~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke
"Guantanamo North"--landmark ruling sets a potentially troubling precedent ~ Friday, September 26, 2008
My friend Rob's new book, _Guantanamo North: Terrorism and the Administration of Justice in Canada_, which was only just released, has been getting some exposure lately because of the recent ruling on terrorism. It's a disturbing landmark case, and it strikes me that the release of his book could hardly be more timely.
The questions raised by these developments are complex and problematic, though I suppose in many ways, it boils down to the old dichotomy between safety for the many (or at least, measures that provide the *appearance* of safety, even if they're not actually as effective as one might hope) and liberty/civil rights (and its curtailment, be it for all, or for certain targeted demographic groups).
There have been times when we could have the luxury of both relative safety and relative liberty, here in North America. I suppose for me part of the question is--to what extent is its current curtailment a bid for increased power and consolidation of power (which could be for many reasons--deterrent, the show of a strong front to potential terrorists, etc. as well as for the usual, evil reasons we often associate with such moves to consolidate power) and to what extent is it truly justified as one of the only ways to protect the citizenry? Which, of course, just scratches the surface.
Here are some news articles about the ruling. It's great, at least, to see that Rob gets a mention in the coverage:
Osbert Chung, a.d.c. to HRH ~ Thursday, September 18, 2008
We have a number of concierges/security folk who sit at the entrance desk to the building. Usually, Tom or I just pass by with brief pleasantries or a wave, a smile and a greeting.
But, I was recently chatting with one of the fellows on duty there--Bert, an extraordinarily youthful-looking septuagenarian (or thereabouts--he told me his age once, but I've forgotten it). He began telling me a little about his life and it's certainly a fascinating one.
He began his life in Jamaica, the son of an Asian couple from China who spoke only Cantonese.
"I was fourteen before I got my first pair of shoes, and I lived in a mud hut. We were so very poor--our entire village. But my father always said that we should shoot for the stars. And we all did. We believed in ourselves and we all succeeded, my brothers and sisters. One of my brothers became one of the world's best pilots. And as for me--when I was a child in Jamaica, I always used to say 'Someday, I'm going to live with the Queen of England!' And do you know what, Susan?" A pause. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "I did just that."
Well! Of course, this was a story I simply couldn't resist. Never mind the streetcar and getting to class on time (I was way early anyway, so I wasn't greatly concerned).
"Really!" I said. "You lived with the queen?"
Bert is a consummate storyteller. He'd hooked me. He wasn't about to let me off that easily, with some quick answer.
"That's right! The children used to tease me when I said that as a child. Even my parents got a little worried and took me to see the doctor. But the doctor said 'he's just a dreamer. Let him dream!' But no-one took me seriously. And then, you'll never guess what happened. I worked hard and was admitted to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in England. That's where all the royal princes have trained, not to mention the Sultan of Brunei, David Niven, and even Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond books. And me--I got in, from my poor little village in Jamaica."
"And no shoes till you were fourteen!" I agreed, admittedly impressed, though at the same time wavering on the edge of doubt. Was Bert bullshitting me? I mean, seriously. It sounded a little unbelievable. But I do love a good story, whether it's true or not. So I kept listening.
"It was when I was just finishing at Sandurst that I was invited to serve at Buckingham Palace, working for Queen Elizabeth's aunt, Alice, the Countess of Athlone." A pause, and he looked off into the distance. "I remember that first day I arrived at the palace, and Sarah Ferguson's father, Major Ferguson, greeted me. He showed me to my room--and Susan, I was in shock. The bed alone was worth fifteen thousand pounds--it was a far cry from the mud hut, that room!
'Don't unpack yet,' he said. 'We have to go and meet the Queen, first.' And he took me to the room where she, her mother and Prince Philip were sitting. And I shall never forget her first words to me. She said,
'Welcome, Bertie--' everyone else calls me Bert, but she always called me Bertie, though I only found out why later on. It was because her father was called Bertie. He, too was a military man, you see, and she said I reminded her a little of him."
Bert gave me a smile. "She's a wonderful woman, the Queen, though my favourite was her mother. I was so sad when the queen mother died, I tell you. But at that first meeting, she said to me, 'Welcome, Bertie. In thanks for your loyal service to us and our country, we would like to invite you to serve, here at Buckingham Palace.' And of course, I accepted."
This wasn't the end of Bert's extraordinary story--as you may well imagine. He then told me of how the Queen decided that she wanted to see the little mud village where Bert grew up.
"'But Your Majesty,' I said. 'There isn't any kind of accommodation there that's fit for royalty! My village is very, very poor and humble.'
"'Nonetheless, we shall go there for a visit. You have six months to find something and make the plans.'
