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Saturday
Aug292009

Natasha from Kiev

Greetings,

I recently read an article about how women are treated in some countries. For example, in Turkey, health care workers report that 65% of all wives are beaten by their husbands.  It's considered normal behavior because many, not all, women are treated as property. There and elsewhere. 

We've all read stories about arranged marriages, child marriages and the desperate plight of women in many countries.

It reminded me of a story I wrote about a women named Natasha. I put it in my book. Recycled. Here it is.

At the beginning of September 2001, passengers at the Amsterdam airport waited for their flight to Casablanca. There was Youseif, a Moroccan man from Fez living in San Francisco going home to see his family after many years. He would stay three months. 

There was a woman from Kiev with her 5-year old son. Her name was Natasha and she was tall, slim and beautiful. She was married to a Moroccan man. They'd met at the university in Kiev and now he lived in Amsterdam. She had not seen him for three years and he didn’t know his son.

He did not come to the airport to see her because he didn’t have the correct papers nor was she able to leave the airport and see him because she lacked the correct papers so she waited for her flight to her new home. 

Natasha had heard about her new home but had never seen it. She was taking her son to Morocco where they would meet her husband’s family for the first time and live their life. 

She did not speak Arabic. Her cheap red, white and blue Russian plastic baggage was falling apart at the seams. Her son was a terror and pissed his pants leaving a trail of urine in the departure lounge. Natasha was beside herself. 

I'd finished a book that summer about a woman who spoke every language and I was jumping through a window into new adventures and gather new material. Everyone spoke the same language as night fell around the roar of planes leaving gravity taking people somewhere.

We were buried at gate 54D, miles from bright gleaming duty free shops full of perfume, electronics, banks, casinos, toy stores, restaurants, gleaming diamond rings and watches, customs, clothing stores and business.

Shoppers carried plastic bags saying, “Buy and Fly.” 

It was midnight when we landed in Casablanca and walked through a towering hall full of intricate inlaid mosaic tiles and waterfalls. Huge framed images of smiling monarchs watched us. Customs was a formality and the baggage conveyer belt broke down as frustrated passengers waited. Small wheels on useless baggage trolleys were bent and stuck. They careened left and right as people wrestled impossible loads through green ‘nothing to declare’ zones toward friends and relatives.

I helped Natasha load her broken bags on a cart and she disappeared into the throng with her son. I watched her husband’s Berber family approach her. It was his father, mother, brother-in-law and grandmother dressed in traditional jellabas. They welcomed her with a hug speaking words Natasha did not understand. They scooped up the boy.

As the old couple slowly walked away I knew they would take him forever, this progeny of theirs, their connection to their son. 

Natasha, an alien in their world, an aberration, would be relegated to a new life. She moved into their world with a Ukranian passport, speaking unknown languages where she'd be welcomed on one hand and relegated to a life in a new reality serving her new family. 

She was going to be many things to them and they would manifest their loss on her. She'd carry water and gather wood. She'd cook and clean and slave away. She'd carry their fading light, hopes, dreams and connections. Their grandson would realize everything. They disappeared into a sprawling chaotic city of five million.

Their son in Holland relied on his mobile. He could do no wrong. He was a grand man in their eyes and hearts. Many women came and went in his life. It was his dark eyed nomadic destiny. 

When his wife was trapped in the airport he was with a prostitute and he didn’t have the correct papers anyway. He wasn’t lying when he said his family would take care of her.

This was the story I whispered to Natasha but she found it hard to believe.

Metta.

Thursday
Aug272009

Butterfly of Consequence

Greetings,

The bats are back. They are roosting in the shade and protection of wide green fronds. Shhh.

Thumbing through the Moleskine. Here's a spring flashback entry. On March 23rd I gave my 90-day notice at the introverted strange private Catholic school in Jakarta. I sculpted the clean, real, honest and clear missive focusing on a June departure. Thank you for the opportunity. Time to fly. Enough.

I'd been alerted on January 9th when the Director sent an SMS to Surely, my supervisor. Ironically the big D wasn't wearing her specs and also sent it to me. It was a Friday night, Surely and I with her two kids had visited a local bookstore and then sat down at an Indian restaurant for nan, curry and sustenance with flavor. We were outside. The SMS arrived in a brown paper bag. Innocuous.

Briefly, it said, "Grade 4 parents called Terrible, the principal, and they want Tim replaced. We have to talk."

This was a positive sign. It alerted me to the realties, the parental influence and how I needed to refocus and redefine for myself, kids and parents, the specific balance between academic responsibility and freedom. Simple.

I learned some were not happy with the academic progress and structure. Some, not all, the parents were unhappy with my methods, the material and the personal evaluations and feedback I was giving their child.

I took immediate steps in class to make sure the kids and their parents were:

1) writing/sharing this balanced approach to learning in their daily Agenda notebook. Some parents, especially those activily involved in their child's educational progress would read it. Accountability. 

