Monday, November 11, 2013

On the way to Hong Kong and beyond, a tender heart

Picture a door leading from inside a house to outside. The threshold is about ¾ inch high… Threshold definitions:
A piece of wood, metal, or stone that forms the bottom of a door frame and that you walk over as you enter a room or building.
The point or level at which something begins or changes.
Hue, in the old palace grounds
Though I sometimes still carry a backpack traveling, I usually use a rolling suitcase these days. We’re on the way to Asia for about 6 weeks plus time in San Francisco going and returning. Yes, let the good times roll. It’s two minutes until the airport shuttle picks us up and I’m rolling the suitcase out the front door and as the suitcase goes over the threshold, Pop!, the handle breaks completely and irrevocably. This is the suitcase that replaced the one whose wheel came off less than two years ago as we walked to the bus stop to catch the A21 bus from Mong Kok to the Hong Kong airport on the way home. I didn’t realize the wheel was off until we were at the bus stop. Dang, I was thinking, “This thing sure is hard to pull today…”
Threshold: The point or level at which something begins or changes.
Hahaha, here we go. Rolling.
San Francisco, near David and Charles' house
ATM we’re in San Francisco, staying with David and his partner, Charles B. and their dog, Jake. Lazy days, same old thing, buses and streetcars to Good Luck Dim Sum, the new Market Street Whole Foods (you didn’t think Whole Foods in SF is the same as Whole Foods in Dallas did you!), Castro, New Chinatown, all them places. Meals with David and Charles. Coffee, lunch at a sidewalk cafĂ©, people, dogs, passing by and the occasional whiff of cannabis. San Francisco!
Our schedule of Hanoi to Bangkok in 6 weeks with stops here and there, depending on flooding seems like it might be changing already. It didn’t occur to me that Hanoi might have issues, but it seems to be directly in the path of Typhoon Haiyan. (Written a day before winds veered away from Hanoi – keeping it in because it’s what we’re thinking about.) By the time the typhoon hits Hanoi it will have deteriorated to a tropical storm with 50 mph winds vs. the 100+ mph winds of a typhoon. The Vietnam government has evacuated 600,000 people around Hanoi. So we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can get to Hue/Danang/Hoi An and then onward. If not, the train into NW Vietnam to Sapa in the mountains is a possibility. Whatever.
Hue, at a tomb
Now there’s word that protests and strikes are happening in Bangkok. We’ll have to see how that goes too. A couple of years ago, about a mile from our hotel, the police raided some guys that were making bombs. One of the guys got out and threw a grenade at the police. It bounced off a pole and killed him. Of course we only saw it on the news.
Onward. Our plane takes off in six hours (Cathay Pacific). We’ve flown United (the worst), Korean Air, China Air, Thai International – and Cathay Pacific is the best at a decent price. The flight is supposed to take 13 hours, 25 minutes. We used Seatguru.com to get some primo seats (in one of three rows of two seats vs. the 3-4 seats in all the other rows and with some extra leg room for one of those seats.
Ban cuon lady in Hanoi. The people on far left are in
another cafe. This is a small place. Leslie's favorite.
Hong Kong (Mong Kok), Hanoi Old Quarter, Ninh Binh, Hue, Dalat, Saigon, Can Tho/Mekong Delta, Bangkok, Chiang Mai (it’s the Banana Pancake Trail for sure).    
"Whole generations of westerners who went out there as soldiers, doctors, planters, journalists ... lost their hearts to these lands of the Mekong ... they are places that take over a man's soul" (Jon Swain, one of the last westerners out of Cambodia in 1975).

Tender-hearted Leslie. I’ve known few people as truly tender-hearted as Leslie. She really does hate suffering and injustice and all that. She doesn’t like to hear about these
things, much less talk about them. Yet she spent most of her life deeply engaged and helping with people and in situations where there was enormous suffering and injustice. That was what she did. She changed a lot of people’s lives. She sacrificed a lot, laid it on the line, on the altar.
Please don’t take the word sacrifice casually. Think in terms of going eyes wide open into the fire, Think in terms of wounds.
Part of this was that she connected with people and would not turn away. It was personal with her. Her connections were personal and her battles were personal. What a warrior! A warrior for justice, against suffering.
So, here we go, on what really may be our last trip to Asia. 

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