Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rainy day in Seattle

It's a very rainy day today, but I'm happy enough. The Seattle-ites have been craving rain; it's been a dry rainy season. I've been writing - the rain helps the flow of ideas. I guess they are water-soluable. When I've been editing my science fiction refugee saga, "Time and Chance," I've also been thinking about how things got the way they did. Now, I'm working on a new book which includes the events leading up to the war, the resistance movement, ending on an uneasy peace. That will be continued in the book I'm working on for 2YN which deals with economic development - how people look at quality of life vs. economic growth and how they achieve it. The trade in scrap metal and explosive remnants of war and its consquences will be a central issue in the book. The bottom line is that people, even when they move out into the universe, will likely remain the same - same noble traits and same tragic flaws.

I'm back in Seattle, came up here earlier in the week on the train. Moua's family had a party at the house - Mee made "Lao spaghetti", khao phung. The sauce is made up of coconut milk, chicken and spices (particularly Lao chiles) over fermented rice noodles. Olga, one of the medical assistants from the clinic, joined us as well as Neng, another Hmong medical assistant. I'm not sure what Olga thought about the noodles, but she enjoyed the Corona beer, so the dinner was cross-cultural. Moua sent me to the station, then a few minutes later, Yong Pao, his younger brother studying pharmacy at Fresno State, arrived with another crowd to say "good-bye". Yong Pao is in his third year of school and is the leader in the class. He wants to minor in community health and maybe get a MPH. That would be wonderful.

The train from Merced to Sacramento was very late, but that wasn't really a problem since the Sacramento - Seattle train was late by 6 hours. A freight train had hit a car on the track in Santa Barbara, killing the person in the car. The trains behind it were delayed. So I worked on "Time and Chance," and watched the other people. There were two homeless guys who came in on bicycles to warm up; it was cold and raining outside. Many people went to sleep; they came prepared with sleeping bags and pillows. One couple took pictures of some of the sleeping people; maybe that was one reason I couldn't sleep.

The train ride itself was beautiful, though I had kind of scratchy feeling you get, like there's sand under your skin from having been awake for two long. I shared lunch with four other people in the dining car. At first, we talked about general topics; I really didn't want to say anything about myself because that can get weird sometimes. But they asked... and after I explained what I had been doing in Lao, one of them did something I never would have expected. He said, "Thank you for doing this work." I was really touched.

In fact, on this trip, strangers that I talk to are much more knowledgeable about the world and supportive of overseas work. In the past, people voiced very negative reactions towards Asia - "Those people don't think like us; they don't value life..." etc, etc.

Monday, I'm back on the plane to Bangkok then Laos. Should be quite hot there.

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