Posted by: thebluemusicblog | May 5, 2017


On our way from Dominican Republic to Haiti we were traveling in a bus. It was estimated to take 6 hours. It took 13. On the border between the two countries it was quite colorful and a big taxfree market was operating with great participation from both sides of the border. All the trading and business were stressful and after some hours this local businessman took a well deserved break.
The border control was unorthodox, but after a while we were through and we made progress on our long way together towards Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

In Haiti the rainy season was having its strong consequences, flood in the main streets and it felt more like driving through a major river!

This was a more colorful of our neighbors on the street on the way towards Haiti.

Marco from the Mexican UN Campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals opened the LACA regional meeting with a presentation of the 17 SDGs and challenged us to engage with the goals. This was also the theme for the LACA meeting.

The second day of the meeting we divided ourselves in smaller groups and we explored Haiti and its culture and YMCAs.

Our group went to the National Museum and learnt about the French colonization and the fight for freedom, even fight against Napoleon and his army of 40000 soldiers. A history of suffering and pain, but also a history of pride and heroism!

Dorly, change agent from Haiti, is leading the presentation of the local YMCA youth leadership development programme under the headline of Youth Empowerment. We also learnt about a growing emigration from Haiti following the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Sad stories of humiliating discrimination and suffering for people looking for a better future.

The local chef and staff of a restaurant serving us exotic gourmet food and explaining to us what the different Haitian dishes contained and how they were prepared.

Engaged inputs from National and local YMCAs.

Our elegant host,  Haitian NGS, Gwenael Apollon and Antonio Merino, the LACA General Secretary.

This used to be a local gas station and four months ago was renovated into this very atmospheric restaurant.

These are four wonderful ladies from YMCA São Paulo under leadership of Marisia , the local CEO.

Here a coffee break meeting with NGS Oscar from Chile, located in Valparaiso, and Juan, CEO Santiago YMCA.

Greg, CEO Cayman Island YMCA, reporting from the Caribbean subregion.

Alveiro, NGS from Colombia, reporting from one of the sub regions of LACA.

The Executive Committee of LACA meeting on the last day of the assembly.

Antonio and President of LACA, Minoru.

We are still in the rainy season and the main streets look still more like a fishing opportunity!

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 30, 2017


  • Andrés Fortunato has many friends around the YMCA movement. When he invites for the 50 years anniversary celebration, we come! Last time I visited Dominican Republic we had time to study nearly all Programmes of the YMCA, from basket ball teams in great numbers over child care to pre school to primary schools and all the way to the so called YMCA village, a place where the YMCA builds brick houses in stead of collapsing wood houses for the poorest of the poor.

This is and has been the profile of this YMCA. To help the most vulnerable. To create safe spaces for children and young people, to give hope to the poor. To be a continued incarnation of Christ to the population of Dominican Republic.

This is the President, the National General Secretary and a board member opening the celebration of the 50 years since the beginning back in 1967.

Already the day before a good group of international guests were arriving and we were taken under Andrés hospitable hands and a warm welcome.

The celebrations started in Catedral Primada de Americas, the first cathedral to be built in the New World. To start in the church is very much in the spirit of Andrés and the YMCA he is leading. In the church I was standing behind a group of young YMCA volunteers, and I was impressed by their T-shirts where it said: “Servir es nuestro norte!” To serve is our North! What a great slogan for YMCA workers and leaders!

The crowd filling the impressive cathedral is the clearest confirmation of a relevant organization serving its constituency well.

Young people carrying the flag of the YMCA through the cathedral with proud smiles on young faces.

And other young leaders carrying the bread and the wine for holy communion.

​Just take time to listen to the strong voices of the choir, lifting our minds and hearts to high levels and helping us to feel the unity and friendship with one another and with Jesus Christ our brother and Savior.

Here above you can see the front side of the young leaders with “service is our North” – T- shirts. You will see Minoru Kobayashi, the President of LACA, and Ingunn also in the photo, because we all enjoyed the good fellowship in the cathedral of Santo Domingo. The Priest was giving a wonderful sermon praising the good deeds of the YMCA.

Andrés together with the Brazilian delegation in front of the altar.

On my way from church today I met a very peaceful bull. We both realized that this was not our first encounter, and the bull grunted to me: “Good to see you back in old Santo Domingo, Mr Johan!”

I grunted back: “And great to see you in such a good shape, Mr Bull!”

Then it started to rain, the sky just opened up and poured water over us in tons and tons, it rained cats and dogs and cows and bulls and even an elephant or two. Without umbrella you were absolutely lost. Seldom had I been more happy to work for an umbrella organization!

As Secretary General of the World Alliance I find myself in a lot of surprising, but very interesting situations, and I thoroughly enjoy most of them. To my great surprise I was seated together with the National Postmaster of the country at the high table. We were about to launch a new postal stamp with motives from the YMCA, and I was invited to push the stamp and sign the first day cover letter together with the Postmaster and Andrés. Since we were at it so well, I quickly invited the Postmaster to sign another first day letter so that I could return from the high table with a great souvenir. You can see the Postmaster being awarded a plaque by Andrés on the photo above.

Karina Roesch has just started working for YMCA Germany, but was also given an award just after the Postmaster. She considered to send a letter home through the post to tell the news, but I beat the post by this blogpost.

