A Journey


Through Life - 2006

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After I wrote the below paragraph, I decided to start this page

5/17 David left yesterday for Europe. Driving with Leslie and him to DFW International, my heart was racing a little from sympathetic excitement. Today I feel full and joyous thinking about David on his life journey – not so much Europe, but his whole journey - past, present, and future. David's site and current blog.

 

There is a road, no simple highway,

Between the dawn and the dark of night,

And if you go, no one may follow,

That path is for your steps alone.

page down

December 5 - Tomorrow!

This is the last post to this journal. The rest of the year and into 2007 is in my travelogue on TravelPod.com, which starts tomorrow (click Return to Southeast Asia 2006-2007).

 

December 2 - Saturday - we leave Wednesday

Nick's is one of our favorite places for breakfast. David often chooses Nick's - and always before traveling. So today, 4-5 days before Leslie & I leave for Asia here I am having breakfast with Ron at NIck's. Talking about fighting. He has a nephew on the way to Afghanistan and the nephew is ready to fight. His family is old breed, I think, and so is mine. I was thinking today while we were talking that we are no different than the men in the book, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa. Which is actually a pretty heavy thing to think, because they were true warriors. It's a fairly small number that will fight. My gun.

 

Sometimes things come together. Two weeks ago a man came to the clinic with his face swollen & in a lot of pain from an abscessed tooth. He lives in the back of a used car place over here in East Dallas and unless a shed is a home, he is homeless. We gave him an antibiotic, naproxen for pain, and told him where he could go for treatment. He came back in Friday after I left and Leslie learned that the homeless place that he went to would not serve him because they don't think he's homeless. So Leslie made some calls, the details of which are kind of unsavory (on the other end), and then Saturday, someone from the homeless place calls and says they can serve the man. To make it happen we write a letter, fax it to the place, take it to the clinic to look up the man's phone & address (what Leslie had didn't work). When we got to the clinic we learned that he had signed in Saturday, but left before he was seen - not likely to have happened on Leslie's watch, I'll tell you. The number in the chart did work - and she got a Middle Eastern man, running a beat little car lot and so we took the letter to the patient, along with some Augmentin & naproxen. And there he was, standing on the sidewalk, waiting! If he can get it together, he'll be in the dentist's chair before noon Monday. He still has to say, "I'm homeless" when he goes to the place - which he doesn't want to do. And it's probably not going to be too painful for him (what with all his previous soul loss) so, there you go. It came together pretty well alright ... I wish I was a messenger, and all the news was good ...

.

November 23 - Years passing

Less than two weeks until we leave! If everything comes together as planned, Leslie, David, & I will have Christmas together in either Saigon or the Mekong Delta - most likely, Can Tho. This Christmas will be exactly 40 years since my last Christmas in Vietnam and exactly 40 years since Leslie sent me a little fake Christmas tree - which weapons set up in our position (post 1) on the C Company perimeter at the edge of Dodge City.

 

Merry Christmas (1966-2006) Leslie!

 

Here is an interesting (to me, anyway) story: in 1983, a couple of years after the Khmer first began arriving in Dallas we learned that the Dalai Lama was scheduled to be here for a Thanksgiving Square event. We called and wrote to him at his monastery in Dharamsala and he agreed to visit with Khmer refugees at Grace Church. He gave a homily and afterwards there were ~30 people around him. I was standing behind them and he reached through the people and took my hands and said, "Keep doing this work." We had not been introduced and there was nobody to tell him who was involved in setting up this meeting with the Khmer. This was a big thing for me and I've tried my best to follow his instruction. Later he gave me a thangka, which I gave to the monks at the Cambodian temple. A year later the temple and everything in it burned to the ground. 

 

November 18 - Small world

We went lunch today with Ron & Melinda at Bistro B, a new Vietnamese restaurant next to the Hong Kong Market, Nam Viet, etc. Leslie & I got there first and just a minute or so after we found a table we found Judy & her husband Joel ("Hilary is pure evil"). That was fun, but they really did want to sit by themselves, so Ron, Melinda, Leslie, & I had a very good lunch together and as we finished, over to our table comes - Daniel Au! Amazing - and Daniel knows Ron & Melinda too. So Daniel says something about his wife and Leslie asks who he married and Daniel says, "Dee. Always Dee." (Hope I spelled your name right, D - let me know if I need to change spelling.) And then, there was Dee! Wonderful to see you too. I hope, as life unfolds, with its ups and downs, you remember how true love took you through these years. 

"Dee. Always Dee."

What an astonishing lunch - what a truly great lunch! Lots of exclamation marks here - actually took some  out.

 

November 17 - Travelogue

I started work early on my TravelPod travelogue because without David here, I have to figure things out on (gasp!) my own. So far it's come together without difficulty: See Asia 2006-2007.

 

November 11 - Garden party and change in plans

A few miles from our home is a community garden where refugees from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Sudan, & other places have plots to grow vegetables from their homelands. Some make a little money and all have fresh vegetables and good, healthy work. It really is a place for mental & spiritual health. The story behind the garden is that about 1982 or 83 a friend of mine, Ron Cowart (a police officer with whom I was working with refugees at the time) had the notion to start a garden. I recall that my (privately held) opinion was that it was not an especially good idea and probably wouldn't last. A few years after Ron got it going Don Lambert came along with the knowledge and dedication that created the stability that has kept the garden alive and growing in every sense for all these years. I wonder how many times Don wanted to give up during the many lean and problem-filled years, how many times he felt despair, what struggles Tia has had? 

 

Here's to you, Don, and to Tia as well ... Good Work

 

There was a garden party there this afternoon and evening. On the way in I stopped and talked with a man with whom I've shared some pretty intense experiences. And walking into the garden I saw a woman I've known for many years, and know her parents and sister as well. I don't know what year it was, maybe about 1992, that one of her children died - just dropped dead on the playground at Chavez Elementary. My recollection is that the cause of death was thought to be a cardiac conduction disorder. I remember being at their house and everyone was just shattered. They had another son and it was obvious to me that he needed to be seen by cardiology at Children's. I got everything set up, including all the financials, etc. and when I went to their house to take the child and his father to Children's, they were not there. It was the last time that I tried to do something like that. A few months later the other child died. I thought, maybe if I'd kept pushing, but I had had it.

in the clinic

 

Four weeks until we're in Hong Kong. How does this sound as a plan? We'll eat as often as possible in places that have chairs with backs. Taking a line from Noodle Pie (on bun cha at Bun Cha Hang Manh Hanoi in Saigon): "The bun cha is a triumph. Plastic blue chairs and tables have never shone so brightly." Okay, Leslie, here we go.

 

Change in plans (actually just a chance to indulge my itinerary-posting compulsion): From Bangkok fly to Phnom Penh for about 10 days stay except partway through those days take a car to Siem Reap for 3-4 days at Angkor, then back to PP. Car supposed to be $40-45 one way - it will be nice to do a few detours through countryside like when David, Jeff, & I took motos through countryside around Battambang. Maybe return on bus. Bus PP to Saigon for 3-4 days, the Mekong Delta for 3-4 days, then we'll see. The bus from Phnom Penh to Saigon is okay the first leg and really pleasant on the 2nd leg (border to Saigon). First time we took this bus there was a girl who sang several songs, which I liked a lot. We'll know more about the end of the trip when we get closer to the end. We may spend time in Phnom Penh or maybe Battambang or Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang. Ending the Cambodia trip in Battambang is an idea, except getting from BB to BK is pretty much an all-day affair and even with Camry BB to Poipet is not an easy journey. Chiang Mai very easy, relaxing. 

