Santa: help us all find some horse sense

December 20, 2002

SANA’A, YEMEN – Dear Santa:

Thanks for last year’s gift, the Gulliver’s Travels book. I enjoyed the Houyhnhnms, those horse-like characters. So bright. So noble. And those savage Yahoos. So dim. So lost. Poor Gulliver couldn’t see himself in them.

But Gulliver really was a traveller. Like you Santa. That’s why I’m writing. Distribution problems down here are getting worse.

Start with my street. Soccer, or “futbal” as they call it, is all that Middle East kids love. The boys in the hood play in front of our place all the time. Their ball, though, beaten and deflated as folks here feel, looks like it’s been through the war.

These kids aren’t David Beckham. They won’t make Time magazine. But is anyone who kicks a ball around worth $9 million a season? How much is that a goal? Average NHL plunkers now get $1 million to lace up their skates. And, incredibly, Michael Schumacher pulled in $80 million last year for driving his race car.

There are bigger problems though. Like toilets. I don’t even like to think about it. But a concern I had when arriving in Yemen this year was that we wouldn’t have decent facilities. Thankfully, in our home we do. But many Yemeni are among three billion folks on Earth who don’t have a pot to call their own. That’s half of the world’s people.

What’s with that?

Granted, things could be worse. It’s easy to complain that we don’t have shoes until we see someone without feet. Yemen’s neighbours in Ethiopia are running out of food. Fast. They say 15 million might die in the next few months. Usually, the children go first. Guess they won’t need any toilets.

Ethiopians are actually beautiful people. Some come to impoverished Yemen for a better life. Jean and I know several. Guess poor Yemen will have to do more. Westerners apparently have something called donor fatigue. Is that like free will?

It’s not like there isn’t any money. On your trip to Ethiopia, look down on nearby Djibouti. That’s where the Yanks are playing war games. Keep an eye out for those Predator drone planes though. The kind that just killed some al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen’s countryside. A new Predator goes for $4.5 million. That comes from the $400 billion or so the United States now gives its military every year. That’s six times what Russia spends. But hey, those Yanks need protection.

About clean water. A billion people now don’t have it. But there is wine. Canadians apparently are drinking more these days. Can you turn some into water? And then back again? For the Ethiopians I’d recommend a white Valle Berta Gavi from Italy. It’s rich on the palate, but still crisp. Clean as a vicar’s conscience.

Yeah, for some people, this Christmas kind of stinks. But you can cover the smell easy. Hugo Boss is nice for the guys. Give the ladies a more luxurious aroma, something romantic, but sophisticated for the times.

Nobody will think about Louis IX and Marie Antoinette. While their parties at Versailles were swinging, revolution outside was brewing. Eventually things exploded with quite a bang. That left everyone with the smell of blood. Less pleasant than frankincense for sure.

Frankincense was a valued trading commodity in ancient Yemen, when this region was known as “the ends of the earth.” You know, for the right person frankincense is still a great gift idea.

Yes, that person is you, Santa. Frankincense and myrrh from the ends of the earth.

Merry Christmas. Do enjoy it. After all, Christmas really is all about you. It’s about your honour and your glory.

It’s about someone else’s glory? No, Santa. You know you’re the one who loves us so much.

Anyway, I think this year Jean and I have all we need. We have each other, and more. But please. Teach us to be thankful every day. Teach us to be generous throughout the year. And wherever our travels may lead, please do help us all find some horse sense so that we don’t live our lives, short as they are, like a bunch of Yahoos.

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December 20, 2002 • Posted in ,
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