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Friday
Dec242010

Weave heart

Greetings,

To celebrate your stress free, completely relaxed moment of eternal mindfulness with heart before on and well after the 25th here are some calm meditative images from the Stung Treng Women's Development Center.  

Mekong Blue, as blogged before now in the long now is a UNESCO award winning project noted for superior quality, creativity and originality with silk. The Center improves the standards of living for 50 women and their children. They have vocational training and educational programs. They are employed. They have a future.

Shop with your heart. Shop to give back. 

Metta.

Thursday
Dec232010

A bubble girl story

Greetings,

A wise traveler named Hugo, the Director of a Life Improbability Research Center near Paris dropped me a comment asking for the story about the Laotian bubble girl. 

 

Here it is. One day I walked through Luang Prabang and reached a dirt path leading down to the river, a bamboo bridge and distant weaving villages. At the top of the path three young girls were selling, or hoping to sell hand made colorful wrist bands, small wooden beads and bamboo dolls. Same as at Angkor temples.

In the afternoon when I returned they were playing with thin plastic air filled balls. Her eyes held all the secrets of the world.

Like many kids they attend school either in the morning or afternoon.

It's the same universal story, "We need money for our families." 

Keep it in the air.

Metta.

 

 

A new image gallery of Stung Treng town and area is live. It features the Women's Development Center (Mekong Blue), kids at the primary school, and the wat and flags at Thala Bovivat across the Mekong.

 http://tmleonard.squarespace.com/stung-treng-cambodia/

Tuesday
Dec212010

Mekong Blue

Greetings,

The road is made by walking. The road from Pakse, Laos to Cambodia is paved or sealed.

At the border, old rusty red and white metal bars weighted by rocks in a rusty bucket netted by wire hangs suspended. The VIP double decked candy cane colored bus is packed with babbling European backpackers destined for the 9th Century at Angkor Wat. They have a long way to go. Back in time. 

The efficient bus boy hands out departure and arrival forms, collects passports, a $2 Lao departure fee, a $25 Cambodia visa fee and $2 entry fee. He takes everything to a Lao shack. The bar goes up and we roll through no man's land at the speed of a landless snail. 

Being landless is fun, dramatic and exciting. No country, no documents, no money, no food, no medicine, no family, no friends, no chance. Abandoned by a strip of land on Earth. A solitary traveler walks north from Cambodia to Laos. 

A female Cambodian health care worker wearing a uniform with an official patch and face mask gets on the bus and points a small medical toy gun into each face, registering body temperature. Someone says, "If you're sick you stay here." "On the bus?" "No, on the road."

Crossing a border is a transcendental act.

On the C side it's business as usual; immigration shacks, money changers, women pushing food and beverage, fruits, naked children, scavenging emaciated dogs, torn cell phone umbrellas and food stalls where tourists sit waiting for the boy to come back with the government issued passports. An incomplete grandiose empty towering new C immigration building with Angkor temple motifs signifies grand plans.

How does it feel to back in C after 28 days in Laos? Laos was a time warp in the sense of pace, connecting with gentle people, relaxed attitudes, floating on high mountain rushing rivers and exploring soaring elevations.

Stung Treng is 87 clicks south of the border along the wide Mekong. Most travelers pass through this sleepy little town. It reminds me of Kampot on the southern coast five years ago.

Mekong Blue is the Stung Treng Women's Development Center. 50 women are trained in a six month silk weaving course, dyeing and creating beautiful silk textiles. It has been recognized by U.N. as a UNESCO award winner for superior quality, creativity and originality. 

The center improves the standard of living and breaks the cycle of poverty through vocational training and educational programs. There is a primary school with 35 kids and two teachers. Everyone receives lunch. After the local government it is the single biggest employer in town. 

Metta.

 

Saturday
Dec112010

Bubble Life

 

Greetings from a sleepy little town down south along the mighty Mekong,

After finding a pillow and delicious local cold java swimming in a glass you get a hair cut and your ears cleaned.

It's essential, as we've said previously, from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and now Laos to relax.

