Caveman – Event Horizon

Caveman

 

After two very appreciated powerful ep. Caveman is ready to present his first album, a collection of 9 tracks specially built to bring you to a music realm from where it is hard to return.

First aroused by the strong night sound, your feet and ears will soon be dragged to a point at which the pull of the music becomes so great as to make escape impossible. Delivered to and at the mercy of this dark energy channel, you will be surprised to find relieving rays of light glowing along the path. Sparkles of day melodies springing from these powerful night tracks bring in hints of solar harmonic energy; suddenly, you’ll have the impression to be dancing in broad sunlight, just to realise that it is only a musical illusion. Do not underestimate the pull of this album, but don’t be afraid by it either. Take off your shoes, shut your eyes and let yourself go into this trip, where there is no day or night and where daytime positive vibes complement the intensity of night melodies.

Get your copy here

Courtesy of Purple Hexagon Records

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The house loved by the wind

At nightime, the house is carried away by the wind.

The wind penetrates it

and takes it over and over.

The wind knocks the door

and pounds its way through

even if nobody answers.

As the wind enters,

the wooden floor creaks,

and this sound crosses

the large room from side to side.

The wind runs below the house,

through the space between the soil and the stilts,

making its way between the door and the windows

and circulating between the openings

on the opposite sides of the roof.

The wind caresses the bedek walls

and the bamboo furniture vibrates

as the air comes through.

The windows squeak with pleasure

and slowly the house swells.

It swells proud like a sail on a boat

racing fast through the ocean,

brought by the currents and the wind.

This continuous motion

annihilates its weight and,

in a gust of wind,

the house is lifted up in the sky.

Leaves and branches

sway among the air currents coming from the sea,

and this symphony of sounds

accompanies the house in its ascent.

Up there, surrounded by the stars,

the Big Red Full Moon welcomes it in the universe.

Red Moon

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La casa amata dal vento

Di notte la casa e’ in balia del vento.

Il vento la penetra e la possiede;

bussa ripetutamente ed entra anche se non sente risposta.

Il pavimento di legno cigola al suo ingresso

e il suono attraversa l’ampia stanza da lato a lato.

Il vento passa sotto la casa, nello spazio tra la terra e le palafitte.

Il vento si fa strada tra la porta d’entrata e le finestre e circola

tra le aperture collocate ai lati opposti del tetto.

Il vento accarezza le pareti di bedek

e i mobili di bamboo vibrano al suo passare.

Gli infissi delle finestre scricchiolano con piacere

e la casa piano piano si gonfia.

Si gonfia fiera come una vela di una barca

che sfreccia a tutta velocita’ sull’oceano,

portata dalla corrente e dal vento.

Lo spingere continuo elimina la casa dal suo peso e,

in un soffio di vento,

questa viene sollevata verso il cielo.

Una sinfonia prodotta da rami e foglie che si agitano

tra le forti correnti d’aria provenienti dal mare

la accompagna nella sua ascesa.

Lassu’, circondata dalle stelle,

la grande luna rossa e piena la accoglie nell’universo.

Red Moon

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City Layers or The Ambiguity of Being a Local

1.MOI_Blue

 

Each city receives its form from the desert it opposes. — Italo Calvino, The Invisible Cities

Turin, Italy, Europe, 2014

I can’t believe you don’t know what happened at the former Olympic Village – an old friend of mine tells me on my latest trip to Turin, my hometown.

- You really do not know your city anymore, you have been away for too long. You are more a foreigner than I am. I have lived in Italy and in Turin for less than ten years and I know the city better than you. — He laughs. — I am going to be your tourist guide today. I am going to show you some parts of the city as you have never seen them. -

I smile and I think it is true, my city has changed so much lately and I have not been around enough to follow this evolution. Living abroad, I have a frozen image of the place I come from. I think about it and, although the Alps still protect the city with their embrace and cobbled stones still cover its alleys in the old town, the social landscape has deeply changed since I was a teenager. I find myself in a city full of cafes and trendy wine bars, I can hear different languages spoken in the streets and I see in people’s faces a variety of features that remind me of the population of multi-ethnic big European capitals, and not of the cold industrial city I thought I came from.

