About johnageddes

Kingston, Canada based family physician, photographer, grandfather, thespian and philanthropist. Founding Trustee of the CanAssist African Relief Trust. Development work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and East Africa.

Stepping way out – Week 3

May 16-22

I always thought that being on a cruise would be restrictive and I would feel antsy and not get enough exercise. I was wrong,

For the past week I have been cruising on the Holland America Ship, Zuiderdam, around the North Sea and U.K. I have been easily able to get in my 10,500 steps a day. In fact my phone tells me that in the past week I have well over 10km a day.

I will post a few photos of where my feet have taken me in the past week. I am posting these from my phone so I may have to adjust the formatting once I get home.

Copenhagen

I headed straight for this picturesque little canal.

Edinburgh

Of course one has to walk the Royal mile and visit St . Giles.

Invergordon, Scotland

Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland.

I found this in Wikipedia about the Church bells at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.

“In 1671, when the tower of the church was struck by lightning and burned, the bells fell into the church. It is said that townspeople hurried soft material into the church to catch the bells, should they fall, but despite their efforts, the largest bell did suffer a rift.[6]

Therefore, in July 1682, the church authorities contracted with Alexander Geddes, merchant in Kirkwall, to deliver the bell to Amsterdam, where it was recast by Claudius Fremy. On arrival in Amsterdam, the bell was weighed and was found to be 1,500 pounds (680 kg). It lost 65 pounds (29 kg) in casting, but 193 pounds (88 kg) pounds of “new metal” was added, resulting in a finished weight of 1,528 pounds (693 kg). The new tongue in the bell weighed 46 pounds (21 kg). Geddes returned the bell to Kirkwall on 23 August of the same year.”

Isle of Lewis, Hebrides Islands

Stepping out – Week 2

May 7-15

I have walked along in front of Grant Hall with its signature clock tower (completed in 1905) and Theological College (built in 1879-80) many times but didn’t realize that it has been designated as “Professor’s Walk” according to a plaque posted where it starts on University Avenue.

I took this quick little stroll along Professor’s walk this week. Past the towers of Grant Hall and Theological College.

I found this gaggle of friends on the street at a garage sale on Saturday. Hot dogs, drink and chips for $4. Proceeds to the Special Olympics.

We miss a lot by not looking up. I was astounded how many buildings in the Kingston core have some sort of turret or tower. It must have been a stylish addition 150 years ago. Some of these I have walked past many times but not noticed. Do you recognize any of them?

McIntosh Castle, below is not really a castle but a big house at the corner of West Street and Sydenham Streets. The curious little glass “widows walk” with windows all around it was added shortly after the house was constructed in the early 1880’s. Local legend has it that it was build so the lady of the house could take her tea up there and have a private box seat for the public hangings that took place in front of the Frontenac County Courthouse across the street.

It was Mother’s Day this week and I spent some time watching this mother tending to her young. She was a bit cautious at first but eventually returned a few times with worms for the baby birds that were under the eve of this house on Earl Street. It took me a while to get these shots. I think the neighbors were likely wondering what the heck I was doing.

This is a row of houses on Sydenham Street that I had never really “noticed” before. Lots of character.

And, of course, I stopped often to soak up the colour of the spring flowers.

Next week will be a change of venue as I tramp around some Northern European cities.

If you missed Week 1 you can find it here.

Stepping out – Week 1

May 1-7

I like to walk. I like to take photos. I like to explore. I like to travel.

Over the next few months I will chronicle my daily walks with regular posts and photos of something different and/or interesting that I have seen in the previous few days. Although my goal is to cover all the streets in the core of Kingston, Ontario, in the next several months, I will post photos of other places around the world where I am putting in my 10,500 steps a day as well.

Feel free to walk along with me virtually. Or if you want to walk beside me some day, let me know.

The thing that has struck me so much this first week of May is just how quickly life returns to the birds, the plants and the people when the days get longer and the sun is warmer. After cold colourless winter, the flowers bursting up from the ground or on twigs that a week ago looked dry and dead is invigorating.

The lake, that not long ago was a thick block of ice is now open and suddenly there are boats out on the water.

I hope to wander in all the streets in the Kingston core in the next few months. My aim is to take notice of things that I pass by. I find that my photography helps me do that. I am always on the lookout for something visually appealing and it makes me stop and ponder.

