Monday, 30 March 2009

Happy Birthday!

There I am in May 2008 at Q's wedding with no idea of how my life was about to change come August.
And here I am today, in love and post surgery at my computer.

Happy Birthday to me! Wow what a year! I am in a completely different world than where I was last year, both physically and emotionally.

Last year I was living in Morocco, quite happily, working on my book, and taking myself to Paris for my 58th birthday; all while keeping in touch with my daughter and her plans for her upcoming wedding in May 2008. I was alone, but by no means lonely. I had a plan, and a back-up plan and I had Paris. I had a little house in the Oudayas with tourists walking past my door daily and the sounds of the mosque ringing in the early morning chill and the mid- afternoon heat. My ears were filled daily with the sounds of French and Arabic. My eyes were filled with the 11th century brushing up against the 21st as I walked the streets of Rabat.

Today – I am in Houston, Texas usa (I know!), fingers poised to finish one book and begin another, readying for a big writer’s conference in July, and planning (here it comes) my wedding for 7 June 2009 to the love of my youth – all while looking for a house to buy for us. My days are filled with the sounds of the Texas twang and the singing of birds in the tree outside my window. The 21st century rubs up against the 22nd all around me, and my eyes are filled with the sight of the man I love coming up the stairs, grinning ear to ear, arms loaded with flowers and gifts (amongst which were five new books, and a gift certificate to Anne Fontaine – the man knows me), saying “Happy Birthday my love!”.

That’s right lovely readers (ladies may sigh and swoon, Ian will grin, the rest do as you will) he wrote me a note on my blog last August after thirty-three years, we ran his mobile phone bill up to five thousand dollars, and wrote daily reams of post.

He wrote me poetry ladies, good poetry. Yes, sigh indeed. I told him, “If you want me, you have to come and get me” And so he did. We met in Paris for a week in October 2008. He said, “I love you. Please don’t go back to Africa or on to India. Come home with me.” And so I did. That is the really, really short form.

There will be more for you later. There will be a book – oh yes. I am not a silly person.

And so as I sit here in my little tree house apartment in Houston, Texas watching the mourning doves fetch new twigs for their nests and waiting for the temperature and humidity to rise (oh dear) I am well and truly happy. It is not that there are no problems (oh no, there is “our” ex-wife and two teenage children that are his, but becoming mine as well), and my child, and the daily travails of life as a human, but mine are minor and doable.

I am back at work writing after a six-month lay off to be romanced, move, fit in a new life, have a cancer scare, and then have happy-surgery and recovery. My fingers are itchy to get at the keys. The conference in July gives me a definite deadline. I am tomorrow six weeks post op, which for me the big to-do is the return to as much intimate physical interaction as I want (and trust me after a lay off of more years than I’m willing to tell you, the resumption of a sex life is very, very, very …(you get the idea) welcome!), and back to the gym – I’m terrified my body will turn to Jell-O!

I will say this about the plastic surgery. I had planned on this for years and saved for it from when I was in my thirties. I am very happy with the result – I guess it’s a good thing that we really can’t see a difference in the face, but oh baby! had I known the joy of a breasts lift – I would have had this done five years ago! Oh happy day! No bigger, no smaller (I told him, I have a couple of drawers of expensive French underwear I have to be able to fit into) just higher and so happy – days without any support makes me feel very sassy and naughty.

And so here I am – 59 years old. Wow. It’s been quite a trip. I can tell you I have never been bored. And now I am renewed in so many ways - I have so much love (and lust, such a good thing) in my life, and I’m looking forward to the next thirty or more years. I have to tell you I feel quite fortunate, or in the vernacular of the populace here – ‘pretty damn lucky’.

I had no idea that romance, in the form of true love, would ever enter my life again except on the written page. I have been so blessed in the past, and there has not been a shortage of men available and willing even through my fifties, but…never the one, never even close enough that I wanted to change my day, let alone my life. But then J. wrote, and called, and wrote, and called – and we were like a couple of twenty-year olds in Paris, but better, as we have both known enough pain to really appreciate the uniqueness of our love affair that has spanned our lives from young adults whose brains were not yet fully formed (“Why did you tell me to go away?” I asked. “Because at the time I thought there was one of you on every corner. I found that was not true. I was an idiot,” he said. “You were very young,” I said) to two people in their late fifties grateful beyond words for a second chance.