I get guided through my hometown as a tourist; I follow my guide as I was visiting Turin for the very first time. We go through metro stations and big boulevards, we cross the city and make our way to the suburbs that had their moment of glory 8 years ago for the Olympic Games. We go through a big shopping mall and pass in front a handful of corner shops, entering in a very ordinary neighbourhood, just a spit away from the city fair and conference centre and a railway station. We cross the famous pedestrian bridge with the red arch, the one you will find on the postcards promoting the “Turin always on the move” and finally reach the former Olympic Village. The colourful building complex, home of celebrity athletes and promising young sport talents during the Winter Games of 2006, still hosts international guests. Mostly of African origin, the hundreds of new inhabitants of the former Olympic Village, locally known as the “Ex-MOI”, were granted the status of refugees upon their arrival in Italy. The first two hundred people moved here by forcing their way in; the other three, four hundred joined by hearsay, following a lead given by Italian authorities in Lampedusa once asylum had been granted. Many among the new tenants of the Ex-MOI were working in Libya; following the Arab Spring they were lucky enough to reach Europe and were welcomed by the Italian government “Emergency North Africa Plan”, a declaration of emergency and integration program that represented a helping hand out of the war and into a new life in another country. Two years into this emergency plan, the government decided to close it because declared temporary and unsustainable in the long term. The thousands of people enrolled in the program were given 500 Euros to start a new life, finding themselves in a confused limbo and suddenly without a roof over their head.

It is not the first time a building has been occupied in the city of Turin to provide shelter to refugees. I already visited another occupation concerning in refugees in 2009, the Clinica San Paolo, a former private clinic that was occupied in order to respond to the emergency of housing political refugees on the Municipality’s housing waiting list. In fact, in the name of Article 10 of the Italian Constitution [The right to asylum] and as part of the SPRAR program [Services for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees], the Municipality of Turin is supposedly in charge of finding suitable housing and training for individuals enrolled on the program. However, due to lack of planning and resources, emergency solutions have long become permanent solutions. As I enter the concrete yard in the middle of the four occupied buildings, I realise that in the past 5 years the housing emergency has got worse. This occupation is massive.

More than 600 refugees currently occupy 4 of the buildings of the original Olympic Village, an area that in 2006 had a capacity of 2500 athletes in 22,000 square metres of residential buildings. My chaperon confirms. This is the largest, stablest and most important occupation for refugees that has ever taken place in Italy.

The four multi-storey occupied buildings open in a central yard where people hang out. Kids play soccer, people roast corn or simply chat, sitting on a bench. Women observe the lively scene from the balconies, others stroll around with their babies and friends. In front of me a neighbourhood unfolds, a community where 21 different nationalities and dozens of languages coexist.

— You see, the splendours of the Olympic Games, you see who has taken the leftovers. I don’t think this is how the Municipality thought this area would have been re-used – my chaperon comments as we enter one of the buildings. — Hopefully, – he adds, — they will not get kicked out. There are too many people living here now and, also for the Municipality, this situation is better than having all these people in the streets.

I follow him and for the following couple of hours we go up and down the very unstable staircases of every one of the four buildings, holding to the walls as we slipper, the steps falling apart under our feet. We enter a few rooms, where I meet different people sharing similar stories of migration. I ask them about my hometown, what places they go to, their general impression of the city in which I grew up. I hear about a city I am not familiar with, they talk to me about a place I do not know anymore. Their reaction to my curiosity is always the same; the only locals who come here are volunteers, activists and journalists, but I do not belong to any of these categories. The questions usually concern the place where they come from, the issues they have, not often they are asked about the place where they live now. But me, I am a visiting. I am meeting people who are trying to build their new life in the very same place I left to build my life somewhere else.

- I thought you were a local here.

-Yes, but I haven’t lived here for a long time….- and I share my story of migration, result of the brain drain and immense curiosity. The exchange is big and intense.

The sun heats up the concrete yard as we walk out to reach the metro station. I am silent, wondering about spaces and overlapping, coincidences, luck and fate, when my friend breaks the silence and asks for feedback of his tour.

- I hope the tour was up to your expectations. — He smiles, and then he adds: — So, you met the “Moians”… who is the local now? -

1Neologism to define the new tenants of the “Ex-MOI”

After 7 years of neglect following the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, the former Olympic Village [locally known as “Ex-MOI”] was occupied on March 30th, 2013 to tackle the housing emergency lived by the refugees in the city of Turin. There are currently around 600 people of over 21 different nationalities living at the Ex-MOI, all of which with a recognized refugee status. To this day, this is the largest, stablest and most important occupation for refugees that has ever taken place in Italy.

After 7 years of neglect following the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, the former Olympic Village [locally known as “Ex-MOI”] was occupied on March 30th, 2013 to tackle the housing emergency lived by the refugees in the city of Turin. There are currently around 600 people of over 21 different nationalities living at the Ex-MOI, all of which with a recognized refugee status. To this day, this is the largest, stablest and most important occupation for refugees that has ever taken place in Italy.