"At first, it seemed an impossible task. I didn't know what to do. But then, one of the people I had put the word out to gave me a call and said, 'A wealthy Canadian has just built a vacation home not far from the village. Maybe he'd be willing to host the royal entourage.' And so, I found myself calling Mr. Loblaw from Buckingham Palace. 'Mr. Loblaw,' I said, "how would you like to host a visit from the Queen and the Royal family, at your Jamaican home?'
"He said, 'Is this a joke?'
"'No sir,' I said. Of course, he agreed. And so, six months later, we all flew into Jamaica and went to visit my village. And as the Queen got out of the car to pay homage to a fallen soldier monument in the village, everyone was staring and watching and calling out. They had recognised me, you see. And they were saying, in the patois 'Him say he gonna live with the Queen, and look--there she is!'"
Nor is that the end of Bert's extraordinary story. After his stint with the queen, she apparently sent along accolades to Prince Rainer and Princess Grace of Monaco, and so that was the next place he headed off to work as Aide-de-camp. Queen Elizabeth apparently also passed along the news that a visit to Bert's village in Jamaica was well worthwhile, because he soon found himself calling up Mr. Loblaw once more and asking whether he'd be willing to host the royal family of Monaco! After that, he apparently served as a.d.c. to two different Governer-Generals (of Jamaica and of Canada). And so, it was one precedent after another that he broke--he was the first Jamaican to serve as a.d.c. to the Royal Family in Buckingham Palace, and the first to serve the same position for two Governer-Generals. He even stood in as acting Governer-General on a few occasions, when the necessity arose.
Quite an extraordinary story, I'd say! Almost too extraordinary. And so, when Bert said he had kept all the memorabilia, I leaped at the chance to see it all. Documentation--the budding historian in me was delighted. He brought it in today.
And there it was: The pictures of him with a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth, in Jamaica. Him walking down the stairs and standing with Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Another of him with the Governer-General of Jamaica (and newspaper clippings of that same shot, with the caption, mentioning him by name). A photo of him hosting a state dinner for the UN Security Council, circa 1968. And so on. Truly amazing.
And this time 'round, I was clever enough to leave plenty of time--so I wasn't even late for class!
(this was the only one I could find on the web. It's from http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070902/lead/lead4.html)
UPDATE: February 14, 2011
This blog post of mine has received a wonderful amount of attention--and Bert is thrilled! I am so glad that people have found and been able to read this wonderful story of an extraordinary man. I've also been told that some people have submitted the piece to publishers seeking stories about people who have triumphed over adversity and have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Bert certainly has done that, and more, and so this is truly wonderful news. I hope his story inspires many.
Please note, however, that this piece of writing is under copyright. If, however, you wish to reprint it, you do so with my blessing, as it is a story worth spreading. I only ask that you give me a byline and send me an email, at diva [dot] nat [at] gmail [dot] com to let me know of your intention. Similarly, if you change or edit it in any way, please ask permission before publishing the piece with the changes.These are the only conditions--though of course, if you wish to pay me for the time I spent working on it and writing it up, I won't refuse!
If you do not wish to attribute the piece, then you are also welcome to write your own version of Bert's story! Facts are not under copyright and so if you write about his life in your own words, then you can do with it what you will. It is often a courtesy to cite your sources (if Bert was your source, as he was mine, then no worries--that will be clear from your piece. But if you consulted this piece, then a courtesy citation would be appreciated, but is not obligatory).
La Vida in Vitro, Part 4 ~ Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Crying Game
Well, there you have it. Close, but no cigar(s) to be handed out in approximately nine months or so.
Thanks so much, everyone who's been sending along good wishes and thoughts.
We're both pretty upset--though that's possibly an understatement. For me, I'm actually closer to being devastated. The part that we thought wouldn't work, worked. The part that I really did believe would work--no problem with implantation last time--didn't.
We had a pretty good clue last week, when the spotting I was experiencing (Implantation bleeding? Implantation cramps?) turned into a veritable tsunami, so to speak (i.e. not so implantation-ish). But, we wanted to get the official word, from the official pregnancy test, before we announced it.
So we're still dealing with the grief, the questions (is there anything that could have been done differently in the course of the entire procedure/protocol? Anything that could be tweaked, that would yield a statistically significant better chance of success?), and the next step. Going into this IVF, I had figured this was my last shot at the fertility stuff. My body, it seemed, just didn't want to get pregnant or be pregnant--as had been demonstrated and reinforced again and again over the past several years. But now that insidious grain of hope has been planted. If the thing that we didn't think would work, worked, then is there a chance that doing it again might, just from the perspective of probability, yield better results?
Hard to say.
So, I'm poised--torn between saying "got the message, thanks" to my body (this was one of the most physically painful periods I can recall having experienced, like that endometriosis was giving me the finger for having the temerity to try and sidestep all the damage it had wrought to my reproductive apparatus over the years and actually get pregnant)--and saying "nope, I think there's still a chance, and I"m going to take it"--and spending the $10,000 for another cycle, while keeping my fingers crossed.
