asakiyume: (miroku)
A friend sent me a PDF of 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Herta Müller's Nobel lecture, "Every Word Knows Something of a Vicious Circle," and it is stunning--wise on love, words, steadfastness, solitude, totalitarianism. It starts like this:
DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was the question my mother asked me every morning, standing by the gate to our house, before I went out onto the street. I didn’t have a handkerchief. And because I didn’t, I would go back inside and get one. I never had a handkerchief because I would always wait for her question. The handkerchief was proof that my mother was looking after me in the morning. For the rest of the day I was on my own. The question DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was an indirect display of affection. Anything more direct would have been embarrassing and not something the farmers practiced. Love disguised itself as a question. That was the only way it could be spoken: matter-of-factly, in the tone of a command, or the deft maneuvers used for work. The brusqueness of the voice even emphasized the tenderness. Every morning I went to the gate once without a handkerchief and a second time with a handkerchief.

And it goes on from there--a visit from the secret police (Müller grew up in Ceauşescu's Romania), a conversation with a former internee of a Soviet labor camp, thoughts on an uncle who became a Nazi--and through it all, the handkerchief:
Oskar Pastior had knocked on her door, a half-starved beggar wanting to trade a lump of coal for a little bit of food. She let him in and gave him some hot soup. And when she saw his nose dripping into the bowl, she gave him the white batiste handkerchief that no one had ever used before ... For the woman, Oskar Pastior was also a combination: an unworldly beggar in her house and a lost child in the world. Both of these personae were delighted and overwhelmed by the gesture of a woman who was two persons for him as well: an unknown Russian woman and the worried mother with the question: DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF.

Ever since I heard this story I have had a question of my own: is DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF valid everywhere? Does it stretch halfway across the world in the snowy sheen between freezing and thawing? Does it pass between mountains and steppes to cross every border; can it reach all the way into a gigantic empire strewn with penal and labor camps?

This vignette spoke to me especially:
When I was a staircase wit, I was as lonely as I had been as a child tending the cows in the river valley. I ate leaves and flowers so I would belong to them, because they knew how to live life and I didn’t. I spoke to them by name: milk thistle was supposed to mean the prickly plant with milk in its stalk. But the plant didn’t listen to the name milk thistle. So I tried inventing names with neither milk nor thistle: THORNRIB, NEEDLENECK. These made-up names uncovered a gap between the plant and me, and the gap opened up into an abyss: the disgrace of talking to myself and not to the plant. But the disgrace was good for me. I looked after the cows and the sound of the words looked after me.

And whoa to the whoa-th power, this:
After all, the more words we are allowed to take, the freer we become. If our mouth is banned, then we attempt to assert ourselves through gestures, even objects. They are more difficult to interpret, and take time before they arouse suspicion. They can help us turn humiliation into a type of dignity that takes time to arouse suspicion.

I recommend reading the whole lecture; all parts of it are beautiful and strong. The link I found for it on the Nobel website is very unpredictable--50 percent of the time it seems to be down. But persevere, and hopefully you'll get to it. (Link here.)
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
If you're going to meet an actual hero, a freedom fighter and former political prisoner who helped birth a new nation--that's YOU, Mr. Xanana Gusmão--you would do well not to be 45 minutes late. Alas, Google maps misled me about how long it would take me to drive from my house to the Pell Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mr. Gusmão and a panel of distinguished experts were going to be talking about the future of Timor-Leste. And then I made a wrong turn at the very end and got lost. By the time I was driving down Bellevue Avenue, past RIDONCULOUS mansions, I was more than a half-hour late. But damn it! I did not drive all that way just to ... go home again.

Finally I found the place. A guy waiting in a bus kitted out like a trolley told me yes, this was it.

The talk was happening in a room with gilded Baroque-style accents.


between entering and **the kiss** )

I hung back in the hallway, hoping to somehow say something, anything, to Xanana. I knew I wouldn't really ask him if he could shapeshift, or if he'd like to collaborate with me in writing a story based on this experience, and I didn't want to just gush that I was a fan, but I wanted to say **something**.