Supposedly designed and built using the latest ecological and sustainable design criteria and with an overall cost of over 100 million Euros, the building complex was finished in 20 months to host athletes from all over the world. Short after the Olympic Games, serious structural problems revealed the inaptitude of the building complex to be converted to other uses. Many of the municipality plans, among which a housing project, failed and the area was left in a state of abandon.

Supposedly designed and built using the latest ecological and sustainable design criteria and with an overall cost of over 100 million Euros, the building complex was finished in 20 months to host athletes from all over the world. Short after the Olympic Games, serious structural problems revealed the inaptitude of the building complex to be converted to other uses. Many of the municipality plans, among which a housing project, failed and the area was left in a state of abandon.

 

3.Balcony

Between 2011 and 2013 many of the asylum seekers who arrived in Italy could benefit of the ENA [North Africa Emergency Plan], a comprehensive integration project of the Italian government to tackle the humanitarian crisis following the turmoil in North Africa and the war in Libya. This program reinforced the SPRAR project [Services for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees], enhancing actions and funds to support refugees’ job insertion and training placements as well as providing access to public healthcare and to a dignified shelter. The ENA ended abruptly in March 2013 and many refugees ended up in the streets.

- Refugees and Migrants Solidarity Committee — The Solidarity Committee is a group of volunteers and includes students, migrants, committed citizens and social activists. It has no political affiliation nor is connected to a specific grass-root organisation or housing movement. It supported the occupation of the Ex-MOI with the aim to provide refugees with a house after they were abandoned by the government project. Since the occupation, the Committee has supported the refugees by providing medical,linguistis and legal care, creating a school within its premises, coordinating the distribution of food, furniture and other basic supplies. After a long battle, the Municipality recently granted the refugees living at the Ex-MOI a residence status which, according to Italian legislation, gives them access to public healthcare and the possibility to enrol in the employment agency. “A house belongs to who lives in it and to who occupies it” is their slogan.

– Refugees and Migrants Solidarity Committee — The Solidarity Committee is a group of volunteers and includes students, migrants, committed citizens and social activists. It has no political affiliation nor is connected to a specific grass-root organisation or housing movement. It supported the occupation of the Ex-MOI with the aim to provide refugees with a house after they were abandoned by the government project. Since the occupation, the Committee has supported the refugees by providing medical,linguistis and legal care, creating a school within its premises, coordinating the distribution of food, furniture and other basic supplies. After a long battle, the Municipality recently granted the refugees living at the Ex-MOI a residence status which, according to Italian legislation, gives them access to public healthcare and the possibility to enrol in the employment agency. “A house belongs to who lives in it and to who occupies it” is their slogan.

Diffused on Medium here and here

“I left Gambia to work in Lybia, but when the war broke out, I was jailed for not having the proper working documents. In jail I got the opportunity to escape and got on a boat with other African foreign workers. After an appalling boat trip I reached Lampedusa [Italy], where the Italian authorities granted me the status of refugee and advised me to come to Turin, at the Ex-MOI, because there I would have good opportunities to find a shelter and support. I took a train and went straight to the Ex-MOI, which was very easy to reach because everybody I asked knew about it. As soon as I arrived, I met one of my former jail mates. I like it here. This village is the real “Africa United”. In Africa we kill each other, here we live together.” - 19 year-old inhabitant of the Ex-MOI

This five-storey building was occupied in 2014 following the overcrowding of the Ex-MOI building complex and it currently hosts around 60 people. There is a bathroom every two rooms and a basic cooking area on every floor. The internal yard has been converted to a vegetable garden and chill out area. Formerly a nursing home managed by the local Catholic Parish, the building is today self-managed by its dwellers. However, the ownership remains of the Church, who also takes care of the electricity and other utilities bills.

This five-storey building was occupied in 2014 following the overcrowding of the Ex-MOI building complex and it currently hosts around 60 people. There is a bathroom every two rooms and a basic cooking area on every floor. The internal yard has been converted to a vegetable garden and chill out area. Formerly a nursing home managed by the local Catholic Parish, the building is today self-managed by its dwellers. However, the ownership remains of the Church, who also takes care of the electricity and other utilities bills.