For example, I have likely walked along this street many times – Montreal Street, just east of Princess – but have never actually “seen” this shoe repair, clock repair or seamstress. Now I know where to easily find these services. I probably won’t use Cleopatra’s nails. What a colourful little collection of shops.

Montreal Street near Queen – Kingston Ontario

Walking along in front of the Frontenac Court House one evening I was struck by how grand this building is. Apparently it was built between 1855-8. A fire destroyed some of the dome in 1874 and a new larger dome was added.

Courthouse about 10 pm on May 7, 2019
Wikipedia photo of the courthouse in 1860.

If you missed reading about how my idea for this blog series came about, I have explained it HERE.

Kingston Canadian Film Festival 2019

We expect a film to entertain. But what a bonus when it also provokes discussion or reflection or teaches us something.

In the past four days I have seen seven of the 17+ films presented at 2019 Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Every one of them intrigued me and taught me in some unique way.

I will give one brief comment about each. I recommend them all if you find them later in theatres, on Netflix or Crave or on iTunes. T

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes This wonderful film combined themes of wildlife conservation, resiliency, feminism, racism and reward as it celebrates an exceptional Canadian – Anne Innis Dagg. I will write more about this film soon. Stay tuned.

Who is Bruce Kaufman I have known Bruce for 20 years and watched him blossom (there must be a more accurate but less poetic term) into a leader, mentor and enabler in the Kingston writing/arts community. Very Kingston film celebrating artists who work in both visual and written genres. The black and white film images of traveling through Kingston gave me a while different view of familiar streets. So much so that I shot a little black and white Facebook post of City Hall last night. The film left its impression on me quickly.

Hugh Hefner’s After Dark : Speaking out in Americ I loved seeing clips from the 60’s with people like Joan Baez and Sammy Davis Junior and Pete Seger. We usually associate Hefner with Playboy centrefolds but this points to another side of his influence to open public discussion about climate change and politics and racism, not easy to do on TV back in the day. It made me feel somewhat sad to think that entertainers and athletes were warning about the same things back then that apply now but we seem to be, if anything, slipping backward.

Anthropocene The theme was centred on how humans are changing the earth – much of it not for better. It wasn’t preachy but presented a sometimes stunningly beautiful visual depiction of natural and geological sites where we are altering the planet in . Not much said in the film but lots to ruminate on while we watch this unfolding around the globe. This film is available on iTunes now but would be much better appreciated on a big screen. The images are incredible

1991 Thank goodness for this film to add some levity to the day I saw the previous two. I booked this film at the last minute and am so glad that I did. What fun it was to watch. It is in French, English and Italian but subtitled when necessary. It was easy to follow (the trailer is all in French and I was afraid that although I have some basic French knowledge, I would miss the subtlety and jokes but that was definitely NOT the case.) I enjoyed all the Italian settings and the interactions between friends and family and strangers.

The Grizzlies Every Canadian should see this film. Full stop. It will be in theatres in mid April and I will remind you again then (and go to see it again myself). Mulling over how much this film hit me and will likely write more about it later when I have had time to digest.

Go-Boy Kingston is a penitentiary town so this locally produced film about a bank robber, Roger Caron, who also became a notorious escapee from numerous prisons was popular. Lots of history about Kingston Penitentiary and the archival footage of this fellow talking to schools and on Front Page Challenge, showed him to have a great sense of humour and real charm despite his sketchy past. He actually won the Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction in 1978 for his book, written while he was incarcerated, also called Go-Boy.

Congratulations and thank you to Mark and Megan and all the other folks involved with organizing and implementing this very successful festival. It is absolutely wonderful to see such a robust and varied collection of Canadian films. I am looking forward to next year’s KCFF already.

Please leave a comment or “review” if you saw one of these films or any others that you enjoyed at the 2019 KCFF.

Making Rosemary Focaccia

This is a little change of pace for my blog. By now you will realize that my posts tend to be an eclectic mix.

This recipe for rosemary focaccia is just too good not to share. If you have a cast iron pan it is the perfect cooking pan. If not, you can always use a heavy cake pan.

In the youtube video below I will walk you step by step through the recipe. Easy, inexpensive and delicious.

Prego. Bellissimo.

I will walk you through this recipe which is simple and delicious. It would even be a good recipe for kids to make.

Here are the written instructions.

Rosemary Focaccia in the Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and put the skillet into the oven to warm.