We spoke, at first haltingly, and then in a torrent as we stepped back into each other as though it had been yesterday that we parted, and not decades ago. Every day is now filled with romance (ladies trust me on this one, eat your hearts out – I’m talking flowers, unexpected gifts, those small touching things like leaving out a band aid because he noticed I had a blister on my foot… the constant and oh so welcome barrage of words and physical display of love and lust) and more laughter than I can ever communicate on a page. Leave it to say that my dimples are constantly sore, and I have trouble breathing at least twice a day.

My mind is still working, my imagination is enhanced with experience, and I am in love – deeply, peacefully, but with great excitement every day, in love. I am for the most part; a couple of notable hiccups for sure, healthy. I am so grateful that I am grateful – an odd sentence for sure but true in sentiment. Every day remains a day of discovery. I remain insatiably curious about everything. Years ago my best friend showed me a card we both thought brilliant that stated, “how old would you be if you were as old as you felt?”. For me that age is 34, I don’t know why other than it was a good year in a tumultuous decade, but I feel 34. So I choose to be 34 for a while longer. Enough said.

I remind myself (from my note board) to “step out of line”:
“For every nine people who denounce innovation, only one will encourage it… For every nine people who do things the way they have always been done, only one will ever wonder if there is a better way. For every nine people who stand in the line in front of a locked building, only one will ever come around and check the back door.
Our progress, as a species rests squarely on the shoulders of that tenth person. The nine are satisfied with things they are told are valuable. Person 10 determines for himself what has value.”

Za Rinpoche and Ashley Nebelsieck, In The Backdoor to Enlightenment

I try every day to be the 10th person.

MY Happy Day to you all!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

uh oh

MIgraine day yesterday, recovering... back tomorrow.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I love presents!

Ian sent me these lovely awards and I placed a short list of deserving nominees below - all my lovely readers are deserving. On the right, the Premio Sardos Award. It is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.

On the left ( just directions nothing political) the Must Read Award: "some blogs that I just have to read each day or at least each day that I log on; like a morning coffee they have become part of my morning ritual." That quote from the giver of the award.

my James
my friend jmb
for laughs and the "aw" factor Sparks
for downhome love and truths Mountain Mama
For the upscale view Dulwichmum
to make your mouth water and the view from Italy - Sicily Scene
and for the dark side with a laugh, Darth
and for things we need to know PJ

I have no explanation for you?

Corrective Rape

The use of sexual assault to “cure” lesbians in South Africa.

In a disturbing report entitled “Hate Crimes: the rise of corrective rape in South Africa,” the NGO Action Aid said:

In South Africa, no woman is safe from violence. The country’s war against its women continues unabated, with an estimated 500,000 rapes, hundreds of murders and countless beatings inflicted every year. For every 25 men accused of rape in South Africa, 24 walk free.

This shameful record has resulted in an increasingly brutal and oppressive culture of male violence, in which women are forced to conform or suffer the consequences.

As part of this oppression, the country is now witnessing a backlash of crimes targeted specifically at lesbian women, who are perceived as representing a direct threat to a male-dominated society.

… Support groups say that rape is fast becoming the most widespread hate crime targeted against gay women in townships across South Africa. One lesbian and gay support group says it is dealing with 10 new cases of lesbian women being targeted for “corrective” rape every week in Cape Town alone.

Monday, 23 March 2009

I've been thinking - again...

This worries me –
From the New York Times; “The Art of Political Distraction” by SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

“It was a sliver of news, seemingly a side issue, run amok. In the grand scheme of today’s taxpayer expenditures — $787 billion for economic recovery; another $700 billion to shore up shaky financial institutions; who knows how many more billions tomorrow — the A.I.G. bonuses amount to small change. But the small change became a big deal in an instant, dominating the talk shows and threatening to undermine Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda.

…by tapping into some larger fear or existing perception — “a proxy for a bigger concern,” in the words of Ed Gillespie, former counselor to Mr. Bush. If that concern runs deep enough, the side issue becomes the main issue.

The tail begins to wag the dog!

Thus did the A.I.G. bonuses become a symbol of long-simmering taxpayer resentment over Wall Street bailouts, and economic inequity in general, raising essential questions about fairness and personal responsibility —

“There has to be a sense of good and evil, a dramatic arc to it that makes some intuitive sense, so it can’t be terribly complex.”

…what the public wants in these situations “is closure,” Mr. Gillespie said.

“Under these circumstances, you have victims and you need to find a villain,” Ms. Jamieson said. “We need a narrative explanation that tells us how we got here, and attaches blame.”

Yet by week’s end, it was clear that the furor had exacted a price. As the House passed legislation imposing a 90 percent tax on bonuses after bailout, the White House ducked questions about whether Mr. Obama would sign such a bill. Mr. Geithner’s credibility was badly damaged, in part because of his shifting explanations of how he learned of the bonuses. Mr. Dodd suffered as well, for his role in writing legislation that, in the end, allowed the bonuses to be paid.”

