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Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

I wrote this over a year ago. It had been 14 days since I was in Asia, and it sums up many of my thoughts about this whole over-arching experience.

Asia is gone to me, snuffed out in a way I anticipated but didn’t fully acknowledge. And I feel a sense of loss. I miss having no preconceived notion of what I will find around the next corner. I miss the signs of life that are unavoidable on the street, in every window. I miss the interactivity that comes from being a curiosity.

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Employed by the bank of China she had fantastic benefits – shuttle service to work, shopping vouchers galore and a salary that allowed her to buy an apartment at age 26 – a mere dream for the majority of China’s workforce. And then she quit. SF and her husband are visibly agitated as they remember her regular 24 hour working days and tell of colleagues who sleep in the lobby at work. There is simply too little time to go home. As if emphasis is needed, they site this year’s ten stress related suicides at a Foxconn factory and assure me that this is not uncommon in China.


bar in Kunming, China (more…)

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Michele receiving a kiss from an Albino Buffalo.

Tana Toraja, I’ve been there, but I’m not sure it actually exists. Centrally located amidst small mountains inland from the expansive coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, Toraja captures my imagination like no other place before.  I am enamored by a well irrigated garden-like environment full of butterflies fluttering from orange to pink flowers, dragon-flies of extraordinary size and eagles soaring just above the peaks of pine trees. The rich coffee and fresh fruit juices might as well flow down the countless rivers dissecting the countryside. Pink buffalo pierce me with their aqua-blue eyes as I stand in the shadows of the towering boat-shaped roofs of Tongkonan. (more…)

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With map and compass in hand, we are determined to complete our self-guided trek through the enchanted hills of Tana Toraja, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. As we walk along deep green rice paddies, a couple waves to us from a balcony. They ask us where we are going and gesture for us to come in and have a drink. But we are eager to make some headway, so we thank them and indicate that we will continue on. (more…)

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In Burma, it’s all a little magical. Everyday life is so bizarre, so full of contradictions, that it feels as if the very idea of reality were coming loose. And that may well be the case in Burma. More than once during our travels, I think of Alice in Wonderland. I’ve fallen into a rabbit hole, clearly, I continue to fall, and there is no telling how deep this hole is. (more…)

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust

I have just learned to say, “How are you?” in Bangla, and I practice on a young Muslim woman dressed in black from head to toe. “Balo, balo” she says energetically smiling at me. I sit down next to her on a cement wall along the road. I ask for the name of the very young baby in her arms. “Aki” she says. From other gesturing I gather that the baby is only one month old.

Caleb, Sanjoy and I continue our walk up to the lake, enjoying a pleasant stroll and a beautiful view. On our way back down, I spot the woman still sitting with her baby and hand her a small sprig of marigold flowers that we found along the way. She starts talking to Sanjoy, who translates that she has invited us to lunch at her house. (more…)

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This advent, I have been thinking about light. Light allows me to see more detail, but I have found that sometimes darkness helps me look calmly at only a few things. I also feel less exposed in the dark and feel like I can watch without exposing others. With warm, soft light, we find the courage to see each other.

First Advent: Bodhgaya

At the Bangladeshi Vihara, devotees have lit thousands of butter lamps to remind of the Buddha’s enlightenment. (more…)

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On our long bus trip to Shillong, Meghalaya, I watched a group of four or five children comfortably squatting around the backside of a goat, curiously studying its butt. The goat had some sort of enormous growth hanging from its belly and it was profusely bleeding from its anus.

What does it mean to watch another’s suffering? What would it mean to look away? “I feel like I don’t have good defenses. I feel really exposed to all these raw impressions.” I wrote in an email to my Mom about this disturbing scene, only one of many, observed for a few moments out of the bus window. (more…)

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The photos in this post were taken on our last day in DC. Caleb and I wanted to spend our last day doing what we loved doing during almost three years of living in DC. We took a long walk of exploration. We steered into Northeast, behind the farmer’s market close to Gallaudet University, and there along the train tracks we committed home invasion: freshly washed clothes lying on a wall in the sun, a bag of groceries, a cooking station. I remember thinking: In what ways could this person’s life possibly be anything like mine? What do we share?

Traveling in India feels like a constant act of home invasion. Vulnerable aspects of peoples’ lives are laid bare. I am witness to intimacies that should be reserved for lovers and families, not strangers like myself. It feels both wrong and sacred. Discretion is an unaffordable luxury for most. Unlike the person whose home we observed by the traintracks in DC, there is not much I can do to protect the privacy of people in many places in India that we visit.
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Kolkata as a city defied my expectations dramatically. As predicted, it was a vibrant Indian city; it was the most cosmopolitan place I’ve seen in India by far. Also, as I could have foreseen, it had a bit of the dark Kali energy lurking in places. Ultimately I was surprised that it lacked the pervasive and crushing poverty I expected from its reputation. It was much cleaner than Chennai in terms of sidewalk and street condition, and there were far fewer people living in the streets where we explored.

Street view in Kolkata.

Turn the page to the Buddhist village of Bodhgaya. Here, it is refreshing to be a part of an international presence that is not about the interests, demands, and money of white people. True, there are more beggars and as many touts here as anywhere we’ve been, but the real business of this town is to serve the monks who are pilgrims to the holy site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. (more…)

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