 

November 8 - plans falling into place

We're scheduled to arrive in Hong at 0540. Will stay 5 days/4 nights and on to Bangkok for 2-3 days. Our time in HK is a little longer than we had originally planned - funny how things work out! From Bangkok fly to Siem Reap and stay for 3-4 days, then Phnom Penh for 4 days, and Saigon for 3-4 days. Mekong Delta for 3-4 days, then we'll see. Probably Phnom Penh, maybe Battambang or Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang. Then back to Bangkok for a day, Hong Kong for 2 nights, on to LA and DFW. That's a little more time traveling place to place than is best, but we're flying most legs, and have traveled enough that the traveling days won't be completely lost. Some people try hard to not repeat any destinations, which has some apparent validity, but actually is no virtue at all. Second time through seems more relaxed than first time unless first time is a long time. I think we'll be getting tired by the end of the trip and any of the places above (especially Battambang and Chiang Mai) are laid back with plenty of places to do very little. Last time through Chiang Mai it was get up, shower, restaurant (open to street) for breakfast, walk around a bit, coffee, read, lunch, nap, bookstore or walk around, shower, dinner, hang out on the street, shower, sleep ...

 

David said yesterday evening he and a friend were sitting on the balcony of his apartment (tin roof over the balcony), watching and listening to the rain come down. Evening in Phnom Penh.

 

Bangkok - Phnom Penh - Mekong delta - Can Tho - Saigon - Angkor - Chiang Mai - Mong Kok   

   

November 7

Less than a month to departure - a month and we'll be getting off the bus on Nathan Road, walking 1/2 block to the Mirador Mansion & Cosmic GH or walking a block over to the Dragon Hostel (not really a hostel - more like a guesthouse I'm told by Ruth-in-China). A month until we feel the throb of the Twinkling Star or Morning Star (Star Ferry) engines as we set out on that great 10 minute journey across the HK harbor. Ahhhh ...

 

Talked with David last night for a couple of hours via text message. He is able to call us using his laptop and wireless connection - in this case from a Starbucks in the new Bangkok airport. He had flown to BK for a couple of days, then got stuck in the airport when he missed check-in for Bangkok Air back to Phnom Penh. He is in his new apartment in a better location. Previous apartment had entry on dark small street/alley and he did not feel safe. The new place is behind one of those big steel gates (gate, courtyard, house with a few apartments - I guess - David SEND SOME PHOTOS!!!). Amazingly it is a block from the Psar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market), which is quite a place to shop. Photo: Khai Sreang at Psar Tuol Tom - like I said, quite a place to shop (hers is one of better places in the market)

Life is pretty stressful here. We just finished the fall mail campaign for the clinic. Many letters, all hand-addressed and many with note inside. Whew. I end up in charge (hahahaha - that is to say, doing quite a bit of the work) on these deals and I know it sounds fairly easy, but by the time each board member has gotten their complement of letters to send to people on their mailing list (10-50/member) and we've gotten the others done it is just overwhelming for me - I am so clearly the wrong person to do complex things like this. And the mailing list, oh deliver me from the mailing list! I have new appreciation for church secretaries and other keepers of lists. I can handle the complexities of a fast clinic with a lot of people or a complex writing job like a book with 100+ chapters, but for some reason this kind of complexity is beyond me. Leslie ended up doing as much if not more than I on this job. Thank you, Leslie! I guess I should be glad that I can still make it for several 12 hour days in a row, but I wish I didn't have to or choose to. I get really tired and on-edge.

 

Going back to a month until we leave. I love to say that. It's a month until we leave for Asia. Part of getting ready is getting various tasks done and out of the way, for example, this past weekend Leslie arranged to have a new water heater installed and I hired two men and worked with them all day in the yard. A long day and short weekend, but good to have these big jobs done. Sunday evening I started packing - going through stuff we had thrown into the take box. Actually what I got done was to reach an understanding of what I'll take other than clothes. I'm carrying my backpack and Leslie has a wheeled suitcase. For carry-on, I have my day pack and Leslie has a little red wheelie. The truly great news is that Tabasco comes in a 2 ounce bottle, hence can be carried on the plane. Did I mention that it's a month until we leave ... 

 

November 3 -

Arriving BK and going straight to Chiang Mai? Sure, why not.

 

November 2 - a funny story 

Long, long ago in 1965,in boot camp, at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) the drill instructors usually called recruits (boots) names like, "maggots" and "shitheads." When they wanted to let you know you were also of no consequence or weight it was, "shitbird." When things were going well, you were, "private" - but how often do things go well in boot camp? So when we were at the end or out of boot camp and someone addressed us as, "you people," it was like a huge promotion - I'm a PEOPLE.

 

It's a challenge to talk about being in the Corps - it's really easy to say the wrong thing, something gross or inappropriate. Someone saw the Purple Heart license plates yesterday and a conversation ensued that included the idea of a million dollar wound (which I did not have) and ended with something that was maybe a little out of place ... I came in on a helicopter with another man to link up with 1/9 on an operation at the DMZ. 1/9 (1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment) was the same unit we'd replaced in Dodge City - where they got their name, the walking Dead. When the helicopter came in to where they were in those dry hills the LZ was getting hit with morters. I didn't know what was happening and it was a complete surprise when the chopper was about 10 feet off the ground and the crew chief put his boot in my back and pushed me out, followed by a rain of ammo, C-rations, etc. and there were a lot of morters coming in and I made it to a little hole that was full of Marines. When I dove in on top of them some lieutenant was telling me to get the hell out and I was just burrowing into the pile. Basically I was in on an operation in the Hill Fights and I wasn't actually part of a unit with a job to do. And that's how it came to be that I could take photographs. What I said to two students was ...

 

I was at the DMZ once and there was this guy with a true million dollar wound and he was lying on the ground waiting to be put on a chopper out of there and he says "Hey man, take my picture." So I took a photograph of him lying there, covered in blood, grinning, shooting me the finger. 

 

I was telling it as humorous and I'm not sure they got the joke. I guess you had to be there. Photo: Hill Fights 

 

October 31 - helpless, helpless, helpless ...

Leslie and I had lunch today with a man we knew long ago when he first came to the U.S. as a refugee. Though we were not the original sponsor for his family we became their sponsor and for about 5 years we were very very close to his family. For some, even with the safety of being in America those were not the good old days - they were the bad old days - hard days, with the horror fresh. Of course there were good days, but still ... Leslie and I were both deeply affected seeing him. He was 16 years old when he came to the U.S. - and even then he had gravitas and dignitas.

 

Life unfolds in ways we could never have anticipated. I never wonder if Leslie or I have had an impact on someone else. I mean, I assume we do, but never consider if anyone remembers or cares because, well, it really is for the Glory of God (or however it might be said) and tomorrow always brings something else. But when someone lets me know that things done long ago are remembered, I'm touched. I've written about this before: sometimes it seems I am given a sense of, yeah, it did work out and the person involved is okay. I'm deeply grateful. I wonder, sometimes, if people (like the man we we had lunch with) have any idea what a profound impact they've had on me. This was a good day. And it's out of my hands. 