Sit back close your eyes hearing the whirling overhead fan rotating like helicopter rotor blades over rapid cobalt rivers inside deep forested green jungles, skimming granite mountains, swooping toward rice valleys allowing a thin man with shiny silver tools to clean, vibrate, scrape, identify, probe, assess, magnify, illustrate and remove old historical debris, leaves, brooms, the click-clack of shuttles, blue and yellow butterflies, children's laughter, language acquisition cycles, tonal frequencies, vibrational shifts and so forth.

A new marveLaos gallery is live.

http://tmleonard.squarespace.com/marvelaos/

It contains clouds, art, design, black & white, wats, paper making, rice threshing, weavers, kids and big serious humans.

The Luang Prabang airport has one simple concrete runway. The control tower needs a coat of paint.

There are two gates. A French tourist is worried because their boarding pass has a big number approaching infinity. "We only have two gates," said the serene and helpful girl behind a desk.

"Oh, my goodness," said the tourist holding a can of white paint and a brown sable hair brush.

"I was so worried I wouldn't get home for Christmas. I mean I was feeling so anxious and neurotic and lost and dazed and confused and sullen and tired and suddenly I felt comfortable in a calm way knowing I will realize my vacation dream and paint a control tower at a small airport in Asia." 

"Be a work of art or wear a work of art," said the smiling girl, or, as Picasso asked, "what is color?"

Metta.

Paper is an essential part of Lao life. The art of paper is in the making, using, honoring paper in the community and burning paper to honor ancestors. Artists use white fibers from plant stems to make paper. To soften it they mix it with ash and soak it in wood fired 55 gallon drums. They pound it to a pulp. The woman spreads fibers over a screen. It is dried in the sun and used to create tactile textured paper books, umbrellas, bags, cards, lanterns, envelopes and airport control towers.

Wednesday
Dec082010

The Chinese Virus

Greetings,

Before floating south to Pakse and the Mekong toward Cambodia here's a summary of the northern visions. 

Buon Tay is a small dusty town two hours south of Phongsali on a narrow red dirt silver stone road flanked by rising thick forests. Oudomxai, a large Lao-Chinese town five hours south is a real Chinese mess.

High remote Lao villages and harvested rice terraces lead toward Luang Prabang. Disneyland East.

The Chinese are invading Laos. In masse. It's a virus.

The geographical borders (Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) and incessant rampant anxious desire for money, exploitation and natural resources (timber and minerals) dancing with political, economic influence and cheap labor drives the Chinese engine. Hello Big Brother. 

Buon Tay is one example of the new wild west filled with Chinese guesthouses, restaurants, billboards, CCTV television programs, black diesel belching ubiquitous blue Chinese dump trucks filled with dirt and Yunnan workers.

Factories (cheap clothing & construction) sprout like mushrooms. Crowds of ill-mannered loud rude Chinese idiots rule. Drunken men sing, "We are the world. Long live socialist ideology and economic profit."

Groups of Chinese construction workers in track suits received plastic bags filled with cartons of cheap cigarettes as partial payment for their socialist sacrifice and backbreaking toil. They trudge dusty roads near green mountains back to their makeshift tin shacks. They are the new immigrants. They build roads and hammer and shovel and carry and slave to create hard nosed businesses. It reminds me of poor Maija village near a business university in Fujian.

The Lao markets are filled with Chinese goods: beer, juice, disposable plastic consumables. 

A wealthy Chinese man with a gold watch, leather bag and dress shoes goes to the market. His sour dull depressed looking wife handles the money. She makes all the economic decisions. She buys some meat - a luxury only they can afford.

Lao women spread their luscious green vegetables on banana leaves. They arrive, chat with friends, sell, leave leaves and return home to grow more food. Shallow stranded immigrants wander around staring at onions, lettuce, cabbages, cuts of meat. They are poor. The lost desperate starving dull eyed Chinese workers traverse sparrow songs, passing recycled garbage, sleeping dogs, and industrial dump trucks spewing glorious growth potentials inside shrouds of mountain mist. 

Lao laugh and smile. They've seen fools come and go. They know these fools will stay, breed and take over.

No exit.

Metta.