidità’ e’ la malefica somiglianza tra febbri e piogge tropicali. Quando cominciano, fitte e scrosci non lasciano spazio per altro, assorbono tutta l’energia e attenzione. Mentre imperversano, l’unica cosa e’ mettersi al riparo e aspettare che facciano il loro corso. Quando finiscono, quando gli occhi si aprono e il corpo non e’ più’ dolorante o uno scorcio di sole e arcobaleno fanno apparizione dopo giorni di tempesta, la luce tanto attesa illumina un paesaggio devastato e da ricomporre. Ecco, Maggie Mee, alzandosi dal letto e trascinandosi svogliatamente davanti allo specchio, si sente un po’ come una spiaggia dopo uno tsunami, come una capanna trascinata nel fango da giorni e giorni di piogge torrenziali.

- C’e’ poco da fare la fricchettona ambientalista – sbotta Maggie Mee osservando il suo viso smunto dalla malattia e il mucchietto di ossa che si ritrova sotto il vestito che puzza ancora di sudore da febbre. – bastarde zanzare mutanti. – Se prima, ingenua, Maggie Mee si meravigliava per la velocità’ con cui questi esserini minuscoli e fetenti si adattano a ogni condizione e farmaco, ora e’ lei a voler mutare geneticamente per diventare totalmente inappetente a qualsiasi pungiglione. Maggie Mee si perde un attimo a riflettere sulle zanzare, animali bastardi ma vittime anche loro perché’ spesso obbiettivo di maledetti parassiti che trasmettono, tanto per dirne una, la malaria. Fortunatamente Maggie Mee non e’ stata punta da una graziosa portatrice di Plasmodium falciparum, ma i recenti ricordi di crampi e dolori le fanno immediatamente provare forte empatia con il miliardo di persone che ogni anno sono alle prese con quest’orribile malattia. Analogie tra i percorsi migratori degli esseri umani e la diffusione della malaria, così’ come le scoperte riguardo lo sviluppo di resistenza ai farmaci, suggeriscono che le mutazioni genetiche dei parassiti avvengono regolarmente. La storia intrecciata millenaria tra l’evoluzione del P. falciparum e quella dell’uomo rivela come l’uomo e i parassiti della malaria abbiano una relazione basata su dinamiche genetiche; a turno, ognuno sviluppa mutazioni per avere la meglio sull’altro. Una guerra a colpi di DNA, una lotta genetica sofisticata e insidiosa, per riassumere forse esageratamente il complicato processo.

Maggie Mee ferma subito i pensieri, temendo siano strascichi dello straparlare indotto dalla febbre. Un lungo respiro e ancora non ci può’ credere di poter respirare a pieni polmoni senza problemi. Il gesto spontaneo era diventato faticoso ed ora ne vuole di più’. Ad ogni respiro sente forza vitale che piano piano si riappropria di lei. Dopo essersi sentita come un canguro colpito da un camion su un’autostrada, e’ normale che avverta anche la minima sensazione di benessere come un dono del cielo. Avendoci quasi lasciato le penne, avendo visto vacillare pericolosamente la fiammella che la mantiene in vita, Maggie Mee e’ ora più’ che interessata ad alimentarla perché’ da fievole e tremolante diventi un caldo fuoco scoppiettante per scaldarsi i piedi e su cui arrostirci due spiedini. La sensazione di calore ed equilibrio che si diffonde nelle sue ossa stanche le conferma sulla sua pelle che l’innata lotta per la sopravvivenza si manifesta anche negli umani, esseri arroganti affetti da sicurezza di onnipotenza. Maggie Mee trova grinta in un corpo sfinito; improvvisamente di nuovo ricettiva alla vita dopo giorni in cui era “più’ di la’ che di qua”, avverte una forza istintiva e inspiegabile che la sostiene e la tiene in braccio sussurrandole nelle orecchie parole di conforto. Ogni porto franco ha le sue insidie, le sue delusioni e i suoi dolori e vale quindi la pena andarsi a fare un giro. E’ stagione di fragole e l’unica cosa che Maggie Mee ora vuole e’ farsene una scorpacciata guardando il paesaggio.

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La malattia ha già’ lasciato posto alla curiosità’ e Maggie Mee raccoglie quindi i suoi stracci. Eccola quindi a sgranocchiare biscotti disgustosi e scaduti da tempo mentre aspetta che un pulmino scassato che continua a riempirsi all’inverosimile si schiodi dal parcheggio marcio di una stazione spersa nel nulla.
-Viste le circostanze – si dice – prima di ributtarmi nel mondo sarà’ meglio che ritrovi un po’ di forze. – Magari – aggiunge speranzosa – nella ricerca dei supporti mancanti scoprirò’ anche il segreto dietro quest’alito di vita, tanto tangibile e reale quanto etereo e sfuggente.
Trepidante per la nuova avventura che l’aspetta, si butta in peregrinazione verso la giungla alta e fredda per onorare il soffio vitale che la tiene in vita e per vedere se c’e’ un trucco per mantenere la fiamma sempre accesa e viva. Sembra un po’ un controsenso che l’istinto di sopravvivenza l’abbia portata su strade tortuose a bordo di mezzi guidati da pazzi fulminati dove ogni curva superata indenni e’ da considerarsi un miracolo. Chiude gli occhi per non vedere i resti di rovinosi incidenti stradali lungo il percorso che la guardano sghignazzando come teschi nel deserto avvicinandosi così, senza rendersene conto, all’importanza relativa dell’unico tesoro che custodiamo in noi dalla nostra nascita alla nostra morte: la vita.

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Si sale, si sale. Si aprono valli e si rivelano montagne. La giungla la accoglie come una nonna grassa e sorridente che non vede da tempo. La stringe forte, facendole scricchiolare le ossa e la sua stretta solleva da terra la piccola Maggie Mee. “Bentornata!” Le dice sorridendo. “Ora vediamo di mettere su un po’ di ciccia su queste ossa!” E nonna giungla entra in cucina muovendo le anche, aggraziata come una foca.
Questa volta Maggie Mee ha scelto la giungla d’altitudine come destinazione e, lasciando dietro di se’ palme da cocco e afa perenne, si lascia portare su strade che serpeggiano tra distese di piantagioni di Hevea, gli alberi della gomma. La vista delle colline tagliate ordinatamente dalle file composte di alberi dal tronco chiaro, ognuno con l’apposito recipiente che raccoglie il bianco vischioso che poi diventerà’ un giocattolo scadente o un preservativo stretto, le fanno notare quanto la giungla dev’essere stata più’ grande, più’ folta e più’ violenta. Salendo, non sono alberi secolari, ma freschi cespugli di bamboo che gradualmente si addensano diventando giungla. Maggie Mee chiude gli occhi e lancia una preghiera silenziosa alla foresta scomparsa. I larghi tronchi di bamboo sono abbastanza leggeri per muoversi al soffiare del vento e la musica prodotta dal fruscio degli alti cespugli di tutte le sfumature di verde diventano subito una cassa amica.

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L’obbiettivo di Maggie Mee, dopo quello di riempirsi la pancia, e’ provare a capire che cosa si intende per “vita”. “Cosa ‘azz e’ la vita?” Parola sulla bocca di tutti, quattro semplici lettere racchiudono un significato che viene da sempre districato a suon di manipolazioni e minacce, a colpi di frusta e sdolcinate poesie che di vita ne sanno ben poco. Eppure, la vita e’ tutto quello che conosciamo. – E, anche li’, – si dice Maggie Mee – non e’ che ne sappiamo poi tanto. – Non esiste infatti una definizione della parola “vita” che sia universalmente accettata.
Per smania di conoscenza, arrivata nel villaggio ai piedi della vallata, ecco Maggie Mee che istintivamente cerca subito un luogo, un centro, un qualcuno o qualcosa che possa darle degli indizi per quella che ormai e’ diventata una ricerca. Non del significato della vita, che sia ben chiaro, ma del soffio di vita che tiene tutto in piedi.