 

October 30 -

David's situation in Cambodia seems more stable. In an apartment - finding a safer place. Meeting people, getting a little work done, settling in after a pretty amazing start! Leslie and I working too hard - one thing after another: the way I work, my regular job is demanding, then the clinic. I'm glad I've said no to writing & other offers. Photo: at David's birth parents' home outside of Phnom Penh. Suphorn in red shirt 

 

The main thing right now is planning and anticipating the Asia trip. Living in the future. We made a list of things we should (I started to write have to) do before we leave: Scan LK’s passport, Cover SUV, Yard squared away, Replace water heater, Chris list, CK CHN Notebooks, syllabi, Meds CK, Small fiber, Coffee espresso instant, Meds LK, NYT Magazines to read on plane, Wipes, Travelers checks, Test pack, Cancel DMN, Snacks plane, Tabasco. Some are already done. Some planned for this weekend ... it feels good to be underway in a concrete manner.    

 

October 22 - Details

We're going to First Chinese BBQ in a few minutes. Taking my little travel notebook and we're going to sit there and make concrete plans for everything we need to do before we leave.   

 

October 21 - 53 days

... until we leave ... until we fumble through the stressful check-in & security process (Mr. Brain Dead at your service - that's what one of the security people in Houston called me summer 2005, except she left off the Mr. part) ... until we're sitting in the DFW airport, but already totally gone ... until we're on that 747 headed across the Pacific, legs getting kind of heavy, napping for a few minutes at a time - stiff neck, walking around the cabin, eating (some pretty good food this time - we're flying Cathay Pacific) ... it's a long flight and there's no place I'd rather be, except arriving in Hong Kong, of course. Cruising through security/immigration in HK ... walking out of the terminal down the long ramp to the right ... getting on the A21 bus and the great ride into the great city - day or night, always a great ride deeper and deeper into the city ... 

 

October 19-21 - "Up" - Down

David's last post is titled "Up" - he has an apartment in Phnom Penh and is feeling more settled and connected there - at last. He writes:

When things start to come together, everything becomes clear. I feel that I am finally settling in here, that I’m finding my niche and starting to catch the pace of the culture. I’m starting to make friends, I’m ready to start learning the language seriously, and I finally have a place to live.

It is difficult to know what to say about what is happening here. Some good, some bad - and once again, I see my wife for what she is: not exactly a saint, at least in the common conception of sainthood, but really, someone who is (this Burmese woman says to me today, "I like the song, Bridge Over Troubled Water.") and so yes, that's what my wife is sometimes ... A Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I'm not talking here about my little angsts - but true trouble and there she was ...  P

hoto: David's niece (his sister Phana's daughter), Kayleen, taken at her 9th birthday party last week. At last, photos from Asia.

 

October 10

Amazing last post, David. What a long, strange trip it's been. Thank you. Looking forward to photos. Here is Agape update.

 

October 9 -

So wonderful to hear from you David. And to hear your strength in facing so many challenges. I know these are not small things. And the learning! I'd say you've gotten at least a 3 hour course's worth of education so far - if not more - as you integrate over time. As you enter these patterns of life and belief and interaction you remind me of how complex it really is. Buddy says, "Moof - nothing complex here!"

 

October 8 - Sunday evening here; Monday morning in Cambodia

Dear Son, I hope it goes well at the hospital today. Big day! Reading back over your blog, I'm thinking it is no small thing to you to hold a permanent visa for Cambodia.

 

I'm glad you've made a connection with Linda. Everything is through a glass very darkly here to there, and maybe I'm reading more into it than reality - but it seems important to have a friend, especially when you are (in some ways) a stranger in a strange land. And good also to have a friend who doesn't need or want a piece of the action! I think I'll send the rest of this in an email.

 

Last week the chaplain at Baylor asked me to speak to the students at the weekly "Lunchencounter." So I've been thinking of what to say. Put together a PowerPoint presentation that starts with Leslie, then Vietnam, hospice, refugees, and Agape (and ending with Leslie, of course). I put the first part of Beatitudes as the last slide:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall possess the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they shall be satisfied.

Daw Aung San Suu KyiYeah, and then I realized these track with complete accuracy the overall presentation (or rather, the presentation tracked these): Combat: poor in spirit; Hospice: mourning; Refugees: meek; What we do at Agape: satisfaction for those who hunger & thirst for justice. Amazing. Photo: The Great Lady - Aung San Suu Kyi

 

October 6 - day-to-day... David

So, truly in Asia in 2006. What can you do other than surrender - not to everything - but to much? I couldn't believe what Mom wrote - amazing - the whole thing, with this representative "...this is the real thing. So just take a breath- you have a  whole year to experience." And then to read this, from David's blog:

 

I was baptized today – in the monsoon rains of Cambodia. The sky darkened and the power went out, so I went to the window to watch the storm. The water started falling in sheets and grew steadily heavier. The huge vats positioned around the house to catch the rain filled to overflowing, and Tol beckoned for me to come out to play. And I did.

Wearing only my shorts, I walked out into the rain. It was cold, enough to startle you, but not enough to be uncomfortable. The water fell upon me, caressing my bare skin in the pure and clean drops that fall only in the countryside. Tol grabbed a bucket, filled it with the water from the enormous rainwater-catching jugs, and poured it over my head. I did not feel the cold or the wetness, I did not feel alienated, a foreigner, as I had before. It was a communion, a reunification of a mother and her son, at last. Tol bathed me, rubbing my back and arms with soap and the rinsing them off in the pure rain water. Then the falling water slowed, and I changed, wrapped a towel around my waist, and went inside, a renewed man.

 

 

 

October 2 - day-to-day life (av boy)

When I got to work today there was a message from Leslie on my voice mail. "You'll never believe this. Come home - I think there's a turkey in the birdbath!" About the time she was leaving the message Friday afternoon I was walking in the door. So we're to the back of the house and there is, in fact a big bird, by now perched about 10 feet from the kitchen window. It's a hawk - what an impressive beast. I've never been this close to a hawk and am mighty hapy to be here. "Noble" comes to mind, but really, hawks are just killing machines. Noble, I guess in how they look and in their (presumed) fighting ability. Fighting abilty is (as Martha Stewart would say), a good thing.

 

So, it's a view into our lives. Backyard excitement, thoughts on violence, wounded girl, family, our precious son, Haiphong Red Flamboyant, the international life, lover's letter, Jennifer, days gone by ...

 

September 30 - settling in to day-to-day life

David is in Bangkok, staying with his friend, Jeff. Some good posts on DK's blog (click above). And so, we settle back into our quiet lives ...

