Saturday, January 29, 2005


it's definitely the little things.

the motorcycle taxis: in addition to taxis and buses and tuk-tuks and trains, you can take a motorcycle to get somewhere- hundreds of guys wearing orange vests who will take up to two passengers on their motorcycle. it's fun, and better yet, the motorcycle weaves through the notorious bangkok traffic, so that you're always whizzing by everyone else. add in the element of freewheelin' danger and it's a great ride ;)

the Thai theatre show we went to last night, which began with an angelic, bell-like rendition of the Royal Anthem; I have heard the Royal Anthem before, and paid my respects to the King by standing silently whenever it is played. But this performance, this version of it was so beautiful that I was overcome. I was struck, once again, by the familiar re-presenting itself. I was struck with the newness of everything I have already seen.

The view from the back of a taxicab; the meter, the small Buddha sitting on the ledge in front of the speedometer, the flower garlands hanging from the rearview mirror, and the thai prayers written on the ceiling… they are all the same. Well, almost. Some of them smell wonderful and others smell like feet.

The way people smile so readily here.

The dried octopus popsicles the vendors sell on the street. (I’m not joking.)

The streets. The sky. The smells. The sounds. The senses, the pace, the faces, the elephant in the road.

I cannot capture all of it when I write, or pull out my camera… all I can do, really, is sort of breathe it in.

one of the very first times i posted to this blog, i wrote about travelling through europe with my friends- i had seen so much, and felt so much, that i felt almost overwhelmed trying to process it all. i wanted to share what i had experienced; my heart felt like it was overflowing with thoughts and images and sounds and smells and feelings over the course of that three-week journey. and i felt at a loss because the words i was writing about it, the pictures i was taking of it, just didn't seem to do it all any justice.

so i wrote about it as best i could, and then i added the following quote. it helped me let go, a bit, of that feeling of needing to get it all down on paper. instead i was able to just sort of let it be within me. now, as bangkok is swirling through my head and my heart, the quote once again helps me realize this:

at some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough.
you don't need to photograph it, paint it or even remember it.
it is enough.
no record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to.
when that happens- that letting go - you let go because you can.
the world will always be there- while you sleep it will be there - when you wake it will be there as well.
so you can sleep and and there is reason to wake.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Eid mubarak everyone. It's been a long, long time since i last posted- it just hasn't occurred to me to post, for some reason- but after today's eid, i want to share.

This eid-e-gadir was a very good one. The Bangkok jamaat is just so different than the Chicago jamaat. It’s tinier, for one. Today there were only ten thaals. In Chicago there haven’t been only ten thaals for ... 30 years?

The Bangkok jamaat is old, though. Over a hundred years old. The masjid is old, too. The floors are gleaming, polished hardwood. Covered by a very thin sheet. Very uncomfortable to sit on for hours at a time- I am used to the plush carpet in Chicago ;)

The masjid- I walked in today and realized, all of a sudden, that I really do love it. It’s sparsely decorated yet solidly built. It’s nothing at all like my Chicago masjid- my home masjid. But I appreciate this Bangkok masjid’s beauty. Yes, I would prefer to sit on carpet, but I know that carpet would spoil this masjid. So would décor. so would frills. It’s not a cozy place, this masjid. it was built a long, long time ago, and it gives me the distinct impression that it will be around for a long time to come. It is a very… genuine place.

I do miss our lovely masjid in Chicago. It has rooms and hallways and corners and photos and carpets and carvings. but for some reason, opposite as the Bangkok masjid is to all of this, despite the fact that there is a rotten-vegetable smell pervading the entire area around it, I have come to think it’s great.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


yesterday morning, we arrived at school to find trucks unloading boxes upon boxes of shoes, milk cartons, toothbrushes, canned food, blankets, and other supplies. we were told that today's goal was to make 5,000 packages, containing a specified number of each of these items. the packages would be driven to phuket that night and handed out to victims of the tsunami.

between the teachers, a handful of students who live nearby, and some volunteers from the community, we had about 50 people ready to work.

and work we did.

the sun was blazing as we laid out row upon row of the supplies and set to work collecting the proper amount of each item, bagging everything, tying the bags, and loading them. it was an entire day's work and by nightfall, everyone involved was exhausted. but i have never welcomed such exhaustion as i did that day; sweating under the sun, doing honest, real work- accomplishing something so tangible that there was a clear beginning and a clear end- knowing that every movement i made, every item i bagged, was going to help someone- it made me push myself; made me lift heavy things even when i was tired; made me postpone taking a water break until i had made just a few more bundles; made me feel just the tiniest bit less helpless in the face of the millions of tragedies that are going on in several countries at this moment.

i know that i did not accomplish any huge thing that day. i know that 5,000 packages are going to help 5,000 people for maybe one day, or half a day. if even that. i know that millions and millions of packages and dollars and hours and miracles are needed to help the millions of people who have lost their homes, the millions of people who have lost their families. there is no human alive who can help everyone who needs it right now. but on the other hand, i alone didn't make those 5,000 packages. alone, i would have made, what, 100 in eight hours? i wasn't alone, and neither are the thousands of people everywhere who are pitching in.

when it came time to deliver the packages, we learned that the storehouses of supplies are full because aid has been pouring in in a steady stream. our packages will be needed on monday- the truck will come then. i guess a lot of people spent their wednesdays- and mondays and tuesdays and thursdays and todays and tomorrows and yesterdays- pitching in.

maybe those millions of packages and dollars and hours will actually be.

maybe the millions of miracles will too.

(i don't say this to pressure anyone - nothing like that. but i have had a couple of people ask me how to make donations and i think this is the best place to answer them. the unicef website makes it very easy- big "donate now" link.)