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Il villaggio e’ abbastanza anonimo, abitato e frequentato da esseri umani dagli occhi di forme diverse che si osservano pacifici. Entrambi i gruppi principali, i locali e gli stranieri, sono ancora avvolti nella nube di fascino da esotismo che ancora non si e’ dissipata per svelare uno scambio solo e unicamente basato sul cash. In questo posto, nota Maggie Mee, i turisti si autodefiniscono “viaggiatori consapevoli” e i locali non hanno ancora imparato le diverse sfaccettature che può avere un sorriso. Sorridono o fumano pipe d’oppio a bordo strada osservando il traffico. Stupa arroccati sulle colline indicano i punti cardinali e sono uno dei pochi punti di riferimento in distese di risaie alternate a piantagioni di Hevea. Fine. Non c’e’ altro.
Valanghe di bambini, bufali pensierosi, maiali selvatici seguiti da prole e chiocce circondate da decine di minuscoli pulcini denotano abbondanza di attività riproduttiva. Maggie Mee si accorge che anche le magliette dei cosiddetti viaggiatori mandano lo stesso messaggio universale presente ad ogni latitudine e in ogni cultura. Da queste parti la maglietta con la scritta “Save water, shower with me” si sostituisce a “Fuck me, I am famous” e, per quanto celata da animo ambientalista, l’intenzione di chi la indossa e’ poi la stessa: smania di accoppiamento. Il famoso istinto di riproduzione che da’ l’impressione di mantenersi in vita e di dare continuità alla nostra, di vita.

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In un ristorantino polveroso a bordo strada, Maggie Mee nota un personaggio in abiti kaki intento a compilare fogli e fogli di parole scritte in latino e subito capisce che potrebbe esserle utile intavolare una conversazione con questo sconosciuto dall’aria scientifica. -Dato che una definizione universale di vita non esiste- si dice, -per essere politicamente corretti comincerò la mia ricerca da come la definiscono gli scienziati che studiano la vita. “La vita”, comincia lo sconosciuto poi rivelatosi esperto del mondo vegetale, “e’ quello che in vita non e’” conclude con aria saccente ma mortificata perché affetto dalla paranoia degli scienziati di non saper spiegare tutto. “Ah beh, grazie tante!” scappa di bocca a Maggie Mee. Il botanico alza gli occhi al cielo, fa un lungo respiro per non mangiare la faccia della femmina striminzita e curiosa che lo assilla di stupide domande, si sistema gli occhiali sul naso e ricomincia con tono pedagogico. “Quello che intendiamo, e’ che usiamo criteri precisi per affermare se un essere e’ vivente o non-vivente. La scienza si attiene a questo”. Maggie Mee ascolta interessata, ma dopo poche parole si rende conto che, fondamentalmente, per verificare che un essere sia vivo, si guarda se questo passa l’esistenza ad assorbire energie a destra e a manca e se ha un corpo che denota un minimo di organizzazione. Lo chiamano equilibrio, la chiamano fame/sete e appetito sessuale. La morte e’ un altro tratto che distingue chi e’ vivo. Chi e’ vivo prima o poi muore. Chi non e’ vivo ha il dono dell’eternità. -Come la plastica, ad esempio- sfugge di bocca a Maggie Mee. Lo stupido commento e’ troppo per il biologo, che si alza e se ne va, lasciando Maggie Mee in preda a un minimo di sconforto.

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La risposta del biologo non ha soddisfatto la sua domanda e, per schiarirsi le idee, Maggie Mee decide di prendere la bici e addentrarsi nella riserva naturale in cui si e’ andata a ficcare. Spera che la natura più pura le parli meglio di un umano incontrato per caso, confida che la potenza del vento e la rigogliosità del mondo naturale possano darle indizi più appaganti per la sua ricerca. Dopo aver pedalato un po’, Maggie Mee scende dalla bici e fa due passi per sgranchirsi le gambe lungo il ruscello che attraversa il bosco. Si ferma su una roccia per farsi scaldare dal sole e si abbandona ad osservare la frenetica attività che la circonda. Il quadretto e’ molto bucolico. Acqua che scorre, libellule che ronzano, farfalle che svolazzano e voila’. In una pozza di fianco a lei, tra grappoli di uova di rana che galleggiano nell’acqua stagna, una mosca e’ voracemente intenta a farsene una scorpacciata o, forse – dubita per un attimo Maggie Mee – ad affogare. Si alza, continua a camminare e, dietro un cespuglio, su un’altra ansa del ruscello, si svela un luogo d’incontro. Decine di farfalle volano e si posano insieme per terra. Sono divise a gruppi dello stesso colore e dimensioni. Una decina di coppie minuscole azzurre, qualche coppia di Mormone comune e altre già viste dalle ali enormi e striate. Si ferma e rimane in piedi, immobile, ad osservarle. Le farfalle agitano le ali e sfregano freneticamente le antenne le une contro le altre e il solo guardare questo movimento regolare, veloce e continuo la manda in trance come se i feromoni emessi dalle decine di farfalle in contatto nello stesso momento inebriassero anche lei. Dopo pochi minuti di contatto fisico e pausa dal volo, le farfalle si levano da terra e cominciano a svolazzare a coppie in un volo velocissimo circolare. Maggie Mee si ritrova avvolta da una nube di farfalle colorate in botta post-accoppiamento.
La vista di farfalle colorate che si accoppiano in massa davanti a lei, l’essere avvolta da un nugolo di vita che si riproduce svolazzando la riempie di gioia incomprensibile e inaspettata e Maggie Mee si ritrova a sorridere per il simbolismo spiccio di quest’incontro. A maggior ragione che le farfalle sono animali che non vivono che per qualche giorno e l’evento a cui ha assistito e’ probabilmente l’unico “evento clue” della breve esistenza di questi bellissimi e delicati insetti.

Emerald Swallowtail

Emerald Swallowtail

Maggie Mee inforca nuovamente la bici ed ecco che si sente già ambientata e in lenta guarigione. Guance scavate e bianche hanno preso il colore del tamarindo e le braccia ossute si gonfiano e prendono forma ad ogni pedalata. Il soffio di vita c’e’ e la tiene su. Sospesa nella presa bene, pedala tra distese di risaie e piantagioni, ogni metro e’ un passo in più, un passo calcato nella tangibilità dell’esistenza emanante da quest’alito energetico ancora incomprensibile e irriproducibile. Maggie Mee e’ sorpresa della casualità dell’incontro con le farfalle, ma e’ forse ancora più piacevolmente sorpresa di vedere che e’ il suo corpo, che ieri non la reggeva, a mantenerla in equilibrio su un aggeggio pericolante come una bicicletta. L’equilibrio ambito e temporaneamente raggiunto e’ ancora protetto da un velo di mistero che fa arrendere all’impotenza e all’estrema vulnerabilità. Ma, nella realtà, sono le piante dei piedi e il ritmico muoversi delle sue gambe che mantengono la magia energetica. Non ha forse alzato il velo su che cosa e’ questa forza vitale, ma per lo meno la sente vibrare dentro di se’. – Secondo le parole del biologo, – si dice con sollievo – sono quindi viva. E il mio alito di vita non e’ che un tratto distintivo che mi accomuna tutti gli altri esseri viventi. Niente di più’, niente di meno. – E subito, mentre con la bici prende a tutta velocità una discesa, sente istinto di protezione verso quest’alito, sente che la vita e’ onorare il soffio energetico che la mantiene in piedi.

Common Mormon

Common Mormon

“Fateci nascere dolcemente e scoprire con calma
l’importanza della forza vitale ed innata che si chiama vita.
Soprattutto, fateci morire in pace,
lasciate che l’alito di vita si unisca al vento,
non costringetelo a restare soffocato in un corpo ospite
che lo ha già’ onorato.
Il soffio vitale fuggirà comunque per creare altra vita.”
-Anonimo-

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Sneaky mutations in the fight against malaria

Dr. Olivo Miotto - Photo Credit Robert Hutton

Dr. Olivo Miotto – Photo Credit Robert Hutton

Plasmodium falciparum — one of the parasites responsible for the transmission of malaria — is the umpteenth amazing example of how environmental constraints encourage adaptation for survival and of how inbreeding, by promoting lower genetic diversity, can cause a normally rare trait to become the norm.