 

This week a 13 year old girl with two infected lacerations on her arm came to the clinic. She also had two healing lacs (ER talk) on her other arm. The story is that she has been jumped several times in the past two weeks - in one case pulled off a school bus. In both cases part of the beating was that one of the other girls used her fingernails to cut deep into the child's arm. Pat, our PNP saw her and we talked about what to do. Since the girl was up-to-date on immunizations, the question was what antibiotic to use. After she decided on the treatment, we decided to talk with Leslie. Leslie had a better idea and we followed it: we sent the girl to Children's Medical Center so we could establish a better legal trail to the whole sorry situation. Leslie also called the school counselor to discuss the situation with her. The counselor claimed to have no idea that this happened - and maybe not. Lot's of bad things happen in schools. Anyway, she said she would follow-up. While all this was going on Nora and I stopped by the exam room where the girl was waiting to pat her and try to reassure her. Right, she was not reassured. Photo: Nico (UTSW med student), Dora (promotora), Sonya (El Centro student), Pat (pediatric nurse practitioner), & Kate (Chapel Hill student) in the pharmacy - click to make it big

 

Later, Leslie saw Pat in the pharmacy and noticed that she was looking bad. Leslie asked her what was going on and then Pat was crying. This is a woman who has been around and still, she felt a deep sadness at the violation of the girl.

 

I woke up the next morning thinking about the girl because, yeah, I feel sad, too. I was thinking, in Agape we have a place and we have the ability to treat physical problems - wouldn't it be a great thing to start a program to intervene in bullying and related. Some support for children and parents, treat physical problems, advocacy ...

 

I was thinking about a book Alice P. loaned me. It was written by a Cuban woman who had been imprisoned after the revolution and who (of course, what else) had been abused by guards, etc. What I remember so strongly about the book was the woman's conclusion that they did these things to her because they could. The moment I read that I realized we all do things - good, bad, indifferent - because we can. Someone can do something for children being bullied - just because they can. I think it's not me. I'm very busy with the other part of the clinic. Still, it's a nice thought.

 

Haiphong Red Flamboyant

clothed with strength and dignity, laughing at the days to come

 

September 26 - David leaves and I get a wet willy

It's all just like a dream. I expect to get up tomorrow and David will be here. But no. Leslie and I and David's friend Chris took him to DFW today. He's flying DFW - LAX - TPE - HKG - BKK (31 hours). He'll stay in Bangkok for a week and then on to Cambodia for a year - starting out in Phnom Penh as noted below.

 

I had never really thought about it in these terms, but we are a very close family. What a wonderful thing, but it makes separation difficult. I love my son with my soul and I'm missing him that deeply.

 

It helps with coping that Leslie and I are planning our journey to Asia to see him - we have a box started to toss things into that we'll take ... so far, money/passport belts, CD player and spiffy little speakers, plug and strip that works in Asia, hat that Ron Cowart brought me from HK a few weeks ago, books (Bryson - History of Nearly Everything, many authors - Portable Beat Reader, Hemingway - The Short Stories, others), assorted clothing, tiny magnifying glass, etc.

 

About that wet Willy: 30 years ago, the first time Leslie and I went to Asia together our flight left DFW early in the morning. Leslie's father, Brooke was driving us to the airport. It was dark and raining and we were going through a construction area on the freeway that loops around downtown. It was a scary ride and at some point in the confusing drive, Leslie's Mom, Jean says, "Faster, Brooke, faster!" Leslie and I looked at one another and cracked up - we knew then that the trip really had begun and there wasn't much we could do to influence the outcome - just ride it out. What a great RTW journey that was: HK, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, India, and at the end, Vermont - clean, cold Vermont. So today we're merging across too many lanes in the fast, fierce take-no-prisoners traffic on Stemmons Freeway (What is wrong with those people!?!?) with giant trucks all around and all jammed up together and Leslie reaches over and gives me a wet willy! She's 61 years old and she's never done that before. Good grief! We all fell out laughing. What a great wife. I guess this sort of thing happens when you have a son. Hey Leslie, doing gross stuff is kind of fun, isn't it.

 

So here we go - another chapter in our life. Photo: David, Chris, & Leslie at Whole Foods on the way to the airport. Leslie insisted on David carrying some trail mix or something as he had some long flights ahead. He didn't want to so anyway, here we are in the theatre of the absurd, buying about 20 brazil nuts.

 

September 25 

David is leaving tomorrow.

 

"Everything is a problem in the jungle." Jeff Wiseman (who knows)

 

I'm grateful for the men in my Bible study group - every Wednesday morning - rock steady.

 

September 22 - letter from Leslie

Dearest Charles, 

It’s 5:30 am and I’m at it again. Geez, my eyes are like the leaking faucets in this old house! But I want to tell you how grateful I am to be with you on this incredible journey. Alone would be sickening. And your offer of an apt in Bangkok is incredible also. What a perfect thing to say. I don’t plan to go- I can’t bear the thought of being away from you for more than the length of your last trip with David. Still, I can keep it in my heart as a backup plan and it gives me comfort.

I’m sorry to be such a baby about this, but I’m actually behaving lots better than I feel. Can you believe that what you’re seeing is my “brave face”? Pathetic, no?

Well, for someone who was so unsure about wanting to be a mother, I’ve come a long (neurotic?) way.

I love you so much. You really are the love of my life.

Leslie

September 22 - lunch with Jennifer

David is leaving in 5 days for Asia. Dallas to Bangkok, where he'll stay for a few days and then on to Phnom Penh. More connections: 5 or 6 years ago, Cecile, a woman newly emigrated from South Africa brought her daughter to the clinic. The child had a minor problem - not minor to her Mom, no doubt - which we treated. Since then we have become friends and her other daughter, the truly wonderful Margaux, has volunteered in the clinic during summers. Cecile has a friend who works at a hospital in Phnom Penh. This connection and David's qualifications resulted in him starting out with a place to work when he gets to Phnom Penh. This is a great comfort to Leslie and me.

 

We met David's dear friend, Jennifer, from high school days for lunch today at Genroku. Jennifer came to the U.S. when she was in the 8th grade and is a fine, strong young woman. Leslie truly loves Jennifer and I like her a lot myself. Jennifer will graduate in May and plans to go on to medical school in the U.S. or Taiwan. (I was thinking - Jennifer knows a lot about our family - we've been down a few roads together.) We talked about these days and those days. I'm not sure at what point I became sad. I think it was when Leslie was telling Jennifer about this spring making a copy of a heart that was on the box she was given at Eric's funeral four years ago on April 12th and leaving the heart (with a note to Eric's Mom and Dad) at the place where his ashes are laid. What a terrible time that was when Eric and Jamie were killed. One of the things I remember so strongly is as time passed, how (other than Eric's family and a few friends) it came down to Leslie, Oneida Cramer, and Arnie Holtberg - faithful, true people.

 

But I wasn't only sad for Eric and the people who loved him - including Jennifer and David. It was the understanding that those days really have passed (I started to say, "are passing.") Days of our son's youth, of seeing Daniel and Scott almost every day, of seeing Jennifer at least every few weeks, of Chris, of the St. Mark's commons, of Evensong, of orchestra, days of realization and discovery - days of magic and our precious son's youth.

 

So, with these few days left, Leslie and I are lurching from tension (she can be soooo irritating - unlike CK) to tender closeness. The three of us are spending a lot of time together and we're all thankful for that - except when Leslie is giving me a hard time.

 

Here's to you Eric, Jennifer, David, Leslie

 

September 8 - Go home and be happy!

