31 December 2009

Blogging Sabbatical

I began blogging six years ago this month, in December 2003. Since then, I've published over 2,000 blogposts, most of them excerpts from books I was reading. But the number of posts has declined each year—from over 550 in 2004 to under 200 in 2009—as I've become involved in a greater variety of online publishing hobbies.

In the spring of 2006, I bought my first digital camera (a little point-and-shoot Olympus), took it with me on a 4-month sabbatical spell in Japan, and soon began building a portfolio of documentary—rather than artistic—photos on Flickr, some of them scans of old photos from my earlier travels. This month I got my third digital camera (a Canon Powershot) and my Flickr portfolio numbers almost 2,500 images. This year I had to replace my trusty old HP flatbed scanner, orphaned by Vista, with a new Canon that I am quite happy with. (A local middle school is now making use of my orphaned scanner and ancient workhorse of a printer—an HP 5MP Laserjet.)

Early in 2009, I discovered major photographic lacunae that I could easily fill in Wikipedia's coverage of sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawai‘i and began a campaign to photograph as many as I could and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, then add the images to the articles. Now I'm rather heavily involved in WikiProject Hawaii and WikiProject NRHP, both as a photographer and an writer/editor.

These online documentation projects have convinced me to put this blog on the back burner in 2010 in order to concentrate on a long-term language documentation project I need to finish: a comprehensive grammatical description of Numbami, the once almost entirely undocumented language whose speakers were my gracious hosts during fieldwork in Papua New Guinea in 1976. I have completed and published many bits and pieces about the language over the intervening years but need to put them all together and fill in many gaps. Unlike other projects described above, it's more a duty than a hobby—a daunting one, but not unpleasant to contemplate.

26 December 2009

Farmboy Seminarian on a Cattleboat to Poland, 1946

Chicken delivery truck, Poland, summer 1946While organizing a bunch of old photos during last week's visit to my 85-year-old father, I came across a small set I had never seen before of images from his oft-recounted trip delivering livestock to Poland in 1946. His voyage was aboard the S.S. Carroll Victory under the auspices of UNRRA, but he heard about the cattleboats from his Quaker contacts, who cooperated with the Church of the Brethren and Mennonites on what later evolved into Heifer International. My father was raised a Quaker, but later joined a Baptist church and spent the war years at the University of Richmond on a ministerial deferment. He graduated at the end of 1945, then enrolled in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in February 1946.

Horse stalls and hay bales on deck, Poland, summer 1946

The following is my father's account, very lightly edited by me.
At the beginning of summer vacation in 1946 I heard about the need for volunteers to care for horses being sent to Poland by United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The ships that transported the horses to Poland were called "cattleboats" but I do not remember any cattle on my boat. We did take baby chicks and horses. I had worked with mules as a boy but had little experience with horses. The chance to visit Europe and be paid for the trip rather than having to pay for it fascinated me as I really wanted to see other countries but couldn't afford to travel. So, with three other seminary students I signed up for the trip. The ships were converted Liberty ships from WWII and were manned by members of the U.S. Merchant Marine. I was accepted as a "cattleman" and left Norfolk in June of 1946 on a boat with 800 horses and 3000 baby chicks. The horses were to be used for reconstruction and the chicks for supplying eggs for food in Poland which was devastated by Germany and Russia in World War II.

I had never traveled before on the ocean and was a real landlubber. The beginning of the trip was rather mild but the stench in the lower decks from horses and their excretion made for rather poor sailing conditions for one inexperienced in sea travel. I found that the more marked movements of the ship up and down were not as bad as the swaying motion from side to side. When I felt that I was going to get sick I would lie on my back and look up through the opening in the upper decks. If I could lie still and see the sky my stomach would settle down. Contrary to the reputation horses have for "horse sense," I found them much less intelligent than mules. When a horse got sick and fell in its stall it would lie there and die. A mule would have struggled to its feet. About 30 horses died on the trip and had to be thrown overboard. For some reason which I do not remember (I probably volunteered) I was transferred to caring for baby chicks, which was more to my liking and more consistent with my experience. However, I found that chicks were even dumber than horses. They would trample each other to death as the boat rocked on the ocean, or they would drown themselves in the water troughs at the outer edges of the coops. I don't know how many chicks we lost on the trip but I believe a goodly number managed to stay alive until the arrival in Poland. I watched with interest as the Polish men tried to handle the horses as they were lowered from the ship on to Polish soil. Their "horse sense" did not include the understanding of the Polish language and the commands they were given did not communicate well to them the desires of the handlers.

The environment on ship was anything but a churchly one. Of the 90 men on board very few were Christians and many if not most were misfits in society who were only on the trip for the month's food and lodging and the $150 they would be paid for working on the way over to Poland. There were no responsibilities on the return trip. The four of us from the Seminary held services on Sundays. One young man played a guitar for the hymn singing and the four of us took turns preaching. The "congregation" was certainly different from any I had ever preached to before. In fact, the whole atmosphere on board ship was so foreign to anything I had ever experienced that I felt like I was in a foreign country even before we got to Poland. The food was not too bad but it was certainly not home cooking. We slept in bunks which had been built for sailors.

The trip to the English Channel took about eight days as I remember. The White Cliffs of Dover were the first sight of land that we had seen since we left the USA, and they were welcome sights. However, they offered no relief from the sea as we did not disembark in England. We could see land and cars and buildings as we slowly made our way through the almost placid English Channel, which was in a good mood that day. We approached the Kiel Canal soon and went through what was for me a fascinating experience of navigating the Canal. We could get a very good view of the north of Germany as we slowly made our way through the canal. I was taken by the beauty of the land. We went through Schleswig-Holstein where Holstein cattle grazed in immaculate pastures divided by rows of trees. In the land of my own childhood, trees were cut down on farmland and farms were not landscaped as in North Germany. The Germany I saw was vastly different from the pictures of bombed out cities on TV.
Flea market, Poland, summer 1946
Street photographer, Poland, summer 1946
Shell of a fine building, Poland, summer 1946
Little girl, Poland, summer 1946Poland was very different from Germany. We landed in Gdansk and the devastation wrought by Germany and Russia in World War II was evident everywhere we looked. We were in port about 4 days and were allowed to go ashore. On the way across the Atlantic we had been told that cigarettes were the best currency in Poland since none were available there. On ship we had been permitted to buy two cartons apiece on about three occasions. I did not smoke and did not intend to engage in blackmarket trading so I didn't buy any. Several who asked me to buy some for them were angry when I refused. One of the Seminary students and I tried to maintain some appearance of the faith we professed while on ship and in Poland, but the two others bought cigarettes and went to Warsaw while we were in port. We had been strictly forbidden to go anywhere farther than we could return to the ship at night. The two fellow travelers were strongly reprimanded and were not given a recommendation to take another such UNRRA trip. My friend and I were highly recommended for another voyage but did not go again.

There was a redheaded boy from Franklin, Virginia, on board. I did not know him and was not drawn to get to know him. He tried to get me to go with him in Poland but his description of his planned exploits did not appeal to me. Before he left the ship he started drinking vodka and chasing it with water. Then, as he began to become inebriated, he drank water and chased it with vodka. He left the ship alone. It was not too long before some kind Polish natives brought him back to the ship dead drunk. He lay on the floor of the ship unconscious with flies attending him for most of the time we were in port. Another young man went ashore, visited a prostitute and came back and developed the "clap." He was so drunk that I persuaded him to leave his money with me before he left again. He cursed but he gave me his money. Later he thanked me, for the suffering of venereal disease was bad enough for him without losing his money too.

Brick building intact, Poland, summer 1946We found out why they drank so much beer in Poland. Water was very scarce and what there was tasted awful. We were taken on a tour of Gdansk and as far as Gdynia. There was not much to see. We did visit a few very old church buildings. They were always located on scenic spots and were beautifully constructed. When we remarked to our obviously not very religious tour guide that the cathedrals were beautiful he said, "Yes, and cold." They were indeed symbols of great architecture rather than ardent religion – as might be said of many church buildings in all lands and ages.

After two days I was ready to head for home. On our rather uneventful trip home we had much leisure time to think about what we had seen. There were only two incidents worthy of mention, at least the only ones that I remember, on our return trip. As we were our leaving the Kiel Canal beside another Liberty ship the captains made a bet as to who would get there first. The navigator on our ship took us a tenth of a percentage point off course and we lost. While we were changing courses near the end of the trip to get to Norfolk I was standing on the ship without a shirt on in the hot sun looking for land, and I got so sunburned that I could not bear to wear a shirt. When I arrived at my brother Bob's and Bertha's house with a month's beard and no shirt on my red back Bertha did not recognize me and only my voice persuaded her to let me in.
Street kids, Poland, summer 1946

16 December 2009

One Child's Language: Compilation

This post links to all earlier blogposts in the One Child's Language series of notes from two decades ago about our very own Far Outlier child, who's now a teacher.

At 8 months
At 10 months
At 11 months
At 13 months
At 14 months
At 15 months
At 16 months
At 18 months
At 19 months
At 20 months
At 22 months
At 24 months (and abroad)
At 27 months (and abroad)
At 30 months (and abroad)
At 32 months (and abroad)
At 36 months
At 39 months
At 40 months
At 42 months
At 47 months

14 December 2009

Bulgarian Macedo-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Terrorism

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 247-252:
Once an autonomous Bulgarian state emerged in 1878, Macedonia became a battle-ground for insurgent bands. Secret guerrilla units, supported from Sofia, were formed by intellectuals aiming to restore the greater Bulgaria of the San Stefano Treaty. Kidnapping rich foreigners now provided a way of bringing much-needed cash into revolutionary coffers while simultaneously shining the unwelcome spotlight of international attention on the deficiencies of Ottoman administration.

