PTSD. Helping Refugees: Part 3

I go one afternoon a week to where refugees are housed and provide therapy for a woman I will call M. [1]

When I decided to take the plunge and volunteer, I had no idea what that would look like or what I’d be doing. For the last thirty years I’ve worked as a massage therapist. I’ve treated people across the health spectrum: Pregnant. Disabled. Patients during chemo and radiation therapy. Triathletes to couch potatoes. People seeking relaxation, to a man in need of pain relief years after a helicopter crash. My abilities as a therapist deepen with each person I attempt to help.

I’m licensed in both Europe and America. I kept my US credentials current by doing periodic workshops. I did this for decades, until the weekend seminars felt like I was reinventing the wheel.

I briefly considered doing massage with the aged after we put my mother-in-law in a nursing home near us. But my grief as I accompany Mama in the twilight of her life makes it too personal. When I learned a refugee needed massage, it seemed like the perfect way to stretch myself as a therapist and as a human being.

M. and her family fled from an earlier war zone; they’ve been in my village for over a year. M. is severely traumatized. She existed in a catatonic state for many months. Loud or sudden noises trigger panic attacks and migraines and a voice moaning in her head. Her entire body is a field of pain. Most movement is agony.

Within minutes of beginning our initial massage, M. began sobbing. She cries through every single session. It’s ‘just’ nerves.

No one in her family will tell me her story. I have bits and pieces, cobbled together from talking with her doctor and the volunteer organization. She discovered a dead body.  Was it suicide, or murder? Was it a family member? She was raped more than once. Twice, ten times, one hundred? One man or many? Someone known to her? Looters? Soldiers?

Like I say: I have bits and pieces.

I first met the German liaison when she took me to the refugees. She gave me the barest of details, less than five minutes before I met M. I’d be working right away, without any volunteer training or medical protocols in place. For me the single most important question was: Who had requested the massage therapy?

It was M.

NOTES: [1] To respect the privacy of those involved I have changed names and identifying details, and use initials only. Part 4 to follow.

Helping Refugees: Part 1

After more than a decade, it was back. An insidious, slowly increasing unease, a worried feeling that the world was spinning out of control. For months I’d watched news reports about refugees drowning off the coast in places like Libya or Lampadusa, Italy.

The reports came with more frequency, their tone more urgent. One night I saw the tragic footage of a small child, lifeless where he’d washed up on a beach in Turkey.

That Turkish beach is in Bodrum, and I once set foot there. Two years after I got married we spent a vacation in Turkey. Uwe and I began with the magic of Istanbul. We visited ancient Greek and Roman ruins, took off our shoes at the Blue Mosque, and travelled down the coast as tourists on a local bus line. At rest stops the driver came around with rose water for passengers to wash their hands and faces.

We bought rugs in Bodrum and had them shipped home. I joked about magic carpet rides. We put a wool rug I’d chosen in the center of our living room. Its wavy stripes had reminded me of the ribbon candy my grandparents always gave us when we visited.IMG_7568

Now, when I looked from the television to the floor, I saw waves in a treacherous ocean. I saw the long voyage of those desperately trying to save themselves and their families from wars.

Images of bombs and flight began to haunt my dreams. I had trouble sleeping and for a while I stopped watching the news. It was too close. The borders between frivolous holidays and grim realities had blurred. Actually, they’ve never really existed to begin with.

I was slipping into a spiral of feeling overwhelmed, and helpless, and very sad.

A German friend came for her monthly massage. “I’ve begun volunteering with refugees here,” she said. We talked through much of the session and I asked question after question, curious to know how she came to the decision to help refugees. I began to rethink how to respond to my encroaching depression and what I could do.

I talked it over with Uwe. A few weeks later, I called the Rathaus (Town Hall) to offer my services.

NOTES: Part 2 to follow. Photo Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s images from other trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

For an excellent blog about volunteers and people trying to get through the Chunnel from northern France to England, go to: http://amjamwe.blogspot.pt/

Tunisia Without Terrorism

We flew down to Tunisia for a week in September exactly a year ago. I’d planned to write about Hammamet’s lovely laid back tourist vibe, the gorgeous beaches and how much fun it was viewing the Mediterranean from the Africa coast for the first time.

