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Street 21
Street 21
Yangon, Myanmar
By Timothy M. Leonar...
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Monday
Dec172018

Bhutan

A wandering Chinese monk shared a talk story with Omar.

“One day in the Himalayas I hiked to a meditation hut above Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest, in Druk Yul overlooking the Paro valley laced with rice paddies, rhododendron, fir, spruce, hemlock and barley fields.

“Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche (Precious Teacher) was the spiritual founder of the Nyingmapa old school of Himalayan Buddhism in 800 still taught in central Bhutan. Tantric Buddhism, the esoteric form of the Drukpa Kagyupa Buddhist School in Bhutan dates to 450. The state religion of Mahayana Buddhism or the Great Vehicle was established in the 8th century.

“According to legend, Rimpoche subdued many demons in Paro and central Bhutan. At one time he had two wives, an Indian and a Tibetan. He transformed his Indian wife into a tiger and flew to Taktsang Monastery in the 8th century.

“Tiger’s Nest is a series of small tight buildings built into the cliff. It is composed of intricate staircases, stone flagging, a small open air kitchen, balconies, rooms for sleeping, and meditation. I was welcomed by boys and monks who showed me a small meditation room filled with statues, offerings of rice, coins, fruits and vegetables.

“They showed me the cave where Rimpoche lived for three years. Three monks appointed by the chief abbot in Thimphu live here for three years for meditation study and are followed by novice monks in their spiritual meditations.

“Taktsang, destroyed by a fire in 1998, was rebuilt.

“I traveled east along the spine of the dragon climbing to 10,000 feet, dropping into valleys and climbing again. Distinct elevations consist of grasslands, crop lands, forests, hardwoods, coniferous forests, soft woods, alpine meadows, yak pastures, and glaciers. Barley, wheat and potatoes are spring and summer crops from 7,500-13,000’ with the tree line coming at 12,000-14,000' and coniferous replacing hardwoods above 8,000’.

“I passed West Bengal and Indian road gangs working at quarter mile intervals. They carry large rocks and crushing granite to repair and fill endless washouts. They live and work here for two or three years maintaining roads before being replaced by new workers from northern India. Their living situation is grim. Shelters are woven reeds, fortified with any materials they can find along the rivers. They carry their children on their backs as they work. Younger ones sleep along the road under torn black umbrellas.

“Ten thousand people live in the Bumthang area. Small shops and stores along the single main street serve as homes and business. Built of wood with small steel stoves and chimneys, the rooms are multipurpose; selling in front, eating and sleeping quarters in the rear. Merchandise includes thread, wool, fabric for weaving, canned goods, small toys, sweets, local spirits, spices, eggs, a limited supply of green vegetables, a few green apples, and soap.

“The architecture is Tibetan. Rectangular buildings are two-three stories high, a pitched roof with open space holding firewood and fodder. The middle floor is for storage of grains, seeds and foodstuffs. Upper floors are living quarters, broken into smaller rooms. The ground floor on a working farm is for the cattle. If not, there are windows at this level with a shop, storeroom, kitchen, and servant’s quarters.

“I arrived at a monastery in the foothills overlooking the town where 300-500 Bhutanese gathered to receive a blessing from a lama. Children and adults on timber slabs sat talking on a sun baked ground.

“Three monks blew long wood and silver jallee horns to chase evil spirits away.  The lama, Nam Kha Nen Boo, is Khenbow, a reincarnation of a former monk known for his fortune telling power. He was seated and read in a low tone of voice for twenty minutes and used a small hand held drum and bell.  

“Finished, he moved among the people touching us on the head with a statue called a Tshtshto. This dignifies the life of a human with a blessing “Have a long life.” People approached with offerings for his blessing. Bags of red string, flour, and jenlap, a nutmeg like substance, were offered. One lama handed each person jenlap. Another lama gave each person a single red string to be worn around the neck.   

“I visited the Jakar Dzong. The head lama opened large doors in the spiritual center. Ornate sculptures of Padmasambhava and flickering yak butter lamps filled the center wall. Inside another room was a ten foot high statue of the guru, bronze statues with salt and butter flower carvings.