In 1901 the new political brigandage made international headlines in the so-called Miss Stone affair when a redoubtable American missionary was kidnapped in a narrow valley north of Salonica. Ellen Stone was, in fact, the first American victim of twentieth-century terrorism. Her kidnappers had spoken Turkish when seizing her in order to throw the weight of suspicion on the Ottoman authorities, and to encourage Western opinion to believe that the latter could no longer guarantee law and order in their European provinces. But the ring-leader was a young Bulgarian-Macedonian activist, Yane Sandanski, and his profile in no way fitted that of the typical brigand of yesteryear: literate, a socialist, and a schoolteacher, he was a leading figure in an underground political grouping called the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. Violence was no longer merely a means to a livelihood; in the hands of activists, it was becoming an instrument of nationalist politics in what the world came to know as the Macedonian Question.

IN SALONICA A SMALL NUMBER of Bulgarians broke away from the Greek community and joined the Exarchate in 1871; by 1912 they numbered about six thousand. They were stonemasons, traders, shopkeepers and teachers—practical men drawn from the Macedonian hills—with no one of any great wealth to lead them and little influence in municipal affairs. They were supported, however, by the Russian consul, and once a Bulgarian state was founded, by its representatives as well. They were greatly heartened by the remarkable outcome of the 1876 uprising against Ottoman rule, and encouraged further by the territorial provisions of the Treaty of San Stefano which would—had it been allowed to stand—have handed over most of Salonica's hinterland to Bulgaria. Schooling was one of their priorities, and in 1880 they founded a gymnasium—many of whose pupils soon found their way into the ranks of new pro-Slav political movements.

To be "Bulgarian" initially meant to support the Exarchate: it was a linguistic-religious rather than a national category. But after the creation of an autonomous Bulgarian principality in 1878, irredentist politicians in its capital, Sofia, started demanding autonomy for "the Macedonians" as well. Meanwhile, in Salonica itself, a militant new organization was incubating: in November 1893 the "Bulgarian Macedo-Adrianopolitan Revolutionary Committee" was founded by a group of men reared on the ideas of Russian anarchism, and proclaimed open to any who wished to fight for liberation from the Turks and autonomy for Macedonia. Sofia-based activists regarded it with suspicion and did not trust its commitment to Bulgarian interests. Eventually the committee dropped any reference to Bulgaria from its name, and it became known simply as the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) with the slogan "Macedonia for the Macedonians."

Most of IMRO's youthful members were not much bothered about the old disputes over dead sacred languages. What was the difference between the Greek of the liturgy and Old Church Slavonic? After all, hardly anyone understood either of them. Between these youthful secularists—whose motto was "Neither God nor Master"—and the devout supporters of the Bulgarian Exarchate a gulf emerged. Even within its own ranks, IMRO was deeply factionalized.... It might be going too far to say that IMRO was a more coherent and efficient force in the minds of its enemies than it was in reality but it certainly made little impact on the Ottoman state.

Politically IMRO was no more successful. Autonomy for Macedonia—which was the name Balkan Christians (and Europe) gave to the Ottoman vilayets of Salonica, Monastir and Uskub (Skopje)—was the goal: a "Bulgarian" governor would rule the province from Salonica, all officials would be "Bulgarian" Slavs, and Bulgarian would be an official language on an equal footing with Turkish. But faced with such a prospect, Greeks lent the support of their intelligence networks to the Ottoman authorities, and in Salonica itself Greek agents in the Hamidian police helped track IMRO sympathizers. Even more important an obstacle was the opposition of the Great Powers. Russia was now focused on central and east Asia—the conflict with Japan was only a few years away—and Britain and Austria saw the Balkans as one area where they could all work in harmony to support the status quo. They pushed—as Great Powers often will—for incremental reform rather than revolutionary change, and merely urged the Porte to take steps to improve the administration of the province.

Frustrated with the impasse which faced them, and believing that targeting the symbols of European capitalism might force the Powers to intervene, some young anarchists in Salonica took matters into their own hands, and decided to blow up the Ottoman Bank, in the European quarter. Under the influence of their beloved Russians, they called themselves the "Troublemakers," and later adopted the term "the Boatmen"—by which they identified themselves with those "who abandon the daily routine and the limits of legal order and sail towards freedom and the wild seas beyond them."...

The two surviving members of the plot, Shatev and Bogdanov, returned to Macedonia in the amnesty of 1908: Bogdanov died a few years later, but Pavel Shatev lived until 1952, becoming a lawyer in interwar Bulgaria and then minister of justice in the postwar Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

IMRO sputtered on, although the bombers had dealt a near-fatal blow to the organization in the city. The better-known Ilinden uprising which took place on St. Elias's Day a few months later was the IMRO leadership's own anxious attempt to arouse a peasant revolt against Turkish rule. But its chief consequence was that several thousand more Christian peasants were killed by Ottoman troops in reprisal. The only success IMRO could claim after this series of bloody failures was a further diplomatic intervention by the Great Powers—their last significant involvement in the tangled Macedonia question before the Balkan Wars. The Ottoman authorities were forced to swallow the appointment of European officials to supervise the policing of the province. Among the younger army officers stationed there, resentment and a sense of humiliation led to the first stirrings of conspiracy against the Porte. On the other hand, Macedonia remained part of the empire and Hilmi Pasha continued as inspector-general. The one conclusion to be drawn from the rise and fall of IMRO was that ending Ottoman power in Europe would not come that way: the use of terrorism to embroil and involve the Great Powers was futile when the Powers upheld the status quo.
There is nothing new under the sun! This will have to be the last of my many excerpts from this fascinating book. I have too much else to do over the coming weeks (and months).

12 December 2009

Salonica, 1800s: Religion vs. Nation

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 242-243:
TO THE OTTOMAN AUTHORITIES what had always mattered were religious rather than national or linguistic differences: Balkan Christians were either under the authority of the Patriarch in Constantinople or they were—more rarely—Catholic or Protestant. The Patriarchate shared the same outlook; it was indifferent to whether its flock spoke Greek, Vlach, Bulgarian or any other language or dialect. As for the illiterate Slav-speaking peasants tilling the fields, they rarely felt strongly about either Greece or Bulgaria and when asked which they were, many insisted on being known simply, as they had been for centuries, as "Christians."

In Salonica itself, the growth of the Christian population had come from continual immigration over centuries from outlying villages, often as distant as the far side of the Pindos mountains, where many of the inhabitants spoke not Greek but Vlach (a Romance language akin to Romanian), Albanian or indeed various forms of Slavic. The city's life, schools and priests gave these villagers, or their children, a new tongue, and turned them into Greeks. In fact many famous Greek figures of the past were really Vlachs by origin, including the savant Mosiodax, the revolutionary Rhigas Velestinlis, as well as the city's first "Greek" printers, the Garbolas family, and the Manakis brothers, pioneers of Balkan cinema. "Twenty years ago there was nothing in Balkan politics so inevitable, so nearly axiomatic, as the connection of the Vlachs with the Greek cause," wrote Brailsford in 1905. "They had no national consciousness and no national ambition ... With some of them Hellenism was a passion and an enthusiasm. They believed themselves to be Greek. They baptized their children 'Themistocles' and 'Penelope.' They studied in Athens and they left their fortunes to Greek schools and Greek hospitals." So many Vlachs settled in Salonica that in 1880 a Romanian paper claimed, to the fury of the Greek community, that there were no genuine Greeks there at all. Changing—or rather, acquiring—nationality was often simply a matter of upward mobility and a French consul once notoriously boasted that with a million pounds he could make Macedonians into Frenchmen.

Money affected nationality in other ways as well. In the Ottoman system, the Orthodox Church was not merely a focus of spiritual life; it was also a gatherer of taxes. Peasants in the countryside, just like wealthy magnates in Salonica itself, chafed at the power and corruption that accompanied these privileges. But while most bishops and the higher ecclesiastical hierarchy spoke Greek—the traditional language of the church and religious learning—and looked down on the use of Slavic, most Christian peasants around Salonica spoke Bulgarian—or if not Bulgarian then a Slavic tongue close to it. This started to matter to the peasants themselves once they identified Greek with the language not merely of holy scripture but of excessive taxation and corruption. In 1860, the Bishop of Cassandra's extortions actually drove some villagers under his jurisdiction to threaten to convert to Catholicism—French priests from Salonica contacted the families concerned, promising them complete freedom of worship and a "Bishop of your own creed who will not take a single piastre from you." Other villagers from near Kilkis demanded a bishop who would provide the liturgy in Old Church Slavonic and got one after they too started to declare themselves for Rome.

Yet what these peasants were talking was about shifting their religious not their national allegiance and it took decades for the discontent of the village tax-payer to be further transformed into nationalism. Greek continued to be the language of upward mobility through the nineteenth century. As for Bulgarian self-consciousness, this was slow to develop. Sir Henry Layard visited Salonica in 1842 to enquire into the movement which was alleged to be in progress amongst the Bulgarians but he did not find very much. "The Bulgarians, being of the Greek faith" he wrote later, "were then included by the Porte in classifying the Christian subjects of the Sultan, among the Greeks. It was not until many years afterwards that the Christians to the south of the Balkans speaking the Bulgarian language, were recognized as a distinct nation. At the time of my visit to Salonica no part of its Christian population, which was considerable, was known as Bulgarian."

What led Slavic speakers to see their mother tongue in a new light was the influence of political ideologies coming from central and eastern Europe. German-inspired romantic nationalism glorified and ennobled the language of the peasantry and insisted it was as worthy of study and propagation as any other. Pan-Slavism—helped along perhaps by Russian agents—gave them pride in their unwritten family tongue and identified the enemy, for the first time, as Greek cultural arrogance. "I feel a great sorrow," wrote Kiryak/Kyriakos Durzhiovich/Darlovitsi, the printer, "that although I am a Bulgarian I do not know how to write in the Bulgarian language."