This worries me because we, the voters/public/citizens of the world, must be smarter than this. The easy issue, the quick answer seldom is the right way to go. We have to be willing to READ more than one newspaper, LISTEN to more than one viewpoint (CNN and FOX), and then form an opinion of our OWN. I think this economic mess is dangerous in more ways than money – it can distract the world from evil being pursued right under our noses (Darfur is still there, the Congo is still going up in flames, the trafficking in sex slaves, both boys and girls – most of them CHLDREN, continues to grow ("When it comes to statistics, trafficking of girls and women is one of several highly emotive issues which seem to overwhelm critical faculties. Numbers take on a life of their own, gaining acceptance through repetition, often with little inquiry into their derivations. … the UNESCO project illustrates the wildly varying data on human trafficking produced by government organizations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). For example, in 2001, the FBI estimated 700,000 women and children were trafficked worldwide, UNICEF estimated 1.75 million, and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) merely 400,000.”), the gun runners of the world are reaping the benefits of violence from the Kush to the Mexican-U.S. border, AIDS is on the rise in Washington D.C. of all places (3 percent of D.C. residents have HIV or AIDS — a 22-percent increase since 2006; statistically that is epidemic proportions), young men and women are still dying and being wounded every day in a war that is not - in Iraq and Afghanistan, the planet is crumbling underneath us from global warming and the sheer number of humans, and waste, we drill for and fight over the last of the earth’s petroleum instead of developing alternate sources of energy. Eventually, we will run out of oil. It takes at least 10 million years, specific geological processes and a mass extinction of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures to create crude oil -- making it the definition of a nonrenewable resource.

I’m not saying we should not vent some anger over the AIG bastards but in proper perspective.

I hate to give you two gloomy posts in a row but that’s what’s going on in my head today. We can’t do hands on saving the world on the majority of these issues as we have to go to work, cook dinner, worry about tuition for our children, make time (please!!!) to give and receive affection (sex for those who can:-), look at what exhibit is showing at the museum, and go see Julia Roberts and gorgeous Clive at the cinema (no I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m going to for sure).

We have to pray and meditate. We have to do the laundry. We have to go to the gym, hug our children, check the homework, pay the electric bill, and unclog the drain.

What I AM saying is that I want us to be AWARE of the big picture. We need to be aware of what is going on in Dubai, Washington D.C., Moscow, Beirut, Rabat, Jerusalem, and Riyadh – then do whatever we can. Educate our children in tolerance and compassion, refuse to be lazy and allow someone else to make up our minds on complicated issues, make time to CARE. Vote. Give when and what we can. Write our opinions – I love bloggers.

I do think it makes a difference. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before, I didn’t like it but there it is eh? I know my own child gives me grief about the Tibetan monks (present and past) who sit for years in a cave and meditate on compassion. “What possible good can that do?” But I think it can! Prayer, meditation, just being fucking NICE makes a difference in the greater Universe. We are in the Universe, that’s a fact, but how we affect the Universe, because we do (that is also a fact) is a CHOICE.

I think intention in whatever form or title we give it is the most powerful force in the Universe. I do. But intention requires persistence to be truly effective.

I love this quote from one of the American presidents, "Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
Calvin Coolidge

Seven years after the death of his son Daniel, his father Judea Pearl said, “Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters. Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of "the resistance." Or that another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, would spend his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.
But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.”

I realize I’m really taking you on a stream of consciousness here but that’s where my head is today – so let’s hear YOUR thoughts eh?


Sunday, 22 March 2009

what's on my mind today

I believe grief is as individual as fingerprints or DNA. I know, I know, there are the “five stages of grief” – and when you do not follow them and end your grief in what your friends, family, and society in general consider a timely manner – you must be “depressed” in a clinical sense or “holding onto your grief to keep them here”, or “holding on to your grief so that you do not have to move on”. One’s extended grief can actually become annoying to those close to them. “ You need to see a psychiatrist”; you need to “get some help”. Sometimes a person in grief is not crazy or depressed – they are in grief and it last until it’s done or they are dead.

“Why haven’t you married again?” “Why don’t you date?” “You should have a relationship and then you will forget.” Well I don’t bloody well want to forget! I have “moved on”. I have a happy life.