Recent scientific studies have shown that the continuous occurrence of genetic mutations in this lethal pathogen keep malaria near the top of the list of threats to the health of the world’s population, and a leading concern for the international scientific community.

In fact, the World Health Organization reports that more than half a million people die annually because of malaria.

A study published in Nature Genetics in 2013 identified new strains of malaria parasites resistant to artemisinin — the most effective drug currently employed to treat this deadly disease.

Although different drugs have been successfully identified and employed in the fight against the disease over time, malaria parasites have regularly developed resistance to these drugs.

In 1957, a genetically mutated conferred parasite became resistant to the most successful drug at the time, chloroquine. The mutation spread and it is found today in most circulating parasites, which means that chloroquine is mostly ineffective.

The current frontline drug used to treat affected patients is artemisinin which, used in combination with a partner drug, offers rapid and effective treatment for falciparum malaria.

Resistance to artemisinin, known as ART-R, currently manifests itself as a slowdown in treatment rate; the drug still works, but it takes longer and it is feared that this could lead to treatment failure.

Resistant parasites found in Cambodia were found in two studies to be developing profound genetic changes. These populations of parasites live in regions of Cambodia where malaria transmission is very low, which favors low genetic diversity.

Dr. Olivo Miotto, the bioinformatic team leader of this scientific breakthrough, explained that this drug was introduced to Cambodian earlier than in other countries, so in this country the parasites have received more prolonged exposure than anywhere else.

Furthermore, in Cambodia, social and political changes over the years have had affected public health interventions as well as drug pressures.

“Paradoxically”, Miotto said, “it is perhaps the diminishing incidence of malaria, and the consequent smaller size and lower diversity of the parasite population, that might have had the greatest impact. P. falciparum parasites in Western Cambodia are few and highly inbred, subjected to high drug pressure, but not yet eliminated: possibly the worst scenario for the emergence of resistance.”

The current state of malaria in the world indicates that Africa is the most stricken continent, where there are more frequent infections and far higher death tolls than anywhere else.

However, larger populations and the genetically dynamic scenario in Africa means that people get sick more often, but parasite populations are more diverse.

The high number of malaria-related deaths in Africa is partly due to lack of resources, infrastructure and education, not just to the effectiveness of antimalarials.

“This is why it is so urgent to protect artemisinin; we owe it to millions of people at risk in Africa to preserve their most effective defense against this appalling disease,” said Miotto, who is senior informatics fellow for the Center for Genomics and Global Health based at the Mahidol-Oxford Research Unit in Bangkok, Thailand.

Until now, mutations of this gene have been observed only in parasites that have been exposed to artemisinin.

At the moment, scientists are attempting to determine if these mutations only happen within specific environmental conditions, or in parasites with specific genetic backgrounds.

The drug-resistant mutations identified so far do not occur naturally, and this could mean that survival from drug exposure has a cost: Whatever allows these parasites to survive is a handicap once you remove drug pressure.

“So far ART-R has only been reported in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. There is no suggestion that it is present in Africa or elsewhere. Artemisinin resistance might not spread as rapidly where there are more parasites and more diversity- though we’d rather not have to test that theory,” Miotto concluded.

The history of the evolution of Plasmodium falciparum and that of mankind are profoundly intertwined.

Malaria has been shown to have caused natural selection in humans.

Analogies between human migration patterns and the diffusion of malaria as well as Miotto and his team’s studies suggest that genetic mutations in P. falciparum happen as we speak.

Human beings and malaria parasites maintain a strong genetic interplay, each side adapting and presenting genetic mutations in order to gain the upper hand.

The WHO World Malaria Report 2013 lists Indonesia as a malaria endemic country. In fact, 417,000 malaria cases were reported in 2012, as recalled by Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi at a 2013 World Malaria Day event in Jakarta.

Published on the Jakarta Post 

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Stories stored in our body – AcroYoga Lunar Immersion –

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Up and down.
Mood and movements follow the jumps
of a grasshopper racing in a field.

Bent legs – bent forearms
Extended legs- extended forearms

Flexions and extensions alternate
as do smiles and tears on my face.

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The goal leads the jump,
though the breath regulates the movement,
though the flow sets the mood,
as a grasshopper I keep jumping, unaware.

I move up, lean forward, then fall back.
like the insect’s legs,
knees point outwards,
small fore limbs seem useless,
but are there, essential for balance.

There is regular movement,
but no inner inspection;
no detection of interior triggers
that lead the race.
And the field in front looks endless.

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Then, suddenly, there I am, exposed.

Face to face to the sky.
Peeled and bare.
Hanging and swinging like a chicken on a hook.

No much is left inside.
Guts have been removed
by a small spoon digging slowly.

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Only my black box remains untouched.
My secret and pulsing core is intact,
no one can see through.

The spoon has dig around it,
above and below it,
on its surface and its sides,
but I can feel it’s still there,
a hard and painful ball
burns and stings from inside.

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Then I reach my ankles
and I take hold of myself.
I swing, I sway like a stick insect in disguise.
I know who I am and
how far I can reach,
I just camouflage not to get caught.

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My arms extend again,
but this time the breath follows and,
open chest and then release,
the light comes in and
I can fly backwards.

As a dragonfly moves its wings back and forth,
able to change the direction of its flight,
I am ready to embrace the world
according to my will
or happy to blindly follow
a sudden gust of wind.

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Comfortable in this position,
I rest and even relax,
Belly up,
feet become fins and
I now swim up the current
as a salmon going back
where it was born
to give rise to new life.

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If earlier I was choking,
breathless,
I can now hear a feeble voice
coming out my dry mouth
and I know moisture will come.

As I reconnect with my real nature
I enjoy the current.
I play with the water flow.
This is my time.
And I make the most of it.

My black box now a cherished treasure
Not hidden, but to be shown with pride.
The ball of fire burning
as a shining star in the dark blue sky.

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Topsy-Turvy AcroMonkey’s New Year

This year we have come out with a new formula to merge the beauty of acroyoga to the rhythm of downtempo.

From Chill Out Sessions events in Singapore to The Experience Festival in Koh Tao, the combination of these two expressions of art has proved itself to be a magnet for passers-by and a bomb of energy hard to control.  It has been great to have people taking part in rhythmed acrojams in the streets of Singapore and rewarding to see the chill out area of one of the biggest psytrance festivals in Southeast Asia waking up to the sound of downtempo tunes and acroyoga  postures. May this year be full of this positive and filling energy!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duaKPmGUPIY

 

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A roof over your head or ground under your feet

The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Saint Augustine

To me hair dressing means shape. It’s very important that the foundations should be right.
Vidal Sassoon

01-nov

Something is dripping over Maggie Mee. One, two, three drops. Maggie Mee counts them, half asleep. She hopes they are some of the 4D effects of the dream in which she is venturing. The drops become four, then five and then they are so many that it is impossible to keep counting. With extreme difficulty, Maggie Mee opens her eyes and in the pitch black room she notices two gaps shining in the ceiling, from which she can clearly see the rainy sky.
- Oh, man! – she mumbles, waking up with a furred tongue – Can’t believe it’s raining on my head! – For laziness, she moves to the other side of the bed, as far as she can from the gaps in the ceiling, hoping the rain will stop and that she won’t be forced to spend the rest of night looking for buckets and mopping the floor. She goes back to sleep, trusting that Saint Squat will protect her once again.
When she wakes up, now rested, the sun is shining and rain leaking from the roof is nothing but some confused memory. She happily goes outside, excited to enjoy the morning sun for a walk. She decides to indulge in one of her favourite pastimes : house-spotting or, as they say in French : “lèche-maison”. – Yes, in fact, – she says to herself – one must never forget to make daily offerings to the Holy Patron of shelters and makeshift beds!
One tends to think that the worshipping of Saint Squat is inversely proportional to the human primitive and instinctive need for a roof over the head. In other words, generally we imagine that one is more tempted to cover with donations and invoke the blessing of deity when one lacks a shelter and is forced to live in the streets. It is very diffused the preconception that the need to worship this specific Saint is due to the wish to jump from shelter to shelter, enjoying the homelessness and the parasitism from those who have a house. Maggie Mee does not believe in hearsay and she ventures off to unveil the legendary “secret of the house”. It is intriguing that a human need such as housing is part of a context that is continuously manipulated and used against you. – Do you want a house, darling? Follow me, I’ll give you the perfect house. How many shaky ratholes do you want? You’ll see that the more squeezed you’ll be, the more you’ll like it and, if you can hear the neighbours farting, you’ll have better human relations. It will do you good, you will improve your tolerance level. Are you one of those who like to have some green around? Then perfect! Just go and get some tropical green paint or a couple of plants for the flat. Get some plastic ones, will you? They last longer and no need of much maintenance. Or else – You don’t have a house, honey? Are you one of those 1st category losers who wear a long beard and always carry trash stench wherever they go? Or, are you the umpteenth victim of one of those strong winds known as typhoons? Ok then, I’ll send you a dollar to buy the reconstruction kit, but please don’t come to my place.

