Friday, December 28, 2007

Two Thousand and Eight

This will be an auspicious year--I can feel it. I had to let the blog go for the holidays. Of course, I was busy with the holiday and catching up with friends. But, the last three days have been dreamlike. Cihan has had Coranna since Wednesday and I've been writing. I'm swimming as fast and as hard as I can, the current isn't fighting me and I can see the shore. I am there. It is amazing to be looking at the culmination of such an enormous project. Sure there's the very discouraging part of publishing, but that is not why I did this. I wrote this novel, to write it. I wrote to get this out of my system. I wrote because I can not NOT write. I'm submitting Chapter 10 to my writing group next week, but I'm actually reworking the last three chapters now. I finished three in the last three days, and did a read through of the first few chapters. If all goes well, I will be able to put this work aside after next week. I still will follow the process with the writing group, but I'll begin working on the Uygur novel. Aysa has been pounding on the door to get in. Now I can open that door.

Saturday I'm going dancing for my birthday. Techno-Indian. I can't get enough Indian rhythm. It is 2:00. I have been writing since 8:30 and I'm lightheaded. I'm headed to the club to clear my head. Smile. What a fabulous day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Holidays

I love this time of year. It is a struggle for me to write now, but I'm carving out the time. I am driven to meet my goals, but this time of year always sweeps me into the dark of Solstice, the solice of the Christmas lights, the mystery of the dark, and the drama of the colored lights.

If only Peace was a common thought, not just during the shortest days of the year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Honorable Dalai Lama

I respect the Dalai Lama, have read several of his books, and saw him speak twice. The first time I saw The Dalai Lama speak was in Washington, DC in 1995, and the second time was just last year in Vancouver, BC. Recently, I listened to a scholar on the Dalai Lama discuss about his appeal to Westerners. He said that the Dalai Lama's appeal comes from the universality and tolerance of his message. When I lived in Nepal, I often encountered this type of acceptance. This openness of thought. I'm too opinionated, not accepting enough when I feel strongly about a topic. The problem is that I feel strongly about many things. It has helped and hindered me, but I'm working on softening my opinions. Just Saturday my mom and I encountered a very kind craftsman selling his jewelery in our neighborhood. I noticed that he was reading a book on Sufis that I own and so I commented on it. He was delighted to tell me that he was, indeed, a Sufi and was actually married by a Sufi Imam. We talked and this led to a discussion on Turkish Mevlana. Some of his facts about Turkish Sufi's were, let's say, at odds with what I know and I went into the whole history, correcting the poor guy. He wouldn't give up, and I realized that I was attacking this man's belief system. I backed off. I mean, what did it matter to me or him if he knew about Ataturk's view of the Sufis. Instead, I validated his view and then started asking him about his work. Teaching me to turn off my mouth is like slowing the mouth of a springtime river. But, I'm working on it.

That said, let me spew some of my opinions.

This acceptance of leaders like the Dalai Lama and the intolerance of the Chinese leaders was one of the first aspects of culture that I researched for my novel. Cultures in conflict fascinate me. I asked my Chinese students, read many books, and went to websites to understand the Chinese justification for occupying Tibet. I read and listened to many arguments, each more heartfelt and stronger than the first. All of them lacked any real effort to listen to or try to understand the Tibetan side. Here the two most common arguments.

1.) From my most astute and articulate student, I heard the manner in which I believe the well-intentioned are brought on board the propaganda train. In this argument, China is seen as a benevolent big brother. There are levels on "enlightened" governments, of which communism is, of course, the most enlightened. Tibet, however, is unfortunately a feudal society and at the bottom of the hierarchy. Because the Tibetans are tightly bound by their "servitude" to their feudal ways, it is beyond their comprehension to change. It is the duty of the Chinese to bring the Tibetans up the hierarchy to communism. Unfortunately, because the Tibetans are so downtrodden, they are resisting the well-intentioned support of their more enlightened benefactors. The Chinese must be patient with the Tibetans because it will take this culture time to appreciate the efforts the Chinese have made to bring them a much better way of life. Before you scoff too hard, I ask you to fit this paradigm to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There isn’t much of a difference.