It’s not a timetable that works. There are always extenuating circumstances – for some it’s the last straw on a lifetime of loss, for others it is just too overwhelming to consider life without those lost, some have never had such a loss and have no tools with which to deal with such an all consuming emotional state. Some take their own lives because they cannot face a future without those whom they loved so completely; and then there are those like me, who find we have no ability to commit suicide and it’s fucking annoying at the time I can tell you – pissed me off. So I spent a year trying to die in some very creative and noble pursuits – you note that I remain.

I suffered such a loss over twenty-five years ago that still makes me bleed through my skin. At this time every year, some years less and some years more, I walk, talk, eat, sleep (not very well), and function as best I can while all the while my life’s blood is oozing out my pores and dripping on the floor, the keyboard, the book I’m reading, the kitchen counter, into the sink while I wash my face. I watch it swirl down the shower drain in a whirling circle of red.

And grief is fucking sneaky! It gets you when you are watching mourning doves build a nest outside your window and you burst into tears; when you see a child whose face snatches you back in time as surely as any mechanical time machine and your heart aches to the point you can feel the pieces falling off; when you make the mistake of watching the latest Kira Knightly movie because you think it will be just another light costume drama and instead it leaves you feeling like a rag that has been used too long, wrung out one time too many times; a song plays, or a smell – like a curl of smoke – drifts slowly up your nostrils and sends you body and soul back to the that day; a touch on my face, just so, can put me back on the walk along the Seine on a Spring day in Paris…

You can be just fine and then suddenly you can’t see through the blackness that has descended, you are trying to communicate with the world through a fog so thick it’s like cotton candy, and so dark that it could be midnight inside a singularity, and there is a one hundred pound anvil on your chest so that breathing is an effort. Your hearing is impaired – you hear the sounds from that day, those years ago, instead of now – the bells of Notre Dame, the ragged chugging of the motorboats taking the tourists back and forth along the Seine, the barking of the small Paris dogs that are ubiquitous, the sound of my love speaking to me of nothing of any great import – all sounds of a Tuesday morning, any Tuesday morning, like so many Tuesday mornings that had come before, and like no other Tuesday morning ever to come.

And the smell of the fresh grass of spring, the flowers that the old woman on the corner is selling from her stall (I remember the cart was blood red with a fleur-de-lys stamped in gold in the centre, and the flecks of gold paint had fallen off over the years giving it the appearance of standing history); the flowers in the Tuileries peeking out from the winter thaw, the smell of fresh bread baking, drifting out from the many café’s along the way, and the clean man smell of the tall chap rubbing my huge belly with his long fingered hands, my belly which was filled with life that we had created together – and he laughed, and then I laughed to see the joy in his eyes that I had put there.

And then in a single moment that lasted for an eon they were both gone. And I should “get over it”? I don’t’ think so. I can live with it. I have done so, I continue to do so, but “let them go”? Why would I want to do that? The guilt yes, I’m working on that; I’ve been working on that for almost thirty years but guilt so deep as to be felt every time you breathe is not so easily expunged.

First the Universe gave me Q to ease my heart and give me joy, and now a love from thirty-three years ago has come back into my life and has filled it with so much love that I wake every day with gratitude. So yes, this year is different. This year is much more difficult. This year I must let go some of the past so that there is room for my present, for him. This is no easy thing. Some emotions, experiences that change us fundamentally, lie buried so deep that there are endless reservoirs of grief to replace – indeed to displace a new love.

Oddly enough I feel almost adulterous, an unpleasant feeling being the loyal soul that I am. He feels it, he sees it when my eyes go ‘dark’ and I’m no longer here. It hurts him. It makes him feel I leave him, and at such times I indeed do just that. It makes him jealous of a dead man, and that does not make him feel honourable no matter how much I say it is normal and that I understand. He has been tender, loving, patient, but the pain in his eyes is growing; and he wants an answer. He wants the pain to end because he loves me; but he is after all a human, and he wants my pain to end so that I am here, in present time, with him.

I am trying – yes Yoda I hear you, “Do or do not… there is no try”. I am meditating. I am constructing a room for them in my mind. A place my memories can stay and be out of the present; and yet a room I can visit. I know that to not have love in my life, to not have the best existence I can is to fail to honour them. I know this. I do not disparage psychiatry, I think it works for some, and is needed for many people; it’s not where I go for help – for a list of reasons it is not an option for me. I can do this. I know I can. I just have to convince myself that I want to do so. I do. I am not someone who is willing to throw away happiness. I have seen much of the world and there is so much misery that to give your happiness away is not logical. I will not do that. And yet I know I cannot pretend. I cannot push the feelings down lest they attack me at some crucial moment when not expected. I have to bring it all, including the guilt, most especially the guilt, and expose it in the clear and merciless light of day. I know that they, the one who could not yet speak and the one who loved me completely, would want me to do this. For me, it is time. Now is the time. I know that their souls are out there, that I will meet them again in the next turn of the Wheel. I know this.

