Monthly Archives: October 2009

One Child’s Language: at 8 months

She is walking. About ten days ago we began trying to walk her with just one hand because it helped her to stand more erect…. Also this week, she finally came up with her first honest-to-goodness consonant, /b/. So, we hear a lot of /bababa/ and /b b b/. She is such fun to watch when she is playing by herself, pulling apart a stack of plastic bowls or picking small things out of a basket, babbling to herself. It doesn’t usually last more than about ten minutes before she wants to involve one of us in her play. Her favorite way to do this is with peek-a-boo….

Just this morning she is trying out a whole bunch of new sounds, some approaching /d/ and /y/. Also real throat-clearing to go along with the cough that has been part of her “vocabulary” for several months. As her dad says, her speech is not instrumental yet; it is an end in itself. She is definitely having fun with it.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston Public Schools.

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Filed under family, Hawai'i, language, U.S.

“If Dobbo has too little law, England has too much”

From The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for Alfred Wallace, the Man Who Shared Darwin’s Discovery of Evolution, by Tim Severin (Carroll & Graf, 1997), p. 74:

During the five months he spent on the islands, Wallace witnessed an extraordinary transformation overtake Dobbo. Throughout January there was a steady arrival of boats and traders, 15 big prahus from Macassar and up to 100 smaller boats from Kei, the New Guinea coast and outer Aru. They clustered into the anchorage or were pulled up on the beach to be scrubbed and have new coats of anti-fouling, while their crews moved into the bamboo houses. The settlement buzzed with activity, and Wallace marvelled – as he had already done at the well-mannered behaviour of his prahu crew that this ill-assorted mass of people managed to get on so well without any formal rule of law, courts or police to keep order. Dobbo was full to bursting with a ‘motley, ignorant, thievish population’ of Chinese, Bugis, half-caste Javanese, men from Seram, with a sprinkling of half-wild Papuans from Timor and the islands to the south. Yet ‘they do not cut each other’s throats, do not plunder each other day and night, do not fall into the anarchy such a state of things might be supposed to lead to. It is very extraordinary.’ It made him wonder that perhaps European countries were over-governed, and that ‘the thousands of lawyers and barristers whose whole lives are spent in telling us what the hundred acts of Parliament mean’ indicated that ‘if Dobbo has too little law, England has too much’.

The reason for the orderliness and good behaviour in Dobbo, he decided, was that every person there had come to trade, and that a peaceful environment for the marketplace was in everyone’s interest. So the little sandspit was an amicable parade of regional types and costumes. Chinamen soberly walked down the single street, with their long pigtails hanging down to their heels. Half-naked Aru islanders wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and with enormous bushes of frizzy hair held in place by gigantic wooden combs – called at every door to offer tradable items and see who would pay the best price. Young sailors from Macassar played a kind of aerial football with a hollow ball made of rattan which they kept in the air with a succession of kicks and knocks from feet, elbow and shoulder.

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Filed under Britain, economics, Indonesia

Christianity and Belanda Migrants in Indonesia’s Far East

From The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for Alfred Wallace, the Man Who Shared Darwin’s discovery of Evolution, by Tim Severin (Carroll & Graf, 1997), pp. 29-30:

The spread of Christianity and Islam was the greatest change to island life since [Alfred Russel] Wallace had been there. When Wallace had come to Kei, the islanders were pagans, with perhaps a few Muslims near the coast where they had met the Sulawesi traders. A century later, every village in the archipelago had become either Muslim or Christian, or both. Warbal was overwhelmingly Christian, with a small Muslim group living round a very discreet mosque near the main landing beach, and Christianity had altered Warbal’s village life even more than nationalism. The community was intensely and actively religious. A large church occupied the centre of the village, with ‘Immanuel’ spelt out in dark purple letters over its front entrance. Foundations were already dug and a first few pillars in place for a second, even more ambitious church on the outskirts. This new church would be huge. From the ground plan it seemed that it would accommodate at least twice the total congregation of Warbal, and the cost of the project must have been prodigious. Although Warbal’s Christians had pledged to give free labour, thousands of sacks of cement would have to be imported at huge cost to the community. Meanwhile the old church was thriving. It reverberated to prayer meetings and hymn singing; there were matins and evensongs, Sunday-school sessions and special thanksgiving services. And when the Warbal islanders did not go to church to pray, they met in one another’s homes; small groups of men and women could be seen entering one of the little houses, prayer books in hand, at almost any time of day.