AI
Maggie Mee goes around the corner and there she sees an old lady sitting on a bench, woebegone behind her thousand wrinkles and her hunched back. Behind her there is a building site in full action: saws cutting and hammers hammering; walls come up and the cement is poured over the house path. In front of her there is the skeleton of an old wooden house, the one that was moved to make room for the new one. The old lady looks at her. “There is no more wood like this one, you know?” Maggie Mee looks at her silently, she observes her while the old lady sighs and looks at the hut where she probably spent most of her life fixing the roof and releasing babies. The old lady emit a sigh of nostalgia, probably forgetting that she had always wanted to live in a terraced house with integrated parking lot, smooth concrete walls, shiny slippery tiles on the floor and, mostly, dreamt of not having to make shift for the only bed.

Maggie Mee resumes her stroll and decides to follow a young girl who, walking unstably on high heels, invites her to the showroom displaying the latest news of the neighbourhood: two-room flats in a residential condominium under construction.
“You see,” the saleswoman says spreading a corny smile under litres of face foundation and thick layers of lipstick “we almost sold out everything already. It is a great success: the most prestigious condo of the city.” She adds, cracking a laugh that reveals yellow and neglected teeth. Astounded and intrigued by this figure, Maggie Mee follows her without uttering a word and she leaves her talk freely about investments and property, market shares and real estate market. At first, Maggie Mee listens to her, but soon she gets lost in the triple digits and she prefers to remain silent while they visit the now mythic showroom. When Maggie Mee enters in the small box, it takes her a nanosecond to have a look around. Probably using the same logic as a shape sorter, this tiny room manages to fit a bed, a drawing room and a living room in the few square metres that they share with the kitchen. “Excuse-me, wasn’t this a two-room flat?” She asks shyly. “In fact, so you see the point! I noticed immediately that you were a smart girl! This is exactly the concept: enjoying the comfort of a two-room flat without the price of the additional square metres which, as this showroom shows very well, are actually useless. Everything can be enjoyed occupying less room! Isn’t this a stroke of genius? Oh! You have to meet the interior designer, unfortunately at the moment he is touring the world giving conferences…you know, considering all the small and crowded places that there are in the world, this project is going to hit the big time! I told you, it is a great investment!” Maggie Mee smiles, but she does not say a word. The girl looks at her with attention and changes strategy. “If you are interested, you can pay by installments; you can take out a mortgage, maybe with your fiancé.” She adds and winks at her. “A love nest just for the two of you. Thirty years of mortgage and it’s paid. Not bad, isn’t it?”
Maggie Mee thanks her politely and smoothly slips out of the steel and glass monster to enjoy the rest of her day of exploration. She feels lucky, two remarkable catches and she has not even left the neighbourhood.

2013-02-11 13.17.38
What is a house? Or, better, what is your house? When you pay taxes? When you are the one who chose furniture and curtains? Where you put down your luggage between one trip and the next one or when you cook in your special mess and sleep in your clean sheets? Maggie Mee is not sure this is the point. She is not even convinced of the fact that if you crave for a house you are automatically “a residence addict” and that you will end up by being a victim of the first real estate agent that offers you a hole to live in. I mean, maybe a house is not just a box and consumer’s good. Or maybe it is? Maggie Mee is restless, she cannot answer to none of these questions. Therefore, she continues her scouting, hoping to find cues that will approach her to the meaning of the word “house”: four letters only, but dense of practical and symbolic facets.
This is not about shapes, let’s make it clear. This is not a tourist tour aimed at highlighting architectural peculiarities or indicating social trends with a pinch of an amateur’s anthropological conclusions. Maggie Mee is looking for something deeper, she is trying to explain that sense of relief that gives her gut peace and that she feels in some of the many places that welcome her rags and toothbrush. She aspires at revealing the reason behind the worry of ending up in the streets and the anxiety of nomadism. This is not about shapes; but, Maggie Mee remarks thinking about the previous night, since the beginning of time houses have always had a base and a roof.
Flats, villas and caves; tree or boathouses; tents, circus big tops, tented camps. Human settlements made of cities, towns or two houses only. Some have a sloping roof, some have it flat; some have it covered by tiles, some by tin or asbestos to make it fast and spend little money. You can put up two walls, but without a roof you do not achieve much. A roof is what you need to rest and think, two of the essential conditions for life. But that’s not all.

melbourne park
In the meantime, banalities read in mainstream glossy magazines come to her mind, those cliches that fill the pages of magazines about how other people live and how you should live, if you get what I mean.
Those who think they know it all say that once you have left home, it is difficult to go back.

“However”, Maggie Mee thinks, “these are the same guys who say it is more dangerous to go out than to chain yourself inside.”
They say that if you go back home, it is always because something has gone wrong. Children drop in between jobs or between marriages – humiliated but still arrogant – or else they never leave, preferring mum’s slavery to the slavery to the system.
Those who know a lot but don’t say much say that once you have got used to be without a house, you stop looking for it.
They say that if you exit the hellish path of the need that becomes a desire and then turns into an obsession, you attain freedom and the attachment to a house seems ridiculous.
Maggie Mee sits on a bench to think it over and, at the corner of the block, there is a carton box and some blankets. A toothless smile shines in the shade between two buildings. Her attention is drawn to the carton box placed on the ground. She reads “When times are tough, slithery grounds collapse.” Only then she notices the author of this sentence, sitting on the pavement. Conversely, he has been observing her for a while, while she nervously looks around her, immersed in her thoughts. Suddenly, he bursts out laughing, as if the two of them had been talking for hours, as if any conversation had already been made and everything could be taken for granted.
“You are looking for the foundations, for the pillars, the base of it all.” He says. “You can always find a roof over your head on the way; in fact, sometimes you do not need more than an umbrella.” Maggie Mee flinches and looks at the homeless man with astonishment, suddenly realising it is raining. “Oh no! Here we go again! I have to go back home to stop up the leak.”

melbourne wall

Maggie Mee is drenched as miraculously she finds her way home in the storm. She enters quickly and, while she dries off, she gives an annoyed look at the bed, wet of the rain leaking from the roof. She is disappointed by her day. She has the impression she has searched in vain and not understood a thing. She should have stayed home and think and not jump around the city looking for who knows what. “In fact,” she says sitting on the wet bedsheets, “probably the secret of the house is not in a house but below, in its foundations. It lies in what cannot be seen of a house, but that supports it. This is what Saint Squats protects!” Maggie Mee smiles, she is finally satisfied. “Though at times a trap, at times a shell, sometimes the hell of house-sharing dynamics and sometimes a quiet shelter, as roots, these foundations silently connect the world that sustains you.” Said so, Maggie Mee moves the bed, places a bucket to collect the leaking water, changes the bedsheets and goes to bed, without forgetting to thank the already over quoted Saint Squat.