 

“I left Gambia to work in Lybia, but when the war broke out, I was jailed for not having the proper working documents. In jail I got the opportunity to escape and got on a boat with other African foreign workers. After an appalling boat trip I reached Lampedusa [Italy], where the Italian authorities granted me the status of refugee and advised me to come to Turin, at the Ex-MOI, because there I would have good opportunities to find a shelter and support. I took a train and went straight to the Ex-MOI, which was very easy to reach because everybody I asked knew about it. As soon as I arrived, I met one of my former jail mates. I like it here. This village is the real “Africa United”. In Africa we kill each other, here we live together.” - 19 year-old inhabitant of the Ex-MOI

“I left Gambia to work in Lybia, but when the war broke out, I was jailed for not having the proper working documents. In jail I got the opportunity to escape and got on a boat with other African foreign workers. After an appalling boat trip I reached Lampedusa [Italy], where the Italian authorities granted me the status of refugee and advised me to come to Turin, at the Ex-MOI, because there I would have good opportunities to find a shelter and support. I took a train and went straight to the Ex-MOI, which was very easy to reach because everybody I asked knew about it. As soon as I arrived, I met one of my former jail mates. I like it here. This village is the real “Africa United”. In Africa we kill each other, here we live together.” – 19 year-old inhabitant of the Ex-MOI

Sunset shot from the rooftop at Via Madonna delle Salette, the latest building to be occupied to host the refugees. The rooftop offers an amazing sunset view over the mountain chain that surrounds the city of Turin, while the satellite dish installed brings its inhabitants closer to home. On the wall, the logo of the solidarity committee: a snail with a closed fist as the shell.

Sunset shot from the rooftop at Via Madonna delle Salette, the latest building to be occupied to host the refugees. The rooftop offers an amazing sunset view over the mountain chain that surrounds the city of Turin, while the satellite dish installed brings its inhabitants closer to home. On the wall, the logo of the solidarity committee: a snail with a closed fist as the shell.

6.MOI Wall1

5.MOI

“We held many meetings to discuss how to react to the end of the government funding for the emergency in North Africa and decided to occupy the MOI independently from authorities and local Ngos to provide refugees with a shelter and the possibility to be self-sufficient without other compromise. At first, we assigned the rooms according to the people who would come to our meetings and the most needy. The first building was occupied to host families with children and women; however, many more people than expected came during and after the occupation to ask for a shelter. We occupied three other buildings and had to mix ethnic groups as well as men and women. The increasing number of applicants did not allow us to respect the original plans. At the beginning the refugees thought we worked for the government and complained because we could not host everyone, then they understood we are independent activists and the relationship changed.” – Member of the Solidarity Committee for Refugees and Migrants

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Yummy Stringhoppers at The Mudhouse

After a couple of days at The Mudhouse I decided to go to the source and venture into the magic realm where food is made to see with my eyes how such amazing dishes can actually be prepared. In fact, eating an endless list of mouthwatering curries at every meal did not only open my stomach, but also aroused my curiosity.

I stepped in the open fire kitchen shyly, hiding behind my notebook and my camera and so entered Chef Gunarahtna and Ukku Amma’s kingdom, a big room filled with every possible cooking utensils. No electric appliances or cutting-edge kitchenware, but a range of traditional tools, most of which I had never seen before.

I had the privilege to see Chef Gunarahtna in action while he prepared String Hoppers [locally called Idiyappam], the Sri Lankan version of Asian Noodles or of Italian Pasta. And I learnt that all you need to make these thin threads of pasta is just some water, good flour, the right equipment and, most of all, a great deal of patience.

In a bowl, mix 1kg of wheat or rice flour with water. Work the dough slowly and make sure it is free of lumps.

In a bowl, mix 1kg of wheat or rice flour with water. Work the dough slowly and make sure it is free of lumps.

Get ready with some wattie or wicker mats (woven small circle trays - available in Sri Lankan grocery stores)

Get ready with some wattie or wicker mats (woven small circle trays – available in Sri Lankan grocery stores

Another essential tool:  string moulds you will use to press out the dough

Another essential tool: string moulds you will use to press out the dough

Chef Guna's secrets:  1) steam the flour before working it with water by putting it in a cloth and then in the steamer; 2) Mix with boiling hot water for wheat flour and cold water for rice flour

Chef Guna’s secrets:
1) steam the flour before working it with water by putting it in a cloth and then in the steamer;
2) Mix with boiling hot water for wheat flour and cold water for rice flour

Patiently oil each wattie

Patiently oil each wattie

Use the string molds to press out the dough in circlets into the wattie

Use the string molds to press out the dough in circlets into the wattie

7-Coming out


Use the string molds to press out the dough in circlets into the wattie

Use the string molds to press out the dough in circlets into the wattie

Place the wattie with the stringed dough in a steamer and cook for 10-12 minutes

Place the wattie with the stringed dough in a steamer and cook for 10-12 minutes

Here they are, ready to be scooped out of the wattie and eaten with curry and chutney

Here they are, ready to be scooped out of the wattie and eaten with curry and chutney

Let’s talk about portions.

