asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
A few weeks ago, my neighborhood had a bunch of KKK newspapers dropped in it. Very upsetting. So, a group of us in town organized a community picnic so everyone in town could reaffirm what sort of town we want the town to be.

Here's a video** from the event. You can see me attempting a bean-bag toss I designed. (I was going to make it an eclipsed sun but decided on a sunflower instead.)

(Here's a picture of just the bean bag toss, after i finished painting it. It has a black piece of tissue paper that hangs down behind it to make the hole look black, but wind has blown it up in this photo)

And here are two views of a mural whose painting I oversaw. That was the most fun: talking to all the kids, parents, and grandparents who participated in the painting.

Last but not least, a local paper's photo essay from the event. The town, like much of the rural New England, is very white, but even very-white New England is diverse if you have open eyes. My neighborhood includes people from Cambodia, Brazil, Romania, and Croatia, and the apartments nearby include families whose first languages are Chinese and Spanish. Religiously, the town is home to people of numerous Christian denominations as well as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and areligious. In terms of sexual orientation and gender, my near neighbors are a lesbian couple with three teen and young-adult children, and there are several other same-sex couples in town, as well as transgender and genderfluid folks. It includes active-duty members of the armed services, civil-rights activists, people who've been in the region for generations and people who arrived in the past ten years, farmers, tradespeople, professional people, stay-at-home parents, artists, people coping with chronic illnesses and disabilities .... in other words, it's a diverse community, despite the dominantly pale faces it puts forward, and people enjoy it that way. So the KKK can go elsewhere in search of recruits or people to intimidate.

**If you have a Youtube account and feel inclined, you could give it a thumbs up--currently it's got as many negative votes as positive ones (which is to say, one each, heh).


Jun. 6th, 2017 04:38 pm
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Last week I went to the graduation of one of the high school students I'd been tutoring. The high school she was at has a history of low performance, which probably contributed to the huge joy and sense of celebration in the air for this ceremony. Everybody was really, really rooting for these kids; each one represents a huge victory for everyone--the kids themselves, the families, the teachers, the whole community.

That sense of community spirit! The very young mayor of the city was there, and when he got up to speak, a girl sitting in front of me--maybe eleven or twelve years old--said to her older relative with pride, "Do you see him? He's our mayor." I have never lived in a place where a little kid would be that enthusiastic for a local politician.

Afterward, I had to walk a few blocks to get to where I had parked, and on my way back I couldn't stop smiling. A guy coming the other direction said to me, "God bless you sister," as we passed, and I did feel blessed.


May. 27th, 2017 12:59 pm
asakiyume: (the source)
When I started off on LJ, I created a super-beautiful, idiosyncratic password that gave me pleasure to type. When I re-started a DW account, the password I created was ... way less beautiful. And yet it turns out that I feel just as happy to type in the DW password and to write an entry or read other people's entries as I did/do to type in the fancy-special password.

... I guess it doesn't hurt to make marvelous passwords that you love, but on the other hand, it really is just a password, and it's getting on the actual site and doing stuff there that's The Thing.

This video is unrelated to passwords--it's Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner reading one of her climate change poems. The words are beautiful and heartbreaking, but also hopeful: They say you . . . wander rootless with only a passport to call home, and when she read it in 2014 at the United Nations climate summit, she got a standing ovation; people were very moved. Watch all the way through.


May. 17th, 2017 05:41 pm
asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
It was one of the women at the jail who first told me that middle school and high school kids film their fights with their phones and then post them on Youtube. Then last week one of my high school tutees was talking affectionately about one of her younger sisters. "She's so bad," she said, laughing, and showed me a video on her phone of her little sister and another girl fighting. They had hands in each other's hair. "Ouch," I said, "that looks like it hurts!" "She's so bad," my tutee repeated, shaking her head and smiling.

I went online and found other videos, with breathless remarks from the person doing the filming. None of the ones I happened to look at were cases of someone being beaten up (though I'm sure that happens too), and none of them were mass melees (though same). These were ... well, in some cases they seemed like duels: there were seconds hanging back on both sides, and the fight was very short, and then it was like the seconds decided it was over. And in other cases it kind of reminded me of training? Like, instead of boxing or mixed martial arts, you're doing homemade fighting.