Today is a better day. Yesterday was a very bad day. Tomorrow is another day. I can do this.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

death in my little part of the Universe..

My MacBook Pro has died, sigh. I do believe it was a year of ingesting Moroccan electrical power - yes, trust me, different. It's very, very dead. I did all the jiggling and taking apart I could but alas - no joy.

I am leaving a'traveling this afternoon and will be gone for about a week or so. I had planned to take you all along, like I do - but I fear I must needs wait upon my return to give you the news. I hold out hope still that a new battery may be the simple and not so awful solution to the ails of my laptop but there is no time for the Apple store as we are leaving presently.

THere is much concern amongst those traveling with me as to my sanity during a week without touching fingers to keypads. A valid concern I feel.
Be nice to yourselves and each other until I see you in a week then eh?


Saturday, 14 March 2009

The heights traveled to subdue Tibet

By Edward Wong IHT
Saturday, March 14, 2009

MAQU, China: The paramilitary officer took our passports. It was close to midnight, and he and a half-dozen peers at the checkpoint stood around our car on the snowy mountain road. After five days, our travels in the Tibetan regions of western China had come to an abrupt end.
My colleagues and I waited for the police to arrive. We were to be escorted to the local police station, interrogated and put on a plane back to Beijing.
"This is for your own safety," the paramilitary officer said.
The detention, two weeks ago, was not entirely unexpected: I was reporting on Tibet, one of the most delicate issues in the eyes of the Chinese government. And I was traveling through Tibetan areas of Qinghai and Gansu Provinces as the government was deploying thousands of troops to clamp down on any unrest.
Tibetans widely resent Chinese rule, and Chinese leaders fear that Tibetans could seize on this month, the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising, to carry out a wave of protests, similar to what took place a year ago. Part of the mission of the security forces is to evict foreigners so that whatever occurs will be kept hidden from the world.
That, of course, has always been part of the problem with Tibet. China's lockdown this month is only the latest episode in a long history of both Tibetans and Chinese trying to keep the mountain kingdom closed to the outside world. News of Tibet has always been difficult to obtain because much of the region lies on a remote plateau above 15,000 feet that is ringed by mountains. Information becomes that much harder to get when governments padlock the gate.
Drawing a veil over Tibet has only encouraged outsiders to project their own imaginings and desires onto the hidden land, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
It happened in the 19th century, when Tibetan officials, seeing Britain and Russia jockey for influence in Central Asia during the Great Game, decided to close Tibet to foreigners. The very state of isolation spurred explorers, spies, missionaries, colonial officers and Buddhist devotees into quests to reach Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
Britain shot its way to Lhasa during a brutal military invasion in 1904, then tried to keep other foreigners out. The Chinese Communist Party, after conquering Tibet in 1951, kept the region closed during decades of repression (and made it into a "hell on earth," the Dalai Lama said on Tuesday).
China gradually opened Tibet to tourists, only to close it during each stirring of civil unrest.
"A large element of Tibet's historical allure grew precisely out of its isolation, that it was untouched by the modern world and did not welcome incursions," Orville Schell, author of "Virtual Tibet," a book about the enduring Western fascination with Tibet, wrote in an e-mail message. "So, there is a certain irony in the fact that China, which had been successful in removing a good deal of the allure of the Tibet mystique to Westerners by making it so accessible, now once again feels obliged to 'close' it."
The history of Western attempts to penetrate into Tibet in the 19th and early 20th centuries is recounted in "Trespassers on the Roof of the World," by Peter Hopkirk. The travelers often braved blizzards, mountain passes and marauding bandits, only to be stopped short of Lhasa by armies of Tibetans led by high-ranking monks. Sometimes they were taken prisoner and tortured. (I didn't have it quite as bad on that mountain road. Not only did the paramilitary officers not draw weapons on us, they offered us hot milk as we sat in our car.)
In 1879, Colonel Nikolai Prejevalsky of the Imperial Russian Army set out with an escort of armed Cossacks for the Tibetan capital, only to be halted within 150 miles of Lhasa by Tibetan officials. He turned back.
Eighteen years later, a British adventurer named A. Henry Savage Landor was captured on his way to Lhasa, brought to a provincial governor and tortured, including being stretched on a rack for 24 hours. After his release, he returned to England and wrote a best-selling book about his captivity.
Those who did make it into Lhasa usually did so in disguise. A handful of Indian spies in the employ of the British Empire posed as holy men. A Japanese Buddhist named Ekai Kawaguchi pretended to be a Chinese physician. And a Frenchwoman fluent in Tibetan language and culture, Alexandra David-Néel, became the first Western woman to set foot in Lhasa when she entered dressed as a pilgrim in 1923.
By then, though, news of Tibet had been seeping out into the world. That began with the British military expedition of 1904, led by Sir Francis Younghusband. With Maxim guns and Enfield rifles, the soldiers killed thousands of Tibetans on their march from India. The Tibetans were forced to sign a treaty with the British, one of the terms being that the British could post trade agents within Tibet. The British then did all they could to keep other foreigners out.
The British had invaded Tibet thinking the Russians already had a foothold there, but they found no significant Russian influence. That was because until then, the 13th Dalai Lama had succeeded in sealing off Tibet. That very success had led the British to fill the void with their imaginings. They dreamed up Tsarist plots and proceeded, with great violence, to pry open Tibet in part because of those delusions.
Decades later, after ending Tibet's self-rule in 1951, then destroying countless temples and persecuting monks and nuns in horrific campaigns, China began modernizing Tibet and opened it to foreign tourists. I first traveled to Tibetan regions of China in 1999, and spent five weeks in Lhasa and central Tibet in 2001, part of the time hiking between monasteries.
But now that I work in China as a journalist, it is much harder to get to Tibet. All foreign journalists need permission from the government to legally enter central Tibet, which is rarely granted. What's more, since the uprising of March 2008, the government has, for months at a time, kept foreigners from entering any Tibetan area.
Chinese can travel to Tibet, but the land is far away. What little they know of Tibet comes from truly Orwellian government propaganda. The official line asserts, for example, that the Dalai Lama is "a jackal clad in Buddhist monk's robes."
One Chinese friend who worked in a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province told me he gets shocked looks from friends when he shows them photographs of himself with red-robed monks. "They get scared," he said. "They say, 'What are you doing? Who are these people?' They don't know how to react."
That sense of confusion was echoed by a Chinese reader engaged in a discussion on Tibet last week on this newspaper's Web site,
"Even for me, a real Chinese, Tibet is such a remote and mysterious place," wrote the reader, Cao Wei, of Shanghai. "I don't have an idea what all these things are about."