 

Jesus was born in an occupied cave -Photo by Tonino Cafeo

Jesus was born in an occupied cave -Photo by Tonino Cafeo

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Filed under English, Genre, Housing, Languages, On a journey, People, Short Story, Topic, World

Un tetto sulla testa o Una base sotto i piedi

Piu’ alta vuoi sia la struttura, più profonde dovranno esserne le fondamenta.

– St. Agostino

Per me l’acconciatura significa forma. E’ molto importante che le fondamenta siano fatte bene. Vidal Sassoon

01-nov 

Qualcosa sta gocciolando su Maggie Mee. Una, due, tre gocce. Maggie Mee le conta nel dormiveglia, sperando sia l’effetto 4D del sogno avventuroso in cui è impegnata. Le gocce diventano quattro e poi cinque e poi così tante che diventa impossibile contarle. Faticosamente, Maggie Mee apre gli occhi e nel buio pesto della stanza brillano un paio di punti sul soffitto, da cui intravede chiaramente il cielo piovoso.


- Anvedi – borbotta con la voce impastata – vai a vedere che mi piove in testa! - Per pigrizia, si sposta sul lato del letto lontano dai buchi del tetto, sperando che la pioggia non sia forte e che non la obblighi a trascorrere il resto della notte a cercare secchi e ad asciugare infiltrazioni. Si riaddormenta fiduciosa, sicura che Santo Squat la proteggerà anche questa volta. Quando si sveglia, ormai riposata, il sole splende e la pioggia che gocciola in casa non è che un ricordo confuso e si spinge volenterosa verso l’esterno, contenta di poter approfittare del sole mattutino per una passeggiata. Decide di dedicarsi a una delle sue attività preferite: house-spotting o, per dirla alla francese, “lèche-maison”. Sì, perchè- si dice – non bisogna mai dimenticare di fare offerte quotidiane al santissimo protettore di rifugi e giacigli!

Si tenderebbe a pensare che la venerazione di Santo Squat sia inversamente proporzionale al desiderio umano primitivo ed istintivo di avere un tetto sulla testa. Ovvero, che si sia maggiormente portati a coprire di libagioni e ad invocare preghiere al rifugio quando un rifugio non lo si ha e si e’ costretti a vivere per strada. È diffuso il pregiudizio che la necessità di votarci a tale Santo sia anche motivata dal desiderio di non avere una fissa dimora e di vagabondare per il mondo felici e parassiti dipendendo da chi, appunto, la casa ce l’ha. Maggie Mee non crede in queste dicerie e parte quindi all’avventura per cercare di svelare il mitico “segreto della casa”. La incuriosisce come il bisogno umano di avere una casa sia parte un contorno che viene continuamente strumentalizzato e usato contro di te. -Vuoi una casa tesoro? Vieni che te la dò io una casa perfetta. Te ne dò quante ne vuoi di scatolette pericolanti. Vedi che se stai stretto starai meglio e se senti i vicini scoreggiare nel letto avrai migliori rapporti umani. Ti farà bene, migliorerai le tue capacità di tolleranza. Se poi sei uno che desidera del verde, ti consiglio di andare a comprare una bella vernice verde smeraldo o di comprarti un paio di piante da appartamento, magari di plastica, così durano di più e non sporcano.
 – oppure – Non hai una casa tesoro? Sei uno sfigato di prima categoria, uno di quelli con la barba lunga che si trascinano dietro lezzo di spazzatura? O sei mica l’ennesima vittima di quei colpi di vento che chiamano tifoni? Ah ok, allora ti mando un euro per comprarti il kit di ricostruzione rapida, basta che non vieni a casa mia.  -

AI

Maggie Mee gira l’angolo ed ecco subito una vecchina, decrepita dietro le mille rughe e la gobba pronunciata, seduta su una panca. Dietro di lei, un cantiere. Seghe che tagliano e martelli che battono; si erigono muri e si asfalta il sentiero di casa. Davanti a lei, lo scheletro di un’antica casa in legno, quella che è stata spostata per far spazio alla nuova. La vecchina la guarda. “Non ne trovi più di legno così, sai?” Maggie Mee la osserva in silenzio, la contempla mentre la vecchina sospira guardando la capanna in cui probabilmente ha passato la maggior parte della sua vita, a mettere a posto il tetto e sfornare bambini. La vecchina sospira nostalgica, probabilmente dimentica di aver sempre desiderato vivere in una villetta a schiera con parcheggio integrato, lisce pareti di cemento, luccicanti piastrelle scivolose sul pavimento e soprattutto non dover fare i turni per l’unico letto.

Maggie Mee prosegue il suo giro e decide di seguire una signorina su tacchi instabili che la invita a vedere la show-room delle ultime novità di quartiere: bilocali in un grattacielo residenziale in costruzione.

-Vede- apostrofa la venditrice sfoderando un sorriso melenso sotto litri di fondotinta e spesse pennellate di rossetto – è quasi già tutto venduto. Un vero successo, il condominio più prestigioso della città – aggiunge, scoppiando poi in una risatina che lascia intravedere denti gialli e non curati. Allibita e incuriosita da tale personaggio, Maggie Mee la segue senza aprir bocca e la lascia discorrere liberamente su investimenti e proprietà, percentuali e mercato immobiliare. Maggie Mee ascolta, ma poi si perde tra gli zeri e preferisce rimanere in silenzio mentre si fa accompagnare nel giro dell’ormai mitica showroom. Entrata nella minuscola scatola, Maggie Mee si guarda intorno, e ci mette un nanosecondo. Incastri perfetti riescono ad accomodare un letto, studio e salotto in pochi metri quadri che condividono con la cucina.

- Ma non era un bilocale? Domanda timidamente. – infatti, vede che coglie il punto! L’ho notato dall’inizio che era una tipa sveglia! Il concept è esattamente questo: vivere le comodità di un bilocale senza il costo aggiuntivo dei metri quadri in più che, come dimostra questa show room, in realtà non servono, visto che si può godere di tutto in meno spazio! Non è geniale? Ah! Deve conoscere l’interior designer, peccato che ora stia girando il mondo a dare conferenze….sa com’è, con tutti i posti affollati e piccoli che ci sono, vedi come sfonda il progetto. Le ho detto, si tratta di un ottimo investimento!
Maggie Mee sorride, ma non dice una parola. La signorina la guarda con attenzione e cambia strategia. -Se è interessata, è anche possibile pagare a rate; può fare un mutuo, magari con il suo fidanzato- aggiunge facendo l’occhiolino. Un bel nido solo per voi. Trent’anni di mutuo solamente e ve la siete pagata. Non male eh? -

Maggie Mee ringrazia e dolcemente si lascia scivolare fuori dal mostro di acciaio e vetro per godersi il resto della giornata di esplorazione. Si sente già fortunata, due chicche notevoli e non ha praticamente lasciato il quartiere.

Che cos’è una casa? O, meglio, che cos’è una casa tua? Quando ci paghi le tasse? Quando sei tu ad aver scelto mobili e tende? Quando ci appoggi i bagagli tra un viaggio e l’altro o quando cucini nel tuo speciale bordello e dormi tra le tue lenzuola pulite?
Maggie Mee non è certa che il punto della questione sia questo. Non e’ neanche convinta che se desideri una casa sei automaticamente un “tossico del domicilio” e che finirai per forza succube del primo agente immobiliare per avere un buco in cui vivere. Ovvero non e’ detto che una casa sia una semplice scatoletta e bene di consumo. O forse sì? Maggie Mee non si dà pace, non riesce a rispondere neanche ad una di tutte queste domande. E così, prosegue la sua perlustrazione sperando di trovare indizi che la portino vicino al significato della parola “casa”: un termine di solo quattro lettere ma denso di sfaccettature, pratiche e simboliche.

