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Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

When I was growing up, gym class was treated as a less important subject than math or English. It was grouped in with art and woodworking (which I wish I had taken). It was a class you would skip without being worried about falling behind and many girls I know routinely came up with reasons for being excused from it. However, in the real world, skills learned in gym class are incredibly useful: it forces people to get out of their physical comfort zones, and it teaches teamwork, discipline, and communication.

On a larger scale, sports unites or separates groups, depending on whether you are a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person. The swell of stadium calls and passionate allegiances to teams have led to violent riots but also to emotional triumphs that have lifted people up and improved their lives.

One such moment is happening as I write this. With the Taliban in Afghanistan returning to power, the world watches helplessly to see how this will play out. Women will most likely be prevented from working (except as teachers and nurses), they will be restricted to women-only spaces at university and I assume limited in the subjects they are allowed to learn. You can bet they won’t be allowed to play sports where any aggressiveness might be displayed, a challenge to the meek silent demeanor the Taliban wants to force upon women. In the face of this, members of the Afghanistan women’s junior football (soccer) team and their families have fled to neighbouring Pakistan.

The international organization Football for Peace worked out the arrangements; Fawad Chaudry, Pakistan’s information minister, tweeted that the team had entered Pakistan at the Torkham border crossing and were met by a representative of the Pakistan Football Federation. The news service Reuters later published a photo taken at the PFF headquarters in Lahore of the 81 people involved – the team, their families, and their coaches; another 34 people are expected shortly.

When it comes to communities where girls and women are restricted in public life, sports can have an effective social impact. Girls who play sports tend to have higher self-esteem, continue further in education, and I would also posit that they learn to value their bodies as action-based, rather than through the sexualized lens of the media and social media.

My philosophy has always been “If you want to help a community support the education of its women.” I think I can take that one step further and include supporting its sports teams.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“From my earliest memory, times of crisis seemed to end up with women in the kitchen preparing food for men.”
Barbara Kingsolver

To say that I regard food as important is an understatement. For me food is a religion and I try to make choices that reflect my values the same way we do when picking our sins.

Although throughout the past year, the world has been struggling with random closures and socially-distanced dining, I have had some very memorable food moments. Here are my top 5 in chronological order.

  1. Blue Corn Tortilla with Quesillo in San Jose del Pacifico, after spending the morning participating in a mushroom ceremony led by a Shaman. Even without the drugs I’m pretty sure the tortilla made with heirloom corn, warm off the comal, would have been one of the year’s food highlights.
  2. Sea Bream in Athens. First off, it was wondrous to be in Athens sitting in a restaurant on a pedestrian street in what is known as the ‘anarchist’ neighbourhood. The fish was served with garlic potatoes, tzatziki and a glass of crisp white wine. Plus, I was sharing the meal with my Huatulco neighbor half-way around the world.
  3. Raclette with Chorizo and Pineapple. Eating raclette with Mexicans in Switzerland is a different affair than how my German father prepared it. I was skeptical at first but was soon won over by the tanginess of the pineapple with the chorizo and cheese.
  4. Rabbit Biryani. I made this dish using a mixture of different recipes- which is something I often do. I added slivered almonds, dried apricots and dates. The fragrant scents of cinnamon, ginger and turmeric that filled my kitchen were a delight.
  5. Chacales in Copalita. The taste of home. Similar to crawfish, fried in garlic butter and served with crispy tostadas, black beans and a tangy mayonnaise onion dip. Absolutely finger licking!

We hope you enjoy our Food Issue.
Thanks for reading,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.” Robert Reich

The ritual of beverages: morning coffee, glass of wine with dinner, champagne for celebrations, hot chocolate for first snowfalls and a lime margarita once your toes hit the sand as you embark on a holiday. Most of us are quite committed to the ritual of our drinking habits, whether it is a ‘grande non-fat chai latte’ from Starbucks at the airport or your favorite brand of beer when watching your favorite sports team.

In this issue our writers explore beverages. Mexican classics such as coffee, chocolate, beer and pulque. I was driving through my village while contemplating what to write about for my editorial when I spotted a six-year old boy I know coming out of the tienda. Barefoot and with a little puppy nipping at his heels, he struggled to hold the 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola he’d just purchased. Ugh how could I have overlooked the most important beverage crisis that Mexico faces.

After the implementation of Nafta on January 1, 1994, Mexico saw a dramatic rise in consumption of sugary beverages and processed foods.

