KJ #41, we have featured personal accounts of experiences, and most importantly,
interactions with local people, in various places in Asia societies. These
sketches do not not necessarily fit the genre of traveler's tales —
often the writer is a resident too.
We invite our readers to send us their stories of Asian
experiences and insights.
Along the Silk Road Today – Pico Iyer
get to the Desert Rain coffee-house in central Leh, you have to walk off
the crowded main street that leads to the mosque and slither through a
passageway to a parallel back lane, barely paved, too narrow for more
than three people to pass at a time, in the process forever of being completed,
so it seems, with the ruins of Leh Palace above it on a hill.
Tatami Edge –– Joanne G. Yoshida
I've become interested in the diamond pattern on the edge fabric of tatami
mats, called heri in Japanese. Little by little, these mats made
of rice straw are becoming things of the past. To me, those diamonds are
starting to feel like the soul of Japan..."
Independence: The PC or the AK47?–
Tim Patterson and Ryan
On the path of the sword, it is possible to buy
guns and train soldiers to fight well together in a matter of weeks. On
the path of the pen, it can take much longer to forge a group of people
who can fight effectively with words and photos.www.idioimagers.org
I Choose to Give Myself–
Vinita Ramani Mohan
We have spent the morning considering genocide from
the perspective of former low-level perpetrators, though we are increasingly
unsure of what “low-level” means when considered within the
context of general human brutality.
That is when we run into Roath.
He lives here. He is about 24, or 25 years old. It doesn’t matter.
He is in his twenties and he has had enough of all the seriousness associated
Tea at Shaolin – Bill Porter
(From Zen Baggage, Counterpoint, Berkeley; used with permission)
Once the tea was ready, he poured
me the tiniest of cups and a mug-sized cup for himself. We both sat there
for a minute enjoying the fragrance and then the taste. Yen-ying didn’t
wait for me to ask questions. He jumped right in. He said, “When
new monks at Shaolin ask me about the Dharma, I tell them to have a cup
of tea. If they still don’t understand, I tell them to taste the
tea. The Way is in everything we do. Drinking a cup of tea, eating, shitting,
it doesn’t matter, it’s all the Way. You can read all the
books you want, but unless you find the Way in your daily life, you’re
wasting your time.
Edith Shiffert – Jane Wieman
Shiffert has lived in Kyoto, writing poetry and teaching English, since
1963. She has published some twenty books of poetry, including both translations
(Haiku Master Buson, White Pine Press) and her own poetry. She
has now “retired to the mountains” and is living in Carehouse
Yamabiko (“Mountain Echo”) in Ohara, to the northeast of Kyoto,
where despite failing eyesight, a right hand crippled by arthritis, and
other physical limitations, she still writes and enjoys poetry, in her
early nineties.The hillsides and the changing seasons, the small animals
and birds, the flowers and mists continue to inspire her, despite the
knowledge that she can no longer hike into the hills, follow a stream
or a path and find something unexpected.
whole landscape goes
and then breaks through from the mists
pouring down Mt. Hiei
In the Valley of Lijiang – Or Giladi
Ho, a small mercurial man who appeared to be in his early eighties, shook
my hand and immediately burst into a monologue about his achievements.
Despite being suppressed by the authorities during the years of the Cultural
Revolution, he had carried on his work and cured many thousands of patients
from a variety of ailments, using locally sourced herbal medicines. His
crowning achievement was curing an American patient of leukemia, and as
he was telling me about it he pulled out a photocopy of an American pathology
lab report as proof that the patient had been actually cured.
#69 Kashgar to Tashkurgan – Notes from Far
West China – Scott Ezell
We sit on the floor eating hand-made noodles, Mahoi’s
sister gives me a shy smile and an extra scoop of sauce, consisting of
goat meat, peppers, and pickled greens. She places coals from the stove
into a steel basin for heat; we sit in a circle with our food in our hands.
When the broadcast ends the radio lapses back to static. Mahoi turns it
off, and the only sound is the wind sharpening itself like a blade against
the corners of the hut..
In Mandalay, Franz Kafka
Meets Lenny Bruce
— Roy Hamric
The Moustache Brothers, three plastic-faced comedians
— Par Par Lay, Lu Zaw and Lu Maw — and their band of family
members and friends have spread laughter across Myanmar for decades. But,
in this bizarre, benighted land, if the joke’s about the generals,
laughter can be dangerous. The price to be paid can be hard labor crushing
rocks in a labor camp where people die from overwork and malnutrition.