In 3/4 cup warm water dissolve 1/2 tsp sugar.  Add 1 1/2 tsp yeast and let it work for about 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup flour and 3/4 tsp salt and mix it up. I use a wooden spoon to do this.

Add 2 TBSP olive oil and fresh rosemary or dried rosemary (or any combination of that) and mix until combined. I crumble up a couple of large pinches of dried rosemary and then snip in fresh rosemary to taste.

Add another 3/4 cup flour (approximate) and stir it until the dough starts to come away from the bowl. Flour your fingers and draw it away from the bowl sides.

Take the skillet out of the oven (use oven mitts as the handle will be hot) and turn the oven OFF. Grease the skillet with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and spread the dough evenly into the pan. Cover the pan and dough with a tea towel and put the pan back into the oven for 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, make the topping using 2 TBSP olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, one or two cloves of chopped garlic and some more fresh or dried rosemary. The flavours will blend while the dough is rising in the warm oven.


When the dough has had a chance to rise, remove the pan from the oven and turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.  Brush the dough with the olive oil/garlic/salt/ Rosemary mix and sprinkle with coarse sea salt .

Bake for 20 minutes in the 400 degree oven.. 

Cool on a rack.

Top with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Total prep time is about 10 minutes, rising time 20 minutes and cooking time 20 minutes.

Life imitating art. Or is it the other way around?

I got an unexpected and sad reply from a friend in Africa when I sent him a birthday greeting this weekend. And it all resonated particularly harshly because of the theatre piece I saw last night. 

Tobias is the Beach Management Unit Chairman at the Kamin Oningo beach on Lake Victoria, a small fishing community in Kenya where I have visited several times.Through The CanAssist African Relief Trust we have been able to build up a small school there. The school, in fact, is named after my Dad as is one of the kids in the community!

Tobias responded to my cheery birthday note with the sad news of the death of two relatively young people in the village.  

Now I will take one step back.

Last night, I attended the Theatre Kingston performance of What a Young Wife Ought to Know.   The show was really well produced and there were some very funny and intimate moments. The general theme was a tough one, however.  It centred on the desperation of young women in Canada in the early 1900’s to limit their family size .  Living in relative poverty put them at increased health risk and they were simply not able to care for either themselves or their children adequately.   Their family planning choices were limited and sometimes the only choice was abstinence, a solution that strained their marriages. Desperate attempts to terminate the pregnancy were life-threatening and distressing. The show was dramatic and intense and personal and, for us in Canada now, it was “historical”.

Well in some parts of the world it is not history. 

One of the deaths at Kamin Oningo was a 35 year old woman who already had four kids and who delivered the fifth two weeks ago.  She must have been anemic during the pregnancy or, like many there, had some post-partum bleeding that was not fully addressed.  Like many African mothers, there really was no time to recuperate and she had to take up the usual household tasks immediately.  Apparently she had been given some iron tablets for the severe anemia  but she collapsed on Saturday and died at home.  Three of the older kids go to the SP Geddes school from pre-school age to grade 2. The husband, a fisherman with a meagre and unreliable income, is left with this young family. 

So this news drove home the message of the play even more (not that it needed any more driving home).  It was not that long ago that this conundrum was being played out in Ottawa.  It still is a concern in Africa and with people I know there. And women die. Less than two years ago, another young mother that I know died with a post-partum hemorrhage.  The baby survived but without a mother. 

The other fellow who passed away in the community this week, a 32 year old fisherman with three young children, died of what sounds to me like an Upper Gi Bleed.  Here, he would likely have had access to the medical care to prevent or manage this.  In Kamin Oningo there is no medical care in close proximity and most people can not afford transport to the nearest facilities that can deal with this or the meagre fees that are charged for health services.  So they leave it too late.  

Tobias has reached out to his friends for financial help so the families can achieve  release of the bodies of these two community members from the mortuary and to help to provide a funeral and burial for them.  I struggle to imagine what it is like to lose your wife, have a newborn baby at home and four other children and not have enough money to retrieve the body from the mortuary. Of course, the families will also be distraught by the deaths and suffer even more financially.

If anyone feels they want to reach out in support, I will be pleased to receive any donations and forward them directly to Africa where they will be used in support of these two bereaved families.  Even $10 will help.   An online transfer is best (john.a.geddes@gmail.com) or give me ten bucks when you see me next.  I promise that every cent will reach this community and the grieving families.

(This is not a CanAssist request, by the way, but a personal one from me.)