how the power flows...

How China is dealing with the current economic crisis is not so very innovative, and yet as the oldest and best of bureaucrats they move right along into the 21st century without missing a step. Ah yes, so very different from the West – is it?

As China's Communists gather, luxury sales soar

By David Barboza
Published: March 14, 2009

BEIJING: A week ago, a finely dressed Chinese man walked into Louis Vuitton's flagship store here trailed by a bodyguard and said he wanted to purchase a gift for a government official.
"This is for a very senior official," the man told a clerk. "I tell you, he is at the top. So what kind of handbag do you think is suitable for him?"
Sales clerks at Louis Vuitton and other luxury stores in Beijing offer an intriguing explanation for the appearance of such customers: every March, Communist Party delegates from China's 34 provinces and regions gather in the capital for a two-week congress; the one for this year ended Friday.
At the annual meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, 5,000 delegates assess the nation's progress and debate public policy. But while here, they also seek to curry favor with their superiors, the nation's top leaders, often by showering them with expensive gifts: Gucci handbags, Hermès scarves, Mont Blanc pens and $30,000 Swiss watches.
The gifts (sometimes paid for by private entrepreneurs and other times with state funds) are essentially bribes or kickbacks sent from one government official to another, and they are prohibited under Chinese law, which bars officials from accepting gifts that might influence their decision-making.