10 December 2009

Secularizing Religious Education in Salonica

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 220-221:
The struggle for communal authority was fought out over many areas—care for the poor and sick, the upkeep of cemeteries, the administration of religious foundations themselves—but the key battleground was education. For religious learning alone was no longer enough. Ties with the West meant also that local merchants needed employees to be familiar with modern languages, mathematics and geography. The notable Jewish families pushed hard for the use of Italian and French books in the old Talmud Torah in the 1840s. When they got nowhere, they obtained a firman to found their own pilot school, run by a German rabbi whom the local rabbis regarded as an impious foreigner. But the real educational revolution among Salonican Jewry only came in 1873 when the same notables opened a branch of the Paris-based Alliance Israélite Universelle—the very embodiment of French Enlightenment liberalism—in the teeth of fierce opposition from the elderly chief rabbi. It was an extraordinary success: by 1912 the Alliance was responsible for educating more than four thousand pupils, over half the total number of children in Jewish schools. "I was once invited to an annual gathering of the Israelite Alliance," wrote a British journalist during the First World War. "There were many hundreds of Jews there, male and female, and a great many of them were once removed only from the street porter class. But they rattled off French as if they had been born to it." Not only were the majority of the city's Jewish children receiving an education outside the control of the religious authorities, but they were receiving it on the basis of the principles of contemporary French republicanism. Such a trend had a corrosive effect on the authority of the chief rabbi, and helped turn him slowly into more and more of a purely religious and spiritual figurehead.

Within the Greek community similar shifts were taking place. In the old days, children learned reading and writing from the occasional literate priest or from the so-called didaskaloi who gave lessons as they passed through the city. But in 1828 the junior high school was reestablished, and a girls' school was set up in 1845. The primary school population climbed from 1500 in 1874 to nearly 2000 in 1900 and 3900 by the time the Greek army arrived in 1912. An Educational Society was set up in 1872 with its own private library and a commitment to "useful knowledge," and in 1876 a teacher-training college followed. Salonica's Greek high school was recognized by the University of Athens, a development of huge significance for the rise of Greek nationalism, and the control of school standards and appointments was also handled by representatives of the Greek state. Through education in other words, the Greeks of Salonica gradually reoriented themselves towards the new national centre in Athens. The Patriarchate in Istanbul, which had once enjoyed unchallenged authority over the empire's Orthodox believers, found itself losing ground.

Within the city's Muslim community, pedagogical arguments were also raging. All Riza, a minor customs official, quarrelled with his wife Zübeyde, over how to educate their son, Mustafa. Zübeyde, a devout woman who was nicknamed the mollah, followed the older conception or education and wanted him to attend the neighbourhood Qur'anic school. His father, on the other hand, favoured the new style of schooling pioneered by a renowned local teacher, Shemsi Effendi, who ran the first private primary school in the empire. In the end, the young Mustafa started at the first and finished at the second, before moving to the military preparatory college. Helped by his education and by Salonica's new beer-gardens and nightlife, he became a pronounced secularist, thereby foreshadowing in his own upbringing the trajectory through which—by then better known to the world as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk—he would later lead post-Ottoman Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal's experiences were not unusual, for the spirit of Western education was transforming local Muslim cultures of learning. The Ma'min were setting up private schools like Shemsi's, and state officials like Mustafa Kemal's father shared their vision of a modernizing Islam. Investment in education had been a priority of the reformers in Istanbul, and m 1869 a new imperial Ordinance of General Education outlined a school system, based partly on the French lycée model that would promote knowledge of science, technology and commerce among both boys and girls. Reaction from the long-established medreses was fierce but under Sultan Abdul Hamid this was overcome, in part by emphasizing the Islamic character of the new schools. A state schooling sector emerged in Salonica and the city's first vocational college the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, trained orphans in typography, lithography, tailoring and music. Later came a teacher-training college, a junior high school, a commercial school and a preparatory school for civil servants—the Idadié—housed in an imposing neo-classical building standing just beyond the eastern walls. (Today it contains the chief administrative offices of the University of Thessaloniki.)

06 December 2009

Mutiny & Tragedy Aboard the Hōkūle‘a, 1976-78

From "Playing with Canoes," by Ben Finney, in Pacific Places, Pacific Histories, ed. by Brij Lal (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 294-296:
Hōkūle‘a was launched in 1975, and after a year of testing, training, and making modifications we sailed her to Tahiti and returned as promised. That demonstration blew a big hole in [Andrew] Sharp's claim that Polynesians could not have intentionally made long, navigated voyages. Furthermore, Hōkūle‘a emerged as a cultural icon credited with helping to spark a general cultural renaissance among the Hawaiians, as well as with stiffening the resolve of the Tahitians to secure more autonomy from the French. These triumphal aspects of the story have often been told. Less well known are the politics of the voyaging revival.

During fund-raising and construction and those first heady days when we sailed Hōkūle‘a around the Hawaiian chain, all went well except for a few mishaps and disagreements. However, by early 1976, just a few months before the voyage, serious troubles began while the canoe was being refitted. A number of Hawaiians, many of whom had not played any role in the project, began to claim Hōkūle‘a as their own and to use her locally for various purposes other than the stated mission. These ranged from the political to the personal—from invading the island of Kaho‘olawe to protest its use as a naval bombing range to cruising around the Hawaiian chain for the romantic benefit of male crewmembers. More chilling were the demands of a spiritual leader who claimed that Hōkūle‘a was ritually "dirty" and would sink with all hands unless he was paid an enormous sum of money to purify her.

All this might have been shrugged off as so much craziness but for the very real incongruity of having a haole professor run a project that had been so hyped as a Polynesian venture. That made me consider resigning as president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and handing the job over to our vice president, Herb Kane, in hopes that he might be more effective in dealing with these demands. But then Herb himself abruptly left the project, saying that he was thoroughly burned out and financially impoverished from supervising the construction of the canoe and making the first test sails around the islands. As Tommy Holmes preferred to stay in the background, that left me, the haole who wasn't even from Hawai‘i, to fend off all those who in the name of Hawaiian nationalism were attempting to take over the canoe.

Had those clamoring for control of the canoe been skilled seamen dedicated to carrying out the voyage as planned, I could have gone ahead and resigned the presidency and then concentrated on the research side of the voyage. But they were not real sailors, nor did they have any intention of conducting the experimental voyage. In fact, they had come to believe that using a canoe for research would desecrate the spiritual nature of Hōkūle‘a.

Given this situation I realized that if I did resign I would betray the hundreds of contributors and supporters, many of them Hawaiians whom I had promised to sail the canoe to Tahiti and back. Furthermore I would also have let down those expert sailors whom I had personally recruited for the voyage: Kawika Kapahulehua, the veteran catamaran sailor from the remote island of Ni‘ihau who was our captain; Mau Piailug, the master navigator from the Micronesian atoll of Satawal who would guide the canoe to Tahiti and back; and my longtime Tahitian friend Rodo Williams, a professional fisherman and copra boat skipper whose job was to pilot us safely past the atolls that lay just to the north-northeast of Tahiti.

So I stuck it out, and thanks to the help of Kawika, Mau, Rodo and several other sailors who were also determined to make the voyage a reality, plus the moral support of Edward Kealanahele and many others on shore, we finally set sail for Tahiti. After a little over a month at sea we entered Pape‘ete Harbor to be greeted by the largest crowd ever assembled on the island. Nonetheless, although the actual sailing of the canoe had proceeded as planned, leftover resentments had festered at sea among a number of crewmembers who had been caught up in the troubles back in Hawai‘i. Halfway to Tahiti they staged a confrontation to accuse the leaders of mismanagement and to demand special treatment for themselves. After that, they quit standing watch and spent the rest of the voyage eating, sleeping, and smoking pakalōlō (crazy tobacco, i.e., marijuana) that they had smuggled on board. Bizarre as that situation was, it did allow the rest of us to sail the canoe on to Tahiti in relative peace—until the night before landing, when the mutineers staged another protest that left blood on the deck. That so incensed Mau Piailug that upon landing he quit the canoe in disgust and flew back to Micronesia vowing never to sail with Hawaiians again.

Even after Captain Kawika Kapahulehua and some fine young crewmembers who had not been directly involved in the troubles sailed Hōkūle‘a swiftly back to Hawai‘i, the travail was not over. I had made so many enemies by my efforts to keep the voyage on track that I became the scapegoat blamed for causing all the troubles. Enough was enough, and I resigned and started work on a scientific report about the voyage and a book—Hōkūle‘a, the Way to Tahiti—that I owed a New York publisher whose sizable contribution had enabled us to start building the canoe.

After taking stock of the situation the new leaders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society resolved to remove the stain left from the troubles by repeating the voyage to Tahiti with a specially selected crew. Unfortunately, in their zeal to distance themselves from those who had led the 1976 voyage they totally ignored Captain Kapahulehua, the man who had just taken Hōkūle‘a so surely and safely to Tahiti and back and could have showed them how to do it again.

Overconfidence, a casual attitude toward safety, and basic errors in seamanship doomed this second attempt to reach Tahiti. Just before midnight, after less than six hours at sea, the canoe capsized while being foolishly driven hard under full sail in gale-force winds and immense seas. Not until dusk of the following day was the overturned canoe spotted by a passing aircraft just as she was drifting south of the interisland sea and air lanes. All crewmembers but one were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, and the following day Hōkūle‘a was towed in, severely damaged, though the hulls were still structurally sound. Missing was Eddie Aikau, a world-champion surfer who some hours before the canoe had been spotted had valiantly tried to paddle his surfboard through the breaking seas to the nearest island to get help. He was never seen again.
The waves are getting huge on O‘ahu's North Shore and The Eddie is expected to begin any day now.