Visitors to Warbal, if they were foreigners, were expected to be guests of Frans and Mima, who possessed the only house with an aluminium corrugated roof and had a spare room. Frans was a relic of the Dutch colonial days soon after the Pacific war with Japan. Just old enough to have been recruited for the Dutch colonial army, like thousands of other Moluccans he had gone to live in Holland when the Dutch withdrew from Indonesia, evacuating their supporters with them. For 30 years Frans had lived in Holland, working in a Phillips factory, before finally coming back home to retire in Warbal. In Holland he had divorced his first wife and married Mima, who also came from Kei and was perhaps 20 years younger than her husband. They had one young son, Tommy, who was extremely spoiled and went to the Warbal primary school. Their other children were older, and had to live in Tual to continue with their education because there was no secondary school on the island. Frans – short, friendly and losing both his hair and his memory – was the wealthiest man on the island, and a little lonely. The other islanders referred to him as the Belanda, the Hollander, and regarded him as being half-foreign and out of touch. Yet Frans’ monthly pension from Holland meant that he owned the newest and largest Johnson [outboard motor], and he could live out his retirement very comfortably in the sunshine, employing a maid and sending men out in his motorised dugout to catch fresh fish for his table. Mima, despite her frequent laugh and constant chatter, hankered after a more modern life in Holland. She admitted that, for all its warm climate and easy lifestyle, Warbal was a dull place to be a housewife after living in the suburbs of Amsterdam.

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Filed under Indonesia, migration, nationalism, Netherlands, religion

Orthodox Salonica’s Surrender to the Turks, 1387

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 26-27:

The Turks’ attitude to religion came as a pleasant relief to many Orthodox Christians. Held captive by the Ottomans in 1355, the distinguished archbishop of Salonica, Gregory Palamas, was surprised to find the Orthodox Church recognized and even flourishing in the lands under the emir. Prominent Turks were eager to discuss the relationship of the two faiths with him and the emir organized a debate between him and Christian converts to Islam. “We believe in your prophet, why don’t you believe in ours?” Muslims asked him more than once. Palamas himself observed an imam conducting a funeral and later took the opportunity to joust over theology with him. When the discussion threatened to overheat, Palamas calmed it down by saying politely: “Had we been able to agree in debate we might as well have been of one faith.” To which he received the revealing reply. “There will be a time when we shall all agree.”

As Byzantine power waned, more and more Orthodox Christians felt caught between two masters. Faced with an apparent choice between the reviled Catholics (their sack of Constantinople in 1204 never to be forgotten) and the Muslim Turks, many opted for the latter. Written off as an embarrassment by later Greek commentators, the pro-Turkish current in late Byzantine politics was in fact a powerful one for the Ottomans, who could be seen as protectors of Orthodoxy against the Catholics. The hope for political stability, the desire for wealth and status in a meritocratic and open ruling system, admiration for the governing capacities of the Ottomans, and their evident willingness to make use of Christians as well as Muslims explain why administrators, nobles, peasants and monks felt the allure of the sultans and why many senior Byzantine noble families entered their service. Murad II‘s grand viziers were well known for their pro-Christian sympathies; Murad himself was influenced by dervish orders which preached a similarly open-minded stance, and the family sheykh of the Evrenos family was reputed to be a protector of Christians. In the circumstances, it is not surprising why surrender seemed far more sensible an option than futile resistance against overwhelming odds, and why the inhabitants of Salonica themselves were known, according to at least one Byzantine chronicler, as “friends of the Sultan.”