“In addition to dramatically lowering cross-border tariffs, Nafta let billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into Mexico, fueled the growth of American fast food restaurants and convenience stores, and opened the floodgates to cheap corn, meat, high-fructose corn syrup and processed foods” (New York Times, Dec. 11, 2017).

The rise in diabetes and obesity in Mexico was a huge factor before the pandemic, but has never been more paramount than now, given that these conditions make people at much greater risk.

One of the ways that junk food has infiltrated small communities that have traditionally been very self-sufficent – growing corn, fishing, relying on the vegetation found around the village – has been to offer inexpensive non-perishable products and incentives such as free refrigerators and even low-interest loans for expansion.

A new development is stickers on processed foods warning people about high sugar and fat contents. Whether this will lead to a reduction in consumption of such foods has yet to be determined. The state of Oaxaca did implement a law making it illegal to sell junk food to minors. Enforcement is another beast entirely.

“In the rural Oaxacan town of Villa Hidalgo Yalálag, citizens have physically blocked chips and soda delivery trucks from entering since April, saying they don’t want outsiders to bring in the coronavirus or junk food” (NPR ,September 14, 2020).

I don’t know if that is the answer, but I do know we need to start asking the question.

Cheers,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family.”
Ban Ki-moon

Race, gender, sexual orientation and religion are things we use to identify and separate us. We can now add vaccinated and non-vaccinated into the mix.

I am back in my village and it is a full year since kids here have had in-person classes. As in many places, group gatherings have been suspended until further notice- the future is in limbo. Unlike other places most households have ten or more people living there and there isn’t any internet or cell service so zoom classes aren’t a thing. Nobody wears masks or social distances in my village. When this whole thing first came down the village put up a barrier at the main entrance to restrict entry. However, few outsiders stop here and arguments about whose turn it was to monitor the gate soon caused the villagers to remove the barrier. School is still on hold.

The little boys who live next to me call out while I am making coffee. They can see through the fence separating our houses that I am there. They point to pieces of Mega blocks that have ended up on my side of the fence. I pick them up and pass them through. One of my dogs follows me and when they see him they call out his name with jubilation.

These kids have missed a year of school. As I move through the village and I see kids hanging around the tienda, chasing chickens for sport and sword-fighting with sticks, I feel defeated. While this quaint throwback scene to simpler times is touching, it will leave a mark on them if things do not get back on track. Home schooling via zoom with parents at home is a luxury. Access to getting a vaccine is a sign of privilege. While we lament how our world has changed in past year- the frustrations and restrictions regarding travel and home offices- most of us will bounce back. Much of the world will not.

This issue our writers explore the theme of Migration and Transition. Migration is a part of nature: the monarchs, the geese and now, driven by climate change, animals moving south from the Arctic. We are all trying to survive and for most people migration is about survival.

I heard on the news this morning about how there are many unaccompanied children are arriving at the US border with the idea that a better life awaits them on the other side. Why do we have children walking to find new homes? Why are there 26 million refugees currently living in host communities? Because we allow the things that identify us to also be the things that separate us. We get comfortable on our side of the fence with a feeling of entitlement that in some way we are more deserving to be in these positions. However, isn’t it all random luck or the situation you happened to be born into?

Until next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. … It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

How relevant is the feminist movement today and how pervasive is gender inequality?

I have found myself trying to answer this question often in the past few years. While I was growing up there was a certain amount of what became termed victimization attached to the feminist voice as statistics of domestic abuse and sexual harassment were recounted. I recall the ‘walksafe’ program at my university that it was expected women would call if they needed to walk after dark. And if you didn’t call and something happened, well, then you were to blame. However, the world is also a dangerous place for men and if we relied on data we would see that many men also face harassment and violence. More men than women go to war or join law enforcement or go to prison.

Women hold more political and economic power than in the past – not all over the globe, but in many developed countries. It has been suggested to me in social situations that gender inequality is hardly a main global concern. And yet I still believe it is. I believe it because of the women I know in rural Mexico who struggle to go to school. I believe it when I browse the internet and see women’s bodies sexualized in advertising and popular cultural.

Is all fear and danger equal? I recently read a wonderful short story called “The Wind” by Lauren Groff about a woman running away from her abusive police officer husband. The narrator is the daughter of one of the children and the final paragraph was so moving and poignant that I cried because I recognized this fear that I had been unable to put into words.

