art work, an interesting collage


Interesting performance collage

Europe When I’m Old

Whirlpool-RapidsI met an inspiring couple at Whirlpool Rapids on the Liard River. They were gathering firewood to put in their aged camper. He was 78; she was 76. They were from Juneau, AK and were traveling on a road trip. As we talked, we found they were international travelers. In the past few years, they had gone up the Amazon, visited Antarctica, traveled to China, Tibet and Nepal (same trip I took), hiked the Annapurna Trail and spent six months throughout Peru.

When asked about Europe, he replied, “I’ll go to Europe when I get old.” After reflecting a few moments, he grinned and said, “Maybe, I better go soon.”

black shirt

No black shirt
  in Temple
No shoes on feet
No soles forward

No smoking
No spitting
No cameras

Light incense
Make donation
Gain merit

No black shirt

Women sweep

Women sweep
   leaves from road
White sun rises
Misty hills
Pink lanterns
   red and blue.

Citroen

CitroenThis is similar to the very first car I ever owned, a red Citroen Deux Chaveaux. I bought it in Marseilles. It featured a dip stick to figure out how full the gas tank was, windows that flipped up rather than rolled, and, of course, a roll-down top. It went considerably faster downhill.

sad

I feel sad.
Possessions out of place.
Relationships disrupted.
A gray sky and a chilly morn’.

The Fall is a time of new growth dying,
the sunset of the summer.
My house, that was my home, is torn apart.
Things are missing.
I live out of a suitcase, my toilitries in a bag on the vanity.
The surround sound, once 7.1 is now 3.1.
The cans of food are gone, ravioli, chicken noodle soup, all.
My office, now full of furniture and boxes, has no room for me.
Children grown, friends left behind.
Memories fading, the past crowding the present.

Tomorrow, the movers come.
Today, the last day in this house, in this town.
Yes, it’s still the States.
No matter where I go, I am still here.
Yes, I know, once I’m on the interstate,
everything will be behind me, and
my eyes will look ahead, constantly.
I will speedily go West into future time zones to
catch up with new memories.

But, today, now,
I feel  sad.
 

Give Peace a Chance

Australian rainAll we are saying
Is Give Peace a Chance
–John Lennon

(Sept. 28) What’s wrong with being an aging hippy? The obvious answer is, “Who wants to be an aging anything?” I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I was a freshman in college when President Nixon sent the B-52 bombers to Cambodia. I participated in teach-ins, discussions, rallies and marches. Looking back, I would say, “It made a difference.” It made a difference in the U.S. with the withdrawal from Vietnam. And, it made a difference to inspire and enable other popular uprisings in Eastern Germany with the tearing down of the Wall and in eastern block countries like Czechoslovakia.

I spoke with a woman from Bali, Indonesia. In planning travel destinations, I have put some countries on the low priority list because of anti-American sentiment. (more…)

Whistle Blower

(Sept 28) My father was a carpenter, a union carpenter. The whistle was a symbol. The foreman was the company man. The shop steward was the first union man on the job and usually the last to leave when the project was completed. The steward blew the whistle at 8 a.m. and the men started work and again at lunch, after lunch and at the end of the work day.

When I first got into backpacking in the 70s, my father gave me a metal whistle with a wooden ball inside. Over the years, I’ve carried that whistle on and off. If I got stuck somewhere, maybe sprained an ankle, I could call for help. This year, I carried it all over South America, Asia and the USA.

This morning it was confiscated by the Australian government as a part of the war against terror.

twitter

from Journal entry of  Sept. 22

Have you checked out twitter.com? Basically it is for text messages or instant messages. Rather than just messaging your friends to say, “I’m at the DQ in the Mall,” you send the message to twitter to let the whole world know. Everyone gets their five seconds of fame. “I’m at the subway station.” “I’m at the dry cleaners.” When your message hits the website, it shows up as the last entry. That is, until someone else’s update hits the website and their entry becomes the last entry. You are on the front page for about five seconds. After that, your entry is old news.

Instant messaging has a certain kind of appeal. When I blog, I’ve arrived in Australia, I am doing the same thing. It’s an important event in my life. The day feels special. Some people may be interested. A smaller number might be relieved. But all the Australians will be totally bored. Is faster better? I could twitter, “I’m washing my socks.” But maybe, it would be better to slow down and find something to say.

In any event, since this will actually be posted some future date in time. I probably need to update my cellular capabilities.

change

Buddhists say everything is changing. They say that from observation because everything is changing. They say it as a means of comforting those suffering from current trials and tribulation. And, they say it as a means of encouraging focus on the eternal and unchanging.

