Forays in Mandarin

At Dune Cafe in Kúnmīng yesterday, Matt ordered, "young soybeans" for 15rmb. The waitress brought a frozen chunk of edamame with a tiny side of soy sauce. Matt ate a couple and noted at least the beans weren't frozen. We wondered briefly about how the soy sauce was intended to be used. Then Matt brought them back.

Matt: "Wèishénme zhège yŏu bīng?" Why does this have ice?
Waitress: "....bīngde" ....frozen
Matt: "Bīngde" frozen
Matt: "Zhège kĕyĭ yŏu...kĕyĭ méi yŏu bīng ma?" Can this have...can not have ice?

The waitress smiled sheepishly, took the plate and brought it to the kitchen. Matt ordered two more beers and came back. In one minute the plate was returned with 8% less ice.

Waitress: "Hăo ba" Good?
Matt: (Pause, looking at me). "Méi yŏu wénti." No problem. (Pause, as he ... View Post »

Among people who follow the old life-ways without change, attachment to inherited patterns is stronger than we, impatient for variety, can realize.

— Wilhelm Grimm, Grimm's Fairy Tales (1815)
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Have you heard of Santa Claus?

Patti, my grandmother, is now living with my parents. Her sight and hearing are going, but otherwise she's sharp and in really good health. She makes us smile every day.

In the past, she wasn't much exposed to all this Christmas stuff. There's been a flurry of wrapping recently. The other day she came up to me and said, "I want to see one present. I want to know what you are packaging, what you are giving." To which my mother replied, "You'll have to wait for Christmas!" She was surprised we were unwrapping them here, so I realized she thought the presents were all meant to be given away. There's also been a bustle in the kitchen, which has been confusing as well. It's really fun to try to see this lavish holiday through her eyes. This morning we tried to explain the whole Santa ... View Post »

GallerySouth India Road Trip - Thanjavur to Thiruvarur

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EssaySouth India Road Trip - The Indian Way

Lorry drivers

All signs in the small city of Thanjavur lead to the "Big Temple," the complex Brihadeeswara dedicated to Shiva. On day three we woke up early to visit its immense courtyard before the crowds had assembled. The mandir is a beautiful, golden example of Chola architecture dating back some 1,000 years. It has that dramatic pyramidic shape characteristic of Tamilian temples but without the splash of ... View Essay »

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GalleryA few things we could get used to

Golden light and the feeling of basking in it

The shuffling sound through leaves and the stomping nosies boots make on pavement

A belly full of warm food

Long, long, long shadows

The feeling of bare feet on carpet

Things that look pretty when dried

Fresh bread and the people who bake it

All those things that go translucent when the sun shines through them

The cold air; cold enough to have weight and body but not enough to make you numb

A walk in the woods View Gallery »

This was a marvellous evening. I gave my parents actual hugs. We had good conversation in English. We ate multiple vegetable items that were delicious, homemade, and uncooked. We drank an American beer. We rode as passengers in a car on a road where there were white and yellow lines and people used them! I didn't consider death once. In this ingenious vehicle, I was even able to take a nap while we were still in motion.

This evening we took a shower with water that no one would dispute as being hot; there was even steam. As I was brushing up, I remembered just in time that I could put my toothbrush under the tap to rinse it.

It's good to be home. We'll be in the US until the beginning of January. We'd love it if you'd say hello. 

GallerySouth India Road Trip - Karaikal to Thanjavur

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GallerySouth India Road Trip - Auroville to Karaikal

Matt looking at maps

The official start of our road trip we consider the morning of October 13, when we woke up in Auroville, got on the bike by 9am and really "hit the road." We were in sweltering traffic for an hour, then traveled along the breezy East Coast Road to the small city of Kairakal. The road meandered through small temple towns and villages built primarily of thatching. We followed the endless grids of rice paddies, few of them cultivating. But here and there would be a square patch of vibrant green in a expanse of overturned dirt. We met the people and conversed in the language of smiles and waves. Mostly, we felt foreign, like black Martians being propelled through these lands of rice and palm. Take a look. View Gallery »

EssayIntention, breath, action

As I've mentioned before, one of the most powerful things meditation has given me is distance from my emotions. It allows me to step back and look at them. I find them curious, sometimes. Sometimes, like with anger, I notice how powerful they can be. At other times I notice what a lunatic I must look like! (I'm a far way off from not passing judgement on myself.) It doesn't mean I don't get angry or sad or frustrated or overwhelmingly happy as often, it just means I can step away a bit from these feelings, know they're happening and observe them. It's also a way of observing how clear my actions are, based on whether or not my judgement has been clouded by anger, fear, desire, etc. Meditation also clears out all the excess baggage and stress, without which I would certainly be depleting my ... View Essay »