Or, we could put that $10K towards the cost of adopting a baby. I believe a domestic adoption (if it's not through Children's Services) is around $10K. International adoption is even more.
But for now, it's time to grieve that possible path that hovered tantalizingly before me, before it suddenly reached a dead end. The one nice thing is that the other path remains open--I have almost a full-time roster of classes, and so at least, I have something to occupy my thoughts, rather than brooding, when I'm supposed to be trying to do some writing. Busy is often very, very good.
Thanks again, everyone! It's over and out, for now.
La Vida in Vitro, Part 3 ~ Tuesday, September 09, 2008
The Waiting Game
At this point, the roads haven't yet diverged. They're still running in parallel--a full-time course load on the one hand, and a pregnancy, on the other. Though now, I've gotten into two upper level courses, so I've got a half course-load, which I hope to keep, even if I get pregnant.
For whatever reason, I found it difficult to write about the treatments as they were going on. I suppose part of it may be that as a fiction writer, I like to know what's going to happen next in the story--that's the only way that you can craft in foreshadowing, and proper setups with characters and situations.
But, given that I actually still don't know the outcome--whether or not the treatments worked--there may be more to it than that.
It might well be that the process was taking its emotional toll. See, the funny thing is that I'd reached a certain stage of resignation with IVF, back when we were entering into the cycle. I figured there was a good chance that it wouldn't work. So, I felt pretty equable and unruffled about the whole thing. But sangfroid only took me so far, and after a few days of doing my injections, the hope began to seep in.
I managed my hope in the same way I've managed my physical and sometimes emotional pains in the past: via meditation, though such a notion may sound odd. Manage hope in the same way one manages pain?! It's true. That's because hope, if it's subsequently disappointed, can be just as devastating--or much more so--as expected pain and loss. It is, after all, a kind of loss, when you dream of a certain future and then learn that it will not come about. And, you're starting from a higher emotional point than you would be, if you had no hope, so there's a far steeper, more precipitous, fall.
And so, while I was both happy and surprised to find that tendril of hope creeping in--it felt good--I also knew that I couldn't lose myself to it. Not with the stakes this high, because if things didn't work out, I'd be all the more bereft by the end. I'll still be bereft if it doesn't work, but there are degrees of bereavement, degrees of desolation.
I suspect the ultimate consequence of this all was that while I remained pretty calm for the most part (aside from the occasional meltdowns that I attributed to the hormones I was pumping into my body each day), I think there may have been a hidden toll exacted, and that manifested as a deep reluctance to write about the treatments while they were happening.
So, a few updates.
Within a few days of starting, as one of the eggs started getting really large, they had me start injecting a second hormone to prevent that one big one from ovulating. It brought my grand total of daily injections up to $475 per day (none of it covered by our--or any other--drug plan we could find).
There were two other, smaller, ones they were hoping to grow large enough to use as well. It took about two weeks. But, for much of that two weeks, there was doubt about whether to go ahead with the retrieval or not. Usually, they like a minimum of five--four at the very least, in special circumstances. Otherwise, they call it off and start again. We were able to sway them to proceed by pointing out that we didn't have that option. We had gone forward at maximum, so calling this off and initiating a second cycle with the same protocol--maximum dosage--wasn't likely to yield different results.
I suspect they could have insisted, but they were kind enough to let us see it through.
Thirty-six hours before the retrieval--which I sometimes refer to as "the harvest", where they go in with a big ol' needle and drain the eggs out of the sacs in which they were growing--I had to inject another hormone that would trigger the final maturation of the egg and stimulate ovulation. The idea is that they go in just before ovulation and take the eggs out themselves. Then, the party in the petrie dish begins.
At the retrieval, after the three sacs were drained, they found a fourth! This was greatly exciting for us, increasing our chances by a significant amount.
Three of the four fertilized. Given my age and precedent, they agreed to put all three back in. They also took a lovely picture of our three little zygotes and printed it off for us. It's pretty cute.
It's one of those things that will be really adorable and funny if this all works out, and unbearably poignant if it doesn't--rather like the fuzzy, early ultrasound we have of the little fetus I miscarried before. Somehow, it feels so much more real with the images in hand. That tiny, curled little creature would have been a baby, then a toddler, then a child, and so on, if things had worked out differently.
But, I'm really glad to have those pictures. They're an affirmation--a testament to the fact that we hoped, and we tried, and to the fact that those little zygotes, like our little fetus, existed, even if they never reach a stage of development in which they'd be viable and able to survive in the world. After all--it's a struggle for all of us, sometimes, isn't it?
Lastly, they are a record. These attempts may be the closest I ever come to being a biological mother. And that alone is worth cherishing.