Minoru and I felt that this would be a great motive.

Next day, on our way to an excursion to celebrate the anniversary together with YMCA staff and their families, we visited Parque Independencia and paid tribute to the national heroes fighting for independence of the country two hundred years ago.

The group of international guests has been growing in numbers and we all participated very actively in the family party.

On the bus going to the place where we had our party, I was traveling together with Fabian and his sister Maryfell and their mother. Fabian was a great guy and an excellent basket ball player and he assisted me in giving the WAY gift to the President of the YMCA.

In this way he became a representative of the young beneficiaries of the local YMCA as well as a good representative of all the Members of the World Alliance around the globe.

And me proudly being surrounded by the Colombian delegation – we are having a great time together and we are planning to ride on the same bus from Santo Domingo to Port-au-Prince on Tuesday morning.

A visit to the Museum of Modern Art belongs to a successful experience and here a painting by Yoryi Morel, an internationally known painter from Dominican Republic.

Very interesting sculptures expressing the closeness to the sea.

Naivistisk art by Iris Perez, very impressive paintings, and again the affinity to the ocean.

After that the rainy season hit us in the middle of the street and we sought rescue under a roof in front of a closed history of nature museum. Together with loads of locals we spent a couple of hours doing absolutely nothing while it was pouring down in heavy streams. Tropical heat can become very chilly!

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 20, 2017


Quilts exhibitions are alien realities for most males. It means diving deep into a world of women, mostly 50+ years of age. I have visited Quilts exhibitions all over the world, from USA to Switzerland, from France to Australia, from England to Indonesia. I have seen Japanese and Indian exhibitions, wonderful creations from South Korea, from Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

For me it is similar to visit art exhibitions of any kind. I happen to love modern art, wild and unpredictable, color compositions, abstract, non figurative. Often shocking and surprising. Installation and video art.

Quilts are the same. Classical motives, especially close to the origin of quilting itself, among the Amish People. Different techniques, Double Wedding Ring, Log Cabin, Trip Around the World, Jacob’s Ladder. Sophisticated and intricate Japanese quilts full of extreme detail, light colored Indian pieces and modern, non figurative and seemingly out of shape quilts from Korea. It is a true art experience and I thoroughly enjoy it.

But more and more it is also this encounter with a uniquely female culture with an amazing history of women that fascinates me. In times of less freedom and less emancipation than some places today, women expressed themselves through compositions of colors and fabrics and intriguing sewing, the process of binding several pieces of fabric together with embroidery, the special art of quilting is elegant and beautiful and very, very time consuming. The results are amazing, fascinating, often great pieces of art.

Below a detail from the same quilt:

Quilts with hidden patterns of embroidery, giving coded messages about safe places to stay, helped fleeing slaves on their way to freedom. Women came together in closed circles to do quilting together, away from male dominance and often abuse and exploitation of all kinds. They came together in a feminine fellowship unknown and inaccessible for men, a sisterhood of the deepest engagement and solidarity, often life saving, dignity saving, giving strength and identity and pride.

It is still so much a sisterhood of mature women, a coming together of all kinds and versions and expressions of womanhood.

Above a detail  from the above quilt, to demonstrate what quilting means, the sowing on top of the fabrics and colors and motives:

Today at “Salon International des Arts du Fil: Pour l’Am❤️ur du Fil” in Nantes, West France, we are around 5000 women and thirteen men. This is by the way rated as a very high representation of male individuals.

Are we welcome? Let me say it this way: We are not unwelcome. Not at all. We are just fundamentally uninteresting. We are totally overlooked, ignored, not paid attention to. There are no men on the stage, no male Mayor to open the event, no men at all.

A long line, no, a river of women in front of “Quiltmania”‘s Boot. This is Ingunn’s favorite quilt magazine.

It is a fabulous feeling to walk around like this, bumping into so many handbags and elbows and other parts and trying to move through the crowd of experienced, dedicated, targeted and rather uncaring ladies. To see their friendship and laughter, to listen in to the conversations around specially interesting quilts and follow their never stopping flow, a river of mature women-hood from boot to boot, from exhibition hall to exhibition hall, until we all congregate in the enormous line in front of the cafeteria.

I love it and I learn from it. For hours and hours I am dwelling and contemplating on the harsh realities of women, still in a majority of territories around the world. Dominated and led by elderly, lazy morons of all kinds and versions – us – males. This is one of the areas of life still totally dominated by females, female art expressions, built on female history of the proudest kind.

This is the world I have learnt to love because of my fabulous wife, who happens to be a passionate quilter.

Ingunn took some years to accept that I really enjoyed our many experiences at quilt exhibitions around the world, and not only was the humble donkey carrying loads of quilt books, magazines, fabrics and tools. It is amazing how heavy some feet of fabric can become, if you add enough of them.

I had to talk with this guy, David Butler, another of the 13 men today. He is of course married to a quilter like myself, but unlike myself gifted as a designer and rock musician, touring with his own band “Black Owls” and here to sell his book about quilt fabrics in dark colors, made for guys…..We shake hands in an understanding kind of way – we both know a hidden world from the inside and have both learned to love it! Of course I bought his book!

Now I continue to put Quilts shows in my calendar and continue to accompany Ingunn. Enjoying the art and the colors, enjoying the depths and uniqueness of the sisterhood of Quilts and quilting.

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