Now there's a quote/dose of reality from Leslie to someone clinging to difficulties. Yikes! I was thinking about someone else I talked with today who is having a hard time. I hope she understood the trueness of my empathy and sympathy, and at the same time, trying convey that things happen and you really do have to go on. Later I was thinking about what my friend, Jeff, would say in his true hard man voice - "Nothing you can do about it." Photo: woman in countryside near Battambang

 

September 4 - ¡Ay Caramba!

It is a full month since the last entry. David came home from Europe and I'm just a lot less inclined to write with him here. Now, it's three weeks until he leaves for Cambodia and I'm back. A really good thing on several levels is happening. Sunday, our old friends, Sang Van and Voeuth came over to finalize plans for David to stay at her house in Phnom Penh with her sister and Voeuth's wife and daughter from the Pol Pot times. Interesting household! Sang Van is providing a house for her husband's former wife and daughter from a forced marriage. War makes things happen that ordinarily would not.

 

Another part to this situation is that when Sang Van and Voeuth came to the U.S., Leslie and I sponsored them and their sons. Those were interesting days, indeed (see dream, July 1 below). For about a year, every Saturday, I got up around 5am to take Voeuth to work at Parkland because the bus wasn't running in time for him to get to work. We all went through all kinds of changes together for several years. Time passed and they achieved independence and prosperity. Now, it seems that the circle is closing with David being offered hospitality in Cambodia.

 

And yet another part (I think) is that David is going to Cambodia for several reasons - primarily (I think) on a journey of discovery. And so, through this kind offer of a home to stay in ... a family to stay with, he may discover things that otherwise he would not.

 

The next few weeks will be difficult. David is going far away and Leslie and I will be sad - we already are. Yet, it cannot be otherwise.

 

Leslie and I are talking about me cutting back on work. I thought when I finished the infectious diseases book that I would recover my strength and motivation. But I have not. More hard facts: I cannot go as fast as I have for the past 30+ years. Several times recently by Thursday afternoon (in la clinica) I've literally staggered a little with tiredness.

 

He wants to dream like a young man,

With the wisdom of an old man.

He wants his home and security,

He wants to live like a sailor at sea. 

Beautiful loser,

Where you gonna fall?

When you realize you just don't need it all. 

 

Ah, you just don't need it all.

August 4

The dog days of summer are upon us and my energy is running low. David will be home in three days and Leslie & I are happy & excited about that. Stocking up on the food that he likes, clearing the calendar. This is a very happy time for us. Photo: Leslie in Santa Fe in 1970s

 

Leslie said another amazing thing to me several days ago. I have been worried about the situation in Lebanon and have been gravely concerned since Qana - even beyond the terrible loss of life. My concern is that Israel must win to survive and winning in the context of the Middle East is extraordinarily difficult. Qana and the awful use of children as human shields and then as photo ops - as photo props by Hizzbollah (see Israel & the Middle East) means that the fickle whore of world opinion turns against Israel and Israel will likely have to back off the mission to destroy Hizbollah.

 

So after a few days of this, Leslie says, "Why don't you go to Israel? But you have to promise to stay away from trouble." My wife knows me. She knows I want to go and she knows my nature - even as old as I am - is to go toward the fight. I am not going to go now. David will soon be in Cambodia and I will not have our family split three ways: one in Cambodia, one in Israel, and one in the US is a bad idea. Next year in Jerusalem!

 

July 28

Had lunch at the Alligator Cafe today with Patrick, Meg, and this wonderful young woman, Kate. The subject of geckos came up and I flashed on being in a room in some kind of a guesthouse out in the countryside (but no guests other than us) with Leslie on the Thai-Cambodia border. There was a little bit of a battle going on between the Thai Army and Khmer Rouge with artillery coming in about a mile away. Before it got dark and the electricity went off I was reading a book about Edie Sedgwick (one of the hangers-on at Andy warhol's Factory) and watching the geckos hunt mosquitoes. Even right then I knew it was a surreal scene. Leslie and I talked about what to do if the arty came close: the plan was to go out the window and if we got separated, we would rally at either a tree or a temple (I can't remember which) about 1/2 klick away. I'll never forget, Leslie said, "Okay." What a wife! 

 

July 26 (The Most Amazing Thing - several parts to this story)

Part 1. I received an email the other day from a man who has enjoyed the East Dallas Restaurant Guide site. We, along with his wife, met for lunch at Vietnam Restaurant today. Hey Buddy & Nikki, nice to meet you - Had a good time. Sitting directly across from us was a young Khmer (Cambodian) man who looked familiar. We made eye contact and nodded a few times, but no big flash of recognition. When he got up to leave I followed him to the front of the restaurant. We talked for a moment. He remembered my name and thanked me for helping his Mom. I asked him his mother's name and he said ____ ___. I was emotionally and physically staggered. We embraced, both us deeply affected.

 

Part 2. A couple of weeks ago Dan Foster, one of the two greatest men I know (the other one is you, Martin) was talking about things that really matter vs. trivial things. I was thinking about what he said and thinking that the East Dallas Restaurant Guide is a trivial thing - but you know, whatever, it's fun and I have a good time doing it.

 

Part 3 (written several years ago and titled, Long Time). Mrs. C was a Khmer woman who had undetected cervical cancer when we found her in door-to-door outreach. She lived in a grim one bedroom apartment with her husband and three children: an eleven year old son with Down's syndrome, thirteen year old daughter who provided most of Mrs. C's care, and a fifteen year old son who was sent to prison as an adult (he was a true gangster) midway through the course of care. Her husband was an alcoholic and not involved in her care. One of her neighbors, Pheng, took care of Mrs. C's children much of the time. This was not a small thing, as Pheng lived in a two bedroom apartment with her husband and five children.

 

Mrs C had a terribly difficult life. She grew up poor and in her middle years survived war, torture, forced labor, and became a refugee several times over. When I met her she was an alcoholic and abusive to her children. Mrs. C spent most of her days and nights lying on a small couch in the apartment living room.

 

Baylor students and faculty were instrumental in the cancer being diagnosed, played a critical role in getting the patient through two courses of treatment (surgery and radiation), and took responsibility for her home care following crises related to very severe complications of disease, treatment, and her own well-hidden alcoholism (septicemia, stroke, seizures, bowel obstruction, malnutrition, and dehydration).

 

I remember when she had the stroke and I took her family and some other Khmer to visit her. At some point the boy with Down's broke loose and I had to chase him down as he ran hooting through the middle of the Parkland neuro ICU. That night Synath, her daughter and I worked through the DNR issue - 13 or 14 years old and deciding on DNR or resuscitation for her Mom.

 

Another time someone called me to say Mrs. C was having some kind of a problem. At that time of my life I was in the habit of watching two TV programs: Seinfeld and the first half of Monday Night Football. When the call came I was about to watch that week's Seinfeld. Well, hell, I thought. But I went. When I got there she was on the floor surrounded by neighbors, some praying, some just onlookers. As I knelt beside her trying to figure out what was going on I could see past one of the women who was praying the way Khmer pray at Temple - on her knees, going to the floor, then back up, then back down, up, down ... I could see past her to a tiny TV with terrible reception and there was George Costanza (Seinfeld character) on the TV. Oh well. I carried her out, past the blood-stained walls where another woman had died a few weeks before, and on the way down the stairs, she lost control of her bowels and there I was, again. 

