Monday, February 27, 2012

along the watchtower

I can't sleep.

But it doesn't matter now because my alarm for 4:25a just went off. Last night, after a long day and a long walk, I went to bed earlier than my grandfather. I had a dream that the angel, Gabriel, visited me. I don't remember his message. He was beautiful, but in a way I didn't imagine.

I woke up around midnight, and my mind never stopped working after that.

Once I concluded that sleep wasn't coming back, I settled down in my favorite chair - my only chair - in my living room. I decided to read what I read yesterday because it's convoluted and wonderfully mysterious.

My favorite part is verse 36: If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. (Mark, chapter 13)

Imagine how that resounds with someone who can't explain her insomnia at 3:00 in the morning.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An interview with Traveling Postcards founder Caroline Lovell

Have Fun • Do Good: Traveling Postcards: Interview with Founder, Carol...: "We all carry a desire to be recognized and appreciated, and often it takes only a small gesture of of deep listening or witnessing for a situation of despair to turn to one of hope and resiliency."
~ Caroline Lovell, Founder, Traveling Postcards

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

right place, right time

This photo, taken last May, won the blue ribbon in its division at our annual Thailand conference. I don't give a rip about the prize. I submitted it on a whim.

This photo STILL makes me laugh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

protocol at 6 pm

Ratchadamnoen Road in Chiang Mai, Thailand, blooms on Sunday night. Located just opposite one of the gates along the old city wall, it's home to the weekly Sunday Night Walking Market, awash in colors and textures and goods for sale, ranging from cooked quail eggs to Thai lanterns. Everyone knows where it is and when it is. Setup begins between 3 and 4 pm, but crowds don't start to swell until after 6, when those looking for cheap and local savories combine with those on the hunt for the perfect souvenir. It can be a test of nerves and patience as the number of pedestrians thickens. If you happen to live in China, though, it feels about right.

At 6 pm, something very interesting takes place. The national anthem of Thailand is played over loudspeakers positioned throughout the market. Locals and repeat tourists know that everything must come to a standstill. I learned that very quickly during my first year in Chiang Mai, and this year, I went back to the market to capture the process.

The first three photos were taken from my position atop the gate. Not much room up there, so watch your feet as much as you watch your lens.

This next photo was taken just as the national anthem began to broadcast. Notice that those who are already at attention (circled for your convenience) seem to be locals or, as in the case of the two in the background, experienced tourists:

And finally, everyone catches on:

An interesting sidestory to this photo essay is that I noticed a woman and, presumably, her daughter, making their way through the crowd as the anthem played. They are in the middle of the photo below. The young woman appears incapacitated in some way. They eventually made their way down the street, and I lost interest, but going back through the photos that I took, I noticed that they appear out of nowhere. I can't find them in any of the shots taken just prior. Maybe I shouldn't watch so many suspense movies; there's always a cryptic photo involved.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a place for compassion

Just back from winter vacation, and I couldn't be happier that my incoming flight arrived 24 hours ahead of the snow. Small mercies always appear bigger under the magnifying glass of travel.

Lots of stories to post and archive, but the first comes courtesy of a current student who took the time to write me this afternoon. On behalf of the enormous (and growing) number of aged people in China, it breaks my heart. It also gives me hope that my student and others like him might be not only listening but responding to the need for greater compassion.

How are you?How was Thailand?I joined a volunteer group and I went to a gerocomium with the

group a few days ago.The gerocomium was in a town near Chengdu city.There were more than one hundred old people living

there.Because the gerocomium was pretty big, we were divided into several teams, heading to different buildings and rooms.

First, my team went to a room where two old women lived.One had amnesia.She could barely remember few things.She kept

asking what my first name was, and I told her that my first name was Li again and again, but patiently. When she heard

someone in our team had the same first name as she did, she suddenly cried.I guess it reminded her of her family.Seeing her

tears falling down, we all felt very sad. As we were consoling her and trying to make her feel better, a girl in our team

offered to give the other old woman a haircut.We talked with her for a while, then I went to another room and met the leader

of the volunteer group here.He was fixing the TV for the old man living in that room.That old man moved there from another

gerocomium, and he spoke with a strong accent.He liked smoking ,drinking teas, and he said he usually went to bed at 6 pm.I

noticed the floor was a little dirty, and with his permission, I cleaned up the floor for him.Most of the rooms were closed.

Considering the old people were sleeping, we didn't knock at the door.When we went out of the building, the other teams were

already in the dining hall with some old people, preparing performances.I joined one group and gave a dance in front of the

olders.The dance was a little stupid but quite amusing and we seemed to enjoy it more than the audience.Then I sang some songs(not

rapped)to the old people and an old lady also sang some songs about Chair Mao.We had such a great time.After all the teams

finished their performances, we took some photos and said goodbye to the old people.Some of them were very thankful and hoped that

we could visit their gerocomium more often. In fact, I was a little bummed on the way home.I felt like I hadn't done enough for

the old people.But since I am in the volunteer group, I will still have a lot of chances to do something for those people in need

of help. Now I understand your intention of asking us to do this.The world needs us.It needs our compassion, it needs our help, It

needs our love.I think I can trade my life for something meaningful rather than just enjoy what it gives me.