The U.S.A. just ain’t what she used to be…

Point Roberts, Washington

I grew up on the Canadian – American border, and our family spent some summers at Point Roberts and South Beach, in Washington State . I remember tidal pools and sand bars teeming with crawly creatures we would catch, and then release when the tide rose..

Although these two communities are located on a tiny peninsula below the 49th parallel, the only way to reach them by land is to drive through British Columbia. We liked playing with the American kids we met there, even if they did spin tall tales about the fish they caught.

One Fourth of July, an American girl invited me to her family’s celebration. I remember her adorable baby brother dressed in red, white and blue rompers.  We paraded around the yard with toy drums and whistles until an over-excited  beagle jumped into the wading pool and shook his wet fur all over us and the picnic table groaning with fried chicken, potato salad and corn-on-the-cob.

The vibe of this year´s Fourth is a far cry from that memory. Scrolling through facebook, I saw that few people had posted happy greetings I know the Consulate threw a big party, but not one of my many American friends told me they had a celebration planned.

Nowadays, almost everything we read about the U.S.A. focuses on President Trump. Every day he seems to say or do something unanticipated. I often check out a website called “What Trump Did Today”   https://www.whattrumpdid.today/   I can’t describe how disappointed I felt when I saw he’d replaced the traditional “down-home” remembrance of liberty with a show of military might.

Fintan O’Toole, a journalist with The Irish Times warns such actions are evidence that Trump and his supporters are building a fascist state. You can read the full article at this link:

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/fintan-o-toole-trial-runs-for-fascism-are-in-full-flow-1.3543375?mode=amp&fbclid=IwAR0UijeVXeuKUwp4aKuuLVLOfJg-lI7JyrQN64BZs7xyUimWdXKgMGP9mts

Here are a few points, culled from the full article:

  1. Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy… convincing people takes time.
  2. Getting them to accept behaviours they used to recoil from requires several different approaches.
  3. One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections
  4. Fascism does not need a majority; it typically begins to consolidate power with about 40% support and then uses control and intimidation to bring others into the fold.
  5. Fascism undermines moral boundaries by making light of cruelty
  6. Fascism builds up the sense of threat from a despised out-group which allows the members of that group to be dehumanised…

And once that happens, what comes next?

Trump’s “base” is organised and ready to rumble. I pray that the Democratic party will  not spend too long choosing their candidate … someone energetic and principaled … someone who won’t back down when bullied.

Most of the world is alarmed, and yet, we can do nothing about it. The American Democratic party and the nation’s voters are the only ones who can reverse the ever-escalating trend that the current administration has put in motion.

PLEASE get moving … there is not a moment to lose.

 

The Barrage

YVR-airport-min

Since writing, Magic Made in Mexico, my story is literally an open book… but I’ve not done anything illegal, or so-terribly embarrassing that I need to hide from “enquiring minds”. Really, it doesn’t bother me that people know quite a bit about my life.

Nonetheless I feel uneasy with how much information my service providers and social media sites have collected.

img_2441-e1562184665764

For example… Monday, I was traveling back to Merida and after sketching a bit and listening to some great Canada Day entertainment, by the Siobhan Walsh Group (who are all much better-looking than the cartoon I drew) I searched for a comfy corner where I could relax. I found one in an unlikely place… close by the Canada Line’s airport stop.

With many hours ahead of me, I settled into the chair, and connected to Spotify. I clicked on “playlist”, closed my eyes, and the first song to reach my ears was “Homeward Bound”. I like Simon and Garfunkle, but I know I’ve never listed the duo as “favourites”. And furthermore, how does Spotify know that: “I’m sittin’ in a railway station with a ticket to my destination… mm-mm…”

Unnerved, I scrolled through the APPS roster on my phone and found several I did not recognise. How did they get there? Later I found an email promoting “classic tunes”; the message urged me to buy… guess who… Simon and Garfunkle, of course.

Time drifted by, and 24 hours after leaving my sister’s home at Allison Lake BC, I arrived in Merida, Yucatan. I felt too exhausted go online at all, but today, when I did so, I had an email from Apple urging me to purchase a Spotify upgrade that would give me access to ALL my favourite tunes. Just for curiosity’s sake, I opened the link, and what was playing in the background?

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound…

Natch´… I took a couple of siestas. And perhaps because of those two extra sleeps, and the l-o-n-g travel day, I could not drift off to Dreamland. So, I turned on Netflix. No list appeared, but a promo did:

  • Watch on your TV, computer, iPad, iPhone or console
  • No hassles, no commitments

No hassles, no commitments… My Foot!

I clicked, and the next message to appear was a “request” to answer a survey about the type of programming I want. Netflix promised they would not share my information with any other platform.

Right… how could I imagine they would do such a thing?

Does anyone know of a way to stop the constant barrage of pop-ups, pleas for more information, unending upgrading and downloading of new apps?

 

Desert Hills Ranch in Ashcroft, BC

David and me, atop one of the sprawling mesas at Desert Hills Ranch

A bit of back story about today’s post:  Two years ago, my sister proposed a day trip to Desert Hills, a ranch in Ashcroft, a small town, located an hour and a half from Kamloops. Driving such a distance, just to buy veggies and fruit, is so like Barb. Her never-ending quest for the freshest, healthiest ingredients knows no bounds, and I agreed to go whenever she wanted.