And I got my chance. He walked by and saw my expectant face and stopped and smiled at me. And I started blurting out that one small thing he'd done that made me admire him was get out and direct traffic one day in Dili, when there was a traffic jam. I think I said more presidents should do things like that. But before I got two words out, he had lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, all the while looking at me with an expression of friendly affection.

I can see why people would die for him--or better yet, live and struggle for him. He was EVERY BIT as charismatic as I thought he would be, and then some.

asakiyume: (far horizon)
If it wasn't for today's Google doodle, I wouldn't have learned about the Silent Protest of 1917 or the massacre of East St. Louis. It's a deeply evil streak in humanity that gets people to delight in the slaughter of the defenseless. I'm full of deep gratitude and admiration for the people, like Ida B. Wells and James Weldon Johnson, who have the courage to fight against that evil. (After seeing the Google doodle, I read this article on the Silent Protest.)
asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
The other day I went to a high school graduation, but today was graduation for the people in the special program I help out in. There's some overlap between the two graduations, but a lot of today's graduates were not at the high school graduation.

I was standing near the front to try to take some photos, and who should I find at my left elbow at one point but the young mayor of Holyoke! I blurted out, "You're one of my heroes," and then told him the story of the girl pointing him out with pride to her relative.

He spoke at this graduation, too, said he felt especially close to this program because of his own parents: his mom dropped out of high school because she was pregnant, and his father dropped out too. In her forties, his mother went back to school and got her GED, and then--even though she had never thought it would be possible--she went on to become a nurse.

Two former graduates spoke about what they were doing now (one is in a transition-to-college program and one is in college)--they said that whenever they have something they don't understand, they come back in to get help from the teachers here. Then several of the students spoke. One talked about how he thought he was going to have to drop out of the program because he couldn't find childcare for his son, but the staff wouldn't let him--they had him bring his son along. Another spoke about dropping out of school and then getting in trouble with the law and thinking he wouldn't be allowed back because he had an ankle bracelet police monitor device on, and being welcomed by the teachers. I saw the mayor wiping tears from his eyes.

And this time, I got pictures. I don't feel free to share them, but believe me: they are beautiful.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)

For 16 years Irom Sharmila tried to use the moral suasion of a hunger strike to gain the repeal of a law that granted the military impunity in her state of Manipur, India. It didn't work: she was reduced to the role of icon and symbol, going through the same motions year after year, without accomplishing her goal, while meanwhile her life slipped away.

Then last year, she did a remarkable thing: she ended her fast and declared she was going to enter politics to try to accomplish her goal that way. There are segments of the population who haven't been happy about that--they preferred her as an inspiring icon on a shelf; they don't want her "dirtied" by politics. But that hasn't deterred her. She's formed her own political party, People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance, and among the other candidates on the slate are Najima Bibi, the first Muslim woman to run for office in Manipur. Najima Bibi is an advocate for women's rights and the founder of a home for destitute women. Erendro Leichombam, another candidate, has worked for the United Nations Development Programme.

Erendro Leichombam, Irom Sharmila, and Najima Bibi, PRJA candidates

Source: Hindustan Times

Writing for, Amukhomba Ngangbam says,

The party's poll plank is based on three pillars - incorruptibility, people's voice and hope for change. The party's campaign style is different from the conventional big rallies, fanfare and flags. It's a door-to-door campaign, where party members visit houses and spend 10-15 minutes talking to available family members about Manipur's issues, the family's problems and the party's objectives.

Unlike other parties, which distribute cash during election campaigns, Sharmila's team seeks donations from the people.

To get from place to place, Sharmila has been bicycling:

Source: Hindustan Times

For a campaign symbol, they have been handing out whistles, with the idea that people can be whistleblowers.