 

(The day before the other woman died she - the other woman - was sitting on the stoop, drunk again, when I walked out. She reached up towards me and in her cracked, quavering voice said, "Help me mister." I said, "_____, I can't do anything for you. You're the only one who can help you." She died the next day and as I said, there was blood all over the place.

 

I left Parkland one morning about 2am, telling the young resident who was caring for Mrs. C I had to get some sleep. As I walked out I looked back into her room to see the resident easing the haloperidol into her IV push ... On the way out of the hospital I saw Ron Anderson, the Parkland CEO walking along a hallway. 

 

For two years, Mrs. C received at least three home visits each week. She agreed to hospice care about two months before dying.

 

It was clear to all concerned that Mrs. P was spiritually bereft and without hope. Using both Buddhist and Christian translators, we tried counseling and to address hope and other spiritual issues in several different ways. Although she was nominally Buddhist, she refused offers of transportation to the temple. On several occasions she accepted gifts of objects sacred to Buddhists, but after a few days would put them away. Several Christian missionaries visited on a regular basis and although she did not resist these visits, neither did she respond to them. Everything we tried seemed to fail. She did, however, seem to appreciate our efforts to care for her and her family. The only thing that we saw that affected her was when one day a nursing student knelt unbidden beside Mrs. C's couch and prayed. Although Mrs. C understood little of the prayer, tears began to run down her cheeks as the young woman prayed. Afterward, Mrs. C whispered, "Thank you."

 

The week before she died I went out of town for a conference. I returned late Sunday. On Monday I left for work early so I could see Mrs. C first. I walked into her apartment and at that moment, she died. A few hours after she died, the only people left in the apartment were her daughter, one of Pheng's daughters, and a gangster friend (girl) named Ranny. Ranny suggested that Mrs. C should have "something pretty" on. So we removed her clothes, bathed her poor wasted body, and dressed her in a bright pink T-shirt and her best sarong. Then we called the ME. Alison White was involved in this day and it was on this day that I saw Alison as she really is, full of light and truth. Previously I didn't like her. This day I was confronted with the fact that not only had I judged her, I had misjudged her. Nice work, CK. Also, one of Alison's missionary friends visited the son in prison month after month after month.

 

Part 4. Of course it was the son who had been sent to the penitentary - place of penitents - that I saw in the restaurant. He looked so good, so clean. He is married to a young woman from the neighborhood who looks to be about nine months pregnant. I am filled with joy. 

 

July 16 (Leslie & David - someday I'll learn to edit scanned photos and will remove the vast white space at the bottom of this photo - or maybe I'll leave it - this is an image of my life so maybe a little space is okay

A person's life is a statement of her or his beliefs (from Jeff Wiseman - paraphrased).

 

July 9 (thoughts on traveling - for Chris)

I was thinking about how to travel and what perspectives or attributes lead to a good trip (looking, of course, at independent budget travel):

  • Keep expectations to a minimum. Things often turn out differently than expected - except expect to be challenged in unexpected ways and expect moments of beauty where none were anticipated. Photo: Outside of Battambang David and Jeff were looking at some giant bats hanging upside down in trees. I lost interest in about 10 seconds and wandered away to this river. Somewhere in the distance a woman with a  beautiful voice was singing ...
  • Traveling is only partly about the destination. The journey is at least as important as the destination. Being is as important as seeing. Don't always have to be doing something.
  • People who travel together should be okay with separating for awhile - hours, days, maybe weeks. Probably a good idea for each person to have some time alone in the room most days.
  • Attitude is probably the most important factor in successful traveling. There is always some discomfort, delay, hassle, misunderstanding, scam, etc. Let it go quickly because guess what, it's going to happen again and again.
  • I can't stand to spend a lot of money on a place to sleep. As long as it's clean and relatively quiet, I'm happy. I've stayed in places with walls that go part-way to the ceiling and are finished off with chicken wire, places with sleeping mats on the floor, places without locks or doorknobs, and so on. Now I like aircon, sheets, and en suite if available - but I don't need all of that.
  • You're responsible for your own trip. If you have a bad time, well, there you go. If you have a good time, there it is - a good time. Up to you.
  • take your Tabasco!
  • Don't be foolish, e.g., leaving valuables in a guesthouse room, carrying passport in a pack, buying gems on the street (hahaha, right, you can trust that guy), thinking that you are about to get the deal of a lifetime, etc.

See other scams in the Budget Guide to Southeast Asia.

 

July 7

Here are three options for the trip to Cambodia to meet David over the Christmas holidays. I had come to realize Leslie wanted to go to Burma for my sake, so began thinking of ways to make the trip easier vs. thinking only in terms of Burma and wonder factors. Numbers are aproximate days spent in various places. So far, the 3rd option (Saigon) is looking most promising.

Burma

HK 3

BK 1

PP 3

SR 3

Other 3

BK 2

RGN 1

Bago 1

Moulmein 3

RGN 1

BK 4

HK 3

Luang Prabang & CM

HK 3

BK 1

PP 3

SR 3

Other 3

(BK) 2

Luang Prabang 4

CM 3

BK 4

HK 3

 

Saigon & LP or CM

HK 3

BK 1

PP 3

SR 3

Other 3

SGN 4 or SGN & Hue (skip north Thai/LP

(PP) 1

BK 2

CM or LP 4

BK 2

HK 3

 

 

July 4

Hey Dave, Very nice time at Shirin's - Leslie, Shirin, Jayshree, Shifali, Alice, and me. We had long easy conversations reminiscent of 15 years ago at Shirin's old house or in the park. Saw Chris briefly. He agreed to stay at our house while we are in SE Asia. What a relief. This will be best for Judo - no doubt. Saw Chris' backpack, which I thought was excellent. Photo: keyboard man on the sidewalk. Now that I've talked with Leslie, I think we may have two keyboard men in Old East Dallas!

 

Then to Mike and Jan's for the usual elegant/casual gathering with nice people and very good food. I talked for a long time with E.L. Dunn, our former landlord on LaVista and a longtime friend of Mike's. E.L. is retired and just back from three weeks in Bali and Sulawesi, part of the time diving and part of the time hanging out (well, I'm not sure E.L. can "hang out" - he's wound pretty tight). He 's having thoughts of moving to Bali. 

 

I was just thinking, the the train from Saigon to Danang was perfect.

 

I just read your last entry and saw the photographs of Madrid Pride. Intense. All the pretty people. So many people all together like that is miraculous. David, mail me your favorite photo and I'll put it here. Some really good ones. Sounds like a good hostel and some nice people there, too. Photo: door-lying Buddy

 

July 3

I had again started writing in remembrances of my life a few days before Leslie got sick. Now that she's better, I'm adding to the document (see dream below). As Leslie began to get better Buddy went down for a long count. He hurt himself lunging trying attack two other dogs. For a couple of days he could barely stand until he'd had at least an hour of aspirin on-board. Even with the aspirin, he would fall over when he tried to lift his leg to urinate. Today he's eliminating in every way and able to get up and down without much difficulty. And, when he came inside this afternoon he was helicoptering. AV (AlwaysViolent) Buddy. Tomorrow we'll go to a party first at Shirin's and then at Mike and Jan's. 

