I started this entry on December 20 and then the Broadway strike ended, so, of course, I had to catch up on my cancelled plays, which were all rescheduled. What fun that was! Don’t miss The Seafarer, which challenged hardy souls to wade through the first and only snowstorm of the season. I loved it and pretended I was being battered by high winds on the Thorong La in Nepal, a strategy I often use when faced with nature’s fury at one end and a non-refundable ticket at the other. A few more recommendations are: Is He Dead? with my brilliantly talented comic genius down-the-street-neighbor, Norbert Leo Butz; The Farnsworth Invention about Philo Farnsworth’s struggle to get recognized as the inventor of television; Jump, a fabulous Korean family tale complete with martial arts and superb acrobatics, which my grandsons loved; Chazz Palminteri’s compelling one-man show, The Bronx Tale; Tom Stoppard’s fabulous Rock ‘n Roll; and The Glorious Ones and Cymbeline, two great productions at Lincoln Center.
Lest you think that I’m neglecting another great love, the opera, know that I took my son-in-law, Gary Shippy, to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Met, starring the great Welch baritone, Bryn Terfel. What a night that was. This was Gary’s first operatic experience and he actually stayed awake!
Christmas letters keep flooding in from friends all around the world, with good and bad news, and always the hope for a peaceful New Year, proving that hope springs eternal and our daily blessings are not to be forgotten. Every last little one of them! I appreciate these messages and photos and will get my own letter out before next Christmas. That is resolution #1, and one I will keep.
It’s been slow going with my multitude of pictures from Asia, but, like the tortoise, I keep plugging along and now have three single albums of sixty pictures each on facebook. (My son, Robert, thinks it’s hysterical that his mother is on facebook, the official site of the college student!) Here they are. Just click the pictures to enlarge them and read the captions for the story of my first weeks in Burma. Each link needs to be copied and pasted, one at a time. Watch my next blog for more albums.
Friends who have gone back to Burma tell a sad story. Places where James Wilson and I saw thousands of monks being fed are now seeing only a few hundred or less. I don’t know if it’s that many have died or are still incarcerated, or that they have just disappeared into civilian life, knowing how dangerous it is to wear the robe. People are extremely cautious about talking to foreigners and there seems to be a pall over the whole country. I just talked with my friends from Whidbey Island, Lee Compton and Yana Viniko, and they urged me to accompany them to Myanmar, again, this January. How I wouId love to go, but feel that it’s too soon after the protests and the brutal crackdown, and we could be endangering anyone with whom we spend time. I shall eagerly await their report, however, and pass it on to you. Their reason for going is to show their support for these beleaguered people, and I applaud them for it. And wish them a safe journey.
Here’s an interesting footnote about the textiles—wall hangings, silk pillow covers, scarves—that Yana and Lee were collecting during their trip to Myanmar, Thailand, and India last Jan.-March. They held their annual sale and donated thousands of dollars in profits to ENSO, the Home for End of Life Care on Whidbey Island. ENSO is the Japanese Zen circle that symbolizes the unity of all things and has no beginning and no end. They will do the same this year as they travel in Southeast Asia.
There is good news from other quarters. My renter, Jimmy Siuty, introduced me to his good friend, Katie Krackenberger, who is doing wonderful work on behalf of the Nicaraguan Garment Workers Fund. She has traveled a great deal, so we enjoyed swapping stories, and is now concentrating on getting the word out about the sweat shop conditions in Nicaragua and the desperate need for their eradication, one factory at a time. To support and empower these workers she has helped partner with the Woman’s Sewing Cooerative (Comamnuvi) to help such groups as destitute Mayan widows, who make beautiful jackets, scarves, and handbags, using their ancient back-strap looms to weave chenille and cotton cloth. I recommend your visiting the website: www.ngwfund.org
You may remember Tamara Blesh, whom I met in Delhi and Dharamsala. I recommend her blog, which tells of her three months last spring and summer setting up the first library for Ladakhi children in the Siddhartha School in Stok, Ladakh. She lived in Leh (where I want to go next spring) and commuted to the school…and will return to continue her work next summer. Her website is www.travelinglibrarian.org.
Another friend I met in Dharamsala during the Dalai Lama’s teachings last February is Caroline Martin, “Indologist at Large.” What a delightful person she is! She just returned to India from Ladakh and I highly recommend her website Feringhee: The India Diaries. It’s full of great stories about her Asian travels as a woman alone, and great insights into traveling abroad as Americans.
One more dear friend, who goes back and forth to Asia, and with whom I attended the DL’s lectures last Feb. is Trees Muijlaert, who lives with her partner, Joris Broeders, in Eindhoven, Holland. She writes some pretty interesting news, such as a strike by the high school children in Amsterdam, who are complaining about the long hours in school and the fact that part of the time they are doing nothing that matters. The students communicate through MSN chatting and there is nothing much the police can do. “It’s kind of hilarious,” says Trees.
This began on Nov. 28, 2007. The strike was condemned by the whole Second Chamber of Parliament, but they still conceded that it doesn’t make sense to go to school if you have nothing to do. My thought was…well, why not study? Is that too practical? So, on Friday, Dec. 2, there were 15,000 scholars at a demonstration on the Museumplein in Amsterdam. Sixty scholars were arrested amidst egg throwing and fireworks. According to the police the demonstration was peaceful and orderly. Tune in next time for the exciting end to this tale….Don’t you wish we had such problems?
Lastly, on a more serious level, Trees has been telling me about the situation between the Muslim extremists and the various factions in Dutch politics. Like all such problems, it’s complicated. She sent me a wonderful book, Infidel, written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has had to flee to the U.S. because the Dutch stopped providing for her protection, even though she continued to receive death threats. She has been a member of the Dutch Parliament and a good friend of Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by Muslim extremists because of his movie about their treatment of women. Her first book was The Caged Virgin.
Twice this past month I’ve been visited by TV advance personnel to get background shots for the interview I’m doing in February with Suzanne Roberts of Seeking Solutions with Suzanne. It will be aired on Comcast (CNN) Headline News, so watch for it in late February or early March. I shall post more details as soon as the interview is over. I have never seen so much preparation for a seven-minute spot, but these TV people really do a thorough job of researching their interviewees.
I’m still giving speeches and slide shows about traveling off the beaten track and am also available for in-person or phone conversations with book clubs. A reader’s guide for Madam is available on my website for individuals and clubs.
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