“Display cases with hundreds of identical 5-6" Buddha statues sat in tiered arrangement extending the length of the room, reaching the ceiling. Larger images depicted historical and religious levels of spiritual attainment.  

“My meditation is on The Eightfold Path or Middle Way between self-indulgence and self modification. The eight orders are: Right Views, Right Purpose, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Awareness, and Right Concentration or Right Meditation.

“I have a diamond in my mind. I am alive and empty and present.”

A Century is Nothing

 

Tuesday
Dec112018

BS Backstory

Dark, a tour guide for Get Out, a Cuban travel company, visited Never-Never Land in 2009.

He met Strange, an H’mong man among men speaking excellent English. His nickname was Wandering Buffalo.

He worked with UXO, the Unexploded Ordinance Organization demining land in the morning and teaching English afternoons. He developed a soccer team.

Dark and his co-founder cohort Thor, a Viking singing sagas while invading Ireland helped Strange.

They established soccer team funding to take the Lao team to an international football event in Havana with caviar, cigars, goat cheese and noodle soup.

One week before leaving Strange died.

Dark and Thor made the Lao kids’ dreams come true. They went to Havana by steamship.

In 2012 they created BS offering English education to H’mong students in memory of Strange. Memories are strange.

Dark called Wick his best friend in Beijing asking for teaching help and setting up the school. Wick, a 55-year old Cuban trained lawyer and former financial analyst on Walled Street arrived.

Wick and Dark enrolled H’mong kids, used Sharp Cutting Edge texts and developed community awareness.

Dark did the marketing and publicity - embassies in China, Mongolia, South America and international companies. He filed NGO non-profit charity application documents in Greenland to facilitate Ice-9 donations.

After eighteen months of self-induced torture at BS Wick accepted a teaching job in Ulan Bator, Mongolia with yurts and steppes. Big money at a private school, he said, I need travel money for Uruguay. Try Patagonia, said IT, fresh off the banana boat.

Dark advertised for a volunteer teacher.

In the summer of 2013 Wick went to Ulan Bator, confirmed his new big money job and bought seventeen boxes of textbooks for elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced students at BS. He shipped them back by raft on the Mekong.

IT arrived in August. He met Dark in Luang Prabang overlooking the wild wide wet Nam Ou River and rolling green hills.

Dark was nervous about the situation and teacher transition. It was his baby. He’d invested his time, money and efforts in BS. He needed to feel secure in his choice.

He practiced micro-management with high anxiety.

It’s going to be ok, said Prophetic. Relax.

Dark left for Papa New Guinea seeking Mama Guinea and baby Guinean head hunters and cannibals while leading well heeled British tourists carrying clean drinking water through dengue malaria infected jungles, 5* menus and 300-count Egyptian linen.

IT began a new adventure at BS.

A Little BS

Tuesday
Dec042018

Beginning BS

There was a traveller. He was invisible.

IT - Invisible Traveller not Internet Technology.

He wandered Earth helping people discover their English courage, doing street photography and writing.

In April 2013 while polishing a new book, The Language Company in Seems Ripe, Cambodia with eagle-eyed daily discipline from 6-10 a.m. to be independently published in late 2014, he applied for a volunteer teaching position with Buffalo Strange (BS) an English school and Cuban charity in NE Laos.

He communicated with Dark, the co-founder.

The traveller first visited Laos in 2010 for a month, sailing north up the Nam Ou River for three days from Luang Prabang to Phongsali in the wilderness bordering China and Vietnam before wandering south to Pakse and entering Ratanakiri, Cambodia.

By 2019 Chinese financed damns block the flow. Electricity is sold to Thailand. 60 million people downstream in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam suffer from the economic and environmental impact.

In Cambodia he met Rita, author of Ice Girl in Banlung. They collaborated life stories forming the frame of a self-published novella.