 

July 2 (Vietnam - crazy sorrow)

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.


Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

So this was the context of the Vietnam trip.

July 1, 2006 (dream)

I wrote this around 1983 and found it today as I was looking for photographs for some writing I’m doing on remembrances of my life. I’ll transcribe it exactly as I found it ...

 

The problem with a life like mine is that so much happens on a day to day basis that there isn’t time to record – by 6 or 7 or 8 when things come more or less to a halt, I’m not interested in writing about it. But some things bear recording.

 

A few nights ago I had a dream: I was in the back seat of a car. It was going – we were going – no – we were taking some Cambodians to a death camp – like a nazi death camp. Nobody – not the driver, me & possibly others, & certainly not the Cambodians wanted to be going. But none of us were resisting in any way – It was dream-like. I was in the back seat & also more or less on the floor trying to find the right socks among a jumble of clothes. The right socks were ones that would fit a Cambodian child & it seemed important to find good ones that would fit. At the same time I was thinking that it doesn’t matter & I think I was aware that I was fooling myself by putting so much effort into this when I knew the child was to die. But I kept on and did find the right socks & got them on the child (about a 2 or 3 y.o. ♀ I think) 3 y.o. ♀ is my way to hide from saying a 2-3 year old girl.

 

We let the parents off about a half block from the camp. I remember looking at them squatting in the gutter knowing what was going to happen. We took the children to the camp. It was fronted by a regular house & from the front of the house one couldn’t see the camp. But I saw the camp: barbed wire & barracks & death everywhere (not corpses, but the presence of death) & then we left & the children stayed & we went back to the parents who were still squatting in the gutter. I think the woman had a fire going & maybe the man was asleep & it was so desolate.

 

Later (weeks I guess) I went back to the camp & found that it was closed & a woman’s group of some kind had taken over the house & they didn’t really talk with me. I went out back & the camp was still there but deserted and there were long mounds of dirt – mass graves I think & the children were all gone & I was standing with the camp to my back & I was facing the house & there was a woman just looking at me & I had my hands in a Cambodian praying or greeting manner & I was saying “please please please.”

 

Photo above: mass graves outside of Phnom Penh - my mate, Jeff is in the back right

 

6/30

Sorry to have been less in touch these past few days – I think I’ve been pretty distracted. Leslie has been sick, but is better now, but slowly and no surprise there. Otherwise, not much in the way of noteworthy events. Thanks to Mary Horn we met this afternoon with an architect who specializes in doctor’s offices. He had some very good ideas for flow. Interesting how Leslie (who was not there) was so central to the planning. I realized that people like to make contact with her and some like to pat on her. That was sweet to understand and we planned around that idea. I scanned some good photographs into the remembrances document. Good photos, good life.

 

6/18

Though not possessed of any premonition or serious illness I'm pretty much ready to die. I'm not by any means wanting to or expecting to die anytime soon, just fulfilled. It's actually pretty heavy to think and write about this because I'm the closest I've been to it since Vietnam. Talk about a constant close companion then. This isn't the same, but still, wisdom calls for respecting death even if you're laughing in the face of it (which I'm not - see Haiphong Red Flamboyant below). 

 

I was wondering about my life -what's undone, unfulfilled? And the answer came back, nothing.

Leslie & David - One Love

The last trip really brought that into focus. No big undone anything and relationships in pretty good shape. The only thing is, I'm kind of lazy right now, physically and spiritually. I've drifted away from the awareness of ...

This moment is different from any before it

This moment is how different, it's now ...

Sweet moment, sweet lover, sweet now

 

I see some of the beauty, sure, but sometimes I feel like an old horse, pulling the wagon because pulling the wagon is what I do. I've lost track of ...

Dream the world all alive

Busily conspiring, humming like a hive

Dream the world all alive

I dream it as me ... 

 

Still, I am ready.

 

6/15

Happy Birthday, David

 

6/12

Someone asked the other day, what is behind these 25 years of work with refugees and immigrants; and hospice before then. And what is behind the commitment to living fully within my limitations. I've thought about this before and thought more after the question arose. I'm serious about these things because ...

I'm grateful to be alive - I could so easily have been killed 40 years ago.

Leslie has showed me the way and inspired me for a very long time.

Faith - and this would be so if I were more Buddhist than Christian.

I had a true vision that we all are One.

 

Those four are the main things. Other people also give me strength: Dan Foster, Martin Hironaga, David Kemp, Chris at Jonathan's Place, Steven Levine, Arnie Holtberg, Nora Avila, Lay Rith, Paul Thai, Ron Cowart - and many more. So these people and things (Wonder who & what I forgot?) move me to not waste my life as much as I might (understanding that wasting time is not the same as wasting life). Photo: Operation Prairie. It's real.

 

I told Leslie tonight that I'm not forgetting what it meant to me when she said in late 2004 or early 2005 that she thought it would be great if David and Jeff and I went to Southeast Asia. It was like, even if we didn't go, to know that she was open to and even for something like that was really a big thing to me.

 

Summer is here. Took Buddy for a walk and it was hot all the way. Our porch and around has the most wonderful fragrance of jasmine. The Confederate jasmine vine to the left of the porch has almost stopped blooming, but the potted jasmine I got at Doan's 5-6 years ago continues to scent our home.

 

6/9

What a grand post from Barcelona on David's site. One of the things that's happening is that he is spending time with a woman he hung out with in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Hong Kong - and now Barcelona!

 

We had a usual sort of weekend. Leslie got mixed up and thought this was Father’s Day, so we went for duck, bbq pork, and soup at First Chinese BBQ. No mangoes in Chinese store on Greenville, so today went to Duy Tan & Hiep Thai grocery, but on the way stopped at HK Mkt and found mangoes for $4.99/case of 16. I got two cases. So that’s my exciting day!

 

Another week. Wonderful student volunteers working with us: Nico, Mae, Kate, Philip, Liz + full crew Maria, Sonya, Carolina...

 

6/3

The background of my computer screen is a photograph of a teacher in an orphanage in Burma. I was looking at the photo earlier, thinking about how the teacher is a new generation of hope and beauty in the world and I was thinking about the children in the orphanage. Thinking that some will be kind of fragile, yet strong – and grateful for a place to be. Probably not very trusting in the world. And thinking, well, actually, that’s me too. Not to, you know, compare my life of luxury to their struggle. But I am grateful for a place to be and I don’t take it for granted and I can see Leslie and me at a place like in the photograph a few years up the road.

 

6/2

Living the quiet Saturday life. Breakfast with Ron and for a few minutes, Melinda. Mow the lawn, read, go to lunch with Leslie, home, and here I am. I work every day for a few minutes on the budget guides to HK and SE Asia and am pleased with how they are turning out. Last addition is a 12 hour guide to HK. David is in Amsterdam, having a good time, no doubt.

 

Leslie and Caroline got involved in another crazy Burmese deal: Caroline and a man were at rehab evaluation for him (set up by Leslie and Alison) so he could get a new leg for the one that was blown off by a bouncing betty - and replacing the heavy, ill-fitting prosthesis he was lugging around. While they were at the rehab place, the refugee agency - without a moment's advance notice - showed up at his house and moved his wife and three small children to a furnished house some miles away. The refugee worker told the wife (in Caroline's words), "Do not destruct." Nobody ever told the wife, husband, Caroline, Alison, or Leslie where the wife and children were. So that night, after many phone calls, when they finally got the husband and wife reunited, they found the wife sitting in the middle of the floor holding on to her children, fearful that they might "destruct" something in the house. No food, no pots/pans/dishes - just there, not knowing. 