2.) A matter of pride. Tibet is the Jewel of the Motherland. Tibet has always been a part of China and will always remain a part of China. It is inconceivable that China would give Tibet sovereignty since Tibet has never been independent from China to begin with. The whole idea of sovereignty is stirred up by the separatist troublemaker the Dalai Lama and the westerners who don't know what they're talking about. Ah the power of the word “tradition.” It has always been this way, so why would you dare change it. So much is argued in the name of traditions. Of the top of my head, I can think of high schools refusing to comply to Native American’s requests to change their mascots from “warriors" with only the argument of tradition. It is amazing how much logic we can toss aside when the tradition elephant tromps through the room.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

music video

Here's a Ershou Meigui song that is new to me. I like the video.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Music always plays in my mind. If something rattles around in there for long enough, I've learned to listen. It is my subconscious screaming at me because I'm too stubborn to listen to anything but music. Edie Brickell's Circle has been circling (bad pun alert!)in my head for some time. I think it relates to my last post about the movie. I don't quit or give up, but "being alone is the best way to be." I'm rediscovering me, and I like it. There is strength in alone and a sensitivity. I've been thinking a lot, working out, walking, and remembering. I spent so much of my time thinking about an "us" that I forgot about the "me." Ultimately, what is an us without a me?

Cheng hears Ershou Meigui's Love Train. This song reminds him of his destiny, and ultimately keeps him on his journey. Ershou Meigui translates to Second Hand Roses but they are not a Broadway hit. One of the first major Chinese rock bands, they combine traditional instruments and rock instruments, traditional images and edgy, modern images. The lead singer dresses like a female opera singer. They turn tradition on its side while also using these traditional images and patriotic lyrics to crash down barriers. They're amazing. Just click on Love Train to listen.

When I was in Nepal, a song like this stopped me from throwing in the towel my first month. It was January and every day the village was obscured in chilling clouds. The cold and the mist got into my bones. I moved from my host's smokey room to the goat shed because I preferred the cold to the smoke. The students weren't showing up to school yet and it was too silent. I sat in that silence until I felt it crawling over me like spiders pushing me to run down the hill to catch the first bus home. As I walked down beneath the clouds, felt the heat of the valley warming me, I heard a song in my head telling me to stay. I stood still, listening to the rain, the water buffalos munching hay, the children singing in the fields, and the song in my head. I can't remember the song, but I remember its message. I turned around and climbed back up. I never felt like leaving again.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Milarepa: Magician, Murderer, Saint

I went to view Milarepa at the Hollywood last week. I went alone. There is something selfish and sustaining about seeing a film by myself. I haven’t gone alone to a movie theater since I went to see Flashdance, the film about the woman welder who dreams of being a dancer. I was a freshman in high school then, young, idealistic, and easily susceptible to the bad eighties soundtrack. I cried through the film, and, when I went home I ripped the collar off my Conant sweatshirt, bought some leg warmers, and, voila, a powerful woman was born.

Milarepa was also a good film to see alone. If I had been with someone else, I would have been aware of their reactions, worried of their understanding. Alone, I had nothing to distract me. The timing couldn’t have been better because I’m rewriting my journey chapters and I’m having trouble feeling the landscape. I know that my memory is shadowy and I’ve been trying to return to the Himalayas to feel the space again. I kept remembering a return visit to Nepal. Trying not to squash the goat tied-down behind me, I had gripped the luggage rail on the top of the bus and melted in the beauty that was greener, steeper, softer, and larger than my memory. Meanwhile, down below, Marianne had to fight for space with a basket of hens before she finally found a spot by the window where she could puke in peace, but that’s another story. As much as I tried, I could not bring back the feeling of that space. That’s why I’m so glad I went to that film Milarepa. It was shot in the Spiti Valley of the Himalayas. Stunning finger-like conicals tapered to blue sky, shades of muted browns and greens softened to white peaks. I felt my chest opening up to the landscape, to the stunning vistas and sharp contrasts. I journeyed in Tibet.