02 December 2009

One Child's Language: at 47 months

Social notes: Her two favorite teachers (and actually best friends) at school are leaving for more gainful employment this month. She'll miss them, but she is much more willing now to get to know new people. She is still very teacher-oriented, playing the role of teacher at home: directing games and circle time, asking for volunteers so she can do eeny-meeny-miny-moe (often fudging the last bit) to choose one of us.

Physical development: Fine motor skills have also improved. She can spend an hour at a time coloring within the lines, cutting paper with scissors, and writing smaller and neater uppercase and lowercase letters. She may have just finished a physical growth spurt and begun a mental one.

Intellectual notes: One day in the supermarket, Rachel pretended to read a story from the list she was holding. It was about a little boy who went for a walk, crossed the street by himself, got hit by a car, and died, leaving his parents all alone. They propagandize her well at school—she instinctively grabs a hand before crossing a street. But she also spends intervals trying to figure out the meaning of death. Time is another mystery. She knows the days of the week, some months of the year, and a bit about how years are numbered. But she often thinks that her afternoon nap starts a new day, that supper is breakfast and vice versa.

Size and measurements are still vague. We just came back from a weekend trip to the Big Island. She asked whether it was as big as the Soviet Union, asked several times how long a mile is, wanted to plot our course on the map, and monitored our elevation. Numbers are getting easier: she can read up to 99 (often mixing pairs like 25 and 52) and had little trouble singing from 21 bottles of beer on the wall down to zero.

Language notes: One evening as we sat down to dinner, Rachel clasped her hands and recited a complete table grace in Hawaiian. Another evening, she decided she wanted to study sign language and spent about half an hour practicing a few words with Daddy. She is a real language-learner right now. It's a shame she doesn't have another language to work on along with English.

She is rapidly expanding her vocabulary, stopping to ask us the meaning of any word she doesn't know yet. She is on the lookout for familiar words everywhere and asks us to read and explain any public sign that contains a word or two she can recognize or sound out. At school, she has just been introduced to "mystery words" that can't be sounded out. We encourage her to sound out regular words. She was able to read a note from Mama that said Can I get a hug from you? and she has come up with her own spellings, like jrink water and clowde, wnde, rane, sune day. (WordPerfect's spellchecker offers the correct choice for some.) She copies whole sentences with all the devotion of a medieval monk reproducing a holy manuscript.

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

25 November 2009

One Child's Language: at 42 months

Intellectual notes: Of all the Sesame Street characters, Rachel used to resemble sweet, innocent, and imaginative Elmo the most. But now she's turning into the Count, whose greatest joy in life is to find something to count. She counts steps, parking meters, people on the bus, bites of food, and sips of water. She can now count past 100 without prompting, can count backwards from 10 to 0, and can add and subtract one number at a time so long as she's dealing with numbers not much over ten. And, finally, she no longer misses 16 on her way to 20.

She is raptly attentive during Sesame Street, and we've just started watching the Sunday evening Disney hour with her. She asks a lot of questions. She likes cartoons but has not yet been exposed to Saturday morning TV. So her very active imagination has not turned to violence yet. Instead, she organizes a lot of weddings, birthday parties, travels, picnics, and classroom activities.

Language notes: Rachel is picking up more and more local English at school. One of the most noticeable lately is mines, as in Yours, Mines, and Ours. (That forces an exception to follow the same rule that adds s to the other forms.)

She has finally begun to use Please, Thank you, Excuse me, and Sorry fairly regularly. And she'll wave good-bye to kids she knows. Her conversational habits are not always polite though. She wants to dominate every conversation around the house, and isn't happy to yield the floor to either of us. She is very, very verbal, providing a running commentary on everything she does. When she's tired, the running commentary turns into a babbling stream of consciousness.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston's Chinatown.

One Child's Language: at 40 months

Physical development: Rachel's handwriting is much smoother now. She doesn't have to have little dots to mark the angle-points in A, M, Y and other letters. She has even got S and C down pretty well. She can also write quite small and has done a few exercises at school writing numbers. She jumps well with two feet and can stand on one foot. She likes to show how fast she can run. She is quite active during exercise at her school. We enrolled her in a "movement" class at the YWCA on Saturday mornings, but so far the only thing she has participated in is a balance-beam exercise that she enjoyed at preschool. She doesn't like receiving a lot of attention from strangers. We doubt she'll go into show business.

Intellectual notes: She still loves to count and do very simple addition and subtraction. In fact, she has discovered the Associative Principle: "Look, 2 and 2 and 1 make 5; and 3 and 2 make 5, too!" She was counting with her fingers in the stroller one day and announced "2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 make 10!" She knows that 100 is a lot, and can count that high if you prompt her for the even multiples of ten. She no longer misses fifteen now that she knows fif is a funny way to say five, but she usually skips sixteen for some reason.

She also loves guessing and telling. "You don't know how old Panda is?" [Just say "No!"] "I'll tell you. He's two." "Do you know what we can use? ... Think! Think!" She likes to involve us in long imaginary games in which everyone's role is subject to redefinition whenever the fancy strikes her. She also does a lot of reasoning. This is the bicentennial of Chinese emigration to Hawaii. When Rachel asked why so many Chinese came here, Mama told her that many Chinese wanted to leave China. She said, "Yeah, they wanted to find a cleaner place, and Honolulu was clean enough."

Language notes: Rachel returned from her Christmas visit having finally switched from referring to herself as Rachel to using I, me, my appropriately. She has also switched to an overcorrected pronunciation of the so that it always rhymes with thee. One of her teachers must have stigmatized the local pronunciation, da. (She has acquired the local auwe in place of ouch.) Her pronunciation of consonant clusters (st, str, sp, spr, etc.) seems to have slipped a bit while she concentrates on new grammatical constructions, especially comparatives (good, gooder, goodest, bad, badder, baddest), even complicated syntax like: "When I'm 100 years old, I'll be tall enough that my head will touch the ceiling." "Look, I can push the stroller as straight as you can." Around us, she is extremely verbal, providing a running commentary on her every action.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston's Chinatown.

Lind on Patrician Do-gooder-ism vs. Populist Producerism

Old-style Democrat Michael Lind asks a timely question in a Salon essay entitled Can populism be liberal?
There remains the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented more in Congress than in Obama's White House -- and more in the House than in the Senate, a dully complacent millionaires' club. Can congressional progressives compete with conservatives to channel popular outrage? Unfortunately, progressivism in the form in which it has evolved in the last generation does not resonate with populist producerism.

To begin with, most of the moral fervor of the contemporary center-left has been diverted from the issue of fair rewards for labor to the environmental movement. In theory, environmentalism ought to fit the populist narrative of defending shared goods against special interests. Indeed, clean air and water legislation and public parks and wilderness areas are broadly popular with working-class Americans, not least hunters and fishers. But many environmentalists insist that global warming must be combated not only by low-CO2 energy technology but also by radical lifestyle changes like switching from industrial farming to small-scale organic agriculture and moving from car-based suburbs and exurbs to deliberately "densified" cities with mass transit. Whether environmentalists propose to engineer this utopian social transformation by tax incentives or coercive laws, the campaign triggers the populist nightmare of arrogant social elites trying to dictate where and how ordinary people should live.

Even if it had not been eclipsed by moralistic lifestyle environmentalism, contemporary economic progressivism would be crippled by its own priorities. New Deal liberalism was primarily about jobs and wages, with benefits as an afterthought. Post-New Deal progressivism is primarily about benefits, with jobs and wages as an afterthought. This inversion of priorities is underlined by the agenda of the Democrats since the last election -- universal healthcare coverage first, jobs later.

It is only in the post-New Deal era that universal healthcare has become the Holy Grail of the American center-left, rather than, say, full employment or a living wage. Sure, Democrats from Truman to Johnson sought universal healthcare, and Medicare for the elderly was a down payment for that goal. But the main concern of the New Dealers was providing economic growth with full employment, on the theory that if the economy is growing and workers have the bargaining power to obtain their fair share of the new wealth in the form of wages, you don't need a vastly bigger welfare state. Having forgotten the New Deal's emphasis on high-wage work, all too many of today's progressives seem to have internalized the right's caricature of FDR-to-LBJ liberalism as being primarily about redistribution from the rich to the poor.

This shift in emphasis is connected with the shift in the social base of the Democratic Party from the working class to an alliance of the wealthy, parts of the professional class and the poor. And progressive redistributionism also reflects the plutocratic social structure of the big cities that are now the Democratic base. Unlike the egalitarian farmer-labor liberalism that drew on the populist values of the small town and the immigrant neighborhood, metropolitan liberalism tends to define center-left politics not as self-help on the part of citizens but rather as charity for the disadvantaged carried out by affluent altruists. Tonight the fundraiser for endangered species; tomorrow the gala charity auction for poor children.
via RealClearPolitics

24 November 2009

One Child's Language: at 39 months

Social notes: Ever since Rachel moved to the bigger kids' room at school, she has assigned herself a new role in life. She always reminds us of what a big girl she is and almost never goes into the little baby routines she was so fond of before the move: "Look how fast Rachel can run." "Look how high Rachel can jump now." In fact, she has changed her role-play at home from Baby to Teacher. She spends a lot of time at home comforting her stuffed animals, showing them things, putting them down on mats for naptime, waking them up again, reading to them, feeding them. She gets the funniest little serious look on her face when she is comforting them for crying. She repeats instructions from school to them, playing the teacher role to the hilt, telling them "This is a table mat activity, not a floor mat activity."

Another way she marks her change in status is by constantly inquiring how she did things or said things when she was a little baby. "How did Rachel swim when Rachel was a little baby?" "How did Rachel talk when Rachel was one year old?" "How did Rachel say blue when Rachel was in China?" Then she will laugh and imitate our imitations of how she used to say things.

Physical development: Rachel is fascinated by writing now, and likes to take a pen or crayon and write messages on paper. She controls her scribble pretty well, doing a good imitation of a doctor's prescription scrawl.