In the second half of the fourteenth century, one Balkan town after another yielded to the fast-moving Ottoman armies; the Via Egnatia fell into their hands, and even the canny monks of Mount Athos submitted. Salonica itself was blockaded for the first time in 1383, and in April 1387, surrendered without a fight. On this occasion, all that happened was that a small Turkish garrison manned the Acropolis. The town’s ruler Manuel Palaeologue had wanted to resist, but he was shouted down by the inhabitants, and forced to leave the city so that they could hand themselves over. Manuel himself paid homage to the emir Murad, and even fought for his new sovereign before being crowned emperor.

Had the city remained uninterruptedly under Ottoman control from this point on, its subsequent history would have been very different, and the continuity with Byzantine life not so decisively broken. Having given in peacefully, Salonica was not greatly altered by the change of regime, its municipal privileges were respected by the new rulers and its wealthy monastic foundations weathered the storm. The small Turkish garrison converted a church into a mosque for their own use, and the devshirme child levy was imposed—at intervals Turkish soldiers carried off Christian children to be brought up as Muslims—which must have caused distress. But returning in 1393, Archbishop Isidores described the situation as better than he had anticipated, while the Russian monk Ignatius of Smolensk who visited in 1401 was still amazed by its “wondrous” monasteries.

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Filed under Balkans, Greece, religion, slavery, Turkey, war

Flickr’s Fractured Greetings: Korean

Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by Flickr’s cutesy attempts to improve international understanding (or whatever) by telling you how to say some equivalent of Hello in a randomly chosen language whenever you refresh your Flickr homepage? The one that set me off most recently is Korean Bangawoyo ‘Pleased (to meet you)’, which corresponds in usage to Japanese Hajimemashite, French Enchanté, or Romanian Îmi pare bine (or Frenchified Încântat), and so on. None of those equivalents are on Flickr’s list of greetings. For Korean, I would have expected something like Annyeong (안녕), which is a good match for Arabic Salaam or Hebrew Shalom.

Do Flickr’s intrepid researchers just ask random speakers of random languages for greetings and then accept whatever they’re told? Have they never heard of Omniglot? Can someone tell me what Mingalaba really means in Burmese? ‘Come eat!’ perhaps?

UPDATE: Of course, “Haro! Haro!” was by far the most common greeting directed at Westerners when I was a kid, but was somewhat less common when the Outliers visited in 1985, and much, much rarer during our sabbaticals there in 2005-2006, even when we were pretty far off the usual foreigner circuits. Being greeted as if I were a talking parrot used to irritate me a lot as a kid, as did constantly being stared at, or having my skin or hair stroked or cheeks pinched by little old ladies when I was a child. When a bunch of junior high school boys tried out their “Haro!” on me in the gardens of Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) in 1985, I responded in Japanese with “Haroharo tte ningen no kotoba desu ka?” (‘Is “haroharo” a human word?’). That seemed to silence them for a few moments.

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Religious Cleansings and an Early Modern World War

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 47-48:

WHEN THE ENGLISH expelled their Jews in 1290, they inaugurated a policy which spread widely over the next two centuries. In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella’s edict of banishment forced thousands from a homeland where they had known great security and prosperity. Sicily and Sardinia, Navarre, Provence and Naples followed suit. By the mid-sixteenth century, Jews had been evicted from much of western Europe. A few existed on sufferance, while many others converted or went underground as Marranos and New Christians, preserving their customs behind a Catholic facade. The centre of gravity of the Jewish world shifted eastwards—to the safe havens of Poland and the Ottoman domains.

In Spain itself not everyone favoured the expulsions. (Perhaps this was why a different policy was chosen towards the far more numerous Muslims of Andalucia who were forcibly converted, and only expelled much later.) “Many were of the opinion,” wrote the scholar and Inquisitor Jeronimo de Zurita, “that the king was making a mistake to throw out of his realms people who were so industrious and hard-working, and so outstanding in his realms both in number and esteem as well as in dedication to making money.” A later generation of Inquisitors feared that the Jews who had been driven out “took with them the substance and wealth of these realms, transferring to our enemies the trade and commerce of which they are the proprietors not only in Europe but throughout the world.”

