Tag Archives: boise

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, US State Department reps visit Boise

Last week, I interviewed Vincent Cochetel, the Regional Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the United States and the Caribbean, and Kelly Gauger, Deputy Director for Refugee Admission at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration for Radio Boise. The two officials spoke at the 4th Annual Idaho Conference on Refugees at Boise State.

I have been working with Radio Boise to set up a news and public affairs department for months now, and wanted to test out my equipment, use the editing room at the studio and try out some different formats for journalism at the station. I’m also quite interested in refugee affairs and had some questions for Cochetel in particular.

Here is the story that ran today on Radio Boise:
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This is a new format for me and I’d love to know what folks think. I know I have a few audio problems that audiophiles will notice. My editor’s hat also tells me it’s way too long, but I also think that community radio provides a good forum to allow interesting sources to speak at length on interesting topics. Both Cochetel and Gauger had a lot to say, and my interviews with three refugees confirmed and illustrated some of their points. At this point, we don’t have a dedicated time slot for reported stories like this at Radio Boise, so we had the freedom to run it long, before the afternoon syndicated newscasts (Free Speech Radio News and Democracy Now).

One thing I’d like to follow up on is the point toward the end about the intersection of economic, or voluntary migrants and asylum seekers. Increasingly these two groups are occupying the same space, whether it’s in urban Africa or in rural parts of the United States.

Here is a bonus clip on Vincent Cochetel’s 1998 kidnapping. He was held hostage in the Northern Caucuses for almost a year:

I am more appropriate than previously thought

I’m taking out another contract on my garden today. It seems our trellis is in the right-of-way and the Ada County Highway District wants to make sure I won’t whine, should they ever exercise their rights.

A few months ago, Boise Weekly readers might recall, I was served with a fence violation for erecting a trellis in my front yard. The fence violation spiraled into a full-fledged historic preservation violation because of the materials used in its construction and because of the major landscaping change which the trellis surrounds: a nearly 2,000 square foot front-yard garden.

The garden is thriving. We have been eating salad every day, carrots are maturing, radishes are almost all eaten up, some peas are crawling up the trellis, though looking a bit yellowed already. Everyday I walk barefoot in the garden and eat turnips right out of the ground, graze on the lettuces. Every day multiple people walk or bike by and stop to chat about the garden. At nearly midnight last night a group of cyclists rode by and shouted, “Nice garden, dude,” as I read on the porch.

So it is with great pleasure that I report to you that the City of Boise has deemed the garden and trellis “appropriate.” That is the term they use. I have a Certificate of Appropriateness pending for my little urban farm.
It’s pending because I need to get my license agreement with ACHD done first. And because they’ve asked us to put some permanent greenery along the street-facing edge of the yard. So I need to find a low-water, low-profile creeping plant that will grow down a nearly vertical slope to the street but not take over the garden, if anyone has any recommendations … something that is not grass.

But the other interesting thing that came out of this process is that the city’s Historic Preservation Department plans to convene a working group at the end of the summer to discuss gardens in Historic Districts. Sarah Shafer, the lead staffer at Historic Preservation told me that the commissioners prefer raised beds but said that the were looking for some more recommendation on how to handle gardens in historic districts.

I argued in my letter to the city that gardens are inherently historical. And if I end up participating in the garden working group, I will argue that raised beds are inherently limiting and a touch elitist. Well, I won’t argue, but I will try to make that point as graciously and eloquently as possible.

I can’t be sure, but I think our giant front-yard garden has inspired some others in the neighborhood to plant it up. There is a yard a few blocks down that has a ton of corn and beets coming in and I noticed some new raised beds in an alley around the corner. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people started finding tomato plant volunteers in their lawns instead of dandelions?

I’d like to share the letter I wrote to the city requesting the Cetificate of Appropriateness … you can read it after the jump. Hell, it’s public record, so anyone can see it anyway. In the letter, I stressed that the city is encouraging urban gardening and other environmentally responsible practices on the one hand but limiting people’s imaginations through zoning on the other. I think they realize that and are looking for a solution.

In the meantime, I’m hoping that whatever neighbor complained about my plot will come forward and talk to me about it. I have no hard feelings, even though the process of being forced to defend my land-use choices has been pretty annoying. I would say now that I still believe the city has a right to regulate things like fences and landscaping to some degree, but that it would have been better for any aggrieved neighbor to have a discussion with me first, and then turn me in if I was an asshole about it. That’s a more local solution.

Continue reading I am more appropriate than previously thought

Burying Placenta in Boise

Placenta TreeBOISE – The afterbirth sat in our freezer for nearly 18 months.

We didn’t know what to do with it in San Francisco, where Petra was born. There are always people watching when you are trying to bury an organ in the city. But in Boise it’s no problem to head into the hills, a double bagged organ in tote. So after three years on the chilly Pacific Coast, we moved back to Boise this summer for the freedom to dig a hole somewhere.

Before Tara started growing a belly I might have thought the placenta thing strange. But then, I had never seen one before. I had never seen a belly button 8 months along either. I had never seen a delivery room. I had never seen Tara so focused. Nor a baby that small. I never imagined the umbilical was so huge and I never fully grasped how the belly button actually formed.

I always thought the doctor tied a knot or something. That’s what my mom used to tell me, beaming with pride at my perfectly formed navel. As Tara rested and Petra nursed, our midwife unfolded the placenta and held it up gingerly, revealing an amazing network of veins that look like an overgrown acacia tree.

It’s been compared to the Tree of Life. Apparently people used to look at their placentas. Lots of indigenous people still do, according to a Native American friend. He’s not sure if he’s ever seen one, but assures me it is common place across the continent.

Once we got a good look at the organ that fed and shielded Petra for nine months, we couldn’t just have it tossed in the hazardous waste bin with all the bloody gauze and stuff. So we took it home. Tied tight. The bag jiggling around in a pink plastic tub. We had a lot of stuff — including day-old Petra — to carry in, but I didn’t want to leave Placenta in the car for the second trip upstairs.

It might draw flies. Or get car jacked.

Placenta went in the freezer while we learned how to crawl and sing and sleep differently. I often forgot she was in there, taped in a neat bundle. Except when digging for Cherry Garcia. Or frozen peas.

Though it may have been broached, we never considered eating the placenta. Neither Tara nor I are organ eaters. Nor do we read the Hollywood tabloids. Apparently more famous people and fadishly spiritual people are looking at their placentas again these days. There are ceremonies posted on the Internet, recipes for roasting or drying placenta and odes to the organ and it’s benefits.

Earlier this summer we packed the apartment and I drove Placenta 12 hours up to Boise to a new, upgraded, North End bobo freezer. And then one day we headed into the hills to a spot near the place where we spent our wedding night and put the placenta in the ground facing the morning sun.

The organ still looked fresh and I was a little nervous someone would see me carrying a shovel, my right hand blood stained, an empty plastic bag in my back pocket.

What did organ thieves do before baby wipes?

Then we drove back to town, got a turkey sandwich and went to the hardware store. It was our kind of ceremony. Poorly planned but perfectly executed.

We can’t wait until Petra tells her kindergarten teacher that her placenta is buried in them there hills.