Non stiamo parlando di forme, intendiamoci. Questo non è un giro turistico che vuole sottolineare peculiarità architettoniche o far notare dinamiche sociali con spruzzate di conclusioni antropologiche della domenica. Maggie Mee sta cercando qualcosa di più profondo, sta cercando di spiegare quella sensazione di sollievo e di scioglimento viscerale che capita di provare in particolari spazi che accolgono i suoi stracci e spazzolino. Vuole scovare il motivo dietro l’angoscia di rimanere per strada e l’ansia da nomadismo.Non stiamo parlando di forme, anche se, nota Maggie Mee ripensando alla nottata, da che mondo è mondo tutte le case hanno una base e un tetto.

Appartamenti, ville e caverne; case sugli alberi o su una barca; tende, tendone e campi tendati; assembramenti umani fatti di città, villaggi o di due case in croce. C’è chi il tetto ce l’ha spiovente e chi ce l’ha piatto, chi l’ha coperto di tegole e chi di lamiera o amianto per fare in fretta spendendo poco. Il punto è, comunque, che il tetto sicuramente fa casa. Metti due pareti, ma senza tetto non vai da nessuna parte. Un tetto è sufficiente per riposare e riflettere, due condizioni basilari per vivere. Ma anche li’, non e’ tutto.

melbourne park

Nella testa, intanto, le rimbombano frasi fatte e lette nelle riviste patinate piu’ vendute, quelle che ti dicono come vivono gli altri e come si deve vivere, per intenderci.

Chi crede di sapere tutto sostiene che una volta usciti di casa, sia difficile tornarci.


Pero’, riflette Maggie Mee, sono gli stessi che dicono che sia più pericoloso uscire di casa che incatenarsi dentro.


Dicono che se ci torni, a casa, sia sempre perché qualcosa è andato storto.
 I figli fanno una capatina tra un lavoro e l’altro o tra una relazione e l’altra – umiliati ma sempre arroganti – oppure non vanno mai via, preferendo la schiavitù dalla mamma alla schiavitù del sistema.

Chi invece sa tanto ma non dice molto sostiene che una volta che ti abitui a stare senza casa, poi non la cerchi più.


Dicono che se esci dal sistema infernale di bisogno che si tramuta in desiderio e poi in ossessione, te ne liberi del tutto e l’attaccamento a una casa ti sembra ridicolo.


Maggie Mee si siede su una panchina per riflettere e, all’angolo della strada, ecco pezzi di cartone e delle coperte, un sorriso sdentato brilla nell’ombra tra due palazzi. Le cade lo sguardo sul pezzo di cartone appoggiato per terra e legge: – Nei momenti difficili, cede solo il terreno gia’ sdrucciolevole -.

Nota solo dopo l’uomo seduto per terra e autore della frase qui sopra citata. Lui, invece, sta osservando Maggie Mee gia’ da un po’. Lei che nervosamente si guarda intorno, immersa in mille pensieri. Di colpo lui scoppia a ridere, come se i due stessero conversando da ore, come se ogni discorso fosse gia’ scontato, detto e ridetto.

-Le fondamenta sono quello che cerchi, i pilastri, la base del tutto – apostrofa lui – Un tetto lo trovi per strada, a volte basta un ombrello. Lei sobbalza, guarda stupita il senzatetto e si rende conto che sta piovendo. - No! Ci risiamo! Ecco che mi tocca tornare a casa a tappare i buchi! -

melbourne wall

Maggie Mee è fradicia e miracolosamente nell’acquazzone riesce a ritrovare la strada di casa. Entra veloce e, mentre si asciuga, guarda seccata e un po’ innervosita il letto bagnato di gocce che colano dal tetto. E’ delusa della sua giornata, le sembra di aver girato a vuoto senza capire niente. Sarebbe dovuta rimanere a casa a riflettere e non saltellare per la citta’ alla ricerca di chissa’ cosa. – Perche’ – si dice sedendosi sulle lenzuola bagnate- probabilmente il segreto della casa non e’ nelle case, ma sotto, nelle fondamenta. In quello che della casa non si vede ma che la sorregge. – Ecco cos’e’ sotto la protezione di Santo Squat! – sorride Maggie Mee, finalmente soddisfatta.Una casa sono radici, perché a volte trappola, a volte guscio, 
a volte inferno di dinamiche di convivenza e altre rifugio silenzioso, connettono silenziosamente il mondo che ti sostiene. Così sposta il letto, mette un secchio per raccogliere l’acqua che cola, cambia le lenzuola e va a dormire, senza dimenticare di ringraziare l’ormai over citato Santo.

Foto Tonino Cafeo

Foto Tonino Cafeo

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…Under Construction…

At the moment I am busy recovering all the posts I wrote since 2007, when Margeye started. A host/server disruption caused the blog to collapse and this is the reason why Margeye is now incomplete. Give me some time, and the blog will be running and shining as never before.

In the meantime, following yesterday’s riots in Singapore, I seize the opportunity to express my solidarity to Construction Workers in Singapore, who are building this city as it grows exponentially.

 

A Precarious Job

A Precarious Job

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Memetic Ideosphere by Purple Hexagon

memetic ideosphere

By all means let’s be open-minded,but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.- Richard Dawkins

Memes can be defined as complex ideas that form themselves into distinct memorable units. Memes are also units of cultural information that jump from brain to brain and propagate themselves. We like to think that psytrance musical memes embody these two aspects: memorable tracks on their way to the appropriate ideosphere, where to settle and replicate before taking another leap.

puhecd007

A release by Purple Hexagon

Out here on December 20th

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Haze Times

Fog had invaded the city, a thick, opaque fog,
which engulfed things and sounds,
flattened distances into a space without dimensions,
mixed lights into the darkness and transformed them
into glows without shape or place.

The Wrong Stop – Marcovaldo Or The Seasons In The City
Italo Calvino

-Am I dreaming or am I awake?
Maggie Mee touches her own arm. She looks around her and at the milky sky and pale orange sun shyly emitting a feeble light behind a thick layer of smog. She coughs behind the dust mask she is wearing and gives another look around her. The streets are empty; Maggie Mee’s eyes begin to flicker as she does a couple of jumps on the spot. She is already out of breath. The air is heavy and her eyes are now watering. The streets are almost deserted; the few lonely figures adventuring in the streets wear a mask and walk with lowered eyes at a fast enough pace to attain their destination as soon as possible, but not too fast, so to avoid shortness of breath due to the lack of oxygen. The scene is somehow familiar. Maggie Mee realises she has seen it in thousands of movies. Was it the end of the world, the aliens’ attack, the explosion of a toxic cloud or the impact of a meteorite? What does it mean that the forest is burning and that millions of people are choking just across the border? She suddenly feels dizzy, but she cannot say if it is due to the haze or to the wave of thoughts that is overwhelming her. Maggie Mee touches her own arm and presses her thumbs against her temples. She is awake. What she sees is all true. She exchanges quick glances with some of the rare pedestrians and she sees sadness in their empty look. She sees powerlessness and repressed anger, but it is probably a product of her imagination. Their look is actually empty: thoughts have been fogged by the haze.

Counting her steps and monitoring her speed, finally Maggie Mee manages to cover the distance to the closest air-conditioned place. She locks herself inside and, though the haze remains, she feels better to be in a space partially repaired by an apocalypse in the appearance of thick smoke. She looks at the murky colour of the outdoor sky with relief, until when she realises that she is breathing exactly the same air.

She did not think it would end this way. She was warned and not only by science fiction books or post-apocalyptic fiction movies. All the parts of the puzzle were already there. She simply did not put them together seriously. These are not speculations about global warming, tear-jerking reports on climate refugees or sensational breaking news over air or water pollution records. These are not melodramatic footage or pictures from faraway places where only losers live, they are not some Greenpeace activist’s conjectures, they are not figures reflecting deforestation rates or the tons of toxic waste drifting in the oceans. The reality is that her eyes are swollen and watery and her head is pulsating; it is people she knows well who are coughing next to her. It is her own fridge to be empty, and a simple run to the grocery shop now seems like a mission. She lies on the bed and closes her eyes and she feels as if she had a heavy weight on her eyelids. The reality is that she has even fog in the kitchen.