He returned in 2011 helping grades 6 & 7 develop character and critical-thinking skills with curiosity and humor at a private school in Vientiane before graduating to a Montessori School in Luang Prabang to practice ABCs with new young friends.

In May 2013, before going to BS he went to Mandalay, Myanmar for ten weeks with Montessori kids at a private school. Ineffective management.

It didn’t meet his psychic needs. Burmese children taught him see say understand I am a miracle.

He learned. He wrote it down. He did documentary photography work. He left. He returned to Seems Ripe.

Dark contacted him in June 2013 in the off chance he was still available and interested. They talked specifics. IT went to Never-Never Land, Laos in August.

19 degrees 27’ 36” N, 103 degrees 10’48” E

A Little BS

Friday
Nov302018

A Little BS

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”- Celine

*

I facilitate English, the language of barbarians in Yangon, Burma.

Ah bliss. I salute the sun every morning from the 8th floor balcony with twinkling stars, flocks of crows and silent burgundy monks clanging gongs.

Wing song.

Bamboo grows strong. Resilient.

Laundry dries faster than a speeding sparrow.

*

One small life chapter began in Phonsavan, Laos a sleepy, dusty enclave near Vietnam. Laos is the most heavily bombed country on Earth. A planeload of bombs were dropped every eight minutes, 24-hours a day for nine years.

The Secret War in Laos

The Plain of Jars wars and scars.

Survivors and archeologists say the jars were funeral containers holding bones of relatives. Jarring fact.

Truth is beyond a shadow of reasonable healthy doubt they were drinking vessels of GIANTS.

I know. I was there 4,000 years ago.

A book entitled A Little BS is what happened more or less.

A Little BS 

Phonsavan, Laos

Wednesday
Nov282018

Cut Ice

Ghosts said, we are nothing but historical history.

Memory agreed. Voices blended with billowing black diesel exhaust and forgotten cultural memory in swirling red dust.

Two barefoot mendicants walked past Rita. One content in a simple white cotton cloth shirt and pants. A red and white-checkered kroma scarf knotted his head. He carried their possessions in three white rice bags suspended on a bamboo pole balanced on a bony shoulder. A tall gaunt man followed his trail of tears.

Man #1. These bags are heavy. I am tired of carrying them. You carry them. Bags and pole crashed on red dirt.

Startled birds flew. A brown river changed course. A woman stopped sweeping dust. A rich man getting out of a black SUV smiled at prosperity. A young boy fondling his fantasy without objection paused. A prone passive girl suffering from eternal hunger in a plywood room waiting for fake love and an easy ten bucks blinked.

An infant dying of malnutrition cried in its sleep. A mother begging for fake medicine at a health clinic holding her child shifted hip weight. A monk in a pagoda turned a page of Sanskrit. An ice girl massaged cold reality with her sharp edge of truth.

The man walked over to a large water cistern. He splashed his weathered face. He drank deep. His friend stooped over, adjusted bamboo through twine, hoisting bamboo and bags onto his bony shoulder.

Where are we going? muttering to his feet wearing red dust. #1 man said, down this endless road.

The Wild West town bigger than a village welcomed smaller. The dexterity and fortitude of millions shuffled along in a flip-flop sandal world filled with joy, opportunity, risk, chance, fate, and destiny.

They devoured French pastries and flavored yoghurt.

Ambiguity, contradictions and paradoxes assumed the inevitable. Assumptions and expectations wearing Blue Zircon saw harlequins.

A boy downstream near Angkor Wat sawed crystals of clarity in his tropical kingdom. He saw but didn’t see standing tall in a blue hyperventilated dump truck holding a rusty trusty bladed saw. Blocks of ice disguised as solidified water were longer than the Mekong feeding Son Le Tap Lake.

He unwrapped blocks. He sawed. He tapped a musical hammer at precise points defining worlds of experience into melting scientific sections.

His co-worker loaded condensation on thin shoulders, carrying melting weight to a bamboo shack. He dumped ice into an orange plastic box. A smiling woman frying bananas over kindling gave him monetary notes, Thank you for the cold.

The Language Company