The expulsion of the Jews formed part of a bitter struggle for power between Islam and Catholicism. One might almost see this as the contest to reunify the Roman Empire between the two great monotheistic religions that had succeeded it: on the one side, the Spanish Catholic monarchs of the Holy Roman Empire; on the other, the Ottoman sultans, themselves heirs to the Roman Empire of the East, and rulers of the largest and most powerful Muslim empire in the world. Its climax, in the sixteenth century, pitted Charles V, possessor of the imperial throne of Germany and ruler of the Netherlands, the Austrian lands, the Spanish monarchy and its possessions in Sicily and Naples, Mexico and Peru, against Suleyman the Magnificent, who held undisputed sway from Hungary to Yemen, from Algiers to Baghdad. Ottoman forces had swept north to the gates of Vienna and conquered the Arab lands while Ottoman navies clashed with the Holy League in the Mediterranean and captured Rhodes, Cyprus and Tunis, wintered in Toulon, seized Nice and terrorized the Italian coast. The Habsburgs looked for an ally in Persia; the French and English approached the Porte. It was an early modern world war.

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Filed under Austria, Europe, Mediterranean, migration, religion, Spain, Turkey, war

Salonica Jewish Language Baggage

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), p. 51:

[Salonica’s Jews] worshipped in synagogues named after the old long-established homelands—Ispanya, Çeçilyan (Sicilian), Magrebi, Lizbon, Talyan (Italian), Otranto, Aragon, Katalan, Pulya, Evora Portukal and many others—which survived until the synagogues themselves perished in the fire of 1917. Their family names—Navarro, Cuenca, Algava—their games, curses and blessings, even their clothes, linked them with their past. They ate Pan d’Espanya (almond sponge cake) on holidays, rodanchas (pumpkin pastries), pastel de kwezo (cheese pie with sesame seed), fijones kon karne (beef and bean stew) and keftikes de poyo (chicken croquettes), and gave visitors dulce de muez verde (green walnut preserve). People munched pasatempo (dried melon seeds), took the vaporiko across the bay, or enjoyed the evening air on the varandado of their home. When Spanish scholars visited the city at the end of the nineteenth century, they were astonished to find a miniature Iberia alive and flourishing under Abdul Hamid.

For this, the primary conduit was language…. In Salonica there was a religious variant—Ladino—and a vernacular which was so identified with the Jews that it became known locally as “Jewish” (judezmo), and quickly became the language of secular learning and literature, business, science and medicine. Sacred and scholarly texts were translated into it from Hebrew, Arabic and Latin, because “this language is the most used among us.” In the docks, among the fishermen, in the market and the workshops the accents of Aragon, Galicia, Navarre and Castile crowded out Portuguese, Greek, Yiddish, Italian and Provençal. Eventually Castilian triumphed over the rest. “The Jews of Salonica and Constantinople, Alexandria, and Cairo, Venice and other commercial centres, use Spanish in their business. I know Jewish children in Salonica who speak Spanish as well as me if not better,” noted Gonsalvo de Illescas. The sailor Diego Galan, a native of Toledo, found that the city’s Jews “speak Castilian as fine and well-accented as in the imperial capital.” They were proud of their tongue—its flexibility and sweetness, so quick to bring the grandiloquent or bombastic down to earth with a ready diminutive.

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Filed under Greece, language, Mediterranean, migration, religion, Spain, Turkey

Herta Müller on Securitate Spies and Friends

On 31 August 2008, before the announcement of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature, signandsight.com published an excerpt from Herta Müller‘s latest novel, “Everything I Own I Carry With Me” (“Atemschaukel”). Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt that captures the ambiguities of close friendships in police states, at least judging from our own experience in Romania in 1983-84.

The three years at the tractor factory Tehnometal where I was a translator are missing [from my Securitate file]. I translated the manuals for machines imported from the GDR, Austria and Switzerland. For two years I sat with four bookkeepers in the office. They worked out the wages of the workers, I turned the pages of my fat technical dictionaries. I didn’t understand the first thing about hydraulic or non-hydraulic presses, levers or gauges. When the dictionary offered three, four, or even seven terms, I went out onto the factory floor and asked the workers. They told me the correct Romanian word without any knowledge of German – they knew their machines. In the third year a “protocol office” was established. The company director moved me there to work alongside two newly employed translators, one from French, the other from English. One was the wife of a university professor who, even in my student days, was said to be a Securitate informant. The other was the daughter-in-law of the second most senior secret service officer in town. Only those two had the key to the file cupboard. When foreign professionals visited, I had to leave the office. Then, apparently, I was to be put through two recruitment tests with the secret police officer Stana, to be made suitable for the office. After my second refusal, his goodbye was: “You’ll be sorry, we’ll drown you in the river.”