Maggie Mee tries to focus. Automatically, she stands up, wets a cloth and uses it to seal the small openings below the door. She suddenly stops and runs to her laptop. She opens it and lets her fingers tap frantically on the keyboard, restlessly refreshing the webpage showing the latest PSI index, the now well-known Pollutant Standard Index. The index has gone beyond the danger level and reached historic figures. A PSI value between 101 and 200 describes unhealthy air quality; up to 300 the air quality is considered very unhealthy and over 300 the air quality is officially hazardous. We are now over 400 and there is no sign that figures may be decreasing in the near future. Maggie Mee is nervous, she would smoke a cigarette, but only the thought of it makes her sick. Her clothes smell like smoke, the room is filled with the haze sneaking in from outside and the mood is super low.

Information on newspapers or on the Internet is non-existent or ridiculous. Everybody blames each other and nobody takes any responsibility. Singapore claims Indonesia is not implementing current legislation against fires in the primary forest, Indonesian authorities call Singapore a spoiled child and assert that: ”This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature.”. In all this debate, not a word from palm oil companies. The largest palm oil planters are Singaporean and Malaysian companies, and their holdings in Sumatra are in thousand of hectares. The debate is full of cut and thrust; political representatives blame each other, citizens complain and the Singaporean Ministry of the Environment makes promising speeches. The Prime Minister has made dozens of reassuring statements, but no information has been given concerning the details of the ongoing hotspots. Whose is the land on fire? What is the extent of the damage? Maggie Mee stops reading the news to avoid being polluted by this too.

Communication with others is purely virtual. The streets are deserted and sure the few people around do not stop and chat. Terraces in cafes and restaurants are empty, but the online debate is heated and intense. People write to each other to have news about the health conditions of friends, neighbours and colleagues; they compare the levels of PSI registered in different areas of the city and it is obvious that also anxiety has soared to morbid levels.
Yesterday, the whole city queuing up for the latest model of smartphone; today, everybody in line to get the particulate filtering facemask respirator. Who has the N95 facemask? Who has the N95? Who has the N95? This cry resonates on all social media.

The hunt for facemasks becomes an obsession, but it is already a business. Maggie Mee looks out of the window and she sees few lucky pedestrians wearing the well-known protective facemask. Driven by panic, she also wants one, two, three. One for herself, one just in case the first one is defective. Then, a spare one for her friends. What about her neighbour? And what about the stray cats living in the area? However, the few stores that still have them in stock can only sell three per person maximum.

Lost in this vortex of thoughts driven by paranoia and caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, Maggie Mee starts thinking about a friend who has given birth the previous week. She thinks of the newborn, so small and already exposed to unhealthy air. She imagines her friend locked indoor with the baby and an air purifier; she pictures the baby’s father frantically bringing supplies to his vulnerable young family. What a chilling scene! But then. -Actually, – She thinks – the baby is probably more prone to adaptation than the rest of us. This baby was born one week ago, just at the beginning of the haze alert. It has not breathed another kind of air. It may struggle at the beginning (but it would have struggled anyway) and it would feel sick when in clear and clean air, surrounded by nature. – Maggie Mee stops the thread of thoughts abruptly -Holy Smoke! There is no going to be a place where to breath clear and clean air. None. Probably this baby is the healthiest one of us all. It is already undergoing mutation.

Maggie Mee starts pondering deeply. – Finally – she says to herself. – This is nothing new. What is strange is the catastrophic scenario in front of her eyes. After having reached the conclusion that she is never going to get hold of a damned N95, she looks at the world map and seriously thinks about fleeing the country, leaving this city wrapped in a toxic cloud that is polluting the body and the mind.
-But where the f***k you want to go?
She rapidly makes a list of places within easy reach. Of course, the haze from Sumatra envelops all these places; simply, over there there is less paranoia and the air pollution index is not updated every hour. Forget about Malaysia, they’re fogged as if they were living a constant barbeque. China? There, the air quality is worse than second-hand smoke from the neighbours. Maggie Mee remembers a conversation with Ri, her Chinese friend who recently went to visit his relatives. He did not bring his daughter because “over there food is contaminated and the air quality is too bad to walk around.”
- So, what do you eat? Where do you buy groceries?
- Well, the ocean is full of shit discharged by factories, so all the fish you find in supermarkets comes from Japan.
- From Japan? But radioactivity levels are crazy in Japan.
Ri shrugged his shoulders and did not answer.

All of a sudden, everthing becomes more real.
Indonesia? In her mind, clear images of boats stuck in compact blocks of floating trash appear, followed by snapshots of children playing on lawns full of broken asbestos.
-Ah. – She thinks – It was so much better in old Europe. – Of course, – she rectifies. – Old Europe, where chimney stacks have been spitting out black smoke continuously for the past 200 years, fish are on a mercury-only diet and tomatoes and potatoes taste the same.

Maggie Mee takes a seat, she has finally calmed down. Magically, childhood memories of street volleyball matches using garbage bins as the net and bicycle competitions at exhaust pipe level appear in her mind. These memories overlap and gradually replace other more idyllic and pastoral childhood memories, probably the product of a nostalgic adult’s imagination. In fact, her real memories are urban and take place in highly polluted environments. This is how Maggie Mee grew up.
- So, I actually have a lot of experience. My lungs have breathed filthy air since an early age. How is it possible that I did not realise this before? We have been doomed for years; we will be doomed for years. Or maybe we just get stricken once. A strong and powerful blow and that’s it. Who will survive?

Among the most enduring living beings, cockroaches rank high. Tests have shown that these dirty and repelling creatures can survive nuclear disasters. However, they do not cause them. Imagine how idiots we are, able to cause disasters aimed at self-destruction. Same now, we burn patches of primary and peat forest and we intoxicate ourselves with particles and carbon dioxide by cutting off hectares of jungle and precious vegetation. There is no limit to idiocy. Maggie Mee does not even want to start thinking about the pervert interests of corporations and governments, who fog and bury, -(slash and burn?) – in order to make some money. Money? Plantations? Investments? Maggie Mee cannot tell if her strong headache is due to toxic particles or to these thoughts. Suddenly, and paradoxically, she sees a glimmer of hope.
-Considering that there is one fool born every minute and that we probably stink more than cockroaches, I trust that human extinction is not going to happen soon.
This thought comforts her and not because her admiration for
Homo sapiens is so deep that she wants humans to gain the upper hand. In fact, as she is a respectable representative of this species, she feels a kind of attachment to humans, a grain of spirit of survival. Let’s say that she would not like to live in first person the extinction of the species she belongs to. Within her human limits, she simply would like to remain alive without too much suffering until her hour arrives – hopefully for natural causes that are painless for her and her loved ones. Nevertheless, she admits she did not consider the option “apocalypse.”

-Uh. – she says.
-We’d better get used to this very fast.
Maggie Mee suddenly jerks and opens the door wide. In a transport of fury, she opens all the windows and she takes a deep breath.
-Let’s stop this hypocrisy and let’s accept a rapid and induced mutation. At the end of the day, it is just smoke coming from fires in the primary forest, a bit like when we would forget to open the fireplace damper in our house in the countryside. Let’s relax, this is not a toxic cloud sent by foreign invaders. Well, it might have been worse.
Anyhow, I want a N95, just in case.

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Trashland

As she lines up in the umpteenth queue to board the umpteenth means of transport that will bring her to the umpteenth destination, Maggie Mee is dead tired. –However- she thinks -this ease of movement is super cool. Moving at this speed is awesome and makes us feel omnipresent, infusing a sense of pride as if we were blessed by the gift of ubiquity. Actually – Maggie Mee estimates as she looks around her – it is not so bad to travel in high season and join the flow of Western backpackers on holiday.

Much less headaches than travelling the local way.

Firstly, these buses used for backpackers are much calmer. The seats are larger and much more comfortable and there is no risk a hen, a bag full of fruit or a screaming baby will fall on your lap. Then, instead of thousands of curious eyes and gargling sounds revealing guts movements and throat clearing, you are surrounded by white-reddish faces swollen by sleeping pills. The crowd of flabby bodies creates a harmless mass movement and there is no much difference with a colony of penguins on migration.