Photo: Oinam Anand, for Indian Express

Manipur has layers of colonization and marginalization and corruption and political and other violence stewing in the pot, and what seems like a good idea to an outsider can be recognized as a disaster by someone in the know locally, and same in reverse with bad ideas, so I have no intention of commenting on PRJA's platform and what will work out best for Manipur.

However, I think candidates talking one on one with people is an excellent thing, and I am very happy for Sharmila in a personal way, as I think being in the world, meeting people, and trying to accomplish things with others is also an excellent thing.

The first round of elections is tomorrow! Whatever happens, I wish all the best for Sharmila as she takes on new tasks and challenges.

asakiyume: (Em)

The life and times of Bessie Stringfield came to my attention via [ profile] wakanomori, via the owner of Small Dog Electronics, who is a motorcycle aficionado, but the text and photos below come from the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame page on her. The article there is written by Ann Ferrar, adapted from the book Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road.

The life and times of African-American motorcycling pioneer Bessie B. Stringfield seem like the stuff of which legends are made ...

In the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie took eight long-distance, solo rides across the United States. Speaking to a reporter, she dismissed the notion that "nice girls didn’t go around riding motorcycles in those days." Further, she was apparently fearless at riding through the Deep South when racial prejudice was a tangible threat. Was Bessie consciously championing the rights of women and African-Americans? Bessie would most likely have said she was simply living her life in her own way ...

Early on, Bessie had to steel herself against life’s disappointments. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1911, as a child she was brought to Boston but was orphaned by age 5.

"An Irish lady raised me," she recalled. "I’m not allowed to use her name. She gave me whatever I wanted. When I was in high school I wanted a motorcycle. And even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles, I got one." ...

At 19, she began tossing a penny over a map and riding to wherever it landed. Bessie covered the 48 lower states. Using her natural skills and can-do attitude, she did hill climbing and trick riding in carnival stunt shows. But it was her faith that got her through many nights.

"If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay," she said. "I knew the Lord would take care of me and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle." She laid her jacket on the handlebars as a pillow and rested her feet on the rear fender.

In between her travels, Bessie wed and divorced six times, declaring, "If you kissed, you got married." After she and her first husband were deeply saddened by the loss of three babies, Bessie had no more children. Upon divorcing her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, she said, "He asked me to keep his name because I’d made it famous!"

During World War II, Bessie worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers. She learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross swamps, though she never had to do so in the line of duty. With a military crest on the front of her own blue Harley, a "61," she carried documents between domestic bases.

Bessie encountered racial prejudice on the road. One time she was followed by a man in a pickup truck who ran her off the road, knocking her off her bike. She downplayed her courage in coping with such incidents. "I had my ups and downs," she shrugged.

In the 1950s, Bessie bought a house in a Miami, Florida suburb. She became a licensed practical nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. Disguised as a man, Bessie won a flat track race but was denied the prize money when she took off her helmet. Her other antics – such as riding while standing in the saddle of her Harley – attracted the local press. Reporters called her the "Negro Motorcycle Queen" and later the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami." In the absence of children, Bessie found joy in her pet dogs, some of whom paraded with her on her motorcycle.

Late in life, Bessie suffered from symptoms caused by an enlarged heart. "Years ago the doctor wanted to stop me from riding," she recalled. "I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit."
--Ann Ferrar

I mean, wow. She deserves her own comic book and movie. (She has a YouTube video which features photos of her, here.)

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
There are things I learned related to the marches on Saturday, but I think I'm still working on that learning, so I can't really post about it, though, tangentially, my apolitical neighbor and friend has sent round an email to a bunch of her friends (me included) about staying active and engaged after the marches and after the anti-bigotry potluck that a group in town sponsored last Monday, so one thing I learned is: this is how people become activists. I was full of awe and respect.

At that potluck I found out that the longtime town clerk (now retired), an archetypal Yankee type, lean, with white hair, reserved, but with a nice smile, had been in the Selma march, had been on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis. He's such an understated guy, a dedicated, quiet civil servant. I think I (re)learned something about who heroes are. Maybe they're the guy you're getting your dog license from.