“The three children survived. Eventually they would save themselves, struggling into lives and loves far from this place and this moment, each finding a kind of safe harbor, jobs and people and houses empty of violence. But always inside my mother there would blow a silent wind, a wind that died and gusted again, raging throughout her life, touching every moment she lived after this one. She tried her best, but she couldn’t help filling me with this same wind. It seeped into me through her blood, through every bite of food she made for me, through every night she waited, shaking with fear, for me to come home by curfew, through every scolding, everything she forbade me to say or think or do or be, through all the ways she taught me how to move as a woman in the world. She was far from being the first to find it blowing through her, and of course I will not be the last. I look around and can see it in so many other women, passed down from a time beyond history, this wind that is dark and ceaseless and raging within.”

So let us not compare our heartaches and tragedies, gender inequality isn’t a men vs. women debate. It is about making the world a place where all of us can feel free. Until the wind that Groff writes about is a thing of distant memory, the feminist movement will be relevant.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“We have a chance to do something extraordinary. As we head out of this pandemic we can change the world. Create a world of love. A world where we are kind to each other. A world where we are kind no matter what class, race, sexual orientation, what religion or lack of or what job we have. A world where we don’t judge those at the food bank because that may be us if things were just slightly different. Let love and kindness be our roadmap.”
― Johnny Corn

If there was ever a moment to make us reevaluate our choices and values, it is now. The pandemic situation is showing us that we need to take into account the welfare of the collective and put our selfishness aside. We need to protect those in our global communities: the vulnerable, the less fortunate, those who lack many of the privileges we take for granted. An attitude of “me first” will only ruin us all.

While I tend to have a Darwinian approach to survival, I also want to be the type of person who values collective needs above my own. As people continue to bicker about guidelines and restrictions – touting the importance of personal rights and freedoms – I question what is the best course of action and I don’t have a firm answer and I value aspects of each argument.

The pandemic has not only affected the world’s medical health but the economic health of the majority of us. I wonder how we will bounce back if we allow our individualism to dictate our choices.

With the beginning dispersal of the Covid-19 vaccine it seemed like things were starting to improve and yet this has only served to show how delineated the line between the have and have-nots is. With wealthy countries stockpiling vaccinations, I have to wonder if it’s not the fittest that will survive but the fortunate.

While ‘love’ may seem like a schmaltzy solution offered up by a greeting card, it actually may be the only real solution. We need the term “globalization” to refer not only to our economies but to our compassion. Even though we have been encouraged to stay home and isolate physically, we cannot isolate ourselves morally.

This situation is teaching us that none of us lives in isolation. Let us fight this moral malaise with love. If a virus can spread across the world at such speed, imagine what we could accomplish if we let love and kindness be our road map?

Stay safe and loving.
See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.”
Thomas de Quincey

Hello 2021!

As we have done for the past four years, the theme for our January issue follows the Chinese New Year. We are entering the Year of the Ox, which hopefully will be better for humanity than 2020’s Year of the Rat.

When I was in India last year, cows wandered the streets as stray dogs do in Mexico. They would approach me and nudge my hand with their head to be petted. These encounters filled me with a strange combination of bliss and sadness. When I returned to Mexico, I went to see some land with a man from my village. There were three cows there and, fresh from my India experience, I approached one and placed my hand on its forehead. Our eyes met and the cow responded to my touch by moving its head towards me. The man who had brought me there looked on quizzically; it was clear he thought I was ridiculous.

So often we overlook the charms of animals that have been domesticated for consumption. As we do with humans, there is a definite hierarchy when it comes to how we dole out our concern for animals. Afterall, I have often made the sassy comment that when people come to a Mexican village and ‘rescue’ a dog, why do they leave the chickens behind? I am being facetious, of course, and this is not a plea that everyone should stop eating meat and welcome chickens into their living rooms (don’t- they are very messy!). I just find it interesting to contemplate how we collectively seem to decide on this hierarchy, and also how it differs from culture to culture.

While I was growing up my mother had a painting that hung in the kitchen of a woman with her hand extended to a cow. Perhaps that is where my fascination came from.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Putting out the magazine has been such a gift during this season when we are separated from so many of our loved ones.

Thank you to the amazing writers, contributors, advertisers and readers who make this possible!

See you in February,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

Bertrand Russell

The Christmas/Holiday season always presents us with an interesting dichotomy. It is the time that we are encouraged to be generous and think of others, especially those whose needs are not being met, yet it is also the time of the greatest and most decadent consumerism and gluttonous excess.

While this year may be different, with Covid lockdowns restricting mall visits, I am sure online shopping will be there to pick up the slack. If you are anything like me then you have a roof over your head, food at the ready and plenty of things to entertain you. What more could any of us possibly need?