Chef Guna, [as everybody calls him here at the Mudhouse], how many string hoppers for one person?

Chef Guna smiles and asks me “How many do you eat”?

I am not sure, maybe three?”

Chef Guna laughs

Well, it depends, I probably eat around 10, but he can eat more, once he ate 30!” and points at his assistant, Mr. Vijivira.

I look astonished at Mr. Vijivira, who is busy taking out the string hoppers from the steamer.

Mr. Vijivira, how could you eat so many?”

Mr. Vijivira smiles. “The curry was very spicy and tasty”

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Malaria, non ancora sconfitta, ma la ricerca continua

 

Dr. Olivo Miotto - Photo Credit Robert Hutton

Dr. Olivo Miotto – Photo Credit Robert Hutton

La malaria, secondo i dati dell’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità, continua ad uccidere oltre mezzo milione di persone l’anno. 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. Olivo Miotto è il bioinformatico dell’università di Oxford a capo della ricerca pubblicata l’anno scorso su Nature Genetics che ha identificato in Cambogia nuovi ceppi di parassiti della malaria resistenti all’artemisinina, il farmaco al momento più valido e diffuso nella lotta a questo patogeno letale. Miotto ha inoltre contribuito a un altro studio scientifico sulla mutazione nel gene kelch, rivelandone la responsabilità nella resistenza al farmaco. Questi studi scientifici hanno dimostrato che le continue mutazioni genetiche dei parassiti sono il motivo per cui la malaria rimane nella top ten delle minacce principali alla salute della popolazione mondiale e continua a rappresentare un dilemma per la comunità scientifica internazionale.

L’essere umano ha lottato contro la malaria per secoli e un rimedio definitivo non e’ ancora stato trovato. Cosa rende questa malattia così difficile da debellare?

L’obiettivo degli interventi di salute pubblica è sempre stato quello di eliminare i parassiti della malaria usando farmaci diversi che agiscono su fronti diversi. L’artemisinina funziona ancora, ma in alcuni casi i parassiti ci mettono di più a morire quando vengono esposti al farmaco. L’effetto ritardato della cura lascia dei superstiti, i quali sono parassiti resistenti che, riproducendosi, diffondono questa resistenza. L’artemisinina viene quindi attualmente somministrata insieme a un altro farmaco che ha la funzione di eliminare i superstiti, ma si teme che questa combinazione di farmaci non funzioni nello stesso modo se somministrata per un periodo di cura più lungo e che, invece di debellare il parassita, possa favorire lo sviluppo della resistenza.

Cosa spiega la diffusione di questa mutazione proprio in Cambogia?

Le popolazioni di parassiti che presentano questa mutazione prolificano in zone della Cambogia dove, per via di eventi storici e politiche di salute pubblica, l’artemisinina è stata introdotta prima che in altre regioni e quindi i parassiti sono stati esposti più a lungo al farmaco che altrove. Paradossalmente, la diffusione della resistenza al farmaco è probabilmente dovuta al fatto che in Cambogia ci sia minore incidenza della malaria e che quindi le popolazioni di parassiti siano più piccole e presentino minore variazione genetica. La Cambogia occidentale è un ambiente particolarmente vulnerabile alla diffusione della resistenza all’artemisinina; le popolazioni di parassiti P. falciparum non sono numerose e presentano endogamia diffusa, sono fortemente esposte alla pressione del farmaco e non sono ancora state debellate. In Africa, invece, le popolazioni più numerose, i contagi sono più frequenti e il tasso di mortalità è decisamente più alto; ci si ammala di malaria più spesso, ma le popolazioni di parassiti sono più diversificate. I decessi causati dalla malaria in Africa sono in parte dovuti alla mancanza di risorse, di infrastrutture e di informazione, piuttosto che all’inefficacia degli antimalarici.

Qual è l’impatto della globalizzazione sulla diffusione della malaria?

E’ difficile quantificare. Una delle conseguenze della globalizzazione è che i parassiti possono potenzialmente muoversi molto più rapidamente per via degli spostamenti maggiori e sempre più rapidi degli esseri umani. Tuttavia, perchè avvenga l’infezione i parassiti della malaria devono adattarsi alle specie di zanzare locali e a una serie di altri fattori relativi al portatore, per cui non si sa se il rapido movimento di un basso numero di individui possa essere un fattore determinante sull’epidemiologia dei parassiti. Attualmente grazie all’analisi del DNA siamo in grado di distinguere chiaramente se un parassita proviene dalla Thailandia o dalla Cambogia, per esempio. Siamo agli albori di studi genetici approfonditi sui pattern migratori dei parassiti e c’è ancora molto da scoprire.