On a more mundane level, for one reason or another, I move every few years. New York to Colorado to North Carolina to Oregon to West Virginia. Each move is accompanied with moving from one home to another. Typically, I go through all my possessions and downsize. Old things go. Broken things go. Things I don’t like go. Things that weigh too much for their value go.

With each move, I typically leave a job and friends. I remember the good times spent socializing with interesting people. I think about the places I still want to go in that locale. I think about my house and how it has become a home, the changes I’ve made to it, and how fond I’ve become of my neighborhood. I know all the good reasons for going, but I feel sad to be going. I promise I will come back and keep in touch. Frequently I do, but it’s not quite the same.

Freedom

Freedom to go where we want and do what we will
Freedom to think what we want–to say it, to write it down
We can read what we want without fear of reprisal or punishment
Freedom to move, to travel, to return, to start again.

I know I like to travel and want to see more of the world than I have seen. I know I’m a tourist, a sightseer and taker of snapshots. Travel gives a sense of accomplishment–I have gone places and done things. I have seen things I did not plan, expect or dream to see. I want to say that travel changes me in a positive way–makes me more flexible, open, aware, and tolerant. I learn tidbits of geography, history, culture, politics, language, and the more practical details of tourism and travel.
I frequently have a good time, am excited by the natural geograhical wonder and fascinated by the human spectacle.
I am not trying to accomplish anything. I write and post my blogs; I shoot and upload my photos. I travel, I photograph, I journal. I post.

on the possibility of being Unique

Many of us, including myself, endeavor to be unique–to do something different, to feel special. Perhaps to observe the world from a different angle. Or to create something that is indeed creative or at least refreshing.
Through travel, I seek new and different experiences, contact with people that feel foreign or visits to places others have rarely visited.
But as I travel, I am with other tourists, travelers that are part of my group and travelers that are alone or are part of groups of local tourists. Many others have travelled here before me.
Everyone in our group has a camera. At some spots (the marker at Everest Base Camp), people take turns taking photographs at the same spot. One member of our group has a good DSLR camera; he studied photography in school. I bet he takes good photographs.
Several members of the group keep journals. I bet some of their stories are remarkably similar to mine.
I don’t think it is easy to be unique. Maybe it’s impossible. There are at least 1.3 billion Chinese and probably 1.5 billion. They are only one country.
Has someone done everything sometime? What’s new?

on Tibetan Buddhism

Potala PalaceHaving visited many monasteries, observed many religious practices, and spoken to a handful of people about Tibetan Buddhism, I come away somewhat disillusioned. I admire Tibetans for their commitment to the Dalai Lama, their belief in his reincarnation and their practice of the ethical tachings of Buddha. Their dedication is immense.
I am dismayed by the focus on rites and rituals, apparent blind religious fervor and lack of commitment to meditation.
The prayer wheel and ultimately, the automatic prayer wheel, highlight my concern. The original Buddha meditated for six years and then started his mission. The teachings of the Buddha and lamas are recorded in Tibetan on parchment know as sutras. The monks read and chant these sutras, presumably for knowledge and inspiration. However, most people are illiterate. Some of them memorize and recite short passages from the sutras. But most, have a written prayer placed inside a prayer wheel. They spin the prayer wheel (clockwise direction only) and believe by spinning it they will attain enlightenment. Some prayer wheels are designed with fins so they spin in the breeze, presumable bestowing benefits to their owners.
Everywhere in Tibet, there are prayer flags, monasteries, temples, prostraters, portraits of the lamas, images and posters of temples and signs of religion. When we were in The Jokhang in Lhasa, we witnessed a mob scene seething to worship a statue.
Prior to Buddhism, Tibetans practiced the Bon religion, a type of Shaminism. Many of these practices have carried over to Tibetan Buddhism.
When I inquired about meditation, I got incomplete responses. The monks apparently spend considerable time chanting sutras, but not meditating. The people spin prayer wheels. Once I was told, to find enlightenment, I must do good works and hope for a better reincarnation in the next life. Some told me that at the higher levels, the lamas have secret mantras and some meditate on these mantras. I had hoped that, like a western church, there would be numerous opportunities to sit in a quiet place in a holy environment with other seekers and meditate. But I did not find that.
As a tourist, Tibetan Buddhism is a wonderful curiousity. Seeing the temples, Buddhas, and sutras and witnessing the religious acts is fascinating. But I did not feel I was a participant nor did I gain in spiritual understanding. Reportedly, the Chinese government is rebuilding the monasteries to serve as tourist attractions. I guess that worked on me.
As economic progress and education continue, as the impact of western fashion, culture, and thinking impact the younger generation, I think the religious fervor and commitment will decline.