2) understanding the benchmarks and various assessment on process tools - speaking, reading comprehension, listening and writing classroom evaluations and academic expectations. Get it in writing.

I shared the responsibility with kids and parents to understand the what, why and how process in the classroom and beyond.

I considered my options. They wanted me to stay for another year but I'd learned what I needed to learn about their system, parental controls, influence, mediocrity, became a better teacher and knew it was time to complete the little chapter and turn the page. 

After I submitted a copy to the Director of English who was shocked to realize I'd acted to regain my freedom from the tyranny with such a responsible dignified and professional personal action, I dropped one off at Human Resources.

On my way out of the administration zone the final door handle came off in my hand, cheap stuff - "Oh, NO! I'm trapped in the system!" 

I laughed, seeing the cosmic significance, handed it to an office girl and pried open the door. Close call.

While traversing a green lawn back to class tombs breathing deep relief I found a brown butterfly with a damaged wing. I carried it on my folder to a safe place. Then I planted seeds with the kids and we cultivated a garden. Together.

Metta. 

 

Monday
Aug242009

A Chiroptera

Greetings,

I am an Old World bat. The family name is chiroptera. The sub-orders are megachiroptera and microchiroptera.

I am the only, yes! the only mammal in the entire known ecologically diverse animal kingdom that can really fly, sustaining myself on wind currents, up/down drafts and rough drafts of manuscripts and blog entries before they get cut down to size. I am too agile to get cut down. My size is perfect. I am a very valuable, important and productive member of the eco-system. I will explain.

It happened like this. 

After a night of flying through amazing black skies illuminated by a faint moon and eating insects with delicious fruit for desert I was resting in a fifty-foot tall coconut palm tree between two squashed together homes in a Ha Noi suburb.

I've been roosting under the long thick leafy branch for awhile now. It's a temporary home until my younger brother gets his wings. Soon, I hope because we need to expand our territory. It's a comfortable habitat high away from predators like snakes, cats, and creatures who enjoy tasty bat meat.

Anyway, like I said, I was roosting upside down which is the normal position for bats using my claws to grasp green fibers and I had an itch. I needed to stretch out my voluminous wingspan, my membranes. Natural enough. I rustled around and then, due my superior enhanced audio and visual systems which allow me to navigate, find food and survive, I detected a pair of eyes on me.

Yes me! I'd been seen. Discovered. I shriveled into myself. I pondered this dilemma.

After remaining as quiet as a mouse (easy to catch at night by the way if I'm feeling hyper aggressive) I peeked out from under my wings, through the leaves. Much to my surprise, sitting in his third floor room looking at me was some strange creature. 

I hung on for dear life. He seemed harmless enough.

Actually, to tell the truth I am a hybrid bat, or to be really scientific about it, a CHIROPTERA. Write that down. Try and say it fast three times and you can impress your friends at parties.

I am the MEGA and the MICRO in the Bat Kingdom. Kind of like the Alpha and the Omega. 

I have the most highly developed combination of DNA characteristics found in bats. The Mega has large eyes, excellent vision and claws on their second digit. The Micro has small eyes and uses echolocation to find nourishing insects. I have amazing visual and hearing genetic traits.

Twilight's calling. 

Metta.

 

Saturday
Aug222009

MK 77

Greetings,

Wow, said the kid novice monk not nervous, novice, to the tall strange wandering guy in Hue one day. What's that black box?

It's a podcast kid, an audio story about you and people shopping for fresh produce in their pajamas.

Really?

Yes. Really.

Metta.

MK 77....learn more

A blind man gets on a boat with a little help from his friend.

Saturday
Aug222009

Two Old Friends

Greetings,

Always up early to get out and capture light inside the old city. It's always a delightful feeling to be free, curious and wandering. Before noise and lightning bolts of laughter's language fill the air.

And so it was in Hoi An. Down to the river and Japanese Bridge to sit near two elderly women.

They were surprised to see a foreigner sitting alone with coffee. Good thick and black, mixed with ice. I smiled. They smiled and whispered. Strange man. Alone. Has a camera. It's so early for him.

They invited me to join them. We had our humanity and morning in common. It was enough. 

I imagined their lives extended all the way back to childhood, growing up here and now meeting every morning for conversation, walking and tea. Then, holding each other's arm, they'd walk through deserted quiet streets, passing yellow walled homes with red tile roofs protecting long deep brown interiors.

Interiors where ancestors whispered stories from the 15th-19th century when Hoi An was the major port in Southeast Asia and the first Chinese settlement in southern Vietnam.

Ships from all over the world arrived to purchase, among other things: high-grade silk, paper, porcelain, tea, sugar, molasses, Chinese medicines, elephant tusks, sulphur and mother-of-pearl.

Couples played badminton, stretching, talking. A boat woman set up her small portable clay figurines.

The two women finished their tea, gestured goodbye and walked across the wooden bridge to continue their morning exercise. Taking care of each other.

Metta.