Esiste la possibilità che la resistenza all’artemisinina sia già sviluppata o si possa sviluppare in altre regioni?

Finora le mutazioni in questo gene sono state riscontrate solo in parassiti che sono stati esposti all’artemisinina. Le mutazioni relative alla resistenza al farmaco per ora non avvengono naturalmente. Questo potrebbe significare che ciò che permette a questi parassiti di sopravvivere si riveli un handicap una volta eliminata la pressione farmacologica. E’ anche possibile che queste mutazioni si verifichino solo in condizioni ambientali specifiche o in parassiti che presentano un particolare profilo genetico. Se questo fosse vero, la resistenza all’artemisinina non si dovrebbe diffondere rapidamente in zone dove le popolazioni di parassiti sono più numerose e più diversificate, ma ovviamente preferiamo non verificare questa teoria. Le ricerche sono attualmente limitate ad alcune zone geografiche, ma sicuramente maggiori risorse ed apertura a ricerche che ci aiutino ad approfondire le nostre conoscenze sulla diversitàgenetica del Plasmodium in altre regioni colpite dalla malattia porterebbero alla luce risultati importanti per la comunità scientifica internazionale e potrebbero salvare molte vite.

Pubblicato su Greenews 

 

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Tropical Fevers and Vital Breath

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

sunrise melbourne

When Maggie Mee finally opens her eyes and feels she can even move her bones after days of skyrocket temperatures and fever delirium, she is still in a state of confusion. But, in these very first moments of lucidity, one thing that appears crystal clear is the similarity between tropical fever and tropical rain. When they start, cramps and continuous pouring do not leave room for anything else, they absorb all energy and attention. At their peak, the only reasonable thing to do is to seek shelter and wait until it is all over. When they finally stop, when the eyes open and the body is no longer in pain or when a bit of sun and rainbow emerge after days of storm, they shed light on a devastated landscape that needs to be rebuilt. So, as she gets out of her bed and drags herself to the mirror, Maggie Mee feels a bit like a beach after a tsunami, like a hut sank in the mud by days and days of non-stop tropical rain. 

- I should really stop playing the hippy environmentalist – Maggie Mee says, upset to see her body grown thin by sickness and to smell the stench of fever coming out of the bunch of bones that support her under hanging clothes. -bastard mutant mosquitoes.- Earlier, naively, Maggie Mee felt admiration for the speed these tiny creatures adapt to any situation and drug, but now she is the one who would like to genetically mutate in order to become unpalatable to any sting.

Maggie Mee gets lost in thoughts about mosquitoes, these infamous animals, victims as well because often the target of the damned parasites they carry. Luckily, Maggie Mee has not been stung by a gracious Plasmodium falciparum, a malaria parasites carrier,but fresh memories of cramps and pains immediately make her feel strong empathy for the billion people that every year are faced to this appalling disease. Analogies between human migration patterns and the diffusion of malaria as well as recent scientific studies suggest that human beings and malaria parasites maintain a strong genetic interplay, each side adapting and presenting genetic mutations in order to gain the upper hand. A war fought with DNA, a sophisticated and sneaky genetic struggle, just to dramatically summarize this complex process.

Maggie Mee immediately stops her thoughts, fearing they may be some remnants of fever-induced delirious mind travelling. She takes a deep breath and she cannot believe she is able to breath from the depth of her lungs without any problem. This spontaneous action had become tiring and now she wants more. At every breath, she feels vital strength slowly re-entering her body. After having felt like a kangaroo hit by a truck, it is normal that any minor feeling of wellbeing is perceived as a gift from the sky. Having almost kicked the bucket, having seen the flame that keeps her alive shaking dangerously, Maggie Mee is now rather interested in fuelling this feeble and shaky light and converting it into a warm and crackling fire to warm up her feet and roast some meat. The feeling of warmth and balance that gradually spreads through her tired bones is the confirmation, on her own skin, that the struggle for survival can be easily observed in humans, those arrogant beings affected by almighty self-assurance. Maggie Mee finds grit and determination in an exhausted body; suddenly, she is receptive to life again. After days between life and death, she feels an instinctive and unexplainable inner force supporting and holding her while it whispers soothing words in her ears.

Every haven hides its dangers, deceptions and pains; there is no reason then not to go for a stroll. It’s strawberry season and the only thing Maggie Mee now feels like is to eat plenty while she enjoys the landscape.

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Sickness has already been replaced by curiosity and Maggie Mee packs a few rags. There she is, munching some disgusting expired cookies while she waits for a wrecked bus to be packed and stuffed to the limits of excess and ready to leave the shuttered station in the middle of nowhere where she has ended up.