I think Tibetans should have every opportunity for self-determination. They seem happy and commited to their way of life. Having said this, their life was and is–by my perspective, a tough life. Tibetan nomads spend their days in manual labor. Sanitation and hygiene are poor. Education is lacking. Many are isolated. The visit to the School for the Blind revealed that the blind are regarded as being punished for misdeeds in previous lives. One blind boy was told he probably was a murderer in his past life. Ignorance and superstition cause poverty and inequity. I cannot say the Chinese were right to “liberate” Tibet. But having done so, they are bringing welcome changes, if only out of their own self-interests.

Act of Non-Violence

yakThe Dalai Lama, for spiritual reasons is opposed to violence. For this reason, there is no active guerilla movement within Tibet against the Chinese.
Tibetans have long used skins and fur as clothing. It is part of their nomadic heritage. Recently, the Dalai Lama asked that as a sign of non-violence to animals, Tibetans, not use skin and furs as clothing.
All over Tibet, Tibetans burned their skins and fur.

Written Language

Chinese calligraphy is only about ten percent pictorial, meaning the characters are representational and look like something. A typical newspaper might contain 2,000 to 3,000 characters. The characters are part symbol and part phonetic.Tibetan writing uses the Sanskrit alphabet. There are 30 consonants and five vowels. Squiggles aboe and below the characters change the sound. The letters aren’t letters like English, but rather short syllables. All the letters/syllables end in an “a.”

D.L., P.L. and Intrigue

wallpaperAs an enlightened one, the Dalai Lama (D.L.) returns to earth out of compassion for human beings. He choses the time and place of his birth. The same D.L. reincarnates time and time again. The D.L. works hand-in-hand with the Penchant Lama (P.L.). When the time comes for the D.L. to leave earth and his body, he communicates with the P.L. The D.L. leaves his body and there is a known period of time for the D.L. to be in “heaven,” choose his parents, be conceived, born and grow to childhood. After the “death” of the D.L., the P.L. waits several years and then begins to search in the geographical area previously confided by the D.L. When the boy is found, the P.L. administers a series of tests to ascertain that the young child is indeed the reincarnated D.L. The boy D.L. is then taken to Lhasa and raised in the monastery under the tuttleage of the P.L.
When the P.L. leaves his body, the D.L. waits a period of time and then selects a new P.L. and the cycle begins again.
The current intrigue is that the 10th P.L. died in 1989. The D.L., in exile selected a six-year old boy, Gedun Choekyi Nyima in 1995. However, upon the announcement, the boy and his family disappeared. Tibetans believe the boy is either dead or under house arrest in Beijing. In any event, he has disappeared.
The government subsequently announced a new P.L., a more appropriate one. The photo of the government appointed P.L. appears in the temples as the next in line P.L. Since then, the D.L. has announced he will not reincarnate in occupied Tibet.
Presumbaly, once the current D.L. in exile “dies,” the government appointed P.L. will find the new D.L. in Tibet. Because the current D.L. has only appointed one P.L., it remains uncertain if a new D.L. will be found.

Honking Bus

The bus driver honks whenever he passes a vehicle, usually before, during and after. He honks to warn the pedestrians standing in the highway lane, leaning on their dirt bikes and conversing. He honks using several different pitches in a vain attempt to hurry yaks, sheep and horses off the road. He honks at the drivers of oncoming buses and trucks to greet them. He honks as though he were playing a video game; he honks at anything that moves.
He seems a happy and contented driver. Maybe he honks because he enjoys driving a bus full of foreigners into the Tibetan Plains and mountainsides.

Language

We are moving so quickly that it is entirely unrealistic to learn the local languages.

Mandarin:
Hello — Nie how
Thanks — Shay shay

Tibetan dialect of grasslands
Hello — Too-deh-moe
Thanks — Ta-du-chay

Tibetan dialect of Lhasa
Hello — Ta-she-da-leh
Thanks — Tu-jay-chay

We have Nepalese and Hindi to look forward to.

Train to Lhasa

The railway to Lhasa from Beijing was recently opened with considerable fanfare. Many people have an interest in riding it. Tickets are sold by reservation exclusively through Chinese tourism agencies. But tickets are unavailable. Tickets can sometimes be bought at the train station depending upon availability.The government is encouraging Chinese from overpopulated areas to resettle in Lhasa. But the Chinese families are reluctant. They want to visit their families twice a year during the holiday season. The train now gives them an economial way to do that. It is not a tourist train. If it were, prices would go up and seats would not be available to ordinary Chinese.

