Krabi 

Krabi is a mecca for tourists from all over: we’ve heard Dutch and German, Japanese and Mandarin, French and Slavic, and British-Canadian-Australian English.

Thailand’s beach communities feel like similar world hot-spots: Miami in Florida and Antalya in Turkey.

Vendors bark their wares: cold drinks and massages in the markets, and, on the sea side, long-tailed boats sell coconut water, coca-cola and smoothies.

People of all girths and tattoos parade on the beach: grandmas in bikinis and children with ballooned swim-fins.

We slather on 50-plus sun block and, from time to time, sympathize with the pink-hued sunburned newcomers. 

Some of the women sport belly-button art and others are adorned with false eyelashes.

You can tell the long-timers by their bronzed skin, but we found suntans don’t necessarily make you more attractive, just more chargrilled.

We discover fruits galore to munch: pineapples, papaya, mango, dragon fruit, apples, oranges and bananas.

Fish is ubiquitous: more shrimp than we’ve ever eaten, and sea bass, sea snakes and squid. 

So meals are a combination of noodles and rice with seafood, chicken or pork.

But even the Thai beaches can’t get away from hamburgers and pizza.

Our hotel staff folk are sweet and kind, unlike the beach-staff who face rude foreigners daily.

In contrast, our getaway–the farthest from the beach yet only a 15-minute walk–is peaceful and bucolic, perhaps because wine at dinner is the only alcohol sold.

But plentiful bars dot the landscape, encouraging folks to par-tay

Hip-hop and reggae tunes entice the land-lubbers, who can take advantage of Happy Hour starting at 2 p.m.

Tucked under our mosquito net, we rise at 6 a.m. when birds begin their arias and the long-tailed boats rev their engines. 

We sit on the deck with hot drinks and watch the sun rise from the sea while the boats cut through the waves, making a picture-perfect postcard. 
19 March 2017

Krabi, Thailand

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Oh! To be a Bug!


Poseidon’s Descendant

We discovered an orange bug crawling on our tablecloth as we sat down to a Thai dinner in Krabi. 

The bug scuttled right on top of a swath of orange and white gingham. 

The beetle had an orange-winged back and black head, and what made its visage most striking was the super long antennae. 

I played a bit with the beetle, as it marched up and down my hand, and then I gently lifted it onto the small vase of yellow chrysanthemums on the table.

The beetle soon rested and began grooming.

It began with its antennae, pulling at the right one with two fore arms and then the left. 

The beetle started at the base and then moved its arms down to the top of the antennae. 

The bug then cleaned its hind legs, two on the right side, and one on the left. 

So the critter had five appendages, missing a sixth on its left side.

The beetle posed for several photos and remained our dinner companion all evening.

The orange critter is likely a member of the Cerambycidae: the longhorn beetle (but the web says the “cosmopolitan family” is hard to distinguish from the Chrysomelidae–the leaf beetle–like a ladybug.)

Our cosmopolitan dinner guest–whomI believe to be a long horned beetle–is named for the Greek descendent of Poseidon.

Cerambus–grandson of Poseidon and the son of Euseiros and a nymph, Eidothea, was a shepherd with a sweet singing voice, according to Wikipedia.

Cerambus grew arrogant, according to the legend, and dishonored the nymphs who cared for him.

So the nymphs changed him into a beetle, whose name Cerambycidae honors Cerambus.

Gregor Samsa suffered a similar transformation in Frank Kafka’s 1915 book, Verwandlung, or Metamorphosis

Gregor awoke one morning to find himself an insect, which novelist Vladimir Nabokov (an entomologist) insisted was not a cockroach but a flying beetle, not unlike the orange bug on our dinner table. 

Although Kafka’s character suffered greatly as a result of his mutation, our dinner guest seemed at perfect ease.


17 March 2017

Krabi, Thailand

Image of Kafka’s Metamorphosis from Tablet magazine

[Please forgive misspellings I am unable to correct]

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#cynthialcoleman

#nativewriter




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Swimming in the Emerald Sea

Krabi, Thailand

We wake about 6 a.m. just before the sun clears the horizon, and the sky begins to brighten. 

We keep our silk drapes open so we can climb out of bed and sit on the deck when dawn starts to break. 

The sun bursts through around 6:30 and we can see the longboats cut across the shimmering reflection in the sea. 
Our room is nice and cool, thanks to the air conditioner, and we sleep under a tent of white mesh tulle to keep mosquitos at bay. We take malaria medicine just in case.

On the deck it’s warming up for the day–maybe 80-degrees Fahrenheit–and humid. 

Feels like rain with the heavy air but not a rain cloud in sight. 

We have an electric kettle we fill with bottled water and I have my Lipton yellow tea with some sugar while Honey drinks a half-cup full of instant Nescafé with powdered creamer and sugar substitute. 