- Considered the circumstances – she says to herself – before facing the world, I’d better get back on my feet. Hopefully – she adds – in the quest for missing supports I may find out the secret behind this breath of life, a breath that is tangible and real as much as it is airy and elusive.

Maggie Mee is thrilled for the adventures that may come and she goes on a pilgrimage to the high-altitude and cold jungle to pay tribute to the breath of life that keeps her alive. She also wants to see if there is a trick to keep this flame lit and burning. It may seem a contradiction that the instinct of survival has brought her to winding roads on board of vehicles driven by some totally crazy guys. Every sharp turn escaped unscathed is a miracle. She closes her eyes not to see the wrecks of some awful road accidents along the way that look at her giggling like skulls in a desert. Without realising it, she is actually getting closer to the relative importance of the one and only treasure we cherish within ourselves from the moment we are born to our death: life.

The road goes up and up and up. Valleys open up revealing hills and peaks. The jungle welcomes her like a chubby and smiley grandmother who she hasn’t seen in a while. She hugs her tightly and Maggie Mee can hear her bones cracking as this embrace lifts her off the floor. “Welcome back” Grandma Jungle says. “Now, let’s try to put some fat on these tiny bones!” Grandma Jungle adds, and she enters the kitchen moving her hips, as gracious as a seal.

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This time Maggie Mee has chosen high-altitude jungle as a destination, leaving coconut trees and eternal heat behind her and she now goes up tortuous roads that cross immense stretches of Hevea -rubber trees- plantations. The hills are neatly cut by these orderly arranged light barked trees, each one bearing the container for the sticky white substance that will eventually become a low-quality toy or a tight condom. This makes her think to what extent the jungle must have been bigger, denser and fiercer. As she goes up, not centuries-old trees, but fresh bamboo bushes gradually become thicker and form the jungle. Maggie Mee closes her eyes and says a silent prayer to the disappeared jungle. Large bamboo trunks are light enough to sway as the wind blows and the music produced by the swish of these tall bushes covering all the shades of green instantly become friendly speakers.

Maggie Mee’s goal, after filling her stomach, is to try to understand what is meant by “life”. What the f### is life? A word on everybody’s mouth made of four simple letters comprising a meaning that has always been conveyed by speculation, obligations and threats or by cheesy poems about stuff that is not much related to life. However, life is all we know.

- And even then, – Maggie Mee says to herself, – we do not know that much. A universally accepted definition of life does not exist.-

For the sake and obsession for knowledge, as Maggie Mee steps into the town spread out along the valley, she instinctively looks for something or someone who can give her some clues. She is not looking for the meaning of life, that’s clear, but for the essence of that breath of life she now feels pumping inside her.

The town is pretty impersonal, dwelled and frequented by human beings with different eye shapes that look at each other peacefully. Both locals and foreigners are equally wrapped in a cloud of fascination and exoticism that has not disappeared yet to reveal an exchange only based on cash. In this place, Maggie Mee notices, tourists define themselves “aware travellers” and locals haven’t learnt yet the different facets a smile can have. They smile or smoke opium along the road as they look at cars and other odd vehicles passing by. Stupas perched on the surrounding hilltops indicate cardinal points and they are one of the few reference points in large stretches of rice fields alternated with Hevea plantations. That’s it. There isn’t anything else.

Tons of children, quiet buffalos, wild pigs followed by numerous piglets and hens surrounded by dozens of tiny chicks show abundance of reproductive activity. Maggie Mee realises that even the t-shirts worn by the so-called “travellers” send the same universal message that can be found at every latitude and in every culture. Around here, the t-shirt “Save water, shower with me” replaces “Fuck me, I am famous” and, for as much as the real message may be hidden by an environmentalist slogan, the intention of the person wearing the t-shirt is exactly the same: an obsession for mating. That famous instinct for reproduction that gives the impression to maintain oneself alive and to give continuity to our existence.

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Maggie Mee remarks a man in kaki clothes sitting in a small local restaurant. He is busy writing pages and pages of words in Latin. She immediately understands that it would be useful to start a conversation with this stranger with a scientific look. -Because there is not a universal definition of life- she thinks – In order to be politically correct I’ll start my research by the scientific explanation of it.

Life”, the stranger, eventually identified as an expert of the vegetal world, starts, “is all that is not alive”.

And, with this line, his explanation ends. He looks at her with the typical expression of a scientist, the one that blends the pretension of almighty knowledge to the paranoid feeling of not knowing everything.