I didn’t want to obsess on the fact that a few weeks later terrorists shot tourists in a museum down the road from the souk we visited. I definitely don’t want to think about the beach where tourists from around the world were murdered in cold blood this summer. It’s less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the hotel we stayed in.

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Those cowardly acts have nothing to do with what Uwe and I experienced. I took notes as I sat on our sweet balcony, and here is what I wrote:

“The tourists are international. Every body size and shape, every age is represented. We see groups of Italians, French, Egyptians, Algerians, Germans and Brits. Women in black leggings, head scarves, and long sleeved tunics sit by the pool. Two men (young Arab males) hold hands and spring into the pool at a running jump. Kids run and play everywhere I look. Old folks in wheel chairs are pushed by family members.

The French and Italian tourists live up to their reputations with their rule of remaining poolside until 6 p.m. Then they go to change for dinner at 7.

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View from our balcony. Taken early evening, when guests had headed to their rooms to change their clothes and think about dinner

Lots of Middle East tourists are traditionally dressed in modest clothing. [1] They swim in the ocean fully dressed! But there are also single Arab women in bikinis, or young couples on holiday.”

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I sat and revised Tsunami Cowboys under one of these umbrellas…

“Paragliders are pulled by boats, a yacht and sailboat or two glide by, an endless panorama of ocean spreads from left to right. Without talking about it we head past the pool to go down to the lounge chairs under sun umbrellas on the beach. Uwe reads and I edit the manuscript for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. I’m beyond happy: I’m in an exotic locale with fun stuff to notice all around me and I’m doing good writing work. Each afternoon around 4 I stop and swim in the ocean.”

Our hotel was about twenty minutes from the center of Hammamet.

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Exploring Hammamet’s souk

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Sometimes we strolled into town for dinner; some nights we had a drink at the hotel and picked one of the restaurants there. We did a couple of tours, to Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd

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Sidi Bou Saïd is justifiably famous for its vivid blue architecture

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Sidi Bou Saïd is popular with artists too

and the ancient city of Carthage. [2]

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I bargained for sandals at Tunis’ souk [3],

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and harissa and couscous spices at an outdoor market.

Touristy? Sure. But here are more of my notes from that week: “Everyone smiles and says hello in the hotel. We’re all here to relax and co-mingle. I have the lovely experience of being welcomed as an American – and when was the last time that’s happened lately – the locals intrigued to learn where I’m from, and even more intrigued to hear that I live in Europe.

I think that’s partly because not many Americans make it to the area, or maybe our hotel books more Europeans and Arabs. Certainly on our charter flight from Germany I’m the only Ami on board! Tunisians are delighted when I assure them that yes, I am enjoying my first visit to their country.”

We learn that Tunisia’s population of 8 million has swelled by an additional 2 million people displaced by wars. Tunisia is a democracy in an unstable part of the world. The Tunisians on the coast are hospitable, curious, worldly. And I want to go back.

I want Tunisia without terrorism.

NOTES: [1] A sign by the pool read “Clothes clog the drains! Bathing suits only, please!”

D32_3242_DxO10[2] Carthage made the fatal mistake of challenging Rome. The Romans burned it to the ground, killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Then, to make sure everyone got the message that it was a really bad idea to go against Rome, they sowed the area with salt so that nothing would ever grow again….

[3] The shopkeeper held a lighter to the bottom to prove that they were made of camel and not plastic.

Photos Copyright © 2014 Uwe Hartmann. All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s images from Tunisia and our trips to North Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

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Stolpersteine 2: A Stumbling Stone for Luisa Lepman

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The last free residence of Luise Lepman. She lived on the upper floor.
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Translation: Here lived Luise Lepman, family name Kahn, widow of Landauer, born 1878. Deported in 1942 and murdered in Izbica

Date: May 23rd, 2015

Place: Stuttgart, Germany

Event: The laying of a Stolperstein for Luise Lepman

Man in cap: “I didn’t expect the ceremony would be so rote. He put in the stones like it was just assembly line work, just one of many.”

Jadi: “The whole point is that they’re not made in a factory. He makes every single one of them by hand.”

Man in cap: “And I didn’t know that his project began as performance art.”

Amy: “That’s how it began in Berlin. He’s been deeply involved in making Stolpersteine for over twenty years.”

Man in cap: “I’ve looked at his website. If you can get past the fact that they were all murdered, some of his subjects’ lives were pretty outrageous.” The man in the cap turns without saying goodbye and heads fast down the sidewalk.

