Friday, June 06, 2008

Skywatch Friday 6 June

Since I didn't post anything last week - it was quite a week - I have some catch-up to do. The monsoon has come in and the changes in the sky are incredible. On Wednesday, just after lunch, the light suddenly darkened in my office - a giant black cloud slid over the sun and the rain poured down.

This is my neighborhood temple. The top picture is looking out across the Mekong River to Thailand and the picture below it is of the temple buildings and the sky behind them.

Going back through the week - we drove back from southern Laos on Monday, and crossed the path of a thunderstorm. The clouds were this weird:

I didn't really fool much with the above picture. Though I fooled with this one:

Going further back into the week and weekend - we had some guests visit our program and we took them on a trip to a remote district. I was worried for much of the trip - what if it rained like crazy and we got stuck out in this remote district, or worse still, on the road. In fact, everything worked out, much better than we expected. The clouds moved in on Saturday morning but it didn't rain.

This village above is a grouping of bamboo and thatch houses, some of them built in a long house style with several generations living in the house. A few people in the village seemed to have bicycles, a few less had motorcycles and no one had access to a car. Since it took four hours to drive the 70 kms. from this village back to the province capital, you can just feel how isolated this village is. Imagine a villager being struck by appendicitis.

Fortunately, our work has helped people in these villages - part of what we've been doing with our project is to upgrade medical and emergency care at the district hospital - so folks in villages like these have better access to health care.

And my last picture was taken on Sunday, 25 May. Across the river, in Sri Chiang Mai, they were holding a rocket festival. Communities depend on rice cultivation in the fickle weather patterns in Laos and NE Thailand have festivals where they shoot homemade rockets, fashioned out of bamboo and PVC pipe, into the sky. They can go very high before dropping back to Earth.

I heard the whistling of the rockets and decided to watch them near the market. By that time, the clouds were blowing up - as in this picture - and all the people in the market were securing their stands so their goods wouldn't blow away. A moment later, the sky opened up.

They continued shooting the rockets into the sky - even though the spirits of the sky had gotten the hint and provided some rain.

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday which is hosted over at Wiggers World

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Clash with the past - my old home and my new one

I was surfing around the web and found this New York Times article: Twenty Years after Ossining's Riots, Mood of Racial Harmony Prevails, which was written about the schools I went to. The two elementary schools I had gone to were very different in racial mix and when we got to middle school, the clash of two cultures was frightening.

I remember when they started to experiment with busing - in time for my younger sisters. The parents were up in arms. "Our kids will be on the bus all the time; they'll have no time to play." As it was, no one noticed that I spent about an hour each way on the bus since, although we lived about two miles from the school and I could have ridden a bicycle if my mother had allowed me to, I was at the beginning of the bus route in the mornings and the end in the evenings.

The parents acted like our homes were being invaded. And it held off the inevitable culture clash when all us elementary school kids ended going to the same middle school. I wanted to hang out with my old friends but they had changed. It was the 60's and everything was changing.

I ended up getting involved in social issues during high school. I became the coordinator for an after school tutoring program and during the summers, I volunteered as a day camp counselor at the local Ethical Culture Center. I certainly learned creativity that summer - we got all sorts of weird donations - but we always figured out how to make art projects out of them!

And since I was an adolescent, I had the typical child/ parent clashes. My mother didn't approve of my after school activities. I was already learning that home means different things, and I was becoming at home in the world.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Home in the 60's

When I was growing up, just north of NYC, everyone I knew moved. We lived near one of the research branches of IBM, which everyone knew, meant, "I've been moved." Well, I moved to this school in time for 4th grade, leaving behind my closest friends in the world. Even though the distance between our houses was only ten miles, it was a rural area - no bus service and no transportation if our mothers didn't want to drive us.

It took me a while to stop feeling like an outsider. For the first few days at the new school, I sat by the edge of the playground, watching the other kids while I wondered what my old friends were doing. In the evenings, when my parents returned from work, they asked me if I had made new friends yet and I would say, "No," hoping that they would pack everything up and we'd return to our old house.

One day as we ran back into the school after recess, I nearly tripped on another girl. "Can you help me? I'm making dandelion rings." She had tied dandelions into a chain that was about 2 meters long. "It's very delicate."

"I can see," I said. "You must have taken a long time." I stooped down to carefully gather the other end of the chain. "It's nice." She put her head down to hide her smile.

Sometime after that I had a dream. I was on the playground with my old friends, and they were choosing sides for a game. Not only did they not pick me, they ignored me. I yelled at them but they didn't hear me, and in fact, they talked about me. They said nasty things.

When I woke up, I was free. I remembered the incident that must have generated this dream - we were playing a game in a circle and I ran inside before the bell rang, telling them to follow me. It was still five minutes before the bell, and then I realized when I got to the classroom that I had left my bookbag outside. I ran back out as they were coming inside. "Oh," one of them said, acting surprised. "We thought you left it out there on purpose." Then they looked at each other and laughed.

I had felt hurt for a second. I brought my bag inside but quickly forgot the incident. I guess what I saw in the dream was my perception of what was really going on.

So the simple dandelion chain stretched out and chained me to a new home. I enjoyed the remainder of elementary school and then middle-school happened.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Old home

old house2, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

I don't know the people who live in this house but I can imagine the inside and the life that goes on inside. Three or even four generations live her, with grandmother spending most of her time in the house, cooking or resting, maybe going outside to talk to the neighbors. And taking care of the younger children.

She probably has several children and their families in the house. It's about half and half whether a newly married couple with stay with the husband's family or the wife's family - depends how crowded the house is and which household needs more labor. Each family lives in one bedroom in the house, the younger children sleeping with the parents, the older children sleeping in the living room area, all the cousins sleeping in one bed under a mosquito net.

There's always someone in the house, so if a guest comes over, they can entertain the person. And to protect the house.

Many houses are further off the ground, so you can walk under them. In the hot season, the underside of the house is cool and the old people either sit on a mat, chewing betel and passing the time, or resting in a hammock.

rain in seno

rain in seno, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Typical rainy day during the monsoon season. Even just getting out of the truck and running three steps, I got soaking wet.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

June's theme is home

The June theme at Nablopomo is "home," which is certainly a broad topic. Everyone talks about home sometime during the day, often meaning the place where you were born, or the place you always return to. Who was it that said, "Home is the one place where you can't be turned away." Did anyone say it, or did I just say it?

We learn early on the difference between a house and a home. Home = family whereas a house is a sterile thing, just a structure. You add the things to the structure that attract family members like a magnet, especially at certain times of the year, and presto - home.

Yet, for most of the world's population, home is an ideal which often doesn't see reality. And with the tragedies in Burma and China, home - bamboo hut or crowded apartment building - can be destroyed in an instant.

So what is home? What does it mean to you?