The key to happiness is to stop wanting and finding the balance between what we need more of and what we need less of. It is simple. Stop wanting a new car, more vacation days, your political party to win, your leaders to provide you with more, your neighbor’s dog to stop barking, your kids to get jobs, and whatever else it is you find yourself complaining about or ranting at. There is nothing you can buy that will take away your frustration.

Just stop wanting and instead focus on having less; a smaller house, less responsibility, less clothes, less screen time, less information. I am guessing that you are free – that you are not reading this from prison or a refugee camp. What do you want your life to look life? You have the power to make it happen.

Let this be the season of getting rid of stuff and simplifying. Let us be prepared to face 2021 with a clear head and not the rose-tinted glasses of the past. Let us appreciate the time we have and not waste it on the accumulation of more stuff.

In this issue, our writers explore trash and the obvious conclusion is that we are creating too much of it. Even though we have given up using straws and plastic bags it has barely scratched the surface of how much waste we create.

I know it has been a challenging year for everyone – health concerns, economic restraints and political worry. I am not sure that 2021 will be much better but we can prevail freely and nobly.

See you in 2021!

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquility, as if eternity lay before them. It is a lesson I learn every day amid hardships I am thankful for: patience is all!”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Mexico is a palette of vibrant colours and emotive energy that make even the smallest moments in the day feel like a living canvas. Perhaps that is why it produces so many accomplished artists.

What is the thing that propels someone to pursue art? To want to capture a feeling, a thought or a moment and make it static so others can experience it as well. Most of us were first introduced to drawing and painting as children to help us make sense of the world around us … “Draw a house, a family, your dreams, your summer vacation.” Somewhere along the way, when it became clear we weren’t going to be the next Claude Monet or Mark Rothko, we put down our pencils and brushes and moved on to the next thing.

This has been a difficult time for almost everyone I know: health concerns, financial insecurity, fear, loneliness due to self-isolation and a general sense of dealing with the uncertainty of the future. After all, a year ago we would never have been able to predict where we are right now.

Art and creative pursuits are more important than ever to help us make sense of the world. Art is born out of conflict and struggle – it will be interesting to see what is produced during these times. To understand the world around you, look at the art that people are creating.

Rilke writes of the quiet tranquility where you become an artist. Turn off the TV, put down your phone, close your computer and just listen to the hum of your refrigerator. Feel your heart beating in your chest, look at the tree outside your window … What is going on in your life? If you could capture one moment or feeling or thought and share it with the world or even just one person, what would it be? Maybe you don’t know … maybe you think that you have nothing to say.

Pick up the pencils and paintbrushes you discarded long ago and be patient. It will come and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

See you next month,

Jane

Editor’s Letter

By Jane Bauer

“The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.”
— Sterling Hayden

I am writing this month’s editorial from an apartment in Athens, Greece. While this may seem like the worst possible time to leave your house, I am seizing the chance to be a global pandemic traveler.

I embraced the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown by taking an online class in Greek mythology, learning German with Duolingo, writing, cooking new dishes, reading the pile of books on my bedside table, biking in Huatulco’s National Park and meeting up with only a few friends. My daughter was home from university and it was wonderful to be able to spend time together without having to schedule it in and rush off to work.

If this pandemic has shown me anything it is that the time for living is today. No longer can we count on putting off our dreams for a later that may not come. So when the opportunity to do a little jet-setting came up, I didn’t hesitate.

The practicalities of the travel part have been quite painless with almost empty airports, mask-wearing, hand sanitizing and temperature-taking. My first stop was Switzerland where I was required to quarantine for 10 days. I got a studio apartment in the countryside and was able to take short walks with views of cows and even a couple of deer one early morning. After quarantine I was able to hike, go to a concert on the Stockhorn mountain, attend yoga classes and float down the Aare river in an inflatable boat. I have never valued these freedoms more than now.

With rising cases and restrictions being softened and then tightened, in almost every country, it makes it impossible to know what the future will hold. But did we ever really know? Even before the world came to a standstill, wasn’t each day a gift and the concept of the future just a comforting illusion? For myself, I will not stop making plans, they may change, but I cannot sit still waiting.

There has never been a better moment to set sail for the unknown, the entire world is poised alongside you, filled with uncertainty, and time is ticking away at the same speed as before. I am approaching each day with wonderment at the variety of possibilities it holds.

This month our writers share their stories of learning and growing during these times. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been. Stay physically safe; wear your mask, wash your hands and listen to your heart.

See you next month,

Jane