 ***

Today I want to tell you about several remarkably modest people, and one remarkable project.

Amy Matney began as a massage patient and became a friend. She’s a charming, unassuming woman from Virginia. Just listening to her accent is to hear music.

School counsellor Amy Matney
School counsellor Amy Matney

Amy works with teenagers at the Patch Barracks high school. Last year she got her students involved in the international Stolperstein project. Started by the German artist Gunter Demnig, Stolpersteine are literally ‘Stumbling Stones’. These blocks or stones commemorate the last free place victims of the Nazi regime resided before being deported or murdered. [1]

Amy told me, “The students I counsel have every advantage. I want them to learn compassion as well. This project was a great way to get them to think about history and the world, and those less fortunate.”

For 120€ or about $140, anyone can sponsor the laying of a Stolperstein. Amy’s students went into historical archives and researched potential subjects. Once a month the students sent out a newsletter reporting the progress of their research. They chose Luise Lepman, a woman whose family had strong connections to America.

In a moving ceremony on the morning of May 23rd, Ms. Matney, the students and their families, the commander of the base and well-wishers gathered in front of the last place Luise Lepman was known to live.

Luise boarded a deportation train on April 26, 1942. Not a single one of the 285 people forced to take that train survived.

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The students talked about their experience and Susanne Bouché, the Stuttgart liaison for the Stolperstein Project, spoke.

Susanne Bouché & Amy Matney
Susanne Bouché & Amy Matney

And then, in respectful silence with no fanfare, Gunter Demnig placed the Stumbling Stone in the sidewalk. [2] I helped Amy hand out long stemmed roses. The witnesses laid them beside the stone.

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Gunter Demnig, artist and creator of the Stolperstein Project
Gunter Demnig, artist and creator of the Stolperstein Project

As Amy and I talked after the ceremony, the stranger in the ball cap came up to us. I’m not sure if we were more startled by his callous words “If you can get past the fact that they were all murdered, some of his subjects’ lives were pretty outrageous” or the complete lack of understanding the comment showed.

This is why we need projects like the Stumbling Stones, and people like Herr Demnig and Ms. Matney. [3]

NOTES: [1] After you notice the first one, you start seeing Stolpersteine everywhere. They honor the dead and remind us that we always walk with and through history. [2] Herr Demnig places each Stumbling Stone by hand. He installed three Stolpersteine in Stuttgart on May 23rd. [3]  Ms. Matney’s school will sponsor a Stolperstein each year.

To this day the city of Munich refuses to allow them to be placed.

For more information on Stolpersteine: www.stolpersteine.eu

To contact Herr Demnig directly:

Gunter Demnig
Kölner Strasse 29
D-50226 Frechen
www.gunterdemnig.de

Mobile: +49 – 177 – 20 61 858
Fax: +49 – 2234 – 809 73 97
Email: gunter(at)gunterdemnig.de

Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the images. Uwe’s photos of Stuttgart and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy's Stumbling Stones

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.”

A newly laid Stolperstein
A newly laid Stolperstein

– from my chapter “What A Guy” in Tsunami Cowboys. Available online at amazon.com. This link will get you there. I will post more on this extraordinary street art project shortly.

NOTES: Photo Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell.

Adventures in China's New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine

IMG_6945I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine.

He was a doctor and herbalist who lived from 581 – 682. (Yes. 101 years.) Perfected Master Sun authored some of the most important Traditional Chinese Medicine treatises. Along with medical recipes and information on everything from acupuncture and massage to herbs and diet, he wrote the following: “A Great Physician should not pay attention to status, wealth or age. Neither should he question whether the particular person is attractive or unattractive, whether he is an enemy or a friend, whether he is a Chinese or a foreigner, and finally, whether he is uneducated or educated. He should meet everyone on equal grounds. He should always act as if he were thinking of his close relatives.” [1]

He tried to heal whoever needed his help, regardless of whether his patients were rich or poor. He turned down offers for jobs as physician at the Sui and Tang courts, working instead with ordinary people.

His books are still required reading for all TCM practitioners. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

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IMG_6922 So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple.

IMG_6913I was delighted to discover that at the temple you can worship gods. Goddesses. Protectors and saints. Local deities. Buddha.

