asakiyume: (black crow on a red ground)
I want to do a post about the power of calendars, in honor of [personal profile] yhlee's Ninefox Gambit, which I just finished, but first I want to share with you this great beer label from a small New York State brewery:

Red-lipped woman with a smoking gun! And this text:

From behind the iron curtain comes our Czech'rd Past. We're not ashamed, and have nothing to hide. No regrets with this classic Bohemian Pilsner. Served cold, like revenge, it cuts to the chase. It's the choice to make when you can't afford any more mistakes in life.

Here's a can with the label still on:

We have one can left, which we can maybe drink as we take pictures of the crescent shadows during the partial version of the eclipse that we'll get here--or maybe not. It is, after all, still a work day. The CALENDAR tells me that. More on Ninefox Gambit and calendars anon.
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: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
A bit back I posted about spirits that live in geodes in Timor-Leste. Here's a real-life example people interacting with the spirits. It sounds like something from an old folktale--only it's from 1994. I came across it in the memoir A Woman of Independence, by Kirsty Sword Gusmão. She, you may recall, is the wife of Xanana Gusmão, the current prime minister of Timor-Leste. In 1994 Xanana was in prison in Indonesia, and Kirsty was his English teacher and liaison. They were communicating only by letters, and Xanana sent Kirsty this letter, regarding a photo she had been given to send to him, of a boy in an orphanage, a boy Kirsty had been told was Xanana's son.

My dear, thanks for the photo of my son of war )

This story entrances me, the story itself, most of all, but also the way Xanana shared it with Kirsty. It's a delicate thing, explaining about beliefs. The world is a complicated place, and how people live in it is different in more than just material ways. Some people experience a world that's thick with spirits, others a world with very few, others a world with none at all.

More on the book when I finish it--I'm nearly done.

asakiyume: (dewdrop)
In the past in Timor-Leste, and perhaps still now (I didn't have the ability or opportunity to talk to anyone about these sorts of things, during my visit there), it was said that geodes are often homes to nature spirits. Such geodes are called foho matan--stone eyes.

If a person finds a geode in the wilderness, they can expect a nature spirit to visit them in a dream and offer them a special relationship--benefits and blessings in return for service. If the arrangement suits the person, then they take the stone to the place it asks the to take it and build an altar there. The spirit, in turn, becomes the person's guardian.

Sometimes, though, the spirit in the geode won't be interested in establishing a relationship. One village told the ethnographer:

If I take home a stone that is [sacred], when I dream that night, the spirt comes to me and says, "My name is Miguel [or whatever name it claims to have]. I am a [sacred] stone. You must put me back!" In the morning when I awake, I return the stone to its original place."
--David Hicks, Tetum Ghosts & Kin: Fertility and Gender in East Timor (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2004 [originally published 1976]), 40.

Whenever I've seen geodes in the past, I've always thought of the crystal caves that imprisoned Merlin--the geodes seemed like miniature versions of those caves. Now, if I see a geode, I'll wonder if it's the home of a nature spirit.

asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
Mt. Kablaki is not the tallest mountain in Timor-Leste; I think it's the third-tallest. But it's a sacred mountain, like Mt. Ramelau, the tallest--and it's visible (and hike-able) from Ainaro.

Mt. Kablaki


One of the students asked me when American independence day was, and I told her it was July 4th and asked when Timor-Leste's independence day was. May 20th, she told me. Then I told them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It's a myth, but it encapsulates values we'd like to think our first president had. Then I asked them to tell me a story about Xanana Gusmão, their national hero and current prime minister. One of the students told me how, during the resistance, local people hid him on Mt Kablaki.

I've also read that he got a protective amulet there--the sort that lets you move unseen past your enemies.

I've also heard that he could transform himself into a dog. There are many many dogs running around loose in Ainaro, so that would be a good disguise. I asked one girl if she had any dogs, and she said yes, four or five. I asked what she fed them, and she said rice, or rice gruel.

Later, when I was rinsing rice for dinner (and in Timor-Leste there's much more reason to do this than there is in America, because in Timor-Leste the rice contains lots of bits of chaff and hull), I went to pour off the water in the yard, and one of the local dogs came trotting over eagerly. Aha. Rice gruel, I thought.

neighborhood dogs

dogs at Olympio's

But back to mountains. All the mountains roundabout Ainaro are beautiful.

dramatic skies

Here's dawn over the pre-secondary school, across the street from where I was staying.

dawn from the Teachers' House

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

A story of a patrimony of sorrow, told to Luís Cardoso by Mali Mau... Random bolding is mine.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, she used to say that she wanted a good future for her child. She tried to find out from wealthy people how they came by their fortune, but when they spoke only of inheritances, natural talents and suchlike, she gave up. Then one day, an old woman came to her and told her that, if fate smiled upon her, she might accidentally meet the spirit of seduction, Pontiana. My mother didn’t believe in chance, though, and so she prepared herself just in case. Every night, she would sit outside the house next to the old gondoeiro tree where she imagined Pontiana lived. She protected herself with the scent of flowers and sandalwood and left a clay pot full of water to act as a mirror to attract the spirit. She thought that, like all seducers, Pontiana was bound to be vain and wouldn’t be able to resist peering into the pot of water to look at herself or to was her face before getting dressed up to seduce some errant young man. Her vigil, however, was often disturbed by the arrival of owls, and, being superstitious, she made a fire and scared off the noisy intruders with fiery brands. Sometimes, my father would demand that she come and lied down beside him on their sleeping-mat. And he used to say that, if she didn’t, he would have an account to settle with Pontiana. Many moons passed and that prolonged waiting meant that my mother, while growing big with me, was gradually becoming thinner and thinner. Just as I saw the light of day and gave my first yell, she uttered her last sigh and was snuffed out in darkness. My father buried her next to the gondoeiro tree, promising to avenge himself on the spirit. When he tried to cut the tree down, he saw my mother’s face in the middle of the whirling leaves and he pursued the wind that traced across the fields and which sowed misfortune and destruction. He did this so often that he became known to the other farmers as the storm thief. They waited a long time and worked out which day he would make his next crossing of a particular valley through which the winds passed. The members of the two main houses arranged themselves at the entrance. They said he would doubtless be tired. As the storm passed, they tightened a rope across the pass and he fell to the ground. With his bristling mane of hair, he loked like a wild horse, slavering and panting, expelling the air accumulated over the half millennium he had spent in pursuit of my mother’s spirit. When we buried my father, the two houses that had joined forces to trip him up got into an argument over ownership of the rope. Each claimed exclusive rights. Driven out of the village, the members of the Kaibauk house took refuge in the cave of a large lizard which immediately promised them reparation. And so it was that my village, as that time dominated by the members of the Nakroma house, was put to the torch. I wandered far and wide and I ended up here, as if I had risen up from the depths of the river. That’s why I feel this constant dampness inside me.”

--Luís Cardoso, The Crossing (London: Granta, 2000), 134–36

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