Ah, well, that explains everything!“ Maggie Mee bursts out. The botanist shakes his head and breathes deeply in order not to shout in the face of this skinny and curious female who is harassing him with all these stupid questions. He adjusts his specks over his nose and restarts, adopting a didactic approach.

What we mean is that we use specific criteria to tell apart living from non-living beings. Science refers to this.” Maggie Mee listens with interest, but after a few words she realises that, basically, in order to verify if a being is alive, one has to look if this being spends its time absorbing energy here and there and if it has a body that is somehow organised. They call this balance, they call this thirst and hunger and sexual appetite.

Death is another feature that separates living from non-living beings. Those who are alive will die sooner or later. Those who are not alive are eternal. “

Ah, like plastic, for instance.” Maggie Mee blurts out.

This silly comment is too much for the biologist, who stands up and goes, leaving Maggie Mee in a state of discouragement.

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The biologist’s answer has not satisfied her thirst for knowledge and Maggie Mee decides to take her bike and ride into the jungle of the natural reserve next to the village in order to reflect a bit upon all this. She hopes pure nature will speak to her in clearer and more understandable words than a man met by accident in the street. She trusts in the power of the wind and the lushness of the natural world for finding clues that will help her in her quest. After having peddled a bit, Maggie Mee gets off the bike and take a stroll along the river that crosses the forest. She stops by a rock to get warmed by the sun and she starts gazing at the frantic activity that surrounds her. The picture is very bucolic. The water is flowing, dragonflies are buzzing, butterflies are flying around and voila’ ! In a small puddle full of frog eggs, a fly is voraciously having a meal or, maybe, Maggie Mee doubts for a moment, simply drowning in the sticky stagnant water. She stands up, keeps walking and, behind a bush further down the river, she discovers a meeting place. Dozens of butterflies are flying together. They are divided in groups of different colours and dimensions. There is a dozen of tiny couples with light blue wings, a few couples of Common Mormons and others with striped huge wings she has already seen somewhere else. She stops and she stays there, observing them without making the slightest movement. The butterflies are shaking their wings and rubbing their antennas. Just by looking at this regular, fast and continuous movement sends her into a trance as if the pheromones emitted by the dozens of butterflies in contact simultaneously were inebriating her too. After a few minutes of physical contact and rest from flying, the butterflies go back up and start flying in couples in a circular and fast dance. Maggie Mee finds herself surrounded by a cloud of colourful butterflies high from their mating encounter.

Seeing all these colourful butterflies massively mating in front of her and being enveloped by a cloud of life that reproduces in flight fills her with unexpected and intelligible joy; Maggie Mee finds herself smiling for the extremely accessible symbolism of this encounter. Even more so if one considers that butterflies are animals that do not live long and that the event she has witnessed is probably the top event in the short existence of these delicate and beautiful insects.

Emerald Swallowtail

Emerald Swallowtail

Maggie Mee goes back to her bike and she now feels at ease and fully healing. Her thin white cheeks have turned to the colour of tamarind and her boney arms swell and take shape at each peddle. The breath of life is there and supports her. Suspended in total happiness, she peddles up and down the rice fields and plantations and each metre is a step forward. It is a step forward into the tangibility of existence emanated by this unintelligible and non-replicable breath of energy. Maggie Mee is surprised by the accidental encounter with the butterflies, but she is probably even more pleasantly surprised to see that her body, that yesterday wouldn’t even support her, is today maintaining its balance on a unstable object such as a bicycle. This desired and temporary attained balance is still protected by a veil of mystery. Though surrendering to the feelings of powerlessness and extreme vulnerability induced by this sense of balance, Maggie Mee can see that it is thanks to her feet and the rhythmic movement of her legs that she is actually maintaining her balance and the resulting magic energy that she can feel. She has probably not lifted the veil on what is this vital strength, but, at least, she can feel it vibrating inside her.

- According to the biologist, – she says to herself with relief – I am alive. -And my breath of life is nothing but a distinctive trait that I share with other living beings. Nothing more, nothing less. –

Suddenly, as she takes a slope at fast speed, she feels an instinct of protection towards this breath of life. She feels the meaning of life is to honour this energetic breeze that maintains it all up.

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Let us come into this world gently and, at our own pace, let us discover the importance of this vital and innate force called life. Mostly, let us die in peace. Let the breath of life join the wind, do not force it to stay stuck in a guest body that has already honoured it. The breath of life will find ways to create new life elsewhere.

-Anonymous –

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Filed under Biodiversity, Conservation, DNA, English, Environment, Genre, Health, Languages, Laos, Life, On a journey, Science, Short Story, Society, Sustainability, Topic, World

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.

Back Leaf

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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