Chinese Vitality

The history of China is encapsulated in Xi’an. Emperors from as early as 259 B.C. built cities here. No less than 12 imperial dynasties followed. Each successive emperor built upon his forefathers. But typically, not as an addition. They tore down the old and built the new.
This tradition continues in modern China. Under Mao TseTung, the official buildings in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing were all torn down to create Tian Amen Square. Additionally the city wall was demolished to open the city up. Everywhere in Beijing today, the old neighborhoods, the Huotongs, are being demolished and replaced with tightly packed, efficient high rise apartment buildings. Reportedly, the residents miss their old homes for a while but appreciate indoor plumbing.
On the Tibertan plateau, nomads traditionally have a winter home and a summer home. The summer homes are in the mountains. The nomads move their yak herds to higher pastures in Spring and live in the Black Tent ( a tent built from the skin of the dark colored yak). The government is replacing the winter homes. They have built brick row homes into kind of a village and want the nomads to live their. They have communal toilets.
In the valley of the Banbe River that flows into Chengdu, the government is totally overhauling the entire valley. Everywhere mining and construction heavy equipment machinery line the banks and bluffs of the gorge. In certain areas, the entire mountainside on both sides of the river are being covered with rocks and rip rap. Huge cranes are digging gravel out of the river to create a deep center course. Further downstream, no less that a half-dozen locks and hydroelectric stations are under construction.
Reportedly 100 hydroelectric dams are now under consturction. The largest is the Three Gorges Dam which displace 1.1 million people. The reservoir is 60% full and will take eight years to fill. The people that built the Great Wall are now totally rebuilding their country.

Expectations

During my travels to Asia, I hope to have a travel experience that feels foreign. Beyond that, here are my top ten anticipated highlights:

–Beijing: Forbidden City, Great Wall
–Xian: Terracota Warriors
–staying with rural Tibetan family on Yellow River
–seeing Lhasa, gaining insight into its history during the past 100 years, seeing the Potala Palace
–seeing Everest
–(trying to) sleep at Rongphu Monastery at 15,000 feet altitude
–gaining insight into spiritual understanding of Tibetans
–visiting the headwaters of the Ganges River
–trekking in the Himalalyan high country in India
–#10, meeting some different people I can think of as new friends

on learning Spanish

-Learning Spanish is a great leveler. Socially, “foreigners” don´t seem foreign. In the United States, we have a mixture of people from all countries. “Foreigners” are those with clothing that is different and accents. Even if a person is fluent in English, it´s the accent that makes them sound foreign. Here, in Santiago, I am aware that my appearance is different with my quasi-backpacking clothing and oversized knapsack. When many “foreigners” get together to speak Spanish, we all have accents, the accent of not being able to correctly pronunciate Spanish. Listening to the basic Spanish of an Iranian or Brazilian or Taiwanese doesn´t sound noticably different than speaking with my wife in Spanish. (Although speaking to the Chinaman at the Chinese restaurant was somehow different.)
-a fair number of English words have been imported into Spanish and translate directly, “Internet,” “trek,” and “camping.” Others translate directly, but are difficult to recognize. In Spanish, the English “h” sound is not pronounced. “Shorts” doesn´t sound at all like “shorts.” “HBO” is “hacha-baay-ohh.”
-it´s easier to make myself understood than it is to understand someone else, especially if the other person isn´t acting out the communication or if if I can´t see his or her lips (telephone).
-to say a few words or expressions is relatively easy. To actually speak and converse is much more difficult.
-learning Spanish can be an ego crusher. I feel like a baby that hears language all around me; yet I don´t understand and can´t express myself. When I do speak and am understood, I am excited. However, my teachers patiently remind me of the use of verbs, consistency of nouns and adjectives, and consistency of verbs and prepositions.
-even if you say the right words, you may not have communicated. I am unsure of my Spanish. Usually I change my choice of words to help the other person understand. But often I find I need to speak louder, pronunciate more distinctly–or simply have the other person look at me and pay attention. As I talk to Dawn in English, I realize she frequently doesn´t understand me, especially the first time I say something.
-the diversity of the Spanish language suprises me. Chileans take pride in their Chiliesmos. Many times I say things and the response from my teachers is, That´s a real word of expression, but it is not common here. My question is, have I learned the Spanish of Spain and that is the problem–or is my Spanish old, bookish, or stilted? I know that Argentinians say things different than Chileanos. Chile: Son diez para doce. Argentina: Son doce moenos diez. English: ten to twelve or eleven-fifty.
-one class, we were looking at cartoon facial expressions that expressed emotions. We were trying to describe them and learn the related Spanish word. A German student said she couldn´t think of the right German word. The teacher said that was not important. It was important to know the meaning of the Spanish word.

Now I join the Age …

Now I join the Age of the Blog. This is my very first blog post. It is 10 days and counting before we take off for Santiago and the great adventure. Excitement mounts! Big focus on packing. Not taking too much, too little, different season, varied activities, 2 months, one duffel bag. The challenge!