Here, serving on the Board of Selectmen

It ties in with the poem "Ars Poetica #100," by Elizabeth Alexander (available for reading and listening here), these lines in particular:

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Full heart

Jan. 21st, 2017 12:14 pm
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

Very moved by all the photos and reports I'm seeing from all over the United States and the world, and I'm very, very grateful to family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who are out there. Thank you, everyone.

asakiyume: (Kaya)

Irom Sharmila, the hunger striker and political prisoner from Manipur, in northeastern India (very far northeastern: it's in the portion of India that's on the other side of Bangladesh), has announced that she is going to give up her hunger strike in August and stand for election.

I think this is a very good decision. She has been on a hunger strike for sixteen years. As a means of accomplishing her goal (ending the law that lets the Indian military take the lives of Manipuris with impunity), the hunger strike has exhausted its usefulness. By entering politics, Sharmila shows she cares enough about the cause to work with others. She'll no longer be isolated in a hospital ward; she'll be able (required, in fact) to speak with others, listen to people's concerns.

She'll also get eat again. Imagine tasting food after sixteen years.

This news story includes comments from people in Manipur. The BBC also covered the story (that's how I heard it), but the report there is bare bones.

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
Today Matt, of Where the Hell [now toned down to Heck] Is Matt fame (videos here and here), came to dance in South Amherst.

I was one of the first people to arrive, but gradually more and more people came, until we had a small crowd. There was a woman whose name was Forest--not Forest Something, or Something Forest, just Forest. She's a dancer. There was a young meteorologist, and an acquaintance of mine who does shape-note singing, and a pastor who is going to let me go up into her belfry to take pictures of her bell and who has a little daughter. There was a woman with her two grandchildren. So many people, happy to dance!

He came with just a smartphone to film with! And asked for a stepladder and a chair, and people found those things--and then for someone willing to film, and guess who was willing: [ profile] wakanomori!

Here he is consulting with Matt (forgive the crummy photo; I didn't bring my camera (crazy), so this is taken with my cell phone)

Here are two pictures of the crowd that [ profile] wakanomori took from his vantage point on the ladder (you can click through to see bigger) (Also, the pastor's church is over on the right as you look at the picture):

Here's the front row, where the kids were (my cell phone picture again):

After it was over, one guy called out, "You've been all over the world--what's one thing you've learned?" Matt thought about it a minute and said, "That people want to be helpful."

It's true--you could see it in action right there. A sunshiny thought.

Matt collects way more video footage than he uses in his final video, and what he got today may not make it in--but it'll be up on his website, eventually. When it is, I'll link.

Last of all, a posed shot together :-)

[Edit, from 2018. I'm going through carefully putting photos that were only available on Livejournal into my Dreamwidth photo storage, so that when I cease to pay for an LJ account, the photos will continue to be visible. As I do, I'm revisiting the past from the future. In this case, I know now, which I didn't then, that this Matt video would be lackluster compared to the early ones; that you can't go to places based on popular demand and have as interesting and diverse a video, and that the enthusiasm of the earlier years can't be maintained for ever and ever. Matt deserves to--and ought to--move on to a new project. Hopefully now he is/has.]

asakiyume: (bluebird)
The healing angel has an English assignment he really doesn't like: he has to have someone he knows tell him a story of personal heroism--they have to tell him about something they did that's heroic. It doesn't have to be capital-h heroic; it can be everyday heroism ... the point (if I understand it right) is to think about what heroism is and how it can be present in anyone's life.

We talked about it a while. What sparked in my mind was a world filled with heroes, how everyone surely does have stories--though I think lots of people have been too beaten down or derided to feel bold enough to acknowledge their own heroism.

I had to pick up something the next town over, and I got it into my head that I'd ask--if I could do it without making the people I asked too uncomfortable--about heroism.

I asked two people. One was a woman at the cash register at a shop where I bought something. The other was a guy sitting on a stoop collecting money in a plastic cup. I was really tentative both times, asked if it was okay to ask a strange question, etc. etc.