 

25 years of this kind of crap (for Leslie, more like 40 years of it). That's really a long time. Thank God for Leslie, for Alison, for Martin, for the whole crew.

 

We watched the PBS documentary on Cambodian refugees (see below) on tape. Those were some truly desperate days. Photo: Garden, May 2006 

  

5/28

There was an amazing article by Seth Mydans in Sunday's New York Times:  Shunned, Women With H.I.V. Join Forces in Vietnam. The women are part of a group called Haiphong Red Flamboyant - here are the last few paragraphs of the article:

 

"As the afternoon passed, Ms. Sau, who had spent the morning cleaning and feeding an AIDS patient, leaned her head on the shoulder of a friend, Doan Thi Khuyen, 23, and they sang quietly together.

 

Ms. Khuyen, a former secretary, was dressed in a crisp white blouse with careful makeup and stylish hair, as if she were heading to the office.

 

But she was fired from her job months ago because of her illness, and she now sells lottery tickets on the street to support herself and her small child, who is also infected.

 

"I wanted to be a shoeshine girl, but all they have is shoeshine boys," she moaned, and everyone laughed.

 

"Well," said Ms. Hue, "at least you're alive. You're not dead yet."

 

That seemed to strike the women as funny too, and they laughed again."

 

Coincidentally we studied Proverbs earlier this week and also Sunday:

 

She is clothed with strength and dignity
she can laugh at the days to come.
Proverbs 31: 25

Haiphong Red Flamboyant indeed - tough customers!


Had breakfast with my brothers this Memorial Day. John told us that a year or so ago he ran into Stanley Marcus ("Mr. Stanley" here in Dallas) in an ice cream parlor. John introduced himself - "You remember my mother, Mary Kemp?"

 

"Mary Kemp? Mary was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Mary was Neiman Marcus."

 

5/27

A couple of days ago I was driving up Abrams almost to NW Highway and passed a man sitting on the center median strip. As I drove past I was processing what I saw and when I looked back he was still there. It's not like I don't see drunk guys staggering around or passed out every day. Something different here. So I turned around at the intersection and went back, parked across the street, walked over to him, and asked if he needed any help and what happened. He said yes, but didn't know what happened, just that his leg didn't work. So I tried to help him out of the road, but he went to dead weight and was sweaty and slippery and I couldn't even get him out of the first lane. So there we were, in the fast lane of life and thankfully, the first driver to come up on us just stopped and sat there. But I still couldn't move him. Soon, another man stopped and came over and gave a hand and we were able to get him across the road. Then other people were stopping and milling around, so I left. Photo: Leslie in her natural habitat

 

I was thinking about this, wondering how long he would have sat there if nobody had stopped. Probably quite awhile. My friend Ron Cowart (who once said to me, "It's about truth, justice, and the American way.") would have stopped, too. I need to tell him about this.

 

Here is something from the Guide to East Dallas Restaurants (cheap eats):

*New* Indo-Pak Market (behind First Chinese BBQ - just walk back through the covered walkway). Okay, here is your cheap Indian food in the Dallas area. Big serving of chicken biryani is $2.99 weekend special, curry $4.99, vegetable samosa $.75, naan $1.00. Is it great? No. Is it good? Yes. Is the atmosphere just like a cheap Indian place in Hong Kong (except that customers very friendly and staff helpful at Indo-Pak)? Yes! A happening place.

5/26

David is in Greece and Leslie and I are in Dallas. Hmmmm. David is on a beautiful beach with deep blue water and crystal sky and I'm listening to Leslie wheel & deal with refugee issues - making it happen, as always. All in all, things unfolding as one would expect. Unfolding even in deja vu ... the story is that there is this Burmese (Karen) man whose leg was blown off by a bouncing Betty and who is just completely lost in America (and a couple of days from getting evicted) and if anyone can help someone get found, it is Leslie. Some things seem never to change, never to change, never to change, never to ...

 

As long as I'm in this world,

I am the light of this world.

 

Last night PBS ran a shortened version of a documentary from 1985 about Cambodians in Dallas, "Starting Over in America." This time around it included interviews with a number of people who were involved back then - Phap, Lily, Ron, Samrith, Paul, etc. I didn't watch, but am told it was good and I seem to have not changed except to get older. Still involved with refugees, still wearing L.L. Bean shirts, still, still, still ... Photo above: Jeff on Khao San Road 

 

At last, great mangos! Hiep Thai Market has big yellow ones, $9.99/case of 16. Three mangos make two big glasses of mango shake. Speaking of which, I'm basically making lassi and I'm out of yogurt and I'm out of here to go get some yogurt. It's Parrr-Tay time tonight!

 

5/19

It is a wonderful and even fairly rare thing to embark on a quest.

 

5/18

For several reasons, including David’s many transitions (the end of a 16 year cycle of intense school, the beginning of a time with some uncertainties, off to Europe for three months and then to Cambodia for a year), I’ve been thinking lately about my own actual and potential transitions. The plan is to work for three more years and retire to part-time clinic work, gardening, and (since the trip with David and Jeff) travel with Leslie and also Jeff. But, you know, I’m working on being open to other possibilities. We might not be able to do one or even any of these. Any or every part of one’s life may change or end at any moment. Photo: Hue

I don’t have the words to tell how important to my personal fulfillment the trips we’ve made have been. And when Leslie said, “This is a trip of a lifetime – our last one like this” I knew this coming trip will be good – of course with whatever unforeseens considered. The Everly Bros. at the Chungking want to sell you some luggage.

 

5/17

David left yesterday for Europe. Driving with Leslie and him to DFW International, my heart was racing a little from sympathetic excitement. Today I feel full and joyous thinking about David on his life journey – not so much Europe, but his whole journey - past, present, and future.

Ripple (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia)

 

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come through the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

Its a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they’re better left unsung.
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.



Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.



There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.



Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.



But if you fall you fall alone,
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

 

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.



Leslie and I are planning on visiting David over the Christmas break when he is in Cambodia. But we were taken aback when we returned home from a two day trip to Houston for David’s graduation and found our dog, Judo seriously distressed. I offered to stay home over Christmas while Leslie went and then go with Jeff at the first of summer 2007 (we were already planning on Jeff and me going that summer). Leslie said, no, she would figure it out with her friend Shirin – “This is a trip of a lifetime – our last one like this.” When she said that I knew in a flash that we were going together. What a great feeling! Photo: entrance to back garden

 

Leslie and Shirin have worked it out for Judo to stay with Shirin with phase-in visits to ease his transition. She will do a good job with him.

 

I travel in search of other perspectives and frames of reference – for experience and excitement.

Por Vida

 

The day before David left for Europe we were walking under the arbor in front of our home. He asked me if I had seen the bird nest in the rose on the arbor and I said, yes, but it has been deserted for a long time. Today I was wondering what caught his eye about the nest and when I looked, here is what I found. Mockingbird eggs! The nest is re-occupied.