And the people filming. They seemed from their voices and their excitement levels so YOUNG. "Come on, hurry up, Celie! Somebody grab my sister!" exclaims one kid, and then, "Come on, fight fight fight, yo!" And in another video, a similarly young-sounding kid (a boy whose voice hasn't changed yet) shouts out advice ("keep your head up"), and when one of the fighters says "I can't breathe!" he calls out for everyone to stop. The girl says, "This asthma," and the kid says, "I fucking hate asthma too."

I know there are way worse fights. I know people get really badly hurt--I've seen scars my students in the jail have. That's not what was going on in the videos I happened to see, though.

I remember one of my other high school tutees, a *tiny* girl, talking about finally having to fight someone to get people to stop taunting her. I couldn't believe that having a fight would do that--I would have thought it would just escalate things. But apparently not.

Me, I'm wrapped in a floor-length robe of ignorance, with a fluffy hat of ignorance on my head. I don't have any summarizing statement to make or judgment to pass, beyond to say---I mean, maybe this is picking up on the high spirits of the people making the videos? and the casual attitude of my student?--but I felt surprisingly un-bad about the fact of the fights. I don't want kids to be ganged up on and beaten up, and I **definitely** think there are other ways to settle differences or strut your stuff. But ... maybe this is one possible way to settle differences and strut your stuff that isn't as bad as all that if all parties are willing? I don't know! See above: ignorance.

a fight

asakiyume: (more than two)

Today is town meeting in my town. I started to drive there--I'm all upons my civic duty these days--and then I turned around and came back. Why? Because I actually hate town meeting. Not the part where people get a chance to speak for or against something--that can be interesting. No, it's the part where people shout yay or nay to vote on things. Eleven years ago on this very day, I wrote an LJ entry about it.

I like a secret ballot. I **LOVE** a secret ballot. I am intimidated by public shouting and think there may be other people like me. I don't think who-can-shout-the-loudest is the best way to determine the outcome on issues of importance to people in town.

... I got home, and the wood thrush, who has returned to us, was singing.

Have a picture from yesterday: water, sky, something thin and green connecting them.

water, sky

asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)

Last week, both with my high school tutees and with my students at the jail, I asked them to pick one of four pictures from Humans of New York to write about. The assignment was to tell me about the person in the photo, then to ask that person some questions, and then, in that person's voice, to answer the questions.

from the photo essay book Humans of New York

I got two deeply contrasting stories about this man from my students at the jail. One saw him as an "intelligent graduate, following his big New York dream ... which is to play in the Apollo" to become a musician--but with a safety job as a lawyer. The other--an older woman, who's been homeless herself--saw him as homeless. The questions she wanted to ask him were very practical: would you like a home-cooked meal; would you like a hot shower and a place to sleep; can I give you ten dollars "for something positive not negative."

Her answers almost undid me. She imagined him saying [paraphrasing], yes, I would love a home-cooked meal, as long as you let me do the dishes; yes I would love a hot shower, but only if you let me clean up after myself; a place to sleep on a couch or the floor would be great, and any amount of money would be appreciated. She finished with "I just wanted to thank you for being kind and offering all that to me."

asakiyume: (far horizon)

This morning I caught Living on Earth, a radio show about the environment. They were talking about the Paris Climate Conference, and their last segment was a poem, "Tell Them," by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands. I was lying in bed--the radio was on in the kitchen, but my attention was pulled: soon I was listening intently. It's a long poem, and I don't think I should put the whole thing here without asking permission (you can read it here), but here are some parts that I especially liked:

tell them our islands were dropped
from a basket
carried by a giant
tell them we are the hollow hulls
of canoes as fast as the wind
slicing through the Pacific sea ...

tell them we are styrofoam cups of Kool-Aid red
waiting patiently for the ilomij
we are papaya-golden sunsets bleeding
into a glittering, open sea
we are skies uncluttered
majestic and sweeping in their landscape
tell them we are dusty rubber slippers
from concrete doorsteps ...

we are children flinging
like rubber bands
across a road clogged with chugging cars
tell them
we only have one road ...

tell them some of us
are old fishermen who believe that God
made us a promise
tell them some of us
are a little more skeptical
but most importantly you tell them
that we don't want to leave
that we've never wanted to leave
and that we
are nothing without our islands.