We sit and watch the sun and the boats, and I shoot photos. 
Sometime after 7 a.m. we walk down the pathway to the restaurant: a large outdoor area with a thatched roof: most of the tables are under the roof and many are arranged outside, where we have a view of the huge stone outcroppings in all the tourist pictures of Krabi. 

We look for a table outside–away from the smokers–while you cannot smoke in enclosed areas in Bangkok, here in Krabi there are many smokers in the outdoor eating areas. 

I wear my silver lung necklace to ward off the bad spirits and hope that the breeze will carry away the smoke. 

We find American-style coffee–nearly strong enough for Portlanders–and heaps of papaya, dragon fruit, melon, bananas and pineapple. 

There’s yogurt and candied dried fruit and–for the Europeans–edges of aged cheese and sliced meats. 

There are also cold vegetables including cucumbers, hunks of yellow corn, sliced bell peppers, hot peppers, and sliced tomatoes. 

Then I spy three covered silver trays with warm hotdogs and pork and mixed vegetables and tomatoes. 

In the corner a chef prepares eggs any style and I decide on a cheese omelette today instead of the pile of French toast and pancakes. 

In the corner is a toaster and slabs of bread and homemade baby croissants with choices of butter and honey and jam. 
After breakfast we head off for the beach–a 30-minute walk to limestone structures and caves, and a brilliant emerald sea. 

Many tourists with cigarettes and tattoos sun on the beach and we find a shaded spot for our bag and towels and swim several hundred meters to a large rock outcrop (where we can stand rather than tread) and spy three blue-grey herons, each about the size of a cat. 

Their bills and feet are bright yellow. 

The water is warm and refreshing and salty, and, after lazing about, we take our sandy feet and eat a Thai lunch before trekking back to our cool hotel. 

I pick up some bleached white shells and a few pieces of white coral. 
We shower and read a little. 

I write some postcards and we sit by the beautiful sleek swimming pool and drink water and mango juice. 

At about 5:40 p.m. we shower again and head for dinner at our hotel restaurant. 

About four workers wait on us–the restaurant isn’t very popular for the guests (we think its because there’s only wine and nothing else alcoholic) and we enjoy the attention and the food: seafood soup for me and chicken larb for Honey. 

I find an orange beetle on the orange gingham table cloth and we watch it cleanse its antenna and pose for photos. 
16 March 2017

Nativescience

Nativewriter

Cynthialcoleman

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Bangkok Eats

The markets here are bursting with vegetables and fruits–yet we have a hard time getting enough greens in our meals. 

The most common are broccoli spears that garnish the noodle bowls and, if you’re lucky, a cook will tuck some broccoli flowers between the cloves of garlic and onions. 

In the markets we’ve seen cucumbers and beans, garlic and onions, and leafy hunks of greens with no discernible identity. 

We’ve discovered that you need to ignore the menu that reads “fried vegetables” and just go ahead–that way you are guaranteed to get some color with your deep-fried fish or chicken and hunks of pork. 

Everything is fried. Sigh. 

One evening I had delicious duck pieces swimming in broth with flattened greens–like kale–a real highlight of our trip.

And one lunch Honey ordered a vegetable omelette and–although he uttered no complaint–it was clear the vegetables emerged from a frozen concoction of peas, carrots and corn right from a cellophane bag (a rarity–the food is usually super fresh). 

We often decide on Pad Thai which comes with noodles and a few vegetables and loads of meat: shrimp has been the most common item. 

I was sorely tempted to try the cockles at an outdoor vendor near our hotel in Bangkok (we got great Pad Thai here and a wonderful vegetable stir-fry with wee corn cobs) but my common sense–which is easily persuaded to depart from its core mission–won over: no experimenting with shell fish or salads (I guess shrimp doesn’t count). 

The dishes listed on the menu are usually catalogued by meats–fish or chicken or pork. 

We skip over the salad and the pages that are headlined “Spicy,” which take up a whole section on the menu.

At our hotel you can order food for lunch or evening (although we usually go out) and it comes from a local take-away–so it’s just like getting street food. 

Breakfast is a delight: lots of fruits including pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe and papaya, and I tried my first lychee–which tastes like a sweet grape once you relieve it of its rough skin. 

The staff puts out a different juice daily: apple, papaya, passion fruit, aloe vera, watermelon with tomato, and orange. 

They will make you roti with sugar, or you can get a crepe with eggs enfolded.

I found a plain crepe was delicious with fruit and yogurt. 

We feast on a variety of homemade breads, including sliced breads with one dyed green, another yellow, and another red. 

As for drinks my favorite is “soda water”–bubble water that’s easy to find. 

We know to avoid local water and ice, but, after the first day we realized you almost always get ice in drinks–the Bangkok residents seem to have ice in everything (except beer). 

Beer is plentiful but wine is a specialty available only at restaurants for tourists.

We seldom see hard alcohol although bars aren’t uncommon on the streets.