The woman at the cash register was nonplussed. "A story of heroism, huh? I don't know; I've never thought about it. That's a really hard question!"

"Should I let you off the hook? It's okay if nothing comes to mind," I said.

"Really? Okay! Yeah, it's just--I can't seem to think of anything right now," she said.

"I understand! I don't know what I'd say if someone dropped the question on me, either. I guess it's lucky I'm asking instead of being asked," I said.

She had very pretty red lipstick on and the dramatic eyeliner that's popular these days. That's what I remember about her looks.

The guy on the stoop did have a story for me:

"My daughter had her son taken away from her because she's a heroin addict. So three times a week, I make my way to B-town so I can spend time with him. Whatever he wants to do, even if it's just watch Power Rangers, that's fine by me," he said.

I was practically overcome.

"Wow, that's really great. That really is heroism. Thank you, you've really made my day," I said, and he really had, because what an amazing thing to share.

"You've made mine, too," he said, and extended a hand, and we shook.

What I remember about him was that he had sandy-colored hair and a goatee, and tattoos on his neck.

... Please feel free, but not compelled, to share a story of heroism...

asakiyume: (Em reading)
Through the jail volunteering I do, I got involved with a group called Voices from Inside, which runs creative writing workshops with incarcerated and previously incarcerated women. It's a small group, but wow, has it had a big impact on its participants and on the audiences who come to readings. I've been to one of those performances--the emotion and sense of shared purpose and support all the way around was intense.

Several of the women are on the board of the organization (which I love: this isn't just something that's bestowed from above; it's being championed by the people it serves), and one of them--a really incredibly inspiring woman--wrote the following letter for the end-of-year appeal for donations. In it she says

I began this journey as a hesitant writer in a jail writing workshop and VFI helped me find confidence in my voice and in my story. Next, VFI afforded me the opportunity to share my voice through performances in the community, and I felt the power of my voice to transform our audiences.

But this especially spoke to me:

I was surprised to learn that the incredible support the VFI facilitators, trainers and board members bring to these workshops were volunteers. I didn’t understand why they would give so much of their time, their resources. And then I joined with another participant from my writing group and led a workshop at the Young Parents Program. YPP is for parents 14-24 on benefits who are working on their High School Equivalency diplomas. Before our very eyes, we watched these young parents grow immeasurably. We watched their self-esteem blossom as they encouraged one another to share their writing. Now I get it. And I can’t wait to return.

It's not just about finding your voice--though it's about that. It's not just about overcoming trauma (which she also writes about eloquently)--though it's definitely about that, too. It's about seeing the power you have to make a difference, to see that your volunteering is helping people. You're not only a receiver, you're also a giver.

And this woman, she's just amazing. I wish you could hear her speak, how she galvanizes an audience. Below the cut is the complete text of the letter, if you're curious, and below that are some links to the Voices from Inside website, plus some pictures from performances.

the letter )

asakiyume: (Kaya)
Irom Sharmila, whose hunger strike has just entered its sixteenth year, is kept in isolation. If reporters want to talk to her, they must go through a bureaucratic rigamarole. International reporters must request permission to see her a month in advance. It's not surprising that not many do. Then, too, neither English or Hindi is her native tongue, so she speaks slowly in both--reporters can be impatient or condescending.

In an effort to share her thoughts and feelings directly with the world, she has sent out this video. (Note: She speaks very quietly, so you'll have to have volume up very high on whatever device you view this on.)

It's long, but if you listen to even a bit of it, you can get a sense of who she is, how she feels, what is important to her. The complete transcript is in the first comment on the video, but these words in particular moved me:

Laws which are meant to serve us, a democratic people, turn against us ... Why should our people remain contented just seeing me as a symbol of resistance? ... I just want to gain success, which is so rightful, with the intervention of the public, and I am really in need of their joining hands ...