I would also recommend you seeing What a Young Wife Ought to Know at the Baby Grand – playing from now until February 16. And when you see it, realize what many women/families around the world are still going through and how it is not that long ago that this was the situation here in Canada.

The Kamin Oningo fishing community is suffering this week more than usual.

Tracing my footsteps through 2018

My iPhone tells me that in 2018 I took over 4,900,000 steps with it in my pocket. We averaged 8.7 kilometers every day in 16 different countries. My phone and I also took hundreds of photos as we made that trek though the year together.

Here is just one photo from each of those countries.

Longboat Key, Florida, U.S.A.

Amalfi, Italy

Rotterdam, Holland

Copenhagen, Denmark

St Petersburg, Russia

Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm, Sweden

Brussels, Belgium

Berlin, Germany

Tallinn, Estonia

Baridi, Kona, Kenya

Maputo, Mozambique

Costa Maya, Mexico

Roatan, Honduras

Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala

Magog, Quebec, Canada

Distressing news about a former student

One of the great many pleasures that I have had in the past 15 years has been my association with the Canadian Field Studies in Africa programme, run by McGill University.   Through my ten year association with this field study group in Africa I had the opportunity to meet and get to know many vibrant, bright, motivated and responsible young folks who were both curious and concerned about international needs and the environment.

Several of these students still connect with me from time to time and I have enjoyed seeing many of them when they pass through Kingston.  A large proportion of them have gone on to become involved in international work and many have taken responsible positions in the health care sector.  It was through my association with this group that I was motivated to start the CanAssist African Relief Trust in 2008.

I happened to spend several weeks in the company of the 2008 CFSIA cohort as well and that year’s cohort of students stands out in my memory as I had lots of time to get to know them.

This week I learned that one of these remarkable young folks, Niloufar Bayani, a native Iranian who was studying at McGill, had gone back to her home country, Iran, a couple of years ago.  She was working for the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an organization that “focuses on public awareness campaigns in tandem with projects that can save endangered species and protect the fragile ecosystems” in Iran.  In January of this year, along with seven of her co-workers, she was arrested on charges of “espionage”.  She has been in an Irani jail since that time without access to legal counsel other than what the state provides.   One of the group died mysteriously in February while incarcerated.

Earlier this month the charges against this group of prisoners was shockingly augmented to “corruption on earth”, a vague and serious charge that, carries a possible death penalty or at least long prison sentences if a conviction occurs.

What exactly has transpired is not certain but most documentation from news sources suggests that the charges are improbable and incredible. Environmental groups in Iran that may be cooperating or working in tandem with agencies in the west, like the United Nations, are being accused of  being part of a Western “infiltration” network.  Even some Irani government sources indicate that there is no proof of this.  Other environmental groups in Iran are now anxious that they, too, may be targeted and accused.

One report I read suggests that the PWHF scientists were using remote cameras to film activities of rare Asiatic cheetahs  (like the cameras that BBC uses in their wildlife series).   The range for these cameras is only 50 metres.  But the claim is that the group was “seeking proximity to military sites with the cover of the environmental projects and obtaining military information from them.”   Perhaps they inadvertently were close to some secure installations.  Who knows? It is most unlikely that their activity was in any way espionage.

But what is known is that they are held in jail, accused of crimes against the state and are not getting proper legal representation to defend themselves.

Niloufar’s student colleagues are understandably distraught with what has happened to their friend.  These folks knew her as a fun-loving, active, responsible young woman in 2008 and they struggle to know how they could help their friend who languishes in a prison in a country where Human Rights are not always respected.

It is a heartbreaking Post Script for this group of 2008 CFISA students.  I hope that some civility and a reasonable outcome to this disturbing situation for Niloufar.

CFSIA beach 2008
The 2008 CFISA group on the beach in Tanzania.

I have not known what Niloufar has been doing since 2008 but, like many of her colleagues, she seems to have followed an academic pathway that involves service to humanity…not corruption.  I found this online, from a couple of years ago. Not the CV of a spy.

Bayani, Niloufar

Project Advisor on Eco-DRR, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch


Biography

Niloufar Bayani has worked as a Project Advisor under the Disaster Risk Reduction portfolio of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), being managed by the Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB) based in Geneva, Switzerland. She has expertise in ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. For the past four years she has worked on UNEP projects in Afghanistan, DRC, Sudan and Haiti. She also has previous experience as a research fellow with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and has consulted numerous local NGOs and universities. Ms. Bayani was born and raised in Iran. She holds a BSc in Biology from McGill University in Canada and an MA in Conservation Biology from Columbia University in the USA.