Jim and Marianne at the Desert Hills store

Then, the next day, while walking down one of Kamloops’ main streets, I saw a crowd of men, standing outside the “Services Canada” building. From the sound of their somewhat nervous laughter I knew they were Latinos, and as I got closer, I knew for sure they were from Mexico. My brain switched over to Spanish – ¡Hola! ¿Que hacen por aquí? – Hello! What are you doing here?, I asked. They were as surprised to hear me speaking their language, as I was to see them in this British Columbia small city. Up until then, in Kamloops, I had not met anyone from Mexico.

A view of the hills

I soon learned there were actually 150 of them; all recently-arrived participants in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP). The Mexican workers have temporary residency visas, issued by the Canadian government that allow them to work legally during the planting, growing and harvest seasons. They receive return transportation by air, housing, medical coverage a legal per hour wage.

Fields at desert Hills Ranch

Actually, there were 150 men, and all would be working at the Desert Hills Ranch. They didn’t quite believe me when I told them I had plans to go there soon. In fact, I wrote a post about my chance meeting with 150 men; here’s the link if you want to read it:   https://changesinourlives.wordpress.com/2017/07/

Grapes growing…

Barb and I went to Desert Hills soon afterwards, and we had a wonderful day; she bought enough produce to feed a vegan village, and I felt heartened to see that Canada has programs that help ease the devastating unemployment in Mexico. At the same time, SAWP helps Canadian farmers hire the help they need to make their business grow. It is a win-win situation.

 

Now, fast-forward two years, to yesterday. Jim and Marianne, great friends from Merida are visiting me in Kamloops, and to tell the truth, the weather has been less than welcoming. When I suggested we visit Desert Hills, I added, “There will be lots of places where we can keep ourselves out of the rain.” That settled our plans, and off we drove. Actually, as soon as we got underway, the weather improved. The scenery through the suede-textured hills is dramatic, and I love the way light plays on them. The Thompson River runs alongside the highway, as does the railway, and we counted hundreds of cars, pulled by as many as four engines. From the moment our journey began, my friends could not stop smiling, and as soon as they stepped out of the car, they were greeted in Spanish. They responded with – ¡Hola! – then asked me, “Why am I hearing mariachi music at a Canadian ranch?”

Marigolds

Summer flowers bloomed and beautiful produce overflowed from the bins. The farm’s store shelves were stocked with many food items we regularly see in Merida. And as luck would have it, one of the owners, David Porter, was on hand. “I have wanted to meet you,” I told him as I took his hand, “What an amazing place this is! I am so happy to see all these people from Mexico!”

The Ranch is huge...

David told us that his parents bought the ranch about 20 years ago. They built it into a solid business, and now, he and his brother Chris run the operation. He said his family believes that good business practices, fair conditions for their employees, and lots of creativity make up the three-part formula of their success.

Onions!

The Porter brothers are incredibly innovative. Since British Columbia has a short growing season, they start some of their produce, such as sweet red and white onions, in Arizona. When the weather is warm enough in Ashcroft, they pull up the growing bulbs, ship them back home, and hand-plant each one in the fertile beds that have been prepared for their arrival. On the ranch, each of the plants is drip-fed to save water. In the hot houses I saw long lines of Habanero chillies and other unusual crops. In fact, last year I bought Poblano chillies at Desert Hills, and made Chiles en Nogada for my Kamloops friends.

Harvesting cherries…

Another ingenious innovation at Desert Hills keeps the birds away from devouring the ripening cherries. In the orchard, they set up a recorder that plays the sound of dying birds; their piercing cries scare real birds away. “It is a little unnerving,” said one of the men harvesting the sweet cherries, “but it sure keeps the birds from the fruit.”

This keeps the birds away from the fruit

Bees are an integral part of the farm; there seem to be hundreds of hives spread over the 1,300 acres. Other livestock, including cattle, goats and horses are seen in the fields.

David took Marianne, Jim and I on a full tour of the ranch. I would like to thank him for his generous hospitality and for such an interesting day of learning. But more importantly, I want to express my gratitude to him and the rest of the Porter family for restoring a bit of my faith in the future. The news we hear and read these days is frightening. Our “leaders” seem hell-bent on political and monetary gains – they don’t seem to take the “Good Rule” into consideration – not even a little bit.

Victoria, the store manager and me

The Porters show us that it is possible to make money, but not at the expense of the workers. The store at the ranch is managed by Victoria, a lively, lovely woman from the Philippines. A trip to see her family each year is part of her benefit package; and in fact all the employees receive “home leave” as needed. Desert Hills is an example to follow.

Chile Habanero

And I must not forget to mention the dinner recommendation David gave us. Sam’s Diner, in downtown Ashcroft. For $10.95 CAD, we ate the most delicious meal of sweet&sour chicken with chow mien. Again, not what we expected to find, but all the more delicious because of the surprise. Dessert anyone? We’d parked our car right outside the Ashcroft Bakery and Coffee Shop, and we couldn’t resist buying a dozen home-made cookies. We didn’t have time to tour the town’s stained glass murals, but I will be back to see them another day.

If you are ever in BC, and are looking for an inspiring excursion, visit Desert Hills, or follow them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Desert-Hills-Ranch-140871702651700/