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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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Entries in economy (8)


Red dust town


The machine world in Banlung roared, reversed, revered and resounded with the musical machine opera.

Chugging down the street, old trucks recycled from devastating and catastrophic wars, death and suffering with bombings, genocide, insurrection, forced labor, starvation, land mines and descriptive historical footnotes blended black diesel dust, billowing forgotten memory into the breeze. It danced in swirling red dust.

The remote wild west red dust town, smaller than a city, bigger than a village welcomed smaller. The dexterity and fortitude of thousands in a flip flop world of opportunity, risk, chance, fate, and destiny ate pastries and delicious yoghurt, in many flavors. Ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes took everything for granted.

Assumptions wore Blue Zircon seeing harlequins.

Destiny rested as noon heat reflected anxieties. A bored mistress washed her red underwear in a river. The exhilaration of washing introduced her to a cloud. Lightning flashed. 

Children in red and white dusted Santa caps dragged their expectant mothers toward dusty chrome plated display cases. 

This one! This one!

On main street a happy girl of 13 sawed ice. She sold blocks of ice from a large portable orange plastic box. Her smile and pronunciation were perfect, I am a seller. 



Mekong Blue


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. 





This life


This life is a test - it is only a test.
If it had been an actual life, you would have received further 
instructions on where to go and what to do. - Jack Kornfield



Rasta, a doctor from Cuba in town for a convention on radiology was looking for action. He took a seat at a bar. One was 32 with three kids. Heavy blue eyeliner and reasonable English, the language of barbarians. He preferred Spanish. Short shirt, high heels. Dressed to make an impression. Flattery, hands and negotiation. Slow season hard symphonic sympathy.

I have three girls, 11, 8, 6, showing Rasta cell phone images. I need to send money home to my father. I live with another girl in a small room. It costs $50 a month. I work from 5-2. You like me? How much? Up to you. $40 for the night. You pay the owner $10 so I can leave. Rasta drank water, watching the girls, watching foreign men sitting across the street, watching a parade of cycles, high heels, and begging children in oversized dirty torn t-shirts, hearing them say Mr...Money for School, Money for School.

The scene reminded him of Havana.

She was persistent. She needed work. You like me? I go with you. All night. I stay with you. Rasta paid, she said goodbye to her friends chattering, clattering, teetering high heels on broken dream street stones downhill. 

Did you bring the instruction book?



The Pitch


The buzzer buzzed. Yes? Your 11 o'clock is here, said a voice. Send them in. 

The door opened. My secretary entered. This is Mr. Red Shirt and Mr. Yellow Shirt, she said. Thank you that'll be all, I said. I shook hands with the men. Welcome. I am Mr. Chandler. Have a seat please. Mr. Red looked at Mr. Yellow with distrust and suspicion. It's ok, I said. They put their machetes away and sat down.

You have five minutes, I said. Give me your pitch. Neither spoke. They were waiting for the other one to open his mouth. You have four and 1/2 minutes, I said. They stared at each other. You first, said Mr. Red. No, you first, said Mr. Yellow. I waited. 

You have four minutes, I said. Mr. Red Shirt broke the silence. Ok, he said, here's the pitch. It's a split fingered fastball over the inside of the plate. That's a metaphor. We propose a weekly...NO! screamed Mr. Yellow Shirt, not a weekly, a daily soap opera drama.

Ok, said Mr. Red Shirt, a daily drama. Whatever. It's a series about money, power, control, greed, corruption, love, betrayal, and political and social issues in a country with a king. The king is very old. Younger people behind the scenes with everything to lose and nothing to gain run the show.

Yes, said Mr. Yellow Shirt, that's good, so far. It's a docudrama about the conflict between rich and poor people. Stupidity vs reason.

I listened. You have two minutes. Mr. Red Shirt said, Yes. It's about a Red Shirt hero who works for an ambulance company. He rescues a Yellow Shirt woman who's been attacked by a group of Red Shirts in an urban jungle war zone.

Yes, and then? I asked. Mr. Yellow Shirt said, She comes from a very wealthy and influential family. She has a change of heart because of the violence. Through the daily drama she comes to empathize with the plight of her hero. They fall in love. This creates new conflicts.

You have one minute. Wrap it up, I said. You go first, said Mr. Yellow Shirt. No, you go first, said Mr. Red Shirt.

You have thirty seconds, I said. One said, It's a struggle for equality. We've got the girl, the hero, soldiers, politicians, the Red Cross, millions of extras and direct distribution of television and film rights for Asia.

Good. Anything else? I said. Mr. Red Shirt and Mr. Yellow shirt looked at each other. Just one question, they said, When can we start shooting?

Our people will call your people. Thanks for coming in, I said. After arguing who'd take the first step they left.

The buzzer buzzed. Your 11:10 is here. Show them in. 





Tags Poem


air ash 
cambodia china corruption
nature new year
people travel