The present Indian government is so hardly [i.e., concertedly, with effort] trying to be permanent membership of the UN Security Council, but just ahead of placing this title--I mean for membership--the Indian government need to show the real democracy by repealing this draconian law [the Armed Services Special Protection Act] ... I really am tired of this way of life, really tired, so please intervene ... Without the support of the masses how can I be fruitful in my demands? ...

While we’re living in this world what we really need to do is try in our ways to connect with each other ... We are every source of peace and every source of changes.

Please share widely.

asakiyume: (Kaya)

Saturday was as full of interesting panels as Friday, and I hosted a roundtable, too. Unfortunately my notes are much more sketchy.

The first talk I went to was on religion in fantasy )

As an older person and a mother, I was interested in the panel 'Mother of the Revolution' )

roundtable discussion on real-life heroines )

Sherwood Smith led a roundtable discussion on favorite fictional heroines )

Fun with fans )

I haven't said anything about the wonderful talks that each of the guests of honor gave--these came at the meals we had all together (delicious meals) and were fascinating. I didn't take notes, though! Too busy eating, listening, and talking. And I haven't said anything about extra curriculars--time spent just in company with others--but those times were marvelous too. I really enjoyed myself thoroughly.

asakiyume: (Kaya)
On June 4, Irom Sharmila will be in court in Delhi, which is to say, she'll be in a court that can capture the national eye (not so true of her appearances in court in Imphal, in the northeastern state of Manipur). The charge against her (attempted suicide, because of her hunger strike) is spurious, and worse, has the pernicious effect of distracting attention from her intention, which is to protest an unjust law--the Armed Forces Special Protection Act. People can be tempted to focus on getting her released, and yet, if she were just straight-up released, she'd very quickly die. The only way to truly save her is to work for the repeal of the AFSPA.

(image source)

Unfortunately, even in Manipur itself, there are those who benefit from the status quo. One journalist who has reported extensively on Manipur and AFSPA writes, "The political leadership, bureaucracy, Army and the insurgent groups all benefit from its biggest industry, AFSPA, and thus perpetuate its continuance" (Source).

How can things change? I don't know. But if it's so hard for the government in Delhi, the government in Manipur, and the army to disintangle from this law, then . . . maybe could the law be hollowed out from within? Could members of the armed forces be asked to make pledges to never violate civilian rights, and could there be rewards for honoring those pledges? Could development funds be tied to policies of inclusivity that assured that economic benefits extended to all ethnic groups and even to former insurgents? How do ordinary citizens in Manipur want things to go? What problems of daily life are most important to them? I cast about for ideas, but I'm not well informed about all the nuances of the situation on the ground, and it's not for me to suggest or conclude anything. I can only watch from the sidelines, biting my nails, and hoping.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Jaspreet was showing me IRIN videos that somehow I hadn't found on my own, including a whole series relating to climate change (including one focusing on Bangladesh's floating gardens, which I hadn't realized are a generations-old tradition in some areas).

And--you know how in the Philippines there are school bus boats (that I wrote about here)? Well in Bangladesh there are actual floating boat-schools, which allow children to continue their education uninterrupted by the monsoon season. They're the brainchild of Mohammed Rezwan, an architect-turned-philanthropist, who himself was often forced to miss school in his childhood due to monsoons.

The Gathering Storm: Boat School

Walking to the shore, where the boat school waits

School doors are open

Inside the boat school classroom

(The teacher in the video has a rather harsh and authoritarian air about her, but all the same, going to school in a floating, solar-electrified boat must be awesome.)

More on the boat schools in this New York Times article by Amy Yee: "‘Floating Schools’ Bring Classrooms to Stranded Students"

ETA: [ profile] heliopausa points out that there are also floating schools in Halong Bay, Vietnam--very lovely-looking ones.

