Monday, April 19, 2010

TBR 2010 and back in Vientiane

I'm looking at my list to decide what books I should bring with me when I go to the field on Weds. I have 36 books on my lists and I've read 11 of them so far. Happy to be making some progress on the pile!

Primary list:
1. Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen - reading
2. A War of Nerves by Ben Shephard - reading
3. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West - Xieng Khouang
4. What I talk about when I talk about Running by Haruki Murakami - reading
5. number9dream by Daid Mitchell
6. Wandering through Vietnamese Culture by Huu Ngoc - Vientiane
7. In an Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
8. Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
9. The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins - Xieng Khouang
10. The Care of Strangers by Charles E. Rosenberg - Vientiane
11. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
12. Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon - Audiobook, anywhere

Alternative list:
1. Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus
2. Hard Times by Charles Dickens - Audiobook
3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens - reading
4. Herzog by Saul Bellow
5. Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham - Audiobook
6. The World without Us by Alan Weisman - Audiobook
7. 2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolano - Vientiane
8. Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku - Audiobook
9. Brasyl by Ian MacDonald
10. A Grand Delusion by Robert Mann - Vientiane
11. BuddhaDa by Anne Donovan - reading
12. Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing

Alternative alternative list:
1. The Execution Channel b Ken MacLeod
2. Shriek: an Afterword by Jeff Vandermeer
3. Slan by A.E. Van Vogt
4. Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint
5. The Redundancy of Courage by Timothy Mo
6. The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen
7. On the Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald
8. Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan
9. White Noise by Don DeLillo
10. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
11. The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
12. I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume

In other news, I just returned from Nepal and I'm in my little house in Vientiane, where a big storm is now blowing up. Just stepped in the door, to be greeted by my cats - and already looking at going out to the field. Better not tell my cats.

I'm happy that the Mekong River is a little higher than when I left. The drought and lack of water for irrigation was pretty upsetting. Now, after a meeting of the Mekong River Commission with the Mekong Basin countries and China, they came to some sort of agreement that China would release more water from its upstream dams. And it has started to rain, which also helps.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My World

I've been doing some work and touristing in Nepal for the past three weeks. These are a few pictures of a hike around Dhulikhel. I last visited this town on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley and hiked to Namobuddha shrine and monastery in 1989. A lot has changed - but a lot remains the same.

From Nepal Mar - April 2010

Because of the general unrest in the country, I decided to hire the services of a guide. He was great. In addition to walking on trails which didn't follow the dusty main roads, he knew a lot about development and the education system in Nepal. He is the head of the school committee for the community managed school in his village. We had a lot to talk about.

Above: Prem on the stairway leading to the Kali temple.

The beginning of the hike went straight up the stairway to the temple. Once there, we had to walk carefully as the army had set up a camp around the temple, complete with razor wire and fortifications to protect the nearby cell phone tower.

That was certainly a big change. However, the fields and the labor of the farmers preparing their fields has not changed much.

From Nepal Mar - April 2010

View of Namobuddha Monastery from afar.

From Nepal Mar - April 2010

When I was there in 1989, there was only one building at the top of the hill, where a few old monks and nuns greeted us. Now, the monastery extends around the hilltop and on to the next hill. Several hundred monks are in residence and it's possible for foreigners to stay there and meditate. Next time...

From Nepal Mar - April 2010

Above - view of prayer flags from the top of the monastery.

From Nepal Mar - April 2010

View of the Namobuddha shrine, on a shoulder of the hill below the monastery. The story itself comes from the Jataka Tales, the 500 incarnations of the Lord Buddha before his rebirth. The tale of Namobuddha is from his last rebirth before his final re-birth. The Boddhisattva was walking near this place and came upon a starving tigress and her five kittens. He was so distressed to learn of her suffering that he gave up his own body for her and allowed them to kill him and consume his flesh.

The shrine allows people to think of his sacrifice and his loving kindness to care for all sentient beings.