Jaier Juano and family; photo by 黒忍者 on Flickr (click through)
Jaier Juano and family

ETA: Regarding the Climate Change Agreement reached today, Al Jazeera reports,

In a victory for small island nations threatened by rising seas, the agreement includes a section recognizing "loss and damage" associated with climate-related disasters.
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Doing some research, I came across this moving song, "Timor Oan Mos Bele," ("We Timorese Can Do It"), sung in Tetun, Portuguese, and English. It's addressed to everyone in Timor-Leste and urges them not to lose faith in the possibility of a good future for the country.

hatudu ba ema katak Timor oan mos bele,
labele lakon esperansa tuba rai metin
no lao ba oin nafatin

We have to show people that we Timorese can do it
We can't lose hope; we must stand firm
And continue to walk forward

The little signs say things like "Fight Corruption," "Education Starts in the Household," "Stop Using Violence," and "Create Peace and Love."

There are lots of tensions in Timor-Leste; violence and corruption1 are problems, and I bet it's easy to get discouraged. But lots of people are doing such great work--I'm not talking about million-dollar initiatives; I'm thinking just of the ordinary people I met, who are running computer classes or transportation services, or investing in a washing machine and then offering laundry services, etc. And those are just the people I was aware of from my brief stay. But meanwhile there's a law in the works that may restrict journalistic freedom, and there've been some pretty dramatic police actions . . . so, I appreciate the spirit of this song, and I hope people hang on to this spirit.

Timor Oan Mos Bele Halo--Viva Timor!

(And I do love learning language through listening to songs. Phrases I learned today include fiar-an, "believe in yourself," and ida-idak, "everybody.")

1Like this worrying story about petty police corruption that came down the line this morning from the East Timor Action Network :-(

asakiyume: (Em)
I just learned from Little Springtime about the existence of bibioburros--like bookmobiles, only with burros instead of vans to carry books to isolated households on Colombia's Caribbean shore.

The program's founder, Luis Soriano, is a primary school teacher. His portable library started with just 70 books, but grew to several thousand volumes, thanks to donations. Soriano has two burros, Alfa and Beto, who carry the books. This Wikipedia article on bibiloburros tells of much excitement (for example, bandits tied up Soriano and stole the novel Brida, by Paulo Coelho, when they discovered Soriano had no money on him) and many ups and downs (Soriano had to have a leg amputated after an accident), but the program continues.

Luis Soriano and his biblioburros (Photo: Scott Dalton; Source: New York Times, article here)

(Also from the New York Times)

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
I get emails from the East Timor Action Network, and today a really wonderful story came down the line, a story that, at present, doesn't have an online home. The author gave me permission to share it here: it's a story of women embracing nontraditional jobs in Timor-Leste. Having experienced firsthand how intermittent the water supply can be in Ainaro, I was moved and impressed that Diolinda wants to be in a position to help secure the water supply in her community.

The course she's taking is terribly important. Until now it hasn't been possible to get construction qualifications in Timor-Leste--the nation had to hire foreigners to do that work. Now, not only are Diolinda and her colleagues getting a great qualification and a chance to earn a good living, they're helping make the nation self-sufficient and strong.

Women Can Too
by Sarah Francis

Diolinda 2
photo by Sarah Francis

Meet Diolinda Ximenes, a 26-year-old who is leading the way for women to branch into non-traditional jobs in Timor-Leste.

“I’ve been studying Certificate 2 in Plumbing at Tibar Training Centre for two months ... I decided to study plumbing because I wanted to learn new skills ... I am married and have a five-year-old son. My husband stays at home in Manatuto and looks after our child.”

Diolinda is one of 457 students studying construction certificates in Timor-Leste. As part of the Mid-Level Skills Training Project, three training providers, namely Tibar Training Centre, Don Bosco-Comoro and DIT-Baucau, are being developed so that they have the capacity to offer construction courses in levels 3 and 4.

“I’m really enjoying this course,” says Diolinda. “I’m learning new things and developing skills in plumbing ... The teachers here at Tibar Training Centre are good. They share their knowledge with us and have good teaching methods. When we do practical exercises they demonstrate the tasks step-by-step so that we can learn from them.”

Until 2012 it wasn’t possible to gain formal nationally accredited construction qualifications in Timor-Leste. As such most of the construction jobs in Timor-Leste that require skilled workers are given to foreigners. This project aims to equip Timorese youth with skills that will lead to paid work, reduce Timor Leste’s high youth unemployment rate, and put local people in local jobs.

