Saturday, 12 January 2013

Fire! Goodwill. Dreamliner. Diego my pal.

1. On Friday 11th January 2013 at about 4:15 p.m. I was sitting on my Lanai when I saw a huge cloud of thick black smoke arising from a street across the pond.  This was followed by a few wee explosions.

Then the Fire Trucks arrived with a great hullaballoo, and soon the smoke was replaced with steam.

I investigated the scene this morning.

All I could see was a lot of mud, and some shards of broken glass in the middle of a street.  There were no signs of damage to any of the condominium units.

Best guess is that a car had caught on fire.

2. Our local “Goodwill” store (charity shop in the U.K.) was utterly mobbed when I went there this afternoon. It was hard to find a parking space, and once inside the store I encountered long lines at the check-outs. The “big box” stores would have been envious.

Some of this may have to do with the economic recession which has scarcely improved since 2008. And some of it may be because folks of all classes know that they can find bargains at Goodwill.

Sebastian is one of my Hispanic friends. He grew up in a very financially poor home.  He told me that when he was a child he thought that the “Goodwill” store was the Mall.

3. In two weeks from now I will, God willing, fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo en route to Japan.  My United Airlines flight well be on a new Boeing “Dreamliner” . That’ll give me enough to fret and worry about in the next 14 days!

4. Diego is another Hispanic-American friend. He is working at a low wage in a local supermarket to pay his way through college.

We've gotten to know each other via our cheerful banter at the checkout.

I once made him burst into laughter when I commended his proficiency in the Spanish language and then asked,  “Did you have to go to school to learn Spanish? (He got my tongue in cheek humour)

He is so very cheerful and efficient that I made sure to seek out the store manager and sing out his praises.

Diego met my brother Martyn, together with Sam and Toby when they were here last September.  He always asks about them.

I asked Diego if he would like to earn a few extra bucks by taking me (with his girl friend) to the airport in Tampa when I leave en route to Vietnam, and to meet me there when I get back (at 10:13 p.m.!)

After Diego had checked his shifts, he told me today that he would be more than happy to be my chauffeur on those two days.

I thanked him profusely for this great favour.

He replied “nothing I can do is a favour for you Michael”.

“What goes around comes around”.  Be good to those who wait on you in retail stores!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Delightful Scottish words

“Bidies-in”:   a couple who are living together without the benefits of marriage.  (Sounds much sweeter than “shacked-up”)

“Moiety”:  a half, or a portion, e.g. “She ate a moiety of the delicious apple pie which was offered for dessert”.

SOURCE:  “The Importance Of Being Seven” – the latest novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s “44 Scotland Street” series., which are set in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Turnips and Lawyers

When I grew up my Mum would add turnips to the lamb or beef stews which she often made for Saturday lunch in the winter months.

I was not impressed!  Nor did I care for the parsnips which she added to those stews.

In recent, (say the last twenty) years I have grown to like parsnips.

But what about turnips?:  Are they worthy of praise?.

My good pal Ben gave me some very small turnips the other day.

I peeled, sliced and boiled them and then I sautéed them in a wee bit of olive oil.

Oh my goodness, they were delicious. They were so good that they did not need even the tiniest bit of seasoning.



This morning I spent about 45 minutes with my Sarasota lawyer to make sure that all my records and wishes were up to date.

This was in anticipation of my 2013 - Jan 26th –  Feb 10th -  visit to Vietnam: - it was a sort of “belt and braces” (“belt and suspenders”)  precaution.

I had taken a blank cheque/check, so at the end of the interview I enquired about his fee.

“Not a penny” he said.  “I am happy to help you”.

I replied:  “Thank you very much, but please let me make out this cheque/check to your favourite charity”.

“No” he said, “but you could make it out to your favourite charity”.

I was on my way to Resurrection House (Sarasota’s day shelter for homeless people) where I lead a weekly prayer service.