CFSIA 2008

If you are curious and want to read more, press reports of these events can be found here:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/10/26/iran-environmentalists-face-capital-charges

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/iran-s-environmentalists-are-caught-up-in-a-political-power-struggle

Post Script.

Friends have asked me what can be done to help.  After I have written this post, a petition has been started that now has over 100,000 signatures.  Please add yours. You can link to it here:

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-ca/626/639/055/conservationists-face-death-penalty-in-iran/?fbclid=IwAR2EkrR-cOZTncWxTrVQWgUdcjFQ72UHjEW8zrjY63_gB2OnOvYZXQU1zSg

Red Tide along the Florida Gulf Coast

Wildlife along the Florida Gulf Coast has taken a hit from something called the Red Tide.

I have been holidaying at Longboat Key for 35 years and periodically there is a surge in an algae called Karenia brevis that is in the gulf water for a few days or a couple of weeks then goes away. The alga affects fish by secreting a toxin that attacks their neurological system and gills and it kills a lot of them but the outbreaks are brief and the Gulf fauna recovers quickly.

This year, however, a bloom that started in July has continued unabated ravaging fish and wildlife along the coast from Fort Myers to north of Tampa. Fish have been washing up on the beach in large numbers and the dead sealife has also included sea turtles, dolphins and manatee. I am told that in August the problem was severe and that dead fish littered the beach and the water which turns orange with the bloom. For humans, the problem is mainly respiratory. Apparently swimming in the water contaminated by Red Tide is not a health risk other than causing skin and eye irritation for some.

The Red Tide gets its name from the color it gives to the water when it blooms.

This week we have noticed a lot of dead fish on the beach even the tide goes out, fewer schools of fish in the water, no seagulls or terns and only a couple of egrets. The birds must have moved away because there are no fish in the shallow water to hunt. An occasional pelican flies along the shore but they don’t dive to snare fish like usual. The seabirds have been replaced by flocks of turkey vultures that soar in the wind currents above the beach or pick away at the dead fish littering the shoreline.

Vultures have replaced seagulls along the shore.

There are even fewer tourists than usual and I have read that the tourist industry along the coast has been significantly affected.

Our holiday this week was not changed in any significant way by the persistent Red Tide bloom. On days when the water was stirred up by waves it took on the color of tea rather than its usual clear teal green. You could tell as you walked along the beach the places where the Red Tide was more active (areas of high concentration tend to move along the shoreline) because it would cause a runny nose and a dry tickle in the throat that turned to cough.

Fewer tourists and almost no seabirds along the coast this November.

Why is it worse this year? Apparently there was a lot of rain earlier in the season and the heavier run off into the rivers that flow into the gulf brought with it pollution and eutrophication that acted to fertilize the algae. This, combined with an unusually warm season and warmer gulf water temperatures, added a bonus for abundant algal growth. Yes, effects of climate change and human pollution combined.

It will take a while for the wildlife along the gulf to recover but recover it will. One wonders, however, if – or, more appropriately, how and when – the conditions that disrupt the environment will increase as our weather patterns change in response to climate change.

I will be back to Longboat Key at the end of December and will be anxious to see if things are resolving.

Italia 2018 – Part 1 – San Michele

I’ve spent the last few days visiting with friends Luca, Gloria, and Enrico in San Michele, Italy – not too far from Bologna and Modena. The district, Reggio Emilia, is famous for Ferrari and Pavarotti and balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese, among other things.

I first met Luca and Gloria rather serendipitously online in 1999 when I was working in Bosnia and ICQ was the online chat programme that was popular then. We have seen each other several times in several places over those 19 years. I first met Enrico when he was 3 months old. Now look at him!

It’s always wonderful to spend time with them and to have the opportunity to experience Italy with my Italian family. Gracie, amici.

Here are a few photos of my time there.

Centre of Modena. The reflection in the pool of water caught my eye.

I always enjoy a hike up the hill behind San Michele for a “divine” view of the surrounding countryside and the town below.

The historic covered bridge, an icon in Pavia, near Milano.

The courtyard of the Castello Visconteo in Pavia

Downtown San Michele. Not a metropolis.

I revel all week in Gloria’s cooking. This is a ricotta and chocolate cheesecake/pie. Delizioso.