Intellectual notes: The biggest concept Rachel has mastered with her new rite of passage is the progress of time. Yesterday now means the previous day, or at least the other day, not just any time in the past. Tomorrow is also more immediate than it used to be. She knows about relative age and birthdays, knows most of the days of the week and the last four months of the year. She contrasts her life as a baby and her life in China with her present life. In fact, she has a renewed interest in her China past now and asks a lot more questions about her pictures from Chinese preschool.

Her other major fascination right now is numbers and arithmetic. She counts everything and knows the concept of adding one number to another. She will hold up one, two, three, four, or five fingers on each hand and ask "How much is this?" She hasn't memorized the answers yet, but she can figure it out by counting all her fingers. She can count to twenty, but she tends to miss fifteen and sometimes sixteen.

Language notes: Rachel constantly asks "What's that spell?" She has memorized an ABC book from the library that goes "A is for angry anteater, B is for bashful bear, ...." Her favorite road sign is the yellow BUMP sign. In fact, on the buses she often reads the yellow sign on every window "C-A-U-T-I-O-N Bump!" She looks for Chevron, Shell, and Union 76 signs; spells out STOP, WALK, EXIT, and NO PARKING signs; recognizes Safeway, MacDonalds, and Burger King logos; asks about the cover, half-title, title, and contents pages in books. She likes to take a pen and write messages which she translates as "Please take a juice can to school tomorrow" or "Let's meet for breakfast at eight."

Although she still never uses I, me, my in real communication, she will use them perfectly well when she is play-acting with her stuffed animals. And she now asks "How do you do" such and such rather than "How does Rachel do" such and such. But in talking to us, she still has her own special pronouns Deo or Daytoe (for Rachel) and Deo's (for Rachel's).

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston's Chinatown.

What Foreign Tourists Like in South Korea

The Chosun Ilbo has been doing a series on foreign tourism in South Korea, which has been growing. (Both Mr. & Mrs. Outlier have attended conferences there this year, and enjoyed a bit of tourism on the side.) Here are a few observations about the statistical preferences of tourists from different countries.

On favorite souvenirs:
The most popular souvenirs among Japanese visiting Korea are dried seaweed, kimchi, and ginseng or citron tea from the Namdaemun Market and superstores, according to the Seoul Station branch of Lotte Mart.

Nail clippers are the most popular item among Chinese visitors. "In China, Korean nail clippers are regarded as luxury goods," claimed Chung Myung-jin, president of Cosmos Travel. "Chinese people like gold, so they buy dozens of gold-colored nail clippers when they come to Korea." Gold-plated stainless chopsticks and spoons are also popular.

Southeast Asian tourists usually buy Korean beauty products, which are in vogue in their home countries. Meanwhile, Europeans prefer traditional gifts. "European tourists tend to buy souvenirs at historic sites like Gyeongju, or they buy custom-made Hanbok, or traditional Korean clothing," said Park Eun-sun of KR Travel.
On Japanese vs. Chinese:
According to a survey of visitors in 2008 by the Korea Tourism Organization, more women visited from Japan than men, with 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent. The proportion of individual tourists (38.3 percent) was close to that of group tourists. As the two countries are close geographically and Japanese have a lot of information on Korea, many there feel it is easy to visit without tour guides or prearranged package tours....

A staffer at a beauty treatment shop in Myeong-dong, said, "Many Japanese tourists have cosmetic eyebrow tattoo procedures, manicure or laser body hair removal, which are much cheaper than in Japan." They also like Korean food. Some 69.5 percent of Japanese tourists said Korean food is delicious. Food topped the list of souvenirs they buy with a whopping 67.1 percent. Japanese tourists stayed in Korea briefly but spent a lot of money. Each of them stayed 2.7 nights and spent $1,136 ($420 per day) on average....

Chinese tourist stayed on average 6.8 nights and spent $1,413 ($207 per day). Many visited Korea for the first time and were on package tours with group visas. Hanatour spokesman Chung Ki-yoon said, "Many Chinese tourists are on package tours of seven Southeast Asian countries."...

Haban Tour spokesman Woo Hyun-ryang said, "The Chinese are used to huge cultural monuments like Taishan, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, so they usually complain even Mt. Seorak is just like a hill at the back of their village." This means they need other special programs.

Chinese tourists from different regions also had very different tastes. Those from inland urban areas like Beijing preferred Jeju Island, while those from the booming industrial centers such as Guangzhou, Chengdu, or Shenyang liked to visit Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun shopping districts in Seoul. Rich Chinese visitors enjoyed buying designer goods at Lotte or Shinsegae department stores in Myeong-dong, Seoul, or at Centum City in Busan. Food is the biggest problem for the Chinese tourists, who usually complain that Korean food is not fatty enough for them.
via The Marmot's Hole

23 November 2009

One Child's Language: at 36 months

Social notes: Rachel was very generous about taking toys to donate to her school before we left China. But she displayed almost no emotion on her last day of school, when her principal (and favorite auntie) was teary and her mama was too choked up to say anything. It was only after we got to Hong Kong and started talking about what her life in Honolulu would be like that Rachel protested, "But Rachel likes China." She also liked travelling, because she had one or the other of us to herself all the time. Unlike us, she loves to spend time in waiting rooms and hotel lobbies.

Especially while travelling, we tend to praise her for being a "big girl." But she is afraid to leave babyhood completely behind, so she often reminds us, "When Rachel sucks Rachel's thumb Rachel is a little baby," and then promptly demonstrates. She has also invented some baby talk expressions, like titidada. At other times, her conversational style is very adult, like when she says, "Mama, mama! Rachel has two questions. The first question is .... The second question is ...." She also likes to give long-winded explanations why she should or shouldn't do something in a particular way, often word-for-word renditions of what one or the other of us has told her.

We had far better luck finding a preschool for Rachel in Honolulu than in China. Bamboo Shoots was one we just walked into one day. It was just about to convert to Montessori methods. We walked in during naptime, when the administrator was feeling relaxed and talkative, and had a good look around. We were later told that Rachel shows some of the same problems Chinese immigrant kids have when they enter American preschools: they require a lot of adult attention, and they have trouble going off and doing things on their own. She is adjusting well though. Having a year of Chinese school has helped. And she hasn't had any trouble getting used to sandwiches for lunch, as some of the Asian immigrant kids have. Rachel seems to be only full haole (Caucasian) kid in the school (as in China).

Intellectual notes: Rachel is very, very fond of puzzles now. She is pretty quick to spot where each shape goes. After the first time or two, she has just about memorized how to put the simpler puzzles together. She is also a reading maniac. We usually make a trip to the State library's children's book section every week. She can spend hours listening to us read all the way through each week's stack of books again and again. She is especially interested in transportation, which might have something to do with all the travelling we've done recently. She likes looking for contrasts between the "new kind of airplane" (jet) and the "old kind of airplane" (propeller craft), between city buses (with more than one door) and tour buses (with only one door), between fast ferry boats (hovercraft and hydrofoils) and slow ferry boats (like the Star Ferry in Hong Kong). In fact, she always tries to compare and contrast new things she learns about, to establish new categories or better define old ones. Her other most absorbing hobby right now is testing every water fountain she sees. She had an interest in water fountains before we went to China but had to do without them for a year. Her old fascination immediately revived as soon as we got into the Taipei airport.

Language notes: Her pronunciation keeps improving. Right now she's working on getting her word-initial consonant clusters under control (/fr, sp, st, str, tr/ etc.) She hasn't got /f/ separate from /s/ yet, so straight sounds like freight. She has just started to work on eliminating the /w/ she used to put on over and out, and the /n/ she used to put on the front of on and in. In other words, she has started to master the glottal stop (the abrupt onset before words starting with vowels in English; the sound in uh-uh 'no' that helps distinguish it from uh-huh 'yes'). She also noticed a good while ago that Daddy pronounces why—her favorite word—with a /hw/ sound while Mama pronounces it with a plain /w/. She claims to use both pronunciations.

Rachel was just beginning to speak a good bit of Chinese by the time we left Zhongshan, but now she has just about quit speaking it. As soon as we hit Honolulu, she ceased hearing it around her so much and apparently decided there was no more use for it. In Hong Kong, we took her out to a nice playground near our hotel where she played with a couple of English-speaking kids her age. She wouldn't say a word to them. Instead, she remarked to us, "They're speaking English. Why?" At Bamboo Shoots, she has been slow to speak with the other kids, but it's probably just her natural shyness. One of the teaching assistants there speaks Chinese but couldn't extract Chinese responses from Rachel. When we would ask her if she spoke any Chinese at school, she would answer, "But it's an English-speaking school!"

She hardly ever sings much at home now. She hasn't learned the new school's repertoire yet. But she is an avid and highly interactive story-telling audience. She nods as you go, asks for meanings of words she hasn't learned yet, and asks so many questions sometimes that it's hard to keep the story moving. She never drifts off during a story, but keeps asking for one more. She likes to participate by filling in salient words in the stories she has read many times. She also likes us to spell ("psell") words, and always assigns us one to spell while brushing her teeth.

Her most remarkable achievement in our eyes is her discovery of what syllables are. On the way home from school one day in China, she asked why "e-le-phant" has three words but "bear" has only one. She was probably carrying over into English what her teachers had told her about Chinese characters, since each character is one syllable. We taught her the word syllable (which comes out Seminole when she says it) and now she can count off the syllables of any word you give her—fairly accurately too. Although she does tend to like to repeat the last syllable enough times to get through all the fingers on one hand.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston's Chinatown.

One Child's Language: at 32 months (and abroad)

Social notes: Rachel is experimenting with social graces now. She plays with using please and thank you sometimes, and is working up to saying xiexie ('thank you') and zaijian ('goodbye') aloud in Chinese. Her strategy seems to be to listen and repeat to herself for a long time while she is mastering something new, then finally perform out loud.