Read more... )

Text in Tetun )

Sarah Francis first came to Timor-Leste six years ago, and was so inspired by the people she met and their stories that she moved back in 2012. She has since worked in communications roles to promote programs that effectively engage Timorese young people, including the Mid-Level Skills Training Project and Action for Change Foundation
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)

Among the many good things Mandela did, he advocated for the release of Timorese freedom-fighter Xanana Gusmão from prison:

Mandela not only called for the release of Xanana Gusmao, but also insisted on meeting with the latter – and got his way […] Soeharto at first refused Mandela’s request to meet Xanana with the question ‘Why do you want to meet him? He is only a common criminal.’ When Mandela responded by saying ‘that is exactly what they said about me for 25 years,’ Soeharto promptly and magnanimously responded by arranging for Xanana to be brought from prison to the State Guest House for an intimate dinner with Mandela.
--Jamsheed Marker, East Timor: A Memoir of the Negotiations for Independence, quoted in Aboeprijadi Santoso, “Mandela, Indonesia and the liberation of Timor Leste,” Jakarta Post, 22 July 2013

asakiyume: (Kaya)
I’ve always thought that education was one of the only things worth going into debt to obtain—and boy did I go into debt obtaining mine—but that was about the extent of my suffering for education. But for some people? We’ve all heard stories of hardship and sacrifice, but sometimes new ones can strike with fresh force.

This morning, I was blown away by a description an Australian educator shared of the dedication of Timorese teachers, seeking out instruction in English and Portuguese (bolding mine):

In 2001 I taught English to classes of 40-odd teacher-education students in Kaikoli, "the burned campus" ... Students came to classes often with nothing more to eat than a packet of dry Super-Mi [ramen noodles] and even sometimes shaking with fever. Alongside me, other teachers taught Portuguese to classes of future teachers in classes of often twice that number. We worked in noisy, dirty, mosquito-infested rooms with no glass in the windows, no desks and no books. Yet student attendance was high and their enthusiasm for learning both languages was immense.1

But even in this country, there are stories. The tall one told me on Friday about a young woman he’d struck up a conversation with on the bus from Northampton to Springfield. Those two cities aren’t very distant, in terms of miles, but because of the route the bus takes, the journey takes about two hours. The young woman, like the tall one, rides that bus daily. He works in Springfield; she’s going to school at Springfield Technical Community College. But her journey is even longer than his, as she first takes a bus from Greenfield to Northampton . . . and even before that, she is driven by her parents from one of the hilltowns in to Greenfield to catch the bus. All in all, she spends three hours each way on her commute.

That’s how precious education is--so precious that you’d attend classes feverish and half starved, or spend six hours a day traveling for the privilege.

1Quoted from Kerry Taylor-Leech, with permission.

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
I had to return a completed job by post this morning. While I was filling out a form, the door opened and there was an amazing sound of CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP emanating from a cardboard box, marked "live chicks" and with sides punctuated with air holes and with hay sticking out from those holes.

"The beats are the heart of the party," the person carrying this box was saying into his bluetooth. He set the box down on the counter and left.

CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! said those live chicks.

"Ed's called twice already, wondering where his chicks are," said J.

"Well, you can tell him they've arrived," said T.

I asked about chick delivery, and T told me that they have go overnight. Those chicks came from Iowa.

. . . Did you know that East Timor has no government-run, nationwide postal system?

They have internet and wifi. The East Timor Action Network just today reported that Timor Telecom is offering computers to schools and universities in Timor-Leste (East Timor), "to contribute to the digital inclusion of students and create a new approach to teaching." But if I want to get a computer to someone in Timor-Leste--say someone in the town of Ainaro--I either have to bring it myself or give it to someone who's going over, who then has to hand deliver it or entrust it to someone to deliver. If I make friends with anyone in Ainaro while I'm over there, I can send them emails or phone them, but I can't send them a letter, not directly to their home.

My contact tells me that within the town of Ainaro there's mail delivery that's carried out by the district administration, and maybe the same thing happens in other districts, and in the capital of Dili. But if you're in Dili and you want to get something to Ainaro, you have to arrange something with a bus driver or someone else who will play courier.