If the drinks are cold then we opt for straws rather than ice, and there’s plentiful cokes and orange soda. 

On our return from a very hot train ride from Ayutthaha I drank 2 soda waters with ice at our hotel and I didn’t mind having to get up twice in the night to pee. 

Photo from the Bangkok Flower Market

#Bangkokvacation

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#cynthialcoleman

#nativewriter

[Please forgive spelling errors I didn’t catch]

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Customs as Stories


Stories as Customs

All cultures have in common ceremonies we find important, from baby christenings to college graduations.

As a teenager I shunned such ceremonies because my friends and I knew we were way “too cool” to participate in customs that seemed untethered to their purposes. 

But now?

I’ve come to embrace ceremonies and customs, such as the act of bowing when visiting Asian countries and the invitation for elders to eat first at Native American gatherings.

My Honey and I took part in a ceremony this past week where we promised to live an ethical life. 

For a few months we participated in seminars at our local zen center where we learned about the Buddhist precepts.

Our job was to study and discuss the first Five Precepts, which ask followers to avoid killing, stealing, abusing sex, lying, and misusing alcohol or drugs.

Each week we’d think, read, write about and discuss the precepts, peeling back the layers of meaning.

We asked philosophical questions, like, When is it OK to lie? and considered the precepts when meditating. 

If we wanted to “take” the precepts then we were invited to be part of a ceremony at our Zendo once our studies were complete.
For the ceremony each of us sewed a wagessa.

Like hooding at a graduate-degree celebration, we would have the wagessa placed around our necks during the ceremony.

Our wagessas are constructed of navy-blue cotton-duck fabric that loops around your neck–much like an unknotted Western cravat–and the two ends hang loose just above your belly. 

You connect the ends with blue cording after you make two knots that looks like three-leaf clovers. 

For a seamstress the project isn’t too daunting, but for someone who has never sewn–like my Honey–the learning curve is steep.

Although he accepted a little advice from me at the beginning–like how to sew a running stitch and then turn the fabric inside out–he was determined to sew alone.

The instruction is to contemplate the project while you sew, and Honey took the task seriously. 

But no one said you can’t ask for help, and my feelings were a bit ruffled that he didn’t need me. 

I would peer in from time to time and find him sewing like a surgeon, using a hemostat to hold the needle in place while he looped the thread in, out and around.

The finishing touch is tying the knots together with a few inches of leftover cording, much like the rope that loops around the hangman’s noose. 

I saved my leftover cord by sticking it in my pin cushion, but the cord disappeared–not an unusual occurrence when you live with Coyote. 

I was worried because I felt the wagessas were supposed to look the same, with no one standing out from the others.

Nothing in the house could substitute for a few inches of navy cord so I visited a local fabric store in search of cording.

And I found some.

Trouble was: the cording wasn’t for sale–it held together sheets of fabric that formed a book.

The cord created the binding and handle for the book.

I was surrounded by a sea of fabric books, each one tied with cording.

Cording I would have to snip discretely from the book and then smuggle out of the store if I were to purloin some.

What a dilemma: steal a few inches of cording so that my wagessa would comply with the customary apparel or blow past the precept that discourages stealing.

Better to have an imperfect wagessa than steal something to make it perfect.

I settled for a few inches of navy ribbon–the same color as the cord–for the price of eight cents, took it home, and sewed it onto my wagessa, hoping no one at the ceremony would notice that mine differed ever so slightly.

I’ve known American Indian women who purposefully make a tiny mistake in their sewing or beading projects.

Why? The reasons are as varied as the women.

The one I like best comes from an elder who told me that the mistake is made to show the creative work is from the hand of a human being.

Turns out the Buddhist sewing project not only serves as a fitting story about keeping the precepts: it also let me merge my zen practice with my Native teachings.

Now that’s a story.

6 March 2017

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#cynthiacoleman

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#wagessa

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When Hate Multiplies Hate

mlk

With Hate, We Destroy Ourselves

I heard a talk today that lessened my misery that comes from looking at the headlines.

My days begin the same way:

Each morning brings a mix of interest and dread as I review the news and sip my tea.

I end up feeling awful.

Three types of news emerge:

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The Truth Will Set You Free

camp_arbeitmachtfrei

Alternate facts like “work makes you free” (arbeit macht frei) adorned concentration camps in Germany during World War II

When journalists euthanize the truth

For weeks pundits have stressed over political happenings from Washington D.C. that are out-of-reach for most of us muggles: how do we make sense of uncensored tweets from the powerful? The unvarnished shills from a staffer begging us to buy jewels tied to the White House? The brazen reframing of lies as facts?

Most of us are so far removed from White House shenanigans that we rely on news reports, late night talk shows and social media to glean our meanings of the political world.

Most of us knows political reality solely through mass media.

And that’s the problem: the truth has been euthanized.

How?

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