One morning when I turned up for work, my dictionaries were lying on the floor outside the office door. My place had been taken by an engineer, and I was no longer allowed into the office. I couldn’t go home, they would have sacked me there and then. Now I had no table, no chair. For two days, I defiantly sat my eight hours with the dictionaries on a concrete staircase that joined the ground and first floors, trying to translate so that no one could say I wasn’t working. The office staff walked past me in silence. My friend Jenny, an engineer, knew about what was happening to me. Every day on our way home I explained it to her in detail. She came to me in the lunch break and sat down on the stairs. We ate together as we had done before in my office. Over the loudspeaker in the yard we could always hear the workers’ choruses about the happiness of the people. She ate and cried for me, I didn’t. I had to be strong.

On the third day I installed myself at Jenny’s desk, she cleared a corner for me. On the fourth day too. It was a large office. On the fifth morning she was waiting for me outside the door. “I am no longer allowed to let you in the office. Just think, my colleagues say you are a spy. ” “How’s that possible,” I asked. “But you know where we’re living,” she reasoned. I took my dictionaries and sat down on the stairs again. This time I cried too. When I went out onto the factory floor to ask about a word, the workers whistled after me and shouted: “Informer”. It was a witches’ cauldron. How many spies were there in Jenny’s office and on the shop floor. They were acting on instructions. There were orders from above to attack me, the slander was meant to force me to resign. At the beginning of these turbulent times my father died. I no longer had a grip on things, I had to reassure myself that I really existed in the world, and began to write down the story of my – these writings formed the basis of the short stories in “Nadirs”.

The fact that I was now considered a spy because I had refused to become one was worse than the attempt to recruit me and the death threat. I was being slandered by precisely the people that I was protecting by refusing to spy on them. Jenny and a handful of colleagues could see the games that were being played with me. But those who knew me less well could not. How could I have explained to them what was going on, how could I have proved the opposite. It was completely impossible, as the Securitate knew only too well, and that is exactly why they did it to me. They knew, too, that such perfidy would be far more destructive than any blackmail. You can even get used to death threats. They are part and parcel of this one life we have. You can defy anxiety to the depths of your soul. But slander steals your soul. You just feel surrounded by horror.

How long this situation lasted, I no longer know. It seemed endless to me. It was probably just weeks. Finally, I was sacked….

My file at least answered one painful question. A year after my departure from Romania, Jenny came to visit in Berlin. Since the time of the harassment in the factory she had been my closest friend. Even after I was sacked we saw each other almost daily. But when I saw her passport in our Berlin kitchen, and the additional visas for France and Greece, I confronted her directly: “You don’t get a passport like that for nothing, what did you do to get it?” Her answer: “The secret service has sent me, and I was desperate to see you again.” Jenny had cancer – she is long dead now. She told me that her task was to investigate our flat and our daily habits. When we get up and go to bed, where we do our shopping and what we buy. On her return, she promised, she would only pass on what had been agreed between us. She lived with us, wanted to stay for a month. With each day my distrust grew. After just a couple of days I rummaged through her suitcase and found the telephone number of the Romanian consulate and a copy of our door key. After that I lived with the suspicion that in all probability she had been spying on me from the outset, her friendship just part of the job. After her return, I see from the file, she delivered a detailed description of the flat and of our habits, as “SURSA (source) SANDA”.