She often gets very upset if we let a guest into the house without her help, or see someone off before she gets to wave goodbye. One day, Daddy came home from school in the afternoon, let himself in, and went in to find Rachel and Mama in the kitchen. Rachel immediately cried that she wanted to meet Daddy at the door. So Daddy went back outside in the stairwell, Rachel sent him down to the landing, then she walked down the steps to greet him on the landing with "Hello, how are you?" She nodded her head in response to "Fine,thank you. And you?" and then turned around and said "Well, let's go up." She repeated this ritual about ten times before our downstairs neighbors, Uncle Xu and Auntie Ni, came out to invite Rachel to play with them.

For quite a long time now, she has not gotten tearful when we drop her off at school, and she has a "best friend" there now. When she hears classmates' names she can point them out, but she won't say their names out loud to us.

Intellectual notes: In Freudian jargon, she still shows a lot of typically "anal retentive" behavior. She is compulsive about arranging and matching things. If you slip out of your shoes, she is liable to run off with them to arrange them carefully among other shoes. When she gets dressed, she is always concerned that everything should match. After eating, she will often get down and rearrange the magnetic letters and numbers on the refrigerator door. She is more concerned about matching shapes than about sequential order, so she groups 694, 25, 17, 38, VY, KX, MN, IL, CG, FR, BD, OU, and so forth.

Language notes: Rachel is speaking more and more Chinese. Her teachers say she is becoming more verbal at school. She must be saying a lot more Chinese to herself than to anyone else. She is quite aware of the tones in Chinese and experiments with them sometimes. Everyone at school tries to get her to say simple greetings to them, but they are content for now if she simply shows she heard and understood them.

Her pronunciation keeps improving. She has /s/ and /z/, /ch/ and /j/ pretty much under control. When she demonstrated that she could produce a clear /s/ one day on the say home from school, Daddy praised her and asked her when she would be able to say /k/ as well. She said "Soon."

She still sings school songs at home and also sings a lot of English songs. She sings This Old Man up through number five or six. (On one of our excursions she got to see a beehive up close, so she no longer needs prompting for "hive".) Her going-to-sleep ritual every night includes the same series of songs: Sleep Baby Sleep, Teddy Bear ("Dayto" Bear), Mockingbird (Hush Little Baby), and then Angels Watching Over Me ("That Guy Is Watching Over Me"). She sings along on all of them and recently recorded them on tape, singing by herself.

She knows the lowercase as well as uppercase printed letters now. (After trying to think of easy terms other than "big/little" to distinguish the two styles, we just settled on "uppercase/lowercase"—and so has Rachel.) She often utterly loses her chain of thought when her eye catches any letter or Chinese character she can read. She reads off numbers on license plates or hotel-room doors as she walks by. Sometimes she spells words from right to left.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston's Chinatown.

22 November 2009

The Near Eastern Crisis of 1875-78

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 167-169:
Beginning with a peasant uprising in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the troubles spread in 1876 to Bulgaria and the Danubian provinces and ended with an invasion by the Russian army the following year. The Treaty of San Stefano, which Russia imposed on the empire early in 1878, created a vast new Bulgarian state which passed just to the north of Salonica itself and cut it off from its hinterland. Even after the other Great Powers forced Russia to back down and tore up the San Stefano agreement, there was no disguising the humiliation suffered by the Porte: at the Congress of Berlin, Serbia was declared independent, an autonomous (if smaller) Bulgaria was established under Russian control, Cyprus was occupied by British troops (as the price for supporting the Turks) and the Great Powers forced the Ottoman authorities to pledge a further programme of administrative reforms.

These events deeply affected Salonica. As always in time of war, the city was in a febrile state—filled with soldiers, requisitioning agents, tax-collectors and rumours. Muslim notables criticized the diplomacy of the Porte and feared for the first time "being driven out of Europe." The Bulgarian insurrection actually broke out just three days before the killing of the consuls in Salonica; rumours of the rising had reached the city, together with reports of outrages on Muslim villagers and of plans to drive them from their homes. At one point the authorities feared that Salonica's Christians too would rise to prompt a Russian advance on the city itself, and the Vali warned he would quell any insurrection in the harshest manner. "I know him to be of the party in Turkey," wrote the British consul, "who believe the Eastern Question can only be solved by the destruction, or at least the expatriation of all Christians from the European provinces of Turkey, and replacing them by Circassians and colonists from Asia."

The spectacle of vast forced movements of populations crisscrossing the region was no fantasy. While the eyes of Europe were fixed—thanks to Gladstone's loud condemnation of the "Bulgarian horrors"—on the Christian victims of the war, thousands of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Bulgaria and the Russian army were headed south. Added to those who had earlier fled the Russians in the Caucasus—somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 Circassians and Nogai Tatars had arrived in the empire between 1856 and 1864—the refugee influx which accompanied the waning of Ottoman power was well and truly under way. A Commission for the Settlement of Refugees was created, and the figures provided by this organization show that more than half a million refugees crossed into the empire between 1876 and 1879 alone.

In January 1878, the Porte ordered the governor of Salonica to find lodging for fifty thousand throughout the province. The following month it was reported that "the whole country is full of Circassian families, fleeing from the Russian army and the Servians, in long lines of carts ... panic-stricken, they strive to embark for Asia Minor and Syria." While Albanian Ghegs and uprooted Nogai Tatars settled around the town, thousands more left weekly on steamers bound for Smyrna and Beirut. Many of these refugees had been settled in the Bulgarian lands only a decade earlier; now for a second time they were being uprooted because of Russian military action. Destitute, exploited by local land-owners, many—especially Circassian—men formed robber bands, and became a byword for crime in the region. Two years after the end of hostilities, there were still more than three thousand refugees, many suffering from typhus or smallpox, receiving relief in the city, and another ten thousand in the vicinity. The Mufti of Skopje estimated that a total of seventy thousand were still in need of subsistence in the Sandjak of Pristina. By 1887, so many immigrants from the lost provinces had moved to Salonica that house rents there had risen appreciably.

The political outlook for Ottoman rule in European Turkey was grim. Only Western intervention had saved the empire from defeat at the hands of the Russian army; the consequent losses in Europe were great. The powers openly discussed the future carve-up of further territories, and Austrians, Bulgarians and Greeks fixed their eyes on Salonica. As discussions began at the Congress of Berlin on the territorial settlement, one observer underlined the need for a further sweeping reform of Ottoman institutions and the creation of an "impartial authority" to govern what was left. In view of the patchy record of the past forty years' reform efforts, few would have given the imperial system long to live. Indeed many expected its imminent collapse, especially after the youthful Sultan Abdul Hamid suspended the new constitution barely two years after it had been unveiled. But they had to wait longer than they thought. The empire had another few decades of life left, and in that time Salonica itself prospered, grew and changed its appearance more radically than ever before.

Belated Ottoman Religious Reform

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 152-153:
In 1851 Christian testimony was admitted in a local criminal court for the first time, but it was not for another decade that it was given decisive weight when contradicted by Muslim witnesses. "Are we the masters of this empire or not?" demanded some of the beys, protesting on the "part of Islamism" against the constant infringement by foreign powers of the "rights of the Turkish nation." A visiting dervish preached that Europe was "devoted to the extermination of Muslims," and claimed that the sultan, by giving in to their demands, had shown himself to be no more than a gavur. "Let us massacre the infidels whom the Prophet and our first Sultans conquered," he went on, "And then we will go throughout Frenghistan [the land of the Franks] sword in hand, and all will be well with us." When Abdul Mecid died in 1861, the view in the local coffeehouses was that he had been "too favourably disposed to Christians," and many of Salonica's Muslims, including highly placed functionaries, openly hoped that his successor would bring back the janissaries and revoke the reforms.

This did not happen. Instead the number of non-Muslims in the civil service rose, and in 1868 a Council of State with non-Muslim members was created. In the provinces progress was slower: as late as 1867, justice in Salonica was still loaded against non-Muslims, taxes remained inequitable and the clause relating to Christians being appointed to official positions remained a "dead letter." Ibrahim Bey, the mufti, resisted reform of the local courts, and as he was very popular among the poorer Muslims of the city, Salonica's governors hesitated to take him on. But the lead from the top was clear: the Porte instructed Salonica's mollah to speak respectfully when he addressed the Greek metropolitan, and to refer politely to the "Christian" religion. "Looking at things reasonably," wrote the British ambassador, Sir Henry Bulwer in 1864, "it is but just to observe that this government is about the most tolerant in Europe."

The old ideology of the sultan as Defender of the Faith was now no longer appropriate for the new-look empire. It was supplanted by a new creed of Ottomanism, an allegiance to the dynasty itself that supposedly crossed religious boundaries. As the government gazette for the province declared in May 1876:
Even though for centuries among us there has not existed something we might call public opinion, on account of our different religions, nonetheless Ottomans, Christians, Jews and in a word all those bearing the name of Osmanli and living under the sceptre of His Imperial Excellency have lived as faithful subjects of all ranks, as patriots and as a single unit of nationalities, each lending a helping hand to the other as brothers, none ever daring to attack the honour, property, life or religious customs of the other, and everyone enjoying complete freedom in the exercise of his social privileges.
The new policy was underlined in religious holidays and official ceremonies. After the Ottoman fleet arrived in port, Greek priests from the city performed mass for its Christian sailors in the Beshchinar gardens, and Turkish naval officers complimented the archbishop on a "very appropriate sermon." When the chief rabbi Raphael Ascher Covo died at the end of 1874 after twenty-six years in office, his funeral was attended by the staff of the governor, the president of the town council, the Greek archbishop, consuls and other notables: the procession was "one of the largest ever witnessed in European Turkey." All shops were closed, Jewish firemen in the service of the North British and Mercantile Insurance companies provided the guard of honour lining the streets, and bells were rung as the bier passed the Orthodox cathedral." A century earlier, such an occasion would have been inconceivable.

