"You will never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people

in more than one place"

                   - Spirit Sience

11 Dec 2019

In the 1990s and the early part of the 21st century, I was living in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County.  It had 31 cities and 5 incorporated communities.  It was a place that had no visible boundaries, except for the San Gabriel Mountains to the north.  Other than that, no landmark indicated any boundary.  At times, people used the freeways as markers.  One could go from town to town without knowing when one ended and another began. 

I first lived in what was called a “bedroom community”, where people did their living and sleeping, but not their working.  Then I moved to live in the centre of a small city, Pasadena.  I was retired.  For the first time in my...

19 May 2019

Last week, Friday evening, Linda and I went to a dinner, invited by a woman whom we hardly knew.  It was one of those invitations to which we couldn’t say “no” but which was hard for us  to look forward to, because we found ourselves in a situation totally controlled by others. 

        

We were in our car parked outside a one-story clapboard house, generally referred to as a “villa”, in a highly gentrified area.  The street was solidly parked up.  The houses were uniformly white, each with an immaculately green patch of lawn, dotted here and there by white picket fences.  We were early.  The invitation was for 6:30, so the required time to arrive...

17 Feb 2019

After several months in Tokyo, my wife Linda had been invited to give a series of lectures on intercultural communication in Doshisha University in Kyoto.  We took the Shinkansen, a sleek, refined bullet train, and we were discussing yet again the concept of shikata, the Japanese forms and protocols for doing things.  That’s the usual translation, but in Japan it means much more than that; it has an almost-spiritual connotation of social harmony.  It’s the relationship between you and interactions with your social context. One of the key characteristics of shikata is that the society has agreed on what the appropriate form is.  During the entire time we were in Japan we constantly discu...

13 Nov 2018

Lamb shank, a dish when well prepared, makes a wonderful meal.  My friends Ron and Lesley invited me to dinner when my dear wife was in Denver to attend our nephew’s wedding.  Ron prides himself on preparing lamb shank in a slow-cook process.  It was delicious, especially when washed down with a glass of good red wine.

Their delightful grandchildren, Chloe age 14 and Thomas age 11, were also at the dinner.  They were both inquisitive and asked me to tell them about my childhood and growing up in China.  I did oblige them.  I told them some incidents and experiences in China.  They listened intelligently, not simply out of politeness encouraged by their grandparents, but because they...

20 Oct 2018

Being born and brought up in an unremarkable Russian province by parents who could not be called prosperous at all, I had considered myself, for the major part of my life, an average normal girl with no particular talents and peculiarities. Now I am 32, I live in New Zealand with my beloved woman, work in the biggest university of the country and speak advanced English. Let me explain how this happened.

As a kid, I was quite reserved, shy and nervous. Due to my mum’s permanent restlessness and unease with her own life, I changed 5 schools during my schooling period which contributed to my anxiety level and introversion – I did not have enough time to make friends. This fact along with my inna...

6 Sep 2018

A tall man dressed in dark clothes, what looked like black combat gear  –  a soldier perhaps  –  covered with what resembled a cloak or oversized jacket and black combat or work boots. The face was never clearly visible as the man had endured a severe beating and was unable to move – he lay in a prone position at a gate – my gate – wedged there unable to move or be moved. I stood over him as he lay in visible agony, moaning and cringing in pain at every attempt to be lifted. The night seemed so dark and so long but I could not leave him and I could not move him so I stood there watching over him – waiting. I didn’t know what I was waiting for or how long I needed to wait – all I knew was tha...

20 Jul 2018

I met M. through my wife, Linda.  They belong to an aquarobic exercise group.  Through M. I met her husband, their three grown daughters, and her three delightful grandchildren.  In my mind, several things particularly commend M.  She always appears in the most appropriate attire for the various occasions, formal or casual.  She is always remarkably understated; style and colour never demand attention, but rather they quietly exude serenity.  It is a style without style, or perhaps a style that is lasting rather than in the fashionable moment: tailored shirts, well-cut trousers, elegant shoes in a palette of muted and calming shades.

M. is a sensitive and caring perso...

2 Jun 2018

Aitutaki.    Aitutaki Lagoon.  Aitutaki Lagoon Resort.  Aitutaki Lagoon Resort Grotto.  Aitutaki Lagoon Resort Island, part of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. 

The grotto is not actually a grotto, as one might imagine a hermit’s cave or some rocks balanced on each other to form a shelter.  It is really a hut, part of the resort, a carefully designed lean-to hut about 12 meters square, leaning against a very large black rock.  The rock is about 30 meters high and the base about 20 meters square.  It is pure black.  Vegetation grows from its crevices. 

The rock was pushed upward by volcanic forces millions of years ago.  It is situated bet...

14 May 2018

Ko Papatūānuku te whaea o te whenua – Papatūānuku is the earth mother

As I enter the marae-atea, the sacred open space in the front of the wharenui, the traditional Maori meeting house, I feel already the process of transformation taking place. I hear the voice of our haukainga, Maori host, inviting us to come together in preparation for the karanga - the ceremony of calling to the guests, to welcome us onto the marae. He is inviting us to leave behind any mis/pre/conceptions we have of the indigenous ways of seeing the world around us, and dive deep into another space, full of symbolism of the sacred feminine.

It is a delicate, early spring afternoon, after days of non-stop rain. The large ye...

14 Dec 2017

Kiria (ma’am), do you need a mobile case? I have some very nice ones and very cheap, just five euros for you.” The red long rabbit’s ears iPhone case caught my eye. Why not, I thought, I can make a few people laugh with it.

The street seller had approached our table where I was sitting with my father, enjoying our habitual morning coffee in the town’s Eleutheria Square, looking at the passersby while catching up over the past year’s news. A thin dark skinned man of average height, carrying his merchandise in his arms and hands, the usual fare for street peddlers, was standing in front of us.

We had already been approached by two-three others, the usual scene in the city’s open air cafés. Gyps...

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