HBM113: The Last Ones

Bethany Denton’s been thinking about grief a lot lately. In 2017, two of her friends, a mother and a daughter, died unexpectedly just two months apart. Since then, Bethany’s started seeing grief in just about everything, including a caribou at Woodland Park Zoo that dropped her antlers after a miscarriage.

Content Note:
Death and Language

Bethany’s good friend, Jesse Brenneman has also been thinking a lot about grief. It was his mother and sister who died in 2017. And shortly after that, his grandfather and father died too. So over the span of a year and two months, Jesse lost his entire immediate family.

When Bethany told Jesse about the grieving caribou mother who’d dropped her antlers after miscarriage, Jesse suggested contacting his next door neighbor Ben Long. Ben is a writer and conservationist with an affinity for caribou.

On a snowy January morning, the three of them drove out to the Flathead National Forest outside of Kalispell, Montana for a walk in the woods. They hoped to find caribou tracks in the snow. Caribou used to be plentiful in northwestern Montana and throughout the continental United States. These days, due to deforestation and destruction of their habitat, the caribou population in the lower 48 could be as low as three animals.

You may recognize Jesse’s voice from his time as a producer for WNYC’s On The Media. Today he is a freelancer of many disciplines living and working in Missoula, Montana.

Further Listening: HBM064: A Shinking Shadow, in which Bethany talks to Jesse’s sister Erin about her eating disorder.

Producers: Jesse Brenneman and Bethany Denton
Editor: Bethany Denton
Music: Jesse Brenneman and The Black Spot

HBM077: Snow on Date Trees, then on Pines

HBM077.jpg

Muhammad Tariq still doesn’t know who the men with guns were.  They wore masks on their faces when they came into the teachers’ lounge.  His small, gender-integrated school in Panjgur had been anonymously receiving literature that scolded them for teaching girls.  Tariq and the other teachers didn’t take it seriously until the six men showed up.

While they beat the maintenance worker with the butts of their guns and smashed the office’s computers, one of the masked men mentioned that he knew who Tariq was, that he knew Tariq’s history of educating Pakistani girls, his plans to turn them against true muslim religion and culture.  

After just fifteen minutes, they were gone again.  Tariq doesn’t know why they didn’t take him with them, as his province of Balochistan sees regular abductions and murders and sectarian violence (see documentary below).  Balochistan is also home to separatist movements, notably the hyper-nationalist Baloch Liberation Army.

Estimates for numbers of the disappeared Baloch people vary greatly, from 1,000 to about 20,000.  Since 2010, Human Rights Watch has documented first hand accounts of disappearances, which often happen in broad daylight.

Flag of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province

Flag of Pakistan’s Balochistan Province


Documentary on Balochistan conflict, from Al Jazeera

After the incident in his school, Tariq feared for his life; said he needed to get out of Pakistan.  So he applied for and received a J1 visa, a cultural exchange program run by the US State Department.  After the visa expires, J1 recipients are supposed to return to their home countries.  

In 2015, Tariq took a plane from Karachi to Washington DC, and when his J1 program was up, he filed for asylum with a personal certainty and faith that it would be granted to him.  The USCIS is supposed to schedule asylum interviews within 45 days, with a final decision within 180.  But (as of April 2017), the wait time for the initial asylum interview is an estimated 2 to 5 years.  

Until Tariq gets that interview, he’s in a state of limbo—legally allowed to stay in the United States, though unable to find good work or afford college.

Tariq moved to Seattle, where he met his fiancé, Catherine Adams.  She hadn’t ever met a Muslim before, and she had a conservative, christian upbringing in rural Oregon.  She'd only ever heard and seen negative stereotypes of men like Tariq before they met. But they fell in love quickly and are planning to get married late in the summer of 2017.  They’ve since moved to Catherine's small hometown of Medford, Oregon.

On this episode, producer Jeff Emtman met the couple for a dinner of Pakistani biryani and apple pie, just three days before their move from Seattle, to Medford.

Music: Lucky Dragons | | | Serocell | | | The Black Spot | | |  AHEE

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