But in China, experts say, bribery laws are selectively enforced, and party members in good standing are rarely investigated.
Consequently, the practice of bribing government officials with expensive goods is so widespread here that luxury-goods producers have come to count on it as an increasingly important source of revenue, though the companies are tight-lipped about it, and officials strongly deny that it happens.
China is now the world's fastest-growing luxury market with an estimated $7.6 billion in sales last year, according to Bain, a consulting firm.
And industry experts say gifts to government officials, their relatives and even mistresses make up close to 50 percent of the country's luxury sales.
"The government officials are not really buying it — they have modest incomes," says Radha Chadha, co-author of "The Cult of the Luxury Brand."
"Somebody else does the buying and gifts the stuff to them."
That is what is apparently happening in Beijing this month. Party cadres and their friends are going on shopping sprees, searching out brand names like Ferragamo, Dior and Cartier, though Chinese officials say no such activity takes place.
"Where have you heard this crazy news?" asked Jiang Hongbo, a media relations official working with delegates from Heilongjiang Province. "It is impossible there's any delegate sending gifts."
Yang Zhi, a liaison official from the far-western region of Xinjiang, was more indignant.
"Do you think it's possible we are busy sending gifts and hobnobbing with officials during such serious meetings?" he asked.
Louis Vuitton declined to comment, as did Gucci. Many other leading companies did not return phone calls.
But privately, marketing and sales executives at some of the leading brands offer a fascinating portrait of how bribery and corruption take place in China. They admit to having special accounts for government officials, their kin and mistresses, often with code names, like Dr. No and Miss K.
Usually the purchases are charged to the account or credit card of a private businessman. (Purchase of gifts for government officials by other officials is not nearly so common as their purchase by private businessmen.)
"When I first went to China, I was fascinated, because I always saw two guys going shopping," says Chadha, an expert on luxury brands in Asia. "But later I found that one is doing the shopping and the other is paying."
The game puts European luxury goods companies in a peculiar position. They are in the business of selling, but in China, they often know a little too much.
Executives have profiles of their customers' fashion tastes: government officials, for instance, favor Ermenegildo Zegna suits and Ferragamo shoes. They don't like big, noticeable logos, lest the bribe be too obvious. And they mostly covet expensive watches, which are easily stashed and sometimes traded in for big wads of cash.
No high-ranking official wants counterfeit goods. "That'd be like committing suicide," one marketing manager said of the prospect of bribing an official with a fake.
If you tell a sales clerk at a luxury store in China you're buying for a government official, they know exactly what you're looking for.
"Jewelry is a favorite for people sending gifts to government officials," said a clerk at Jimmy Choo's luxury shop in Beijing. His name is withheld to protect his job.
At a Dunhill store in Beijing, a clerk said: "These black handbags are popular with government officials because the logo is dark. It's discreet."

Friday, 13 March 2009

new for us

The Women's Blog Directory has a variety of women doing all manner of things and writing about it.
I have to go look at houses today (oh yes, sigh, such a chore - not; how lucky am I, I know this) so here are a couple of new sites I found that are fun.

And a soldier chap who makes your daily newspaper reads more compact!

I'll get something up later today.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

live every moment with passion

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to drawback, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man/woman could have dreamt would have come his/her way. I have learned a keep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

This is another paste up on one of my boards that I thought to share with you. I love this one. Again, I can’t give proper credit because it’s one of those that I’ve tucked about for so long I have forgotten from whence it came. I share it with acknowledgement to the author and apologies for my lapse of memory.

It is so true isn’t it? I can’t tell you the number of times it has proven true for me. I am a bit, just the tiniest bit – really I don’t need the medication, a perfectionist and rather zealous competitor, which has led me more than once down the path of procrastination. If I can’t do something that’s splendid then I fear to begin, or once begun, fear to finish. So I keep the above to read along with my most favourite, the words that have helped me many times put word to the page - by Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit so you may as well write it.”

I imagine this is on my mind today because in August of last year (2008) I was within shouting distance of finishing my first novel, only the last third to go – and then my life became more romantic and amazing (again, it has happened to me before) than anything I could write – so I stopped. Then came the big and very effective romancing – the trip to Paris, and the move to (of all the places on Earth) Houston, Texas usa. Then the cancer scare, then the surgery. I am now well and almost recovered so back to work I go. I think the interim was a good thing (in many ways not related to writing) in one way concerning my writing, as I am ready to go, my fingertips are itching to get back to it. In the coming days I shall be filling you in (yes Annie and Jenny – finally!) on the events that have led me to my present emotional and geographical environment.

I have to run, doctor’s appointment - with the important questions to ask – like when can I get back to exercise, when can I have my hair done, and other such matters.

Have a great day today my lovely readers. The recent events in Alabama and Germany, along with the uncertainty of everyday, should make us remember to live fully each moment we have. No time for negative people, no time for intolerance, no time for hate, no time for regret or guilt, no time – you get the idea. Get yourself hugged today and return the favour to someone else eh? Smile all over your face when someone you love comes into your line of sight.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

going on today as well..

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising that forced His Holiness out of Tibet and there are demonstrations worldwide and I will shed some tears. I appreciate the New York Times putting His photograph and the day’s importance on the front page today. It’s a very small world these days my lovely readers, oppression ‘next door’ affects us and our children here, and everywhere.

for fun

You didn’t know…

That I needlepoint did you? You’re surprised aren’t’ you? He he. I don’t consider myself ‘girly’, of course there is a generational definition gap there, but I like my movies to go boom and my literature a bit heavy (Tolstoy, Black Holes and Time Warpss, Cold Zero, Inside Terrorism) or really light (Salvatore, Eddings, Grisham…) and I don’t do many ‘girl’ things (shopping is not a girl thing when you approach it as a planned op; get in, achieve the objective, and get out) but on the other hand I have read all of Jane Austen and Casablanca is on my top ten movies of all time list, right up there with The Dirty Dozen.