Once there I made out the check as a donation to Res. House,  in honour of my  Sarasota lawyer, Paul Moran, Esq.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The legacy of colonialism and a wise woman.

Ly May Chan, one of the women who leads the Ta Phin village, Sapa Vietnam (where I will visit next month) writes as follows:

“I have worked with outside organizations to educate the villagers about the problem of visiting paedophiles. The villagers are clear about this risk. Child molesters are not tolerated.”

What a tragedy that at a woman leader in rural Vietnam has to address this matter.

She has to do so because of the legacies of:

1. Colonialism.

2. Racism (which considers Asian children to be of lesser worth than our own kids).

3. A depraved, evil, and perverse understanding of human relationships, and of human sexuality, on the part of (mostly) western males.

4. (Tangentially) – the extreme poverty of large families in South East Asian communities.

What wisdom, honesty and courage Ly May Chan possesses.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The village in which I will stay in Vietnam.

Ta Phin village, Sapa Vietnam

Written by a villager, Ly May Chan.

"My name is Ly May Chan and I want to welcome you to our village. Our people are working together independently to create a place of cultural tourism where the visitor can learn about our cultures and people, the way we live without being troubled by money making travel agents."

"We want visitors to stay with us in our homes. We have set up comfortable but simple beds in separate rooms. Please come and eat with us and join us in our everyday life."

"Also we can lead you on tours around our village, explaining everything about how we live. If you want to stay a little longer with us you can work alongside us, teaching English, maybe work in the fields or help decorate our cultural house so we can give more information to visitors about our culture."

Ta Phin is a picturesque thirty minute drive North of Sapa. Set within a valley with a towering mountain peak at one end, this village is alive with the daily life of the Kinh, Red Dao and Black Hmong people.

The valley floor is layered with rice paddies and dotted with 20 small home communes. Above them are some smaller communes and a patchwork of corn and vegetable fields.

Ly May Chan contines:   "We women are so active - not only do we grow vegetables and pigs and get wood for the fire, we also try to learn English so we can talk to tourists. Before there were tourists we were very poor. But now we can make more handicrafts and make some money and meet people."

Ly May Chan is a true leader of her community. She is working to develop a cooperative so that villagers do not rush tourists as they arrive in Ta Phin but rather let them browse in the 'Cultural House'. She also encourages villagers to send their kids to school, sometimes asking tourists to join her in this work. She encourages family planning "some people have 10 children, too many to feed!"

"Please be welcome to visit us.  Our village is quiet and friendly with many trees and mountains."

Ly May Chan

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Silly me

I was at St. Boniface Church this morning for only the second time since August 2012.

I was there for two reasons:

1. To fill in some time on a day when I had no appointments on my calendar.  “Better to go to Church”, I thought, “than to spend a whole day alone”. (Not everyone attends Church for reasons of faith or religion!)

2. Because my friend Jack Chrisman was the preacher. You will remember that Jack was my guest on New Year’s Day, together with Donna Chrisman, and our mutual friend Muriel Quinn.  Indeed I sat in a pew with Donna and Muriel at today’s 11:15 a.m. service.

St. Boniface Church is more or less “in the round”.  Thus it is possible to look at the altar, the pulpit, the choir – and at other attendees.

Across the way from me sat a man in a clerical collar, with a woman who I guessed was his wife, and a young man who I figured was their son (he looked like the woman).

I thought “I know this man, his face looks so familiar”.

I pondered: “had  I known him in Massachusetts? “, “had I met him at a conference?”, and  if not: “why am I  recognizing  him?”

It was half way through the service before the light dawned.  The man was our new Rector, the Revd John C. Hall who begins his formal ministry next Sunday.  He and his wife and their youngest son were in Church to “scope  us out”.

Of course I had not recognised him since we've never met!

But I had seen his photo’ in the St. Boniface newsletter when his appointment had been announced.That's why his face looked so familiar.

Silly me!

The Revd John C Hall (who looks much older in the flesh than in this photo')