This is one way (one of many ways) in which Timor-Leste is different from the fictional nation of W-- in my Pen Pal novel. W-- has a postal service.

asakiyume: (glowing grass)
mugwort tea

A cool drink for a hot day, an infusion of mugwort leaves. Mugwort grows so tall, pale and silvery on one side, olive green on the other; I just pick the tips, pretending I'm harvesting tea. Well, it will be a tea of sorts.

It has a scent like chrysanthemum and pine. Here's leftovers from the first batch:

mugwort tea

It looks like rich pond scum doesn't it? But it's delicious and cooling.

kite patch

This is an amazingly innovative idea for a fighting mosquito-born diseases like malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, and West Nile virus. It's a tiny, nontoxic patch that you put on your clothing. It disrupts the mosquitos' reception of your CO2 signature, so they don't find and bite you. It lasts for 48 hours.

It's been proven effective and safe in preliminary tests, but, as with all pharmaceutical developments, it takes a whole lot of money and time to get FDA approval. Boy would I love to have some of those patches to take with me to East Timor! Both the teachers I'll be working with have suffered bouts of dengue fever, which is rife in Dili. But it's not available to the public yet, except in the test area of Uganda.

The indigogo kite patch campaign has reached its initial goal, but as with many of these campaigns, there are various stretch goals. Take a look and see what you think.


Jul. 17th, 2013 12:46 pm
asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
When I was in first grade, they gave us all big, round blue pencils with no erasers on them. I liked the blue pencils; I liked them especially when they were sharpened. They made nice, dark lines.

This one is not sharpened. Picture taken from

What I really liked, though, were the slim, hexagonal yellow pencils that grown-ups used. They said competence and maturity to me. I liked these ones, because of the bright red stripe on the little metal cap that holds the eraser:

Image from

Best of all, though, were the copyediting pencils my mother used. They were red, and better than that, they wrote red. (I did not yet know you could get colored pencils and color with them the way you did with crayons.)

Image from

At some point, my mother gave me one, and I was so proud of it. Then I somehow lost it in the classroom and made a big fuss. I probably cried, though I don't remember for sure. A boy kindly offered me a pencil, painted red, but with an ordinary black graphite lead in it. NOT GOOD ENOUGH! NOT THE REAL THING! The teacher scolded me for being an ungrateful brat. Which I was totally being. I wish I could go back and get a good look at that boy who was nice enough to offer me a red pencil.

... This comes to mind for two reasons. One, I'm thinking of bringing pencils and pens to East Timor when I go, and I was thinking of all the ways in which they can be special. Two, I'm remembering an incident at the jail the other day. At the end of a GED session, one of the women asked if she could hold onto the pencil. Usually I use just ordinary Ticonderoga pencils (yes, I've switched allegiance from Mirado classic to Dixon Ticonderoga--brand consciousness!), but I also have a couple of foil pencils in the mix. They're pretty:


I said, no, I couldn't, because that wouldn't be fair, because I don't have very many of those (which was the wrong reason to give: more importantly, I'm not supposed to give anything to anyone ever).

"Aw, no one will notice," she said.

"Oh yes they will," said the other woman, and then it transpired in discussion that those foil pencils were known and remembered in the units.

Small things have value for all kinds of reasons.

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)

Reasons to love Xanana Gusmão:

  • As a teenage soccer goalie, he "was too busy making up sonnets to actually stop any goals" (as I found out from reading The Crossing)

  • The obvious: he was a total badass freedom fighter. Forced to drop out of school at age fifteen due to lack of money, he become active advocating East Timor's independence from Portugal, then led the resistance against Indonesia after the latter invaded East Timor. He was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1999 when Indonesia withdrew from East Timor, whereupon he returned to help East Timor make a go as an independent nation.

  • His nickname Xanana comes from the American rock-and-roll band Sha Na Na.

  • when he got caught in a traffic jam outside the presidential office the other day, he got out of his car and helped direct traffic:

Plus, handsome!

Simultaneously warm and distinguished

and back in his freedom-fighter days

This guy SMILED FOR THE CAMERA when he was captured! How's *that* for ... I don't know, confidence? Or something!

Looking gentle and fatherly at the birth of one of his children

Making up for his youthful soccer losses

There you have it. Xanana Gusmão!

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