ETA 2: Ijeoma Umebinyou mentioned the Makoko floating school in Lagos--here's a picture of it under construction:

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Jaspreet Kindra shared so many stories, both wonderful and harrowing, while she was over, some of which, with permission, I'll share, but one thing I'll just quickly observe:

two out of two journalists whom I've made friends with via the Internet (Jaspreet being one, Glenn Cheney being the other) have had their lives threatened in the course of their work, and two out of two of them have stood up to the powerful to protect the weak.

It's an honor to know these guys.

Thanks for all you do, journalists!

. . .

In lighter news, Jaspreet showed me how to make some **really excellent chai.** I had sort of learned how by peering over the shoulder of someone who knew how when I was in college, but Jaspreet showed me step by step. First bring the water to a boil with the spices, so their flavor is fully released, then add the milk and bring to a boil again, slowly, so the milk blends and thickens, and **then** add the tea. And then the sweetener, if you're having it (which I always do, because that was my first experience of chai, but Jaspreet doesn't).

asakiyume: (Kaya)
A Manipur court ruled that Irom Sharmila's hunger strike in protest of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is not attempted suicide, and that therefore it's illegal to hold her on that charge--and, according to news sources, she has been released. (Story in the Guardian here.)

Imprisoning her on suicide charges was always wrongheaded, but this release doesn't address she's actually protesting, which is a law that grants the military impunity in its actions in "disturbed areas." What about the AFSPA? It's being reported that Sharmila has said she'll continue her fast, that she wants Modi to repeal the law--she's putting her faith in him.

A Times of India story said that the court ruled that "the state government may take up appropriate measure for her health and safety, such as nose feeding in case she decides to continue with her fast," which doesn't match my idea of an unconditional release--unless Sharmila herself asks for that assistance, which she may well--after all, she has permitted this feeding from the start.

I want Sharmila to succeed in her cause, but I want her to survive, too. It takes intensity and single-mindedness to maintain a protest for so long. Sometimes there are flurries of journalistic coverage, but there are long days and weeks with no signs of support, with only hospital staff for company. Through all that, for years and years, she's been steadfast. But does that single-mindedness keep you from seeing other possible approaches? Do you see only the one path? Does the path end up taking precedence over the cause? Or is that a treacherous question? Honestly, I don't know. She's a remarkable person. I think. . . I will trust her judgment and not second-guess her.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)

Voices are often what pull me into a story--even before I can hear what they're saying, sometimes just their tone, their manner. That was the case with the story of Jose Armenta, a Marine who, with a German shepherd, formed a mine-detecting team of two. Terry Gross interviewed him yesterday on Fresh Air.

Jose, his wife, and their dogs (Zenit in the background). Photo credit: Adam Ferguson/National Geographic

He was so soft-spoken, so matter-of-fact. So matter-of-fact about his traumatic childhood--shootings in front of his home--so matter-of-fact about his dangerous job, so understated about a sense of duty so strong that when he stepped on a mine, his first thought was shame at having "f--ed up" by failing to detect it.

Understated too about his deep love for Zenit, his dog partner. The soldiers who pair with mine-sniffing dogs aren't supposed to let themselves get too attached to the dogs, and Jose didn't think he had--but as he lay waiting for the Medevac, he kept asking for Zenit. And the National Geographic article "The Dogs of War," which goes into more detail about Jose and Zenit's story, notes that for his part, Zenit lay down next to Jose, ears pinned to his head, and stayed there until the chopper arrived.

During his recovery, Jose often woke from dreams, calling for Zenit. Even though the protocol was for Zenit to be assigned to a new handler in this situation (which did happen), Jose started up proceedings to adopt Zenit--and eventually succeeded.

Even though Jose doesn't go in for effusive statements of love, in his voice you can hear how much Zenit means to him. Zenit, for his part, ran right to Jose's side when they were reunited. We should all have--and be--such true friends. "I'm a lucky guy," Jose says.

Yeah, because even though he lost both legs above the knee, he's now married, has a baby son, and Zenit. It's not entirely happily ever after, but it's the sort of happiness this life gives us, if we're lucky.
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: created by the ninja girl (Default)

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