I began to needlepoint in 1970 and I consider it the largest contributor to keeping me out of the offices of any and all psychologists and psychiatrists. My best friend, Q’s grandmother, houses my History of Needlepoint Pieces that I have finished over the years, as I have made them birthday, and holiday presents to her for years because she loves the pieces, she just can’t do it. You have to find your own outlet (blowing shit up does the same thing for me, but I have to be located in an geographically hospitable environment, if not – the punching bag will do in a pinch).
Yes it is true, the last time I had to have my knee operated on my surgeon did threaten to test my testosterone levels after I began to run less than a week after the surgery. Hey, like I told him – “I didn’t take the pain medication until after I ran – so I knew if anything was going bleuy.” It sounded logical to me…

I began with simple pieces and wool threads, now I do a lot of cotton and silk. When I have to be confined to bed for whatever reason – I do a piece with gold thread in it – akin to playing tag with a rhino when you are naked and have poor depth perception. Here are a few of the pieces I have about. The “Starry Night” which is mounted on the wall belongs to Q, we had to wait until she settled in one place long enough to have a wall to hang it on! It has quite a legend and it is all written on the back, making it a more interesting piece I think.
The sky has nine different shades of blue in it, and it took me 13+ hours to do the gold. I saved it until I had my knee surgery and knew I would be confined to bed. As it happened there was a 13-hour replay of the Dune movie and television series and wa la!

The Egyptian piece was hand painted for me (all of mine are hand painted, most in London) from a photograph of the coronation medallion of Nefertiti. It was my first foray into using the silk threads – amazing I came out of that sane and without doing physical harm to anyone. The background is in wool, the faces are in silk, and the crowns are in cotton. I’m quite proud of that piece.

J (the story is coming, I promise) says I think like a man but look like a beautiful woman – not a bad resume eh? I’ll take it, and I freely admit that on the majority the thought processes of most women (not all!!!) are beyond my understanding.

All this to share with you something fun.


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Feast of ice

I saw this exhibit (new every year, duh) a few years ago when I was in Alaska, but I was a few days late and they were a bit deep in snow at the time.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Just take a minute

to go over to the New York Times and read this and leave a comment eh? If enough people express outrage at such shameful behaviour - I don't know that it will make any dent at all but at least it will bring attention to the article and perhaps they will write more and then cause some change. Yes, we all know I am an optimist. In a world with so much misery just now from famine, war, genocide, and the spectrum in between, to economic devastation of countries and individuals I find this behavior insulting personally as a human being and just bloody bad manners.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Spring? really?

How can it be March already? Oh my this year is whizzing by! It may be that spring takes me by surprise located as I am now in the country (oh no I spelled it correctly, trust me) of Texas where the only true winter I had was the week we spent in NYC.

But it is lovely today and I am much improved; all the stitches that are coming out, came out yesterday (ow!) and the other were “clipped” to absorb in their own time. I can stand up straight now, most of the time, and was given permission to walk about a bit more – so that’s all good.

I’m going to be good (no really!) and time myself when it comes to time at my computer, working (I can’t believe how much energy, I mean actual energy, that writing uses) and ease up on full time for at least another week or so – I’m not good, as we know, at the moderation thing. Grrrrr. The fact that I wear out quickly is helpful, as is the falling over and onto the couch.

So here for you today is a little something I have taped on my “wall”. I always carry about and collect new bits and pieces of what I consider brilliant little pieces of advice or observation and keep them on a bulletin board or taped on a wall or cabinet door…

“…that week taught me to honour W.C. Field’s profound statement, ‘IF at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.’
The thing is, science supports this. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the ability to quit easily makes us healthier – and wealthier – than does leechlike tenacity.”

I would love to give credit but I cut it out of some publication ages ago, and I don’t remember where or even when. I don’t think it should be used as an excuse to give up on a creditable endeavour because it is difficult, but I do think that sometimes you have to say, ‘That isn’t working and find a better way.’

I have to go sit now. ☺


Oh, and Happy Square Root Day! The math-buffs’ holiday, which occurs only nine times each century, is today – 3/3/09 (for the mathematically challenged, three is the square root of nine).