left on walnut

Tag: travel

Pink Stripes

These little convenience stores are all over Vietnam. I first noticed the pile of pink striped fabric on the floor of what might be a convenience store in Vietnam.The little open-air factory was abandoned when I was there taking photos. Then, next door, I noticed a little clothing factory behind a chain link fence where the dresses were being made.I've had dresses like this: big, comfy, cotton knit. I've not thought much about where and how they were made. All was quiet in the open-air factory. The women were on a lunch break, I suspect.Sweatshop 2-2In a few minutes, one lady came back to work in the convenience store. Her job was to trim the threads close to the seams.chickenA chicken, tied up outside, wore the same striped fabric, but in green.

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The Faces of the Bayon Temple

Some two hundred stone faces gaze down from the walls of the Bayon Temple in Cambodia. Historians say the faces might be the likeness of King Jayavarman VII. He was the Buddhist king responsible for building the temple when he ruled the Khmer Empire. Cambodians love this king. He built “resting houses” which now are hospitals.

Others say the faces are of a Buddhist god of compassion. Either way, the faces seem serene.

The Jungle Temple

Trees grow up through the stones of the temple of Ta Prohm. We arrived just as the sun was setting on this mythical place.

Jungle temple 2

 

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat was the first of four temples we visited in Cambodia. Angkor Wat-2-3 Carvings grace the stone walls of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is an expansive temple city, dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. Inside the city walls of Angkor Wat. The blocks of the walls are laid without mortar. I'm not sure who this is. She rests in an inner sanctum of Angkor Wat. Bas-relief frieze detail in Angkor Wat.

Biking Vietnam

Our bike trip through Vietnam was booked through Vermont Biking Tours. We flew to Hanoi in mid-December to meet eight other couples. Some folks were in their 40’s. One man, an incredible cyclist, was 78. Most were in their 50’s. Two men in our group served in Vietnam during the war.

Biking started when we arrived in the central region of Vietnam, near the towns of Hue and Hoi An. After a short flight south, we biked through the Mekong Delta. Along the way we saw temples, pagodas, markets. We visited Ho Chi Minh’s house and watched water puppetry. We saw Da Nang and bamboo boats. We saw small temples within rice paddies. We saw thousands and thousands of mopeds and scooters. We visited the heartbreaking Củ Chi tunnels.

My thanks to Cameron for most of these photos. It takes a rider more coordinated than I to snap photos as we pedal along.

Freedom Trail

Proud Americans walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, snapping photos of Old Granary Burial Ground. Moms and Dads gape up at the tower of the Old North Church. “One if by land and two if by sea,” they tell their children. They read from brochures that Benjamin Franklin attended First Public School until he dropped out.

Ben was lured, no doubt, by cool water on late summer days.

Third Planet of the Sun

Since my return from India several people have asked, in one way or another, if the human condition there was difficult to observe. A mother, baby on hip, taps on the car window asking for money. A man with an open leg wound reaches his hand out for help. A man with no legs hobbles on his hands.

Guilt can be a healthy, compassionate endorsement of accountability and responsibility. Our compassion reminds us that to be truly human is to be uncomfortable because decency compels us to be better than we are.

We fall short as moral beings if we only steward our little corner of the world. I have been thinking about how I can be more effective in social change that reflects my values of inclusion, fairness, opportunity, and concern for the environment. Not more pure, just more effective.

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

by Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.
Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they’re right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they’re light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

The Elephants of Jaipur

Elephant bulls aren’t kept in the elephant barn. Cows are more cooperative.

During British rule, elephants were put to work clearing the very forests from which they’d been captured. Timber was in huge demand for the new rail system of India.

By the time the British left, much of the forests of northern India were destroyed. Since then, poachers and tuskers and population growth have all taken a toll. As farming expands, elephants have little habitat remaining. Elephants in the wild now ravage farmers’ fields to find food. Villagers chase them back as best they can to save their crops.

Elephants are still domesticated for heavy construction. Others give rides as tourist attractions.

Our best choices preserve the land and the integrity and stability of its animals. These elephants may or may not have better lives than their cousins in the wild. I’m certain they have better lives than most livestock raised and killed in cruel conditions in the US.

We did not ride the elephants of Jaipur.

Along the Road in India

We did a fair amount of travel while in India. Delhi to Agra to Jaipur to Rishikesh and back to Delhi. Mile after mile along the roadways we saw carts with fruits and vegetables and potatoes, little tobacco carts, boys playing cricket, and open air cafes.

We saw men lying on cots in the heat of the day, crouched under trucks during a brief rain, splashing themselves with water from a pump, peeing beside trees, and talking in groups at cafes.

We saw women carrying packages the size of coffee tables on top of their heads.

We saw cows, dogs, mules, bison, monkeys, sheep, goats, and camels. We saw cars, vans, trucks, buses, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, and tuk tuks. Lots and lots of people walking.

People honk their horns all of the time in India. Honking means something different in India than in the States. In the US, a horn might mean “Don’t pull out in front of me, you Nimrod!” or “Hurry up! The light turned green already!” or “We’re about to crash, you idiot!”

In India, honking isn’t so aggressive. A honk seems to mean, “There’s a sliver of road between you and that bus and since I’m obligated to squeeze past I thought I’d let you know by honking my horn.”

I will never understand how all the traffic and animals and people coexist as successfully as they do on the roads of India.

Lunch in Rasool Pur, India

If you are very lucky, you may someday find yourself in the boyhood home of Ajay Kumar, in the little village of Rasool Pur, India. Rasool Pur is northeast of New Delhi, on a long, hard road to Rishikesh. Ajay was raised in this home until he left for the big city. Ajay’s mother still lives on the farm, in the home built by Ajay’s dad. Ajay’s brother lives there, too, with his wife and kids. On their farm, they grow what they need for the family.

Ajay’s mother may be 65 or 70. Birthdays weren’t counted. She greeted me with a hug. I was shown a chair by the fan in their open air kitchen. We were served betha, a rich, spicy, slightly sweet masala made with pumpkin. We had fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and a potato dish. Naan appeared, hot from a fire that I never even saw as we were shown around the farm. A second piece of naan came just as we finished the first.  We drank a cold, spiced buttermilk, courtesy of the the two cows tied in the yard. Dessert was a cold cream of wheat called sojji (or sooji or suji, my notes don’t seem clear).

The meal was followed by family photos, just like in the rural Indiana town where I grew up. Then Ajay’s mother walked us to the car. I couldn’t understand one word she spoke that day, but her message was clear as she took my face in her hands, “Come back any time. You are always welcome here.”

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