But in a bugging protocol from 21 December, 1984, a note in the margin, next to Jenny’s name, reads: “We must identify JENI, apparently there is great trust between them.” This friendship, which meant so much to me, was ruined by her visit to Berlin, a terminally ill cancer patient lured into betrayal after chemotherapy. The copied key made it clear that Jenny had fulfilled her task behind our backs. I had to ask her to leave our Berlin flat at once. I had to chase my closest friend out in order to protect myself and Richard Wagner from her assignment. This tangle of love and betrayal was unavoidable. A thousand times I have turned her visit over in my mind, mourned our friendship, discovering to my disbelief that after my emigration, Jenny had a relationship with a Securitate officer. Today I am glad, for the file shows that our intimacy had grown naturally and had not been arranged by the secret service, and that Jenny didn’t spy on me until after my emigration. You become grateful for small mercies, trawling through all the poison for a part that isn’t contaminated, however small. That my file proves that the feelings between us were real, almost makes me happy now.

via Arts & Letters Daily

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Filed under Germany, language, literature, Romania

Salonica’s Polyglot Boot-blacks

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 12-13:

IN THE 1930s, the spirit of the Sufi holy man Mousa Baba was occasionally seen wandering near his tomb in the upper town. Even today house-owners sometimes dream that beneath their cellars lie Turkish janissaries and Byzantine necropoles. One reads stories of hidden Roman catacombs, doomed love-affairs and the unquiet souls who haunt the decaying villas near the sea. One hears rumours of buried Jewish treasure guarded by spirits which have outwitted the exorcists and proved themselves too strong for Mossad agents, former Nazis and anyone else who has tried to locate the hidden jewels and gold they protect.

But Salonica’s ghosts emerge in other ways too, through documents and archives, the letters of Byzantine archbishops, the court records of Ottoman magistrates and the hagiographies of the lives and extraordinary deaths of Christian martyrs. The silencing of the city’s multifarious past has not been for lack of sources. Sixteenth-century rabbis adjudicate on long-forgotten marital rows, business wrangles and the tribulations of a noisy, malodorous crowded town. The diary of a Ukrainian political exile depicts unruly Jewish servants drunk in the mud, gluttonous clerics, a whirl of social engagements, riots and plague. Travellers—drawn in ever-increasing numbers by the city’s antiquities, by the partridge and rabbits in the plains outside, by business, art or sheer love of adventure—penned their impressions of a magical landscape of minarets, cypresses and whitewashed walls climbing high above the Aegean. From the late nineteenth century—though no earlier—there are newspapers, more and more of them, in half a dozen languages, and even that rarity in the Ottoman lands—maps. As for the archives, they are endless—Ottoman, Venetian, Greek, Austrian, French, English, American—compiled conscientiously by generations of long-departed foreign consuls. Drawing on such materials, I begin with the city’s conquest by Sultan Murad II in 1430, delineate its daily life under his successors, and trace its passage from the multiconfessional, extraordinarily polyglot Ottoman world—as late as the First World War, Salonican boot-blacks commanded a working knowledge of six or seven languages—to its role as an ethnically and linguistically homogenised bastion of the twentieth-century nation-state in which by 1950, more than ninety-five per cent of the inhabitants were, by any definition, Greek.

The old empires collapsed and nations fought their way into being, identities changed and people were labelled in new ways: Muslims turned into Turks, Christians into Greeks. Although in Salonica it was the Greeks who eventually got their state, and Bulgarians, Muslims and Jews who in different ways lost out, it is worth remembering that elsewhere Greeks too lost out—in Istanbul, for example, or Trabzon, Alexandria and Izmir, where thousands died during the expulsions of 1922. Cities, after all, are places of both eviction and sanctuary, and many of the Greek refugees who made a new home for themselves in Salonica had been forced from their old ones elsewhere.

Similar transformations occurred in cities across a wide swathe of the globe—in Lviv, for instance, Wroslaw, Vilna and Tiflis, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Lahore. Each of these endured its own moments of trauma caused by the intense violence that has accompanied the emergence of nation-states. Was the function of the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property after 1948, for example, handing out Arab properties to new Jewish owners, very different from that of the Greek Service for the Disposal of Jewish Property founded in Salonica five years earlier? Both systematized the violence of dispossession and sought to give it a more lasting bureaucratic form. Thanks to their activities, the remnants of former cities may also be traced through the trajectories of the refugees who left them. A retiree clipping her roses in a Sussex country garden an elderly merchant in an Istanbul suburb and an Auschwitz survivor in Indianapolis are among those who helped me by reviving their memories of a city that is long gone.