IMG_6948The entrance is protected.

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I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

IMG_6907IMG_6908IMG_6994IMG_6993I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
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Tiger
Rooster
Rooster
Pig
Pig
Dragon
Dragon

Then I ascended the stairs and entered the compound.

IMG_6903IMG_6905IMG_6924IMG_6917 IMG_6941IMG_6963IMG_6923IMG_6939The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. The serenity of the shrines and their religious activity is set against a backdrop of tall buildings.

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Click on the photograph and check out all the turtles

IMG_6934IMG_6935Wong Tai Sin Temple includes a meditative garden, and I wandered around to take photographs.IMG_6983IMG_6970IMG_6972IMG_6985

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Even more turtles on this side!

As I walked I thought about the gods of medicine. When Uwe and I were in Egypt in 2013 we visited the ruins at Edfu. They contain a room known as the Laboratory. The high walls are covered in hieroglyphics that are some of the world’s oldest formulas for incense and unguents. Our local guide Khairy spoke German and was finishing a degree in Egyptology. Khairy believes that the Egyptian gods were real men and women. He thought they’d once lived and had made discoveries or created things so extraordinary that over time they came to be considered gods. He said, surely whoever wrote the recipes inscribed on these walls must have seemed like a god.

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Chamber of medical recipes at Edfu, Temple to Horus

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I recalled Khairy’s words as I explored the temple.

When I left Wong Tai Sin I don’t know if I came away a better massage therapist, but I love the idea of a temple to a person who dedicated his life to healing others.

NOTES: [1] On the Absolute Sincerity of Great Physicians (大醫精誠 Dayi Jingcheng). This has been called the Chinese Hippocratic Oath.

http://jadeturtlerecords.blogspot.hk/2011/02/sun-simiao.html

http://www.sqg.com.sg/?page_id=22&lang=en

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-phil-medicine/#SunSim
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Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. More of Uwe’s images from Egypt and our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

The United Buddy Bears – An Unexpected Update

IMG_6707On Kowloon Island’s Victoria Harbor you can walk to the Star Ferry pier and the Hong Kong Museum of Art along the Avenue of Stars. Hong Kong’s vibrant film industry and its stars are featured with statues and hand imprints. It’s a great place to take photos of the city, too!

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You are seeing correctly. Placards of other cities had been placed along the water front.

In January 2014 I blogged about The United Buddy Bears, a non profit art project that first appeared in Berlin. I saw them when they came to Stuttgart. They’ve gone on to tour around the world and raise money for UNICEF.

When Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan was in Berlin to film Around the World in 80 Days he discovered Buddy Bears scattered around the city streets.IMG_6686

The project’s message of peace, understanding, love and tolerance among the world’s nations, cultures and religions resonated deeply with Mr. Chan, and he got involved. He created the Jackie Chan Kids Corner where children create their own Buddy Bear designs. Jackie approached the Hong Kong Government, proposing that the project tour to Hong Kong.

IMG_6718He brought the bears to Hong Kong and on May 15, 2004 a “United Buddy Bears Exhibition, the first major event that Hong Kong jointly organised with an overseas organisation to promote public art, opened.” [1]

IMG_6684It’s fitting that the exhibit came to this city. Here East and West meet, and Hong Kong remains a bastion of diversity, tolerance and openness.

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The flags of Hong Kong and Germany, side by side

Along with promoting public art, the exhibit raised money for the following charities: the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF, the Community Chest of Hong Kong, and the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation.

Jackie Chan was deservedly nominated UNICEF ambassador extraordinary.

IMG_6683Now the postscript: Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find a Buddy Bear on the Avenue of Stars. A plaque states that since the bears appeared more than $4,800,000 HK have been raised!

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IMG_6689IMG_6682Everyone walking by wanted to be photographed by the Buddy Bear. I felt ridiculously happy when I spotted  it. This bear seemed to connect me to Hong Kong and to my host country Germany and the rest of the world, too.

Some messages just never go out of fashion. As Nick Lowe put it, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding?

NOTES: [1] United Buddy Bears Exhibit Opens press release at www.info.gov.hk. Go to my earlier post The United Buddy Bears if you want to read more.

http://www.jackiechankids.com/files/Buddy_Bears.htm

http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200405/15/0515225.htm

www.united-buddy-bears.com

Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Uwe’s photos of our ealier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.