20 November 2009

Rise and Fall of the Nutmeg Monopoly

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. 117-119:
The conditions of soil and climate on Banda were so perfect for nutmeg trees that most of the trees were planted naturally by the same species of Tine and very handsome fruit pigeons' which Wallace observed. These birds had such a wide-opening beak that they could swallow an entire nutmeg fruit and pass the round seed undamaged through the gut, so that it grew where it fell. The labourers had to keep the saplings free of weeds, tend the tall kenari trees which provided essential shade for the nutmeg trees, and pick the fruit. Obligingly, in that warm equatorial climate, the nutmegs gave their crop all year long. It is calculated that, in nearly two centuries of colonial rule, Holland produced a billion guilders' worth of these spices from their tiny Banda holdings. The income from the Banda spice monopoly so dominated Dutch foreign policy that Holland offered the island of Manhattan to the British if they would drop their claim to the minuscule islet of Run in the Bandas barely three kilometres long and one and a half kilometres wide. Even more remarkably, Run itself grew no nutmeg trees. The Dutch ripped them up in order to concentrate virtually the entire world production of nutmeg and mace on the other Bandas.

Slavery in the Dutch Indies was not abolished until 1862, so there must have been slaves on Banda when Wallace visited there in the late 1800s. Yet he says nothing about them and – astonishingly for an Owenite socialist – he voiced his strong approval of the Dutch system of monopoly plantation though he knew this opinion would raise hackles in Victorian England. State monopolies, he argued, were the only way for a colony to be viable. The mother country had to find some way of paying the huge cost of its colonial efforts, bringing education, peace and a 'civilising influence' to unruly native peoples, and if the state controlled a lucrative monopoly, that cost could be met. It was far better, Wallace argued, for the state to reap the profits than to allow the local economy to pass into the hands of private businesses, who would exploit the natives and give nothing in return. The only condition which Wallace put forward was that the monopoly should be of a product not essential to the natives, who must be able to live without it. In this respect, of course, nutmeg was ideal; it was a luxury, not a subsistence food.

In truth, by Wallace's time the state's monopoly in nutmeg was in tatters. Nutmegs were being grown illegally elsewhere in the Moluccas, and the French had established nutmeg plantations in Mauritius, using seeds smuggled in from the Spice Islands. Corruption had been so widespread among the superintending officials in Banda and Amsterdam that tight control of the nutmeg trade was a sham. The Dutch authorities abandoned the system within a decade of Wallace's visit, and handed over ownership of Banda's nutmeg gardens to the perkiniers, the planters who had previously held them on licence. They in their turn would go under, unable to survive in world competition. The nutmeg plantations fell into neglect and Banda began a long, slow slide into obscurity while, ironically, the impoverished planters came to be replaced by a new generation of Bandanese orang kaya who re-established the age-old trade links. Twenty years after Wallace's visit, the wealthiest man on the islands was a Javanese Arab trader, Bin Saleh Baadilla, who traded in pearls and bird products. His warehouse contained skins of Birds of Paradise prepared by the natives of Kai, Aru and New Guinea, as well as the feathers of other exotic and coloured species from the rainforest. Where his predecessors had sent the bird-skins to decorate the fans and turbans of a few Indian and Malay potentates, Bin Saleh now had a larger and more voracious market. He shipped his bird-skins to the milliners of Europe, who at the peak of the fashion craze were said to be importing 50,000 bird-skins a year to provide decorations for ladies' hats.

One Child's Language: at 30 months (and abroad)

Social notes: Rachel is a full member of the family now. She has her own independent moods, desires, habits, hobbies, and insights. Her many observations intrigue and delight us and her usually buoyant mood lifts us when we are feeling cold and discouraged. She is more and more articulate about the specialness of our family relationship. She likes to repeat "Mama, Daddy, Rachel" as she points to each of us, sometimes misnaming us for our collective amusement. She often calls Daddy "Mama" and vice versa. When she does, she just smiles and repeats her error to reaffirm it. She has also discovered our given names and sometimes uses them to amuse us. She likes to sit us all next to each other and often calls for three-person hugs. She gives nice strong hugs now. She likes to refer to us as "this baby's Mama" and the like. When we were travelling, she once said, "If Rachel goes to Guangzhou by Rachel's self, Rachel will cry."

She continues to feel more comfortable with familiar people. She warms up to students and people we visit much quicker than she used to, and is willing to show off a bit for them when she's in the mood. She readily waves goodbye to everyone and anyone—even the most obnoxious of the "hello, hello" types. She really likes her teachers at school and knows them all by name. They really like her too, and spend a lot of time teaching her Chinese and eliciting English words from her. Rachel recognizes her classmates when we run into them around town, and knows many of their names. She has also become much more attached to and affectionate toward her stuffed animals, and likes to arrange them around her when she's sitting on her potty chair or lying down to sleep.

Intellectual notes: Rachel's compulsion about arranging things has reached the stage where she will take every loose object in the house and make long lines across the floor. When she finishes a line she calls us to come look, and then spends some time sucking her thumb, rubbing her belly button, and surveying her work with an artist's eye.

She also likes her routines to be just so. When Daddy doesn't do exactly what Mama did the day before, she will object. One day, Daddy sang Old King Cole as he stirred Rachel's milk into her oatmeal, inadvertently establishing a ritual. Only the living room will serve for the nighttime milk-drinking and teeth-brushing routine.

Right before we took our winter trip, Rachel started to ask WHY everything. "Oh, that boy has no shoes on! Why?" "Oh, that's a steam locomotive! Why?" Now, about three weeks later, she is trying out "that's why" constructions: "Rachel's cold, that's why Rachel has no pants on." (She still gets it backwards sometimes.)

She has begun to exercise her imagination and sense of humor a lot. She will turn herself into a roaring lion, an old lady with a walking stick, a vendor and shopper at the market, or a train passenger with bags and ticket. One night, she said "Rachel is sleeping with Rachel's eyes open because Rachel doesn't have eyelids." She laughs "Rachel made a moo-take!" when she slips up, and likes to deliberately set out to make us laugh with funny faces, words, or movements.

Language notes: Rachel makes a clear distinction between occasions to use Chinese and English. Sometimes when we use Chinese, she will protest, "But Daddy's an English speaker!" She is still not very talkative at school, but gets chatty in English as soon as we show up. She frequently asks "How Rachel say X in Chinese?" Sometimes she gets confused: "How Rachel say China in English?" She has learned to read a few more characters: 中国 (Zhongguo, China), 美国 (Meiguo, the US), 中山大学 (Zhongshan Daxue, Zhongshan Univ.), and 园林管理处 (Yuanlin Guanlichu, Forest Park Management). [Well, the last only in the context of the sign in the photo that we passed on the way to her school and back everyday.] She sat up in bed one night and said "Apple is pingguo" and then lay back down to sleep.

Reading park rules, Shiqi, Zhongshan City, Guangdong, China

Her teachers were astounded to find that she knew all the letters of the English alphabet. (They seem rather easily astounded.) She knows how to spell her own name, and can say the 7 syllables of her full name pretty fluently. Her grammar is coming along nicely: "Rachel thought this walrus had a blue shirt on." "If Rachel runs down this ramp slowly, Rachel won't fall down."

NAME BO LIQIU, WEIGHT 29 lbs. HEIGHT 89 cm. (35 inches)
Able to adapt very quickly to kindergarten life. Comes to school on time everyday. Asks for leave when needed. Able to play together with her little playmates. Likes to listen to stories. Can chant simple nursery songs. Can do morning exercise and play games. With teacher's guidance, can do drawing exercises. Ability to get along independently has improved. Regularly washes her hands before eating and wipes her mouth afterwards. Can eat by herself. Noon nap normal. But usually drinks little water. Hope next semester to strive for even greater improvement.

19 November 2009

One Child's Language: at 27 months (and abroad)

Rachel's command of Chinese is growing. She still doesn't volunteer to speak any, but she understands simple Mandarin and Cantonese at school. Her teachers teach her Chinese and she teaches them English, correcting them if they make mistakes. In Chinese, she can count quickly to ten, and knows basic body parts, items of clothing, and animals. At home she rehearses songs from school. In fact, she is now able to carry a tune (as well as her parents at least) and is sensitive to rhythm and rhyme. She frequently wanders around singing songs and rhymes to herself.

She loves to recite the Mother Goose rhymes we read her. She knows Pease Porridge Hot and Eeny Meeny Miny Moe by heart, and objects if we don't stop to let her fill in the rhyming words in many others that we read her. The Grand Old Duke of York is one of those she loves to help recite. One time her Daddy said "Eeny Meeny Miny Yes" and she responded by trying to make all the lines rhyme with yes. She goes crazy saying Goosey Goosey Gander. When Daddy recited a nursery rhyme destroying the rhyme and using Rachel's worst pronunciation, she said, "No, that not right." Then she recited the rhyme and declared, "That's right."

We have worried that her English pronunciation won't improve quickly, since we are the only native speakers of English that she talks to, and we already understand her idiosyncracies. But lately she has begun to mind her /p/ and /b/ and /m/ sounds. One day she managed to put /b/ in bubble bath. Since then, she has been changing a few of her all-purpose /d/ and /t/ to /b/ and /p/ when they should be. The /g/ and /k/ sounds may not be far behind. Any sounds that Chinese and English share should get double reinforcement. But old pronunciation habits die hard. She still has to stop and think before saying her name with an initial /r/ rather than /d/.

She is still eager to read. She pretends to read things sometimes, moving her head as if she's scanning the lines. She has also started to read Chinese, starting with the characters for Zhongshan City (中山市). She spots them on signs or city vehicles all over the place. We're helping her with some basic ones like Fire (火), Woods (林), Person (人), Water (水), and the like. But right now she is more eager to sing and recite rhymes than to read letters. She recites rather than reads many of her favorite passages in books.