By 1950, when this book concludes, Salonica’s Muslims had been resettled in Turkey, and the Jews had been deported by the Germans and most of them killed. The Greek civil war had just ended in the triumph of the anti-communist Right, and the city was set for the rapid and entirely unexpected pell-mell postwar expansion which saw its population double and treble within thirty or forty years. A forest of densely packed apartment blocks and giant advertising billboards sprouted where in living memory there had been cypresses and minarets, stables, owls and storks. Its transformation continues, and today Russian computer whiz-kids, Ghanaian doctors, Albanian stonemasons, Georgian labourers, Ukrainian nannies and Chinese street pedlars are entering Salonica’s bloodstream. Many of them quickly learn to speak fluent Greek, for the city’s position within the modem nation-state is unquestioned: the story of its passage from Ottoman to Greek hands has become ancient history.

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Filed under Balkans, economics, Greece, labor, language, migration, religion, Turkey

Changing Demographics in Pacific Seafaring

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 178-180, 188:

As well as improvements in maritime education and training under IMO regulations, there has also been a veritable social revolution in Fiji. The young generation of Pacific sailors no longer seriously ascribes to the old tradition that females bring “bad luck” to a ship. Pacific women have shown considerable strength of character, as well as new professionalism, in taking charge of crews and in coping with family….

The other change in human relations in Fiji has been an amelioration within the maritime sector of the sensitive issue of race relations. The exclusion of all but indigenous Fijians from the Waterside Workers and Seamen’s Union, which was registered in 1946 with a specific racial limitation clause, continued until a rival unsegregated seamen’s union emerged in 1992. The reasons for the initial segregation are deeply embedded in colonial history. However, with the increase of Fijians as wage earners in ports and shipping, trade union exclusiveness seemed as much a matter of class as race. Ports and shipping had Fijian laborers and ratings, while Europeans and part-Europeans were officials and officers. Capital in turn came from the United Kingdom and Australasia and locally from Indo-Fijian commercial sources. The more class-conscious union organizers saw the Fijians as “workers” and the others as “bosses” who were not eligible for union membership.

The mobility of a few Fijian ratings with sufficient education to junior officer levels and the increase of indigenous Fijians serving as cadets and officers on local vessels have reduced the basis for class resentment. There are still racial problems, but younger Fijian sailors recognize the merits of Indo-Fijians as mariners. For example, the Khan family on the island of Nairai have long been regarded as good sailors, running their own cutters with Fijian officers and crew….

The global hierarchical structure is broadly 40 percent officers from countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), plus Russia, Poland, and some of the eastern European states, and most of the ratings from eastern Europe and developing countries, including some Pacific islands.

Increasingly, young men and a few women from the Pacific are moving to officer ranks on foreign-flag ships, as there is a dire shortage of officers in the developed ship-owning states. The shortage is due to both declining interest in careers at sea and the losses of trained personnel arising from demands ashore in business, technology, and administration for well-qualified mariners. One of the several advantages to Germany, for example, of recruiting lower-cost sailors in Kiribati and training some of them to officer levels is the lack of well-paid employment in islands for their skills, which would attract officers ashore. Thus there is a minimizing of wastage from manpower training investments. There are twelve maritime training institutions in the Pacific Islands. Only Fiji and Papua New Guinea provide the full range of education and training from pre-sea, rating, and officer courses to Class 1 foreign-going masters and chief engineers. Several other places offer training of ratings and/or junior officers. There is mobility in training, with concentrations for special courses under the coordination of the SPC Regional Maritime Programme….

Kiribati in 1959 (as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands crown colony, GEIC) was already supplying seafarers to the China Navigation Company of Britain. There were also crews and a few I-Kiribati nationals serving as officers, usually with European captains, on colony ships sailing on long-distance interisland routes. In terms of distance, Kiribati shipping was virtually foreign-going…. Kiribati is now the principal country in the Pacific island region for supplying seafarers.

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Filed under economics, education, Fiji, labor, Micronesia, Pacific, Papua New Guinea