Thursday, July 14, 2011

no have big size!

There's a snarky blog, Stuff Aid Workers Life, that makes me laugh - often at myself. Recently, they teased about women expat aid workers (EAW) who moast about marriage proposals while working in developing countries. But my favorite part of the blog wasn't all the teasing about the very real phenomena of men in developing countries (and not necessarily FROM that country) continually asking how many children you have and about your marital status. It was this:

When going from, say, the DRC to Thailand, the EAW will notice a sharp drop in marriage proposals and related attention. This will be a huge relief on the one hand, as she finally feels free to move around in peace. But ironically she may also be alarmed at herself for being a tiny bit dismayed that she's suddenly become invisible to local men. Or worse. When the initial reaction of market sellers changes from up-and-down looks followed by sly smiles of approval in one country to, "Madame - very sorry... no have big size!" in another, the romance of being the 'exotic other' tends to fade very quickly.

In India, at times, I felt like a goddess. But if you are a size 12 USA or more in most parts of the world, you are a BIG GIRL, and a lot of foreigners won't hesitate to tell you so. "Madame - very sorry... no have big size!" is one of the kinder things you will hear! It's really hard to maintain that placid demeanor demanded of you as an EAW when a local says, "You are so fat!" in a loud, happy voice in the middle of a community meeting.

Yes, that happened.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not moving to Oak Park, Michigan

Yellowstone travelogue coming soon, promise.

In the meantime...

Michigan resident Julie Bass is facing 93 days in jail for planting a vegetable garden. She's been charged with a misdemeanor in Oak Park, Michigan. Read the story, and be sure to follow the links and write both the mayor and the city planner. Here's my letter to the mayor of Oak Park, cc'd to the city planner as well:

I just saw a photo of Julie Bass's *beautiful* front yard garden. Your city must be so proud! I'm guessing you are going to put lots of photos on the city's web site and document how she made this transition from a water-wasteful, completely unnecessary lawn to a useful, beautiful garden of edibles that uses MUCH less water! You probably are going to have some tours as well for homeowners, school children, and others, so they can learn from this wonderful example, talk directly with Julie, maybe even to a representative from your nearest state extension office as well! This garden reminds me so much of the Victory Gardens our grandparents started during WWII, and continued for years later and even the rest of their lives (well, at least mine did!). What a proud moment for your city, to be able to showcase such an outstanding example of beauty, practicality and greener-living. You are going to so enjoy the positive press you are going to receive because of your support of Julie Bass!

That's the kind of letter you could have received, had you handled this situation appropriately.

I bet it feels a lot better than the letters you are receiving now.

This is a problem of your own making, City of Oak Park.

As a favor, I'll write an apology you can adapt for your own use in a press release on Monday:

Recently, the City of Oak Park sent a letter to Julie Bass that said she is in noncompliance with a city ordinance because of her front garden of edible plants. The ordinance states that only "suitable" plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences. In response to local media questions about the definition of "suitable," city planner Kevin Rulkowski said suitable means "common:" lawn, nice shrubs, and flowers. However, the ordinance does not specifically state what is "suitable."

Mr. Rulkowski was mistaken in sending that letter, and the city council will be reviewing the ordinance immediately so that it is never used to penalize responsible citizens like Julie Bass.

The City of Oak Park apologizes to Julie Bass and all responsible garden growers who have chosen to grow edible gardens. Julie's front garden is lovely, and we hope other home owners will be encouraged to think about ways to create gardens that are beautiful, practical and green in terms of water use.