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Gucci shoes, a bag of rice, and an AK-47 - you won't believe the price
03 Oct. 2007
Gucci - $635 shoes, Bloomingdales - $1,695 coat, Chanel - $2,295 purse, Cartier -$24,650 watch, Tiffany - $37,500 ring.
These are ads, complete with pictures, that surrounded a recent article about Somalia in the New York Times - a strange and sad juxtaposition.
The article by Jeffrey Gettleman begins, "The instant the sack of grain fell off the truck and thumped down on the ground, it was enveloped in a whirl of dust, fists and knees."
Six dollars will buy you an AK-47 in Somalia, which can in turn be traded for a chicken, or a sack of grain donated by the World Food Program. Of course most choose to hang onto the AK-47.
Slightly smaller than the state of Texas, Somalia is a country where a third-generation Somali is hard to find. For centuries, Arab, Persian and African nomadic tribes have wandered through in search of something better, and have gone away disappointed.
Somalia has seen Turkish, British and Italian occupation without result. Apparently Somalia is occupied mainly by people who have had the misfortune to be born there.
In 1993 we sent troops to assist with the U.N. food distribution in Somalia and were rewarded with an ambush that killed several of our young soldiers. Their bodies were dragged through the streets for effect. We have been cool toward Somalia ever since.
Turmoil does not describe Somalia today, anarchy and chaos is closer to the reality in a country that does not even pretend to have a government in the south.
An extended drought has delivered famine to Somalia, and contaminated water has delivered disease. Add to that the fact that the hardened earth will not hold water, and you get disastrous floods to accompany recent rains. If they had a 911 number to call in Somalia, every Somali would be dialing it right now, and would be getting a busy signal.
Today about 60 percent of the Somali population is nomadic, mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and Indians who tend cattle, camels, sheep and goats. Their common language, Somali, was unwritten in 1973, which could explain why NO TRESPASSING signs are ignored.
The Somalis are good fishermen when not fighting, and at odd times have actually exported tuna and lobster.
As to education, the first post-World War II institution of higher learning, Amaud University held its inaugural graduation ceremony in 1998 for 32 students. More recently, the Somali National University in Mogadishu was shut down due to excessive damage, interruptions in holding classes, acquiring books and housing. Getting a pair of shoes is more of an issue than getting a bachelor's degree.
The more one learns about Somalia, the more depressed one gets, particularly when a chapter in their sad story appears in the New York Times, framed by the exorbitant ads mentioned above, a strange and sad juxtaposition in a world full of vast and bewildering dichotomies...
McAvoy Layne lives in Incline Village and visits schools throughout Nevada as the ghost of Mark Twain.
Source: North Lake Tahoe Bonanza