Par Par and Lu Zaw each served six years as political prisoners, including
hard labor and solitary confinement.
Soman’s Little War – keith
Children not yet ten push on the barrel and run
with it, rotating the turret and running with it, around and around. The
barrel rises and falls across their chests or bellies or noses as the
ground rises and falls beneath their feet, and when they reach a certain
point in the cycle they throw their bodies over the barrel and tuck their
legs and together they are carried forward on the momentum of a long steel
pipe cast with the intent to commit murder.
the Foreigner – Wendy Nakanishi
This being Japan, the TV crew is determined to wrench the greatest emotional
poignancy from their program, to dredge up any vulnerabilities possible.
Y-san dreams up scenarios and my husband and I and occasionally our children
adopt the unaccustomed role of actors. Y-san is able to make me weep twice,
which I find almost unforgivable.
Boi Mela, Kolkata's
Festival of the Written Word –
Maura Hurley Basu
Organized annually by the Publishers’ and Booksellers’
Guild, this all-age attraction, which draws a total of 14 million book
fans, can only be described as colossal. Over 600 international and national
publishers are set up in a maze of temporary stalls and no less than 200
“little magazine” presses take part — the fair is so
vast that you can simply never see everything.
Barber – Dustin Leavitt
goatee and shaved head perplex many Vietnamese because in their country
beards are for venerable old men like Uncle Ho and bald heads for monks,
and I am neither. Their confusion revolves, as so often with Americans
in Asia, around my role in life and what deference I am owed.
Biung Back Home
– Scott Ezell; painting by Tang Min Sho
is from Hong-ye, half an hour north of Taidong City along the valley road,
and his albums are everywhere in villages along the coast and up the central
rift valley. Aboriginal dance groups from all tribes practice and perform
to his songs. He’s got a TV show, all the kids can play his songs
on the guitar and when they talk about him they shake their heads and
grin and say the words idol, star.
#54: Dogs Barking at the Full
Moon – Rey Ventura
Rey,” he began, “it must be clear to you that you are now
under the jurisdiction of the people's revolutionary government, spearheaded
by its advance forces, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the
New People's Army.”
How could I disagree?
Mediating Between Nature & Imagination:
Sudo Hisao –
All sorts of creatures riding the hazy border between life and
death, heedless of our human time, coming back and forth leisurely across
the border of fantasy and reality -- they have been at the heart of the
struggle between people and nature all along. I have chosen as my subjects
these creatures abused and neglected by the dream of progress. Each is
like a discarded aspect of humanity, for we are a part of the natural
world. By rediscovering these missing faces from nature, we rediscover
the lost or dimmed sides of ourselves.
#51: Forgetting, Remembering:
Japan & Brazil – Terry Caesar
appear to have less in common with each other than Japan and Brazil. Consider
only the woman in which each country is personified. The geisha
is a figure of culture: exquisitely robed, accomplished in several arts,
hushed in manner, and refined in behavior. The samba dancer is
a figure of nature: gloriously unrobed, accomplished in only one art,
exultant, and exuberant.
#49: Looking for No-Gun Ri
– Valerie Perry
The truth of
the events at No-Gun Ri — and up to twenty other similar incidents
— remained hushed up by the South Korean government for almost 50
years, and the U.S. Army had long denied that American troops were anywhere
near No-Gun Ri at the time of the alleged massacre. When I first heard
of the AP report that raised this issue, while teaching at a large university
in South Korea, I expected many of my Korean friends and students to share
their reactions. Surprisingly, no one seemed to even know anything about
it. I set out to find for myself the village no one was talking about.
- Naomi Luttio Wolff
"When I turned four, we moved to rural Kyushu, Japan's southern-most
island. There, it was easy for me to feel Japanese. In fact,
the children in my nursery school had no concept of a foreigner and one
boy asked our teacher why my parents dyed my hair blond."
#46: I Spy: Learning from Pyongyang
TV – Philip J. Cunningham
it like watching North Korean TV day in and day out?
“We are learning a lot, because the pictures inadvertently reveal
things, even though the coverage is quite controlled. For example, we
have found that one-quarter of the people we see on TV wear no watches,
about half are not wearing socks. Workers in factories often have no gloves
or safety equipment.”