Even the screen placed at the front of the bus offers entertainment that looks familiar. In fact, American movies filled with photonic weapons, fake sex scenes and final wise moral lessons facilitate sleep more than endless shots over romantic landscapes and cheesy dances seasoned by loud and crackly music. Then, let’s not forget that yelling and pushy sellers have been replaced by products well known on the international market, easily available at impersonal automatic distributors. Bye-bye soggy peanuts! See you later expired cookies and stale chips! Here are our friends Nescafe and Coca-Cola, cheerfully welcoming us at every corner!
Last but not least: the toilet. Yes, in fact, tourists are particularly obsessed with toilets, so here we go! Maggie Mee does not want to miss the opportunity and she goes to the loo every five minutes to enjoy a clean toilet seat and endless toilet paper rolls. Ah! It feels good! Wow, this is a real treat! Let’s seat back and enjoy the holiday, let’s follow the herd in seek of fun and fake luxuries with a tropical twist!

Punctually, a few months after the summer holidays, here comes New Year’s Eve. Here we are, ready to celebrate and party.

The migration of clusters of bodies wearing singlets, flip-flops and backpacks having the same design has begun. The only distinguishing mark is a bright coloured sticker placed on tourists’ chest, which is different according to their final destination. The local professionals of cheap wandering herds have found this solution in order to easily sort tourists among buses, mini-vans, pick-ups, ferries and speed boats fuelled by the unlimited supply of backpackers. The common theme of the backpacking industry is the Lonely Planet guide; its multiple facets are the sleepy and happy faces of these 20 year-olds, who tour the world strictly on beaten paths, following well-trodden tracks and known itineraries.
Nothing is new; it is just slightly different. Same same, but different. In fact.

This mass of piled bodies that look like livestock is actually composed of individuals. Each one of them is on a quest for his or her way, special holiday and unique experience. They will surely find it while in line behind hundreds of people on a journey towards the same destination or when clumped on a beach trying to survive New Year’s Eve celebrations. Of course, a close contact with tropical nature is a must in this quest.

Nature is calling and, distracted by two tourists running away in tears after seeing a moth, Maggie Mee wonders from what corner nature may be calling. She looks left and right and she notices territorial and fearsome ants striking terror among the sleepy tourists and ravenous mosquitoes preparing an ambush before greedily sucking any uncovered part of those sunburned and easily irritable skins. She doesn’t notice much else.
Magge Mee gets more attentive. She wants to hear nature calling, she wants to hear Mother Gaia whispering in her ears. So, she closes her eyes and tries to focus. Immediately, pungent air tickles her nose. It is strong-smelling air enclosing a blend of trash and pollution, supported by open-air dumps and all varieties of exhaust pipes. She opens her eyes in disbelief and she sees electric cables intertwining to form grids of strange shapes; she focuses more and she catches a glimpse of a squared blue sky. Yes, because the sky is still blue and, if you look up beyond the asbestos roofs, you can even see the landscape.

The island is there, fighting, in silence, a stubborn and impertinent struggle. Lush green after the rain, tall palm trees reaching for the light and shades of red and orange at sunset trace the profile of a beautiful coastline, giving an impression of what it must have been like. Emerald green hills stand out in the blue of the sea, which fades into the lighter shades of the sky over the horizon. The island is there and it is beautiful, but it is tired and exhausted. Its hills have been open, dissected and disemboweled by concrete-castings, which are now hosting any kind of vehicle trudging under the weight of obese tourists and reckless locals.
Amazingly, the island is still there. As a tiger in a cage, it is majestic, but keeps a weary eye on its visitors and looks worn out.
Concrete walls mark the boundaries between the beach and the sea, drain pipes discharge any kind of stuff in the water, which is surprisingly still pristine, while multi-coloured fish swim among plastic straws and used sanitary pads.
Welcome to Paradise!


Maggie Mee feels a bit lost. She doesn’t know what to look at. She focuses on the theory, she directs her attention on the banners written in capital letters and in all languages that encourage to respect the nature and to protect the environment of this paradise tortured island. Nevertheless, reality wins over environmental campaigns. Bad visitors and equally bad locals. Together, humanity reveals its hypocrisy. Humans who want, want, want. Nothing is never enough; we want more, more and more. And if we cannot have it here, we will go there. And if we cannot have this, we will have this and that too. And if we cannot do it here, we will do it somewhere else. And if the hole left behind is unfit for us to live in, somebody else will live in it and we will be sorted. Innovative, creative and most of all sustainable solutions will be found to make this hole habitable again. Sure there is always going to be a way to feed arrogant, aggressive and insatiable creatures.

The feeling of nausea is stronger and Maggie Mee feels the need to lie down for a while. –Perhaps – she says to herself to calm down – Perhaps I am just unlucky, sitting in the first row of this show displaying fast general decay. Perhaps – she adds to comfort herself and be able to enjoy the mango juice and the dish of spicy pat thai magically appeared on her table facing the beach – It is just another cycle. Nature adapts, eats, swallows, regurgitates, evolves and survives. Mosquitoes are more and more resistant, ants more motivated and omnivores, cockroaches more numerous and satisfied. – It is not the end of the world. – She tells to herself as she sits back straight. – It is just another stage, I am simply experiencing a typical biotic transition. –
Maggie Mee smiles and she now feels much better. The nausea has almost gone and she happily sips her transgenic juice and appreciates the MSG that makes her dish so tasty. She can finally enjoy the sunset and she even feels lucky and proud to be able to take part in a typical night of the sixth mass extinction.

After having hesitated for a bit because of too much thinking, Maggie Mee starts enjoying her holiday and she joins the groupings of youngsters going up and down the concrete roads and the crowded marine hallways.
Wasn’t it easy to win the waves of nausea?

DSCN8184
Time flies and Maggie Mee is a bit sad when she boards the low-cost flight that will bring her home. She takes a seat in the narrow rows and takes a deep breath of the bad quality air of the overcrowded plane. Rocked by babies’ cries, cell phones ringtones, videos displayed on electronic devices of any shape and size and pushy multi-language in-flight announcements nagging about purchasing who-knows-what, Maggie Mee closes her eyes and immediately falls asleep. Suddenly, she is swimming laps in empty subway tunnels, which have become underground lanes filled with air.

In fact, Maggie Mee has plunged into a dream where the subway tunnels have been converted into a swimming/flying practice room filled with compressed air. Maggie Mee finds herself in full training. Air pressure has been regulated to suit human lungs and, wearing an Olympic swimsuit and flamboyant swim fins, there she goes, fluctuating back and forth and doing laps up and down the brightly illuminated long tunnels.
Suddenly, a crossroads. A huge crossroads. An Asian-looking young lady smiles at her and shows her the way. Maggie Mee swims closer, showing her best finning technique and easily enters inside a huge industrial warehouse. At least, this is what this enormous space looks like. It is huge, she cannot see the boundaries. She cannot identify the height of the ceiling nor of the walls, but a feeling of fullness fills her eyes and a sense of repulsion fills her nose. In fact, Maggie Mee gradually realizes that the space of undefined dimensions she has entered is full of trash. She looks more carefully and at a distance she can see some figures messing around piles of stuff. She hears voices yelling in excitement “More! More!” Maggie Mee feels confused. Another young lady with Asian features and skinny legs approaches her, she gives her a deep bow and then hands her a pamphlet. Maggie Mee reads it:
“Welcome to Hell! Here, you can live eternally with the trash you have produced during your life. All the garbage you have generated and breathed, in which and for which you have lived. You can have it all in the same spot and for ever! And it’s all free!”

Maggie Mee wakes up abruptly hearing the dull thud of the plane’s landing gear. She looks out of the window and concrete monsters smile at her from the runway.

Finally home! She is finally back to the city where trash is out of sight and buried in the neighbouring island or burnt in hidden locations.
-Oh! What a relief! Maggie Mee thinks – I can go back to carefree consumerism without having to see in my dish the discharges of my guts or of my vices! Out of sight, out of mind. -

2013-02-11 13.17.38

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