Sunday, April 2, 2017

Whales


I usually start my blog with a connection to literature. My recent subscription to the New York Times finally helped me see a connection. An article posted on March 5 outlined our country's administrative ideology towards to immigration
The Breitbart site often describes an all-encompassing clash between “nationalists” and “globalists.”
In this worldview, American interests are assumed to be at odds with those of the rest of the world, and immigration is seen as undercutting the national identity — with “globalists” being the enemy within..."

Huh... Being a migrant here in the DR has made me more of an American than I ever cared to be. And travelling to the northern side of this island brought us an opportunity to meet some celebrity migrants that seem to handle their lives as globalists with sophistication. Meet the north Atlantic humpback whales.  We are here in a small boat where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. And this one whale named Jigger has quite a lovely history of showing off for tourists in Samana Bay. 

He wasn't alone. Jigger was traveling with a pal whose name I can't recall and neither of them is a first timer here; Jigger gets around. By that I mean he has an identifiable fishhook scar near his right fluke and he has been photographed in the waters off of Greenland and the St. Lawrence down to the Silver Banks of the DR. I think he has been spotted near Europe too because he shows up in the global photo i.d. database that tracks whales and their history of migratory movements over years and years. YoHAH is the host organization working to document and improve the breeding grounds for whales in the waters of Samana and the Silver Bank region.  Our boat from Whale Samana (whalesamana.com) under Captain, Kim Beddall is devoted to treating the visit to the water sanctuary with the utmost respect. Her international crew translated our expedition into 4 different languages, explaining how long Jigger would dive, what to expect when he surfaced, how they could predict his behavior based on their years of tracking him. We weren't just sitting in a boat but we were involved in the storytelling of a migratory mammal with an international audience together because we shared common interest. There was nothing negative about this globalist experience.

The whales were playing. 2 kilometers away we could see more whales breeching. Why do they do this? Maybe because they can? We were a bit early for the viewing of the annual migration and so the females were not around. Captain Kim informed us that males meet, size each other up and decide ahead of time who will play second fiddle during the courting of female whales. They continue on friendships intact, mate and move on. The females birth their calves, and they too will move back along a 1,500 kilometer route.

When Mr. Bannon cites sovereignty — in this case, to increase deportations — he conveys a need to assert control against a vaguely defined enemy.Breitbart and like-minded websites often describe sovereignty as rooted in the nationalist premise that any nation-state is built around a core cultural identity that it must protect.



Admittedly, the day with Jigger (aka- BCX1188) gave me pause about our own migration. We returned to our gated community to swim in a private cove, to watch the sunset from a private pool and then dined in an open air dining room overlooking Samana Bay with Dominicans who were more interested in baseball games and the championship title than they were with the stars and sky.  We are here, living a life anew as courteous guests with certain privileges and certain ideas that separate us from the locals. But we yearn to be integrated. I'm told constantly that it is dangerous for me to run on my own or to leave my compound.
Yet I see women and children
at all times playing in the small towns, out in the parks and along the roads. I struggle to separate my own fears with my suspicions that the class divide and the racial divides might play into this misunderstanding about safety.  It's Sunday morning. 7am. I approach the gatekeeper and take a huge breath, "abierto porta, por favor" he looks surprised and lets me go free. I start my sweaty run right down the middle of the road. I'm terrified in my head and my heart races with my exaggerated tempo. I begin recounting my dinner chat with Kata and Marc as I run.
"We are guests but we are also ambassadors. Our struggles, our actions are all watched with interest, admiration, and annoyance."
 Sometimes, we inspire small change.  Kata struggles to find a true friend since her peers are invested in friendships that began in kindergarten. Unsure of her long-term status here they politely keep a distance. The same kids do, however, notice her when she rides her bike to school and runs faster than any girl her age in gym competitions. They notice her stamina in soccer and her polite reserve in class. Some girls have even started to ask about running and being involved and maybe owning a bicycle. So maybe she is an ambassador of positive change... a new sovereignty?

I am running through the hill town of Naranja. women are washing clothes and their kids are swimming in the wash water. Men are already sitting outside their colmados, unabashedly pointing and catcalling or just smiling wide while muttering something about gringas. I wave and make a point at thanking them for the attention with a huge, dopey grin. I ignore them and run with my best, confident posture. I can only go a mile. That ability to be brave and to also be safe while being positive drains me just as much as the humidity does. The male sovereignty, the tradition of men having more freedoms than women seems like a norm worth challenging. Women running publicly should not be a stunt or an abnormality, it should be a norm.  I turn and look down at some random pesos left in the road. Pocketing them, I press on back up the hills toward our condo. I happen upon a church service in the tiniest concrete building serving as a church. One man plays music on a keyboard and the priest sings his sermon. The packed congregation sings back, yelling and praising God in a cacophonyy of noise and exhileration. I made a quick assumption that this constant music fills in for hymnals that they might not afford or even be able to read. I walk in, make the sign of the cross and donate my meager pesos. Finishing the run for me is a victory. I've stepped out of my comfort zone, I engaged in dialogues and made myself known, maybe a return here and will be as welcoming as the welcome Jigger receives. And maybe there is a girl along the road side or in a car driving by that says, hey, I want to be a runner too.

Last footnote from the NYT- The United States apprehended 415,816 people in the 2016 fiscal year, so hundreds of thousands of people did not just “come in.”Under the country’s visa waiver program, citizens from some 30 countries are allowed to enter the United States without a visa for up to 90 days. Citizens from other countries must apply for a visa and could be rejected; waiting times vary. Refugees who are referred to resettlement in the United States typically wait up to two years.

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