She knows clearly now that she is dealing with two separate languages, and she doesn't object any more if we English speakers use Chinese with her. She elicits the names of the languages by counting in one language and then the other, asking "What Rachel saying?" after each series of numbers. She also knows how to ask "What that mean?" if she doesn't know the English equivalent of a Chinese word. Her nose, which is often runny these days, she calls bizi as often as she calls it her nose.

At the Fruit Bat Market in Manado

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. 230:
Wallace had also eaten fricassee of bat in Minahasa. Today bat is still a popular local dish, and the President of Indonesia himself is said to enjoy a meal of bat. At our request Saskar took us to the street market in Manado city where, on most mornings, a bat-seller arrived with his box of bats for sale. He brought them in a closely slatted wooden box, with a little trap-door in the top. Inside the box the bright pinpoints of bat eyes stared out of the gloom, and it was just possible to distinguish the sharp, foxy faces of the creatures themselves. From time to time a black claw worked its way through a gap in the box slats to grasp and scrabble in the daylight. The shoppers strolled up and down checking the street market's vegetables and other foodstuffs, and a housewife stopped to ask the bat-seller if she could see his wares. He flung open the trap-door on his box, reached inside and pulled out a furiously scrabbling bat. The creature tried to grab the sides of the box with the desperation of kitten being pulled from a bag. The bat-seller then displayed the animal and spread it out, a wing in each hand, to show off the chubby body. The shopper, after poking and prodding the bat, liked the purchase, and the seller swung the bat through the air and brought the animal's head down on the pavement with a sharp smack. Then he tossed the still fluttering corpse to his assistant for the fur to be frizzled off with a blowtorch.

13 November 2009

Disasters for Ottoman "Soft Power" in 1579

From the luridly titled "Global Politics in the 1580s: One Canal, Twenty Thousand Cannibals, and an Ottoman Plot to Rule the World" by Giancarlo Casale in Journal of World History 18(2007):277-281 (on Project MUSE):
During the lengthy grand vizierate of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha in the 1560s and 1570s—the Ottomans had pursued what we might define today as a policy of "soft empire" in the Indian Ocean. Under Sokollu Mehmed's direction, this involved a strategy to expand Ottoman influence not through direct military intervention, but rather through the development of ideological, commercial, and diplomatic ties with the various Muslim communities of the region. Only in a few instances (most notably in the case of the Muslim principality of Aceh in western Indonesia) did Istanbul provide direct military assistance in exchange for a formal recognition of Ottoman suzerainty. Elsewhere, a much more informal relationship was the rule, even in places like Gujarat and Calicut where elites enjoyed extremely close commercial, professional, and sometimes familial relations with Istanbul. Despite this high level of contact, tributary relationships or other direct political ties between local states and the Ottoman empire were not normally encouraged.

In the absence of a formal imperial infrastructure, however, Sokollu Mehmed took steps to align the interests of these disparate Muslim communities with those of the Ottoman state in other ways. Evidence suggests, for example, that he established a network of imperial commercial factors throughout the region who bought and sold merchandise for the sultan's treasury. And at the same time, the grand vizier also began financing pro-Ottoman religious organizations overseas, especially those in predominantly non-Muslim states with influential Muslim trading elites, such as Calicut and Ceylon. In exchange for annual shipments of gold currency from the Ottoman treasury, local preachers in such overseas mosques agreed to read the Friday call to prayer in the name of the Ottoman sultan, and in so doing acknowledged him, if not as their immediate overlord, as a kind of religiously sanctioned "meta-sovereign" over the entire Indian Ocean trading sphere. As "Caliph" and "Protector of the Holy Cities," the Ottoman sultan thus acted as guarantor of the safety and security of the maritime trade and pilgrimage routes to and from Mecca and Medina, and in exchange could demand a certain measure of allegiance from Muslims throughout the region.

As long as it lasted, this strategy of "soft empire" seems to have worked remarkably well. During Sokollu Mehmed's term in office (1565–1579), trade through the Red Sea and Persian Gulf flourished as never before, until by the 1570s the Portuguese gave up their efforts to maintain a naval blockade between the Indian Ocean and the markets of the Ottoman Empire. Additionally, the concept of the Ottoman sultan as "universal sovereign" became ever more widely recognized, such that the Sultan's name was read in the Friday call to prayer of mosques from the Maldives to Ceylon, and from Calicut to Sumatra. Even in the powerful and rapidly expanding Mughal empire, whose Sunni Muslim dynasty was the only one that could legitimately compete with the Ottomans in terms of imperial grandeur, a certain amount of deference toward Istanbul appears to have been the rule.

But then, in 1579—perhaps the single most pivotal year in the political history of the early modern world—a series of cataclysmic and nearly simultaneous international events conspired to undermine this carefully constructed system from almost every conceivable direction. Most obviously, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha, the grand architect of the Ottomans' "soft empire," was unexpectedly struck down by an assassin's blade while receiving petitions at his private court in Istanbul. At almost exactly the same time, in distant Sumatra, the Acehnese sultan 'Ala ad-Din Ri'ayat Syah also died, ushering in an extended period of political and social turmoil that would deprive the Ottomans of their closest ally in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, in Iberia, the Ottoman sultan's archrival King Philip II of Spain was preparing to annex Portugal and all of her overseas possessions, following the sudden death of the heirless Dom Sebastião on the Moroccan battlefield of al-Kasr al-Kabir. And in the highlands of Abyssinia, again at almost exactly the same time, Christian forces handed the Ottomans a crushing and unexpected defeat at the battle of Addi Qarro, after which they captured the strategic port of Arkiko, re-established direct contact with the Portuguese, and threatened Ottoman control of the Red Sea for the first time in more than two decades.

All of these events, despite the vast physical distances that separated them, impinged directly on the Ottomans' ability to maintain "soft power" in the Indian Ocean. Even more ominously, they all took place alongside yet another emerging menace from Mughal India, where the young and ambitious Emperor Akbar had begun to openly challenge the very basis of Ottoman "soft power" by advancing his own rival claim to universal sovereignty over the Islamic world.

Of all these newly emerging threats, the Mughal challenge was in many ways the most potentially disturbing. Unlike the others, it was also a challenge mounted incrementally, and as a result became gradually apparent only over the course of several years. In fact, it may have begun as early as 1573, the year Akbar seized the Gujarati port of Surat and thus gained control of a major outlet onto the Indian Ocean for the first time. Less than two years later, he sent several ladies of his court, including his wife and his paternal aunt, on an extended pilgrimage to Mecca, where they settled and began to distribute alms regularly in the emperor's name. Concurrently, Akbar became involved in organizing and financing the hajj for Muslim travelers of more modest means as well: appointing an imperial official in charge of the pilgrimage, setting aside funds to pay the travel expenses of all pilgrims from India wishing to make the trip, and arranging for a special royal ship to sail to Jiddah every year for their passage. Moreover, by means of this ship Akbar began sending enormous quantities of gold to be distributed in alms for the poor of Mecca and Medina, along with sumptuous gifts and honorary vestments for the important dignitaries of the holy cities. In the first year alone, these gifts and donations amounted to more than 600,000 rupees and 12,000 robes of honor; in the next year, they included an additional 100,000 rupees as a personal gift for the Sharif of Mecca. Similar shipments continued annually until the early 1580s.

To be sure, none of this ostensibly pious activity was threatening to the Ottomans in and of itself. Under different circumstances, the Ottoman authorities may even have viewed largesse of this kind as a sign of loyalty, or as a normal and innocuous component of the public religious obligations of a ruler of Akbar's stature. But in 1579, in the midst of the complex interplay of other world events already described above, it acquired a dangerous and overtly political significance—particularly because it coincided with Akbar's promulgation of the so-called "infallibility decree" in September of that year. In the months that followed, Akbar's courtiers began, at his urging, to experiment with an increasingly syncretic, messianic, and Akbar-centric interpretation of Islam known as the din-i ilahi. And Akbar himself, buttressed by this new theology of his own creation, soon began to openly mimic the Ottoman sultans' posturing as universal sovereigns, by assuming titles such as Bādishāh-i Islām and Imām-i 'Ādil that paralleled almost exactly the Ottomans' own dynastic claims.

Against this incendiary backdrop, Akbar's endowments in Mecca and his generous support for the hajj thus became potent ideological weapons rather than simple markers of piety—weapons that threatened to destabilize Ottoman leadership of the Islamic world by allowing Akbar to usurp the sultan's prestigious role as "Protector of the Holy Cities." Justifiably alarmed, the Porte responded by forbidding the distribution of alms in Akbar's name in Mecca (it was nevertheless continued in secret for several more years), and by ordering the entourage of ladies from Akbar's court to return to India with the next sailing season. These, however, were stopgap measures at best. In the longer term, it was clear that a more serious reorientation of Ottoman policy was in order if the empire was to effectively respond to Akbar's gambit.

Thus, by the end of 1579, a perfect storm of political events in Istanbul, the Western Mediterranean, Ethiopia, Southeast Asia, and Mughal India had all conspired to bring an end to the existing Ottoman system of "soft empire" in the Indian Ocean. As a result, the Ottoman leadership was faced with a stark choice: to do nothing, and allow its prestige and influence in the region to fade into irrelevance; or instead, through aggressive military expansion, to attempt to convert this soft empire into a more concrete system of direct imperial rule. Because of an ongoing war with Iran, and because the 1580s were in general a period of political retrenchment and economic crisis in the Empire, many in Istanbul seem to have resigned themselves to the former option as the only feasible alternative.
Exactly 400 years later, Saudi "soft power" in the Islamic world would be similarly undermined by the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and it would respond similarly by sponsoring "hard" (violent) countermeasures.